PROGRESSIVE PERSPECTIVE: U.S. plutocracy rigged against working poor


Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

In this Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015 file photo, Terry cleans out his tent at a large homeless encampment, near downtown St. Louis.

Due to the endlessly corrupting infection of big money in politics, the American economy is rigged against poor and working people in favor of wealthy elites, and this reality is all but undeniable.

In a damning indictment of any remaining hope for “The American Dream,” absurdly wealthy billionaires in the U.S., for the first time in more than a century, pay a lower tax rate than their country’s struggling working class, a recent analysis revealed.

The analysis, conducted by economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, revealed the richest 400 families in the country paid an effective tax rate of about 23%, in 2018, while the bottom half of Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck, struggling to survive and provide for their families, paid over 24%.

“(The U.S. tax system) looks like the tax system of a plutocracy,” the economists said.

Put most simply, plutocracy can be defined as government of, by and for wealthy elites—a clear antithesis to the system the vast majority of Americans have been made to believe their country represents and has always represented.

As President Trump boldly and loudly proclaimed his tax bill served only to benefit the poor and working Americans his campaign focused on winning over, behind closed doors he signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which Saez and Zucman point to as the tipping point into American plutocracy.

In contrast to the 23% paid in taxes by ultra-wealthy Americans today, during most the country’s periods of economic flourishing, the same group of people have paid upwards of 50%. From 1950 to 1980, ultra-wealthy Americans paid more than double the rate they pay today, at about 50%. In the 1950s and 1960s, the top income tax rate in the country was 91%; today it is just 43%.

Furthermore, American economic growth throughout history has regularly occurred during moments when the wealthiest Americans claimed roughly 10% of national income, and its worst moments, like the Great Depression, were accompanied by the wealthy 1% hoarding close to 25% of collective income. Today, the wealthiest 1% of Americans rake in roughly 23% of the country’s income annually.

Meanwhile, the country’s entire mainstream media and popular political discourse have remained bull’s-eye-focused on a doomed impeachment scandal that reveals little more than a deep, decadent bipartisan corruption amongst corporate political elites of both major parties.

As a result, most Americans reading newspapers or watching news shows on television today are aware of little more than that the president, at some point, for some reason, made vaguely inappropriate yet far from unprecedented requests during a phone call with a foreign leader.

The analysis regarding the corruption and death of the U.S.’s supposedly progressive tax system is infinitely more influential in the lives of everyday Americans than the destined-to-fail impeachment scandal is or ever will be, yet it has received only a fraction of media coverage, including from media outlets claiming to be in opposition to the president’s agenda.

It is an unquestionable failure of mainstream corporate media that so few Americans are aware of just how blatantly and absurdly they are being ripped off and abandoned by their government officials and representatives, only so the wealthiest 400 families in the country can further avoid paying their fair share in taxes to give others a chance at success.

Even more reflective of such blatant injustices is the reality that since the infamous Wall Street crash in 2008, nearly 50% of all American income has gone into the bank accounts and pockets of the country’s wealthiest 1% of citizens. This fact has been highlighted throughout the campaign trail of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who recently announced plans to cut in half the wealth of American billionaires within 15 years.

Last month, Sanders tweeted, “There should be no billionaires. We are going to tax their extreme wealth and invest in working people.”

Sanders’ campaign has also drawn attention to the reality that, over the past 30 years, the richest 1% of Americans have seen their wealth increase by a total of $21 trillion, as the poorest half of the country have experienced their wealth plummet by more than $900 billion.

The devastating impacts of such a regressive, dysfunctional tax system and economy cannot be overstated, and it is shameful that so few Americans are aware of the grave, gross injustices being inflicted upon them by government officials meant to represent their interests.

American politicians have sold out everyone except those already possessing obscene wealth, and most mainstream news media are failing on purpose to inform the masses, blinded by their profit-driven sensationalist tendencies tailored toward opposing President Trump’s corruption on solely surface-level terms.

Douglas Harding can be contacted at [email protected].