The Rich Just Keep Pulling Away From the Rest of Us

Via Matt Yglesias, I see that Emmanuel Saez released some new income inequality figures a few days ago, and the headline result is predictable: the super rich are doing really well! Since 2009, incomes of the top 1% have grown by 31 percent, while the incomes of the other 99% have been flat.

Now, I imagine that apologists for the rich are going to point out that their recent winnings still don’t make up for their losses during the Great Recession. And that’s true. As the annotated chart on the right shows, since the 2007 peak the rich have suffered an average income loss of 16.3 percent. The rest of us have done better: our incomes are down only 11.2 percent.

But this is meaningless. For starters, an 11.2 percent drop for someone making 15 bucks an hour is a helluva lot more painful than a 16.3 percent drop for a millionaire.

More importantly, economic expansions are always where the action is for the rich. When you combine their gains from expansions with their losses from the subsequent recessions, they always do better than the non-rich. They did 25 percentage points better during the Clinton era and 9 points better during the Bush era. When the next recession hits, their net gains will, once again, almost certainly be higher than the rest of us. If you look at complete economic cycles—as you should—the rich have pulled ahead in every single one since 1980. Right now, there’s no reason to think that the next time will be any different.


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.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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