Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Don't tax the "job creators."

Sounds like another stupid but effective Frank Luntz sound byte for his GOP and Fox News drones, don't you think? Still, these are words the republican party and other conservative groups would have you believe we need to follow if we want to save the American economy. It doesn't matter that over the past 30 years that:

* Middle class wages have stagnated or dropped, while hours worked have climbed for the vast majority of Americans.
* With tax breaks corporate America sent or created 2.4 million manufacturing jobs abroad while eliminating 2.9 jobs here over the past 10 years.
* An assortment of tax breaks, subsidies, and bailouts helped the 400 richest Americans increase their wealth by $30 billion during the 2008 market collapse.

The last figure is especially important for two reasons. First, in the process of increasing their wealth by $30 billion during the 2008 market collapse the total combined wealth of the 400 richest Americans reached $1.57 trillion, which was more than the combined net worth of 50% of the U.S. population. Second, $30 billion is enough to provide 500,000 school teacher, firefighter, or police jobs at $60k per year.

You would think that this would be enough to get most Americans to reconsider how and why America's wealthiest class got richer during an economic downturn, while the middle class stagnated or saw their economic position deteriorate. Indeed, you would think someone would ask whether we need to suspend or rescind the Bush tax cuts, which cost our nation about $300 billion in revenue. Think again.

Instead, most Americans are buying into the notion that they need to work harder. Oh, and they're told not to press congress to tax the job creators of America.

Much of this argument is a product of the regular rantings of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. Probably taking their cues from Frank Luntz, they're claiming that wealth in America is a product of hard work alone, so we can't tax the wealthiest Americas because they have the most money, which means they're working the hardest. Legacies, trusts, inheritances, bailouts, favorable legislation, legal waivers, court settlements, lobbying, etc. have nothing to do with building or maintaining wealth in America.

According to Fox News and Rush's ditto heads if the rich are getting richer it's because they're smarter and work harder than you and me. Conversely, if you lose your job or your wages stagnate you are a loser. Or you're simply not working hard enough. End of story. So work harder, moron.

Nothing is said about:

* Legislation that pays corporations to take jobs overseas.
* Government bailouts that payout and then reinforce crooked contract deals on Wall Street (since the early 1980s).
* Tax cuts that are neither requested nor necessary, which we have to borrow from the Chinese to pay.

The fact that 90% of America did not share in the income gains during the aughts is viewed as inconsequential. Wealth was created somewhere, so you just need to "work harder."

This is an interesting position when you consider that the GOP and other conservative groups have spent the better part of the past 30 years going after private and now public unions in an effort to gut the funding source of the democratic party. In the process they have vilified ordinary blue collar Americans - like teachers, firefighters, and police forces - while extolling the virtues of a pampered elite that have gotten congress to underwrite bailouts, then sponsor one favorable piece of legislation after another for their financial causes.

With conservative mouthpieces manning the communication lines, we now live in an America where many Americas believe that wealth has nothing to do with favorable legislation, tax cuts, bailouts, trade legislation, and organized attacks on labor but, instead, flow to those who work hard. But as Business Insider demonstrates, the evidence tells us otherwise - and it's unambiguous.

Here's a look at what's happened to tax rates on the top 1% of income earners, and the corporate tax burden in America, since the 1960s.

To reinforce the point, here's another look at the direction of taxes on the richest Americans (they went down), and tax revenues from individuals in general (increased), corporations (nose dived), and payroll (sharp increase on FICA/Medicare) over the past 40 years.

Now, after being promised more jobs, more income, and more wealth for everyone in America if we just reduced regulations on corporations and cut taxes on the rich that America would be riding a wave of full employment and prosperity, right?

Today, while Americans don't work as many unpaid hours as workers in China or Mexico, the vast majority of American workers are working longer hours for less pay (again, unless you're in the top 10% of earners). And it shows, when you look at growing wealth disparities in America ...

Still, we're told that if you haven't gotten richer as a result of Reaganomics-inspired policies and market friendly legislation it's because you need to work harder. It's your fault.

Indeed, in spite of all the legislative gifts and tax breaks that corporate America and the rich have received we have little to show for it other than a casino economy, a national debt that's 14 times what it was in 1980, record income and wealth gaps, and more than 9% unemployment. But instead of walking things back, or trying to understand what happened, we've taken an inglorious path of blaming or killing the messenger. America's Vichy Republicans are winning the day.

Out of a job? Loser. Less take home pay? Whiner. No jobs? Go after unions. Increased wealth gaps and budget deficits in America? Cushy pensions. Record bonuses and pay for Wall Street? They earned it. And on it goes ...

The end result is that today we're told that we can't afford government, while the wealthiest Americans can't be taxed because they're "job creators." This is laughable when you consider that projected budget surpluses by the CBO in 2001 ($5.8 trillion) could have paid off our national debt (perhaps this year), while Bush's tax cuts did little more than encourage speculation and widen wealth gaps in America. Throw in the fact that corporate America eliminated 2.9 million jobs during the Bush years while creating 2.4 million jobs abroad and you have one serious WTF moment.

Fortunately, there are a group of wealthy Americans who are both patriotic and understand what America's financial terrorists are doing to our country.

They understand that if America's top quintile (one-fifth) of income earners pay a majority of federal taxes (67%, 2009 figures) it's because they received a majority of our nation's income (53%) and have captured a majority of our wealth and productivity gains over the past 30 years.

They understand that if the top 10% of America's wealthiest have captured and now control more than 70% of our wealth that America is better if they also pay the lion's share of our nation's income taxes. And, no, they don't buy into the myth of income tax free loading, or similar talking point absurdities. Billionaire Warren Buffet is one of these individuals, and recently called for taxing America's richest at a higher rate, while "Millionaires for Fiscal Strength" have been calling the GOP out for their fiscal stupidity for some time now.

President Obama should call BS on the GOP's job creator lie, and start a real jobs program. And he can start by taking a page out of Peter the Great's book, and focus on our crumbling infrastructure.

- Mark

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