WSJ: Concentration Of Wealth At The Top Is Draining Social Security

Well, gee. Is this a bug - or a feature? Who could ever have predicted that concentrating all the wealth at the top and exempting them from increased Social Security taxes would lead to a decrease in the Social Security trust fund?

The nation's wealth gap is widening amid an uproar about lofty pay packages in the financial world.

Executives and other highly compensated employees now receive more than one-third of all pay in the U.S., according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Social Security Administration data -- without counting billions of dollars more in pay that remains off federal radar screens that measure wages and salaries.

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Highly paid employees received nearly $2.1 trillion of the $6.4 trillion in total U.S. pay in 2007, the latest figures available. The compensation numbers don't include incentive stock options, unexercised stock options, unvested restricted stock units and certain benefits.

The pay of employees who receive more than the Social Security wage base -- now $106,800 -- increased by 78%, or nearly $1 trillion, over the past decade, exceeding the 61% increase for other workers, according to the analysis. In the five years ending in 2007, earnings for American workers rose 24%, half the 48% gain for the top-paid. The result: The top-paid represent 33% of the total, up from 28% in 2002.

The growing portion of pay that exceeds the maximum amount subject to payroll taxes has contributed to the weakening of the Social Security trust fund. In May, the government said the Social Security fund would be exhausted in 2037, four years earlier than was predicted in 2008.

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