By Chuck Collins for Other Words – Are you or a loved one having trouble staying afloat? You’re truly not alone. While the media reports low unemployment and a rising stock market, the reality is that almost 20 percent of the country lives in “Underwater Nation,” with zero or even negative net worth. And more still have almost no cash reverses to get them through hard times. This is a source of enormous stress for many low and middle-income families. Savings and wealth are vital life preservers for people faced with job loss, illness, divorce, or even car trouble. Yet an estimated 15 to 20 percent of families have no savings at all, or owe more than they own.
By Hamilton Nolan for The Concourse – Economic inequality in America has been rising steadily since the Reagan era. Why? A new research paper identifies what it say is the main culprit: the fact that we’ve stopped taxing the rich. There are, of course, many contributing factors to the post-Reagan Age of Inequality that has finally grown so dire that it is warping our electoral politics past recognition: the decline in union bargaining power, the influence of money on politics, the deregulation of the financial industries, fortunes spawned by new technologies, and more. But a new National Bureau of Economic Research paper, by economists from Yale and from Stockholm University, says that the most important factor of all has been the decline of progressive income taxes.
By Pan Pylas for Associated Press – DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — The gap between the super-rich and the poorest half of the global population is starker than previously thought, with just eight men, from Bill Gates to Michael Bloomberg, owning as much wealth as 3.6 billion people, according to an analysis by Oxfam released Monday. Presenting its findings on the dawn of the annual gathering of the global political and business elites in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, anti-poverty organization Oxfam says the gap between the very rich and poor is far greater than just a year ago. It’s urging leaders to do more than pay lip-service to the problem. If not, it warns, public anger against this kind of inequality will continue to grow and lead to more seismic political changes akin to last year’s election of Donald Trump…
By Tamara Pearson for Counter Punch – Australians have the biggest homes in the world. New free-standing homes are an average 245.3 sqm – three times bigger than UK homes, and 22 times bigger than the average Hong Kong home. For Australia, this space privilege shows up the all pervasive myth that the country has no room for refugees. But for the world, there’s a deeper story of a global inequality of space – a story that goes well beyond mere population density differences.
By Staff of CBO – In 2013, aggregate family wealth in the United States was $67 trillion (or about four times the nation’s gross domestic product) and the median family (the one at the midpoint of the wealth distribution) held approximately $81,000, CBO estimates. For this analysis, CBO calculated that measure of wealth as a family’s assets minus its debt. CBO measured wealth as marketable wealth, which consists of assets that are easily tradable and that have value even after the death of their owner.
By Dedrick Asante-Muhammad and Chuck Collins for Other Worlds – Most media coverage of racial injustice has understandably focused on our country’s unfair policing and criminal justice system. But to fully understand the current reality of racial inequality in America, we also need to take an honest look at our nation’s shocking wealth disparities. Wealth — the total assets a family owns after the bills are paid — is the safety net we all need to help us get through the tough times and invest in our futures. And its polarization along racial lines is striking.
By Staff of Inequality – Racial and economic inequality are the most pressing social issues of our time. In the last decade, we have seen the catastrophic economic impact of the Great Recession and an ensuing recovery that has bypassed millions of Americans, especially households of color. This period of economic turmoil has been punctuated by civil unrest throughout the country in the wake of a series of high-profile African-American deaths at the hands of police.
By Noah Smith for Bloomberg View – Standard economic theory says that taxation reduces productivity. If you tax income, you reduce the incentive to work. If you tax capital gains, you reduce the incentive to invest, and so on. When you discourage useful economic activity, the economy becomes less efficient. But what if it were possible to impose taxes in a way that alsoincreased productivity? That’s the promise of a clever new theory by economists Daphne Chen, Fatih Guvenen, Gueorgui Kambourov and Burhanettin Kuruscu.
By Josh Hoxie for Other Worlds – Party platforms are dense and often morosely boring documents filled with wonkish policy proposals and partisan jeers at the other side. At over 40 pages, this year’s Democratic Party platform lives up to its predecessors in length and ennui. However, it also includes a section not yet seen in platforms from either side: an acknowledgement of the racial wealth gap.
By Samuel L. Dickman et al for PNHP – US medical spending growth slowed between 2004 and 2013. At the same time, many Americans faced rising copayments and deductibles, which may have particularly affected lower-income people. To explore whether the health spending slowdown affected all income groups equally, we divided the population into income quintiles. We then assessed trends in health expenditures by and on behalf of people in each quintile using twenty-two national surveys carried out between 1963 and 2012.
By Inequality.org staff. Investor and philanthropist Stephen Silberstein has set up a CEO pay showdown at the May 25 BlackRock annual meeting in New York City. The Wall Street firm’s CEO, Laurence Fink, is a classic example of “pay for nonperformance,” hauling in $26 million in compensation last year despite a significant drop in the company’s share price. But it gets worse. As the world’s largest money manager, BlackRock holds shares in thousands of U.S. corporations. And when it comes time to vote every year on those corporations’ executive pay packages, BlackRock nearly always rubberstamps the proposals — no matter how bloated they may be. Silberstein has filed a shareholder resolution with BlackRock that would require management to come up with plans for “bringing its voting practices in line with its stated principle of linking executive compensation and performance.” Inequality.org co-editor Sarah Anderson talked with Steve about his strategy.
By Stan Choe for Associated Press – NEW YORK (AP) — CEOs at the biggest companies got a 4.5 percent pay raise last year. That’s almost double the typical American worker’s, and a lot more than investors earned from owning their stocks — a big fat zero. The typical chief executive in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index made $10.8 million, including bonuses, stock awards and other compensation, according to a study by executive data firm Equilar for The Associated Press. That’s up from the median of $10.3 million the same group of CEOs made a year earlier.
By Staff of Pew Research Center – The American middle class is losing ground in metropolitan areas across the country, affecting communities from Boston to Seattle and from Dallas to Milwaukee. From 2000 to 2014 the share of adults living in middle-income households fell in 203 of the 229 U.S. metropolitan areas examined in a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data. The decrease in the middle-class share was often substantial, measuring 6 percentage points or more in 53 metropolitan areas, compared with a 4-point drop nationally.
By Bob Lord for Other Words. Imagine, after a deep sleep, you suffered the fate of Rip Van Winkle and woke in the spring of 2040. What might you find? Among other things, maybe a presidential candidate railing against America’s concentration of wealth. Except this time, it’s not the 1 percent that owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent — it’s the top hundredth of a percent. Could it get that bad? Yes, quite easily. In fact, that nightmare is already on the way. To see this better, take a step back in time. If you woke up 24 years ago, you could hear candidate Bill Clinton lamenting the fact that the top 1 percent owned as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Today, as anyone who’s heard Bernie Sanders give his stump speech knows, it’s the top tenth of 1 percent who owns that much.