We Used Our $ To Kill People
Happened to America’s Wealth? The Rich Hid It.
There's actually trillions that could be used to
fix our roads and schools. The wealthy just
don't want you to know where it is.
By Chuck Collins
- If you find yourself traveling this summer,
take a closer look at America’s deteriorating
infrastructure — our crumbling roads, sidewalks,
public parks, and train and bus stations.
Government officials will tell us “there’s no
money” to repair or properly maintain our tired
infrastructure. Nor do we want to raise taxes,
what if billions of dollars in tax revenue have
suggests that the super-rich are hiding their
money at alarming rates. A study by economists
Annette Alstadsaeter, Niels Johannesen, and
Gabriel Zucman reports that households with
wealth over $40 million evade 25 to 30 percent
of personal income and wealth taxes.
stunning numbers have two troubling
we’re missing billions in taxes each year.
That’s partly why our roads and transit systems
are falling apart.
wealth inequality may be even worse than we
thought. Economic surveys estimate that roughly
85 percent of income and wealth gains in the
last decade have gone to the wealthiest
one-tenth of the top 1 percent.
bad enough. But what if the concentration is
Visualize the nation’s wealth as an expansive
and deep reservoir of fresh water. A small
portion of this water provides sustenance to
fields and villages downstream, in the form of
tax dollars for public services.
recent years, the water level has declined to a
trickle, and the villages below are suffering
from water shortages. Everyone is told to
tighten their belts and make sacrifices.
below the water surface, however, is a hidden
pipe, siphoning vast amounts of water — as much
as a third of the whole reservoir — off to a
secret pool in the forest.
rich are swimming while the villagers go thirsty
and the fields dry up.
there are vast pools of privately owned wealth,
mostly held by a small segment of super-rich
Americans. The wealthiest 400 billionaires have
at least as much wealth as 62 percent of the
U.S. population — that’s nearly 200 million
taxpayers of all incomes under-report their
incomes? Maybe here and there.
these aren’t folks making a few dollars “under
the table.” These are billionaires stashing away
trillions of the world’s wealth. The latest
study underscores that tax evasion by the
super-rich is at least 10 times greater — and in
some nations 250 times more likely — than by
that possible? After all, most of us have our
taxes taken out of our paychecks and pay sales
taxes at the register. Homeowners get their
house assessed and pay a property tax.
But the wealthy have the resources to hire the
services of what’s called the “wealth
These aren’t your “mom and pop” financial
advisers that sell life insurance or help folks
plan for retirement.
wealth defenders of the super-rich — including
tax lawyers, estate planners, accountants, and
other financial professionals — are accomplices
in the heist. They drive the getaway cars, by
designing complex trusts, shell companies, and
offshore accounts to hide money.
managers help the private jet set avoid paying
their fair share of taxes, even as they
disproportionately benefit from living in a
country with the rule of law, property rights
protections, and public infrastructure the rest
of us pay for.
wealthy are tax dodgers. A group called the
Patriotic Millionaires advocates for eliminating
loopholes and building a fair and transparent
tax system. They’re pressing Congress to crack
down on tax evasion by the superrich.
message: Bring the wealth home! Stop hiding the
wealth in offshore accounts and complicated
trusts. Pay your fair share to the support the
public services and protections that we all
Chuck Collins is a senior scholar at the
Institute for Policy Studies and a co-editor of
Inequality.org. He’s the author of the recent
book Born on Third Base. Distributed by
This article was first published by
views expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and do not necessarily reflect the
opinions of Information Clearing House.
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