Rashid: America’s Leadership Needs to Make a Decision

By Qasim Rashid

December 14, 2020

It’s time to tax billionaires for their fair share, the former Congressional candidate argues.

American leadership needs to make an urgent decision under the next administration. Tax billionaires their fair share, or prepare for a destabilized economy and society. This is not a threat or a promise. It’s an observation of what has happened historically when mass amounts of wealth accumulates in the hands of the very few, while so many are suffering so much. The level of wealth and income inequality is higher in America today than it’s ever been in fifty years. It’s increase correlates to and is caused by the Reaganomics trickle down economics mythology. As a result, we face record high rates of poverty and hunger—forcing Americans to steal food for survival. It is unconscionable that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, people have to steal food to live.

The claim that taxing billionaires is bad because they’re the alleged “job creators” finds no evidence in American history. On the contrary, countless examples prove otherwise. Quite relevant is the 2013 Obama tax plan that held or raised taxes on billionaires compared to the 2017 Trump tax plan that massively cut taxes for billionaires. In 2017 the GOP passed Trump’s partisan sweeping tax bill that cut $1.7T in taxes for America’s billionaires. The GOP promised it would generate job creation. This was a lie. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Obama’s economy that raised taxes on billionaires created 8 million jobs during its final three years. Meanwhile, the Trump economy that cut taxes on billionaires created only 6.5 million jobs in its first 3 years. The billionaire tax cuts didn’t “trickle down” to workers, they resulted in unprecedented stock buybacks. America’s middle class got robbed. Moreover, as a heads up to those who profess to care about fiscal conservatism, the Obama tax plan decreased the deficit by $650B per year, while the Trump tax cut increased the deficit by $1T per year.

And with this stage set for disaster, disaster further struck in 2020. Perhaps no better example exists than 2020, to prove billionaire wealth does not create jobs. This year alone, America’s 600 billionaires have increased their worth over one trillion dollars. Meanwhile, unemployment has doubled, 50 million Americans are going hungry, and we face an unprecedented eviction crisis if the moratorium isn’t extended past the end of the year.

We know that taxing the uber wealthy works. It was under Republican leadership after the Great Depression that the top marginal tax rate was upwards of 70%. Over the next 40 years that generated the largest and most stable economic middle class in US history. The reality is that billionaires aren’t job creators, they’re job takers. For example, when Wal-Mart enters a market they drive out small businesses by pricing products so low that no small business can compete. They drive down wages to below a living wage, but since they’re now the main employer in town, few other jobs exist for working families. And then, the icing on the cake, they become a burden on the government. How? 

Through corporate welfare.

Despite generating $500 billion in revenue annually with roughly $36 billion in profits, Wal-Mart takes another $8 billion in corporate welfare and tax subsidies, of which over $6 billion is welfare received by Wal-Mart employees. That’s a lot of numbers so let me break it down even simpler. While generating $500 billion in revenue annually, Wal-Mart pays its employees so low that they qualify for welfare benefits and collect over $6 billion annually in welfare.

I cite Wal-Mart because they have more employees on welfare than any corporation in America. We can make a similar critique of McDonalds, Amazon, or Home Depot. If Wal-Mart paid its workers a living wage so they could live above the poverty line and therefore no longer need welfare benefits to survive, it would cost perhaps another $10 billion. In that scenario, Wal-Mart would ‘only’ generate $26 billion a year in profits, Americans would have $10 billion more in spending capital to grow local economies, and our government would have $10 billion more to spend on healthcare, education, and actual job creation.

When we subsidize billionaires so they can by their 40th yacht, we ignite a domino effect that harms Americans across the spectrum, not just those of one political party or of one economic class. The Biden/Harris administration has an important decision to make, and I’m hopeful they’ll make the right one. They must support our nation’s founding promises of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by ensuring economic justice for all Americans—not by giving more subsidies to tax-evading billionaires.

Qasim Rashid is an attorney, author, and former candidate for the US Congress. He resides in Stafford, VA. Follow him on Twitter @QasimRashid

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