Americans are divided on taxing the rich to redistribute wealth. At the first of this month, June 2011, Gallup released a poll exploring the views of Americans about whether the federal government should enact heavy taxes on the rich to redistribute wealth in the U.S.
The Gallup poll found that 47 % believe the government should redistribute wealth in this way, while 49% disagree.
Not surprisingly, Republicans and Democrats have sharply different reactions to the government’s taking such an active role in equalizing economic outcomes. Seven in 10 Democrats believe the government should levy taxes on the rich to redistribute wealth, while an equal proportion of Republicans believe it should not. The slight majority of independents oppose this policy.
The issue also provokes different reactions from men compared with women, whites vs. nonwhites, and upper-income vs. lower-income Americans. Consistent with their more Democratic political orientation, women, nonwhites, and lower-income adults are all more supportive than their counterparts of government redistribution of wealth via taxes.
Among Democrats 71% believe the government should redistribute the wealth while 26% do not. 42% of men (Republican or Democrat) favor redistribution but 54% think not. On the other hand 52% of women (Republican or Democrat) agree with redistribution but 44% do not. 41% of whites think wealth should be redistributed, however 56% do not. 64% of non-whites believe in redistribution while 33% do not.
Differing income brackets of people are also divergent in their views. Of those who have income of $75,000 and over 31% support redistribution; 67% do not. As to those with incomes between $30,000 and $74,999–51% say the wealth should be redistributed but 47% donât. The lower income bracket of less than $30,000 the split is 63% in favor, 32% is not.
âWhile a solid majority of Americans, 57%, believe money and wealth in the U.S. should be more evenly distributed among the people, fewer than half favor using the federal tax code to do so. The fault line in these views is distinctly partisan, with most Democrats championing redistribution and most Republicans opposing it,â reports Gallup.
Last February CNN Money reported âIncomes for 90% of Americans have been stuck in neutral, and it’s not just because of the Great Recession. Middle-class incomes have been stagnant for at least a generation, while the wealthiest tier has surged ahead at lighting speed.â
CNN continued, ââ¦the richest 1% of Americans — those making $380,000 or more — have seen their incomes grow 33% over the last 20 years, leaving average Americans in the dust.â
Bill Rodgers, a former chief economist for the Labor Department, and currently a professor at Rutgers University, attributes a major pull on the working man was the decline of unions and other labor protections. Union membership has declined over the past 30 years from 20% of the work force in 1983 to less than 12% in 2010.
Another factor is globalization. International competition has lifted millions out of poverty in developing nations, but has not exactly been a win for middle class workers in the U.S. Factory workers have seen many of their jobs shipped to other countries where labor is cheaper, putting more downward pressure on American wages. While average people were losing ground in the economy, the wealthiest were capitalizing on some of those same factors, and driving an even bigger wedge between themselves and the rest of America. Globalization has been a major win for corporations who have used new global channels to reduce costs and boost profits. In addition, new markets around the world have created even greater demand for their products.
The gap between high school graduates and college graduates has widened. In 1980, workers with a high school diploma earned about 71% of what college-educated workers made. In 2010, that number fell to 55%.
Then there is the stock market. The S&P 500 has gained more than 1,300% since 1970. While that has helped the American economy grow, the benefits have been disproportionately reaped by the wealthy. The 1980s was a period of anti-regulation, presided over by President Ronald Reagan, who loosened rules governing banks and thrifts. Then came the Clinton era, when barriers between commercial and investment banks, enacted during the post-Depression era, were removed.
And the tax cuts added to the problem. Tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration and extended under Obama were also a major windfall for the nation’s richest. Then it all came tumbling down resulting in the worst economic slump since the Great Depression.
Alan Johnson, a Wall Street compensation consultant, said "I think it’s a terrible dilemma, because what we’re obviously heading toward is some kind of class warfare."
Really, do you think so?