A Rising Tide Lifts All Yachts

Surprise, surprise… Over the past three decades almost all the gains from economic growth in the United States went to the wealthiest in society. The Congressional Budget Office recently released a report that looked at the trends in family wealth distribution from 1989 to 2019. In a wide variety of ways, data was measured and displayed on graphs, and they all told the same story. There is a club of people who have seen tremendous financial gain over the past period, and you are not a member of it.

In looking at the figures over the past decades, it has been essentially irrelevant whether the country was governed by the Democratic or Republican party, the massive growth of inequality has steadily exploded.

In the report, total family wealth is defined as home equity, other real estate, financial securities, bank deposits, deferred compensation, business equity minus credit card debt, vehicle loans and student loans.

Here are some of the stats that were shared in the report.

In 2019:

  • Families in the bottom 25% had more debts than assets, with an average wealth of negative $11,000.
  • Families in the bottom 50% had only 2% of all wealth.
  • Families in the top 10% had more than two-thirds of all wealth.
  • Since the 2008-2009 recession, family wealth of the bottom 50% had not recovered in 2019 to what it had been before the recession.

Housing crash:

  • Families in the bottom 25% lost $26,000 in home equity during the housing crash.

Education – a ticket to a better life?

  • For families in the bottom 25%, student loan debt became the largest source of debt by 2013, overtaking mortgage debt.

Just about everywhere we look, we see the realities of these statistics. Tent cities pop up in the shadows of luxury skyscrapers. Our neighborhoods crumble and our schools are shut down to gentrify and make way for newly arriving wealthy people. It’s harder for us to fill up the grocery cart and gas tank while billionaires brag about going into space.

Did we really need a study to tell us what we can see all around us? We don’t need a chart to tell us that we don’t have to accept the continued siphoning off of wealth by the ultra-rich at the top, or that we have the power to put an end to this insane situation.