This January marks what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 95th birthday. Nearly a century after the late civil rights leader’s birth, it’s a good time to reflect on the work still to be done. Just over 60 years ago, in his famous “I Have A Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington, King declared: “We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.” Sixty years on, as our report “Still A Dream” highlighted late last year, there’s been some progress.
According to a new University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst) study, Americans whose income is in the top 10 percent are responsible for 40 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the country. It’s the first study to connect income with the emissions used to generate it. The researchers focused on earnings derived from financial investments and recommended taxes be adopted that hone in on investment incomes’ carbon intensity, a press release from UMass Amherst said. “Current policies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increase adaptation and mitigation funding are insufficient to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.
For several hours in early November 2022, hundreds of protesters grounded all private flights at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, one of the most popular and busiest airports in the world. Activists sat on runways to block private jets from taking off before military police moved in and arrested more than 100 protesters. “The superrich have got used to polluting as they please with a total disregard for people and planet, and private jets are the pinnacle of these luxury emissions that we simply cannot afford,” one activist told The Intercept. Fast forward a few months, and the protesters appeared to be on the brink of success. Schiphol Airport decided to implement a total private jet ban in an effort to reduce air traffic.
The amount of additional taxes that the richest Americans owed after the IRS audited their tax returns fell more than 99% in Donald Trump’s first full year in office, data tables released this week show. Among households making on average $30 million in 2018, IRS auditors recommended less than $5.4 million in additional tax. That’s not the extra tax owed by one rich tax cheat. That’s the total for all 26,517 households reporting income of at least $10 million in 2018—the first year of the huge tax giveaway Trump and the Radical Republicans in Congress engineered in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The recommended additional tax under Trump fell 99.1% from the $610.4 million that tax auditors recommended in 2010, Barack Obama’s first full year as president.
In 2007, Jeff Bezos, then a multibillionaire and now the world’s richest man, did not pay a penny in federal income taxes. He achieved the feat again in 2011. In 2018, Tesla founder Elon Musk, the second-richest person in the world, also paid no federal income taxes. Michael Bloomberg managed to do the same in recent years. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn did it twice. George Soros paid no federal income tax three years in a row. ProPublica has obtained a vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data on the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years. The data provides an unprecedented look inside the financial lives of America’s titans, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg.
The sort of capitalism on which the United States was originally built has been called mom-and-pop capitalism. Families owned their own farms and small shops and competed with each other on a more or less level playing field. It was a form of capitalism that broke free of the feudalistic model and reflected the groundbreaking values set forth in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights: that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, including the rights to free speech, a free press, to worship and assemble; and the right not to be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process.
Donald Trump seems determined to double down and keep pressing forward on his trade war with China. He promises more and higher tariffs, apparently not realizing that U.S. consumers are the ones paying these taxes — not China’s government or corporations. While tariffs clearly impose a cost on people in the United States, this cost could be justified as a weapon to change a trading partner’s harmful practices. During his campaign, Trump pledged to wage a trade war with China over its currency policy. He said he would declare China a “currency manipulator” on day one of his administration, putting pressure on China to raise the value of its currency against the dollar.
Americans are not happy, and for good reason: They continue to suffer financial stress caused by decades of flat income. And every time they make the slightest peep of complaint about a system rigged against them, the rich and powerful tell them to shut up because it is all their fault. One percenters instruct them to work harder, pull themselves up by their bootstraps and stop bellyaching. Just get a second college degree, a second skill, a second job. Just send the spouse to work, downsize, take a staycation instead of a real vacation. Or don’t take one at all, just work harder and longer and better. The barrage of blaming has resulted in workers believing they deserve censure. And that’s a big part of the reason they’re unhappy.
One troubling indicator that we are drifting toward a society governed by the wealthy is the expanding fortunes of multi-generational wealth dynasties. The three wealthiest US families are the Waltons of Walmart, the Mars candy family and the Koch brothers, heirs to the country’s second largest private company, the energy conglomerate Koch Industries. These are all enterprises built by the grandparents and parents of today’s wealthy heirs and heiresses. These three families own a combined fortune of $348.7bn, which is 4m times the median wealth of a US family.
The World Economics Forum (WEF) brings thousands of world political and business leaders to Davos to exchange information. Over 1000 private jets land in this ski resort polluting the air and bringing in the CEOs of the largest companies, presidents, kings, and prime ministers to plot how to get richer at the expense of the poor. Thousands attend. In the 2006 Davos meeting I managed to get an article titled "Boycott Israel" in the official magazine distributed to all delegates. After complaints from some who do not believe in free speech (because the truth is to their disadvantage), Klaus Schwab Founder and Executive Chairman of the WEF swiftly interrupted the meetings to issue a public apology...
The median net worth for non-immigrant African-American households in the Greater Boston region is $8, according to “The Color of Wealth in Boston,” a 2015 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Duke University, and the New School. This Spotlight seven-part series — which began Sunday — tackles the city’s most vexing question: Does Boston deserve its racist reputation? And to answer just that question, the Globe Spotlight Team analyzed data, launched surveys, and conducted hundreds of interviews. The Color of Wealth in Boston report, which is part of a five-city study looking at wealth disparities among communities of color, was one piece of information that Spotlight examined.
By Kate Harveston for Mintpress News. Countries with lower rates of wealth disparity tend to have happier citizens and offer a better quality of life. A more nearly equal distribution of wealth also has substantial environmental benefits, as less meat is consumed, less waste is produced, and citizens consume what they need rather than excess products As the rich get ever richer — courtesy, in countries like the United States, of corporate-friendly deregulation and tax “reform” — does the planet get ever warmer and dirtier? New research suggests economic balance is linked to environmentally-friendly practices. Countries with lower rates of economic disparity have citizens who enjoy a better quality of life and leave a significantly smaller carbon footprint. By resisting plutocracy and pushing towards an equal wealth distribution throughout the world, the global population can collectively reduce its carbon footprint and combat global climate change head-on.
By Larry Elliott for the Guardian. If revulsion at the concentration of wealth and the exploitation of market power becomes strong enough there is nothing to stop governments smashing monopolies and raising taxes. This, after all, is what happened last time, with the first Gilded Age followed in the US by two waves of reforms, the pre-first world war Progressive era and during the New Deal of the 1930s. In his book Capital in the 21st Century, Thomas Piketty notes that in the early 20th century, the US led the way on tackling wealth disparities, proving intellectually more prepared than other advanced countries to accept a steeply progressive income tax. In an article for American Prospect, Paul Starr notes that limiting the power of concentrated wealth in the US is a cause with deep roots. None of this is on his agenda . . .
By Matt Bruenig for People's Policy Project. The Federal Reserve released the 2016 version of the Survey of Consumer Finances today. I will be doing a lot of work with this data in the coming months. But for starters, here is a short post about overall wealth inequality. The below graph shows the wealth level at each percentile of the wealth distribution. Since wealth is so overwhelmingly concentrated at the top of society, you cannot see much from the chart itself, but you can hover over the line on the graph with your cursor to see the dollar figure at every percentile.