People who are anything like me have trouble thinking about the amount of wealth in the economy, and how much of it is available for them to earn. A couple of facts and some arithmetic, however, can clear it up handily.
The total U.S. GDP is $17 trillion plus, which, divided by 361 million people, comes out to about $53,000 apiece, before tax. Or $212,000 for a family of four. Most people could live on that. But if the ultra-wealthy collectively were to hide $361 billion in offshore banks, (a thousand dollars for each of us), that would leave $52,000 for each of us to work with instead. And they hide way more than that.
If you feel like you can’t get ahead, it’s not because someone gets Medicaid. Or a school to send their kids to. Treating sick people who have no money before the cost to save them becomes catastrophic, educating the children of poor families so they can go out and be productive as adults, creates and preserves wealth for all of us. The reason you can’t get ahead is that there’s a finite amount of money in the economy, and some people know how to acquire and squirrel away vast amounts of it. Decisions made in government, industry, and the families of the ultra-wealthy about what to do with it matter. Just see how far anyone “gets ahead” when this bunch is through with us!
Here’s another way to think about it. Slot machine operators in Nevada are legally allowed to rig the machines to siphon off up to 25% of the money. So if a great giant floor of slot machines at one of those huge casinos takes in a million dollars, almost exactly $250,000 goes into the coffers, (assuming they’re keeping the max), while the other $750,000 circulates among the players. So if you put $100 into a machine and get $75 out, you statistically have broken even.
Lots of families that aren’t in the top 1% make way more than $53,000 per family member. Just as slot players sometimes win. Everyone else has to fight for the dregs.
Here’s what I read in the Washington Post that got me thinking about this: The ultra-rich are hiding way more money overseas than anyone realized, by Ana Swanson, June 1, 2017.
The World Bank puts the Per Capita US GDP for 2016 at $57,466.