Remembering Atkinson's Economic Vision -- The Anti-Trump Possibilities

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Atkinson. Credit: Capture d'ecran YouTube

With a new Congress and White House committed to wealth’s concentration, we’ll sorely miss the scholar who dedicated his life to documenting wealth’s maldistribution.

Republican leaders in Congress have never — in any of our lifetimes — entered a new year with higher hopes. They don’t just have a lockgrip on both chambers. They have an incoming president who’s itching to sign pretty much any legislation GOP lawmakers plop on his desk.

The plopping, GOP lawmakers have pledged, will begin almost as soon as Donald Trump takes his first steps into the Oval Office.

They’re now rushing along legislation that would repeal Obamacare, neutralize the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and undo a host of new regulations that protect working people.

The economist Anthony Atkinson, the godfather of modern research on inequality, passed away on New Year's Day. The responsibility for tracking — and resisting — the inequality of the new Trump era will fall on the many scholars he inspired.

All these initiatives, in the end, will have the exact same impact. They’ll all, once signed into law, make America’s rich and powerful even richer and more potent.

Repealing Obamacare, for instance, would also erase the pesky taxes on the rich that foot the program’s bill.

The enactment of Obamacare — the Affordable Care Act — placed a 0.9 percent Medicare tax hike on paycheck income over $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples.

Under Obamacare, these same affluent taxpayers pay a 3.8 percent tax surcharge on their investment income, the capital gains they register buying and selling stocks and other assets.

This surcharge raises the overall capital gains tax rate for America’s most affluent from 20 to 23.8 percent. Repealing Obamacare — and wiping out this surcharge — would put an extra $38,000 in billionaire pockets on every $1 million made wheeling and dealing.

All told, the top 0.1 percent – households with incomes over $4.76 million – would average a $197,000 tax cut if Obamacare gets deep-sixed, the Tax Policy Center calculates.

This top 0.1 percent, according to the latest available stats, is already grabbing 11 percent of America’s income, over four times the top 0.1 percent share four decades ago.

How much higher can this top 0.1 share go? We’ll soon find out if GOP leaders and the incoming Trump administration get their tag-team act really rolling.

But at least one person who has cared deeply about inequality will never get to see the damage this tag team goes on to generate. On New Year’s Day, Anthony Atkinson, the godfather of modern research into income and wealth distribution, passed away at age 73.

For the rest please see www.inequality.org

Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow Sam Pizzigati co-edits Inequality.org. His most recent book: The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class, 1900–1970.

Follow him on Twitter @Too_Much_Online.

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