The Top 1% of America’s Top 1%

The 15 Peak Years for Top-End Income-Shares in U.S., 1913-2013 

Eric Zuesse


Top 0.01% income share including capital gains, United States, the 15 peak years

1915: 4.36%

1916: 4.78%

1928: 5.02%

1929: 4.99%

1999: 4.21%

2000: 5.07%

2004: 4.34%

2005: 5.13%

2006: 5.46%

2007: 6.04%

2008: 5.03%

2010: 4.78%

2011: 4.32%

2012: 5.81%

2013: 4.48%

(1941-83: under 2%)


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Top 0.1-0.01% income share including capital gains, United States, the 15 peak years

1913: 5.86%

1914: 5.87%

1916: 5.73%

1925: 5.21%

1927: 5.50%

1928: 6.52%

1929: 5.92%

1999: 5.41%

2000: 5.80%

2004: 5.12%

2005: 5.86%

2006: 6.13%

2007: 6.24%

2008: 5.37%

2012: 5.90%

(1951-84: under 3%)


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Almost all of the income to the top tenth of 1% is going actually to the top hundredth of 1%: the wealthiest of the billionaires are getting almost everything. An extreme case: in 2012, the top 0.01% got 5.81% of the income, wherease the top 0.10% got 5.90% of the income. All the rest of the top 0.10%, who were 0.09% of the total population, received only 0.09% of the income, which means that they relatively benefited neither more nor less than did the rest of the U.S. population. So: look only on the billionaires lists in order to find the real beneficiaries that year.

Whereas the years 1944-1983 (from Truman through Carter) were the peak years for equality in the U.S., the years 1914-1929 (from Wilson through Hoover), and 1998-2013 (from Clinton through Obama), were/are the peak years for inequality in the U.S.

Truman through Carter constituted also the years of America’s overwhelming dominance of the world. FDR led America into it, and Ronald Reagan (despite the precursing President Carter’s failed effort to rescue our Embassy-personnel after the U.S.-imposed Shah escaped Tehran to Mexico in 1979) led America out of it. Reagan’s leading the decline was not at all obvious at the time, because America’s communist opponent had been rotting and finally died on his watch; Reagan was able to bask in the ‘glory’ of that Soviet internal collapse, but the broader economic cycle for America was already heading downward, and Presidents since his time have been trying to distract the American people from that decline by upping the foreign invasions and coups, the latest being Obama’s coup in Ukraine in 2014, aimed against what had been a rising Russia.

In the figures above, the years 2014 and beyond are not shown, nor is pre-1913. It’s just 1913-2013. That was The American Century.

America, now, at the end of The American Century, is repeating the situation that existed at the start of The American Century. Back in that era, we were heading for a huge crash, but the United States was the world’s rising power then, to replace UK. This time around, we are again heading for a huge crash, but the United States is the world’s declining power now, to be replaced by China. 

What China is, America was.

“Go west, young man,” the famous phrase from John Babsone Lane Soule in 1851, means, this time: go to Asia. Again, the wild west is rising; but, now, it has moved all the way across the ocean.

Will America go to war against China, in a desperate attempt to maintain the empire for its top 0.01%, like Germany went to war against UK after Versailles, in order to regain its pre-WWI position, as being the rising power set to overtake England?

It’s those top 0.01% of Americans who control the American government, who will be making that decision, unless the American people themselves somehow overthrow them from that power-perch, and take back what used to be America’s democracy.

A century which began with, and has returned to, extreme economic inequality, suggests that, what Germany did, America will repeat. However, if that happens, the result will be even more cataclysmic than before. Whether that happens will depend upon how greedy America’s top 0.01% are. Obama’s rhetoric to America’s future military leaders suggests that they want it all, and they demand to have it all:

“the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century passed [he meant ‘past’] and it will be true for the century to come. … Russia’s aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe, while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors. From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us, and governments seek a greater say in global forums.”

America will come to the world’s rescue, he told our future warrior-leaders. They will be fighting not only ‘terrorists’ but also Russia, China, and perhaps even whatever “rising middle classes compete with us,” from “Brazil to India.”

If so, they’ll have a big plate – containing a bowlful of the world’s blood, for thirsty drinkers.

So, we’ve met our masters, the top 1% of the top 1%. They like things just the way they are, but they want more of it. More poverty for the masses (or else in foreign countries) means more money for themselves; it’s increasingly the American way to super-wealth. “The economics are compelling,” says one aspirant to billionairdom, in that last video. But, “No, I wouldn’t want to live here.” It’s just a proven fact; this really is the way to succeed, and successful people have no qualms about it.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity, and of  Feudalism, Fascism, Libertarianism and Economics.