Chilling Economic Facts

As Bernie Sanders has indelicately pointed out, the richest 0.1 percent of Americans have nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent of the country. According to an Oxfam study, the wealthiest 85 people in the world have approximately as much money as the poorest 3.5 billion. And by next year, more than half of all global wealth will belong to the richest one percent of the world’s population.

But did you know that 24 percent of wealth within that one percent—a sum so gargantuan that it is best not to disclose, lest the sensitive break out in hives—lies in the hands of just two men? Mr. W– made his fortune trading residual bond derivative sub-funds, an exotic banking practice that involves moving masses of money around until it all ends up in his checking account. Mr. S–, until recently, worked as Mr. W–’s personal money manager. At present, he resides in a subterranean lair protected by a shiver of sharks.

But what of those individuals even richer than Mr. W– and Mr. S–, the ones so wealthy that their net worths cannot be measured in anything as pedestrian as numbers and percentages? A rumored 72 percent of these men are exempt from paying any taxes whatsoever, their funding of political attack ads—which, in turn, subsidize the television programs so enjoyed by “the lower 99.999999”—being deemed more than sufficient.

When learning of this statistic, 84 percent of Americans wince, stammer, wheeze, sigh, and raise their eyebrows in a manner indicating the hopelessness of it all. The remaining 16 percent intend to join the elite’s ranks as soon as their Instagram feeds and/or D.J. careers catch steam and, thus, approve of any perceived equality gap.

But have you heard this humdinger? In 1965, the average chief executive of a major U.S. company earned roughly 24 times the salary of a typical worker at his company. By 2005, a CEO made more in a single day of work—even a really unproductive one involving whatever rich people did on the Internet back then—than an average worker earned in a calendar year. Currently, a chief executive earns the same amount in the time it takes to brusquely demand coffee from an assistant as the average American worker earns in three days, provided that the average American worker happens to host a network talk show.

By the same token, the current wage gap between a chief executive and his company’s median female employee is approximate to the income discrepancy between Pharaoh Khufu, mighty ruler of the Egyptian Old Kingdom, and one of the strapping young “pyramid construction personnel” in his employ.

If you’re like 61 percent of the population, your blood has just been set to boil! But have you seen that graph showing how median household net worth contrasts with the monthly petty cash allowance bequeathed to the teenage children of America’s top 0.4 percent? Clear as day, the lines of the graph conjoin to depict a maniacally grinning industrialist smoking an obnoxious cigar, with his puffs of smoke forming little dollar signs. Compare that to the line graph showing household income as earned by those who grew up on Indian reservations and those who attended summer camps with offensive Native American names. With the grace of a Calder wire portrait, the chart shows Paul Krugman, making a frowny face.

Now doesn’t that make you want to pack your belongings and catch the next flight to one of those first world nations with a stronger social safety net than the United States? At the very least, you will have plentiful travel options. The list extends to 100 percent of all industrialized nations, plus 82 percent of the planets visited on the original Star Trek.

Depressed? Well, consider this statistical nugget: Remember Mr. W– and Mr. S–, those fat cats discussed earlier? In the time it took to read this, both men, simply by sitting on their hands as their portfolios swelled as if doused in yeast, have earned 47 times the weekly salary of a typical American worker. Provided, of course, that the typical American worker has not placed his head inside of an oven.