Thursday, September 15, 2011

The American Human: Increasingly Poor, with more Ferraris

Yesterday, the statistics hit home: whatever ideology you might possess, fact is America is increasingly a country haunted by the poor. The Census Bureau released its annual report on Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage: 2010 (h/t Barry Rithotz), and the picture it paints is bleak.

Key findings:

  1. Real median household income in the United States in 2010 was $49,445, a 2.3 percent decline from the 2009 median.
  2. Since 2007, the year before the most recent recession, real median household income has declined 6.4 percent and is 7.1 percent below the median household income peak that occurred prior to the 2001 recession in 1999.
  3. In spring 2011, 5.9 million young adults age 25-34 (14.2 percent) resided in their parents’ household, compared with 4.7 million (11.8 percent) before the recession, an increase of 2.4 percentage points.
  4. It is difficult to precisely assess the impact of doubling up on overall poverty rates. Young adults age 25-34, living with their parents, had an official poverty rate of 8.4 percent, but if their poverty status were determined using their own income, 45.3 percent had an income below the poverty threshold for a single person under age 65.
  5. Based on the Gini Index, the change in income inequality between 2009 and 2010 was not statistically significant, while the changes in shares of aggregate household income by quintiles showed a slight shift to more inequality. The Gini index was 0.469 in 2010. (The Gini index is a measure of household income inequality; zero represents perfect income equality and 1 perfect inequality.)
  Just for a quick comparison between the top and the bottom, the above represents the bottom. Below, a couple of quick looks at the top:

Ferrari Proves Recession Proof as Ultra-Luxury Sells Out: Cars 

From the article:

Maserati SpA’s new sport-utility vehicle was one of the most sought-after models at the Frankfurt car show this week and Ferrari SpA predicted record sales as executives said ultra-luxury remains recession-proof.
“If you go to the Ferrari stand, there aren’t any customers worried about the recession,” Fiat Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne said at the International Motor Show. “The last Ferrari customers I saw at the show weren’t crying.”
Fiat’s two upscale brands may help the Turin, Italy-based carmaker weather a decline at its main business as Europe’s credit crisis worsens. Even without the Kubang SUV, Maserati aims to boost deliveries by almost eightfold to 45,000 cars in 2014 as it increases dealers by 150 percent worldwide. Lamborghini SpA’s new Aventador model is sold out for 18 months and Rolls-Royce Cars announced a 10 million-pound ($15.8 million) expansion at its Goodwood, England plant.


 Capital gains tax rates benefiting wealthy feed growing gap between rich and poor

From the article:
For the very richest Americans, low tax rates on capital gains are better than any Christmas gift. As a result of a pair of rate cuts, first under President Bill Clinton and then under Bush, most of the richest Americans pay lower overall tax rates than middle-class Americans do. And this is one reason the gap between the wealthy and the rest of the country is widening dramatically.
The rates on capital gains — which include profits from the sale of stocks, bonds and real estate — should be a key point in negotiations over how to shrink the budget deficit, some lawmakers say.
“This is something that should be on the table,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), one of 12 members on the congressional “supercommittee” tasked with reducing the deficit. “There’s no strong economic rationale for the huge gap that exists now between the rate for wages and the rate for capital gains.”
Advocates for a low capital gains rate say it spurs more investment in the U.S. economy, benefiting all Americans. But some tax experts say the evidence for that theory is murky at best. What is clear is that the capital gains tax rate disproportionately benefits the ultra-wealthy.
Most Americans depend on wages and salaries for their income, which is subject to a graduated tax so the big earners pay higher percentages. The capital gains tax turns that idea on its head, capping the rate at 15 percent for long-term investments. As a result, anyone making more than $34,500 a year in wages and salary is taxed at a higher rate than a billionaire is taxed on untold millions in capital gains. 

 We have to make some serious decisions about what we're going to do about the income gap in America if we hope to have a healthy society. Doing nothing won't cut it. Even the wealthy should know that. Question: when the middle class disappears into the lower, impoverished classes, how do the rich retain their riches?

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