Here, take a look at this (via the Washington Post):
Up until about 2005-06, near about the start of the Great Recession that we're still in.
Everybody dropped. Every market got hit - stock market, commodities, property market - and there was a massive downturn. It looks like the downturn took a two-year, three-year dive before flattening out for the three years following... except for the 1 Percenter track. Where the Bottom 90 AND the Top 10 Percenters flattened, the 1 Percenters went up, and went up sharp.
What the hell happened there? Referring to that Washington Post article:
...The problem was that middle class doesn't own that much in stocks, but went into debt to buy lots of housing. So the housing crash turned their biggest financial asset into an albatross, wiping out their equity but not their debt. And the housing recovery hasn't done much to fix this, since it's struggled to move beyond the "nascent" stage.
Stocks, meanwhile, collapsed during the crisis, but came back soon thereafter. The middle class, in other words, missed out on the big bull market in stocks, but not on the even bigger bear one in housing. That's why the recovery has restored so little of the wealth that the recession destroyed. In fact, the bottom 90 percent have actually kept losing net worth the past few years, in large part, due to rising student loan debt...Not all recoveries were made equal: the stock market flourished, the investment population flourished, the rest of us got screwed with debt up to our ears.
One thing I keep seeing from the hate-the-poor tweeters and Facebook posters on the Intertubes is how it's the poor people's fault they don't invest in the obviously-successful, will-always-go-up stock markets. I keep replying when I can to let them know that not everyone can play the market: even a MENSA member like me can't make heads or tails of stock profiles and investment surveys. Every poor person simply can't afford to pay into stock ownership, no matter how smart they are, because stocks themselves get expensive. And most middle-class Americans didn't have much free money on hand to dabble either. If the middle class invested in anything, it was in something tangible and focused: their homes, and they left the stock market stuff to their pension plans and 401(k)s. For the 1980s and 1990s, the system worked after all: property values increased, and most Americans thought themselves well-off regardless of how much wealth they really controlled.
Which leads to the second chart from that Post article:
The Bottom 90 Percenters - 90 percent of ALL Americans - saw their percentage of the nation's overall wealth drop from over a 1/3 (37 percent) of everything down to less than a 1/4 (23 percent) of everything. We never really had all that much, but we had enough to spread around and feel secure. Now 90 percent of us aren't getting as much of the pie as we used to get.
Meanwhile, look at the Top 10 Percenters. Sure, the 10-to-1 Percenters dropped as well, but not as sharp as the Bottom 90. And the Top 10-to-1 holds 35 percent of the share. Add that to the Top 1-to-.1 Percenters who hold 20 percent, and add again to the .1-to-.01 Percent (the REALLY rich) also 11-12 percent and then add the .01 Percenters themselves (the UBER rich) at 11 percent share and you've got 77 PERCENT of total wealth held by the Top 10 Percenters. The Top .1 Percenters at roughly 42 percent - nearly double of 90 PERCENT OF ALL AMERICANS - of all total wealth.
We haven't seen income disparity like this since the days of the Great Depression, when the poor were REALLY poor and the rich were REALLY rich.
And this recession - where wages for the middle classes and the poor have stagnated for years, even more than a decade by now - isn't over yet. Debt for lower-income families- for even what we'd still consider the middle class - remains crushing and getting worse. We've taken some of the debt woes from healthcare finances out of the equation but not by much, and we're looking at increased debt woes from higher education costs. Piling on-top of that is the fact our housing industry hasn't improved and the foreclosure problems - with banks still bad-faith actors - remain a threat.
So what if anything are we doing as a nation about the massive personal debts - mortgages, college costs, other costs - we have threatening what's left of our middle class?
Nothing. Not a goddamn thing.