A jaw-dropping report from ProPublica detailing how America’s richest men have avoided paying taxes has heightened congressional interest, even among some Republicans, in changing the tax code to ensure that people like Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett pay their fair share.
For Republicans, the idea that the tax code should give preferential treatment to investment has been sacrosanct, ostensibly to promote economic growth and innovation that could benefit everyone. But this week’s news has shown how the treatment of stocks, bonds, real estate and the huge loans taken out of those assets has driven the tax bills of wealthier Americans down.
“My intention as the author of the 2017 tax reform was not that multibillionaires do not pay taxes,” said Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, who helped draft the law that cut taxes by more than $ 1,000 billion. “I think dividends and capital gains should be taxed at a lower rate, but certainly not at zero.”
Democrats, especially in the Senate, have been working hard on a tax package to fund President Biden’s costly national program, including a major infrastructure plan, climate change measures and expansion of benefits education and health care. Much of this work – fiercely opposed by Republicans – has focused on clawing back corporate tax cuts in the 2017 tax law, President Donald J. Trump’s signature legislative achievement, and prevention the transfer of taxable profits abroad by multinational companies.
The ProPublica report, analyzing a wealth of documents detailing the tax bills of household names such as Mr. Bezos, Mr. Buffett, Elon Musk and Michael Bloomberg, showed that the country’s richest rulers pay only a fraction of their wealth in taxes – $ 13.6 billion in federal income taxes during a period when their collective net worth increased by $ 401 billion, according to a Forbes tab.
“Americans knew billionaires played these kinds of games,” Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the Tax Drafting Finance Committee, said Wednesday. “What was important yesterday was that everything was detailed about the richest people in America.”
He said he was working on a series of proposals to solve the problem, possibly including a return to some sort of minimum tax, and would unveil specific proposals soon.
“Billionaires are going to have to pay their fair share every year,” he said.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland on Wednesday defended recent Justice Department rulings supporting Trump-era positions on controversial cases, vowing to continue to uphold the rule of law regardless of political pressure.
“The essence of the rule of law is what I said when I accepted the appointment as attorney general,” Garland said at a budget hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee, adding that his goal was to ensure that there was “not one rule for Democrats and one rule for Republicans, that there was not one rule for friends and another for enemies.” “
Mr. Garland continued, “It’s not always easy to apply this rule. Sometimes that means we have to make a decision about the law that we never would have made and with which we strongly disagree politically. “
The Justice Department on Monday defended a legal position taken under the Trump administration in a case involving E. Jean Carroll, a writer who publicly accused former President Donald J. Trump in 2019 of sexually assaulting her for 25 years. earlier.
Mr Trump denied the assault in an Oval Office interview and said he couldn’t have assaulted her because she was not his “type.” After Ms Carroll sued him for the remarks, the Justice Department argued that Mr Trump could not be held liable for defamation because he made the statements in the course of his official duties as president.
In the brief filed Monday with a federal appeals court in New York City, Mr. Garland’s Justice Department called Mr. Trump’s remarks “rude and disrespectful,” but said his administration had to rightly argued that he could not be prosecuted for them.
If the Justice Department wins, Ms. Carroll’s lawsuit could be dismissed.
The call dismayed Democrats, as did another Justice Department argument in May when it sought to hide a note related to Mr. Barr’s determination that Mr. Trump had not illegally obstructed justice in the investigation of Russia.
While the ministry released the first and a half pages of the nine-page memo, it argued that the full document should be kept out of sight because it contained information that was part of the ministry’s decision-making process, and that this information could be legally kept secret.
Mr Garland said he was aware of the criticisms, but defended his actions.
“The job of the Department of Justice in making legal decisions is not to support any administration, previous or current,” he said.
Just two years ago, in the heat of the US presidential campaign, President Biden called British Prime Minister Boris Johnson a “physical and emotional clone” of President Donald J. Trump.
He didn’t mean that as a compliment.
But now, as the two stewards of Britain’s ‘special relationship’ with the United States prepare to meet face to face for the first time since Mr Biden took office, they will highlight the strength lasting alliance.
They are expected to focus on a shared vision of a sustainable global recovery from the pandemic and will evoke the powerful shared history of the two nations to make the point clear.
Mr Biden and Mr Johnson are expected to announce what is billed as a renewal of the Atlantic Charter – the post-war declaration of cooperation that Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt presented in 1941 during the Second World War.
Yet the fundamental issues that divide them remain.
Mr Biden objected to Britain’s desire to leave the European Union, a push Mr Johnson helped lead. The US president is also worried about Northern Ireland, as the Brexit deal has fueled tensions and threatened to rekindle sectarian tensions.
“President Biden has been very clear about his steadfast belief in the Good Friday Agreement as the foundation for peaceful coexistence in Northern Ireland,” White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters on Wednesday. aboard Air Force One, referring to the 1998 agreement that helped bring peace to the territory, which is part of the United Kingdom.
Mr Biden and Mr Johnson will meet on Thursday afternoon at Carbis Bay in Cornwall, ahead of Friday’s meeting of the Group of 7 Major Industrial Nations.
It’s the start of a week-long whirlwind tour that includes meetings with Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday, NATO officials and European Union leaders next week, as well as a summit with the Russian President Vladimir V. Putin.
Mr Biden began his first overseas trip as president on Wednesday night telling US troops in Britain that the future of the world depends on reestablishing long-standing alliances with Europe that have been “hardened” by the fire of war “and built by” generations of Americans. ” . “
Addressing the troops of RAF Mildenhall, he called his diplomatic opening a week “of essential”, saying that no nation acting alone could meet the challenges of the world. But he also vowed to stand up to opponents like China and Russia, pledging to tell Mr. Putin “what I want him to know.”
On the eve of meeting EU leaders shaken by the aggressive movement of Russian troops along Ukraine’s borders, Biden pledged to “respond robustly and meaningfully” to what he called “Harmful activities” carried out by Mr. Putin.
Mr Biden also framed his trip in broader terms as an effort to rally the United States and its allies in an existential struggle between democracy and autocracy.
“I believe we are at an inflection point in world history,” said Mr Biden, “a time when it behooves us to prove that democracies not only endure, but that they will excel while we are we are rising to seize huge opportunities in the new age. “