Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 14, 2001
Death and taxes no longer certain
We're all familiar with the clich‚ that the only things certain in this world are death and taxes.
Well, maybe we should not be quite so sure about that. The wealthy have tried to avoid death by having their bodies frozen in the hope that some mad scientist will discover a magic formula to revive the remains.
Now with cloning a reality, the possibility of perpetuating yourself forever in some form, is available to those who are prepared to pay the bill.
And talking about paying the bill, there is the inevitability of taxes. Or are there ways to weasel out of this certainty as well? Chances are, that if you are rich enough, you can avoid paying a good chunk of what you owe to maintain the common good.
Take the case of a well-known wealthy Canadian family that in 1991 decided to move a $2-billion trust fund to the U.S. Normally one is to pay taxes on the increase in value since the fund was established. This would have amounted to something like $750 million.
The family lobbied the government for a ruling to allow the transfer of money without paying the taxman. On Christmas Eve 1991, the decision was made behind closed doors, to grant the family's request. Not until 1996 was the public made aware of this special Christmas gift to the already wealthy.
A lone ranger, citizen George Harris of Winnipeg, was appalled that the government would let billionaires get away with not paying taxes at the same time that it was cutting budgets to look after the poor, the sick and the young.
Last year the federal court ruled that Harris has the right to take the government to court on this issue. His Project Loophole is funded by the private donations of the not so wealthy.
Statistics Canada released a report last March outlining the growing gap between rich and poor. The wealthiest 10 per cent of the population own more than 50 per cent of Canada's wealth.
The survey also showed that 94 per cent of Canada's personal net worth is held by the richest 50 per cent. That means the other half of the population tries to make ends meet on six per cent. The poorest 10 per cent of Canadians actually owe more than they own, with a negative net worth of minus $2,100.
Oligarchy, the rule of the rich, used to be associated with banana republics. We were told that after the fall of communism the spread of democracy throughout the hemisphere and the rest of the globe would bring greater justice to the marketplace.
The opposite has actually happened. The percentage of working poor has risen over the last two decades at the same time the number of millionaires and billionaires has increased.
Redistributive economics has been replaced by market economics catering to the business class. Of the world's top 100 economies, more than half are corporations and fewer than half are nation states.
These nation states, including Canada, Britain and U.S., regardless of what political party is elected, all sing out of the same hymn book designed by the corporate elite. The trade agreements they are signing do not benefit the majority of the people.
Canada's top corporate tax deferees look like a who's who list composed by Fortune magazine. In 1993 the auditor general noted, "Canadian corporations have received nearly $600 million in the form of tax exempt dividends from Barbados, Cyprus, Ireland, Liberia, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Between 1992 and 1994, taxpayers invested close to $5 billion in shelters."
It makes you wonder how much of this could have paid for public services to prevent the untimely death of those at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
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