Saturday, May 2, 2015

Wall Street Bonuses Are Twice the Total Earned by Minimum Wage Workers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 1.1 million US workers were paid just the federal minimum wage in 2013. The average Wall Street bonus paid at the end of 2013 was about $164,000 with all the bonuses adding up to about $26.7 billion. That $26.7 billion is twice the combined earnings of the 1.1 million people making minimum wage. 

It's important to remember that, once we the taxpayers bailed out Wall Street in 2008, one of the first things the big banks did was pay bonuses. That was a transfer -- redistribution -- from the average American to the wealthiest. Suggest redistribution of wealth from the 1% (or 0.1%) to the average, and Republicans and Democrats go into hysterics. (Pres. Obama has called for equality of opportunity, but not for more just outcomes or redistribution.) 

For 35 years, both parties have repeatedly endorsed policies that have taken from the little held by the average and poorer and redistributed it upward. This is the point made by Joseph Stiglitz, Anthony Atkinson, Thomas Piketty, and many other progressive economists. And it is a point willfully ignored or dismissed by conservative economists who still dominate economic thinking in the US. The economist John Roemer has made the point that so great an indifference to fact by so large a percentage of economists counts heavily against economics being a science.

Roemer has a nice survey essay: The Ideological and Political Roots of American Inequality

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