UN Investigated Extreme Poverty in World History’s Richest Country

The poverty rates in the U.S. are absolutely shameful. Significant poverty in a wealthy country means that the wealth is being distributed improperly.

His fact-finding mission into the richest nation the world has ever known has led him to investigate the tragedy at its core: the 41 million people who officially live in poverty.

Of those, nine million have zero cash income – they do not receive a cent in sustenance.

Alston’s epic journey has taken him from coast to coast, deprivation to deprivation. Starting in LA and San Francisco, sweeping through the Deep South, traveling on to the colonial stain of Puerto Rico then back to the stricken coal country of West Virginia, he has explored the collateral damage of America’s reliance on private enterprise to the exclusion of public help.

The Guardian had unprecedented access to the UN envoy, following him as he crossed the country, attending all his main stops and witnessing the extreme poverty he is investigating firsthand.

Think of it as payback time. As the UN special rapporteur himself put it: “Washington is very keen for me to point out the poverty and human rights failings in other countries. This time I’m in the US.”

[…]

The tour comes at a critical moment for America and the world. It began on the day that Republicans in the US Senate voted for sweeping tax cuts that will deliver a bonanza for the super wealthy while in time raising taxes on many lower-income families. The changes will exacerbate wealth inequality that is already the most extreme in any industrialized nation, with three men – Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffet – owning as much as half of the entire American people.

A few days into the UN visit, Republican leaders took a giant leap further. They announced plans to slash key social programs in what amounts to an assault on the already threadbare welfare state.

[…]

Trump’s undermining of human rights, combined with the Republican threat to pare back welfare programs next year in order to pay for some of the tax cuts for the rich they are rushing through Congress, will hurt African Americans disproportionately.

Black people are 13% of the US population, but 23% of those officially in poverty and 39% of the homeless.

 

Worst U.S. Economic Legislation in Decades Set to Pass

The Republican tax scam will go down in history as an utter atrocity. The interests of the general public are betrayed in favor of giant corporations and the super rich. Since the scam only has to pass the Senate now, U.S. citizens should call their senators at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to vote no.

The analysis by American for Tax Fairness (ATF)—a coalition of more than 425 groups that advocate for progressive tax reform—found that the Republicans’ plan would give more than 80 percent of tax cuts to the nation’s richest one percent while also—among other things—raising taxes on 92 million middle-class families; increasing healthcare premiums; encourage outsourcing of U.S.-based jobs; and limiting deductions for state and local taxes.

ATF’s analysis warns that the GOP’s proposed legislation:

  1. Gives 83% of the tax cuts to the richest 1% by 2027. The richest 1% of taxpayers will get one-fifth (21%) of the tax cuts in 2018, but that grows to 83% by 2027. Their tax cut will average $51,000 in 2018; the bottom 60% of taxpayers will get about a dollar day. [Tax Policy Center (TPC)]
  2. Raises taxes on 92 million middle-class families by 2027 to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations. That is more than one-half (57%) of all households making less than $200,000 a year. 69 million households making less than $100,000 a year would also pay more in taxes after the temporary tax cuts for individuals expire. [TPC]
  3. Mandates automatic Medicare cuts of at least $25 billion in 2018 and $400 billion over 10 yearsIn effect, seniors will pay for tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy as automatic spending cuts are triggered because the tax cuts add $1.5 trillion to the national debt. Automatic cuts altogether will total $136 billion in 2018 and include reductions in agriculture subsidies, student loans, military retirement and more. [Congressional Budget Office (CBO)]
  4. Increases health care premiums and leaves 13 million families without health coverage, to raise revenue for tax breaks that mostly benefit the wealthy and corporations.
  • The plan repeals a key part of the Affordable Care Act: the requirement for individuals to have health coverage if they can afford it. That makes $314 billionavailable for tax cuts. [Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT)]
  • This will lead to 13 million more people being uninsured and cause a 10% increase in health insurance premiums for people getting insured on the individual market. [CBO]
  1. Provides a corporate tax rate cut of $1.4 trillion and makes those cuts permanent, but makes tax cuts for individuals and families temporary. [JCT]
  • The corporate tax rate is slashed from 35% to 21%, and the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) is eliminated.
  • The $1.4 trillion corporate-tax-rate cut is nearly equal to the $1.5 trillion by which the whole tax plan increases the national debt, and to the $1.5 trillion cut the Republican budget makes to Medicare ($473 billion) and Medicaid ($1 trillion). [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP)]
  • Tax cuts that benefit working families will expire after 2025. However, one individual tax cut made permanent changes the way tax brackets are adjusted for inflation, resulting in growing tax increases over time. [CBPP]
  1. Adds $1.5 to $2.2 trillion to the national debt, jeopardizing critical services. The plan includes at least $1.5 trillion in tax cuts that are not paid for, such as by closing loopholes used by the wealthy and corporations. [JCT] Because the bill contains several budget gimmicks that obscure the true cost of the tax cuts, the cost could be as much as $2.2 trillion. [CBPP] This will balloon the national debt and further endanger funding for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public education and more.
  2. Prioritizes the wealthiest taxpayers over working families with children. The plan lowers the top individual tax rate from 39.6% to 37%, giving more tax cuts to the richest 518,000 households. The GOP chose not to fully adjust changes in the Child Tax Credit so that some 24 million children in working families could fully benefit. Both of these changes would cost roughly the same amount, about $80 billion over 10 years. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), CBPP]
  3. Prioritizes wealthy business owners and real estate developers like Donald Trump. They get a net $265 billion tax cut from a new 20% deduction for “pass-through” business income combined with a tightening of rules on losses. Applied to the new 37% top individual tax rate, this 20% deduction on business income will drop the top pass-through business tax rate from 39.6% to 29.6%. More than 80% of this tax cut will go to the top 5% in 2019. Trump owns more than 500 pass-throughs. Pass-through owners—which include sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLC’s and S corporations—pay taxes due on their business income on their personal returns at individual rates. [JCT, ITEP]
  4. Kills American jobs by encouraging outsourcing and profit shifting. The plan creates a territorial tax system, which exempts foreign profits from U.S. taxes. While the plan will tax some of those offshore profits, the effective tax rate will be far below the U.S. rate. U.S. multinationals will have even more tax incentives to outsource more jobs and shift more profits offshore.
  5. Hands a $400 billion tax cut to offshore tax dodgers. American corporations have $2.6 trillion in profits stashed offshore on which they owe $750 billion in U.S. taxes. Rather than make them pay what they owe, like all the rest of us do, the tax plan will charge them only $339 billion—over a $400 billion discount. Apple will save $44 billion and Microsoft $25 billion, based on their Securities and Exchange Commission tax filings. [ITEP]
  6. Limits the federal deduction for state and local taxes (SALT), hurting the middle class. The bill caps at $10,000 the amount of state and local property and income or sales taxes that can be deducted from federal taxable income. This is one of the reasons that nearly 8 million families will see tax increases in 2018. The impact of this change will be felt especially in the 20 states that claim an average SALT deduction of more than $10,000. Limiting SALT will put pressure on state and local budgets, likely forcing cuts to education, health care, and infrastructure. [TPC, CBPP]
  7. Lets many wealthy heirs avoid paying the estate tax. The estate tax is substantially weakened, losing $83 billion and allowing very rich families to inherit wealth tax-free. Under current law, the tax only applies to estates worth over $5.5 million per person or $11 million per couple—about 5,500 estates. Under the bill, only estates worth at least $11 million per person or $22 million per couple (about 1,800 estates) would pay the tax. [JCT, TPC, CBPP]
  8. Enriches President Trump and his family. In addition to cutting the top individual income tax rate and creating a tax break for income from pass-through business entities (of which Trump owns 500), the bill preserves the many existing tax loopholes for real estate investors and even creates a new one. The final bill exempts real estate owners from a provision meant to limit abuse of the new pass-through income deduction. [ITEP]

Study: Huge Inequality Tied to Historical Revolution

The destabilizing force of extreme inequality will prompt a major backlash naturally enough. It would probably be better if a revolution was peaceful, but predicting the future is difficult enough, and a near future revolution may actually be violent.

There’s a common thread tying together the most disruptive revolutions of human history, and it has some scientists worried about the United States. In those revolutions, conflict largely boiled down to pervasive economic inequality. On Wednesday, a study in Nature, showing how and when those first divisions between rich and poor began, suggests not only that history has always repeated itself but also that it’s bound to do so again — and perhaps sooner than we think.

In the largest study of its kind, a team of scientists from Washington State University and 13 other institutions examined the factors leading to economic inequality throughout all of human history and noticed some worrying trends. Using a well-established score of inequality called the Gini coefficient, which gives perfect, egalitarian societies a score of 0 and high-inequality societies a 1, they showed that civilization tends to move toward inequality as some people gain the means to make others relatively poor — and employ it. Coupled with what researchers already know about inequality leading to social instability, the study does not bode well for the state of the world today.

“We could be concerned in the United States, that if Ginis get too high, we could be inviting revolution, or we could be inviting state collapse. There’s only a few things that are going to decrease our Ginis dramatically,” said Tim Kohler, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and a professor of archaeology and evolutionary anthropology in a statement.

Currently, the United States Gini score is around .81, one of the highest in the world, according to the 2016 Allianz Global Wealth Report.

[…]

Overall, they found that human societies started off fairly equal, with the hunter-gatherer societies consistently getting Gini scores around .17. The divide between rich and poor really began once humans started to domesticate plants and animals and switch to farming-based societies. Learning to till the land meant introducing the concept of land ownership, and inevitably, some people ended up as landless peasants. Furthermore, because these societies no longer lived as nomads, it became easier to accumulate wealth (like land) and pass it down from generation to generation.

[…]

Overall, the highest-ever historical Gini the researchers found was that of the ancient Old World (think Patrician Rome), which got a score of .59. While the degrees of inequality experienced by historical societies are quite high, the researchers note, they’re nowhere near as high as the Gini scores we’re seeing now.

“Even given the possibility that the Ginis constructed here may somewhat underestimate true household wealth disparities, it is safe to say that the degree of wealth inequality experienced by many households today is considerably higher than has been the norm over the last ten millennia,” the researchers write in their paper.

On Monday, a global report from Credit Suisse showed that modern humans are continuing the trends set by our predecessors: Now, the report showed, half of the world’s wealth really does belong to a super-rich one percent, and the gap is only growing. Historically, Kohler says in his statement, there’s only so much inequality a society can sustain before it reaches a tipping point. Among the many known effects of inequality on a society are social unrest, a decrease in health, increased violence, and decreased solidarity. Unfortunately, Kohler points out, humans have never been especially good at decreasing inequality peacefully — historically, the only effective methods for doing so are plague, massive warfare, or revolution.

U.S. Spent Two Times More on a Tax Break for the Rich Than on Providing Rent Assistance to Poor Families

The amount of welfare that goes to the poor versus the welfare that goes to the wealthy and giant corporations is like comparing the size of a single cliff to an entire mountain. Is the modern state largely a committee for managing the affairs of the rich?

This is because the US government spends more than twice as much subsidizing the tax break for affluent homeowners, who would most likely be able to afford their homes anyway, as it does on helping the poorest families pay rent and avoid homelessness – $60.1bn versus $29.9bn in 2015. As Congress tackles tax reform, advocates and economists of all political stripes are appealing for the tax break to be addressed, but the chances of that are uncertain.

[…]

A new study by Apartment List, a rental aggregator, shows that over half of high-income households claim the tax benefit, called the mortgage interest deduction (MID) because it reduces a filer’s taxable income by the amount of interest they owe on their mortgage. More than $10bn goes to households with incomes in the top 1%.

[…]

By comparison, only one in four Americans in need of rental housing actually receive it. In fact, the rental-assistance system – which is called Section 8 and generally covers costs that exceed 30% of someone’s income – is so overburdened that until recently, the city of Los Angeles had declined to even accept new applications for a voucher for a staggering 13 years, and New York’s waitlist has been closed since 2009. When Los Angeles finally started accepting new applications again, for only two weeks in October, almost 200,000 people applied for only 20,000 spots on the waitlist.

Indeed, in none of the country’s 25 largest cities do low-income residents receive more than half of the money that goes on housing benefits. This despite the fact that stable housing has been linked to improved educational outcomes, health and psychological wellbeing. Mostly, the cash goes to the well off.

 

Surveys Reveal Pervasive Sexual Harassment of Women Across Industries

This is largely out of the spotlight, and that makes it all the more important. The discrimination against women also manifests itself in a gap in pay — in the U.S., that means women are often payed 80 cents instead of the $1 a male would probably earn. Women want the whole damn dollar, and they should receive it.

Amid a wave of new sexual harassment and assault allegations in politics and news media this week, two polls released Tuesday illustrate how pervasive such behavior is in many other industries across America, with 35-40 percent of women reporting they have been harassed at work.

A survey (pdf) conducted in mid-November by PBS NewsHour, NPR, and Marist found that 35 percent of women and 9 percent of men have “experienced sexual harassment or abuse from someone in the workplace.” A Quinnipiac University poll, also conducted in mid-November, found that 60 percent of women have been sexual harassed generally, and 69 percent of those women said it happened at work; it also found 20 percent of men have experienced sexual harassment, the majority of which also took place at work.

The results follow a series of reports in recent weeks that have highlighted how women working in service industries, such as hotels and restaurants, are especially susceptible to sexual harassment and assault. Other reports have examined how immigrants, particularly those who are undocumented, often experience abuse. Although such findings have been well documented for several years, these issues have received heightened attention lately, as several high-profile people have been publicly accused of sexual misconduct, and survivors have turned to social media with the hashtag #MeToo to share their stories.

Group of Over 400 Millionaires and Billionaires Tell U.S. Congress to Raise Taxes on Them Instead of Cutting Them

Cutting important public services for tax cuts has long been the twisted plan of congressional Republicans. Higher taxes on large corporations and the wealthy comes in at 70 percent support in the U.S. for a reason.

More than 400 American millionaires and billionaires are sending a letter to Congress this week urging Republican lawmakers not to cut their taxes.

The wealthy Americans — including doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs and chief executives — say the GOP is making a mistake by reducing taxes on the richest families at a time when the nation’s debt is high and inequality is back at the worst level since the 1920s.

The letter calls on Congress not to pass any tax bill that “further exacerbates inequality” and adds to the debt. Instead of petitioning tax cuts for the wealthy, the letter tells Congress to raise taxes on rich people like them. It is being released publicly this week, as Republicans debate legislation that would add $1.5 trillion to the debt to pay for widespread tax cuts for businesses and individuals.

World’s Top 1 Percent Own Over Half of Global Wealth

The world’s top 1 percent has more wealth than the world’s bottom 99 percent, which is confirmed again by the new Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report. Anything near that level of inequality is a tremendously immoral and destabilizing force in the world.

Anti-poverty advocates on Tuesday implored world leaders to combat the massive wealth gap described in the annual Global Wealth Report released by Credit Suisse, which showed that the world’s richest one percent own just over half of the global wealth.

“This report highlights the huge gulf between the haves and the have nots—the world’s richest one percent own more than everyone else combined while the poorest half of the population share less than a penny of every pound of wealth,” said Katy Chakrabortty, head of advocacy for Oxfam, in a statement.

At the height of the global financial meltdown in 2008, the world’s richest people held 42.5 percent of the global wealth, compared with 50.1 percent today. Thirty-six million people with over a million dollars make up just 0.7 percent of the global population, but control 46 percent of the world’s $280 trillion dollars.

Meanwhile, 3.5 billion people who make up the world’s least wealthy adults each have assets of less than $10,000. These adults account for 70 percent of people who are of working age.

The group is disproportionately represented in developing countries. “In some low-income countries in Africa, the percentage of the population in this wealth group is close to 100 percent,” according to Credit Suisse’s report.

The Global Wealth Report also presents a dire outlook for the world’s young adults, referred to in the document as “unlucky millennials.” Adults between the ages of 20 and 29 especially “faced the rigors of the financial crisis and the high unemployment that followed in many countries, and have also been widely hammered by high housing prices, rising student debt, and increasing inequality,” according to the report.

Despite being better educated than their parents’ generation, “millennials are not only likely to experience greater challenges in building their wealth over time, but also greater wealth inequality than previous generations.”

“We expect only a minority of high achievers and those in high demand sectors such as technology or finance to effectively overcome the ‘millennial disadvantage’,” said Urs Rohner, Credit Suisse’s chairman, in an interview with the Guardian.

Oxfam noted that the report is just the latest sign that the world’s poorest have the deck stacked against them, recalling the recent release of the Paradise Papers, which showed how the rich hide their wealth in order to avoid paying the taxes that stand to shore up public services that, when well-funded, benefit the whole population.

“The recent Paradise Papers revelations laid bare one of the main drivers of inequality—tax dodging by rich individuals and multinationals,” said Chakrabortty. “Governments should act to tackle extreme inequality that is undermining economies around the world, dividing societies, and making it harder than ever for the poorest to improve their lives.”

Three Richest Americans Have More Wealth Than the Bottom Half of the U.S. Population

Three people have more wealth than over 160 million in world history’s richest country. This absurd level of inequality is one of the most significant issues of the modern era for a reason — it is deeply unjust and unnecessary.

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In the United States, the 400 richest individuals now own more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the population and the three richest own more wealth than the bottom 50 percent, while pervasive poverty means one in five households have zero or negative net worth.

Those are just several of the striking findings of Billionaire Bonanza 2017, a new report (pdf) published Wednesday by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) that explores in detail the speed with which the U.S. is becoming “a hereditary aristocracy of wealth and power.”

“Over recent decades, an incredibly disproportionate share of America’s income and wealth gains has flowed to the top of our economic spectrum. At the tip of that top sit the nation’s richest 400 individuals, a group that Forbes magazine has been tracking annually since 1982,” write IPS’s Chuck Collins and Josh Hoxie, the report’s authors. “Americans at the other end of our economic spectrum, meanwhile, watch their wages stagnate and savings dwindle.”

Collins and Hoxie are quick to note that the vast gulf that currently exists between the rich and everyone else is not the product of some inexplicable “natural phenomenon.” It is, rather, the result of “unfair economic policies that benefit those at the top at the expense of those at the bottom.”

[…]

In order to get a broader sense of the size of the chasm between rich and poor in the U.S., Collins and Hoxie place the net worth of the top one percent and the bottom one percent side by side.

“All combined, households in the bottom one percent have a combined negative net worth of $196 billion,” the report finds. “For comparison, the top one percent, a category holding the exact same number of people, have positive $33.4 trillion in combined net worth.”

Even mainstream institutions like the International Monetary Fund have acknowledged that such vast disparities of wealth and income are not sustainable, politically or economically. But as Billionaire Bonanza notes, the Trump administration—with the help of the GOP-controlled Congress—appears bent on making these disparities worse by slashing taxes for the wealthy while gutting programs that primarily benefit low-income and middle class Americans.

So the first priority, Collins and Hoxie note, is to “reject tax and other federal policies that will add oil to the inequality fire.”

In terms of going on the offensive once the “do no harm” principle is observed, the report makes several suggestions, including:

  • Enacting higher marginal tax rates on individuals earning above $250,000 and $1 million;
  • “Addressing the problem of hidden wealth,” which often leads to an underestimation of the level of wealth inequality;
  • Instituting a tax on Wall Street financial transactions, which could bring in an estimated $350 billion in federal revenue over a decade;
  • Eliminate the carried interest loophole, which allows hedge fund managers to “reclassify wage income as capital income” and pay less in taxes as a result; and
  • Bolstering, rather than eliminating, the estate tax, which only affects a tiny number families.

As “the elite ranks of our billionaire class continue to pull apart from the rest of us,” the report notes, many Americans—including students saddled with loan debt, workers suffering from stagnant wages, and families who have seen “their wealth and savings evaporate”—are revolting against the system that allowed the richest to accumulate such wealth at the expense of so many.

“A century ago, a similar anti-inequality upsurge took on America’s vastly unequal distribution of income and wealth and, over the course of little more than a generation, fashioned a much more equal America,” Collins and Hoxie conclude. “We can do the same.”

 

Paradise Papers Release Shows Immense Wealth Hidden by World Elites in Offshore Tax Havens

The Paradise Papers show that the world is moving too quickly in the direction of what’s perhaps appropriately described as an international oligarchy controlled by billionaires and giant multinational corporations.

The world’s biggest businesses, heads of state and global figures in politics, entertainment and sport who have sheltered their wealth in secretive tax havens are being revealed this week in a major new investigation into Britain’s offshore empires.

The details come from a leak of 13.4m files that expose the global environments in which tax abuses can thrive – and the complex and seemingly artificial ways the wealthiest corporations can legally protect their wealth.

The material, which has come from two offshore service providers and the company registries of 19 tax havens, was obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with partners including the Guardian, the BBC and the New York Times.

The project has been called the Paradise Papers. It reveals:

[…]

Meanwhile, multinational companies are shifting a growing share of profits offshore – €600bn in the last year alone – the leading economist Gabriel Zucman will reveal in a study to be published later this week.

“Tax havens are one of the key engines of the rise in global inequality,” he said. “As inequality rises, offshore tax evasion is becoming an elite sport.”

The Economic Inequality the Trump Regime is Seeking to Worsen

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.

World’s Billionaires Have $6 Trillion in Wealth

The extreme concentration of wealth by billionaires has increased significantly over the past several decades.

In an analysis (pdf) published Thursday that throws into stark relief the “unjust and unsustainable” nature of what economists have termed the New Gilded Age, the Swiss financial firm UBS found that the wealth of the world’s billionaires grew by 17 percent in 2016, bringing their combined fortune to a record $6 trillion—more than double the gross domestic product of the United Kingdom.

[…]

But despite insistence from leading economists and institutions like the International Monetary Fund that raising taxes on the wealthy is necessary to shrink the growing gap between the billionaires and everyone else, many global powers are doing precisely the opposite.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron earlier this week made what economist Thomas Piketty called a “historical error” by drastically slashing the country’s wealth tax as part of his sweeping pro-business economic agenda.

The Republican-controlled U.S. Congress, meanwhile, is moving rapidly to adopt a tax plan that would deliver massive gains to the already wealthy while slashing safety net programs that low-income and middle class families depend on for survival.

According to an analysis by the People’s Policy Project, the top one percent in the U.S. already owns a “stunning” 77 percent of the wealth. Meanwhile, those in the bottom ten percent are “net debtors.” Non-partisan analyses have found that the GOP tax plan would make this gap even larger.

As Common Dreams reported earlier this month, even some billionaires agree that inequality is out of control, and that a more progressive tax code is necessary to remedy the problem.

“Three decades of data prove that tax cuts for the wealthy do not ‘trickle down’ to working people or grow the overall economy,” billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer concluded in a recent op-ed for the Los Angeles Times. “Let’s raise taxes on the rich…. Let’s boost wages to stimulate economic growth and job creation. It’s the only way we will create broad prosperity, rebuild the middle class, and give working families a fair shake.”

The Top 10% Now Have 77% of U.S. Wealth

It also should be noted that the richest 400 people in the U.S. have the same wealth as the bottom 190 million people there do. This is an extreme level of inequality that’s quite arguably the highest in history, and there are many problems that occur with it.

As President Donald Trump and the Republican Party unveiled their “cruel joke” of a tax plan that would provide an enormous boon for the rich disguised as a “middle class miracle,” an analysis by the People’s Policy Project (3P) published Wednesday found that the top 10 percent of the income distribution now owns a “stunning” 77 percent of America’s wealth while those in the bottom ten percent are “net debtors,” owning -0.5 percent of the nation’s wealth.

In response to the analysis, conducted by 3P president Matt Bruenig, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote on Twitter: “Meanwhile, the Walton family of Walmart has a net worth of $144 billion. This is what a rigged economy looks like.”

“We do not live in a democracy. We live in an oligarchy,” added the progressive group Digital Left.

3P’s examination of newly released Federal Reserve data also found that “[t]he bottom 38 percent of American families have an average net worth of $0.” By contrast, the top one percent—set to benefit massively from Trump’s tax agenda—owns 38.5 percent of the nation’s wealth. In 1989, that number was 29.9 percent.

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The new Fed data also highlighted America’s enormous racial wealth gap.

A recent study conducted by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and the Corporation For Economic Development (CFED) found that “[i]f average black family wealth continues to grow at the same pace it has over the past three decades, it would take black families 228 years to amass the same amount of wealth white families have today.”

“For the average Latino family,” the study found, “it would take 84 years.”

Bruenig notes that in 2016, mean white wealth exceeded $900,000 for the first time. Mean black wealth, by contrast, registered at just under $140,000.

Overall, Bruenig concluded, “[t]he median family in every racial group remains worse off than they were in 2007.”

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