Discussions of Wealth in America


If a man has an apartment stacked to the ceiling with newspapers, we call him crazy. If a woman has a trailer house full of cats, we call her nuts. But when people pathologically hoard so much cash that they impoverish the entire nation, we put them on the cover of Fortune magazine and pretend that they are role models.

Class warfare or simply paying your fair share?

Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) last night on CNN actually said:

I’m not concerned about the very poor.

to which conservative writer Jonah Goldberg (National Review) asks “What is wrong with this guy?” and Michelle Malkin quips “Let them eat food stamps.”

Meanwhile, Romney has not addressed the questions raised by Brian Beutler about possible offshore tax avoidance scheme raised on his on-the-record press call last week.

The briefing cleared up several questions, but left others unanswered – including one from TPM that will either exculpate Romney from allegations that he’s used investments in offshore entities to avoid U.S. taxes, or reveal that his campaign has not fully addressed those allegations.

On the call, Romney’s trustee pledged get back to us with this information. But despite multiple inquiries in the days since the conference call, the Romney camp has not set the record straight one way or another….

An IRA can’t finance investments with debt, and, in the United States, it can’t invest in entities that lever up, without being hit by the UBIT.

But if an IRA invests in an offshore fund, and that fund levers up, it can avoid the UBIT altogether. And at 35 percent that’s no small tax to get around, according to multiple tax experts.

When first questioned about this on the call, Romney’s trustee noted, “Governor Romeny’s IRA is not structured in the Caymans, it’s not located in the Cayman’s. It’s tax deferred just like your IRA, and my IRA.”

But in a followup, I asked if his IRA had invested in any offshore entities that would have made it subject to the UBIT if those entities were located on U.S. soil. Romney’s staff has yet to provide the answer.

They talk about class warfare - the fact of the matter is there has been class warfare for the last thirty years. It's a handful of billionaires taking on the entire middle-class and working-class of this country. And the result is you now have in America the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on Earth and the worst inequality in America since 1928. How could anybody defend the top 400 richest people in this country owning more wealth than the bottom half of America, 150 million people? The other reason Romney pays a lower tax rate than most of us is that so-called “carried interest” (the commission charged by hedge fund managers) is treated as long-term capital gains and taxed at 15%. According to Mother Jones, Bain Capital

spent $300,000 between August 2007 and April 2008 lobbying the House and Senate on bills that threatened the carried interest loophole. Along with other private equity titans like Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Apollo Management, Bain and its ilk paid lobbying shops, public relations firms, and trade groups like Ogilvy and the Private Equity Growth Capital Council an estimated $15 million between January 2009 and April 2010 to convince lawmakers to keep the loophole alive. The force of those combined lobbying efforts kept the carried interest loophole wedged open, denying the federal government some $10 billion in revenues.

Part 7: Eleven charts that explain everything that’s wrong with America


Your Loss, Their Gain

How much income have you given up for the top 1 percent?

This is the last of a seven part series of 11 charts by Dave Gilson and Carolyn Perot courtesy of Mother Jones. We will be reprinting a selection every 24 hours this week. For more cutting edge journalism from Mother Jones, please sign up for their free newsletter at motherjones.  

Part 6: Eleven charts that explain everything that’s wrong with America

This is the sixth of a series of 11 charts by Dave Gilson and Carolyn Perot courtesy of Mother Jones. We will be reprinting a selection every 24 hours this week. For more cutting edge journalism from Mother Jones, please sign up for their free newsletter at motherjones.  

Part 5: Eleven charts that explain everything that’s wrong with America


Who’s Winning?

For a healthy few, it’s getting better all the time.

This is the fifth of a series of 11 charts by Dave Gilson and Carolyn Perot courtesy of Mother Jones. We will be reprinting a selection every 24 hours this week. For more cutting edge journalism from Mother Jones, please sign up for their free newsletter at motherjones.  

Part 4: Eleven charts that explain everything that’s wrong with America

Capitol Gain

Why Washington is closer to Wall Street than Main Street.

Member Max. Est. Net Worth
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) $451.1 million
Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) $435.4 million
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) $366.2 million
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) $294.9 million
Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) $285.1 million
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) $283.1 million
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WIj) $231.2 million
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) $201.5 million
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) $136.2 million
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) $108.1 million
Combined Net Worth $2.8 Billion


This is the fourth of a series of 11 charts by Dave Gilson and Carolyn Perot courtesy of Mother Jones. We will be reprinting a selection every 24 hours this week. For more cutting edge journalism from Mother Jones, please sign up for their free newsletter at motherjones.com/newsletter.  

Part 3: Eleven charts that explain everything that’s wrong with America

Out of Balance

A Harvard business professor and a behavioral economist recently asked more than 5,000 Americans how they thought wealth is distributed in the United States. Most thought that it’s more balanced than it actually is. Asked to choose their ideal distribution of wealth, 92% picked one that was even more equitable.

Source: Michael Norton and Dan Ariely

This is the third of a series of 11 charts by Dave Gilson and Carolyn Perot courtesy of Mother Jones. We will be reprinting a selection every 24 hours this week. For more cutting edge journalism from Mother Jones, please sign up for their free newsletter at motherjones.com/newsletter.  

Part 2: Eleven charts that explain everything that’s wrong with America

Winners Take All

The superrich have grabbed the bulk of the past three decades’ gains.

This is the second of a series of 11 charts by Dave Gilson and Carolyn Perot courtesy of Mother Jones. We will be reprinting a selection every 24 hours this week. For more cutting edge journalism from Mother Jones, please sign up for their free newsletter at motherjones.com/newsletter.  

Eleven charts that explain everything that’s wrong with America.


How Rich are the Super Rich?

A huge share of the nation’s economic growth over the past 30 years has gone to the top one-hundredth of one percent, who now make an average of $27 million per household. The average income for the bottom 90 percent of us? $31,244.

This is the first of a series of 11 charts by Dave Gilson and Carolyn Perot courtesy of Mother Jones. We will be reprinting a selection every 24 hours this week. For more cutting edge journalism from Mother Jones, please sign up for their free newsletter at motherjones.com/newsletter.  

Note: The 2007 data (the most current) doesn’t reflect the impact of the housing market crash. In 2007, the bottom 60% of Americans had 65% of their net worth tied up in their homes. The top 1%, in contrast, had just 10%. The housing crisis has no doubt further swelled the share of total net worth held by the superrich.

Sources

Income Distribution: Emmanuel Saez

Net worth: Edward Wolff