The End of Welfare as We Don't Know It

Michael Cohen mike at
Tue Oct 13 11:11:41 PDT 1998

Doug Henwood wrote:

> Doug Henwood wrote:
> Between 1977 and 1985, the
> richest 1% (1998 average pretax income: $644,043) enjoyed a $97,250 tax cut
> (i.e., almost three times the average household's pretax income!) - partly
> offset by a $60,540 increase between 1985 and 1998, for a net cut of
> $36,710, or 14% of tax liabilities. That's not pocket change.

Thanks Doug,

And the tax burden is flat up the scale from this. Grieder I believe in the same book makes the point that if the Federal Government was "fee for services", the very rich would have to pay more do to the fact that it is the benficiary of the majority of government services. Its good there was this "offsetting charge", but as Doug argues, this is not small change. However its conceivable as the very conservatives argued that the new tax law removed many loopholes evening the burden among the very rich. Also difficult to measure would be the amount of tax "evasions" among the very rich via current loopholes as compared to prior times. Being Cynical I don't think the beneficiaries of the "Reagan and Carter revolution" generally earned less than 600,000 a year.

But again this is all assertion and speculation. Hard data on this and references as Max offered would be welcome. Two other immediately academic assertions but relevant to really understanding the US. 1. Suppose we took the income of the top 1% and capped it at $75,000 per year transferring all the income to the bottom of the socio-economic distribution so that the mean income below a certain point was flat, what would that income be? If possible ditto for wealth which is much harder. This speaks to the issue of the maximum which can be accomplished by direct wealth transfers at the current time and what a radical program might take as a platform. 2. How long does extreme wealth stay around. Take the top 1/2 percentage of the population in wealth and income. Is it likely that their children, grandchildren, remain in an oligarchy of wealth. Or is it a fact that this oligarchy is recreated by new people each generation. Of course there is no hard and fast rule but what is this quantitatively. I would guess that the US is much more egalitarian in this regard than say Japan or Germany but I really don't have the slightest idea.

This speaks to the structure of US capitalism, and the tendency I think we see now for the very wealthy to engage in legalized plunder.

--mike -- Michael Cohen mike at Work: 677 Beacon, Street, Rm313 Boston, Mass 02115 Home: 25 Stearns Rd, #3 Brookline, Mass 02146 Tel-Work: 617-353-9484 Tel-Home:617-734-8828 Tel-FAX:617-353-7755

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