Extreme and Growing Economic and Political Inequalities Threaten Our Nation’s Survival

Views on Our Path into Darkness ↓

The Corporate Profits Boom

The increasing value workers produced since the mid-1970s that they did not receive boomed corporate profits.

The tax bill signed into law by President Trump in 2017 reduced corporations’ tax rate on their profits to 21% from 35%. But in 2020, 55 Fortune 500 corporations reduced theirs below 0%. They had almost $40.5 billion in U.S. profits but paid $0 in taxes and received $3.5 billion in tax rebates, so they had about a negative 9% average tax rate.

Corporate Profits, 1947-2020, $Billions

The CEO Compensation and Stock Market Boom

The way corporations are governed has allowed CEOs to take massive amounts of compensation from the profit boom that boomed stock prices, so the wealth of people with large investments in stocks.

The average compensation of CEOs in the top 350 corporations was 19.9 times the average of their nonsupervisory workers in 1965; in 2018, it was 278.1.

CEO compensation ($millions) and the S&P 500 Index, 1965-2018

“But inequality doesn't matter very much because it is easy to move from the lower to upper classes in America. Right?” Wrong!

For most of our history, America was “the land of opportunity.” If you were born into a low-income family, your chances of rising to high income or wealth were greater here than anywhere else in the world. Now, the low-income status of your family will more likely determine your income throughout your life in the United States than in any other advanced country. Now, if you want to live the American dream, you best go to Denmark. As the top graph shows, it is easiest to rise out of the lowest economic class in Denmark, much easier than in the United States.

Percent of Men in Bottom Fifth Whose Fathers Were in Bottom Fifth of the Earnings Distribution

The chances of children achieving the American Dream are now almost twice as high in Canada than in the U.S.

As the graph shows, income mobility has fallen sharply over the past half-century. The researchers whose data is graphed found that increasing GDP growth rates alone cannot restore income mobility to the rates experienced by children born in the 1940s. They determined the more equal distribution experienced by the 1940 birth cohort would reverse more than 70% of the decline in mobility.

Economic mobility disparities result from the differences in opportunities and living conditions inherent in an extremely economically unequal society.

Percent of 30-Year-Olds Earning More Than Their Parents at Their Age

Why Policymakers Ignore the 99%

In 2012, 95% of the candidates for congress who had the most money spent on their campaign won the election. So, on average, congresspersons mostly spend time raising money for their next election campaign. About 4 hours per day, they “dial for dollars”—make phone calls primarily to the 0.26% of contributors who give 68% of their campaign money—no surprise on whose interests our political system serves. 

Some Routes to a New Enlightenment

Institute a broadcast license requirement for free airtime allotments to qualified for public office candidates  large enough so no reasonable need for the purchase of airtime will exist. Broadcast content will also be on video streaming services. Provide substantial public funds for candidates to express their platform on the web and in newspapers and mailings. Read more. 
Institute a new Fairness Doctrine and a worker-owned and managed media system.
Institute a web-based lobbying system that puts all citizens and corporations on a level playing field and makes policymaking processes transparent. Read more.

Average Amount Our Representatives Must Raise per Week to Win Election

Average over every week of congresspersons’ term and last two years of senators’ term. Data: opensecrets.org

Corporate Lobbying: High Returns on Investments

Elites controlling major corporations spend similar amounts on lobbying as they spend on campaigns. One result: the decline of small businesses. States that hand out more business development awards see more new businesses fail because the awards advantage large corporations. A study found 90% of the $3.2 billion in economic development incentive awards in 14 states went to large companies. Read more.The 200 companies’ barely visible $5.8 billion political system spending may not have been entirely responsible for the trillions received, but it played a major role.Another result of corporate political system influence: massive social harm from the corporate tax rate decline. Read more.

200 Companies Lobbying and Campaign Expenditures with the Amount They Received in Federal Loans and Contracts, $ Billions, 2007  – 2012