Although the United States is one of the the most powerful colossus in the history of the world it lags significantly in quality of life for its citizens. In the Social Progress Index 2015 the U.S. does not make the top 10, or even top 15. The global study measured “basic human needs,” “foundations of wellbeing” and opportunity. The U.S comes in at 16th overall.
America is ranked 30th in life expectancy, 38th in saving children’s lives, and a humiliating 55th in women surviving childbirth. We know that we have a high homicide rate, but we’re at risk in other ways as well. We have higher traffic fatality rates than 37 other countries, and higher suicide rates than 80. We also rank 32nd in preventing early marriage, 38th in the equality of our education system, 49th in high school enrollment rates and 87th in cellphone use.
A teacher who earns $40,000 from her or his job pays 25 percent of income in tax . But a hedge fund billionaire raking in $400 million from investments will only pay between 15 and 20 percent of that haul in taxes. If I find $100 on the street, that’s taxable income. But if my grandfather gives me $100 million, I don’t pay any income tax on that jackpot. Inheritances are 100-percent exempt from the income tax. A tiny number of extremely rich families will pay taxes on estates before distributing funds, their relatives who inherit that money don’t need to fork anything over to the IRS once they take possession of those assets. Combine this arrangement with low-tax or no-tax trusts, and you can see why the living is easy for the children of billionaires. Billionaires have found ways for their fortunes to live forever. They deploy tax planners who design trusts and other mechanisms to reduce or flat-out eliminate their estate taxes. In 2013, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson used a complex trust mechanism to transfer $8 billion to his heirs, shielding over $2.8 billion in federal estate and gift taxes on the assets they’ll inherit once he passes on.
Congressional researchers estimate that people who use offshore tax havens cost the rest of us as much as $70 billion a year. And that’s just the tip of the tax-dodging iceberg. Global Financial Integrity, a financial watchdog agency, estimates that global corporations and wealthy individuals are hiding a total of over $21 trillion.
When a billionaire donates money to a large hospital or university, we’re encouraged to applaud their generosity. We seldom realize that we’re actually subsidizing those buildings adorned with the billionaire’s name. Since donations reduce taxes on a billionaire’s income and estate, ordinary taxpayers chip in about 50 cents of every dollar they donate.