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A SHARECROPPER NATION

September 3, 2011 - Ray Hall (Archive)
(This is the first of a series of articles that deals with reasons our economy and our country is being shortchanged and becoming a nation of sharecroppers driven by the greed of a few abetted by a distinct political minority.)

Tea-publicans accuse Democrats of engaging in class-warfare—pitting the poor against the rich—the job creators, as they like to say. They moan that the tax code unfairly favors 40 percent of Americans they claim do not pay any income tax. But that simply isn’t true—it is a lie that keeps being repeated.

A sizeable chunk of that 40%, referred to by Tea-publican loyalists and all of their announced candidates for President, work and pay income taxes through payroll deductions and let us not forget the other taxes, sales taxes, property taxes ad nauseam. Ergo, Tea-publicans are obviously not against the income tax—they are only and inalterably opposed to graduated income taxes for the well off.

The forerunner to our progressive income tax was actually begun to finance the Civil War. Annual incomes between $600 and $10,000 were taxed at 3 percent and incomes over $10,000 were taxed at a higher rate. It was not until 1913 that the 16th amendment made income taxes permanent.

The early side of the nineteen teens was an era when names such as Morgan, Rockefeller and Carnegie accumulated enormous wealth. So great was that accumulation of riches that only 1% of Americans owned a whopping 18% of the nation’s wealth. It was that awful concentration of money that fueled the call for a progressive income tax that ultimately spawned the 16th Amendment to the Constitution. Americans feared that vast disparity in wealth would transform the United States into a European-patterned aristocracy.

Now, today, the situation is much worse. That richest 1% of Americans owns and controls more than 24% of all America’s wealth. Injustice and disparity is everywhere obvious using any measurable standard. Yet, that which is dangerously obvious remains off the radar screens of most Americans, but they feel its effects.

In 1980 corporate CEOs (Chief Executive Officers) made 42 times the pay of a typical worker. In 2010, thirty years later, we find CEOs making 324 times the pay for an average worker and this is at a time when the American worker is 10 times more productive than his Chinese counterpart.

The richest 400 American oligarchs have more wealth at their disposal than 150 million other Americans. But these 400 richest Americans enjoy an effective tax rate of slightly more than 16%, which means that since the 1950s taxes for this group, has dropped by more than two thirds. During those same 50 years taxes for the working person has nearly doubled.

Tea-publicans like Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Michelle Bachmann, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor embrace the notion that American businesses are not creating jobs but sitting on nearly 2 trillion dollars because of unfair taxes. Again, that’s untrue.

Even Deborah Wince Smith, President of the Council on Competitiveness, a group that works with business, recently admitted on the PBS News Hour just how grim the present day situation is in the United States. By the year 2020, she said, “80% of middle-class consumers will be outside the United States.”

At a time when American workers are under assault, at a time when school teachers are being attacked, at a time when workers in their fifties face the very real, grim reality of never being productively employed again, Americans everywhere should be alarmed. Companies that are sitting on that stash of cash have made it by following $3.00 a day labor and are sacrificing America’s workers and America for short term profits, and they are abetted in this destruction by a minority of political malcontents.

 
 

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