Thursday, June 5, 2014


Americans fared better after Great Depression than today | Al Jazeera America

The national income pie and how it is sliced.

In 2012, for the first time since data became available in 1917, the 90 percent enjoyed less than half of all reported income, an analysis of IRS data by economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez shows.

From 1934 to 1980 the vast majority averaged more than 64 percent of all reported income. Since then, their slice of income pie has gotten steadily thinner. In 2012 they slipped to just under 50 percent.

At the same time, the top one-tenth of 1 percent enjoyed on average 4.5 percent of the national income pie from 1934 to 1980. Since then, their slice has more than doubled. In 2012 they got 11.5 percent of the pie.

Most telling: 95 percent of reported income gains between 2009 and 2012 went to the top 1 percent and a third of the gains went to the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent — a mere 16,000 households.

To sum up, there are some tiny improvements in the job and income numbers, but only if you limit the analysis to the last few years. Look back a decade or four decades or even eight decades, and the story changes from an America of growing prosperity to one of falling incomes, not enough jobs and ever fatter slices of the income pie for the elite.

It may be jarring to hear that the vast majority of Americans, the 90 percent, enjoyed bigger income gains in the 1930s than in recent years, but that is what the data show.

The data also indicate tandem increases in both want and wealth, with the vast majority worse off in 2013 than in 2009, while those at the apex of the economy are enjoying a much larger — and growing — share of national income.