<b>The Rich Get Richer</b>
Oct 2012 17

The Rich Get Richer

Posted In Blog,Politics

by Steven Whitney

As Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan relentlessly pursue further tax cuts for the top 2% and finagle ways to cut back (or completely jettison) Medicare, Social Security, and myriad other services for the 98%, a few facts and common sense correlations should be considered.

According to economists at the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics, in 2007 the six heirs to Sam Walton (founder of Walmart) had a net worth equal to the bottom 30% of Americans. Since then, the rich have gotten even richer. When our economy went into the toilet, average families lost 39% of their wealth while business for discount super-chains like Walmart soared, as did wealth for the 1%. As a result, new data from the Federal Reserve suggests that the six Waltons now hold as much wealth as the bottom 41.2%. With the US population right now at just over 314 million, those 6 siblings combined have more wealth than the bottom 130 million.

Stop for a moment and think about that. Six individual people who didn’t build anything have more combined net worth than 130 million other Americans altogether.

As Bernie Sanders revealed on the Senate Floor, the top 1% now own more than 50% of our nation’s wealth. The next 19% of high earners own more than 44%. That means that the top 20% own more than 94% of all American wealth while the lower 80% of Americans have less than a 6% share of the pie.

Even more alarming, right now 93% of all new income in America goes to the top 1%, leaving 310 million citizens to scramble after the remaining 7%.

The fuel accelerating this unjust and massive inequality of wealth distribution is the GOP tax policy from 1981 onward: cut income, corporate, and estate taxes for the rich, raise taxes on and cut services for the poor and middle class, and borrow money for the War on Terror. Do anything at all as long as the rich don’t have to pay for it.

Last year, the top 1% had an average tax base of 16.2% (Romney’s, of course, was lower), compared to the 39% they paid during most of the Clinton Presidency – a Democratic administration that turned a huge Reagan/Bush debt into a surplus largely by taxing the rich a progressive but fair rate.

This frightening gap in wealth distribution widened exponentially during the “W” years, when middle class rates went up, on average, from about 20% to 28% while taxes for the 1% were cut in half and more loopholes were added.

Suddenly, teachers, police, firemen and the entire middle class were paying a higher percentage on their income tax than the 1%. On average, these tax cuts for the rich helped quadruple the wealth of the top 1%. Yet while multiplying their net worth, corporations and the 1% stopped hiring, ostensibly so they would have time to count their money. During W’s last year in office, the nation lost an average of 850,000 jobs per month. None of our nation’s wealth “trickled down.” All of it “trickled up.”

And yet the GOP wants everyone to believe that if only the rich were richer, and the rest of us shared increasingly smaller pieces of the pie, all of America’s economic problems would be solved.

Yeah, right.

The Debt

As of October 12th, the National Debt is just over $16.2 trillion.

The TARP rescue plan gave our six biggest banks over $700 billion. But that’s not all. It was only recently revealed that to stimulate the economy and lower unemployment, the Federal Reserve gave banks another $16 trillion. The banks, of course, got richer, but didn’t free up access to vital consumer loans until the Obama administration pushed them into a corner.

Of course, it was those very banks and their recklessly criminal behavior that caused the current recession, but they were “too big to fail.” Or were they too rich to fail?

Take that 700 billion, add it to the 16 trillion, and give it to our creditors instead and the debt would be completely wiped out. . . with 500 billion, less interest, left over.

Money Politics

Anyone who has been even barely conscious the last six months knows that a lot of billionaires are spending a lot money on SuperPACs in this election. For them, it might not be so much about politics as it is an important part of their overall business plan.

Starting with Charles and David Koch, two of most ethically-challenged men on the planet; The brothers are second-generation oil barons who don’t want any regulatory agency looking over their shoulders, don’t want minimum wage standards, don’t want lawsuits from the toxic damage they spread as casually as farmers toss seeds on their fields, and a lot of other petty nuisances. One can certainly understand their perspective – with rules and regulations in place, the two brothers have made only $45 billion in their family business. And they want, perhaps even need, more. Indeed, Charles has more than once been heard to say: “I want it all.”

In cahoots with Karl Rove and Fox News, they fund SuperPACs and “scholarly” foundations to push their business interests, most often distributing wildly false disinformation. Early on, they secretly funded and helped organize the Tea Party and their extreme ideologies with one caveat: that the wingnuts didn’t oppose or interfere with the billionaires’ business plans.

Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson backed Newt Gingrich’s run in the primary with tens of millions of dollars. Now that Gingrich is gone, he’s doubled down on Romney to the tune of hundreds of millions. When asked why, he answered candidly that he is in both civil and criminal jeopardy for business practices at his Macau gaming properties. A Romney administration, he offers, would be more conducive to helping him escape his legal woes. And besides, he’s so wealthy ($24 billion) the Romney tax decrease for the rich would save him an immediate $2 billion in taxes. So like the Kochs, he gives money – to buy influence and policy, stay out of prison, and make even more money – in the same way Al Capone greased the palms of Chicago police and politicians.

But Capone was small potatoes compared to the Kochs and Adelson, who use Citizens United – which they also backed – to make unlimited donations solely to give their businesses free and unrestricted reign. For them, mega-donations in the billions are just the cost of doing business.

That they are collaterally supporting the Tea Party and the Religious Right doesn’t matter to them in the least. After all, they don’t have to live with those lunatics or suffer any of the consequences their extreme policies would inflict upon the rest of us. The Kochs and Adelson live in another world that now actually has a name – the Global Superclass, a race of superior beings reminiscent of Greek and Roman gods and goddesses of ancient times, living in the mountains or sky above, looking down at we mere and foolish mortals. It’s a world where money can buy anything and narcissists like these don’t have to abide by any one nation’s laws because they are above the concept of sovereignty. They are an autonomous entity of their own – so why can’t they make up their own rules. . . and have it all?

The Real Miss Moneypenny

Somewhere in the past four years, Sarah Palin picked up a real taste for money. Maybe it was all the designer wardrobes the GOP bought her for the 2008 campaign that apparently started her addiction – like a playground dealer giving kids free tastes of paradise until they’re hooked and have to pay.

And when poor Sarah had to start paying for her luxuries, she attacked the problem like the lipsticked bulldog we all admire – garnering million dollar contracts with Fox for television and HarperCollins for books, and millions more gathered from speaking engagements booked by the Washington Speakers Bureau.

But as her star waned in a night sky filled with new stars, other ventures were needed to keep her in the money. So a SuperPAC was created and raised millions of dollars solely for the greater good of Sarah, who relentlessly teased her admirers with vague but seductive hints at a run for the White House. Some of that money funded her gaffe-filled bus tour. And a little more was spent helping host Tea Party events. But that was pretty much it.

So what happened to the rest of the SarahPAC millions? Was it donated to charitable causes? Did she give it to other GOP candidates?

Or did she keep it?

Under SuperPAC regulations, she could have exercised any of those three options. But we heard not a word about the first two. No charity thanked her for ponying up some needed cash and no other candidates expressed their gratitude to Sarah for bulking up their campaign coffers.

If she took the remaining money, she’s right in step with a GOP that runs both real and false campaigns to dovetail with personal income goals. And according to the very loose rules of SuperPACs, it’s not even illegal.

But was it wrong for Sarah to literally scam her biggest, most misguided fans – the people who believed in her the most – out of so much money?

You betcha!

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Gotcha!

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