The CBO inequality report confirms what independent studies have been saying: the rise of the top 1 percent has absorbed a large fraction (almost half, by my reckoning), of economic growth, leaving a much smaller pie for everyone else.
This is one of the problems with the Republican argument that we should just be focussing on growth and ignore the ‘class warfare’ of income inequality.
In 2009, the total net worth of the Forbes 400 was $1.27 trillion.
The best information now available shows that in 2009 the bottom 60% (yes, now it’s 60%, not 50%) of U.S. households owned only 2.3% of total U.S. wealth.
Total U.S. household net worth — rich, middle class and poor combined — at the time the Forbes list came out was $53.15 trillion. So the bottom 60% of households possessed just $1.22 trillion of that $53.15 trillion, less than the Forbes 400.
Thus the Forbes 400 unquestionably have more wealth than the bottom 50%.
By contrast, in 2007 the bottom 50% of U.S. households owned slightly more wealth than the Forbes 400; the economic meltdown has hurt the bottom more than the top. (And in fact, in 2010 the net worth of the Forbes 400 jumped to $1.37 trillion.)
This document presents details on the wealth and income distributions in the United States, and explains how we use these two distributions as power indicators.
Some of the information may come as a surprise to many people. In fact, I know it will be a surprise and then some, because of a recent study (Norton & Ariely, 2010) showing that most Americans (high income or low income, female or male, young or old, Republican or Democrat) have no idea just how concentrated the wealth distribution actually is. More on that a bit later.