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Report: America’s wealthiest now worth a record $5.8 trillion

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Nadia Ramlagan

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(West Virginia News Service) The nation's billionaires have doubled their wealth over the past seven years, while working people in West Virginia and elsewhere continue to face economic struggles.

The collective fortune of America's more than eight hundred billionaires hit a record $5.8 trillion in April, according to a new report by Americans for Tax Fairness.

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Gary Zuckett, executive director of the Citizen Action Education Fund, said the Mountain State is just beginning to see the ramifications of a deep income tax cut that was passed last year by state lawmakers.

He said the lack of funding has made it difficult to address steadily worsening problems.

"Like the child-care crisis in West Virginia, the corrections crisis - our prisons have been in the state of emergency for the last three or four years," said Zuckett. "There's a lot of things that we need to be using our tax money for, besides giving it to the rich in income tax cuts."

America's billionaires now own more than 50 percent more wealth than does the entire bottom half of the nation's households.

Under the current tax code, however, the staggering wealth gains made by the richest are unlikely to ever be taxed.

Trump-era tax benefits for the wealthy enacted in 2017 are set to expire at the end of 2025.

Zuckett explains that the laws cut the top income-tax rate from more than 39 percent to 37 percent, and cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

"The mom and pop grocery stores and the people working in Walmart, everyday working people," said Zuckett, "pay taxes on every dollar that they earn, but the system is rigged to benefit people at the top."

According to the report, if the wealthiest Americans were taxed at the rate of average Americans, the nation would have new potential tax revenue of roughly $120 billion each year, which could help pay for more affordable and accessible health care.