News Release

Taxes on Rich Plummet, Economic Growth Slows and More Are Left Behind

graphic based on the work of economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman (and produced by the New York Times) showing the lower and lower tax rates that rich people have paid has been widely shared on social media.

JOHN MILLER, jmiller at wheatonma.edu, @dollars_sense

Miller is professor of economics at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass. He is a longtime contributor to Dollars & Sense magazine, and co-author with Arthur MacEwan of Economic Change, Economic Collapse.

He said today: “The tax burden of the wealthy — what they pay out in federal, state, and local taxes relative to their income — has plummeted over the last seventy years. In 1950 the wealthiest 400 families paid out 70 percent of their income in taxes, 47 percent in 1980, and just 23 percent in 2018. That surely is The Triumph of Injustice, the title of the new book by economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman that documents those changes. Nor has systematically slashing the tax burden of the super rich delivered its promised faster economic growth. Economic growth rates slowed from a rate of 4 percent a year during the 1960s, to 3 percent a year during the 1980s, and then stagnated after the 1990s. Since 2000 the economy has grown more slowly than during any of the five decades from 1950 to 2000, inequality has soared, and the economy has done less and less to improve the lot of most people.” See Miller’s recent piece “The Optimal Tax.”