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Blame Republican policy for American income inequality

The Hill logo The Hill 10/16/2018 Morris Pearl, opinion contributor
Blame Republican policy for American income inequality © Getty Images Blame Republican policy for American income inequality

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Ratings firm Moody's recently dropped a bombshell report showing that rising wealth and income inequality in the United States will likely lead to lower income growth, political unrest, and a drop in the credit rating of our federal government. Moody's prediction may come as a shock to some, but this should hardly come as a surprise to anyone paying attention to the state of our country. We have a government run by politicians utterly devoted to widening the gap between the rich and the poor, and as that gap widens, our economy and our governmental institutions become less and less stable, putting our country's social, economic, and political fabric in danger.

While inequality is an issue in many countries around the world, the United States is uniquely unequal when compared to other developed countries. It's no mystery why. Republican leaders in Washington have shown themselves to be unwilling to address this looming crisis. On the contrary, they've done everything in their power to make things worse.

Rather than work to make higher education more affordable, they've ignored the student debt crisis, and in fact proposed nearly $80 billion cuts to the Pell Grant program, which millions of Americans rely on to afford higher education. Rather than boost social safety nets to help low-income families afford education, job training, or healthcare, they've proposed massive cuts to programs like Medicaid and SNAP that help huge swaths of the population. And rather than work to shape a tax code that limits the tax burden on poor and working class families, and requires the rich to pay what they owe, they passed a nearly $2 trillion tax cut just last year that was deliberately designed to provide massive cuts to millionaires, billionaires, and corporations while leaving crumbs for the rest of the country.

There are dozens of factors that contribute to the escalating levels of wealth and income inequality in America, but last year's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act deserves special mention for the sheer scope and shamelessness with which it contributes to our nation's growing inequality. Despite being sold as a middle class tax cut that would benefit the whole country, 83 percent of the bill's $1.9 trillion in tax cuts are projected to go to the top 1 percent of the population.

That is obscene at any time, but especially in an economic environment in which, as the Moody's report says, "The top 10 percent of income earners have seen their overall median net worth increase by almost 200 percent since 1995, while the bottom 40 percent of income earners have experienced a decline in median net worth over the same period." At a time when corporate profits have never been higher, and when the top 1 percent is doing better than any time since the Gilded Age, the architects of the Republican tax bill decided that our tax code asked too much of the wealthy, not too little, and that the poor and middle class didn't really need any tax relief. It's absurd.

With no end in sight to our nation's growing gap between the rich and everyone else, and a Congress and administration that see inequality as a positive thing, I would be hard pressed to say that I personally had unwavering faith in the federal government or the American economy. If we want to retain our status as a global economic leader that most Americans now take for granted, we need to start acting like it. We need a government that works on behalf of all of its citizens, not just the wealthy.

Morris Pearl is the chairman of Patriotic Millionaires.

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