Waifs in a Dream
March 22, 2011
Here’s something: billionaire Warren Buffet says his secretary pays taxes at a higher rate than he does. Meanwhile, Exxon paid zip in 2009, but I bet you did. By the way, “…the American tax code indicates that oil production is among the most heavily subsidized businesses.
Here’s another thing: in 2008 Goldman Sachs paid less than 1% while the American middle class routinely pays 25%. Rub salt into wound: during the financial crisis we bailed out Goldman Sachs with the 25% in taxes you and I paid. But Goldman Sachs is too big to fail and the American Middle class is too powerless to matter.
One more thing: you can tell billionaire hedge fund managers also matter because tax laws written by their congressional moles award them a tax rate of 15%. You can tell that you don’t because your tax rate is 10% higher than a billionaire hedge fund manager’s (their bonuses alone typically equal several annual middle-class incomes). Why this does not lead to at least coffee-shop talk of revolution is because Warren Buffet and his secretary, Goldman Sachs and billionaire hedge fund managers all participate in the economy of the U.S. of A, a land awash in disinformation, ignorance, and a middle class with dreams of personal financial grandeur concurrent with an apparent death wish (“Some day when I might be a billionaire I want to pay a lower tax rate than the losers, meanwhile I’ll take odds I won’t be squashed.”).
I say “death wish” because, against common sense, TV ratings show that most Americans get their information from sources that operate solely in the interests of the rich and powerful. If you want to hear how the corporate class is working for you go to Fox news. Sean Hannity will set you straight: your financial woe is caused by greedy union employees wanting a fair deal rather than relentless efforts by the corporate class to drive the American middle-class to extinction.
Warren Buffet is an unusually honest billionaire. Maybe he’s even in the category of the elite founders of the nation: rich men who (though far from being saints) went against the natural inclination of the rich to mercilessly milk the small —to wring out of poverty every last drop of sweat and hope to insure that the realization of their own hope does not involve sweat.
For a relentless thirty years or so the wealthiest Americans have been waging a class war against poor and average Americans while denying their piggishness with every breath and buck they peel from workers. The minute anyone quotes a statistic or report that indicates the truth of this every mouthpiece of the rich, every corporate news source, rolls out its array of perfectly coiffed and brilliantly-toothed talking heads to “refudiate” it (thanks for that gem, Sarah Palin). They label their adversaries “socialist anti-Americans”; they cry, “Foul!” as if the truth itself was foul.
The wealthy elite hide behind clichés that really have no rational justification, but which have entered mainstream discourse as if they did. George Orwell warned us of this. He coined terms for such perversions of language and truth; terms like “doublethink” (the ability to hold contradictory ideas in your head simultaneously and accept both); and “blackwhite” (the ability to accept party propaganda no matter how absurd). What Orwell predicted is now as real as the hole in your wallet and the existence of corporate TV. The rich mask their tactics in terms such as “supply side economics”, “free market economy”, and the magic-bullet of “privatization”. With short-hand shibboleths such as these they manipulate the public discourse and distort reality. They’ve convinced the terminally gullible that by incantation of these magic words Americans will prosper. But the plain truth is that our prosperity diminishes while that of the top 10% flourishes. This is why reports of economic recovery pertain only to that top echelon. The middle-class is being supply-sided, free-marketed, and privatized to death.
As if it hasn’t been obvious, Warren Buffet explicitly told Christiane Amanpour on This Week that the economic argument that wealth trickles down is a fraud. He said, “The rich are always going to say that … just give us more money and we’ll all … spend more, and then it will trickle down to the rest of you. But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on.”
But counting on the American public to fathom the extent to which it is being duped is a questionable hope. The American public is more spooked these days by “socialism” than by outright theft and disfranchisement. While the Tea Party fights “socialism” with inane placards and the disruption of civil discourse at town halls Republicans (especially) and many leaders of the Democratic Party fight from positions of power to undermine anything that will contribute to the wellbeing of poor and average Americans. If they can use the dissatisfaction of the Tea Party to move their agenda forward they’ll do so. Their strategy is simple: divide and conquer. This has been one of Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker’s techniques: to pit private workers against unionized public workers; to claim that collective bargaining rights are unfair to taxpayers. Union members are taxpayers!
Busting unions is one more step in the diminishment of the power of working Americans. If the middle-class can’t see this, U.S. workers will not only be perpetually out of work but will be waifs in someone else’s American Dream.
by Jim Culleny
for The Shelburne Falls Independent, 4/1/11