Friday, July 19, 2013

This 1 Chart Reveals The True Economic Power Of The U.S. Slave System

americas slave worth

Thomas Piketty and Gabriel Zucman have a new paper out (PDF) about the historical evolution of wealth in a number of different prominent countries, and it features this chart for the United States that really drives home the amazing reality of America's antebellum slave economy. The "human capital" consisting of black men and women held as chattel in the states of the south was more valuable than all the industrial and transportation capital ("other domestic capital") of the country in the first half of the nineteenth century. When you consider that the institution of slavery was limited to specific subset of the country, you can see that in the region where it held sway slave wealth was wealth.

In their discussion, the point Piketty and Zucman make about this is that slave wealth was the functional equivalent of land wealth in a country where agricultural land was abundant. The typical European wealth-holding pattern was of an economic elite composed of wealthy landowners in a environment of scarce usable land. In America, land was plentiful since you could steal it from Native Americans. That should could have led to an egalitarian distribution of wealth, but instead an alternative agrarian elite emerged that did happen to own large stocks of land but whose wealthy was primarily composed of owning the human beings who worked the land rather than owning the land itself.

 9 Ways People Have Not Recovered:

  • Unemployment
When the economy was roaring in 2007, the U.S. unemployment rate was 5 percent. In January 2013 the unemployment rate was 7.9 percent.

  • Income And Wages
The U.S. median income fell to $50,054 in 2011, which is the most recent full year in which that data is available. That's down 8.1 percent since 2007. Wages also fell to a record-low 43.5 percent of the economy in 2012, according to the New York Times.

Meanwhile, corporate profits are still booming.

  • Number Of People On Food Stamps
The number of Americans on food stamps surged to a record in 46 million in June 2012. That's compared to 26.5 million in 2007.

  • Uninsured Americans
More than 16 percent of Americans -- or 48.6 million people -- were uninsured in 2011, according to Kaiser Health News. This number is higher than what it was in 2007, when the share of uninsured Americans was 15.3 percent.

  • Student Loan Debt
The average student loan debt for a class of 2011 graduate was about $26,500, according to the Project on Student Debt data cited by the New York Times. Since 2007, when the average student debt was $23,349, student loan debt has increased for almost every demographic and the size of that debt has gone up as well, according to Pew.

  • Homelessness
In 2011, 644,067 Americans experienced homelessness on any given night, according to data from the National Alliance to End Homelessness cited by NBC News. Though that number is actually down 13 percent from 2007, the decrease is largely attributed to a boost in the number of programs to help keep the homeless off the streets.

  • Children In Poverty
More than 16 million children -- or about 20 percent of American children -- were in poverty in 2011, according to the Census Bureau. That's up from nearly 18 percent of American children in 2007.

  • Homeownership
We're on our way to becoming a renter nation. The homeownership rate in the 12 months leading up to May 2012 was 65.4 percent, according to Census Bureau data cited by CNNMoney. That's the lowest rate in 15 years. In the last quarter of 2007, the homeownership rate was 67.8 percent.

  • Foreclosures
There were 2.7 million foreclosures in 2011. That's up from 2.2 million foreclosures in 2007.

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