The two numbers that are central to Bernie Sanders’s vision of democratic socialism are the share of wealth owned by the top 0.1 percent of households and that of the bottom 90 percent: in 2012, just 160,000 families, each with a net worth in excess of $20.6 million, counted themselves among the wealthiest 0.1 percent of households. Together, they owned nearly as much as everyone from the very poor to the upper middle class combined—90 percent of the country, some 145 million families in total.
Today, in America, we are the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, but few Americans know that because so much of the new income and wealth goes to the people on top. In fact, over the last 30 years, there has been a massive transfer of wealth – trillions of wealth – going from the middle class to the top one-tenth of 1 percent – a handful of people who have seen a doubling of the percentage of the wealth they own over that period.
Unbelievably, and grotesquely, the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.
The numbers come from a study, which I discussed a year ago, by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.