And the rich get richer |

And the rich get richer

Dear Editor:

In response to Russ Andrews’ letter of Feb. 4 (“Dems just can’t say no,” The Aspen Times), the United States does have serious financial issues to address. But we are hardly “the brokest (sic) country in the history of the mankind.”

Accounting for $16.5 trillion in national debt, the total net worth of 315 million Americans is about $65 trillion. As a nation, we are worth about four times what we owe, which actually makes us a pretty wealthy country, albeit one with many broke citizens. Here’s why.

Our national debt comes to about $52,400 per person and our mean net worth to about $206,350 per person. That could represent a very positive balance sheet, but would you and each member of your household actually have $52,400 left after deducting your personal debts? Probably not!

Median household net worth is about $66,750 and median household size about 2.65 people. (Remember, mean and median are not the same kind of “average.”) Thus, the “average” American is only worth about half his or her share of the national debt, putting him or her very much into the red.

This is because most of our national wealth is controlled by a relatively small group of unbelievably rich people. The richest 1 percent of Americans now own more than 38 percent of the nation’s financial assets. The richest 400 Americans control more wealth than the poorest 150 million. To the extent that most Americans do have some wealth, we have it in our homes, still down more than 25 percent from 2006 highs, while stock prices, corporate profits and corporate profit margins are back to record highs.

And it keeps getting worse. The rich can lavish only so much on their own lives. What’s left (which is plenty) they “invest.” That is, they buy up an ever-increasing share of wealth-generating resources, becoming ever richer at the expense of most of the rest of us.

Our country might not be broke, but our socioeconomic system is broken, indeed. In fact, a lot of that $52,400 each of us owes we owe to rich Americans who lend us money (with interest) so that we can go on maintaining the world’s most powerful military to defend their enormous wealth while still meeting modest obligations to senior citizens and giving minimal care to well more than 40 million people living below officially established poverty levels.

Ron Kokish


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