6 of America's Leading Candidates for Hypocrite of the Year
The people included below stand out in their various areas of nefarious behavior: warmaking, tax avoidance, consumer gouging, environmental destruction, and criminal arrogance.
1. Charles Koch: Fighting for prison reform (so he'll never have to go to jail). The "scariest man in America" appeared suddenly sympathetic to the plight of the disadvantaged, advocating for criminal justice reform. But the bill supported by the Koch-funded Heritage Foundation would make it more difficult 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.
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.
2. Warren Buffett: Demanding to be taxed at a higher rate (as long as he doesn't have to pay). Everyone seems to like grandfatherly Warren Buffett, who famously complained, "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 years, instead building a $62 billion liability in deferred taxes while using "hypothetical amounts" to dress up its reporting to the SEC. Meanwhile, the company's stock has been growing for 50 years at an annual rate of well over 20 percent.
Barron's 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."
3. Mark Zuckerberg: America's most admired philanthropist. 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 free to invest in other companies, make political donations, or even sell his holdings, or help his family minimize the estate tax.
There's more to Zuckerberg's disregard for taxpayers and workers. Even though he used questionable 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 few jobs: 12,000 employees, or about $400,000 in income last year 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 cheap labor from around the world.
4. Martin Shkreli: Imposing an "altruistic" 4,000% price increase. Shkreli raised the price from $13.50 to $750 for a single pill of an anti-infection medicine, even though, according to the chairman 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."
Backlash over the price gouging caused a temporary change of heart, but Shkreli came to his capitalist senses and kept the cost to insurance companies at $750.
5. Barack Obama: From Nobel Peace Prize to bombing innocent civilians. 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 extended 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 Muslim world that turned Iraq into "a nest of jihadism" and continues to empower anti-American terrorists.
It's been reported that only about 10 percent of Afghan airstrikes killed their intended targets in a five-month period, and only about 12 percent of drone victims in Pakistan could be named as militants. Yet "crowd killings" have taken out women, children and entire wedding parties.
6. Rahm Emanuel: where to begin? Chicago's mayor allowed 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.
Even though Illinois corporations avoid billions of dollars of taxes a year, and though Illinois already has the one of the highest property tax rates in the nation, Emanuel announced a half-billion property tax hike.
Emanuel recently closed 50 public schools, almost entirely in poor African-American neighborhoods, even though he had rarely met with community leaders during his first year in office, and instead chose to appoint business-connected friends to the Board of Education and to make educational funding deals with profit-hungry Wall Street.
Losers of the Hypocrite Award: Donald Trump and Bill Gates
Trump is remarkably straightforward with his racism. He has blamed blacks for 81 percent of the murders of whites, accused Arabs of cheering on 9/11 and dismissed Mexican immigrants as rapists.
Gates, like Zuckerberg, has converted 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 quote: "By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world."