Archive for top 1%

Wealth gap watch: "Marie Antoinette Bakery reopened, is proud to be serving day-old cake."

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taxes wealthy 99 percent

Another guest post by the one, the only Will Durst who's having a little fun with :

GUILLOTINE TIME

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said the rich are different from us. To which Hemingway snorted, “yeah, they have more money.” And now seems like a good time to offer up a few words of sympathy for the rich. Because our wealthy brothers and sisters are going through some tough times. Not financially. No, no, no. They’re doing pretty good on that end. Last year the stock market shot higher than the 4:20 break at a Denver pot dispensary on Jerry Garcia’s birthday.

The fortunate among us are comfortable alright, but becoming increasingly uncomfortable, if you catch my drift. It’s us nasty poor people. Again. It appears that we’re picking on them. You know. Whining. Complaining. Jealous. Hungry. Rather than pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps like they did when their daddies left them all that money.

Cries of financial inequity have been so alarming lately that venture capitalist Thomas Perkins felt compelled to compare we poor to the Nazis. He wrote that while Germany’s 1% were the Jews, America’s 1% are the Well-Heeled. And did it in a letter to the Wall Street Journal. No surprise there. Where did you think he’d get it published? The San Francisco Chronicle? Progressive Magazine? Rachel Maddow’s blog?

Sporting a Richard Mille watch which lists for $330,000, Perkins later apologized for using the term “Nazi” but doubled down on his assertion that the rich are being demonized. The bellyaching billionaire: a uniquely American phenomena. Pretty sure the Romanovs expressed similar sentiments. The Marie Antoinette Bakery has reopened and is proud to be serving day-old cake.

Apparently, acute affluence causes the outer epidermis to shrink profoundly. Causing the prosperous to exhibit super-sensitivity to the slings and arrows tossed at their outrageous fortune. To say that reaction was loud and swift is akin to implying that Mr. Everest slopes. Many malcontents called for the Perkins to have his analogy completed by tattooing a serial number onto his arm.

But in America, that anti-rich stuff doesn’t fly because folks worry that any restrictions on the loaded and bloated will come back to haunt them when their ship comes in and they themselves start rolling in it. Wealth projection. Another American exclusive.

A recent study revealed that 85 people in the world now control the same amount of wealth as half the population of the planet. 85 people have as much money as 3.5 billion. Admittedly, some of those 3.5 billion people have taken a vow of poverty. But not all.

4 of America’s 9 richest are members of the family that owns Walmart. Really? Couldn’t they pay their workers a tad more and still be 4 of the top 30 richest Americans? Top 100? 2 million employees and the last year’s profit was 16 billion dollars. That’s 8K profit off every employee. Imagine how much more stuff Walmart could sell if each employee made $2,000 extra?

They call sharks-eating machines. And corporations are sharks that eat money. But even stockholders are starting to question the $100 million CEO salary. Although, its nice to know that when there’s a run on guillotines, Walmart will stock a nice selection of attractively priced models. But if you want something extra sharp with a built in timer, might want to check out Richard Mille.

Will Durst is an award- winning, nationally acclaimed political comic. Go to willdurst.com to find about more about his new CD, “Elect to Laugh” and calendar of personal appearances including "BoomeRaging: From LSD to OMG," Wednesday the 5th @ Angelica’s in Redwood City.

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Jobless, aidless, homeless v. the wealthy who live in homes with moats, Botox rooms

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makers takers Luckovich cartoon workers joblessVia Mike Lukovich, amuniversal

In the past couple of days, the Los Angeles Times letters to the editor about the jobless and homeless knocked it out of the park. I'm sharing a few samples, because our voices matter:

Re "222,000 in state to lose jobless aid," Dec. 25

So, Republicans like Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky claim that funding extended unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless would hurt their chances of getting hired.

By that logic, it would necessarily follow that the homeless should not be given rent subsidies for an apartment because it would hinder them from buying a house someday.

I get it now.

Jerry Lasnik

Thousand Oaks

***

"222,000 in state to lose jobless aid" — that was the headline I saw Christmas morning, and it totally ended the joy that day should have brought.

I hope Santa had 535 lumps of coal for each voting member of Congress.

David Mathews

Downey

That was just in California. Nationwide, the number of those who will no longer receive unemployment benefits skyrockets to 1.3 million. Did I mention that Congress members-- who are paid $174,000 a year-- are taking a holiday break (yes, another one) to rest from all the work they didn't do?

And we all know what unemployment can lead to, right? If you answered "homelessness," you would be correct. And as so many American families struggle to eat and stay alive, the very, very wealthy struggle to come up with ways to keep up with the over-the-top Joneses by outdoing one another with preposterously showy novelty perks.

There is no link to the following letters, because, true to form, The L.A. Times failed to post these online. I transcribed these from my morning paper and added a link that is a MUST-read:

Re "Union Station's homeless," Editorial, Dec. 25

Once again we read on this Christmas Day that the business community-- in this instance, aided by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority-- finds no room for the desperately poor at Union Station.

One way to justify keeping the homeless at bay is to perpetuate blatant stereotypes, exemplified by the oft-repeated phrase "aggressive panhandling."  Both words are extremely negative and imply that people asking for charity are not only "bums" but that their actions, as the word "aggressive" conveys, border on violence.

When our favorite nonprofit organizations beg for our money, we call it intensive fundraising and assume it to be normal and expected, even when we are "aggressively" bombarded with stacks of nuisance letters and phone calls-- something no person without a home has ever done to me.

I suspect The Times was being ironic when it mentioned that only 4,000 shelter beds are available each night for Los Angeles County's more than 57,000 homeless, and then that outreach workers should encourage people at Union Station to seek out Shelters.

Douglas J. Miller

Santa Barbara

***

On Christmas Day, an article in the Business section reported on houses built with moats and other luxuries selling for as much as $50 million.

In the same paper, The Times editorialized on the homeless in Union Station. The editorial noted that there are 57,000 homeless in L.A. and only 4,000 beds to serve them.

Something is seriously wrong.

Jan Goldsmith

Sherman Oaks

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Must-Read: Personal debt that enriches Wall St. -- NOT national debt -- is greatest threat to retirees

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must read

Your Daily Dose of BuzzFlash at Truthout, via my pal Mark Karlin:

Whenever the elected political tools of the oligarchs trash Social Security, they tout 401(k)-type accounts and voluntary retirement savings programs. [...]

...WP article is entitled, "Most Americans accumulating debt faster than they’re saving for retirement":

A majority of Americans with 401(k)-type savings accounts are accumulating debt faster than they are setting aside money for retirement, further undermining the nation’s troubled system for old-age saving, a new report has found....

[...]

So the problem facing even non-Social Security dependent retirees (who have earned their checks by paying into the fund) is due to personal debt not national debt. What people owe money on are non-government expenses such as college, housing, cars, credit cards, etc.  This is private indebtedness that is contributing to a looming personal retirement shortfall of funds.

Ironically, Social Security is one of the few programs that is keeping most seniors from economic impoverishment, as meager as the average monthly check is.  [...]

Since the Reagan era, wages have been relatively stagnant in the United States as debt has risen.  It is indeed this growing personal (again not national) debt that has been a primary source of profit for the banks too big to fail.  Persons who owe large amounts of money are paying off interest at often exorbitant sums (think credit cards) while in many cases barely scratching away at principal.  This is all easy money for banks that are paying out literally .01 % on savings accounts. [...]

So, let this WP article be a mini-lesson on what the oligarchy and their minions on the Hill, such as Paul Ryan, have been up to. Since the Reagan era, they have been promoting policies that increase personal debt while stagnating wages (except for themselves, of course).  In turn, a likely majority of the 99% has to go into debt and borrow money at high interest rates, while those who save receive virtually no interest on their savings.  This, in turn (except for Social Security) limits what they can save for retirement.

Then the financial titans sponsor think tanks and give campaign contributions to blame "entitlements" for all the personal indebtedness which has fueled their profitsSo, if a "grand bargain" of Social Security and Medicare cuts are enacted, the elderly become indebted and poorer, while the Wall Street barons make even a greater profit from increased borrowing as the national debt is lowered in the name of "austerity" (without revenue increases in the form of higher progressive taxes on the rich).

Please read the entire post here.

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Nightmare on First St! US might look very different in 2014 thanks to conservative Supreme Court justices

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nightmare on first street Supreme Court of the United States
1 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20543

There were two articles in Sunday's Los Angeles Times that had me reaching for two bottles: Pepto Bismol and Jose Cuervo Gold. Both articles were about how the U.S. Supreme Court could very well steer to the right on social issues, one (written by Eric J. Segall) referring to that scenario as "a liberal nightmare."

He's not kidding; We should all be more than a little queasy at the prospects of impending major SCOTUS decisions further eroding what's left of democracy.

First an overview by David G. Savage of what we're up against when the Supreme Court begins its term on Monday:

supreme court cases

Savage describes this as "a clear opportunity to shift the law to the right on touchstone social issues such as abortion, contraception and religion, as well as the political controversy over campaign funding."

Worrisome much?

The Citizens United ruling has already been a windfall for fundraisers. And now the Supreme Court appears poised to allow more of the wealthy few to buy elections. Please read those links, because you will be and have been impacted by the outcome of bad decisions like CU as well as what's next on the agenda:

In other cases due to be heard this fall, the justices are likely to uphold state bans on college affirmative action and block most housing bias claims that allege an unfair impact on blacks and Latinos.

They may also give states more authority to restrict and regulate abortion.

On to the op-ed by Eric J. Segall, a law professor at Georgia State University and the author of "Supreme Myths: Why the Supreme Court Is Not a Court and Its Justices Are Not Judges." He begins his post with the chilling warning, "When the dust settles, if the conservative justices hold sway, Americans could find themselves living in a different country."

He then reminds us that the Citizens United decision "granted corporations and unions the same rights as private individuals to make independent political expenditures." What it did not do is address "the important distinction made in Buckley between groups or individuals giving money directly to a candidate or campaign versus the independent expenditures." My link above explains that in more detail. In short:

[C]onservative amicus briefs are urging the court to abolish that distinction and invoke the 1st Amendment to prohibit the regulation of campaign contributions... [T]his case could be the knockout punch that limits legislative efforts to reduce the corrosive effects of money on political campaigns.

And you thought all that influence the top 1% (coughKochBrotherscough) was bad now. Just wait.

On to the separation of church and state... or what's left of it:

The relationship between government and religious liberty is also at issue this term.... [Conservatives]... want the court to broadly hold that government endorsements of religion never violate the 1st Amendment's establishment clause unless the government is actually coercing religion. Such a finding would create a "coercion test," long the wish of Justice Antonin Scalia, which would allow the government to place religious symbols on public property without limitation and permit overtly Christian (or any other religious) prayers at legislative sessions without any judicial check.

He notes that if Justice Kennedy veers right on this one, "the wall between church and state, a wall that Scalia doesn't think exists, will be dramatically lowered."

gulpNext up: a big, sloppy French kiss-in-waiting to the GOP:

Souter and O'Connor are now gone, and Justices Scalia and Clarence Thomas have repeatedly urged the court to abandon the "undue burden" standard and replace it with a reasonableness test that would give lawmakers much more discretion to restrict abortions... Kennedy is again the key. Although it is unlikely he would vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade, if he turns right even a little bit, the ability of women to obtain safe and affordable abortions might be severely threatened.

Segall ties it all up with a very ugly bow:

Depending on how [Kennedy] votes, this country might look very different at the end of June 2014.

To those of you who continue to believe that elections don't matter, think again. It is the president who chooses Supreme Court justices, so stop whining and get yourselves to the ballot box. And while you're at it, help get out the vote wherever and how ever you can.

Unless, of course, rulings like the ones discussed in this post don't matter to you.

nightmare

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Supreme Court appears poised to allow more of the wealthy few to buy elections

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citizens united cartoon smaller

The conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court may very well allow the wealthy few to have even more opportunities to drown out the rest of us.

Yes, again.

More big donors with more money than most of us will see in our lifetimes may get legal permission to pour more of their more money into more political fights and more candidates.

Most of us can't afford to donate huge sums of cash to buy elections, which means the very rich will have even more influence and control over financing campaigns and corporate causes, and therefore, have more say than we do about our lives.

This anti-democratic practice changed our election system for the worse and is destroying what's left of democracy and equal rights. The Supremes' 2010 Citizens United ruling got the ball rolling, and now there's this little bombshell via the Los Angeles Times:

In what may be Act 2 in the decline and fall of campaign funding laws, the Supreme Court appears poised to lift the lid on the total amount the wealthy can give directly to all candidates and political parties.

Increasingly, the money that funds election races for Congress and the presidency comes from a small sliver of the very rich, what the Sunlight Foundation called the "elite class that serves as gatekeepers of public office in the United States." The nonpartisan group has tracked how a growing share of election money comes from the top 1% of the wealthiest Americans.

In the first major case of its new term, the court could give those donors even more clout with lawmakers and their parties. The issue is whether federal limits, not on contributions to individual races but on how much a donor can give to all candidates for Congress or party committees in a particular election cycle, violate the right of free speech.

The current law allows the rich to give millions to super PACs and other groups that pay for "independent" election ads. What they cannot do is give more than $48,600 total to all members of Congress or more than $74,600 to various party committees.

Those restrictions may end.

Guess who's behind the challenge. Just. Guess.

On Oct. 8, the Supreme Court will take up an appeal from the Republican National Committee, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon, who say contributions should be treated as "core political speech."

tadaa3McConnell is facing a primary challenge from a conservative tea partier and is also up against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, who has been leading him in the polls. So of course he's desperate to do something, anything, to change that.

If SCOTUS decides in his favor, then both political parties could each donate up to $3.6 million which "could be funneled by party leaders into a close race or races, tipping the balance of power in Congress."

Lee Drutman, a researcher at the Sunlight Foundation, said, "The data shows there are more big donors on the right than on the left."

No matter who has the most money to donate, this much is true: Money should be kept out of politics. We need a level playing field so we can have fair elections. All this monetary power and influence by a very few ends up corrupting our candidates and ultimately, the lawmakers and laws that affect every single American.

citizens united dollars are not citizens smaller

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VIDEO: Debunking Myths About Who Pays No Federal Income Tax

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debunktion junction

16th amendment income taxes16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Federal Income Tax (1913)

So much for that whole "takers vs. makers" thing. Another right wing talking point goes down the drain:

Via theurbaninstitute:

Much has been made of the fact that nearly half of Americans paid no federal income tax in 2010. Some people interpret that statistic as saying that we are a nation of makers and takers, with the makers paying the taxes that support the takers. But the story is not that simple. This video explains who doesn't pay income taxes and why, and notes that the share of non-payers is headed down to just a third a decade from now.

So what exactly are income taxes used for? This:

Medicare and Medicaid

Medical research

Public school funding

School lunches

Defense funding

Social security

Roads

Police protection

Fire protection

Public libraries

Job training

Bank regulation

Scientific research

Food inspection

Food and Drug Administration

Air traffic controllers

Unemployment benefits

Sorry, anti-taxers, but privatization just won't cut it. That would make everything even more unaffordable, and the priority would be profiting rather than focusing on the quality of services that the government provides to protect its citizens. Instead, government is doing its job, per the U.S. Constitution:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

another talking point bites the dust

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Illinois Black Suburb Can't Even Afford a Library as America Is Privatized and Foreclosed

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library closed via bigoteetoe(Photo: bigoteetoe)

Your Daily Dose of BuzzFlash at Truthout, via my pal Mark Karlin:

If knowledge from books is power, then the predominantly white status quo doesn't have to worry about young people in Ford Heights, Illinois, empowering themselves at the library anytime soon. That is because there is no library and no books to be checked out in one of the poorest suburbs (about 95% African American of what's left of a village that once had 5000 residents) in the nation.  Ford Heights is like a mini-Detroit [...]

Nothing is likely to change.  There will be no happy ending to the library-less library district in Ford Heights.

That's because, quite simply, America has written off young economically limited blacks as expendable. They are just a stereotype -- with some exceptions for the ones that make it through due to special circumstances (think of Barack Obama attending the most prestigious private school in Hawaii).  Yes, there is still a bit of upward mobility wiggle room for poor minorities, but that maneuvering space is contracting as the middle class erodes.

What you are left with is a surfeit of pawns in the great economic shift of the nation's wealth into the hands of a few.

And blacks have long been in the position of being a commodity in a white man's game.

Young minorities in Ford Heights may never read about that; they may never learn the historical context of their plight.

They have no access to a house of public literacy: a library.

Please read the entire post here.

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