Given that the wealthiest 10% of Americans own 81% of all stocks and mutual funds, these uses of corporate cash are a direct transfer of corporate profits away from creating jobs and capital investment, increasing income inequality. And the repurchase trend has accelerated radically. Stock buybacks as a percent of capital spending have risen to an all-time high of 113% in the last five years, compared to 60% in 2000 and 38% in 1990.
The $520 billion that companies spent on 2015 stock repurchases alone is enough to pay the average U.S. wage to 11 million workers — considerably more than our 7.8 million citizens who are currently unemployed. To put this in a different perspective, the amount corporations spent on stock repurchases in 2015 that went to the wealthiest 10% of the population was $60 billion more than the total federal government spending on all safety net programs combined.
From How Big Business Created the Politics of Anger, March 2016.