Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Reverse New Deal: A Ruthless, In-Your-Face Plutocracy

(WPA poster, promoting respect towards veterans. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.) 

A recent Congressional budget deal, brokered by Paul Ryan (R-Wis) and Patty Murray (D-Wash) will, among other things, reduce cost-of-living pension increases for disabled veterans.

This is an attempt to "balance the budget," those three words that have been used repeatedly to shift more wealth to the top 1% of Americans.

Meanwhile, we learn that many rich Americans are playing financial games--shifting money in and out of trusts--to avoid paying estate and gift taxes. This is on top of the $300 billion we lose--annually--to illegal tax evasion, practiced mostly by rich folks, and the tens (perhaps hundreds) of billions we lose via corporate tax avoidance.

Some congressmen have tried to close the estate and gift tax loophole, but Congress, as a whole, will not act.

Why not?

Well, a lawyer who engineered one of the key estate and gift tax loophole strategies has the obvious answer: Political contributions to politicians, by the wealthy.

(WPA poster, promoting the purchase of war bonds to help soldiers during World War II. This spirit of the common good is disappearing in America, in favor of personal profit. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.) 

Sheldon Adelson, a right-wing billionaire, complains: "How many times do you have to pay taxes on money?" Adelson must feel burdened by all the taxes he has to pay; he must feel that taxes have kept him from becoming successful. After all, he's only worth about $30 billion. Yes, the harmful and oppressive U.S. tax code has restricted his wealth to only 30,000 million dollars. Isn't that horrible? And did you know that he only has six private jets? I mean, how can a person live with only six jets?

So, to summarize, Congress targets the pensions of disabled veterans to "balance the budget," but does not close a tax loophole that the super-wealthy use to avoid paying taxes. If this does not inform us that our Congress is corrupt, and has fully embraced plutocracy, nothing will. What else does Congress have to do before we demand fundamental changes, before we demand economic justice and a restoration of democracy?

Welcome to the Reverse New Deal: A Ruthless, In-Your-Face Plutocracy.

(WPA poster asking the public to conserve water for the war effort. Given today's emphasis on wealth and vanity, and the demonization of the common good as "evil socialism," would Americans work together to conserve water if another world war broke out? Or would we, instead, seek ways to turn water into personal fortunes, the war effort be damned? Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.) 

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