US Income Distribution Trends 1970 to 2010

The Pew Research Center just published a fascinating study entitled the “Lost Decade of the Middle Class.”

Of particular interest is that they have quantified how unequal income distribution has become in the US:

In 1970, upper-tier incomes accounted for 29% of US aggregate household income, while middle-tier incomes accounted for 62%. In 2010, upper-tier incomes accounted for 46% of US aggregate household income, surpassing middle-tier incomes at 45% for the first time since 1970.

Only upper-income families have experienced notable gains in wealth from 1983 to 2010; the net worth of lower- and middle-income families is virtually unchanged.

The graph below illustrates this well:

Prohibition in America

One of my favorite anecdotes is of two German friends of mine, eager to tour the US. They saved their money and planned to drive the length of Highway 1 in California in a convertible.

First though, at great expense and effort, they would pay homage to their love of Jack Daniel’s by visiting the distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Elated to arrive and eager to sample the whiskey at its birth place, they nearly fell over when the tour guide remarked “because we’re in a dry county, we will only be able to offer you lemonade at the conclusion of the tour.”

As Alexis de Tocqueville already noted in the early 1800′s, the US is a nation of extremes, often oblivious to societal contradictions. Public policy on alcohol is a case in point.

While US states determine the legal age of consumption, the Federal government won’t fund your roads if that age is not 21. Specific counties can restrict alcohol sales altogether.
As this fascinating map from the BBC shows, prohibition never ended in parts of the US.

Read the BBC article here.

Obama Takes Blame For Bush

Amnesia was rampant during mid-term US elections this week. Candidates espousing reductions in the size of government, taxation, healthcare reform and financial regulation enjoyed astounding success, including extremist Tea Party politicians. Despite the substantial achievements of the Obama administration in restoring America’s public image in the world, reducing American involvement in costly, failed conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as implementing reform in healthcare and financial institutions during the arguably worst period in American history since the Great Depression, droves of poorly informed, easily manipulated and evolutionarily suspect Americans voted for a return to the grand policies of the George W. Bush era.

A vast number of Americans clearly don’t understand that it takes years to recover from the excessive spending, lax regulation and limited taxation on corporations and high net worth citizens that characterized the unmitigated disaster that was the W. legacy. Instead, they seem to have expected Obama to conjure new jobs, stimulate economic growth and bail out Wall Street, Main Street and unscrupulous and/or incompetent businesses like AIG and GM, all without increasing deficits or taxes.

So, they voted for former Lehman Brothers partner John Kasich and lobbyist lap dog, John Boehner, in Ohio and for the Tea Party in backward places throughout the country. I wonder how many people know that the Tea Party is a political action organization financed by the billionaires Rupert Murdoch and the nefarious Koch brothers to serve corporate interests? There is no patriotism there. Just self-serving sadism executed on unwittingly masochistic morons. As the French philospher Joseph Marie de Maistre stated: “Every country had the government it deserves.”

How Google Limits Tax Exposure


It’s amazing what you can do with good lobbyists and clever lawyers. Check out how Google achieves a 2.4% tax rate:

Nifty interactive depiction of the cash flow

The whole story, courtesy of Business Week

So, despite the fact that Google Ireland Limited declared a turnover of €7.9 billion in 2009, they paid €18.3 million in Irish taxes.

Source: Profits at Google subsidiary in Ireland up almost five-fold, Irish Times

Happiness is Earning 75k

According to an analysis of poll data from 450,000 US residents, reviewed in the New Scientist here:

“Comparing people’s happiness against income, the researchers found that the more money people earned, the higher their overall life satisfaction. But people’s day-to-day emotional state rose with average annual income only until about $75,000, after which additional income made no further difference.”

Colonel Gaddafi

Famous for bizarre statements and resilient in control of Libya, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi rarely fails to astonish with his outlandish ideas. This particular story though exceeds all previous benchmarks. What a charming pair Berlusconi and Gaddafi make…

According to BBC News excerpted below:

Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi says the EU should pay Libya at least 5bn euros (£4bn; $6.3bn) a year to stop illegal African immigration and avoid a “black Europe”.

Speaking on a visit to Italy, Col Gaddafi said Europe “could turn into Africa” as “there are millions of Africans who want to come in”.

“We don’t know what will happen, what will be the reaction of the white and Christian Europeans faced with this influx of starving and ignorant Africans,” Col Gaddafi said.

“We don’t know if Europe will remain an advanced and united continent or if it will be destroyed, as happened with the barbarian invasions.”

Col Gaddafi’s visit to Rome was overshadowed by another controversial speech he made – to two groups of several hundred young Italian women, hired at a fee of 70 or 80 euros each from a local modelling agency.

He told them that Islam should become the religion of Europe and gave them free copies of the Koran, after he had lectured them for an hour on the freedoms enjoyed by women in Libya.

The Danger of Newspapers

Highly entertaining article by Charlie Brooker in today’s Guardian:

“The most dangerous drug isn’t meow meow. It isn’t even alcohol . . .
Newspapers are the biggest threat to the nation’s mental wellbeing.”

Read the article.

Magazines Will Never Be the Same

Now here is something truly exciting – a killer application for Apple’s iPad and a revolution in magazine publishing! I can’t wait.

Senior Year

Good article about the merits of skipping senior year in high school: Class Dismissed

A year spent traveling or taking vocational or collegiate courses would certainly be better for personal and societal development in the long run.

Banker Rhymes with W…

Here is an excellent, humorously written, but quite depressing article from Rolling Stone magazine about how:

“Goldman Sachs and other big banks aren’t just pocketing the trillions we gave them to rescue the economy – they’re re-creating the conditions for another crash.”

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