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We can either have billionaires or democracy. Not both.

by Sonali Kolhatkar
Political debate on wealth redistribution is a fight for fairness
Call it socialism - as the wealthy GOP does - or call it progressive taxation or economic justice. It doesn't matter; the nation's fiscal conservatives will demonize any idea of redistributing wealth and try to stoke unfounded fears of creeping communism no matter what specific language we use around fairness.
We can either have billionaires or democracy. Not both.
by Sonali Kolhatkar
[This article posted on 12/19/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.telepolis.de/features/Wir-koennen-entweder-Milliardaere-oder-Demokratie-haben-Nicht-beides-9578117.html?seite=all.]

The only way to save American democracy is to free the money from the clutches of the wealthiest elites. A guest essay.

As we head into the 2024 US general election, we should expect to hear from media pundits about the candidates and their viability, swing states and the electoral college, likely voters and poll results, and much more. Occasionally, we may hear something about important issues.

Most likely, we will hear little about the urgent need to redistribute wealth in the United States. Extreme inequality continues to be an invisible scourge that underlies so much that ails society, and even when it is talked about, it is presented as an inevitable and unavoidable result of our economy.

English version: We Can Have Either Billionaires or Democracy. Not Both.
The Truth About Wealth Inequality: A Critical Look

However, there is ample evidence that wealth inequality is the result of deliberate planning and the idea that what is good for billionaires is good for society. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Swiss-based global bank UBS has just published its 2023 Billionaire Ambitions report and has concluded that for the first time in nine editions of the report, billionaires have amassed more wealth through inheritance than through entrepreneurship. Benjamin Cavalli, head of strategic clients at UBS Global Wealth Management, said:

We expect this theme to intensify over the next 20 years as more than 1,000 billionaires will bequeath an estimated [$5.2 trillion] to their children.

The future of wealth distribution: an alarming forecast

That's more than the economy of the entire United Kingdom. It's more than the economies of Canada and Mexico combined.

The UBS report was not critical and barely batted an eyelid at the obscenity of wealth being hoarded in dynasties. Since about half of the world's billionaires use UBS banking services, the bank merely analyzed the investment habits of its most important clients.

It did so in all candor, speaking of the "great transfer of wealth" from one generation to the next, making no mention of the transfer of wealth from the majority of the population to an elite minority.

The report also proudly proclaimed that "60 percent of heirs who want to continue the current family legacy want to enable future generations to benefit from their wealth". Of course, they meant future generations of their own families, not the general public.
The role of tax laws: a critical factor in wealth accumulation

But this transfer of wealth is the direct result of tax laws written to benefit the super-rich. ProPublica's 2021 analysis of the tax returns of the wealthiest Americans found that they paid an average of 3.4 percent in taxes and employed legions of lawyers to exploit every loophole created to provide special benefits to wealthy elites.

Meanwhile, middle-class and working-class Americans pay double-digit tax rates. This amounts to a collective theft of government revenue.

It's time to reverse this trend by embarking on a concerted project to redistribute wealth. It is time to snatch billions, if not trillions, from the billionaires and their heirs and return them to where they belong: to the rest of us.

Political debate on wealth redistribution is a fight for fairness

Call it socialism - as the wealthy GOP does - or call it progressive taxation or economic justice. It doesn't matter; the nation's fiscal conservatives will demonize any idea of redistributing wealth and try to stoke unfounded fears of creeping communism no matter what specific language we use around fairness.

So we might as well start spelling it out instead of trying to appease the right. After all, there's a reason why conservatives and wealthy elites want the public to be afraid of socialism: they're afraid that Americans will be thrilled if they adopt policies like redistribution of wealth through taxation.

And if we need any more reason to target the wealth of billionaires, it turns out that they are vicious, dangerous fascists whose children are even more callous than their parents.
Billionaires and democracy: an incompatible duo

Billionaires don't need the protections that democracy provides: earned benefits like Social Security or Medicare, access to free or affordable health care, including abortion, labor and wage protections, and due process (they can buy the best legal help when they get in trouble).

In fact, democracy is a threat to their hoarding of wealth, which is why they support the most dangerous demagogue to ever sit in the White House, Donald Trump.

Economic analyst and former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich lists the numerous billionaires who support Trump for a second term, citing Trump's promise to the wealthy elites that he would "root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical leftist thugs who live like vermin in our country." The wealthy elites gave us Trump's first term, and they're itching to get a second.

Why shouldn't billionaires support fascism? It benefits them in a way that democracy does not. Billionaires are indeed a flaw in the design of democracy. The greater the number of billionaires and the more wealth they hoard, the weaker the democracy that binds them.

Laws like Senator Ron Wyden's billionaire income tax are what they fear when democracy trumps fascism. Wyden's bill is so modest that it doesn't target wealth, only income, and it would affect fewer than 1,000 Americans, cutting off tiny portions of their unprecedented wealth, leaving them as fabulously wealthy as before. After all, is there any real difference between a $10 billion fortune and a $9.9 billion fortune?

[Sonali can be heard on freepress.com and kpfa.org]
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