It’s a sham and a scam
. . . and under conditions of mass society it always will be.
They have broad latitude in how they account for their businesses and investments. Their incomes aren’t defined by a tax form. Instead, they represent the triumph of careful planning by skilled professionals who strive to deliver the most-advantageous-yet-still-plausible answers to their clients. For them, a tax return is an opening bid to the IRS. Stephen Ross is one of the world’s most successful real estate developers, a billionaire many times over, the owner of the Miami Dolphins. Ross, a former tax lawyer, once praised tax law as a particularly “creative” endeavor, and he is a master of the craft. His tax returns showed a total of $1.5 billion in earnings from 2008 to 2017, but he didn’t pay a dime in federal income taxes during that time. How? By mining a mountain of losses he claimed for tax purposes. Texas billionaire Kelcy Warren owns a massively profitable natural gas pipeline company. But in an orgy of cake eating and having, he’s able to receive hundreds of millions of dollars from his company tax-free while reporting vast losses to the IRS thanks to energy-industry and other tax breaks, his records showed. This is just how our system works. It’s why, in 2011, Jeff Bezos, then worth $18 billion, qualified for $4,000 in refundable child tax credits. A recent study by the Brookings Institution compared what owners of privately held businesses say they earn with the income that appears on the owners’ tax returns. The findings were stark: “More than half of economic income generated by closely held businesses does not appear on tax returns and that ratio has declined significantly over the past 25 years.”
It’s a sham and a scam and it always will be. Egalitarian efforts are righteous, but they are futile under conditions of mass society. Social justice efforts are noble (and sometimes of immediate urgency), but in general they may not be the best use of our time. Time is better spent building the new society within the shell of the old.
There are a thousand striking at the branches of injustice to one who is striking at the root.