Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tax The Rich! Why The Middle Class Needs To Defend Itself NOW!

As you know, my fellow Politicos, I've been pretty perturbed for quite some time about the need for economic stimulus, the importance of unions to creating a middle class, and the general incorporation of the United States. At the risk of sounding like some nutjob conspiracy theorists, I am also going to state that it's all part of a calculated plan to keep the majority of wealth among the top 1% in the nation. There have been many terrific posts on this topic from my blogpals, such as Lauren at thinkspin, Glen at Man Overboard and the folks at Progressive Too. I highly recommend these reads if you are interested in the topic. Lauren asked me to add my voice, and never one to shy away from voicing my opinion, thought I'd give you my angle on the whole situation.

The way I see it, there are three basic financial levels in the U.S. today, the rich, the poor, and everyone in-between. The rich I refer to are the uber-rich, that 1% that own 50% of the wealth in the country today. Take a look at the median income of Americans versus the top 400 earners since 1992, compliments of the U.S. Census Bureau:

Yeah, that explains a lot, doesn't it? We all know that Republican politics favor the rich. That's a given. But to what a great extent isn't necessarily as well known. What this graph shows so aptly is why, despite any raises or extra money you may have earned, it never seems to be enough. Another graph, if I may, from the our favorite graphmeister, Mr. Ezra Klein, of The Washington Post. What Ezra demonstrates so aptly is the difference between the tax plans proposed by both parties. And we all know who won that fight! Take a second and find your household income on the chart below:

Honestly, you probably didn't find too much of a difference unless you're earning half a million or more a year, right? Take a look at the size of the tax breaks in those last two brackets, however. Holy Mother of God, what a difference! That makes it pretty obvious why the wealthy's line in the first graph heads straight for the sky, right? You and I keep paying taxes through the nose, while the rich keep getting huge humongous friggin' tax breaks. How the Hell can we compete? How can my middle class family continue to scrape by? And if the rich aren't paying any taxes, who is??? Yep, it's me and you, my fellow Politicos.

"But those big corporations must pay a lot of taxes, right?" you ask. "After all, every time a Republican opens his mouth on TV it's to complain about how high corporate taxes are in the U.S." Man, if I had a tax break for every time I've heard that line. Technically, it's true. The U.S. has one of the highest tax rates for corporations anywhere (35%, I believe). But the rub is that big corporations don't pay taxes anyway, so it can be as high as the sky, and it won't matter one cent. Literally. Wanna know who didn't pay any taxes last year?

Here's the Bernie Sanders Top Ten:
1)Exxon Mobil: $19 billion in profits, paid no federal income taxes, $156 million rebate

2) Bank of America: $1.9 billion tax refund, $4.4 billion in profits, given $1 trillion bailout

3) General Electric: over 5 years, $26 billion in profits, $4.1 billion refund

4) Chevron: $19 million refund, $10 billion in profits

5) Boeing: $30 billion Pentagon contract, $124 million refund

6) Valero Energy: $68 billion in sales, $157 million refund; over three years, $134 million tax deduction for oil companies. (Yeah, they're so damn broke we should subsidize 'em, right?)

7) Goldman Sachs: (2008) paid 1.1 percent of its income in taxes, $2.3 billion profit, received nearly $800 billion bailout.

8) Citigroup: $4 billion in profits, no federal income taxes, $2.5 trillion bailout. (Yes, that's trillion with a T!)

9) ConocoPhillips: $16 billion in 3 years' profits, $451 million in tax breaks. (After all, they're an oil company...)

10) Carnival Cruise Lines: five year's profits of $11 billion + , 1.1 percent tax rate. (Thanks to oceansaway for the info!)

Add to the list GE and Bank of America, who paid no taxes this last year. Not a cent. B of A alone has screwed me out of my hard-earned cash, so don't tell me they're not making a profit...let's let Our Girl Maddow give you the scoop in her own inimitable way:

Now let's think for a moment about the costs of living in a small-d democratic system, shall we? (Let's not even go into the fact that the GOP want to privatize everything from schools to hospitals and libraries to make even more profit than they already do...) There's the cost of running the government, all public services and employees. Schools, roads, and hospitals, police, fire and sanitation. All those neat things we all like, like bridges that don't collapse, elections with votes properly counted, safe cities and emergency services...All things we all generally like to have around, yes?

Now, we know the rich and multi-billion dollar corporations are paying no taxes. And we know that the folks who make so little (unemployed, poor) aren't making enough to pay taxes. Mind you, I don't begrudge the folks at the bottom of the economic pyramid for losing their jobs in the Bush economic meltdown or the folks who lost their savings with the Wall Street meltdown (notice who got the bailout there?) or so many who lost their homes when the housing bubble burst - needless to say, with an economy that tanked like it did with Republicans in charge for ten years, the middle class kept shrinking. But, wait a sec...that only leaves...well, you, me and the rest of the working people in this country to pay for all those services...for everyone else. When multi-million and billion dollar corporations are paying no taxes at all, and the richest 400 people have half the money in the United States, and the middle class is struggling to pay for all the rest, something is wrong, my fellow Politicos. Seriously wrong. 

So, let's say that things continue on the path they're presently on. Which is entirely possible, if the GOP continue to obstruct any possible stimulative moves on the part of the Obama Administration, they remain in a deadlock with all motion in the Legislature, and continue in the Judiciary to make Citizens United and its ilk into the law of the land. People continue to lose jobs, the economy never completely recovers. The middle class continue to lose their livelihood and income, and shrinks even smaller than before. Which, of course, means that there are less folks to bear the burden of paying for all those services and are paying more to make up for the loss of folks to tax. You get where I am going here: eventually, there won't be enough middle class left to maintain essential services.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who's worried. Here's this, from Daily Finance:
Mainstream values are described as "middle class," as are common tastes and preferences. Economists often state that the middle class is the engine of commerce, and industries from construction to education to consumer electronics rely on a strong middle class -- with large amounts of disposable income -- to build colleges, fill houses and buy Blu-Ray players. But what if this massive engine ground to a halt?
On the surface, the scenario sounds unlikely. But a growing cadre of economic analysts note the steady erosion of the middle class, and the loss of its massive buying power. In a recent article, my Daily Finance colleague Charles Hugh Smith laid out a fairly clear argument for the disappearance of the middle class, at least in terms of wealth. As Smith notes, the top 20% of the American populace holds roughly 93% of the country's financial wealth, and the top 1% of the country holds approximately 43% of the money in the U.S. Meanwhile, the middle 20% of the population -- what would, officially, be called the middle class -- holds only 6% of the country's total assets. While disturbing, even this minuscule share of the wealth pie dwarfs the bottom 40% of the country, who control less than 1%.
See? It 'aint just little ol' me that's worried. They didn't name the article, Disturbing Statistics on The Decline of America's Middle Class, for nothing.

And this, from AlterNet's article, Why We Must Raise Taxes on The Rich, ASAP!
If the rich were taxed at the same rates they were half a century ago, they’d be paying in over $350 billion more this year alone, which translates into trillions over the next decade. That’s enough to accomplish everything the nation needs while also reducing future deficits.
If we also cut what we don’t need (corporate welfare and bloated defense), taxes could be reduced for everyone earning under $80,000, too. And with a single payer health-care system – Medicare for all – instead of a gaggle of for-profit providers, the nation could save billions more.
 The article goes on to say:
But don’t the super-rich have enough political power to kill any attempt to get them to pay their fair share? Only if we let them. Here’s the issue around which Progressives, populists on the right and left, unionized workers, and all other working people who are just plain fed up ought to be able to unite.
Besides, the reason we have a Democrat in the White House – indeed, the reason we have a Democratic Party at all – is to try to rebalance the economy exactly this way.
 And they're right about that. I think, in Wisconsin and throughout the northern part of this country, we're seeing that "I'm mad as Hell and I'm not gonna take it any more!" battle cry. Stripping unions of their basic right to collectively bargain does far more than simply put the GOP in complete control of elections in this country, a veritable one-party system, the U. S. of GOP. It also kills the middle class, the economic engine of our country, which spends money on housing, on clothes and food, on gas, and college for the kids, if we're lucky. When all that stops, just how will our country feed the beast that is our economy? There will be no one paying taxes for infrastructure, or Wall Street bailouts, or to fund those oil and gas subsidies that big oil is so fond of. Then what happens?

This is our time. This is the time that historians will look back on and say, "Well, what were the people waiting for? Any other country would have risen up! Why didn't they fight to maintain what little they had?" Or, they'll look back, starting with Wisconsin, and say, "By God, this was their defining moment! They banded together, and fought for the rights of the working class! They fought for families, and firefighters, teachers and nurses. They fought for public education and for everyone paying their fair share. They stood up, and refused to be beaten down by the wealthy and the political powers-that-be."

Take a look at We Are One at their website. They're organizing rallies around this very point. I took the kids and went to one yesterday.

It was a small turnout, but just the beginning. Find an upcoming protest. Send email to your representatives. Go by their local offices. Tell your City Council you don't want the libraries to be privatized or money going to charter schools. Fight for what is our birthright, The American Dream, in which everyone does their part, including corporations, and everyone has the possibility to succeed. It's worth fighting for. If not for yourself, then for the generation to come. I'm not advocating anything other than to use the means that we have to make change. Remind The President why we put him there. Badger the Hell outta your GOP reps (that means you, Gallegly, you old puppet of the Rethugs!) Tell your legislators that you want business licenses and citizenship revoked for anyone who hides money out of the country or registers their corporation in a foreign country to dodge paying their fair share of taxes. Bring your kids to protest for the rights of middle class workers: their teachers, the firefighters and nurses. But together, as in Wisconsin, we can be a powerful voice for positive change. Blog. Email. Text. Tweet. Get the word out there that the middle class can no longer support the United Corporations of America.

If anyone can tell me why corporate America wants to throw the rods on the engine of our economy, I'd love to hear it. It seems that surrounding yourself with private security to protect your wealth would be a helluva way to live. Not to mention, the end of our democracy. Can corporations not see that, eventually, there will be no one left to buy products or invest? My fellow Politicos, I hope you have some answers to this madness. If you do, share them here. And if not, feel free to vent or preach to the choir. Put your two cents in here at Momma Politico.