Michael Moore said it in Madison, and it is true…
Politifact rather grudgingly gives the man his due:
But he put more firepower into bashing the nation’s rich.
“Let me say that again. And please, someone in the mainstream media, just repeat this fact once; we’re not greedy, we’ll be happy to hear it just once.
“Four hundred obscenely wealthy individuals, 400 little Mubaraks — most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion-dollar taxpayer bailout of 2008 — now have more cash, stock and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined.”
OK, we’ve repeated Moore’s declaration (including the reference to Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president).
Now let’s see if what he asserts — that 400 Americans “have more wealth than half of all Americans combined” — is true.
Moore has made other staggering claims about the gap between the nation’s rich and poor. In Capitalism: A Love Story, his 2009 documentary, Moore said “the richest 1 percent have more financial wealth than the bottom 95 percent combined.”
For his Madison speech, Moore posted a version of the text on his website. It included a link to back up his statement about the 400 wealthiest Americans. The link was to a blog post by Dave Johnson, a fellow at the Commonweal Institute, a California organization that says it promotes a progressive agenda.
After going through a few permutations, Politifact comes to this:
The 2010 net worth of the Forbes 400 was $1.37 trillion, Forbes reported in September 2010. That same month, the total U.S. net worth was $54.9 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Board report cited by Moore.
Wolff hasn’t updated his 2009 figures. So we used his 2.3 percent figure again, multiplied by the 2010 total net worth of $54.9 trillion, and found that the net worth of the poorest 60 percent of U.S. households was $1.26 trillion in 2010.
That’s less than the 2010 net worth for the Forbes 400.
How could it be that 400 people have more wealth than half of the more than 100 million U.S. households?
Think of it this way. Many Americans make a good income, have some savings and investments, and own a nice home; they also have debt, for a mortgage, credit cards and other bills. Some people would still have a pretty healthy bottom line. But many — including those who lost a job and their home in the recession — have a negative net worth. So that drags down the total net worth for the poorer half of U.S. households that Moore cited.
Well that’s one explanation.
So how good is it to be in the top 400?
- The 400 richest Americans saw their incomes double between 2001 and 2007 – a period when the incomes of the average American declines. The windfall was so massive, and so hitched to the Bush tax cuts, this group has been dubbed the “Bush 400.” Or as Dubya called them: “my base”…
- The shift in wealth upward isn’t new. It’s actually ben 50 years in the making, and has been a result nt of accident, but rather of public policy.