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July 4th Independence Day for congressmen is different than what it is for The People

July 4th Independence Day for congressmen is different than what it is for The People

Hey Baby, it’s the 4th of July!

Hope all you 99-percenters are having a great holiday drinking beer and eating BBQ in the hot sun on this fine summer day.

Just so you know, We The People celebrate our nation’s independence from monarchic rule – which is a very good thing, because you know… to form a more perfect union with rule of the people, by the people, for the people – very different than our “elected” congress. They celebrate their independence from the people. They serve only the elite.

You see, things have changed over the past 238 years. We The People aren’t very well represented in the halls of congress. Timothy Egan explains:

People are leaving the Republican Party, and to a lesser extent the Democrats, to jump in the nonpartisan lane. The independents are more likely to want something done about climate change, and immigration reform. They’re not afraid of gay marriage or contraception or sensible gun laws. They think government can be a force for good.

And none of those sentiments are represented by the current majority in the people’s House. The Senate, at least, has two independents, both of whom caucus with the Democrats. In the House? Zero. Remember that the next time Speaker John Boehner says that his members are doing the work of the American people. They’re doing Fox’s work, which is why they’ve had endless hearings on Benghazi, and voted more than 50 times to take away people’s health care, but won’t allow a vote on the minimum wage or immigration reform.

If you thought that the last election — in which 1.2 million more votes were cast for a Democratic member of the House, but the Republicans kept control by a healthy margin — was unrepresentative, the coming contest will set a new standard for mismatch between the voters’ will and the people who represent them.

Only 12 percent of the general public is defined as “steadfast conservative,” in the latest breakdown of seven political niches done by Pew. But that rises to 19 percent for the “politically engaged.” Thus the Tea Party, though disliked by most Americans, can win elections in red states, and send people to Washington who will govern only for the narrow, passionate base that elected them.

What to do? First, recognize the imbalance. Any democracy is broken when a plurality is not represented in the halls of power.

And who are our elected Republican members of congress representing? Not me. Not you. They represent the richest of the rich. They write laws to funnel more and more money to the top 1% of the 1%. It’s really the only reason the Republican party exists anymore. Derek Thompson writing for The Atlantic tells just how wide the gap is between the super rich and you and me and my neighbors:

In the past half century, income growth among the top 1 percent of Americans has greatly outpaced that of those on the lower rungs. But it’s the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent who have truly left everyone else in the dust.

In the past half century, income growth among the top 1 percent of Americans has greatly outpaced that of those on the lower rungs. But it’s the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent who have truly left everyone else in the dust.

Be sure to click on the link to see the graphs. They tell the story quite clearly.

So, when you are lighting off your bottle rockets and mortar rounds tonight, in your mind, you should be aiming them at congress and the plutocrats they serve.

Corporate Citizen Dick Boeing vs. Arrogant Prick Cadillac ELR

Corporate Citizen Dick Boeing vs. Arrogant Prick Cadillac ELR

Speaking of total dicks like Mr. Boeing in the post below, last night I was reminded of another big dick in manufacturing – Cadillac.

This commercial first aired during the Super Bowl. I think it was won the “Ugly American Award” or maybe the “Arrogant Prick Award”. I can’t remember which one. Anyway, I hadn’t seen it since the big game until last night during The Academy Awards. In case you were lucky enough to miss it and don’t know what I’m talking about, here is the worst car commercial I’ve ever seen. It’s titled “Poolside”.

What kind of person would feel good about buying a Cadillac ELR after watching that nightmare of a commercial? Only some selfish prick that worships the likes of my tax-cheating neighbor, Corporate Citizen Boeing.

The American Dream is dead.

Go buy a Fiat. They make arrogance-free commercials.

Boeing doesn’t pay federal income taxes, cuts employee benefits, and pays it’s CEO $27.5M

Boeing doesn’t pay federal income taxes, cuts employee benefits, and pays it’s CEO $27.5M

Boeing Corporation makes billions in profits but pays no corporate income tax. In fact, most years the government pays them – a lot. From today’s Seattle Times:

Although the aerospace and defense giant booked a profit of $5.9 billion last year, the U.S. government winds up owing the company $199 million.

“Every citizen of the state of Washington can proudly say that they pay more taxes than Boeing,” said Bob McIntyre, director of the Washington, D.C.-based tax-policy-research group Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ).

Boeing’s federal tax rate works out to negative 3.3 percent.

Over the past dozen years, during which Boeing reported to its shareholders a total profit of more than $43 billion, the company’s net cumulative refund of federal tax is more than $1.6 billion.

Taking all the federal taxes paid, or not paid, since 2002, Boeing’s average federal tax rate is minus 3.8 percent.

Their competitors pay taxes:

Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics are respectively plus 18.4 percent, plus 24 percent and plus 29 percent.

With all those profits and subsidies from the federal government, one would think Boeing could afford to keep funding the defined benefit plan for the machinists that build the planes. But no, the machinists had to cave in to corporate threats to move their jobs from Seattle to some southern state where unions have little or no power and accept a 401(k) plan in place of their pension plan.

With such a focus on profits the company also must have had to cut compensation and benefits for CEO Jim McNerney, right? Uh, that would be an emphatic “NO“.

Boeing Co. awarded Chief Executive Jim McNerney almost $27.5 million in annual compensation for 2012, a 20% increase from a year earlier

That’s 793 times the average worker’s pay. Well then at least he must have to expect lower retirement benefits, right? Another “NO“.

If McNerney retires now he will get $265,575 a month.

Okay then, so since he’s set for life and he’s made the tough decision cut benefits for workers that build the airplanes that make him so rich, he certainly wouldn’t do anything to interfere with what they can expect to receive in the way of Social Security benefits, right? Oh yes he would…

In recent years Boeing CEO Jim McNerney has headed the Business Roundtable, a lobbying group of top U.S. corporations. Earlier this year that group called for raising the eligibility age for Social Security to 70 years old, as well as crimping back on the benefits (by reducing the index of inflation used to calculate payouts.)

So Boeing screws the federal government out of billions in tax revenue, pays it’s CEO tens of millions per year, cuts corporate benefits for its workers, and lobbies for reductions its workers federal benefits.

What a great corporate citizen! I mean “person”. Who wouldn’t want to hang out with a dick like that?

NFL Super Bowl lottery tickets go to mediocre fans who sell them for a huge profit.

NFL Super Bowl lottery tickets go to mediocre fans who sell them for a huge profit.

As I write this we are one week away from Super Bowl XLVIII. The Denver Broncos will face off against our Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on February 2, 2014 at 3:25 p.m. PST on Fox Network. Las Vegas has Denver favored by 3 points.

When:By time zone
PST (Pacific, where Seattle is):03:25 pm on Fox
MST (Mountain, where Colorado is):04:25 pm on Fox
CST (Central, where nobody in the Super Bowl this year is):05:25 pm on Fox
EST (Eastern, where the Super Bowl is):06:25 pm on Fox

My friend Zippy and I have been going to Seahawks games together for twenty years. Before that Zippy and his dad went to the games. They were inaugural season ticket holders, so Zippy has been going to games since the franchise started in 1976 – that’s 38 years.

The way the Seahawks allocate Super Bowl tickets to fans is through a lottery whereby season ticket holders get points for all the years they’ve had tickets, and those who have stuck with the team through good times and some really bad times (remember Rick Mirer? Ken Behring?), for 38 seasons get an extra 10 pints in the digital lottery. So odds seemed pretty favorable for Zippy and me to win the ticket lottery and be given the opportunity to buy two tickets to the Super Bowl for $800 each. So much for the odds. Zippy got the email on Sunday night after the Seahawks beat their arch-rival, the San Francisco 49ers, in one of the most exciting NFC Championship games ever. The email said: “We are sorry to inform you that your account was not drawn in the lottery”.

We were not happy.

Some fans from both teams did get tickets, and some of them “can’t make it” to the game, so they are selling their tickets. I had the privilege of getting hooked up with a Seahawk fan whose asking price was $2,500 a ticket and a Broncos fan whose asking price was $1,600 per ticket. I tried to talk the Bronco’s person down to $1,200, but he wouldn’t bite.

Who are these season-ticket-holding fans that have watched the Seahawks overcome major obstacles and come out on top of the NFC that “can’t make it to the Super Bowl”?Are any of them the same “fans” that sold their NFC Championship tickets to 49er fans for substantial profit? There were a lot of people sporting Niner gear at the NFC Championship game, and they had to get those tickets from Seattle people.

Well here’s what I think of those people – those “fans” turned profiteers: They are MEDIOCRE fans. If they want to watch the Seahawks play next season, they should all be forced to wear this jersey.

Seahwak Mediocre FanI’m better than you! Don’t you talk to me you sorry fans who don’t deserve the lottery tickets that somehow went to you instead of me and Zippy. Too bad we can’t be like our secondary – Me like Sherman spinning and extending my arm up high to tip those tickets directed to a mediocre profiteering fan into the hands of Zippy, who like Malcolm Smith, catches them and guarantees our way into the Super Bowl.

Instead we’ll be home watching the game on TV with our friends, who we know are real fans who would never sell their tickets to a Super Bowl they couldn’t go to (reason would have to be due to life-threatening injury or illness) or any other game to another real fan for a profit. Why? Because it’s wrong. Very wrong.

Thanks to all the MEDIOCRE fans out there selling their $800, third-level, corner end zone tickets for a 200% to 300% markup, the only people – besides the real fans who will use their tickets – who can afford to spend $2,500 for poor seats and I’ve heard up to something like $20,000 for good seats, are the 1%. I hope a hard, cold, horizontal rain falls on all of them.

Go Hawks!

GOP’s strategy: Attack the poor, protect the rich and blame the grandchildren

GOP’s strategy: Attack the poor, protect the rich and blame the grandchildren

eat the rich

If the recent government shutdown and brinkmanship over raising the debt ceiling has shown us anything, it is to crystallize the willingness of the Republican Party to attack, with almost breathtaking fanaticism, programs that are designed primarily to help middle and lower income Americans by strengthening the nation’s tattered safety net.

The Affordable Care Act, whatever its flaws, will cover millions of low-income Americans by an expansion of Medicaid (Oregon has already lowered its uninsured rate by 10% through the Medicaid expansion contained in the ACA) and provide additional millions with the opportunity to buy affordable private health insurance, with government subsidies to help pay the premiums for those who qualify.

At most the ACA is a modest reform of the private health insurance system, with an expansion of Medicaid thrown in for good measure to help those folks whose income puts them beyond the reach of the private insurance system. Yet even this modest law to help our least fortunate citizens is fought with the sort of tenacity and fervor by the right and the GOP that any reasonable person would assume would be directed only at a Canadian-style single payer system. It’s even more perplexing and disgraceful when one considers that the GOP itself has provided no substantive plan of its own that would come anywhere close to the goal of the ACA to provide near universal coverage.

The reason, of course, is that the GOP does not see universal health care coverage as a worthy objective at all.

This blatant disregard for middle and low income Americans is displayed, too, in its budget aims. The GOP insists that any budget negotiations will take place in the context of no new taxes; even loophole closures, being off the table. Instead, the GOP will discuss only government spending cuts. And where do they want to cut? Well, we’ve already seen the GOP House voting to cut $70 billion over 10 years from food aid to the poor from the Farm Bill. And with Democrats desperate to get out from under sequestration cuts to vital domestic discretionary programs, the GOP’s sole offer is to shift the bite to entitlements such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security- more beating up on the poor and elderly (and poor elderly).

The GOP’s justification for slashing important programs that primarily assist the non-wealthy of our society is the magnitude of our national debt and the continuing deficits which we are passing on to our children and grandchildren. Setting aside the fact that deficits are already falling, it’s difficult to view this angst over the burden we are passing to future generations as anything but insincere and self-serving nonsense – merely crocodile tears.

First, if the deficit mattered that much to Republicans, they wouldn’t take revenues off the table. At a time when economic data shows that the wealthiest Americans have increased their share of income following the Great Recession whilst everyone else has seen their incomes stagnate and when Mitt Romney’s unearned income and that of hedge fund managers is no more than 15% while middle-income working Americans pay 15-33%, it is an absurdity bordering on obscene to argue that the rich are overtaxed. Yet for these few, these happy few, the GOP is willing to go to the mat.

Second, Republicans never talk about the other deficits that we will be passing on to our children and grandchildren if we don’t find more revenues; for example $3.6 trillion in infrastructure repairs by 2020. And if funding for scientific and other vital research continues to diminish in real terms, how will we maintain our economic primacy going forward?

Anti-government mindlessness bordering on fanaticism, combined with an almost total disregard for America’s least fortunate citizens and a singular concern only for the wellbeing of its richest – these are the hallmarks of today’s Republican Party. With its deeply misguided aims and despicable tactics, it is doing more damage to America than al-Qaida or any nation that wishes America ill could hope to accomplish. It is well past time America fought back.

The Super Rich 1% are Taking More Money than Ever

The Super Rich 1% are Taking More Money than Ever

Followers of this blog already know that income inequality is high on my list of injustices in this world. Why should a tiny privileged sliver of our economy take so much?

Their slice of the pie has been increasing for the past forty years, but in 2012 they broke a record. From NBC News:

The pay gap between the richest 1 percent and the rest of America widened last year, making a record.

The top 1 percent of U.S. earners collected 19.3 percent of household income in 2012, their largest share in Internal Revenue Service figures going back a century.

U.S. income inequality has been growing for almost three decades. But until last year, the top 1 percent’s share of pre-tax income had not yet surpassed the 18.7 percent it reached in 1927, according to an analysis of IRS figures dating to 1913 by economists at the University of California, Berkeley, the Paris School of Economics and Oxford University.

But since the recession officially ended in June 2009, the top 1 percent have enjoyed the benefits of rising corporate profits and stock prices: 95 percent of the income gains reported since 2009 have gone to the top 1 percent.

That compares with a 45 percent share for the top 1 percent in the economic expansion of the 1990s and a 65 percent share from the expansion that followed the 2001 recession.

If you are like me, that makes you angry. I could go off on this like I have several times in the past, or I could just say DUH! What did you think was going to happen? Did you think that things would change under the administration of a Democratic “Progressive” president? I did when I voted for Obama in 2004, but not so much anymore. No progress on this front. Inequality has gotten worse. Worse than it was prior to the Great Depression.

So what should we do? Good question. I don’t know the answer, but I do know that the next time some ignorant Republican refers to Obama as a Socialist, I will show a silly grin and wait for them to ask about what I think is so funny.

Until then, I will listen to The Clash who, as Gorby says, have a song for every occasion.

Lyrics:

I don’t want to hear about what the rich are doing
I don’t want to go to where the rich are going
They think they’re so clever, they think they’re so right
But the truth is only known by guttersnipes

I Like my iPhone but…

I Like my iPhone but…

…I’m pissed off at Apple today.

NPR reports:

Tech giant Apple used a “complex web of offshore entities” to avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes in the U.S., a congressional investigation has found.

The subcommittee’s statement detailed some of Apple’s practices:

“[Apple Operations] was incorporated in Ireland in 1980, and is owned and controlled by the U.S. parent company, Apple Inc. Ireland asserts tax jurisdiction only over companies that are managed and controlled in Ireland, but the United States bases tax residency on where a company is incorporated. Exploiting the gap between the two nations’ tax laws, Apple Operations International has not filed an income tax return in either country, or any other country, for the past five years. From 2009 to 2012, it reported income totaling $30 billion.”

and…

“A second Irish subsidiary claiming not to be a tax resident anywhere is Apple Sales International which, from 2009 to 2012, had sales revenue totaling $74 billion. The company appears to have paid taxes on only a tiny fraction of that income, resulting, for example, in an effective 2011 tax rate of only five hundreds of one percent. The third Irish subsidiary is Apple Operations Europe. In addition to creating non-tax resident affiliates, Apple Inc. has utilized U.S. tax loopholes to avoid U.S. taxes on $44 billion in otherwise taxable offshore income over the past four years, or about $10 billion in tax avoidance per year.”

That’s just wrong. They make billions of dollars setting up shop in places around the world that provide them with infrastructures that allow them to market their highly profitable products around the globe, and provide them with highly educated engineers to design their products.

Apple can certainly afford to pay taxes from the enormous pile of cash it’s been hoarding.

Apple has enough cash on hand to buy every man, woman and child in the U.S., UK, and Germany a $300 iPod Touch, and have a little left over for a case or two. Apple has enough cash to buy every person on the planet a $20 lunch. And Apple has enough cash to pay off the national debts of New Zealand, Kenya, Nigeria, Jamaica, Cuba, Egypt, Vietnam, and Singapore.

They shouldn’t have to be coerced by a Senate subcommittee to pay taxes. They should want to pay taxes into the countries that allow them to make so goddamn much money.

Wealth Inequality in America explained with animated charts and graphs

Wealth Inequality in America explained with animated charts and graphs

I’ve written about income inequality and wealth disparity many times on this blog, and I hope I’ve successfully communicated the extent of inequality in America. However, I know I’ve never written anything that comes close to describing the magnitude of the problem as well as this video.

Does anyone doubt that there’s enough wealth and income in this country to pay for our government? Our country is not any less wealthy than it was when we were running surpluses, it’s just that our wealth is much more concentrated in the hands of a tiny sliver of our population. They should be asked to pay their fair share. And by that I mean much more than they are currently paying on investment income, and much more on income of any kind over $5M and even more on income over $10M.

Bowles-Simpson and the Gang of Six both thought we should have fewer tax tiers, a broader base, and lower rates. I think they are horribly wrong. We need more tiers to capture more tax revenue from the top 1%, the top 0.1%, and especially the top 0.01%. And I have no doubt they can all afford to pay more and continue to live lavishly.

After viewing the wealth inequality video, you shouldn’t have any doubts either.

Dow Jones hits new record high – what’s that mean for the working stiffs?

Dow Jones hits new record high – what’s that mean for the working stiffs?

While watching the Today show this morning I learned, “The Dow crossed above its intraday high of $14,198.10 hit on October 9, 2007. The blue chips got a boost from upbeat economic data from Europe.”

The television reporter referred to the Dow as “a barometer of the overall economy.”

Really? Take a look at this chart from Derek Thompson’s article on The Atlantic:

Derek gets to the heart of the matter with:

When the economy crashes, we all crash together: corporate profits, employment, and growth. But when the economy recovers, we don’t recover together. Corporations rack up historic profits thanks to strong global demand, cheap global labor, and low interest rates, while American workers muddle along, their significance to these companies greatly diminished by a worldwide market for goods and people.

Stagnant Middle Class Income and Escalating Income Inequality are Not Myths

Stagnant Middle Class Income and Escalating Income Inequality are Not Myths

You may have recently read a column titled “The Myth of a Stagnant Middle Class” by Donald Boudreaux and Mark Perry published in The Wall Street Journal that starts out with:

A favorite “progressive” trope is that America’s middle class has stagnated economically since the 1970s. One version of this claim, made by Robert Reich, President Clinton’s labor secretary, is typical: “After three decades of flat wages during which almost all the gains of growth have gone to the very top,” he wrote in 2010, “the middle class no longer has the buying power to keep the economy going.”

This trope is spectacularly wrong.

To support their thesis they go on to cite some very, very misleading statistics about how the middle class is actually far better off than it was 20 to 30 years ago even though middle-class income has been stagnant during that time. They say the middle class is better off because of life-expectancy gains and because today’s modern “basics” are far superior to older, less technologically advanced versions and are relatively cheaper than they were decades ago.

First off, there is no mention of how many middle-class families require two income earners just to get by these days. Second, there is a significant difference in life expectancy gains between the top half and the bottom half of earners.

Life Expectancy Earnings Graph

And third, when they say consumer spending on basics “fell from 53% of disposable income in 1950 to 44% in 1970 to 32% today” they are counting spending by everyone, not just members of the middle class.

You’ve probably heard the metaphor of how when Bill Gates walks into a local bar the average wealth of the patrons goes up by a factor of, I don’t know, 1,000,000 or so. Point being that the same is true for spending on basic necessities. When some way overpaid corporate CEO like Ted Kelly walks into a local bar, the average percent of spending on basics drops from about 50% to around 1% or less.

And how much wealth do people like Ted Kelly, let’s say for example the Walton family, accumulate during their lives compared to regular middle-class people? Josh Bivens reports:

…it is now the case that the Walton family wealth is as large as the bottom 48.8 million families in the wealth distribution (constituting 41.5 percent of all American families) combined.

So no matter what you might read in conservative publications like The Wall Street Journal about the “myth” of stagnant growth of the middle class or income inequality, it is they who are “spectacularly wrong.” While the income of the middle class remains stagnant, the income of the top 2% keeps soaring upward and, as their incomes grow, they amass astronomical amounts wealth.

Income inequality is a very real and growing problem in our country.

And with that I leave you with this song by Ben Harper.

There’s a man on the corner
Begging for help
There’s a man that walks past him
And he’s drowning in wealth
Who doesn’t understand
How disappointment destroys the soul