Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and You: Which One Pays Taxes

By Jim Hightower

June 16, 2021 5 min read

While Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed, "I have a dream," it was full of lofty ethical stuff like "justice for all" and ... well, it was so 1963.

We now live in a Facebook-Instagram-Google world of billionaire ethics and expectations, so dreams need to glitter with a 2021-ish grandiosity to go viral. So, who better to take us there than that visionary of instant gratification, Jeff Bezos? "Ever since I was five years old," says the megabillionaire boss man of Amazon, "I've dreamed of traveling to space." Now that's intriguing, in part because Jeff regularly acts like he is from outer space — so, is this a homeward-bound odyssey?

Bezos can certainly afford the ticket, for today's devastating global pandemic has delivered a financial windfall to him, increasing his personal wealth by $75 billion last year alone. Bear in mind that he didn't have to work harder or smarter to "earn" this bonanza. Indeed, he's retiring as Amazon CEO, but his haul keeps growing as the corporate stock price keeps bloating.

Meanwhile, he bought himself a rocket ship company, and in July, he intends to be Customer No. 1 on a tourist fling to the lower edge of space. He and five other high-flyers will take a short suborbital joy ride about 50 miles up in a fully pressurized cabin, then unbuckle and experience weightlessness for a few minutes before scooting back to terra firma.

Imagine how impressed MLK Jr. would've been by Jeff's commitment of his enormous wealth and potential to such a ... well, such a flighty dream. For his part, the gabillionaire predicts that the experience of his space-capade will make him a new man: "It changes your relationship ... with humanity," he says of space travel.

Good, for his relationship heretofore has been one of inhumane worker exploitation, systemic tax cheating, and monopoly profiteering. So, go forth, Amazon-man — and please come back a better human.

The most thought-provoking bumper sticker I've seen recently says: "The system is fixed. We must break it."

This thought came into vivid focus recently when a news report by ProPublica revealed that a nest of preening multibillionaires — led by the likes of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Michael Bloomberg — have been playing America's rigged tax system to dodge paying their share of upkeep for the society that so lavishly enriches them. In a leak of actual IRS tax data, the 25 richest Americans were exposed for using tax tricks and loopholes created by their lobbyists, accountants, lawyers and lawmakers to pay barely 3% of their enormous riches to our public treasury — while ordinary working people shell out about 24% of their meager income.

Check out the manipulations by Amazon jefe Jeff Bezos, the world's richest man. Even as his corporate stock payouts skyrocketed by $120 billion from 2006 to 2018, he paid just 1% in taxes on that huge gain. One year, in which his wealth swelled by $18 billion, he even took a $4,000 tax credit from us for the care of his children.

The chief scam by these superdodgers is that they've fixed tax laws so they can take out loans on the escalating value of their stock, mansions, yachts, etc., without paying taxes on the cash they get. In fact, they even get a tax deduction for the interest they pay on the loans. Thus, they get to spend the cash value of those assets without having to sell them. It's financial voodoo for the privileged few!

In response to the revelations in ProPublica's jaw-dropping report, congressional Republicans, Biden administration officials, and the IRS are all promising a thorough investigation and crackdown. Not on the sleazy billionaires, of course, but on ProPublica! Yes, some top public officials exclaim that they are outraged, not by the tax rigging, but by the fact that you and I have been told about it in specific, undeniable detail.

It's not cynical to call the system corrupt when the corruption is put right under our noses.

To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: Maklay62 at Pixabay

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