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Rep. Don Beyer Calls Income and Wealth Inequality the ‘Biggest Challenge That the Country Faces’

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Watch the full interview on ASP

Virginia Democratic Representative Don Beyer called income and wealth inequality the “biggest challenge that the country faces.”

During a recent interview with the civic media organization A Starting Point (ASP), Beyer was asked what areas of the current U.S. tax system need the most improvement.

“I think the biggest challenge that the country faces is the income and the wealth inequality,” he said in response. “One of the fascinating statistics is that last year, in 2020, during the pandemic the nation’s billionaires had a $1.9 trillion improvement in their net worth.”

Beyer added that the $1.9 trillion net worth increase was among just “the top, one-tenth of one percent,” and noted that it could have paid for all of President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which provided eligible Americans with $1,400 direct checks and funding for states and localities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beyer continued, “And the top five percent a $4 trillion increase…so that could have paid for both sets of the infrastructure plan without affecting their lifestyle.”

Beyer’s comments were discussing an estimate from Forbes, which found that the 2,200 billionaires across the globe have collectively increased their net worth by $1.9 trillion. According to Forbes, this was a 20 percent increase from the collective wealth of the billionaires of $9.5 trillion in 2019.

While billionaires saw their net worth increase in 2020, the overall unemployment rate showed stark differences among a majority of Americans, which Beyer noted by stating that income and wealth inequality were major challenges that the nation faces.

According to a January 2021 report from the Congressional Research Service, the unemployment rate across the nation reached an “unprecedented peak” of 14.8 percent in April 2020. The report also noted that every U.S. state and the District of Columbia, surpassed overall unemployment rates recorded during the Great Recession.

“Racial and ethnic minorities had relatively high unemployment rates in April (16.7% for Black workers compared to 14.2% for White workers, and 18.9% for Hispanic workers compared to 13.6% for non-Hispanic workers), and these gaps persisted in December,” the report added.

Don Beyer smiles before announcing his victory during an election night rally November 4, 2014, in Arlington, Virginia.
Brendan Smialowski/Getty

During his interview with ASP, Beyer also spoke about Biden’s proposed $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which includes raising the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent.

“I think last year, of the top 3,300 companies in America, 95 paid zero in taxes. So, even at 21 percent, which is where we are right now, the effective tax rate for 2020 was 7.8 percent for corporations,” Beyer said.

“When they dropped the tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, the lion’s share of that reduction and tax burden was used for stock buybacks, which increased the share price, which helped the income of the CEO’s…So it’s hard to imagine that if reducing the tax burden didn’t lead to an increase in worker pay, why increasing it back should lead to a reduction.”

Beyer was joined by Utah Republican Representative Blake Moore, who offered a different view on raising corporate taxes.

“You can talk about stock buyback and all that type of stuff and there are issues to consider there, so I try to keep a balanced approach,” Moore said.

“I know that’s a criticism if companies that make much more profit off of lower taxes when it only does benefit the top-level executives, well, don’t work for that company,” Moore said, adding that maybe the government should instead incentivize things such as a company’s wage growth.

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