The 15 Proposals from Tony Atkinson’s ‘Inequality – What can be done?’

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Jacob Richter
The 15 Proposals from Tony Atkinson’s ‘Inequality – What can be done?’


Proposal 1: The direction of technological change should be an explicit concern of policy-makers, encouraging innovation in a form that increases the employability of workers and emphasises the human dimension of service provision.

Proposal 2: Public policy should aim at a proper balance of power among stakeholders, and to this end should

  • (a) introduce an explicitly distributional dimension into competition policy;
  • (b) ensure a legal framework that allows trade unions to represent workers on level terms; and
  • (c) establish, where it does not already exist, a Social and Economic Council involving the social partners and other nongovernmental bodies.

Proposal 3: The government should adopt an explicit target for preventing and reducing unemployment and underpin this ambition by offering guaranteed public employment at the minimum wage to those who seek it.

Proposal 4: There should be a national pay policy, consisting of two elements: a statutory minimum wage set at a living wage, and a code of practice for pay above the minimum, agreed as part of a “national conversation” involving the Social and Economic Council.

Proposal 5: The government should offer via national savings bonds a guaranteed positive real rate of interest on savings, with a maximum holding per person.

Proposal 6: There should be a capital endowment (minimum inheritance) paid to all at adulthood.

Proposal 7: A public Investment Authority should be created, operating a sovereign wealth fund with the aim of building up the net worth of the state by holding investments in companies and in property.

Proposal 8: We should return to a more progressive rate structure for the personal income tax, with marginal rates of tax increasing by ranges of taxable income, up to a top rate of 65 per cent, accompanied by a broadening of the tax base.

Proposal 9: The government should introduce into the personal income tax an Earned Income Discount, limited to the first band of earnings.

Proposal 10: Receipts of inheritance and gifts inter vivos should be taxed under a progressive lifetime capital receipts tax.

Proposal 11: There should be a proportional, or progressive, property tax based on up-to-date property assessments.

Proposal 12: Child Benefit should be paid for all children at a substantial rate and should be taxed as income.

Proposal 13: A participation income should be introduced at a national level, complementing existing social protection, with the prospect of an EU-wide child basic income.

Proposal 14 (alternative to 13): There should be a renewal of social insurance, raising the level of benefits and extending their coverage.

Proposal 15: Rich countries should raise their target for Official Development Assistance to 1 per cent of Gross National Income.


Alongside these proposals are several possibilities to explore further:

Idea to pursue: a thoroughgoing review of the access of households to the credit market for borrowing not secured on housing.

Idea to pursue: examination of the case for an “income-tax-based” treatment of contributions to private pensions, along the lines of present “privileged” savings schemes, which would bring forward the payment of tax.

Idea to pursue: a re-examination of the case for an annual wealth tax and the prerequisites for its successful introduction.

Idea to pursue: a global tax regime for personal taxpayers, based on total wealth.

Idea to pursue: a minimum tax for corporations.

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The Return of the Super-Elite

American economic inequality hit a historic peak in 1928, when the country’s richest 1 percent captured nearly a quarter of the nation’s total income. But now, in thirty American metro areas and five whole states, the 1 percent has broken that previous record — and in some cases has doubled it.

Economists Estelle Sommeiller and Mark Price released a paper last week through the Economic Policy Institute titled “The new gilded age: Income inequality in the U.S. by state, metropolitan area, and county.” Their research concludes that, on average, the income of American’s 1 percent is twenty-six times higher than the average of the bottom 99 percent.

When we consider that the bottom 99 percent includes some people who make a huge amount of money — Sommeiller and Price find that a yearly salary of $700,000 in Connecticut puts you in the 99 percent, for example — a picture begins to emerge of a breakaway category of the super-elite, whose personal fortunes dwarf those of even average millionaires.

The metro areas with the highest inequality ratios are telling. One of them is the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk metro in Connecticut, also known as Fairfield County, which, as study coauthor Mark Price told Jacobin, is “the home of a lot of hedge funds, so that’s a New York Wall Street effect.” Price also pointed out several metro areas on the beaches of Florida, as well as three in Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, all of which are near high-end ski resorts.

“These are places where objectively you’d want to live if you had no other care in the world and you didn’t need to be near financial markets,” said Price. These are enclaves for billionaires so loaded they don’t have to live near economic power centers like Wall Street, Silicon Valley, or Hollywood, at all. This is the idle, absentee ruling class, sunbathing and hitting the slopes while their investments work for them....