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Thanks to a shift in the national narrative brought about by the Occupy movement and the popularity of Thomas Piketty's book, Capital in the 21st Century, inequality of income and wealth is no longer a taboo subject relegated to academic papers and little-read blogs. But while talk on the subject has burgeoned, policies to do something about it have been slow to take hold. No surprise. The wealthiest one percent and the far wealthier one-tenth of one percent want to keep things that way.

With some nudging from their campaign contributors, lawmakers in some states are eager, let us say positively salivating, at the prospect of making things worse.

David A. Lieb at the Associated Press reports:

Economic statistics show that incomes for the top 1 percent of U.S. households soared 31 percent from 2009 through 2012, after adjusting for inflation, yet inched up an average of 0.4 percent for those making less. Many economists are sounding alarms that the income gap, greater now than at any time since the Depression, is hurting the economy by limiting growth in consumer spending.

Yet those concerns aren't resonating in some states. Last year, at least 10 states passed income tax cuts targeted at businesses or those in the top individual brackets. Several more already have cut taxes this year, including Democratic-led New York and Republican-led Oklahoma. Yet over the past three years, nearly one-fifth of the states have pared back unemployment benefits, and more cutbacks are under consideration. [...]

"What's happening at the state level is increasingly important, and, to many eyes, it appears to be moving things in one direction—towards greater inequality," said Matthew Gardner, executive director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a Washington-based tax research group.

The narrative that Occupy cemented in the public mind and that Piketty and others have provided the supporting data for need to be translated into action. Reversing this pernicious inequality trend requires far more than one policy change, more than fiddling around the margins of the tax code, more than one election cycle, more than mere populist-sounding rhetoric about the predatory nature of a few billionaires. The situation goes far deeper than that.

As the midterm election season moves forward, we citizens should be doing all we can—at the state and federal levels—to get incumbents who claim to represent us and candidates who say they would like to represent us to tell us what they plan to do regarding the worst inequality in 80+ years. Not just offhanded comments scattered in a speech here or there, but incessantly, relentlessly. Not just red-meat throwaway lines but unambiguous promises about what they will do in office to push for a transformation of an economic system that is serving the one percenters and failing the rest of us.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Thu Jun 05, 2014 at 10:27 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Important report. (5+ / 0-)

    It was in my local paper today.

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Thu Jun 05, 2014 at 10:39:14 AM PDT

  •  Agreed because that is why evil R's are (s)elected (0+ / 0-)

    I voted Tuesday, May 6, 2014 because it is my right, my responsibility and because my parents moved from Alabama to Ohio to vote. Unfortunately, the republicons want to turn Ohio into Alabama.

    by a2nite on Thu Jun 05, 2014 at 10:45:45 AM PDT

  •  "The situation goes far deeper than that." (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, quill, Meteor Blades

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "If we appear to seek the unattainable, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable." (@eState4Column5)

    by annieli on Thu Jun 05, 2014 at 11:01:22 AM PDT

  •  Yes! I thought it (4+ / 0-)

    fascinating that the story gave real reasons for how states increase inequality- by giving wealthy people more money, by giving poor people less, and slashing investment.

    Classical economics needs to be crushed....

    From Neocon to sane- thanks to Obama- and Kos.

    by satrap on Thu Jun 05, 2014 at 11:03:13 AM PDT

  •  Note-some states' income tax laws piggyback (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean

    on Fed tax law, some have their own unique system, some have a combination.  Thus, changes in Fed tax law may or may not affect certain states.  
      That doesn't excuse states which go their own great lengths to screw over the little people.

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Thu Jun 05, 2014 at 11:25:41 AM PDT

    •  And seven states have no individual income taxes (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calamity Jean

      at all, Nevada, Alaska, Washington, South Dakota, Florida, Texas & Wyoming. Two other states, Tennessee and New Hampshire, have no income taxes on wages and salaries, only dividends and interest.

      "let's talk about that" uid 92953

      by VClib on Thu Jun 05, 2014 at 11:40:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Poverty and tourism (0+ / 0-)

        In Arizona, for example, taxes on the have-nots are a greater percentage of income than on the haves. The income tax curve is quite short And reaches low. In addition there is a whopping sales tax that is added on by county and city governments. The area where I lived taxed 11.9% for the government entities. This hurts the buying power and taxes more heavily the poor.  I think the original purpose was to get the tourists paying for the infrastructure they use for up to 180 days a year. When you live there 360 and lose 12% of your buying power from meager funds, you go hungry sometimes. The thought process there demands that the poor should pay equally, not according to ability.

    •  Pennsylvania is severely regressive in this regard (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JohnnySacks

      Between the "business privilege tax" levied on the self-employed in Philadelphia and the flat state income tax, neither allowing the standard deductions and exemptions allowed in Federal taxes... a self-employed person earning only $10,000 in a year pays nearly $1,000 in taxes to both entities combined. I know from first-hand experience.

      Move to another state? I'd love to. If I could afford it. Can't save when I'm shelling out money left and right to local entities, who balance their books on the backs of poor workers.

      curious portal - to a world of paintings, lyric-poems, art writing, and graphic and web design • Drawing Out the Muses now available in e-book

      by asterkitty on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 07:22:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Of course, the stock market(s) trump all... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades, gjohnsit

    ...as noted by these Masters of the Universe, today. "Trickle-down economics rule all!" (Especially if you're part and parcel of the 1%.) Or, something.

    Shark to whomever's listening: "Did you get the license plate of those guys that just jumped me?"

    "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

    by bobswern on Thu Jun 05, 2014 at 11:37:32 AM PDT

    •  Then again, my comment, immediately above... (0+ / 0-)

      ...which contains a link to the same people that have publicly stated that "I didn't know what I was talking about," in 2009-2010, when I explained to anyone who'd listen that BofA and Citi were insolvent back then, too.

      Question: If people quote ECRI, does that mean that those people that are quoting ECRI should be confronted with the absurdly false accusation that they--not ECRI--predicted a high probability, not the inevitability, of a double-dip recession,too? (Because that is what ECRI did back in 2010.)

      "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

      by bobswern on Thu Jun 05, 2014 at 11:45:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah, they say trickle down (0+ / 0-)

      but we all know it's really Amazon up.

      "Onward through the fog!" - Oat Willie

      by rocksout on Sat Jun 07, 2014 at 09:02:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Critical to work at state and even local level (0+ / 0-)

    This report means we need not only to work for better elected officials and better policy at the national level, but also at state and local level.

    The Affordable Care Act is progress however imperfect, but it won't help people in states whose government rejects Medicaid expansion. The lack of a minimum wage increase in a state may be at least partially offset by an increase in a large city (Seattle, here's looking at you - favorably! San Jose, what are you doing to catch up?)

  •  The Democratic party (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ItsaMathJoke, Calamity Jean, jbsoul

    needs to become far more proactive with the growing income inequality.

    To merely mention that income inequality is a problem by some of the more progressive Democrats does little and is easily ignored by today's media.

    Income inequality and laws passed that hurt the poor and middle class further should be loudly condemned by all Democrats, not just a select few. Furthermore, the actions of Republicans in this matter need to be condemned just as loud, otherwise they will win the messaging as they have with so many other issues that directly affect the poor and middle class.

    This insane notion of tax cuts for every single ill and how it is actually harming the country needs far more exposure. Unfortunately I don't hold a lot of hope of this coming about, considering the denialists that still insist that global warming is not an issue or that humans are not the cause.

    "We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." Louis Brandeis

    by wxorknot on Thu Jun 05, 2014 at 11:53:58 AM PDT

  •  Raise marginal tax rates (0+ / 0-)

    to 70% on incomes over $1,000,000 per year. This would take some of the incentive out of greedy financial manipulations on Wall Street.

    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

    by cigale on Thu Jun 05, 2014 at 02:32:19 PM PDT

  •  It’s interesting that the two curves are (0+ / 0-)

    roughly parallel: that means that the share of the second 0.5% has been roughly constant, and hence that the changes in the share of the top 1% have been mostly changes in the share of the top 0.5%.

  •  It's strange. Libertarian economics claims (0+ / 0-)

    that taxes take money out of the economy and limits growth. When all the growth in income goes to the top 1% that also limits growth. Somehow they don't understand that when government spends that tax money it grows the economy. The top 1% doesn't spend their money.

    I'm a Vietnam Era vet. I'm also an Erma Bombeck Era vet. When cussing me out and calling me names please indicate which vet you would like to respond to your world changing thoughts.

    by Just Bob on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 07:10:59 PM PDT

  •  It has been standard business practice (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Simplify

    for decades that states will bid against each other to offer businesses tax breaks of every kind in order to woo businesses to their individual state.  Now that competition has spread to wooing moneyed individuals themselves.  When there are no more taxes to lower for the rich, maybe then the rest of us will catch a break - if we haven't fallen so far into poverty we wouldn't even have to file.

    "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing" - Edmund Burke

    by SueDe on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 07:11:25 PM PDT

  •  George H. W. Bush, vindicated! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Simplify

    If only we could have "families a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons", indeed...

    it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses

    by Addison on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 07:23:43 PM PDT

  •  One of the very interesting points Piketty (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Simplify

    made Warren & Tomas Piketty discussion
    was that the current property tax system is all wrong.
    It is a good idea to tax property, but it should be based on net worth not gross evaluation. As it is now, it is a very regressive tax for most people. This problem led us to California's Prop 13  the destruction of our school system.
    The concentration of wealth led to the economic crash of 2007. fuels the climate change crisis (as Warren pointed out in the above discussion), the student loan problem,...)
    This should be the Democrat's main theme in the next two elections.

    Warren is neither a Clintonesque triangulator nor an Obamaesque conciliator. She is a throwback to a more combative progressive tradition, and her candidacy is a test of whether that approach can still appeal to voters.-J. Toobin "New Yorker"

    by chuck utzman on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 07:32:54 PM PDT

  •  The planet can't survive this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chuck utzman
    • Birth rate in poor countries
    • Expense of sustainable staples like local, organic food and efficient transportation
    • Conspicuous consumption by the super-wealthy
    • Political power of owners of resource extraction and pollution-ridden industry

    A big part of rescuing the planet is equitable economic policy, is massive wealth redistribution.

    Those currently in power will not take that lying down. They will fight for their ability to end the world, so that they might live in luxury and peace at the expense of ugliness and conflict for the rest of us and for the rest of time.

    Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

    by Simplify on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 08:00:41 PM PDT

  •  Inequality at the county lvel is very revealing. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades

    New York, aka the Borough of Manhattan, has the steepest inequality in the US. It makes sense if you know the city and think about it. Some of the suburbs around New York, like Nassau, Westchester, Fairfield (CT) are high on the list. San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo are up there.

    A surprise might be the oil patch counties where fracking has taken hold. There are quite a few of these in the 100 most unequal counties. These are mostly rural in Texas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, where there was always a population of low-income folks who are now bystanders to immense changes going on all around them.

    The most equal counties are clustered in West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, and scattered through the rest of Appalachia and the Deep South. These are some of the poorest parts of the US and it seems the population shares its poverty.

    Piketty's lesson on capital shows up in the chart MB included. See that dip near the end of the line followed by a rebound. That was the sharp drop in income from capital gains that began late in 2007 to become a full-on meltdown a year later. Don't feel bad, we're talking about a population who can sustain a 40% drop in income and still rake in 7 or 8 figures minimum. When we have data for 2013, we'll be able to see that the rich have attained new highs. As the graph shows, they've been a bit short of their high water mark before the recession hit.

  •  Income gap vs. Wealth gap (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades

    I would prefer the "wealth gap" framing of the discussion as low income is a symptom of the larger problem. In a credit society individuals can have a negative wealth. Income typically never falls below zero (wage garnishments usually can't even get near that).

    On the other hand, we now have people in their early 20s starting out their careers with severe negative wealth. They have few or no capital assets and must rely on earned income to get out of the hole.

    It is not easy to see what you are not looking for, or to know what it is you do not know.

    by kosta on Sat Jun 07, 2014 at 01:44:28 AM PDT

  •  North Carolina may be the absolute WORST (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades

    state for this. We have perhaps the worst legislature in the history of state legislatures: not only are both chambers plus the executive Republican-controlled, they are idiot-controlled. By that I mean that the rightwing Republicans in charge are, as a group, either extraordinarily stupid (and I mean stupid, not just ignorant) or purely sociopathic. Many of their seats were directly bought by Art Pope, our own little Koch Brother, and the so-called "governor" has appointed Pope to the position of budget director (although that is just the lettering on his door...in practice, Pope pretty much controls the whole place).

    Some highlights of recent economic legislation:

    • Cut top income tax rate by 25.2%, from 7.75% to 5.8%, benefiting perhaps the top 5% of taxpayers
    • Completely eliminated state estate taxes, benefiting perhaps the top 0.001%
    • Cut the income tax rate for most taxpayers by 3.3%, from 6% to 5.8%
    • Cut or eliminated corporate taxes
    • Eliminated the state Earned Income Tax Credit
    • Eliminated unemployment benefits after 13 weeks
    • Cut Medicare, refused federal funding, and kicked hundreds of thousands of working poor out of Medicaid eligibility
    • Created whole new classes of goods and services subject to sales tax, targeting items that are most consumed by the poor and middle class (mobile homes, "day-old bread" at the discount bakery, flea market sales, movie and other event tickets, service contracts and extended warranties, newspapers); these increases alone far exceed the meager 3.3% income tax cut
    • Eliminated the authority of local governments to levy business privilege taxes, forcing those local governments to raise property taxes to recover the losses
    • Attacked teachers and public education as never before, including elimination of tenure, elimination of funding for assistants, pay freezes or even cuts, and massive cuts to the state university system

    These are just off the top of my head. There are more.

    Our state truly has launched an all-out war on the working classes. The plutocracy in North Carolina is being coddled like never before.

    "Bernie Madoff's mistake was stealing from the rich. If he'd stolen from the poor he'd have a cabinet position." -OPOL

    by blue in NC on Sat Jun 07, 2014 at 04:39:12 AM PDT

  •  AN AGGRESSIVE WAY FORWARD (0+ / 0-)

    A way forward for progressive/liberal democrats
    Government is neither the all problem nor all the solution, but a large part of the solution as  
    the period from 1933 to 1973 shows.  Steps to a fairer stronger economy:
    STEP 1.  a)  pay a fair living wage to all worker around $15/h
    b)  raise social security dividend by 10%
    c)  pass a jobs/infrastructure stimulus improvement program
    d) extend unemployment insurance and/or allow citizens to begin collecting social security at an earlier age
    STEP 2.  a)  seek new sources of revenue such as a 0.05% tax on all stock and bond trades; a 0.1% on all derivative and hedge fund trades and a 0.5% tax on all short term, high speed, high frquency trades
    b)  raise social security cap to $1M with employers’ matching the first $250,000
    c)  define income as being from all sources: wages, salaries, interest, dividends, capital gains, bonuses, hudge and other funds, derivatives, and anything else which produces a yearly income.  Tax all as income at the same progressive taxing rate.
    STEP 3.  a)  eliminate all corporate campaign contributions of all types.    corporations are not people
    b)  do not elect those who wish to redistribute wealth upward by reducing taxes for the few while cutting safety net programs for the unfortunate many
    c)  always remember plants grow best when their roots are watered and feed not their leaves
    STEP 4.  a) go back to what has worked and serviced us well for over 100 years a strong public school system.  A locally (county, city, town or school) district funded by local, state and federal government.  Put the emphasis on learning not testing, but have national standards in reading, science and mathematics other subject standards can be arranged by the state and local district.
    b)  allow private schools to compete for parents money not government funding, howsoever parents should be able to deduct all school expenses and costs from their state and federal taxes.   Special private schools dealing with special and specific educational problems should be able to obtain fund from all levels of government to meet there objectives and goals.
    c)  college loan and grant programs should be funded by treasury bonds bought by the social security trust fund and paid back at a simple interest rate of one per cent (1%)/
    d) an advanced national university should be established for advance training in regulatory law, macro-economics, environmental overview and oversight and the inspection and maintenance of a variety of engineered systems.  
    Let each student and citizen become all they are capable of becoming.

  •  Interesting that the percentage of income (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades

    going to the segment  from top .6 to top 1.0 has stayed the same.  In the mid-70's, this segment was getting about 4% of national income (the gap between the top .5 and top 1.0). Today, they appear to be getting about 4-5%.

    Of course, the ,6 to 1.0 segment is still doing a lot better because real GDP has almost tripled during this time and 4% of 3x is a lot better than 4% of x.  

    Hourly workers, on the other hand are making less in inflation-adjusted dollars than they were making in the early 70s.

    For the top ,5% they are getting three times as much of national income that has also tripled (from 6% of x to 18% of 3x).  Or a 900% increase in inflation adjusted dollars.

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