9 Jun 2023

Forbes Global 2000 - $231 trillion in assets. Time for a 1% global asset tax

 Forbes just released their listing for the world's 2000 largest corporations. Quoting from their headline : it ranks the largest companies in the world using four metrics: sales, profits, assets and market value. As a group, the companies on the 2023 list account for $50.8 trillion in sales, $4.4 trillion in profits, $231 trillion in assets and $74 trillion in market value. You can find the full table here.

 For me, it's the assets' column that interests me most. As Forbes said in their headline report, those total assets amounted to €231 trillion.  But I have downloaded the complete data set and generated a ranked list of all 2000 companies in terms of their assets. I've made a Google Sheet that you can find here. And the conclusions are simple. 

If you look at the top 100 on the list, you get a list that is almost entirely composed of Banks and Financial Institutions. Here's the list

The first non bank is ranked #62 - it's the Saudi Oil Corporation.

The first that actually manufactures something useful is the Volkswagen Group at # 63, with Toyota at #78.  

Amazon, which is a huge company that certainly provides services for many people, comes in at #87. 

There's another Oil company at #94 (Shell), the French energy company EDF at #97 and Telecom giant AT&T at #99.

And that's it. The other 94 are all Banks. 

And if you add up the total asset values for the top 100 companies, you get a total of over  $126 trillion. Of that, less than 2.5% is held by the 6 companies that actually provide anything real. 

I did a similar sort of analysis in 2020 (based on the numbers for 2020), and the total values for assets across the 2000 companies came to $201.4 trillion. So there has been an overall increase of nearly 15%. But I also looked at the increases for individual companies, and in many cases, the increases in assets have been spectacular. 

Freddie Mac, Goldman Sachs, the Agricultural Bank of China, CITIC and ICBC all increased the value of their assets by over 40%, with the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China increasing the value of its assets to an eye-watering $6.117 trillion. Indeed, the top four players are all Chinese Banks with combined assets of $20.9 trillion. 

Anyone who has been paying attention to what I have been arguing recently will know that I have been proposing a flat rate 1% global asset tax on all assets, whoever owns them, wherever they are held. Just taxing the top 2000 companies would generate $2.3 trillion a year - virtually enough to pay the $3 trillion a year that we have to find to have a chance of tackling the climate emergency. 

For more on this, check out my youtube video on "AI, Technological Unemployment and UBI", where I propose four different ideas for financing global projects, including a global asset tax.

Note that my proposal would be that everyone would pay - including me. I own property, and so I would pay 1% - like everyone else on the planet. 

The key is that, contrary to the message that we are being fed by the media, the world's wealth is not held by a handful of tech billionaires like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos. It's not even held by big corporations like Apple (#127), Tesla (#440);, and NVidia (#854). Even Google's parent company Alphabet is only #111. The vast majority of wealth is held by banks, who currently pay no tax on those assets at all.

Taxing assets would have remarkably little effect on innovation - unlike taxing profits, which will really hit new startups.  Taxing assets is, for me, a no-brainer.

I simply don't understand why no-one else is seriously talking about this. 

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