Gabriel Zucman is a French economist who teaches at the University of Berkeley in California. Zucman has been influential in recent years
published scientific articles on wealth inequality and tax issues,
including some work with the economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty. His most recent book, "The Triumph of Injustice" (with Saez), will be published in German in mid-February. In the US election campaign, the two democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders took up parts of his proposals for a new tax policy.
Read the English version of this interview here.
ZEIT ONLINE: Mr Zucman, in your book you claim that United States same in relation to the tax system
more of a plutocracy than a democracy. What do you mean by that?
Gabriel Zucman: If you have all taxes on all state
Taking into account levels, basically all population groups pay –
Working class, middle class and upper class – about the same effective
Tax rate of around 25 to 30 percent of total income. The only
The 400 richest Americans are an exception. Your effective tax rate is
only around 23 percent. The US tax system is therefore nothing more than
a huge Flattax, The democracy is levered out and injustice triumphs because the
Most tax changes are not due to a sudden demand from the population
relief for the rich, but decisions,
that were taken without the consent of voters.
ZEIT ONLINE: It wasn't always like that, was it?
Zucman: On the contrary. It is important to recognize
that the current situation is a dramatic one deviation of the country's history
represents. Many people have forgotten that the United States used to be the most progressive
Tax system in the world. It was in the 1930s to 1980s
Top average tax rate at 78 percent. Until the inauguration of
Ronald Reagan in 1981 there were still marginal tax rates of up to 70 percent.
ZEIT ONLINE: Why? Was the political will for more
social balance more pronounced?
Zucman: Politics at the time wanted inequality
reduce. Too much inequality has been considered bad for the political
Decision-making process and thus viewed for democracy. There is a high inequality
also bad for the functioning of a market economy.
ZEIT ONLINE: Can you explain that in more detail?
Zucman: Wealth is power. An extreme concentration of
Prosperity at the top also means an extreme concentration of
political and economic power at the top. This view is so old
like the United States. James Madison, who co-wrote the U.S. Constitution and is a hero for modern conservatives, once wrote
that an excessive concentration of wealth is destructive. For a republic
such a condition is as bad as a war.
ZEIT ONLINE: Are the USA if you look at the
today’s inequality, already in some kind of state of war?
Zucman: That depends on what degree of inequality
Think you are too big. There is no scientifically clear one on it
Answer. However, it is plausible that the US has reached the point
where inequality begins to harm society as a whole. The
most economists would say that some degree of inequality is good;
it provides incentives to work, innovate and invest. From one
However, certain points dominate the negative effects. The US could do this
Have already exceeded the point.
ZEIT ONLINE: Can you give an example of the negative effects?
Zucman: Just look at the income of the
Working class that makes up about 50 percent of the total US population.
Your real income has been stagnating since 1980. That means zero growth in the past
40 years. At the same time, the income and wealth of the richest one
Percent has risen rapidly.
And look at how life expectancy is going in the US
has developed. She falls! In 1980 it was as high in the United States as in the United States
other industrialized nations. It is now two to three years below
OECD average. It is still rising for the rich, but life expectancy is falling among the poor. This phenomenon is unique in the western world. The
only other example of declining life expectancy in peacetime is
Russia when the country made the chaotic transition from communism to
Market economy went through.