Study: Congressional Republicans to Blame for Skyrocketing Wealth of the 1%

Nyki Salinas-Duda

Take note, Republicans. (Paul Stein / Flickr / Creative Commons)

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It’s no secret: Republicans are committed crusaders for the rights (read: pocketbooks) of the ultra-rich. And despite minor setbacks, their battle on behalf of the 1% has yielded tangible results. The top 1% of Americans took in 21 percent of the national income in 2008, up from 10 percent in 1981, thanks to Republican legislators, a new study finds.
The study published in the October issue of the American Sociological Review, entitled “The Rise of the Super-Rich: Power Resources, Taxes, Financial Markets, and the Dynamics of the Top 1 Percent, 1949 to 2008,” argues that whether the Commander-in-Chief’s necktie is Democrat blue or Republican red, the top 1%, the super-rich, get richer when Republicans have more strength in Congress.Study co-author Thomas W. Volscho, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at CUNY-College of Staten Island, argues a Republican Congress’ clout comes from its legislating power. Volscho said in a press release: The president has limited ability to make the sort of legislative changes necessary to affect the top 1 percent without the support of Congress, making Congress the central actor here … We found evidence that congressional shifts to the Republican Party, diminishing union membership, lower top tax rates, and financial asset bubbles in stock and real estate markets played a strong role in the rise of the 1 percent.According to the study, Congressional makeup and the fate of the wealthy are so closely correlated that a mere 1 percent increase in the number of Republicans in Congress (just over 5 members) increased the income of the super-rich exponentially during the period studied. For example, the estimated national income was $7.8 trillion in 2008. Those extra members would increase the wealth of the top percent of Americans by “$6.6 billion … about $6,600 per family in the top 1 percent.” In 2011, Vanity Fair reported that the 1% not only takes in nearly a quarter of the national income, but also owns 40 percent of the wealth. And as the super-rich get super-richer, the middle class shrinks (from 50.3 in 1970 to 42.2 percent in 2010) along with its ability to heal a sick economy by purchasing goods and services.Boding well for the super-rich, the current Republican-majority Congress has been touted as the most conservative ever,” while union membership, (thanks in part to anti-labor legislation on the state level), is down to 8 percent.
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Nyki Salinas-Duda is a former Assistant Editor at In These Times. She is a Chicago-based writer and a contributing editor at Gozamos. She holds a BA in Latin American history from the University of San Francisco.
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