Bill Moyers: We Are Living in the United States of Inequality
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BILL MOYERS: Let’s hope so, because inequality in America is now at the greatest level in modern history and shows no signs of abating. And paradoxically, this week it got worse. The stock market reached new levels, making the rich richer and the press euphoric.
NEWS ANCHOR 1: And the gavel goes down on an historic day on Wall Street.
NEWS ANCHOR 2: Roaring stock markets.
NEWS ANCHOR 3: The S&P just hit another record intraday high.
NEWS ANCHOR 4: Dow’s above 14.8.
NEWS ANCHOR 5: The NASDAQ rose about 60 points.
BILL MOYERS: No one stopped to point out that when the market goes up, it can mean companies have fired workers in order to increase investor profits. Sure enough, the latest figures show employment has barely risen and more rank-and-file Americans have gone missing from the job market altogether. The Commerce Department reports that personal income fell 3.6 percent in January – that’s the sharpest one-month dive in twenty years. It sure seems like the Roaring 20s all over again -- people at the top living it up while those down below lose their livelihood.
Which brings us to our nation’s capital -- rich in alabaster symbols of representative government yet shamelessly cynical in writing laws and bending rules to favor the one percent. And that includes the tax code.
So on Monday, when you send in your tax returns, think about this. Corporate profits are at record highs. But have those companies invested that in new jobs? No. Did they at least give their workers a bump in pay? Hardly. Surely they shelled out a little more in taxes to help refurbish the social structure – highways, bridges, schools, libraries, parks – where they do business! Guess again. Corporations are sitting on $1.7 trillion of cash. Look at this report just published by PIRG -- the Public Interest Research Group -- on how average citizens and small businesses have to make up the $90 billion giant companies save by shifting profits to offshore tax havens. Among the 83 publicly traded corporations named: Pfizer, which for the past five years reported no taxable income in the US, even as it made 40 percent of its sales here.
Microsoft, which avoided $4.5 billion in taxes over three years by shifting its income to Puerto Rico. Citigroup, which maintains 20 subsidiaries in tax havens and has over 42 and a half billion dollars sitting off-shore. Taxes collected here at home? Zero.
It’s not only corporations stashing their swag abroad. The Center for Public Integrity in Washington and its International Consortium of Investigative Journalists recently got their hands on two and a half million files from offshore bank accounts and shell companies set up around the world by the wealthy. Among those documents are the names of 4,000 Americans who hid their money in secret tax havens. Here’s how they do it:
FEMALE VOICE: You can easily set up a secret company using one of hundreds of off-shore agents. Let’s look at the British Virgin Islands, home to half a million offshore companies. That’s about 40 percent of the offshore companies on the planet. You can buy a ready-made shell company or create your own secret company from scratch in about three days, for just over $1,000. You may be asked to produce documents to establish your identity and they might check your name in a database, to see if you’re a terrorist. But don’t worry, while the system may catch the big fish, it still lets scores of fraudsters and criminals slip through the net.