Sunday, October 17, 2010

What the income of the top 1% means to the rest of us

The top 1% of the population now get 24% of the personal income of the nation. They used to get, in the 1970’s, 9% or so. Let’s say the difference is 15%.

What is that 15%? Well, that 15% is 15% of all personal income. (All personal income is about $10 Trillion.) So it is $1.5 Trillion. Now if this $1.5 Trillion was distributed to the other 99% of the population, they would be 15% better off. That is, on the average, they would each be 15% better off. That works out to $7500 for somebody earning $50,000. $1500 for someone making $10,000, etc.

Most of the money would be spent, since most of the rest of the people are living closer to the edge. Figure $1 Trillion spent. That makes for 10 million or so jobs. (Well, figure less. The rich do spend some of their excess money.) And figure $50 Billion or so per year to social security.

Millions would be lifted above the poverty line. It would reduce the need for government expenditures on the poor, and other social programs, by $60 billion or so. ($10K x .15 x 40 Mil people.)

Over $300 Billion per year would go to people who owed mortgages. Millions of these would be able to pay their mortgages. Not all would need it. But for millions it would make a difference. It would put a boost to housing prices, and put a big dent in the bubble collapse.

Now let's compare the income of the top 1% to that of the Federal government. 24% of the personal income of the nation works out to about $2.4 Trillion. The income of the Federal government for 2010 is $2.4 Trillion. The income of the top 1% is equal to the income of the entire Federal government. Federal government expenditures are going to be$3.6 Trillion dollars. The deficit is $1.2 Trillion, or half the income of the top 1%.

Of course we already have that the top 1% pay over 40% of all income taxes. Thanks FOX. All income taxes are $1.06 Trillion. So the top 1% pay $410 Billion or so, or just over 1/6th of their income, or 17%. This tells us where FOX is coming from. Since the government’s share of the GDP consumption is 25% or so, we would expect that percent, 25%, of income paid as tax, even under a flat tax. We may conclude that the top 1% pay a smaller share of their income than the rest of society. (Well, to be accurate, the tax end of the government share of GDP is only 17%. But since almost half of the poplulation pays little or no income tax, the tax paying half, minus the top 1%, pay a higher percentage of their incomes.) Now if the wealthy paid 25% of their income, that extra 8% works out to $200 Billion, or 1/6th of the current deficit. If they paid 40% of their income, as they easily can afford to do, (they would still be far better off than they were in the 70's,) the additional amount would pay about 1/2 the deficit.

But, as we have pointed out before, or elsewhere, they are largely the ones the government borrows from. Clearly it pays them not to pay taxes. And since they are largely in control of government....


Now to say they rule America is somewhat of a misstatement. A proper ruler rules for the benefit of all, if only out of enlightened self-interest. The more correct title is: “Who exploits America.” That they act according to unenlightened self-interest is to all our sorrow. For they have made themselves enemies of the rest of us. In fact, they have made themselves enemies to each other, and to themselves.

They wealthy have the power to save the government. But not the..inclination.
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. observed that, "taxes are what we pay for civilized society." (See the link.) Evidently, the wealthy do not want a civilized society.

Do the rest of us?


  1. Well what if the top tax rate were to be raised to the 74% it was in the late 1920's (Hover dropped the rate to 24% about 4 months before the crash) or the 91% (under (R) Eisenhower) it was in the early 1950's, it sounds like many of the income problems with the federal government would disappear fairly quickly.

    Here's an interesting article on how the republican party has pretty much pulled the wool over our eyes for the last thirty years.

  2. Yup. You have to use the HTML code to get the link to work, but it can be done. Put the link in the "title=" and between the two bracketed 'a hrefs'.

  3. Greg,

    I replied to your comment on Naked Capitalism:

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