In a more reasonable world, the American people wouldn’t need Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to travel around the country explaining all of the ways this GOP tax proposal is just another poorly-disguised, donor-funded, corporate charade in which half of Congress is attempting to sell us the same trickle-down deception we’ve already endured for decades — it would be obvious. We are, however, not there yet.
So, in a speech delivered earlier this month (and one of many in recent weeks) Sanders continued his ongoing effort to inform all Americans — “whether one is a progressive, a Democrat, a conservative, a Republican or something in between” — about some very twisted, rapidly-worsening financial realities.
- We are living in a rigged economy.
- The three wealthiest Americans — Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett — now own more wealth than the bottom half of the American people.
- The top one-tenth of one percent now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.
- 40 million Americans are living in poverty.
- For the first time in U.S. history, young people are facing a lower standard of living than their parents.
- Simultaneously, we remain the only major country in the world today that doesn’t guarantee health care to all of its citizens. (Twenty-eight million Americans currently have zero health insurance and that number might double next year.)
But his speech is also about more than the absurdity of our tax code and partisan dysfunction. It lays out how the same few entities — a handful of tremendously rich individuals, institutions and corporations — are using their consolidated power to manipulate not only in the United States, but around the world.
“One of the great crises that we face,” says Sanders, “is that a handful of billionaires are moving this entire planet toward an oligarchic society in which the people on top not only have incredible wealth, but incredible political power as well.”
He cites the recently released Paradise Papers: Secrets of the Global Elite, a months-long investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that documents the magnitude of global tax evasion while implicating, among others, the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Carl Ichan and Robert Mercer; institutions such as Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Bank of America; corporations such as Apple, Nike and Exxon Mobile and, unsurprisingly, numerous big-shots in the Trump administration.
A few key takeaways from the ICIJ report:
- In 2012, the Tax Justice Network estimated that $21 trillion (TRILLION) dollars was being stashed in offshore tax havens around the world.
- One five-story office building in the Cayman Islands is now “the home” of 18,857 corporations.
- In the United States alone, offshore tax evasion costs our government $166 billion of lost revenue each and every year.
Sanders points out that, as this administration “works overtime to make this absurd situation even worse at a time when corporations are making record-breaking profits,” one out of five major profitable corporations currently pay nothing in federal income tax.
Like he did on the 2016 campaign trail until the DNC brought out its giant hook, Sanders suggests that if these entities did pay their “fair share” of taxes, that money could be used to actually address many of the issues these same billionaires and companies drone on and on pretending to care about — veterans, infrastructure, health care, education, etc. Yet instead, by hoarding money overseas, they’re placing these burdens on a rapidly shrinking middle- and already squeezed working-class.
“This, needless to say, is an issue that does not get a whole lot of discussion,” says Sanders. “Because, in general, the more important the issues are, the less discussion they get within the corporate media or within the political world that we, in Congress, live in.”
Check out the video below, it’s only 12 minutes:
(Source: Mike Lebowski / YouTube)
I hope you found this article important. Before you leave, I want to ask you to consider supporting our work with a donation. In These Times needs readers like you to help sustain our mission. We don’t depend on—or want—corporate advertising or deep-pocketed billionaires to fund our journalism. We’re supported by you, the reader, so we can focus on covering the issues that matter most to the progressive movement without fear or compromise.
Our work isn’t hidden behind a paywall because of people like you who support our journalism. We want to keep it that way. If you value the work we do and the movements we cover, please consider donating to In These Times.