Report: High Flyers 2017

The private jet lobby – and their super-wealthy passengers – have created a parallel universe of perks and privileges that would shock most commercial passengers if they knew about them. In both tax policy and homeland security, the high flyers have used their power to create one set of rules for themselves and another set of rules for the rest of us.

This report examines how they are publicly subsidized, the security threats they pose, and the detrimental environmental impact they present. This report follows the work of a report released by the Institute for Policy Studies in 2008 of the same title.

Some major takeaways:
• The private jet lobby spent $ 56 million lobbying over the past ten years to save more than $ 1 billion in annual taxes they avoid due to preferential tax treatment.
• The tax cut package under consideration in the Senate maintains and expands the private jet tax carve-out, while the Republican budget plan increases fees on commercial airline passengers.
• Private jets contribute less than one tenth of the resources they use from the Federal Aviation Administration Trust Fund. Commercial airline passengers heavily subsidize private jet passengers.
• Commercial jets are taxed at up to 40 times the rate of private jets on the exact same route despite identical needs in terms of transportation infrastructure.
• Private jets threaten our national security as owners can obscure their identity and passengers face zero security screening.
• A single private jet trip burns more greenhouse gases than the average American does in a whole year.

• End the private jet tax carve-out and tax private jets at the same rate or higher than commercial air travelers. Don’t make it more expensive to fly commercial while subsidizing private jet travel.
• Close the security loopholes in private jet travel and tax carbon emissions effectively to account for the environmental impact of private jets.

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Report: Billionaire Bonanza 2017


Over recent decades, an incredibly disproportionate share of America’s income and wealth gains has flowed to the top of our economic spectrum. Americans at the other end of our economic spectrum, meanwhile, watch their wages stagnate and savings dwindle.

This report exposes the extreme wealth concentrated within the fortunes of the 400 wealthiest Americans and compares this wealth to the much more meager assets of several different segments of U.S. society. We draw data from both the recently released 2017 Forbes 400 and the Federal Reserve’s 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances.

Key Findings:

  • The three wealthiest people in the United States — Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett — now own more wealth than the entire bottom half of the American population combined, a total of 160 million people or 63 million households.
  • America’s top 25 billionaires — a group the size of a major league baseball team’s active roster — together hold $ 1 trillion in wealth. These 25 have as much wealth as 56 percent of the population, a total 178 million people or 70 million households.
  • The billionaires who make up the full Forbes 400 list now own more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the U.S. population, an estimated 80 million households or 204 million people — more people than the populations of Canada and Mexico combined.
  • The median American family has a net worth of $ 80,000, excluding the family car. The Forbes 400 own more wealth than 33 million of these typical American families.
  • One in five U.S households, over 19 percent, have zero or negative net worth. “Underwater households” make up an even higher share of households of color. Over 30 percent of black households and 27 percent of Latino households have zero or negative net worth to fall back on.

These figures underestimate our current levels of wealth concentration. The growing use of offshore tax havens and legal trusts has made the concealing of assets more widespread than ever before.

To reduce extreme wealth inequality in the United States we need to take two key steps:

  • First, we must not make inequality worse through new tax cuts for the wealthy. The proposed Trump tax cuts, as currently designed, would grow top 1 percent fortunes and do little to reduce the ranks of America’s “underwater nation.”
  • Second, we need to implement policies to reduce concentrated wealth. Inequality will continue to widen unless we intervene directly to reduce grand concentrations of private wealth. By taxing our wealthiest households, we could raise significant revenues and then invest these funds to expand wealth-building opportunities across the economy. We could also broaden the distribution of America’s wealth by encouraging employee ownership, matching savings programs, and similar initiatives.

Read the full report here [PDF].
Find sharable graphics here.

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President’s 2017 budget bolsters support for working families

President’s 2017 budget bolsters support for working families
Labor Secretary Perez: ‘Investments to ensure America’s economy works for everyone’

WASHINGTONU.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez today released the president’s 2017 budget for the Department of Labor, which supports the president’s plan to train workers for the jobs of the future and bolster the economic and retirement security of working families.

“This budget makes investments to ensure that America’s economy works for everyone. It reflects our optimism about the future and our commitment to creating broadly shared prosperity,” Perez said. “The president’s budget envisions a future with greater opportunity for all – a future where a full-time job pays a living wage, where working families have the support they need to survive and thrive and where retirements are secure.”

The Fiscal Year 2017 president’s budget for the department includes $ 12.8 billion in discretionary funding, along with new, dedicated mandatory funds. It builds on seven years of investments in job creation, economic growth, and the strengthening of the middle class.

The budget fully supports the president’s plan for a job-driven training system that provides a pipeline of highly skilled workers to help the economy grow. The budget reinforces the department’s commitment to apprenticeships, sustaining the $ 90 million in grants provided in 2016, and adding a $ 2 billion mandatory Apprenticeship Training Fund. These investments will help meet the president’s goal to double the number of apprentices across the nation, giving more workers the opportunity to develop job-relevant skills while they are earning a paycheck. The budget also creates an American Talent Compact, providing $ 3 billion in mandatory funds that will get a half-million people trained and into high-demand jobs through regional partnerships between workforce boards, employers, community colleges and other organizations.

The budget provides $ 1.5 billion in mandatory funding to states to fund Career Navigators in American Job Centers to reach out to unemployed and underemployed Americans and help them find jobs, match them with appropriate training programs, and connect them to supportive services, using best-in-class data and tools to inform their recommendations. The budget also establishes a $ 500 million mandatory Workforce Data Science and Innovation Fund to make the foundational investments needed to develop and refine those job-matching tools. The budget also seeks to open doors for youth by investing $ 5.5 billion in mandatory funds in year-round and summer paid opportunities and by launching competitive grant programs to create educational and workforce pathways for disconnected youth.

The budget drives forward reforms in the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The budget helps to realize the law’s goals by funding the core WIOA formula grants at their fully authorized level – a $ 138 million increase – and giving the department and the states the funding they need to oversee and implement the extensive changes envisioned in the law. This includes a $ 40 million investment to build state and local capacity to track the employment and educational outcomes of WIOA program participants, and give those seeking training meaningful information so they can make good choices about which programs will best prepare them for the labor market.

The budget also supports working families in the modern economy by helping them balance work and family obligations, get back on their feet after losing a job, and save for retirement. The budget includes:

  • More than $ 2 billion for a Paid-Leave Partnership Initiative to assist up to five states to launch paid-leave programs. The budget also includes $ 2 million in the Women’s Bureau for grants to help states and localities conduct analyses to inform the development of paid family and medical leave programs.
  • A cost-neutral suite of reforms to modernize and improve the Unemployment Insurance program. These reforms will mean that more workers will have access to unemployment insurance if they lose a job, and will strengthen the program’s connection to work, protect workers if they have to take a pay cut when starting a new job, make the UI program more responsive to economic downturns, and improve the solvency of state programs.
  • A package of proposals to make saving easier for the millions of Americans who are currently without employer-based retirement plans. These include automatically enrolling these workers in an Individual Retirement Account, providing tax cuts for auto-IRA adoption by businesses, and expanding retirement savings options. The budget provides more than $ 205 million for the Employee Benefits Security Administration, including $ 6.5 million for a state-based retirement plan demonstration project, which will test new approaches to increasing retirement plan coverage, including state-based 401(k) plans. EBSA also proposes an additional $ 100 million to finance pilots to test new ways of making retirement and other employer benefits more accessible and portable for workers. The budget also supports new rules to ensure that workers saving for retirement receive advice that is in their best interest.

The 2017 budget includes substantial investments in the department’s worker protection agencies for the enforcement of laws that protect the health, safety, wages and working conditions of American workers. Enforcing worker protection laws not only ensures that workers receive a fair day’s pay for a day’s work and are safe, but also levels the playing field by ensuring that employers cannot shortchange workers to gain a competitive advantage over businesses that follow the law. The budget includes:

  • $ 595 million for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In particular, the budget provides resources to enhance safety and security at chemical facilities and improve response procedures when major incidents occur, following on the administration’s comprehensive review in the wake of the devastating incident or explosion at West, Texas. The budget also requests resources to provide compliance assistance for businesses that want help protecting their workers and funds to help OSHA improve enforcement of critical safety and health standards and the more than 20 whistleblower laws that protect workers from reprisal for reporting unlawful practices.
  • $ 397 million for the Mine Safety and Health Administration to meet its statutory obligation to inspect every mine and help address risks posed to miners. The request supports implementation of a final rule on respirable coal dust exposure and strengthens targeted enforcement activities designed to focus attention on employers with the most serious safety problems.
  • $ 277 million for the Wage and Hour Division to enforce laws that establish minimum standards for wages and working conditions. In particular, the budget supports efforts to thwart the illegal misclassification of some employees as independent contractors; a practice that deprives workers of basic protections like unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, and overtime pay. 
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