As 2019 comes to a close, let’s take a moment to look back at the major events that impacted the state of the economy – and the national conversation around our three core issues – as we enter the new year, and the many policy developments this year that are giving us hope for better, brighter decade to come.
- Two years ago, the GOP passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which they claimed would increase wages and generate jobs. Unsurprisingly, the results this year – the first year we can fully measure the impact of the law – have fallen far short of those grandiose promises. Instead of investing in workers and communities, corporations spent a whopping $806 billion on buying back their own stock and enriching shareholders. Wage growth remains at an all-time low, and American workers are still waiting for their GOP promised $4,000 raise to trickle down from the corporate coffers.
- Throughout the country, the vast majority of Americans now agree that the wealthy aren’t paying their fair share. So when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) suggested that we enact a top marginal tax rate of 70% in early 2019, 59% of registered voters supported it. The opposition was quick to cry “socialism,” but raising that rate would be a return to what is often considered American’s golden age, the 1950’s when the top marginal tax rate reached over 90%. Ocasio-Cortez’s comments lit off a firestorm of demands from voters to tax the rich, resulting in a slew of tax policies that the Patriotic Millionaires have been absolutely thrilled to see take form.
- A year ago, proposing a wealth tax would be considered a radical idea, now it’s the cornerstone of frontrunner Elizabeth Warren’s tax plan, and some form of a wealth tax has been endorsed by a number of other presidential candidates. This type of bold, transformative reform has proved popular with voters, as her idea of an annual 2% tax on people with assets over $50 million dollars and an additional 1% on incomes over a billion has garnered a monumental 74% support among registered voters.
- We have long known that most millionaires and billionaires make their money off investments rather than traditional 9-5 jobs, which allows them to pick and choose when they want to cash in and pay their taxes. Senator Ron Wyden’s recently unveiled legislation to change that. His plan creates a ‘mark-to-market’ system that would tax wealthy folks for every annual increase in the value of their capital gains assets, rather than at the date of sale. It’s time to rebalance the scales and make rich Americans pay the same rates as working Americans, and in 2019, we got one step closer.
- The estate tax is one of the most American taxes. It protects our democracy from inherited wealth and the dynastic aristocratic elite that our country fought so hard to escape from. We endorsed Rep. Jimmy Gomez’s (D-CA) recently unveiled For the 99.8% Act which plans to strengthen the estate tax by lowering the threshold to $3.5 million and taxing it progressively. For the sake of our meritocracy, there’s no reason that anyone should pay a lower tax rate on millions of dollars of unearned wealth than someone who actually works for a living.
- Our tax code is designed by and for wealthy people. Some of those wealthy people who spend so much money to protect their own little loopholes are private equity and hedge fund managers, a group that has preserved something called the carried interest loophole that allows them to pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries. This year we were delighted to endorse the Carried Interest Fairness Act, which would close the loophole and force these freeloading billionaires to pay their fair share.
- When it comes to ensuring that the wealthy give back to the government that supported their livelihood, the simplest solution is our newly-endorsed Millionaires’ Surtax bill. This bill would add a basic 10% surtax on all types of income, both salaried and investment income, over $2 million dollars a year per individual earner. Compared to some of the previous proposals the surtax certainly isn’t the most aggressive solution to addressing wealth inequality, however it offers a concise and easy first step to progressive taxation that ambitious proposals will follow.
- In 2020, we will enter the 11th year since Congress last raised the minimum wage from the poverty level of $7.25 an hour. When you factor in inflation, full-time minimum wage workers are earning 31% less than they did in 2009 – that’s $6,800 less for the same amount of labor. Many working American families are struggling to find stability in an economy where the cost of living keeps going up and wages remain stagnant, while our consumer-driven economy, which depends on a strong middle class to keep its engine running, struggles with low consumer demand.
- Wage inequality continues to snowball out of control. The average executive of an S&P 500 company makes 287 times more than their average employee, but their actual compensation goes beyond that when you include their bonuses and perks. Some ratios, like Elon Musk’s reach a staggering 40,668 more than his average Tesla employee. In order to address these alarming figures, multiple proposals have been introduced at the state and national levels in order to levy a progressive surtax on all companies with egregiously high CEO pay ratios. No matter how hard you work, no one deserves that sheer amount of wealth.
- This year also brought countless revelations of companies skimming profit off tips meant for their workers, and other wage-theft practices Though, to the four million Americans who work for the sub-minimum tipped wage, this revelation wasn’t too far from their daily reality.
- But it’s not all doom and gloom – this year we’ve also made great strides to put the working American back on the Congressional agenda. We were proud to endorse the Raise the Wage Act, which will gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour by 2025. In July, the bill was brought to the House floor where it passed 231 to 199 in a historical vote. While the bill is stalled in the Senate, we’re closer than we’ve ever been before to lifting millions of Americans out of working poverty and correcting the years of inequities that have left them out of our country’s economic success.
- As we are all painfully aware, living in a post-Citizens United America means that politicians often prioritize the needs of millionaires, billionaires, and corporations over their own constituents. This year, we saw stories on the Supreme Court’s disappointing decision on partisan gerrymandering, we’ve seen the negative consequences of what happens when wealthy people use their enormous wealth to influence tax policy in their own favor, and we saw victory in the North Carolina state court where the court ruled the state’s Republican-drawn districts were unconstitutionally partisan. Our country desperately needs strong reforms to unrig the system and put voters back at the helm. We’ve endorsed two bills this year that are designed to do exactly that.
- The For the People Act: This groundbreaking bill, endorsed by the Patriotic Millionaires, soared through the House floor with a stunning party-line vote of 234 to 193. The For the People Act is a revolutionary attempt to shift the balance of power away from the monied interests by creating a system of publicly financed elections, requiring dark money organizations to disclose their donors, restricting the power of super PACs, outlawing partisan gerrymandering, and calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the disastrous Citizens United.
- Voting Rights Advancement Bill: Our nation made great strides forward when it passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 – that’s why it’s essential we protect the gains we made for disenfranchised voters across the nation. Brain Kemp sits in the Georgia governor’s mansion because of widespread disenfranchisement efforts against Georgia’s voters. This piece of legislation attempts to address the causes of that stolen election and other growing forms of voter suppression by forcing states and localities to undergo scrutiny when they attempt to make changes to voting requirements (like voter ID).