Any serious policy agenda geared towards combating inequality and raising living standards for the vast majority must look to ultra-high earners in the top 0.1 percent, who wield disproportionate economic and political power.
The Economic Policy Institute and the Institute for Policy Studies held a day-long conference on Taxing the (Very) Rich with tax policy experts, activists, advocates, organizers, and elected officials who made making the case for taxing the very rich—and debated how best to do that.
Budget, Taxes and Public Investment
EPI’s work on federal fiscal policy analyzes revenues, spending and deficits, but always within the context of the overall economy. EPI believes that the federal budget is the embodiment of our nation’s priorities, but recognizes that the state of budget balance is simply a tool to meet larger economic goals, not an end-goal in itself.
EPI’s research on economic growth assesses how policymaking and economic institutions either help or hinder efforts to insure that the U.S. economy is operating at full employment and to generate sustainable growth in average living standards as rapidly as possible.
EPI documents impacts of social and economic inequality on student achievement, and suggests policies, within school and out, to narrow outcome gaps between middle class and disadvantaged students. EPI research refutes false assumptions behind politically inspired attacks on public education, teachers, and their unions.
EPI’s research in this arena focuses on the role that public investment, regulation, and tax policy play in making the economy more sustainable and equitable.
EPI’s Health Policy Research team analyzes the U.S. health care system through the lens of low- and moderate income families’ living standards, with special attention to employer-sponsored health insurance, the burden of health costs, and disparities in access and outcomes.
EPI proposes reforms that would allow the immigration system to to respond and adjust to the shifting needs of the U.S. labor market while improving wages and safeguarding labor standards for American and immigrant workers.
Inequality and Poverty
As the United States recovers from the Great Recession, EPI’s research in this area examines the increasing levels of economic inequality in connection with decreasing levels of economic mobility and rising levels of poverty.
Jobs and Unemployment
EPI’s thorough research in this area is as critical as ever and focuses on understanding the intricacies and impact of the slow recovery in the U.S. labor market, including our persistent high unemployment, near-record long-term unemployment, mass underemployment, and weak labor force participation.
The minimum wage is a critical labor standard meant to ensure a fair wage for this country’s lowest paid workers. EPI researchers have examined how the minimum wage affects workers and the economy, who benefits from the minimum wage, and how the declining value of the federal minimum wage over time has contributed to the growth in U.S. income inequality.
Race and Ethnicity
EPI’s Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy works to advance policies that ensure racial and ethnic minorities participate fully and benefit equitably as workers in the American economy.
Raising America’s Pay
EPI’s efforts to raise the profile of wage issues and generate ideas for stimulating wage growth are overseen by an advisory board of eminent policymakers, academics, policy experts, and civic engagement leaders. See the list of board members.
The debate over the effect of regulatory changes on employment has intensified in the wake of the Great Recession and the still-high levels of unemployment that are its legacy. But assertions that government regulations are holding back the economy ignore the roots of our economy’s problems, namely the collapse of the housing and financial sectors and inadequate demand. EPI research debunks claims that regulations impede job creation, finding that they can create jobs and confer other critical benefits that outweigh costs. This work is critical to fighting attempts to roll back laws that protect the environment and guarantee worker protections.
EPI’s retirement program examines the inequities in the current system and promotes initiatives that protect Social Security and lead to universal, secure and adequate retirement policies.
Trade and Globalization
Trade and globalization policies have major effects on the wages and incomes of American workers and on the vitality of American industries such as manufacturing. EPI research identifies the economic benefits accruing to the nation, states, and congressional districts from negotiating better trade agreements and curbing currency manipulation and other unfair trade practices.
Unions and Labor Standards
Strong unions and employee organizing rights foster a vibrant middle class because the protections, rights, and wages that unions secure affect union and nonunion workers alike. Unfortunately, eroded labor standards, weakening unions, changing norms, guestworker policies that undercut wages, and monetary policies that prioritize controlling inflation over lowering unemployment have helped depress wages and erode living standards for all workers. EPI monitors factors that affect American work lives, including unpaid overtime, wage theft, the minimum wage, immigration laws, and collective bargaining rights.
Wages, Incomes and Wealth
Ensuring that economic growth benefits hard-working Americans in the form of higher wages and rising living standards is the central economic challenge of our time. Unfortunately, wages for most workers grew exceptionally slowly between 1979 and 2012, despite productivity—which essentially measures the economy’s potential for providing rising living standards for all—rising 64 percent. In other words, most Americans, even those with college degrees, are treading water—despite working more productively (and being better educated) than ever. EPI research demonstrates that wage stagnation, weak income growth, and wealth disparities can be traced to policy decisions that have eroded the bargaining power of low- and middle-wage workers.
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