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CHARTS: Heres What The Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About…

CHARTS: Heres What The Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About…

CHARTS: Heres What The Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About….

So far, the protests seem fueled by a collective sense that things in our economy are not fair or right.  But the protesters have not done a good job of focusing their complaints—and thus have been skewered as malcontents who don’t know what they stand for or want.

 

The problem in a nutshell is this: Inequality in this country has hit a level that has been seen only once in the nation’s history, and unemployment has reached a level that has been seen only once since the Great Depression. And, at the same time, corporate profits are at a record high.

 

In other words, in the never-ending tug-of-war between “labor” and “capital,” there has rarely—if ever—been a time when “capital” was so clearly winning.

Here is the written list, click the link above for the graphical depictions:

Unemployment:

  • Let’s start with the obvious: Unemployment. Three years after the financial crisis, the unemployment rate is still at the highest level since the Great Depression (except for a brief blip in the early 1980s)
  • Jobs are scarce, so many adults have given up looking for them. Thus, a sharp decline in the “participation ratio.”
  • And it’s not like unemployment these days is a quick, painful jolt: A record percentage of unemployed people have been unemployed for longer than 6 months.
  • And it’s not just construction workers who can’t find jobs. The median duration of all unemployment is also near an all-time high.
  • That 9% rate, by the way, equates to 14 million Americans—people who want to work but can’t find a job.
  • And that’s just people who meet the strict criteria for “unemployed.” Include people working part-time who want to work full-time, plus some people who haven’t looked for a job in a while, and unemployment’s at 17%
  • Put differently, this is the lowest percentage of Americans with jobs since the early 1980s (And the boom prior to that, by the way, was from women entering the workforce).

Now how are the top 1% fairing?

  • Corporate profits just hit another all-time high.
  • Corporate profits as a percent of the economy are near a record all-time high. With the exception of a brief happy period in 2007 (just before the crash), profits are higher than they’ve been since the 1950s. And they are VASTLY higher than they’ve been for most of the intervening half-century.
  • CEO pay is now 350X the average worker’s, up from 50X from 1960-1985.
  • CEO pay has skyrocketed 300% since 1990. Corporate profits have doubled. Average “production worker” pay has increased 4%. The minimum wage has dropped. (All numbers adjusted for inflation).
  • After adjusting for inflation, average hourly earnings haven’t increased in 50 years.
  • In short… while CEOs and shareholders have been cashing in, wages as a percent of the economy have dropped to an all-time low.
  • In other words, in the struggle between “labor” and “capital,” capital has basically won.
  • Of course, life is great if you’re in the top 1% of American wage earners. You’re hauling in a bigger percentage of the country’s total pre-tax income than you have at any time since the late 1920s. Your share of the national income, in fact, is almost 2X the long-term average!
  • And the top 0.1% in America are doing way better than the top 0.1% in other first-world countries.

And now to inequality:

  • In fact, income inequality has gotten so extreme here that the US now ranks 93rd in the world in “income equality.” China’s ahead of us. So is India. So is Iran.
  • And, by the way, few people would have a problem with inequality if the American Dream were still fully intact—if it were easy to work your way into that top 1%. But, unfortunately, social mobility in this country is also near an all-time low.
  • So what does all this mean in terms of net worth? Well, for starters, it means that the top 1% of Americans own 42% of the financial wealth in this country. The top 5%, meanwhile, own nearly 70%.
  • That’s about 60% of the net worth of the country held by the top 5%
  • And remember that huge debt problem we have—with hundreds of millions of Americans indebted up to their eyeballs? Well, the top 1% doesn’t have that problem. They only own 5% of the country’s debt.
  • And then there are taxes… It’s a great time to make a boatload of money in America, because taxes on the nation’s highest-earners are close to the lowest they’ve ever been.
  • The aggregate tax rate for the top 1% is lower than for the next 9%—and not much higher than it is for pretty much everyone else.
  • As the nation’s richest people often point out, they do pay the lion’s share of taxes in the country: The richest 20% pay 64% of the total taxes. (Lower bar). Of course, that’s because they also make most of the money. (Top bar).

And now the banks:

  • Remember when we bailed out the banks? Yes, and remember the REASON we were told we had to bail out the banks? We had to bail out the banks, we were told, so that the banks could keep lending to American businesses. Without that lending, we were told, society would collapse…
  • So, did the banks keep lending? Um, no. Bank lending dropped sharply, and it has yet to recover.
  • So, what have banks been doing since 2007 if not lending money to American companies? Lending money to America’s government! By buying risk-free Treasury bonds and other government-guaranteed securities.
  • And, remarkably, they’ve also been collecting interest on money they are NOT lending—the “excess reserves” they have at the Fed. Back in the financial crisis, the Fed decided to help bail out the banks by paying them interest on this money that they’re not lending. And they’re happily still collecting it. (It’s AWESOME to be a bank.)
  • Meanwhile, of course, the banks are able to borrow money FOR FREE. Because the Fed has slashed rates to basically zero. And the banks have slashed the rates they pay on deposits to basically zero. So they can have all the money they want—for nearly free!
  • When you can borrow money for nothing, and lend it back to the government risk-free for a few percentage points, you can COIN MONEY. And the banks are doing that. According to IRA, the “net interest margin” made by US banks in the first six months of this year is $211 Billion. Nice!
  • And that has helped produce $58 billion of profit in the first six months of the year.
  • And it has helped generate near-record financial sector profits—while the rest of the country struggles with its 9% unemployment rate.
  • And these profits are getting back toward a record as a percentage of all corporate profits.
  • And those profits, of course, are AFTER the banks have paid their bankers. And it’s still great to be a banker. The average banker in New York City made $361,330 in 2010. Not bad!
  • This average Wall Street salary was 6X the average private-sector salary (which, in turn, is actually lower than the average government salary, but that’s a different issue).

NeilS – I had to read the list a few times to let it really sink in, but sink in it did.  Everyone can feel it right?  The tension that floats in the air about our politics, economy, education, health care and everything else?  It seems as if the “Great Recession” has exposed all the little cracks in our system and now they are turning into huge fissures.  It was easy to ignore many of these problems as long as unemployment was around 4.5% and the economy was growing.  Now, though, with anemic growth and persistent unemployment, everything is hitting us at once.

We can only hope that movements like Occupy Wall Street and the seeming interest that everyone has in politics now will guide our country in the right direction.  When everything is going along smoothly, less people participate in the democratic process and keep track of the most important issues.  Now, with the s%@t hitting the proverbial fan, everyone’s curiosity is aroused.  As we have done before, I hope we can band together as as nation and make our democracy truly work.

 

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