March 18, 2021 by Inequality.org
The share of the nation’s wealth pie owned by the richest 0.01 percent has quadrupled over the last 70 years. Their percent of the total tax obligation has stayed the same. What’s wrong with this picture?byBob Lord, Chuck Collins
Participants seen spelling out #TaxTheRich at Times Square. As 6 bills will soon be introduced in the legislature to tax wealthy corporations and individuals who haven’t been paying their fair share, a coalition of Activists gathered around New York City landmarks to call for the Equitable Taxation of Corporations, demanding legislators to pass the Financial Transaction Tax to generate around 9 billion dollars needed for COVID Recovery, and Essential Services. (Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)
We hear it all the time: The wealthy must pay their fair share in tax.
Many of the wealthy, and the members of Congress they sponsor, contend they already are. And they have all sorts of facts and figures to make that appear true. After all, for a billionaire, even a tiny tax payment in percentage terms is a big check.
So, are the rich paying their fair share?
We took a straightforward approach to that inquiry. First, we estimated the share of America’s total tax payments made by the wealthiest of the wealthy, the top .01 percent. A household in the top .01% is wealthier than 9,999 out of every 10,000 households.
Professors Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, co-authors of The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay, made this job easy. They did the heavy lifting of estimating, year-by-year, the overall tax rate – that is, total tax payments (including corporate tax, employment tax, individual income tax and state level tax payments) as a percentage of income – for the top .01 percent and for the entire population. They estimated the share of the nation’s income flowing to the top .01 percent on a yearly basis as well.
To find the percentage of the total national taxes paid by the top .01 percent in a given year, we first multiplied the overall tax rate of the top .01 percent by the overall income share of the top .01 percent. This gave us the percentage of total national income paid by the top .01 percent in tax. We then divided that by the percentage of total national income paid by the entire population (top .01 percent included) in tax to get our final “tax share” of the top .01 percent.
Then, we compared that “tax share” of the top .01 percent, year-by-year, to the share of the nation’s wealth held by the top .01 percent, again piggybacking on the work of Professors Saez and Zucman.
Here’s that comparison:https://public.tableau.com/views/TheTop_01DontPayTheirFairShareasTheyHoardMoreWealth/Dashboard1?:embed=y&:showVizHome=no&:host_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpublic.tableau.com%2F&:embed_code_version=3&:tabs=no&:toolbar=yes&:animate_transition=yes&:display_static_image=no&:display_spinner=no&:display_overlay=yes&:display_count=yes&:language=en&:loadOrderID=0
Consider what’s transpired over the past 70 years. The tax share of the top .01 percent changed over time, but it’s not far today from where it was in 1953 – about 5 percent. The wealth ownership share of the top .01 percent during that period about quadrupled, from 2.5 percent to very close to 10 percent.
For the rest of us, the bottom 99.99 percent, our share of the overall tax has been about equal to our share of the nation’s wealth, slightly less than our share of the nation’s wealth 70 years ago and slightly more than our share of the nation’s wealth today.
The situation 70 years ago made sense. It adhered to the principle that tax payments should be based on the ability to pay, with those at the top bearing the heaviest burden relative to their wealth. Thus, the very wealthiest segment of a society should pay a share of the total tax burden greater than its share of the society’s wealth. The situation today turns that basic moral principle on its head. When the share of tax payments made the wealthy are one-half their share of the nation’s total wealth, such that they’re bearing the lightest tax burden relative to their wealth.
That’s not paying their fair share. Or anything remotely close.
Bob Lord, a veteran tax lawyer and former congressional candidate, practices and blogs in Phoenix, Arizona. He is also an Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow.
Chuck Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies where he co-edits Inequality.org, and is author of the new book, “Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good.” He is co-founder of Wealth for the Common Good, recently merged with the Patriotic Millionaires. He is co-author of “99 to 1: The Moral Measure of the Economy“ and, with Bill Gates Sr., of “Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes.“
March 18, 2021byCommon Dreams House Dems Urged to Cut ‘Fossil Fuels and False Solutions’ From CLEAN Future Act
Over 300 groups called the bill a “prime example of the type of half-measure we must avoid.”by Jessica Corbett, staff writer
Over 300 advocacy groups argue that the CLEAN Future Act’s Clean Electricity Standard “should rigorously define clean energy to include proven solutions like wind, solar, storage, and efficiency—and exclude all fossil fuels and other false solutions.” (Photo: David Clarke/cc/flickr)
As a U.S. House panel held a hearing Thursday on clean energy legislation introduced earlier this month by key Democrats, more than 300 environmental and justice organizations sent a letter to Congress raising alarm about the role of “false solutions” including fossil fuels, biomass, and nuclear power in the proposal.
“Sacrificing the very definition of ‘clean’ in order to achieve 100% clean energy is self-defeating.”
The Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act is being spearheaded by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Chair Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and Energy Subcommittee Chair Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.).
According the advocacy groups’ letter (pdf), “The CLEAN Future Act (H.R. 1512) is a prime example of the type of half-measure we must avoid.”
Specifically, they assert that the legislation’s nationwide Clean Electricity Standard (CES), which would require all retail electricity suppliers to obtain 100% clean power by 2035, “should rigorously define clean energy to include proven solutions like wind, solar, storage, and efficiency—and exclude all fossil fuels and other false solutions.”
“Sacrificing the very definition of ‘clean’ in order to achieve 100% clean energy is self-defeating,” the letter says, which furthers warns that the bill “contradicts itself” by including “encouraging environmental justice provisions that would benefit communities disproportionately exposed to pollution and climate impacts,” but also pushing policies “that do not stop emissions or other pollution at their source.”https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=commondreams&creatorUserId=14296273&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1372544841066942468&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.commondreams.org%2Fnews%2F2021%2F03%2F18%2Fhouse-dems-urged-cut-fossil-fuels-and-false-solutions-clean-future-act&siteScreenName=commondreams&siteUserId=14296273&theme=light&widgetsVersion=e1ffbdb%3A1614796141937&width=550px
Pallone and the other sponsors made clear when unveiling the legislation that they believe overhauling the U.S. energy system is essential. He said the bill’s introduction “promises that we will not stand idly by as the rest of the world transitions to clean economies and our workers get left behind, and that we will not watch from the sidelines as the climate crisis wreaks havoc on Americans’ health and homes.”
“This bill… fails to grasp the fundamental truth of fighting climate change: We must stop extracting and burning fossil fuels as soon as possible.”
—Mitch Jones, Food & Water Watch
While the measure received some praise from climate campaigners, progressive green groups have reiterated concerns raised when Pallone put forth the bill during the previous congressional session.
In the words of Mitch Jones, policy director at Food & Water Watch, “While this bill has been marginally improved, it fails to grasp the fundamental truth of fighting climate change: We must stop extracting and burning fossil fuels as soon as possible.”
The letter—whose signatories include Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, the Center for Biological Diversity, several Our Revolution and 350.org chapters, and scores of other organizations—argues that fossil fuels, biomass, and nuclear power are not clean energy, “carbon capture and storage (CCS) is not a climate solution,” and “false solutions do not align with the principles of environmental justice.”https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=commondreams&creatorUserId=14296273&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1372572988998963200&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.commondreams.org%2Fnews%2F2021%2F03%2F18%2Fhouse-dems-urged-cut-fossil-fuels-and-false-solutions-clean-future-act&siteScreenName=commondreams&siteUserId=14296273&theme=light&widgetsVersion=e1ffbdb%3A1614796141937&width=550px
Highlighting the impacts that coal, oil, and gas production have on the health of nearby communities as well as the climate, the letter says that “the idea that any fossil fuels should qualify under a CES even on the basis of ‘partial credits’ is an astounding concession that would subsidize existing fracked gas infrastructure and slow the deployment of cleaner and cheaper renewables.”
“Burning biomass is uniquely dangerous to both the climate and public health,” the letter continues, noting that “biomass power plants and garbage incinerators emit more carbon dioxide and harmful air pollutants per unit of energy than coal plants, including nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, and particulate matter, the leading cause of air pollution-related deaths in the country.”
“The fuel chain for nuclear power begins with mining, milling, and enriching uranium, all of which are carbon-intensive processes that generate vast amounts of radioactive and toxic wastes,” the groups add. “As a consequence, the industry is rooted in environmental injustice and human rights violations.”
As for CCS, the groups point out environmental, health, and safety risks, and warn that “technological carbon capture applied to high-emitting sources like petrochemical or fossil fuel power plants acts as a license to continuing polluting.”https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=commondreams&creatorUserId=14296273&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-2&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1372544847844937732&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.commondreams.org%2Fnews%2F2021%2F03%2F18%2Fhouse-dems-urged-cut-fossil-fuels-and-false-solutions-clean-future-act&siteScreenName=commondreams&siteUserId=14296273&theme=light&widgetsVersion=e1ffbdb%3A1614796141937&width=550px
The letter declares that “increasing the use of false solutions increases environmental racism, undercutting the environmental justice proposals in the current version of the CLEAN Future Act and rendering them specious.”
“Environmental justice must not be viewed as or reduced to a theory or political talking point,” the groups emphasize. “It is a set of living principles that must be practiced in an effort to dismantle years and decades of systemic racism, dehumanization, extraction, and the rendering of Black, brown, Indigenous, and poor communities into sacrifice zones.”
“As we look to combat the climate crisis, it will be crucial to resist the disingenuous efforts of polluters to co-opt clean energy,” they conclude. “Allowing dirty energy to be bundled with clean energy under a CES would prolong the existence of sacrifice zones around dirty energy investments and delay the transition to a system of 100 percent truly clean energy.”
The pressure on Democrats to clean up the bill comes as President Joe Biden is planning to host a climate summit next month and hundreds of advocacy groups from across the globe are pushing his administration to commit the United States to its “fair share” of climate action, including by ending subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.