Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cannot Be Right

I've seen the numbers in this Atlantic piece before. Although the article itself is more elaborate, the gist of it can be summed up pretty easily and illustrated simply as in the chart below which shows what Americans think the distribution of wealth in the country is and what is is really. Each quintile represents a fifth, or 20 percent of the population.

Bottom line: the inequality of wealth in America is stark. The top 20 percent hole 84 percent of the wealth, the bottom 40 percent, a barely perceptible percentage. For all intents and purposes, the bottom 40 percent have nothing. And the next 40 percent have 16 percent of the wealth. You have to let these numbers sink if and swirl around for a bit to understand what we're talking about here, and what this means. It means we have a huge number of very poor people in this country compared to a middling number who've got almost everything. This cannot be right.

It's Much Worse than We Think . . .

And it isn't. People know this and the way it comes out that they know it is what they tell you when you ask them to say what they think the ideal distribution of wealth in a society in which they would consent to live should be. What they say appears in the dark black bars below. And here's the amazing thing about these numbers to me. There was virtually no difference between Democrats and Republicans on this question . . . or among other demographic divides either: gender and income. Amazing, really. This is something that Americans across the board agree upon. Like motherhood and apple pie.

. . . But We Would Like It to Be Much Better

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