How the Rich Get Richer

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While we’re all waiting for the Iowa straw poll to finish up, here are some new income inequality charts for you to munch on. These come from a new CRS report, and the first one shows where most of us get our income. For 80% of us, the answer is: almost all of it comes from ordinary wages and salaries. We get a grand total of 0.7% of our income from dividends and capital gains.

For the top 0.1%, it’s flipped around. They get less than 20% of their income from ordinary wages and more than half from dividends and capital gains. So when Republicans eagerly insist on reducing or eliminating taxes on dividends and capital gains, this chart shows you who benefits. Most of us get nada, but the very rich benefit handsomely.

Got that? Onward, then. This next chart comes from Jared Bernstein, based on the same CRS report, and it shows how various kinds of income contributed to growing income inequality between 1996 and 2006. Overall, America’s Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, increased by 0.057 points between 1996 and 2006. Of that increase, most comes from dividends and capital gains, which became a higher percentage of the pay of the rich, and taxes, which went down a lot for rich people.

There’s more detail at the link, but you get the picture. For the rich, the amount of their income that comes from capital gains went up, while the taxes they paid on their capital gains went down. As a result, income inequality zoomed ever higher. Pretty sweet deal, no?

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

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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.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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