Income Inequality News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on income inequality
In 1981, Malcolm Forbes, the eccentric and fabulously wealthy magazine publisher, came to his editors with a request: Could they pull together a special issue about the 400 richest Americans? The resulting reporting project took a year, dozens of flights and thousands of interviews. At the top of the very first Forbes 400 list was Daniel K. Ludwig, a shipping magnate, estimated by the magazine to be worth more than $2 billion. Adjusted for inflation, that's now at least $5.8 billion, a fortune that would land Ludwig in a seven-way tie for the 182nd spot on the last Forbes 400 list, alongside Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx; Gary Rollins, chief executive of Rollins, Inc., which owns several pest-control companies; and who could forget Peter Gassner, the head of a cloud-software company called Veeva. Since 1987, Forbes has published another list, which started smaller but has grown to be much larger: the World's Billionaires List. The magazine just published this year's edition, with a staggering 2,668 names. The task of gathering information for both lists is overseen by Kerry Dolan, an editor at Forbes, in a highly collaborative effort that involves at least 92 different reporters from all over the organization, including from the company's many internationally licensed editions – Russia, Poland, Mexico and more. The 2022 World's Billionaires list ... grew by 573 names compared with the last prepandemic list, in 2020. That year, the world was minting new billionaires at a rate, Forbes noted, of about one every 17 hours.
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More than five million people became millionaires across the world in 2020 despite economic damage from the Covid-19 pandemic. While many poor people became poorer, the number of millionaires increased by 5.2 million to 56.1 million globally, Credit Suisse research found. In 2020, more than 1% of adults worldwide were millionaires for the first time. Wealth creation appeared to be "completely detached" from the economic woes of the pandemic. The number of ultra-high net worth individuals, usually defined as those having investable assets of more than $30m, grew by 24% worldwide in 2020, the fastest rate of increase since 2003. Credit Suisse said its total of the number of millionaires might be higher than other organizations' estimates because it included both investable and non-investable assets, such as owner-occupied homes. [Economist] Anthony Shorrocks ... said the pandemic had an "acute short-term impact on global markets", but added this was "largely reversed by the end of June 2020". "Global wealth not only held steady in the face of such turmoil, but in fact rapidly increased in the second half of the year," he said. However, wealth differences between adults widened in 2020, and Mr Shorrocks said if asset price increases, such as house price rises, were removed from the analysis, "then global household wealth may well have fallen". "In the lower wealth bands where financial assets are less prevalent, wealth has tended to stand still, or, in many cases, regressed," he said.
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For nearly 20 years, Dolores Acevedo-Garcia has been collecting data on the access—and lack thereof—that children in neighborhoods across the U.S. have to necessities like healthy food and a good education. She and her team ... manage diversitydatakids.org, a data project designed to guide the high-level policy decisions that affect childhood and equality. In January, Acevedo-Garcia and her team published the latest edition of the Child Opportunity Index, an ambitious project that takes a deep look at 47,000 neighborhoods across the 100 largest U.S. metro areas, scoring them from 1 to 100, where a higher number means more childhood opportunity based on 29 key measures. Many of the more diverse metro areas in the U.S., especially cities with large black populations, have enormous opportunity gaps; the few diverse cities with small gaps tend to have low opportunity scores overall. “It’s hard to find a place that is equitable and racially diverse,” says Acevedo-Garcia. In all 100 metro areas ... combined, white children live in neighborhoods with a median score of 73, compared with neighborhood scores of 72 for Asian children, 33 for Hispanic children and 24 for black children. Black and Hispanic kids live with less opportunity than their white and Asian peers almost without exception. Milwaukee and its surrounding area has the widest racial disparity in the U.S.. A white child there lives ... with a median opportunity score of 85. For a black child, the median neighborhood score is 6.
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Current COVID-19 lockdowns protect low-risk college students and young professional bankers, attorneys, journalists, scientists and others who can work from home, while older high-risk working-class people are risking their lives building the population immunity that will eventually protect us all. While mortality is inevitable during a pandemic, the COVID-19 lockdown strategy has led to more than 220,000 deaths, with the urban working class carrying the heaviest burden. Many older workers have been forced to accept high mortality risk or increased poverty, or both. While the current lockdowns are less strict than in March, the lockdown and contact tracing strategy is the worst assault on the working class since segregation and the Vietnam War. Lockdown policies have closed schools, businesses and churches, while not enforcing strict protocols to protect high-risk nursing home residents. Denying in-person teaching to students is harmful to their education and physical and mental health, with working-class children hardest hit. Online schooling puts a disproportional burden on our children, despite their own minimal risk. For ages 1 to 15, Sweden kept day care and schools open throughout the height of the pandemic, and among the 1.8 million children of that age, there were zero COVID-19 deaths without masks used or physical distancing. Neither was there any excess risk for in-person teachers compared with the average of other professions.
Note: The above article was written by three doctors, one from Stanford, one from Harvard, and one from the UK's Oxford. Explore an abundance of good information questioning the official story of COVID. Explore a summary of alternative views on the coronavirus. Explore a revealing article questioning the origin and causes of the coronavirus. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the coronavirus from reliable major media sources.
The U.S.’s historic economic expansion has so enriched one-percenters they now hold almost as much wealth as the middle- and upper-middle classes combined. The top 1% of American households have enjoyed huge returns in the stock market in the past decade, to the point that they now control more than half of the equity in U.S. public and private companies, according to data from the Federal Reserve. The very richest had assets of about $35.4 trillion in the second quarter, or just shy of the $36.9 trillion held by the tens of millions of people who make up ... much of the middle and upper-middle classes. It may not be long before one-percenters actually surpass the middle and upper-middle classes. Household wealth in the upper-most bracket grew by $650 billion in the second quarter of 2019, while Americans in the 50th to 90th percentiles saw a $210 billion gain. By another measurement the top 1% of taxpayers had incomes starting at $515,371 in 2017, according to the latest Internal Revenue Service data. For now, those Americans in 90th to 99th percentiles - well-to-do, but not the super rich - still control the biggest share of wealth, with $42.6 trillion in assets. The lone group left out of the fun: the bottom 50% of Americans. Those households have 35.7% of liabilities in the U.S. and just 6.1% of assets.
For the first time on record, the 400 wealthiest Americans last year paid a lower total tax rate — spanning federal, state and local taxes — than any other income group, according to newly released data. That’s a sharp change from the 1950s and 1960s, when the wealthy paid vastly higher tax rates than the middle class or poor. Since then, taxes that hit the wealthiest the hardest — like the estate tax and corporate tax — have plummeted, while tax avoidance has become more common. President Trump’s 2017 tax cut, which was largely a handout to the rich, plays a role, too. It helped push the tax rate on the 400 wealthiest households below the rates for almost everyone else. The overall tax rate on the richest 400 households last year was only 23 percent, meaning that their combined tax payments equaled less than one quarter of their total income. This overall rate was 70 percent in 1950 and 47 percent in 1980. For middle-class and poor families, the picture is different. Federal income taxes have also declined modestly for these families, but they haven’t benefited much if at all from the decline in the corporate tax or estate tax. And they now pay more in payroll taxes (which finance Medicare and Social Security) than in the past. Over all, their taxes have remained fairly flat. The combined result is that over the last 75 years the United States tax system has become radically less progressive.
Gabriel Zucman started his first real job the Monday after the collapse of Lehman Brothers. A decade later, Zucman, 32, is an assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley and the world’s foremost expert on where the wealthy hide their money. His doctoral thesis ... exposed trillions of dollars’ worth of tax evasion by the global rich. For his most influential work, he teamed up with his Berkeley colleague Emmanuel Saez. Their 2016 paper, “Wealth Inequality in the United States Since 1913,” distilled a century of data to answer one of modern capitalism’s murkiest mysteries: How rich are the rich in the world’s wealthiest nation? The answer - far richer than previously imagined - thrust the pair deep into the American debate over inequality. Zucman and Saez’s latest estimates show that the top 0.1% of taxpayers - about 170,000 families in a country of 330 million people - control 20% of American wealth, the highest share since 1929. The top 1% control 39% of U.S. wealth, and the bottom 90% have only 26%. The bottom half of Americans combined have a negative net worth. The shift in wealth concentration over time charts as a U, dropping rapidly through the Great Depression and World War II, staying low through the 1960s and ’70s, and surging after the ’80s as middle-class wealth rolled in the opposite direction. Zucman has also found that multinational corporations move 40% of their foreign profits, about $600 billion a year, out of the countries where their money was made and into lower-tax jurisdictions.
The Federal Reserve recently reported that about half of Americans have virtually no wealth at all, with four in 10 unable to afford a $400 emergency expense. That means that if their car breaks down or their child gets sick, they have to charge those expenses to a credit card. And when they do that, they get ripped off — big time. Despite the fact that banks can borrow money from the Fed at less than 2.5%, the median credit card interest rate ... is now over 21%. Last year, Wall Street banks made $113 billion in credit card interest alone, up by nearly 50% in just five years. In other words, while working class Americans pay outrageously high interest rates, Wall Street banks get rich. And if you live in a low-income community without a bank or cannot get a credit card, what do you do when you need to borrow money? You may have to turn to a predatory payday lender where the average interest rate on an annual basis is a jaw-dropping 391%. When banks and payday lenders charge these unconscionably high interest rates, they are not engaged in the business of making credit available. They are involved in extortion. We need a national usury law that caps interest rates ... at 15%. And that's exactly what the legislation I introduced with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would do. Under our Loan Shark Prevention Act, we would make sure that no bank or store in America could charge an interest rate higher than 15%. 88% of Americans support a cap on credit card interest rates.
The political and economic power wielded by the approximately 750 wealthiest people in America has become a sudden flash point in the 2020 presidential election, as the nation’s billionaires push back with increasing ferocity against calls by liberal politicians to vastly reduce their fortunes and clout. On Thursday, Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire and former mayor of New York City, took steps to enter the presidential race, a move that would make him one of four billionaires who either plan to seek or have expressed interest in seeking the nation’s highest office in 2020. His decision came one week after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) proposed vastly expanding her “wealth tax” on the nation’s biggest wealth holders and one month after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said America should not have any billionaires at all. The leaders of the anti-billionaire populist surge, Warren and Sanders, have cast their plans to vastly increase taxes on the wealthy as necessary to fix several decades of widening inequality. Financial disparities between the rich and everyone else have widened over the past several decades in America, with inequality returning to levels not seen since the 1920s, as the richest 400 Americans now control more wealth than the bottom 60 percent of the wealth distribution. At least 16 billionaires have in recent months spoken out against what they regard as the danger posed by the populist Democrats, particularly over their proposals to enact a “wealth tax” on vast fortunes.
More than 10 years after the housing crash that devastated the economy, people are still debating just what happened. Although the economy and the housing market have made a comeback, homeownership remains low. Aaron Glantz, a prize-winning investigative journalist ... set out to explain why, in "Homewreckers: How a Gang of Wall Street Kingpins, Hedge Fund Magnates, Crooked Banks, and Vulture Capitalists Suckered Millions Out of Their Homes and Demolished the American Dream." Eight million Americans lost their homes in the bust. Where did those homes go? Those houses didn’t just disappear. Who won, when everyone else lost? The people who won - a small group of businessmen who pounced to seize thousands of homes and made billions of dollars - they’re the “homewreckers.” But even though the housing bust is over, the nation’s homeownership rate is at its lowest in 50 years, and continues to go down. It helps explain why people feel so uneasy. As long as the unemployment rate is low and people have jobs and they can afford rents, the financial market is secure. If people lose their jobs, what’s going to happen? We could be back in another housing bust. Right now there’s a real crisis of affordability. People think we don’t have enough inventory because we haven’t built enough houses. Only 10 years ago, our country was awash in real estate. We have to ask ourselves if we really have a housing shortage, or if we have rigged the market so it only benefits a few of the players.
Rutger Bregman had not really intended to stick it to the global elite. But when the Dutch historian decided to go off-piste at the World Economic Forum and tell the assembled billionaires they should stop avoiding paying tax, he became an overnight social media sensation. “It’s been a crazy week and just for stating the obvious,” said Bregman, when asked about a panel discussion at the WEF last month in which he said the issue was “taxes, taxes, taxes, and all the rest is bullshit in my opinion”. Bregman had not been to Davos before. He was invited on the basis of the book Utopia for Realists, which argued for a basic income and a shorter working week. But he grew more irritated as the week wore on. He was surprised and maddened by the pushback when he mentioned tax. As a result, Bregman decided to change his plan for a panel on inequality. What Bregman said, put simply, was the Davos emperors have no clothes. They talk a lot about how something must be done about inequality and the need to address social unrest, but cavil at the idea they might be a big part of the problem. He told his audience that people in Davos talked about participation, justice, equality and transparency, but “nobody raises the issue of tax avoidance and the rich not paying their share. It is like going to a firefighters’ conference and not talking about water.” As a historian, Bregman noted the most successful period for capitalism occurred in the years after the second world war, when the top rate of tax in the US was above 90%.
Note: This historian later confronted Tucker Carlson of Fox News, who had a few choice dirty words for him. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on income inequality and corporate corruption.
The wage gap between chief executives and workers at some of the US companies with the lowest-paid staff grew even wider last year, with CEOs making an average of $10.6m, while the median worker received $23,968. A study of 300 top US companies released by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) on Tuesday found the average gap between CEO and median worker pay jumped to 670-to-1. The ratio was up from 604-to-1 in 2020. Forty-nine firms had ratios above 1,000-to-1. At more than a third of the companies surveyed, IPS found that median worker pay did not keep pace with inflation. The report ... comes amid a wave of unionization efforts among low wage workers and growing scrutiny of the huge share buyback programs many corporations have been using to inflate their share prices. US companies announced plans to buy back more than $300bn of their own shares in the first quarter of the year and Goldman Sachs has estimated that buybacks could top $1tn in 2022. Share-related remuneration makes up the largest portion of senior executive compensation and as buybacks generally boost a company's share price, they also boost executive pay. The biggest buyback firm was home improvement chain Lowe's, which spent $13bn on share repurchases. That money could have given each of its 325,000 employees a $40,000 raise. Instead, median pay at the company fell 7.6% to $22,697. IPS noted that many of the companies in its sample were also the recipients of large federal government contracts.
The 25 richest Americans, including Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Elon Musk, paid a "true tax rate" of just 3.4% between 2014 and 2018, according to an investigation by ProPublica, despite their collective net worth rising by more than $400bn in the same period. The report by the non-profit news organization exposes the US tax system as income and wealth inequality continues to widen. ProPublica used Internal Revenue Service data to dive into the tax returns of some of America's wealthiest and most prominent people. It found that in 2007 Bezos, the founder of Amazon and already a billionaire, paid no federal taxes. In 2011, when he had a net worth of $18bn, he was again able to pay no federal taxes – and even received a $4,000 tax credit for his children. ProPublica created what it called a "true tax rate" for the wealthiest 25 Americans by comparing federal income tax paid between 2014 and 2018 to how their net worth increased on Forbes' well-regarded rich list over the same period. "The results are stark," ProPublica wrote. "According to Forbes, those 25 people saw their worth rise a collective $401bn from 2014 to 2018. "They paid a total of $13.6bn in federal income taxes in those five years, the IRS data shows. That's a staggering sum, but it amounts to a true tax rate of only 3.4%." By contrast, the median American household paid 14% in federal taxes. The top income tax rate is 37% on incomes over $523,600 for single filers.
The secret wealth and dealings of world leaders, politicians and billionaires has been exposed in one of the biggest leaks of financial documents. Some 35 current and former leaders and more than 300 public officials are featured in the files from offshore companies, dubbed the Pandora Papers. They reveal the King of Jordan secretly amassed Ł70m of UK and US property. They also show how ex-UK PM Tony Blair and his wife saved Ł312,000 in stamp duty when they bought a London office. The couple bought an offshore firm that owned the building. The leak also links Russian President Vladimir Putin to secret assets in Monaco, and shows the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis - facing an election later this week - failed to declare an offshore investment company used to purchase two villas for Ł12m in the south of France. It is the latest in a string of leaks over the past seven years, following the FinCen Files, the Paradise Papers, the Panama Papers and LuxLeaks. The examination of the files is the largest organised by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), with more than 650 reporters taking part. Some figures are facing allegations of corruption, money laundering and global tax avoidance. But one of the biggest revelations is how prominent and wealthy people have been legally setting up companies to secretly buy property in the UK. The documents reveal the owners of some of the 95,000 offshore firms behind the purchases.
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As millions of Americans woke up to $1,200 checks in their bank accounts, some of the nation's richest taxpayers learned they were about to receive a bit of relief as well – about $1.7m each, to be exact. Nearly 43,000 millionaires across the country would soon profit off a loophole adapted from the Republican tax code overhaul of 2017, which allows certain business owners to significantly reduce their tax liability by temporarily suspending the limit of deductions they can place against non-business income. The loophole was included as a provision in the sweeping $2.2tn Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, according to a report published by the Joint Commission on Taxation. Democrats who ordered the report have since accused Republicans of having "wrongly seized on this health emergency to reward ultrarich beneficiaries", and called for the tax break to be immediately repealed. The Joint Commission on Taxation said that a staggering "82 per cent of the benefits of the policy go to about 43,000 taxpayers who earn more than $1m annually". Those 43,000 taxpayers eligible for the loophole would receive an average windfall of nearly $1.7m. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) ... slammed his Republican colleagues over the tax break in a statement alleging the loophole was "so generous that its total cost is more than total new funding for all hospitals in America and more than the total provided to all state and local governments".
[California] Gov. Jerry Brown has issued more than 1,100 pardons and commuted more than 150 sentences since taking office in 2011 - far more than have his recent predecessors. The governor’s intervention creates a new pathway to justice for people serving long prison sentences under some of the nation’s harshest sentencing laws. His action moves California away from the brutality of mass incarceration and toward a renewed focus on rehabilitation and redemption. I know well the power of hope in the darkness behind prison walls. In 2012, I was released after serving 24 years of a life sentence. Now I lead the Hope and Redemption Team, an initiative funded by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to provide rehabilitative programming inside seven state prisons. Our model is unique. Every member of our full-time staff is a former lifer who has served decades of time and is now a living example of redemption. Success stories rarely make the news, but I see them every day. Graduates of our program and job-readiness training offered by the Anti-Recidivism Coalition have earned their release and built careers in the building and construction trades, prison ministry, higher education, entertainment and tech. Trained in violence prevention, they go into juvenile halls and work with youth to break the cycle of incarceration before it begins. They are contributing to society and making communities stronger and safer - things that prison can never accomplish.
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After her longtime partner died of kidney cancer, federal agents knocked on Gail Deckman's door outside Chicago and told her she was in trouble: She had kept thousands of dollars in Social Security disability benefits that should have stopped when he died. The inspector general's office, which investigates disability fraud and tries to recoup money for the government, ultimately charged her $119,392 – nearly three times what she received in error. The inflated fees were set in motion during the Trump administration, when attorneys in charge of a little-known anti-fraud program run by the inspector general's office levied unprecedented fines against Deckman and more than 100 other beneficiaries without due process. The escalating penalties created a giant jump – at least on paper – in the amount of money the inspector general could show lawmakers it was bringing in. A Chicago woman was fined $132,000 after wrongly receiving as much as $10,618 in benefits. A Denver woman was sanctioned $168,000 after cashing as much as $14,960 in wrongly received checks. The remarkable penalties led to tumult inside the Office of Inspector General Gail Ennis, where a whistleblower was targeted for retaliation, according to a ruling this month. [Deborah] Shaw testified that she was shocked when she was directed in early 2019 to issue a penalty of $176,000 to a woman who had already written a check for $26,000 to repay the government the entire amount she had wrongly received in disability benefits.
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The Covid-19 pandemic has been good for the wallets of the wealthy. Some 573 people have joined the billionaire ranks since 2020, bringing the worldwide total to 2,668, according to an analysis released by Oxfam on Sunday. That means a new billionaire was minted about every 30 hours, on average, so far during the pandemic. The report, which draws on data compiled by Forbes, looks at the rise of inequality over the past two years. It is timed to coincide with the kickoff of the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, a gathering of some of the wealthiest people and world leaders. Billionaires have seen their total net worth soar by $3.8 trillion, or 42%, to $12.7 trillion during the pandemic. A large part of the increase has been fueled by strong gains in the stock markets, which was aided by governments injecting money into the global economy. Much of the jump in wealth came in the first year of the pandemic. It then plateaued and has since dropped a bit. At the same time, Covid-19, growing inequality and rising food prices could push as many as 263 million people into extreme poverty this year. Billionaires in the food and agribusiness sector have seen their total wealth increase by $382 billion, or 45%, over the past two years, after adjusting for inflation. Some 62 food billionaires were created since 2020. Forty new pandemic billionaires were created in the pharmaceutical industry, which has been at the forefront of the battle against Covid-19 and the beneficiary of billions in public funding.
As inflation shot to a new peak in March, cost increases exacted a deep toll on the economy. But for many of the US's largest companies and their shareholders it has been a very different story. A Guardian analysis of top corporations' financials and earnings calls reveals most are enjoying profit increases even as they pass on costs to customers, many of whom are struggling to afford gas, food, clothing, housing and other basics. The analysis of Securities and Exchange Commission filings for 100 US corporations found net profits up by a median of 49%, and in one case by as much as 111,000%. Those increases came as companies saddled customers with higher prices and all but ten executed massive stock buyback programs or bumped dividends to enrich investors. In earnings calls, executives detailed how even as demand and profits rose post-vaccine, they passed on most or all inflationary costs to customers via price increases, and some took the opportunity to add more on top. Margins – the share of sales converted into profits – also improved for the majority of the companies. The Guardian's findings are in line with recent US commerce department data that shows corporate profits rose 35% during the last year and are at their highest level since 1950. Inflation, meanwhile, rose to 8.5% year over year in March. The Guardian's data ... objectively shows a massive "transfer of wealth" from consumers, who pay higher prices, to shareholders and investment firms.
Note: Meanwhile global poverty has skyrocketed. Do the billionaires really care? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption from reliable major media sources.
The coronavirus pandemic has led to a new era of inflation inequality, economists warn, in which poor households bear the brunt of rising prices. That's because a bigger portion of their budget goes toward categories that have spiked in cost. Food is up 6.4% over the past year, for example, while gasoline jumped a whopping 58%. And now many people are facing those higher prices as federal stimulus programs fade away. "They're essentially looking to stretch a dollar most days," said Chris Wimer ... at Columbia University. "It's going to lead to difficult choices between putting gas in the car or paying for your kids' child care or putting food on the table." A recent analysis by the Penn Wharton Budget Model found that low- and middle-income households spent about 7% more in 2021 for the same products they bought in 2020 or in 2019. That translates into about $3,500 for the average household. Meanwhile, pandemic-related production disruptions have driven up the costs of commodities that poor households rely on. The findings dovetail with an analysis [by] economist Alberto Cavallo. He showed that low-income consumers experienced price increases that were roughly double those of wealthier ones. In 2019, a joint paper from researchers at Columbia and the London School of Economics estimated that about 3 million more people would qualify as living in poverty if their incomes were adjusted for the inflation rates they experience.
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