Hey, Stephanie Ervin here, Civic Action’s Vice President. I just had to reach out because ProPublica recently published a bombshell report that documents how billionaires like Elon Musk, Michael Bloomberg, and Jeff Bezos pay very little – next to nothing – in income taxes. After obtaining a cache of never-before-seen IRS documents, ProPublica discovered that the richest 25 Americans "saw their worth rise a collective $401 billion from 2014 to 2018," but during that same period, they only "paid a total of $13.6 billion in federal income taxes," a total that "amounts to a true tax rate of only 3.4%."
This true tax rate is incredibly low – way lower than what everyday working Americans pay – and the worst part is that it's completely legal. That's because our system is broken: Our tax policy has created some of the wealthiest corporations in the history of the world and helped to divert $50 trillion away from the paychecks of working Americans and toward a handful of wealthy people.
The top 1% shouldn’t be allowed to hoard all the wealth while the rest of America is struggling to get by. That's why I need activists like you to join me in speaking out against our broken tax system. I've set a goal to round up as many signatures as we can on our petition, and I'm counting on you to add your name right now:
If the super-rich paid the same rates as the average American, the lives of everyday Americans would improve in immeasurable ways. The government could provide affordable child care for every parent, repair our crumbling infrastructure, and strengthen the social safety net to allow Americans the security to start small businesses, take bold career risks, and establish better lives for their children.
And paying a larger share in taxes would be no skin off the backs of the richest Americans. Take Elon Musk, for example – the world’s second-richest person, worth about $162 billion. If he paid the same percentage in taxes as the average American, his day-to-day life wouldn't change at all. He'd still be able to fly on his private jet to any of his homes whenever he chooses. He'd vacation in the same spots, eat the same food, and enjoy the same status that he enjoys right now.
This isn’t some pie-in-the-sky idea for how society should work. Plenty of other countries tax the wealthy far more than 3.4% – and it's working.
Denmark is a great example of a fair tax system that allows everyone to thrive. In a recent episode of Nick Hanauer's podcast, Pitchfork Economics, Nick talked to millionaire Danish entrepreneur Djaffar Shalchi about the Danish tax system. Shalchi pays more than 50% of his annual earnings to Denmark in an average year – and depending on how good a year he's had, the tax bill "can go as high as something like 70%" of his annual income. Despite this personally high tax bill, Shalchi is an advocate for wealth taxes, and he explained that the Danish system is the real product of the "American Dream."
While wealthy Americans complain about their comparatively low taxes, Shalchi knows that he gets great value in return for his high taxes. Shalchi says that in his country, "I don’t see people sleeping in the streets like I see in many other countries. We don’t leave anybody behind in Denmark. Everybody can make a pretty decent living. And we have security, [which] is extremely important for everybody."
When people don't have to worry about basic health care, education, or where their next meal is coming from, life changes from a zero-sum game to something to be enjoyed. "That’s why we are always among the top 10 in the world when happiness report[s] come out every year," Shalchi says. High-tax Scandinavian countries are always competing with each other to top the U.N.'s annual Happiness Report, while America tends to stagnate in the mid-to-high teens.
The only reason this sounds so foreign in the United States is because the worst of the worst trickle-downers have gotten us used to just being happy with the leftover scraps. They've conditioned ordinary Americans to think that the social safety net is an extravagance that we can't afford in this nation, even as the wealth of the top .01% has skyrocketed. But in reality, the only thing they’ve done is shrunk their tax rate to be LESS than that of the average American family, and for what? So they can own two yachts, charter their private plane, and for some, even take a seat on their private rocket and fly to space. I can’t stress this enough: Life in America does not have to be a zero-sum game. We can all prosper in our economy and, thus, have a better quality of life.
But this kind of overhaul of our broken tax system is going to take a massive wave of grassroots activism – and that means I need your help, John. In light of this bombshell report from ProPublica, I need as many Americans as we can get to speak out and call on Congress to take drastic action to decrease wealth inequality. Our petition closes soon, so please add your name now:
I'm not going to sit by as the super-rich hoard all the wealth and pay nearly nothing in taxes – and I know you won't either. Thanks for joining me in demanding a more equitable economic system.