Income Inequality News StoriesExcerpts of Key Income Inequality News Stories in Major Media
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Millions of American families fell into poverty last year as the well of government-funded pandemic aid dried up and incomes shrank, according to new data from the U.S. Census. Children were particularly hard-hit, with the poverty rate for kids doubling compared with 2021. The rise in poverty amounts to an increase of 15.3 million people around the U.S. living in poverty. Rising inflation [has] hobbled many households. Last year also marked the end of all pandemic-era benefits that helped families stay afloat during the health crisis, such as stimulus checks and the Child Tax Credit, which distributed as much as $300 per child in cash payments. The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which measures whether people have enough resources to cover their needs, was 12.4% for U.S. households in 2022, an increase of 4.6 percentage points from a year earlier, the Census said on Tuesday. The child poverty rate, as measured by the SPM, jumped from a historic low of 5.2% in 2021 to 12.4% in 2022, the Census said. That's the largest change in child poverty since the Census began tracking the SPM in 2009, Census officials said. If the expanded Child Tax Credit had been renewed, about 3 million additional children would have been kept out of poverty last year. U.S. households also earned less last year, the Census said. The median household income in 2022 was $74,580, a decline of 2.3% from 2021 and the third year in a row that incomes have dipped.
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Ray, a man in his 50s, used to live in an emergency homeless shelter in Vancouver, Canada. Then he participated in a study that changed his life. The newly published, peer reviewed PNAS study, conducted by the charity Foundations for Social Change in partnership with the University of British Columbia, was fairly simple. It identified 50 people in the Vancouver area who had become homeless in the past two years. In spring 2018, it gave them each one lump sum of $7,500 (in Canadian dollars). And it told them to do whatever they wanted with the cash. Over the next year, the study followed up with the recipients periodically, asking how they were spending the money and what was happening in their lives. The recipients of the cash transfers did not increase spending on drugs, tobacco, and alcohol, but did increase spending on food, clothes, and rent. What's more, they moved into stable housing faster and saved enough money to maintain financial security over the year of follow-up. "Counter to really harmful stereotypes, we saw that people made wise financial choices," Claire Williams, the CEO of Foundations for Social Change, [said]. What's more ... giving out the cash transfers in the Vancouver area actually saved the broader society money. Enabling 50 people to move into housing faster saved the shelter system $8,277 per person over the year, for a total savings of $413,850. That's more than the value of the cash transfers, which means the transfers pay for themselves.
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The cashless society is effectively already a reality for most of us, but there remains a minority for whom it represents a continuing headache. The government last week told high street banks that they must offer access to cash machines within three miles of customers after the closure of thousands of branches had reduced the number of ATMs. There are also an estimated to be 1.3 million adults in this country who are "unbanked" – ie do not have a bank account. For them, something as mundane as parking a car is increasingly fraught – a quarter of London councils have removed pay and display parking machines in favour of smartphone-centred apps. The shiny, bright future of full computerisation looks very much like a dystopia to someone who either doesn't understand it or have the means to access it. And almost by definition, the people who can't access the digitalised world are seldom visible, because absence is not easy to see. What is apparent is that improved efficiency doesn't necessarily lead to greater wellbeing. Technology doesn't have to be dehumanising, but if it's to avoid that outcome it has to be human-focused, not just consumer-focused, and in particular not just digital-consumer-focused. Cash, like printed air tickets or indeed train tickets, will no doubt one day soon seem as anachronistic as the barter system. In the meantime the transition should focus on ensuring that no one is discounted because they are too old, too poor or too disabled to matter to the gods of efficiency.
The pressure to repay debts is forcing poor nations to continue investing in fossil fuel projects to make their repayments on what are usually loans from richer nations and financial institutions, according to new analysis from the anti-debt campaigners Debt Justice and partners in affected countries. The group is calling for creditors to cancel all debts for countries facing crisis – and especially those linked to fossil fuel projects. "High debt levels are a major barrier to phasing out fossil fuels for many global south countries," said Tess Woolfenden, a senior policy officer at Debt Justice. "Many countries are trapped exploiting fossil fuels to generate revenue to repay debt while, at the same time, fossil fuel projects often do not generate the revenues expected and can leave countries further indebted than when they started. This toxic trap must end." According to the report, the debt owed by global south countries has increased by 150% since 2011 and 54 countries are in a debt crisis, having to spend five times more on repayments than on addressing the climate crisis. Sharda Ganga, the director of the Surinamese civil society group Projekta, said ... "The reality is that this is the new form of colonialism – we have exchanged one ruler for the rule of our creditors who basically already own what is ours. The difference is this time we signed the deal ourselves."
Ever since Bobbie Wert was 8 years old, her stomach has ached. Wert is part of a vast and mysterious panorama of pain that is increasing, sometimes with no obvious physical cause. And while chronic pain is a global problem, it is particularly puzzling in America. In other wealthy countries, it's the elderly who report the most chronic pain, which makes some sense. But in the United States it's the middle-aged – especially the jobless and people like Wert, who did not graduate from high school – who suffer the most. It is a plague on the less educated. All this raises the question: Is this physical suffering a canary in the coal mine warning us of larger dysfunction in our society? Chronic pain is not just a result of car accidents and workplace injuries but is also linked to troubled childhoods, loneliness, job insecurity and a hundred other pressures on working families. "People's lives are coming apart, and this leads to huge increases in physical pain," said Angus Deaton, a Nobel Prize winner in economics who with Anne Case popularized the term "deaths of despair." Americans die from deaths of despair – drugs, alcohol and suicide – at a rate of more than a quarter-million a year, and the number of walking wounded is far greater. Acute pain typically has a specific anatomical source – such as the shock you feel when you touch a hot stove – while chronic pain sometimes, not always, originates in the brain rather than the body.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on health from reliable major media sources. Then explore the excellent, reliable resources provided in our Health Information Center.
The centibillionaire club–those with over $100 billion in wealth–likely will be welcoming a new member soon. Forbes now estimates Michael Bloomberg's wealth at $94.5 billion, making him the sixth richest American. If his wealth continues to grow at the rate it's grown since 2013, Michael Bloomberg will join the centibillionaire club by the end of the year. At that point, he will be the 10th American to have reached that wealth level. Forty years ago, the mere billionaire club had just 13 members, and Daniel Ludwig, the richest American at the time, had a total wealth (adjusted for inflation) of $6.15 billion. Today, $1 billion of wealth in one person's hands often means far too much political power, but that astounding amount of money is now considered a rounding error in the context of America's largest fortunes. America's 20 richest billionaires spent more than the entire Biden campaign on the 2020 elections. According to political scientists Jeffrey Winters and Benjamin Page, the political influence of each of the 400 richest Americans is 22,000 times that of the average member of the bottom 90%. What all Americans whose wealth has passed the $100 billion threshold have in common ... is tax avoidance. Between 2013 and 2018, none made federal income tax payments greater than 11% of their wealth growth–and all but two paid less than 5%. Even Ronald Reagan recognized that it's "crazy" for a society to tax a bus driver at a higher rate than a millionaire.
Note: The pandemic response sharply increased the wealth of billionaires. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on income inequality from reliable major media sources.
The neoliberal globalizing paradigm is now the old. Economic nationalism is the new. Neoliberal globalization ... celebrated the profits and growth brought to both private and state-owned/operated enterprises around the world. It downplayed or ignored the other sides of globalization: (1) growing income and wealth inequalities; (2) the shift of production from old to new centers of capitalism; and (3) faster growth of output and markets in new centers than old centers. Instead of a mostly private capitalist system (like that of the U.S. or UK) or a mostly state capitalist system (like that of the USSR), places like China and India produced hybrids. Strong national governments presided over coexisting large private and state sectors to maximize economic growth. The days of the U.S. dollar as the supreme global currency are numbered. U.S. supremacy in high-tech industries must already be shared with China's high-tech industries. The U.S. empire's decline raises the question of what comes next. The most interesting possibility and perhaps the likeliest is that China and the entire BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) grouping of nations will undertake the construction and maintenance of a new world economy. The war in Ukraine has already enhanced the prospects of such an outcome by strengthening the BRICS alliance. They have the population, resources, productive capacity, connections, and accumulated solidarity to be a new pole for world economic development.
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According to the World Health Organization definition, 1.9 billion adults are considered overweight. Of these, more than 650 million people are classified as obese. In Australia, health authorities suggest being overweight is more dangerous to us than alcohol, and only second in "preventable health risk" to smoking. ABS health data claims 67% of Australian adults are overweight, an increase on 63.4% a decade ago. Last year, Australia's former conservative government released a "National Obesity Strategy", concerned Australia was facing health risks of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancers. That government did recognise weight is influenced by complex "social, environmental, and economic factors", but their framework of encouraging "healthy choices" as a remedy unhelpfully individualises a collective problem. First, shaming individuals into weight loss doesn't work. 95% of weight loss attempts fail. Two-thirds of dieters regain the weight they lose. Second, the structural giveaway here is an admission that the poorest "experience the greatest burden of disease linked to excess weight". Our societies have never produced so much food, yet we live in a capitalist perversion where fresh, healthy food – and the time to prepare it – are priced as a luxury, while highly processed items are inexpensive, easy and aggressively mass-marketed. It's not a failure of collective willpower that's jeopardising our health, but a diet of bad food that's culturally familiar, low in nutrition and super available.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on food system corruption from reliable major media sources.
According to Oxfam's annual inequality report, released to coincide with the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos, the richest 1% of people have captured nearly twice as much new wealth as the rest of the world combined since the pandemic. Their fortune soared by $26tn, increasing their share of new wealth from 50% to two-thirds. The breakdown of these figures exposes how on a global basis, extreme wealth is accumulated not by innovating or increasing production, but by taking advantage of rising prices and exploiting labour. This has been happening for a while, but the pandemic accelerated the trend. Rich people benefited from everything – every positive intervention from the state and negative impact of the crisis somehow still ended up increasing their wealth. They benefited from rising costs by using them as an alibi to charge higher-than-inflation prices, then distributing the rewards as dividends instead of higher wages. Food and energy corporations made a killing, making $306bn in windfall profits in 2022, then distributing 84% to shareholders. Wealthy people have used their wealth to purchase democracy, to warp democracy in their own interests. They've done that through a global template that involves lowering taxes, privatising formerly public attempts to deal with common problems, liquidating the spending that went into things like social services, and then putting that money into their own pockets. The system ... is rigged.
Douglas Rushkoff's new book, "Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires," opens with a surreal scene: For a fee equal to one-third of his annual salary as a professor, Rushkoff flies to a luxurious resort to advise five ultrawealthy men on how to survive the collapse of civilization. More terrifying than the men's Hollywood-derived nightmares is their naive and profoundly antisocial response: They'd rather optimize their bunkers than work to avert the apocalypse. While few have the means to indulge dystopian fantasies so lavishly, the men are an extreme instance of a broader trend. Bunker sales in America are soaring, and the market now caters to a range of income levels, from $40,000 starter bunkers to a nearly $10 million Luxury Series "Aristocrat" that offers a pool and a bowling lane. Many people now seem fixated on stockpiling enough money to protect themselves from the rest of the world, rather than considering the sort of world they are creating by making money in these ways. Rushkoff ... calls this dynamic the "Insulation Equation." Anyone who asks some version of the question – can I earn enough money doing X to insulate myself from the effects of doing X – is considering the Insulation Equation. The Insulation Equation is a provocative and illuminating concept, and Rushkoff devotes much of the book to tracing the manifestations and origins of a mind-set that seduces people into believing they can insulate themselves from harms they help create.
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Job growth and wages are slowing. This is music to the ears of Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell, because the Fed blames inflation on rising wages. The Fed has been increasing interest rates to slow the economy and thereby reduce the bargaining power of workers to get wage gains. But aren't higher wages a good thing? The typical American worker's wage has been stuck in the mud for four decades. Most of the gains from a more productive economy have been going to the top – to executives and investors. The richest 10% of Americans now own more than 90% of the value of shares of stock owned by Americans. Powell's solution to inflation is to clobber workers even further. But if the demand for workers exceeds the supply, isn't the answer to pay workers more? Not according to Powell and the Fed. Their answer is to continue to raise interest rates to slow the economy and put more people out of work, so workers can't get higher wages. The Fed projects that as it continues to increase interest rates, unemployment will rise to 4.6% by the end of 2023 – resulting in more than 1m job losses. The problem isn't that wages are rising. The real problem is that corporations have the power to pass those wage increases – along with record profit margins – on to consumers in the form of higher prices. If corporations had to compete vigorously for consumers, they wouldn't be able to do this. Competitors would charge lower prices and grab those consumers away.
Note: The above was written by former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and income inequality from reliable major media sources.
Oxfam has called for immediate action to tackle a post-Covid widening in global inequality after revealing that almost two-thirds of the new wealth amassed since the start of the pandemic has gone to the richest 1%. In [a] report to coincide with the annual gathering of the global elite at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the charity said the best-off had pocketed $26tn (Ł21tn) in new wealth up to the end of 2021. That represented 63% of the total new wealth, with the rest going to the remaining 99% of people. Oxfam said extreme concentrations of wealth led to weaker growth, corrupted politics and the media, corroded democracy and led to political polarisation. The report called on governments to introduce immediate one-off wealth levies on the richest 1%, together with windfall taxes to clamp down on profiteering during the global cost of living crisis. Subsequently, there should be a permanent increase in taxes on rich. In support of its call for redistribution of wealth, Oxfam said: Food and energy companies had more than doubled their profits in 2022, paying out $257bn to wealthy shareholders at a time when more than 800 million people were going hungry. Only 4 cents in every dollar of tax revenue came from wealth taxes, and half the world's billionaires lived in countries with no inheritance tax. A tax of up to 5% on the world's multimillionaires and billionaires could raise $1.7tn a year, enough to lift 2 billion people out of poverty, and fund a global plan to end hunger.
The most important economic and political issues facing this country are the extraordinary levels of income and wealth inequality, the rapidly growing concentration of ownership, the long-term decline of the American middle class and the evolution of this country into oligarchy. We know how important these issues are because our ruling class works overtime to prevent them from being seriously discussed. We now have more income and wealth inequality than at any time in the last hundred years. Wages ... are lower today than they were almost 50 years ago. When I was a kid growing up, most families were able to be supported by one breadwinner. Now an overwhelming majority of households need two paychecks to survive. Since 1975, there has been a massive redistribution of wealth in America that has gone in exactly the wrong direction. Over the past 47 years, according to the Rand Corporation, $50tn in wealth has been redistributed from the bottom 90% of American society to the top 1%, primarily because a growing percentage of corporate profits has been flowing into the stock portfolios of the wealthy and the powerful. During this terrible pandemic ... some 700 billionaires in America became nearly $2tn richer. Just three Wall Street firms (Blackrock, Vanguard and State Street) control assets of over $20tn and are the major stockholders in 96% of S&P 500 companies. In terms of media, some eight multinational media conglomerates control what we see, hear and read.
Note: The above was written by Sen. Bernie Sanders. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on income inequality from reliable major media sources.
The audit rate for Americans earning more than $5 million a year plunged to just over 2% in 2019 from over 16% in 2010, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office, a federal watchdog. The report estimated that taxpayers underreported their income tax by a combined $245 billion a year between 2011 and 2013, and said that "taxpayers are more likely to voluntarily comply with the tax laws if they believe their return may be audited." The main reason for the decline, according to the report, is a lack of IRS funding. In fiscal year 2021, the agency's budget was $11.9 billion – $200 million less than its 2010 budget. The IRS also has seen its staffing levels fall to the same levels as 1973. The decline in funding and auditors means that taxpayers, and especially the top earners, are far less likely to get caught underpaying their taxes than a decade ago. Overall audit rates for American taxpayers fell to 0.2% in 2019 from 0.9% in 2010. The wealthy are still audited at a higher rate than the general taxpayer population. Yet their audit rates have declined at a much higher rate. The audit rate for taxpayers earning between $5 million and $10 million fell to 1.4% from 13.5%. Those earning more than $10 million saw their audit rate fall to 3.9% in 2019 from 21.2% in 2010, while audit rates for $10 million-plus earners ticked up slightly for the 2017 and 2018 tax years due to a Treasury Department mandate to impose audit rates of at least 8% on those making $10 million or more.
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Whether dodging taxes or legal peril, wealthy Americans often succeed in concealing assets from the government by hiding their money in offshore bank accounts. Research from the IRS and a group of economists last year found that the top 1% of earners in the U.S. neglect to report 20% of their income – and that random audits almost never detect offshore accounts. Tax havens like Switzerland or the Cayman Islands have traditionally offered Americans a place to hide their assets because they fiercely guard financial privacy and have minimal to no taxes. Often, they also have laws that inhibit scrutiny from foreign tax officials. Prior to his latest book, [author Patrick Radden] Keefe published "Empire of Pain," which chronicled the billionaire Sackler family's connection to the nation's opioid epidemic. The Sacklers, the notorious family that owned the now bankrupt Purdue Pharma, reportedly have much of their wealth hidden in offshore accounts. An audit commissioned by Purdue showed the family withdrew more than $10 billion from their company during the opioid crisis, CNN reported in October 2020. They began drawing especially large amounts of money from the firm after paying $600 million in a 2007 plea deal with the Justice Department for misleading physicians and consumers about the opioid OxyContin, CNN reported. "The kind of sophistication of the whole industry of financial dissimulation ... such that nobody can put their hands on the money, is really interesting." Keefe told Yahoo Finance.
Note: A 2015 Guardian newspaper article further describes how the US helps the super-rich hide assets. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of financial industry corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Social scientists have made it a priority in recent years to understand upward mobility. Money itself is ... important. Other factors – like avoiding eviction, having access to good medical care and growing up in a household with two parents – may also make upward mobility more likely. Now there is another intriguing factor to add to the list, thanks to a study ... in the academic journal Nature: friendships with people who are not poor. "Growing up in a community connected across class lines improves kids' outcome," [said] Raj Chetty ... one of the study's four principal authors. The study ... compares two otherwise similar children in lower-income households – one who grows up in a community where social contacts mostly come from the lower half of the socioeconomic distribution, and another who grows up in a community where social contacts mostly come from the upper half. The average difference between the two, in terms of their expected adult outcomes, is significant. It's the same as the gap between a child who grows up in a family that makes $27,000 a year and one who grows up in a family that makes $47,000. There seem to be three main mechanisms by which cross-class friendships can increase a person's chances of escaping poverty. The first is raised ambition: Social familiarity can give people a clearer sense of what's possible. The second is basic information, such as how to apply to college and for financial aid. The third is networking, such as getting a recommendation for an internship.
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Pension funds, investment firms and Wall Street banks are snapping up family homes in Europe and the United States at a rapid pace as prices rocket higher. At the same time, the soaring cost of home ownership means that growing numbers of younger Americans and Brits renting rather than buying houses as they start families. Some of them may find their next landlord is based on Wall Street or in London's financial district. Analysts argue that this will improve standards in the rental sector. But some tenants who rent from corporate landlords dispute this, alleging substandard services and excessive rent increases. If investors are hoovering up existing properties that would otherwise have been sold to individuals, that could squeeze out first-time buyers. Household incomes in the United States and United Kingdom have not kept pace with rising home values in recent years, a trend made worse by the pandemic, which has sent average house prices in both markets to record highs. Invitation Homes, America's biggest single-family home leasing company with some 81,000 houses, is currently facing two lawsuits brought by tenants in California and Maryland who claim that the company's late rent fees constitute illegal penalties under state laws. Current and former tenants of the company ... painted a picture of an uncaring landlord, slow to make repairs and quick to threaten eviction when rent payments are overdue or withheld because of unresolved maintenance issues.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been good for the wallets of the wealthy. Some 573 people have joined the billionaire ranks since 2020, bringing the worldwide total to 2,668, according to an analysis released by Oxfam on Sunday. That means a new billionaire was minted about every 30 hours, on average, so far during the pandemic. The report, which draws on data compiled by Forbes, looks at the rise of inequality over the past two years. It is timed to coincide with the kickoff of the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, a gathering of some of the wealthiest people and world leaders. Billionaires have seen their total net worth soar by $3.8 trillion, or 42%, to $12.7 trillion during the pandemic. A large part of the increase has been fueled by strong gains in the stock markets, which was aided by governments injecting money into the global economy. Much of the jump in wealth came in the first year of the pandemic. It then plateaued and has since dropped a bit. At the same time, Covid-19, growing inequality and rising food prices could push as many as 263 million people into extreme poverty this year. Billionaires in the food and agribusiness sector have seen their total wealth increase by $382 billion, or 45%, over the past two years, after adjusting for inflation. Some 62 food billionaires were created since 2020. Forty new pandemic billionaires were created in the pharmaceutical industry, which has been at the forefront of the battle against Covid-19 and the beneficiary of billions in public funding.
After her longtime partner died of kidney cancer, federal agents knocked on Gail Deckman's door outside Chicago and told her she was in trouble: She had kept thousands of dollars in Social Security disability benefits that should have stopped when he died. The inspector general's office, which investigates disability fraud and tries to recoup money for the government, ultimately charged her $119,392 – nearly three times what she received in error. The inflated fees were set in motion during the Trump administration, when attorneys in charge of a little-known anti-fraud program run by the inspector general's office levied unprecedented fines against Deckman and more than 100 other beneficiaries without due process. The escalating penalties created a giant jump – at least on paper – in the amount of money the inspector general could show lawmakers it was bringing in. A Chicago woman was fined $132,000 after wrongly receiving as much as $10,618 in benefits. A Denver woman was sanctioned $168,000 after cashing as much as $14,960 in wrongly received checks. The remarkable penalties led to tumult inside the Office of Inspector General Gail Ennis, where a whistleblower was targeted for retaliation, according to a ruling this month. [Deborah] Shaw testified that she was shocked when she was directed in early 2019 to issue a penalty of $176,000 to a woman who had already written a check for $26,000 to repay the government the entire amount she had wrongly received in disability benefits.
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The wage gap between chief executives and workers at some of the US companies with the lowest-paid staff grew even wider last year, with CEOs making an average of $10.6m, while the median worker received $23,968. A study of 300 top US companies released by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) on Tuesday found the average gap between CEO and median worker pay jumped to 670-to-1. The ratio was up from 604-to-1 in 2020. Forty-nine firms had ratios above 1,000-to-1. At more than a third of the companies surveyed, IPS found that median worker pay did not keep pace with inflation. The report ... comes amid a wave of unionization efforts among low wage workers and growing scrutiny of the huge share buyback programs many corporations have been using to inflate their share prices. US companies announced plans to buy back more than $300bn of their own shares in the first quarter of the year and Goldman Sachs has estimated that buybacks could top $1tn in 2022. Share-related remuneration makes up the largest portion of senior executive compensation and as buybacks generally boost a company's share price, they also boost executive pay. The biggest buyback firm was home improvement chain Lowe's, which spent $13bn on share repurchases. That money could have given each of its 325,000 employees a $40,000 raise. Instead, median pay at the company fell 7.6% to $22,697. IPS noted that many of the companies in its sample were also the recipients of large federal government contracts.
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