It’s hard out there for a billionaire

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I’m sure you’ll be happy to know that while many, many people have had a very difficult time during this past pandemic year, the world’s billionaires fared much better.

I know you were worried about them.They are a rare lot, the billionaires. Only 2,365 billionaires exist in the wild. But luckily during the first year of the pandemic they were able to increase their wealth by $4 trillion.

For instance, March 2020 to March 2021, Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos, increased his personal wealth to $178 billion from $113 billion. Yes, he was just in the right place at the right time as we all increased online ordering during the pandemic. Thank goodness he kept all those billions to himself rather than allowing Amazon workers to unionize. ’m so relieved he’s going to be fine. Apparently to celebrate his newly found extra wealth, Bezos is going to launch himself into space.

He’s planning on flying on the first crewed flight on the New Shepard, the rocket ship made by his own company Blue Origin. This will happen on July 20. Luckily he owns the company so he’ll probably get a discount on the ticket.

He’s not the only billionaire dreaming of space fight. Elon Musk of Tesla is building his own rocket ship, as is Richard Branson of Virgin Galactica.

Why are the rich so fascinated by flying to the moon? Are they so blasé about earth that they just can’t with it anymore? Have they seen everything?

I don’t understand. Or perhaps they are simply trying to escape having to pay taxes at all by saying they were out of the country.

They certainly come close to that now. A recent report from the newsroom ProPublica shows that there have been years in the past decade that Bezos paid zero dollars in tax. Zero. The world’s richest man pays no taxes.

In 2018, Elon Musk paid no federal income taxes. Many, many other billionaires fared just as well.

“America’s billionaires avail themselves of tax-avoidance strategies beyond the reach of ordinary people. Their wealth derives from the skyrocketing value of their assets, like stock and property. Those gains are not defined by U.S. laws as taxable income unless and until the billionaires sell,” says ProPublica.

Example, Warren Buffet. From 2014 to 2018, according to Forbes Magazine, Buffet grew his wealth by $24.3 billion. He reported $125 million in income and paid $23.7 million in taxes. A lot of money? Yes? But compared to how much is worth grew his true tax rate is .10 per cent.

Here’s a really galling example and it’s Bezos again.

“In 2011, a year in which his wealth held roughly steady at $18 billion, Bezos filed a tax return reporting he lost money — his income that year was more than offset by investment losses. What’s more, because, according to the tax law, he made so little, he even claimed and received a $4,000 tax credit for his children.”

Think about that the next time you pay your income taxes.

There is a rumbling in the United States, and I would hope in Canada as well, about making the ultra rich pay their fair share, perhaps even making a tax on the wealthy be the funder for much needed infrastructure work. It is a notion that polls show is being very well received across the political spectrum of average working people, who pay more than their fair share of taxes.

There is of course much pearl clutching and cries of foul from one sector — the ultra wealthy.

To which I say, cry me a river. If you’ve got enough disposable income to build rocket ships and to fly yourself to the moon, you can afford to pay more taxes.