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Trickle down or up, up and away?

April 6, 2009 - Jim Anderson
These are some statistics cited by Paul Buchheit of DePaul University.

From 1980 to 2006 the richest 1 percent of Americans nearly tripled their after-tax percentage of our nation’s income, while the bottom 90 percent has seen its share drop more than 20 percent.

“Either one and a half million rich people started working three times harder or we’ve experienced a redistribution of wealth not seen since the Great Depression,” Buchheit writes.

That redistribution of wealth, of course, has been in an upwards direction. The richest 1 percent of Americans now own more than the poorest 90 percent.

That elite 1 percent group has managed to become even more elite over the past three decades despite an impressive federal tax obligation. The top 1 percent pays about 40 percent of all federal income taxes. (That 40 percent burden is slightly more than the percentage of the nation’s wealth held by the top 1 percent, which is about 35 percent.)

As you know, federal income taxes are only part of the story.

According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the total of all state and local taxes, social security taxes, and excise taxes (gasoline, alcohol, tobacco) consumes 21 percent of the annual incomes of the poorest half of America. For the richest 1 percent of Americans, the same taxes consume 7 percent of their incomes.


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