Home | About | Donate

The Basic Case for a Wealth Tax

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/08/16/basic-case-wealth-tax

5 Likes

This! For the rich, foregoing whatever trickery their accountants will employ, and there will be trickery, their income is only whatever wealth they convert in a particular year to spend in said year. That leaves their treasure to grow largely untouched by the tax man and then we get to inheritance taxes, a perpetual fight (oft posed as “death taxes” dramatic purposes). The conservative (keep the rich rich) politicians do their best serve their masters for the scraps that fall from the table. The People need to be educated on this matter. Bernie did his part. I hope he can do more and pass the baton to other progressives with high visibility. Like most issues, education is the key starting point.

4 Likes

It was actually Occupy Wall Street (OWS) popularizing the 1%/99% playing field mantra in 2011 that provided the platform and concise messaging that enabled widespread support for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 POTUS campaign. Although Sanders was previously popular among us long time progressive activists (I loved the Bernie Buzz emails I was prior to his POTUS campaign launch) he was not well known on the national stage.

The high impact of the OWS message was confirmed by Obama’s justice department making everything OWS did illegal so they would not re-emerge in spring 2012.

1 Like

2%, 3%, 10%, are you kidding me?

“We can’t turn the clock back to 1982.”

OK, let’s turn it back to the 1950’s, I want to see numbers like 70%, 80%, and 90% proposed. These wealth mongers didn’t just benefit from reduced taxes to increase their wealth, they used that money to actively skew the entire system in their favor with bribes, then making bribery legal, and offshoring profits to reduce their small tax bills even further, completely upending the social system in this country.
The rich deserve my proposed tax bill percentages and more.

5 Likes

In spite of the greatest wealth transfers by the federal government to the uber wealthy in human history, tax pros who make a living on complex US tax law are still in force selling us failed tax policies. What they should be asking is: Why can’t the federal government give everyone else this same opportunity? The government is not spending constrained under present economic conditions. It is just they choose to be for ideology reasons.

Naturally, these same tax pros are careful to target their ire at the gazillionaires rather than the sub billionaires since this lets the policy makers off the hook from scrutiny. For instance, folks like Elizabeth Warren drafts Bills that shields her immense wealth and other rich Congress people from any wealth taxation. How convenient.

Tax pros never get into discussions on underlying government policies that contribute to billionaires wealth because that would undermine their jobs. Government patent monopoly protection for drugs, for example, is a significant contributor to growing wealth inequality. Tax pros refuse to analyze the government welcoming concentrated monopoly power in the so-called market since they are big campaign contributors.

Tax pros arguments for more taxes on select groups of people also ignores the fact people of all stripes hate taxes, especially the super rich. They are willing to start WWIII to preempt any additional taxation. So, why start a war when their are alternatives to increased taxation?

Tax pros are also ignorant about federal “revenue” and what the government does with it. Additional revenue does not mean new social policies. Social programs are constrained because of politics, not revenue. Again, recall the trillions of dollars Congress created out of thin air to help out their rich buddies without single cent of revenue. The federal policy is to protect neoliberalism. Congress could have easily spent the money on Main Street, but they didn’t.

There is nothing immoral about federal deficits. What matters is where does the federal money go, especially the discretionary spending. Once again tax pros ignore this. Congress finds it better to build aircraft carriers than protecting Americans from novel viruses. Why aren’t the tax pros all over this obvious wealth transfer? By the way, sainted Warren votes every year for these wealth transfers to Raytheon.

Tax pros tax ideas are bad ideas for America. We don’t need the uber rich money. Besides, the government is not interested in becoming Robbin Hood. What we need is new thinking on jobs for everyone that pays Americans good wages.

3 Likes

I’ll support ReconFire on this one. Yes, let’s take the tax brackets of the Eisenhower era and transfer them to the current time. AND…make sure F.I.C.A. is payed on EVERY last dime of it.

2 Likes

The handful of the richest people who are all followers of Grover Norquist and have drowned the nation in a tub by extending the campaign season from a few months to forever. The Boston U magazine two years ago reported how the far right gets the democrats to vote against market regulation which they don’t understand by donating vast amounts of money to Citizens Climate Lobby but also in their own name so they buy control of the board and suppress real knowledge about the cause of climate change to a tax on people using fuel as usual. The 9th district court of appeals ruled June 25th, 2018 that deforestation, wildfires and volcanoes in that order are the cause fuel use is a distant last. They have destroyed the Michigan fruit belt by wrecking the markets for the crops and the farmers are trying to run retail stores in their fields. They put the Chinese in charge of pricing our commodities by putting then on high speed computers and controlling the price of everything to what they want to pay. The Northern spotted owl has a nesting season that can be worked around like any bird but they hijacked the NGOs that have destroyed forestry which lowers co2 as well as providing millions of jobs for non-millionaires which that hate as much as highly productive factory workers making products that work and are repairable. The tax laws are written by them and voted on by our bribed legislators. All corporate and financial profits have to be taxed at 50% the way they were from 1940 to 1980. My first time here, too, welcome.

Creating puny wealth taxes on the obscenely rich is not the solution, and I disagree with the notion put forward here that “we don’t need the money” of the uber wealthy, or the idea that the government “isn’t interested in being Robin Hood.” The government is The People, and most of them do want to be Robin Hood, and realize a fair distribution of wealth created BY The People. We damned well do need their money, because not all of it rightfully belongs to them.

All cowardly arguments about “what is feasible” or what is “politically workable” be damned. Anything is possible, if you back up far enough and begin making new laws.

We need more than income taxes and wealth taxes to rectify the current imbalance of wealth - everywhere in the world. We also need a wealth cap. And of course, we need an entirely revised legal system, judicial system and taxation system as well as a fundamental change in how businesses are allowed to operate. Finally, as long as people are dying of starvation, as long as the masses are suffering from a lack of the means to simply live in relative comfort and safety without being slaves to the rich, we need to change people’s attitudes toward wealth, moving away from the obscene notion that being fabulously, filthy rich is cool and sexy and that those at the top are to be admired.

One of the biggest changes in the history of wealth on this planet is the development of the stock market. People often argue that billionaires like Jeff Bezos “aren’t actually rich” because they do not possess X billions of dollars, but are rather only WORTH that amount because the vast majority of their wealth is not cash in the bank but shares of stock. While converting all or most of his stock into cash in a relatively short period of time would not really be possible without major consequences (loosing a controlling stake in the company, driving down the stock price rapidly, etc) Jeff is able at any time to essentially snap his fingers and convert a billion or more dollars worth of stock in a single day any time he wants to, should he suddenly feel the need to buy another multi-million dollar yacht, politician, or whatever the case may be. So these “he’s not actually rich” arguments are hopeless.

The stock market itself is a huge problem in relation to the wealth gap, because it is nothing more than a casino, where shareholders (who have in 99.9% of all cases never contributed anything to a single company whose stock they own) push company share prices into the stratosphere based on very vague and questionable notions of “value.” The fact that an average Joe like Jeff Bezos can come along with a simple idea like selling books online, grow that business into something profitable enough to entice investors to back an IPO that then results in a snowballing effect on company growth as the wealth the IPO creates for the company allows company executives to begin the inevitable corruption process, breaking laws they can afford to break that further grow their business, buying politicians, etc., creates a (currently) $188 billion dollar incentive for business people to pervert the basic concept of business under capitalism into something purely obscene. Instead of a group of people making a product or service that does good for its customers, for its workers and for the community, you have a group of people making anything that will sell, despite any and all consequences, that results in slave labour, an erosion of the public good, the environment, the political process… The stock market itself needs a complete re-think, as it no longer results in a benefit to society as a whole. The original purpose of going public is simply to get a cash injection for a company that needs to cover costs in order to grow and further develop a successful idea, the same way as borrowing that needed cash from a bank is, but without the need to repay the loan and interest on it. But the way the market and investors operate now, this original purpose is all but gone, replaced by a simple drive by the C-suite to make themselves rich.

Forget about creating a tax that the rich can agree to that will not fundamentally change anything, or stop the incredible injustice that is sadly our reality, everywhere. You cannot cure a terminal illness with a band-aid.

1 Like

Excellent. Not sure if you’ve seen my posts advocating to abolish the limited-liability, investor-owned corporation. The first publicly-traded corporation was the Dutch East India Company, literally invented to carry out colonization. The model needs to be abolished. Elevating investors above all other interests has so grossly distorted our entire society, economy, culture, it needs to be recognized and ended. Enterprise needs to operate within constraints of ecological and social accountability, not merely within “constraints” of “accountability” to investors.

We need a whole-system re-boot, and we need to end the existence of any looting class.

2 Likes

Limited liability for investors means you can invest money in the company, and “earn” a share of profit from whatever the company does; but you are not liable for any crimes, disasters, errors, lies, colonizing, enslaving, or anything else the company does, nor any lawsuits that result – you are only liable to lose your money invested (your liability is limited to your original investment).

1 Like

While a “wealth tax” is a good idea, especially for paying down the deficit, it is insufficient.

  1. We need to get the government out of picking economic winners, by treating all forms of income the same.
  2. We need to tax all increases in net worth as income.
  3. We need an inheritance tax which prevents hereditary oligopoly by limiting the maximum amount one person can inherit to what can support that person for a lifetime at median income at federal bond rates.
  4. We need to return to treating corporate persons as legal fictions and require corporate officers be removed and have all performance bonuses remanded to the treasury.
  5. We need to set reasonable tax brackets with no deductions, only allowances for household size and total household income.
    6 We need to eliminate tax expenditures and require all government assistance to be direct, transparent cash payments.
    IN ADDITION to to these ways of dealing with the problem at the top, we also need to help those at the bottom by prohibiting semi-enslavement through inadequate wages. We need to require that all workers share in performance incentives proportionately. We need to limit the ratio of executive to entry level pay packages.
    We have proven that “trickle down” economics does not work. It only enriches the oligarchs. We need a multi-decade experiment in “trickle up” economics, which just might reduce the wealth gap, if we give it a try.
1 Like

You both are confusing wealth tax with income tax. A wealth tax taxes the same pile of of money/assets for as long as you have it, and income tax taxes a money flow (from capital gains cashed out or from an employer paying a salary or whatever) into the persons personal spending account. High percentages (> 40%) make sense on a marginal income tax bracket and make no sense on wealth taxes. Anyone who argues for high taxes (which I am for) needs to get their terms straight.

I personally think the wealth tax is a difficult fight and I’d want to see how successful it’s been in other countries (some in Europe use it, but definitely not all countries), before I wanted to put a lot for resources into that fight. I’d fight for higher top brackets for sure - but not 80% high. 50% is reasonable, plus treat capital gains same as income.

Yes your correct, I was thinking income tax when I posted the above response, my mistake. After reevaluating in the context you bring up, I believe a wealth tax is a bad idea, as the right will twist it, and apply it to the lower economic classes, out of “fairness” and their base will go along with it. That being said, the tax code must be change to reflect all income, at a much higher rate than we have now for the upper brackets.

1 Like

I still have an open mind on wealth tax but as mentioned I have pragmatic issues with it as well.

Related to this topic I have a podcast recommendation: the latest Ralph Nader Radio Hour talks with Chuck Collins who gave away his multi million dollar Oscar Mayer fortune who has some interesting things to say about how rich people still use these as slush funds to avoid taxes.

1 Like

The right twists everything. We need to fight for what we need. A wealth tax is fundamental to democracy, to prevent the rise of a billionaire class, a tiny handful of humans who claim, believe, and act as if they “own” half the riches of the world. We need to democratize wealth, not for abstruse moral or ideological reasons, but to enable humanity to live peaceably together within a thriving ecology. A wealth tax is only one part of the comprehensive transformation of economy, politics and society that is needed, but it is needed. At a bare minimum, restoring and strengthening the estate tax to prevent inter-generational transfer of gross wealth (how Trump got his start) is absolutely necessary. But acting preemptively to dilute our demands out of fear of right-wing propaganda, is a path to defeat.

To be clear, I have changed my mind for the wealth tax, for the above reasons, but do support income tax on all income, at a 1950’s level (50-90% for the upper brackets). I’m thinking this would address the issues of excessive wealth without subjecting the rest of us to another new tax.