THE WEALTH GAP IS AT AN ALL-TIME HIGH
Since the 1970s, economic inequity in the United States has continued to increase and currently parallels the disparities witnessed in pre-Great depression times.
The growth of income inequality is multifactorial and complex but is generally attributed to technological advancements, stagnated growth in educational attainment, globalization, regressive taxation, and the decline of labor unions.
French Economist, Thomas Piketty explores the impacts of capitalism on equality in Capital in the 21st Century. His analysis reveals the alarmingly unequal wealth distribution that continues to widen due, in part, to generational wealth accumulation. It is clear that there are various factors acting as catalysts for the widening wealth distribution in the United States, which makes it increasingly difficult for societies lower earners to achieve upward mobility while simultaneously meeting their basic needs. WPSR is working to address economic inequity in hopes to achieve a future where all of Washington’s citizens can thrive.
IMPROVE WAGES AT THE BOTTOM
One way to address economic inequity is by ensuring that all Washingtonians can earn a livable wage. We cannot expect that someone who makes $10 an hour can support a family on $20,000 a year. Low-wage earners have fewer options in terms of food, exercise, living conditions, and preventative medicine.
That's why we joined the movement of people advocating for a $15 minimum wage. And of course, we've had great success on that front - first in Seatac and Seattle, and then with a vote in 2016 to raise the minimum wage statewide to $13.50 by 2020.
Whatever we do to raise the floor, as long as the high income earners remain disproportionately wealthy and uncontrolled, our health will never improve compared to so many other nations.
ADDRESSING REGRESSIVE TAXATION POLICIES
The tax system has not evolved to adjust to the rise in income among top earners. Instead, taxation in the US has become more regressive due to policies that protect top earners and result in lower earners paying a larger percentage of their income in taxes. Lower incomes predispose individuals to worse health directly through exposure to harmful environments, decreased opportunity for educational and occupational advancement, and decreased ability to prevent and cope with disability and disease.
The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy produced a report that documented the unfair nature of the taxation policies within the United States. In their report they address the “Terrible 10”, which are the 10 states with the most regressive taxation policies. Washington state was found to have the most regressive taxation system compared to all other states. Washington’s taxation policy disproportionately burdens the lowest earners; the lowest 20% pay 17% of their income in taxes and the top 5% only spend 2-4% of their income. Because of this disproportionate tax burden on those with the lowest incomes, some call Washington state’s tax code “upside down.”
WPSR is part of the All in for Washington coalition, working to clean up our upside-down tax code. This coalition combines the insights of organizations and individuals working for a more just and equitable Washington, advocating for progressive taxation policies. This includes eliminating tax breaks that only benefit top earners and producing more resources for necessary community investments.