FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

There’s Plenty of Wealth to Go Around, But It Doesn’t

Get ready to hear a lot about baking this campaign season.

When it comes to how wealth is distributed in this country, “pie” is a favorite pundit metaphor. Some politicians want to “re-divide the pie,” so everyone’s slice is more equal in size.

But that’s “socialism,” some pundits scold. Better to trust our billionaires and millionaires to “grow the pie” so big that every American has a generous slice.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman indulged a bit of this recently. Michael Bloomberg, Friedman explained, is a grow-the-pie guy. Bernie Sanders, he warned, is a re-divide-the-pie guy.

Bloomberg has a net worth of about $50 billion. How big would he have to grow the pie so that every American household gets a slice as big as his? By my calculations, that would require about a 500,000 percent increase in the size of America’s total wealth — to over $600 quadrillion.

Let’s suspend reality for a minute and pretend it’s possible to grow the pie just 1 percent that large, to a mere $6 quadrillion — 60 times the pie’s current size. Would Bloomberg and his fellow billionaires seek to share the pie’s growth equally with the rest of us, or would they try to grow their own slices even larger?

Color me cynical, but I’ve no doubt that if America managed to grow its pie 60-fold, those billionaires would be turning themselves into trillionaires — we may even see our first quadrillionaire.

You see, we’ve lived through this experiment already.

In 1982, when Ronald Reagan’s massive tax cuts for the wealthy were taking effect, America’s aggregate wealth was around $10 trillion. Since then, it’s increased ten-fold — and we’ve experienced a concentration of wealth surpassing even the Gilded Age of the early 1900s.

America’s richest families — the Kochs, Mars, and Waltons — inflated their wealth by 6,000 percent, while the median American family treaded water. African-American households got clobbered, experiencing a 50 percent decrease in median household wealth.

And after all that growth, 40 percent of American adults don’t have the cash to handle a $400 emergency expense.

Funny thing, nobody from the grow-the-pie crowd ever explains why growing the pie in the future would help average Americans — not after enormous growth over the past several decades did bubkus for them.

The bottom line: Growing the pie, by itself, won’t cut it.

Does re-dividing the pie hold potential, or is Bernie Sanders just talking pie in the sky (pun intended)?

Actually, it does. Quite a bit. Dividing today’s $100 trillion American pie evenly among its 125 million households would give each household an $800,000 slice. Grow that pie by a realistically achievable 25 percent over the next decade, and we have a nation of millionaires.

Many would contend that giving each household an equal slice would be unfair or counterproductive. And that’s a fine debate to have. But to suggest the pie isn’t already big enough to provide for all Americans is a lie.

There’s plenty to go around. The problem is that a relative handful of families have slices so gigantic that they could never ever finish eating them, while millions of Americans are living on crumbs.

More articles by:

Bob Lord is a veteran tax lawyer who practices and blogs in Phoenix, Arizona. He’s an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. 

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
August 21, 2019
Craig Collins
Endangered Species Act: A Failure Worth Fighting For?
Colin Todhunter
Offering Choice But Delivering Tyranny: the Corporate Capture of Agriculture
Michael Welton
That Couldn’t Be True: Restorying and Reconciliation
John Feffer
‘Slowbalization’: Is the Slowing Global Economy a Boon or Bane?
Johnny Hazard
In Protest Against Police Raping Spree, Women Burn Their Station in Mexico City.
Tom Engelhardt
2084: Orwell Revisited in the Age of Trump
Binoy Kampmark
Condescension and Climate Change: Australia and the Failure of the Pacific Islands Forum
Kenn Orphan – Phil Rockstroh
The Dead Letter Office of Capitalist Imperium: a Poverty of Mundus Imaginalis 
George Wuerthner
The Forest Service Puts Ranchers Ahead of Grizzlies (and the Public Interest)
Stephen Martin
Geopolitics of Arse and Elbow, with Apologies to Schopenhauer.
Gary Lindorff
The Smiling Turtle
August 20, 2019
James Bovard
America’s Forgotten Bullshit Bombing of Serbia
Peter Bolton
Biden’s Complicity in Obama’s Toxic Legacy
James Phillips
Calm and Conflict: a Dispatch From Nicaragua
Karl Grossman
Einstein’s Atomic Regrets
Colter Louwerse
Kushner’s Threat to Palestine: An Interview with Norman Finkelstein
Nyla Ali Khan
Jammu and Kashmir: the Legitimacy of Article 370
Dean Baker
The Mythology of the Stock Market
Daniel Warner
Is Hong Kong Important? For Whom?
Frederick B. Mills
Monroeism is the Other Side of Jim Crow, the Side Facing South
Binoy Kampmark
God, Guns and Video Games
John Kendall Hawkins
Toni Morrison: Beloved or Belovéd?
Martin Billheimer
A Clerk’s Guide to the Unspectacular, 1914
Elliot Sperber
On the 10-Year Treasury Bonds 
August 19, 2019
John Davis
The Isle of White: a Tale of the Have-Lots Versus the Have-Nots
John O'Kane
Supreme Nihilism: the El Paso Shooter’s Manifesto
Robert Fisk
If Chinese Tanks Take Hong Kong, Who’ll be Surprised?
Ipek S. Burnett
White Terror: Toni Morrison on the Construct of Racism
Arshad Khan
India’s Mangled Economy
Howard Lisnoff
The Proud Boys Take Over the Streets of Portland, Oregon
Steven Krichbaum
Put an End to the Endless War Inflicted Upon Our National Forests
Cal Winslow
A Brief History of Harlan County, USA
Jim Goodman
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is Just Part of a Loathsome Administration
Brian Horejsi
Bears’ Lives Undervalued
Thomas Knapp
Lung Disease Outbreak: First Casualties of the War on Vaping?
Susie Day
Dear Guys Who Got Arrested for Throwing Water on NYPD Cops
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail