Commentary, Trump Administration

Nichol: American inequality soars under Trump

Gene Nichol

In case you missed it, be sure to check out Prof. Gene Nichol’s New Year’s Eve op-ed for Raleigh’s News & Observer (“Trump policies coddle the rich, punish the poor”). Nichol, a UNC law professor who, along with fellow researcher Heather Hunt, chronicles the grizzly details of poverty in North Carolina (see their most recent report here), highlights some startling new statistics and Trump administration policies.

“Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman’s new book, The Triumph of Injustice, reveals an astonishing, if somehow unsurprising, set of facts. In 2018, with the implementation of the Trump tax cut, for the first time in American history, the richest 400 families paid a lower total effective tax rate (combined federal, state and local) than the bottom fifty percent of all households. The great 400, last year, coughed up 23% of their earnings, while the poorest half paid 24.2%….

This intense dedication to the interests and well-being of the very, very richest is on something of a roll. In 1960, the top four hundred households paid an effective total tax rate of 56%. By 1980, it had dropped to 47%, still more than double what it is today. During the same six-decade period, the figure for the bottom half remained essentially unchanged — presenting a stout version of reverse Robin Hood. As a result, Saez and Zucman show, over the last 75 years the U.S. tax code has become radically less progressive.

And now, as French economist Thomas Piketty puts it, the U.S. enjoys a higher level of economic inequality “than any other society, at any time in the past, anywhere in the world.”
Of course, as Nichol also highlights, in an effort to pay for his giveaways to the rich, King Donald has moved to slash food assistance to the poor:

“the Trump administration has announced that a three-stage series of cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Access Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. That’ll at least help [the deficit] a little. Thank God and Franklin Graham that someone is keeping an eye on the budgetary bottom line.

USA Today reports the rule changes will cut SNAP by $4.2 billion over five years — enacting stricter work requirements, capping utility allowance deductions and “reforming” the way states enroll families when they receive other forms of aid. (North Carolina had already moved on one of these fronts — unwilling to allow anyone to gain ascendancy in its war on poor people.)

The Urban Institute reported 3.7 million fewer people per month will receive benefits and 2.2 million households will have their benefits decreased.”

In short, Nichol notes, Trump has, quite literally, made transferring wealth wealth from the have nots to the haves a central premise of his presidency and, in so doing, dragged us “into the slime with him.”
Click here to read the entire essay.


  1. Margaret

    January 2, 2020 at 8:17 am

    You are full of it sir. I came out of low income and the have nots. Our president has encouraged and kept promises. It’s called determination and are part of the problem wanting to keep poor where you can control them.

  2. Catherine

    January 4, 2020 at 8:32 am

    Dear Margaret, Congratulations on your economic good fortune. My guess is that you were blessed along the way by help from some good people and at least day some fortunate circumstances. I hope you express your gratitude to those people and a higher power, if you have one in your life. I hope too that reflecting your gratitude, you reach out to help others.

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