Thursday, September 26, 2013

USA: myths and facts of wealth distribution (very informative video)

You may have already watched this because it has not less than 7 million views. Still that's only the thousandth fraction of World's population and just about 2% of US citizenry, so I guess it is still worth spreading around.

What US citizens believe and wish about wealth distribution in their country, the wealthiest one on Earth, and what is the sad reality instead. First of all an screened key graph:

click to expand

Then the whole video (with even more shocking graphs):


As you can see but let's underline it:
1% of US citizens own 24% of all the national wealth (excluding public property such as roads, schools or the military, which is just 9% of the GDP). That makes this super-oligarchic 1% (3.16 million people):
    • Jointly own $ 3.43 trillion.
    • Own on average more than $ 1 million each.

10% of US citizens own around 73% of all the national wealth (again excluding in pure theory that 9% of public share). Therefore the oligarchic 10% (less than 32 million people):
    • Jointly own $ 10.4 trillion (1/7 of the global wealth).
    • Own on average some $ 350,000 each.

These together make up what we can consider the great bourgeoisie and the ones who actually control the country and, to a great extent, the whole planet.

Down the road are the real "middle classes" (petty bourgeoisie and assimilated), which may comprise the next 30%: those who own jointly some 22% of the total wealth (and the vast majority of the remainder), i.e. $ 3.14 trillion. On average someone from this "middle" 30% owns like 33,000 bucks (yearly figures always), roughly the average of the European Union. 

The remaining 60% (~working class) owns barely above 5% of the total wealth, what is like $ 714 billion, less than the GDP of Turkey. Considering that they are 190 million people, they have a GDP per capita of $ 3,750, what is just slightly above that of Vietnamese. Cubans get three times your share (on average, sure, but Cuba has almost no inequality, you know).

But we are still considering the average of this 60%. Most US workers are not actually getting even their fair share of these pathetic crumbs, the 40% of US-Americans barely get 1% or 2% of the total wealth. Let's be "optimistic" and say 2% (I do not have the exact figure, although it may be mentioned somewhere in the video). If so, these impoverished masses, 127 million people, would own jointly less than $ 286 billion (less than the GDP of Egypt). On average some $ 2,250 bucks per year (barely above the average Tajik or Sudanese). Cubans own on average almost five time this figure.

These masses of lower working class are largely made up of ethnic minorities (African Americans and Hispanics mostly) but these minorities only make some 29%, so there must be a good number of whites also in this extremely dispossessed sector of the working class. 

We can conclude that, thanks to the extreme and worsening inequality of the USA, the average Cuban is a lot better than the average US citizen. Of course that in Cuba almost everything belongs to the state but the state largely serves the people, unlike what happens in its northern and oft menacing neighbor.

Credit: politizane.

Update: the US wealth distribution is very markedly unequal but not the worst one at all at global levels, while the USA has a 0.41 score in the Gini coefficient, which measures wealth inequality, South Africa and Namibia (some of the worst cases) score of 0.63.

The sparse data for Cuba shows a clear decline in income equality thanks to the "market friendly" reforms promoted by the current regime but it is hardly comparable when all basic needs are guaranteed by the state at almost no cost. It is the extras which are costly. In the linked article someone complains that they can't buy a moped at the price of $98 (1 CUC=1 USD) but that same moped elsewhere costs $700 or more. The problem is getting dollars or other hard currencies to buy imported goods, not surviving decently.

The best performing capitalist country I could find is Ukraine, with a Gini score of 0.26. Next are other former Soviet bloc countries like Belarus or Afghanistan, but also some formerly socialist countries have quite horrible scores: Russia or China score similarly to the USA, with 0.40 and 0.42 scores respectively, what guess that can be added to the "merits" of Putin and the counter-revolutionary Chinese politburo.

The worst ex-socialist case is anyhow Angola, where oil wealth and civil peace have not served to extend equality but to destroy it. It scores 0.58 in the Gini coefficient.

While searching for this data, one of the most interesting graphs I found was this one on Latin American advances (or lack of them) towards equality by country:

(source: Revolutionary Communist)
We can see that most Latin American countries have improved somewhat their equality performance in the last decade (there are exceptions however: the usual suspects, of course: those still dominated by old school comprador oligarchies) but that some countries have very markedly improved their social-economic balance: Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have all removed some 10 points from their Gini score (expressed in x100 figures here).

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