Wealth Gap on the Rise

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, millions of Americans have faced financial hardship and economic instability. Some have lost their jobs or been furloughed, many have been uprooted from their homes or have even become homeless (not to mention the millions that have gotten severely ill and hundreds of thousands that have died).

Even well beyond the peak of the pandemic, 24 million adults reported their household didn’t get enough to eat and 13 million adult renters are not caught up on rent. 35 percent of American adults reported it was difficult for their household to pay for basic bills and expenses. We are seeing levels of poverty today that rival those during the Great Depression, the worst economic downturn in U.S. history.

Through all of this, there is one class of people who have managed to stay well afloat. America’s executives and ultra-wealthy have done everything in their power to maintain their own pay raises, even while their employees and community members struggle. Billionaires have added a combined 1.8 trillion dollars to their already exorbitant levels of wealth since March of 2020.

This week we look at some examples of the growing wealth disparity between average Americans and the mega-rich.

Tax Justice for All Workshop from NETWORK
One of our fantastic allies, NETWORK, is hosting a series of Tax Justice for All workshops to educate participants on wealth and taxes in America. Join NETWORK as they guide you through just how our tax code gives tremendous advantages to the already-wealthy, and what kind of changes we need to build a fairer, more equitable tax code. This is a fascinating hands-on look at our tax code, and we highly encourage you to join them! The first sessions are next week, on August 9th and 11th. Use this link to see more dates and register for an upcoming workshop.

Inequality Has Soared During the Pandemic—and So Has C.E.O. Compensation by James Lardner
Over the last several decades the wealth gap between the rich and the average American has increased at an alarming rate. Nowhere is that gap more clear than when we look at the difference between executive compensation versus worker pay. In 2020, the average Fortune 500 CEO made about 300 times their median employee, up from just 30x in the 1970s. With a new infrastructure bill and many private contracts that will be offered in conjunction with it in the works, the government has a unique opportunity to address this egregious example of corporate greed. Our legislators should step up and provide incentives for companies to lower the disparity between executive and employee pay, and penalties for those that don’t.

Narrowing the U.S. wealth gap is important. Narrowing the racial wealth gap is urgent by the Washington Post Editorial Board
If the wealth gap between the ultra-rich and working Americans is grim, the wealth gap between the Black and white America is truly disturbing. Throughout the 20th century, Black Americans were openly excluded from opportunities to grow wealth like the Federal Housing Act, The Social Security Act, and The G.I. Bill. For decades, Black Americans were explicitly shut out of social programs geared towards establishing a stable middle class. The lack of economic opportunities for Black Americans was intentional – without deliberate governmental action, this issue will not resolve itself. Direct and targeted action is needed to address the racial wealth gap.

How Many People Are at Risk of Losing Their Homes in Your Neighborhood? by Sema K. Sgaier and Aaron Dibner-Dunlap
Even with the extension of the COVID-19 eviction moratorium by the Biden administration, millions of Americans are still staring homelessness in the face. Complicated and inaccessible application processes have led to billions of dollars of allocated federal rental assistance going unused. In some areas, such as urban cities and the deep south, as many as 1 in 4 renters are behind on payments. The federal and state governments need to get their act together to provide the rental assistance they promised their citizens.

Given The Choice Between Prison Life And Fighting Wildfires, These Women Chose Fire by Ailsa Chang, Alejandra Marquez Janse, and Ashley Brown
There are few opportunities for incarcerated individuals to work and earn money during their time in prison, leaving some women in prison to choose firefighting over internment. These firefighters earn a mere $5 per day fighting some of the most deadly wildfires in the country’s history. With subhuman wages like these even while doing respectable work, it is still difficult for people to make enough to support themselves after they have paid back their debt to society. Every working person, incarcerated or not, deserves to be paid a fair wage for their work.

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