Gabriel Zucman is on a media tour and is answering to Print ! While he has just published his book (co-written by Emmanuel Saez) « The triumph of injustice » (WW Norton & Co). This French teacher from Berkeley, California, and a disciple of French economist Thomas Piketty, advocates a fairer tax system. His voice and ideas are listened to by Democratic candidates in the United States such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. What’s his big idea? The principle of the tax deficit : the amount that companies do not actually pay because of tax havens, they would be obliged to pay them nevertheless thanks to calculations. But are Americans willing to see their billionaires and corporations pay more taxes ?
- Could the States really apply your idea of « Fiscal Deficit » especially on the economic and geopolitical level?
Yes: each country can unilaterally choose to collect the tax deficit of multinationals that have activity in its territory. If a few countries were to take the leap, it is very likely that this would trigger a global movement that would eventually lead to a harmonization of the tax system going up, instead of the so-called tax race we have seen in recent decades.
- Listening to you our tax system seems to exceed in France, the overpressure of the ISF (tax system for rich people) was against time?
The abolition of the ISF is a historical contradiction, at a time when wealth inequalities are increasing in the world as in France. And in fact several American candidates in the 2020 elections propose exactly the opposite, that is to create taxes on the very ambitious fortune.
- You advised Bernie Sanders but can he really win in a divided America, with ideas that are presented as radical?
Half of American citizens abstain in the presidential elections because they do not feel represented by the Republican Party and centrist democratic candidates like Clinton. Bernie Sanders’ bet is that he can demobilize some of these abstentionists, particularly numerous among young people, minorities and the working class, and thus win against Trump. The story will tell if he’s right !
- Are the United States ready for a « tax revolution »?
A victory by Bernie Sanders would not be enough: the Senate would also have to pass to a democratic majority, and the Supreme Court would not interfere with the most ambitious projects. It’s a long drive.
- How can we explain the power of Bloomberg (candidate for the Democratic nomination) and Trump, both billionaires, against a world that demands more tax justice ?
Trump and Bloomberg are two billionaires who use their fortune for political purposes. They illustrate how wealth is transformed into power: by spending hundreds of millions on advertising and donations to politicians who become their obligation, in particular. America is experiencing a plutocratic drift; but the plutocracy itself is unstable and the forces of democracy can prevail.
Interview by Josselin Hazo