Two related stories to send off your Sunday, first a new Bloomberg News report finds America's wealth inequality is reaching record levels...
The U.S.’s historic economic expansion has so enriched one-percenters they now hold almost as much wealth as the middle- and upper-middle classes combined.
The top 1% of American households have enjoyed huge returns in the stock market in the past decade, to the point that they now control more than half of the equity in U.S. public and private companies, according to data from the Federal Reserve. Those fat portfolios have America’s elite gobbling up an ever-bigger piece of the pie.
The very richest had assets of about $35.4 trillion in the second quarter, or just shy of the $36.9 trillion held by the tens of millions of people who make up the 50th percentile to the 90th percentile of Americans -- much of the middle and upper-middle classes.
Americans Now Need at Least $500,000 a Year to Enter Top 1%
Chalk up at least part of their good fortune to interest rates, said Stephen Colavito, chief market strategist at Lakeview Capital Partners, an Atlanta-based investment firm for high-net-worth investors. People can’t get much of a return on certificates of deposits and other passive investments, so they’ve pumped money into stocks and propped up the market overall, he said.
In turn, those investments make the wealthy eligible to put money into exclusive hedge funds and private equity funds. Many such funds require $5 million of investments to qualify.
“The wealthier that the wealthy get, the more opportunity they have,” Colavito said.
It may not be long before one-percenters actually surpass the middle and upper-middle classes. Household wealth in the upper-most bracket grew by $650 billion in the second quarter of 2019, while Americans in the 50th to 90th percentiles saw a $210 billion gain.
And it won't be long until the top 1% outclass the bottom 90% in wealth too. We're at that point. Meanwhile by making billionaires richer, we're still in danger of infrastructure collapse, even "fair" dams.
A more than two-year investigation by The Associated Press has found scores of dams nationwide in even worse condition, and in equally dangerous locations. They loom over homes, businesses, highways or entire communities that could face life-threatening floods if the dams don’t hold.
A review of federal data and reports obtained under state open records laws identified 1,688 high-hazard dams rated in poor or unsatisfactory condition as of last year in 44 states and Puerto Rico. The actual number is almost certainly higher: Some states declined to provide condition ratings for their dams, claiming exemptions to public record requests. Others simply haven’t rated all their dams due to lack of funding, staffing or authority to do so.
Deaths from dam failures have declined since a series of catastrophic collapses in the 1970s prompted the federal and state governments to step up their safety efforts. Yet about 1,000 dams have failed over the past four decades, killing 34 people, according to Stanford University’s National Performance of Dams Program.
Built for flood control, irrigation, water supply, hydropower, recreation or industrial waste storage, the nation’s dams are over a half-century old on average. Some are no longer adequate to handle the intense rainfall and floods of a changing climate. Yet they are being relied upon to protect more and more people as housing developments spring up nearby.
“There are thousands of people in this country that are living downstream from dams that are probably considered deficient given current safety standards,” said Mark Ogden, a former Ohio dam safety official who is now a technical specialist with the Association of State Dam Safety Officials.
The association estimates it would take more than $70 billion to repair and modernize the nation’s more than 90,000 dams. But unlike much other infrastructure, most U.S. dams are privately owned. That makes it difficult for regulators to require improvements from operators who are unable or unwilling to pay the steep costs.
So $70 billion to fix the dams in the country, and instead we gave ten times that to billionaires for more pocket change.
As I said, related stories.