What about the concentration of wealth? In 1918, John D. Rockefeller's fortune accounted for more than half of one percent of total private wealth. To compile the same half of one percent of the private wealth in the United States today, you'd have to combine the fortunes of Microsoft's Bill Gates ($53 billion) and Paul Allen ($16 billion), Oracle's Larry Ellison ($19 billion), and a third of Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett's $46 billion. In 1920, America's richest one percent held about 40 percent of private wealth; by 1980, the private wealth held by the richest one percent fell to about 20 percent and has remained stable at that level since.
Demagogues duping Americans about stagnant and declining income give politicians justification to raise taxes and place regulatory obstacles in the path of risk-taking, productivity and hard work that will impede the enviable income mobility that has become a part of American tradition. Raising taxes on capital formation reduces the rate of capital formation. Raising taxes on income reduces incentives to work. Unfortunately, because so many Americans buy into the politics of envy, politicians have a leg up in enacting measures that cripple economic growth.
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