Inequality due to tax avoidance by rich, Dutch historian tells Davos Inequality due to tax avoidance by rich, Dutch historian tells Davos

Inequality due to tax avoidance by rich, Dutch historian tells Davos
04 Feb 2019

A Dutch historian took billionaires to task for failing to pay enough taxes during a Davos World Economic Forum discussion panel.

Rutger Bregman, author of the book ‘Utopia for Realists’, bemoaned the failure of attendees at the recent gathering in Switzerland to address the fact that rich people did not pay their fair share of taxes, the BBC reported. Noting that 1,500 people had travelled to Davos by private jet to hear David Attenborough talk about climate change, he expressed his bewilderment that no one was talking about raising taxes on the affluent.

“I hear people talking the language of participation, justice, equality and transparency but almost no one raises the real issue of tax avoidance, right, and of the rich just not paying their fair share,” he said. “It feels like I’m at a firefighters’ conference and no one’s allowed to speak about water.”

To make his point, Bregman also cited the high tax regime of the US in the 1950s as an example to disprove arguments that economies with high personal taxation could not succeed

But former Yahoo chief financial officer Ken Goldman challenged his comments, arguing that fiscal settings across the global economy had not only been successful but created record employment.

Another panel member, Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima, countered that high employment was not necessarily a good thing in itself because many people found themselves in exploitative work. She cited the example of US poultry workers who had to wear nappies because they were not allowed toilet breaks.

Billions of dollars were leaked in tax avoidance every year, which should instead go toward alleviating poverty in the developing world, she added.

After the panel, Bregman tweeted a link to an opinion piece he wrote for The Guardian in 2017, saying that “most wealth is not created at the top, but merely devoured there”.

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance business journalist. Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the Guardian, the Times, Forbes and the BBC.

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A Dutch historian took billionaires to task for failing to pay enough taxes during a Davos World Economic Forum discussion panel.

Rutger Bregman, author of the book ‘Utopia for Realists’, bemoaned the failure of attendees at the recent gathering in Switzerland to address the fact that rich people did not pay their fair share of taxes, the BBC reported. Noting that 1,500 people had travelled to Davos by private jet to hear David Attenborough talk about climate change, he expressed his bewilderment that no one was talking about raising taxes on the affluent.

“I hear people talking the language of participation, justice, equality and transparency but almost no one raises the real issue of tax avoidance, right, and of the rich just not paying their fair share,” he said. “It feels like I’m at a firefighters’ conference and no one’s allowed to speak about water.”

To make his point, Bregman also cited the high tax regime of the US in the 1950s as an example to disprove arguments that economies with high personal taxation could not succeed

But former Yahoo chief financial officer Ken Goldman challenged his comments, arguing that fiscal settings across the global economy had not only been successful but created record employment.

Another panel member, Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima, countered that high employment was not necessarily a good thing in itself because many people found themselves in exploitative work. She cited the example of US poultry workers who had to wear nappies because they were not allowed toilet breaks.

Billions of dollars were leaked in tax avoidance every year, which should instead go toward alleviating poverty in the developing world, she added.

After the panel, Bregman tweeted a link to an opinion piece he wrote for The Guardian in 2017, saying that “most wealth is not created at the top, but merely devoured there”.

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance business journalist. Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the Guardian, the Times, Forbes and the BBC.

OTHER STORIES THAT MAY INTEREST YOU

US government undertakes new gender pay inequality review

Facebook founder calls for taxes on big business to reduce inequality

US wage inequality on par with poor Latin American countries, warns analyst

 

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