If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that we can no longer ignore the widening disparity between the richest Americans and the rest of the country. We’ve seen billionaire wealth (and some billionaires themselves) skyrocket to unprecedented levels, while most Americans are just struggling to get by. This is simply unsustainable – we are reaching a point where inequality is so extreme that it’s starting to feel like France on the eve of the French Revolution.
The uncontrolled surge in wealth and income gaps has only gotten worse over the last four decades, and that’s no accident. Inequality doesn’t just happen, it’s the direct result of years of economic policies, specifically the way we tax the rich (or rather, the way we DON’T tax the rich), that have left the rich richer than ever and everyone else worse off.
In recent years, especially since Republicans passed their massive overhaul of the tax code in 2017 that gave over a trillion dollars in tax cuts to the wealthy, the divide has been widening at an even faster rate.
We have some very tangible examples of this massive shift in wealth ownership across America since the rise of Reaganomics and the “trickle-down” myth in the 1980s. In 1989, the top 1% held 23% of all wealth, compared to 32% today. Meanwhile, the bottom half of American households owned 5% of the nation’s wealth then, but now only hold 2%. The top 0.1% of American earners are even more obscenely wealthy when compared to the rest of the country, owning nearly 20% of all American wealth, up from 7% in 1978.
If we look at an international level, the scope of the problem only becomes even more daunting. The recently-released 2022 World Inequality Report shows that the richest 10% of the global population controls 76% of its wealth, while the bottom 50% own just 2%. At the very top, billionaires now own more than 3% of the world’s wealth, up from just 1% in 1995.
This may be a global problem, but it’s one that the US government can act on by itself. The US tax code is an incredibly powerful tool in the hands of the government that can help mitigate the disaster that is wealth inequality both here in the US and abroad. Yet rather than use this powerful tool for good, lawmakers continually tell us that tax cuts for the rich and corporations are good for the economy as a whole. It’s a lie. Instead, we see time and time again that they favor the richest among us.
While this growing concentration of wealth did not happen overnight, or even in the last year, the Republican party’s tax overhaul has absolutely played a role in exacerbating the problem, as 21% of their tax cuts went directly to the top 1%. Out of all of the problems facing the people of this country, the Congressional GOP chose to give the wealthiest Americans the lion’s share of their $2 trillion tax cuts.
Over the last 40 years, our government has failed the majority of Americans. It has allowed a minute fraction of the population to amass more wealth than they and their heirs could ever possibly need. For decades, Congress has helped the ultra-rich absorb all of the benefits of a growing economy while ignoring the needs of the poor and the middle class. It doesn’t have to be this way. Our country has multiple options on the table right now, and many more on the way, to reverse the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few and return to our values our equal opportunity. All Congress has to do is tax the rich.