It’s the Inequality, Stupid

Eleven charts that explain what’s wrong with America.

Want more charts like these? See our charts on the secrets of the jobless recovery, the richest 1 percent of Americans, and how the superwealthy beat the IRS.

How Rich Are the Superrich?

A huge share of the nation’s economic growth over the past 30 years has gone to the top one-hundredth of one percent, who now make an average of $27 million per household. The average income for the bottom 90 percent of us? $31,244.

The richest controls 2/3 of America's net worth

Note: The 2007 data (the most current) doesn’t reflect the impact of the housing market crash. In 2007, the bottom 60% of Americans had 65% of their net worth tied up in their homes. The top 1%, in contrast, had just 10%. The housing crisis has no doubt further swelled the share of total net worth held by the superrich.

Winners Take All

The superrich have grabbed the bulk of the past three decades’ gains.

Aevrage Household income before taxes.

Download: PDF chart 1 (large) PDF chart 2 (large) | JPG chart 1 (smaller)  JPG chart 2 (smaller)

Out of Balance

A Harvard business prof and a behavioral economist recently asked more than 5,000 Americans how they thought wealth is distributed in the United States. Most thought that it’s more balanced than it actually is. Asked to choose their ideal distribution of wealth, 92% picked one that was even more equitable.

Average Income by Family, distributed by income group.

Download: PDF (large) | JPG (smaller) 

Capitol Gain

Why Washington is closer to Wall Street than Main Street.

median net worth of american families, median net worth for mebers of congress, your odds of being a millionaire, member of congress's odds of being a millionaire

member max. est. net worth
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) $451.1 million
Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) $435.4 million
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) $366.2 million
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) $294.9 million
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) $285.1 million
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) $283.1 million
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) $231.2 million
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) $201.5 million
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) $136.2 million
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) $108.1 million
combined net worth: $2.8 billion

10 Richest Members of Congress100% Voted to extend the cuts

Congressional data from 2009. Family net worth data from 2007. Sources: Center for Responsive Politics; US Census; Edward Wolff, Bard College.

Download: PDF (large) | JPG (smaller) 

Who’s Winning?

For a healthy few, it’s getting better all the time.

Gains and Losses in 2007-2009, Average CEO Pay vs. Average Worker Pay

Download: PDF (large) | JPG (smaller)

A millionaire's tax rate, now and then. Share of Federal Tax revenue

Download: PDF (large) | JPG (smaller)

YOUR LOSS,THEIR GAIN

How much income have you given up for the top 1 percent?

 

Download: PDF (large) | JPG (smaller)

 

WANT MORE CHARTS LIKE THESE?

See our charts on the secrets of the jobless recovery, the richest 1 percent of Americans, and how the superwealthy beat the IRS. Some samples:
 

YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT YOUR GAINS

Productivity has surged, but income and wages have stagnated for most Americans. If the median household income had kept pace with the economy since 1970, it would now be nearly $92,000, not $50,000.

  

MEET THE ELITE

ONLY LITTLE PEOPLE PAY TAXES

 

 

Sources

Income distribution: Emmanuel Saez (Excel)

Net worth: Edward Wolff (PDF)

Household income/income share: Congressional Budget Office

Real vs. desired distribution of wealth: Michael I. Norton and Dan Ariely (PDF)

Net worth of Americans vs. Congress: Federal Reserve (average); Center for Responsive Politics (Congress)

Your chances of being a millionaire: Calculation based on data from Wolff (PDF); US Census (household and population data)  

Member of Congress’ chances: Center for Responsive Politics

Wealthiest members of Congress: Center for Responsive Politics

Tax cut votes: New York Times (Senate; House)

Wall street profits, 2007-2009: New York State Comptroller (PDF)

Unemployment rate, 2007-2009: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Home equity, 2007-2009: Federal Reserve, Flow of Funds data, 1995-2004 and 2005-2009 (PDFs)

CEO vs. worker pay: Economic Policy Institute

Historic tax rates: Calculations based on data from The Tax Foundation

Federal tax revenue: Joint Committee on Taxation (PDF)

Read also: Kevin Drum on the decline of Big Labor, the rise of Big Business, and why the Obama era fizzled so soon.

More Mother Jones charty goodness: How the rich get richer; how the poor get poorer; who owns Congress?

More MotherJones reporting on Dark Money

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.