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The huge and growing gaps in wealth and income inequality are much in the news these days — from Washington to the Vatican and here’s why: the plain facts are simply stunning and overwhelming. To see this in black and white (or, to be more accurate, red, orange and blue) click here and here to check out two new animated graphs from Chad Stone of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (a third one will be released shortly).

As Stone notes by way on introduction with the understated language of a crack economist:

“The economic fortunes of the wealthy and everyone else have diverged sharply in recent decades.  It wasn’t always this way; from the end of World War II into the 1970s, income growth was shared equally among all segments of the population.  But, as we’ll illustrate in three animated graphs, most of the income growth in recent decades has occurred at the very top.”

As the graphs show here and here, that’s putting it gently.

 

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We’ve all heard the right-wing talking point so many times that we can repeat it by heart: “High state taxes are scaring off successful people (i.e rich people) and forcing them to move to lower tax states.”

The only problem with this mantra: it ain’t so.

According to a new report sponsored by the Swiss financial conglomerate UBS entitled “The World Ultra Wealth Report 2013,” Amercian higher tax states continue to attract boatloads of fat cats — what the report politely refers to as “ultra high net worth ” individuals — worth $30 million or more. Indeed, California, home to the highest taxes on rich folks in the country, saw its plutocrat population shoot up by 14.7% just last year. New York, also home to higher taxes was second overall and reported 4.1% growth. Supposedly liberal Massachusetts has the fastest-growing tycoon population of all. 

Meanwhile, here in the Old North State, where conservative think tankers continually lament the supposed deleterious impact of the state’s “high marginal income tax rates,” the über-rich population expanded by more than 20% last year – seventh fastest in the nation. More than 1,100 magnates now live in North Carolina.

Here’s a chart from the report taken from a story in The Huffington Post: Read More

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Political contributionsAs this amazing graph from a new report in the Journal of Economic Perspectives shows, there is a pretty straightforward reason that big money has become so unassailable in modern American politics.

Sam Pizzigatti has more at Too Much online and Maureen Dowd touches on the same sobering theme in her weekend broadside at the Clinton wealth machine.

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It’s one of the great ironies of the current debate in America that so many of the people who oppose the teaching of Darwinism as the definitive explanation of life on earth are only too happy to promote and practice a brutal, dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest brand of social Darwinism when it comes to organizing modern society.   

This morning, two news stories highlight the impact of America’s dramatic shift in this direction:

First, the New York Times reports that there has been a startling and very troubling decline in life expectancy for poorly educated American whites — especially white women. While researchers have identified no definitive cause, it’s almost impossible to imagine that the decline in jobs that were formerly available those unable to finish high school and the shredding of the social safety net that helped lift many into the middle class haven’t both played a role.

Meanwhile, at the top of the food chain, things are headed in the opposite direction. A new report from Forbes as relayed by Think Progress shows that the collective wealth of the 400 richest Americans totaled $1.7 trillion in 2011, a 13 percent jump from the year before, as the stock market reached its highest mark in a decade and real estate rebounded.