Archive for category Economic Exploitation
Via Raw Story:
In a letter (PDF) sent to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Attorney General Eric Holder and SEC Chair Mary Jo White on Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) demanded to know why the government keeps accepting financial settlements from criminal bankers when they could instead be taken to trial, convicted and locked up.
Senator Warren wrote (emphasis added):
The consequence can be insufficient compensation to those who are harmed by illegal activity and inadequate deterrence of future violations. If large financial institutions can break the law and accumulate millions in profits and, if they get caught, settle by paying out of those profits, they do not have much incentive to follow the law.
Tax time is coming in less than a month. Unless you’re with the 1 Percent, it will cost you. Paul Buchheit on AlterNet:
Corporations have simply stopped paying their taxes, perhaps using the 2008 recession as an excuse to plead hardship, but then never restoring their tax obligations when business got better. The facts are indisputable. For over 20 years, from 1987 to 2008, corporations paid an average of 22.5% in federal taxes. Since the recession, this has dropped to 10% — even though their profits have doubled in less than ten years.
We’re in “a golden age for corporate profits,” according to the New York Times. But not a golden age of job creation. In fact, some of the biggest and most profitable corporations are dodging taxes while cutting jobs. The list includes: General Electric, Boeing, Exxon Mobil, Verizon, Kraft Foods, Citigroup, Dow Chemical, IBM, Chevron, FedEx, Honeywell, Apple, Pfizer, Google, and Microsoft.
N.J. taxpayers protest corporate ‘dodgers’
Wealth Inequality in America
Infographics on the distribution of wealth in America, highlighting both the inequality and the difference between our perception of inequality and the actual numbers. The reality is often not what we think it is.
It’s the Inequality, Stupid
Wealth Inequality in America
How Unequal We Are: The Top 5 Facts You Should Know About The Wealthiest One Percent Of Americans
CEO pay is 380 times average worker’s
Recently we learned that real disposable income was down in January, partly due to the payroll tax hike that was part of the “fiscal cliff” deal. The federal government went over the so-called “cliff” anyway.
Today there was a party on Wall Street as the Dow Jones industrial average reached a record high shortly after the opening bell. It’s on track to close above the previous record of 14,164 reached on Oct. 9, 2007. It’s up 7.8 percent for the year. Some call it a “TINA market,” for “there is no alternative.” Interest on savings and bond yields are at rock bottom due to Fed policy, forcing investors to rely on stocks.
However, as Pat Garofalo points out on Think Progress, workers’ wages as a percentage of the economy are hovering near record lows.
Hey, check out what happened with wages during the Clinton administration (1993-2000). Only time since 1970 that wages recovered after a recession.
As Quartz’s Matt Phillips put it, “in many ways Americans are still sucking wind after the gut punch they suffered in 2008.” In fact, the richest 1 percent of Americans have captured 121 percent of the income gains achieved during the current recovery, meaning everyone else has actually lost ground in terms of income since the economy bottomed out.
Those jobs we lost in Bush’s Great Recession have either not come back, or they have been replaced by lower-paying jobs. Party on, Wall Street.
Robert Reich: Why There’s a Bull Market for Stocks and a Bear Market for Workers
Rarely before in American history have public policies so radically helped the most fortunate among us, so cruelly harmed the least fortunate, and exposed so many average working Americans to such widespread insecurity.
Source: Washington Post
President Obama’s proposed $9.00 minimum wage (by the end of 2015) would still not be a living wage, and would even leave families below the poverty line.
In other words, raising the current minimum of $7.25 an hour by so little does almost nothing to address the problem of rising income inequality in America. If you adjust for inflation (see graph), you see that the minimum was around $10 an hour in current dollars in the late 1960s. Dean Baker:
It is important to realize that this was not always the case. The federal minimum wage was first put in place in 1938. From that year until 1968 when its value peaked, the purchasing power of the minimum wage increased by more than 140 percent. As a result, minimum wage workers saw a sharp increase in their living standards. Over this 30 year period, low wage workers shared in the gains of the economy as a whole as the minimum wage rose in step with productivity growth.
If workers at the bottom had continued to share in the economy’s growth in the years since 1968 as they had in the three decades before 1968, we would be looking at a very different economy and society. If the minimum wage had risen in step with productivity growth it would be over $16.50 an hour today.That is higher than the hourly wages earned by 40 percent of men and half of women.
It’s important to remember that as long as the minimum wage is not a living wage, taxpayers make up some of the difference in terms of social safety net programs like SNAP (food stamps), and low-income rent subsidies. This is, in effect, a gift to employers who pay poverty wages.
The Minimum Wage: Myths & Facts
The latest Census Bureau data shows that one in two Americans currently falls into either the “low income” category or is living in poverty. Low-income is defined as those earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level. Adjusted for inflation, the earnings for the bottom 20 percent of families have dropped from $16,788 in 1979 to just under $15,000. Earnings for the next 20 percent have been stuck at $37,000.
Source: Us Against Greed
Ten Numbers the Rich would like Fudged
The numbers reveal the deadening effects of inequality in our country, and confirm that tax avoidance, rather than a lack of middle-class initiative, is the cause.
1. Only THREE PERCENT of the very rich are entrepreneurs.
According to both Marketwatch and economist Edward Wolff, over 90 percent of the assets owned by millionaires are held in a combination of low-risk investments (bonds and cash), personal business accounts, the stock market, and real estate. Only 3.6 percent of taxpayers in the top .1% were classified as entrepreneurs based on 2004 tax returns. A 2009 Kauffman Foundation study found that the great majority of entrepreneurs come from middle-class backgrounds, with less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs coming from very rich or very poor backgrounds.
2. Only FOUR OUT OF 150 countries have more wealth inequality than us.
In a world listing compiled by a reputable research team (which nevertheless prompted double-checking), the U.S. has greater wealth inequality than every measured country in the world except for Namibia, Zimbabwe, Denmark, and Switzerland.
3. An amount equal to ONE-HALF the GDP is held untaxed overseas by rich Americans.
The Tax Justice Network estimated that between $21 and $32 trillion is hidden offshore, untaxed. With Americans making up 40% of the world’s Ultra High Net Worth Individuals, that’s $8 to $12 trillion in U.S. money stashed in far-off hiding places.
Based on a historical stock market return of 6%, up to $750 billion of income is lost to the U.S. every year, resulting in a tax loss of about $260 billion.
4. Corporations stopped paying HALF OF THEIR TAXES after the recession.
After paying an average of 22.5% from 1987 to 2008, corporations have paid an annual rate of 10% since. This represents a sudden $250 billion annual loss in taxes.
U.S. corporations have shown a pattern of tax reluctance for more than 50 years, despite building their businesses with American research and infrastructure. They’ve passed the responsibility on to their workers. For every dollar of workers’ payroll tax paid in the 1950s, corporations paid three dollars. Now it’s 22 cents.
Via Raw Story:
In a Nov. 8 memo, McDonald’s USA Chief Operating Officer Jim Johannesen pushed franchises to “ensure your restaurants are open throughout the holidays.”
“Our largest holiday opportunity as a system is Christmas Day,” Johannesen wrote. “Last year, [company-operated] restaurants that opened on Christmas averaged $5,500 in sales.”
…An Ad Age analysis determined that if all McDonald’s restaurants opened on Christmas, it could mean an additional $84 million…
McDonald’s will not give employees overtime pay on Christmas, according McDonald’s spokesperson Heather Oldani.
Via HuffPo. Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero reacts to the right-wing Republican sneak attack on Michigan workers.
“The Republicans put this through in lightning speed, in lame duck. It’s outrageous and despicable what they’ve done, in my opinion. They did no public hearing. They did the best they could to shut out any public input at all into the process.
…A democracy is not a forever thing. You have to get up every day. Every day liberty and freedom must be won anew.
We’re back to the politics of fifty years ago…”
RTW, the right to work more for less money, is supported by only 6 percent of the people of Michigan.
It’s no mystery where Michigan’s RTW legislation came from. The aggressively pro-corporate American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, is a policy clearinghouse… for bills that can be introduced at a moment’s notice in state legislative chambers.
Chystia Freeland’s op-ed in the NY Times.
And Kathleen Geier’s response at Washington Monthly.
But her essential point — that contemporary American elites, by acting exclusively according to what is in their interest in the short term by extracting our collective wealth for themselves and closing off opportunities for social mobility to others, are in the long-run sowing the seeds of destruction for themselves, our economy, and our society. Some of the smarter plutocrats like Warren Buffet understand this phenomenon and are trying to reverse it, but most of the rest of them are completely blind to it. Either that, or they simply don’t care; in the charming parlance of the Wall Street, it’s a case of “IBGYBG” — “I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone.”
Didn’t somebody once say about capitalists, “Give them enough rope and they’ll hang themselves?” Indeed.
The basic point of both articles is that America’s wealthiest are engaging in an age-old and ultimately self-destructive pattern of behavior.
National Journal: The Inequality Speech That TED Won’t Show You
Prepare to meet Nick Hanauer. He’s a venture capitalist from Seattle who was the first non-family investor in Amazon.com. Today he’s a very rich man. And, somewhat jarringly, he’s screaming to anyone who will listen that he, and other wealthy innovators like him, doesn’t create jobs. The middle class does – and its decline threatens everyone in America, from the innovators on down.
Here’s an excerpt from Hanauer’s speech last March:
Anyone who’s ever run a business knows that hiring more people is a capitalists course of last resort, something we do only when increasing customer demand requires it. In this sense, calling ourselves job creators isn’t just inaccurate, it’s disingenuous.
That’s why our current policies are so upside down. When you have a tax system in which most of the exemptions and the lowest rates benefit the richest, all in the name of job creation, all that happens is that the rich get richer.
Since 1980 the share of income for the richest Americans has more than tripled while effective tax rates have declined by close to 50%.
If it were true that lower tax rates and more wealth for the wealthy would lead to more job creation, then today we would be drowning in jobs. And yet unemployment and under-employment is at record highs.