Connecticut can and must do better to address income inequality
Keith Phaneuf’s Sept. 6 article, citing a new report from CT’s United Way, describes the rise in the number of working poor in Connecticut. That should concern us deeply, along with the fact that our state’s income inequality — one of the highest in the country — continues to skew along racial lines.
In this COVID and BLM moment, we can and must do better: “38% [over 500,000] of Connecticut’s nearly 1.4 million households could not afford basic needs in 2018.” A number clearly worse today. And the pandemic data shows that poor working households of color have been the most severely affected.
This is wrong… and should be intolerable: it’s unjust; it’s a sign of our ongoing systemic racism; and it’s not good for our economy. The report says that “if all households earned enough to meet their basic needs, not only would each family’s hardship be eased, but the Connecticut economy would also benefit substantially.”
And this need not be: while we are burdened by the financial fallout to our state from the pandemic, we have a source of potential income we have not tapped — the income of our state’s wealthiest residents, the 1%, approximately 10,900 residents, who earn more — some much more — than $1 million a year. They pay a marginal tax rate in state taxes of around 7% (compared to an overall tax rate in excess of 20% for those earning under $50,000 per year).
An increase of even 1% in the marginal income tax rate for the top 1% of our wealthiest residents, including Connecticut’s 14 (or more) billionaires, could bring in an additional $1 billion+ annually to help the state meet its current financial challenges and support some of our 500,000 residents who cannot afford to meet their basic needs.
Recently (Sept. 6t), the New York Times urged states to step up and do the right thing: “Americans are living through a catastrophe. They cannot afford for their state and local leaders to abdicate responsibility. States, cities and school districts must require their wealthiest residents to pay higher taxes right now.”
Gov. Ned Lamont, why is this not fair? The lifestyle of the 1% will not be affected. It’s a myth that millionaires in any number will flee the state if we do this. It’s what we need to do, and it’s the right thing to do.
In this BLM moment, let’s remember the urging of Martin Luther King: “The time is always right to do what is right.” Let’s do the right thing! Now!
Courtney Bourns is co-founder of FairShare CT.
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