The 2024 Election is About the Rich Stealing From the Public

A fight over extending provisions of Trump’s
tax cuts is at stake in November’s election.

Ultimately, the race is about money.

by Sonali Kolhatkar

There are many issues on the line this election year but one that gets little attention is former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax reform law that cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act permanently reduced the tax rate for big corporations from an already-low 35 percent to a ridiculously minuscule 21 percent. It also lowered tax rates for the wealthiest people from nearly 40 percent to 37 percent. Several provisions of that law are set to expire in 2025, making this November’s Congressional and Presidential elections particularly critical to issues of economic fairness and justice.

A few months after Trump signed the bill, he boasted, “We have the biggest tax cut in history, bigger than the Reagan tax cut. Bigger than any tax cut.” It became a common refrain for him when touting his achievements. But, Trump, who was known for breaking all records on lying to the public while in office, conflated many different facts to come up with a positive-sounding falsehood in a nation already primed by the likes of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton to view taxation as anathema. Trump’s tax cuts as a whole were the eighth largest in history. But his corporate tax cut was in fact the single largest reduction ever in that category.

Wealthy corporations have for years lobbied for and won so many carve-outs and loopholes to the U.S. tax system, and hidden so much money in offshore tax havens that their pre-2017 effective tax rates were already far lower than the official rates. Then, Trump lowered them even more. Imagine telling the American public that you are responsible specifically for the biggest tax cuts to the biggest corporations in U.S. history. It wasn’t a good look. And so, he lied, saying that he signed history’s biggest tax cut overall.

In the simplest terms, taxes are a way to pool collective resources so we can have the things we all need for safety and security. Progressive taxation is when wealthier individuals (and corporations) are taxed at higher-than-average rates because the richer one is, the less excess money one needs beyond one’s basic necessities. Progressive taxation ensures that wealth inequality doesn’t spiral out of control and helps ensure money that’s being sucked upwards, gets redistributed downward. When wealthy elites pay fewer taxes, they are effectively stealing from the public.

Since the cuts have been in place, many studies have attempted to assess their impact on the U.S. economy. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concluded in a March 2024 report that “[t]ogether with the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts enacted under President Bush (most of which were made permanent in 2012), [Trump’s] law has severely eroded our country’s revenue base.”

Trump’s law accelerated the draining of our collective revenues to fund the things we need. Even the fiscally conservative Peter G. Peterson Foundation concluded that, as a result of Trump’s law, “The United States collects fewer revenues from corporations, relative to the size of the economy, than most other advanced countries.”

Trump’s tax cuts were quite literally regressive, rewarding the already rich. A 2021 ProPublica report found that just one last-minute provision to the bill demanded by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) for so-called pass-through corporations benefited a handful of the wealthiest people in the nation: “just 82 ultrawealthy households collectively walked away with more than $1 billion in total savings, an analysis of confidential tax records shows.” It only cost about $20 million in bribes to Johnson (i.e., donations to the Senator’s reelection campaign) to enact this windfall.

It’s no wonder that the rich were thrilled with Trump’s presidency and that his virulent white supremacy and fascist leanings were not deal breakers.

It’s also unsurprising that wealthy elites are backing a second term for Trump. They want an extension of those tax bill provisions that are expiring in 2025, and perhaps an even bigger tax cut, if they can get it. If those provisions are left to expire, people making more than $400,000 a year—the top 2 percent of earners—will see an increase in taxation in 2025.

This is a demographic that is already prone to tax cheating given the IRS’s recent announcement that 125,000 Americans making between $400,000 and $1 million a year have simply refused to file taxes since 2017.

If the GOP wins control of the Senate and the House of Representatives this fall, and if Trump beats President Joe Biden, those cuts will become permanent. A GOP sweep in November will also usher in a new wave of threats to people of color, LGBTQ people, especially transgender communities, labor rights, and reproductive justice, as well as an escalation to the already-dire Israeli genocide in Gaza that Biden is fueling. It’s hard to believe but many Americans seem to have forgotten the horrors of 2016 to 2020.

But, at its heart, this election will be about money, for it will take a lot of money to fund the GOP’s reelection campaigns in order for moneyed forces to ensure they retain control of more money—democracy, justice, and equity be damned.

For Trump, this is even more important given his legal challenges. He’s relying on small-dollar donations from his base to cover his mounting legal fees and has had to post a $91 million bond to cover the fines he faces from a defamation lawsuit by E. Jean Carroll. The more desperate Trump gets in his bid to secure the White House, the more willing he and his party will be to sell the nation to the highest bidder. And, he will lie to the public by conflating tax cuts for the rich with tax cuts for all.

We ought to think of tax cuts in terms of public revenue theft. When the wealthy win lowered taxes, they are stealing money from the American public as a whole. As per the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, permanently extending Trump’s tax cuts will result in a loss of $3.5 trillion in revenues through the year 2033. That’s highway robbery.


Sonali Kolhatkar is an award-winning multimedia journalist. She is the founder, host, and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a weekly television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. Her most recent book is Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (City Lights Books, 2023). She is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and the racial justice and civil liberties editor at Yes! Magazine. This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.


Corporations That Pay Their Executives More Than Uncle Sam

by Sarah Anderson, William Rice, and  Zachary Tashman

Corporate tax dodging and CEO pay have both gotten so far out of control that a significant number of major U.S. companies are paying their top executives more than they’re paying Uncle Sam.

Tesla is perhaps the most dramatic example. Over the period 2018-2022, the electric car maker raked in $4.4 billion in profits but paid no federal income taxes. Meanwhile, Tesla CEO Elon Musk became one of the world’s richest men.

When it comes to fleecing taxpayers while overpaying executives, Tesla is hardly alone. A new report we co-authored for the Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness analyzes executive pay data for some of the country’s most notorious corporate tax dodgers.

What did we find? In addition to Tesla, 34 other large and profitable U.S. firms—including household names like Ford, Netflix, and T-Mobile—paid less in federal income taxes between 2018 and 2022 than they paid their top five executives.

Another 29 profitable corporations paid their top executives more than they paid Uncle Sam in at least two of the five years of the study period.

One company on our list stands out for the infamous role its executives played in the 2008 financial crisis: American International Group. Back then, the insurance giant ignited a firestorm by pocketing a $180 billion taxpayer bailout and then announcing plans to hand out $165 million in bonuses to the very same executives responsible for pushing the company—and the nation—to the brink of collapse.

Today, AIG is playing the same greedy game of overpaying its top brass and sticking taxpayers with the bill. Between 2018 and 2022, the company paid its top five executives more than it paid in federal income taxes, despite collecting $17.7 billion in U.S. profits. In 2022, CEO Peter Zaffino alone made $75 million.

Lavish executive compensation packages and skimpy corporate tax payments are not unrelated phenomena. Executives have a huge personal incentive to hire armies of lobbyists to push for corporate tax cuts because the windfalls from these cuts often wind up in their own pockets.

The 2017 Republican tax law slashed the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent and failed to close loopholes that whittle down IRS bills even further. Many large, profitable corporations ended up paying no federal taxes at all.

Corporations took the savings from those tax cuts and spent a record-breaking $1 trillion on stock buybacks, a financial maneuver that artificially inflates the value of executives’ stock-based pay.

Wealthy executives became even wealthier while the nation lost billions of dollars in corporate revenue that could have been used to lower costs and improve services for ordinary people. Until this self-reinforcing cycle is broken, we’ll have a corporate tax and compensation system that works for top executives—and no one else.

What can we do to break this cycle?

Congress can tackle the entwined problems of inadequate corporate tax payments and excess executive pay on several fronts. Raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent (just halfway back to Obama-era levels) would generate $1.3 trillion in new revenue over the next decade.

Congress must also close loopholes and eliminate wasteful tax breaks, for instance by removing the incentives for American firms to shift profits and production offshore.

Policymakers also have a wealth of tools to curb excessive executive pay, from tax and contracting reforms to stronger regulations to rein in stock buybacks and banker bonuses.

We know we need change when corporations are rewarding a handful of top executives more than they are contributing to the cost of public services needed for our economy to thrive.


Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project and co-edits at the Institute for Policy Studies. William Rice is a senior writer and Zachary Tashman is a Senior Research and Policy Associate at Americans for Tax Fairness. This op-ed was distributed by This content is licensed under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.


RiverRun Bookstore Recommends:

Prequel, by Rachel Maddow.

Everyone says we are living in unprecedented times, but Maddow shows that’s not true with a close look at the rise of fascism in America in the late 1930s. Many people, including dozens of congressmen, thought that what Germany was doing was just fine, and none of our business. It was only when some extraordinary citizens stepped up in defense of our freedom that things changed. — Tom Holbrook


“Working-Class People Aren’t Lazy, They’re Fed Up”

—UAW Leader Shawn Fain To Senate

by Jessica Corbett

United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain last week made clear to a key U.S. Senate panel that working-class people nationwide are deeply frustrated with the “epidemic of lives dominated by work” and the fight for livable wages while executive compensation continues to climb.

“Are the employers gonna act? Will Congress act? How can working-class people take back their lives, and take back their time?” Fain asked during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on a 32-hour workweek. “And I know what people and many in this room will say. They’ll say, ‘People just don’t want to work,’ or, ‘Working-class people are lazy.’

“But the truth is, working-class people aren’t lazy, they’re fed up. They’re fed up with being left behind and stripped of dignity as wealth inequality in this nation, this world, spirals out of control,” he continued. “They’re fed up that in America… three families have as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent of citizens in this nation. That is criminal. America is better than this.

“So, I want to close with this: I agree there is an epidemic in this country of people who don’t want to work; people who can’t be bothered to get up every day and contribute to our society, but instead want to freeload off the labor of others,” Fain added. “But those aren’t blue-collar people; those aren’t the working-class people. It’s a group of people who are never talked about for how little they actually work and produce, and how little they contribute to humanity. The people I’m talking about are the Wall Street freeloaders, the masters of passive income.”

The UAW leader stressed that “those who profit off the labor of others have all the time in the world, while those who make this country run, the people who build the products and contribute to labor, have less and less time for themselves, for their families, and for their lives. So our union’s gonna continue to fight for the rights of working-class people to take back their lives, and take back their time, and we ask you to stand up with the American workers and support us in that mission.”

After nearly seven minutes of opening remarks that led some to urge Fain to consider someday running for a political office in the United States, the UAW president took questions from Senate HELP Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and other members of the panel, touching on topics including what it is like to work in a factory, corporate greed, and work-life balance.

When Sanders announced the hearing on a shorter workweek, he noted that U.S. workers “are over 400 percent more productive than they were in the 1940s,” but work longer hours for lower wages. He argued that “the financial gains from the major advancements in artificial intelligence, automation, and new technology must benefit the working class, not just corporate CEOs and wealthy stockholders on Wall Street.”

While the senator has been a friend to the UAW, backing its strike last year and previously inviting Fain to testify to the panel, the union chief in recent months has repeatedly taken aim at billionaires and anti-worker politicians, including former Republican President Donald Trump, who is set to face UAW-endorsed President Joe Biden in November.

“Donald Trump is a scab,” Fain declared in January when the UAW officially backed Biden—who, during the union’s walkouts, became the first sitting president to join striking workers on the picket line. “Donald Trump is a billionaire, and that’s who he represents… Donald Trump stands against everything we stand for as a union, as a society.”

Since the UAW’s “Stand Up Strike” led to new contracts with the “Big Three” automakers—Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis—that contain pay raises and other improvements for workers, the union has launched the largest organizing drive in U.S. history.

The new auto contracts are set to expire in April 2028, which was strategically chosen to coincide with International Workers’ Day, to enable unions to “begin to flex our collective muscles,” Fain explained. “Even though May Day has its roots here in the United States, it is widely celebrated by workers all over the world. It’s more than just a day of commemoration, it’s a call to action.”

Jessica Corbett is a senior editor and staff writer for Common Dreams. This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.


’Twas Ever Thus

“If the historian of the year 2024 should consult the files of the daily press of 1924 he will not be to blame if he concludes that at this time our nation was governed by a venal cabinet; that all our politicians were grafters; that the heads of all our oil corporations were crooks, and that the leading industry of the United States was bootlegging.”

Casper [Wyo.] Daily Tribune, March 25, 1924,
tweeted by Paul Fairie, @paulisci, 10/21/23.

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