Eleven people have a realistic chance to become trillionaires during their lifetimes, which is a staggering possibility considering that the U.S. does not even recognize International Workers’ Day, an occasion that traces its origins to an American laborers’ fight for a shorter workday and a movement that became the engine of our nation’s wealth.
While most Americans do nothing to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago and the struggle for the 8-hour working day they are also watching the fruits of those labor struggles frittered away as government policies shift more and more wealth to people like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, Michael Dell and Sergey Brin.
As these billionaires move toward becoming trillionaires, the ordinary American worker is trying to get by with an income of about $50,000 in an economy that requires $100,000 just to make ends meet.
Since 1979, the vast majority of American workers have seen their wages stagnate or decline—even though decades of consistent gains in economy-wide productivity have provided ample room for wage growth. The federal minimum wage has not been raised since 2009.
Economists now say Americans need to make approximately $122,000 a year — more than double the current national average salary — to feel financially secure, according to a Personal Capital and Harris Poll that surveyed more than 2,000 people in the last quarter of 2021.
A typical American making $40,000 would have to work for 2,750 years to make what the lowest-earning person in the group of the 400 wealthiest Americans, made in one.
Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon became the first companies to reach a market capitalization of a trillion dollars and while no individuals have yet to amass a fortune of a trillion dollars, Jeff Bezos is expected to be the world’s first trillionaire as soon as 2026, when he will be aged 62.
Collectively, the top 400 income-earning people paid an average tax rate of 22 percent in federal income taxes from 2013 to 2018.
In a progressive tax system, the more income you make, the higher your tax rate is, but in the U.S., that’s only partly true.
The very first dollar earned by a worker is taxed to support Social Security and Medicare, through what is called the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA).
People who make more than $142,000 stop paying FICA taxes, so the amount of income that is subject to taxation is greater for an individual earning $45,000 or a married couple with one child who earns $200,000 — a range that might be considered working middle-class —than it is for someone among the highest income Americans.
Many billionaires also didn’t make that list due to laws that allow them to use write-offs to erase taxable income.
Others simply avoid income even as their wealth rises, using such perfectly legal tricks as the “Buy, Borrow, Die” method: They borrow against their wealth to avoid taxes, then their estates are able to skirt taxes after their deaths.
The Haymarket Massacre is generally considered significant as the origin of International Workers’ Day held on May 1, and it was also the climax of the social unrest among the working class in America known as the Great Upheaval.
Today, the worth of an individual is deteriorating as labor no longer pays enough to sustain many working people in this economy.
It did, and for a long time, but the large, prosperous, and growing middle-class that once defined America has been eviscerated in the decades since the country adopted trickle-down economics.
Losing the ability to achieve upward mobility through education and hard work are among the casualties of an economic war that has been waged against the working people of this country and the world.
The hardships of our retarded economic equality, the trammels of Reaganomics, have vastly undermined democracy itself and fueled the popularity of neofascism around the world.
What is today being maligned by conservatives and neoliberals as ‘radical socialism’ is a set of policies sprung from nostalgia for the economic model that lifted America out of the Great Depression, enabled victory during World War II, and launched the United States into its place as the richest and most powerful nation on the planet.
The wealthy have done such a good job of snuffing out America’s revolutionary history and egalitarian principles that we do not even acknowledge the workers who fought and died to advance the notion of “justice for all” at the outset of our industrial age.
Unless there is a major shift in the way we think that influences the ways we vote and behave, soon humans will mostly be serfs and slaves in the service of billionaires and trillionaires.