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Return ill-gotten profits to the people

Unlike the buccaneers, highwaymen and fuedal land barons of yore, the robbers of the current economy are the oil profiteers, grocery corporations and landlord hedge funds fleecing the working-class people.

They must be stopped in robbing the people by the only means of control they understand — taking away their excessive stolen profits by imposing a windfall profits tax.

A windfall profits tax is a higher tax rate on profits that ensue from a sudden windfall gain to a particular company or industry. This has been done several times with great effectiveness in history, including during and after World War I, World War II and the Korean War.

Americans are suffering through the highest US inflation rate since the first Reagan administration in 1982. Greed is driving this inflation more than any of the other minor causes, such as global supply-chain problems, unexpected global demand for certain goods, turmoil in labor market, global government spending for COVID-19 relief and global energy and food production issues.

For those who try to put a partisan spin on the reasons for the inflation, note the repeated use of the word “global.” It’s happening everywhere, and, yes, more so in the larger economies.

Having already benefited from inflated gas prices in 2021 as the economy bounced back from the COVID-19 pandemic, the declining fossil-fuel industry is trying to get every possible dollar it can take from us. During this year’s first quarter, the top five oil companies — Shell, ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips — brought in more than 300 percent more in profits than in the first quarter of 2021.

They did it on the backs of the people, which is why U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced legislation to impose a 95 percent windfall tax on the excess profits of major companies.

“Instead of increasing supply or expanding production,” when Americans resumed normal gasoline usage following the 2020 lockdown, Sanders said, “what did Exxon do? Triple its stock buyback program to enrich its wealthy shareholders.”

Sanders’ Ending Corporate Greed Act could raise an estimated $400 billion in one year from 30 of the largest corporations alone and would apply only in 2022, 2023, and 2024.

What these and other so-called free market capitalists are doing is called price gouging, plain and simple.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has lowlighted the retail food industry in her ire, writing the heads of Kroger, Albertson’s, and Publix a letter reported by NBC News: “Your company, and the other major grocers who reaped the benefits of a turbulent 2020, appear to be passing costs on to consumers to preserve your pandemic gains, and even taking advantage of inflation to add greater burdens.”

Instead of reinvesting record profits to raise wages and improve working conditions, these corporations initiated stock buybacks and boosted executive compensation, Warren’s letter noted.

The financial and banking speculators are also major culprits, as hedge funds continue to buy up apartments and jack up rates to astronomical levels to evict middle-class tenants.

Pro-corporate boosters say regular income taxes already take into account the high profits, and that there’s no need to do anything extra to tax or punish the oil companies. That is patently false because big corporations consistently, routinely and annually avoid paying tax rates assessed according to their revenue. Some of them, the fossil-fuel industry being the main culprit, engage in trade offs between government and industry, such as tax subsidies and other means, to minimize their actual tax liability.

In the name of the dwindling middle class, we cannot allow large, profitable corporations to continue to use fraud, friction and fallacies to gouge working-class Americans.

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