The Wealthy Are Killing Us

Two things along similar lines caught my eye today, both dealing with the income disparity in the U.S.  The first was an email/newsletter I received from Robert Reich about how this nation’s people are suffering in numerous ways that could be alleviated if only the wealthy paid their fair share in taxes.  This is a topic I’ve addressed before and in my opinion, it is criminal that the top 1% of the wealthiest people in this country pay relatively almost no taxes, while those of us working hard just to survive pay the bulk of the taxes.

The second thing that drew my attention was a post by our friend Keith based on an article in US News called “The upward mobility ‘American Dream’ has been broken. Look at the numbers” by Bella Cangelosi.  The article outlines how far the U.S. has fallen in so many areas, largely because, again, the wealthy and corporations have been given so many tax dodges disguised as deductions that the nation can no longer afford to provide a helping hand to those who are trying to better their lives.

Below is Reich’s newsletter, and I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read Keith’s excellent piece.

Wealth. Tax. Now.

Robert Reich-4by Robert Reich

The United States is the richest country in the world, with financial assets more than 400 times greater than the poorest country per capita.

So why can’t we afford universal health care, high-quality affordable childcare, and free college, like virtually every other developed country?

The truth is that we can afford those things and much more, but Republicans have blocked them for decades with a Big Lie: the government is broke, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

But America is not broke. The problem is that the top 1% of people own 44% of the country’s wealth but pay the lowest tax rate. That’s why Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have proposed a small, common-sense wealth tax that will take just a few pennies on every dollar over $32 million (Sanders) or $50 million (Warren) so America can finally meet the needs of working people, just like every other country does.

The amount of money consolidated in the hands of the wealthiest people in the U.S. is hard to fathom. Just 400 people in this country control $3.2 trillion, which is more money than the bottom half of Americans. The top 10% controls 75% of the wealth.

And every day, that wealth grows into even more wealth, just by sitting in investments and taking advantage of the stock market. Jeff Bezos makes nearly $150,000 every minute by doing nothing.

While the rich get exponentially richer, those in the bottom 50% are getting crushed by the pandemic economy, creating the worst wealth inequality in history. And in the next thirty years, the ultra rich of the Boomer generation will pass down their fortunes to their children in the biggest transfer of wealth ever known.

This is the dynasty-building that the founding fathers were trying to avoid when this country began. These ultra wealthy use their money to exert outsized control over charities, the government, and business trends, making them de facto rulers in the U.S.

Worse, thanks to decades of the fairy tale of trickle-down economics culminating in the Trump tax cut, the wealthy pay nowhere near their fair share to keep the country going.

The majority of taxes that fund the government come from payroll and income taxes, but that’s not where real wealth is made or stored. That’s why the ultra wealthy have been experiencing exponential growth in their holdings while the government has been cutting programs and building the deficit.

No billionaire is going to suffer under either of these plans — even under the highest tax rate, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates will still be worth tens of billions of dollars. That’s more money than most people could spend in a lifetime. But the tax dollars can pay for the basic items other countries take for granted that we’ve been denied: Universal health care. Childcare. Higher education.

The programs paid for by the wealth tax will both slow the money-hoarding taking place at the top and give the bottom 50% the programs they need to be able to build savings and eventually their own wealth.

economy-3economy-7

31 thoughts on “The Wealthy Are Killing Us

  1. Jill,
    Both Reich’s and Keith’s pieces underscore why the brand new American Rescue Plan is so transformative. It actually contains a provision for child tax credits that will move 50% of children out of poverty. Though it’s for one year, the Democrats are determined to make it permanent. And it will uplift all families with children—except the very wealthiest. There has been no effort to help the poorest Americans since the War on Poverty. It also enhances healthcare insurance, undergirds unemployment insurance, provides stimulus checks, etc. I’m glad the Biden Administration is going out to sell it because it can not only uplift but perhaps also unify the country. It has support from 75 % of American—across party lines.
    The fight for the minimum wage increase continues, and Biden’s efforts to protect and encourage unions are additional ways to reduce inequities. He’s right: the middle class built America, and unions built the middle class.
    I think this is the wrong time for a third party, and I worry that one trying to gain a following (Serve America Movement—or SAM—founded by former Florida Republican Rep David Jolly) will merely siphon votes away from the Democrats and allow Trumpism Republicans to return and finish off our democracy. The kind of new party Tom Friedman has described ( I write about it in Part 2 of my recent four-part series on “Saving Our Democracy”) is a fine idea, but unworkable in the near future—as he also seems to believe.
    We need an all-out effort to continue to support the Democrats’ solid push to reverse the inequities of the past half century. I see this as a time of great hope if enough of us join to help Biden-Harris succeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am 100% in agreement with you, Annie! The American Rescue Plan does so much more than just provide a $1,400 stimulus check, but I don’t think people realize the long-term impact it will have.

      Right now, I am most concerned about the minimum wage and voting rights. If the states are allowed to disenfranchise half the people of this nation, as they are trying to do, we will lose this nation’s status as a Democratic Republic and become a autocratic plutocracy. This must be stopped, and HR1 & HR4 will supersede any and all state laws, though of course it will face court challenges. We have to start somewhere. Sigh.

      Yes, let’s hope that the Biden/Harris administration enjoys huge successes, and that the House and Senate do not fall into the hands of the Republican Party that is owned — lock, stock and barrel — by the modern-day equivalent of the robber barons.

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  2. The rich will always try to maintain their positions by managing the country. Much easier in a system that allows the politicians to be bought off. Politicians are paid a salary by the state plus generous expenses. This should ensure their loyalty is to the state and its improvement. The minute you allow a politician to accept money from an outside source their loyalty to the state is in question.
    Everyone has a duty to help maintain the Country via taxes and the rich are not to be exempted from that duty. Since, very often, they become wealthy through business, they deserve to reap a profit from their investment but it should be ensured that the labour force who help build the business are not forgotten either and should be paid a fair wage or profit share in the business.
    Cwtch

    Liked by 1 person

    • I fully agree. First and foremost, we need to put an end to big corporate donors that were allowed after the Citizens United ruling. As it stands now, big corporations and lobbyist groups can literally buy and sell politicians, giving them far too much power. That power is never … NEVER used for the good of the nation or its people, but always to enhance the profits of the already-wealthy at the expense of the rest of us. This must stop, though I have no idea how to make it so.
      Cwtch

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I wasn’t using such accurate figures, but this is the exact problem I spoke about in my post, A Precursor to A New Economic Style, published 5 days ago. Perhaps you have not read it yet. I had subtitled it (part one of Conscience Capitalism). But I wasn’t looking only at wealth inequality, but some of the reasons why wealth inequality has gotten so out of hand. Taxes is a part of that, but really, if you read my post, there is a much bigger issue than taxes.
    Normally I do not like advertising my posts on other blogs, but this time I feel I must. Only, I don’t know how to direct anyone there except to say you can find the post at https://rawgodsspiritualatheism.wordpress.com. It is my latest effort.
    It might give you and your readers a whole different take on the problems not just in American society, but in most of the industrialized nations in the world, and how that problem affects other types of government by its sheer wealth and power.
    My remedy, in the fewest words possible, is to give capitalism a conscience! It does not have one right now, and it desperately needs one.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I will check it out first thing tomorrow, rg. I get notifications for your posts on Word Art by rawgod, but not for this one. I am simply too exhausted tonight, but will check it out tomorrow and then respond more fully to this comment. LuL

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    • Just read your post and left a comment there. I’m puzzled, for it tells me that I’m following your blog, but I haven’t received notifications for quite some time now. I’ll have to check my ‘subscriptions’ page on WordPress and see why.

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      • I hope you do find out why. My site says you are still following me. But you have left no comments for quite a while. But then, much of what I wrote about lately is not up your alley, I don’t think.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Well, I found that I am still subscribed to your blog, and it said I am getting notifications, but I haven’t, so I reset it to send email notifications. We’ll see if that works. Let me know when you post your next one and I’ll check to see if I have a notification. You must have thought I was ignoring you, which was not the case at all. Even if what you write isn’t up my alley, I’ll still at least click ‘Like’, even if I don’t comment, just to let you know I was there.

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          • Aside from the fact I love comments over likes, even the ones that disagree with me, which is most of them, as I said earlier, I just thought that you were not interested in my choice of topics. But now you mention this, there are actually a number of people who no longer comment. One of them I had a falling out with–I said something and she either did not hear it as I intended, or I said it improperly for her understanding of English. But then, I am quite opinionated myself sometimes, and I say a lot of things I think others need to hear, even if they don’t like to hear it. I just hate it when assumptions are made that cannot be supported by facts.
            And so it goes…

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you, Jill, for passing on this article (now am I off the hook on the post I was going to work up on the lack of upward mobility in the USA?)

    It is indeed a problem that:
    “1% of people own 44% of the country’s wealth but pay the lowest tax rate.”

    How do we fix the tax code to remedy this, as a start, because it is not only the tax code, that produces the wealth inequality, but also housing, and the lack of good Public Education, among other things I shan’t repeat today.

    Shira

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Shira … my pleasure, and yes, you’re off the hook on this one now! 😉

      I think the first thing that MUST happen is to repeal Citizens United. Allowing large corporate donations was just asking for politicians to be bought and sold and that is precisely what happened. We need to make voting relatively easy for everyone with such things as automatic registration, all postal voting in every state, etc. We need to make people WANT to vote and to understand it is really the only voice we have in government. And, I think we could really benefit from having a third viable party. You’re right, also that there is much more than simply the tax laws, but all things take time. We need to start somewhere and just keep pushing for as long as it takes.

      Liked by 1 person

          • Absolutely.
            And we have a long path, at this point, to repairing all of the damage, and then making the real progress that needs to be made, for all of our sakes.

            Good thing the kids are stretching out some of their hands to take on the baton…

            Liked by 1 person

              • Yes, as all of history has always been, 2 steps forward and one step back, but we must get up at least one more time than we fall or are pushed down, and we must continue working with the young people, because we have tools that they do not yet have (I was stunned to see the divisions between Occupy DC and Occupy Washington, back when I was apparently the only Gen x person, and the only person I knew of trying to give classes at both teach-in camps: one old SNCC guy told me “these kids are trying to rewrite the book, and they haven’t even read the book!” and I told him that he might be right, but that my generation ought to have been the bridge, and we sort of dropped the ball, which might be part of the problem. The young people are our future, but the still need to learn to take the lessons of the past and use what can be remolded, without throwing out the baby with the bath water (and btw, the kids in the park got tossed out due to the incredible rat population, while the old SNCC folks had electricity, a chalk board for teach-in signups that worked far better than the kids texts, and most crucial of all: PERMITS, which was why they never got evicted (ok, maybe they did, but months later)…)

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          • Sorry, comment cut off:

            -Now we just need to get more tools into their hands to keep building that scaffolding to help build a better society for this world.
            Like, education for empathy and Critical Thinking?

            Liked by 1 person

            • Indeed … education is the solution … didn’t some president famously say that “Education is the answer”? Teaching the young how to think is far more important than teaching them how to write a computer program. There may well come a day when computers don’t work, there is no internet, no electricity … who will lead then? Hugs, my friend!

              Liked by 1 person

              • Yup.
                I told a friend back in 2003 that we should consider starting to chisel our key knowledge onto rocks, because electricity is not a given, and she thought I was nuts.
                But,
                imagine if we taught every kid how to make a wind-up hand-held or foot power generator, to recharge a mobile phone, for example?
                How could the world change if every person knew how to make a simple dynamo and small wind turbine?
                (like the kid in “The boy who harnessed the Wind…)
                Knowledge really is power,
                literally…

                Liked by 1 person

                • In September 2008, a storm knocked out our power for nearly a week. The first few days … oh what a horror! Okay, I thought, I cannot do laundry, so I’ll just … oh, wait, I cannot do that either, so I’ll … nope. We don’t realize how dependent we are on electricity … until we lose it. If you haven’t already read it … knowing how well-read you are, you probably have … “One Second After” by William Forstchen is a must read, and altogether too possible. EMPs do exist and there are a handful of countries that could easily enough disable the power grid in the U.S. I chuckle when I think of people picking up their cell phones a dozen times an hour, but the reality is that we are so dependent on electricity that if it were gone, it would be like learning life all over again. Self-sufficiency is a thing of the past … or perhaps the future? Sigh.

                  Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Reich does, though few in power will listen, and the statistics in your post should open a few eyes, too. Someday I suspect there will be a price to pay for excessive greed, but that doesn’t help us now.

      Like

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