Tax Cuts For The Rich Are Worse Than You Think

It’s no secret that economic inequality is one of the defining policy issues of our time — but just how bad is it? Last month, the Census released new data showing the gap between those at the top and everyone else is at the highest level ever recorded. Thanks to a new op-ed in the New York Times, there is now striking evidence that shows that inequality is not only widening, but it’s driven in part by the U.S. tax code.

In the new op-ed, David Leonhardt looks at changes in the total tax rate — including local, state, and federal taxes — since 1950. He finds that over the past 70 years, the richest among us have had their total tax rate drastically cut while everyone else has seen their tax rate increase. In fact, for the first time in modern history, the 400 richest Americans pay a lower tax rate than any other income group.

For the millions of everyday New Jerseyans who work hard and make sacrifices to make ends meet, this chart represents infuriating truths. It represents an economic system that benefits those at the very top at the expense of everyone else. It represents a broken political system where policies are written by and for the wealthiest individuals and corporations. It represents decades of austerity, where tax cuts diverted critical funding away from programs and services that benefit the public good, like education and infrastructure. It also represents that inequality doesn’t just happen by accident — it is choices made over the course of decades by those in power.

While civil and individual rights expanded for so many since the 1950s, so did the rights for corporations and big business. The result of that expansion — along with a tremendous reduction in their tax responsibility — has empowered corporations at large to attack the right of workers to organize, increase privatization of public goods and services, and concentrate unbelievable mountains of wealth for a small group of executives at the very top.

New Jersey has seen a similarly alarming reduction in taxes for the wealthiest among us over the past decade. 

The future prosperity of New Jersey depends, in large part, on investments that we all contribute to through taxes. Together, we repair our roads and bridges, fund our public schools, preserve public parks, and expand mass transportation, all through taxation. However, in an era of budget shortfalls, in large part contributed by the wealthy and corporations not paying their fair share in taxes, we are not able to fund the programs and services that make New Jersey thrive. To reach our goals and help every New Jerseyan succeed, we need to restore fair taxation on the wealthiest among us so we can all prosper together.