Income Inequality News StoriesExcerpts of Key Income Inequality News Stories in Major Media
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As the tax year draws to a close, the charitable tax deduction beckons. America’s wealthy are its largest beneficiaries. According to the Congressional Budget Office, $33 billion of last year’s $39 billion in total charitable deductions went to the richest 20 percent of Americans, of whom the richest 1 percent reaped the lion’s share. The generosity of the super-rich is sometimes proffered as evidence they’re contributing as much to the nation’s well-being as they did decades ago when they paid a much larger share of their earnings in taxes. Think again. A large portion of the charitable deductions now claimed by America’s wealthy are for donations to culture palaces – operas, art museums, symphonies, and theaters – where they spend their leisure time hobnobbing with other wealthy benefactors. Another portion is for contributions to the elite prep schools and universities they once attended or want their children to attend. These aren’t really charities as most people understand the term. They’re often investments in the life-styles the wealthy already enjoy and want their children to have as well. Increasingly, being rich in America means not having to come across anyone who’s not. As with all tax deductions, the government has to match the charitable deduction with additional tax revenues or spending cuts; otherwise, the budget deficit widens. In economic terms, a tax deduction is exactly the same as government spending. Which means the government will, in effect, hand out $40 billion this year for “charity” that’s going largely to wealthy people who use much of it to enhance their lifestyles.
Note: For more on government corruption, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
In America today, the middle class is disappearing, unemployment is sky high and senior poverty is growing. We also have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country. At a time when almost all new income created is going to the top 1% and when the gap between the very rich and everybody else is growing wider, we must not balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable people in our country: working families, the elderly, children, the sick and the poor. We must not cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Let's be clear: Social Security is not an entitlement program. It is an earned income benefit that has been enormously successful in cutting the rate of senior poverty. Further, Social Security is not "going broke." According to the Social Security Administration, the Social Security Trust Fund has a surplus today of $2.8 trillion and can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 20 years. The solution to making Social Security fully solvent for the next 50 years is to apply the payroll tax on annual income more than $250,000. Right now, the Social Security tax stops at $113,700 a year, so someone who earns that amount pays the same as a billionaire. This makes no sense. Our entire health care system, including Medicare and Medicaid, is much too wasteful and bureaucratic. We should join the rest of the industrialized world in moving toward a national health care program that provides health care to every man, woman and child as a right.
Note: For more on income inequality, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Pope Francis on [November 26] issued a bold new document – in Vatican parlance an “apostolic exhortation” – called Evangelii Gaudium or “The Joy of the Gospel.” In this document, he sets out an exciting new vision of how to be a church. It is to be a joyful community of believers completely unafraid of the modern world, completely unafraid of change and completely unafraid of challenges. The exhortation [expresses] an overriding concern for the poor in the world. Francis champions an idea that has lately been out of favor: the church’s “preferential option” for the poor. “God’s heart has a special place for the poor,” the Pope says. But it is not enough simply to say that God loves the poor in a special way and leave it at that. We must be also vigilant in our care and advocacy for them. Everyone must do this, says the Pope. “None of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice.” And in case anyone misses the point, after a critique of the “idolatry of money” and an “economy of exclusion,” the Pope says: “The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings.” This does not mean simply caring for the poor, it means addressing the structures that keep them poor: “The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed.”
Limitless growth is the fantasy of economists, businesses and politicians. It is seen as a measure of progress. As a result, gross domestic product (GDP), which is supposed to measure the wealth of nations, has emerged as both the most powerful number and dominant concept in our times. However, economic growth hides the poverty it creates through the destruction of nature, which in turn leads to communities lacking the capacity to provide for themselves. In effect, “growth” measures the conversion of nature into cash, and commons into commodities. Today, economics is separated from and opposed to both ecological processes and basic needs. While the destruction of nature has been justified on grounds of creating growth, poverty and dispossession [have] increased. While being non-sustainable, it is also economically unjust. The dominant model of economic development has in fact become anti-life. Nobel-prize winning economists Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen have admitted that GDP does not capture the human condition and urged the creation of different tools to gauge the wellbeing of nations. This is why countries like Bhutan have adopted the gross national happiness in place of gross domestic product to calculate progress. We need to create measures beyond GDP, and economies beyond the global supermarket, to rejuvenate real wealth. We need to remember that the real currency of life is life itself.
A few days ago, The Times published a report on a society that is being undermined by extreme inequality. This society claims to reward the best and brightest regardless of family background. In practice, however, the children of the wealthy benefit from opportunities and connections unavailable to children of the middle and working classes. And it was clear from the article that the gap between the society’s meritocratic ideology and its increasingly oligarchic reality is having a deeply demoralizing effect. If the rich are so much richer than the rest that they live in a different social and material universe, that fact in itself makes nonsense of any notion of equal opportunity. The data in question have been compiled for the past decade by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, who use I.R.S. numbers to estimate the concentration of income in America’s upper strata. According to their estimates, top income shares took a hit during the Great Recession, as things like capital gains and Wall Street bonuses temporarily dried up. But the rich have come roaring back, to such an extent that 95 percent of the gains ... since 2009 have gone to the famous 1 percent. In fact, more than 60 percent of the gains went to the top 0.1 percent, people with annual incomes of more than $1.9 million. The growing concentration of income at the top [is undermining] all the values that define America. Year by year, we’re diverging from our ideals. Inherited privilege is crowding out equality of opportunity; the power of money is crowding out effective democracy.
Note: For more on extreme income inequality, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
“Chilling.” That’s how one reviewer describes the experience of watching Harvey Weinstein’s latest film. It’s about income inequality. As Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich intones in the film, “Of all developed nations, the United States has the most unequal distribution of income, and we’re surging towards even greater inequality.” “Inequality for All,” directed by Jacob Kornbluth and set to be released nationwide on Sept. 27, comes at a critical moment for America. Sept. 15 marks the five-year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers — fueled by a toxic combination of deregulation, subprime lending and credit-default swaps — that precipitated the 2008 global economic crisis and laid bare the rot at the heart of our economic system. It was largely this orgy of greed that led the first Occupy Wall Street protesters to Zuccotti Park on Sept. 17, two years ago next week. “Inequality for All” throws into sharp relief the numbers and stories we hear. Combining footage from Reich’s electrifying Berkeley lectures with interviews, news clips and rich graphics, the film weaves a compelling narrative about how and why, since the late 1970s, income inequality has risen to crisis levels. The facts are breathtaking. In 1978, according to Reich, a “typical male worker” made $48,302, while the typical top 1 percenter earned $393,682, more than eight times as much. In 2010, even as overall gross domestic product and productivity increased, the average male worker’s wage fell to $33,751. Meanwhile, the average top 1 percent earner was making more than $1.1 million — 32 times the average earner.
Note: For more on income inequality, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
This week marks the fifth anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Bros., heralding the Great Recession. The better off are better off than ever. Most of the rest are right where they started, or worse. For example, earnings of the top 1 percent (those families making more than $394,000 a year) commanded 95 percent of the income gains generated between 2009 and 2012. Their earnings grew by 31 percent in the period, compared with 0.4 percent for the less fortunate. That's according to a study published last week by UC Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, whose finding in 2011 that income inequality in the United States is the widest since 1928 was highly publicized. In fact, according to the latest study by Saez, whose numbers are drawn from IRS data, America's top 10 percent (those households earning above $114,000) account for more than half of the nation's total income, the highest percentage since 1917. Despite improvements in the economy, "it seems unlikely that U.S. income concentration will fall much in the coming years," Saez concludes. Or it could intensify. Factoring in inflation, median household income ($52,000) has actually fallen by 4.4 percent since June 2009, according to Sentier Research, a Maryland consultancy, in a report last week based on government statistics. Then there's the Federal Reserve, which reported that American families have recovered just 45 percent of the $16 trillion in wealth that went down the tubes in the recession. And most of the recovery has gone to the wealthy, whose income bounced back largely thanks to the recovery of the stock market, according to an analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in May.
The top 10 percent of earners took more than half of the country’s total income in 2012, the highest level recorded since the government began collecting the relevant data a century ago, according to an updated study by the prominent economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty. The top 1 percent took more than one-fifth of the income earned by Americans, one of the highest levels on record since 1913. The figures underscore that even after the recession the country remains in a new Gilded Age, with income as concentrated as it was in the years that preceded the Depression of the 1930s, if not more so. High stock prices, rising home values and surging corporate profits have buoyed [the] incomes of the most affluent Americans, with the incomes of the rest still weighed down by high unemployment and stagnant wages for many blue- and white-collar workers. “These results suggest the Great Recession has only depressed top income shares temporarily and will not undo any of the dramatic increase in top income shares that has taken place since the 1970s,” Mr. Saez, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote. The income share of the top 1 percent of earners in 2012 [jumped] to about 22.5 percent in 2012 from 19.7 percent in 2011. The economy remains depressed for most wage-earning families. With sustained, relatively high rates of unemployment, businesses are under no pressure to raise their employees’ incomes because both workers and employers know that many people without jobs would be willing to work for less. The share of Americans working or looking for work is at its lowest in 35 years.
Back in 1914, Henry Ford announced he was paying workers on his Model T assembly line $5 a day -- three times what the typical factory employee earned at the time. The Wall Street Journal termed his action "an economic crime." But Ford knew it was a cunning business move. The higher wage turned Ford's auto workers into customers who could afford to buy Model Ts. In two years, Ford's profits more than doubled. Yet in the years leading up to the Great Crash of 1929 [the] wages of most American workers stagnated even as the economy surged. Gains went mainly into corporate profits and into the pockets of the very rich. American families maintained their standard of living by going deeper into debt, and the rich gambled with their gigantic winnings. In 1929, the debt bubble popped. The same thing happened in the years leading up to the crash of 2008. The lesson should be obvious. When the economy becomes too lopsided -- disproportionately benefiting corporate owners and top executives rather than average workers -- it tips over. It's still lopsided. We're slowly emerging from the depths of the worst downturn since the Great Depression, but nothing fundamentally has changed. Corporate profits are up largely because payrolls are down. Even Ford Motor Company is now paying its new hires half what it paid new employees a few years ago. All over the American economy, employee pay is now down to the smallest share of the economy since the government began collecting wage and salary data 60 years ago. And corporate profits constitute the largest share of the economy since then.
Note: The author of this analysis, Robert Reich, is former U.S. Secretary of Labor, a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, and the author of Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future. He blogs at http://www.robertreich.org. For more on income inequality, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Income inequality in the United States has been growing for decades, but the trend appears to have accelerated during the Obama administration. One measure of this is the relationship between median and average wages. The median wage is straightforward: it’s the midpoint of everyone’s wages. Interpreting the average, though, can be tricky. If the income of a handful of people soars while everyone else’s remains the same, the entire group’s average may still rise substantially. So when average wages grow faster than the median, as happened from 2009 through 2011, it means that lower earners are falling further behind those at the top. One way to see the acceleration in inequality is to look at the ratio of average to median annual wages. From 2001 through 2008, during the George W. Bush administration, that ratio grew at 0.28 percentage point per year. From 2009 through 2011, the latest year for which the data is available, the ratio increased 1.14 percentage points annually, or roughly four times faster. The reasons for the widening income gap aren’t entirely clear. Yes, the nation has had a big recession, but recessions typically tend to lessen inequality rather than increase it.
Note: For more on income inequality, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Even as racial barriers have tumbled and the nation has grown wealthier and better educated, the economic disparities separating blacks and whites remain as wide as they were when marchers assembled on the Mall in 1963. When it comes to household income and wealth, the gaps between blacks and whites have widened. On other measures, the gaps are roughly the same as they were four decades ago. The poverty rate for blacks, for instance, continues to be about three times that of whites. The march took place at a time when the benefits of American economic growth were widely shared. Between 1947 and 1979, the wages of workers at all salary levels grew by roughly the same percentage. But between 1979 and 2007, incomes shifted drastically, with the top 5 percent of earners seeing annual salary increases more than three times the size of those in the middle, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research organization. Overall, 63 percent of total income growth went to the top 10 percent of households between 1979 and 2007.
Note: For more on income and wealth inequality, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
JEFFREY BROWN: Does the amount of wealth you have affect the kind of person you are? NewsHour economics correspondent PAUL SOLMAN: In California, you're supposed to stop for a pedestrian at a crosswalk. And, in a recent study, some 90 percent of drivers did, except for those driving luxury cars. They were almost as likely to run the intersection as wait for the person to cross the street. PAUL PIFF, University of California, Berkeley: Drivers of those BMWs, those Porsches, those Mercedes were anywhere from three to four times more likely to break the law, than drivers of less expensive, low-status cars. WOMAN: Oh, by the way, there's candy there. It's actually for children for another study, but you're welcome to take a few pieces if you want to. [Other] WOMAN: Thank you. PAUL SOLMAN: That's the script an experimenter recited to every subject. And the results? PAUL PIFF: Wealthier participants took two times as much candy from children as did poor participants. PAUL SOLMAN: So, experimental evidence that rich people are more likely to break the law while driving, help themselves to candy meant for children, cheat in a game of chance, also to lie during negotiations and endorse unethical behavior, including stealing at work. The academic paper that resulted made headlines everywhere, the Wall Street Journal article leading with the question, "Ready the Pitchforks?" PAUL SOLMAN: Psychology professor Dacher Keltner is Paul Piff's [co-author]. DACHER KELTNER: We publish these studies in relatively obscure scientific journals, and literally the next day we're getting hundreds of e-mails from around the world, and a lot quite hostile.
Note: Don't miss the fascinating video at the link above, which is also available here. Note that it is not about rich people being unethical, it's about human behavior. People tend to become more unethical the more money they have. For more on income inequality, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Jim Yong Kim [is] the first man from outside the discipline of economics to take the helm at the World Bank. Having just celebrated his first year in charge, the Korean-American medical expert has refocused the world’s premier development bank on ending extreme poverty. The World Bank leader prefers to dwell on the positives. Global poverty, defined by the bank as living on $1.25 or less per day, was halved five years ahead of schedule. The next phase is to lift the remaining 20 per cent of the world’s population out of extreme poverty by 2030. “The efforts to end poverty have been really significant,” says Mr Kim. “They said poverty would always be with us. Well, maybe not.” A proportion of people – he estimates three per cent – will remain below the poverty line due to natural disasters and their related aftermaths, but otherwise “extreme poverty will be gone from the earth”. His appointment to the World Bank last year was not universally welcomed. Many observers resented his imposition by the United States over popular candidates from Africa and Latin America, while others worried that he was not an economist. They pointed to his presence at protests against the World Bank in 1993. Mr Kim now says that it was the lender’s “one size fits all” approach to economies that he objected to. As well as aiming to end poverty, the bank has set itself the task of tracking the progress of the bottom 40 per cent in every country as a means of measuring social mobility and equality.
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The week before the G8 convenes once again is a natural time to reminisce about the good old days, but this is about more than nostalgia. Even in today's age of austerity, the G8 has a chance to ... tackle the forgotten scandal of hunger. A child dies every 10 seconds from malnutrition – not because their parents are reckless, stupid or lazy – but because they were unlucky enough to be born at a time and place where there is too little food available or, perhaps more tragically, where people cannot afford to buy the food that is. One in eight people in the world will go to bed hungry tonight. That's 870 million people. The total population of the G8 is just 890 million. Just imagine the urgency to act if those 870 million lived in the G8 rather than in Africa, South Asia and other poor countries. Protecting poor people from land grabs, making it easier for them to find out what companies and their governments are doing and stopping the ridiculous situation where G8 members' policies actively encourage land to be used for growing fuel rather than food: all these will help. But perhaps the biggest step forward the G8 could make would be to end the scandal that sees companies dodge more than $160bn a year in tax they should pay poor countries. It is money that could be invested in farms – providing the seeds, equipment and know how to get more food from the same plot of land. And it could be used to provide safety nets to help people whose ability to earn a living has failed to keep pace with rising food prices.
Increasing housing prices and the stock market's posting all-time highs haven't helped the plight most Americans. The average U.S. household has recovered only 45 percent of the wealth they lost during the recession, according to a report released yesterday from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. This finding is a very different picture than one painted in a report earlier this year by the Fed that calculated Americans as a whole had regained 91 percent of their losses. The earlier number is based on aggregate household-net-worth data [which] isn't adjusted for inflation, population growth or the nature of the wealth. Much of recovery in net worth is because of the stock market, which means most of the improvement has been a boon only to wealthy families. "Clearly, the 91 percent recovery of wealth losses portrayed by the aggregate nominal measure paints a different picture than the 45 percent recovery of wealth losses indicated by the average inflation-adjusted household measure," the report said. "Considering the uneven recovery of wealth across households, a conclusion that the financial damage of the crisis and recession largely has been repaired is not justified," the researchers said. Almost two-thirds of the increase in aggregate household wealth is due to rising stock prices. This has disproportionately benefited the richest households: About 80 percent of stocks are held by the wealthiest 10 percent of the population.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on wealth inequality, click here.
Dan Ariely and Michael Norton’s 2011 study on wealth inequality went viral on YouTube this week. It’s a beautiful piece of work. First, they asked Americans what their ideal distribution of wealth would be. The answer? Much more equal. Then they asked Americans what they thought the actual distribution of wealth was. Less equal than their ideal, came the answer. But the truth, as Ariely and Norton noted, was that America was much less equal even than that. Reality was twice as far from the average American’s ideal as the average American thought. When we talk about economic inequality, we tend to talk about income inequality. But wealth inequality is much more skewed. The top 1 percent has about twice as large a share of the national wealth as it does of national income. There’s a strong case to be made that what we worry about when we worry about economic inequality makes much more sense in terms of wealth than income. And then there’s the role of wealth in creating income inequality. One thing we’ve seen in this recession is that financial assets have recovered much more quickly than wages or housing. Moreover, gains from financial assets are taxed much more lightly than traditional income. So if the income from financial assets is spread very unevenly, that will have a magnifying affect on income inequality. Here’s what you should know about wealth inequality in the United States: It’s worse than Americans want it to be, much worse than they think it is, and it’s increased over the last few decades. Which is one reason that there’s been more talk of a wealth tax lately.
George Ross is no longer an official member of the labor force. Out of work for the past two years, he didn't figure in the government's [latest] employment numbers. He's a "marginally attached" worker, although he doesn't see himself that way. Ross, 60, is among the 12.2 million Americans classified as "not in the labor force" by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles the monthly reports. Why? Because if they have been looking for a job for more than a year - but not in the past four weeks - they're considered "discouraged" - they just don't feel they can find a job. Or they're "marginally attached," those like Ross, who had to stop looking for other reasons, like family responsibilities. Or they're working fewer than 35 hours a week - their employer cut their hours, it's the best they can find - which means they're "part time for economic reasons" or "involuntary part time." None of them is counted, but if you added the 2.3 million "discouraged" and "marginally attached" to the 11.7 million officially unemployed, you'd have an unemployment rate closer to 9 percent - not the 7.5 percent reported [on May 3]. Add in the reluctant part-timers (7.2 million) and the rate jumps to 13.9 percent. For the long-term unemployed - those out of work for more than six months - like Ross and 4.4 million others, the prospects are especially daunting. The longer you're out of work the less likely prospective employers will even take a look at you. That goes double if you're older. A Government Accountability Office report last year found "employer reluctance to hire older workers as a key challenge" to reducing unemployment.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on extremes of income inequality, click here.
Former fashion jewelry saleswoman Rebecca Gonzales and former Chief Executive Officer Ron Johnson have one thing in common: J.C. Penney Co. no longer employs either. The similarity ends there. Johnson, 54, got a compensation package worth 1,795 times the average wage and benefits of a U.S. department store worker when he was hired in November 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Gonzales’s hourly wage was $8.30 that year. Across the [S&P] 500 Index of companies, the average multiple of CEO compensation to that of rank-and-file workers is 204, up 20 percent since 2009, the data show. Almost three years after Congress ordered public companies to reveal actual CEO-to-worker pay ratios under the Dodd-Frank law, the numbers remain unknown. As the Occupy Wall Street movement and 2012 election made income inequality a social flashpoint, mandatory disclosure of the ratios remained bottled up at the Securities and Exchange Commission, which hasn’t yet drawn up the rules to implement it. Some of America’s biggest companies are lobbying against the requirement. “It’s a simple piece of information stockholders ought to have,” said Phil Angelides, who led the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which investigated the economic collapse of 2008. “The fact that corporate executives wouldn’t want to display the number speaks volumes.” The lobbying is part of “a street-by-street, block-by-block fight waged by large corporations and their Wall Street colleagues” to obstruct the Dodd-Frank law, he said.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on income inequality, click here .
You may think you know about Martin Luther King, Jr., but there is much about the man and his message we have conveniently forgotten. In the last year of his life, ... he announced what he called the Poor People's Campaign, a "multi-racial army" that would come to Washington, build an encampment and demand from Congress an "Economic Bill of Rights" for all Americans -- black, white, or brown. He had long known that the fight for racial equality could not be separated from the need for economic equity -- fairness for all, including working people and the poor. Read part of the speech Dr. King made at Stanford University in 1967, a year before his assassination and marvel at how relevant his words remain: "There are literally two Americas. One America ... is overflowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity. In this America millions of work-starved men walk the streets daily in search for jobs that do not exist. In this America millions of people find themselves living in rat-infected vermin-filled slums. In this America people are poor by the millions." A new briefing paper from the advocacy group National Employment Law Project (NELP) finds there are 27 million unemployed or underemployed workers in the U.S. labor force. Five years after the financial meltdown, "the average duration of unemployment remains at least twice that of any other recession since the 1950s." Matter of fact, "In the past 30 years, compensation for chief executives in America has increased 127 times faster than the average worker's salary."
Note: For a great collection of quotes, audio, and video clips of King, click here. For powerful evidence his assassination was coordinated from the highest levels, click here. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on income inequality, click here.
Over the last two years, President Obama and Congress have put the country on track to reduce projected federal budget deficits by nearly $4 trillion. Yet when that process began, in early 2011, only about 12% of Americans in Gallup polls cited federal debt as the nation's most important problem. Two to three times as many cited unemployment and jobs as the biggest challenge facing the country. So why did policymakers focus so intently on the deficit issue? One reason may be that the small minority that saw the deficit as the nation's priority had more clout than the majority that didn't. We recently conducted a survey of top wealth-holders (with an average net worth of $14 million) in the Chicago area, one of the first studies to systematically examine the political attitudes of wealthy Americans. Our research found that the biggest concern of this top 1% of wealth-holders was curbing budget deficits and government spending. When surveyed, they ranked those things as priorities three times as often as they did unemployment — and far more often than any other issue. Our Survey of Economically Successful Americans [found that] two-thirds of the respondents had contributed money (averaging $4,633) in the most recent presidential election, and fully one-fifth of them "bundled" contributions from others. About half recently initiated contact with a U.S. senator or representative, and nearly half (44%) of those contacts concerned matters of relatively narrow economic self-interest rather than broader national concerns. This kind of access to elected officials suggests an outsized influence in Washington.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on the collusion between the US government and corrupt financial corporations, click here.
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