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Publisher's Summary

America's runaway inequality has an engine: our unjust tax system.

Even as they became fabulously wealthy, the ultra-rich have seen their taxes collapse to levels last seen in the 1920s. Meanwhile, working-class Americans have been asked to pay more. The Triumph of Injustice presents a forensic investigation into this dramatic transformation, written by two economists who revolutionized the study of inequality. Eschewing anecdotes and case studies, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman offer a comprehensive view of America's tax system, based on new statistics covering all taxes paid at all levels of government. Their conclusion? For the first time in more than a century, billionaires now pay lower tax rates than their secretaries.

Blending history and cutting-edge economic analysis, and writing in lively and jargon-free prose, Saez and Zucman dissect the deliberate choices (and sins of indecision) that have brought us to today: the gradual exemption of capital owners; the surge of a new tax avoidance industry; and the spiral of tax competition among nations. With clarity and concision, they explain how America turned away from the most progressive tax system in history to embrace policies that only serve to compound the wealth of a few.

©2019 Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman (P)2019 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

What listeners say about The Triumph of Injustice

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Smart book and tangible solutions

This book really helped me to better understand the history and opportunities of tax policy.

Ronald Reagan’s 1980 tax revolt was intended to free Americans from burdensome taxation. Those policies dramatically reduced taxes, but unfortunately, just for one group of Americans - the rich. The author tells a fascinating story of how the most anticipated tax reform movement in recent history transferred a big tax burden on to middle and lower class Americans.

Reagan’s vilification of all forms of taxation transformed tax avoidance into an patriotic act. Paying taxes was no longer an uncomfortable but necessary act of civic duty; it was now a great evil oppressing the nation. It was every American’s duty to fight any form of taxation.

This new narrative marked the beginning of an explosion of tax cheating and tax avoidance. Prior to this time, most of the rich begrudgingly paid the high tax rates demanded of them. It was considered every American’s obligation. But Reagan’s tax revolution marked the birth of an accounting metamorphosis and the take-no-prisoners tax avoidance insurrection. Offshore tax sheltering, corporate shell companies and other forms of gymnastic accounting soared to prominence. Paying taxes was for suckers.

The first part of Saez’s book chronicles this perfidious transformation. He reveals the ingenious playbook used by accounting rockstars, CFOs and lobbyist to quietly morph America’s tax policy, moving the burden on to the less financially sophisticated - middle and working class people. He chronicles the story of this “greed is good” devolution and how it has shaped the taxation policies we live with today. In the 19th century the super rich (Getty, Carnegie, etc) were seen as robber barons. Today they’re rock stars.

Saez does a great job of explaining the whack-a-mole tax avoidance strategies of corporate offshoring and the deviously clever ways gigantic profits are safely harbored in a few poor countries desperate for economic relief.

The second part of the book was even more interesting. Saez provides a wonderfully approachable explanation on who foots the bill on different forms of taxation. He lays out who pays what on capital gains, labor taxes, flat taxes and all the myriad forms of taxation that have been tried throughout the ages and around the world.

Finally, he lays out a pretty solid plan of action for tax reform. It actually seems like something that might work.

This book gave me some real hope that intractable problems like tax reform might be solvable. No question, it will take tremendous political will to achieve but the good news is there appears to be a way forward.

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Twisted Statistics and Envy

Just a man who is envious of others.
I do not recommend this book at all.

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Clear history and facts, actionable solutions.

Clearly laid out. Well researched and cited. An important and recommended read. Some may prefer a physical book to highlight or copy/paste some excellent observations, I would agree. I prefer Audible and it's bookmark feature. The content and narration provide easy listening. I replayed parts frequently and appreciated the clarity of content, actual (admittedly difficult) solutions suggested, as well as the unapologetic admission of how unjust the current system is. Agreeing with other reviewers, I think it needs a follow-up companion book focused on the outflow side. Like spending the proceeds of the taxed income efficiently and equitably to promote economic stability and growth. There is a better way. It can and must be done. The current wealth gap and state of economic inequality are unjust. It is the growing tragedy of our times.

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we need to implement this book!

This is a well thought out and documented treatise on reforming our tax system, presented in an nteresting way. Every elected government official should read and implement it's findings.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-06-21

Essential reading for Americans

This book is excellent. It takes the reader through the main issues of fiscal justice in America (and to a limited extent globally), using language which is relatively easy to understand.

It’s only shortcoming is that I’m not American (I’m British) and ultimately many of the fiscal rip-offs the authors describe don’t directly affect me. Having said this, much of the book discusses the current global fiscal arrangement which, apparently, is also a sham (allowing multinationals a variety of opportunities for tax evasion while ordinary people pick up the bill.)

I’ve been aware of fiscal justice issues for a while now, but this book is a good consolidation and I can recommend it to anyone who doesn’t like being ripped off.

The narrator is a bit weird to listen to. His voice sounds a bit forced, but tolerable.

(P.s.: I listened to this concurrent with a print reading, which probably made it more digestible. There are some quantitative analyses involved, which I prefer to read rather than listen to. Also, the charts are very helpful if you have them directly to hand.)