Opinion | Scott Estill: It’s all about the slice of pie

Scott M. Estill

Congratulations are in order for the Democratic Party in Colorado, with large margins of victory for governor (20%), U.S. Senate (15%) and U.S. House District 2 (40%). Impressive, no doubt, but now the focus turns to what will be done with the victories? Their websites all say the right things. Saving the average family a few bucks while “preserving our Colorado way of life”, along with health care, education, immigration, gun violence and renewable energy. All of these issues are important to the vast majority of Colorado voters. But each of these election winners (along with their defeated opponents) fail to even mention the biggest problem facing the country today: income inequality.  

In the United States today, the income pie is growing larger (these are inflationary times after all). Yet, the slices being served are not increasing in size for all. Or many. Or really very few if you believe the numbers. Way back in 1965, the average CEO made about 16 times as much as the typical employee working at his (almost certainly not her) company. By 2020, this number has risen to 351. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that since 1978 the typical CEO has seen their pay increase by 1,322%, while the typical worker’s pay has remained stagnant at 18%. These numbers confirm what we already knew: The rich are getting richer at the expense of everyone else.

Going way back to 1962, if you were in the top 1% of all American households you would be worth about 125 times what the average American was worth. Not too shabby. Today, that number has more than doubled. Currently, the top 1% of the U.S. population owns 32% of the wealth, with the next 9% owning another 37%. The bottom 50% of the population controls 2% of the wealth, while the so-called middle class gets to fight over 29% of the pie. Put simply: the top 10% of the population control 69% of the pie, while the other 90% gets the other 31%. No one is predicting that the 90%-ers’ share will be increasing any time soon.

No one on the political spectrum is even discussing this. The media, however fake it may be, is completely ignoring this issue. Flip on Tucker and he will be ranting about the great replacement conspiracy theory (or the latest conspiracy de jeur). MSNBC can be certain to continue the numerous Trump investigations and trial proceedings as if they were sound bites a la ESPN’s Sports Center. All the while we have been blurred with the news slants of the commentators that we have missed the grand picture: the rise of inequality with respect to incomes will be the downfall of this country.

There have been entire books written on how we got to this point, but in general it comes down to the infamous dark world of taxes. The ability to shelter income and assets via tax and estate planning is what permits the gap to continue to widen year after year.

So why don’t any of the Democratic elected leaders of Colorado take up this issue? It would seem an easy issue for a politician in that 90% of the voters are potentially part of your constituency. And there are solutions, as I’m hardly the first person who has considered this issue. And therein lies the problem. All of the solutions involve higher taxation rates on the super wealthy. Short of some mass calamity (war, plague, natural disaster, etc.), the solution will need to consider ways to tax wealth in this country. Strangely, the greater the amount of income inequality, the greater likelihood of one of the above-mentioned tragedies coming to fruition. This solution isn’t some left-wing communist dream. Anyone who thinks the far left has solved income inequality should visit China or Vietnam and report back on the number of black German cars and how everyone is “equal.”  

No one wants to pay taxes and certainly no one wants a “death tax.” It’s likely that the 2,570 estates that did pay estate tax last year were not thrilled. The 2,570 estates are for the entire United States. Unless you are in the top 0.2% (top 20% of the top 1%) of all wealth owners, your family will not owe any taxes upon your passing.

Do any of our elected officials have the political guts to reduce spending and increase taxes as ways to begin to combat both inflation and a growing inequality of wealth in this country? Perhaps start to think about paying down an impossible national debt by taking some fiscal responsibility and pay for what we spend with revenue rather than debt. If the Democratic party lacks the fortitude to raise this issue, perhaps the Republican party can jump on the bandwagon. While no one wants tax increases, there will need to be a party, any party, that believes in fiscal responsibility. A balanced U.S. budget would tame inflation without having to continue increasing interest rates. Raising interest rates hurts the borrowers and rewards the banks. And who owns the banks? For the most part, not the 90%. And someday soon, the 90% are going to want a bigger slice of the pie.

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