Did U.S. Tax Policies Increase Economic Inequality?

The Occupy Wall Street movement continues to protest policies that have made the top 1 percent of income earners richer, while about 14 million Americans are out of work.

Meanwhile, the Congressional supercommittee only has one week left to come up with a plan that will cut more than $1 trillion from the deficit. Republicans are opposed to raising revenues by raising taxes, even on the wealthiest Americans, who have seen their taxes dramatically cut over the past 14 years.

“Almost without exception, every proposal put forth by GOP lawmakers and presidential candidates is intended to preserve or expand tax privileges for the wealthiest Americans,” writes Rolling Stone political correspondent Tim Dickinson. “Most of their plans, which are presented as commonsense measures that will aid all Americans, would actually result in higher taxes for middle-class taxpayers and the poor.”

On Wednesday’s Fresh Air, Dickinson explains how the tax policies pursued by the Republican Party have changed in the past 14 years — and says those changes have led to greater economic inequality in our country.

He explains that the top 400 taxpayers in the United States have seen their incomes increase threefold since 1997. In that same period, their tax rate has fallen by 40 percent.

“Today, a billionaire in the top 400 pays an effective tax rate of about 17 percent,” he says. “That’s about 5 percentage points less than your average worker.”

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