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Sep 20, 2012
12:38 PM

Forbes 400 List Perfectly Illustrates Rising Income Inequality

Surprise—the very rich have gotten significantly richer

Forbes 400 List Perfectly Illustrates Rising Income Inequality

Forbes.com

Forbes released their list of the 400 richest Americans today and despite what everyone is calling a slow or nonexistent recovery, the very rich have gotten significantly richer.

In fact, they’ve gotten $1.7 trillion richer, which equaled an increase of only 13 percent.

This is all happening at a time when one in six Americans is in poverty, that median incomes for individuals and families in the United States fell in 2011, and national unemployment remains higher than 8 percent (much higher depending on which numbers you believe).

For the average American, hourly wages have remained flat over the past year and about 1 in 5 mortgage holders is a "negative equity" position, meaning their house is worth less than they paid for it.

These numbers are very similar to the ones we saw during the Reagan administration and before the Great Depression. In fact, as of 2010 the Atlantic found a particularly alarming comparison: “Income inequality is worse now than during slavery.”

The truth is in the U.S. there has come to exist an alarming reality: no matter what happens to the rest of the country the richest among us are still raking in cash hand over fist. Vanity Fair detailed the phenomenon that the poet Lavell Crump (known in hip-hop circles as David Banner) so eloquently detailed recently that “the rich is getting richer and the poor is getting broke.” From the article:

“The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably.

"Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent. One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats. That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall.”

Adjusted for inflation, the Forbes 400 Americans had a net worth of $480 billion in 1990.

Today, they have more than three times that much. The average American hasn’t done quite as well.

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