Avarice and cruelty have no boundaries.
Juan Cole thinks it’s important that you think further back than the Romney campaign’s dumb question “are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Instead, ask yourself if you’re better off now than you were in 1970:
See, in general, Who Rules America? The rich in this country now see an opportunity to take us back to the age of the robber barons– and get rid of all government programs for the middle classes and the workers and make us wait to age 70 (when most people will be more decrepit than they expect) to retire. Because the more of the national income they take home every year, the more politicians they can buy, and the more they can cut their taxes and shift the burden of road-building and other government services to the middle classes and workers.
It is a ratcheting process that is leaving the US an increasingly unequal society, and one in which hopes of upward mobility for ordinary people are increasingly crushed. Indeed, Europe (the “Old World”) now offers more opportunities for upward mobility and getting ahead than the United States.
The way to reverse this crisis of income stagnation is to restore rights to unionize and collectively bargain and to make the rich pay their fare share for government-provided infrastructure and for educating the work force they exploit. Guess who will do the opposite if they win in November?
From a Pew study showing that America’s middle class is receiving less of the nation’s income than it did 40 years ago — 17% less:
The new study reviewed 2010 data from the Census Bureau and Federal Reserve, defining “middle class” as the tier of adults whose household income falls between two-thirds and double the national median income, or $39,418 to $118,255 in 2010 for a family of three. By this definition, “middle class” makes up about 51 percent of U.S. adults, down from 61 percent in 1971.
In 1970, the share of U.S. income that went to the middle class was 62 percent, while wealthier Americans received just 29 percent. But by 2010, the middle class garnered 45 percent of the nation’s income, tying a low first reached in 2006, compared to 46 percent for upper-income Americans.
Since 2000, the median income for America’s middle class has fallen from $72,956 to $69,487.
You know the median incomes of the wealthiest didn’t fall in the past 40 years — and they get to take home more of their incomes because of the way they’re taxed compared to the way we’re taxed ($77,000 deductions for horses, for example). Look at these numbers:
Let’s not pretend Romney and the billionaires who want to buy the White House aren’t looking to take most, if not all, of that remaining 45% income share that’s currently going to the dying middle class.
But let’s keep pretending there isn’t a massive, ongoing bottom-to-top income redistribution happening — just keep saying job creators and trickle down.
We can thank patriots like this for supporting their own demise over the past several decades:
“Said Romney: ‘I haven’t calculated that. I’m happy to go back and look but my view is I’ve paid all the taxes required by law. From time to time I’ve been audited as happens I think to other citizens as well and the accounting firm which prepares my taxes has done a very thorough and complete job pay taxes as legally due. I don’t pay more than are legally due and frankly if I had paid more than are legally due I don’t think I’d be qualified to become president. I’d think people would want me to follow the law and pay only what the tax code requires.’”
The bottomline is: we get a $3,700 deduction for each child / dependent. The Romneys get a $77,000 deduction for a horse. That’s the tax code (written by politicians) — and now Mitt Romney, the GOP, and the one percent think $77,000 isn’t enough. They want to pay even less in taxes than they’re currently paying, which is already at an historic low.
Don’t forget this week the GOP-led House is trying to fast-track a bill that will give millionaires an average of $187,000 in tax cuts, paid for by eliminating deductions working and middle class families depend on. Also remember that Democrats and President Obama would like to extend the Bush tax cuts to Americans earning $250,000 or less, but the Republican Party is threatening to let all tax cuts expire for every income if the wealthy aren’t included in the extension.
If you’d like to contact your Representative about the Republican plan to make things even worse for working and middle class families, here’s the website: http://house.gov/representatives/
And let’s remind Mitt Romney that we still do want to see more of his tax returns. He’s got to come home and face this issue someday.
This week GOP is fighting for the rest of us to continue financing Mitt and Ann’s dressage lifestyle / hobby through tax deductions. No “free stuff” for working and middle class people, but $77,000 for a horse — go Mitt Romney!
“During the years I was lobbying, I purveyed millions of my own and clients’ dollars to congressmen, especially at such decisive moments. I never contemplated that these payments were really just bribes, but they were. Like most dissembling Washington hacks, I viewed these payments as legitimate political contributions, expressions of my admiration of and fealty to the venerable statesman I needed to influence. Outside our capital city (and its ever-prosperous contiguous counties), the campaign contributions of special interests are rightly seen as nothing but bribes. The purposeful dissonance of the political class enables congressmen to accept donations and solemnly recite their real oath of office: My vote is not for sale for a mere contribution. They are wrong. Their votes are very much for sale, only they don’t wish to admit it. The reason they don’t feel they are being bought is that the interaction seems so normal. In fact, were they not public servants, it would be very normal.” — Jack Abramoff
Thanks to Citizens United, America will be wholly owned and operated by a small group of millionaires and billionaires if they manage to help Mitt Romney buy the White House.
You don’t think that’s fair? Get over it.
Paul Krugman points out that “tax cuts are a much bigger story in rising inequality than the right wants to hear. Piketty and Saez (pdf) have looked at tax rates including imputed corporate taxes, and here’s what they get:
“Tax rates for the super-elite, the top .01%, have fallen in half since Mitt Romney’s father ran for president; or to put it differently, after tax income for this group has doubled due to policy alone. And bear in mind that the US economy flourished just fine under those 60-70 tax rates …”
Mitt Romney is one of the super-elites, with the low tax rates and doubled take-home income — and he wants to be president.
Zack Beauchamp from Think Progress observes: ”…Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) attempt to defuse the controversy surrounding Romney’s taxes may be a new low for the campaign: Mitt Romney shouldn’t be criticized for using off-shore tax havens because “it’s really American to avoid paying taxes, legally.” [...] A recent report by the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) found that tax dodging shifts $100 billion onto taxpaying Americans.”
Romney’s response? “Mitt Romney said on Monday that his offshore investments were managed by a blind trust and he had no knowledge of their whereabouts. “I don’t manage them. I don’t even know where they are. That trustee follows all U.S. laws. All the taxes are paid, as appropriate. All of them have been reported to the government. There’s nothing hidden there. If, for instance, you own shares in Renault or Fiat, you still have to disclose that in the United States.”"
Romney’s campaign is working under an ideology of “what you don’t know can’t hurt me.” And teabaggers are only too happy to work under that ideology with him. But imagine the outrageous outrage, the far-right media spin, and the impeachment charges if President Obama had any amount of money in offshore accounts or wouldn’t release but one year of his tax returns. These folks have such a hypocritical set of double-standards, it’s not even funny.
Sandra Tsing Loh at The Atlantic, shares her thoughts on caring for her elderly father:
RECENTLY, A COLLEAGUE at my radio station asked me, in the most cursory way, as we were waiting for the coffee to finish brewing, how I was. To my surprise, in a motion as automatic as the reflex of a mussel being poked, my body bent double and I heard myself screaming: “I WAAAAAAAANT MY FATHERRRRRR TO DIEEEEE!!!”
[...] Gross undertook the care of her mother in as professional a way as possible. She was on call for emergencies and planned three steps ahead by consulting personally with each medical specialist. Like the typical U.S. family caregiver for an elder (who is, statistics suggest, a woman of about 50), Gross worked full-time, but (atypically) she was unencumbered by spouse or children. She had the help, too, of her child-free brother, a calm, clear-headed sort given to greeting his sister with a quiet, reassuring “The eagle has landed.” What could go wrong?
Plenty. As Gross herself flatly describes it, in her introduction:
In the space of three years … my mother’s ferocious independence gave way to utter reliance on her two adult children. Garden-variety aches and pains became major health problems; halfhearted attention no longer sufficed, and managing her needs from afar became impossible … We were flattened by the enormous demands on our time, energy, and bank accounts; the disruption to our professional and personal lives; the fear that our time in this parallel universe would never end and the guilt for wishing that it would … We knew nothing about Medicaid spend-downs, in-hospital versus out-of-hospital “do not resuscitate” orders, Hoyer lifts, motorized wheelchairs, or assistive devices for people who can neither speak nor type. We knew nothing about “pre-need consultants,” who handle advance payment for the funerals of people who aren’t dead yet, or “feeders,” whose job it is to spoon pureed food into the mouths of men and women who can no longer hold a utensil.
However ghoulish, it is a world we will all soon get to know well, argues Gross: owing to medical advancements, cancer deaths now peak at age 65 and kill off just 20 percent of older Americans, while deaths due to organ failure peak at about 75 and kill off just another 25 percent, so the norm for seniors is becoming a long, drawn-out death after 85, requiring ever-increasing assistance for such simple daily activities as eating, bathing, and moving.
This is currently the case for approximately 40 percent of Americans older than 85, the country’s fastest-growing demographic, which is projected to more than double by 2035, from about 5 million to 11.5 million. And at that point, here comes the next wave—77 million of the youngest Baby Boomers will be turning 70.
[...] What I propose instead is seeking comfort in what I like to call, borrowing in part from Kafka’s German, Elderschadenfreude. On the one hand, sure, here we stand around the office coffeemaker in middle age, mixing flax into our Greek yogurt and sharing more and more tales about our elderly parents, tales that are dull (“Mom slipped in the shower—at first she said it was nothing”), slow-moving (“And then I took her to the foot doctor, but then, right there in the parking lot, she insisted she had to go to the bathroom—but the door is on the north side while we were on the south—”), and in the end, well, depressingly predictable (we already know which colleges our wards are getting into—NONE). On the other hand, I believe it is by enduring this very suffering and tedium that one can eventually tease out a certain dark, autumnal, delightfully-bitter-as-Fernet-Branca enjoyment, best described by some dense and complicated noun-ending German word.
Elderschadenfreude is the subtle frisson of the horror tale that always begins so simply (“Mom slipped in the shower—at first she said it was nothing”) but makes listeners raise eyebrows, nod knowingly, begin microwaving popcorn. It is the secret pleasure of hearing about aging parents that are even more impossible than yours. Prepare to enjoy.
This article has a humorous voice to it – and it is funny — but maybe only to caregivers. You either sympathize or you don’t. The author describes how they’re paying $6,500 / month for their father’s nurse. That’s a huge sum! It got me to thinking that as age advances, dementia in its many forms takes over the minds of many as well which, in combination with a physical body wearing down, brings its own set of problems and care. It’s estimated that 1 in 6 women, and 1 in 10 men, who live past the age of 55 will develop dementia in their lifetime. [source]
Can you imagine what the world will be like in 2035 with all of these millions of people able to live until they reach their 80s and 90s (but for many, only with assisted care), with hundreds of thousands suffering from some kind of dementia on top of everything else? I know many people who say, “Just shoot me.” Or “I’d shoot myself.” But the reality is: that’s probably not going to be an option for you.
It might be worth considering and voting for where we’d like our healthcare system to be when our parents (or when WE) become the people who aren’t ready to die yet but will need daily care to live. We should consider whether or not wealthy people should pay more for Medicare / Social Security. We should question the fairness of the system. The affluent, as a group, take in more benefits from the system than they ever put into it, because they live longer. [source] We might also want to consider the continuation or expansion of stem cell research with regard to Alzheimer’s / dementia. Just throwing those thoughts out there for the fundamentalist, “small-government” teaparty and glibertarian voters.
Because the alternative, small-government crowd, is that you all plan to go out like Ayn Rand, talking and voting one way while, in the end, you’ll anonymously sponge off a government system you claim to hate because it makes people “weak” and “lazy.” And that’s IF there’s a government system at all when it’s your turn. In the meantime, if you’re a working or middle class Republican voter, keep worrying about low state and federal tax rates for the wealthy and watch while your government cuts its state and federal services and programs to the bone. Because those are programs and services for the elderly as well as everyone else who needs help.
And here’s your consolation (or maybe it’s mine?): the only way that these choices you’re making today won’t catch up to you in the future, in a very personal way, will be because you won the lottery (and you now have no financial worries) or because you died early (you never got old). Now take a guess if either option, statistically, is likely to happen to you.
The one-percenters (the incredibly wealthy) can’t be happy with all this scrutiny that Mitt’s being subjected to in this most recent presidential campaign of his. Especially when you consider the current state of affairs with the underclass and their lack of money and homes and jobs and cake. You can imagine how upsetting it must be for some of these billionaires, waiting for their butlers to serve dinner, crouched around their enormous dining room tables, in their mansions, set on fortified and guarded acreage, sipping their martinis and whispering between clenched teeth: “What if the rabble is listening to all this, for God’s sake!“
Then consider this:
[...] There have been hundreds of books about globalization and how it would break down borders. But I am unaware of a well-developed theory from that time about how the super-rich and the corporations they run would secede from the nation state.
I do not mean secession in terms of physical withdrawal from the territory of the state, although that happens occasionally. It means a withdrawal into enclaves, a sort of internal immigration, whereby the rich disconnect themselves from the civic life of the nation and from any concern about its well-being except as a place to extract loot. Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it. If one can afford private security, public safety is of no concern; if one owns a Gulfstream jet, crumbling bridges cause less apprehension – and viable public transportation doesn’t even show up on the radar screen. With private doctors on call, who cares about Medicare?
To some degree, the rich have always secluded themselves from the gaze of the common herd; for example, their habit for centuries has been to send their offspring to private schools. But now this habit is exacerbated by the plutocracy’s palpable animosity toward public education and public educators, as Michael Bloomberg has demonstrated. To the extent public education “reform” is popular among billionaires and their tax-exempt foundations, one suspects it is as a lever to divert the more than one-half trillion dollars in federal, state and local education dollars into private hands, meaning themselves and their friends.(ii) A century ago, at least we got some attractive public libraries out of Andrew Carnegie. Noblesse oblige like Carnegie’s is presently lacking among our seceding plutocracy.
In both world wars, even a Harvard man or a New York socialite might know the weight of an Army pack. Now, the military is for suckers from the laboring classes, whose subprime mortgages you just sliced into CDOs and sold to gullible investors in order to buy your second Bentley or rustle up the cash to employ Rod Stewart to perform at your birthday party. Courtesy of Matt Taibbi, we learn that the sentiment among the super-rich toward the rest of America is often one of contempt rather than noblesse; Bernard Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot, says about the views of the 99 percent: “Who gives a crap about some imbecile?”
Here’s a fun game to play from liberalsarecool: GUESS WHO SAID IT –
“Voters are just now meeting the Real Romney — the buyout tycoon who executed takeovers, bankrupted businesses, and sent jobs overseas while killing American jobs.” — Guess who said it!
“Is capitalism really about the ability of a handful of rich people to manipulate the lives of thousands of other people and walk off with the money? I do draw a distinction between looting a company, leaving behind broken families and broken neighborhoods, and then leaving a factory that should be there.”— Guess who said it!
Oops! Romney’s competition had better watch it, or we’re all going to see how the one-percent really makes their millions and billions (and NOT because they work harder). Therefore, naturally, and quicker than you can light a $200 cigar with a $100 bill, the GOP establishment is rushing to defend Romney’s Vulture Capitalism from this populist backlash… we mustn’t call it “Capitalism” — let’s say we’re defending economic freedom!
Maher: [The GOP presidential candidates] have made me see I’m not really rich — I’m something far more noble. I’m a job creator! (Angelic music) …But you know what? Just by suggesting, just by bringing it up, that he is going to tax me more, Comrade Obama has created an atmosphere of uncertainty that makes me skittish about creating more jobs. Yeah. I have been so freaked out, today at breakfast I could barely butter my gold.
Maher: [...] I have been so shitting in my pants about this uncertainty thing, that yesterday I let go a dozen essential workers at my compound, including my Tivo programmer, my manscaper, the liposuctionist, my gardener’s personal trainer, my dog whisperer, the look-alike I hire to foil assassination attempts, my private farmer, the lady who dispenses the hand-sanitizer after our pre-show prayer circle, the girl I pay to mistake me for Jon Hamm, and the guy who takes care of the shark tank…
It is wrong that in the United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000 should pay higher tax rates than somebody pulling in $50 million. Anybody who says we can’t change the tax code to correct that, anyone who has signed some pledge to protect every single tax loophole so long as they live, they should be called out. They should have to defend that unfairness — explain why somebody who’s making $50 million a year in the financial markets should be paying 15 percent on their taxes, when a teacher making $50,000 a year is paying more than that — paying a higher rate. They ought to have to answer for it. And if they’re pledged to keep that kind of unfairness in place, they should remember, the last time I checked the only pledge that really matters is the pledge we take to uphold the Constitution.
Now, we’re already hearing the usual defenders of these kinds of loopholes saying this is just “class warfare.” I reject the idea that asking a hedge fund manager to pay the same tax rate as a plumber or a teacher is class warfare. I think it’s just the right the thing to do. I believe the American middle class, who’ve been pressured relentlessly for decades, believe it’s time that they were fought for as hard as the lobbyists and some lawmakers have fought to protect special treatment for billionaires and big corporations.
Nobody wants to punish success in America. What’s great about this country is our belief that anyone can make it and everybody should be able to try -– the idea that any one of us can open a business or have an idea and make us millionaires or billionaires. This is the land of opportunity. That’s great. All I’m saying is that those who have done well, including me, should pay our fair share in taxes to contribute to the nation that made our success possible. We shouldn’t get a better deal than ordinary families get. And I think most wealthy Americans would agree if they knew this would help us grow the economy and deal with the debt that threatens our future.
It comes down to this: We have to prioritize. Both parties agree that we need to reduce the deficit by the same amount — by $4 trillion. So what choices are we going to make to reach that goal? Either we ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share in taxes, or we’re going to have to ask seniors to pay more for Medicare. We can’t afford to do both.
Either we gut education and medical research, or we’ve got to reform the tax code so that the most profitable corporations have to give up tax loopholes that other companies don’t get. We can’t afford to do both.
This is not class warfare. It’s math. (Laughter.) The money is going to have to come from someplace. And if we’re not willing to ask those who’ve done extraordinarily well to help America close the deficit and we are trying to reach that same target of $4 trillion, then the logic, the math says everybody else has to do a whole lot more: We’ve got to put the entire burden on the middle class and the poor. We’ve got to scale back on the investments that have always helped our economy grow. We’ve got to settle for second-rate roads and second-rate bridges and second-rate airports, and schools that are crumbling.
That’s unacceptable to me. That’s unacceptable to the American people. And it will not happen on my watch. I will not support — I will not support — any plan that puts all the burden for closing our deficit on ordinary Americans. And I will veto any bill that changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to pay their fair share. We are not going to have a one-sided deal that hurts the folks who are most vulnerable.
Read full transcript…
Or watch the video…
THIS IS AN EXCELLENT PIECE FROM JOEL KOTKIN IN FORBES about the coming global class war. The reality is that even with education and hard work, younger generations can’t look forward to living better than their parents anymore. The middle-class is being squeezed out of existence as American manufacturing and formerly white-collar jobs move offshore, while labor unions — which in earlier decades set wage and workplace standards for everyone — have been considered the enemy of Capitalists and the GOP for at least three decades (and so have become the enemy of the rank-and-file Republican voter by default). There will be a breaking point.
In the earlier decades of the 20th century working class youths could look forward to jobs in Britain’s vibrant industrial economy and, later, in the growing public sector largely financed by both the earnings of the City of London and credit. Today the industrial sector has shrunk beyond recognition. The global financial crisis has undermined credit and the government’s ability to pay for the welfare state.
[...] Diminished prospects — what many pundits praise as the “new normal” — now confront a vast proportion of the population. One indication: The expectation of earning more money next year has fallen to the lowest level in 25 years. Wages have been falling not only for non-college graduates but for those with four-year degree as well. Over 43% of non-college-educated whites complain they are downwardly mobile.
Given this, it’s hard to see how class resentment in this country can do anything but grow in the years. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke claimed as early as 2007 that he was worried about growing inequality in this country, but his Wall Street and corporate-friendly policies have failed to improve the grassroots economy.
[...] Many conservatives here, as well as abroad, reject the huge role of class. To them, wealth and poverty still reflect levels of virtue — and societal barriers to upward mobility, just a mild inhibitor. But modern society cannot run according to the individualist credo of Ayn Rand; economic systems, to be credible and socially sustainable, must deliver results to the vast majority of citizens. If capitalism cannot do that expect more outbreaks of violence and greater levels of political alienation — not only in Britain but across most of the world’s leading countries, including the U.S.
Something needs to change with all this economic inequality. For those of us who aren’t millionaires, I guess all we can do is hope that the FEMA-built Thunderdomes won’t be so bad. Which is silly, I know, since by the time the Thunderdomes need to be built, FEMA will have been defunded by “small-government” Republicans to free up enough revenue for further tax cuts and subsidies for the wealthiest one-percent.
“Oh, I’m sorry — did I say rich? I meant “job creators“… when did the business community become so sensitive that we have to treat them like some kind of rare, exotic animal? Don’t startle them or they’ll fly away! We need to soothe them so they can nest here and lay their magic eggs full of jobs, WHICH NEVER HATCH, by the way.” — Bill Maher
We can all agree that they’ve banked enough tax cuts in the past decade to create many, many jobs. Hilarious how the GOP is trying to convince us that the wealthy are now ‘job creators’ and we shouldn’t raise taxes on the job creators.
We shouldn’t have to bribe the rich with tax cuts to create jobs. If businesses and corporations had lots of customers (you know, people with good, steady jobs and a little extra cash), there would be plenty of jobs and a thriving economy. Isn’t it weird how things slow down when the wealthy bank all their extra cash, ship American jobs overseas, and either stagnate everyone wages or bust unions so they can pay minimum wage with no benefits? You’d think there was some kind of cause and effect going on here.