Here’s a Viewpoint article by Mary Hatch that appeared in the April 19, 2023, issue of the Mecklenburg Sun titled “Robber Barons“.

A Robber Baron is, “An American Capitalist of the latter part of the 19th century who became wealthy through exploitation and a business owner who acquires wealth through ethically questionable tactics” (per Dictionary). The known Robber Barons were: Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Gould in the Gilded Age era 1878-1889. This was an era of children working in factories, massive wealth and poverty, anti-immigrant mentality, money in politics, poor people living in tenements, voter suppression, and hostility to labor unions. ( 6/16/18). How similar we are today as 7 states are now allowing children between 14-15 to work in factories (Axios 3/1/23); 36% of Americans make less than 49,900 per year and 25% less than 35,000 (statista 2023); evictions were up 56% from 2022 (4/11/23

Our current Robber Barons are the CEOs of the Fortune 500 companies – 55 who pay little or pay no taxes – some even get rebate checks worth millions. This takes hundreds of billions from our revenue a year out of the economy and trillions over just a few years which means the middle class and lower middle class are the target for cuts to their: social security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), veterans’ benefits, capping pharmaceutical drug prices and losing money for: infrastructure, schools, health care, grants for farmers, grants for apprenticeship programs and trade schools and the list goes on, along with Trump’s 2017 tax cuts that give incentives to CEOs to move factories and jobs overseas. Right now, Biden wants to stop or modify the overseas and domestic loopholes for the multi-millionaires and billionaires that are annihilating the middle class. Biden announced in his state of Union address his plan for anyone making over 100 million a year would pay a minimal tax of 20%. Also, in his 2024 budget he is proposing to close many of the obscene loopholes and shear others down like a lamb. But, he is fighting his way out of an avalanche from the GOP and thousands of tax lobbyists. When Trump was putting a lot of the loopholes on steroids in 2017, over 4,100 tax lobbyists swarmed the capitol and the loopholes have made CEOs even wealthier. (Guardian 12/14/21) The tax lobbyists are paid millions of dollars by CEOs to put pressure on our politicians — mainly the GOP Have not found Dems who support tax cuts for wealthy yet.

Erica Payne and Morris Pearle wrote a book called, “Tax the Rich”. Erica is the founder of the Patriotic Millionaires – there are now 200 patriotic multi-millionaires who go to congress to plead their case of taxing the rich instead of the middle class and the poor. In their book, they broke down the twelve major loopholes (domestic and offshore) in understandable language. What shocked me while reading the book was how incredibly inventive the loopholes are – like a Hollywood screenwriter wrote them – all to the benefit of the wealthy — not the middle class. This one gets a prize for shiftiness called multi-national Profit Shifting. One of the masters of this loophole is Starbucks. Starbucks US has approximately 15,000 locations and around 73 locations in Ireland. Apparently, the country that owns the royalty rights to the logo, is where taxes are paid. The US now has a tax rate of 21% (was 35% prior to Trump’s tax cuts in 2017). Ireland has a corporate tax rate of If Starbucks US sells their royalty rights to Starbucks Ireland, Starbucks would have to pay royalties to Ireland Starbucks US can pay those royalty payments to Ireland – however much they want and whenever they want. So, they show none of their profits in US, but all in Ireland – no tax money goes to the US — just to Ireland at a lower rate. (tax the rich) This one loophole costs our country over 100 billion a year (Washington Center for Equitable 5/10/16). And Trump said his tax cuts would bring money back to America. Really?

An academy award for this one called Stock Options for Executives. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook received a 429 million refund for this loophole. He purchased 60 million shares of his stock at his 6 cents/share (3.6 million) when it was actually trading at 38.00 (2.28 Bill). The company deducted the difference of 2.28 billion minus the 3.6 million dollar difference and was able to cancel out Facebook’s 1.1 billion in reported profits in 2012 and was qualified for a S429 million refund from US government. This one loophole costs the government approximately 64 billion a year (citizens for tax justice 6/9/16). But, the most devastating to the middle class are the overseas relocations of assets – American factories moving overseas. Trump gave our corporations billions of dollars of tax savings by moving to India, China, Thailand, anywhere but here. One example is if the company moves its’ plant to another country and the tax rate in the other country is just a few points above 10.5%, the US company pays O taxes. Per ITEP report 55 corporations, prior to Trump, would have had to pay 8.5 billion in taxes, instead they received 3.5 billion in rebates. The US is losing over 12 billion a year on this one (ITEP 4/21). And under the new Trump law no taxes below a certain threshold if factories are relocated overseas. This is also costing US 84 billion per year (Investopedia 2/7/23). It literally pays to move businesses overseas. Could this be the real reason Tyson Foods is moving their operations to 10 different countries (Food Business News 11/10/20). And Trump bragging, “I’ll bring back millions of manufacturing jobs to hard-hit regions to the US”. (Business Insider 3/18/17). The accelerated Depreciation loophole costs US 83 billion per year (tax the rich). Totaling the overseas loopholes, it cost us approx. 343 billion per year.

For domestic loopholes: carried interest (for fund managers) cost us 18 billion a year (Guardian 12/14/21). The inheritance tax costs us 43 billion/yr (Bloomberg 5/4/21). — (Trump raised threshold for the .1%- 1.24 million). The stepped-up basis loophole costs US 32.2 billion/yr. (CAP 6/3/21). Annuity trusts GRATS costs 7.69 billion/yr. (tax the rich). Like-kind exchange costs 1.96 billion/yr (CAP 6/23/21 The opportunity zone loophole (the zones set aside for the poor, really used for luxury condos) costs us 10,3 billion/ yr. (CAP 6/16/22), and the pass-through loophole costs 122 billion/yr (IRS. gov). These 7 domestic loopholes help the .1% making 1,240,000 dollars and it’s costing this country over 380 billion per year in revenue. Between the domestic and overseas loopholes, this country is losing approximately 723 billion per year on the low side. The IRS says it’s closer to 1 trillion per year (between 7-10 trillion in 10 yrs.)

Apparently, the GOP as of today has still not come up with a proposal to balance the budget (Kevin McCarthy thinks maybe, by May.) They are clueless. Here is how I think they should balance the budget. Instead of cutting all the benefits of the middle class and poor, how about getting back the 1 trillion of money lost to the Robber Barons every year and putting a chopping block to their loopholes and beef up the IRS to go after the .1%. They may not be able to buy another jet or luxury home, but oh well. And for the GOP holding Biden hostage over the debt ceiling (which would be the first time in history – all because they want the Trump tax cuts extended), Biden needs to tell them if they intend to endanger and crash the economy, he will take them to court for endangering the country which is against the constitution. Please call these clueless Senators and congressman and let them know we know the game and to start representing us instead of the Robber Barons and the lobbyists. We need to call the GOP leaders in congress now who are vocalizing about the cuts to us. For now, they are holding off on cuts to Social Security and Medicare because of the outcry, but now their new aim is Medicaid (84 million use), veteran benefits, and Obama Care (35 million use). Here is the gang we all need to call: Kevin McCarthy, House Speaker (202-225-2915), Sen. Rick Scott (805-942-8415), Senator Lindsey Graham (202-224-5972), Rep. Buddy Carter (202-225583), Senator Ron Johnson (202-224-5323), Rep. Jason Smith (202-225-4404), Rep. Lloyd Smucker (202225-2411), and Sen. Mike Lee (202-224-5444). It’s time for the middle class to save America.