The impact of Reaganomics, amped up by Bush

Between 1984 and 2007, “The gap between the wealth possessed by white and black families grew more than four times larger,” in part because of tax cuts and policies that favored high-income groups. Researchers from the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University also found in a new report that the average middle-income white family was able to accumulate more wealth (assets minus debts) than the average high-income African-American family: “Consumers of color face a gauntlet of barriers – in credit, housing and taxes – that dramatically reduce the chances of economic mobility.”

The growing wealth gap between the races in the U.S. is the focus of the new report, which you can download here. Other researchers have found equally damning evidence of the widening gap between the very rich and everyone else. This graph shows how “the top 10 per cent of income earners in the US took home an ever more outsized share of the total national income starting at the end of the 1970s.” From the World War II era to the early 1980s, the “top 10 percent took 30-35 per cent of total national income,” but by 2007 that figure had grown to about 50 percent–a level not seen since just before the Great Depression.

Ronald Reagan’s fiscal policies started this trend, but George W. Bush accelerated it with his enormous tax cuts for the highest earners. During Bush’s presidency, “The share of the nation’s income flowing to the top 1 percent of households increased sharply, from 16.9 percent in 2002 to 23.5 percent in 2007 – a larger share than at any point since 1928.” In addition, approximately “Two-thirds of the nation’s total income gains from 2002 to 2007 flowed to the top 1 percent of U.S. households […].”  

This enormous wealth gap is invisible to the Reagan-worshippers who now dominate the Republican Party. For them, any attempt to increase working-class wages is a “job-killer,” and tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the well-off are the solution to every problem. Look at how the Republican candidates for Iowa governor balk at spending $42 million to send more than 12,000 kids to pre-school but brag about plans to cut corporate taxes by $80 million to $160 million. Their priorities would be laughable if the real-world consequences were not so tragic.

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