War Against Equality: Over the Past Year, the Income of the USA’s Top .001% Increased by 636%

December 17th, 2017 - by admin

teleSUR & The Huffington Post – 2017-12-17 23:56:46


Report: Income of World’s Top .001% Skyrockets by 636%

(December 15, 2017) — Global Economic Inequality is surging, further widening the pay gap between the haves and have-nots, according to a new World Inequality report.

The report highlights the growing gulf between the haves and the have-nots, and was compiled by five economists, including scholars Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty. The top .001 percent of earners in the United States, consisting of almost 1,300 households, have seen their earnings skyrocket by 636 percent in the past 12 months.

Meanwhile, the average annual income for the bottom 50 percent of earners has stayed constant at $16,000 over the last four decades, adjusting for inflation. In 2016, the richest one percent of US residents held 39 percent of the country’s wealth: 15 percent more than they controlled in 1980.

“In 2016, the share of total national income accounted for by just that nation’s top 10% earners (top 10% income share) was 37% in Europe, 41% in China, 46% in Russia, 47% in the US-Canada, and around 55% in sub-Saharan Africa, Brazil and India,” the report revealed. “In the Middle East, the world’s most unequal region according to our estimates, the top 10% capture 61% of national income.”

The news comes a day after the WHO and the World Bank reported that nearly 100 million people are forced to choose between healthcare or food and basic living amenities due to extreme poverty.

“Some 800 million people spend more than 10 percent of their household budget on health care, and almost 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty each year because of out-of-pocket health expenses,” the WHO-World Bank study noted.

“Recent research shows that there can be an enormous gap between the public discourse about equal opportunity and the reality of unequal access to education,” the Economic Inequality report concludes.

“Democratic access to education can achieve much, but without mechanisms to ensure that people at the bottom of the distribution have access to well-paying jobs, education will not prove sufficient to tackle inequality. Better representation of workers in corporate governance bodies, and healthy minimum-wage rates are important tools to achieve this.”

A November report published by Credit Suisse revealed that an alarming 50 percent of the world’s wealth is controlled by just one percent of the global population.

The income gap in the United States has widened since the 2008 financial crisis, when the world’s richest people held 42.5 percent of global wealth, compared to 50.1 percent in 2017.

“The share of the top one percent has been on an upward path ever since, passing the 2000 level in 2013 and achieving new peaks every year thereafter,” the annual report noted. “Global wealth inequality has certainly been high and rising in the post-crisis period.”

The report also revealed that nearly 3.4 billion lower-income people live in developing nations — 90 percent of those in India and Africa — on less than US$10,000 annual income.

“In some low-income countries in Africa, the percentage of the population in this wealth group is close to 100 percent,” the report stated. “For many residents of low-income countries, life membership of the base tier is the norm rather than the exception.”

The world inequality study’s authors concluded: “If in the coming decades all countries follow the moderate inequality trajectory of Europe over the past decades, global income inequality can be reduced — in which case there can also be substantial progress in eradicating global poverty.”

GOP Tax Bill Could Turn America Into World’s Most Unequal Society, UN Expert Warns
Sarah Ruiz-Grossman / The Huffington Post

[Trump’s] proposed tax reform package
stakes out America’s bid to become
the most unequal society in the world.

— United Nations poverty expert Philip Alston

(December 15, 2017) — A United Nations expert on poverty delivered a scathing report about America’s high levels of inequality and the dire state of its social safety net on Friday.

“The way in which those in the bottom 20 percent exist is in dramatic contrast to the wealth in the country — and is being further exacerbated by current trends,” Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said at a press conference during which he delivered his findings from a two-week trip through some of the poorer regions of the United States.

“If you want to talk about the American dream, a child born into poverty has almost no chance of getting out of poverty in today’s United States, statistically,” he added.

While poverty has always existed in the US, one of the richest countries in the world, the current policies proposed by the Trump administration and the Republican-led Congress would dramatically worsen conditions for low-income Americans, Alston said.

“The proposed tax reform package stakes out America’s bid to become the most unequal society in the world,” he said in a related statement. “[It] will greatly increase the already high levels of wealth and income inequality between the richest one percent and the poorest 50 percent of Americans.”

As for the Trump administration’s proposed welfare reforms, Alston said at the presser: “The social safety net that currently exists in terms of the social welfare system is riddled with holes. It is a very partial, poorly funded and certainly far from comprehensive approach. But if the cuts anticipated are made, it will essentially be blown apart.”

Alston’s fact-finding mission had taken him through some of the poorer areas of Alabama, California, Georgia, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. He spoke to officials, community groups and low-income residents in places like Los Angeles’ Skid Row, where many homeless individuals live, and neighborhoods in the South’s Black Belt, where some families must live with open sewage in their yards.

What the expert found overall was that in a country with one of the highest rates of income inequality in the developed world, low-income residents are often marginalized, with little support from government and few opportunities to climb out of poverty.

“The American Dream is rapidly becoming the American Illusion,” Alston tweeted, “as the United States now has the lowest rate of social mobility of any of the rich countries.”

The UN special rapporteur called out a laundry list of factors that contribute to keeping 1 in 8 Americans — or 40 million people ― in poverty, including an unreliable health care system, voter disenfranchisement and a criminal justice system that penalizes the poor.

Many people who have disabilities or health issues can’t easily obtain or hold down jobs, he noted, yet the American health care system doesn’t always step in to help the most vulnerable groups. For instance, Medicaid — the primary health coverage program for low-income Americans — is not required to provide dental care and in many states covers only dental emergencies or extractions.

“Dental work is something most of us don’t think about. People living in poverty . . . [if] their teeth rot, they apply for jobs and are told, ‘We don’t want people like you,'” he said at the press conference, speaking of experiences that some low-income Americans he met in West Virginia shared with him. “It’s sort of unthinkable in a civilized society that we don’t consider that to be a fundamental need.”

Alston also warned that American democracy is being “steadily undermined” by the rollback of voting rights. Increasing voter ID requirements and stripping voting rights from people with felony criminal records contribute to widespread disenfranchisement, he said, which particularly harms communities of color.

“The result is a huge disenfranchisement of the people hit the hardest by the political system,” he said. “Poor people have no chance of having their voices heard, of influencing public policy.”

As for the American criminal justice system, the UN expert denounced it for essentially criminalizing the lives of the poor. He noted that homeless individuals are often fined for simply sitting or sleeping on the streets, even though many have nowhere else to go. He pointed out how the bail system works to jail people who simply can’t afford to pay bond.

What’s worse, many Americans — including political leaders — blame the poor for their troubles. For instance, Alston remarked that while US politicians tend to talk about people on welfare needing to get jobs, they don’t fund robust training programs to help prepare Americans for changes in the economy.

“What I’ve seen in the US is the dominance of twin narratives: that the rich are enterprising, altruistic, hard-working, and the poor are losers, scammers, who are trying to profit from the system,” Alston said. “That framing of the issues is put forth by politicians to justify massive tax reductions, transfers to the rich, and massive cuts for the poor.”

Alston’s preliminary findings will be expanded into a final report to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in June.

In terms of any response from President Donald Trump, Alston said, “I’m hoping for a tweet.”

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