Sam Roberts, who also hosts the New York Times’s weekly political podcast “The Caucus,” had a left-wing take on a study on income disparity in Wednesday’s edition suggesting it justified the left-wing Occupy Wall Street Protest: “As the Data Show, There’s a Reason the Protesters Chose New York.” Included was a graphic on “The New Gilded Age,” with an income disparity chart sourced from the left-leaning Urban Institute and Brookings Institution.
Reporter Robert Pear also bought into class warfare in Wednesday’s paper: “It’s Official: The Rich Get Richer,” keyed to a Congressional Budget Office report showing “The top 1 percent of earners more than doubled their share of the nation’s income over the last three decades.” Alongside was a photo of a protester sympathizing with the Occupy Wall Street sit-in by holding an “I Am 99%” sign, with a photo caption concluding hopefully: “A new report may spur the protests.”
Sam Roberts’s report was particularly ideological.
When the federal income tax was first imposed in 1913, the richest 0.1 percent of households reaped 8.6 percent of the nation’s income. In 2007, as the recession began, the share going to that sliver of megarich Americans was 12.3 percent.
And an even more exclusive club -- the top 0.01 percent of households -- is collecting a greater share of total income than ever before recorded.
Those numbers suggest that the Occupy Wall Street protesters can make a compelling case when they complain that the economic scales are unfairly tilted toward the wealthy. The megarich hold more of the nation’s wealth and collect more of the overall income today than at any time since right before the Great Depression.
Certainly, the protesters picked the right city in which to start their campaign. Among the 1 percent of American households with the highest income, a significant portion, 13 percent, live in the New York metropolitan area, with 4.4 percent living in Manhattan, according to an analysis by Andrew A. Beveridge, a sociologist at Queens College. In three Manhattan neighborhoods, the Upper East and Upper West Sides and Greenwich Village, more than 11 percent of the households make enough to qualify for the top 1 percent.
The wealthiest of the wealthy control more of the country’s treasure than at any other time for which data are available. In 1913, the share of national income going to the top 0.01 percent of households was 2.8 percent, Professor Hacker said. In 2007, that same percentage of households earned 6 percent of national income.
“In 1917, average income -- including capital gains -- among the top 0.1 percent was 127 times the average income of the bottom 90 percent,” Professor Hacker said. “Average income among the top 0.01 percent was 509 times as great. In 2007, average income among the top 0.1 percent was 220 times average income among the bottom 90 percent. Average income among the top 0.01 percent was 1,080 times as great.”
Over the past century, according to a study by Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at Berkeley, the share of income collected by the top 1 percent of Americans peaked at 24 percent in 1928 -- a high that was not matched until 2007.