Henry Kravis, founding partner in the private equity company KKR, made$450 million last year–that’s $1.3 million per day, or $51,369 perhour. He did it largely by borrowing money to take over publiccompanies, then selling off the company’s assets to pay the debt, layingoff thousands of workers, and slashing benefits for those who remained. (If you’ve seen Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, you knowthe drill.)
And for his efforts to move us closer to Gilded Age-like inequality, the government rewards Kravis by taxing most of his income at the 15 percentcapital gains rate–one-half the rate paid by secretaries, teachers,firemen, and cops among others–instead of a 35 percent ordinary income rate. A gift from Congress to the private equity and hedge-funders who linetheir campaign coffers and pay lobbyists millions to maintain an unjuststatus quo.
I’ve written previously about this tax loophole travesty, and the factthat Democrats have taken a pass on rectifying it. Today, Robert Greenwald premiers the first in his War on Greed series of short films that will take on this outrage. He hopes to build momentum and pressure for change and, with that in mind, he’s holdingthe film premiere outside of Kravis’ 29-room penthouse on Park Avenue. (One of Kravis’five homes, this one features a wood-burning fireplace in every roombut the kitchen.)
Take a look:
Greenwald does a terrific and spirited job shining a light on thisissue. As Andrew Ross Sorkin reportsin the New York Times today, “The War on Greed, Starring the Homes ofHenry Kravis, is a tongue-in-cheek story–think “Lifestyles of theRich and Famous” meets “Roger & Me”–detailing Mr. Kravis’s homes andlifestyle, juxtaposed against the homes and incomes of workingfamilies.” An engineer interviewed in the film cuts to the heart of thefairness issue: “When I borrow money on a credit card, I’m rewarded withhigh interest payments, hidden fees, annual charges that could put meover the limit. It affects my credit negatively. When Henry Kravisborrows money, he gets rewarded with millions of dollars in tax breaks. And he ends up paying less in taxes percentage-wise than his maid. That’s just not fair.”
Greenwald is aiming to create an environment which mobilizes outrage inpopulist and intelligent ways, and makes these titans of greed and theirmoney toxic. Look for the next three in this series of short films tofeature interviews with workers around Martin Luther King, Jr.’sBirthday; workers screwed by Kravis on Valentine’s Day; and promotingactions to take around legislation to close the loophole, culminatingwith an April 15 demand to make the richest among us pay their fairshare.