Entries Tagged 'Economics and Investing' ↓

Words of the Day—Earned Income vs. Unearned Income – Definitions Matter

In my previous blog post on Brucenomics, I traced the history of the terms “earned income and “unearned income” back to Karl Marx’ infamous book, Das Kapital. Was it coincidence that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) chose those two terms to use in its federal tax system back in the early 20th century? I think not!

In this post  I’ll discuss how the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and other government agencies use these terms to ensure that most Americans will find it difficult if not impossible to get out of lower and middle income levels to achieve their “American Dreams”.

The IRS continues to provide the wealthy with with largess and leaves wage earners, retirees, and minorities behind in the dust when it comes to their efforts to build wealth. In my next post I’ll show how the IRS does this. But first let’s look at who is impacted by these IRS lables.

Who Earns What Kinds of Income?

I define Marx’s two categories of income as used by the IRS this way:

  1. Earned Income is what workers get from their labor (“the sweat of their brow”).
  2. Unearned income is what capitalists (a.k.a., investors and inheriters) get from their corporate and real estate incomes.

The IRS framework for federal taxpayers rests upon this hierarchy of these two types of incomes. They split Americans into groups based on types of income we make and the amounts of income we make.

This use of a hierarchical framework of privileged and less privileged individuals instantly creates discrimination against many groups of Americans. Also importantly, it fosters the growing income inequality found within our government—in favor of investors over workers.

Moreover, it isn’t just the IRS that differentiates Americans based on how much money we make and how we make it. Discrimination against minority groups and the poor and middle classes can be found in many of our federal and local government agencies as well.

For example, the title of the so-called “Small Business Administration” is a joke. That agency has evolved to give preferential treament to funding multimillion dollar corporations, like Microsoft, Apple and Chipotle by linking them with hedge fund funders—not to aid to truly small businesses on Main Street.

Bias exists in the EPA too which lets loose toxic chemicals in poorer neighborhoods, and in banks’ redlining for mortgages. Many other agencies throughout our government too. And it’s really obvious when it comes to retirees!

How Definitions of Income Define Individual’s Social Class

Continue reading →

Karl Marx’s Gift to the IRS

While our new President was speaking to Congress for the first time this year, seven speakers put on a Zoom webinar labeled “In Plain Sight: The Racism Hiding in Our Tax Code” — hosted by the m4bl.org.

Moderators Makani Themba, Chief Strategist at Higher Ground Strategies, and Andrea Ritchie, Writer, Lawyer & Activist, joined five other speakers who were experts on law, race, women’s issues and taxation from activist non-profit organizations in the U.S.

Issues they discussed covered far more than IRS’ taxes!

Their focus included state property taxes that fund education; sales taxes that harm the poor; state taxes that are not shared with cities and counties; unequal revenue spending; tax credits that favor those with money; income inequality; wealth divergence; regressive, progressive and flat taxes; revenue sharing for cities who are broke; the balance between military and domestic tax spending; cannabis taxes based on money made by harming the environment; taxes for reparations to African Americans; public health taxes; and taxes on the poor.

Key issues closely related to the title of this zoom group talk, were:

(1) disparities in choice of groups that the IRS doesn’t go after for tax cheating, a subject that our current President has also been recently discussing.

(2) The figure of 380 billion dollars of lost tax revenue from unpaid taxes by richer people was tossed out. (See this article from the Center of American Progress supporting that figure),

(3) the confusing amount of jargon and verbiage used by the IRS in numerous booklets filled with too many pages, and

(4) last but not least, disparate treatment of taxation on two types of income; one for the rich vs. the other for the middle class and the poor, i.e., “unearned income” vs. “earned income”. Continue reading →

How Micro Economists Could Crush Covid-19

For over a century macroeconomists have dominated the field of Economics in the Western World. I predict this is going to change in this century and that microeconomics will make a come-back.

The sub-field of microconomics itself was actually founded decades earlier than the sub-field of macroeconomics by a Cambridge College professor in England named Alfred Marshall.

In the late 19th century, Alfred Marshall wrote his famous book, Principles of Economics, and in his classrooom Marshall taught microeconomics to his students.

Marshall invented the field of microeconomics in reaction to the popularity of Karl Marx’s book, Das Kapital, a book that was critical of the capitalism that Adam Smith had advocated in Smith’s earlier book, the Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, the year of the American Revolution.

Marshall’s microeconomics teachings shunned the simple arithmetic examples that Karl Marx relied on to support Marx’s theories that rich people were cheating the factory workers who had made them rich. Fast forward to the next century!

In the early 1930’s, the United States fell into a GREAT DEPRESSION, far worse than any we have seen since.

That’s when Lord John Maynard Keynes, a student of Alfred Marshall’s at Cambridge, created and taught the sub-field of macroeconomics.

Keynes overcame Marshall’s reluctance to use arithmetic by using a form of mathematics called ‘calculus’ to support Keynes’ theories. Keynes’ theories became the mainstream thinking of the economists during the Great Depression and afterwards.

Meanwhile in the mid-twentieth century, conservative followers of Adam Smith’s economics at the University of Chicago economics department were still using simple arithmetic just like Karl Marx had done.

For almost a hundred years now Lord Keynes’ flashy macroeconomics and ‘econometrics’, along with President Franklin Roosevelts’ “New Deal”, were considered successes that saved the U.S. Economy in the mid-twentieth century.

Nevertheless a minority of conservative economists on both the West and East Coasts of this country at Stanford University, University of Virginia and other Southern colleges, and George Mason University near Washington, D.C. published books which challenged the ideas of the Keynesian economists.

Some of these minority economists’ arguments were quite credible, others weren’t.

I know because I created numerous back-of-the-book indexes for all kinds of economics professors for over twenty-five years in the late 20th century: Keynesian liberals, Chicago conservatives, and ultra-conservative libertarians.

Macroeconomics and Microeconomics – The Differences

Continue reading →