Skip to content Skip to footer

Colombia Is Taking On Its Billionaires – Why Can’t We?

The boundary line between the middle and lower classes in Bogota, Colombia. (Photo: Matt Lemmon)

America’s billionaires are driving this nation’s poverty epidemic. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

As we speak, working-class Americans are getting screwed over by policies that favor the wealthy elite, and leave everyone else in the dust.

As a result, more and more Americans are living in poverty.

In 2013, over 45 million Americans were living in poverty, including one in five children, and today, around 4 percent of our population lives on $2 per day or less.

Unfortunately, our lawmakers in Washington would rather continue pandering to the needs of the rich and famous, than confront the very real poverty epidemic that is crippling our country.

Like America, Colombia is struggling with its own poverty epidemic brought on by extremely high levels of wealth inequality and by wealthy Colombians who aren’t doing their fair share to help the economy.

Colombia is the seventh most unequal country in the world, with a staggering 32 percent of Colombians living in poverty.

In rural areas of that country, the poverty rate jumps to just under 47 percent.

Meanwhile, just like here in America, there is a small number of very wealthy people who are doing very little to help the Colombian economy and working-class Colombians.

But that’s changing.

More and more Colombians are being lifted out of poverty each year because the Colombian government isn’t afraid to ask the wealthy elite to do their fair share to help the economy.

Last week, the Colombian government, under the direction of President Juan Manuel Santos, extended a wealth tax that was first introduced in 2002.

Speaking about the wealth tax, Colombia’s finance minister Mauricio Cardenas told the Financial Times that, “It is very important to collect revenues from the wealthiest Colombians to be able to invest in security and defence on the one hand, and in social sectors on the other hand.”

What a novel idea: taxing the rich to help improve an economy.

Naturally, Colombia’s rich and powerful are arguing that the wealth tax will hurt the Colombian middle-class and hamper investments in the country.

But the results of Colombia’s wealth tax over its first 12 years speak for themselves.

Over the past decade, Colombia’s economy has become one the fastest growing economies in Latin America.

Meanwhile, unemployment in that country has been steadily decreasing, and inflation has remained relatively low.

Now, imagine what could happen to our economy, and to working poor people in America, if our lawmakers weren’t afraid to make the wealthy elite pay their fair share.

According to CNBC, if we were to bump up the top marginal income tax rate to 39.6 percent – where it was during the Clinton era – for all Americans making $250,000 or more per year, our economy would take in an extra $40 to $45 billion per year.

Just imagine how much good that money could do, and how many Americans it could help lift out of poverty. And if we rolled the top tax rate back to where it was from the 1950s through the 1980s, we could actually do away with our deficit and fully fund necessary social programs.

Ever since Ronald Reagan stepped foot inside the White House, we’ve seen the devastating effects of putting too much wealth in the hands of too few people.

While the wealthy elite continue to get richer and richer, working-class Americans are finding themselves sinking deeper and deeper below the poverty line, struggling to survive day-to-day.

It’s time for this insanity to stop and to make America’s millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share to support our economy.

We are the wealthiest and most developed country in the world.

There is no reason why one in five children should be struggling with poverty, or why 12.5 million Americans should be living on $2 per day.

Let’s take a page out of Colombia’s playbook, stand up to the wealthy elite, and finally eliminate poverty in America.

A critical message, before you scroll away

You may not know that Truthout’s journalism is funded overwhelmingly by individual supporters. Readers just like you ensure that unique stories like the one above make it to print – all from an uncompromised, independent perspective.

At this very moment, we’re conducting a fundraiser with a goal to raise $30,000 in the next 2 days. So, if you’ve found value in what you read today, please consider a tax-deductible donation in any size to ensure this work continues. We thank you kindly for your support.