Interesting numbers from the New York Times:
The top 1 percent includes about 1.13 million households earning an average income of $2.1 million.
Raising their total tax burden to, say, 40 percent would generate about $157 billion in revenue the first year. Increasing it to 45 percent brings in a whopping $276 billion. Even taking account of state and local taxes, the average household in this group would still take home at least $1 million a year.
If the tax increase were limited to just the 115,000 households in the top 0.1 percent, with an average income of $9.4 million, a 40 percent tax rate would produce $55 billion in extra revenue in its first year.
That would more than cover, for example, the estimated $47 billion cost of eliminating undergraduate tuition at all the country’s four-year public colleges and universities, as Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed, or Mrs. Clinton’s cheaper plan for a debt-free college degree, with money left over to help fund universal prekindergarten.
Read more here.
Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz writes:
A rich country with millions of poor people. A country that prides itself on being the land of opportunity, but in which a child’s prospects are more dependent on the income and education of his or her parents than in other advanced countries. A country that believes in fair play, but in which the richest often pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than those less well off. A country in which children every day pledge allegiance to the flag, asserting that there is “justice for all,” but in which, increasingly, there is only justice for those who can afford it. These are the contradictions that the United States is gradually and painfully struggling to come to terms with as it begins to comprehend the enormity of the inequalities that mark its society.
Read more here.
S&P makes another important connection:
Extending our analysis to public finance, we find that income inequality is undermining the rate of state tax revenue growth.
For the report, see here.
For press coverage, see here.
When corporations avoid taxes, investment banks take their cut:
Investment banks are estimated to have collected, or will soon collect, nearly $1 billion in fees over the last three years advising and persuading American companies to move the address of their headquarters abroad (without actually moving). With seven- and eight-figure fees up for grabs, Wall Street bankers — and lawyers, consultants and accountants — have been promoting such deals, known as inversions, to some of the biggest companies in the country, including the American drug giant Pfizer.
Just last week, President Obama criticized these types of transactions, calling the companies engaged in them “corporate deserters.” “My attitude,” he said, “is I don’t care if it’s legal. It’s wrong.”
Quiz for today: who said this?
The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power.
Answer: Teddy Roosevelt in a 1910 speech in Osawatomie, Kansas. Paul Krugman quotes Roosevelt to make the case that taxing the rich to safeguard democracy is as American as apple pie. Krugman also quotes Irving Fisher’s 1919 presidential address to the American Economics Association, warning of the dangers of “an undemocratic concentration of wealth.”
“How,” Krugman asks,” did such views not only get pushed out of the mainstream, but come to be considered illegitimate?”
Good question. Krugman’s conclusion is right on the money:
[T]he demonization of anyone who talks about the dangers of concentrated wealth is based on a misreading of both the past and the present. Such talk isn’t un-American; it’s very much in the American tradition.
Read his column here.
That’s the question posed by Senator Elizabeth Warren. She will introduce a bill to levy a minimum tax on incomes above $1 million (known as the “Buffet rule”), and devote the revenue to lowering interest payments on student debt:
Warren’s plan would allow students with outstanding student loans to refinance at lower rates. The cost of the change would be covered by a “dollar for dollar” effort where for “every dollar the Buffet rule brings in, we use that dollar to refinance student loan debt.”
Learn more here.
Jeffrey Sachs writes that investing in our future will require new tax revenues, along with reined-in war spending and real health care reform:
Much as conservatives hate to admit it, the landslide election of Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York City may prefigure the start of a new swing of the national political pendulum as well. He won a resounding victory, in part by calling for a small rise in taxes to fund preschool education, a major reform that would help relieve the disadvantages faced by poorer children. The recent meeting of mayors at the White House may give a hint of possible local pressures for increased public investments and public services. We’ve been on a thirty-year course of diminished public investments in our future. The dismal results are plain to see.
Read his piece here.
In his classic novel Animal Farm, George Orwell famously wrote that “some are more equal than others.” Turns out the same is true for public education in the United States. Eduardo Porter’s column in the Times explains why America’s educational playing field is far from level:
The United States is one of few advanced nations where schools serving better-off children usually have more educational resources than those serving poor students, according to research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Among the 34 O.E.C.D. nations, only in the United States, Israel and Turkey do disadvantaged schools have lower teacher/student ratios than in those serving more privileged students.
Andreas Schleicher, who runs the O.E.C.D.’s international educational assessments, put it to me this way: “The bottom line is that the vast majority of O.E.C.D. countries either invest equally into every student or disproportionately more into disadvantaged students. The U.S. is one of the few countries doing the opposite.”
Read his piece here.
Bill Gross, managing director of the investment firm PIMCO, urges the 1% to get some common economic sense:
1) Growth depends on investment and investment in part depends on an equitable rebalancing of personal income taxes, capital gains and carried interest.
2) The era of taxing “capital” at lower rates than “labor” should end.
3) Investors in the U.S. and elsewhere must look for investment in the real economy, not share buy-back maneuvers that artificially elevate stock prices.
Read his blog on the “Scrooge McDucks” of the world and the need for real tax reform here.