17 August 2004

And a slim slice for you...

The Washington Post Express reports today that during the last two decades:

  • The income gap has steadily grown.
  • Those who own homes and stocks have gotten the most tax breaks.
  • Those at the middle and bottom of the pay scale have less buying power.
  • After the heavy job losses (2.6 million!) under Shrub, a million jobs have been recovered but these tend to be low paying with fewer benefits.

The wealthiest 20% of households in 1973 ate up a healthy 44% of total U.S. income, but then gobbled up 50% in 2002 while everyone else's share fell! The bottom fifth's share fell from 4.2 to 3.5%.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, "For the bottom four quintiles, the effective individual income tax rate turns upward in 2004." The current CBO report also states that, "The differential increase in effective tax rates among quintiles is reflected in a shift down the income distribution in shares of taxes paid. The share of taxes paid by the top quintile falls from 65.3 percent in 2001 to 62.8 percent in 2014, even though that group's share of income does not change. Four-fifths of that decline occurs for the top 1 percent of taxpayers, whose share falls by 2 percentage points, to 20.7 percent of federal taxes in 2014. The share of taxes paid by each of the middle three quintiles climbs by about 0.7 percentage points."

As the cheerleaders for our leader are wont to remind us: Things are getting BETTER! For the top fifth of the population, that is.

One constant meme in the blogosphere (e.g., Vinod's blog) and in less erudite realms is the idea that the standard of living has moved up and this is what really matters. I have a few doubts about this (The quality of life, after all, goes both up and down depending on what area one looks at.) But even if this argument has a kernel of truth, the fact is that money buys people political clout, social acceptance, and allows one to live in a neighborhood with good schools. Some very solid research suggests that we shouldn't be overly complacent about the rich-poor gap. Kevin Phillips, for example, mentions that poverty (even "relative" poverty) is associated with higher mortality rates.

From the Trenches has a related post on how perceptions that fly in the face of rosey economic numbers may in fact be accurate.

Jim Gilliam (see my links) has the following numbers recently released by the Congressional Budget Office concerning the percentage change in the tax burden by average income:

$1,100,000: -2.1%
$182,700: -0.9%
$75,600: +0.8%
$51,500: +0.2%
$34,200: -0.1%
$14,900: -0.1%

Evidently, when the Shrub folk refer to tax-cuts benefitting the middle-class, they're talking about the average Joe who's making a million a year. It makes me feel good. I ain't so average after all!

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