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Report: West Virginians’ budgets shrink while corporations rake in profits

Nadia Ramlagan

As the nation’s largest corporations see their profits surge, more West Virginians are relying on assistance to meet basic needs as their spending power shrinks.

new report finds corporate profits drove more than half of inflation during the second and third quarters of 2023.

Gary Zuckett, West Virginia Citizen Action Group member, said inflation has taken its toll on already struggling communities, adding that household financial stress is linked to increased drug use, domestic violence and worsened health outcomes.

“I do think this is very relevant to our state, which has some of the lowest per-capita incomes in the country. In a state like West Virginia, where especially our rural counties have such a challenge, just with basic services,” Zuckett said.

The report shows, for example, that diaper prices have jumped by more than 30% since 2019 — from, on average, $16.50 to nearly $22 — despite the fact that source material for wood pulp, used to make diapers and other paper products, declined by 25% last year.

Liz Pancotti, report co-author and Groundwork Collaborative strategic advisor, explained that global supply chain snarls have smoothed over, and the economy has mostly stabilized, meaning the input costs for companies that make goods have dropped significantly.

“Now their costs are back down to zero, $1, compared to pre-pandemic, and they’re still passing on those $2 or $3 increases,” she explained.

At the same time, Zuckett noted, many of the nation’s most profitable companies have paid no income taxes. A report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found at least 55 of the largest corporations in America paid no federal corporate income taxes in 2020 — a collective total of around $8.5 billion.

“Corporations used to carry about two-thirds of the tax burden to fund the government,” Zuckett said. “And workers paid about a third. Now that’s flipped, and now the workers are paying two-thirds to keep the government running and corporations only being a third, and that’s not fair.”

Without congressional action, 2017 Trump-era tax cuts on American households earning less than $400,000 a year are set to expire in 2025.