Posts Tagged exploitation

Another 1%er Event

It is becoming increasingly more evident that regular folks in this country, you know, your average taxpaying, working middle-class stiff, the ones that are keeping this economy and country, really, going – from their occupations as teachers, in the service industry to non-profit work etc., do not matter very much.

I said it before and I say it again, but for the one percent that run this country, middle class folks seemingly are nothing more than readily sources of warm bodies when you need to engage in another war for profit under the guise of security.

They are a a source of tax revenue to support and underwrite the 1%.

If, as a one percenter, they have done a good job choosing the two lousy candidates for them and then giving them the illusion that they have a “choice” on the day they go out and cast a vote (see Citizens United)  then they are a “vote” to help “elect” your candidate and if you have done a really good job, as Republicans have with their voter base, you not only give them the delusion that they have a choice between candidates but you actually get them to vote for the very candidate, and thus against their own self-interest, you put on the ballot.

Everytime there is a cut in government spending, the middle class and the poor, of course, have to make sacrifices and see the programs and policies that benefit and protect them slashed and reduced,  not the wealthy and thus the architects of our economic system that keeps the wealthy tax exempt under the guise that they are “job creators” while repeatedly requiring that cuts to government spending (because of lost revenue due to those tax exemptions) come from those very middle class protecting programs.

While the white collar criminals of Wall Street and the banking system got bailed out instead of imprisoned for the crimes they committed, poor people, and thus Wall Street’s direct and indirect victims, are sent to jail for essentially being poor.

And when our so-called leaders and politicians open the doors to let America “in” for a night of celebration, laughter good times and appreciation, the only ones invited to the table, literally, are members of the 1%.

It is, after all, no coincidence that the yearly White House Correspondent’s Dinner (WHCD)  resembles a Hollywood red carpet event and that everyone in that event, except those serving food and beverages, are members of the one percent. 

It is sad to know that the average American is not on the President’s radar even when he  decides to decide to hang out with the public. 

Instead of inviting over some of those hard working average American citizens, the ones that did the grunt work and got him elected, to shake hands with and thank them for their truly thankless jobs and positions and pressure in society, he instead surrounds himself with top members of the elite cracking jokes.

It is ironic that on the one hand we’ve got the Occupy Wall Street movement, with demands for equity and relief for the middle class, the 99%, – an event and movement the President and his wife endorse, while on the other hand any event of any significance in this country, including this Dinner, is hosted and populated by the wealthy and privileged, the 1% only.

The 99% only seem to matter in as much as they make for great talking point or otherwise help score political points and not because anyone really actually cares about changing the current paradigm, the current dysfunction with respect to structural exploitation and institutionalized greed in this country that have allowed the 1% to accumulate more wealth than the rest of us combined.

There are thousands of people who dedicate every day of their lives to not only public service but to their townships, counties, states and communities in general – one way or another. They are the backbone of America, they are the people the President allegedly works for and leads. They are the ones who, through their hard work, such as teachers, champion the very causes this Dinner is to honor and uphold – yet the only ones who once again get to benefit from all this, even if just in a celebratory manner, are rich people; the 1% – literally – as everyone at that dinner is a millionaire – without exception, because otherwise who could afford something like $50,000 a plate just to get in?

Not that I don’t love the outrage about economic injustice for us poor, hard working middle class folks when it’s politically expedient and all but it’d be nice if the actual American people – you know, the 99%  – such as the journalists meant to be holding the US government to account, the non-profit workers, the public servants, the researchers, activists and just the people on the ground who work everyday on these issues for Americans without anyone paying much attention to them –  were, once in a while,  invited to the table and celebrated by our leaders, instead of actors, reality TV stars and models – who neither represent the American people, nor have contributed in any meaningful way to the political and social world they are in,

Speak of being out of touch. Romney is not the only one.

Money begets money and at the end of the day, when all the political talking points and phony strategizing to supposedly empower the 99% have been made, rich people still only take care of and intermingle with their own.

All this talk about empowering the 99% and leveling the playing field are just that: rhetoric. No one really means it and The White House Correspondent’s Dinner is the best example to the point.

The United States would be a very different place if everyone cared about inequity when there wasn’t a presidential election in which appearing to care about inequity could score political points.

 

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The Mechanisms of Exploitation

One of the reasons the wealthy in this country are wealthy, is because they are the beneficiaries of massive loopholes inherent in our skewed tax code as well as government subsidies paid for by tax dollars. In other words, the dramatic gains in wealth by the super rich are underwritten by everyone else as a result of skewed values embedded in the U.S. tax code. This means that the top 1 percent of America’s wealthiest households—97 percent of whom are white—are subsidized by the rest of the tax base.

A major contributor to the dwindling of the middle class is that the majority of the taxes they pay rarely benefit them, especially with regard to social safety net programs. Those taxes benefit the wealthy, who then get to sit back and save their money while the middle class covers them by picking up their slack. Remember that wage earners pay taxes on their sustenance, while the wealthy would be paying taxes on their wealth.

 It is also no revelation that most of our taxes go towards the war machine, also euphemistically referred to as “defense department”, subsidies for oil companies and farms and a host of tax breaks for corporations that post record profits while siphoning their wealth overseas to avoid paying taxes, employing cheap labor overseas and paying domestic laborers lousy wages that do not keep up with increased cost of living and general growth.

This lack of equity has lead to the systematic erosion of the middle class by transferring wealth from the bottom to top, thus widening the income gap.

As much as corporations like to whine about hard times that are allegedly prompting them to keep cutting pay, benefits or lay people off altogether, research has revealed that, in fact, foreign profits held overseas by U.S. corporations to avoid taxes at home nearly doubled from 2008 to 2013 to top $2.1 trillion. GE tops the list, followed by Microsoft, Pfizer, Merck and Apple – all companies that are supposed to be the shining example of the American Dream and hard work. Turns out, their un-American, self-serving greed is of the same old garden-variety robber baron kind, only this time the velvet tones are neatly wrapped in wit and charm by these master manipulators who call themselves the purveyors of the American Dream.

The American Dream for whom, one wonders.

The middle class has not experienced much of an income growth for the past three to four decades while the 1% have seen their wealth multiply quite rapidly. General Electric, for example, has neatly stashed away over $100 billion overseas while paying an effective tax rate of merely 5% in the US.

All this has crated a situation whereby the middle class is basically digging its own grave, caught in a vicious cycle of little income growth, coupled with higher cost of living, paying the highest amount of taxes while at the same time not seeing most of that money they paid come back to them in the form of social safety net programs, ultimately resulting in them to slide down the social class ladder even further and with every slide slip deeper into the poverty trap. 

Tax Breaks Are A spending

The hundreds of tax breaks lawmakers have written into the federal tax code –  for instance, special low tax rates on capital gains, and a deduction for home mortgage interest – in order to promote certain activities they deem beneficial to society (which are not), function as a type of government spending. 

In fact, tax breaks are officially called tax expenditures within the federal government because, from the perspective of the government, they are no different from spending on any other government program. That’s because, when the government issues a tax break, it chooses to give up tax revenue – so both spending and tax breaks result in the same outcome, which is less money in the U.S. Treasury.  

The need for the money the government just decided to not collect from certain entities (that also happen to line the pockets of those very government officials – most of whom are millionaires)  does not go away because the tax break was issued. That need is still there. And if the government cannot collect, or will not collect,  it from the wealthy, then it will have to collect it from us.

According to the White House, in fiscal year 2014 tax breaks are expected to cost the federal government  – and by extension all of us who do pay taxes – $1.18 trillion – slightly more than all discretionary spending in the same year.

For the government it means that it does not get to collect the revenue it needs to remain solvent, which in turn results in the government going after the easiest of entities to cut from – the poor who don’t have lobbyists residing in the Capital buying politicians.

This is evidenced by the fact that cuts, usually, almost always begin with and come in the form of slashing food stamps, public assistance programs and a host of other social safety net policies.

The class divide we are facing is facilitated by these very middle class-destroying economic policies that are promoted by politicians in both parties.

Democrats are not any better. They too agree on beginning every cut by going after middle class causes and the poor. They merely disagree with Conservatives over the extent to which those cuts are to take place. While I do want to give credit to some truly dedicated Democratic officials, I want to point out that voting for policies that ultimately go after the most vulnerable and marginalized entities in society to subsidize the privileged does not make you a progressive, nor is it a vastly different position from the Conservative one. That is hardly deserving of accolades. In fact, it makes you part of the problem, just to a slightly lesser degree.

In the end, for the working middle class it means that they have to pick up the slack of those who get tax exemptions.

Coupled with deregulation, lousy labor laws and standards that favor the corporations and their money-making schemes over employee/worker rights and human dignity,  Citizens United, Too Big To Fail, and a host of other middle class busting policies, the middle class has essentially been reduced to nothing but a source of cheap labor and tax revenue, effectively shifting the economic burden of society away from the wealthy – who, among other things, by virtue of paying no taxes, can accumulate wealth easily and rapidly –  and onto the working poor and middle class wage earners.

Given that a good number of our elected officials (including judges) are wholly owned subsidiaries of corporations, this situation is not likely going to change anytime soon. After all, what incentive would a lawmaker have to put a stop to the very corporate greed and exploitation that is subsidizing his or her campaign (and summer house, car elevator, shiny, gold plated bootstraps for his kids etc). 

General Motors, Money and Free Speech

In 2001, General Motors considered, and rejected an ignition switch design that two prominent safety advocates say could have avoided the problem that led the automaker to recall millions of vehicles this year.

The company’s decision to reject the safety switch was motivated by cost. Without much oversight and accountability, GM just decided to forgo this important safety feature, resulting in not only recalls of vehicles but according to GM, the faulty ignition switch has been linked to 32 crashes and 13 deaths.

All so that GM executives may pocket a few million dollars more in bonuses and compensation.

Via the Citizens United ruling and the subsequent ruling earlier this month lifting the ban on aggregate campaign donations,  the crooks in the Supreme Court took a huge step toward giving wealthy donors, including corporations, unlimited freedom to influence elections, considering corporations and the money they can give to influence political outcomes “people” entitled to “free speech” under the First Amendment.

The move to exclude millions of people who do not have the money to influence political outcomes does not only deeply compromise the political integrity of our governmental institutions, but, as Justice Beer wrote in the dissenting opinion, this “decision eviscerates our nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve.”  

Again, the entities that will be paying the price are middle class wage earners who cannot, on the political sphere, match the wealth of a powerful corporation or a billionaire – not without allies, effectively resulting in only people of extreme means and wealth being able to influence elections.

Equating free speech with spending money in elections is, furthermore, not only deeply undemocratic, but it is no different than making voting contingent upon an individual’s wealth. No one can tell me that the vote of a poor citizen carries as much weight as the “vote” of a millionaire.

Of course, corporations are only people insofar as they can donate unlimited funds to buy  surrogate politicians to do their bidding. When it comes to corporate accountability –  another feature of being a person – however, corporations remain immune and cannot be held accountable.

Case in point, again, General Motors that is currently seeking lawsuit protection in federal courts for knowingly equipping their vehicles with faulty parts, resulting in millions of recalls as well as dozens of crashes and deaths.

This is a company that paid no federal income tax for 2011 despite earnings of $13 billion since 2009. Why? Because the Treasury Department (hint: our corrupt lawmakers that run the Treasury Department) gave GM permission to use the $18 billion in losses from the pre-bankruptcy company, the so-called old GM, to cancel out any profits it has made since it emerged from bankruptcy.

In essence, GM would have to make $1 billion for 18 consecutive quarters before the federal government, which bailed out the company, sees a nickel in income tax from GM.

In other words, GM got bailed out with tax payer monies and it not only not paid them back but is also not getting to put a dime into the very government coffers whose funds bailed them out in the first place!!

Guess who, amid this grand gesture of corporate welfare, will be tasked to pick up GM’s tax exemption? The middle class working stiff. (Not that other corporations in this country pay more, or any, taxes either.  See this).

Bootstraps

Hard work has very little to do with why the wealthy are wealthy. Why corporations and their executives keep getting richer by the minute and have become “too wealthy to fail” while those who work for them cannot afford buying a house or sending their kids to college or have any kind of social safety avenues available to them if some catastrophe were to happen.

The problem with poverty and a vanishing middle class in this country is systemic in nature with corrupt, greedy and self serving entities as the gatekeepers at every level, insuring that those wallowing in wealth remain where they are while those who subsidize them think they are on their way there while at the same time giving up their standard of living, their quality of education, their jobs, their worker protections, their civil liberties, their social safety net, their environment, their economy and their very democracy itself.

We are a at point now where those in the 25-to-34 age group are the best educated cohort in American history, with more than a third having a bachelor’s degree or higher. Yet nearly 50% of those are either jobless or underemployed, indicating that clearly, and while important, education alone does not create jobs and opportunities that lead to prosperity. For that, a fair and functional economy is needed — one in which the government, a government filled with people who have integrity, not the corrupt opportunists that are in its employ now – plays a robust role, alongside consumers and businesses, to promote full employment and to ensure a just distribution of gains.

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Our Corrupt Congress

congress is corrupt

 

The American Dream hard at work

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Today in Democracy At Its Best: After Watering Down Financial Reform, Ex-Senator Scott Brown Joins Goldman Sachs’ Lobbying Firm

The face of patriotism: Scott Brown

The face of patriotism: Scott Brown

It’s a good thing that corruption only exists in places like India and Mexico and not in this wonderful, democratic and free country where everyone – rich or poor, powerful or not, is held to the same standards and where the rule of law applies to all of us. A country where our officials are held to the highest ethical standards with respect to stocks they can own in which companies as well as their employment options post government service – and I used the term service as it pertains to our government officials quite loosely as the only service they are engaging in is that of enriching their own pockets.

It is no coincidence that nearly half of Congress are millionares.

Case in point: Senator Scott Brown from Massachusetts. During his nearly three years in the U.S. Senate, Brown, much like most of his colleagues, frequently came to the aid of the financial sector — watering down the Dodd-Frank bill and working to weaken it after its passage — and accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash from the industry. Now, the man Forbes Magazine called one of “Wall Street’s Favorite Congressmen” will use those connections as counsel for Nixon Peabody, an international law and lobbying firm.

The Boston Globe noted Monday that while Brown himself will not be a lobbyist — Senators may not lobby their former colleagues for the first two years after leaving office, under the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 (HA!!! Hahahahahahahahahah — speak of your token legislation) “he will be leaning heavily on his Washington contacts to drum up business for the firm.” The position will also allow him “to begin cashing in on his contacts with the financial services industry, which he helped oversee in the Senate.”

Oversee the Senate. I am so glad that the honest leadership and open government act of 2007 has been put in place so that now former Senators can take on new jobs where they use their connections to oversee the Senate – like it was a private equity firm and not one of the governing bodies of this oh so democratic nation.  It is especially reassuring that they have to wait a whopping two years to do so.

Among the lobbying clients represented by Nixon Peabody is Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street behemoth that skirted the Dodd-Frank rules . Brown received $10,000 in PAC contributions from Goldman and more than $100,000 in contributions from its employees.

Transparency, accountability and integrity have never looked so profitable and patriotic.

Wave the flag everyone. The American Dream is at works here.

India, China and all those other corrupt countries with corrupt leaders who enrich their pockets at the expense of the people who elected them and entrusted them with representing their interests as opposed to that of banks and corporations have a huge lesson to learn from how we do things in this country. Now with the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 in place and the fact that a Senator has to wait a whole two years to go work for the people he helped while he was in office – killing the time by going on long, expensive vacations, remodeling one of their mansions, building a bowling alley or recreational room possibly and attending soirees thrown by the likes of Lloyd Blankfein.   – we are in doubly good hands and all set.

Imagine the hardship and the test of endurance this requires of one.  Two whole years of doing nothing but spending the money you amassed being the representative of Wall Street and at the backs of those who entrusted you with their vote – vacationing  partying, spending, remodeling. It’s a hard knock life. I know.

I am also very glad that someone like Bradley Manning, who exposed crimes committed by this government, is considered a traitor who will spend the rest of his life in prison, while folks like Scott Brown are considered upright patriots who get to enjoy all the freedom they can get to spend all the money they amassed at the back of this country and its citizens.

I am glad it is clear whose actions are treasonous and whose patriotic.

The American Dream never looked so good. So come to our shores…

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