September 16, 2010
Another sign that we have an oligarchy
Over at Slate Timothy Noah writes about the growing income inequality and the reduced social mobility that now characterize the United States.
In 1915, the richest 1% of the population obtained about 15% of the nation's income. "This was the era in which the accumulated wealth of America's richest families—the Rockefellers, the Vanderbilts, the Carnegies—helped prompt creation of the modern income tax, lest disparities in wealth turn the United States into a European-style aristocracy."
But now the top 1% gets 24% of the income. The rising share of the oligarchy can be seen in this graph of the income share of the top 10% over the last 100 years.
As Noah says:
When it comes to real as opposed to imagined social mobility, surveys find less in the United States than in much of (what we consider) the class-bound Old World. France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Spain—not to mention some newer nations like Canada and Australia—are all places where your chances of rising from the bottom are better than they are in the land of Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick…
According to the Central Intelligence Agency (whose patriotism I hesitate to question), income distribution in the United States is more unequal than in Guyana, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, and roughly on par with Uruguay, Argentina, and Ecuador. Income inequality is actually declining in Latin America even as it continues to increase in the United States.