A Fat Cat Explains Basic Economics

| Thu Dec. 1, 2011 3:52 PM EST

Zillionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer says his marginal propensity to consume is lower than mine:

Since 1980, the share of the nation’s income for fat cats like me in the top 0.1 percent has increased a shocking 400 percent, while the share for the bottom 50 percent of Americans has declined 33 percent. At the same time, effective tax rates on the superwealthy fell to 16.6 percent in 2007....In my case, that means that this year, I paid an 11 percent rate on an eight-figure income. 

One reason this policy is so wrong-headed is that there can never be enough superrich Americans to power a great economy. The annual earnings of people like me are hundreds, if not thousands, of times greater than those of the average American, but we don’t buy hundreds or thousands of times more stuff. My family owns three cars, not 3,000. I buy a few pairs of pants and a few shirts a year, just like most American men. Like everyone else, I go out to eat with friends and family only occasionally.

....I can’t buy enough of anything to make up for the fact that millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans can’t buy any new clothes or enjoy any meals out. Or to make up for the decreasing consumption of the tens of millions of middle-class families that are barely squeaking by, buried by spiraling costs and trapped by stagnant or declining wages.

If the average American family still got the same share of income they earned in 1980, they would have an astounding $13,000 more in their pockets a year. It’s worth pausing to consider what our economy would be like today if middle-class consumers had that additional income to spend.

The rest is worth a read. We need entrepreneurs, but we need a thriving middle class even more. Washington DC's centrist punditocracy needs to have this pounded into their skulls.

(Via Jared Bernstein.)

Get Mother Jones by Email - Free. Like what you're reading? Get the best of MoJo three times a week.