The economic elite have at least $46 trillion in wealth – but who are they? We look at the people and the industries picking the pockets of the working class.The following is an adapted excerpt from David DeGraw’s new report on the financial destruction of the United States. The full report can be read here: Analysis of Financial Terrorism in America.
“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class,
the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
– Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway
How Much Wealth Do The Economic Elite Have?
While 68.3 million Americans struggle to get enough food to eat and wages are declining for 90 percent of the population, US millionaire household wealth has reached an unprecedented level. According to an extensive study by auditing and financial advisory firm Deloitte, US millionaire households now have $38.6 trillion in wealth. On top of the $38.6 trillion this study reveals, they have an estimated $6.3 trillion hidden in offshore accounts.
In total, US millionaire households have at least $45.9 trillion in wealth, the majority of this wealth is held within the upper one-tenth of one percent of the population.
If all this isn’t obscene enough, to further demonstrate how the global economy has now been completely rigged, Deloitte’s analysis predicated, based on current trends, that US millionaire households will see a 225 percent increase in wealth to $87.1 trillion by 2020. Accounting for wealth hidden in offshore accounts, they are projected to have over $100 trillion in total within the next decade.
Most people cannot even comprehend how much $1 trillion is, let alone $46 trillion. One trillion is equal to 1000 billion, or $1,000,000,000,000. To put it in perspective, last year the entire cost of feeding all 40 million Americans on food stamps was $65 billion.
Now consider, according to the latest IRS data, only 0.076 percent of the population, less than one-tenth of one percent, earned over $1 million in 2009.
The graph below, based on data from the Tax Policy Center, shows how much income is earned by a household at any given percentile in income distribution:
The highest bracket for annual income is $50 million or more. Only 74 Americans are in this elite group. The average income within this category was $91.2 million in 2008. As astonishing as that is, in 2009 they averaged $518.8 million each, or about $10 million per week. This means, in the depths of the recession, the richest 74 Americans increased their income by more than five times within this one year. These 74 people made more money than 19 million workers combined.
In context, overall, the richest 400 people in the US have as much wealth as 154 million Americans combined, that’s 50 percent of the entire country. The top economic 1 percent of the US population now has a record 40 pecent of all wealth, and have more wealth than 90 percent of the population combined.
Who Rules America? Revealing The Economic Top 0.1 Percent
Here is an analysis from an investment manager with mega-wealthy clients breaking down the economic top 0.5 percent of the population, recently published by William Domhoff, sociology professor and author of Who Rules America?:
“Unlike those in the lower half of the top 1%, those in the top half and, particularly, top 0.1%, can often borrow for almost nothing, keep profits and production overseas, hold personal assets in tax havens, ride out down markets and economies, and influence legislation in the US. They have access to the very best in accounting firms, tax and other attorneys, numerous consultants, private wealth managers, a network of other wealthy and powerful friends, lucrative business opportunities, and many other benefits.
Folks in the top 0.1% come from many backgrounds but it’s infrequent to meet one whose wealth wasn’t acquired through direct or indirect participation in the financial and banking industries…. Most of the serious economic damage the US is struggling with today was done by the top 0.1% and they benefited greatly from it…. For example, in Q1 of 2011, America’s top corporations reported 31% profit growth and a 31% reduction in taxes, the latter due to profit outsourcing to low tax rate countries…. The year 2010 was a record year for compensation on Wall Street, while corporate CEO compensation rose by over 30%.…
In 2010 a dozen major companies, including GE, Verizon, Boeing, Wells Fargo, and Fed Ex paid US tax rates between -0.7% and -9.2%. Production, employment, profits, and taxes have all been outsourced….
I could go on and on, but the bottom line is this: A highly complex and largely discrete set of laws and exemptions from laws has been put in place by those in the uppermost reaches of the US financial system. It allows them to protect and increase their wealth and significantly affect the US political and legislative processes.
They have real power and real wealth. Ordinary citizens in the bottom 99.9% are largely not aware of these systems, do not understand how they work, are unlikely to participate in them, and have little likelihood of entering the top 0.5%, much less the top 0.1%….
… the American dream of striking it rich is merely a well-marketed fantasy that keeps the bottom 99.5% hoping for better and prevents social and political instability. The odds of getting into that top 0.5% are very slim and the door is kept firmly shut by those within it.”
To get into the top economic 0.01 percent (one-hundredth of one percent) of the population, you have to have a household income of over $27 million per year.
If you look at some of the central players who caused this economic crisis, you will see that they are among this Economic Elite group.
Former Goldman Sachs CEO and Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson had already amassed at least $700 million prior to moving to the US Treasury in 2006. Current Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and a few other top executives at Goldman Sachs just received $111.3 million in bonuses. Blankfein just took home $24.3 million, as part of a $67.9 million bonus he was awarded. Goldman’s President Gary Cohn took home $24 million, as part of a $66.9 million bonus he was awarded. Goldman’s CFO David Viniar and former co-president Jon Winkelried both took home over $20 million in bonuses.
Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit just took home $80 million, in what may eventually total more than $200 million in compensation and bonuses. Coming in at the top of the list is JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who just took home $90 million.
If you think people in this income level don’t control the US political process, you are not paying attention. After they caused this economic crisis, they got the government to give them trillions of dollars in taxpayer support, and then, after taking our tax dollars, they gave themselves all-time record-breaking bonuses. 2009 was an all-time record-breaking year for Wall Street executives bringing in a total of $145 billion. And then, in 2010, they raised the bar even higher, breaking the all-time record set the year before by pulling in another $149 billion. The audacity of it all is stunning.
Finding people more grotesquely greedy than Wall Street executives would seem to be impossible. However, health insurance CEOs are giving them a run for their money. As the LA Times reported:
“Leaders of Cigna, Humana, UnitedHealth, WellPoint and Aetna received nearly $200 million in compensation in 2009, according to a report, while the companies sought rate increases as high as 39%….
H. Edward Hanway, former chief executive of Philadelphia-based Cigna, topped the list of high-paid executives, thanks to a retirement package worth $110.9 million. Cigna paid Hanway and his successor, David Cordani, a total of $136.3 million last year….
Ron Williams, the CEO of Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna Inc., earned nearly $18.2 million in total compensation, down from $24.4 million in 2008.”
Aetna CEO Ron Williams has recovered from hisdownyear in 2009 by making $72 million in 2010.
Given this level of obscene profiteering within the health care industry, it is not surprising that Americans pay more for medical care than any other nation in the world. In fact, Americans are forced to pay twice as much as most nations, and get lower quality care in return. As health insurance companies admitted, they have been reaping windfall profits because peoplewith health insurance plansstill cannot afford to go to the doctors and have stopped going unless it is an absolute emergency. With well over 50 million people unable to afford health insurance and the skyrocketing costs, it is not surprising that over 60 percent of all personal bankruptcies are the result of medical bills. In fact, 75 percent of the medical bankruptcies filed are from people whohave health insurance.
Within this Economic Elite group, you also have the war profiteering oil companies, which themselves are in large part owned by the big Wall Street banks. The biggest five oil companies, while gas prices have been skyrocketing, reaped $36 billion in profit last quarter. These companies also receive an average of $6 billion per year in tax subsidies.
Tax Breaks For The Rich, Budget Cuts For The Rest Of Us
To further demonstrate how the mega-wealthy have seized control of our political process, consider that the richest 400 Americans paid 30 percent of their income in taxes in 1995, but they now pay only 18 percent.
In fact, 1,470 Americans earned over $1 million in 2009 and didn’t pay any taxes.
The average tax rate for millionaires was 22.4 percent in 2009, down from 30.4 percent in 1995. The average millionaire saves $136,000 a year due to reduced tax rates.
Looking at the tax rate from a long-term perspective, the amount of money the richest people and most profitable corporations pay in taxes has fallen dramatically since 1955. Corporate tax accounted for 27.3 percent of federal revenue in 1955. In 2010, corporate tax accounted for only 8.9 percent of federal revenue. Corporate taxes accounted for 4.3 percent of overall GDP in 1955, in 2010 they accounted for only 1.3 percent.
Deliberate Systemic Attacks
The dramatic increase in economic inequality and poverty, along with the unprecedented rise in wealth within the topone-tenth of one percentof the population has not happened by mistake. It is the designed result of deliberate governmental and economic policy. It is the result of the richest people in the world, and the “too big to fail” banks, using the campaign finance and lobbying system to buy off politicians who implement policies designed to exploit 99.9 percent of the population for their financial gain. To call what is happening a “financial terrorist attack” on the United States, is not using hyperbole, it is the technical term for what is currently occurring.