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Income Inequality By The Numbers: Seven And A Half Things To Know

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Women walk by a panhandler along Madison Avenue, one of Manhattan's premier shopping and residential streets on November 1, 2011 in New York City.
Women walk by a panhandler along Madison Avenue, one of Manhattan's premier shopping and residential streets on November 1, 2011 in New York City.

It may take 80 days to get around the world, but it only takes knowing seven and a half things each day to be a big genius. Here they are:

Thing One: See You In Hell, Equality: You might suspect that America is on its way to becoming just a gated fortress of precisely 12 rich people surrounded by a writhing mass of angry poors, which the rich keep barely placated with Hunger Games-style bloodsport. And now you can prove it, with math.

That's thanks to a New York Times op-ed by Steven Rattner, the guy who led the auto bailout, but who also has a somewhat icky private-equity background, presenting a study of American tax returns by some French economists. OK, so ignore the messengers and focus on the message: In 2010, according to the study, 93 percent of the country's income gains for the year went to the top one percent of taxpayers. And of that extra income, 37 percent went to the top 0.01 percent, the roughly 15,000 households with average incomes of nearly $24 million.

Um, yikes. But won't all this money at the top just trickle down to the rest of us poor slobs, in the form of taxes and lap-dance tips? Actually, what really seems to trickle down from the top, according to new research, is a need to spend ever more money to keep up with the Vanderbilts, writes Chrystia Freeland of Reuters: "The idea is that income inequality has a significant impact on the 99 percent: It drives the rest of us to consume more, whether we can afford to or not."

Thing Two: BATS Goes Bats: On Friday the high-speed stock exchange called BATS tried to go public but then got splattered all over the highway by, yes, high-speed trading. This morning the Wall Street Journal writes that BATS killed its IPO after a revolt by the hedge funds and other investors that had ponied up for shares, only to watch them get vaporized in a few seconds of trading on Friday. Though the schadenfreude was thick Friday at the New York Stock Exchange, where two or three humans still stand around as television props, the BATS face-plant will not slow the advance of robots in our stock markets, writes the New York Times.

Thing Three: But Seriously, Buy Stocks: For some mysterious reason, retail investors are doggedly not interested in the stock market any more, despite the fact that bond yields are super low, stocks have been screaming higher (up 100 percent since March 2009) and geniuses like Warren Buffett keep telling people they should dump bonds and buy stocks. Matt Phillips in the Wall Street Journal presents the bull case for stocks once again this morning. But uh-oh: Don't look now, but Bloomberg writes that bearish hedge funds are starting to tiptoe into the market, which means the fun ride is probably almost over.

Thing Four: Europe, Still Not Solved: One reason people keep buying bonds and shunning stocks, besides the rise of the market robots, is that, every time things start to look OK in the stock market, something crazy comes along and sets all our money on fire. Europe, for example. Remember how that was all solved recently? Well, it turns out it wasn't, because Spanish bond yields are suddenly screaming higher, which has Italian prime minister Mario Monti worried. Even Angela Merkel is giving in and letting Europe's "firewall" of cash get a little higher, the Financial Times reports. Despite all this, European stocks are mostly higher this morning after a surprise gain in German confidence.

Thing Five: Bernanke Speaks, Again: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke almost never seems to stop talking these days, but today's speech could be kind of important, apparently. Morgan Stanley thinks Bernanke will take this opportunity to tell everybody to chill out about the economic recovery and that the Fed really, seriously means it will not raise rates any time soon, reports Business Insider.

Thing Six: Not Liking Requests For Facebook Passwords: Two congresspeople want the U.S. government to investigate claims that employers are asking prospective employees for their Facebook passwords. "Facebook Inc., the world’s biggest social networking site, has described as 'alarming' reports that some businesses ask potential employees for passwords in order to view private posts and pictures as part of the job-application process," Bloomberg writes.

Thing Seven: Corzine's Defense: Late Friday, Bloomberg dropped a bombshell report that MF Global chief Jon Corzine had personally authorized the transfer of nearly $200 million out of customer accounts to save the flailing firm. But there is email evidence suggesting that Corzine was unaware the money belonged to customers, The New York Times writes today.

Thing Seven And One Half: House Of Worthless Euros: Here's a sign of the times if ever we've seen one: An Irish artist is living in an apartment he built with bricks of about 1.4 billion euros' worth of worthless euros, The New York Times reports. They were taken out of commission and shredded by Ireland's central bank during that country's economic crisis.

Around the Web

It's the Inequality, Stupid | Mother Jones

15 Facts About U.S. Income Inequality That Everyone Should Know ...

Income inequality: Who exactly are the 1%? | The Economist

The United States of Inequality - Slate Magazine

The Republican stance on income inequality

High cost of income inequality

The Rich Get Even Richer

MIT Economist: Income Inequality In The U.S. Is Crushing The Middle Class ...

Steve Rattner Misleads on Inequality in the NYT