I’ve made it a practice in the last few years to report on our individual share of our country’s national debt at the moment that big ball hits the ground in New York City, celebrating the beginning of a new year. Time didn’t allow me to put together all the information needed to submit this column last week so here are those figures as of 12:01 a.m. on January 1, 2020 in Times Square. 

The recent midnight vigil revealed that our population increased from 328,232,105 to a figure of 332,395,315 while the national debt grew from $21,905,871,134,932 to $23,612,441,534,491! Now if your calculator can print out in the trillion dollar range you can figure out how much each member of your family owes to wipe out this debt. Hint: it’s probably more than your annual salary.

Those figures contrast quite a bit from the promise of our president who, when campaigning for the office he now holds made a campaign pledge that, if elected, he would submit a balanced budget to Congress and pay off the national debt in seven years! It’s frightening to think that there were voters who believed him! Was his statement ignorance or lying? Remember, the last president to even submit a balanced budget to congress was a Democrat, Bill Clinton, but you know how long that lasted when Congress got hold of it. By the way, why was “tax and spend” such a dastardly thing when Republicans talked about budget proposals made by the Democrats but “borrow and spend” now seems OK?

And, still, we go on from day to day with no apparent concern over what might or will happen when that budgetary bubble bursts. There was a recent cartoon on this paper’s editorial page of a person in an hourglass, drowning in national debt sand. At least I’m not the only one to dread the next Depression. At my age, though, I shouldn’t have to suffer the impact for too long.

In addition, I thought you might be interested in how the average income of citizens of the United States of America is now divided among us. As I understand it, this information is only calculated at the beginning of each year, so the figures I’m about to disclose are already one year out of date.

Would it be any surprise to you to learn that the average yearly income for the top one tenth of 1 percent of the nation’s wage earners was $2,757,000 per person? The entire top one percent, as a whole, averaged out to a mere $718,766 per year, which — as my calculator told me — comes to only a little under $2,300 per work day. The entire top 10 percent had to settle for an average take-home pay of only $118,400 per year. The bottom 90 percent of wage earners saw their wages rise slightly but not nearly at the same rate as those at the top.

Those figures are based on information gathered from Social Security Administration data. Over the long haul, since the end of what is known as the Great Depression, the annual increase in wages for the bottom 90 percent of wage earners has risen at the rate of 5.4% while that of the top one tenth of 1 percent has averaged 29.8 percent.

But that shouldn’t surprise us. Indeed, in 1921, The song I referred to in my headline was written by Richard Whiting and Gus Kahn. It was called “Ain’t We Got Fun” and the last line of the lyrics asks, “The rich get rich and the poor get poorer… In the meantime, in between time… ain’t we got fun?”

•••

Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at bookmaven321@comcast.net.

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