Today’s congressional Republican tax schemes are obviously designed to benefit the richest people in the United States at the expense of most of the population. Honest analysis after analysis reveals the absurd benefits the proposals would grant to rich people, who are generally doing more than well enough financially.
It should be noted that there’s already an extreme level of inequality in the United States — a country where the top 1 percent already controls about 40 percent of the wealth. The top 0.1 percent of people there already have the same or more wealth than the bottom 90 percent do. Another way of putting that is to explain that — with the U.S. having a population around 330 million — 330,000 people have equivalent wealth to 300 million. The number of people who could reside in a city of moderate size therefore have more wealth than the vast majority of the country’s occupants.
There’s perhaps a comparatively worse statistic, and that’s to note that the 400 richest people in the U.S. have more wealth than the poorest 190 million there do. The number of people who could fit together in a medium-sized church are richer than over half the country’s occupants combined. This comprises part of an inequality so extreme that it’s possibly the highest in history.
There are plenty of problems that either have began with or have been made worse by this severe economic inequality, and they’re becoming all the more apparent with corrupt billionaires directly running parts of the government now. The problems include: an unjust concentration of power at the top that has a pervasively negative effect on democracy, a significant poverty level that includes a 20 percent child poverty rate in world history’s richest country, and a life expectancy gap of 15 years between rich and poor counties.
Oh, and there’s how almost three quarters of U.S. workers are living paycheck to paycheck, how there’s a majority lacking $500 in savings for an emergency, and how there are tens of millions crippled by corporate capitalism’s stunning consumer debt levels. In the background, there is also an opioid crisis that ravages communities by killing tens of thousands (more than the number who died in the Vietnam war) every year, natural disasters worsened by climate change that disproportionately affect poorer people, millions who have dropped out of the labor force in despair due to concentrated greed’s refusal to invest in sufficient public works programs, and monied interests corrupting affairs from the local level to the national level.
There’s reason to conclude that the general public of the country has too many problems it doesn’t deserve and too many good solutions that it hasn’t applied.
As concentration of political power is what follows concentration of economic power, there must be solutions to this for real progress to occur. Mere redistribution from the rich to everyone else shouldn’t be the end goal either, as that alone ultimately has a high chance of failure. Instead, the goal should be making sure that the wealth isn’t distributed so unequally to begin with.
It should be noted that there has been enormous redistribution from the working class and middle class to the richest people in the country over the last four decades. This should be obvious enough to anyone who honestly looks at the data from the late 1970’s to today. To note one statistic, the richest 1 percent appropriated almost 60 percent of the total gains in U.S. national income from 1977 to 2007, which is a far cry from a fair society.
But even if there were much higher taxes to alleviate the overabundance of poverty and suffering in the U.S., it would be unwise to expect that they’d be guaranteed to remain with the same concentration of economic power and rigged corporate structure. The majority of people must gain much stronger control over the means of production — particularly the resources of money, land, and technology. With that would probably occur improvements in the political sphere, as elected officials could be less beholden to private concentrated power, and people generally would also be stronger, allowing them to fight back against corrupt elites more effectively.
Considering the significant upwards distribution to the rich in the neoliberal period combined with the inherent exploitation of corporate capitalism, a decent wealth tax levied on the upper 1 percent is a fair proposal. The most popular politician in the U.S., Senator Bernie Sanders, already has a proposal — a tax of 1 percent on estate values over $21 million. An estate worth $121 million would therefore pay $1 million, which frankly isn’t much compared to the amount of money that remains in the estate and the amount of public costs that was used to attain it.
There’s a lot of important work that can and should be done, from securing free public university tuition to organizing major projects in a democratic way and creating public interest organizations to improve the Congress. The structure of the system that delivers such extreme inequality and suffering must be altered though, or real progress will continue to remain out of reach.