One in four Americans makes less than $10 an hour, assuming they are employed full time on average working 40 hours a week. That 25 percent of the population would fall below the federal poverty level.
About a year and a half ago, the Trump Administration passed their coveted and republican backed “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” a tax reform that has now recently come to light as what it really was, a big break for the one percent. A new poll done by NBC News/The Wall Street Journal found just 17 percent of Americans believe their taxes will go down.
We are entering an unprecedented economic period where the one percent of income earners in the nation have used congressional influence to emphatically pursue growing their wealth empires. Just recently, the income inequality gap in America eclipsed its most recent peak during the great depression, pointing toward an increasing phenomena in America that I like to call income polarity.
According to a 2018 report from the Economic Policy Institute, one percent of Americans held 24 percent of all income in the nation twice during our two worst economic times: the great depression in 1928 and the great recession in 2007. In 1931 just three years later, the concentration of wealth had depreciated to 15 percent and eventually to the lowest on record of eight percent starting in 1970. In 2009 the concentration depreciated to 18 percent but in 2012 the number shot back up to 23 percent and has remained at 20 percent or higher since then. According to The Balance, in 2015, a household income report exposed how truly unequal the country currently is economically. The report stated the average household income for the top one percent is over $1.3 million and the top 0.1 percent averaged an income of over $6.7 million annually. Additionally, the top 10 percent average is just over $312,000 annually. All the while, the bottom 90 percent of American household’s averaged just over $34,000 annually. So as the rich have gotten greedier, the poor struggling for opportunity are having it squeezed away by the wealthiest of us all.
According to a 2017 Pew Research Center report that compared eleven Western European nations to the U.S., America had the smallest percentage of middle income class population while also holding the largest percentages in both the lower and upper income classes. As compared with most of modernized Europe, in America, we now have the smallest relative middle class.
The once coveted “American Dream” is now seemingly dissipating. The “American Dream” is by definition, the ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals achieved. The American Dream is a dream that Republicans have seemed to be okay with limiting the equality of access to, and quite often as noted by President Trump, use the limitations of equal chance as opportunity to justify nationalism.
This dismaying trend of income accumulation at the highest bracket of wealth earners has not just miraculously occurred, it is the result of a society that allowed specifically concentrated influence over its policies in the public sphere to be tailored to the desires of the wealthy that control influential power over politicians. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, less than 0.5 percent of the US population donated over $200 to political parties or candidates in the 2018 year, accumulating 71 percent of the total donations influencing congress.
For a long time now, American politicians have used the presence of the looming national deficit to facilitate fear mongering and adjust the perspectives of voters to prefer policy that can combat this economic nightmare . But is this really a nightmare? There are currently eight countries in the world with higher national debt to GDP ratios than the United States, including Italy, Belgium, Portugal and Japan. The rhetoric that our national debt is a paramount issue that threatens us all is not a reality yet, but if we continue to allow the one percent to grow unsustainably it will be. Our middle class will continue to shrink, and our population living in poverty will grow until the social nets we have set up to assist them grow to levels that our government will no longer be able to fund. Once the social safety nets fail, our economy would crumble and our nation would inevitably fall into economic barren with our debt becoming a much larger issue than it is today.
So as our middle class dissipates and our wealthy class grows not in size but in equity, we are faced with a growing polarity that the Trump administration refuses to address because the president is the face of the interests of the 0.1 percent nationally. After all, let us not forget Donald Trump’s first “big deal,” The Commodore which is a 40-year $400 million tax abatement that Donald Trump had his father orchestrate with the City of Manhattan during the city’s worst financial crisis in history. Trump could not come up with $250,000 at the time to secure the Commodore, but was a “good enough businessman” to scheme out $400 million dollars from New York City tax payers when they were hurting most. Some consider this good business, I consider it both unethical and unscrupulous.
Allowing tax abatements, tax code reform allowing top one percent access to increased evasions, corporate buybacks and deregulating benefiting businesses over workers is what has most genuinely led to the levels of income disparity we are experiencing today. That is where a refusal to invest in human capital, nationwide infrastructure projects and increased equity in education leaves our modern day population who cannot afford the luxuries of education. If this trend continues, we will have such a wealth-disproportionate society that workers will be forced into taking underpaid positions where they do not feel a true sense of duty or allegiance which diminishes the productivity, innovation, efficiency and quality of work throughout society.
According to the World Inequality Report of 2018, in 1980 the top one percent of US earners held approximately 11 percent of the shared national income, compared to the approximately 20 percent share of national income they are enjoying now — nearly doubling their share of income. At the same time, in 1980, the bottom 50 percent of US income earners enjoyed over 20 percent of shared national income, but in 2018 they were only yielding about 13 percent of the national income.
Rather than work to make education affordable, Republicans have ignored student debt crisis and proposed nearly $80 billion in cuts to the Pell Grant program. Rather than increase aid to impoverished peoples to afford education, job training, and health care, cuts to programs like Medicaid and SNAP have been proposed by Republicans. For too long now, has the one percent gotten its gifts every christmas, while old Saint Nick has given the poor their coal and told them to be coal miners. Don’t forget that Republicans sold this tax cut as a benefit for the middle class individuals and families across the country.
Eighty-three percent of the 1.9 trillion was projected to go to the top one percent of the population according to an economic report from Moody’s. Republicans sat down to make tax reform with the thought that the previous code was asking too much for the ultra rich while at the same time deducing that the middle and lower classes required no additional help.
If we continue to refuse to address the growing costs of education, continue to progress the businesses interests over workers and ignore the need to increase our educational equity, we will continue to fall behind as a country both in the sense of overall education level and innovativeness, but also our problems of inequality will be exacerbated.
Nick Shook is a senior studying political science pre-law at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Let Nick know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.