Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

'We all deserve to benefit from our nation's steadily rising productivity.' (File)

Four Numbers to Make Us Fighting Mad. And One Way to Fight.

Paul Buchheit

If revolution is to happen, we Americans must be made aware of the destructive failures of the free-market system, and we must be angry enough to act, and, most of all, we must agree on a single demand of the people with money and power who have perversely redistributed our national wealth. First some maddening facts: 

1. For Every BILLION DOLLARS of New Stock Market Wealth, Most of Us Averaged ONE DOLLAR in Stock Gains 

In the six years since the recession the stock market has risen by $8 trillion, the great majority of it going to the richest 10%. In 2013 alone it rose by $5 trillion. On average, each of us in the bottom 90% earned a dollar every time the market went up another billion. (Details here.) 

2. Each Year Since the Recession, the "Upper Class" (Richest 10%) Has Accumulated Enough New Wealth to Pay the Total Cost of Social Security Four Times Over 

The upper class is defined here as the top 10%, families with minimum wealth of $660,000 and minimum income somewhere between $114,000 and $140,000

Social Security too expensive? Not in comparison to the flow of wealth to the upper class, many of whom, at the lower end of the 10%, may not consider themselves rich, but have still benefited. In the six years since the recession these 16 million families have increased their wealth by $4 trillion per year, which is more than four times the cost of Social Security

3. Two Top Polluters, Four Welfare Kings, and a Long-Term Tax Avoider Took Enough National Wealth Last Year to Pay for ALL the School Lunch and Women/Infant Nutrition Programs 

That would be the seven individuals heading up Koch IndustriesWalmart, and Berkshire Hathaway. In addition to their corporate profits, the seven moneymakers had personal investment gains that totaled $28 billion last year, about the same as the total cost for nutrition programs for over 40 million kids (Child Nutrition and WIC). They made even more the year before, and the year before that. 

Much of their new wealth was rolling in as nutrition programs were being CUT

4. Then: Workers Paid 33 Cents, Corporations Paid a Dollar. Now: Workers Pay 33 Cents, Corporations Pay 7 Cents 

Workers and their pensions get blamed for budget shortfalls. But relative to workers' payroll tax, corporate taxes have dropped from $1.00 to 7 cents since the 1950s. Meanwhile, corporate profits have reached record highs, more than doubling in just the past ten years. 

A Way To Fight 

For those of us constantly seeking a solution to upward wealth redistribution, the proposal outlined by Peter Barnes is brilliant in its fairness, simplicity, and proven effectiveness: a national Permanent Fund, modeled after the popular and successful Alaska Permanent Fund. Corporations have used our resources—research, infrastructure, environment, educational and legal systems—to develop technologies that are gradually reducing the need for human involvement. We all contributed to their success, either directly or through our parents and grandparents. We all deserve to benefit from our nation's steadily rising productivity. 

With an America Permanent Fund, all of us—rich and poor alike—would receive a share, perhaps up to $5,000 per year, according to Barnes. The revenue would come from a carbon tax and/or a financial speculation tax and/or a redirection of corporate profits away from executive-enriching stock buybacks

An America Permanent Fund is fair, logical, and based on precedent. A lot more will be heard about it.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit is an advocate for social and economic justice, and the author of numerous papers on economic inequality and cognitive science. He was recently named one of 300 Living Peace and Justice Leaders and Models. He is the author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (2008) and "Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income" (2017). Contact email: paul (at)

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Because Climate Science 'Does Not Grade on a Curve,' Experts Says IRA Not Enough

"There is an urgent need for much more aggressive and far-reaching measures to prevent climate chaos," said the head of one progressive consumer advocacy group.

Brett Wilkins ·

'Game-Changer and Reason for Hope': House Passes Inflation Reduction Act

"We've got more to do," Rep. Pramila Jayapal said on the House floor. "But today, let's celebrate this massive investment for the people."

Jake Johnson ·

'This Is Insane': Search Warrant Indicates FBI Investigating Trump for Espionage Act Violation

"If you're not fed up," said watchdog group Public Citizen, "you're not paying enough attention."

Jessica Corbett ·

Anti-War Veterans Group Asks Biden to 'Read Our Nuclear Posture Review Before Releasing Yours'

"Are you willing to risk a civilization-ending apocalypse by playing nuclear chicken with other nuclear-armed nations? Or will you lead us toward a planet that is free of nuclear weapons?"

Jessica Corbett ·

'Big Win' for Public Lands and Climate as US Judge Reinstates Coal Lease Ban

"It's past time that this misguided action by the Trump administration is overturned," said one environmental campaigner.

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo