The late billion-heiress and convicted
felon Leona Helmsley once famously observed that “only the little people pay taxes.”
Helmsley wasn’t presicely correct when she made that observation late in the last century
and that’s why she was jailed for refusing to pay her own meagre taxes on her vast income.
But it has almost reached the point today where her outrageous assertion has become a reality.
For the past 30 years – and particularly since the advent of so-called “free trade” – the industrial economies have been tangled in a race to the bottom in employment, working-class wages, employee benefits, working conditions, job security, environmental safeguards, and corporate and high-income personal taxes and a race to the top in corporate profits and executive compensation.
The gap between rich and poor in the G20 member countries is at a record width and growing wider. But what may be even more dangerous is that the gap between rich and middle class is at a record width and growing wider.
It is the middle class that typically carries the bulk of the tax burden in G20 countries and the coming mix of government financial woes and middle-class contraction does not bode well.
That is why the most urgent item of business when the G20 meets in Toronto June 26 and 27 should be an immediate, unanimous and very significant increase in taxes for corporations and the wealthy and the direct transfer of a very significant portion of that tax revenue to the bottom 60 percent of income earners.
But such a bold and necessary initiative is not even on the agenda. Is there anyone among the G20 leaders – the leaders of the 20 economically most powwerful countries in the world – who will dare to try to add such an urgent initiative to the agenda? Likely not.
The G20 consists of: Canada, the U.S., the U.K., China, Russia India, the European Union, Germany, France, Italy, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Together the European Union and those 19 individual countries account for 85 percent of the world’s GNP (Gross National Product), 80 percent of global trade and two-thirds of the world’s population.
The excuse individual countries have long had for not independently imposing heavy tax increases on corporations and the wealthy their domestic economies could be crippled because, after all, in a corporate capitalist world, countries still have to compete – dog-eat-dog – for capital. So those two tired old races continue – the race to the bottom for the masses and the environment and the race to the top for corporations and the billionaires and mega-millionaires who control them.
Just a few days ago, CNN’s talking moneyheads were discussing whether double-digit “official” unemployment might be the “new norm.”
There’s not much left to squeeze out of the middle class, there’s even less left to squeeze out of the poor, and there’s not much more that can pobbily be cut from health care, education, social programs and income supports.
If those who can best afford to pay – the corporations and the wealthy – are not soon forced to pay somewhere close to their fair share of taxes for the first time ever, it may soon be too late to prevent a total global economic meltdown and chaos across the cities of the world.