Income Inequality News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on income inequality
Eighty-five people control the same amount of wealth as half the world's population. That is 85 people compared with 3.5 billion. A new report from Oxfam has been published in time for the World Economic Forum in Davos this week. It shows the world's ultra-wealthy have not only recovered from the global financial crisis, they have positively blossomed. The report shows the wealth of the 1 per cent richest people in the world is worth about $US110 trillion, 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world's population. It also shows the world's richest 85 people control about $US1.7 trillion in wealth, equivalent to the bottom half of the world's population. And far from hindering the wealthy, the political response to the global financial crisis - including the actions of central banks and the austerity measures introduced by national governments - has made the rich fabulously richer. In the US, the wealthiest 1 per cent of the population grabbed 95 per cent of post-financial crisis growth between 2009 and 2012, while the bottom 90 per cent became poorer. An Oxfam survey of six countries - the United States, UK, Spain, Brazil, India and South Africa - has found that the majority of people believe laws and regulations are skewed in favour of the rich, so people are noticing.
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It’s well known by now that income and wealth inequality in most rich countries, especially the United States, have soared in recent decades and, tragically, worsened even more since the Great Recession. But what about the rest of the world? New research by a World Bank economist named Branko Milanovic, along with other scholars, points the way to some answers. Overall equality across humanity, considered as individuals, has improved very little. So while nations in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, as a whole, might be catching up with the West, the poor everywhere are left behind, even in places like China where they’ve benefited somewhat from rising living standards. From 1988 to 2008, Mr. Milanovic found, people in the world’s top 1 percent saw their incomes increase by 60 percent, while those in the bottom 5 percent had no change in their income. And while median incomes have greatly improved in recent decades, there are still enormous imbalances: 8 percent of humanity takes home 50 percent of global income; the top 1 percent alone takes home 15 percent. The United States provides a particularly grim example for the world. And because, in so many ways, America often “leads the world,” if others follow America’s example, it does not portend well for the future. Last year, the top 1 percent of Americans took home 22 percent of the nation’s income; the top 0.1 percent, 11 percent. Ninety-five percent of all income gains since 2009 have gone to the top 1 percent.
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The world's super-rich have taken advantage of lax tax rules to siphon off at least $21 trillion, and possibly as much as $32tn, from their home countries and hide it abroad – a sum larger than the entire American economy. James Henry, a former chief economist at consultancy McKinsey and an expert on tax havens, has conducted groundbreaking new research for the Tax Justice Network campaign group – sifting through data from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and private sector analysts to construct an alarming picture that shows capital flooding out of countries across the world and disappearing into the cracks in the financial system. "This offshore economy is large enough to have a major impact on estimates of inequality of wealth and income; on estimates of national income and debt ratios; and – most importantly – to have very significant negative impacts on the domestic tax bases of 'source' countries," Henry says. John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network [commented] "Inequality is much, much worse than official statistics show, but politicians are still relying on trickle-down to transfer wealth to poorer people. This new data shows the exact opposite has happened: for three decades extraordinary wealth has been cascading into the offshore accounts of a tiny number of super-rich." In total, 10 million individuals around the world hold assets offshore, according to Henry's analysis; but almost half of the minimum estimate of $21tn – $9.8tn – is owned by just 92,000 people.
The income of the richest 1 percent in the U.S. soared 275 percent from 1979 to 2007, but the bottom 20 percent grew by just 18 percent, new government data shows. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a study this week that compared real after-tax household income between 1979 and 2007, which were both after recessions and had similar overall economic activity. While the income of the richest 1 percent nearly tripled, increases were smaller down the economic ladder. After the 1 percent, income for the next highest 20 percent grew by 65 percent, much faster than it did for the remaining 80 percent of the population but still lagging well behind the top percentile. The changes illustrate how the better off have captured the bulk of income gains over the past three decades. The top quintile has seen its share of income rise while the other four quintiles have suffered declines in their shares, according to John Bowler, director of country risk service with the Economist Intelligence Unit. The role of globalization, he added, is "controversial." "Even some policymakers who would traditionally be in the free trade camp are now questioning the benefits of globalization to the middle and lower-income U.S. households, even if they have benefited from cheaper imported manufactured goods," he said.
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The 400 highest-earning U.S. households reported an average of $345 million in income in 2007, up 31 percent from a year earlier, IRS statistics show. The average tax rate for the households fell to the lowest in almost 20 years. The figures for 2007, the last year of an economic expansion, show that the average income reported by the top 400 earners more than doubled from $131.1 million in 2001. That year, Congress adopted tax cuts urged by then-President George W. Bush that Democrats say disproportionately benefit the wealthy. 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. The statistics underscore “two long-term trends: that income at the very top has exploded and their taxes have been cut dramatically,” said Chuck Marr, director of federal tax policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington-based research group that supports increasing taxes on high-income individuals. 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.
The richest 1% of adults in the world own 40% of the planet's wealth, according to the largest study yet of wealth distribution. The report also finds that those in financial services and the internet sectors predominate among the super rich. Europe, the US and some Asia Pacific nations account for most of the extremely wealthy. More than a third live in the US. Japan accounts for 27% of the total, the UK for 6% and France for 5%. The global study - from the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations - is the first to chart wealth distribution in every country as opposed to just income, for which more comprehensive date is available. It included all the most significant components of household wealth, including financial assets and debts, land, buildings and other tangible property. Together these total $125 trillion globally. The report found the richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of the world total of global assets. Half the world's adult population, however, owned barely 1% of global wealth. "These levels of inequality are grotesque," said Duncan Green, head of research at Oxfam. "It is impossible to justify such vast wealth when 800 million people go to bed hungry every night."
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The richest 2 percent of adults still own more than half of the world's household wealth, perpetuating a yawning global gap between rich and poor, according to research published Tuesday. The report from the Helsinki-based World Institute for Development Economics Research shows that in 2000 the richest 1 percent of adults - most of whom live in Europe or the United States - owned 40 percent of global assets. The richest 10 percent of adults accounted for 85 percent of assets. By contrast, the bottom 50 percent of the world's adult population owned barely 1 percent of the world's wealth. "Income inequality has been rising for the past 20 to 25 years, and we think that is true for inequality in the distribution of wealth," said James Davies, a professor of economics at the University of Western Ontario, one of the report's authors. But ... there are some hopeful signs: China and India, which are developing rapidly, are gaining wealth, and in countries such as Bangladesh, the spread of microcredit institutions is helping people increase their personal wealth.
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U.S. stocks are hovering near a record high, a stunning comeback since March that underscores the new phase the economy has entered: The wealthy have mostly recovered. The bottom half remain far from it. Jobs are fully back for the highest wage earners, but fewer than half the jobs lost this spring have returned for those making less than $20 an hour. The pandemic is causing especially large gaps between rich and poor, and between White and minority households. It is also widening the gap between big and small businesses. Some of the largest companies, such as Nike and Best Buy, are enjoying their highest stock prices ever while many smaller businesses fight for survival. Some economists have started to call this a “K-shaped” recovery because of the diverging prospects for the rich and poor, and they say policy failures in Washington are exacerbating the problems. For many of the unemployed, the downturn is lasting far longer than they had anticipated. Nearly 80 percent of furloughed or laid-off workers thought they would be rehired, a Washington Post-Ipsos poll conducted April 27-May 4 found. Yet so far, only 42 percent of jobs have returned. “This has been a very clear K-shaped recovery,” says Peter Atwater ... at the College of William & Mary. “The biggest and wealthiest have been on a clear path toward recovery. Meanwhile, for most small businesses and those worst off, things have only become worse. The contrast is piercing: One group feels better than ever while the other borders on hopelessness.”
Amazon hasn't paid any taxes to the US government in the past two years. Actually, Amazon received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal tax credits in 2017 and 2018. That might seem nuts, considering Amazon is the third-most valuable company in the world and earned a record $10 billion last year. But critics of Amazon's tax bill aren't accusing Amazon of doing anything improper. "This is tax avoidance, not tax evasion. There's no indication of any wrongdoing, except on the part of Congress," said Matthew Gardner, senior fellow at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. US tax code allows money-losing companies to reduce their future taxable income. Amazon's total earnings have easily topped its losses — many times over. But some of Amazon's earnings came from sales outside the United States, on which Amazon paid either lower or no US taxes. Many companies that lose money pay little or no federal income taxes. For example, General Motors (GM) has paid little federal tax money since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009, despite posting record profits for several years. Amazon declined to comment on its federal tax payments.
Note: Read how former tax lobbyists now run the tax-writing committees. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in government and in the corporate world.
Wealth concentration is at peak levels. That was the gist of a recent report published by the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning think tank based in Washington, D.C.. Using data from Forbes’ annual ranking of the 400 richest Americans, the institute reached a number of conclusions regarding wealth disparities in the United States. Most dramatically, it found that the country’s three richest individuals - Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos - collectively hold more wealth than the bottom 50% of the domestic population, “a total of 160 million people or 63 million American households.” Roughly a fifth of Americans “have zero or negative net worth,” the authors wrote. Over the years, the cutoff for The Forbes 400 has risen dramatically. In 1982, the ranking’s inaugural year, the minimum net worth was $100 million. This year the barrier to entry hit an all-time high of $2 billion. In its report, the think tank also found that, collectively, the individuals on The Forbes 400 hold more wealth than the bottom 64% of the country, "more people than the populations of Mexico and Canada combined." Altogether, the list members were worth $2.7 trillion this year, a 59% increase over the last five years alone. The net worth of the median American family, meanwhile, has declined by about 3% on an inflation-adjusted basis since Forbes began publishing the 400 in the early 1980s, the institute says. It reports that the typical U.S. family is presently worth some $80,000.
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The percentage of national income that is absorbed by health care has grown over the past half-century, from 5% in 1960 to 18% in 2017, reducing what is available for anything else from 95% in 1960 to 82% today. The costs of health care contribute to the long-term stagnation in wages; to fewer good jobs, especially for less educated workers; and to rising income inequality. American health care is the most expensive in the world, and yet American health is among the worst among rich countries. The U.S. has lower life expectancy than the other wealthy countries but vastly higher expenditures per person. In 2017, the Swiss lived 5.1 years longer than Americans but spent 30% less per person; other countries achieved a similar length of life for still fewer health dollars. How is it possible that Americans pay so much and get so little? The money is certainly going somewhere. What is waste to a patient is income to a provider. The industry is not very good at promoting health, but it excels at promoting wealth among health care providers. Employer-based coverage is a huge barrier to reform. So is the way that the health care industry is protected in Washington by its lobbyists—five for every member of Congress. Our government is complicit in an extortion that is an important contributor to income inequality. Through pharma companies that get rich by addicting people, and through excessive costs that lower wages and eliminate good jobs, the industry that is supposed to improve our health is undermining it.
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The world's 2,153 billionaires have more wealth between them than a combined 4.6 billion people, new research has claimed. In a study published Monday, international charity Oxfam called on governments to implement policies that may help to reduce wealth inequality. The report comes as delegates gather in Davos, Switzerland, for the annual World Economic Forum conference. Oxfam's report noted that someone who saved $10,000 a day since the construction of the Egyptian pyramids would still be 80% less wealthy than the world's five richest billionaires. Oxfam urged policymakers to increase taxes on the world's wealthiest by 0.5% over the next decade in a bid to reduce wealth inequality. A 0.5% increase in taxes on the wealthy would generate enough funding to create 117 million jobs in sectors like education and health, according to the researchers. Other suggestions made by Oxfam to help mitigate inequality included investing in national care systems, challenging sexism, introducing laws to protect carers' rights, and ending extreme wealth. "Extreme wealth is a sign of a failing economic system," the report said. "Governments must take steps to radically reduce the gap between the rich and the rest of society and prioritize the wellbeing of all citizens over unsustainable growth and profit." The call for a tax overhaul reinforces the charity's message ahead of last year's WEF summit, when Oxfam urged governments to hike tax rates for corporations and society's richest to reduce wealth disparity.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on income inequality from reliable major media sources.
Amid a humanitarian crisis compounded by mass layoffs and collapsing economic activity, the last course our legislators should be following is the one they appear to be on right now: bailing out shareholders and executives who, while enriching themselves, spent the past decade pushing business corporations to the edge of insolvency. The $500bn dollars of public money that Congress’s relief bill provides will be used for a corporate bailout, with the only oversight in the hands of an independent council similar to the one used in the 2008 financial crisis. While that body was able to report misuses of taxpayer money, it could do nothing to stop them. As currently structured, there is nothing to keep this bailout from, like its predecessor, putting cash directly into the hands of those at the top rather than into the hands of workers. Without strong regulation and accountability, asking corporations to preserve jobs with these funds will be nothing more than a simple suggestion, leaving millions of everyday Americans in financial peril. If not properly managed, this economic disaster has the potential to be the worst in American history. Our country cannot allow a small number of executives and shareholders to profit from taxpayer funds that we have injected into these corporations for reasons of pure emergency. We need to stop this rot at the core of our economic system and realign the priorities of government with those of workers and consumers.
Some Democratic presidential candidates say that America’s economic system is badly broken and in need of sweeping, structural change. In its new Distributive Financial Accounts data series, the central bank offers a granular picture of how American capitalism has been distributing the gains of economic growth over the past three decades. Matt Bruenig of the People’s Policy Project took the Fed’s data and calculated how much the respective net worth of America’s top one percent and its bottom 50 percent has changed since 1989. He found that America’s superrich have grown about $21 trillion richer ... while those in the bottom half of the wealth distribution have grown $900 billion poorer. Notably, this measure of wealth includes liabilities. And it does not include consumer goods. But if one did include the Fed’s data on the distribution of consumer goods, the wealth gap between the top one percent and bottom 50 would actually be even larger. In 2011, Michael Norton of Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely of Duke University published a study on Americans’ views of how wealth was distributed in their society, and how they felt it should be distributed. They found that, in the average American’s ideal world, the richest 20 percent would own 32 percent of national wealth. In reality, the top quintile owned 84 percent as of 2011. And that share has grown in the intervening years. Today, the one percent alone commands roughly 40 percent of all America’s wealth.
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For 23 years, Larry Collins worked in a [toll] booth. But one day in mid-March, as confirmed cases of the coronavirus were skyrocketing, Collins’ supervisor called and told him not to come into work the next day. Collins’ job was disappearing, as were the jobs of around 185 other toll collectors at bridges in Northern California, all to be replaced by technology. The drive to replace humans with machinery is accelerating as companies struggle to avoid workplace infections of COVID-19 and to keep operating costs low. The U.S. shed around 40 million jobs at the peak of the pandemic. Some will never return. One group of economists estimates that 42% of the jobs lost are gone forever. This replacement of humans with machines may pick up more speed in coming months as companies move from survival mode to figuring out how to operate while the pandemic drags on. Robots could replace as many as 2 million more workers in manufacturing alone by 2025. “Look at the business model of Google, Facebook, Netflix. They’re not in the business of creating new tasks for humans,” says Daron Acemoglu, an MIT economist. The U.S. government incentivizes companies to automate, he says, by giving tax breaks for buying machinery and software. A business that pays a worker $100 pays $30 in taxes, but a business that spends $100 on equipment pays about $3 in taxes, he notes. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act lowered taxes on purchases so much that “you can actually make money buying equipment,” Acemoglu says.
The Senate will be voting this week on the Trump military budget, which calls for a massive increase in defense spending. I strongly oppose this legislation. At a time when we have massive levels of income and wealth inequality; when half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck; when more than 500,000 Americans are homeless; and when public schools throughout the country are struggling to pay their teachers a livable salary, it is time to change our national priorities. I find it ironic that when I and other progressive members of Congress propose legislation to address the many unmet needs of workers, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor, we are invariably asked, “How will we pay for it?” Yet we rarely hear that question with regard to huge increases in military spending, tax breaks for billionaires or massive subsidies for the fossil fuel industry. When it comes to giving the Pentagon $738 billion — even more money than it requested — there is a deafening silence within Congress and the ruling elites about what our nation can and cannot afford. When I talk about changing national priorities, I’m talking about the fact that the $120 billion increase in Pentagon spending — compared with the final year of the Obama administration — could have made every public college, university, trade school and apprenticeship program in the United States tuition free, eliminated homelessness and provided universal school meals to every kid in our nation’s public schools.
Note: The above article was written by Bernie Sanders. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and income inequality from reliable major media sources.
The Covid-19 pandemic is putting the deepening class divide in America into stark relief. Four new classes are emerging. The Remotes: These are professional, managerial, and technical workers – an estimated 35% of the workforce – who are putting in long hours at their laptops ... and collecting about the same pay as before the crisis. The Essentials: They’re about 30% of workers, including nurses, homecare and childcare workers, farm workers, food processors, truck drivers, warehouse and transit workers, drugstore employees, sanitation workers, police officers, firefighters, and the military. Too many Essentials lack adequate protective gear, paid sick leave, health insurance, and childcare. They also deserve hazard pay. The Unpaid: They’re an even larger group than the unemployed – whose ranks could soon reach 25%, the same as in the Great Depression. 43% of adults report they or someone in their household has lost jobs or pay. The unpaid most need cash to feed their families and pay the rent. Fewer than half say they have enough emergency funds to cover three months of expenses. The Forgotten: This group includes everyone ... packed tightly into places most Americans don’t see: prisons, jails for undocumented immigrants, camps for migrant farmworkers, Native American reservations, homeless shelters, and nursing homes. The Essentials, the Unpaid, and the Forgotten are disproportionately poor, black, and Latino and they are disproportionately becoming infected.
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.
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