A New Report on America’s Wealth Gap Shows Bernie Sanders Is Right to Be Grumpy

Most Americans keep getting kicked in the assets.


A new Congressional Budget Office report examining trends in family wealth confirms what most Americans know from experience: The poor are buried in debt, the middle class is stuck, and—shocker—the most wealthy are piling up all the green.

The report, released late last week, puts its findings simply: “The distribution [of wealth] among the nation’s families was more unequal in 2013 than it had been in 1989.” It lays out some stark figures: Families in the top 10 percent of wealth distribution now hold more than three-quarters of the nation’s total family wealth. Those falling within the 51st to 90th percentiles owned less than a quarter of it. Meanwhile, the bottom 50 percent own just 1 percent of the total share.

Putting it into dollars, the CBO notes that the average wealth of the top 10 percent of families was $4 million compared with $36,000 for those in the 26th to 50th percentiles. The wealth of families in the bottom 25 percent was in the red, because of an average of about $13,000 in debt, up from around $1,000 in debt prior to the Great Recession. (CBO defines wealth as a family’s assets—including business and home equities, other real estate holdings, financial securities, bank deposits, and pension accounts—minus its debts.)

Even though Americans at all levels took a hit during the recession, the top 10 percent has seen its losses return at a much faster rate than everyone else.

Congressional Budget Office

 

Looking at income, the CBO report confirmed that the gap between the rich and the rest has continued to grow. It found that the top 1 percent has seen its average real income grow 192 percent since 1979, compared with a 46 percent increase for middle-income families.

Congressional Budget Office

The report also found an increase in debt among the bottom 25 percent of families, due in part to rising student loan debt, which jumped from $24,000 to $36,000 on average between 2007 and 2013.

Congressional Budget Office

The report was conducted at the request of Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.). “The reality, as this report makes clear, is that since the 1980s there has been an enormous transfer of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the wealthiest people in this country,” the former Democratic presidential candidate said in a statement. “There is something profoundly wrong when the rich keep getting richer and virtually everyone else gets poorer.” Sanders also took to Twitter to condemn the wealth gap highlighted in the CBO report.

 

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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