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BeyondGeography's Journal
BeyondGeography's Journal
July 1, 2019

Why wealth gap has grown despite record-long economic growth

WASHINGTON (AP) — As it enters its 11th year, America's economic expansion is now the longest on record — a streak that has shrunk unemployment, swelled household wealth, revived the housing market and helped fuel an explosive rise in the stock market. Yet even after a full decade of uninterrupted economic growth, the richest Americans now hold a greater share of the nation's wealth than they did before the Great Recession began in 2007. And income growth has been sluggish by historical standards, leaving many Americans feeling stuck in place. Those trends help explain something unique about this expansion: It's easily the least-celebrated economic recovery in decades.

...America's financial disparities have widened in large part because the means by which people build wealth have become more exclusive since the Great Recession. Fewer middle-class Americans own homes. Fewer are invested in the stock market. And home prices have risen far more in wealthier metro areas on the coasts than in more modestly priced cities and rural areas. The result is that affluent homeowners now sit on vast sums of home equity and capital gains, while tens of millions of ordinary households have been left mainly on the sidelines.

...Household wealth — the value of homes, stock portfolios and bank accounts, minus mortgage and credit card debt and other loans — jumped 80% in the past decade. More than one-third of that gain — $16.2 trillion in riches— went to the wealthiest 1%, figures from the Federal Reserve show. Just 25% of it went to middle-to-upper-middle class households. The bottom half of the population gained less than 2%. Nearly 8 million Americans lost homes in the recession and its aftermath, and the sharp price gains since then have put ownership out of reach for many would-be buyers. For America's middle class, the homeownership rate fell to about 60% in 2016 from roughly 70% in 2004, before the housing bubble, according to separate Fed data.

The other major engine of household wealth — the stock market — hasn't much benefited most people, either. The longest bull market in U.S. history, which surpassed its own 10-year mark in March, has shot equity prices up more than four-fold. Yet the proportion of middle-income households that own shares has actually declined.

The Fed calculates that about half of middle-income Americans owned shares in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, down from 56% in 2007. That includes people who hold stocks in retirement accounts. The decline in stock market participation occurred mainly because more middle-income workers took contract work or other jobs that offered no retirement savings plans, the Fed concluded.

More at https://www.nhregister.com/business/article/Why-wealth-gap-has-grown-despite-record-long-14064005.php
June 27, 2019

Elizabeth Warren: I Have The Biggest Anti-Corruption Plan Since Watergate - MSNBC

Post-debate interview with Chris Matthews:

June 27, 2019

Matthews calls DeBlasio a heavyweight tonight

Subtext: He’s just as obnoxious as me!

June 25, 2019

Billionaire Eli Broad: It's time to start thinking seriously about a wealth tax

...Two decades ago I turned full-time to philanthropy and threw myself into supporting public education, scientific and medical research, and visual and performing arts, believing it was my responsibility to give back some of what had so generously been given to me. But I’ve come to realize that no amount of philanthropic commitment will compensate for the deep inequities preventing most Americans — the factory workers and farmers, entrepreneurs and electricians, teachers, nurses and small-business owners — from the basic prosperity we call the American dream.

...It’s time to start talking seriously about a wealth tax. Some will say I’m calling for the populist masses to take out the pitchforks and take down the titans of Wall Street. Some will say it’s just too difficult to execute. Others will call it a flight of fancy. Don’t get me wrong: I am not advocating an end to the capitalist system that’s yielded some of the greatest gains in prosperity and innovation in human history. I simply believe it’s time for those of us with great wealth to commit to reducing income inequality, starting with the demand to be taxed at a higher rate than everyone else.

...Democrats have offered an array of plans. Senator Elizabeth Warren would levy a 2 percent tax on every dollar of net worth above $50 million. There’s an overdue proposal from Senator Bernie Sanders to increase taxes on estates and inheritances. And then there’s the mark-to-market approach proposed by Senator Ron Wyden, which would treat capital gains income as what it is — actual income for the wealthiest people in America. Currently people who have stocks and other investments that appreciate in value — usually people of means — are taxed at lower rates and are allowed to defer taxes. I’m not an economist but I have watched my wealth grow exponentially thanks to federal policies that have cut my tax rates while wages for regular people have stagnated and poverty rates have increased.

...Let’s admit out loud what we all know to be true: A wealth tax can start to address the economic inequality eroding the soul of our country’s strength. I can afford to pay more, and I know others can too. What we can’t afford are more shortsighted policies that skirt big ideas, avoid tough issues and do little to alleviate the poverty faced by millions of Americans. There’s no time to waste.

More at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/25/opinion/taxes-debates-eli-broad.html

June 25, 2019

WaPo: 'Middle Class Joe' Biden has reaped millions in income since leaving the vice presidency

....(Joe) Biden points out on the presidential campaign trail that he was often the poorest member of the United States Senate, and for at least a decade has referred to himself as “Middle Class Joe.” But since leaving office he has enjoyed an explosion of wealth, making millions of dollars largely from book deals and speaking fees that ranged to as much as $200,000 per speech, public documents show.

As Biden traveled the country before announcing his presidential campaign this spring, his sponsors provided VIP hotel suites, town cars and professional drivers, chartered flights and travel expense reimbursements that for some of his appearances reached at least $10,000 per event, according to contracts obtained by The Post through public records requests.

The Washington Post found at least 65 instances in which Biden gave a speech or appeared at a book event; in at least 10 instances he did not take a fee, although in some of those cases he was reimbursed for travel expenses. Biden’s campaign said he has given less than 50 paid speeches, but declined to be more specific about exactly how many he delivered, or how much he earned in total.

...Paid speeches provided another profitable money stream. Most of Biden’s speaking engagements involved universities or existing lecture series. He appeared in 2017 at a finance and technology conference run by Anthony Scaramucci, who two months later would have a brief stint in the Trump administration, and at a health care conference run by JPMorgan Chase.

Although Biden’s campaign said his paid speeches amounted to under 50 since he left the vice presidency, it would not provide a list of them. Four contracts, however, were obtained by The Post through public records requests, some of which have been previously reported. They show that he charged between $150,000 and $200,000 per speech.

More at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/once-the-poorest-senator-middle-class-joe-biden-has-reaped-millions-in-income-since-leaving-the-vice-presidency/2019/06/25/931458a8-938d-11e9-b570-6416efdc0803_story.html?utm_term=.717bff9b00b0

Release the list of paid speeches and all transcripts!

Or maybe nominate someone who won’t enable Trump to run pretty much exactly the same campaign he did in 2016.
June 24, 2019

Group of wealthy Americans write open letter asking to be taxed more

A group of nearly 20 wealthy Americans on Monday released a letter asking for all 2020 presidential hopefuls to support a “moderate wealth tax” on the richest one-tenth of the richest one percent of Americans.

“America has a moral, ethical and economic responsibility to tax our wealth more. A wealth tax could help address the climate crisis, improve the economy, improve health outcomes, fairly create opportunity, and strengthen our democratic freedoms,” the letter says, as published by The New York Times. “Instituting a wealth tax is in the interest of our republic,” it continues.

The document is signed by financier George Soros, Facebook Co-Founder Chris Hughes, heirs like Abigail Disney and others.

The letter calls for the tax revenue to be invested in “smart investments for our future,” including addressing climate change, providing student loan debt relief and universal childcare, modernizing infrastructure and providing tax credits for low-income families.

...The letter specifically highlights Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) plan to tax “only 75,000 of the wealthiest families in the country,” and it cites South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) and former Texas lawmaker Beto O’Rourke (D) as being “already supportive of the idea” of a tax on the wealthiest citizens.

More at https://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/449975-a-group-of-rich-americans-write-open-letter-asking-to-be-taxed
June 23, 2019

Call me shallow, but this is my favorite part of today's Warren/NYT Mag feature

Warren at George Washington University, in a dress she made herself.

Optimistic, resourceful, clear-eyed...love it.

The feature is good, too:

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