Eat the Rich

Why we should tax the rich more

Four+of+the+richest+people+on+Earth%3A+Jeff+Bezos%2C+84.9+B%3B+Mark+Zuckerberg%2C+01+B%3B+Elon+Musk%2C+3.2+B%3B+Warren+Buffet%2C+3.3+B.

Created by Valentina Moreno

Four of the richest people on Earth: Jeff Bezos, 84.9 B; Mark Zuckerberg, 01 B; Elon Musk, 3.2 B; Warren Buffet, 3.3 B.

By Valentina Moreno, Oakmont High School

“Eat the Rich,” a slogan for dissent of  excessive wealth, has permeated into our generation’s social conscious and is just as pertinent as when Jean-Jacques Rousseau first declared, “When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they’ll eat the rich,” during the culmination of the French Revolution.

Rousseau’s sardonic phrase translated to American pop culture when rock band Aerosmith released their song, “Eat the Rich.” Although in the 90s it might have been contentious to dispute wealth inequality, today it’s become a blatantly collective cry for reduction of the ever increasing wealth gap.

During a chapter of social, political and economic upheaval worldwide, but particularly in the US, it’s more apparent than ever that social change needs to be ensued, starting with reducing wealth inequality.

Today, the income gap between a handful of the top earners and the bottom 90 percent of Americans is bigger than it was at the start of the French Revolution, and we all know how that turned out. According to economist Emmanuel Saez at UC Berkeley, the modern day sans-culottes, the bottom 90 percent, are earning 196 times less than the top tenth of a percent of Americans.

The income gap isn’t the only rate with explosive change in the last century; the tax gap for the bottom 90 percent and the top 400 earners is astounding. While the bottom 90 percent of earners were taxed 26.67 percent on average as of 2018, the top 400 earners were taxed an overall rate of 24 percent, according to Saez.

To put that into perspective, the overall tax rate for the top 400 was 70 percent in 1950. Politicians have been affording the wealthy tax cuts and endless deductions, markedly widening the wealth gap, and Donald Trump is no exception.

According to CBS News, the tax rate for corporations was lowered from 37 percent to 21 percent in 2017 because of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act  pushed by the Trump administration.

In perspective of the current economic atmosphere due to the Coronavirus, this wealth inequality has devastated lower income Americans. Billionaires have amassed an additional 637 billion dollars while 40 million Americans filed for unemployment during the pandemic and 23 million are on the brink of destitution and homelessness as they face eviction, according to The Nation.

Some right leaning Americans argue that it would be unfair if we taxed the rich at higher rates because they “earned” their fortune and it would be futile to combat the inherent aspect of poverty in society.

However, the inordinate amount of money in the hands of billionaires is just sitting there, waiting to be added to the pile of even more money they amass. The more accumulation of money that is not being recirculated, the more of a hindrance it is to the economic growth that right- wingers care so much about. There’s no logical reason a person needs billions of dollars when a large chunk of the population is deprived of necessary resources to survive.

Although the Republican myth claims that poverty is an innate part of society and there’s no use in handing out favors, I ask, an inherent part of what society? We invented the economy; us, not an omnipresent, secret hand. Everything in our current economy is fabricated by humans themselves, including the idea that someone’s life is worth less because of their job or because they don’t exploit everyone else to climb their way to the top. Poverty  is not a fundamental part of existence; it is a result of greed.

5.4 Million Americans can not afford their healthcare and 40 million find themselves with no means of income. It is unfathomable how politicians are simply indifferent to the financial turmoil of millions, while a handful of billionaires are deluged in excessive wealth.

A means of decreasing the expanding wealth gap is increasing taxes for the ultra wealthy, a vision of Democratic nominee, Joe Biden.

Biden’s proposed tax policy would repeal the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act established by the Trump administration, restore the top marginal income tax rate to 39.6%, as well as raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent.

According to CNBC, Biden’s proposed policies in totality would generate an astounding 4 trillion dollars in a decade. This spike in federal wealth would actually incentivize economic growth, as more money would recycle through the economy instead of being hoarded by billionaires.

The federal government has repeatedly refused progressive taxes, incurring a deprivation of capital needed to fight climate change, invest in infrastructure, education, and healthcare. It is self-sabotage, and yet they still cannot see it.

It is time to start paying attention. We are not living in a sustainable economy for us Americans, we are living in a sustainable economy for the obscenely rich. It is time to pay attention to the clues history provides us, whether it be the warnings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, or the decennial economic recessions: we are struggling and need to recirculate wealth.

This story was originally published on Norse Notes on September 17, 2020.