Super Rich Get Richer, Everyone Else Gets Poorer, Democrats Punt

shortest pathThe super-rich got even wealthier this year, and yet most of them are paying even fewer taxes to support the education, job training, and job creation of the rest of us. According to Forbes magazine’s annual survey, just released, the combined net worth of the 400 richest Americans climbed 8% this year, to $1.37 trillion. Wealth rose for 217 members of the list, while 85 saw a decline.

For example, Charles and David Koch, the energy magnates who are pouring vast sums of money into Republican coffers and sponsoring tea partiers all over America, each gained $5.5 billion of wealth over the past year. Each is now worth $21.5 billion.

Wall Street continued to dominate the list; 109 of the richest 400 are in finance or investments.

From another survey we learn that the 25 top hedge-fund managers got an average of $1 billion each, but paid an average of 17 percent in taxes (because so much of their income is considered capital gains, taxed at 15 percent thanks to the Bush tax cuts).

The rest of America got poorer, of course. The number in poverty rose to a post-war high. The median wage continues to deteriorate. And some 20 million Americans don’t have work.

Only twice before in American history has so much been held by so few, and the gap between them and the great majority been a chasm — the late 1920s, and the era of the robber barons in the 1880s.

And yet the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, which conferred almost all their benefits on the rich, continue.

Robert ReichDemocrats have decided to delay voting on whether to extend them for the top 2 percent of Americans or for the bottom 98 percent until after the mid-term elections.

Democrats have thereby given up a defining issue that could have enabled them to show the big story of the last three decades — the accumulation of almost all the gain from economic growth at the top — and to make a start at reversing it.

When will they ever learn?

Robert Reich

This article first appeared on Robert Reich’s Blog. Republished with permission

Published by the LA Progressive on September 25, 2010
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About Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written eleven books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into 22 languages; the best-sellers The Future of Success and Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine.

Reich has been a member of the faculties of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and of Brandeis University. He received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, his M.A. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and his J.D. from Yale Law School.