Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Income Distribution in the US

The L-Curve is a fascinating site. We know that there is a disparity between the very rich and the rest of us, but it's difficult to visualize just how vast the difference is. The L-Curve lays it out visually in a way that makes it understandable.

Check this out:
We are on the 50 yard line of a football field, representing the median U.S. family income. The income of the "Median Family" is about $40,000. The frame is 1 meter square.(A meter is a little over a yard...a meter is about 40 inches whereas a yard is 36 inches.)
We have zoomed in by a factor of 10. Meet the "Median Family," the family at the 50th percentile, the 50-yard line on our football field.
The US population is represented along the length of the football field, arranged in order of income.

Median US family income (the family at the 50 yard line) is ~$40,000 (a stack of $100 bills 1.6 inches high.)
--The family on the 95 yard line earns about $100,000 per year, a stack of $100 bills about 4 inches high.
--At the 99 yard line the income is about $300,000, a stack of $100 bills about a foot high.
--The curve reaches $1 million (a 40 inch high stack of $100 bills) one foot from the goal line.
--From there it keeps going up...it goes up 50 km (~30 miles) on this scale!


We have zoomed out by a factor of 10, so this frame is 1 kilometer square. A square representing the previous frame is visible. The tree is a Giant Sequoia. A stack of $100 bills 1 kilometer high would be a billion dollars. This country has about 400 billionaires.
We have zoomed out another factor of 10. Squares representing the previous two frames are visible. The mountain in the background is Mt. Everest. Our pile of $100 bills is approaching the $10 billion mark.
Our frame is now 100 kilometers square. The exact height of the top of the curve varies from year to year, but the total amount of money in the vertical spike continues to grow steadily. Bill Gates "wealth" was at one point estimated to be over $100 billion. The red line represents his greatest "increase" in net worth in a year. At 50 kilometers, the pile of $100 bills extends beyond the stratosphere, more than 5 times the height of Mt. Everest. $1 million is the same proportion of this income as $1 to a person earning $50,000 per year.


And these are the people who need more tax cuts...

Check out the L-Curve for yourself.

10 comments:

DivaJood said...

This is obscene. Completely obscene. I went to his site, to really understand this lack of distribution of wealth -- and all I can come up with is that the imbalance is obscene.

Bill Gates has an incomprehensible amount of money -- he could single-handedly provide healthcare for every single American family, and then some.

There are 400 billionaires in America. How many Americans live at poverty level? I'm flabbergasted.

Alicia said...

Isn't it shocking when there is a physical comparison that you can comprehend, instead of abstract numbers?

Jimbo said...

Would you look at that stack of dough. I'd like to lean up against it and knock it down to all the people who need it. Like the ones who live near the professional football stadiums. Maybe a Good-Year blimp might hit that stack and spread it around.

Anyway, I just had to stop by and say Hi to you, Smiley. You Rock, Alicia.

Alicia said...

Me, too, Jimbo. Don't get me started on "professional sports are so good for the community, so give us the land and your money!"

I'm so glad you stopped by! There's always a rocking chair waiting for you on the front porch here!

alyceclover said...

I've often said we're still slaves building Pyramids, only we get something called a paycheck. I don't understand anyone's need to have that much money, and their inability to share it with those less fortunate. Sad.

Yoga Korunta said...

Perhaps George will help us po folk!

Alicia said...

alyce, the difference between slaves and us is that slaveowners were obligated to provide for the sustenance of their slaves, if only to get their money's worth out of them.

yoga, I hope you're not holding your breath.

oldwhitelady said...

For some reason, it just doesn't seem fair. What do they spend all their money on? I'm sure a lot of it is put away for the future, but the excesses we read about makes me want to grab some of them and shake them.

Gary said...

Wow! Disparity, greed and on top of it all, the myth of the American dream goes on for many. Impeach the bastard and start a peoples' revolution.

AnotherMike said...

Yup, a large disparity, sucks too - but Socialism sucks too and is failing around the world. And redistributing someone else's wealth? Just think of it, we take Gate's $40B & all 290 million Americans can each have $137.93, or are we back to Orwell and some pigs are more equal than others? Or more deserving - who decides? Come up with your own idea and make the bucks...or blame your grandparents for not being media moguls in the 30's & 40's.