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Monday, August 15, 2022

The rich get richer at our expense, especially during the pandemic

Yes, the rich get richer at our expense, especially during the pandemic. Recently, I read several articles that confirmed my opinion. I will share my readings with you.

Guess what? According to Bloomberg’s billionaire’s index, the top 10 billionaires added an estimated $402 billion to their wealth this past year.  

Who are they? Elon Musk heads the list followed by Jeff Bezos; Bill Gates; Larry Page; Mark Zuckerberg; Sergey Brin; Steve Ballmer; Warren Buffet; and Larry Ellison in the Bloomberg index. 

In technology are Elon Musk; Jeff Bezos; Bernard Arnault; Bill Gates; Larry Page; Mark Zuckerberg; Sergey Brin; Steve Ballmer; and Larry Ellison. Arnault is in the consumer industry and Warren Buffet made his fortune in the diversified industrial sector.

ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization that scrutinizes abuses of power says that billionaires pay a tiny portion or no federal taxes in some years. Bezos; Musk; and Warren Buffet were three.

Suppose you calculate the workers who do not get paid their fair share for the work that they do and add those figures to the disparities— the deficit would increase between the rich and the worker.  

Do the rich get richer? If they do, does the average Joe worker get richer too? Not according to Truthout journalist Mike Ludwig. Ludwig concludes that unless workers get structural changes in the economy— something not likely to happen— whatever gains workers make will not be sustainable.

Those individuals and corporations rolling in money witnessed their wealth skyrocket over the past two years. However, the economy slackened, and millions of folks needed unemployment help and applied for unemployment. Those bottom 90 percent of workers got only 60 percent of all wages in 2020, which is a record.

The top one percent earned 13.8 percent of all wages in 2020, almost doubling the share that top earners received in 1979. Consistently, these fat cats held it pretty much constant. According to Truthout’s Mike Ludwig, can you say $39,000 for the 90 percent in 2019 while those on top earned on average $320,000? Yes, top dwellers fared much better than others much farther below. This part represents a 40-year trend. 

The rich have gotten richer because they squeeze workers and customers, says the Institute of Policy Studies and Forbes when they point out that the combined wealth of the 745 U.S. billionaires passed $5 trillion in 2021. It increased 70 percent since the pandemic. Please do not forget to add the inequitable tax structure to the mix.

These same sources say that corporate after-tax profits reached a record high in the third quarter of 2021. The resulting profits spike was blamed on COVID-19 supply bottlenecks. Multi-national corporations became free to hike prices for essential items such as gasoline, food, and other necessities. 

Through strikes and other demands, workers continued to press forward. They took advantage of the labor shortage that the pandemic caused this past year and received long-overdue pay raises.

Ah yes, take a look at racial, economic inequality. Keep your masks on. The U.S. economy made strong job growth in 2021. Almost six million new jobs came on the scene from January to November. This fact of life brought about a decline in the unemployment rate from 6.3 percent to 4.2 percent. These improvements served to hide racial inequalities. Starting in October 2021, the unemployment rate was 7.9 percent among Black workers and 4.0 percent among Whites. These statistics represented a wider gap than at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.    

Inequality.org reports that the decrease in the unemployment rate disguises the exit of millions of the masses from the labor force from the start of the pandemic. November 2021 saw 3.5 million fewer people than before the COVID-19 outbreak. Many were Black women.

The Patriotic Millionaires, supporters of a more progressive income tax, put us on notice that “history paints a bleak picture of what happens to extremely unequal societies.” They went on to say, “For the well-being of rich and the poor alike, it’s time to confront inequality and choose to tax the rich,” the group wrote. “If you don’t, then all the talk at Davos— Davos Switzerland was where the world’s super-rich comingled with politicians and regulators— won’t change what’s coming— it’s taxes or pitchforks.” 

Economic inequality makes sense for the rich historically and in these pandemic times, but not for us.

Former Coppin State University Professor, Dr. Ken Morgan is an internationalist and Black rights activist. He can be reached at: [email protected] 

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