Income Inequality News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on income inequality
Some of the world's biggest, most profitable corporations enjoy a far lower tax rate than you do – that is, if they pay taxes at all. The most egregious example is General Electric. Last year the conglomerate generated $10.3 billion in pretax income, but ended up owing nothing to Uncle Sam. In fact, it recorded a tax benefit of $1.1 billion. How did this happen? It's complicated. GE in effect consists of two divisions: General Electric Capital and everything else. The everything else – maker of engines, power plants, TV shows and the like – would have paid a 22% tax rate if it was a standalone company. It's GE Capital that keeps the overall tax bill so low. Over the last two years, GE Capital has displayed an uncanny ability to lose lots of money in the U.S. (posting a $6.5 billion loss in 2009), and make lots of money overseas (a $4.3 billion gain). Not only do the U.S. losses balance out the overseas gains, but GE can defer taxes on that overseas income indefinitely. It's the tax benefit of overseas operations that is the biggest reason why multinationals end up with lower tax rates than the rest of us.
Note: Note that Forbes later changed the title of this article to a more innocuous "What The Top U.S. Companies Pay In Taxes." Can you believe that GE not only pays no taxes, they actually get credit from the US government? They ship US jobs overseas and then reap huge tax benefits as a result. What's wrong with this picture? For a wealth of media news articles on the hidden manipulations of major financial corporations, click here.
Half of all the money contributed so far to Democratic and Republican presidential candidates - $176 million - has come from just 158 families, along with the companies they own or control. Who are these people? According to the report, most of these big contributors live in exclusive neighborhoods where they have private security guards instead of public police officers, private health facilities rather than public parks and pools. Most send their kids and grand kids to elite private schools rather than public schools. They fly in private jets and get driven in private limousines rather than rely on public transportation. They don't have to worry about whether Social Security or Medicare will be there for them in their retirement because they've put away huge fortunes. It's doubtful that most of these 158 are contributing to these campaigns out of the goodness of their hearts. They're largely making investments, just the way they make other investments. And the success of these investments depends on whether their candidates get elected, and will lower their taxes even further, expand tax loopholes, shred health and safety and environmental regulations so their companies can make even more money, and cut Social Security and Medicare and programs for the poor - and thereby allow these 158 and others like them to secede even more from the rest of our society. These people are, after all, are living in their own separate society. They want to elect people who will represent them, not the rest of us.
Note: This essay was written by former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing income inequality news articles from reliable major media sources.
It's a perfect storm. I'm talking about the dangers facing our democracy. First, income in America is now more concentrated in fewer hands than it has been in 80 years. Almost a quarter of total income generated in the United States is going to the top 1 percent of Americans. The top one-tenth of 1 percent of Americans now earn as much as the bottom 120 million of us. Who are these people? They're top executives of big corporations and Wall Street, hedge-fund managers and private equity managers. Hundreds of millions of dollars are pouring into advertisements for and against candidates - without a trace of where the dollars are coming from. They're laundered through a handful of groups. Most Americans are in trouble. Their jobs, incomes, savings and even homes are on the line. They need a government that's working for them, not for the privileged and the powerful. Yet their state and local taxes are rising. And their services are being cut. There's no jobs bill to speak of. Washington says nothing can be done. There's no money left. No money? The marginal income tax rate on the very rich is the lowest it has been in more than 80 years. Under President Dwight Eisenhower ... it was 91 percent. Now it's 36 percent. We're losing our democracy to a different system. It's called plutocracy.
Note: Whether you are on the left or right of the political spectrum, this incisive article by former US Sect. of Labor Robert Reich is well worth reading in its entirety. For more in income inequality, click here.
Since the Reagan administration, Republicans have fervently claimed lower taxes will unleash the "makers" — incentivizing them to work harder and invest more, thereby trickling down to benefit ordinary Americans. Moreover, they have consistently claimed that their tax cuts would create such dramatic economic growth that they’d literally pay for themselves. Instead, the national debt is at a record high, and the gap between the richest and the poorest U.S. households is now the largest it has been in the 52 years the Census Bureau has been tracking it. And that inequality gap started to expand dramatically about the same time the Republican Party started cutting taxes. The American economy since 1950 offers a chance to consider the impact of these tax cuts. From 1950 to 1980, the top federal marginal tax rates ... were as high as 92% and never below 70%. Republicans have been slashing the top tax bracket for annual earned income since the early 1980s, and it is now 37%. Further, in 2003 the GOP shrank the tax rate on unearned income (such as dividends) to 15%, resulting (for example) in the billionaire Warren Buffett having a lower tax rate than his secretary. With such dramatic tax cuts, GOP dogma predicted a booming U.S. economy. But it turns out U.S. economic growth was substantially higher during the period of high taxes. From 1950 to 1980, average annual growth in real (inflation-adjusted gross domestic product) was 3.9%, while from 1981 to 2018 the comparable number was 2.7%.
Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman say we’re coddling “a tiny minority of ultra-rich” Americans, and they’d like to put a stop to it. “The Triumph of Injustice” demonstrates how small sets of wealthy, white, well-connected citizens command inordinate financial and political clout. This, it seems, is the season for such books. Investigative reporter Aaron Glantz’s “Homewreckers” focuses on billionaires who cash in when the middle class struggles. Anne Nelson’s “Shadow Network” is about a coterie of influential far-right operatives. Taken together, these smart, engrossing titles paint a stark picture of the power wielded by a handful of plutocrats and religious hard-liners. There’s always been economic inequality, but it’s worse today than just decades ago. According to Saez and Zucman, America’s richest 1% own 37% of the nation’s wealth (“housing, pension funds, and all financial assets”), up from 22% at the end of the 1970s. “Conversely, the wealth share of the bottom 90% of adults has declined from 40% to 27%.” Counting all forms of taxation, Saez and Zucman say that the great majority of Americans pay 25% to 30% of their income in taxes into the public coffers. By contrast, America’s 400 richest people “barely pay 20%.” This disparity is the result of many factors. These include ... access to “offshore bank accounts, exotic trusts (and) hidden shell corporations,” Saez and Zucman write. Corporations use similar tactics. Facebook, for one, “has dodged billions in corporate taxes” by establishing a presence in the Cayman Islands.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on income inequality from reliable major media sources.
A new book-length study on the tax burden of the ultrarich begins with a startling finding: In 2018, for the first time in history, America’s richest billionaires paid a lower effective tax rate than the working class. “The Triumph of Injustice,” by economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California at Berkeley, presents a first-of-its kind analysis of Americans’ effective tax rates since the 1960s. It finds that in 2018, the average effective tax rate paid by the richest 400 families in the country was 23 percent, a full percentage point lower than the 24.2 percent rate paid by the bottom half of American households. In 1980, by contrast, the 400 richest had an effective tax rate of 47 percent. In 1960, that rate was as high as 56 percent. The effective tax rate paid by the bottom 50 percent, by contrast, has changed little over time. The tipping point came in 2017, with the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The legislation, championed by President Trump and then-House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), was a windfall for the wealthy: It lowered the top income tax bracket and slashed the corporate tax rate. By 2018, according to Saez and Zucman, the rich were already enjoying the fruits of that legislation: The average effective tax rate paid by the top 0.1 percent of households dropped by 2.5 percentage points. The benefits promised by the bill’s supporters — higher rates of growth and business investment and a shrinking deficit — have largely failed to materialize.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on income inequality from reliable major media sources.
The CEO of Marathon Petroleum, Gary Heminger, took home an astonishing 935 times more pay than his typical employee in 2017. One of Marathon’s gas station workers would have to toil more than nine centuries to make as much as Heminger grabbed in just one year. Employees of at least five other US firms would have to work even longer – more than a millennium – to catch up with their top bosses. These companies include the auto parts maker Aptiv (CEO-worker pay ratio: 2,526 to 1), the temp agency Manpower (2,483 to 1), amusement park owner Six Flags (1,920 to 1), Del Monte Produce (1,465 to 1), and apparel maker VF (1,353 to 1). These revelations come thanks to a new federal regulation that requires publicly traded US corporations to disclose, for the first time ever, how much their chief executives are making compared with their median workers. The disclosures are just now starting to flow in. Ever since 2010, the year Congress plugged a ratio disclosure mandate into the Dodd-Frank financial reform act, corporate lobbyists have been scheming to delay and repeal that mandate’s implementation. But responsible investors and other activists rallied and kept the mandate in place. The new ratios offer a benchmark for corporate greed that exposes exactly which firms are sharing the wealth their employees create and which aren’t, knowledge we can use to impose consequences on the corporations doing the most to make the United States more unequal.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing income inequality news articles from reliable major media sources.
Jim Clifton, longtime CEO of Gallup ... penned an op-ed on the company website referring to the “big lie” of the official Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly unemployment rate. The 5.7% rate for January he says is woefully inadequate and does not take into account part-time workers, those earning $20 a week, those underemployed, and the hundreds of thousands of others who have simply given up looking for work. The real unemployment is much larger. In all of this, Clifton is absolutely right. The published rate is not only woefully inadequate, it is misleading and dishonest. In a follow up interview on CNBC ... he notes that he fears that telling the truth will endanger his life. So he backed off the “big lie” headline by telling CNBC: “I think that the number that comes out of BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] and the Department of Labor is very, very accurate. I need to make that very, very clear so that I don’t suddenly disappear. I need to make it home tonight.”
Note: Read the article by Gallup CEO Jim Clifton showing that the US official unemployment rate of 5.6% is very misleading. Gallup research finds 44% of US citizens available to work are not getting enough work. Then watch the video where he admits he fears for his life for reporting on this. Notably, the Forbes article summarized above confirms that Clifton's statements are accurate, but criticizes him for revealing that mass media is manipulated by the financial and political elite.
TIME: Your book Just Mercy is about getting legal help for poor people in Alabama. What are the biggest impediments? BRYAN STEVENSON (Lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative): We have a criminal-justice system that treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent. I don’t believe that America’s system is shaped by culpability. I think it’s shaped by wealth. TIME: 1 in 3 black men in the U.S. under 30 is in jail, on probation or on parole. Is this the scariest stat? STEVENSON: That 1 in 3 black males born in 2001 is expected to go to jail or prison during their lifetimes is more astonishing because it’s about the future. And 1 in 6 Latino boys. That wasn’t true in the 20th century. TIME: What do you say to people who say, “It’s easy to not go to jail–don’t commit a crime”? STEVENSON: In this country we have a presumption of guilt that follows young kids of color. I’ve represented 10-year-olds being prosecuted as adults. They are put in an adult jail. It’s so unnecessary–we have juvenile facilities. No one defends it, and yet we still have 10,000 children in an adult jail or prison. TIME: What’s the role of the corporations that build prisons? STEVENSON: Corporations have really corrupted American criminal justice by creating these perverse incentives where they actually pay legislators to create new crimes so that we can maintain these record-high-level rates of imprisonment. These companies spend millions of dollars a year on lobbying. Prison spending has gone from $6 billion in 1980 to $80 billion today.
Note: For more details about Stevenson's uphill battle as a legal advocate for the poor, read the full article of the Time interview at the link above. For more along these lines, see these excellent, concise summaries of prison corruption news stories from major media sources.
Corporate profits are at their highest level in at least 85 years. Employee compensation is at the lowest level in 65 years. The Commerce Department last week estimated that corporations earned $2.1 trillion during 2013, and paid $419 billion in corporate taxes. The after-tax profit of $1.7 trillion amounted to 10 percent of gross domestic product during the year, the first full year it has been that high. In 2012, it was 9.7 percent, itself a record. Until 2010, the highest level of after-tax profits ever recorded was 9.1 percent, in 1929, the first year that the government began calculating the number. Before taxes, corporate profits accounted for 12.5 percent of the total economy, tying the previous record that was set in 1942, when World War II pushed up profits for many companies. But in 1942, most of those profits were taxed away. The effective corporate tax rate was nearly 55 percent, in sharp contrast to last year’s figure of under 20 percent. The trend of higher profits and lower effective taxes has been gaining strength for years, but really picked up after the Great Recession temporarily depressed profits in 2009. The effective rate has been below 20 percent in three of the last five years. Before 2009, the rate had not been that low since 1931. The Commerce Department also said total wages and salaries last year amounted to $7.1 trillion, or 42.5 percent of the entire economy. That was down from 42.6 percent in 2012 and was lower than in any year previously measured.
Note: For more on income inequality, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Americans have never much liked government. After all, the nation was conceived in a revolution against government. But the surge of cynicism engulfing America isn't about how big government has become. It's a growing perception that our government is no longer working for average people. It's for big business, Wall Street and the very rich. The richest Americans are taking home a bigger share of total income than at any other time since the 1920s. Their tax payments are down because the Bush tax cuts reduced their top rates to the lowest level in more than half a century, and cut capital gains taxes to 15 percent. Congress hasn't even closed a loophole that allows mutual-fund and private-equity managers to treat their incomes as capital gains. So the 400 richest Americans, whose total wealth exceeds the combined wealth of the bottom 150 million Americans put together, pay an average of 17 percent of their income in taxes. That's lower than the tax rates of most day laborers. And the share of revenues coming from corporations has been dropping. The biggest, like GE, find ways to pay no federal taxes at all. Many shelter their income abroad, and every few years Congress grants them a tax amnesty to bring the money home. Get it? "Big government" isn't the problem. The problem is the big money that's taking over government. Government is doing less of the things most of us want it to do ... and more of the things big corporations, Wall Street and the wealthy want it to do.
Note: The author of this analysis, Robert Reich, is a former U.S. secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at UC Berkeley and the author of Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.
Another 2.6 million people slipped into poverty in the United States last year, the Census Bureau reported [on Sep. 13], and the number of Americans living below the official poverty line, 46.2 million people, was the highest number in the 52 years the bureau has been publishing figures on it. And in new signs of distress among the middle class, median household incomes fell last year to levels last seen in 1996. Economists pointed to a telling statistic: It was the first time since the Great Depression that median household income, adjusted for inflation, had not risen over such a long period, said Lawrence Katz, an economics professor at Harvard. “This is truly a lost decade,” Mr. Katz said. The bureau’s findings were worse than many economists expected, and brought into sharp relief the toll the past decade — including the painful declines of the financial crisis and recession — had taken on Americans at the middle and lower parts of the income ladder. It is also fresh evidence that the disappointing economic recovery has done nothing for the country’s poorest citizens. The report said the percentage of Americans living below the poverty line last year, 15.1 percent, was the highest level since 1993. (The poverty line in 2010 for a family of four was $22,314.)
Note: For key reports from reliable sources on income inequality, click here.
"The Conehead economy" [is] the idea that if the economy were a person, its growth over the past few decades would've turned it from a normal-looking individual into a conehead. Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson get at this idea slightly differently [in their book Winner-Take-All Politics]. They've got a table showing how incomes would look if growth had been equally shared from 1979 to 2006 -- much as it was in the decades before 1979. If growth had been equally shared, the middle quintile would be making $64,395 today. Instead, they're making $52,100. That's a 23 percent raise those folks didn't get -- and that I'm sure they would've noticed. The top 1 percent ... made, on average, $1,200,300 in 2006. If growth had been equally shared in the three decades before that, however, their incomes would've been cut by more than half, down to $506,002. That's real, serious money we're talking about. The top 1 percent now accounts for 23.5 percent of the national income if you include capital gains. In 1979, they only had 9.8 percent of the nation's earnings. During that same period, tax rates on the richest Americans have actually dropped. So as the economy went one way -- toward more money going to the rich -- the tax system went the other.
Note: For lots more on income inequality from reliable sources, click here.
The [IRS] reports that the nation's 400 highest-earning households reported an average income of $345 million in 2007 — up 31% from 2006 — and that their average tax bill fell to a 15-year low. Bloomberg writes that the elite 400's average income more than doubled that year from $131.1 million in 2001, the year Congress adopted tax cuts urged by then-President George W. Bush. Each household in the top 400 of earners paid an average tax rate of 16.6 percent, the lowest since the agency began tracking the data in 1992. Their average effective tax rate was about half the 29.4 percent in 1993, the first year of President Bill Clinton's administration. The top 400 earners received a total $138 billion in 2007, up from $105.3 billion a year earlier. On an inflation-adjusted basis, their average income grew almost fivefold since 1992. Almost three-quarters of the highest earners' income was in capital gains and dividends taxed at a 15 percent rate set as part of Bush-backed tax cuts in 2003.
Note: For key reports from major media sources on income inequality, click here. And for a powerful summary of 10 top corporations which avoided taxes in most egregious ways, see the excellent list compiled by independent U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders at this link.
When Jody Richards saw a homeless man begging outside a downtown McDonald's recently, he bought the man a cheeseburger. There's nothing unusual about that, except that Richards is homeless, too, and the 99-cent cheeseburger was an outsize chunk of the $9.50 he'd earned that day panhandling. The generosity of poor people isn't so much rare as rarely noticed, however. In fact, the nation's poor donate more, in percentage terms, than higher-income groups do, surveys of charitable giving show. What's more, their generosity declines less in hard times than the generosity of richer givers does. "The lowest-income fifth [of the population] always give at more than their capacity," said Virginia Hodgkinson, former vice president for research at Independent Sector, a Washington, D.C.-based association of nonprofit agencies. "The next two-fifths give at capacity, and those above that are capable of giving two or three times more than they give." The Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest survey of consumer expenditure found that the poorest fifth of U.S. households contributed an average of 4.3 percent of their incomes to charitable organizations in 2007. The richest fifth gave at less than half that rate, 2.1 percent. The figures probably undercount remittances by legal and illegal immigrants to family and friends back home, a multibillion-dollar outlay to which the poor contribute disproportionally. None of the middle fifths of U.S. households, in contrast, gave away as much as 3 percent of their incomes. What makes poor people's generosity even more impressive is that their giving generally isn't tax deductible, because they don't earn enough to itemize their charitable tax deductions.
The United States of America is becoming less united by the day. A 30-year gap now exists in the average life expectancy between Mississippi, in the Deep South, and Connecticut, in prosperous New England. Huge disparities have also opened up in income, health and education depending on where people live in the US, according to a report published yesterday. The American Human Development Index has [issued a report] measuring well-being ... with shocking results. The US finds itself ranked 42nd in global life expectancy and 34th in survival of infants to age. Suicide and murder are among the top 15 causes of death and although the US is home to just 5 per cent of the global population it accounts for 24 per cent of the world's prisoners. The report points to a rigged system that does little to lessen inequalities. "The report shows that although America is one of the richest nations in the world, it is woefully behind when it comes to providing opportunity and choices to all Americans to build a better life," the authors said. Some of its more shocking findings reveal that ... Asian-American males have the best quality of life and black Americans the lowest, with a staggering 50-year life expectancy gap between the two groups. Using official government statistics, the study points out that because American schools are funded primarily from local property taxes, rich districts get the best state education. The US has no federally mandated sick pay, paternity leave or annual paid vacation.
Note: For lots more on health issues from reliable, verifiable sources, click here.
A global study reveals an overwhelming wealth gap, with the world's three richest people having more money than the poorest 48 nations combined. The richest 2% of the world's population owns more than half of the world's household wealth. For the first time, personal wealth -- not income -- has been measured around the world. The findings may be surprising, for what makes people "wealthy" across the world spectrum is a relatively low bar. The research indicates that assets of just $2,200 per adult place a household in the top half of the world's wealthiest. To be among the richest 10% of adults in the world, just $61,000 in assets is needed. If you have more than $500,000, you're part of the richest 1%, the United Nations study says. If it takes just a couple of thousand dollars to qualify as rich in this world, imagine what it means to be poor. Half the world, nearly 3 billion people, live on less than $2 a day. The three richest people in the world –- Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, investor Warren Buffett and Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helú -- have more money than the poorest 48 nations combined.
Note: For key reports from reliable sources on income inequality, click here.
The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes. Incestuous corporate boards regularly approve compensation packages for chief executives and others that are out of logic's range. As this newspaper has reported, the average CEO of a sizeable corporation makes more than $10 million a year, while the minimum wage for workers amounts to about $10,000 a year, and has not been raised in nearly a decade. When I graduated from college in the 1960s, the average CEO made 20 times what the average worker made. Today, that CEO makes 400 times as much. Trickle-down economics didn't happen. Wages and salaries are at all-time lows as a percentage of the national wealth. This ever-widening divide is too often ignored or downplayed by its beneficiaries. A sense of entitlement has set in among elites, bordering on hubris.
Note: For some reason the Wall Street Journal has removed this article. You can read it on the website of the article's author at this link.
The criminal justice system has given up all pretense that the crimes of the wealthy are worth taking seriously. In January 2019, white-collar prosecutions fell to their lowest level since researchers started tracking them in 1998. Since 2015, criminal penalties levied by the Justice Department have fallen from $3.6 billion to roughly $110 million. Illicit profits seized by the Securities and Exchange Commission have reportedly dropped by more than half. In 2018, a year when nearly 19,000 people were sentenced in federal court for drug crimes alone, prosecutors convicted just 37 corporate criminals. Tax evasion ... siphons up to 10,000 times more money out of the U.S. economy every year than bank robberies. In 2017, researchers estimated that fraud by America’s largest corporations cost Americans up to $360 billion annually between 1996 and 2004. That’s roughly two decades’ worth of street crime every single year. Over the last four decades, the agencies responsible for investigating elite and white-collar crime ... have seen their enforcement divisions starved into irrelevance. More than a third of the FBI investigators who patrol Wall Street were reassigned between 2001 and 2008. Even though auditing millionaires and billionaires is one of the most cost-effective government activities imaginable—an independent report estimated in 2014 that it yielded up to $4,545 in recovered revenue per hour of staff time—the IRS investigated the returns of just 3 percent of American millionaires in 2017.
Taxpayers in rural, poor parts of the U.S. are more likely be audited by the Internal Revenue Service than those living in wealthier counties, according to a new analysis. The county where residents are most likely to face an audit: tiny Humphreys County, Mississippi, where the median household income is less than $24,000 a year, or less than half the income of a typical U.S. family. The higher audit rates in poor regions comes down to an IRS policy of scrutinizing taxpayers who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, a refundable tax credit aimed at low- and moderate-income Americans. Counties with higher-than-average audit rates tend to be located in the South, the northern Plains, Mountain and Western states. The upper Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and New England states have lower audit rates. Many of the counties with the highest IRS audit rates have larger minority populations. That includes Humphreys, where 3 of every 4 residents is black. By comparison ... Denali, Alaska, with the lowest audit rate of all U.S. counties, is 84 percent white and has a median household income of more than $83,000. Audit rates for millionaires have declined by half since 2010. Corporate audits are also on the wane. But the audit rates for people who claim the EITC hasn't fallen as sharply as for the rich and corporations, ProPublica reported in December. That means a typical EITC claimant, who earns less than $20,000 per year, is more likely to face an audit than a millionaire.
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