Historian Rutger Bregman told a room full of billionaires at the Davos World Economic Forum 2019 that they need to step up and pay their fair share of taxes.
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RUTGER BREGMAN:'This is my first time at Davos, and I find it quite a bewildering experience, to be honest. I mean, 1,500 private jets have flown in here to hear Sir David Attenborough speak about, you know, how we’re wrecking the planet. I mean, I hear people talking about the language of participation and justice and equality and transparency, but then, I mean, almost no one raises the real issue of tax avoidance, right? And of the rich just not paying their fair share. I mean, it feels like I’m at a firefighters conference and no one’s allowed to speak about water, right?'
MODERATOR: Well, we’ve had two—
RUTGER: Well, wait a minute, there was only one panel apart from this one, one panel hidden away in the media center that was actually about tax avoidance. I was one of the 15 participants. Something needs to change here. I mean, 10 years ago, the World Economic Forum asked the question, what must industry do to prevent abrupt social backlash? The answer is very simple: Just stop talking about philanthropy, and start talking about taxes. Taxes, taxes. We need to—just two days ago there was a billionaire in here, what’s his name? Michael Dell. And he asked a question like, name me one country where a top marginal tax rate of 70% has actually worked? And, you know, I’m a historian—the United States, that’s where it actually worked, in the 1950s during Republican President Eisenhower, you know, the war veteran. The top marginal tax rate in the U.S. was 91% for people like Michael Dell. You know, the top estate tax for people like Michael Dell was more than 70%. I mean, this is not rocket science. I mean, we can talk for a very long time about all these stupid philanthropy schemes. We can invite Bono once more. But, come on, we’ve got to be talking about taxes. That’s it. Taxes, taxes, taxes. All the rest is bullshit in my opinion.
MODERATOR: Go ahead.
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of the OXFAM: 'We have a tax system that leaks so much, that allows $170 billion of money every year to be taken to tax havens and to be denied the developing countries that need that money most, so we have to look at the business model, and we have to look at the role of governments to tax and plow back money into people’s lives.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: 'I have to say, honestly, this is a very one-sided panel. // The U.S. basically has the lowest unemployment rate ever, the lowest black unemployment rate ever, the lowest youth unemployment rate ever. We’ve actually reduced poverty around the world, no one’s talking about that at all. // So I’d like for the panel to talk about, beyond taxes, which every one of you has talked about—the only thing that you’ve talked about in this whole panel on inequality—what can we really do to help solve inequality over time beyond taxes.'
WINNIE: 'The gentleman who talked about, who said we’ve just talked taxes and the jobs are there and there’s low—employment rates are low, let me tell you something: We’re talking about jobs, but the quality of those jobs.[Oxfam] also works with poultry workers in the richest country in the world, the United States. Poultry workers. These are women who are cutting the chickens and packing them and we buy them in the super markets. Dolores, one woman we work with there, told us that she and her coworkers have to wear diapers to work because they’re not allowed toilet breaks. This is in the richest country in the world. That’s not a dignified job.
Those are the jobs we’ve been told about that globalization is bringing jobs. The quality of the jobs matter. It matters. These are not jobs of dignity. In many countries, workers no longer have a voice. They’re not allowed to unionize, they’re not allowed to negotiate for salaries. So we’re talking about jobs, but we’re talking about jobs that bring dignity. We’re talking about health care. The World Bank has told us that 3.4 billion people who earn $5.50 a day are on the verge, are just a medical bill from sinking into poverty.
#Davos #Taxes #Inequality #Billionaires #Economy
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