The Corporate Betrayal of America

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The Corporate Betrayal of America

Unread postby Paul Kemp » Sat Apr 13, 2013 1:36 am

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The Corporate Betrayal of America
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Published on Monday, April 8, 2013 by Common Dreams
by Paul Buchheit
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Multinational corporations have built their businesses on the backs of American taxpayers. They've depended on government research, national defense, the legal and educational systems, and our infrastructure.

Yet they've turned around and mocked us with declining tax payments. They've cut workers. They've refused to invest their massive profits in job-producing research and development. And they've insulted existing employees with low wages and dwindling retirement support.

As a final disdainful act, many of them have tried to convince us that they LOSE money in the U.S. while only making profits overseas.

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(Photo: Lindsay/flickr)


Here are the facts.

Business Built on Our Backs
(a) Research

The most essential aspect of business growth is the long-term basic research that is largely conducted with government money. Starting in the 1950s, taxpayer-funded research at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (the Internet), the National Institute of Health (pharmaceuticals), and the National Science Foundation (the Digital Library Initiative) has laid a half-century foundation for corporate product development. Even today 60% of university research is government-supported.

The tech industry is a special case, with many computer and communications companies coming of age in the 1990s, when industry funding for computer research declined dramatically and government research funding continued to climb. As of 2009 universities were still receiving ten times more science & engineering funding from government than from industry.


(b) Infrastructure

Thanks to the taxpayer-funded National Highway System, corporations have acquired access to markets across the country for over 60 years. Along with road construction came the water, electric, and telephone facilities needed to sustain their businesses.

Today, the publicly supported communications infrastructure allows the richest 10% of Americans to readily manipulate their 80% share of the stock market. CEOs rely on roads and seaports and airports to ship their products, the FAA and TSA and Coast Guard and Department of Transportation to safeguard them, a nationwide energy grid to power their factories, and communications towers and satellites to conduct online business. Private jets use 16 percent of air traffic control resources while paying only 3% of the bill.

(c) Law

A litany of advantages accrues to the business world through the legal system. The wealthiest Americans are the main beneficiaries of tax laws, property rights, zoning rules, patent and copyright provisions, trade pacts, antitrust legislation, and contract regulations. Their companies benefit, despite their publicly voiced objections to regulatory agencies, from SBA and SEC guidelines that generally favor business, and from FDA and USDA quality control measures that minimize consumer complaints and product recalls.

The growing numbers of financial industry executives have profited from 30 years of deregulation, most notably the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. Lobbying by the financial industry has stifled reasonable proposals like a sales tax on financial transactions.

More big advantages are enjoyed by multinational corporations through trade agreements like NAFTA, with international disputes resolved by the business-friendly World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization.Federal judicial law protects our biggest companies from foreign infringement. The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership would put governments around the world at the mercy of corporate decision-makers.


(d) Education

Public colleges have helped to train the chemists, physicists, chip designers, programmers, engineers, production line workers, market analysts, and testers who create modern technological devices. At the primary and secondary levels, the "equal opportunity" principle mandated by the Supreme Court in Brown vs. the Board of Education has contributed to business growth, building the math and language skills that until recently led the world.


(e) Defense

The U.S. government will be spending $55 billion on Homeland Security this year, in addition to $673 billion for the military. Most of their resources, along with local police and emergency services and the National Guard, are focused on crimes against wealth.

Belittling Us Instead Of Paying Us Back

Instead of paying for their decades of government-supported growth, corporations have nearly stopped paying taxes, leaving payroll deductions and individual income taxes as the main sources of federal revenue.

From 2003 to 2011 total corporate profits more than doubled from $900 billion to almost $2 trillion, but the corporate income tax rate dropped by more than half, from 22.5% to 10%.

On top of this, the most profitable corporations get the biggest subsidies. The Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in welfare assistance to financial institutions and corporations. According to U.S. PIRG and Citizens for Tax Justice, 280 top-earning Fortune 500 companies, which together paid only half of the maximum 35 percent corporate tax rate, received $223 billion in tax subsidies.

What have they been doing with their windfall profits? Anywhere from $2.2 trillion to $3.4 trillion in cash is being held by non-financial corporations, who have chosen to fatten stockholders rather than invest in new production facilities and the employees needed to make them functional. Worse yet, as reported by The Nation, Market Watch, and Business Insider, they've been steadily cutting jobs in order to 'streamline' their operations.

For the employees who remain, average real wages were $17.42 in 2007, down from $19.34 in 1972 (based on 2007 dollars). Wages as a percentage of the economy are at an all-time low.

An Added Insult -- Profits Declared Overseas, But Not in the U.S.

Multinational corporations use the vacuous argument of an excessive U.S. tax rate to defend their tax avoidance, although in reality the U.S. has the third-lowest rate of tax revenue per GDP among all OECD countries.

The biggest tax avoiders are not content to just shirk their tax responsibilities. To sustain the image of profitmaking for their investors, many of them claim hefty worldwide incomes while reporting little or no income in the United States. Pfizer, for example, just declared their fifth straight annual loss in the U.S., despite a five-year income total of over $50 billion.

A review of SEC data reveals more chicanery. In the last two years Citigroup reported $27.8 billion in foreign income, but a $5 billion loss in the United States. Exxon credits the U.S. for 1/3 of its revenue and 40% of its assets, but only 15% of its income. Apple has 2/3 of its employees in the U.S. but claims only 1/3 of its profits as U.S. income.

Summing Up the Absurdity: You Made Us the Best, But We Don't Have To Pay

Forbes responded to suggestions of American decline with this stirring defense: "We lead the world in Internet innovation, music, movies, biotech and many other technological fields that require out-of-the-box thinking. From Apple to DreamWorks Studios, from Amazon to Zynga, we are the world's innovators."
They might have added, "And we don't have to give anything back to the people who made it all possible."

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ImagePaul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org), and the editor and main author of"American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.
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How Entitlements for the Rich Cheat the Rest of Us

Unread postby Paul Kemp » Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:03 am

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How Entitlements for the Rich Cheat the Rest of Us
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Published on Monday, February 10, 2014 by Common Dreams
by Paul Buchheit
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They're not 'entitlements' if you earn them. (Photo: Flickr/Charles Miller)

The word 'entitlement' is ambiguous. For working people it means "earned benefits." For the rich, the concept of entitlement is compatible with the Merriam-Webster definition: "The feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges)." Recent studies agree, concluding that higher social class is associated with increased entitlement and narcissism.

The sense of entitlement among the very rich is understandable, for it helps them to justify the massive redistribution of wealth that has occurred over the past 65 years, especially in the past 30 years. National investment in infrastructure, technology, and security has made America a rich country. The financial industry has used our publicly-developed communications technology to generate trillions of dollars in new earnings, while national security protects their interests. The major beneficiaries have convinced themselves they did it on their own. They believe they're entitled to it all.

Their entitlements can be summarized into four categories, each of which reveals clear advantages that the very rich take for granted.

1. Income: Mocking Our 'Progressive' Tax System

Americans who earn millions of dollars a year feel entitled to the same maximum tax rate as those making about $400,000 a year. Progressive taxation stops at that point. In fact, it reverses itself, with the highest earners paying lower tax rates. The richest 10% pay about 20 percent in federal taxes, and it goes down from there, with the richest 400 paying less than 20 percent. When all taxes are included (payroll, sales, state and local), the super-rich pay about the same percentage as America's middle and upper-middle classes.

Corporations feel entitled to lower taxes, too, having cut their income tax rate in half in just ten years. The companies that have benefited the most from public research have become skilled tax avoiders.

Some corporate CEOs feel entitled to total freedom from taxes, employing a noble-sounding strategy of a $1 per year salary to avoid federal income taxes. It allows them to defer all capital gains taxes on their stock holdings, which can be used, if cash is needed, as collateral for low-interest loans.

2. Wealth: Trillions in Financial Gains, Zero Tax

America has gained $16 trillion in financial wealth over the past five years, with 80-90 percent of that gain going to the richest 10%, for many of whom productive labor may have been limited to checking their online portfolios. America is gaining in wealth because of technological infrastructure and a deregulated financial industry that uses the technology to capture most of those gains.

There is no tax on all that wealth. Capital gains can be deferred indefinitely, and then another entitlement comes into play: the lower capital gains rate, purportedly meant to stimulate new business investment, but in large part failing to do that. The nation's wealth needs to be distributed more equitably among productive citizens, ideally by allowing everyone to share in the capital of companies that use our nationally developed technologies.

3. Financial Transactions: Trillions in Speculative Purchases, Zero Tax

As Forbes notes, the hundreds of trillions of dollars of speculative financial transactions constitute "a massive financial accident waiting to happen, yet again."

We pay a sales tax of up to 10 percent on boots and mittens for the kids, But not a penny of sales tax is paid on U.S. financial transactions, which may be valued as high as three quadrillion dollars annually, or over three thousand times the deficit. No sales tax is paid despite the high-risk nature of "flash trading" that can lose entire pension funds in a few seconds.

The trading industry feels entitled to tax-free purchases, claiming that even a tiny sales tax will decrease liquidity, or slow the economyE, or constitute a sin tax. Yet it's an easily administered tax that has been imposed in some of the freest economies in the world.

4. Subsidies: Alms for the Rich

About two-thirds ofnearly $1 trillion in individual "tax expenditures" (deductions, exemptions, exclusions, credits, capital gains, and loopholes) goes to the top quintile of taxpayers.

At the corporate level, tens of billions of dollars go in subsidies to the fossil fuel, fishing, and agricultural industries. Fossil fuel subsidies may be much, much more. The IMF reports U.S. fossil fuel subsidies of $502 billion, and according to Grist, even this is an underestimate.

Cheated

There's more. A regressive payroll tax, an almost nonexistent estate tax, the lower capital gains rate on carried interest for investment managers, trillions socked away in tax havens -- all involve tax avoidance by wealthy Americans who feel entitled to their privileged positions.

Entitlements for the rich mean cuts in safety net programs for children, women, retirees, and low-income families. They threaten Social Security. They redirect money from infrastructure repair, education, and job creation.

And the more the super-rich take from us, the greater their belief that they're entitled to the wealth we all helped to create.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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ImagePaul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org), and the editor and main author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.
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Re: The Corporate Betrayal of America

Unread postby Paul Kemp » Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:26 am

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The Wealthy & Fortunate Few
Ruling Over The Unfortunate Many

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Planetary Crises - Economic Slavery - Be Informed of Dangers -Counseling THE WEALTHY MAN
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ImageA certain rich man, a Roman citizen and a Stoic, became greatly interested in Jesus' teaching, having been introduced by Angamon. After many intimate conferences this wealthy citizen asked Jesus what he would do with wealth if he had it, and Jesus answered him: "I would bestow material wealth for the enhancement of material life, even as I would minister knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual service for the enrichment of the intellectual life, the ennoblement of the social life, and the advancement of the spiritual life. I would administer material wealth as a wise and effective trustee of the resources of one generation for the benefit and ennoblement of the next and succeeding generations."

ImageBut the rich man was not fully satisfied with Jesus' answer. He made bold to ask again: "But what do you think a man in my position should do with his wealth? Should I keep it, or should I give it away?" And when Jesus perceived that he really desired to know more of the truth about his loyalty to God and his duty to men, he further answered: "My good friend, I discern that you are a sincere seeker after wisdom and an honest lover of truth; therefore am I minded to lay before you my view of the solution of your problems having to do with the responsibilities of wealth. I do this because you have asked for my counsel, and in giving you this advice, I am not concerned with the wealth of any other rich man; I am offering advice only to you and for your personal guidance. If you honestly desire to regard your wealth as a trust, if you really wish to become a wise and efficient steward of your accumulated wealth, then would I counsel you to make the following analysis of the sources of your riches: Ask yourself, and do your best to find the honest answer, whence came this wealth? And as a help in the study of the sources of your great fortune, I would suggest that you bear in mind the following ten different methods of amassing material wealth:
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Image"1. Inherited wealth--riches derived from parents and other ancestors.

Image"2. Discovered wealth--riches derived from the uncultivated resources of mother earth.

Image"3. Trade wealth--riches obtained as a fair profit in the exchange and barter of material goods.

Image"4. Unfair wealth--riches derived from the unfair exploitation or the enslavement of one's fellows.

Image"5. Interest wealth--income derived from the fair and just earning possibilities of invested capital.

Image"6. Genius wealth--riches accruing from the rewards of the creative and inventive endowments of the human mind.

Image"7. Accidental wealth--riches derived from the generosity of one's fellows or taking origin in the circumstances of life.

Image"8. Stolen wealth--riches secured by unfairness, dishonesty, theft, or fraud.

Image"9. Trust funds--wealth lodged in your hands by your fellows for some specific use, now or in the future.

Image"10. Earned wealth--riches derived directly from your own personal labor, the fair and just reward of your own daily efforts of mind and body.

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ImageAnd so, my friend, if you would be a faithful and just steward of your large fortune, before God and in service to men, you must approximately divide your wealth into these ten grand divisions, and then proceed to administer each portion in accordance with the wise and honest interpretation of the laws of justice, equity, fairness, and true efficiency; albeit, the God of heaven would not condemn you if sometimes you erred, in doubtful situations, on the side of merciful and unselfish regard for the distress of the suffering victims of the unfortunate circumstances of mortal life. When in honest doubt about the equity and justice of material situations, let your decisions favor those who are in need, favor those who suffer the misfortune of undeserved hardships."


ImageAfter discussing these matters for several hours and in response to the rich man's request for further and more detailed instruction, Jesus went on to amplify his advice, in substance saying: "While I offer further suggestions concerning your attitude toward wealth, I would admonish you to receive my counsel as given only to you and for your personal guidance. I speak only for myself and to you as an inquiring friend. I adjure you not to become a dictator as to how other rich men shall regard their wealth. I would advise you:

Image"1. As steward of inherited wealth you should consider its sources. You are under moral obligation to represent the past generation in the honest transmittal of legitimate wealth to succeeding generations after subtracting a fair toll for the benefit of the present generation. But you are not obligated to perpetuate any dishonesty or injustice involved in the unfair accumulation of wealth by your ancestors. Any portion of your inherited wealth which turns out to have been derived through fraud or unfairness, you may disburse in accordance with your convictions of justice, generosity, and restitution. The remainder of your legitimate inherited wealth you may use in equity and transmit in security as the trustee of one generation for another. Wise discrimination and sound judgment should dictate your decisions regarding the bequest of riches to your successors.

Image"2. Everyone who enjoys wealth as a result of discovery should remember that one individual can live on earth but a short season and should, therefore, make adequate provision for the sharing of these discoveries in helpful ways by the largest possible number of his fellow men. While the discoverer should not be denied all reward for efforts of discovery, neither should he selfishly presume to lay claim to all of the advantages and blessings to be derived from the uncovering of nature's hoarded resources.


Image"3. As long as men choose to conduct the world's business by trade and barter, they are entitled to a fair and legitimate profit. Every tradesman deserves wages for his services; the merchant is entitled to his hire. The fairness of trade and the honest treatment accorded one's fellows in the organized business of the world create many different sorts of profit wealth, and all these sources of wealth must be judged by the highest principles of justice, honesty, and fairness. The honest trader should not hesitate to take the same profit which he would gladly accord his fellow trader in a similar transaction. While this sort of wealth is not identical with individually earned income when business dealings are conducted on a large scale, at the same time, such honestly accumulated wealth endows its possessor with a considerable equity as regards a voice in its subsequent distribution.


Image"4. No mortal who knows God and seeks to do the divine will can stoop to engage in the oppressions of wealth. No noble man will strive to accumulate riches and amass wealth-power by the enslavement or unfair exploitation of his brothers in the flesh. Riches are a moral curse and a spiritual stigma when they are derived from the sweat of oppressed mortal man. All such wealth should be restored to those who have thus been robbed or to their children and their children's children. An enduring civilization cannot be built upon the practice of defrauding the laborer of his hire.


Image"5. Honest wealth is entitled to interest. As long as men borrow and lend, that which is fair interest may be collected provided the capital lent was legitimate wealth. First cleanse your capital before you lay claim to the interest. Do not become so small and grasping that you would stoop to the practice of usury. Never permit yourself to be so selfish as to employ money-power to gain unfair advantage over your struggling fellows. Yield not to the temptation to take usury from your brother in financial distress.


Image"6. If you chance to secure wealth by flights of genius, if your riches are derived from the rewards of inventive endowment, do not lay claim to an unfair portion of such rewards. The genius owes something to both his ancestors and his progeny; likewise is he under obligation to the race, nation, and circumstances of his inventive discoveries; he should also remember that it was as man among men that he labored and wrought out his inventions. It would be equally unjust to deprive the genius of all his increment of wealth. And it will ever be impossible for men to establish rules and regulations applicable equally to all these problems of the equitable distribution of wealth. You must first recognize man as your brother, and if you honestly desire to do by him as you would have him do by you, the commonplace dictates of justice, honesty, and fairness will guide you in the just and impartial settlement of every recurring problem of economic rewards and social justice.


Image"7. Except for the just and legitimate fees earned in administration, no man should lay personal claim to that wealth which time and chance may cause to fall into his hands. Accidental riches should be regarded somewhat in the light of a trust to be expended for the benefit of one's social or economic group. The possessors of such wealth should be accorded the major voice in the determination of the wise and effective distribution of such unearned resources. Civilized man will not always look upon all that he controls as his personal and private possession.


Image"8. If any portion of your fortune has been knowingly derived from fraud; if aught of your wealth has been accumulated by dishonest practices or unfair methods; if your riches are the product of unjust dealings with your fellows, make haste to restore all these ill-gotten gains to the rightful owners. Make full amends and thus cleanse your fortune of all dishonest riches.


Image"9. The trusteeship of the wealth of one person for the benefit of others is a solemn and sacred responsibility. Do not hazard or jeopardize such a trust. Take for yourself of any trust only that which all honest men would allow.


Image"10. That part of your fortune which represents the earnings of your own mental and physical efforts--if your work has been done in fairness and equity-- is truly your own. No man can gainsay your right to hold and use such wealth as you may see fit provided your exercise of this right does not work harm upon your fellows."


ImageWhen Jesus had finished counseling him, this wealthy Roman arose from his couch and, in saying farewell for the night, delivered himself of this promise: "My good friend, I perceive you are a man of great wisdom and goodness, and tomorrow I will begin the administration of all my wealth in accordance with your counsel."

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"There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is death." It is altogether possible to fall victim to the peaceful deception of pleasant adjustment to the paths of sin and death".

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The Five-Step Process to Cheat the Middle Class Worker

Unread postby Paul Kemp » Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:32 am

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The Five-Step Process to Cheat the Middle Class Worker
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Published on Monday, January 14, 2013 by Common Dreams
by Paul Buchheit
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It's so artfully done, and so diabolical, that one can picture secret seminars in subterranean Wall Street meeting rooms, guiding young business recruits in the proven process of taking an extra share of wealth from the middle class. Their presentation might unfold as follows:

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1. Boost productivity while keeping worker wages flat.
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The trend is unmistakable, and startling: productivity has continued unabated while wages have simply stopped growing. Improved technologies have reduced the need for workers while globalization has introduced the corporate world to cheap labor. In effect, the workers who built a productive America over a half-century stopped getting paid for their efforts.

Paul Krugman suggests that a "sharp increase in monopoly power" is another reason for the disparity. As John D. Rockefeller said, "Competition is a sin." That certainly is the rule of thumb in banking and agriculture and health insurance and cell phones. Yet despite the fact that low-wage jobs are increasingly defining the American labor market, apologists for our meager minimum wage claim an increase will worsen unemployment. So it remains at $7.25. A minimum wage linked to productivity would be $21.00 per hour.


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2. Build up a financial industry that has no maximum wage.
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This is where the money is. In 2007, before the financial crisis, a Harvard survey revealed that almost half of the school's seniors aspired to careers in finance. The industry's share of corporate profits grew from 16% in 1980 to an astonishing 45% in 2002.

And there's no limit to the earning potential. Hedge fund manager John Paulson conspired with Goldman Sachs in 2007 to bundle sure-to-fail subprime mortgages in attractive packages, with just enough time for Paulson to collect other people's money to bet against his personally designed financial instruments. He made $3.7 billion, enough to pay the salaries of 100,000 new teachers.

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3. Keep accumulating wealth created by the financial industry.
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Experienced schemers have undoubtedly observed that over the past 100 years the stock market has grown three times faster than the GDP. The richest quintile of Americans owns 93% of such non-home wealth.

In the last 25 years, only the richest 5% of Americans have increased their share of non-home wealth, by the impressive rate of almost 20 percent.

In just one year, the richest 20 Americans earned more from their investments than the entire U.S. education budget.


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4. Tax yourself as little as possible.
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The easiest and least productive way to make money - holding on to investments - is also taxed at the lowest rate. In addition to the capital gains benefit, tax ploys like carried interest, performance-related pay, stock options, and deferred compensation allow hedge fund managers and CEOs to pay less than low-income Americans, and possibly even nothing at all.

The richest 400 taxpayers doubled their income in just seven years while cutting their tax rates nearly in half. U.S. corporations can match that, doubling their profits and cutting their taxes by more than half in under ten years. The 1.3 million individuals in the richest 1% cut their federal tax burden from 34% to 23% in just 25 years.


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5. Lend out your excess money to people who can no longer afford a middle-class lifestyle.
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As stated by Thom Hartmann, "The 'Takers' own vast wealth, and loan it out at interest to everybody from students to governments.." Overall, Americans are burdened with over $11 trillion in consumer debt, including mortgages, student loans, and credit card liabilities.

Wealth has largely disappeared for the middle- and lower-income classes. More than $7 trillion has been lost in the decline of home prices since 2006. Young college graduates have an average of $27,200 in student loans, and the 21-35 age group has lost 68% of its median net worth since 1984, leaving each of them about $4,000. Median net worth for single black and Hispanic women is a little over $100.

So we're hanging on by the frazzled thread of debt that indentures us to the rich and makes it harder and harder to fight back against the theft of our middle-class wealth. As we struggle to support ourselves, the super-rich remain on the take, driving us ever closer to the status of most wealth-unequal country in the world.
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ImagePaul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org), and the editor and main author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.
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