Fix the Debt: plutocrats are turning up the volume on the class war

“Listening to these people talk about the national economy is like listening to a burglar tell you that you should really polish the silver more often.” Charles P. Pierce

The important thing to understand now is that while the election is over, the class war isn’t.

The same people who bet big on Mr. Romney, and lost, are now trying to win by stealth — in the name of fiscal responsibility — the ground they failed to gain in an open election. […]

Consider, as a prime example, the push to raise the retirement age, the age of eligibility for Medicare, or both. This is only reasonable, we’re told — after all, life expectancy has risen, so shouldn’t we all retire later? In reality, however, it would be a hugely regressive policy change, imposing severe burdens on lower- and middle-income Americans while barely affecting the wealthy. Why? First of all, the increase in life expectancy is concentrated among the affluent; why should janitors have to retire later because lawyers are living longer? Second, both Social Security and Medicare are much more important, relative to income, to less-affluent Americans, so delaying their availability would be a far more severe hit to ordinary families than to the top 1 percent.

Or take a subtler example, the insistence that any revenue increases should come from limiting deductions rather than from higher tax rates. The key thing to realize here is that the math just doesn’t work; there is, in fact, no way limits on deductions can raise as much revenue from the wealthy as you can get simply by letting the relevant parts of the Bush-era tax cuts expire. So any proposal to avoid a rate increase is, whatever its proponents may say, a proposal that we let the 1 percent off the hook and shift the burden, one way or another, to the middle class or the poor. […]

So keep your eyes open as the fiscal game of chicken continues. It’s an uncomfortable but real truth that we are not all in this together; America’s top-down class warriors lost big in the election, but now they’re trying to use the pretense of concern about the deficit to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Let’s not let them pull it off.”

— Paul Krugman: Class Wars of 2012

While finance executives urge Congress and the President to rein in spending, finance companies are raking in profits. [...] Meanwhile, workers are struggling. Average hourly pay, when adjusted for inflation, has fallen 0.7 percent over the past year, according to the Labor Department. And the unemployment rate in October was 7.9 percent — it was at a low of 4.4 percent in May 2007 before the recession. It’s a “zero-sum game,” Moody’s Analytics economist Aaron Smith told The Huffington Post in February. Companies are earning record profits largely because they are squeezing more productivity out of their workers without paying them more. — Corporate Profits Reach Record High, While Workers Struggle

Several CEOs — under the guise of a campaign known as “Fix the Debt” — have recently called for cuts to Social Security and other entitlements. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, for instance, said that “there will be things that, you know, the retirement age has to be changed, maybe some of the benefits have to be affected, maybe some of the inflation adjustments have to be revised.” “The solutions [to the fiscal cliff] are – it’s the retirement age; means testing Social Security and Medicare,” said Aetna CEO Mark Berolino. [...] Blankfein has nearly $12 million in retirement assets, while Bertolini has $1.5 million. Adding insult to injury, many of the CEOs calling for cuts to the social safety net are underfunding their workers’ retirement accounts — CEOs Looking To ‘Fix The Debt’ By Cutting Social Security Sit On Huge Retirement Accounts

The CEO Campaign to ‘Fix’ the Debt: A Trojan Horse for Massive Corporate Tax Breaks – IPS: The Fix the Debt campaign has raised $60 million and recruited more than 80 CEOs of America’s most powerful corporations to lobby for a debt deal that would reduce corporate taxes and shift costs onto the poor and elderly.

Key findings:

  • The 63 Fix the Debt companies that are publicly held stand to gain as much as $134 billion in windfalls if Congress approves one of their main proposals — a “territorial tax system.” Under this system, companies would not have to pay U.S. federal income taxes on foreign earnings when they bring the profits back to the United States.
  • The CEOs backing Fix the Debt personally received a combined total of $41 million in savings last year thanks to the Bush-era tax cuts. The top CEO beneficiary of the Bush tax cuts in 2011, Leon Black of Apollo Global Management, saved $9.9 million on the Bush tax cuts. The private equity fund leader reaped $215 million in taxable income last year just from vested stock.
  • Of the 63 Fix the Debt CEOs at publicly held firms, 24 received more in compensation last year than their corporations paid in federal corporate income taxes. All but six of these firms reported U.S. profits last year.

Sign this petition to tell Congress that it’s time to let the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2% expire and that they must reject any Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefit cuts.

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