ProPublica’s bombshell report on America’s super-wealthy paying little or nothing in taxes reveals not only their humongous wealth but also how they’ve parlayed that wealth into political power to shrink their taxes to almost nothing.
Jeff Bezos, the richest man in America, reportedly paid no federal income taxes in 2007 and 2011. Elon Musk, the second richest, paid no taxes in 2018. Warren Buffett, often ranking number 3, paid a tax rate of 0.1 percent between 2014 and 2018.
The real scandal is it’s legal.
Wealth and power are inextricably connected. The super-rich have bought armies of lobbyists to keep their taxes miniscule and to create and maintain tax loopholes large enough to drive their Lamborghini’s through.
The loopholes are tougher than kryptonite. Remember the notorious “carried interest” loophole that almost every presidential candidate over the last five elections has promised to close? It’s still there.
The armies of the wealthy also prevent any major changes in the system that might threaten their wealth, such as a wealth tax, stronger unions, or tougher antitrust.
American democracy is being attacked from two directions right now – from the white supremacist followers of Donald Trump who are suppressing votes, and from the wealth supremacists who are bribing lawmakers with campaign contributions.
Some of the wealth supremacists are quietly bankrolling the white supremacists (see: Koch network, US Chamber of Commerce, Trump and his business boosters), because their mutual enemy is democracy.
A few weeks ago, hundreds of US corporations and CEOs lent their names to a two-page ad in the New York Times and Washington Post in support of voting rights.
It turns out many of these companies and CEOS are also members of the US Chamber of Commerce, the powerful Washington business lobby that recently put out a “key vote alert” against the For the People Act – designed to protect voting rights from state laws suppressing votes as well as the from the moneyed interests buying votes.
The hypocrisy is running thicker than ever. Corporate public relations departments put out noble statements while corporate legislative departments continue to put out legislative bribes. Billionaires like Warren Buffett publicly advocate higher taxes while privately paying almost zilch.
The For the People Act targets both white supremacists and wealth supremacists, which is why it’s hugely popular with the public but is running into roadblocks even among Senate Democrats.
This is the fight of our time.