Posts Tagged wealth gap
Headlines all over are praising the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare – and the record health insurance enrollments that it has experienced. In fact, a Gallup poll suggests that the uninsured rate has fallen to the lowest since 2008.
This mega enrollment is supposed to somehow be a sign that Obamacare is great and successful and amazing and what have you.
What everyone seems to conveniently forget, however, is that, yes of course enrollment under the Affordable Care Act has risen. That is what happens when you force people, under penalty of law, to become the customers to cut throat insurance companies. Not like anyone had a choice but to enroll. If anything, this is more of a hallelujah moment for insurance companies.
What I wish this poll would do is to maybe also dig in deeper and tell us about the affordability of those plans for those people who were forced to purchase them, such as the Silver and Bronze plans with their $5,000 and $10,000 deductibles (remember that low income levels do not qualify for the better, low deductible Gold and Platinum plans under the ACA).
So now great, yaay, person X who before did not have health insurance because he works for a selfish, greedy employer not wanting to give someone making 30k a year access to health-care, will now have to purchase that insurance. Sure, the government may help him out if he is poor enough – and I don’t think that as far as the government is concerned making 30k is poor enough to qualify for such aide – but how is he going to come up with a $5,000 deductible, because even if the government helps, it helps with the premium, not with the deductibles.
Moreover, most medical care people access is for routine check ups, x rays, blood work etc – all of which fall well below the $5,000 deductible. So, really, for people under those plans, insurance companies are just collecting their money but not paying for services until they meet their deductible. How can someone making 30k do that? If people are going to pay out of pocket for those routine things anyway, then why have health-insurance at all?
Even those that may have more expensive illnesses to struggle with still need to come up with the $5,000 first before the insurance plan kicks in and pays for services.
So no matter how you look at it, poor people are still in the same boat as before. Sure, now it looks good as far as enrollments on a sheet are concerned, but I doubt that if one were to really dig in, things would look as rosy as everyone is trying to make it look like.
The success of the ACA remains to be seen years down the road, when people – notably poor, struggling people – are tasked with meeting those ridiculous deductibles. Enrollment numbers do not indicate anything but people having done what they were supposed to do under the new law. Again, not like they had much of a choice.
As someone who supports universal healthcare and believes that access to health-care is a human rights issue, I am deeply disappointed at the false accolades the ACA is receiving. Some say it is a good step in the right direction and so on, but is it? Is forcing people to pour billions of dollars into the bottomless, greedy purses of insurance companies a good thing? Is the free market really the best place for health-insurance? Should entities that have only profit in mind be put in charge of making health-care decisions for us? Can you call it successful when someone is forced to enroll in a plan that has a $10,000 deductible?
Ten grand is a lot of money, for a lot of people, even for middle-class wage earners, not just the utterly poor. A lot of people, even those with relatively well-paying jobs are struggling. Having to come up with hundreds of dollars everytime you go see a doctor, until you meet your ridiculous 5k or 10k deductible is hardly affordable.
The effectiveness of the ACA needs to be measured by a host of other factors indicative of success of such a plan, not by enrollment numbers alone. The only thing the Gallup poll did is confirm that yes, people are abiding the law, as they were required to do. That’s all.
The wealthy enjoy all the advantages of living and doing business in a first world country. However, they believe that all that should come at no cost to them. They believe that their wealth exempts them from contributing to the very society and structures in that society that have enabled them to be where they are. In other words, wealthy people want a free ride (which is ironic because “wanting a free ride” is precisely what is often used to argue against social safety net and various other programs aimed at keeping people off the poverty wagon).
Well, France has finally put an end to the free ride wealthy people have been enjoying at the expense of everyone else when its Constitutional Council gave the green light on Sunday to the government’s controversial ‘millionaire tax’, to be levied on companies that pay salaries of more than 1 million euros ($1.38 million) a year.
The measure was introduced in line with a pledge by President Francois Hollande to make the rich do more to pull France out of crisis. To that end, a 50 percent tax is to be paid by high earners on the portion of annual income exceeding 1 million euros. This change has infuriated the wealthy because, of course it did; god forbid anyone ever asks a rich person to pitch in a dime for the common good. Let’s go after Medicare and food-stamp recipients and thus the poor as we do in this glorious, most awesomest country in the world blah blah fart.
Hollande’s 2012 supertax election pledge infuriated high earners in France and prompted actor Gerard Depardieu to flee the country. It has also alienated entrepreneurs and foreign investors, who have accused Hollande of being anti-business.
Hollande has said that the wealthy should contribute more to help to repair the country’s finances, arguing that the supertax should also encourage companies to curb excessive executive pay.
Not Being Greedy Is Difficult
I find it interesting that rich people, the 1% to be precise, get all riled up, feel exploited and, literally, run away as it’s been the case with Depardieu the moment they are asked to give a bit of their obscene wealth in the form of taxes, but that poor people – the elderly, food-stamp recipients, the disabled, student loan borrowers – heck even hard working middle class folks that hold two jobs and still are barely able to make ends meet and are fucked in case of a crisis – are repeatedly being asked to make more and more sacrifices to subsidize, essentially, the privilege of the wealthy. And they are asked to do so without complaining and in the name of compromise, good will and bi-partisan ship – as if agreeing to be underpaid, worked to death and rendered unable to make ends meet were compromises.
However, let me ask this: is it fair to ask someone who makes $20 million a year to spend half of that in taxes or is it fair to ask someone making $65 thousand a year to pay half of that in taxes?
Is it fair to ask someone living at the poverty threshold, eeking by on a miserable existence by collecting an abhorrently low, not-fit-to-feed-a-dog-in-a-pound welfare check and food stamps in this country, to please take some more cuts to their already meager, not-fit-to-feed-a-dog-in-a-pound welfare check and food stamps so that the wealthy can remain tax exempt and still pay very little?
Is it fair to ask a recent college graduate stuck in a shitty job making $45k a year and drowning in student loan debt (which he had to accrue to get that 45k job) to pay nearly 40% of that in taxes while the CEO of Facebook pays less than 10% of his billion dollar income, if that, in taxes?
In the US the top one percent hold 40 percent of the nation’s wealth. What the average CEO of a Fortune 500 company makes in an hour, the average worker (not the janitor, but the college graduate in the cubicle) makes in a month. The on-the-book tax rate for Capital gains, primarily the payment vehicle of the rich, is 15 percent – while most American workers pay upwards of 40 percent of their sustenance in taxes.
The narrative here, according to the 1% and those who hold the torch for them in the name of The Grand American Dream, is that average American workers are hundreds of times less productive than the CEO who makes hundreds of times more money than they do. And that they are lazy. Lack motivation. Work Ethics. Depend on hand-outs and just don’t know how to be successful or properly manage their hand-to-mouth earnings.
Just earlier this year, our spineless President made permanent the Bush administration’s tax cuts. Permanent; barring and preventing top earners, the 1%, from ever having to pay more in taxes than the maid who cleans their house or the even the educated engineer even who builds their car elevator.
Trickle Down Economics A Scam
One of the biggest scams, one of the most outrageous, yet effective, lies of the 21st century has been trickle down economics and the absurd idea that the more you let a company or individual amass wealth without taxing them or regulating them, the more those rich people will invest back in the economy and in the long run benefit poorer members of society by improving the economy as a whole. In other words, the bullshit here is the notion that the wealth the wealthy amass by not paying much in taxes or fair wages etc., will come back to citizens as a whole.
The truth is, unregulated Free Market Trickle Down theory and ideology has been tried and has proven, beyond all reasonable doubt to be a failed idea. In practice, it simply does not work (for 99% of the people, that is).
The only people this ideology of greed and immoral self-service works for are the robber barons and thus the very people that spend hundreds of millions a year selling this lie to the masses – under the guise, and false promise may I add, of the American Dream and how hard work pays off and that those “who are successful” should not be “punished” yadda, yadda, yadda, blah.
I cannot imagine anyone still holding on to this perverse lie where people are basically asked to personally fill the pockets of robber barons – willingly and unquestionably no less – with a straight face.
Trickle down economics and the promise of prosperity-for-all as long as the wealthy get to remain wealthy while the economic burden will be carried at the backs of the middle class, the poor, and disabled, is an outrageous lie and blatant deception.
It is also brilliant from a robber baron/Mitt Romney/one percenter perspective because it has convinced people for decades to hand over their hard-earned dollars to said robber barons, willingly and passionately, in the hopes that they too, one day, can be one of those barons. And you know what? It may work for a very few who manage to somehow get a foot in the door to the Kingdom and profit immensely while the majority of their fellow men will not. But for most people becoming the next Bill Gates or Mitt Romney is nothing but a pipe dream. Most people have to get an education or training, get a job and work for a living and save up for a retirement instead of playing golf until 11 every day and letting other peoples’ hard-earned monies work for them and when they fail to make that money work for them they are let go with a golden parachute and set for life.
At any rate, as the wealth gap between the rich and poor has been increasing to staggering heights over the past thirty to forty years, people are yet to see any of that trickle down wealth come to fruition. If anything, a dwindling middle class and a tremendous wealth gap in this country appear to be testament to the exact opposite, namely that the more you let rich people amass wealth, the more they will amass wealth but without putting much of it back into the economy in terms of fair wages, benefit, jobs and investments.
Just enter the world of labor export to places like China where slave laborers are paid abhorrent “wages”, if one can even call it that – I believe slave labor is a more appropriate term since a few dollars a month are hardly wages – so that a company like Apple Inc. – which is supposed to be the example of the American Dream – can post a $7.5 billion profit; Apple Inc. – the great American company that employs more people in China than its beloved US of A.
I applaud France’s measure because it is attempting to close the immense wealth gap – which is the cause and further catalyst of economic recessions – by forcing those navigating an existence in extreme wealth and privilege to pay a bit more so that the poor don’t have to. A lesson this country could learn and will learn – the hard way if need be.
The truth of the matter is that cash flow must exist in the economy for all parts to work effectively. If the upper levels of earners are not keeping those monies flowing, then the only mechanism left to us is taxation. It’s sort of like a parent trusting a child with something but then realizing that it is not working, after all, because said child has taken gross advantage of said privilege given to him. So the parent has to step back in again.
The wealthy, the 1%, have taken immense advantage of the freedoms their governments gave them for all these years – so much so that the world is in a recession thanks to deregulation and abolishing a host of other mechanisms in place to insure a level playing field where all members of society pay their fair share. This has resulted in stagnant wages, the complete non-existence of a social safety net in this country (when I say welfare monies in this country are not fit to house and feed a dog in a pound for a month, I am not exaggerating) and a host of other middle-class busting policies keeping the 99% poor and asset-less while the 1% keep getting wealthier by the minute.
If corporations and the rich paid in taxes what they used to pay back in the 40s and 50s, and 60s when America grew like wildfire to be the planet’s economic powerhouse truly resulting in making the American Dream a reality for millions, America would not be discussing, as recently as the budget debate and lousy compromise of just a couple of weeks ago, what poor, sick, or elderly group need to be gutted, cut, or kicked to the curb next.
(Have you noticed how so-called “entitlements” are always on the table when it comes to budget discussions in this country? By both parties. It is never “let’s stop subsiding oil companies” or “maybe we do not need another aircraft carrier” because apparently oil companies and defense contractors that post record profits already getting our tax dollars is not entitlements, but someone getting money back they paid into for years, is).
Currently, the conversation in America is a conversation being set up by guys like Charles and David Koch, the Walton heirs, Exxon, Lockheed, Raytheon, Donald Trump, Mitt Romney and so forth. Entities that feel entitled to their greed and do not want us ever talking about re-taxing them. That is why they complain about the debt to muddy the waters and distract from the real cause of the recession, demanding that the poor, sick, and elderly give a pound of flesh, because the CorporateCon Right Wing Mega-Rich have no intention of helping anyone with anything and want to keep and secure their massive economic gains which they have made at the backs of said poor, sick, and elderly.
The paradigm in this country, regardless of party affiliation, is always cutting more food-stamps or gutting Medicare or keeping minimum wages stagnant for a bit more. No one, not even Democrats, ever truly considers taking those things off the table and instead solely putting oil companies, the Defense Department and tax exemption for the wealthy on the table when talking fiscal responsibility.
That conversation needs to change.
So let what France is doing be a lesson to those of us in the US. If you do not want taxes set upon you, get to work doing your part to keep the economy moving, such as paying your employees fair, livable wages and great benefits to balance a home/at work lifestyle so that people do not feel enslaved to their jobs.
The Walton family (i.e. owners of Wal-Mart) is a prime example of entities that possess more wealth than can be used in several lifetimes, yet insist on continuing to pay wages to their workers that are essentially poverty level, even though they have more than ample room to improve those wages and still profit handsomely. As long as the government stays shies away from holding Wal-Mart accountable and hopes instead that they will somehow eventually come out and do the right thing, nothing will change.
At any rate, in the case of France, one million euros per year should be more than sufficient to live and thrive on, dear Wealthy People. Remember, that you are being taxed on your income and wealth while 99% of the people in the world are being taxed on their subsistence. I do, however, dare you to try to live on 30,000 Euro for one year without running away – or hey, I’ll be generous, let’s make it an even 100k – if you can, that is.
Remember, being poor is not for lazy people but making a little less than a million per year apparently is. So much so that those wealthy people are, literally, fleeing their motherland.