Something is wrong | News, Sports, Jobs
A few words about the makers and takers.
This was, as you may recall, the formulation once favored by Fox “New” and other organs of the political right to describe the dynamic between those at the top of the economic pyramid and those at the bottom. The poor – characterized as scavengers by more than one conservative – were supposed to bring nothing to our society, while still taking advantage of their financial bettors.
But it’s worth re-examining the whole “Manufacturers and takers” paradigm in light of last week’s jarring report from ProPublica, the nonprofit online newsroom. It was based on a wealth of IRS information provided by an anonymous source, and it detailed the strategies used by America’s richest people to get by without paying little or no tax.
Take, for example, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and the richest man in the world with a net worth estimated by Forbes at $ 192 billion. We are told that he paid nothing in taxes in 2007 and 2011 and a pittance the other years.
Don’t blame Bezos. Elon Musk, Michael Bloomberg, Warren Buffett and other extremely wealthy people would all have used the same strategy to avoid taxes. That is, they pay themselves minimal wages – as little as a dollar a year in some cases – and keep their wealth in the form of stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments, which l The IRS does not consider income and taxes to be a much higher price. lower rate.
For comparison, ProPublica reports that the median US tax rate in recent years is 14%. But he calculates Bezos “true” tax rate between 2014 and 2018 – that is, taking into account the growth of its assets with its declared income – at less than 1%. He says when people like him need real money, they just borrow against their huge assets. The interest on these loans is single digit and the proceeds are not considered income and therefore not taxable.
All of this is, moreover, perfectly legal. Also, perfectly infuriating.
And here let me just say: I believe in capitalism. I believe when you encourage income, you encourage risk taking, innovation and hard work.
But I also think something is wrong when the CEO’s salary increased by around 1,000% between 1978 and 2018, while the workers’ salary only increased by 12%.
Something is wrong when working full time doesn’t put a roof over your head or food on your table.
Something is wrong when an Amazon driver complains about 14 hour shifts and peeing in bottles to make his delivery quotas.
Something is wrong when Tyson employees and other meat packers report wearing diapers to work, as treadmills are relentless and bathroom breaks are denied.
I also believe that paying taxes is a patriotic duty. Heavy? You bet. But patriotic, all the same. This is how we fund our governments, local and national, and the services they provide: from road maintenance, fire and police to military defense, food security and cleaning up the environment. We all benefit from these services, whether they are extremely rich, pitifully poor, or somewhere in between. Any tax code that allows the rich to take advantage of what is paid for by the rest of us is morally bankrupt and needs to be revised.
Moreover, it denies the right’s lavish contempt for the poor. As a result of ProPublica’s report, perhaps we should reconsider who the “manufacturers” really are.
And who takes what from whom.
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald.