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Feb. 19: Pulitzer-winning author speaks about inequality

By Sue McMurray, Carson College of Business

David-Cay-Johnston-80PULLMAN, Wash. – David Cay Johnston, author and investigative journalist who won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for reporting on U.S. corporate tax policy, will present “Taxing the many to give to the few: How government creates inequality,” at 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19, in CUE 203 at Washington State University.

Johnston will also present this free, public talk at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18, at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox in Spokane, Wash.

He will focus on issues highlighted in his newest book, “Divided: The Perils of our Growing Inequality,” which examines the economic effects of growing income disparity in the United States.

Taxes on earnings, investments examined

Since 2010, the U.S. economy has been recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression. Real GDP and production began increasing, unemployment has declined and the stock market is back to record levels. Despite this, many families have experienced a decrease rather than an increase in incomes.

“Since the end of the Great Recession, 95 percent of income gains have gone to the top 1 percent of households, and the bottom 90 percent’s incomes have fallen by 15 percent,” says Johnston.

His extensive investigative reporting suggests that the tax system has been a primary driver of growing U.S. inequality, due to the fact that the system is not designed to fairly and effectively apportion the tax burden. Simple wage-earnings are efficiently taxed, while investments and business accounts are more difficult to examine and collect upon, allowing the wealthiest Americans to shelter trillions of dollars of income.

More money is not the only advantage that affluent Americans enjoy. Johnson also identifies health, education, environmental and incarceration policies as other major drivers of income inequality.

Focus on policies, not economics

Change will only come, he contends, when the sleeping middle class understands that government policies, not abstract economic forces such as globalization, are the primary cause of the growing disparity between the very rich and the rest of the populace. The mission of Johnston’s book is to inform and educate Americans about this issue.

He calls for the middle class to, first and foremost, vote. Top earners vote at a much higher rate than lower income individuals. Politics are the only way to control concentrated wealth in a democracy, he says.

He also calls for greater political literacy. If the middle class votes for the policies and policymakers that will most benefit the majority of Americans, we can begin to amend the effects of decades of inequality, he says.

About the sponsors

Johnston’s presentations are sponsored by WSU’s Howard D. and B. Phyllis Hoops Institute of Taxation Research and Policy and the WSU Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service.

Related media

“Bloodiest thing the world has seen:” David Cay Johnston on inequality’s looming disaster  

David Cay Johnston: “The Perils of our Growing Inequality,” interview by president of the Institute for New Economic Thinking.


Jeff Gramlich, WSU Howard D. and B. Phyllis Hoops endowed chair, 509-335-5358,

Richard Elgar, WSU Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service, 509-335-3477,


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