One Simple Stat Puts Into Perspective Just How Bad Income Inequality Has Become

monopoly-manIn this country there’s been a whole lot of talk over the last few years about income inequality. It’s rather curious because, depending on who you ask, it seems everyone has a completely different opinion about what “income inequality” actually means.


For Democrats and progressives, it’s about the rich becoming richer at the expense of everyone else. It’s about tax cuts that disproportionately favor the wealthy while everyone else picks up the tab. It’s about massive deficits caused by wars and bailouts that some within our government (mostly Republicans) now want the poor and middle class to pay for.

For Republicans, it’s the newest talking point they like to throw around considering there’s really nothing else they can say that’s negative about the economy. For years Republicans claimed that Democrats using the phrase “income inequality” was some sort of class warfare – now they can’t seem to shut up about it. Though their “solution” to improve income inequality is more of the same policies that created the income inequality in the first place: Tax cuts for the rich, deregulating big business.

It would almost be funny if they weren’t actually being serious.

Well, during her “kickoff rally” in New York City a few days ago, Hillary Clinton brought up a rather alarming stat showing just how bad income inequality has become.

“While many of you are working multiple jobs to make ends meet,” Clinton said, “you see the top 25 hedge fund managers making more than all of America’s kindergarten teachers combined. And, often paying a lower tax rate.”

Now, this is one of those statements that I would always encourage anyone to investigate because it sounds almost too absurd to be true, right? Well, as it just so happens, Politifact did fact-check her statement and concluded that it was absolutely true.


According to their findings:

Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that America’s 158,000 kindergarten teachers together make $8.5 billion a year.

There are a few possible problems with the data for hedge fund managers’ earnings, but there’s no denying it’s significantly higher than a kindergarten teacher’s compensation. A rough estimate for the top-25 hedge fund managers shows they collectively earned $11.62 billion in 2014, and that was a bad year. In 2013, they earned approximately $21.15 billion. So using the smaller number, kindergarten teachers come up shy of hedge fund managers by about $3 billion, a huge margin.

So, 25 individuals (about the average size of a single classroom) make more than 158,000 teachers. It’s not just that they make more, but they make a whole lot more. In a “bad year” those 25 individuals made over $3 billion more than these teachers; in a “good year,” they made $12.65 billion more.

Again, we’re talking about 25 people vs. 158,000 – that is insane.

And it’s not as if we’re comparing 158,000 people working minimum wage jobs – teachers are college educated Americans.

I know anyone can pick two groupings of numbers to make a point, and most of us are well aware that just a handful of people in this nation control most of the wealth. However, this particular comparison just stuck out to me. Not because it was particularly shocking, but it put into perspective just how absolutely ridiculous income inequality has gotten in this country.



Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.

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  • The Cosmic Avenger

    Even though I am a liberal with socialist leanings, I have to quibble with the focus of this comparison, as it feels too much like asking for a raise because someone else gets paid more, when instead you should be making a case for why YOU deserve a raise. (And don’t get me wrong, teachers are grossly underpaid and hedge fund managers are obscenely overpaid, I fully agree.) But the hedge fund managers in question are not the CEOs of the teachers, so CEO-to-worker pay ratio is not so much the issue. The issue is more that one group is overpaid and one is underpaid…but the pay rates for the two are not at all dependent on each other as they are for CEO and line worker. The teachers’ pay is generally dependent on taxes, so why does this piece focus more on gross pay? Comparing their gross income, which is mentioned repeatedly, is less the point than their comparable tax rates or net income after taxes, which was mentioned in passing but not quoted.

    It is not a realistic goal to ask that the hedge fund managers get paid less, but rather as American citizens they should help with their fair share of our nation’s expenses based on their income and assets, since their income and real property is dependent on our great nation’s people, infrastructure, services, and defense.

  • Recoloniser

    It took about 40 years to get here, so don’t expect a quick fix. It’s a lot easier to screw something up than to fix it. The road to the relative income equality of the 1960s took about 60 years and led through two world wars and a depression.
    The relevance of the wars lies in the industrial expansion they required as well in the egalising force of conscription, BTW, before anyone wonders why I brought that up.