99 percent

Is the 1% Really the Problem?

“We are the 99 percent” is a great slogan, but is it distracting our attention from a sinister reality? There’s strong evidence that it’s not the 1 percent you should worry about—it’s the 0.1 percent. That decimal point makes a big difference.

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Duke Univ. VP Hits Parking Attendant With His Porsche, Then Allegedly Calls Her the N-Word

A Duke University official has been accused of hitting a black parking attendant with his car and then attacking her with racial epithets.

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The 1 Percenters Are Stuffing Their Pumpkin Pie Holes on Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, in dining rooms across America, the turkey will be smaller, the stuffing more meager, the pumpkin pie sliced thinner. Gratitude will be given. But roiling just below the surface, for far too many families, will be economic anxiety.

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7 of the Biggest Reasons America Is Screwed

Our current political situation is unprecedented. The vast majority of Americans keep falling behind economically because of changes in society's ground rules, while the rich get even richer -- yet this situation doesn't translate into a winning politics.

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How Wall Street Is Hitting the Jackpot by Fleecing Workers' Retirements

Most consumers understand that when you pay an above-market premium, you shouldn't expect to get a below-average product. Why, then, is this principle often ignored when it comes to managing billions of dollars in public pension systems?

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America's Wealthiest Are Increasingly 'Earning' Their Fortunes by Inheriting Them

In reality, most of America’s poor work hard, often in two or more jobs.In a new Pew poll, more than three quarters of self-described conservatives believe “poor people have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything.”

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Jerk Alert! Wealthy CEO Tells 99 Percenters: Stop Whining, You’d Be Rich In India!

A wealthy fashion mogul has a blunt message for America’s poor – stop complaining and understand how lucky you are, CNBC reported

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5 Depressing Ways That 1%'s Huge Profits Have Broken the Back of America

The middle class, once the backbone of a strong American society, has been broken, beaten down, pushed further and further toward poverty levels. Here are five well-documented ways that this has happened.


1. Income Redistribution is Worse than Usually Reported

We are told that the richest 1% doubled its share of income in the past thirty years. But from 1980 to 2006, according to both IRS and CBO figures, they nearly TRIPLED their share of income -- and that's after-tax income.

After 2006, the recession set everyone back temporarily, but in the first two years of the recovery, the richest 1% captured an incomprehensible 121% of the income gains (others saw debt rise faster than income).


2. Wealth Redistribution is Even Worse than Income Redistribution

In 1983 the poorest 47% of America owned about 2.5 percent of the nation's wealth, an average of $15,000 per family.

In 2009 the poorest 47% of America owned ZERO percent of the nation's wealth (their debt exceeded their assets).

Hard to believe it could get even worse. But because of the housing crisis and recession, the median family net worthdropped 40% between 2007 and 2010, while the richest Americans were regaining all their losses, and beginning an even steeper climb to the top.

Perhaps the biggest reason for this wealth redistribution is that the richest 10% own almost 90 percent of stocks excluding pensions. Since the recession, as the U.S. economy has "recovered," almost two-thirds of the gain was due to growth in the stock market.


3. The Redistribution of Productivity: Boosting Profits rather than Wages

From 2001 to 2011, total corporate profits more than doubled, to almost $2 trillion, while the corporate federal income tax rate was cut in half.

Incomes for 99% of Americans have declined since the recession, with the median household income dropping by 7.3 percent. Low-income jobs ($7.69 to $13.83 per hour) made up 1/5 of the jobs lost to the recession, but accounted for 3/5 of the jobs regained during the recovery.


4. Finance is Outrunning Society, and Taking the Money with Them

Americans once trusted the financial industry to safeguard their retirement money. But high tech has transformed high finance, at a much faster rate than the average investor can understand the changes.

Rolling Stone reports on the loss of $2.3 billion in pension money in Maine -- and the simultaneous billing of $2.1 billion by the hedge funds, private-equity funds and venture-capital funds. Another report tells of local funding crises caused by indecipherable "structured finance" deals sold by bankers with promises of big returns. In 2007 a hedge fund manager (John Paulson) made $3.7 billion by conspiring with Goldman Sachs to create packages of risky subprime mortgages, so that in anticipation of a housing crash he could use other people's money to bet against his personally designed sure-to-fail financial instruments.

The high-speed high-tech chicanery continues in the stock market, where programs can intercept 'buy' orders and in a few nanoseconds purchase the stock and then complete the 'buy' order for a few pennies more.

The bankers and hedgers and hustlers have made up new rules for making money, and our government representatives don't know what's going on, or don't care, or don't want to stop the financial games that ultimately generate campaign funds. Finance is quickly printing its own new money. In less than ten years, the world's wealth has approximately doubled, from $113 trillion to $223 trillion. Much of that is sheer speculation: the derivatives industry is worth over $1 quadrillion. But those speculative transactions get cashed in as real money.

It's a dizzying high-speed fantasyland that redistributes the real money of the middle class to the super-rich while inventing new forms of fees and bonuses along the way.


5. Redistribution through Government Manipulation

There are numerous ways the very rich have cajoled and coerced and connived their Congressional partners to redistribute money in their direction. Like the lower capital gains rate. An astonishing 75 percent of dividend and capital gain subsidies go to the richest 1%. That's still not enough for hedge fund managers, who call their income "carried interest" instead of "income" to keep their tax rate at the capital gains rate. And even this small amount may not be paid. Hedge fund managers with incomes in the billions can pay ZERO income tax by deferring their profits through their companies indefinitely.

About two-thirds of nearly $1 trillion in individual "tax expenditures" (tax subsidies from special deductions, exemptions, exclusions, credits, capital gains, and loopholes) goes to the top quintile of taxpayers.

Banks have arranged to get lower interest rates, saving them $83 billion per year.

The U.S. federal government spends $100 billion a year on corporate welfare, almost half for big agriculture and the fossil fuel industry.

Another $150 billion per year goes for excessive pharmaceutical expenditures, as the drug companies have lobbied for laws to keep cheaper medications out of the hands of Americans.

Better to Call it Pre-Distribution

The term 'pre-distribution' better represents, according to political scientist Jacob Hacker, "the way in which the market distributes its rewards in the first place." Unregulated free-market capitalism simply makes the rich richer. Even if they have to break the backs of productive middle-class Americans to get their way.

Thoughts for the Second Anniversary of Occupy Wall Street

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6 Filthy Facts About the Rich

First of all, who are they? Mostly the 1%. But the top 2-5% have also done quite well, increasing their inflation-adjusted wealth by 75 percent from 1983 to 2009 while average wealth went down for 80 percent of American households. The rest of the top 20% have been prosperous, realizing a 32 percent gain in inflation-adjusted wealth since 1983. The facts to follow are primarily about the richest 1%, with occasional dips into the groups scrambling to make it to the top.

1. Accumulating almost all the wealth

As evidence of the extremes between the very rich and the rest of us, the average household net worth for the top 1% in 2009 was almost $14 million, while the average household net worth for the bottom 47% was almost ZERO. For nearly half of America, average debt is about the same as average asset ownership.

The extremes are just as filthy at the global level. The richest 300 persons on earth (about a third of them in the U.S.) have more money than the poorest 3 billion people. Out of all developed and undeveloped countries with at least a quarter-million adults, the U.S. has the 4th-highest degree of wealth inequality in the world, trailing only Russia, Ukraine, and Lebanon.

2. Creating their own wealth

In another alarming testament to wealth at the top, the richest 10% own almost 90 percent of stocks excluding pensions. Consider what that means. The stock market has historically risen three times faster than the GDP itself. Since the recession, as the U.S. economy has "recovered," 62 percent of the gain was due to growth in the stock market, which surged as much in four years as it did during the "greatest bull market in history" from 1996 to 2000.

Many stock owners see a couple thousand dollars added to their fortunes every time they go online.

But that's not enough for the very rich. Thanks in good part to the derivatives market, the world's wealth has doubled in ten years, from $113 trillion to $223 trillion, and is expected to reach $330 trillion by 2017. The financial industry has figured out how to double or triple its buying power while most of the world has proportionately less.

3. Taking ALL the income gains

If the richest 1% had taken the same percentage of total U.S. income in 2006 as they did in 1980, they would have taken a trillion dollars less out of the economy. Instead they tripled their share of post-tax income. And then they captured ALL the income gains in the first two years of the post-recession recovery.

4. Donating a smaller share than the poorest Americans

Two dependable sources provide pretty much the same information. Barclays reported that those with earnings in the top 20% donated on average 1.3 percent of their income, whereas those in the bottom 20% donated 3.2 percent. And according to the New York Times, the nonprofit Independent Sector found that households earning less than $25,000 a year gave away an average of 4.2 percent of their incomes, while those with earnings of more than $75,000 gave away 2.7 percent.

5. Making enough to feed 800 million people

India just approved a program to spend $4 billion a year to feed 800 million people. Half of Indian children under 5 are malnourished.

In 2012, three members of the Walton family each made over $4 billion just from stocks and other investments. So did Charles Koch, and David Koch, and Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett, and Larry Ellison, and Michael Bloomberg, and Jeff Bezos.

It's not the obligation of any one of these individuals to feed the world. The disgrace is in the fact that our unregulated capitalist system allows such outrageous extremes to exist.

Here's more to provoke outrage. The 400 richest Americans made $200 billion in just one year. That's equivalent to the combined total of the federal food stampeducation, and housing budgets.

6. Taking two-thirds of a trillion dollars in subsidies

Even all that is not enough for the very rich. About two-thirds of nearly $1 trillion in individual "tax expenditures" (tax subsidies from special deductions, exemptions, exclusions, credits, capital gains, and loopholes) goes to the top quintile of taxpayers. An astounding 75 percent of dividend and capital gain subsidies go to the richest 1%.

And that doesn't include business subsidies, like the $16.8 billion per year in agricultural benefits paid out to big companies and to wealthy individuals who happen to have farms in their portfolios. The filthiest fact, in terms of detestable extremes, is that much of Congress wants to cut the $4.35 a day food benefit to hungry Americans, almost half of them children, so that money can keep flowing to the top.

The Dangers of Corporations Controlling National Secrets

It's time to completely end the privatization of national security.

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