2021 Saw Gaps in Racial and Economic Inequality Widen. But There’s Still Hope.

A 12 months in the past we had such excessive hopes. We anticipated the Covid vaccine rollout to carry a swift finish to the pandemic, opening a window for pushing daring options to the long-standing financial, racial, and gender divides that had grown even wider beneath Covid.

The place are we as 2021 involves an in depth? These 10 charts spotlight main inequality developments of the 12 months, overlaying some steps again and a few vital steps ahead.

The Wealthy Have Gotten Richer by Squeezing Staff and Shoppers

The mixed wealth of the 745 U.S. billionaires surpassed $5 trillion in 2021, up 70 p.c for the reason that starting of the pandemic, in line with Institute for Coverage Research and Individuals for Tax Equity analysis of Forbes knowledge.

U.S. company after-tax income hit a file excessive of $2.5 trillion within the third quarter of 2021, additional enriching rich executives and shareholders. One issue behind the income spike: large firms have used the excuse of pandemic-related provide chain bottlenecks to jack up prices for gasoline, meals, and different necessities.

Staff, significantly these on the backside finish of the wage scale, have gotten some lengthy overdue pay increases. However these weren’t the results of any employer largesse. As an alternative, staff have gone on strike and brought different actions to leverage their energy at a time of pandemic staffing challenges. Sadly, rising consumer prices are taking a chew out of these wage beneficial properties.

Job Progress Has Been Robust, However Racial Inequalities Persist

The U.S. financial system had sturdy job development in 2021. The January to November interval noticed the creation of nearly 6 million new jobs and a decline within the unemployment fee from 6.3 percent to 4.2 percent. However these enhancements conceal persistent racial inequalities. As of October 2021, the unemployment fee was 7.9 p.c amongst Black staff and 4.0 p.c amongst whites, a wider hole than firstly of the pandemic, in line with BLS data.

The decline within the unemployment fee additionally masks the exodus of millions of individuals from the labor power for the reason that starting of the pandemic. As of November 2021, there have been 3.5 million fewer folks within the U.S. labor power than earlier than the pandemic. The drop has been most dramatic amongst Black women, an indication of how racial obstacles compound pandemic-related well being issues and the scarcity of reasonably priced youngster care companies.

Job and Wage Progress Would’ve Been Stronger If Companies Hadn’t Blown Report Sums on Inventory Buybacks

Companies went on a inventory buyback spree in 2021, spending a file $234 billion on share repurchases within the third quarter of the 12 months. As analysts have long documented, inventory buybacks artificially inflate executives’ stock-based pay and siphon off capital that may very well be used to boost employee wages or make different productive investments.

Pharma Greed Has Created a International Vaccine Hole That Makes Us All Unsafe

A lot for a swift finish to the pandemic. On high of the anti-vaxxer drawback, we’ve obtained greater than a billion folks in growing nations nonetheless with out entry to vaccines due to Large Pharma greed. Profiteering executives, together with the five newly minted billionaires at Moderna, have blocked patent waivers that may’ve boosted vaccine manufacturing all over the world.

In late November, the variety of vaccine doses administered per 100 people was greater than 18 occasions increased in high-income than low-income nations. The prices of this greed-driven international vaccine hole grew to become painfully clear when the Omicron variant found in South Africa rapidly unfold throughout borders.

The Pandemic Greed Seize Boosted Assist for Taxing the Wealthy to Pay for Very important Public Investments

A Vox and Information for Progress poll, carried out October 8-12, discovered that 71 p.c of voters help growing taxes on the wealthiest 2 p.c of Individuals to pay for the Construct Again Higher Act. This landmark invoice, which handed the Home in November and seems near turning into legislation, is predicted to boost almost $2 trillion from the rich and large firms to spend money on human and environmental wants.

The Tax Policy Center predicts the highest 0.1 p.c will see their after-tax earnings drop by 5.9 p.c whereas the poorest 20 p.c will see their earnings rise by 4.4 p.c within the legislation’s first 12 months. The invoice can even increase vital new income from firms, together with by way of a tax on stock buybacks.

One noteworthy Construct Again Higher tax on the rich is a surtax on annual incomes above $10 million. Extremely-rich households will face an extra 5 percentage-point tax on annual gross earnings (together with funding earnings) over $10 million and an 8 percentage-point surtax on earnings over $25 million. The primary greenback of earnings over that $25 million, in different phrases, will face a forty five p.c tax, as an alternative of the standard 37 p.c high marginal earnings tax fee.

The $230 billion projected to be raised from this surtax on mega-millionaires will cowl the price of lots of the Construct Again Higher legislation’s main investments. Based on White House estimates, this surtax income is the equal of the mixed value of offering over 6 million kids free preschool, growing the utmost Pell Grant allowance for over 5 million college students, constructing 1 million reasonably priced houses, and serving to a whole bunch of 1000’s of first-time homebuyers buy a home.

One group more likely to owe the surtax: company CEOs. In 2020, almost 70 p.c of chief executives at S&P 500 companies made greater than $10 million simply by way of their paycheck earnings — not even counting their funding earnings, which can even face the identical surtax ranges.

Contributing extra to public investments is the least that rich CEOs ought to do to make up for many years of maximum pay disparities — disparities that made our nation extra weak to the pandemic disaster. On the Institute for Policy Studies, we analyzed the 100 S&P 500 companies with the bottom median pay and located that whereas employee pay at these companies stagnated in nominal phrases, common CEO pay rose by 15 p.c to $13.9 million in 2020.

If enacted, the Construct Again Higher Act might be a serious step in the direction of a extra equitable financial system, however way more will have to be performed to reverse our nation’s excessive financial and racial divides. Happily, polls counsel that the general public, significantly younger folks, have a robust urge for food for additional anti-inequality reforms within the years to come back.

Whereas the 2021 debate over spending and tax insurance policies has dragged on too lengthy, it’s encouraging that the central query has been how a lot income to boost from the wealthy to spend money on human wants. This represents a long-overdue rejection of the failed “trickle down” theories the rich and their advocates in Congress have used to justify tax cuts and different financial insurance policies that profit the wealthy on the expense of the remainder of us.