AlterNet.org: Paul Buchheit http://www.alternet.org/authors/paul-bucheit en 5 New Year's Resolutions for Brain-Dead Conservatives http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/5-new-years-resolutions-brain-dead-conservatives <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Number three: Understand that capitalism has no Incentive to work for poor people. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_236146066-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Many conservatives shy away from the facts, but a willingness to consider them would be a good way to start 2016.</p><p><strong>1. Accept that Poverty Causes Marital Problems, Not the Other Way Around</strong></p><p>In his condescending way, libertarian Charles Murray wrote: "There remains a core of civic virtue and involvement in working-class America...Married, educated people who work hard and conscientiously raise their kids shouldn't hesitate to voice their disapproval of those who defy these norms." Senator Marco Rubio agrees, calling marriage the "greatest tool" for lifting families out of poverty.</p><p>Marriage, to such people, spreads magic anti-poverty dust over newly-wedded couples.</p><p>Here are the facts: Upper-class and lower-class divorce rates rose and fell in similar fashion until the late 1980s, around the time inequality began to rip apart the fabric of American society, and to break down low-income family life. Evidence keeps piling up. Studies show that children whose families receive housing vouchers end up with higher marriage rates. On the other hand, two-thirds of single mothers who heed conservative advice and get married end up divorced. And despite what Murray's followers might think, race isn't a factor. A Pennsylvania study concluded that "over time, it has become evident that poor economic circumstances would produce comparable effects on whites just as they did for blacks." Pew Research Center found little difference between white and black fathers, and the Center for Disease Control found that black fathers are in many ways more involved with their kids than fathers in other racial groups.</p><p><strong>2. Learn that Democratic Socialism Does Not Mean Government Control</strong></p><p>Social democracy is 100 percent American. Our nation instituted a public education system, a long-successful retirement program, and a national park system. Gar Alperovitz describes the modern form of socialism, which is "about decentralizing power, changing the flow of power to localities rather than to the center." The Evergreen Cooperative in Cleveland, the public Bank of North Dakota, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Chattanooga Internet service are all examples of the distributed popular control of essential services. The approach works.</p><p>The most socialist program in the U.S. is probably the Alaska Permanent Fund, which has received bipartisan support for 40 years, even from staunch Republicans such as Sarah Palin.</p><p><strong>3. Understand that Capitalism Has No Incentive to Work for Poor People</strong></p><p>One only need look at health care, for which it has been estimated that less than 10 percent of the budget for health research is spent on diseases that cause 90 percent of the world's illnesses. According to a study in The Lancet, of the 336 new drugs developed in the first decade of this century, only four of them were for diseases impacting third-world peoples. Vital antibiotic research is underfunded because of low profit margins. World Health Organization director Margaret Chan lamented the long decades of disregard for the African-centered effects of the Ebola virus.</p><p><strong>4. Admit that You're Scaring the Hell out of the Public to Support Your War-Happy Ways</strong></p><p>A Fox News analyst called ISIS "the single biggest threat in [America’s] 200-year history." The national news media has driven Americans to a frenzy of fear, leaving more and more of them to express their concerns about terrorism, even though we're all more likely to get shot by a toddler than a terrorist.</p><p>The Air Force is dropping so many bombs on Muslim countries that companies like Boeing are gearing up for increased weaponry sales, as stock prices for weapons manufacturers keep surging. Our nation continues to build up the stock of arms around the world. In 2014 alone arms sales increased 35 percent, to $36.2 billion.</p><p><strong>5. Stop Saying Corporations Have an "Insane Tax Burden"</strong></p><p>The Wall Street Journal used that phrase in a story about Pfizer, which claims tax-deferred profits overseas and losses in the U.S., and which paid an effective tax rate of just 7.5 percent in 2014, and which is now merging with another company in order to move its corporate offices overseas to avoid even more taxes.</p><p>The Wall Street Journal itself admitted that "Pfizer's accounting methods raise its reported tax rate, without increasing the actual taxes the company pays." That's the point. The "tax burden" is an accounting fiction, not reality.</p>  Tue, 29 Dec 2015 08:02:00 -0800 Paul Buchheit, AlterNet 1048099 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics conservatives Half of America Is in or Damn Near Close to Living in Poverty http://www.alternet.org/economy/half-america-or-damn-near-close-living-poverty <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Congress should be filled with guilt -- and shame -- for failing to deal with our enormous wealth disparities.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_268003883.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <blockquote type="cite"><a href="http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/02/09/new-evidence-half-america-broke" target="_blank">Recent</a> <a href="http://www.alternet.org/economy/overwhelming-evidence-half-america-or-near-poverty" target="_blank">reports</a> have <a href="http://truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/half-of-america-is-in-or-near-poverty-and-it-s-getting-worse/" target="_blank">documented</a> the growing rates of <a href="http://www.nationofchange.org/2015/11/22/signs-of-a-dying-society/" target="_blank">impoverishment</a> in the U.S., and new information surfacing in the past 12 months shows that the trend is continuing, and probably worsening. <br /><br />Congress should be filled with guilt -- and shame -- for failing to deal with the enormous wealth disparities that are turning our country into the equivalent of a 3rd-world nation. <br /><br /><br />Half of Americans Make Less than a Living Wage <br /><br />According to the <a href="https://www.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/netcomp.cgi?year=2014" target="_blank">Social Security Administration</a>, over half of Americans make less than $30,000 per year. <br /><br />That's less than an appropriate average living wage of $16.87 per hour, as calculated by <a href="http://allianceforajustsociety.org/2015/10/pay-up-15-in-not-a-living-wage-in-most-of-the-country/" target="_blank">Alliance for a Just Society</a> (AJS), and it's not enough -- even with two full-time workers -- to attain an "adequate but modest living standard" for a family of four, which at the median is over $60,000, according to the <a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/ib368-basic-family-budgets/" target="_blank">Economic Policy Institute</a>. <br /><br /><a href="https://jobgap2013.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/patchwork_of_paychecks.pdf" target="_blank">AJS</a> also found that there are 7 job seekers for every job opening that pays enough ($15/hr) for a single adult to make ends meet. <br /><br /><br /><br /><strong>Half of Americans Have No Savings </strong><br /><br />A study by <a href="http://www.gobankingrates.com/savings-account/62-percent-americans-under-1000-savings-survey-finds/" target="_blank">Go Banking Rates</a> reveals that nearly 50 percent of Americans have no savings. Over 70 percent of us have less than $1,000. <a href="http://www.pewtrusts.org/%7E/media/Assets/2015/01/FSM_Balance_Sheet_Report.pdf" target="_blank">Pew Research</a> supports this finding with survey results that show nearly half of American households spending more than they earn. The lack of savings is particularly evident with young adults, who went from a five-percent <a href="http://online.wsj.com/articles/savings-turn-negative-for-younger-generation-1415572405" target="_blank">savings rate</a> before the recession to a negative savings rate today. <br /><br /><a href="http://gabriel-zucman.eu/files/SaezZucman2016QJE.pdf" target="_blank">Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman</a> summarize: "Since the bottom half of the distribution always owns close to zero wealth on net, the bottom 90% wealth share is the same as the share of wealth owned by top 50-90% families." <br /><br /><br /><br /><strong>Nearly Two-Thirds of Americans Can't Afford to Fix Their Cars </strong><br /><br />The <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2015/01/07/most-americans-dont-have-savings-to-pay-unexpected-bill/" target="_blank">Wall Street Journal</a> reported on a <a href="http://www.bankrate.com/finance/smart-spending/money-pulse-0115.aspx" target="_blank">Bankrate</a> study, which found 62 percent of Americans without the available funds for a $500 brake job. A <a href="http://www.federalreserve.gov/econresdata/2014-report-economic-well-being-us-households-201505.pdf" target="_blank">Federal Reserve</a> survey found that nearly half of respondents could not cover a $400 emergency expense. <br /><br />It's continually getting worse, even at upper-middle-class levels. The <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/cash-crunch-for-many-is-a-monthly-woe-1432094467" target="_blank">Wall Street Journal</a> recently reported on a JP Morgan study's conclusion that "the bottom 80% of households by income lack sufficient savings to cover the type of volatility observed in income and spending."  </blockquote><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="401" width="330"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="401" width="330" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/screen_shot_2015-12-14_at_9.52.50_am.png" /></div><blockquote type="cite">This chart from <a href="http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/09/the-american-middle-class-is-losing-ground/" target="_blank">Pew Research</a> shows the dramatic shrinking of the middle class, defined as "adults whose annual household income is two-thirds to double the national median, about $42,000 to $126,000 annually in 2014 dollars." <br /><br />Market watchers rave about <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-employers-add-211-000-jobs-in-november-1449236053" target="_blank">'strong'</a> and even <a href="http://www.marketwatch.com/story/7-charts-show-how-fridays-amazing-jobs-rocked-the-market-2015-11-06" target="_blank">'blockbuster'</a> job reports. But any upbeat news about the unemployment rate should be balanced against the fact that nine of the ten fastest growing <a href="http://www.nelp.org/page/content/Unbalanced-Recovery/" target="_blank">occupations</a>don't require a <a href="http://www.bls.gov/ooh/most-new-jobs.htm" target="_blank">college degree</a>. Jobs gained since the recession are paying <a href="http://www.usmayors.org/metroeconomies/2014/08/report.pdf" target="_blank">23 percent less</a> than jobs lost. <a href="http://www.nelp.org/page/-/Job_Creation/LowWageRecovery2012.pdf?nocdn=1" target="_blank">Low-wage jobs</a> (under $14 per hour) made up just 1/5 of the jobs lost to the recession, but accounted for nearly 3/5 of the jobs regained in the first three years of the recovery. <br /><br />Furthermore, the official 5% <a href="http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t15.htm" target="_blank">unemployment rate</a> is nearly 10% when short-term <a href="http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/08/11/the-collapsing-us-economy/" target="_blank">discouraged</a> workers are included, and <a href="http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/unemployment-charts" target="_blank">23%</a> when long-term discouraged workers are included. People are falling fast from the ranks of middle-class living. Between 2007 and 2013 median wealth dropped a shocking <a href="http://www.nber.org/papers/w20733" target="_blank">40 percent</a>, leaving the poorest half with debt-driven negative wealth. <br /><br />Members of Congress, comfortably nestled in bed with millionaire friends and corporate lobbyists, are in denial about the true state of the American middle class. The once-vibrant middle of America has dropped to lower-middle, and it is still falling. </blockquote><p> </p> Mon, 14 Dec 2015 06:52:00 -0800 Paul Buchheit, AlterNet 1047291 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy economy congress us poverty politics 6 of America's Leading Candidates for Hypocrite of the Year http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/6-americas-leading-candidates-hypocrite-year <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Koch? Zuckerberg? There&#039;s no shortage of nominees. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/rahm.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The people included below stand out in their various areas of nefarious behavior: warmaking, tax avoidance, consumer gouging, environmental destruction, and criminal arrogance. <br /><br /><strong>1. Charles Koch: Fighting for prison reform (so he'll never have to go to jail). </strong>The "<a href="http://www.alternet.org/corporate-accountability-and-workplace/8-reasons-charles-koch-scariest-man-america" target="_blank">scariest man</a> in America" appeared suddenly sympathetic to the plight of the disadvantaged, <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2014/12/charles-koch-interview-criminal-justice-reform-113839" target="_blank">advocating</a> for criminal justice reform. But the bill supported by the Koch-funded <a href="http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2015/09/the-pressing-need-for-mens-rea-reform#_ftn7" target="_blank">Heritage Foundation</a> would make it more <a href="http://www.salon.com/2015/11/17/koch_brothers_hijack_historic_criminal_justice_reform_to_make_it_tougher_to_go_after_corporate_criminals/" target="_blank">difficult</a> to charge executives guilty of financial fraud, environmental damage and other high-level crimes. It's all based on the argument that the guilty party doesn't know he's committing a crime. </p><p>Heritage defends "morally blameless people who unwittingly commit acts that turn out to be crimes and are prosecuted for those offenses." Perhaps, in this comical viewpoint, years of oil pollution and mortgage lending fraud shouldn't be held against the CEOs who claim they didn't know what their employees were doing. <br /><br /><strong>2. Warren Buffett: Demanding to be taxed at a higher rate (as long as he doesn't have to pay). </strong>Everyone seems to like grandfatherly Warren Buffett, who famously <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/15/opinion/stop-coddling-the-super-rich.html" target="_blank">complained</a>, "My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress." But his company, Berkshire Hathaway, hasn't paid any taxes in <a href="http://nypost.com/2011/08/29/warren-buffett-hypocrite/" target="_blank">years</a>, instead building a $62 billion liability in deferred taxes while using "hypothetical amounts" to dress up its <a href="http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1067983/000119312515070966/d820461d10k.htm" target="_blank">reporting</a> to the SEC. Meanwhile, the company's stock has been growing for 50 years at an <a href="http://fortune.com/2015/02/28/berkshire-after-50-years/" target="_blank">annual rate</a> of well over 20 percent. <br /><br /><a href="http://www.barrons.com/articles/warren-buffetts-nifty-tax-loophole-1428726092" target="_blank">Barron's</a> describes the Berkshire model as a process of buying other companies and holding the profits as a type of long-term capital gain. Says Barron's: "It seems that Buffett and his businesses are serial deprivers of tax revenue to the U.S. Treasury. Yet that does not deter him from loudly advocating higher income tax rates for others." <br /><br /><strong>3. Mark Zuckerberg: America's most admired philanthropist. </strong>With $45 billion in stock value transferred to his foundation, Mark Zuckerberg is widely considered a great American philanthropist. But his foundation is a tax-exempt limited liability company, which leaves him <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/04/business/dealbook/how-mark-zuckerbergs-altruism-helps-himself.html" target="_blank">free</a> to invest in other companies, make political donations, or even <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2015/12/02/the-surprising-math-in-mark-zuckerbergs-45-billion-facebook-donation/" target="_blank">sell</a> his holdings, or help his family <a href="https://blogs.law.harvard.edu/philg/2015/12/03/is-the-new-zuckerberg-fake-charity-an-estate-tax-avoidance-scheme/">minimize the estate tax</a>.</p><p>There's more to Zuckerberg's disregard for taxpayers and workers. Even though he used <a href="http://www.alternet.org/economy/20-richest-americans-are-greedy-takers-not-inspirational-makers" target="_blank">questionable</a> methods to develop Facebook at Harvard, and despite the fact that public money built all the components of the evolving social network technology, his company provides relatively <a href="http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/12/03/do-not-be-impressed-mark-zuckerbergs-phony-generosity" target="_blank">few jobs</a>: 12,000 employees, or about $400,000 in income <a href="http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1326801/000132680115000006/fb-12312014x10k.htm#s80CE4BF827A02F52FD6EAA5648E5DB6F" target="_blank">last year</a> for each employee. Instead of hiring more people within the U.S., Zuckerberg started an immigration-reform lobbying group called FWD US to "attract the most talented and hardest working people, no matter where they were born." And to gain access to <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/article/419862/mark-zuckerbergs-cynical-ploy-get-cheap-foreign-labor-mark-krikorian" target="_blank">cheap labor</a> from around the world. <br /><br /><strong>4. Martin Shkreli: Imposing an "altruistic" 4,000% price increase.</strong>Shkreli <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/turing-pharmaceuticals-ceo-martin-shkreli-defends-5000-percent-price-hike-on-daraprim-drug/" target="_blank">raised</a> the price from $13.50 to $750 for a single pill of an anti-infection medicine, even though, according to the <a href="http://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2015/11/25/turing-reneges-on-drug-price-cut-rivals-version-sells-well" target="_blank">chairman</a> of the HIV Medicine Association, "This medication can be made for pennies." The price-raiser defended his move, saying: "I think there's a lot of altruistic properties to it...with these new profits we can spend all of that upside on these patients who sorely need a new drug." <br /><br />Backlash over the price gouging caused a temporary change of heart, but Shkreli came to his capitalist senses and <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/turing-drug-price-1.3337195" target="_blank">kept</a> the cost to insurance companies at $750. <br /><br /><strong>5. Barack Obama: From Nobel Peace Prize to bombing innocent civilians.</strong>It's hard for most Americans to imagine the constant fear of drones humming overhead, ready to drop a bomb at the command of a soldier at a video screen thousands of miles away. But this is the Obama strategy. He has <a href="http://www.truth-out.org/progressivepicks/item/28221-killer-drones-are-a-lethal-extension-of-american-exceptionalism" target="_blank">extended</a> it beyond Iraq and Afghanistan to Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya, to many lands that are not at war with our country, all in the name of a war against the <a href="http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/33736-from-pol-pot-to-isis-us-bombing-abroad-breeds-instability-violence-and-war" target="_blank">Muslim world</a> that turned Iraq into "a nest of jihadism" and continues to empower anti-American terrorists. </p><p>It's been reported that only about <a href="https://theintercept.com/drone-papers" target="_blank">10 percent</a> of Afghan airstrikes killed their intended targets in a five-month period, and only about <a href="http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2014/10/16/only-4-of-drone-victims-in-pakistan-named-as-al-qaeda-members/" target="_blank">12 percent</a> of drone victims in Pakistan could be named as militants. Yet "crowd killings" have taken out women, children and entire wedding parties.  <br /><br /><strong>6. Rahm Emanuel: where to begin? </strong>Chicago's mayor <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/page/ct-laquan-mcdonald-video-emanuel-page-perspec-1129-jm-20151127-story.html" target="_blank">allowed</a> the video of the Laquan McDonald killing to remain in the hands of the police for over a year, while quietly offering $5 million to the victim's family.<br /><br />Even though Illinois corporations avoid <a href="http://youdeservefacts.org/Illinois/IL_WGN_36Corps.xls" target="_blank">billions</a> of dollars of taxes a year, and though Illinois already has the one of the highest <a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/real-estate/January-2014/Illinois-Now-Has-the-Second-Highest-Property-Taxes-in-the-Nation/" target="_blank">property tax</a> rates in the nation, Emanuel <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/28/us-chicago-budget-idUSKCN0SM2FL20151028" target="_blank">announced</a> a half-billion property tax hike. <br /><br />Emanuel recently <a href="http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/11/28/hypocrisy-democrats-criticize-trump-not-peep-against-emanuel" target="_blank">closed</a> 50 public schools, almost entirely in poor African-American neighborhoods, even though he had <a href="http://inthesetimes.com/article/17533/how_to_sell_off_a_city" target="_blank">rarely met</a> with community leaders during his first year in office, and instead chose to <a href="http://chicago.suntimes.com/news-chicago/7/71/223620/cps-profitable-investment-board-ed-member" target="_blank">appoint</a> business-connected friends to the Board of Education and to make educational funding deals with profit-hungry <a href="http://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/ward-room/Opinion-City-Places-Investors-Ahead-of-Kids-With-Social-Impact-Bonds-281465371.html" target="_blank">Wall Street</a>. <br /><br /><strong>Losers of the Hypocrite Award: Donald Trump and Bill Gates</strong> <br /><br />Trump is remarkably straightforward with his <a href="http://theweek.com/print/748/39397/article" target="_blank">racism</a>. He has blamed blacks for 81 percent of the murders of whites, accused Arabs of cheering on 9/11 and <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2015/07/08/donald-trumps-false-comments-connecting-mexican-immigrants-and-crime/" target="_blank">dismissed</a> Mexican immigrants as rapists. <br /><br />Gates, like Zuckerberg, has <a href="http://www.alternet.org/economy/20-richest-americans-are-greedy-takers-not-inspirational-makers" target="_blank">converted</a> taxpayer-funded research into a multi-billion-dollar fortune and the image of a "self-made" man. He seems genuinely interested in saving the world. But delusion rather than hypocrisy is evident in his recent <a href="http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Who-We-Are/Resources-and-Media/Annual-Letters-List/Annual-Letter-2014" target="_blank">quote</a>: "By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world." </p> Mon, 07 Dec 2015 06:59:00 -0800 Paul Buchheit, AlterNet 1046895 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics politics government leaders 4 Ways Socialism Is a Cure for American Exceptionalism http://www.alternet.org/economy/4-ways-socialism-cure-american-exceptionalism <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Successful social experiments, from planting trees to publicly owned banks, show how a socialist vision can work.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_32037883.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The form of socialism embraced here is more accurately a <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Political-Ideologies-Introduction-Andrew-Heywood/dp/0230367259" target="_blank">social democracy</a>, "a compromise between the market and the state." Our American exceptionalism derives in part from neoliberal and neoconservative demands that we be unconstrained by domestic or foreign governments. <br /><br /><strong>1. Environment: Drones Dropping Seeds Instead of Bombs </strong><br /><br />China has planted 66 billion <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2874368/Will-China-s-Great-GREEN-Wall-save-country-dust-storms-100-billion-tree-project-halt-advancing-Gobi-Desert.html" target="_blank">trees</a> since 1978 in an effort to stem desertification. Its "shelterbelt" program, which has shown mixed results, has its origins in a project implemented <a href="http://www.npr.org/2013/09/10/220725737/dust-bowl-worries-swirl-up-as-shelterbelt-buckles" target="_blank">here</a> in the U.S., in the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, when the FDR administration planted a 1,000-mile line of trees to fight erosion on the Great Plains. The plan worked. In recent years, millions of federal dollars have been committed to restoring and managing longleaf <a href="http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/programs/initiatives/?cid=NRCSDEV11_023913" target="_blank">pine forests</a>. <br /><br />The planting of trees is a simple, effective, earth-saving, job-creating idea, especially if military resources could be diverted to the endeavor. A company called BioCarbon Engineering hopes to <a href="http://www.nationofchange.org/2015/04/28/new-company-wants-to-plant-one-billion-trees-per-year-using-drones/" target="_blank">plant</a> billions of trees by using drones to disburse seedlings. <br /><br />Capitalism equates to profit-making, and profit-making abounds in the fossil fuel industry. But cooperative energy solutions await us in solar and wind, which are expected to provide <a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-path-to-sustainable-energy-by-2030&amp;page=3" target="_blank">100 percent</a> of our energy needs within a few decades, if the will of the people prevails over market forces. <br /><br /><strong>2. Schools: Yes, We Can Actually Learn from Other Countries </strong><br /><br />Finland's schools were considered <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/education/from-finland-an-intriguing-school-reform-model.html?pagewanted=all" target="_blank">mediocre</a> 30 years ago, but the country has achieved a remarkable <a href="http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/08/08-2" target="_blank">turnaround</a> by essentially challenging the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/jun/17/highly-trained-respected-and-free-why-finlands-teachers-are-different" target="_blank">teachers</a> before they're entrusted with the welfare of the children. Most Finnish teachers are <a href="http://www.jsonline.com/news/education/134546558.html" target="_blank">unionized</a>, and they undergo rigorous <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/ravitch-why-finlands-schools-are-great-by-doing-what-we-dont/2011/10/12/gIQAmTyLgL_blog.html" target="_blank">masters-level</a> training to ensure proficiency in the teaching profession, which is held in the same high esteem as law and medicine. In keeping with this respect for learning, government funding is applied <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/what-the-us-cant-learn-from-finland-about-ed-reform/2012/04/16/gIQAGIvVMT_blog.html" target="_blank">equally</a> to all schools, classes in the arts are available to all students and tuition is free. <br /><br />As a result, Finnish students finish at or near <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/finland-schools-subjects-are-out-and-topics-are-in-as-country-reforms-its-education-system-10123911.html" target="_blank">the top</a> of international comparisons for literacy and math. <br /><br /><strong>3. Banks: How Many Credit Default Swaps Does One Family Need? </strong><br /><br />Capitalism begets a financial industry with a quadrillion dollars in high-risk derivatives. The public bank of <a href="http://www.governing.com/blogs/view/occupy-wall-streets-favorite-banker-eric-hardmeyer-north-dakota.html" target="_blank">North Dakota</a>, on the other hand, focuses on small business loans, often those unlikely to be issued by larger banks, except at prohibitive rates of interest. <br /><br />According to the <a href="http://www.dallasfed.org/microsites/fed/annual/2012/intro/1201i.cfm" target="_blank">Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas</a>, community banks, which hold less than one-fifth of industry assets, provide over half of all small business loans. <br /><br /><strong>4. Workplace: Closing the Wage Gap </strong><br /><br />The <a href="http://www.alternet.org/economy/155452/the_rise_of_the_new_economy_movement/" target="_blank">Evergreen Cooperative</a> in Cleveland demonstrates the ability of a desperately poor community to succeed where a typical capitalist solution would appear to be unprofitable. Evergreen runs a solar-powered and LEED-certified laundry service for nearby hospitals and universities, and it is developing a hydroponic greenhouse for the cultivation of lettuce and other produce. <br /><br />Other "socialist-style" enterprises include the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/23/opinion/socialism-american-style.html?&amp;assetType=opinion&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">Tennessee Valley Authority</a>, serving the electrical energy needs of nine million customers, and so popular that local Republican politicians opposed privatization; and the publicly owned Internet service provider in <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/04/technology/fast-internet-service-speeds-business-development-in-chattanooga.html" target="_blank">Chattanooga</a>, which provides much faster connectivity than the private companies. <a href="https://nonprofitquarterly.org/policysocial-context/25753-inequality-s-dead-end-and-the-possibility-of-a-new-long-term-direction.html" target="_blank">Gar Alperovitz</a> lists numerous other successful ventures around the country. <br /><br />With American jobs rapidly <a href="http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/09/07/why-we-need-guaranteed-income-soon" target="_blank">disappearing</a>, we need a new paradigm for the workplace. In the U.S., the most well-known example of a Guaranteed Income is the <a href="http://www.apfc.org/" target="_blank">Alaska Permanent Fund</a>, which has thrived for 35 years, even with anti-socialist conservatives in power. Texas, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Oregon are other states that employ trust funds from natural resources to benefit the public. Programs in Canada, Uganda and Kenya have reduced poverty while improving health, and a recent <a href="http://wes.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/11/20/0950017014542499" target="_blank">study</a> of 18 European countries found "increasing employment commitment as social spending gets more generous"—in other words, dividend payments encourage people to work harder, rather than the other way around. <br /><br /><a href="http://www.nationofchange.org/2015/09/07/why-we-need-a-guaranteed-income-soon/" target="_blank">Funding</a> for a Guaranteed Income would likely come from a financial speculation tax, which would give the financial industry the opportunity to partly reimburse the nation for the technology, infrastructure and security that has contributed to one of the highest <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/business-28212223" target="_blank">profit margins</a> in the corporate world. <br /><br /><strong>A Modern Form of Socialism </strong><br /><br />A sense of exceptionalism drives our foreign policy, and distances the "takers" in the 1 percent from the more social-minded and once-thriving middle-class. The <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/11/14/9737202/democratic-debate-bernie-sanders-political-revolution" target="_blank">political revolution</a> that Bernie Sanders envisions will likely restore that social-mindedness. <br /><br />As <a href="http://www.alternet.org/economy/crisis-american-capitalism?paging=off&amp;current_page=1#bookmark" target="_blank">Alperovitz</a> explains, "What most people think of as socialism is that, with socialism, ownership of wealth and power is traditionally concentrated within the state and its national government. The vision that’s emerging in these experiments around the country is anathema to that. It begins in neighborhoods and communities, in cities and states. It’s about decentralizing power, changing the flow of power to localities rather than to the center." <br /><br />Less centralized government. Even conservative Republicans should like that. </p> Mon, 16 Nov 2015 12:24:00 -0800 Paul Buchheit, AlterNet 1045895 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy neoliberal socialism conservative liberal Corporations Are Cheating Us Out of Hundreds of Billions of Dollars http://www.alternet.org/economy/corporations-are-cheating-us-out-hundreds-billions-dollars <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">How does your state stack up?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_171116390_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Corporate data from numerous sources, including the companies' own annual reports, has been merged and matched and managed into <a href="http://www.payupnow.org/StateTax1_20150928.xls" target="_blank">two</a> <a href="http://www.payupnow.org/StateTax2_20150928.xls" target="_blank">spreadsheets</a> that reveal state-by-state corporate tax avoidance. The results show how people all over America are being deprived of revenue that should be going to education and infrastructure. <br /><br /><br /><strong>1. Most of the State Tax Avoidance Is by the Largest Companies </strong><br /><br />Before considering individual states, it will be instructive to consider the total state tax payments (and non-payments) by 45 of the nation's largest corporations. The <a href="http://www.payupnow.org/StateTax1_20150928.xls" target="_blank">data</a> is derived from "current state tax" figures in the 10-K forms submitted to the <a href="http://www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml" target="_blank">SEC</a> by the companies themselves. <br /><br />These 45 corporations paid about $15 billion over two years, less than a third of their required state tax obligation of $46 billion, as calculated with the 2014 corporate <a href="http://taxfoundation.org/article/state-corporate-income-tax-rates" target="_blank">state tax</a> <a href="http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/displayafact.cfm?Docid=244" target="_blank">rates</a> in their home states. More than $30 billion was avoided by these corporations in 2013-14, often by deferring taxes, and in some cases by using <a href="http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1067983/000119312515070966/d820461d10k.htm" target="_blank">hypothetical</a> or <a href="http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/34088/000003408815000013/xom10k2014.htm" target="_blank">theoretical</a> amounts to "meet" their obligations. <br /><br /><br /><strong>2. Corporations Avoided DOUBLE the Amount of All State Deficits Combined </strong><br /><br />The second spreadsheet at <a href="http://www.payupnow.org/StateTax2_20150928.xls" target="_blank">PayUpNow</a> itemizes, for each state, corporate state taxes paid and owed. The corporate world paid about half its required taxes in 2014. The avoided amount of $50.3 billion is almost twice the total of all recently reported state deficits (Column I). The corporate avoidance leader by percentage is Louisiana, the state with arguably the greatest need for infrastructure and job and education funds after the devastation of Katrina. Corporations there paid only 14% of their required taxes. <br /><br /><br /><strong>3. Some States Could Have Paid off Their Deficits with HALF Their Unpaid Corporate Taxes </strong><br /><br />Pennsylvania, Maryland, Michigan, and Alabama were all underpaid by amounts twice or more the totals of their deficits. Louisiana, Arizona, and Wisconsin were close behind. <br /><br /><br /><strong>4. Almost $100 Billion in Corporate Welfare — Almost as Much as the Entire 50-State Tax Bill </strong><br /><br /><a href="http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/megadeals" target="_blank">Good Jobs First</a> has identified state and local corporate tax deals for 2015 that total nearly $100 billion, almost equivalent to the full $103 billion tax bill, and almost twice the amount actually paid. New York leads the way with $12.5 billion in deals. Michigan paid out $10.3 billion, 20 times its deficit, with over $3 billion going to scandal-ridden and largely <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/20/opinion/sunday/justice-falls-short-in-gm-case.html" target="_blank">unpunished</a> General Motors. The state of Washington paid out $11.9 billion, six times its deficit, and all of it to Boeing, which paid minimal state and federal taxes. Louisiana shows up again: the beleaguered state with hardly any corporate tax money and a $1.6 billion deficit gave out $6.9 billion in corporate tax subsidies. <br /><br /><br /><strong>5. States with the Most Outrageous Stories </strong><br /><br />Some states deserve special mention because of the egregious nature of their disrespect for average taxpayers. Illinois leads the way with by far the highest deficit. Just <a href="http://youdeservefacts.org/Illinois/IL_WGN_10Corps.xls" target="_blank">10 companies</a> underpaid Illinois $1.4 billion in 2014, more than the entire 2016 Chicago school system <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/23/us-usa-chicago-education-idUSKBN0P320H20150623" target="_blank">deficit</a>. Yet Governor Bruce Rauner recently <a href="http://chicago.suntimes.com/politics/7/71/513207/rauners-100-million-corporate-tax-breaks-drawing-fire" target="_blank">approved</a> $100 million in new corporate tax breaks. And now Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is preparing to <a href="http://chicago.suntimes.com/chicago-politics/7/71/928338/emanuel-seek-500-million-property-tax-hike" target="_blank">raise</a> city property taxes by $500 million. All this in a state named one of the <a href="http://www.itep.org/whopays/full_report.php" target="_blank">"Terrible Ten"</a> most tax-regressive states by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). <br /><br />In California, three of the largest and most visible companies (Google, Intel, Wells Fargo) paid just 1.6% of their profits in state taxes, less than 1/5 of the required rate. California had one of the nation's highest educational <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/research/most-states-funding-schools-less-than-before-the-recession" target="_blank">spending cuts</a> per student from 2008 to 2014. <br /><br />Then come the stadiums. In numerous states, corporate welfare went to sports teams. A <a href="http://www.psmag.com/business-economics/america-has-a-stadium-problem-62665" target="_blank">Pacific Standard</a> report stated: "Over the past 20 years, 101 new sports facilities have opened in the United States—a 90-percent replacement rate—and almost all of them have received direct public funding." Three of the worst offenders are the states of <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2015/03/obama_s_stadium_plan_would_limit_public_financing_of_sports_complexes_could.html" target="_blank">Georgia</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucas_Oil_Stadium#Cost" target="_blank">Indiana</a> and <a href="http://paindependent.com/2010/09/1-billion-and-counting-for-states-taxpayer-funded-stadiums/" target="_blank">Pennsylvania</a>, which funded new sports facilities with public money, while together collecting only <a href="http://www.payupnow.org/StateTax2_20150928.xls" target="_blank">one-third</a> of the corporate taxes owed them in 2014. <br /><br /><br /><strong>6. Notables </strong><br /><br />Based on the available data, the states least affected by tax avoidance, deficits, and corporate deals are North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and New Hampshire. The <a href="http://mercatus.org/statefiscalrankings" target="_blank">Mercatus Center</a> ranking of financial health for the 50 states places them 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 20th, respectively. However, all four were in the top half of ITEP's most <a href="http://www.itep.org/whopays/full_report.php" target="_blank">tax-regressive</a> states. <br /><br />Embarrassingly notable for Illinois is that it had the worst financial health <em>and</em> the 5th-most regressive taxes.</p> Mon, 28 Sep 2015 07:50:00 -0700 Paul Buchheit, AlterNet 1043131 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy states taxes How Big Corporations Are Starving Public Schools of Billions of Dollars http://www.alternet.org/education/how-big-corporations-are-starving-public-schools-billions-dollars <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Corporations make trillions off education yet don&#039;t pay their fair share.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_44513737-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Corporations have reaped trillion-dollar benefits from 60 years of public education in the U.S., but they're skipping out on the taxes meant to sustain the educational system. Children suffer from repeated school cutbacks. And parents subsidize the deadbeat corporations through increases in property taxes and sales taxes. <br /><br /><strong>Big Companies Pay about a Third of their Required State Taxes </strong><br /><br />An earlier <a href="http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/01/05/cheating-schoolkids-corporations-dont-pay-their-state-taxes-either" target="_blank">report</a> noted that <a href="http://www.payupnow.org/20150105_Educ_StateTax.xls" target="_blank">25</a> of our nation's largest corporations paid combined 2013 state taxes at a rate of 2.4%, a little over a third of the <a href="http://www.taxadmin.org/Fta/rate/corp_inc.pdf" target="_blank">average</a> required tax. Many of these companies <a href="http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/sites/default/files/docs/pdf/shellgame.pdf" target="_blank">play</a> one state against another, holding their home states hostage for tax breaks under the threat of bolting to other states. <br /><br /><strong>Without Corporate Taxes, K-12 Public Education Keeps Getting Cut </strong><br /><br />Overall spending on <a href="http://www.today.com/money/recessions-fallout-spending-student-falls-first-time-ever-6C10079903" target="_blank">K-12</a> public school students fell in 2011 for the first time since the <a href="http://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2014/cb14-95.html#" target="_blank">Census Bureau</a> began keeping records over three decades ago. The cuts have <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&amp;id=4011" target="_blank">continued</a> to the <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&amp;id=4216" target="_blank">present day</a>, with the majority of states spending less per student than before the 2008 recession. <br /><br /><strong>It's Getting Worse </strong><br /><br />Total corporate profits were about <a href="https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/CP" target="_blank">$1.8 trillion</a> in 2013 (with other estimates somewhat <a href="http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/ERP-2015" target="_blank">higher</a> or <a href="http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/corporate-profits" target="_blank">lower</a>). The $46 billion in total corporate state income tax in 2013, as reported by both <a href="http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/EY-total-state-and-local-business-taxes-august-2014/$FILE/EY-total-state-and-local-business-taxes-august-2014.pdf" target="_blank">Ernst &amp; Young</a> (Table 3-A) and the <a href="http://www2.census.gov/govs/statetax/G14-STC-Final.pdf" target="_blank">Census Bureau</a>, amounts to just 2.55% of the $1.8 trillion in corporate profits, a drop from the <a href="http://npa-us.org/files/thedisappearingcorptaxbase_report.pdf" target="_blank">3% paid</a> in the five years ending in 2012. <br /><br /><strong>The Worst Offenders </strong><br /><br />The most recent <a href="http://www.payupnow.org/20150727b_Educ_StateTax.xls" target="_blank">Pay Up Now</a> analysis for 2014 shows some of the biggest and the worst offenders among U.S. corporations in 2014. Twenty companies with total U.S. profits of over $150 billion paid just 1.4% in state taxes. Some of the lowlights: </p><ul><li>Three of the largest California companies (Google, Intel, Wells Fargo) paid just 1.4% of their profits in state taxes. That's less than 1/6 of the required California rate. Apple, which paid about half of its required state taxes in 2014, shamed itself by claiming residency in tax-free <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/29/business/apples-tax-strategy-aims-at-low-tax-states-and-nations.html?_r=1" target="_blank">Nevada</a> to avoid California's high rate. </li><li>Texas has a modest <a href="http://www.taxadmin.org/Fta/rate/corp_inc.pdf" target="_blank">franchise tax</a> instead of a state tax, but two giant firms (Exxon and AT&amp;T) still managed to claim sizable state tax credits. <a href="http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/34088/000003408815000013/xom10k2014.htm" target="_blank">Exxon</a>, which has almost 80% of its productive oil and gas wells in the U.S., declared only 17% of its income here, while using a theoretical tax to account for 83% of its smallish federal income tax bill. On the state side, the company received hundreds of millions in <a href="http://www.americansfortaxfairness.org/files/Exon_PR_final.pdf" target="_blank">subsidies</a> for its refineries in Louisiana. </li><li>In Illinois, a state beleaguered by pension woes and the nation's worst <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/files/9-1-11sfp.pdf" target="_blank">per-student spending cuts</a> in 2011-12, lost nearly a billion dollars in tax revenue to just six companies (Boeing, Archer Daniels, Walgreen's, Caterpillar, Exelon, Abbott Labs), which paid just 1.9% of their profits in state taxes, about a quarter of the required amount. </li><li>New York's most notorious tax avoider is <a href="http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/78003/000007800315000014/pfe-12312014xex13.htm" target="_blank">Pfizer</a>, which had nearly half of its sales in the U.S. over the past three years, yet claimed $50 billion in foreign profits and losses in the U.S.</li></ul><p><strong>How Taxpayers Subsidize the Tax Avoiders</strong> <br /><br /><a href="http://www.usagainstgreed.org/20150330_Analysis.htm" target="_blank">All</a> of our technology, securities trading, medicine, infrastructure, and national security have their roots in public research and development. The majority <a href="http://www.aau.edu/WorkArea/showcontent.aspx?id=10828" target="_blank">(57 percent)</a> of basic research, the essential startup work for products that don't yet yield profits, is paid for by our tax dollars. <br /><br />But big business apparently views its tax responsibility as a burden to be avoided at the expense of the rest of us. </p> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 09:11:00 -0700 Paul Buchheit, AlterNet 1039963 at http://www.alternet.org Education Education education corporations school Rahm Emanuel: A Symbol of Much of What Is Wrong with America http://www.alternet.org/rahm-emanuel-symbol-sick-america-0 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Nearly 60 percent of his 103 donors received &quot;contracts, zoning changes, business permits or some other tangible benefit&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/rahm-emanuel-006.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>America's is a sickness of the mind, the unwavering belief by people in power that free-market capitalism will somehow work for everyone. <br /><br />As with a virus that refuses to die, the effects are insidious, because the very rich have convinced themselves that they made it on their own, and that others have only themselves to blame if they are poor. <br /><br />Rahm Emanuel is <a href="http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/Mayor-1" target="_blank">Mayor 1%</a>. He speaks a politician's words to entice many Chicagoans to vote for him, but his actions are on behalf of his friends and colleagues in the business world. <br /><br />Snubbing the Needs of Average People<em> </em><br /><br />The author of Mayor 1%, <a href="http://www.alternet.org/books/rahm-emanuel-mayor-1" target="_blank">Kari Lydersen</a>, tells the story of Helen Morley, a resident of the southwest side of Chicago and a regular patient at one of the mental health clinics <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/21/chicago-mental-health-clonic-closures_n_1613416.html" target="_blank">closed</a> by Mayor Emanuel. At Chicago's 175th birthday party in 2012, Morley pleaded, "Mayor Emanuel, please don’t close our clinics! We’re going to die...There’s nowhere else to go." Emanuel ignored her. According to Lydersen, Morley and others believed that the mayor "didn’t understand the role these specific clinics played in their lives and the difficulty they would have traveling to other locations." <br /><br />The same can be said for Chicago's shuttered public schools, once the vital centers of their communities. The state of Illinois cut <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/files/9-1-11sfp.pdf" target="_blank">education spending</a> by a greater percentage than any other state in fiscal 2012, and for 2013 it was third-worst in percentage <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/files/9-4-12sfp.pdf" target="_blank">cuts per student</a>. Privatizers rushed in and blamed the public system. As a result, 50 neighborhood schools were closed in Chicago, opening the way for <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-01-22/news/chi-amid-protests-cps-considers-up-to-17-new-charter-schools-20140122_1_charter-schools-andrew-broy-charter-expansion" target="_blank">charter schools</a>, which take taxpayer money but have <a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/charter-schools-spending-foia-united-neighborhood-organization/Content?oid=11880450" target="_blank">little accountability</a> to the public and an obligation only to their investors. In the end, 2,000 public school employees were <a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/budget-cuts-force-principal-to-fire-teachers/Content?oid=10635510" target="_blank">fired</a> by Emanuel, including over 1,000 teachers. <br /><br />Parent Ronald Brooks, whose daughter's school Lafayette was shut down, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?x-yt-cl=85114404&amp;x-yt-ts=1422579428&amp;v=Ote169tum5o" target="_blank">spoke</a> in the aftermath of the mayor's action: "Lafayette was more than a school. It was an institution....the heart and soul of our community." <br /><br />Lafayette, which was <a href="http://www.schoolcuts.org/schools/62" target="_blank">reportedly</a> underutilized, was replaced by a selective <a href="http://chiarts.org/support/" target="_blank">publicly-funded</a> <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renaissance_2010" target="_blank">contract</a> arts school with approximately the same <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20140806/humboldt-park/chiarts-set-open-former-lafayette-building-but-old-wounds-remain" target="_blank">enrollment</a> as before the closing. <br /><br />Cozying Up to Cronies<em> </em><br /><br />According to the <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-rahm-emanuel-political-donors-met-20150130-story.html#page=1" target="_blank">Chicago Tribune</a>, "The mayor regularly courts his benefactors behind closed doors.." Nearly 60 percent of his 103 donors received "contracts, zoning changes, business permits, pension work, board appointments, regulatory help or some other tangible benefit." <br /><br /><a href="http://www.democracynow.org/2015/2/23/mayor_1_rahm_emanuel_of_chicago" target="_blank">Democracy Now</a> cites a report by the International Business Times which found that Emanuel uses no-bid, no-contract voucher payments to quietly pass along money to his contributors. It was also reported by the <a href="http://apps.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/rahm-emanuel-contributions-2015/?entity=winstonstrawn" target="_blank">Chicago Tribune</a> that the lawyers for Chicago's infamous parking meter deal contributed over $100,000 to Emanuel's campaign chest. City attorneys touted the <a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/mayor-emanuel-locks-in-parking-meter-deal/Content?oid=9931786" target="_blank">'benefits'</a> of the deal. <br /><br />In another egregious <a href="http://inthesetimes.com/article/17533/how_to_sell_off_a_city" target="_blank">episode</a>, Mayor Emanuel appointed Deborah Quazzo, a managing partner at GSV Advisors, to the Chicago Board of Education. The <a href="http://chicago.suntimes.com/news-chicago/7/71/223620/cps-profitable-investment-board-ed-member" target="_blank">Chicago Sun-Times</a> reported that Quazzo's business affiliates subsequently tripled their business with the public schools. Tellingly, GSV founder <a href="http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/08/02/usa-education-investment-idINL2E8J15FR20120802" target="_blank">Michael Moe</a> related his goal for the future: "An education revolution in which public schools outsource to private vendors such critical tasks as teaching math, educating disabled students, even writing report cards." <br /><br />Making Deals that Send Our Tax Dollars to Wall Street <br /><br />Rahm Emanuel has made Chicago <a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20141108/ISSUE01/311089987/heres-what-the-numbers-say-about-rahm-emanuel" target="_blank">look good</a> for tourists, sprucing up the downtown (Loop) business district, adding retail stores and office space. But the funding comes at the expense of average citizens. The mayor's plan for a South Loop hotel and basketball arena is <a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/depaul-basketball-arena-hotels-south-loop-tif-rahm-emanuel/Content?oid=10855117" target="_blank">using</a> Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds (our tax money, meant for blighted neighborhoods), and stands to <a href="http://pando.com/2014/04/08/revealed-rahm-emanuels-top-donor-bought-stock-in-marriott-just-before-it-was-awarded-huge-chicago-contract/" target="_blank">enrich</a> a hedge fund that contributed to Rahm's campaign fund and then invested in the hotel as the deal was being finalized. <br /><br />According to <a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20141108/ISSUE01/311089987/heres-what-the-numbers-say-about-rahm-emanuel" target="_blank">Crain's Chicago Business</a>, Emanuel has borrowed high-interest money that won't come due until he's out of office. For example, instead of paying $120.8 million in bonds owed now, he refinanced, thus adding another $228.8 million in interest over 30 years. Like Mayor Daley before him, Rahm hides the costs until someone else is around to take the blame. <br /><br />Even the vital area of pre-K education is set up to benefit big business, with progressive-sounding <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-emanuel-social-impact-bonds-1104-20141103-story.html" target="_blank">social impact bonds</a>likely to double the profits of Goldman Sachs and other <a href="http://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/ward-room/Opinion-City-Places-Investors-Ahead-of-Kids-With-Social-Impact-Bonds-281465371.html" target="_blank">investors</a> in the next few years. Said Chicago reporter <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/2015/2/23/mayor_1_rahm_emanuel_of_chicago" target="_blank">Rick Perlstein</a>: "[The mayor] struck a deal with a bunch of investment banks to use the preschoolers of Chicago as collateral.." The deal was arranged with <a href="http://inthesetimes.com/article/17533/how_to_sell_off_a_city" target="_blank">little debate</a>, and with <a href="http://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/ward-room/Opinion-City-Places-Investors-Ahead-of-Kids-With-Social-Impact-Bonds-281465371.html" target="_blank">little understanding</a> of the long-term risk. <br /><br />And what about Chicago's (and Illinois') massive deficit? In recent years the state's largest corporations have been <a href="http://www.payupnow.org/20150105_TaxPercentsIL_2013.doc" target="_blank">paying</a>only about <a href="http://payupnow.org/TaxPercentsIL2.htm" target="_blank">a third</a> of their required state taxes. <a href="http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/sites/default/files/docs/pdf/taxestotheboss.pdf" target="_blank">Threats</a> to leave the city seem empty in one of the nation's busiest trading centers. Yet Mayor Emanuel <a href="http://chicago.suntimes.com/chicago-politics/7/71/425927/emanuel-ally-warns-post-election-property-tax-hike" target="_blank">opposes</a> even a tiny tax on the <a href="http://www.cmegroup.com/investor-relations/annual-review/2013/financial-milestones.html" target="_blank">quadrillion dollar</a> business of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, whose <a href="http://www.payupnow.org/ProfitMargins.xls" target="_blank">profit margin</a> in recent years has been higher than any of the top 100 companies in the nation. <br /><br />His Legacy<br /><br />The mayor claimed credit for a <a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2014/12/04/rahm-emanuels-evolving-position-on-the-minimum-wage" target="_blank">minimum wage</a> increase, even though he didn't act until the State of Illinois began putting the plan in place. He took credit for a <a href="http://hechingerreport.org/a-longer-school-day-in-chicago-but-with-what-missing/" target="_blank">longer school day</a> for the kids, but he didn't provide the necessary funding. He took credit for coal-burning power plant <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-emanuel-coal-ads-met-1127-20141126-story.html" target="_blank">closings</a> that resulted largely from neighborhood activism. <br /><br />Like its mayor, Chicago has two faces. The rest of the nation sees the glitz and glamour of Chicago's magnificent downtown, but the city's south and west sides, according to urban analyst <a href="http://www.governing.com/blogs/view/gov-rahm-emanuel-runoff-chicago.html" target="_blank">Daniel Hertz</a>, are more dangerous than in the 1990s. This is part of the sickness: a persistent inequality, moreso of wealth than of income, that plagues America and manifests itself in the questionable dealings of a man like Rahm Emanuel. He may best be remembered as the <a href="http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/02/02/chicago-sale" target="_blank">privatizer</a>of Chicago and, as <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/2015/2/23/mayor_1_rahm_emanuel_of_chicago" target="_blank">Perlstein</a> suggested, "a strikingly corrupt mayor." </p> Sun, 05 Apr 2015 19:27:00 -0700 Paul Buchheit, AlterNet 1034372 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics rahm emanuel The Stark Facts of Global Greed, a Disease as Challenging as Climate Change http://www.alternet.org/economy/stark-facts-global-greed-disease-challenging-climate-change <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It tells us what unregulated capitalism does to a society. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_124680796.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Global inequality, like global warming, is a disease that may be too far along to ever be cured. </p><p><br />We seem helpless, both in the U.S. and around the world, to stop the incessant flow of wealth to an elitist group of people who are simply building on their existing riches. The increasing rate of their takeaway is the message derived from the <a href="https://www.credit-suisse.com/ch/en/news-and-expertise/research/credit-suisse-research-institute/publications.html" target="_blank">Credit Suisse</a> Global Wealth Databook (GWD). <br /><br />It's already been <a href="http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/bp-working-for-few-political-capture-economic-inequality-200114-summ-en.pdf" target="_blank">made</a> <a href="http://eml.berkeley.edu/~saez/saez-UStopincomes-2012.pdf" target="_blank">clear</a> that the richest Americans have taken almost all the gains in U.S. wealth since the recession. But the unrelenting money grab is a global phenomenon. The GWD confirms just how bad it's getting for the great majority of us. <br /><br /><br />1. U.S. -- Even the Upper Middle Class Is Losing <br /><br />In just three years, from 2011 to 2014, the bottom half of Americans lost almost half of their share of the nation's wealth, dropping from a 2.5% share to a 1.3% share (detail is <a href="http://www.usagainstgreed.org/20141027_Analysis.txt" target="_blank">here</a>). <br /><br />Most of the top half lost ground, too. The 36 million upper middle class households just above the median (6th, 7th, and 8th deciles) dropped from a 13.4% share to an 11.9% share. Much of their portion went to the richest one percent. <br /><br />This is big money. With total U.S. wealth of $84 trillion, the three-year change represents a transfer of wealth of over a trillion dollars from the bottom half of America to the richest 1%, and another trillion dollars from the upper middle class to the 1%. <br /><br /><br />2. U.S. -- In 3 Years, an Average of $5 Million Went To Every Household in the 1% <br /><br />A closer look at the <a href="http://www.usagainstgreed.org/20141027_Analysis.txt" target="_blank">numbers</a> shows the frightening extremes. The bottom half of America, according to GWD, owned $1.5 trillion in 2011. Now their wealth is down to $1.1 trillion. Much of their wealth is in housing equity, which was depleted by the recession. <br /><br />The richest Americans, on the other hand, took incomprehensible amounts of wealth from the rest of us, largely by being already rich, and by being heavily invested in the stock market. The following summary is based on GWD figures and reliable <a href="http://www.usagainstgreed.org/20141027_Analysis.txt" target="_blank">estimates</a> of the makeup of the richest one percent, and on the fact that <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_position_of_the_United_States" target="_blank">almost all</a> the nation's wealth is in the form of private households and business assets: <br /><br />----In 3 years the average household in the top 1% (just over a million households) increased its net worth by about $4.5 million. <br /><br />----In 3 years the average household in the top .1% (just over 100,000 households) increased its net worth by about $18 million. <br /><br />----In 3 years the average household in the top .01% (12,000 households) increased its net worth by about $180 million. <br /><br />----In 3 years the average member of the <a href="http://www.usagainstgreed.org/20141027_Analysis.txt" target="_blank">Forbes 400</a> increased his/her net worth by about $2 billion. <br /><br /><br />3. World -- 1% Wealth Grew from $100 Trillion to $127 Trillion in 3 Years <br /><br />A stunning 95 percent of the world's population lost a share of its wealth over the past three years. Almost all of the gain went to the world's richest 1%. <br /><br />Again, the gains seem almost incomprehensible. The world's wealth grew from $224 trillion to $263 trillion in three years. The world's richest 1%, who owned a little under $100 trillion in 2011, now own almost $127 trillion. For every dollar they possessed just three years ago, they now have a dollar and a quarter. <br /><br />From New York and LA and San Francisco to London and Kenya and Indonesia, <a href="http://www.alternet.org/7-cities-are-playgrounds-rich-and-terrors-poor?paging=off&amp;current_page=1#bookmark" target="_blank">the rich</a> are pushing suffering populations out of the way to acquire land and build luxury homes. The "winner-take-all" attitude is breaking down society in the U.S. and around the world. <br /><br /><br />More Madness <br /><br />There's a lot more in the GWD, and it doesn't get any prettier. It tells us what <a href="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/938165.The_Case_Against_the_Global_Economy" target="_blank">unregulated capitalism</a> does to a society. <br /><br />Part 2 next week. And what has to be done to end the madness. </p> Sun, 26 Oct 2014 15:15:00 -0700 Paul Buchheit, AlterNet 1024723 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy poverty wealth global economy inequality wealth gap The Average American Family Pays $6,000 a Year in Subsidies to Big Business http://www.alternet.org/economy/average-american-family-pays-6000-year-subsidies-big-business <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">That&#039;s more than an insult—it&#039;s an attack.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/payoff.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The average American family pays $6,000 a year in subsidies to big business.</p><p>That's over and above our payments to the big companies for energy and food and housing and health care and all our tech devices. It's $6,000 that no family would have to pay if we truly lived in a competitive but well-regulated free-market economy.<br /><br />The $6,000 figure is an average, which means that low-income families are paying less. But it also means that families (households) making over <a href="http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_11_5YR_DP03" target="_blank">$72,000</a> are paying more than $6,000 to the corporations.<br /><br /><strong>1. $870 for Direct Subsidies and Grants to Companies</strong><br /><br />The <a href="http://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/corporate-welfare-federal-budget" target="_blank">Cato Institute</a> estimates that the U.S. federal government spends $100 billion a year on corporate welfare. That's an average of $870 for each one of America's <a href="http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_11_5YR_DP03" target="_blank">115 million families</a>. Cato <a href="http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa592.pdf" target="_blank">notes</a> that this includes "cash payments to farmers and research funds to high-tech companies, as well as indirect subsidies, such as funding for overseas promotion of specific U.S. products and industries...It does not include tax preferences or trade restrictions."<br /><br />It does include <a href="http://theweek.com/article/index/248078/farm-subsidies-a-welfare-program-for-agribusiness" target="_blank">payments</a> to 374 individuals on the plush Upper East Side of New York City, and <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2061591/Springsteen-Bon-Jovi-Ted-Turner-30bn-tax-subsidies-EVERY-YEAR.html" target="_blank">others</a> who own farms, including Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and Ted Turner. Wealthy heir Mark Rockefeller received <a href="http://nypost.com/2013/01/06/a-load-of-crop/" target="_blank">$342,000</a> to NOT farm, to allow his Idaho land to return to its natural state.<br /><br />It also includes fossil fuel subsidies, which could be anywhere from <a href="http://priceofoil.org/content/uploads/2012/05/FIN.USCapitolSubsidyGraphicFlyer.pdf" target="_blank">$10</a> billion to <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2011/0309/Budget-hawks-Does-US-need-to-give-gas-and-oil-companies-41-billion-a-year" target="_blank">$41</a> billion per year for research and development. Yet this may be substantially underestimated. The <a href="http://www.imf.org/external/np/pp/eng/2013/012813.pdf" target="_blank">IMF</a> reports U.S. fossil fuel subsidies of $502 billion, which would be almost $4,400 per U.S. family by taking into account "the effects of energy consumption on global warming [and] on public health through the adverse effects on local pollution." According to <a href="http://grist.org/climate-energy/imf-says-global-subsidies-to-fossil-fuels-amount-to-1-9-trillion-a-year-and-thats-probably-an-underestimate/" target="_blank">Grist</a>, even this is an underestimate.<br /><br /><strong>2. $696 for Business Incentives at the State, County, and City Levels</strong><br /><br />The subsidies mentioned above are federal subsidies. A New York Times <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/12/01/us/government-incentives.html" target="_blank">investigation</a> found that states, counties and cities give up over $80 billion each year to companies, with beneficiaries <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/us/how-local-taxpayers-bankroll-corporations.html?ref=louisestory" target="_blank">coming from</a> "virtually every corner of the corporate world, encompassing oil and coal conglomerates, technology and entertainment companies, banks and big-box retail chains."<br /><br />$80 billion a year is $696 for every U.S. family. But the Times notes that "The cost of the awards is certainly far higher."<br /><br /><strong>3. $722 for Interest Rate Subsidies for Banks</strong><br /><br />According to the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/21/why-its-a-bad-idea-that-w_n_2733777.html" target="_blank">Huffington Post</a>, the "U.S. Government Essentially Gives The Banks 3 Cents Of Every Tax Dollar."They cite <a href="http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2012/wp12128.pdf" target="_blank">research</a> that calculates a nearly 1 percent benefit to banks when they borrow, through bonds and customer deposits and other liabilities. This amounts to a taxpayer subsidy of $83 billion, or about $722 from every American family.<br /><br />The wealthiest five banks -- JPMorgan, Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo &amp; Co. and Goldman Sachs -- account for three-quarters of the total subsidy. The Huffington Post article notes that without the taxpayer subsidy, those banks would not make a profit. In other words, "the profits they report are essentially transfers from taxpayers to their shareholders."<br /><br /><br /><strong>4. $350 for Retirement Fund Bank Fees</strong><br /><br />This was a tough one to calculate. <a href="http://www.demos.org/publication/retirement-savings-drain-hidden-excessive-costs-401ks" target="_blank">Demos</a> reports that over a lifetime, bank fees can "cost a median-income two-earner family nearly $155,000 and consume nearly one-third of their investment returns." Fees are well over one percent a year.<br /><br />However, the <a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/retirement-inequality-chartbook/" target="_blank">Economic Policy Institute</a> notes that the average middle-quintile retirement account is $34,981. A conservative one percent annual management fee translates to about $350 per family. This, again, is an average; many families have no retirement account. But many families pay much more than 1% in annual fees.<br /><br /><strong>5. $1,268 for Overpriced Medications</strong><br /><br />According to <a href="http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/beat-the-press/washington-post-and-kaiser-conceal-role-of-government-in-economy" target="_blank">Dean Baker</a>, "government granted patent monopolies raise the price of prescription drugs by close to $270 billion a year compared to the free market price." This represents an astonishing annual cost of over $2,000 to an average American family.<br /><br /><a href="http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/social-issues-migration-health/health-at-a-glance-2011_health_glance-2011-en" target="_blank">OECD figures</a> on pharmaceutical expenditures reveal that Americans spend almost twice the OECD average on drugs, an additional $460 per capita. This <a href="http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html" target="_blank">translates</a> to $1,268 per household.<br /><br /><strong>6. $870 for Corporate Tax Subsidies</strong><br /><br />We've heard a lot about <a href="https://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/08/27" target="_blank">tax avoidance</a> and tax breaks for the super-rich. With regard to corporations alone, the <a href="http://taxfoundation.org/files/sr184.pdf" target="_blank">Tax Foundation</a> has concluded that their "special tax provisions" cost taxpayers over $100 billion per year, or $870 per family. Corporate benefits include items such as Graduated Corporate Income, Inventory Property Sales, Research and Experimentation Tax Credit, Accelerated Depreciation, and Deferred taxes.<br /><br />Once again, it may be even worse. <a href="http://www.ctj.org/taxjusticedigest/archive/2013/04/the_corporate_tax_code_gives_a.php#.UXX3_ErS81d" target="_blank">Citizens for Tax Justice</a> cite a Government Accountability Office <a href="http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-339" target="_blank">report</a> that calculated a loss to the Treasury of $181 billion from corporate tax expenditures. That would be almost $1,600 per family.<br /><br /><br /><strong>7. $1,231 for Revenue Losses from Corporate Tax Havens</strong><br /><br /><a href="http://www.uspirg.org/news/usp/offshore-tax-havens-cost-average-taxpayer-1026-year-small-businesses-3067" target="_blank">U.S. PIRG</a> recently reported that the average 2012 taxpayer paid an extra $1,026 in taxes to make up for the revenue lost from offshore tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals. With <a href="http://taxfoundation.org/article/summary-latest-federal-individual-income-tax-data-0" target="_blank">138 million</a> taxpayers (1.2 per household), that comes to $1,231 per household.<br /><br /><strong>Much More Than an Insult</strong><br /><br />Overall, American families are paying an annual $6,000 subsidy to corporations that have <a href="http://www.payupnow.org/CorpTaxByYear.xls" target="_blank">doubled their profits</a> and cut their taxes in half in ten years while <a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/04/05/the_corporate_job_creator_myth/singleton/" target="_blank">cutting 2.9 million jobs</a> in the U.S. and adding almost as many jobs overseas.<br /><br />This is more than an insult. It's a devastating attack on the livelihoods of tens of millions of American families. And Congress just lets it happen.</p> Sun, 22 Sep 2013 15:17:00 -0700 Paul Buchheit, AlteNet 899770 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy subsidies tax big business corporations 4 Freedoms in America That Don't Exist Anymore http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/4-freedoms-america-dont-exist-anymore <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Freedom seems to exist more in our minds than in reality. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/american_flag_money.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>If asked why we live in a great country, an American is likely to respond: "Because we are free." Fortunately for the respondent, explanation is rarely required. Freedom is difficult to define, and today it seems to exist more in our minds than in reality.<br /><br />In a 1941 Message to Congress, Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried to explain what it means to be free. He outlined the "four essential human freedoms":</p><blockquote><p>The first is freedom of speech and expression.<br />The second is freedom of every person to worship.<br />The third is freedom from want.<br />The fourth is freedom from fear.</p></blockquote><p>The 2013 version shows how our freedoms have been diminished, or corrupted into totally different forms.<br /><br /><strong>Freedom from want? Poverty keeps getting worse.</strong><br /><br />For every three people in poverty in the year <a href="http://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/p60-214.pdf" target="_blank">2000</a>, there are now <a href="http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/income_wealth/cb12-172.html" target="_blank">four</a>. Almost <a href="http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/about/overview/" target="_blank">50 million</a> people were impoverished in 2011. Over 20 percent of our <a href="http://www.alternet.org/economy/brutal-truth-about-how-childhood-determines-your-economic-destiny" target="_blank">children</a> live in poverty, including almost half of young <a href="http://stateofworkingamerica.org/fact-sheets/poverty/" target="_blank">black children</a>. Among industrialized <a href="http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/rc10_eng.pdf" target="_blank">countries</a> only Romania has a higher child poverty rate than the United States.<br /><br />It goes well beyond economics. Not long after the FDR era, in 1960, the U.S. <a href="http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx#" target="_blank">ranked</a> near the top among 34 OECD countries in life expectancy and infant mortality. By 2008 we were close to the bottom. A 2007 <a href="http://www.unicef.org/media/files/ChildPovertyReport.pdf" target="_blank">UNICEF report</a> ranked us last among 21 OECD nations in an assessment of child health and safety.<br /><br />Freedom from want has been least attainable for people of color. For every $100 a white family <a href="http://stateofworkingamerica.org/inequality/wealth/" target="_blank">has</a>, a black family has $2. For every $100 a single white woman <a href="http://www.insightcced.org/uploads/CRWG/LiftingAsWeClimb-WomenWealth-Report-InsightCenter-Spring2010.pdf" target="_blank">has</a>, a single black or Hispanic woman has 25 cents.<br /><br /><strong>Freedom from fear? The new Jim Crow.</strong><br /><br />In the decades before FDR, young black men were under constant threat of arrest for "vagrancy," and the resulting slave-like conditions of forced labor. Today vagrancy has been replaced by petty drug offenses. In <em>The New Jim Crow</em>, <a href="http://truth-out.org/progressivepicks/item/10507-americas-current-racial-caste-system-we-need-to-ensure-that-it-is-our-last" target="_blank">Michelle Alexander</a> documents the explosion of the prison population for drug offenses, with blacks and Hispanics the main targets even though they use drugs at about the same, or <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2377408/" target="_blank">lesser</a> <a href="http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k11/WEB_SR_004/WEB_SR_004.htm" target="_blank">rate</a> as white Americans. In <a href="http://www.alternet.org/4-fascinating-things-marijuana-legalization-has-already-taught-us" target="_blank">Colorado and Washington</a> and <a href="http://current.com/tags/90137978_the-war-on-weed/" target="_blank">New York City and Seattle</a> the patterns are disturbingly similar: minority arrests are vastly out of proportion to their percentages of the population.<br /><br /><strong>Freedom of worship? Distorted by visions of the Rapture.</strong><br /><br />In 2005 <a href="http://billmoyers.com/2005/02/25/welcome-to-doomsday-march-24-2005/" target="_blank">Bill Moyers</a> wrote about the far-right evangelical beliefs that dominate much of conservative American thinking and which impact social and environmental policies. He repeats a theology professor's summary of the Rapture credo: "The world cannot be saved." Believers are not responsible for the environment, and should focus only on personal salvation. Droughts and floods, which have been occurring with greater regularity as the earth warms, are simply signs of the apocalypse as foretold in the Bible, and thus should be welcomed.<br /><br />With this attitude, freedom of worship is twisted into a radical dogma that threatens the health and safety of our entire population. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), like many on the conservative right, favors the Bible over science. "My point is," notes Inhofe with reference to a verse from Genesis, "God's still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous."<br /><br />Extremists also welcome war with Islam in the Middle East, for it is an "essential conflagration on the road to redemption." At a Florida conference on "Biblical Prophecy about End Times," diatribes poured forth with a vengeance: "Islam is an intolerant religion...Islam is a Satanic religion." A reporter came away convinced that "A terrible, final war in the [Middle East] is inevitable."<br /><br /><strong>Freedom of speech? No, surveillance and harassment.</strong><br /><br />In <em>De Jonge v. Oregon</em>, 1937, the Supreme Court decided that the right of peaceable assembly is "cognate to those of free speech and free press and is equally fundamental."<br /><br />Recently released FBI documents <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/26/us/fbi-occupy/index.html" target="_blank">reveal</a> that the agency repeatedly monitored Occupy Wall Street activities, viewing them as possible terrorism.<br /><br />Peaceable assembly and free speech might also describe the act of young men gathering on the streets of New York City. But their First Amendment rights, along with the Fourth Amendment prohibition against illegal search, are constantly violated by <a href="http://stopandfrisk.org/the-human-impact-report.pdf" target="_blank">stop-and-frisk</a> abuses by the police, which at times border on <a href="http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/how-stop-and-frisk-too-often-sexual-assault-cops-teenagers-targeted-nyc" target="_blank">sexual assault</a>.<br /><br />In addition, our freedom of expression is increasingly compromised by advanced surveillance technologies. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act gives the government <a href="http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/01/15-6" target="_blank">license to spy</a> on us. New <a href="http://www.alternet.org/5-creepy-new-ways-police-intrude-your-rights" target="_blank">techniques</a> such as iris scans, license-plate recognition, <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57563982/nypd-to-hide-gps-chips-in-pill-bottles/" target="_blank">GPS devices in pharmaceutical</a> products, and <a href="http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/customer-beware-you-are-being-tracked" target="_blank">facial recognition technology</a> may invade our privacy. <a href="http://publicintelligence.net/dod-us-drone-activities-map/" target="_blank">Drones</a> are flying over our homes. The National Security Agency is building a <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323984704578206063994711952.html" target="_blank">data center</a> big enough to store every email, text, phone call, web search, and video in the United States. With the Electronic Communications Privacy Act <a href="http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/01/23-8" target="_blank">on its side</a>, the government is authorized to take anything it can get.<br /><br />Franklin Roosevelt once said, "True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security." As inequality destroys our economic security, and the prison population grows, and religion continues to impact public policy, and our privacy is invaded, our precious freedoms become more and more a failed American dream.</p> Mon, 28 Jan 2013 18:22:00 -0800 Paul Buchheit, AlterNet 784972 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics freedom The Five-Step Process to Cheat the Middle Class Worker http://www.alternet.org/economy/five-step-process-cheat-middle-class-worker <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">As we struggle to support ourselves, the super-rich remain on the take, driving us ever closer to the status of most wealth-unequal country in the world.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_money_courts.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>It's so artfully done, and so diabolical, that one can picture secret seminars in subterranean Wall Street meeting rooms, guiding young business recruits in the proven process of taking an extra share of wealth from the middle class. Their presentation might unfold as follows:</p><p><strong>1. Boost productivity while keeping worker wages flat.</strong></p><p>The <a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/ib330-productivity-vs-compensation" target="_blank">trend</a> is unmistakable, and startling: productivity has continued unabated while wages have simply stopped growing. Improved technologies have reduced the need for workers while globalization has introduced the corporate world to cheap labor. In effect, the workers who built a productive America over a half-century stopped getting paid for their efforts.</p><p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/10/opinion/krugman-robots-and-robber-barons.html?_r=1&amp;" target="_blank">Paul Krugman</a> suggests that a "sharp increase in monopoly power" is another reason for the disparity. As John D. Rockefeller said, "Competition is a sin." That certainly is the <a href="http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/13810-corporate-america-a-whale-in-a-fish-tank" target="_blank">rule of thumb</a> in banking and agriculture and health insurance and cell phones. Yet despite the fact that <a href="http://www.nelp.org/page/-/Job_Creation/LowWageRecovery2012.pdf?nocdn=1" target="_blank">low-wage jobs</a> are increasingly defining the American labor market, apologists for our meager minimum wage <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-03/two-reasons-not-to-raise-the-minimum-wage.html" target="_blank">claim</a> an increase will worsen unemployment. So it remains at $7.25. A minimum wage linked to productivity would be <a href="http://inequality.org/hard-times-reduce-inequality/" target="_blank">$21.00 per hour</a>.</p><p><strong>2. Build up a financial industry that has no maximum wage.</strong></p><p>This is where the money is. In 2007, before the financial crisis, a Harvard survey revealed that almost <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/15/brain-drain-college-grads-wall-street_n_1069424.html" target="_blank">half of the school's seniors</a> aspired to careers in finance. The industry's <a href="http://www.pennlive.com/editorials/index.ssf/2012/10/were_on_a_dangerous_path_to_go.html" target="_blank">share of corporate profits</a> grew from 16% in 1980 to an astonishing 45% in 2002.</p><p>And there's no limit to the earning potential. Hedge fund manager <a href="http://books.google.com/books/about/Billionaires_Ball.html?id=I4_HY0QmTp0C" target="_blank">John Paulson</a> conspired with Goldman Sachs in 2007 to bundle sure-to-fail subprime mortgages in attractive packages, with just enough time for Paulson to collect other people's money to bet against his personally designed financial instruments. He made $3.7 billion, enough to pay the salaries of 100,000 new teachers.</p><p><strong>3. Keep accumulating wealth created by the financial industry.</strong></p><p>Experienced schemers have undoubtedly observed that over the past 100 years the stock market has grown <a href="http://www.forbes.com/2005/03/29/cz_0329oxan_equity.html" target="_blank">three times faster</a> than the GDP. The richest quintile of Americans owns<a href="http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/wp_589.pdf" target="_blank">93%</a> of such non-home wealth.</p><p>In the last 25 years, only the richest 5% of Americans have <a href="http://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/feds/2009/200913/200913pap.pdf" target="_blank">increased their share</a> of non-home wealth, by the impressive rate of <a href="http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/wp_589.pdf" target="_blank">almost 20 percent</a>.</p><p>In just <a href="http://finance.yahoo.com/news/pf_article_113540.html" target="_blank">one year</a>, the <a href="http://www.forbes.com/forbes-400/" target="_blank">richest 20 Americans</a> earned more from their investments than the entire<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_United_States_federal_budget" target="_blank">U.S. education budget</a>.</p><p><strong>4. Tax yourself as little as possible.</strong></p><p>The easiest and least productive way to make money - holding on to investments - is also taxed at the lowest rate. In addition to the capital gains benefit, tax ploys like <a href="http://inequality.org/americas-plutocrats-play-political-ponies/" target="_blank">carried interest</a>, <a href="http://www.ips-dc.org/reports/executive_excess_2012" target="_blank">performance-related pay</a>, <a href="http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/08/22-0" target="_blank">stock options</a>, and <a href="http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/08/20-7" target="_blank">deferred compensation</a> allow hedge fund managers and CEOs to pay less than <a href="http://ctj.org/ctjreports/2012/04/who_pays_taxes_in_america.php" target="_blank">low-income Americans</a>, and possibly even<a href="http://wweek.com/portland/article-17350-9_things_the_rich_dont_want_you_to_know_about_taxes.html" target="_blank">nothing at all</a>.</p><p>The richest 400 taxpayers <a href="http://www.perrspectives.com/blog/archives/001766.htm" target="_blank">doubled</a> their income in just seven years while cutting their tax rates nearly in half. U.S. corporations can match that, <a href="http://www.payupnow.org/CorpTaxByYear.xls" target="_blank">doubling their profits</a> and cutting their taxes by more than half in under ten years. The 1.3 million individuals in the richest 1% cut their <a href="http://taxfoundation.org/article/summary-latest-federal-individual-income-tax-data-0" target="_blank">federal tax burden</a> from 34% to 23% in just 25 years.</p><p><strong>5. Lend out your excess money to people who can no longer afford a middle-class lifestyle.</strong></p><p>As stated by <a href="http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/theres-violent-world-war-going-millions-casualties-oligarchs-vs-everyone-else" target="_blank">Thom Hartmann</a>, "The 'Takers' own vast wealth, and loan it out at interest to everybody from students to governments.." Overall, Americans are burdened with <a href="http://www.creditscore.net/u-s-consumer-debt-in-2011/" target="_blank">over $11 trillion</a> in consumer debt, including mortgages, student loans, and credit card liabilities.</p><p>Wealth has largely disappeared for the middle- and lower-income classes. More than $7 trillion has been <a href="http://www.nationofchange.org/ten-huge-issues-being-ignored-presidential-campaign-1348067863" target="_blank">lost in the decline of home prices</a> since 2006. Young college graduates have an <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/13/college-graduates-moving-home-debt_n_861849.html" target="_blank">average of $27,200</a> in student loans, and the 21-35 age group has lost <a href="http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/11/07/the-rising-age-gap-in-economic-well-being/2/#chapter-1-wealth-gaps-by-age?src=prc-section" target="_blank">68% of its median net worth</a> since 1984, leaving each of them about $4,000. Median net worth for <a href="http://www.insightcced.org/uploads/CRWG/LiftingAsWeClimb-WomenWealth-Report-InsightCenter-Spring2010.pdf" target="_blank">single black and Hispanic women</a> is a little over $100.</p><p>So we're hanging on by the frazzled thread of debt that indentures us to the rich and makes it harder and harder to fight back against the theft of our middle-class wealth. As we struggle to support ourselves, the super-rich remain on the take, driving us ever closer to the status of <a href="http://www.usagainstgreed.org/GiniWealthIncomeAll.xls" target="_blank">most wealth-unequal country</a> in the world.</p> Sat, 19 Jan 2013 21:24:00 -0800 Paul Buchheit, AlterNet 780078 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy middle class wages The 12 Days of a Capitalist Christmas http://www.alternet.org/economy/12-days-capitalist-christmas <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Here&#039;s a modern take on the old favorite.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_89844334.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>On the first day of Christmas my employer gave to me a <a href="http://wweek.com/portland/article-17350-9_things_the_rich_dont_want_you_to_know_about_taxes.html">penny for every $3</a> the richest 130,000 Americans make. It's been a national tradition since 1980.</p><p class="p1">On the second day my doctor showed me TWO Americans needing mental health care, but only one of the two could <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/17/seven-facts-about-americas-mental-health-care-system/">afford treatment</a>. The doctor informed me that the fifty states have <a href="http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/civil-liberties/news/2012/07/31/11871/cuts-to-mental-health-services-could-lead-to-more-spree-killings/">cut $1.8 billion</a> from their mental health budgets during the recession, and that the 2013 Republican budget proposes further cuts. "It's crazy," I protested. "Some states are <a href="http://www.alternet.org/7-craziest-gun-laws-america">allowing guns</a> in schools and daycare centers and churches and bars and hospitals, but they're cutting mental health care?" The doctor just nodded in frustration.<br /><br />On the third day <a href="http://www.economist.com/node/7855196">The Economist</a> told me that it costs just <a href="http://truth-out.org/news/item/10232-can-a-financial-transactions-tax-work-in-america-an-ftt-faq">THREE cents</a> in administrative expenses for every $100 raised through a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) in the United Kingdom, versus $1.42 for the personal income tax and $1.25 for the corporate income tax. With up to <a href="http://simonthorpesideas.blogspot.fr/2012/10/bis-transaction-data-for-2011-roughly-3.html">THREE quadrillion dollars</a> in total U.S. financial transactions, we could replace federal income taxes with a tiny FTT.<br /><br />On the fourth day a food pantry gave me FOUR dollars worth of food. That's about what <a href="http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2012/05/linden_rebuttal.html">food stamp recipients</a> get each day through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). To pay for rent and utilities, a family of three gets <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=3625">$400 per month</a> from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which comes to about FOUR dollars a day per person.<br /><br />On the fifth day a financial advisor introduced me to his FIVE richest investors, who were the only ones out of 100 Americans to <a href="http://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/feds/2009/200913/200913pap.pdf">increase</a> their wealth over the past 25 years, by the impressive rate of <a href="http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/wp_589.pdf">almost 20%</a>. It's like that throughout the entire country, the advisor said: only 5% took almost all the gains.<br /><br />Five golden rings, indeed.<br /><br />On the sixth day, as the traditional 12-day song started to get annoying, Santa appeared to take me by the hand to the U.S. corporate offices, where the tax lawyers gave to me <a href="http://www.nationofchange.org/myth-free-market-1340630005">SIX cents</a> for the national treasury. "Hey," I said, "this used to be twenty-five cents. You've <a href="http://www.payupnow.org/CorpTaxByYear.xls">doubled your profits</a> in the last ten years, but individual and payroll taxes have to pay 94 cents out of every dollar!" The lawyers just smiled. Santa shook his head in frustration.<br /><br />On the seventh day a guidance counselor informed me that <a href="http://www.measureofamerica.org/one-in-seven/">one out of SEVEN</a> Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 is neither working nor in school.<br /><br />On the eighth day an IRS agent gave me these matching <a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/julyaugust_2011/features/20000_leagues_under_the_state030498.php">facts</a>: Over EIGHT percent of the GDP (8.4%) goes for tax expenditures (subsidies provided through the tax code, mostly to the very rich). That's almost exactly the same amount (8.4% of the GDP) that goes to Social Security and Medicare.<br /><br />On the ninth day an unemployed dietitian told me that the average male has increased his weight by <a href="http://www.fitsugar.com/Average-Weight-Americans-20-Pounds-Heavier-Than-20-Years-Ago-20605443">NINE percent</a> over the past 20 years (180 to 196), and the average female by TWELVE percent (142 to 160). As a <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/11/mcjobs-should-pay-too-its-time-for-fast-food-workers-to-get-living-wages/265714/">NINE dollar per hour</a> food-service worker gave me and Santa our burgers and fries and shakes, my jolly old partner chortled, "Ho Ho Ho, soon you'll all look like me!"<br /><br />On the 10th day a Forbes article confirmed that the <a href="http://www.forbes.com/forbes-400/">TEN richest Americans</a> made more than our entire national <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_United_States_federal_budget">housing budget</a> in <a href="http://finance.yahoo.com/news/pf_article_113540.html">just one year</a>. That's over $50 billion. The twenty richest Americans made more than our entire education budget. Santa assured me that the transfer of wealth from society's needs to a few individuals was not the norm around the world.<br /><br />On the eleventh day a creditor gave me a bill for <a href="http://www.creditscore.net/u-s-consumer-debt-in-2011/">ELEVEN trillion dollars</a> of debt incurred by the American consumer, including mortgages, student loans, and credit card liabilities.<br /><br />And on the twelfth day Santa gave me an IOU for <a href="http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/11/19-3">TWELVE trillion dollars</a>, the <a href="http://www.taxjustice.net/cms/upload/pdf/Inequality_120722_You_dont_know_the_half_of_it.pdf">U.S. share</a> of <a href="http://www.taxjustice.net/cms/upload/pdf/Price_of_Offshore_Revisited_120722.pdf">up to $32 trillion</a> held overseas, untaxed. "One problem," cautioned Santa, "my reindeer haven't been able to find any of it yet."w<br /><br />After all this I stood perplexed. "What does it all mean?" I asked Santa.<br /><br />"Well, that's capitalism," I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight. "It's all about the individual getting all he can, because that will benefit everyone. And let me tell you," he added with a twinkle, "those benefits are just as real as I am!"<br /><br />And with that he was gone.</p> Sun, 23 Dec 2012 19:03:00 -0800 Paul Buchheit, AlterNet 766062 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy economy christmas One of the Most Unequal Countries in the World: 5 Facts About America's Staggering Wealth Divide http://www.alternet.org/economy/one-most-unequal-countries-world-5-facts-about-americas-staggering-wealth-divide <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Inequality in America is even worse than it seems, with personal debt papering over the true state of affairs.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_-__2012-12-03_at_12.04.22_pm.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Most people associate inequality with the income gap. As distorted as the distribution of income may be, our wealth distribution is even more extreme. Americans are beginning to realize that years of preferential tax treatment for the rich, under the guise of "supply-side job creation" nonsense, have bloated the fortunes of the super-rich to a level that would make Rockefeller and Carnegie envious.</p><p><strong>1. We're close to being the most unequal country in the world.</strong><br /><br />Among countries with at least a quarter-million adults, only Russia, Ukraine, and Lebanon are more unequal, according to the most recent <a href="http://www.usagainstgreed.org/GiniWealthIncomeAll.xls" target="_blank">figures</a> from <a href="https://infocus.credit-suisse.com/data/_product_documents/_shop/368327/2012_global_wealth_report.pdf" target="_blank">Credit Suisse Research</a>.<br /><br />An <a href="http://economics.uwo.ca/faculty/davies/workingpapers/thelevelanddistribution.pdf" target="_blank">earlier report</a> by the same research team had indicated that Denmark and Switzerland were more unequal than the United States. While Switzerland is still high in the new data listing, ranking 18th, Denmark is actually rather equal relative to other countries, and received its dubious earlier position due to its own accurate reporting of household debt, as will be noted in Fact 5 below.<br /><br /><strong>2. Wealth accumulation has been rigged for the rich.</strong><br /><br />The richest quintile of Americans owns <a href="http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/wp_589.pdf" target="_blank">93%</a> of non-home wealth. For Americans with incomes over $10 million, <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2012/11/22/irs-tax-rates-for-wealthiest-fall-again-in-2010/" target="_blank">nearly half of their income</a> comes from capital gains and dividends, on most of which they pay only a 15% tax. From 2002 to 2007, <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=2908" target="_blank">two-thirds</a> of all income went to the richest 1%. Then, in the first year after the recession, a startling <a href="http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~saez/saez-UStopincomes-2010.pdf" target="_blank">93%</a> of all new income went to the richest 1%.<br /><br />Massive wealth holdings have accumulated for the richest Americans not only because of their appropriation of income, but also because of their manipulation of the tax code. The 15% capital gains tax is their proudest accomplishment. Other ploys include <em><a href="http://inequality.org/americas-plutocrats-play-political-ponies/" target="_blank">carried interest</a>, <a href="http://www.ips-dc.org/reports/executive_excess_2012" target="_blank">performance-related pay</a>, <a href="http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/08/22-0" target="_blank">stock options</a>,</em> and <em><a href="http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/08/20-7" target="_blank">deferred compensation</a></em>.<br /><br />The imaginary 'work' of financial gain gets taxed at a much lower rate than real work. Through the years, as the rich have fattened up on stocks and other financial assets, the stock market has grown <a href="http://www.forbes.com/2005/03/29/cz_0329oxan_equity.html" target="_blank">three times faster</a> than the GDP. Yet American workers have not benefited from their own productivity. Their wages have <a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/ib330-productivity-vs-compensation" target="_blank">flatlined</a> while the fruits of their labor have gone to investors.<br /><br /><strong>3. As tax rates have gone down, income for the rich has gone up.</strong><br /><br />A <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/plutocracy-reborn" target="_blank">Business Insider chart</a> depicts the remarkable - yet reasonable - negative correlation between tax rates and the wealth of the super-rich. Over the past hundred years, every time tax rates have been decreased, the income percentage of the richest .01% has increased, and vice versa. <a href="http://graphics8.nytimes.com/news/business/0915taxesandeconomy.pdf" target="_blank">Other</a> <a href="http://www.taxjustice.net/cms/upload/pdf/TJF_7-2-2.pdf" target="_blank">sources</a> confirm that changes in the tax rate have little to do with economic growth, and that the top tax rate can - and should - be much higher, up to 83%.<br /><br />The Reagan-era myth of "higher taxes, less revenue" has been debunked. It's enough to convince any thinking American outside of Congress that our budget problems are rooted in an extraordinary degree of tax avoidance at the top.<br /><br /><strong>4. "We should all cheer for the stock market" is a big scam.</strong><br /><br />The mainstream media would have us believe that the whole country depends on a rising stock market. But the lowest-earning three-fifths of Americans -- 60% of the population -- own just <a href="http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/wp_589.pdf" target="_blank">.2%</a> (one-fifth of one percent) of all wealth outside the home.<br /><br />The <a href="http://blog.heritage.org/2011/11/07/income-inequality-vs-wealth-inequality/" target="_blank">Heritage Foundation</a> and the <a href="http://blog.american.com/2011/11/the-chart-that-closes-the-case-on-the-inequality-myth" target="_blank">American Enterprise Institute</a> claim that wealth inequality has remained steady over the past century, even in the last 30 years. Both organizations cite a <a href="http://www.columbia.edu/~wk2110/bin/estate-NBER.pdf" target="_blank">paper by Kopczuk and Saez</a>, which shows that the share of wealth owned by the top 1% has decreased from the early 1900s to the early 2000s, possibly because the "democratization of stock ownership...now spreads stock market gains and losses much more widely than in the past."<br /><br />While it's true that the <a href="http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/wp_589.pdf" target="_blank">percentages</a> of net worth and financial wealth for the top 1% <a href="http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html" target="_blank">barely budged</a> from 1983 to 2007, the percentages for the rest of the richest 5% <a href="http://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/feds/2009/200913/200913pap.pdf" target="_blank">increased</a> by almost 20%. And the percentages for the poorest 80% of the population <a href="http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html" target="_blank">DECREASED</a> by almost 20%.<br /><br />In other words, the share of wealth owned by the top 1% leveled off because the "democratization of stock ownership" spread the wealth among just 5% of the population, those earning an average of $500,000 per year. A few people -- 5 out of 100 -- got very rich, but everyone else lost ground.<br /><br /><strong>5. Debt has masked wealth inequality for 30 years</strong><br /><br />The authors of the <a href="https://infocus.credit-suisse.com/data/_product_documents/_shop/368327/2012_global_wealth_report.pdf" target="_blank">Global Wealth Report</a> state: "Rising household debt...began around 1975. Before this date, the ratio of household debt to annual disposable income within countries remained fairly stable over time and rarely rose above 75%." Today, Americans are burdened with <a href="http://www.creditscore.net/u-s-consumer-debt-in-2011/" target="_blank">over $11 trillion</a> in consumer debt, including mortgages, student loans, and credit card liabilities. As the very rich have accumulated income and wealth, the middle class has kept up appearances by taking out loans.<br /><br />However, that's only half the story. Private debt appears to be more manageable when public debt is low. Denmark has the highest household debt to wealth ratio in the world, but its government debt amounts to just 3% of the financial wealth of Danish households. The U.S. is at 32%. And our government debt as a percentage of GDP is <a href="http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2012/01/weodata/weorept.aspx" target="_blank">103%</a>, one of the highest percentages in the world.<br /><br /><strong>Conclusion: Where is all the wealth coming from?</strong><br /><br />According to the authors of the <a href="https://infocus.credit-suisse.com/data/_product_documents/_shop/368327/2012_global_wealth_report.pdf" target="_blank">Global Wealth Report</a>, the world's wealth has doubled in ten years, from $113 trillion to $223 trillion, and is expected to reach $330 trillion by 2017.<br /><br />The UN definition of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wealth" target="_blank">wealth</a> includes (1) natural capital: land, forests, fossil fuels, and minerals; (2) physical capital: buildings and infrastructure; and (3) human capital: the population's education and skills.<br /><br />We need to add a 4th category: the magical creation of wealth by the financial industry.</p><p> </p> Mon, 03 Dec 2012 11:57:00 -0800 Paul Buchheit, AlterNet 754405 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace Economy wealth inequality Who's Bringing Home the Juicy Paycheck? The Surprising Numbers http://www.alternet.org/whos-bringing-home-juicy-paycheck-surprising-numbers <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It&#039;s all about how you define &quot;earnings.&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_-__2012-11-26_at_10.57.52_am.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Start with local government, whose 14 million employees make up almost two-thirds of the public payroll, according to <a href="http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0646.pdf" target="_blank">Census Department</a> <a href="http://www.census.gov/govs/apes/" target="_blank">data</a>. They make up 11% of the total U.S. workforce but receive only 10% of the total compensation. Their average salary is $43,000.</p><p>State government employees make up 3.6% of the U.S. workforce and receive 3.9% of the total compensation.</p><p>Federal employees, who make up just two percent of the total U.S. workforce, do considerably better, earning an average of $68,000. Their pay advantage is largely due to higher education levels and more advanced professional skills. The <a href="https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://www.epi.org/page/-/pdf/bp276.pdf&amp;hl=en_US&amp;embedded=true" target="_blank">Economic Policy Institute</a>, <a href="http://www.bea.gov/faq/index.cfm?faq_id=320" target="_blank">Bureau of Economic Analysis</a>, the <a href="http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R41897.pdf" target="_blank">Congressional Research Service</a>, and <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/ftpdocs/78xx/doc7874/03-15-federal_personnel.pdf" target="_blank">Congressional Budget Office</a> all acknowledge this. 44% of federal jobs are professional positions (lawyers, economists, engineers), compared with 32% in the private sector. Close to 50% of full-time federal and state and local government employees have college degrees, compared to 35% for private employees.</p><p>Overall, <a href="http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0646.pdf" target="_blank">Census Department</a> <a href="http://www.census.gov/govs/apes/" target="_blank">data</a> reveals that government employees earn about 1% more than private sector employees. With <a href="http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0643.pdf" target="_blank">all retirement benefits</a> included, the 21.4 million government employees make up 16.7% of U.S. employees and receive 20% of the total compensation.</p><p>It's not union members..</p><p>After years of <a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/ib342-unions-inequality-faltering-middle-class/" target="_blank">declining numbers</a>, union employees make up about 12% of the workforce, but their total <a href="http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/union2.pdf" target="_blank">pay</a> (14.8 million union employees with a $47,000 median salary) amounts to less than 12 percent of wages, as reported by the <a href="http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0646.pdf" target="_blank">Census Department</a>.</p><p>Unions are sometimes accused of excess, when in fact they keep employees from falling into substandard wage conditions. According to the <a href="http://stateofworkingamerica.org/fact-sheets/collective-bargaining/" target="_blank">State of Working America</a>, the union wage premium exists, but it's a modest 13.6%.</p><p>Unions also provide a degree of stability for a <a href="http://www.americanprogressaction.org/issues/labor/news/2012/09/12/37761/unions-are-necessary-to-rebuilding-our-middle-class/" target="_blank">shrinking middle class</a>. Retirement funding, however, is actually much less than perceived by union critics. The <a href="http://www.pewstates.org/uploadedFiles/PCS_Assets/2010/Trillion_Dollar_Gap_Underfunded_State_Retirement_Systems_and_the_Roads_to_Reform.pdf" target="_blank">Pew Center</a> notes that the latest available annual pension contribution by the 50 states amounted to just under $60 billion, which is about 1% of wages as reported by the <a href="http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0646.pdf" target="_blank">Census Department</a>.</p><p>Finally, unions promote equal opportunity. A recent <a href="http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/soc/faculty/western/pdfs/Unions_Norms_and_Wage_Inequality.pdf" target="_blank">study</a> at Harvard and the University of Washington concluded that "the decline of organized labor explains a fifth to a third of the growth in inequality."</p><p>It's not, for the most part, even the private sector..</p><p>The average private sector worker makes about the same salary as a state or local government worker. But the <a href="http://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/central.html" target="_blank">MEDIAN</a> salary for U.S. workers, <a href="http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0646.pdf" target="_blank">83%</a> of whom are in the private sector, is almost $14,000 less, at $26,363.</p><p>This striking difference reveals the degree of inequality in private industry, and leads us to the conclusion:</p><p>CEOs and Financial Managers take much more than their share.</p><p>Corporate executives and financial employees make up just <a href="http://web.williams.edu/Economics/wp/BakijaColeHeimJobsIncomeGrowthTopEarners.pdf" target="_blank">one-half of 1%</a> of the workforce, but with nearly a trillion dollars of annual income (<a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/ib331-ceo-pay-top-1-percent/" target="_blank">11.3%</a> of <a href="http://usagainstgreed.org/TaxFoundnSumm2_brief.xls" target="_blank">$8.12 trillion</a>), they make more than ALL 15 million unionized workers in the United States, and almost as much as ALL <a href="http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0646.pdf" target="_blank">21 million</a> government workers. Much of their income <a href="http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/wp_589.pdf" target="_blank">derives</a> from minimally-taxed<a href="http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40411.pdf" target="_blank">capital gains</a>. Meanwhile, the great majority of their private company employees toil as food servers, clerks, medical workers, and domestic help at below-average pay.</p><p>While unions and government jobs promote stability and security, private industry, which is driven by the profit motive, leads to a "winner-take-all" philosophy that is steadily splitting our country in two.</p><p>Have they earned it?</p><p>Again, consider the facts:</p><ol><li>They've destroyed jobs. According to <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/09/04/why-do-ceos-make-so-much-money.html" target="_blank">Newsweek</a>, "the CEOs of the 50 firms that laid off the most workers since the onset of the economic crisis took home 42 percent more pay in 2009 than their peers did -- largely because cutting workers boosts short-term profits."<br /> </li><li>They've made the country less productive. As noted by Frontline's <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/money-power-wall-street/" target="_blank">Money, Power, and Wall Street</a>, the financial industry is almost double the size of the manufacturing sector.<br /> </li><li>They've taken massive bonuses for their failures. Again from Frontline's <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/money-power-wall-street/" target="_blank">Money, Power, and Wall Street</a>: Since the crash of 2008, banks have paid out more than $80 billion in bonuses.<br /><br />As an analyst pointed out on the Frontline documentary, the rise of financial derivatives led banks to start trading for their own gain, and not for their customers. So yes, they've earned something. Our lasting contempt.</li></ol> Mon, 26 Nov 2012 10:30:00 -0800 Paul Buchheit, AlteNet 750229 at http://www.alternet.org Economy News & Politics salary earnings ceos Ten Numbers the Rich Would Like Fudged http://www.alternet.org/economy/ten-numbers-rich-would-fudged <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The numbers reveal the deadening effects of inequality in our country, and confirm that tax avoidance, rather than a lack of middle-class initiative, is the cause.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/storyimages_1339450560_incomeinequality.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><strong>1. Only THREE PERCENT of the very rich are entrepreneurs.</strong></p><p>According to both Marketwatch and economist Edward Wolff, over 90 percent of the assets owned by millionaires are held in a combination of low-risk investments (bonds and cash), personal business accounts, the stock market, and real estate. Only 3.6 percent of taxpayers in the top .1% were classified as entrepreneurs based on 2004 tax returns. A 2009 Kauffman Foundation study found that the great majority of entrepreneurs come from middle-class backgrounds, with less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs coming from very rich or very poor backgrounds.</p><p><strong>2. Only FOUR OUT OF 150 countries have more wealth inequality than us.</strong></p><p>In a world listing compiled by a reputable research team (which nevertheless prompted double-checking), the U.S. has greater wealth inequality than every measured country in the world except for Namibia, Zimbabwe, Denmark, and Switzerland.</p><p><strong>3. An amount equal to ONE-HALF the GDP is held untaxed overseas by rich Americans.</strong></p><p>The Tax Justice Network estimated that between $21 and $32 trillion is hidden offshore, untaxed. With Americans making up 40% of the world's Ultra High Net Worth Individuals, that's $8 to $12 trillion in U.S. money stashed in far-off hiding places.</p><p>Based on a historical stock market return of 6%, up to $750 billion of income is lost to the U.S. every year, resulting in a tax loss of about $260 billion.</p><p><strong>4. Corporations stopped paying HALF OF THEIR TAXES after the recession.</strong></p><p>After paying an average of 22.5% from 1987 to 2008, corporations have paid an annual rate of 10% since. This represents a sudden $250 billion annual loss in taxes.</p><p>U.S. corporations have shown a pattern of tax reluctance for more than 50 years, despite building their businesses with American research and infrastructure. They've passed the responsibility on to their workers. For every dollar of workers' payroll tax paid in the 1950s, corporations paid three dollars. Now it's 22 cents.</p><p><strong>5. Just TEN Americans made a total of FIFTY BILLION DOLLARS in one year.</strong></p><p>That's enough to pay the salaries of over a million nurses or teachers or emergency responders.</p><p>That's enough, according to 2008 estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the UN's World Food Program, to feed the 870 million people in the world who are lacking sufficient food.</p><p>For the free-market advocates who say "they've earned it": Point #1 above makes it clear how the wealthy make their money.</p><p><strong>6. Tax deductions for the rich could pay off 100 PERCENT of the deficit.</strong></p><p>Another stat that required a double-check. Based on research by the Tax Policy Center, tax deferrals and deductions and other forms of tax expenditures (tax subsidies from special deductions, exemptions, exclusions, credits, capital gains, and loopholes), which largely benefit the rich, are worth about 7.4% of the GDP, or about $1.1 trillion.</p><p>Other sources have estimated that about two-thirds of the annual $850 billion in tax expenditures goes to the top quintile of taxpayers.</p><p><strong>7. The average single black or Hispanic woman has about $100 IN NET WORTH.</strong></p><p>The Insight Center for Community Economic Development reported that median wealth for black and Hispanic women is a little over $100. That's much less than one percent of the median wealth for single white women ($41,500).</p><p>Other studies confirm the racially-charged economic inequality in our country. For every dollar of NON-HOME wealth owned by white families, people of color have only one cent.</p><p><strong>8. Elderly and disabled food stamp recipients get $4.30 A DAY FOR FOOD.</strong></p><p>Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) has dropped significantly over the past 15 years, serving only about a quarter of the families in poverty, and paying less than $400 per month for a family of three for housing and other necessities. Ninety percent of the available benefits go to the elderly, the disabled, or working households.</p><p>Food stamp recipients get $4.30 a day.</p><p><strong>9. Young adults have lost TWO-THIRDS OF THEIR NET WORTH since 1984.</strong></p><p>21- to 35-year-olds: Your median net worth has dropped 68% since 1984. It's now less than $4,000.</p><p>That $4,000 has to pay for student loans that average $27,200. Or, if you're still in school, for $12,700 in credit card debt.</p><p>With an unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds of almost 50%, two out of every five recent college graduates are living with their parents. But your favorite company may be hiring. Apple, which makes a profit of $420,000 per employee, can pay you about $12 per hour.</p><p><strong>10. The American public paid about FOUR TRILLION DOLLARS to bail out the banks.</strong></p><p>That's about the same amount of money made by America's richest 10% in one year. But we all paid for the bailout. And because of it, we lost the opportunity for jobs, mortgage relief, and educational funding.</p><p>Bonus for the super-rich: A QUADRILLION DOLLARS in securities trading nets ZERO sales tax revenue for the U.S.</p><p>The world derivatives market is estimated to be worth over a quadrillion dollars (a thousand trillion). At least $200 trillion of that is in the United States. In 2011 the Chicago Mercantile Exchange reported a trading volume of over $1 quadrillion on 3.4 billion annual contracts.</p><p>A quadrillion dollars. A sales tax of ONE-TENTH OF A PENNY on a quadrillion dollars could pay off the deficit. But the total sales tax was ZERO.</p><p>It's not surprising that the very rich would like to fudge the numbers, as they have the nation.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><div class="author-image" style="margin: 0px; padding: 1px 15px 15px 0pt; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 13px; vertical-align: baseline; line-height: 19.5px; color: rgb(18, 18, 18); font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; float: left;"><a href="http://www.commondreams.org/paul-buchheit" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; line-height: inherit; color: rgb(0, 51, 102);"><img alt="Paul Buchheit" class="imagecache imagecache-author_photo" height="90" src="http://www.commondreams.org/sites/commondreams.org/files/imagecache/author_photo/buchheit_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid rgb(181, 181, 181); display: block; padding: 2px;" title="Paul Buchheit" width="90" /></a></div><div><p>Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org), and the editor and main author of "<a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/0932863566/ref=as_li_tf_til?tag=commondreams-20&amp;camp=0&amp;creative=0&amp;linkCode=as1&amp;creativeASIN=0932863566&amp;adid=1MCNFWDB21VVWVVFPEW5&amp;">American Wars: Illusions and Realities</a>" (Clarity Press). He can be reached at <a href="mailto:paul@UsAgainstGreed.org">paul@UsAgainstGreed.org</a>.</p></div><p> </p> </div></div></div> Thu, 22 Nov 2012 14:05:00 -0800 Paul Buchheit, AlterNet 747321 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy inequality wealth 5 Ways Most Americans Are Blind to How Their Country Is Stacked for the Wealthy http://www.alternet.org/economy/5-ways-most-americans-are-blind-how-their-country-stacked-wealthy <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">We&#039;ve got to abandon our winner-take-all philosophy, to provide job opportunities for people who want to contribute to society.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/topstories_wealth1.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">Mitt Romney said he wasn't concerned about the very poor, because they have a safety net. This is typical of the widespread ignorance about inequality in our country. Struggling Americans want jobs, not handouts, and for the most part they've paid for their "safety net." The real problem is at the other end of the wealth gap.</span><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">How many people know that out of 150 countries, we have the fourth-highest wealth disparity? Only Zimbabwe, Namibia and Switzerland are worse.</span><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">It's not just economic inequality that's plaguing our country, it's lack of opportunity. It's a dismissal of poor people as lazy, or as threats to society. More than any other issue over the next four years, we need to address the growing divide in our nation, to tone down our winner-take-all philosophy, to provide job opportunities for people who want to contribute to society.</span><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">Here are some of the common misconceptions.</span><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><strong><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">1. Americans believe that the poorest 40 percent own about 10% of the wealth.</span></strong><br /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">Most people greatly underestimate the level of inequality in our country, guessing that the poorest 40 percent own about 10% of the wealth, when in reality they own much less than 1% of the wealth. Out of every dollar, they own a third of a penny.</span><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">Factor in race and it gets worse. Much of minority wealth exists in home values. But housing crashed, while the financial wealth owned almost entirely (93% of it) by the richest quintile of Americans has rebounded to lofty pre-recession levels.</span><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">As a result, for every dollar of non-home wealth owned by white families, people of color have only 1 cent. Median wealth for a single white woman is over $40,000. For black and Hispanic women it is a little over $100.</span><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><strong><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">2. Entitlements are the problem</span></strong>.<br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">No, they're not. The evidence is overwhelming. Social Security is a popular and well-run program. As summarized by Bernie Sanders, "Social Security, which is funded by the payroll tax, has not contributed one nickel to the deficit, and according to its trustees, can pay 100 percent of all benefits owed to every eligible American for the next 21 years." Dean Baker calls it "perhaps the greatest success story of any program in US history."</span><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">Medicare, which is largely without the profit motive and the competing sources of billing, is efficiently run, for all eligible Americans. According to the Council for Affordable Health Insurance, medical administrative costs as a percentage of claims are about three times higher for private insurance than for Medicare. And it's just as popular as Social Security.</span><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><strong><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">3. Welfare benefits are a drag on the economy</span></strong>.<br /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">Critics bemoan the amounts of aid being lavished on lower-income Americans, making dubious claims about thousands of dollars going to every poor family.</span> <span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">But despite an ever-growing need for jobs and basic living necessities, federal spending on poverty programs is a small part of the budget, and it's been that way for almost 50 years, increasing from 0.8 percent of GDP in 1962 to 1.2 percent of GDP in 2007.</span><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) has dropped significantly over the past 15 years, leaving benefit levels far below the poverty line for most families. Ninety percent of the available benefits go to the elderly, the disabled or working households.</span> <span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">For each family, current federal budgets pay about $400 per month for food, housing, and traditional "welfare" programs. Food stamp recipients get $4.30 a day.</span><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><strong><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">4. The American Dream is still alive, if you just work hard enough.</span></strong><br /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">The Horatio Alger tale has been a popular one for conservatives, but the OECD, the Economic Policy Institute and the <em>National Journal</em> all came to the same conclusion: the future earnings of a child in the U.S. is closely correlated to the earnings of his or her parents. This lack of mobility is more prevalent in the U.S. than in almost all other OECD countries.</span><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">Only 4 percent of those raised in the bottom quintile make it to the top quintile as adults. Only about 20 percent even make it to the top half.</span><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">A big part of the problem is the severe degree of poverty for our nation's children. According to UNICEF, among industrialized countries only Romania has a higher child poverty rate than the United States. Just in the last 10 years the number of impoverished American children increased by 30 percent.</span><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">And it's much worse for minorities. While 12 percent of white children live in poverty, 35 percent of Hispanic children and 39% of black children start their lives in conditions that make simple survival more important than the American Dream. Eighty percent of black children who started in or near the top half of U.S. income levels experienced downward mobility later in life.</span><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><strong><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">5. Prison puts away the bad guys</span></strong>.<br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">Despite a falling violent crime rate in the U.S., there are now, as noted by Adam Gopnik, "more people under 'correctional supervision' in America -- more than six million -- than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height."</span><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">Almost half of the inmates in federal prisons were jailed for drug offenses. Between 1980 and 2003, the number of drug offenders in prison or jail increased by 1100% from 41,100 in 1980 to 493,800 in 2003.</span><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">African Americans constituted 53.5 percent of all persons who entered prison because of a drug conviction. In the nation's largest cities, drug arrests for African Americans rose at three times the rate for whites from 1980 to 2003.</span><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">In Washington, DC, it is estimated that three out of four young black men will serve time in prison. In New York, with 50,000 marijuana arrests per year, 90% are black or Latino. In Seattle, the 8% black population accounts for 60 percent of the arrests. Over the last 10 years Colorado police have arrested Latinos at 1.5 times the rate of whites, and blacks at over three times the rate of whites. Newly passed marijuana laws reflect the beginnings of a backlash.</span><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">Perversely, this is all happening as studies by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration find that both black and Hispanic adolescents use drugs <em>less</em> than the general population. And a study by the National Institute of Health shows that the prevalence of marijuana use in colleges and universities was highest for white students.</span><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><strong><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">The greatest misconception: The rich are being soaked.</span></strong><br /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">Redistribution has not spread the wealth, it has concentrated the wealth. Conservative estimates say the richest 1% have doubled their share of America's income in 30 years. It's worse. From 1980 to 2006, the richest 1% actually <em>tripled</em> their share of after-tax income.</span><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;" /><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">The real problem is tax avoidance: lost revenue from tax expenditures (deferrals and deductions), corporate tax avoidance, and tax haven losses could pay off the entire deficit. But the very rich refuse to pay. They have their own safety net in the House of Representatives.</span></p> Thu, 15 Nov 2012 13:38:00 -0800 Paul Buchheit, AlterNet 745511 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy News & Politics united states wealth divide inequality 7 Deadly Sins America Commits Against Its Own People http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/7-deadly-sins-america-commits-against-its-own-people <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The US terrorizes millions all over the planet... here&#039;s what it does to its own citizens.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_-__2012-10-01_at_12.01.50_pm.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The list doesn't include our most grievous offenses, those of military and economic warfare against the rest of the world. Sinful enough is our behavior at home.<br /><br />1. Sin against children<br /><br />Perhaps "sanctity of life" ends at birth. According to <a href="http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/income_wealth/cb12-172.html" target="_blank">Census Bureau</a>figures, one out of every five American children lives in poverty. For <a href="http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0712.pdf" target="_blank">blacks and Hispanics</a>, it's one out of every three.<br /><br /><a href="http://www.nationofchange.org/tens-millions-children-living-poverty-world-s-richest-countries-1340200704" target="_blank">UNICEF</a> has reported that the U.S. has a higher child poverty rate than every industrialized country except Romania. We are near the bottom in all <a href="http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/rc9_eng.pdf" target="_blank">measures</a> of inequality that affect our children, including material well-being, health, and education.<br /><br />2. Sin against the poor<br /><br />The U.S. poverty rate grew from <a href="http://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/p60-214.pdf" target="_blank">11.3%</a> to <a href="http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/income_wealth/cb12-172.html" target="_blank">15.0%</a>, a 33% jump, in just 11 years. The impact was felt primarily by minorities and women. The <a href="http://www.insightcced.org/uploads/CRWG/LiftingAsWeClimb-WomenWealth-Report-InsightCenter-Spring2010.pdf" target="_blank">median wealth</a> for single black and Hispanic women is shockingly low, at just over $100 (compared to $41,500 for single white women).<br /><br />Another shock. For every dollar of <a href="http://arc.org/downloads/2009_race_recession_0909.pdf" target="_blank">NON-HOME wealth</a> owned by white families, people of color have only one cent.<br /><br />Despite the continued economic assault on already-poor Americans, the number of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) cases has <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=3566" target="_blank">dropped</a> by 60 percent over the last 16 years.<br /><br />3. Sin against students<br /><br />Students at all levels have been losing their nation's support. States reduced their <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/files/9-1-11sfp.pdf" target="_blank">education budgets</a> by $12.7 billion in 2012, and in 2013 the majority of states will be <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=3825" target="_blank">spending even less</a>.<br /><br />At higher educational levels, Americans are paying much more than students in other countries. <a href="http://www.alternet.org/education/shocking-report-explodes-5-myths-about-american-education?paging=off" target="_blank">Only 38%</a> of college expenses come from public funding, compared to 70% across other OECD countries. While other nations continue to offer free tuition, with the recognition that education leads to long-term prosperity, the U.S. system has become more<a href="http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/8305-the-assault-on-public-education" target="_blank">corporatized</a>, to the point that expensive programs like nursing, engineering, and computer science have been eliminated to cut costs. The profit motive has blocked the path to academic excellence.<br /><br />4. Sin against the middle class<br /><br />The middle class is <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2012/08/22/lost-decade-for-shrinking-middle-class" target="_blank">shrinking</a>. In 2011, according to a <a href="http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2012/08/22/the-lost-decade-of-the-middle-class" target="_blank">Pew Research</a> analysis, 51% of the nation's households earned from two-thirds to double the national median income. In the 1970s it was 61%.<br /><br />One-quarter of America's workers are now making <a href="http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/08/28/americas-descent-into-poverty/" target="_blank">less than $22,000</a> a year, the poverty line for a family of four.<br /><br /><a href="http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/09/28" target="_blank">Thirty million Americans</a> are making between $7.25 (minimum wage) and $10.00 per hour.<br /><br />With the transition of middle-class workers to low-income status, entrepreneurship is disappearing. <a href="http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/05/29-1" target="_blank">Innovation</a> doesn't come from the upper class. A recent <a href="http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2012/05/pdf/middleclass_growth.pdf" target="_blank">study</a> found that less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs came from very rich or very poor backgrounds. Small business creators come from the hard-working, risk-taking, nothing-to-lose middle of America, but their entrepreneurial numbers are down -- <a href="http://truth-out.org/news/item/10284-on-the-news-with-thom-hartmann-taxes-in-america-are-at-a-30-year-low-and-more" target="_blank">over 50%</a> since 1977.<br /><br />5. Sin against the common good<br /><br />A recent Tax Justice Network <a href="http://www.taxjustice.net/cms/upload/pdf/Price_of_Offshore_Revisited_120722.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> placed total hidden offshore assets at somewhere between $21 trillion and $32 trillion. With about <a href="http://www.taxjustice.net/cms/upload/pdf/Inequality_120722_You_dont_know_the_half_of_it.pdf" target="_blank">40%</a> of the world's Ultra High Net Worth Individuals in the U.S., up to $12.8 trillion of untaxed revenue sits overseas. Based on a historical <a href="http://www.forbes.com/2005/03/29/cz_0329oxan_equity.html" target="_blank">6% rate of return</a>, this is a tax loss of up to $300 billion per year, money that should be paying for the public needs of education and infrastructure.<br /><br />Tax avoidance is so appealing that 1,700 Americans <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/id/47599766" target="_blank">renounced</a> their citizenships last year. Like <a href="http://www.alternet.org/economy/155417/1er_facebook_co-founder_runs_away_to_evade_taxes_here%27s_what_eduardo_saverin_owes_america/?page=entire" target="_blank">Eduardo Saverin</a>, who benefited from America's research and technology and security to take <a href="http://www.forbes.com/profile/eduardo-saverin/" target="_blank">billions</a> from his 4% share in Facebook, and then skipped out on his tax bill.<br /><br />Inexplicably, some have <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/id/47556018" target="_blank">defended</a> Saverin's actions, apparently failing to recognize one's obligation to pay for societal benefits. A Forbes writer said, "When individuals resist governmental hubris, we should exalt their actions." The American Thinker blog argued that "the U.S. tax code is so oppressive that smart and successful people like Saverin are compelled to renounce citizenship in order to keep more of their own hard-earned wages." Hard-earned, in truth, by the thousands of contributers to his social networking success.<br /><br />6. Sin against nature<br /><br />A number of <a href="http://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/published_study/PERI_military_spending_2011.pdf" target="_blank">studies</a> <a href="http://www.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/issues/2009/06/pdf/peri_report_execsumm.pdf" target="_blank">show</a> that investment in renewable energy will create many more jobs than the fossil fuel industry. And the investment will likely pay off. A <a href="http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/re_futures/" target="_blank">National Renewable Energy Laboratory</a> analysis determined that "renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today...is more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050."<br /><br />But now the prospect of <a href="http://truth-out.org/news/item/11616-getting-real-on-jobs-and-the-environment-pipelines-fracking-or-clean-energy" target="_blank">cheap natural gas</a> is leading us back to a dirty form of energy independence, with a continuing reliance on fossil fuels, and on the fracking technology that despoils our land and pollutes our water. The national commitment and political will needed for the long-term health of our nation is more elusive than ever.<br /><br />7. Sin against common sense<br /><br />The deception began, at least in the modern age, with Milton Friedman, who said "The free market system distributes the fruits of economic progress among all people...He moves fastest who moves alone."<br /><br />This unflagging adherence to free-enterprise individualism is consistent with <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Darwinism" target="_blank">Social Darwinism</a>, the belief that survival of the fittest (richest) will somehow benefit society, and that the millions of people suffering from financial malfeasance are simply lacking the motivation to help themselves. Social Darwinism is a feel-good delusion for those at the top. Or, as described by John Kenneth Galbraith, a continuing "search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."<br /><br />A tenet of progressivism is that a strong society will create opportunities for a greater number of people, thereby leading to more instances of individual success. This is the common sense attitude suppressed by conservatives for over 30 years.</p> Mon, 01 Oct 2012 11:55:00 -0700 Paul Buchheit, AlterNet 719768 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics united states sin morality 4 Easy Ways We Can Tax the Rich to Fill Government Coffers http://www.alternet.org/economy/4-easy-ways-we-can-tax-rich-fill-government-coffers <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">With a little smart arithmetic, here&#039;s how we can pay off the deficit--two times over.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_96493568.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Conservatives force the deficit issue, ignoring job creation, and insisting that tax increases on the rich wouldn't generate enough revenue to balance the budget. They're way off. But it takes a little arithmetic to put it all together. In the following analysis, data has been taken from a variety of sources, some of which may overlap or slightly disagree, but all of which lead to the conclusion that withheld revenue, not excessive spending, is the problem.</p><div><strong>1. Individual and small business tax avoidance costs us $450 billion.</strong></div><div> </div><div>The IRS estimates that 17 percent of taxes owed were not paid, leaving an underpayment of $450 billion. In way of confirmation, an independent review of IRS data reveals that the richest 10 percent of Americans paid less than 19% on $3.8 trillion of income in 2006, nearly $450 billion short of a more legitimate 30% tax rate. It has also been estimated that two-thirds of the annual $1.3 trillion in "tax expenditures" (tax subsidies from special deductions, exemptions, exclusions, credits, capital gains, and loopholes) goes to the top quintile of taxpayers. Based on IRS apportionments, this calculates out to more than $450 billion for the richest 10 percent of Americans.</div><div> </div><div><strong>2. Corporate tax avoidance is between $250 billion and $500 billion.</strong></div><div> </div><div>There are numerous examples of tax avoidance by the big companies, but the most outrageous fact may be that corporations decided to drastically cut their tax rates after the start of the recession. After paying an average of 22.5% from 1987 to 2008, they've paid an annual rate of 10% since. This represents a sudden $250 billion annual loss in taxes. Worse yet, it's a $500 billion shortfall from the 35% statutory corporate tax rate.</div><div> </div><div><strong>3. Tax haven losses are at least $337 billion.</strong></div><div> </div><div>The Tax Justice Network estimated in 2011 that $337 billion is lost to the U.S. every year in tax haven abuse. It might be more. A recent report placed total hidden offshore assets at somewhere between $21 trillion and $32 trillion. Using the lesser $21 trillion figure, and considering that about 40% of the world's ultra-high-net-worth individuals are Americans, at least $8.4 trillion of untaxed revenue sits overseas.</div><div> </div><div><strong>4. That's enough to pay off a trillion-dollar deficit. Reasonable tax changes could pay it off a second time:</strong></div><div> </div><div>(a) A non-regressive payroll tax could produce $150 billion in revenue.</div><div> </div><div>Get ready for some math. The richest 10% made about $3.84 trillion in 2006. A $110,000 salary, which is roughly the cutoff point for payroll tax deductions, is also the approximate minimum income for the richest 10%. A 6.2% tax paid on $1.43 trillion ($110,000 times 13 million payees) is about $90 billion. The lost taxes on the remaining $2.41 trillion come to about $150 billion.</div><div> </div><div>(b) A minimal estate tax brings in another $100 billion.</div><div> </div><div>The 2009 estate tax, designed to impact only the tiny percentage of Americans with multi-million dollar estates that have never been taxed, returns about $100 billion per year.</div><div> </div><div>(c) A financial transaction tax (FTT): up to $500 billion.</div><div> </div><div>The Bank for International Settlements reported in 2008 that annual trading in derivatives had surpassed $1.14 quadrillion (a thousand trillion dollars!). The Chicago Mercantile Exchange handles about 3 billion annual contracts worth well over 1 quadrillion dollars. One-tenth of one percent of a quadrillion dollars could pay off the deficit on its own.</div><div> </div><div>More conservative estimates by the Center for Economic and Policy Research and the Chicago Political Economy Group suggest FTT revenues of a half-trillion dollars annually.</div><div> </div><div>Add it all up, and we've paid off the deficit, almost twice. More importantly, the avoided taxes and a few other sensible taxes could provide sufficient revenue for job stimulus without cutting the hard-earned benefits of middle-class Americans.</div> Tue, 28 Aug 2012 12:04:00 -0700 Paul Buchheit, AlterNet 700679 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy taxes spending 1% deficit republicans