Weep Not For The Wealthy

January 20, 2011

What the GOP wants for America

Julian Assange says he will, er, wikileak on some of the wealthiest people in a future confidential info. dump. A former Swiss banker has provided Assange with two CDs of financial details for 2,000 of the richest individuals and corporations, including 40 politicians and celebrities.

This leak is particularly apropos right now as President Obama failed to secure an expiration of tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. Fueled by a massive misinformation campaign paid for by these wealthy Americans and enacted by their toadying congressmen, the U.S. will now operate with $700 billion less than it should have as states face unprecedented cuts to essential services such as fire and law enforcement and education. The rhetoric includes bogus claims of taxing employers (approx. 2% of the wealthiest Americans actually hire employees) and a devastating blow to purchasing power. It’s all lies, of course — and the majority of Americans opposed this tax break extension — but a sizable amount of people still buy into the bullshit that doesn’t even pass the retard test.

Conservatives like to say that corporate taxes are prohibitively high and force companies to send jobs overseas. Another lie, of course, but it’s standard rhetoric. The oil and gas companies are making record profits but are paying virtually no income taxes AND they receive government subsidies. In 2009 Exxon-Mobil paid NO income tax at all. I hate to nitpick, but I hardly consider that tax burden to be prohibitive.

And then we have the classic comments from Warren Buffett, the third-richest person in the world. Buffet made $46 million last year and paid a tax rate of 17.7%. Buffett, of course, famously said in the interview below that he pays a far lower income tax rate than his secretary does.

And, of course, we have my favorite industry: health insurers. Even as millions of Americans are losing their health insurance because it has become unaffordable, insurance companies are making record profits. Some highlights from an ABC report:

  • Wellpoint increased profits 91 percent from 2008 while it chopped 3.9 percent of its total enrollment.
  • United Health’s profit increased 28 percent from 2008, while enrollment dropped by 3.4 percent.
  • Cigna’s profit increased 346 percent and enrollment dropped 5.5 percent.
  • Humana’s profit increased by 61 percent while enrollment decreased by 1.7 percent.
  • Aetna was the only company with a drop in profit and a gain in enrollment. The company’s profit declined by 8 percent from 2008, and enrollment grew by 7 percent.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Huffington Post lists the top 11 companies that are hoarding the most cash. Taxes are too high? Hardly. Some lowlights of the cash reserves some corporations are sitting on:

  • Apple Computer – $25.6 Billion
  • Total S.A – $27 Billion
  • Google – $33.3 Billion
  • Cisco – $38.9 Billion
  • Microsoft – $43.2 Billion
  • GE – $78.3 Billion

So, with all these absurdly profitable corporations and wealthy Americans not paying their fair share of taxes, what is going to be cut from the federal budget? Good question. Well, the benevolent GOP has some answers. In the $2.5 Trillion proposal put forth by House Republicans, they want to cut the stimulus spending that is saving our country from a devastating depression, environmentally friendly programs such as public transportation, assistance to people below the poverty line, assistance to Washington, D.C. (ya know, that federal district that relies on federal dollars to function), the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (ie, those ‘liberal’ propaganda outlets NPR and PBS), and pretty much everything else that is not beneficial to the wealthy, big corporations and defense. (cuz, ya know, just because we spend more on military than the rest of the world combined, it’s more important than making sure our citizens are fed, housed, and cared for.) You can read about it here and here. Bring your barf bag.

According to G. William Domhoff, professor of sociology at UC Santa Cruz, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

“In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2007, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 34.6% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.5%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 85%, leaving only 15% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one’s home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.7%.”

Aren’t you glad the GOP is here to make sure that trend gets even worse? Fuckers. Every single one of them. The last time wealth disparity in the U.S. was this bad was in 1929. Ya know, right before the Great Depression. Awesome.

GOP Flunks Econ101 … Again

November 30, 2010

GOP - the upside down party

Tuesday is the deadline for Congress to pass an unemployment benefits extension that will affect 2 million workers who have no other income.  Republicans claim it costs too much money to help people with no money.  At the same time, the GOP continues to demand an extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of the country.  Republicans claim these tax cuts are imperative to the vitality of the economy.  Let’s briefly examine the GOP stupidity.

For every dollar of unemployment benefits, there is a $2 boost to the economy.  To anyone whose forehead is not also a movie screen, that looks like a nice return on investment.  And as the dailyfinace.com article I linked to in the first paragraph says, the loss of these benefits would come at the worst time of the year and have significant ripple effects.

Retailers fear the dropped payments will result in fewer sales at a time of year when businesses rely on consumer purchases the most. But the loss of benefits could affect traffic at everyday merchants, too, including gas stations and grocery stores, which are likely to see transactions dwindle as unemployed workers go without.

The subsequent loss in business could result in as many as 700,000 more lost jobs as employers cut back further, according to the National Employment Law Project, a nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of workers. So far this year, benefits extensions have helped 9.5 million households and pumped roughly $6.8 billion into the economy every month, the organization says.

So, essentially, cutting off unemployment benefits — because they’re too expensive, ya know! — could lead to an

Republicans get the pointy hat until further notice

additional 700,000 lost jobs and almost $7 billion in monthly currency that won’t be circulated throughout the marketplace.  But this is really expensive, the GOP says, and they simply can’t justify helping these people.

A far better proposal, according to Republicans, is to extend the temporary tax cuts Prezidunce Bush gave to the wealthiest Americans.  According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and reported via the New York Times, this handout to the top 2% of our country will cost us $700 billion.  Apparently we can afford that, no problem.

To summarize the Republican platform of ‘fiscal responsibility,’ we can’t afford to help poor people but it is most necessary to help the richest Americans who don’t need (or even want) assistance.  We can’t give $300/week to millions of the neediest unemployed people, but we can definitely give $700 billion to a few hundred thousand millionaires.

Republicans are too dirty for the poopdeck.  We have standards around here.

Millionaires With A Conscience

November 19, 2010

It looks like a bunch of millionaires are sick and tired of all the tax cut bullshit the Reich-wingers keep blabbering about.  40 of the richest Americans have penned an open letter to President Obama requesting that he let the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans — ie, themselves — expire.  Cuz, ya know, not everyone is a selfish moron.

Uh oh.  FOX and republicans are going to have to find something to counter this with.  I bet they go with the character assassination route, which is always a reliable approach.  And who knows?  If we’re lucky, we’ll see right-wingers call these successful, wealthy capitalists … socialists!  They certainly don’t have a problem doing that with George Soros and God knows these people don’t care about looking stupid, so ….

Will middle-class and poor conservatives finally stop shilling for the wealthy?  Not a chance.

Here’s the letter signed by 40 richie riches.  I suspect many more people will sign the letter in the days to come.

Dear Mr. President,

We are writing to urge you to stand firm against those who would put politics ahead of their country.

For the fiscal health of our nation and the well-being of our fellow citizens, we ask that you allow tax cuts on incomes over $1,000,000 to expire at the end of this year as scheduled.

We make this request as loyal citizens who now or in the past earned an income of $1,000,000 per year or more.

We have done very well over the last several years. Now, during our nation’s moment of need, we are eager to do our fair share. We don’t need more tax cuts, and we understand that cutting our taxes will increase the deficit and the debt burden carried by other taxpayers. The country needs to meet its financial obligations in a just and responsible way.

Letting tax cuts for incomes over $1,000,000 expire, is an important step in that direction.

More GOP Duplicity

November 2, 2010

The GOP Platform

The GOP, once again, plays its constituents for rubes and sells out America.  As I addressed last month, this is nothing new.  It’s standard operating procedure and is perpetuated by its propaganda organs, namely FOX and talk radio but also irresponsible mainstream media outlets as well.

For at least the last 30 years Republican rhetoric has been a shameless ass lick of corporate America.  The GOP whines incessantly of our declining manufacturing base, of the outsourcing of business, of the trade imbalance with countries like China.  The GOP blames unions for demanding living wages; they say regulations are too cumbersome; they whine that corporate taxes are prohibitive.  But what does the GOP do when they’re not parroting short, easily-remembered slogans to its doltish base?  They actively help destroy our economy for the benefit of themselves and their corporate masters.

In May the House of Represenatives passed bill HR 4213: The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010.  The bill was designed to close tax loopholes that provide incentives for corporations to outsource jobs to foreign countries.  Yes, you read that right: we currently encourage American companies to send jobs overseas.  When HR 4213 passed to the Senate, the bill was killed by a Republican filibuster.  You’re probably thinking that surely there must be a good explanation for this.  And you would be correct.

The day before the vote on HR 4213, Republican Congressman and Senate candidate, Mark Kirk from Illinois, held a fundraiser for at least 12 American businessmen doing business in …… China.  According to FEC documents (via tradereform.org), Kirk received donations on that day from at least some of the people at his fundraiser.  Kirk is also the founder and co-chair of U.S. China Congressional Working Group in the House.  Gee, imagine that.

But this is nothing new.  The GOP has consistently voted against every piece of pro-recovery, pro-economy legislation in Congress.  When they say they want Obama to fail, make no mistake about it: they want the economy to fail.  It couldn’t be any clearer.  Some additional legislation the GOP has opposed includes:

  • Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act (S. 3816).  Senate Republicans blocked this legislation to curtail the tax incentives corporations receive to send our jobs overseas, and instead give them powerful new incentives to keep American jobs in America.  [Los Angeles Times, 9/28/10]
  • Small Business Jobs and Credit Act (H.R. 5297, signed into law on Sept. 27, 2010, Roll Call Votes 202, 218, 221, 237).   Senate Republicans opposed this bill to provide small business tax cuts and create a small business lending facility, which could create half a million jobs over the next two years.  [Independent Community Bankers of America, 7/21/10]
  • American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5, Roll Call Votes 61 and 64).  Senate Republicans opposed this jobs legislation that is already responsible for saving and creating approximately 3 million jobs.  Without it, the nation would have entered into a second Great Depression. [CEA, 7/14/10; Economy.com Report]
  • HIRE Act (P.L. 111-147, Roll Call Votes 25 and 55).  Senate Republicans opposed creating this new payroll tax incentive for businesses that hire out-of-work Americans.  An estimated 5.6 million new workers have been hired since enactment, making their employers eligible for the new tax incentive. [Dept. of Treasury, 8/2/10]
  • American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010 (H.R. 4213, Roll Call Votes 47, 48, 190, 194, 200, 204, 209, 215).  Senate Republicans have been blocking this legislation to create and save jobs, as well as end tax loophole giveaways to multinational corporations that encourage American jobs to be moved offshore.  [Economic Policy Institute, 5/25/10 and July 2010]
  • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148, Roll Call Votes 353, 395, 396).  In addition to reforming our broken health care system, this historic legislation could allow employers to create 250,000 to 400,000 new jobs a year, or 2.5 million to 4 million jobs over the next decade. [Center for American Progress, January 2010]   Senate Republicans opposed this measure throughout the legislative process.
  • Cash for Clunkers (H.R. 3435, Roll Call Vote 270).  Senate Republicans opposed allocating more money to this program, which has created and saved an estimated 60,000 jobs. [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, December 2009]  Across the entire automotive supply chain, Cash for Clunkers was projected to potentially generate or maintain hundreds of thousands of jobs. [Center for American Progress, 3/23/09]

These are but a small sample of the standard Republican modus operandi.  And thanks to our favorite fascists on the Supreme Court, the Citizens United ruling now gives unprecedented power to corporate America who can anonymously finance – without limitations — outstanding, patriotic, upright politicians like Mark Kirk.  Since the fascists made their ruling, never-before-seen amounts of money have been funneled to politicians.  Though only a tiny amount of these donations have been disclosed, of the $12 million in corporate expenditures that can be traced, almost $10 million of that has gone to Republicans.  And this is just for the midterm elections! (You can read more of the nauseating details here.)

Over the last 20 years the pay for CEOs and the wealthiest Americans has increased almost 300% while real wages for everyone else have been stagnant or declined.  Since 1979, the top 1% have seen their share of income double while the other 90% have seen their share of income decline.  Put another way: “Over the past 30 years, the income of the top one percent, adjusted for inflation, doubled: the top one-tenth of one percent tripled, and the one-one-hundredth quadrupled,” says Pizzigati. “Meanwhile, the average income of the bottom 90 percent has gone down slightly. This is a stunning transformation.”

The next time you see a Republican like Mark Kirk, be sure to give him a hearty thanks.  The next time you see someone speak well of the Reagan Revolution, kick him in the jimmies.