It may be difficult for those on the wrong end of economic inequality to understand, but there are some conservative economists who claim inequality promotes investment, but the overriding opinion is that too much inequality is destructive and can hinder a nation’s long term growth. In 2011, researchers from the International Monetary Fund published work indicating that income equality increased the duration of countries’ economic growth spells more than free trade, foreign investment, or low foreign debt. Obviously, economic inequality in America is well beyond a social and economic problem, and two noted economists have released preliminary research that revealed Americans have not witnessed economic inequality favoring the richest 1% since the 1920s and it is about to get worse; much, much worse if the Koch brothers’ American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), State Policy Network, and their Republican facilitator Paul Ryan have their way.
It is a fact of life that income inequality has grown steadily sincethe 1980s with the richest 1% taking an inordinate amount of wealth from the labor of higher productivity coupled with stagnant wages, but there is also a great gap regarding wealth. Wealth is a household’s total assets including savings, equity in a home, pensions, and cash on hand minus what that household owes, and according to Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, the gap between wealth held by the richest 1% and the rest of the population is at levels not seen since the 1920s “explosive inequality dynamics.” The economists note that wealth is always “very concentrated” at the top, but although the top 10% made gains over the past three decades, the highest concentration since the 1980s has been in the top 0.1% who hold more than $20 million in assets, and for those in the top 0.01% with over $100 million in assets their wealth exploded.
There has been virtually no increase in wealth for everyone below the top 0.1% of Americans. After the Great Depression, progressive capital taxes and the New Deal prevented wealth inequality from growing inordinately until about 1986 when the bottom 90% began being barely able to save anything that the Republican Great Recession made incredibly worse. Today,hardly any Americans are able to save or even count home equity as an asset, and coupled with stagnant or poverty-level wages enriching corporations and the rich, the top 1% willcontinue accumulating all the wealth in America. For many Americans, the only “wealth” they count is their pension to stave off starvation and homelessness in old age that Republicans, Koch brothers, Wall Street, ALEC, and the State Policy Network are crusading to rob to enrich corporations, Wall Street, and the richest 1%.