They’re getting hyper-rich.
The people at the top of America's money pyramid have so prospered in recent years that they have pulled far ahead of the rest of the population, an analysis of tax records and other government data by The New York Times shows.
While Bush and partisan Republicans have long argued that the long series of tax cuts enacted by the current administration have benefited the poor and middle class – or at least benefited all levels of income earners equally – it’s becoming increasingly clear that this simply isn’t the case.
President Bush said during the third election debate last October that most of the tax cuts went to low- and middle-income Americans. In fact, most - 53 percent - will go to people with incomes in the top 10 percent over the first 15 years of the cuts, which began in 2001 and would have to be reauthorized in 2010. And more than 15 percent will go just to the top 0.1 percent, those 145,000 taxpayers.
In fact, by analyzing income and tax data, it appears that the higher up the income ladder you climb, the less subject you are to paying taxes in the United States.
Perhaps this phenomenon should be dubbed reverse-progressivism.
And while the top income earners in the United States are paying less in taxes, their wealth is accumulating in a manner that boggles the mind.
From 1950 to 1970, for example, for every additional dollar earned by the bottom 90 percent, those in the top 0.01 percent earned an additional $162, according to the Times analysis. From 1990 to 2002, for every extra dollar earned by those in the bottom 90 percent, each taxpayer at the top brought in an extra $18,000.
One of the chief virtues of living in a capitalistic society is the promise of economic mobility. Among the dangers of rapid wealth accumulation of a tiny percentage of society is the transition from meritocracy to aristocracy as well as the loss of mobility for those born without great fortunes.
But in fact, economic mobility - moving from one income group to another over a lifetime - has actually stopped rising in the United States, researchers say. Some recent studies suggest it has even declined over the last generation.
What will the eight years of the Bush Administration look like from the vantage point of the future? What kind of society are we creating today that future generations will be left to contend with?
Do we really want these years to be seen as the time when ordinary folk struggled to pay off debts and afford basic services like health care as a new class of hyper-rich Americans emerged?