Today many of us are preparing for a Thanksgiving feast we will serve in our homes tomorrow. My prayers go out today to the millions of Americans who are out of work, and the record 46.2 million who are currently living in poverty. Sadly, this is not because people don’t want to work. It is the result of policies our government has chosen to pursue, from the lobbying of those who benefit from the policies and laws that have been changed. This inequity is more severe in the U.S. than it is in nearly all of West Africa, North Africa, Europe, and Asia. We’re on par with some of the world’s most troubled countries, and not far from the perpetual conflict zones of Latin American and Sub-Saharan Africa. Our income gap also continues to get worse, having widened both in absolute and relative terms since the 1980s. The Congressional Budget Office has released a disturbing analysis showing the growth in income inequity in the last 30 years.
I am grateful for the Occupy Movement for having the courage to take a stand and raise their voices about the extreme injustice taking place in our country. This an answered prayer for me. I have been so angry seeing the robbery and fraud perpetrated on Americans since 2007 when I saw what was happening in the mortgage markets. The OWS protest “Banks got bailed out, while we got sold out” is true. Its been happening for some time now, since 1979, when the first change was made to the capital gains tax. It has gotten worse and worse with the lobbying influence and Citizens United the landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court in 2010 saying that Corporations are people, allowing the flood gates of secret funds to pour into the political process. But, “it’s crystal clear that the Bush tax reduction on capital gains and dividend income in 2003 was the cutting edge policy that has created the immense increase in net worth of corporate executives, Wall St. professionals and other entrepreneurs”. My post “FINALLY! A BILL WITH BI-PARTISIAN SUPPORT, BUT WHERE IS OUR TAX HOLIDAY?” details the proposed corporate tax holiday, another way to pass money through to CEO’s, executives, and shareholders through dividend payments. For example, Steve Ballmer of Microsoft received about $1.5 Billion in dividend income, taxable at 15%, that’s only $225 million. Meaning he netted $1.275 BILLION. Any one making under $200,000 a year is subject to 35 percent tax. It doesn’t take a calculator here to see how easy it is to get richer and richer. Earlier this year, the Federal Reserve gave permission for several banks to pay higher dividends. Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, stands to eventually reap nearly $6 million a year in dividend payments from the stock he owns, an amount that equals almost a third of his total pay in 2010. Capital One’s chief executive, Richard D. Fairbank, could earn nearly $3 million a year as the credit card giant weighs a similar move. Several other banks have said they plan to pay a similar percentage of earnings to shareholders. So chief executives stand to reap especially large gains because they are traditionally among the biggest holders of company stock.
Did you know?:
- The top 0.1 percent– about 315,000 individuals out of 315 million Americans– are making about half of all capital gains on the sale of shares or property after 1 year; and these capital gains make up 60% of the income made by the Forbes 400. The lowering of the capital gains tax over the years, currently at 15 percent is the key ingredient in the explosive income growth of the one percent.
- In just the last generation, the richest one percent almost quadrupled their incomes.
- The average wealth of the one percent is 225 percent than the wealth of the typical household – the highest it has ever been in our country.
- Three decades ago, CEO’s made about 40 times as much as an average worker. Today CEO’s makes almost 200 times as much as regular employees.
- Last year, half of Americans earned less than $26,000 while CEOs at top 500 companies raked in an average of $11 million.
- I am sure I don’t need to make this point – you probably already know your earnings don’t go as far as they used to. It isn’t your imagination. Over the past decade, earnings for middle-class Americans actually fell. In fact, working Americans’ wages are now a lower percentage of our economy than they’ve ever been. The divide between the richest and the poorest is worse in America than it is in nearly all of Europe and Asia and much of Africa. It’s about as bad as in Rwanda and Serbia – and it’s bad for our economy. People need jobs.
- The growth of wealth for the one percent is not the result of hard work nor an accident. The wealth has been made off the backs of the working classes, because they have been able to buy lobbyists and congress officials to write laws that benefit them.
Many years ago Late Justice Louis Brandeis issued a warning to our nation, and it is more true now than it was then – “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” We have to make up our minds to restore a higher, fairer capital gains tax to the wealthiest investor class– or ultimately face increased social unrest.
This Thanksgiving as we give thanks for what we have, and the freedoms we have, let us not forget the power of our voice. And the power of voting with our feet. It is up to all of us to do what we can to stand together for a government that is fair to all it’s people not just the top one percent.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
John Fitzgerald Kennedy