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Wealth in the United States, explained simply and with

by Ziks511 / December 31, 2013 10:54 PM PST

considerable prior research, and which flies in the face of everyone's expectations. The headline says 9 out of 10 people get the statistics wrong, not merely in detail, but in a very general way. We have no clue how we are faring with relation to the folks at the bottom of the pile let alone just how much the folks at the top of the pile are completely out of sight for the vast majority of the American people. And if we can't see them, they can't see us.

It all starts with "What do you think is the current division of wealth by quintile? (sorry, but just to be clear that's for each 20% segment of the American population.) Don't miss the little sentence where they point out the massive difference between how things are now, and how they were in 1970 (or 73) at the point at which most of our personal concepts of wealth and income divisions were set, sort of like a weight "set point" for those of us who aren't quite as svelte as we'd like to be.


Now unless we can start discussing issues using the same data, and revising or putting aside our inherent biases, we're stuck facing in opposite directions shouting into a deafening gale which is going to blow us off this mountain we're supposed to be climbing together.

I don't want to rob anyone, but neither do I want anyone to rob me through his advantageous position in the market, or his better advice or cleverer tax lawyer or his ability to sequester vast sums from taxation.

Taxation isn't theft as so many have come to call it, it is simply paying for the government operations. To share those payments equally based upon income is only simple logic and fairness.

Will Rogers in the 1930's said Taxation was the price we pay for being American, for benefitting from all the good that being American offers. I'd suggest that applies to all nations. It is simply the natural price of citizenship.

It used to be paid in sweat equity, and land taxes, but now it is paid in proportion to the gifts the US has given you. Or it should be.


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It's meaningless without considering what
by Steven Haninger / December 31, 2013 11:04 PM PST

one's money can buy above that which they actually need. I'll guarantee you that distributing wealth to the "ideal" graph as noted is going to cause the price of a loaf of bread to rise to an amount that would astound you.

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wish I had saved a post on here years ago
by Roger NC / January 1, 2014 1:58 AM PST

I can't remember who posted it.

It was during a debate about minimum wage increases.

It was a BigMac scale. It pointed out that if you raised the minimum wage, the probability exist that in a relative short time inflation will adjust prices so that in terms of time worked at minimum wage to purchase a Big Mac the price would still be xx minutes/hours.

While it of course wasn't a rigorous analysis of society economics, it made good points in a very real world example.

I'm not saying anything about should or should not adjust minimum wage here, just I really found the post a good example of it's point of view.

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Maybe just my viewpoint but it seems anyone's true wealth
by Steven Haninger / January 1, 2014 2:33 AM PST

at any point in time is what they have in their pockets in the way of cash. I don't have the figures but there is a finite amount of US currency out there which is determined by our treasury. If we were to add up the "on paper" wealth of all persons in the US, it would be far more than the actual amount of currency floating around, would it not? Thus, any time we write a check, withdraw from the bank, etc., we are selling something. Money other than cash on hand is invested and paying other people's salaries. Thus, we own the jobs of other people if we invest. A very wealthy person whose investments might be many millions own the jobs of quite a number of people. Should the government decide to raise taxes on them, they may need to sell off assets to pay the tax. This would mean they sell off jobs to raise the cash. Of course the affect on jobs could be short term should the government put that money back into the economy in a responsible way. It might just cause some job shifts but it does create a bit of chaos when this happens to people whose skill sets no longer match the demand for them.

In any event, I'm not totally against finding ways to level the field as far as how buying power is (not paper wealth) is distributed but I don't think you just take it from a few and hand it out for free to others. I think it's fairly well known that those who have worked for what they have will take better care of it.

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I think while on some aspects we have disagreed
by Roger NC / January 1, 2014 2:39 AM PST

that overall we're not that different, or at least that I can accept your point of view as an understandable view or position even when personally I think there are errors in it.

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Well, the notion that the wealthy are trying their darndest
by Steven Haninger / January 1, 2014 2:51 AM PST

to gather up all of the money for themselves and let the rest fall off the edge of the earth is just bogus. They know better than that. You can't eat money or drive to the golf course in it. Wink

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(NT) money is sometimes just a way of keeping score
by Roger NC / January 1, 2014 3:01 AM PST
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(NT) and not all, but some are just plain greedy
by Roger NC / January 1, 2014 7:57 AM PST
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You miss the entire point of wealth accumulation and
by Ziks511 / January 2, 2014 3:39 AM PST

the distribution of wealth. You think much too small. How about a single man owning every bit of real estate in the country? Well, I grant you he won't eat the money or fuel his golf cart with it, but he will do whatever he desires, like buy Congress and the Senate and the Presidential elections and re-order the country to suit his desires. Or how about a thousand people owning most of the petroleum wealth in the United States, and buying Congress and the Senate and repealing as they effectively have, Republican legislation to protect the environment. You can be sure that they won't be troubled by pollution or oil spills near their property, but if there's no defined wrong permitted under law, they can poison large portions of the US, which is why the Keystone Pipeline is so contentious. What the hell do they care. They can buy servants to replace the dead. They, the captains of what used to be Industry, but is now Management of Off Shore assets have gravely and deliberately impoverished a large segment of the United States and pushed us back to a period of wealth inequality usually compared to the 1920's, and there doesn't seem to be any countervaling force to stop that regression.

There was a time when raising the whole of the country was the ideal. Now it appears that depressing the whole of the country for the benefit of the few is the ideal. If so, we need a New Ideal. Gee that reminds me of something but I can't quite remember what. Franklin ..., Franklin ..., Franklin ... No not Ben Franklin! Franklin somebody.


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You DO realize, don't you
by TONI H / January 2, 2014 9:23 PM PST

that the largest single owner of real estate in this country IS the Government, both Federal (the largest) and States. Did you know that Utah alone has 90% of the entire state owned by the Feds and has filed a lawsuit to reclaim it? Do you have any idea how easily the National Debt could be eliminated in one fell swoop if the Feds sold a good majority of its assets (including buildings) since most are standing empty? Talk about wealth accumulation.........

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So what is your point? Not everything is or should be
by Ziks511 / January 4, 2014 11:53 PM PST

Private Property despite the Neanderthal Conservatives who only understand "Mine, mine, mine, all mine" like a 3 year old. Government holdings are held in trust for all of us, whether in Wilderness or parks or Historic buildings or Government buildings or Military bases or Area 51 for secret experimentation and a thousand other things. "If a Museum be taken away, America is the less." or a Park or a military base beyond what is needed to maintain the agreed military establishment, or anything else. (Apologies to John Donne, the Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral 1621 to 1631.)

I wasn't talking about Real Estate, though I'm sure you know that. I was talking about Privately Held Wealth which is exceptionally well defended from legitimate calls for taxes and other costs.


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Excuse me, but
by TONI H / January 5, 2014 3:05 AM PST

Real Estate Taxes are a very real source of income.....and yet, I don't believe that the Federal Government has ever paid taxes on any of the real estate (land or buildings) that they own. Can you imagine the funds that would be available to each state if it actually was required to pay those taxes like everyone else? That's about the most Privately Held Wealth you can find in America today............because it doesn't actually belong to the people to do with as they see fit for public use or sale.....they need to get permission from the Government that owns it (or has acquired it via eminent domain) to get it back into the people's/State's hands. Utah has a huge lawsuit ongoing against the Fed Government right now to get back the land the Feds have claimed as their own so that the State can develop it and become financially stable again since over 90% of the entire state belongs to the Feds now. Can you imagine Canada owning over 90% of one of their states and refusing to allow that State to develop any of it? (And please don't try to compare the Yukon wilderness that is almost uninhabitable to Utah)

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RE: Can you imagine Canada
by JP Bill / January 5, 2014 3:33 AM PST
In reply to: Excuse me, but

Can you imagine Canada owning over 90% of one of their states.

Provincial crown land ownership varies, too, from a high of 95% in Newfoundland

AND It's Provinces...and territories....NOT states,


Crown land is the term used to describe land owned by the federal or provincial governments. Authority for control of these public lands rests with the Crown, hence their name. Less than 11% of Canada's land is in private hands; 41% is federal crown land and 48% is provincial crown land.

48% + 41% = 89%

IF you want to quibble between over 90% AND 89%....You go girl!!!

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Read your own link words more carefully
by TONI H / January 5, 2014 4:55 AM PST

"If Utah did gain control over federal public lands, Utah taxpayers would be stuck with the cost of managing them."

Utah doesn't want to manage FEDERAL public lands, they want to OWN them outright again...........then they would have control over being able to sell parts off for development, which would actually be a winning situation all the way around for Utah.

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developing Utah
by Roger NC / January 5, 2014 8:46 AM PST

You do know that the entire area, several states in the region, are already facing water supply problems, and all reserves appear to be shrinking.

The states of the region are already regularly in fights over who is suppose to get what share of the rivers and other water supplies.

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When you "own" something...you "manage" it
by JP Bill / January 5, 2014 11:38 AM PST

That's how it works.

Buy land, they're not making any more of it.

There's a big land sale in Utah....Get in your covered wagons and head to Utah?

Utah has a population of about 2.9 million, approximately 80% of whom live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City, leaving vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited. Utah is the 13th-largest, the 33rd-most populous, and the 10th-least-densely populated of the 50 United States.

Would they sell to the Chinese?...They have lots of money?

It IS anything for a buck now, isn't it?

IF someone gave me a $500,000 car and said I have to "manage it" I'd say, No thanks, I can't afford it.

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While unused property should be considered for sale
by Roger NC / January 5, 2014 8:44 AM PST
In reply to: Excuse me, but

proposing that the federal government should pay real estate taxes on federal land or buildings is a false front, since it'll just be income taxes paid out as real estate tax. Another version of the old revenue sharing plan where some states paid in more than they got back to give more to other states.

Selling land or buildings not need to states, cities, or private buyers is a different proposition. Sadly if they did it would almost certainly be sold to people the politicians owed political favors to.

Demanding huge parts of the federal lands held as wilderness, parks, etc be sold to developers does ignore stewardship for the future.

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Your last sentence assumes
by TONI H / January 5, 2014 6:07 PM PST

that 90% of Utah is wilderness or parks..........is there any particular reason you can think of that the Feds would NEED that much property in one state alone?

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are you advocaing limits based
by Roger NC / January 5, 2014 8:03 PM PST

on % of land within a state, not based on use or uniqueness?

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by TONI H / January 5, 2014 8:58 PM PST

I'm completely against a federal or state government from overreaching their land grab to where they literally cripple a state from expanding their own tax base because they can't develop and encourage incoming companies or homeowners. There is no excuse for the federal government to own 90% of an entire state.....can you think of any?

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Idaho and Nevada
by James Denison / January 10, 2014 12:37 AM PST

do you suppose maybe that land is kept by federal govt related to flying space for items out of Area 51?

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Thanks, Roger. It's not the Sermon on the Mount, it's just
by Ziks511 / January 2, 2014 3:27 AM PST

a small illustration of how the tax system has become skewed to favour the top 5% or less of the country.

I'd love to see somebody propose a fairer tax system whereby, for example, the personal exemption was about $15,000 or $20,000 and taxes started progressively on income above that figure, at a low rate and rising to 50% over a million.

It is an accepted fact that the first million is the hardest, and after that it just seems to gather momentum like a large snowball rolling down hill. I don't want to deny people equity growth, I just don't think that every cent over a million or even over half a million is sacrosanct. The truth is that much of that money is a windfall due to scale, and shouldn't be treated as sweat earning.

To re-phrase the President's remark, "Do you think that the President or CEO of the XYZ Automobile Company built those cars?" Like hell he did. The poor slob on the line built the cars, and the President or CEO directed the course of the companies and made the deals. And to see how well they did that job, you only have to look at the products and fortunes of American Car Companies in the late 60's and the 70's, as the American-made market-share tanked. Were they built in cheap wage countries? No they were built in Germany or France or Sweden if you liked Saabs and Volvos, or Japan where the CEO is by law not permitted to earn more than 35x what the average line worker earns.

This whole argument is being played out again in the aircraft industry. Brazil, after being courted and coddled and bribed and kickbacked by Boeing to buy the $137 Billion each F-35, said, "Thanks but we're going with the Saab Gripen which does pretty much everything the F-35 does, and has for the past 10 years in service, except have a VTOL version, at a twentieth of the price, or possibly less."

And I don't even want to think about the Trillion or more wasted on the supposed F-22 stealth, supercruise fighter which they just couldn't quite make a workable aircraft, no matter how much money they threw into the afterburner.

Canada needs new helicopters for its Coast Guard and Navy and Army. They have needed them for more than 25 years now. They actually signed a contract for the European built EH-101 Cormorant which is an acknowledged brilliant design and performer, but which the Conservative Party cancelled at outrageous expense right after their election. So they threw away about 3/4 of a Billion Dollars on nothing, and we're still trying to keep the 1960 era Sea Kings flying, mostly by buying high priced used parts from the bone-yards of Arizona and Nevada, because they're not building Sea Kings anymore or they're manufacturing parts here at great expense. I always thought that it would be a good idea to buy Russian helicopters. They're built for our conditions, and those of winter in the Midwest of the US and Alaska, and they were cheap and so were parts, or they were when I thought of the idea, which is before Capitalism in Russia became a Slavic Mafia organization.

Your pardon for my rant Roger, and thanks for your acknowledgement that we're not as far apart as we sometimes seem. I regularly find myself saying, "I see his point, hey, I actually agree with his point! Am I feverish?" No.


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Uh, I replied to Steve, whom I probably agree with more
by Roger NC / January 2, 2014 9:48 AM PST

than we do.

I'm somewhere between, but probably near his view on most points than yours.

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(NT) I understand, sorry I missed that connection.
by Ziks511 / January 4, 2014 10:27 PM PST
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So you find it outrageous that
by TONI H / January 5, 2014 5:04 AM PST

Canada wasted 3/4 billion dollars on a losing proposition, but didn't think anything of our leader wasting the same amount of money on two or three 'green' companies that folded almost immediately, and continued to spend the same on other green companies that have also failed? Doncha think that's a little hypocritical if you?

As for the 'progressive tax' you mentioned, it's the one main thing that has completely divided this country over time and it was liberals/progressives who put it into place. A flat tax is a much fairer method of taxation and puts limits on each level of income...no more, no less. I thought 'fair share' is what Dems and this leader has spouted for the last six years or more already. A flat tax method would be predictable and wouldn't stop the encouragement of entrepreneurs whereas the tax methods used today and added to by liberals each year puts so much at question that it actually DIScourages rather than ENcourages.

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I'm not sure I can agree flat tax is the fairest
by Roger NC / January 5, 2014 8:52 AM PST

even if some do want to load too much on different segments.

You can't convince me that 10% of their income hurts people making even a $100K much less those making over $1M, or $10M, as much as it hurts someone trying to pay rent, electric, heating, transportation bills and buy groceries on less than $25K or so a year.

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(NT) So 'fair share' is selective?
by TONI H / January 5, 2014 6:08 PM PST
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not sure exactly how you mean
by Roger NC / January 5, 2014 8:24 PM PST

that other than ironic and sarcastic probably.

Not sure why you use selective. Not sure how you think fair share means part of what you need for the basics.

We probably disagree on fair. I don't think the same percentage is the same thing when 99% of your income is needed for shelter, heating, transportation, and food vs when 90% of your income is available for what you want not what you need to survive.

Now if you want to exclude the first $25K or so from taxes maybe a flat tax will work. And I'll agree to that same exclusion for everyone.

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The only reason why
by TONI H / January 5, 2014 9:06 PM PST

99% of your income should be for survival would be because you are forced into part time employment.

I don't care how much a rich person has for wants rather than needs....it's HIS/HER money to do with as they please. It does not and never has belonged to the government and to believe otherwise is another tune of 'pay Caesar for the privilege of your existence'. It is up to the charitable instincts of the rich to care for their fellow man....NOT the government to take it from the rich and give it to others. And it sure isn't up to the government to decide who is too rich and who/what direction that stolen money goes to (like Solyndra). Since BO spent so many billions from the stimulus on garbage, doesn't anybody consider how many could have been fed or housed instead with that money?

Government SUCKS at prioritizing spending and redistribution of wealth....when will you wake up to that fact? The more they take, the more they spend on CRAP, and yet liberals have no problem with taking even more rather than revamp the priorities.

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so what about all those making less than $30K a year?
by Roger NC / January 6, 2014 7:43 AM PST
In reply to: The only reason why

There were a lot even before this recession. You think everyone that has nothing extra is lazy, no good, unwilling to work, or just a recent product of the current recession? or in you case just a recent victim of Obama.

You saying there aren't plenty of people that can barely pay for housing and food? All the homeless choose to be? and BTW I deliberately left out medical cost to afford that distraction, but one large medical disaster has cost hundreds if not thousands of people their home.

No comment pro or con on linking a base tax exempt income (for the rich too if you notice) to any attempt to go flat tax.

I've never advocated 50% or higher taxes on the rich that I recall. I do dislike the more you make the more ways there are to avoid paying taxes than if you make moderate to low income. You object to paying Caesar what is due Caesar?

Sorry, I'll never agree that a flat tax with no adjustments or base income exemptions can be considered fair. I'll never agree that 20% of $25K income is as fair as 20% of $250K and more income just because cost of shelter, food, and transportation.

Rant on, I'll leave you in peace for now.

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