Sunday, February 17, 2019

America's Inequality

The top 1% own 40% of the nation’s wealth. The US has 26% of the world’s 2208 billionaires, including 12 of the top 15. The three wealthiest Americans have more wealth than the entire bottom half of the US population. 

Meanwhile, those in that bottom half struggle to get by. 39.7 million (or 12.3% of) Americans live below the poverty line, including 17.5% of all children under 18. Tens of millions of others live barely above it. 78.8% percent of all Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and 71% are in debt. On any given night an estimated 554,00 Americans are homeless.

The US’s ranking is 108th out of 140 countries in the Happy Planet Index.

The wealthiest .01% of taxpayers contributed 29% of all campaign dollars. In 2018, one donor alone gave $122,250,000 (and was rewarded by his wife being given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest honor).

In the 2000s, when Republicans in Congress wanted to reduce or eliminate the federal tax on wealthy estates (commonly called the “estate tax”), Luntz advised Republicans to use the term “death tax” instead. Although the tax applied to only a tiny percentage of the US population – the word “death” misled many ordinary Americans into thinking it applied to them. This gave the term “death tax” powerful traction, with the result that since 2000 the number of estates having to pay the tax was pared from 52,000 in that year down to only 5,000 in 2017, and Republican politicians want to eliminate it entirely.

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