If Donald Trump really wants to make America great again, he’d do what our country did when it was at the height of its economic stability and equality: increase the top income tax rate to 90%.
Instead, what we have now is a tax system put into place for present-day robber barons – one that enables the interests of a small number of powerful industries to dominate national policy, for the benefit of only themselves and to the detriment of working people.
Under the current revenue system, companies such as Facebook and Exxon pay a lower rate on their 20 billionth dollar of profit (21%) than the top rate that dental assistants, sales workers, mechanics, telephone operators, painters and postal clerks pay on their average annual wage of $39,400 (22%).
Thanks to Trump and his 2017 tax bill, income inequality has now reached its highest level since the US Census Bureau first began to tabulate it 50 years ago.
As a successful entrepreneur and founder of Men’s Wearhouse, I’ve seen how tax breaks for corporations and the rich perpetuate income inequality.
Last year, the country’s “Gini” index, which measures the nation’s income distribution, reached its highest reading ever. In our modern-day Gilded Age, more of the nation’s wealth is going to fewer people.
If the trend was a half-century in the making, the Trump tax bill that slashed corporate tax rates has fueled it to an extreme. It calls into question the very sustainability of capitalism, with ramifications for everything from climate change to racial justice to who has a true economic stake in our nation.
In 2010, I joined an organization called the Patriotic Millionaires. We believe that those of us who benefit the most from our capitalist system must ensure that it also works for our employees, our customers, our communities – in short, all of the nation’s stakeholders, not just our shareholders.
Philanthropy alone won’t cut it. Advocacy is in order.
As “traitors to our class” – as we proudly call ourselves – we must press lawmakers at every level of discussion to revitalize the union movement, to increase the national minimum wage to $15 an hour, and to restore the working middle class that rose to prominence in America when our tax system was at its equitable best.
In order to do that, we need to bring back a fair and progressive tax code – one in which our nation’s wealthiest pay for investments in infrastructure, clean energy, public transit, early childhood education, re-entry programs for the formerly incarcerated and federal support for affordable housing.
That’s why the Patriotic Millionaires are hosting a Tax the Rich! conference in November. We’re meeting at the ground zero of 21st-century inequality – San Francisco – to challenge our wealthy peers to fight for a fairer tax code.
We’ll be joined by Robert Reich, Gabriel Zucman and Emmanuel Saez, three University of California, Berkeley economists whose research has shifted the way we look at taxation and inequality, as well as an array of other thinkers, activists and elected leaders.
By discussing how to address inequality, we can provide for a truly great American future. We can debate the numbers, the rates, the programs. But when it comes to recreating American greatness, the ones who extract the greatest share of the national wealth must be the ones who pay the most to restore it.
George Zimmer is the founder and former CEO of Men’s Wearhouse, and the founder, CEO and chairman of Generation Tux
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