Income Inequality News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on income inequality
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 level of hunger in U.S. households almost tripled between 2019 and August of this year, according to an analysis of new data from the Census Bureau and the Department of Agriculture. Even more alarming, the proportion of American children who sometimes do not have enough to eat is now as much as 14 times higher than it was last year. The Agriculture Department conducts yearly studies on food insecurity in the U.S., with its report on 2019 released this month. The Census Bureau began frequent household surveys in April in response to Covid-19 that include questions about hunger. The analysis, by the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, found that 3.7 percent of U.S. households reported they sometimes or often had “not enough to eat” during 2019. Meanwhile, the most recent Census data from the end of August of this year showed that 10 percent of households said they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat within the past seven days. Levels of food insecurity in Black and Latino households are significantly higher, at 19 percent and 17 percent, respectively, compared to 7 percent in white households. Remarkably, this increase in hunger has nothing to do with any actual shortage of food. It is purely the result of political decisions.
Note: How much is severe collateral damage like this from the coronavirus lockdown policies being considered? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on income inequality from reliable major media sources.
The growing gap between America’s rich and everyone else is hardly new. But the extra-ordinarily rapid economic collapse catalyzed by COVID-19 has made the chasm deeper and wider. Since mid-March, more than 30 million people have filed for unemployment. Meanwhile, after a steep but brief dip in March, the stock market rallied. The richest and most well–connected are seeing their wealth reaccumulate, as if by magic, while middle- and working–class families drown in debt that deepens with every passing week. The contrast isn’t just between low-wage workers and billionaire bosses. Bills are mounting for small restaurants and retailers as their applications for the federal Paycheck Protection Program go unanswered. Small retailers closed to comply with social–distancing orders while e-commerce sales, especially from the biggest online platforms, have spiked. Assistance is most readily available to those with lawyers and lobbyists on the payroll. It’s not an exaggeration to say that inequality has the potential to undermine democratic society and threaten global stability. Only about 1 in 4 adults in lower-income households say they have enough money to cover expenses for three months in the case of an emergency. The majority of people laid off are working–class and disproportionately women and people of color. One lost job or missed rent payment threatens to tip them into an economic abyss. More businesses will fail, creating more unemployment and further diminishing consumer demand. About 12.7 million Americans have likely lost employer–provided health insurance since the pandemic began. The richest are steadily climbing ever higher while workers without stable jobs, incomes or savings are sent plummeting downward.
Note: Note that the financial ruin is not caused by the virus, but by the severe lockdown policies being implemented. These policies have no scientific basis. Meanwhile in Sweden with no lockdown policies, no one is being arrested, the country has not spiraled out of control as predicted, and the economy is fairing well. Is it worth saving thousand of lives with these severe policies at the cost of hundreds of millions being plunged into poverty worldwide? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the coronavirus from reliable major media sources.
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.
The world’s wealthiest individuals have become even richer during the coronavirus pandemic as the prices of financial assets have been supported by widespread policy intervention while employment and wages, well, not so much. The Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal think tank in Washington, chronicles just how bifurcated the road the recovery from an economy slump is likely to be. At the upper end of the spectrum, the combined wealth of all U.S. billionaires increased by $821 billion or 28% between March 18, 2020 and September 10, 2020, from approximately $2.947 trillion to $3.768 trillion. That means they own the equivalent of nearly 20% of U.S. gross domestic product. The richest five billionaires, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, and Elon Musk, saw a 59% increase in their total wealth, from $358 billion to $569 billion. One University of Chicago study found that, between the start of February and the end of June, the lowest-income group had the highest job loss rate while the highest-income workers had the [lowest] rate of lob losses. Black and Hispanic workers were also much more likely to become unemployed during the pandemic than Whites despite their predominant role in work deemed ... essential. As the pandemic forced many industries into remote work, millions of Black and Hispanic workers have been left out. “Only 19.7% of Black and 16.2% of Latinx people work in jobs where they are able to telework, compared to 29.9% of White and 37.0% of Asian workers,” the report said.
Just as the Biden administration is pushing to raise taxes on corporations, a new study finds that at least 55 of America's largest firms paid no taxes last year on billions of dollars in profits. The sweeping tax bill passed in 2017 by a Republican Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump reduced the corporate tax rate to 21% from 35%. But dozens of Fortune 500 companies were able to further shrink their tax bill – sometimes to zero – thanks to a range of legal deductions and exemptions that have become staples of the tax code. Salesforce, Archer-Daniels-Midland and Consolidated Edison were among those named in the report, which was done by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Twenty-six of the companies listed, including FedEx, Duke Energy and Nike, were able to avoid paying any federal income tax for the last three years even though they reported a combined income of $77 billion. Many also received millions of dollars in tax rebates. Publicly traded corporations are required to file financial reports. The institute used that data along with other information supplied by each company. The $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief act ... contained a provision that temporarily allowed businesses to use losses in 2020 to offset profits earned in previous years. Tax avoidance strategies include a mix of old standards and new innovations. Companies, for example, saved billions by allowing top executives to buy discounted stock options in the future and then deducting their value as a loss.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption from reliable major media sources.
The world economy is expected to contract by 5.2 percent this year - the worst recession in 80 years - but the sheer number of countries suffering economic losses means the scale of the downturn is worse than any recession in 150 years, the World Bank said in its latest Global Economic Prospects report. The depth of the crisis will drive 70 to 100 [million] people into extreme poverty - worse than the prior estimate of 60 million. Economists have been struggling to measure the impact of the crisis they have likened to a global natural disaster, but the sheer size of the impact across so many sectors and countries has made it hard to calculate, and made predictions about any recovery highly uncertain. Under the worst-case scenario, the global recession could mean a contraction of eight percent, according to the report. There remain some "exceptionally high" risks to the outlook, particularly if the current outbreaks linger or rebound, causing authorities to re-impose restrictions that could make the downturn as bad as eight percent. "Disruptions to activity would weaken businesses' ability to remain in operation and service their debt," the report cautioned. That, in turn, could raise interest rates for higher-risk borrowers and, "With debt levels already at historic highs, this could lead to cascading defaults and financial crises across many economies." But even if the 4.2 percent global recovery projected for 2021 materializes, "In many countries, deep recessions triggered by COVID-19 will likely weigh on potential output for years to come."
Note: What this article fails to mention is that it is not the pandemic that is driving all this, but rather the questionable lockdown policies developed to address the pandemic. Sweden, which has never instituted a lockdown, did not spiral out of control and has been less impacted economically. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the coronavirus and income inequality from reliable major media sources.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought hunger to millions of people around the world. National lockdowns and social distancing measures are drying up work and incomes, and are likely to disrupt agricultural production and supply routes — leaving millions to worry how they will get enough to eat. Already, 135 million people had been facing acute food shortages, but now with the pandemic, 130 million more could go hungry in 2020, said Arif Husain, chief economist at the World Food Program, a United Nations agency. Altogether, an estimated 265 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by year’s end. “We’ve never seen anything like this before,” Mr. Husain said. “It wasn’t a pretty picture to begin with, but this makes it truly unprecedented and uncharted territory.” This hunger crisis, experts say, is global and caused by a multitude of factors linked to the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing interruption of the economic order: the sudden loss in income for countless millions who were already living hand-to-mouth; the collapse in oil prices; widespread shortages of hard currency from tourism drying up; overseas workers not having earnings to send home; and ongoing problems like climate change, violence ... and humanitarian disasters. The curfews and restrictions on movement are already devastating the meager incomes of displaced people. The effects of the restrictions “may cause more suffering than the disease itself,” said Kurt Tjossem ... at the International Rescue Committee.
Research Medical's owner, HCA Healthcare Inc., is a profitable, publicly traded network of 185 hospitals. Even in the year of Covid-19, 2020, the company generated $51.5 billion in revenue and increased its pretax earnings by 3.6 percent. That performance helped boost the total compensation HCA's chief executive, Samuel N. Hazen, received last year to $30.4 million, a 13 percent rise from 2019. The total worth of his compensation package equaled 556 times the compensation received by the median employee at HCA – $54,651. The figures highlight the growing CEO pay gap, a problem among many public companies according to some investors and workers and even a few CEOs. In 2019, for example, the average pay ratio among 350 large American companies was 320-to-1, according to research by the Economic Policy Institute. In 1989, the average was 61-to-1. Because [Jamelle] Brown, [an] emergency department worker, makes even less than the median, Hazen got roughly 1,000 times Brown's pay. Brown says he lives with his sister because he doesn't earn enough from his job at Research Medical to pay for his own apartment. HCA isn't alone in paying its chief executive vastly more than what rank-and-file workers earn. Acuity Brands, an industrial technology company, paid its CEO, Neil M. Ashe, $21 million last year, or 2,316 times the median employee's pay. Starbucks ... paid its CEO, Kevin Johnson, $14.7 million last year. That was 1,211 times the pay of its median employee.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on income inequality from reliable major media sources.
When I called up Chuck Collins on Tuesday afternoon, I found him glued to one of the grimmest new metrics documenting America's economic and social unraveling. Collins is a scholar of inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank, and since March he has been tracking how the collective wealth of American billionaires has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. In previous recessions, Collins said, billionaires were hit along with the rest of us; it took almost three years for Forbes's 400 richest people to recover losses incurred in 2008's Great Recession. But in the coronavirus recession of 2020, most billionaires have not lost their shirts. Instead, they've put on bejeweled overcoats and gloves made of spun gold – that is, they've gotten richer than ever before. On Tuesday, as the stock market soared to a record, Collins was watching the billionaires cross a depressing threshold: $1 trillion. That is the amount of new wealth American billionaires have amassed since March, at the start of the devastating lockdowns that state and local governments imposed to curb the pandemic. On March 18, according to a report Collins and his colleagues published last week, America's 614 billionaires were worth a combined $2.95 trillion. When the markets closed on Tuesday, there were 650 billionaires and their combined wealth was now close to $4 trillion. In the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, American billionaires' wealth grew by a third.
At least 43,000 American millionaires who are too rich to get coronavirus stimulus checks are getting a far bigger boost — averaging $1.6 million each, according to a congressional committee. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act trumpeted its assistance for working families and small businesses, but it apparently contains an even bigger benefit for wealthy business owners, the committee found. The act allows pass-through businesses — ones taxed under individual income, rather than corporate — an unlimited amount of deductions against their non-business income, such as capital gains. They can also use losses to avoid paying taxes in other years. That gives the roughly 43,000 individual tax filers who make at least $1 million a year a savings of $70.3 billion — or about $1.6 million apiece, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. Hedge-fund investors and real estate business owners are “far and away” the ones who will benefit the most, tax expert Steve Rosenthal [said]. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) claimed that “someone wrongly seized on this health emergency to reward ultrarich beneficiaries.” “For those earning $1 million annually, a tax break buried in the recent coronavirus relief legislation is 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,” he stressed in a statement.
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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