How US Taxpayers Assumed the National Debt of the Super Rich

By Donald A. Collins | 14 September 2020
Church and State

If elected president, Joe Biden has vowed to raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent. (Image: Gage Skidmore / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

The NY Times Magazine has a special section in its Sunday September 13 issue entitled “Greed is good except when it is bad” about the landmark essay by Milton Friedman it published on September 13, 1970 in which he said the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits.

You can start your reading of this supplement here.

In this special new section 50 years later the Times assembled many corporate leaders and many prestigious economists including an early and severe critic of Friedman’s thesis.

One quoted was also like Friedman a Nobel Prize winner in Economics (his in 2001), Columbia Professor Joseph Stiglitz who in his statement for this supplement says “The absurdity of his [Friedman’s] analysis is seen most clearly by an example. Assume, in our imperfect democracy, that coal-mining companies use campaign contributions to block laws restricting pollution. Assume you’re a manager of one of the host of other companies that could spend a little bit of money to reduce pollution. You care about your children, your family, your community, but also about your business. Would you be irresponsible, as Friedman suggests, to curb your company’s pollution, because in doing so you reduce its profits? Would it be irresponsible for you to persuade others in your industry to do the same, even if you weren’t able to persuade Congress to pass a bill to compel you to do so? I think not. If you and others like you acted in this manner, societal welfare would be increased.

“Friedman’s position is based on a misconception of both economics and the Democratic political process. Yes in an ideal world”—but then we aren’t in such a world—we agree.

Much more of this anniversary supplement in the NY Times Magazine allows credit for the mistaken promotion of Friedman’s theory goes to the libertarians which is doubtless useful to acknowledge. The Kochs for example.

You can start reading about the libertarians here.

I read the remarks of all the others in this Times supplement, many agreeing with Stiglitz. So do I.

But let’s let all the opinions expressed by the “I knew it all along how wrong Milton was” commentators in this supplement have their day IF only someone would care to comment on the article which I wrote on this web site.

I knew Milton and Rose and had occasion to meet and talk with them on many occasions, as they were neighbors of mine when I lived in San Francisco. I bought his cool aid along with so many others.

But now is a great time for the truth about the net effect of this Friedman greed plan.

What I opined in my recent op ed is that the failure over 40 years to raise taxes to meet the rising costs of human welfare provided by the governments of America—so business could pay its fair share as we went along—at every level has gradually transferred our huge national debt to the taxpayers of America while corporations using ways to cut taxes have produced profits which they used to buy their own stock, pay outlandish wages and benefits to their top executives and make more billionaires than ever before in America!

Biden if elected has promised to raise corporate taxes to 28 percent from 21 now, but proven historical economic studies show that the incentive for making innovation is not stunted by taxes at far higher levels such as 48 percent or even more!

The incumbent has added 3 trillion to our bloated National Debt and the 28 percent will be inadequate to add more should Biden win.

The snookered 40 percenters who cheer madly to MAGA are just asking for more economic slavery.

I seek only the small favor. We could start acknowledging the truth that my friend Milton’s greed plan was what lead to the transfer of our National Debt to us taxpayers.

And admitting that more needs to be done by the famous rich and the legislatures they control to fix the problem than simply now stating their agreement Milton was wrong.

C’mon your experts, fess up to the fact that more taxes are urgently needed to help our burgeoning social and environmental problems. 28 percent is a start but not enough. That’s not socialism, it is just fairness and common sense to correct our failure to restrain crony capitalism which has made the gap between rich and poor in America so wide.

I can only hope the simple admission by these worthy experts of how we taxpayers assumed our National Debt will be made by some of these big companies and the economic theorists who wrote for this timely NY Times Magazine supplement on Milton’s 50th anniversary.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013

By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
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