At Davos: ‘Stop talking about philanthropy, start talking about taxes’”.

Davos Conference Excerpt:

‘It feels like I’m at a firefighters conference and no one’s allowed to speak about water.’

Rutger Bregman, historian: “This is my first time at Davos and I find it quite a bewildering experience to be honest… 1,500 private jets flown in here to hear Sir David Attenborough to speak about…how we’re wrecking the planet…I hear people talking the language of participation, justice and inequality and transparency but then almost no one raises the real issue of tax avoidance, right? And of the rich just not paying their fair share…it feels like I’m at a firefighters conference and no one’s allowed to speak about water, right? There was only one panel hidden away in the media center, that was actually about tax avoidance. I was one of about 15 participants. Something needs to change here. 10 years ago, the World Economic Forum asked the question “What must Industry do to prevent a broad social backlash?” The answer is very simple: Just stop talking about philanthropy, and start talking about taxes”

Just two days ago there was a billionaire, Michael Dell, in here and he asked a question: Name me one country where a top marginal tax rate of 70% would work? And I’m an historian: The United States. That’s where it actually worked in the 1950’s.

During Republican President Eisenhower, the war veteran, the top marginal tax rate was 91% for people like Michael Dell.. the top estate tax for people like Michael Dell was more than 70%. This is not rocket science ..we can talk for a long time about all these stupid philanthropy schemes. We can invite Bono once more but come on we have to be talking about taxes..taxes, taxes, taxes. All the rest is bullsh*t in my opinion.”

Winnie Byanyima ED Oxfam: “We have a tax system that leaks so much that allows $170 Billion of tax dollars to be taken to tax havens and to be denied the developing countries that need the money the most so we have to look at the business model, and we have to look at the role of governments to tax and plow money back into people’s lives….

We work with poultry workers in the richest country in the world, the US. Poultry workers: these are the women who are cutting the chickens and packaging them and we buy them in the supermarket. [One of the women who worked there] said they have to wear diapers because they are not allowed to work because they are not allowed toilet breaks. These are the jobs we have been told about that globalization is bringing. The quality of the jobs matters. It matters. These are not jobs of dignity. In many countries workers have no longer have a voice. They are not allowed to unionize, they are not allowed to negotiate for salaries. So we are talking about jobs but jobs that bring dignity. We’re talking about health care, The World Bank has told us that 3.4 Billion people who earn $5.50 a day are on the verge of, are just one medical bill away from sinking into poverty. They don’t have health care. They are just a crop failure away from sinking back into poverty. They have no crop insurance. So don’t tell me about low levels of unemployment. You are counting the wrong things. You are not counting dignity of people. You are counting exploited people.”

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