The richest people in America are paying a pittance in taxes, according to records recently published by ProPublica.
This evidence of a growing American wealth inequity bodes portentously for a destabilizing society of discontents..
ProPublica estimated the stock portfolios and other assets of people like Warren Buffett, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos and compared it to the federal income taxes they paid for the past 15 years. That resulted in what ProPublica called a “true tax rate” of just 3.4%.
Bezos, CEO of Amazon, owner of The Washington Post and the world’s richest man, paid no federal income taxes in 2007 and 2011, the independent, nonpartisan journalism group reports.
In 2018, Tesla founder Elon Musk, the second-richest person in the world, paid no federal income taxes.
“Michael Bloomberg managed to do the same in recent years,” the report says. “Billionaire investor Carl Icahn did it twice. George Soros paid no federal income tax three years in a row.”
By all indications, the amount of taxes paid were within the existing tax code. No one has suggesting anyone cheated, but still it should be a cause for concern.
A lot of people — including, famously, Buffett, currently the seventh richest man in the world — think the tax rates on the richest Americans should be higher than that paid by their secretaries, not lower.
If you are among those who looks at the mounting proposals for government spending coming out of Washington and sensibly wonder who’s going to pay for all that, the ProPublica revelation suggests an answer, and it’s not the 1 percent.
The principle of progressive taxation is old and basic: To whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48).
Beyond the basic fairness of that idea, is its ability to stabilize class discontent in society with the belief that the tax code isn’t a rigged game built to protect the top fraction of the wealthiest individuals.
The news that the 50 richest Americans are worth as much as the poorest 165 million, as Bloomberg News recently reported, should be a cause for significant alarm for a lot of people, including the rich, the poor and anyone invested in a stable society of growth and broad prosperity.
We don’t begrudge the wealth of the Jeff Bezos of the world. We just want to them to pay their fair share of taxes, and the ProPublica evidence suggests that isn’t happening.