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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Socialism for the Rich

"In a new sign of increasing inequality in the U.S., the richest 1% of Americans in 2006 garnered the highest share of the nation's adjusted gross income for two decades, and possibly the highest since 1929, according to Internal Revenue Service data.

"Meanwhile, the average tax rate of the wealthiest 1% fell to its lowest level in at least 18 years. The group's share of the tax burden has risen, though not as quickly as its share of income."

The richest 1% reported 22% of the nation's income, the highest share since the Great Depression.

The tax rate for the richest 1% is at a low of 22.8% and declining. (The tax rate for the middle class is around 28%).

Bush's tax cuts effectively "boost the income of millionaires by 10.1 percent."

Unfortunately, the middle class isn't making out as well:

  • Unemployment is at a 3-year high
  • [M]edian household income, adjusted for inflation, dropped by $1,175 between 2000 and 2007.
  • At the same time, the average family is spending $4,655 more on basic expenses, such as gas, housing, food and health insurance.
  • Gas alone costs $2,195 more for a family making the same commute in May 2008 as it did eight years earlier.

Much of the widening gap can be attributed to run-away "free market" capitalism, a.k.a., Socialism for the Rich:
'"Free trade" policies and the loan sharks that have run the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have destroyed national economies. Millions of people have been forced into poverty, and entire communities have been displaced from the countryside. Multinationals and northern industrial nations siphon wealth from the developing countries. Those that migrate from their homelands to make a living in the north are greeted with walls, bullets and racism. In the United States, millions are homeless, unemployed, in prison, or one paycheck away from bankruptcy. The social wage has been beaten down to unsustainable levels -- real wages are lower now than they were 30 years ago. Yet the costs of fuel and raw materials have skyrocketed, causing worldwide food shortages. We have wiped out public budgets by eliminating taxes on those who profit most. Vital public infrastructure and services cannot meet basic needs like maintaining the levees in New Orleans and reconstructing the Gulf Coast, or controlling the devastating blazes in Southern California. Yet the majority of our federal budget sponsors the wars and occupation in the Middle East, the warehousing of generations of the poor and people of color, the witch hunt of immigrant refugees of U.S. foreign and trade policy, and the growing national debt.

'And while we're at it, let's just be clear that the free market capitalism we have seen in the United States is by no means "free." In reality, the U.S. economy functions as a form of socialism for the rich. Taxpayers have bailed out the savings and loan industry, banks and airlines. We finance at least two federal social security programs: the one to which most of us contribute through each paycheck, and the one for United Airlines employees (since that company no longer pays its pension obligations). We give huge government contracts to the prison and military industrial complexes, and increasingly to private education and health care companies.'

And these radical changes in America's economic landscape are not without their victims. Americans are seeing unprecedented rates of foreclosures as a quarter of a million families lose their homes.

One family in Taunton, MA, lost more than their house on Tuesday in the collapse of the middle class.
"That's the real sad part: This is a middle-class family, a husband working, the son is working," O'Berg said. But the housing crunch, he said, "is inflicting real pain on middle-class Americans.
Fifty-three year old wife and mother, Carlene Balderrama, fatally shot herself with a high-powered rifle an hour and a half before her home was to be auctioned off. Just before taking her own life, she sent a fax to her mortgage company reading, "By the time you foreclose on my house I'll be dead."
As Congress rushed yesterday to help 400,000 strapped homeowners avoid foreclosure and prevent Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from collapsing, the suicide underscored the potentially devastating toll of the housing crunch...

"What gets us so angry is that people blame themselves," Marks said. "They can't see past their sense of responsibility to see the responsibility and the predatory nature of these lenders. The fact of the matter is, unless something dramatic happens, there's going to be more and more people like her taking their lives."

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