Study: U.S. Income Inequality Much Worse than Roman Empire’s
A recent study by a pair of historians has determined that income inequality is much worse in contemporary American than it was during the ancient Roman Empire.
According to the Huffington Post, the study’s authors, Walter Schiedel and Steven Friesen, analyzed papyri ledgers, biblical passages and previous scholarship to determine that the top one percent of income earners in ancient Rome controlled 16% of society’s wealth. That’s less than half of what today’s one percenters control in the United States. According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, the top one percent of American earners control 40% of the country’s wealth.
According to the CIA World Factbook, the United States had greater income inequality in 2007 than China or Iran. According to the United Nations, the U.S. now ranks 73nd in worldwide income equality, right below Senegal and just ahead of Turkmenistan. Cambodia, Russia, Mozambique, Jamaica, Vietnam, Egypt and Greece are but a sampling of the nations with more equitable wealth distribution than the United States.
The problem is only getting worse. According to the U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO), between 1979 and 2007 the inflation-adjusted after-tax income of the top 1% of U.S. households rose 275%. For the middle class, the gain was 40%. For the poor, it was just 18%. The CBO blames the growing income gap partly on government slashing of aid to low-income Americans such as Medicare, Social Security and unemployment insurance. Meanwhile, income taxes have been lowered, especially on the wealthiest Americans. Indeed, despite all the conservative grumbling about how high taxes are, in 2009 they were at their lowest level since 1950.
The Huffington Post points out that the net worth of the bottom 60% of Americans is less than that of the Forbes 400 richest Americans, and that the six Walmart heirs are worth more than the bottom 30%— 45,000,000– Americans combined.
And conservatives still wonder what Occupy Wall Street is all about? Talk about fiddling while Rome burns!
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