Tuesday, July 12, 2011

If The U.S. is Really a Free Market Economy How Come Only The Rich Get Richer

Income Gaps Between Very Rich and Everyone Else More Than Tripled In Last Three Decades, New Data Show

The gaps in after-tax income between the richest 1 percent of Americans and the middle and poorest fifths of the country more than tripled between 1979 and 2007 (the period for which these data are available), according to data the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued last week. Taken together with prior research, the new data suggest greater income concentration at the top of the income scale than at any time since 1928.

While the recession that began in December 2007 likely reduced the income of the wealthiest Americans substantially and may thereby shrink the income gap between rich and poor households, a similar development that occurred around the bursting of the dot.com bubble and the 2001 recession turned out to be just a speed bump. Incomes at the top more than made up the lost ground from 2003 to 2005.

The new CBO data — the most comprehensive data available on changes in incomes and taxes for different income groups — also show the following:

    In 2007, the share of after-tax income going to the top 1 percent hit its highest level (17.1 percent) since 1979, while the share going to the middle one-fifth of Americans shrank to its lowest level during this period (14.1 percent).
    Between 1979 and 2007, average after-tax incomes for the top 1 percent rose by 281 percent after adjusting for inflation — an increase in income of $973,100 per household — compared to increases of 25 percent ($11,200 per household) for the middle fifth of households and 16 percent ($2,400 per household) for the bottom fifth (see Figure 1).
    If all groups’ after-tax incomes had grown at the same percentage rate over the 1979-2007 period, middle-income households would have received an additional $13,042 in 2007 and families in the bottom fifth would have received an additional $6,010.
    In 2007, the average household in the top 1 percent had an income of $1.3 million, up $88,800 just from the prior year; this $88,800 gain is well above the total 2007 income of the average middle-income household ($55,300). [1]

Income Gains at Top Have Outpaced All Other Groups Since 1979

The gap in income between the wealthiest Americans and all others has grown strikingly in recent decades, the CBO data show. In 1979, when the data begin, the average after-tax incomes of the top 1 percent of households were 7.9 times higher than those of the middle fifth of households. By 2007, top incomes were 23.9 times higher than those of the middle fifth — a more than tripling of the income gap.

The gap between the top 1 percent and the poorest fifth of Americans widened even more sharply. In 1979, the incomes of the top 1 percent were 22.7 times higher than those of the bottom fifth. By 2007, top incomes were 74.6 times higher than those at the bottom — more than tripling the rich-poor gap in 28 years --

The CBO figures show that the nation’s income has grown substantially since 1979; if this growth had been shared more broadly, most groups would have seen much larger gains. For the nation as a whole, after-tax household income increased 55 percent from 1979 to 2007, adjusted for inflation. If all groups’ incomes had grown by 55 percent, the average income of the bottom fifth of households would have been $23,710 in 2007 (rather than $17,700) and the average income of the middle fifth would have been $68,342 (rather than $55,300).

Instead, the wealthiest households reaped a sharply growing share of the nation’s income, while the share going to middle- and lower-income households shrank  ..

Pre-Tax Income Inequality Also Growing Rapidly

The bulk of the increase in after-tax income inequality since 1979 reflects changes in pre-tax incomes. The incomes of the top 1 percent rose 141 percent from 1979 to 2007 before taxes are considered, the CBO data show. The top 1 percent’s share of before-tax income (like its share of after-tax income) more than doubled from 1979 to 2007, from 9.3 percent to 19.4 percent.

By 2007, the top 1 percent had before-tax incomes that were 24 times higher than those of the middle fifth of Americans — a share that had nearly tripled since 1979.

The rapidly rising pre-tax incomes of the wealthy help to explain the notable rise in the percentage of total tax revenue collected from these households. CBO’s data show that the share of total federal taxes paid by the top 1 percent of households rose from 25.5 percent in 2000 to 28.1 percent in 2007, the second-highest share since 1979 (only 2006 was higher).

The increase in the share of taxes paid by the wealthy is often cited erroneously as evidence that their tax burden is rising. In reality, the effective federal tax rate for the top 1 percent of households — the percentage of their income that they pay in federal taxes — declined from 33.0 percent of income in 2000 to 29.5 percent in 2007.

The top 1 percent paid a growing share of total taxes chiefly because they received a growing share of total before-tax income: 19.4 percent in 2007, compared to 17.8 percent in 2000. Indeed, the effective tax rate of the top 1 percent of households was lower in 2007 than in any year since 1990, demonstrating beyond a doubt that their tax burdens were decreased, not increased.

Bush-Era Tax Cuts Have Exacerbated Income Gaps

Legislation enacted under the Bush Administration provided taxpayers with about $1.7 trillion in tax cuts through 2008. Because high-income households received by far the largest tax cuts — not only in dollar terms but also as a percentage of income — the tax cuts have increased the concentration of after-tax income at the top of the spectrum.

The CBO data do not provide a direct measure of the impact of these tax policy changes because they also reflect the effects of changes in household incomes and other factors that influence tax payments. However, estimates by the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center that consider only the impact of the tax policy changes demonstrate that the tax cuts have widened income inequality. 

It still pays to work in American, it beats starving to death. On the other hand does working and taking home a check mean you'll gradually improve your lot in life. The odds are against you. In contrast if you're wealthy doing not much pays off quite well. Sure people who seat behind a desk all day like hedge fund mangers and corporate CEOs will complain they work a 12 hour day. 12 hours behind a desk reading reports and e-mails, than going to a couple meetings a day is hardly comparable to putting out fires or roofing a house or providing nursing care to a few dozen patients.

And if Obama is such a big socialist than how come he has done nothing about the disparity between the pay of the rich versus the average citizen.

Michele Bachmann government tax collector.