The Unending Story of the “Achievers” by Bruno Rossmann and Joerg Reitzig

All personal and corporate success depended on state investments in schools, roads, hospitals, community centers, airwaves, food safety, and water quality. The achievers’ myth ignores this, Austrian researcher Bruno Mossmann explains. The neoliberal redefinition of justice from sharing and distribution justice to rewarding achievers helps legitimate exploding inequality and tax injustice. John Kenneth Galbraith decried the public squalor alongside the private opulence.


By Prof. Jorg Reitzig

[This article published August 2, 2016, in Gegenblende 27/ 2016 is translated from the German on the Internet, ]

The theme of social justice has a boom season – in politics, in the general public, and in cultural life. The SPD (Social democratic party in Germany that has wandered from Willy Brandt’s legacy) seeks to renew its basic values and follow Willy Brandt again: “Dare More Justice” [1] The Left Party (Die Linke) wants to be a motor for a “revolution of justice” [2]. The Greens tried to sharpen their programmatic profile as a party of social justice with a Justice Congress in June. In 2016, the theme was popular at the Cannes film festival. The Golden palm for the best film went to the British director Ken Loach for his drama about a 59-year old worker who was unfit to work and had to fight for the state social benefits due to him. In his acceptance speech, Loach criticized the neoliberal austerity policy in Europe that plunges people into poverty while a few enriched themselves “in a shameful way” [3].


Justice is a key term in debates over the social future because it gives fundamental orientation for cooperative human life. In its core, the question is what can be justified – in relation to conditions between people and their interest-oriented actions. The recognition of others and the realization that justice can not be reduced to rules codified as rights and laws are central. Justice always stands in a tension with individual freedom. The author Friedrich Durrenmatt once formulated: “There is a world of absolute freedom and a world of absolute justice. These two worlds do not coincide but oppose each other. Both could represent a hell, the world of absolute freedom a jungle (… ) and the world of absolute justice a prison (… )” [4]…

and an article from July 2015

Tax Justice for Social Justice
by Martina Neuwirth and Thomas Kattnig

Every year states lose billions in tax revenues through the aggressive tax avoidance practices of international corporations. At the same time companies profit from public services whose financing is left to citizens. According to the EU commission, 1 trillion euros are lost every year from European public budgets through tax fraud and legal tax avoidance. $50 billion are smuggled out of Africa – more than the continent receives in developmental aid.

[This blog article published on July 9, 2015 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

June 23 was the international day of public services. Did you know that? Provision of these services – water, hospitals, schools, culture, energy, streets, public transportation and a good administration – is important for all citizens along with a functioning state. But financing these services has become harder and harder! Every year states lose billions in tax revenues through the aggressive tax evasion practices of international corporations. At the same time corporations profit from these public services whose financing is left to the citizens.


In the decision over location, many questions like public safety, medical services, training workers, independent legal systems, public transportation and a well-functioning administration play a crucial role. Therefore the tax tricks of Amazon, Google, Ikea and McDonalds trigger an international wave of indignation on account of their harmful effect on society.

In Austria, financing the planned wage tax reform is now controversial. This wage tax reform with a relief of five billion euros for employees is a massive rebellion against the austerity policy carried out almost religiously across Europe to increase purchasing power and stimulate the economy. In addition, a fair distribution of the tax burden is imperative. Our tax system favors international firms and the propertied. On the tax payments of US corporations, these corporations have paid between 1.8 and 9.4 percent of their profits to the treasury since 2005.


1 trillion euros a year are missing from public European budgets through tax fraud and legal tax evasion according to the EU Commission’s estimate. This problem is not limited to Europe. Every year $50 billion are smuggled from Africa – more than the continent receives in development assistance. Over 60% of that involves tax flight and tax evasion of firms. This is possible through a global network of tax havens (like Luxemburg) and an industry of consulting businesses that tailor tax-saving models for their clients. An international tax system makes this first responsible and is to blame.


Finally, there are now measures against the tax-sparing profit-shifting practices of multinationals. Negotiations over these intrigues are occurring in the OECD, the “club of rich countries.” An expert function is only awarded to the UN. Past reform initiatives only scratched the surface. The self-interests of the OECD governments and the lobbying of big businesses and their tax adviser firms are simply too great. In the meantime, the tax competition between countries that makes global tax revenues fall again and again cannot be stopped.

For a just tax system, we need:

• Global solutions: All countries, even poor developing countries, must jointly craft global tax rules in the framework of the UN.

• More cooperation: the disastrous international tax competition must end.

• Taxation according to economic activity: international corporations with their complex impenetrable structures must be considered as a unity. Taxation must occur where the profits are actually amassed – and not where it is fiscally most advantageous. Therefore businesses in the future should show separate sales, profits and paid taxes for every country (national reporting). This information should be available to the public and not only to the tax authorities. Only this way can expenditures be scrutinized and special agreements between individual corporations and finance ministries at the expense of citizens (e.g. Luxemburg) stopped. In the past, only banks and mammoth raw material corporations had to make such information statements.

• More transparency: The automatic information exchange of tax authorities must be really global. Gaps promote tax loopholes. More information about international firms, a publically accessible business register – must be available to a broader public. The use of pseudo-constructions for tax evasion should be made difficult.


Unions and non-governmental organizations worldwide urge the conversion of these demands on the national, OECD-, EU- and UN planes. The next test case will be the UN development financing conference from July 13-15 in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). For months, UN member states have negotiated whether the formation of the international tax system should be left to the OECD or whether the UN would be better. However many industrial countries, especially the US, are strictly against the proposal of a UN tax organization. No agreement could be reached in the past. Will the UN states in Addis with the encouragement of the UN set the points for a fair international tax system deserving its name?


“Offshore Shell Games 2014,” Citizens for Tax Justice, June 2014, 56 pp
Many large U.S.-based multinational corporations avoid paying U.S. taxes by using accounting tricks to make profits made in America appear to be generated in offshore tax havens—countries with minimal or no taxes. By booking profits to subsidiaries registered in tax havens, multinational corporations are able to avoid an estimated $90 billion in federal income taxes each year. These subsidiaries are often shell companies with few, if any employees, and which engage in little to no real business activity.

Congress has left loopholes in our tax code that allow this tax avoidance, which forces ordinary Americans to make up the difference. Every dollar in taxes that corporations avoid by using tax havens must be balanced by higher taxes on individuals, cuts to public investments and public services, or increased federal debt.

Companies can avoid paying taxes by booking profits to a tax haven because U.S. tax laws allow them to defer paying U.S. taxes on profits they report are earned abroad until they “repatriate” the money to the United States. Corporations receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for the taxes they pay to foreign governments in order to avoid double taxation. Many U.S. companies game this system by using loopholes that let them disguise profits legitimately made in the U.S. as “foreign” profits earned by a subsidiary in a tax haven.

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