Sunday, January 29, 2012

Decimal Points: Income by Percentile

Somebody noted that it's hard for Americans to get too worked up about rich guys running for President because everybody running is pretty rich compared to an average American. Determining exactly where one winds up on the income scale seems to be a bit of an inexact science, since estimates vary a bit, but to be a bare minimum one per center you need to make something like $400,000 per year. One percenters are a fairly diverse lot, but executives are the largest component by far, though large numbers of doctors, financial professionals, and some lawyers also make the cut. Add in a few actors, athletes, salesmen, lottery winners, etc.

The President qualifies, probably on the basis of salary alone, but he also makes some from his book sales. The jump is steep to the next factor of ten, the 0.1%. It takes about $2 million to qualify here, and the Obamas missed last year, though not by too much. Candidate Newt Gingrich made it easily with his $5 million dollar income, but he would need to do more than twice as well to qualify for the 0.01%, where the entry fee is $11 million. The Mittster makes the grade quite comfortably, along with about 14,000 other families.

It's easy to imagine that you aren't rich, or at least not very rich, even if you are well up in the one percent, because from almost every vantage point there are others who are a whole lot richer. Mitt has something like a quarter of a billion dollars, but there are all those other guys with a whole billion, or ten, or twenty - like Newt's $10 million financial backer, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

The one percent may be diverse, but not so the 0.01%. Membership in that club is pretty much reserved for those that sit atop financial empires, or who have inherited a big part of such an empire.