What's so extraordinary about America's ever-widening gap between the rich and poor is that it's being caused by policies our politicians are enacting right before our eyes and we let them get away with it.
That the top 1 percent of the country makes 25 times more on average than the other 99 percent is much more than an economic phenomenon — it's the result of policies that have been skewed to favor the rich, most of whom funnel tens of millions into campaign coffers and later cash in on their "investments."
What's utterly amazing is the ability of legislators and members of Congress to convince voters that they are friends of "hardworking families" and sympathize with their plight at the bottom of the economic ladder.
No one pulled that off better than Donald Trump in 2016, feigning sympathy for American workers who are being left behind and taking advantage of their frustrations. Many "angry" voters bought what turned out to be a classic flim flam. Just a few months after his inauguration, Trump and his GOP lackeys in Congress passed a $1.5 trillion tax cut, mostly for big corporations and their CEOs and, as a bonus, allowed those with piles of money stashed in tax-free accounts overseas to bring it back at a generously low rate.
Don't worry, the Trump administration and his trusted partner, then House Speaker Paul Ryan alibied, the money will wind up trickling down to the workers in the form of more jobs and better pay.
A little more than a year later what do we find? Nearly all of those tax breaks stayed right with the rich. As many opponents of the Trump team had warned, the largess didn't fall to the workers. The conglomerates used the money to buy back stock and increase dividends to pad their bottom lines and enrich their already-wealthy stockholders. Some, like Apple, gave one-time bonuses of a thousand dollars, but that's all. Workers have gained a bit through wage increases, but barely at the rate of inflation.
The ones who really made out weren't Trump's working-class supporters, but his friends and financiers on Wall Street. Yet, his coveted base still sees him as a savior. They apparently haven't noticed that the gap between the rich and poor has steadily been climbing.
Here in Wisconsin we're watching before our very eyes the GOP-controlled Legislature working to help the well-to-do while pretending to be helping what Scott Walker always called our "hardworking Wisconsin families."
It's happening in the fight between the Republican-controlled Legislature and Gov. Tony Evers and the Democrats on how to pay for Evers' proposed middle-class tax cut. The Republican Legislature wants to pay for the working people's tax cut by taking money from the state's budget surplus to pay for it. That surplus, of course, was built on the average taxpayers' backs.
Evers, on the other hand, wants to pay for part of his middle-class tax cut by reducing the Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit adopted by Scott Walker and his Republican colleagues in 2011 that was ostensibly enacted to help farmers and small businesses hire new employees.
It's been to laugh to watch these same Republicans claiming that to reduce that tax break would hurt small businesses and, therefore, jobs. A couple of Sundays ago the GOP majority leader in the Assembly, Rep. Jim Steineke of Kaukauna, painted a rosy picture of the M&A boondoggle that has shoveled millions to big farmers and businesses that already are enjoying big federal tax cuts.
Once again, he used the standard flim flam that the Republicans are looking out for the little guy when in fact their only concern is that the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce agenda, whose goal is to eliminate all Wisconsin corporate taxes, is protected.
The Wisconsin Budget Project two years ago revealed that 78 percent of the credit has gone to individual tax filers who earn more than a million dollars, which makes Steineke's arguments absurd. In a rebuttal to Steineke in the Wisconsin State Journal, Milwaukee Democrat Daniel Riemer reminded readers that the M&A plan has allowed 16 people, each earning more than $30 million per year, to receive cuts averaging almost $2 million.
Evers' plan would shift some of that generous giveaway from the wealthy to roughly a $300 to $400 savings for the average worker. Most of the surplus could therefore be saved for Wisconsin's transportation and education needs, which also fell victim to Republican tax policy the past eight years.
If the Republicans can somehow prevail in this fight, they will once again add to the income gap while pretending they have only the little guy at heart.
And yes, as our fathers always told us, the rich get richer.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.
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