Saturday, October 30, 2010

being really rich

From the Montreal Gazette

In 1894, John D. Rockefeller was the "Richest Man Imaginable," with a yearly income of $1.25million ($30 million in current dollars). More than 100 years later, Rockefeller wouldn't have even made a top-25 list. By 2009, top yearly incomes in the United States were calculated in the billions of dollars, not mere millions. A single job category, hedge-fund manager, boasted 25 men who collectively made $25.3 billion, or more than $1 billion each on average. Rockefeller in his heyday made 7,000 times the yearly income of the average American worker; the hedge-fund managers made more than 24,000 times as much.

Since 1970, the hourly wage of the average American non-supervisory worker is lower, adjusted for inflation, than it was in 1970. In that same period CEO pay has gone from 30 times the average wage to almost 300 times the typical worker's pay.

Economist Paul Krugman demonstrated the rising inequity of income with a line of 1,000 people arranged from left to right, poor to rich. In Krugman's example, the average height in 1973 was 6-foot. At the left side, in 1973, the lowest income earner was 16 inches tall. The highest income earner, to the far right, was 113 feet tall. Thirty-two years later, 2005, the average height (income) was up to 8 feet. The workers on the left and middle of the line had changed little in height, just few inches each but the guy on the right was 560 feet tall.

In 1970, one in seven children lived in poverty. By 1980 the ratio was one in six; by 1990, one in five.

The Leftist journal Monthly Review reports that in America Social Security has made it possible for the vast majority of workers to enjoy a period of retirement in at least modest comfort without relying on their children for support. The average length of retirement has increased consistently since the program was started in 1937. However, the increase in the normal retirement age from 65 to 67 that is being phased in over the years 2003 to 2022 largely offsets the increase in life expectancy. As a result, workers who work long enough to collect their full benefits will see little gain in the expected length of their retirement over this period.

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