Editor's Notes

The economic policies of the past decade are even screwing rich people

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Tredmond@sfbg.com

The rich are getting screwed in the United States today. And that's not a statement from Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, or the remnants of George W. Bush's brain. It's coming from mainstream, even liberal economists, who have looked at the hard numbers around the battle over the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

See, if you consider anyone who makes more than $250,000 a year "rich," then they're due to lose the income-tax break they got under Bush. And they can afford to pay higher taxes, and most of them are doing fine, despite the complaints about the cost of private schools these days.

But they're still getting screwed. Because, as James Surowiecki noted in the Aug. 16 issue of The New Yorker, ordinary, garden-variety rich people haven't seen a lot of income growth in the past decade. They aren't gaining much more than the middle class. The money in this country isn't going to the rich any more. It's not even going to the very rich, say, the people who make more than $500,000 a year, or even $1 million a year.

No, the extraordinary income growth in this country has been going to the very, very rich, the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent —the 5,600 families who now have more wealth than the bottom 120 million. And, as Surowiecki points out, those very, very, exceedingly filthy rich pay the same tax rates as the people who earn $250,000 a year.

The New York Times ran an interesting report Aug. 29 on the looming problems of crumbling old infrastructure in the United States — dams that are well beyond their designed life, levees that are crumbling, subway switching stations designed and built in the 1920s. Millions of people can't find jobs and the government can't afford to pay for the work that desperately needs to be done. The economic policies of the past decade have sucked all the money out of society — and given it to a tiny number of people who live like ancient feudal royalty.

That's what we've achieved in this country of late. I don't know why this isn't the biggest — or the only — issue in the fall campaigns.