Stats on wealth inequality get a bit hazy, as stats can be. Back when we were protesting with Occupy Wall Street, the wealth inequality number that I remember citing wasn’t about the 1%, it was that 20% of the U.S. population controlled 80% of the wealth. That seemed like a lot to me, back in 2010. U.S. inequality was at the level of “Third World” nations, and it all seemed completely out of control.
We tried to raise awareness, and it worked, we raised awareness, but our political system was too broken to make the kinds of deep reforms needed to change the trends. Obama tinkered around the edges but didn’t put forth the kind of sustained effort that would have been needed to turn it around. So, the trends just keep getting worse.
I’ve always thought of it in gangster terms. Once you’re the mafia boss and you control the wealth and you pull the strings, you can set it up so that you’re getting a piece of all the action. That seems to be the trend.
The most recent stats are showing that instead of 20% of the population owning 80% of the wealth, it’s more like 10% of the population. The top 10% own 77.1 percent of the wealth in the country.
It seems to be an exponential thing going on here: as economic inequality increases, the wealthliest seem to be able to use that wealth to make themselves richer. They can multiply their wealth faster. To me that makes sense. It seems natural that the more power is centralized in the hands of the few, the quicker they will be able to parlay that into greater power. And that’s what money is, power, or it’s at least one form of power.
The upside here is that at this point, small fixes won’t work, and we all know that. Incremental change won’t correct it. It’s going to take radical measures to reverse the trend.