Disinfonauts have known about this idea for quite some time. And the idea was floated by the floundering Lib Dem Party leader in Britain earlier this year. But only just now does it seem to be gaining traction in the mainstream American press. By Daniel Altman in the New York Times:
WHETHER you’re in the 99 percent, the 47 percent or the 1 percent, inequality in America may threaten your future. Often decried for moral or social reasons, inequality imperils the economy, too; the International Monetary Fund recently warned that high income inequality could damage a country’s long-term growth. But the real menace for our long-term prosperity is not income inequality — it’s wealth inequality, which distorts access to economic opportunities.Wealth inequality has worsened for two decades and is now at an extreme level. Replacing the income, estate and gift taxes with a progressive wealth tax would do much more to reduce it than any other tax plan being considered in Washington.
When economists try to measure inequality, they typically focus on income, because the data are most readily accessible. But income is not always a good gauge of economic power. Consider a group of people who all have high incomes but differ widely in their wealth. Who’s going to get into the country club? Who’s going to have the money to finance a new venture? Moreover, income data may not reveal the true economic power of people who are retired, or who receive their pay in securities like stocks and options or use complex strategies to avoid taxes.
Trends in the distribution of wealth can look very different from trends in incomes, because wealth is a measure of accumulated assets, not a flow over time. High earners add much more to their wealth every year than low earners. Over time, wealth inequality rises even as income inequality stays the same, and wealth inequality eventually becomes much more severe.