Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"Why should privileged Americans want to avoid this issue?" writes Buchheit. "Because they're not about to make a financial commitment to the root cause of most of the violence in our country, which is the overwhelming stress and suffering brought on by deprivation in the richest nation in the world." (Photo: flickr/tedollins32/cc)

Facts That Privileged Americans Don't Want Us to Know

It's strange that most media outlets rarely if ever report on these realities... until you remember who owns most media outlets

Paul Buchheit

Many of us are ill-informed about certain critical economic and social issues. The following facts should have been reported by the mainstream media, but unfortunately most of that media is controlled by the very people who have reason to hide the facts. 

Tax Haven Cheating is Much Costlier than the Annual Safety Net—But the IRS Keeps Getting CUT 

Offshore hoarding of private American wealth is estimated to be $3.3 trillion (4% of U.S. $82 trillion financial wealth). 

The safety net costs about $400 billion per year, or, including Medicaid, about $900 billion per year. 

Taking on the tax cheaters seems like an obvious response, instead of cutting the safety net. But the IRS budget itself has been steadily cut. Amazingly, and perversely, the Internal Revenue Service, which could be recovering much of our hidden money, has seen its staff and budget slashed 14 to 18 percent since the recession.

Our Own Country is the World's Second Biggest Tax Haven 

While the privileged American tax cheaters are taking money from their own country, they're not shy about taking from the rest of the world. According to the Financial Secrecy Index of the Tax Justice Network, the U.S. is second only to Switzerland as a tax haven. Their report states: "Financial secrecy provided by the U.S. has caused untold harm to the ordinary citizens of foreign countries, whose elites have used the United States as a bolt-hole for looted wealth." 

Record Low Unemployment? Yes, Because One Hour of Work Counts as Employed 

Part of that 'booming' economy is a low unemployment rate. As noted recently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics bases the official unemployment rate on employees "who did any work for pay or profit" during the week being surveyed. That includes part-time workers who are employed for just one hour a week. 

The unemployment rate also fails to include those who have given up looking for work—4% more Americans than in the year 2000.

We're Gradually Giving Away Our Country's Wealth to the Children of the Rich 

It's not a Death Tax, it's a Deadbeat Tax. 

Anywhere from 35 percent to 55 percent of U.S. household wealth is inherited. It's going to get worse. A Boston College study estimated that $59 trillion will be transferred from American estates by 2061. The study calls it "the greatest wealth transfer in U.S. history." That's almost as much as the total financial wealth in the U.S. today. But, as Robert Reich notes, in 2014 only 1.4 out of every 1,000 estates owed any estate tax. So most of the money to be passed down from Baby Boomers will be going to kids who never earned any of it and won't have to pay any taxes on it. 

One might argue that the loss of all this tax revenue is a good thing, because then philanthropists will step up and fund the needs of society. Not much chance of that. The super-rich have little incentive to provide housing or education or infrastructure or clean water to poor neighborhoods. Here's their incentive: Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs). These 'philanthropic' funds allow big tax writeoffs, and the 'donated' money can be invested and reinvested with little of it going to real causes. The report "Gilded Giving" by Inequality.org states that "this charitable revenue can be warehoused, sitting for years or decades after a charitable deduction has been taken, before any significant payout is made to public nonprofits."

As We Keep Shooting Each Other, Our Leaders Keep Cutting Mental Health Care 

Why should privileged Americans want to avoid this issue? Because they're not about to make a financial commitment to the root cause of most of the violence in our country, which is the overwhelming stress and suffering brought on by deprivation in the richest nation in the world. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety affects nearly one-third of both adolescents and adults. 

But instead of therapy, we use drugs to treat patients with mental problems, and as a result pharmaceutical companies make billions of dollars at the expense of incapacitated Americans. Incredibly, over 96 percent of "last-resort" mental health hospital beds have been eliminated in the past sixty years. More incredibly, the 2019 budget for the Department of Health and Human Services includes a 21 percent decrease from the 2017 level. 

Most incredible of all is the hypocrisy accompanying this disdain for the needs of American adults and children. As when Donald Trump says, "To every parent, teacher and child who is hurting so badly, we are here for you whatever you need, whatever we can do to ease your pain."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit is an advocate for social and economic justice, and the author of numerous papers on economic inequality and cognitive science. He was recently named one of 300 Living Peace and Justice Leaders and Models. He is the author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (2008) and "Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income" (2017). Contact email: paul (at) youdeservefacts.org.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Sunrise Movement Warns of 'Betrayal' as Pelosi Bends Toward Corporate Democrats

"We need Dems to hold the line for a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, full stop."

Jake Johnson ·


Progressive Groups Warn Congress Against Including Carbon Tax in Reconciliation Package

"If lawmakers are really concerned about holding the costs of this spending bill, they should get rid of the billions of dollars we waste every year on subsidies to polluters."

Jessica Corbett ·


Opposing His Renomination, Warren Calls Fed Chair Powell 'A Dangerous Man'

"Your record gives me grave concern," Sen. Elizabeth Warren told Jerome Powell. "Over and over, you have acted to make our banking system less safe."

Jake Johnson ·


California Wildfire Victims Lead Calls for Tougher PG&E Criminal Penalties

"The power company is the biggest serial killer in state history, and all it gets is fines?"

Brett Wilkins ·


Progressives Warn Democrats Against Means-Testing Reconciliation Bill to Death

"Raising taxes on the rich is much more efficient than means-testing benefits and accomplishes exactly what the spending hawks claim to be concerned about!"

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo