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Billionaires or Democracy, but Not Both

The only way to steer American democracy to safety is to wrest money out of the claws of the wealthiest elites, who now control finances rivaling the economies of whole nations.

As we count down toward the 2024 general election, we should expect to hear from media pundits about candidates and their viability, swing states and the electoral college, likely voters and poll results, and much more. Occasionally we may hear about some issues of importance. Most likely, we will hear little about the urgent need for wealth redistribution in the United States. Extreme inequality remains an invisible scourge underlying so much of what ails society and, even when discussed, is touted as an unavoidable and inevitable outcome of our economy.

However, there is abundant evidence that wealth inequality is the product of intentional design and the idea that what is good for billionaires is good for society. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Switzerland-based global bank UBS just released its 2023 Billionaire Ambitions report and concluded, “For the first time in nine editions of the report, billionaires have accumulated more wealth through inheritance than entrepreneurship.” Benjamin Cavalli, Head of Strategic Clients at UBS Global Wealth Management said, “This is a theme we expect to see more of over the next 20 years, as more than 1,000 billionaires pass an estimated [$5.2 trillion] to their children.”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 a critical one and hardly blinked an eye about the obscenity of wealth being hoarded in dynasties. About half of all billionaires around the world use UBS’s banking services, so the bank merely analyzed the investment habits of its most important clients. It did so candidly, referring to “the great wealth transfer” from one generation to the next, avoiding mention of the wealth transfer from the majority of the public to an elite minority.

The report also declared with pride that intent on “continuing the current family legacy, 60% of heirs want to enable future generations to benefit from their wealth.” Of course, they meant future generations of their own families, not in general.

But this wealth transfer is directly the result of tax codes written to benefit the uber-rich. ProPublica’s 2021 analysis of the tax returns of the richest Americans found that they paid an average of 3.4% in taxes, employing armies of lawyers to exploit every loophole carved out to offer special advantages to wealthy elites. Meanwhile, middle-class and working-class Americans pay double-digit tax rates. What this amounts to is collective theft from government revenues.

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