As investment outlets outside the financial casinos get harder and harder to find, and as almost all new wealth continues to pile up in the coffers of the hilariously/Orwellianly self-proclaimed “job creators,” the reality is that corporate capitalism is getting increasingly dependent on selling increasingly ornate luxury goods to the elite and the merely comfortable.
Consider the latest news that the size of new houses being built has returned to its pre-crash trend of steady, record-breaking increases. Why is that? Is it some feature, as many “consumer culture” analysts would surely have it, of national character, of collective greed and psychosis? “Americans love bigness!”
Not so much. “To get an answer, just take a look at WHO is buying new homes,” says the NAHB itself. Here’s the click-to-expand graph:
In the United States in 2009, there were 151 million people who received wages. As reporter David Cay Johnston has begun to explain, there is a rather amazing collection of statistics being kept in this crucial area by the Social Security Administration.
Johnston explains some of the shocking, if not at all surprising, facts revealed by a bit of analysis:
[These statistics] do give us a stunning picture of what’s happening at the very top of the compensation ladder in America.
The number of Americans making $50 million or more, the top income category in the data, fell from 131 in 2008 to 74 last year. But that’s only part of the story.
The average wage in this top category increased from $91.2 million in 2008 to an astonishing $518.8 million in 2009. That’s nearly $10 million in weekly pay!
You read that right. In the Great Recession year of 2009 (officially just the first half of the year), the average pay of the very highest-income Americans was more than five times their average wages and bonuses in 2008. And even though their numbers shrank by 43 percent, this group’s total compensation was 3.2 times larger in 2009 than in 2008, accounting for 0.6 percent of all pay. These 74 people made as much as the 19 million lowest-paid people in America, who constitute one in every eight workers.
And remember: This comparison includes federally taxable wages only. It says nothing about stock options, expense accounts, or benefits.
And single-year wage data also say nothing about wealth distribution, which, in a capitalist paradise like the United States, is far more unequal than the income structure.
Finally, I would invite people to just goggle these stats. Contemplate, for instance, the pyramidal structure of the wage system. By far the most densely populated wage segments lie at the low end of the scale. And the slots get almost precisely less-filled as they ascend into the unconscionable stratosphere.
Likewise, one might examine these numbers and ask “our” politicians why the fuck they never shut up about the so-called “middle class.” Aren’t the bottom and the top really the overwhelmingly important issues? And, even without knowing the facts Johnston discusses, aren’t people thirsty for some leadership and meaningful choice in this area?