I had a nice quiet moment yesterday morning to listen to some NPR while I was geting dressed. Marketplace Morning Report was on, a show I usually only listen to with half an ear but they were discussing the distribution of stock ownership in America and it piqued my interest.
The first figure they cited wasn’t too upsetting. They said 47% of Americans own stock. OK. Yeah. They makes sense. That’s probably representative of people with 401(K) plans or mutual funds as well as hard core market traders. That’s a lot of people. Not enough people, since being among the 53% who don’t own sock probably means you have little or no personal retirement savings and that’s no good. People in that situation will be relying entirely on Social Security for retirement income – if they can retire at all.
From there, things become alarming – 2/3 of American households only have $5000 or less in the market. That means even more people than it appears are really up a creek when it comes to retirement.
So, if most Americans have miniscule stock portfolios or no stock portfolios at all, who owns all the stock? You guessed it. The top 10% of earners. In all, the top 10% own 81% of all stock. And the top 1% own 38%. You read that right. 1% of Americans own over a third of all stock in our country.
Why does it matter than 80% or stock is already held by people who will probably never go hungry? Well, stock is a finitie resource. If these folks are hoarding it and using it to accumulate yet more wealth for themselves, the rest of us can’t have it. 90% of Americans, most of whom do not have pensions or significant cash savings, are competing to save for retirement with only 20% of public stock holdings.
Because that seems fair.
Obviously, I can’t sit here and holler “Hey! Rich People! Share!” and expect anything to happen. But I feel like I can legitimately say “Hey! Rich People! Quit voting for people who want to gut Social Security! Unlike y’all, it’s all 2/3 of Americans will have to retire on. And while we’re at it, let’s take Robert Reich’s approach to ensuring its solvencey and raise the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes from $106,800 to $180,000. You’ll barely notice the difference and it will keep Social Security afloat while you roll around in dividend checks for all your golden years. Kthnxbai!”
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