This time a rant, pure and simple. I’m not one for rants, but on occasion, they are simply good for the soul, a catharsis if you will. So, I will apologize in advance – sort of.
Last year we had the Panama Papers and this year the Paradise Papers, troves of documents that have laid bare the nasty machinations of the monied elite. Reading this stuff makes me want to chew on the woodwork.
On Sunday, Gabriel Zucman wrote a piece in The New York Times titled, How Corporations and the Wealthy Avoid Taxes (and how to stop them), in which he describes how corporations play shell games to avoid paying their fair share for the maintenance of society, to the tune of about $70 billion in the U.S. alone.
That’s a whole lot of lucre. But that $70 billion shrivels to chump change when compared to the $8.7 trillion that wealthy individuals have salted away, which Zucman notes is 11.5 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).
That’s simply unbelievable and if you think that is a “good for them, I hate the taxman, too” moment, well think again.
When they don’t pay, the rest of us pay in three different ways: our services diminish, we pay user fees for what was a service, or we lose services entirely.
We live in a society that is always short of money. We have reduced taxes to the point of government penury because “we have to stay competitive”, but still it isn’t enough for these modern day robber barons, so they still do everything they can to avoid paying their fair share for the functioning of society.
Our schools suffer, really – we can’t even afford timely earthquake upgrades to protect our children; health care suffers, ditto: day care, elder care, infrastructure at all levels, water and housing to remote indigenous communities, veterans, children in poverty, human rights – the list goes on and on.
Everything suffers because these privileged few believe that the rest of us are there for no other reason than to serve their wants.
These are the same ‘people’ who award themselves millions of dollars in bonuses for driving a major company into the ground while their employees lose their incomes, their pensions, indeed their entire futures.
They pay themselves outrageous salaries while constantly seeking ‘efficiencies’ from their lackeys (you and me).
There is never enough for them. They are contrite only when caught, and even then only as long as the news cycle keeps the spotlight on them.
The penalties they suffer at the hands of tax authorities are laughable, and they simply don’t care.
Perhaps the most critical concern we should have with the ultra-rich is their access to our government leaders. They don’t deal with underlings and their phone calls go directly to the highest levels of government.
In fact, in many cases, as the Paradise Papers demonstrate, they are either in the highest levels of government or are very closely tied to policy and fundraising for politicians and political parties.
No fools, they. Befriend and wine and dine someone of political influence, fawn over their children, fly them to your private island, and donate bunches of cash to their campaigns and all of a sudden it becomes pretty hard for the same politico to institute policies that might impact your bottom line.
On the world stage, the G7 meetings, Davos, the Bilderberg Group and all the trade negotiations, seldom, if ever, do the elite seek the advice of representatives of labour to ensure that the concerns of the common people are foremost in the planning and negotiation processes.
No, international trade and international labour standards are two entirely separate subjects. We might mention human rights, but, when push comes to shove, human rights can’t be allowed to get in the way of trade, now can they?
All that matters are shareholder returns and more bonuses for the CEOs and CFOs.
Happy politicians, happy upper management, very happy ultra-rich, and the rest of us don’t matter all that much. Granted, we do represent another resource for them to plunder, so we are of some value as long as we don’t get too uppity.
The final kicker, the soul-wrenching, teeth grinding moment comes when we hear rubbish like, “Our only responsibility is to our shareholders.” Such self-serving drivel.
Well, no, you sanctimonious dolt, you are part of a social structure made up of people who give you permission to do business, who provide you with education, structure, resources, people, security and safety.
You have a massive responsibility to the society in which you reside and it’s time for you to open your eyes to the truth.
At the risk of quoting an American Republican, government is very much, “of the people, by the people and for the people.”
The uber-wealthy have never given this idea much traction, and neither have we, the common stock, but maybe, just maybe it is time we did.