One of the most common tools in adjusting the wealth gap is the tax code.

Some more liberal economists argue that the tax code doesn't put enough of a burden on the country's top earners. On the other hand, some conservative economists make the argument that if top earners didn't have to pay so much in taxes, they'd be able to spend their money directly within the economy, which would (in theory) result in a healthier economy with a smaller gap (see trickle-down economics).


But let's take a look at the current tax system. Does it actually shrink the gap between the rich and the poor?

A little.

In a video for the Brookings Institution, David Wessel uses Lego bricks to illustrate the tax system.

Each stack represents the average income before taxes for each 20% segment of the population.

GIFs via Brookings Institution.

The bottom 20% of Americans (baristas, fast food workers) made $14,248 before taxes.

The next 20% (massage therapists, substance abuse counselors) made around $35,551.

The next (nurses, welders), $63,270.

The next (pharmacists, experienced programmers), $105,666.

And finally, the top 20% (CEOs, surgeons), averaged $306,320.

The average income of the top 1% is a whopping $2 million pear year.

So what does all of this look like after taxes? Kind of the same.

Sure, top earners saw almost 25% of their income go to taxes, but it's still pretty massively unequal.

So wait, since the average income for the top earners dropped by a higher percentage than others, does that mean income is being redistributed?

Again, kind of.

It's extremely hard to live on barista wages.

For the tax system to actually have a large impact on the U.S.'s wealth distribution, it would have to get significantly more progressive.

That is, it would need to tax the top earners even higher and the lower earners even less.

So, as much as it's a political talking point, no, the tax code is not a form of socialism. (I wish!) It is not some massive redistribution of wealth. (Again, I wish!) It's just the bare minimum the country needs to avoid completely burying the lower and middle economic classes.

So while taxes don't have a huge effect on income inequality, the good news is that they CAN have an effect.

All we need to do is push for a system that puts more of a burden on the high earners.

Check out the Brookings Institution video for more details on how taxes relate to income inequality:

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Joy

50-years ago they trade a grilled cheese for a painting. Now it's worth a small fortune.

Irene and Tony Demas regularly traded food at their restaurant in exchange for crafts. It paid off big time.

Photo by Gio Bartlett on Unsplash

Painting traded for grilled cheese worth thousands.

The grilled cheese at Irene and Tony Demas’ restaurant was truly something special. The combination of freshly baked artisan bread and 5-year-old cheddar was enough to make anyone’s mouth water, but no one was nearly as devoted to the item as the restaurant’s regular, John Kinnear.

Kinnear loved the London, Ontario restaurant's grilled cheese so much that he ordered it every single day, though he wouldn’t always pay for it in cash. The Demases were well known for bartering their food in exchange for odds and ends from local craftspeople and merchants.

“Everyone supported everyone back then,” Irene told the Guardian, saying that the couple would often trade free soup and a sandwich for fresh flowers. Two different kinds of nourishment, you might say.

And so, in the 1970s the Demases made a deal with Kinnear that he could pay them for his grilled cheese sandwiches with artwork. Being a painter himself and part of an art community, Kinnear would never run out of that currency.

Little did Kinnear—or anyone—know, eventually he would give the Demases a painting worth an entire lifetime's supply of grilled cheeses. And then some.

Keep Reading Show less