STOP Framing "us"

How a select few of "them" are Framing all of "us"

Archive for the tag “David Cay Johnston”

The Ricketts use of Taxpayer Money to Enrich Themselves and Attack President Obama in the Process: Priceless!

The headline from the Washington Post on Thursday read Rahm “livid” at Ricketts.  Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, is supposedly not returning calls from the Ricketts family after he discovered Joe Ricketts intention to launch a multi-million dollar attack ad campaign against President Obama.

The issue surrounding the Ricketts family demonstrates the need to shift our priorities from protecting and enriching a few privileged Americans, to protecting the most vulnerable among us, as well as provide an equal playing field for everyone to become prosperous.  As it stands, our political system is set up so that members of the privileged class like the Ricketts are able to use our taxpayer money to launch attack ads against those who seek to put an end to their number one priority, which is paving the path to prosperity for the top 1%, at the expense of the rest of us.

In the case of the Ricketts family, they plan to use taxpayer dollars to fund their smear campaign against our current President.  How do they plan on doing this? Simple. They are legally able to lobby our elected officials for taxpayer money to the tune of $100 million to make so called “renovations” to their privately owned stadium, Wrigley Field.  The planned attack ad campaign is expected to cost $10 million dollars, a mere 10% of the people’s money that will be transferred to the Ricketts family, courtesy of GOP members holding positions in public office.  According to the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, David Cay Johnston, this form of corporate welfare is nothing new.  He claims that taxpayers are spending $2 billion dollars per year to subsidies the four major sports leagues (baseball, basketball, football, and hockey).

In an interview with Democracy now, David Cay Johnston reveals how the super-rich are getting away with transferring wealth from all of us to a select few at the top. He notes, “We have created in the United States, largely in the last 30 years, a whole series of programs, a few of them explicit, many of them deeply hidden to take money from the pockets of the middle class and working poor and funnel it to the wealthiest people in America.”  This interview was conducted shortly after the release of his new book Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and stick you with the bill). As described in this interview, one of the key ways of doing this is to use taxpayer’s money to build sports stadiums so the super wealthy in the privileged class can profit from them.

David Cay Johnston describes how George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, received over $600 million in taxpayer funding to build the new Yankee stadium.  The owners of the New York Mets also received over $600 million in taxpayer money, as well as an additional $50 million dollars in taxpayer money courtesy of Mayor Rudy Giuliani, so these wealthy owners could lobby our elected representative for more “free” money.

He also reported that the new owners of the Washington Nationals baseball team paid $450 million dollars for the team, but actually got the team for free!  We actually paid these people to buy the team, and gave them a bonus of over $161 million in the process.  He points out that taxpayer funding is the key to what makes these sports teams profitable.  That’s right, without taxpayer-funded money, also known as corporate welfare, the privileged folks like the Ricketts family would not be able to turn a profit! At the same time we are doing this, David Cay Johnston says that we are starving our public parks for money.  Due to the lack of organized activities in local communities, he says, we are seeing a rise in urban, and now suburban gangs, as well as an increase in violence.  This is what happens when we focus our priorities on transferring wealth to the privileged in this country, as opposed to ensuring prosperity for all.

As it turns out, we are literally taking money from everyone who is physically able to contribute to our common wealth and giving it to the privileged class, who believe they are entitled to it! To make matters worse, families like the Ricketts, who benefit from our tax dollars are also using the power of our Government to prevent anyone else from being able to own sports teams, such as other competitors, non-profit groups, etc.  The so-called “free market” is really nothing more than what David Cay Johnston describes as Corporate Socialism for the super wealthy, and true market capitalism for everyone else.

Can Socialism rescue ‘us’ again from the grips of Crony Capitalism? Corporations seem to love it!

Although the modern day GOP would have us believe that our economy functions better when those at the top continue to receive endless tax breaks, oil subsidies, corporate jet subsidies, and other forms of corporate socialism, our nation’s history proves otherwise.  When we enacted economic policies that favored higher taxes on those making over a million per year in today’s dollars, built the interstate highway system, and initiated a Government led program that put America back to work, everyone, including those at the very top benefitted.  The result of this courageous leadership led to the introduction of socialist programs that were designed to rescue ‘we the people’ from the grips of crony capitalism that resulted in the great depression.

This was real courage, unlike the current “frame” being fed to the public about how Paul Ryan is being “courageous” for introducing his austerity leads to prosperity plan.  If successful, Paul Ryan’s plan will result in forced ‘austerity’ measures on all of us in order to continue to pave the “path to prosperity” for those born privileged in America.

Despite the rhetoric coming from the right wing echo chamber, we have elements of both socialism and capitalism in the United States.  When we take our grandmother to see her doctor about health concerns, we are embracing socialism.  When we drive on paved highways to pick up the medication for our grandmother, we are embracing socialism.  When we send our disabled child to a local specialist, we are embracing socialism.  When our parents use their earned benefits from working their entire lives to pay the bills and fund their daily needs, we are embracing socialism.  When we serve in the Military, or care for the wounded veterans who have served our country in the past, we are embracing socialism.

The right wing echo chamber has become so successful at convincing people to fear socialism that many overlook the obvious benefits socialism provides their family members, not to mention those who actively serve in our armed forces.  Many people do not think about socialism in this way.  This is partly due to the lack of effectively communicating the benefits of socialism, not to mention touting the fact that Social Security and Medicare are two of the most successful, efficiently run, and popular socialist programs we have ever had in this country.

We are led to believe that capitalism is good and socialism is bad.  This message is coming primarily from those on the far right, of course, who actually benefit from socialism, at the expense of everyone else. According to David Cay Johnston, corporate socialism is alive and well in the United States (see clip below). The problem is that it only applies to the privileged class, and not the rest of us.  The trick for those born privileged is to privately benefit from socialism, while publicly decrying it as a solution to help the rest of us out of the current economic crisis their immoral tax policies actually created.  In essence, they seek to privatize profits and socialize losses, which amounts to taking from the many and redistributing it to the few, as explained by David Cay Johnston in the clip below.

Our elected representatives have a choice.  They can decide to continue implementing the failed economic policies of the past that have continually led to crisis after crisis, and that only benefit the super-rich, or they can choose the tried and true economic policies that made this country a household name where everyone benefitted equally from the fruits of our labor.  This would require real courage on behalf of our elected leaders to do what’s right!  Not only for the sake of struggling families and putting Americans back to work, but to stimulate our economy and help achieve a happier and healthier society for all.  Since income equality is proven to lead to happier and healthier societies, and income inequality has proven itself to lead to more poverty, crime, stress, anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug addiction, and an overall less happy, and less healthy society, what are our elected representatives waiting for?  If ever there was a blueprint for courage this is it!

If we continue to pursue failed and immoral economic policies that strictly benefit the privileged in this country, then we are forced to inflict severe ‘austerity’ measures on everyone else.   As we can see by the example in Greece, the austerity leads to prosperity approach favored by Paul Ryan and backed by the GOP, is failing miserably.  Why not opt for an America that works together!

David Cay Johnston sheds light on two critical “frames” conservatives use to manipulate us: Government “Picking winners and losers” and a “Transfer of wealth.”

David Cay Johnston wrote an article entitled, “Taxed by the boss” where he discussed the implications of the more than 2,700 companies in the Unites States that are keeping the state income taxes they are collecting from hundreds of thousands of workers for themselves.  So, in case you were wondering why states are laying off teachers, firefighters, and police officers, among other drastic cuts to social services that affect millions of people’s lives throughout the country, look no further than the corporate socialism taking place, as pointed out by David Cay Johnston.

To make matter worse, big banks and businesses like Goldman Sachs, J.P Morgan, and Mitt Romney’s former company Bain Capital, are enriching themselves by a process known as “job piracy”, where one state diverts taxes in order to lure an employer from another state to relocate if they promise to create jobs.  The problem is that no jobs are ever created.  Instead, the money is transferred in an upward direction from workers to the corporate bosses in the top 1%, as indicated in the report by the taxpayer watchdog organization, Good Jobs First.  This report also discovered that “deals cut with states over the past two decades diverted $5.5 billion from public purposes to private gain.”  Talk about a transfer of wealth!!

Big businesses are getting away with diverting the taxes they collect from workers to enrich themselves because radical right-wing Governors like Chris Christie, who tops the list, has personally transferred a whopping $251.2 million from average workers to those in the “privileged sector”, who believe they are entitled to it!  No wonder why Chris Christie was being groomed for a spot in the Whitehouse.  He has done the most to enrich the privileged few at the expense of everyone else.  David Cay Johnston calculates that this transfer of wealth amounts to $80 per household in corporate welfare average families are spending to subsidize shareholders of the big banks and large corporations in the United States.

According to David Cay Johnston, “these deals typify corporate socialism, in which business gains are privatized and costs socialized. They also mean that Government picks winners and losers, interfering with competitive markets.” So, it turns out that radical right-wing Governors, in support of an ideology that advocates corporate socialism, are actively “picking winners and losers” (big business is always the winner) which amounts to a “transfer of wealth” from all of us (ie, workers) to a select few of them in the privileged sector (ie, CEO’s and shareholders).

Those of us who watch Fox news or listen to Glenn Beck, or some other radical right-wing talk show host are being framed to believe that Government is “picking winners and losers” in an attempt to benefit lazy people on welfare programs, which serves to create a society of dependency on Government.  Following this logic, believers of this frame are further inclined to believe that a “transfer of wealth” is occurring from the so-called successful people in the top 1% to those who are lazy and don’t want to work hard in order to carry out a socialistic agenda.

The problem with this logic and the rest of the radical right-wing frames is that the opposite of what they say is true!  In this case, Socialism is alive and well in America, as indicated by the Good Jobs First report and David Cay Johnston’s take on this issue.  However, the problem is that it’s only being applied to the top 1% instead of being used to benefit all of us!

The irony here is that the fear of socialism is being used to scare people away from supporting policies and programs that will benefit us all.  A prime example is the current ‘Budget for All being introduced by the progressive caucus in the House of Representatives.  This budget is more in line with our nation’s moral values, and will benefit all of us, as well as help prevent the abuses of power that lead to examples of corporate socialism mentioned above.

As expected, Allen West (R-FL), a conservative member of the tea party, initiated the latest socialism scare by telling people in a town hall recently that there are approximately 80 representatives in the House that are members of the communist party.  Although communism and socialism are not the same, they are used interchangeably as if they were in order to increase the fear effect, I presume, so people will not vote for it!

Unfortunately, if we continue to believe the conservative “frames”, we will never know the benefits that other nations currently enjoy, such as living longer, happier and healthier lives, not to mention being better educated, less stressed, depressed and anxious, as well as having the safety and security of knowing our family members will be taken care of if they get sick, or become disabled for any reason.  All of these benefits are not fantasy, but reflect the reality of countries that adopt moral budget priorities, and implement a system based on socialism for all, not a select few.

David Cay Johnston explains why it pays to be a bus driver in Sweden: Made possible by the ‘S’ word – “Socialism”

You hear it every day on right-wing talk radio, Fox news, and even by Conservative politicians, who repeatedly say that we are headed down a path toward “Socialism”, or President Obama is a Socialist, and favors Socialist policies.  Republican Presidential candidates are also chiming in.  Mitt Romney accused President Obama of adopting policies based on what he called, “European style Socialism”, and Newt Gingrich claimed that the Obama administration is a “Secular Socialist machine.”

As pointed out by Peter Dreier, Distinguished professor of politics at Occidental College, there hasn’t been a significant socialist movement in this country for decades.   However, “After Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the word “socialism” started making a comeback. But it wasn’t because the socialists were gaining momentum. It was because Obama’s opponents — the Republican Party, the Tea Party, the right-wing blogosphere, the Chamber of Commerce, and conservative media gurus like Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh — labeled anything Obama proposed, including his modest health care reform proposal, as “socialism.”

The “Socialism” frame is one based on fear.   The modern day George Orwell Party (GOP) is trying to convince the American people that a distribution of wealth that disproportionately benefits the super-wealthy elite, (those in the top 0.01%) at the expense of everyone else is fine, but anything that remotely resembles a benefit to average working families is condemned as supporting the ‘S’ word.

The use of the word “Socialism” in reference to President Obama is intended to evoke the image of a totalitarian dictatorship, where the rights and freedoms of the people are not protected.

This is the image that the radical right wing wants people to associate with our current President.  However, as illustrated in a recent article by Peter Dreier, this strategy may backfire!

In reference to the Pew Research poll released in December 2011, it was determined that the majority of Americans (77%) agreed that “there is too much power in the hands of a few rich people and corporations.”  In addition 83% of 18-29 year olds shared this view.

Joseph Schwartz, a Temple University political scientist made it clear that “Many young people associate capitalism with inequality, big corporations, and poverty,” and “If young people have any image of socialism at all, it is probably northern Europe, particularly Scandinavia. They know that northern Europe has less poverty, more equality, and more social mobility.”

For a realistic picture of what life is actually like in countries that adopt “European style socialism”, take a look at David Cay Johnston’s recent interview describing how it pays to be a bus driver in Sweden.

This is made possible, as David Cay Johnston points out in this clip because:

“They organize their economy to provide what Adam Smith said in the wealth of nations an economy should do.  Any policy that benefits the majority must be good policy.”

“We organize our economy on the theory that the very, very richest among us, the multi-billionaires don’t have enough, and unless we give them more our economy cannot grow.  That’s just nonsense!” Hence, the reason we are being “framed” to believe socialism is bad, and capitalism is good.

 

Mitt Romney the “job cremator” uses his own company to create a tax-dodging loophole. Priceless!!

Mitt Romney, the “job cremator” was CEO of Bain Capital, and directly responsible for ravishing the lives of thousands of workers so he could reap the rewards.  Mitt Romney would spot what he deemed to be a weak company, or simply use this as an excuse to swoop in like the vulture he is and feed off of the employee’s wages and benefits.  Once finished, vulture firms like Bain Capital would offer the employees of the companies they just ravaged their jobs back, but at considerably less pay and benefits.

The higher paying union wages, pensions and benefits these career employees were receiving are replaced with non-livable, minimum wage jobs, with no pensions and minimal benefits.  The difference between what these employees were earning and what they are now being offered is pocketed by the vultures.   This money is then safely tucked away in off-shore tax havens earning what’s known as carried interest, while the vultures who stole it from the workers live large and convince the rest of the general public that they worked hard for it.

Millionaire Mitt, is a vulture capitalist, who made over $40 million dollars in un-earned income in the past two years.  That’s right!  He did not earn a penny of it.  After all, he doesn’t even have a job.  This money came from the carried interest associated with his offshore investments, which was made possible through a tax-dodging loophole his company lobbied to get passed.

Take a look at this clip from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart describing how this all took place.

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Instead of paying the top tax rate of 35% on his un-earned income, (which is less than half of what it used to be for millionaires like Mitt) he now gets to enjoy an unheard of 13.9% capital gains rate.  But this is only half the story.  According to David Cay Johnston, we would need to see his tax returns dating back to the mid 1980’s when he was CEO of Bain Capitol because it’s quite possible that Mitt Romney may have paid $0.00 in taxes throughout this period.

The consequences of not having an equal distribution of wealth in the U.S., and what the Occupy Wall Street movement can do about it.

The level of income equality in this country has been in a reversing trend since Ronald Reagan’s presidency.  However, many people will not know this by listening to Fox news, or some other radical right-wing talk show host, including Glenn Beck, who had this to say on his blog.

This is Glenn Beck’s attempt to create further division among us by perpetuating the latest right-wing “frame”, which states that 47% of Americans pay no income taxes.  This of course, is another Orwellian frame designed to convince all of us to take out our anger and frustration on the poorest and most disabled among us.  After all, these are the people who make up the 47% Glenn Beck is referring to.

Instead of looking up at the upper class who are truly responsible for our economic hardship, this frame ensures we look down at the very victims of income inequality, and ignore the fact that we are currently experiencing the largest transfer of wealth in the history of this country from the working poor and middle class (all of “us”) to a select few in the upper class (“them”).

David Cay Johnston does a beautiful job of summing up what is really happening in this country, being led by those in the upper class, or the top .1%.

Although each of the 9 things David Cay Johnston discusses are enlightening, I would like to focus on #5, which states, “And (surprise!) since Reagan, only the wealthy have gained significant income”  This disheartening reality ties into what the Occupy Wall Street movement is all about, and why it is critical to understand there is a class war being waged against all of “us” (99%) by a select few of “them” (top .1%)

Now, why do I say the top .1% instead of the top 1%?  Well, this chart from the Economic Policy Institute says it all!

Between 1979 and 2005, households at the bottom fifth of the income scale have seen an average, inflation-adjusted income growth of just $200. Importantly, that does not represent an average annual increase in income of $200, but rather, an increase of $200 over the entire 26-year period. By contrast, a small number of households at the top 0.1% of the income scale saw average income growth of almost $6 million over that same period

Why is this important? Well, because the 26 year period prior to 1979 paints an entirely different picture.

“These latest patterns of extremely uneven income growth stand in stark contrast to the period between 1947 and 1973, when income growth was distributed roughly equally across income classes, with the poorest 20% of families seeing income growth at least as fast as the richest 20%.”

So, what does this mean to the average citizen?  Why should anyone care about the income inequality that is illustrated in this article, or by what David Cay Johnston has to say?

Here’s why –  Prior to the current trend that has taken place ever since Ronald Reagan took office, a significant portion of our citizens (1 in 3) held a high paying union job.  Everyone was doing well, including those at the very bottom.  During this time period, those in the bottom 20%, in terms of income distribution, saw their incomes grow at a pace equal to those in the top 20%.  As a result, 1 parent could work and earn enough to support the entire family.  People could afford to purchase a home, save for their children’s college fund, and retire with the comfort of knowing they were secure in their old age due to the pensions they were receiving.

Of equal importance, there was less poverty, crime, alcohol and drug abuse, imprisonment, obesity, teenage pregnancies, etc.  Why?  Because the more equal the distribution of income is in a society, the less social-ills seen in that society.  (See the about section of this blog).  Notice there is no Occupy Sweden movement taking place.

As a result of the increasing income inequality trend that has taken place over the past 30 years, our political system continues to favor the top .1% at the expense of the rest of us, not only in terms of our wages, benefits and pensions, but also in terms of the social-ills mentioned above.

The only chance we have to reverse this devastating trend is if the Occupy Wall Street movement is successful, and we go back to a time when all segments of the population grow at an equal rate.  After all, an equal distribution of income is what enabled the creation of the ‘middle class’, which is now being systematically destroyed.

Bottom line:  Income inequality is the problem, and income equality is the solution.  In my opinion, income equality ought to be the primary focus of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

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