At 25 of the 100 largest U.S. Corporations, at places like Ebay, Boeing, and Verizon, the chief executive earns more than the entire company pays in federal income taxes. These patriotic chaps, who, in their defense, are merely competing in the Financial Olympics according to the official rules established by other patriotic chaps, earned on average $16.7 million in 2010. Gaming the system, you see, does not come cheap.
Meanwhile, as stockholders rejoice (or at least tacitly approve) the fiscal legerdemain, the rest of the country, those who lack the capital to gamble with other people’s money, are bracing for another blow to their dignity and their hopes. The number of Americans living in poverty – surviving on around $22,000 or less annually for a family of four – has surpassed 46 million, more than 15% of us. This is the highest total in 50 years.
Clearly, something is monstrously out of balance here, right?
Wrong, say the Republican candidates for President. Everyone gets what he deserves in this gloriously level playing field called free market capitalism.
The nasty implication in their increasingly unsubtle attack on the most vulnerable among us is that the poor are poor because of their sub-optimal behavior, and whatever they are “given” – like anything that smells remotely like economic justice – is too good for such underserving layabouts. The converse, equally popular among the Smuggies, is that the rich are rich because of their inherent virtuousness and industriousness, and whatever they are “given” – like yet another tax break – isn’t nearly adequate because they’re the catalytic engine of our economy.
The poor = barnacles on a sinking ship. The rich = intrepid job creators.
Although the top marginal income tax rates are at their lowest level since 1992 – and that’s with a Democrat in office! – we’re all hip to the truth: nothing is “trickling down.” The rich have done a piss poor job of creating jobs, of kickstarting the economy with all the money we’ve allowed them to accumulate, of repaying our confidence and trust in them with beneficial results for the lesser lights.
They have, however, done a fine job of hoarding capital. Good thing, too. The funds will come in handy to pay the salaries (and stock the ammunition depots) of the private security forces the rich will have to muster when the former middle class, reduced to serfdom and indentured servitude, takes up its pitchforks and demands that the drawbridge be lowered over the moat.
When it’s still possible in our enlightened age to earn more than $200,000 in cash income – like, more than $1 million – and, with superior industriousness and virtue, avoid paying a penny in federal income tax, it seems a tad unfair to blame anything on the poor. Ours is a gaffed game, a con job in which “the turn” – usually a pretty lady skilled in causing a fortuitous distraction but here Wall Street Journal editorials – re-focuses attention on those least capable of defending themselves. This is the reliable tactic of blaming the victim, but with an innovation: blame what your actions and policies helped create.
It’s time for the rich to return all the excess money the rest of the populous has allowed them to borrow and never repay. It’s time for them to truly give back to the country that gave them the Good Life. Should we be able to reduce our national poverty rate dramatically to, say, 10% (which, perversely, sounds downright acceptable in these troubled times) we could raise millions of souls out of misery and restore the vanishing middle class.
This approach has all sorts of lovely benefits. The chief one being the avoidance of another terribly messy and unfortunate Civil War.