Welcome to our sharecropper economy. A couple of years ago, eyebrows were raised by the news that the Walton family’s wealth was equal to that of the bottom 30 percent of U.S. families. In little time that figure has ballooned to 40 percent, the Economic Policy Institute notes:
We have argued previously that Walmart is a useful archetype for trends in the larger American economy over the past three decades. Its enormous size and bargaining power has led to fabulous wealth for its owners, while the compensation it pays its employees is generally low, even by retail standards; and the ubiquity of Walmart stores means that it is effectively the marginal employer in many U.S. counties.
In 2007, it was reported that the Walton family wealth was as large as the bottom 35 million families in the wealth distribution combined, or 30.5 percent of all American families. And in 2010, as the Walton’s wealth has risen and most other Americans’ wealth declined, it is now the case that the Walton family wealth is as large as the bottom 48.8 million families in the wealth distribution (constituting 41.5 percent of all American families) combined.