How the Rich Soaked the Rest of Us

From Truthout:

by: Richard D. Wolff, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis

Wednesday 02 March 2011

How the rich soaked the rest of us: The astonishing story of the last few decades is a massive redistribution of wealth, as the rich have shifted the tax burden.

Over the last half-century, the richest Americans have shifted the burden of the federal individual income tax off themselves and onto everybody else. The three convenient and accurate Wikipedia graphs below show the details. The first graph compares the official tax rates paid by the top and bottom income earners. Note especially that from the end of the Second World War into the early 1960s, the highest income earners paid a tax rate over 90 percent for many years. Today, the top earners pay a rate of only 35 percent. Note, also, how the gap between the rates paid by the richest and the poorest has narrowed. If we take into account the many loopholes the rich can and do use far more than the poor, the gap narrows even more.

One conclusion is clear and obvious: the richest Americans have dramatically lowered their income tax burden since 1945, both absolutely and relative to the tax burdens of the middle income groups and the poor.

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Living Without Religion – A Campaign by the Center for Inquiry

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Republi-Nazi Governor Walker Gets Punked: Wisconsin GOP tries to ban prank calls

From Salon:

By Justin Elliott

Wednesday, Mar 2, 2011

In the wake of the prank-calling of Gov. Scott Walker by a journalist posing as conservative billionaire David Koch, a pair of Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature have proposed a bill that would actually make prank calls illegal.

That was the call in which Walker joked about “stereotypical blue-caller workers,” revealed that he had considered planting troublemakers among the pro-labor protesters in Wisconsin, and generally buddied up to the eccentric (and fake) version of Koch that was on the line.

The Badger Herald reports on the details of the bill (note the strange nod in the first line to “legitimate uses” of spoofing):

“While use of spoofing is said to have some legitimate uses, it can also be used to frighten, harass and potentially defraud,” Lazich and Honadel said in an e-mail to legislators.

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The Phony Budget Crisis: Forget Austerity, Tax the Rich

From Common Dreams:

From Ted Rail:

by Ted Rall

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Everywhere you look, from the federal government to the states to your hometown, budget crises abound. Services are being slashed. Politicians and pundits from both parties tell us that the good times are over, that we’ve got to start living within our means.

It’s a lie.

Two case studies have made news lately: California, where new/old governor Jerry Brown is trying to close a $25 billion shortfall with a combination of draconian cuts in public services and a series of regressive tax increases, and Wisconsin, where right-winger Scott Walker says getting rid of unions would eliminate the state’s $137 million deficit.

Never mind the economists, most of whom say an economic death spiral is exactly the worst possible time for government to cut spending. Pro-austerity propaganda has won the day with the American public. A new Rasmussen poll funds that 58 percent of likely voters would approve of a shutdown until Democrats and Republicans can agree on what spending to cut.

The budget “crisis” is a phony construction, the result of right-wing “starve the beast” ideology. There is plenty of money out there—but the pols don’t want it.

There is no need to lay off a single teacher, close a single library for an extra hour, or raise a single fee by one red cent.

Every government can not only balance its budget, but wind up with a surplus.

The solution is simple: tax the rich.

Over the last 50 years tax rates for the bottom 80 percent of wage earners have remained almost static. Meanwhile the rich have received tax cut after tax cut after tax cut. For example, the rate paid by the top 0.01 percent—people who currently get more than $6.5 million a year—fell by half (from 70 to 35 percent).

Times are tough. Someone has to pay. Why not start with those who can most afford it?

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$1.2 Trillion: The National Security Figure No One Wants You To See

From Common Dreams:

by Chris Hellman

March 1, 2011

What if you went to a restaurant and found it rather pricey? Still, you ordered your meal and, when done, picked up the check only to discover that it was almost twice the menu price.

Welcome to the world of the real U.S. national security budget.  Normally, in media accounts, you hear about the Pentagon budget and the war-fighting supplementary funds passed by Congress for our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  That already gets you into a startling price range — close to $700 billion for 2012 — but that’s barely more than half of it.  If Americans were ever presented with the real bill for the total U.S. national security budget, it would actually add up to more than $1.2 trillion a year.

Take that in for a moment.  It’s true; you won’t find that figure in your daily newspaper or on your nightly newscast, but it’s no misprint.  It may even be an underestimate.  In any case, it’s the real thing when it comes to your tax dollars.  The simplest way to grasp just how Americans could pay such a staggering amount annually for “security” is to go through what we know about the U.S. national security budget, step by step, and add it all up.

So, here we go.  Buckle your seat belt: it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Fortunately for us, on February 14th the Obama administration officially released its Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 budget request.  Of course, it hasn’t been passed by Congress — even the 2011 budget hasn’t made it through that august body yet — but at least we have the most recent figures available for our calculations.

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Gay Group Joins Fight Against Wal-Mart

From The New York Times:


March 2, 2011

As Wal-Mart strives to open its first store in New York City, it has attracted a long list of opponents, from elected officials to labor leaders to small business people.

On Wednesday, another group took up the cause: a prominent gay rights group.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a gay advocacy group based in Washington, said Wal-Mart had a poor record when it came to gay employees.

“With the expansion of Wal-Mart stores comes the expansion of antiquated employment policies,” the task force said in a statement, “that provide little to no protections for, and at times even hostility toward, their L.G.B.T. employees.”

The task force criticized Wal-Mart for denying employee benefits to same-sex partners and for failing to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. By comparison, the group said two other chain stores with a strong presence in New York, Costco and Walgreens, did much better.

“It may be a local debate for New York City, but Wal-Mart is a largest private employer in country,” said Rea Carey, the executive director of the task force. “To have Wal-Mart as a substantial employer there, and an employer that lacks these basic protections, then a lot of people who need work, who seek work, simply won’t feel comfortable.”

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Still Separate, Still Unequal

From In These Times:

How our reverence for diversity and multiculturalism helps perpetuate inequality

By John M. Davis
March 2, 2011

We like to think of the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision as a watershed that marked the beginning of an America characterized by greater equality and individual rights. So profound were the changes it wrought, we tell ourselves, that blacks were just one of many minorities that benefited. What began as a demand for greater African-American equality enlarged to include the demands of various ethnic groups and “unprotected” classes. We think that what followed the Warren Court’s decision gave meaning to claims that we are a multicultural, pluralist and inclusive society.

The truth of the matter is very different. Ours is, indeed, an admirably pluralistic society. It is also increasingly unequal and shockingly segregated. Our first African-American president, Barack Obama, governs a country in which the richest 1 percent of people takes home almost 24 percent of the wealth—up from about 9 percent in 1976. The median household income of African-Americans is now 40 percent less than that of white households. The nonpartisan Civil Rights Project of UCLA says U.S. schools are more segregated today than they have been in four decades.

What began as a radical egalitarian impulse 56 years ago aiming to remake our educational and racial landscape has ended in the de facto reinstatement of “separate but equal” and an end to most integration efforts. (Recent evidence: In January, the school board governing Raleigh, N.C., eliminated its program of integrating schools based on socioeconomic status.) Yet virtually every institution of higher education takes as part of its mission or value statement a ­set of phrases that recognizes and promotes the diversity and equality of cultures.

How did we get here? How did separateness, which the Warren Court understood as the root cause of inequality in America, acquire such intellectual currency and legitimacy? Liberals and progressives are partly to blame. We fetishize multiculturism—celebrating increasing diversity in government, universities, corporate boardrooms and popular culture—while tacitly tolerating rampant inequality, poverty and informal segregation. Through our less-than-circumspect arguments for multiculturalism, we have engaged in a massive equivocation. The Warren Court would not recognize these arguments as anything but antithetical to its views about education and culture.

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