A minimum wage $224 per hour, average wage of $722 an hour - The One Percent

Chuck Sheketoff

As noted in a recent paper Who's Rich? (PDF) by Citizens for Tax Justice, "A Time Magazine poll in 2000 found that 19 percent of those surveyed believed themselves to be among the richest 1 percent of Americans. Another 20 percent said they expected to one day be among the richest 1 percent." For single people it takes an average wage of $224 an hour to make it into the top one percent, and $722 an hour to become an average member of that group.

Watch this short trailer then read a Q&A with filmmaker Jamie Johnson, heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune, here or watch the interview with Jamie Johnson, Young, Rich and Accountable and hear him talk about his new documentary "The One Percent."

And when you are done, you may not want to miss Recession Billionaires on the "Billionaire Row" show on the Forbes.com video network.

Return to Richistan - the CBS interview:


  • Jonathan Lowe (unverified)

    Great film. There is, of course, a disparity between what the rich and famous know to be true, and what the average Joe on the street imagines. I believe there's a shift from wealth to fame as an American obsession.

  • andy (unverified)

    I'm sure glad we have the rich people that we do. Seeing how the top several percent of income earners pay the vast majority of income taxes. Without the rich, the middle class wouldn't be able to afford the government services that we do have.

  • Adrian (unverified)

    Oh yes Andy, thank the good lord for those rich people. If us po' folk didn't have them I don't know WHAT we'd do.

    Oh wait, I just got an idea: maybe if they broke off a small chunk of that $800/hour check and bumped people up from their $8/hr, then they wouldn't need government assistance.

  • bendskier (unverified)

    "A Time Magazine poll in 2000 found that 19 percent of those surveyed believed themselves to be among the richest 1 percent of Americans."

    These are the same idiots that voted for Bush, twice, ahem, because they thought they were the ones going to get the fat tax cut... WRONG AGAIN!

    It looks like you need to pull down 1.5 million a month to be in that class.

    It just goes to show that you don't have to be smart, or nice, to be filthy rich.

  • Terry Branch (unverified)

    Well the only thing that I see is when the min wage goes up, we tend to lose Business’s, in this state. So tell me what good is it to have a high min wage if there aren’t any jobs.

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    Terry Branch is not only avoiding the issue raised by the post - income inequality - but s/he is also flat out wrong. See, for instance this.

  • Steve (unverified)

    So what is Mr Sheketoff's solution? I assume it is raise taxes oin the rich more? right now the top 1% pays something like 20% of the income taxes and the top 5% pays about 50% so that seems kind of diminishing returns.

    How about something really creative - like maybe creating more high-paying non-gov jobs?

  • Oregon Eyes (unverified)

    How about marginal tax brackets on capital gains and dividend income? Right now your little E-trade cap gain of $100 gets a 14% cap gain tax rate. That first dollar gets taxed 14%. Mr. Top 1% might make $10 million in capital gains that year. Even the ten-millionth dollar gets taxed at 14%. So would the billionth dollar. The top 1% earn about 84% of all investment income.

    Talking about wages and taxes on labor (technically unconstitutional) distracts the masses from the real money issues. "Charitable Foundations" like the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Bros Fund, etc, should have their tax exemption revoked, because it's just a place to hide money and not look as rich as you really are (and funnel that money to political causes that make you richer). Mandatory criminal sentences for use of off-shore tax shelters should be instated, too, and IRS agents should be auditing them.

  • genop (unverified)

    Assuming income is the measure of wealth, a construct I question, there will forever be inequality of financial resources. Perhaps our class system has contracted to the haves and have lesses. A different measure of wealth is whether, in light of one's financial needs, is their income sufficient to allow sufficient time to cherish the people in their lives. This measure of wealth values quite highly the great moments spent connecting with others. Sign me: Satisfied With Less.

  • howard (unverified)

    The year Mike Jordan was paid 30 million bucks, he and his employer paid around 10 thousand bucks into Social Security because the earnings were not taxed (combined 12.4%) above the 60 thousand a year cap. The 2.4% combined rate on Medicare had no cap and Mike and his employer paid 720,000 dollars into Medicare that year.

    I suggest that the cap on Social Security be amended to continue current and future caps on Social Security with the proviso that the combined Social Security assessment can not be less than the amount employer and employee pay into Medicare in any given year.

    At current rates, Medicare's payment exceeds the Social Security cap around 660,000 dollars a year. People paid above 660 thou qualify as "wealthy"in my book.

    He and his

  • MCT (unverified)

    God Chuck I am so glad you started this conversation here. Because I can tell from some of these comments (Andy you are a Dick) that folks don't have a clue as to the big picture and the long term effects of keeping 99% of the People living with their noses pressed up against the glass, barely cracking the monthly nut, being sucked into great deals that later turn into credit nightmares... and worrying about their retirement. (If they have a retirement plan, most likely at least part of it is at risk from the greedy machinations of the one percent. Pensions and retirement funds are ripe for the picking and melting like the ice caps.) No one will be exempt from the fallout.

    Remember, for the one percent to accumulate wealth there are thousands of workers somewhere down the line. When their peace of mind and quality of life oozes away and gives way to fear and poverty, the one percent should ensure the workers living wages and enough to save for retirement. It will not diminish the quality of life for the one percent and their heirs one iota.

    Taxing the rich will not do a damn thing for folks who're working away spending 3/4 of their income for housing, and falling behind on everything else. It's all about wages.... and usery and malfeasance and greed throughout corportate America. Taxing the rich WOULD make the government bigger and richer. How will that help the 99%? They don't want government perks and sponsorship (not that I think any would be forthcoming, & $300 this coming May won't even pay half of months mortgage or rent!)...they want a living wage and hope for the future. A small slice of the one percent's pie. NOTHING else will fix this problem. It's that simple.

    And when I read things like "I'm sure glad we have the rich people that we do. Seeing how the top several percent of income earners pay the vast majority of income taxes. Without the rich, the middle class wouldn't be able to afford the government services that we do have." I just have to wonder about the thought process that inspired this comment.

    As John Grisham said recently on Bill Moyers Journal, about voters in Mississippi..."they live poor and vote rich". Go figure. Seems like there's a lot of that going around.

  • andy (unverified)

    MCT, and you're a fucking idiot if you can't figure out that the middle class doesn't pay their own way. The middle class is a bunch of whiners who demand more government services than they are willing to pay for. (and of course the poor don't do anything at all. The bottom 10% of wage earners pay basically zero in income taxes. They just sponge off of everyone else)

    The rich pay way more in taxes than the middle class, just look it up. Or are you too stupid to know how to do a simple Google search? Thankfully we do have plenty of rich people who are willing to pay so much in income taxes. Without them the government would have to downsize quite a bit.

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    This is a place for progressives to talk. I think it's obvious that you need to go find a conservative blog where you can continue to pass along that false information about the middle class and the poor. They pay a higher percentage of their income to taxes than the top income earners ever will.

    This is certainly the last time I'll respond to you. If I wanted to argue with a conservative, then I'll go over to one of the Republican blogs.

  • Joe12Pack (unverified)

    Jenni is right, Andy. Take it from a woman who doesn't have two nickels to rub together, moved here from a place with a lower cost of living, created children to support and believes she is entitled to government assistance. Get lost, buddy. Progressives aren't interested in things like facts or personal responsibility. The nerve of some people!

  • David Wright (unverified)


    I'm afraid, abrasive as Andy may be, that he's actually right about the amount of income taxes collected from the rich. We're not talking here about the percentage of income paid in tax, we're talking about how much of all the income tax collected in the country comes from the people in the top 1% (or top 5%, 20%, etc.)

    I was shocked to recently see in another blog the stat that the top half of returns account for nearly 97% of all the income taxes collected. It's an outlandish number, but according to the IRS data (Excel format), it's true (as of 2005, the latest figures published).

    Interesingly enough, the top 1% of tax returns accounted for almost 40% of all the income taxes collected in 2005, the highest proportion coming from that group in the 20 years listed by the IRS.

    In fact, 2005 was the most top-heavy year across the board -- i.e., at each percentile the proportion of taxes collected from that percentile in 2005 was the highest in 20 years.

    So it is absolutely true that those higher bracket people are contributing the lion's share of the tax revenue to the government. The top 10% in 2005 (those making more than $103K) paid more than 70% of all the income taxes collected, for example.

    The average income tax rates also are weighted to the top end of the scale -- the top 1% paid an average rate of 23%, while the top 50% combined had an average rate of only 13% (top 50% in 2005 was people making $30K or more).

    By the way, that top 1% who paid almost 40% of the taxes in 2005, reported only a little over 21% of all the income that year. Of course, when you extend down to the top half of returns, which paid nearly 97% of all the taxes, they also had more than 87% of all the income.

    Point being, as others have said, while the rich may be loathsome at times, they are also the ones who are largely footing the bill for government. If they weren't paying the bills, the middle class would really be feeling the tax pinch.

    Then, of course, there's FICA which adds a whole different twist to the picture (FICA + income tax combined is skewed to the middle class). But FICA isn't income tax, it's a payroll tax, and that's a debate for another day. (Though I've written on the subject before if you're interested...) ;-)

  • MCT (unverified)

    It is not about who pays how much tax, anyway. It's about all Americans being able to earn and afford a sustainable quality of life, that includes healthy food, shelter, transportation, health care, education, recreation and quiet enjoyment..... AND save for retirement. Are the lower and middle classes to be excluded from the pursuit of happiness? Try being happy when you owe every penny you make, and more, and have already tightened the belt so much your ribs are sticking out.

    They talk about the number of Boomers who haven't saved for retirement; now we'll have even the ones that did spending it early and fast.

    And as for young people just starting out now, already buried in debt, knowing that there will be no social security for them....what hope for their old age?

    If you toured the nation with a camera you could document that parts of it already are look like a third world country. Not much national pride to be found there. Which apparently doesn't bother the one percent, who don't even want to know about it. In their eyes that would be socialism. Staying the course we're on will create more extreme poverty and it will be very visible.

    But I feel change will happen one way or another....good or bad.

  • Chris Daubert (unverified)

    Hey David Wright,

    Thanks for the link to the info - and your total misinterpretation of it.

    You totally miss that from 1986 to 2005 the top 1% of income earners increased their share of the Adjusted Gross Income from 11.3% to 21.2% - an unbelievable 87.6% increase.

    During the same period their Total Income Tax Share did increase from 25.75% to 39.38% but that is only an increase of 52.9% - or 34.7% less than their income increased.

    This is because their tax rate decreased from 33.13% to 23.13% or a decrease of 30.2%.

    Also please note that the minimum income required to be in the top 50% increased during this period by a total of $26 per year after being adjusted for inflation.

    Republicans put the tax burden on the middle class. Bill Clinton balanced the Federal budget by increasing the tax rate on the top 1% by only a few percent (about 25 to 28%). You have to be blind and stupid to be a middle class Republican.


  • Truxter (unverified)

    Don’t believe one optimistic word from any public figure about the economy or humanity in general. They are all part of the problem. Its like a game of Monopoly. In America, the richest 1% now hold 1/2 OF ALL UNITED STATES WEALTH. Unlike ‘lesser’ estimates, this includes all stocks, bonds, cash, and material assets held by America’s richest 1%. Even that filthy pig Oprah acknowledged that it was at about 50% in 2006. Naturally, she put her own ‘humanitarian’ spin on it. Calling attention to her own ‘good will’. WHAT A DISGUSTING HYPOCRITE SLOB. THE RICHEST 1% HAVE LITERALLY MADE WORLD PROSPERITY ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE. Don’t fall for any of their ‘humanitarian’ CRAP. ITS A SHAM. THESE PEOPLE ARE CAUSING THE SAME PROBLEMS THEY PRETEND TO CARE ABOUT. Ask any professor of economics. Money does not grow on trees. The government can’t just print up more on a whim. At any given time, there is a relative limit to the wealth within ANY economy of ANY size. So when too much wealth accumulates at the top, the middle class slip further into debt and the lower class further into poverty. A similar rule applies worldwide. The world’s richest 1% now own over 40% of ALL WORLD WEALTH. This is EVEN AFTER you account for all of this ‘good will’ ‘humanitarian’ BS from celebrities and executives. ITS A SHAM. As they get richer and richer, less wealth is left circulating beneath them. This is the single greatest underlying cause for the current US recession. The middle class can no longer afford to sustain their share of the economy. Their wealth has been gradually transfered to the richest 1%. One way or another, we suffer because of their incredible greed. We are talking about TRILLIONS of dollars. Transfered FROM US TO THEM. Over a period of about 27 years. Thats Reaganomics for you. The wealth does not ‘trickle down’ as we were told it would. It just accumulates at the top. Shrinking the middle class and expanding the lower class. Causing a domino effect of socio-economic problems. But the rich will never stop. They just keep getting richer. Leaving even less of the pie for the other 99% of us to share. At the same time, they throw back a few tax deductible crumbs and call themselves ‘humanitarians’. Cashing in on the PR and getting even richer the following year. IT CAN’T WORK THIS WAY. Their bogus efforts to make the world a better place can not possibly succeed. Any 'humanitarian' progress made in one area will be lost in another. EVERY SINGLE TIME. IT ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT WORK THIS WAY. This is going to end just like a game of Monopoly. The current US recession will drag on for years and lead into the worst US depression of all time. The richest 1% will live like royalty while the rest of us fight over jobs, food, and gasoline. So don’t fall for any of this PR CRAP from Hollywood, Pro Sports, and Wall Street PIGS. ITS A SHAM. Remember: They are filthy rich EVEN AFTER their tax deductible contributions. Greedy pigs. Now, we are headed for the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time. Crime, poverty, and suicide will skyrocket. SEND A “THANK YOU” NOTE TO YOUR FAVORITE MILLIONAIRE. ITS THEIR FAULT. I’m not discounting other factors like China, sub-prime, or gas prices. But all of those factors combined still pale in comparison to that HUGE transfer of wealth to the rich. Anyway, those other factors are all related and further aggrivated because of GREED. If it weren’t for the OBSCENE distribution of wealth within our country, there never would have been such a market for sub-prime to begin with. Which by the way, was another trick whipped up by greedy bankers and executives. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. The credit industry has been ENDORSED by people like Oprah, Ellen, Dr Phil, and many other celebrities. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. Now, there are commercial ties between nearly every industry and every public figure. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. So don’t fall for their ‘good will’ BS. ITS A LIE. If you fall for it, then you’re a fool. If you see any real difference between the moral character of a celebrity, politician, attorney, or executive, then you’re a fool.. WAKE UP PEOPLE. THEIR GOAL IS TO WIN THE GAME. The 1% club will always say or do whatever it takes to get as rich as possible. Without the slightest regard for anything or anyone but themselves. Reaganomics. Their idea. Loans from China. Their idea. NAFTA. Their idea. Outsourcing. Their idea. Sub-prime. Their idea. High energy prices. Their idea. The commercial lobbyist. Their idea. The multi-million dollar lawsuit. Their idea. The multi-million dollar endorsement. Their idea. $200 cell phone bills. Their idea. $200 basketball shoes. Their idea. $30 late fees. Their idea. $30 NSF fees. Their idea. $20 DVDs. Their idea. Subliminal advertising. Their idea. Brainwash plots on TV. Their idea. Prozac, Zanex, Vioxx, and Celebrex. Their idea. The MASSIVE campaign to turn every American into a brainwashed, credit card, pharmaceutical, love-sick, couch potatoe, celebrity junkie. Their idea. All of the above shrink the middle class, concentrate the world’s wealth and resources, create a dominoe effect of socio-economic problems, and wreak havok on society. All of which have been CREATED AND ENDORSED by celebrities, athletes, executives, entrepreneurs, attorneys, and politicians. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. So don’t fall for any of their ‘good will’ ‘humanitarian’ BS. ITS A SHAM. NOTHING BUT TAX DEDUCTIBLE PR CRAP. In many cases, the 'charitable' contribution is almost entirely offset.. Not to mention the opportunity to plug their name, image, product, and 'good will' all at once. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. These filthy pigs even have the nerve to throw a fit and spin up a misleading defense with regard to 'tax revenue'. ITS A SHAM. THEY SCREWED UP THE EQUATION TO BEGIN WITH. ITS THEIR OWN DAMN FAULT. If the middle and lower classes had a greater share of the pie, they could easily cover a greater share of the federal tax revenue. They are held down in many ways because of greed. Wages remain stagnant for millions because the executives, celebrities, athletes, attorneys, and entrepreneurs, are paid millions. They over-sell, over-charge, under-pay, outsource, cut jobs, and benefits to increase their bottom line. As their profits rise, so do the stock values. Which are owned primarily by the richest 5%. As more United States wealth rises to the top, the middle and lower classes inevitably suffer. This reduces the potential tax reveue drawn from those brackets. At the same time, it wreaks havok on middle and lower class communities and increases the need for financial aid. Not to mention the spike in crime because of it. There is a dominoe effect to consider. So when people forgive the rich for all of the above and then praise them for paying a greater share of the FEDERAL income taxes, its like nails on a chalk board. If these filthy pigs want to be over-paid, then they should be over-taxed as well. Remember: The richest 1% STILL own 1/2 of all United States wealth EVEN AFTER taxes, charity, and PR CRAP. A similar rule applies worldwide. There is nothing anyone can say to justify that. Anyway, there is usually a higher state and local burden on the middle and lower classes. They get little or nothing without a local tax increase. Otherwise, the red inks flows. Service cuts and lay-offs follow. Again, because of the OBSCENE distribution of bottom line wealth in this country. I can not accept any theory that our economy would suffer in any way with a more reasonable distribution of wealth. Afterall, it was more reasonable 30 years ago. Before Reaganomics came along. Before GREED became such an epidemic. Before we had an army of over-paid executives, celebrities, athletes, attorneys, investors, entrepreneurs, developers, and sold-out politicians to kiss their asses. As a nation, we were in much better shape. Lower crime rate, more widespread prosperity, stable job market, free and clear assets, lower deficit, ect. Our economy as a whole was much more stable and prosperous for the majority. WITHOUT LOANS FROM CHINA. Now, we have a more obscene distribution of bottom line wealth than ever before. We have a sold-out government, crumbling infrastructure, energy crisis, home forclosure epidemic, 13 figure national deficit, and 12 figure annual shortfall. The cost of living is higher than ever before. Most people can't even afford basic health care. ALL BECAUSE OF GREED. I really don't blame the 2nd -5th percentiles. No economy could ever function without some reasonable scale of personal wealth and income. But it can't be allowed to run wild like a mad dog. ALBERT EINSTEIN TRIED TO MAKE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND. UNBRIDLED CAPITALISM ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT WORK. Bottom line: The richest 1% will soon tank the largest economy in the world. It will be like nothing we’ve ever seen before. and thats just the beginning. Greed will eventually tank every major economy in the world. Causing millions to suffer and die. Oprah, Angelina, Brad, Bono, and Bill are not part of the solution. They are part of the problem. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A MULTI-MILLIONAIRE HUMANITARIAN. EXTREME WEALTH MAKES WORLD PROSPERITY ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE. WITHOUT WORLD PROSPERITY, THERE WILL NEVER BE WORLD PEACE OR ANYTHING EVEN CLOSE. GREED KILLS. IT WILL BE OUR DOWNFALL. Of course, the rich will throw a fit and call me a madman. Of course, they will jump to small minded conclusions about 'jealousy', 'envy', or 'socialism'. Of course, their ignorant fans will do the same. You have to expect that. But I speak the truth. If you don’t believe me, then copy this entry and run it by any professor of economics or socio-economics. Then tell a friend. Call the local radio station. Re-post this entry or put it in your own words. Be one of the first to predict the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time and explain its cause. WE ARE IN BIG TROUBLE.

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