Income Inequality News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on income inequality
This week, House Democrats released their proposed tax increases to fund Joe Biden's $3.5tn social policy plan. The biggest surprise: they didn't go after the huge accumulations of wealth at the top – representing the largest share of the economy in more than a century. You might have thought Democrats would be eager to tax America's 660 billionaires whose fortunes have increased by $1.8tn since the start of the pandemic, an amount that could fund half of Biden's plan and still leave the billionaires as rich as they were before the pandemic began. Elon Musk's $138bn in pandemic gains, for example, could cover the cost of tuition for 5.5 million community college students and feed 29 million low-income public-school kids, while still leaving Musk $4bn richer than he was before Covid. But senior House Democrats decided to raise revenue the traditional way, taxing annual income rather than giant wealth. They aim to raise the highest income tax rate and apply a 3% surtax to incomes over $5m. The dirty little secret is the ultra-rich don't live off their paychecks. You might also have assumed Democrats would target America's biggest corporations, awash in cash but paying a pittance in taxes. Thirty-nine of the S&P 500 or Fortune 500 paid no federal income tax at all from 2018 to 2020 while reporting a combined $122bn in profits to their shareholders. But remarkably, House Democrats have decided to set corporate tax rates below the level they were at when Barack Obama was in the White House.
Note: Learn more about this in this New York magazine article. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and income inequality from reliable major media sources.
Did you make it to the Allen & Co conference in Sun Valley, Idaho this past week? The investment bank sponsors the annual schmooze-fest and "summer camp for billionaires" for the same reason that companies give away their luxury products in Oscars gift baskets: because if you spoil rich people enough, they may develop sufficiently warm feelings towards you to throw you some business one day. At Sun Valley each year, the billionaires are feted by the mere millionaires; the millionaires drum up enough deals to allow them to buy their third and fourth homes. The Sun Valley conference is primarily known as a place where tech and media moguls gather to do a little fly fishing and strike multibillion-dollar merger deals. More fundamentally, the conference is, like Davos, a mechanism for the concentration of wealth, dressed up as something friendlier. Here, America's wealthiest mega-billionaires gather with the chief executive of America's most powerful companies, the director of the CIA, and America's most worthless pseudo-journalists ... to develop the social and business connections that allow the top 0.00001% of earners to continue to accumulate a share of our nation's wealth that already exceeds the famously cartoonish inequality of the Gilded Age of Rockefeller and Carnegie. We are developing a private class of billionaire kings whose will is omnipotent and untouchable by any democratic force. This is the state of affairs that the Sun Valley conference serves to intensify.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on income inequality from reliable major media sources.
Getting audited by the IRS is increasingly less certain. An audit is about half as likely as it was five years ago. Even so, some groups face higher audit rates than others. The tax agency is auditing fewer individual taxpayers not because we’re more honest, but because the IRS is working with fewer employees. The agency’s workforce has dropped from 94,000 workers in 2010 to roughly 78,000 in the most recent fiscal year, according to IRS data. With fewer agents available to perform audits, the agency’s audit rate has been whittled to 0.45% of individual returns in fiscal 2019, the IRS said. That compares with an audit rate of 0.9% in the fiscal 2014. Two types of taxpayers are more likely to draw the attention of the IRS: the rich and the poor, according to IRS data of audits by income range. Poor taxpayers, or those earning less than $25,000 annually, have an audit rate of 0.69% — more than 50% higher than the overall audit rate. Low-income taxpayers are more likely to get audited than any other group, except Americans with incomes of more than $500,000. The least likely group to get audited? That would be upper-middle-class households with an annual income of $100,000 to $200,000. Low-income households are more likely to get audited than some wealthier taxpayers ... due to the IRS checking for fraud and errors related to the Earned Income Tax Credit. Americans with annual incomes of more than $10 million have enjoyed a 75% decline in audit rates since 2013.
By the time Lehman Brothers filed for the largest bankruptcy in American history on Sept. 15, 2008, the country had been navigating stormy global financial waters for more than a year. Throughout the mess, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury had been permitting the largest banks in the country to funnel as much cash as they wanted to their shareholders ― even as it became clear those same banks could not pay their debts. Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner ... didn’t really rescue the banking system. They transformed it into an unaccountable criminal syndicate. Since the crash, the biggest Wall Street banks have been caught laundering drug money, violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and Cuba, bribing foreign government officials, making illegal campaign contributions to a state regulator and manipulating the market for U.S. government debt. Citibank, JPMorgan, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and UBS even pleaded guilty to felonies for manipulating currency markets. Not a single human being has served a day in jail for any of it. As a percentage of each family’s overall wealth, the poorer you were, the more you lost in the crash. The top 1 percent of U.S. households ultimately captured more than half of the economic gains over the course of the Obama years, while the bottom 99 percent never recovered their losses from the crash. The result has been a predictable and terrifying resurgence of authoritarian politics unseen since the Second World War.
Corporate profits are booming, but average wages haven’t budged. In the early 1980s, large American companies sent less than half their earnings to shareholders, spending the rest on their employees and other priorities. But between 2007 and 2016, large American companies dedicated 93% of their earnings to shareholders. Because the wealthiest 10% of U.S. households own 84% of American-held shares, the obsession with maximizing shareholder returns effectively means America’s biggest companies have dedicated themselves to making the rich even richer. In the four decades after World War II, shareholders on net contributed more than $250 billion to U.S. companies. But since 1985 they have extracted almost $7 trillion. That’s trillions of dollars in profits that might otherwise have been reinvested in the workers who helped produce them. Before “shareholder value maximization” ideology took hold, wages and productivity grew at roughly the same rate. But since the early 1980s, real wages have stagnated even as productivity has continued to rise. Workers aren’t getting what they’ve earned. Companies also are setting themselves up to fail. Retained earnings were once the foundation for long-term investments. But from 1990 to 2015, nonfinancial U.S. companies invested trillions less than projected, funneling earnings to shareholders instead. This underinvestment handcuffs U.S. enterprise and bestows an advantage on foreign competitors. We should insist on a new deal.
Note: The above was written by Sen. Elizabeth Warren in conjunction with her introduction of the "Accountable Capitalism Act". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption and income inequality.
About five decades ago, the core values that make America great began to bring America down. The First Amendment became a tool for the wealthy to put a thumb on the scales of democracy. America’s rightly celebrated dedication to due process was used as an instrument to block government from enforcing job-safety rules ... and otherwise protecting the unprotected. Election reforms ... wound up undercutting democracy. Ingenious financial and legal engineering turned our economy ... into a casino with only a few big winners. Distinctly American ideas became the often unintended instruments for splitting the country into two classes: the protected and the unprotected. The protected overmatched, overran and paralyzed the government. The unprotected were left even further behind. Income inequality has soared: Middle-class wages have been nearly frozen for the last four decades, while earnings of the top 1% have nearly tripled. For adults in their 30s, the chance of earning more than their parents dropped to 50% from 90% just two generations earlier. Many of the most talented, driven Americans used what makes America great - the First Amendment, due process, financial and legal ingenuity, free markets and free trade, meritocracy, even democracy itself - to chase the American Dream. And they won it, for themselves. Then, in a way unprecedented in history, they were able to consolidate their winnings ... and pull up the ladder so more could not share in their success or challenge their primacy.
Iceland is the first country to make it illegal to pay men more than women. Equal pay policies is now mandatory for companies with 25 or more employees. Those that cannot show that they provide equal pay will be subject to fines. The law, which was passed last year, went into effect on Jan. 1. Iceland is already a leader in gender parity. The World Economic Forum (WEF) ranked Iceland as the top country for gender quality for the last nine years based on criteria involving economics, education, health, and politics. For example, Icelandic women make up 48% of the country’s parliament - without a quota system. Despite this, wage inequality has persisted. In 2016, thousands of women in Iceland left work at 2:38 p.m., to protest pay disparity. The time was symbolic of when woman stop receiving pay during their 9 to 5 work day compared to men. The wage gap in Iceland was 72 cents to every man’s dollar. On International Women’s Day in 2017, the country moved to change that. The tiny country, pop. 323,000, aims to completely eliminate the wage gap by 2020.
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Few people realize that the loans they take out to pay for their education could eventually derail their careers. But in 19 states, government agencies can seize state-issued professional licenses from residents who default on their educational debts. Another state, South Dakota, suspends driver’s licenses, making it nearly impossible for people to get to work. Firefighters, nurses, teachers, lawyers, massage therapists, barbers, psychologists and real estate brokers have all had their credentials suspended or revoked. Determining the number of people who have lost their licenses is impossible because many state agencies and licensing boards don’t track the information. Public records requests by The New York Times identified at least 8,700 cases in which licenses were taken away or put at risk of suspension in recent years, although that tally almost certainly understates the true number. With student debt levels soaring — the loans are now the largest source of household debt outside of mortgages — so are defaults. Lenders have always pursued delinquent borrowers: by filing lawsuits, garnishing their wages, putting liens on their property and seizing tax refunds. Blocking licenses is a more aggressive weapon, and states are using it on behalf of themselves and the federal government. Tennessee is one of the most aggressive states at revoking licenses. From 2012 to 2017, officials reported more than 5,400 people to professional licensing agencies. Many - nobody knows how many - lost their licenses. Some ... lost their careers.
Many Americans can’t remember anything other than an economy with skyrocketing inequality, in which living standards for most Americans are stagnating and the rich are pulling away. It feels inevitable. But it’s not. A well-known team of inequality researchers ... has been getting some attention recently for a chart it produced. It shows the change in income between 1980 and 2014 for every point on the distribution, and it neatly summarizes the recent soaring of inequality. The message is straightforward. Only a few decades ago, the middle class and the poor weren’t just receiving healthy raises. Their take-home pay was rising even more rapidly, in percentage terms, than the pay of the rich. The post-inflation, after-tax raises that were typical for the middle class during the pre-1980 period - about 2 percent a year - translate into rapid gains in living standards. At that rate, a household’s income almost doubles every 34 years. In recent decades, by contrast, only very affluent families ... have received such large raises. Yes, the upper-middle class has done better than the middle class or the poor, but the huge gaps are between the super-rich and everyone else. The basic problem is that most families used to receive something approaching their fair share of economic growth, and they don’t anymore.
Note: The graphics at the link above clearly show how inequality has been skyrocketing in recent years. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing income inequality news articles from reliable major media sources.
For the investors and market-movers at the annual World Economic Forum [in Davos, Switzerland], a threat lurks. At cocktail parties where the Champagne flows, financiers have expressed bewilderment over the rise of populist groups that are feeding a backlash against globalization. The world order has been upended. As the United States retreats from the promise of free trade, China is taking up the mantle. The stark shift leaves investors trying to assess the new risk and opportunities in the global economy. “This is the first time there is absolutely no consensus,” said William F. Browder ... who has been coming to Davos for 21 years. “Everyone is looking into the abyss.” The religion of the global elite - free trade and open markets - is under attack, and there has been a lot of hand-wringing, [but] little agreement on how to deal with it. The biggest concern? Finding a way to make the people who are driving populist movements feel like they are part of the global economic pie that Davos participants have created and largely own. Ian Bremmer, the president of Eurasia Group, a political-research firm, offered his advice: “Elites won’t be able to manage populism until they stop seeing it as a threat and start seeing it as a symptom.” If that is the case, Davos has, so far, made little progress. Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba in China, offered his view of the problem in the United States. Americans, he said, “do not distribute the money properly.”
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of the secret societies of the elite which manipulate global politics from behind the scenes, and deeply revealing income inequality news articles from reliable major media sources.
Despite having one of the world's most advanced economies, the United States lags far behind other countries in its policies for expectant mothers. In addition to being the only highly competitive country where mothers are not guaranteed paid leave, it sits in stark contrast to countries such as Cuba and Mongolia that offer expectant mothers one year or more of paid leave. Countries finance paid-maternal-leave policies in a variety of ways. Some require that the employer finance the leave; in others, the money comes from public funds. For low-income residents or those who work in the informal sector, an increasing number of governments are providing maternity cash benefits, according to the International Labor Organization, a U.N.-affiliated agency. From Gambia to Bangladesh, a majority of low- and middle-income countries offer some form of paid leave to mothers. Because current U.S. policy doesn't mandate paid maternity leave, many women feel they have to choose between working and raising a family. This gender inequity undermines their prospects of equal opportunity at work — and, experts say, it disproportionately affects women from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. A 2012 study conducted by the Department of Labor found that, of the workers it polled, 23 percent of women who had left work to care for an infant took less than two weeks off, increasing health risks for both mothers and children.
A small core of super-rich individuals is responsible for the record sums cascading into the coffers of super PACs for the 2016 elections, a dynamic that harks back to the financing of presidential campaigns in the Gilded Age. Close to half the money - 41 percent - raised by the groups by the end of February came from just 50 mega-donors and their relatives, according to a Washington Post analysis. Donors this cycle have given more than $607 million to 2,300 super PACs, which can accept unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations. That means super PAC money is on track to surpass the $828 million that the Center for Responsive Politics found was raised by such groups for the 2012 elections. The top 50 contributors together donated $248 million personally and through their privately held companies, or more than $4 out of every $10 raised by all super PACs. The last time political wealth was so concentrated was in 1896, when corporations and banking moguls helped McKinley, the Republican candidate, outspend Democratic rival William Jennings Bryan. Populist anger over how presidential races were financed led to a 1907 ban on corporations donating to federal campaigns. Forty years later, Congress prohibited unions and corporations from making independent expenditures in federal races. The picture dramatically changed in 2010, when the Supreme Court said in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations and unions could spend unlimited sums on politics.
Note: The "Koch Empire" alone plans to spend $889 million on US elections in 2016. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about elections corruption and the manipulation of public perception. Then explore the excellent, reliable resources provided in our Elections Information Center.
The top 50 U.S. companies have stored $1.4 trillion in tax havens, Oxfam America reported Thursday. Oxfam released its new report, “Broken at the Top,” ahead of Tax Day in the U.S. and shortly after of the Panama Papers leak to show the extent to which major corporations such as Pfizer, Walmart, Goldman Sachs, Alphabet, Disney and Coca-Cola keep money in offshore funds. The use of over 1,600 subsidiaries lowered their global tax rate on $4 trillion of profit to an average of 26.5%, compared to the statutory minimum of 35%, according to Oxfam. Additionally, for every dollar of taxes these companies paid, they collectively received $27 in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts - footed by American taxpayers. “The vast sums large companies stash in tax havens should be fighting poverty and rebuilding America’s infrastructure, not hidden offshore in Panama, Bahamas, or the Cayman Islands,” Oxfam America president Raymond Offenheiser said in a statement.
Around the developed world consumers seem to be losing their appetite for more. Even goods for which there once seemed insatiable demand seem to be losing their lustre. At a Guardian Sustainable Business debate, Steve Howard, head of Ikea’s sustainability unit, declared: “In the west, we have probably hit peak stuff. We talk about peak oil. I’d say we’ve hit peak red meat, peak sugar ... peak home furnishings.” The average western consumers’ home is bulging with all the materials and goods it needs. Only in developing countries have consumers the capacity to want more, but as Howard accepted, for that they need buying power, which in turn rests on the global distribution of income and wealth being fairer. Economist Tomas Sedlacek, who has won an international following for his book Economics of Good and Evil, insists that [most people today] work in jobs they do not much like, to buy goods they do not much value – the opposite of any idea of the good life. What we want is purpose and a sense of continual self-betterment, which is not served by buying another iPhone, wardrobe or a kitchen. Yet purpose and betterment need a social context: purpose is a shared endeavour and self-betterment is to act on the world better with others. The New Economics Foundation has developed a matrix of five key performance measures to get beyond indicators of “stuff” such as GDP: job quality, wellbeing, health, environment and fairness. These are the categories we should measure and track.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing income inequality news articles from reliable major media sources.
The very richest Americans have financed a sophisticated and astonishingly effective apparatus for shielding their fortunes. Some call it the “income defense industry,” consisting of a high-priced phalanx of lawyers, estate planners, lobbyists and anti-tax activists. All are among a small group providing much of the early cash for the 2016 presidential campaign. Operating largely out of public view - in tax court, through arcane legislative provisions and in private negotiations with the Internal Revenue Service - the wealthy have used their influence to steadily whittle away at the government’s ability to tax them. The effect has been to create a kind of private tax system, catering to only several thousand Americans. Two decades ago ... the 400 highest-earning taxpayers in America paid nearly 27 percent of their income in federal taxes, according to I.R.S. data. By 2012 ... that figure had fallen to less than 17 percent, which is just slightly more than the typical family making $100,000 annually. Some of the biggest current tax battles are being waged by some of the most generous supporters of 2016 candidates. Whatever tax rates Congress sets, the actual rates paid by the ultra-wealthy tend to fall over time as they exploit their numerous advantages.
Note: The IRS now conducts only half as many audits of the super-rich as it did five years ago. Over half of the money contributed so far to 2016 US presidential candidates has come from just 158 families. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and income inequality from reliable major media sources.
Much of the national debate about widening inequality ... ignores the upward redistributions going on every day, from the rest of us to the rich. These redistributions are hidden inside the market. The only way to stop them is to prevent big corporations and Wall Street banks from rigging the market. For example, Americans pay more for pharmaceuticals than do the citizens of any other developed nation. This costs you and me an estimated $3.5 billion a year - a hidden upward redistribution of our incomes to Pfizer, Merck and other big proprietary drug companies. Likewise, the interest we pay on ... loans is higher than it would be if the big banks ... had to work harder to get our business. As recently as 2000, America’s five largest banks held 25 percent of all U.S. banking assets. Now they hold 44 percent — which gives them a lock on many such loans. The net result: another hidden upward redistribution. Why have food prices been rising faster than inflation, while crop prices are now at a six-year low? Because the giant corporations that process food have the power to raise prices. Result: a redistribution from average consumers to Big Agriculture. Why do you suppose health insurance is costing us more? Health insurers are hiking rates 20 to 40 percent next year, and their stock values are skyrocketing. Add it up - the extra money we’re paying for pharmaceuticals, Internet communications, home mortgages, student loans, airline tickets, food and health insurance - and you get a hefty portion of the average family’s budget.
Note: This essay was written by former 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.
American Indians are more likely than any other racial group to be killed by the police, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, which studied police killings from 1999 to 2011. But apart from media outlets like Indian Country Today, almost no attention is paid to this pattern of violence against already devastated peoples. When it comes to American Indians, mainstream America suffers from willful blindness. Economic and health statistics, as well as police-violence statistics, shed light on the pressures on American Indian communities and individuals: Indian youths have the highest suicide rate of any United States ethnic group. Adolescent women have suicide rates four times the rate of white women in the same age group. Indians suffer from an infant mortality rate 60 percent higher than that of Caucasians. At the root of much of this is economic inequality: Indians are the poorest people in the United States. Today’s avoidable tragedies of oppressed Indian lives and troubled deaths remain far too often in the shadows. At this moment, when black Americans are speaking up against systemic police violence, and their message is finally being carried by virtually every major news source, it’s time we also pay attention to a less visible but similarly targeted minority: the people who lived here for many thousands of years before this country was founded, and who also have an unalienable right to respect and justice.
They are deploying their vast wealth in the political arena, providing almost half of all the seed money raised to support Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Just 158 families, along with companies they own or control, contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign, a New York Times investigation found. Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision five years ago. The 158 families each contributed $250,000 or more in the campaign through June 30. An additional 200 families gave more than $100,000. Together, the two groups contributed well over half the money in the presidential election - the vast majority of it supporting Republicans. “The campaign finance system is now a countervailing force to the way the actual voters of the country are evolving and the policies they want,” said Ruy Teixeira, a political and demographic expert. The donor families’ wealth reflects, in part, the vast growth of the financial-services sector and the boom in oil and gas. They are also the beneficiaries of political and economic forces that are driving widening inequality. Together, the [energy and finance] industries accounted for well over half of the cash contributed by the top 158 families.
Note: What does it mean for democracy when billionaire oligarchs have their own political party? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing elections news articles from reliable major media sources. Then explore the excellent, reliable resources provided in our Elections Information Center.
The Dutch city of Utrecht ... has paired up with the local university to establish whether the concept of 'basic income' can work in real life, and plans to begin the experiment at the end of the summer holidays. Basic income is a universal, unconditional form of payment to individuals, which covers their living costs. The concept is to allow people to choose to work more flexible hours in a less regimented society, allowing more time for care, volunteering and study. University College Utrecht has paired with the city to place people on welfare on a living income, to see if a system of welfare without requirements will be successful. The Netherlands as a country is no stranger to less traditional work environments - it has the highest proportion of part time workers in the EU, 46.1 per cent. However, Utrecht's experiment with welfare is expected to be the first of its kind in the country. Alderman for Work and Income Victor Everhardt: "One group ... will have compensation and consideration for an allowance, another group with a basic income without rules and of course a control group which adhere to the current rules. Our data shows that less than 1.5 percent abuse the welfare. What happens if someone gets a monthly amount without rules and controls? Will someone sitting passively at home or do people develop themselves and provide a meaningful contribution to our society?"
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At any given time, roughly 480,000 people sit in America's local jails awaiting their day in court, according to an estimate by the International Centre for Prison Studies. These are people who have been charged with a crime, but not convicted. They remain innocent in the eyes of the law. Three quarters of them ... are nonviolent offenders, arrested for traffic violations, or property crimes, or simple drug possession. Many will be found innocent and have their charges dropped completely. Defendants who [are] detained before trial [wait] a median of 68 days in jail. Many ... are forced to wait simply because they can't afford to post bail. A 2013 analysis by the Drug Policy Alliance ... found that nearly 40 percent of New Jersey's jail population fell into this category. People sit behind bars not because they're dangerous, or because they're a flight risk, but simply because they can't come up with the cash. A recent analysis by the Vera Institute ... found that 41 percent of New York City's inmates were sitting in jail on a misdemeanor charge because they couldn't meet a bail of $2,500 or less. For low income people, the consequences of a pre-trial detention, even a brief one, can be disastrous. And in many cases, these people will eventually be found to be innocent. Some civil rights reformers [argue] that bail policies are tantamount to locking people up for being poor. We spend somewhere in the ballpark of $17 billion dollars annually to keep innocent people locked up as they await trial.
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