Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Won't Somebody Please Think of the Needy Wealthy?

Republican Senator Jim DeMint recently introduced an amendment to repeal the Estate Tax permanently. Not adjust it or improve it – repeal it entirely. Never mind that there's staggering wealth inequity in America. The amendment failed, but the GOP and some of the Blue Dogs voted for it. Like the Republicans, Blue Dogs Kent Conrad and Evan Bayh want to extend Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy, despite the ineffectiveness of those cuts at creating jobs (and even though they don't affect more than 2% of family farms and small businesses). Needless to say, these are the same people who vote against unemployment benefits, fought for a smaller stimulus bill, and often oppose jobs programs. Their only goal seems to be to give more money to the wealthiest Americans, and everything else is secondary. As Paul Krugman points out, "The truth... is that the only problem Republicans ever had with George W. Bush was his low approval rating. They always loved his policies and his governing style — and they want them back."

Senator Bernie Sanders has been speaking out against this, and Nicole Belle at Crooks and Liars passes on a short video and Sanders op-ed. Here's DeMint, followed by Sanders:

And here's part of Sanders' op-ed in The Nation, "No to Oligarchy":

The American people are hurting. As a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, millions of Americans have lost their jobs, homes, life savings and their ability to get a higher education. Today, some 22 percent of our children live in poverty, and millions more have become dependent on food stamps for their food.

And while the Great Wall Street Recession has devastated the middle class, the truth is that working families have been experiencing a decline for decades. During the Bush years alone, from 2000-2008, median family income dropped by nearly $2,200 and millions lost their health insurance. Today, because of stagnating wages and higher costs for basic necessities, the average two-wage-earner family has less disposable income than a one-wage-earner family did a generation ago. The average American today is underpaid, overworked and stressed out as to what the future will bring for his or her children. For many, the American dream has become a nightmare.

But, not everybody is hurting. While the middle class disappears and poverty increases the wealthiest people in our country are not only doing extremely well, they are using their wealth and political power to protect and expand their very privileged status at the expense of everyone else. This upper-crust of extremely wealthy families are hell-bent on destroying the democratic vision of a strong middle-class which has made the United States the envy of the world. In its place they are determined to create an oligarchy in which a small number of families control the economic and political life of our country.

The 400 richest families in America, who saw their wealth increase by some $400 billion during the Bush years, have now accumulated $1.27 trillion in wealth. Four hundred families! During the last fifteen years, while these enormously rich people became much richer their effective tax rates were slashed almost in half. While the highest-paid 400 Americans had an average income of $345 million in 2007, as a result of Bush tax policy they now pay an effective tax rate of 16.6 percent, the lowest on record.

Sanders gave a Senate speech on the same subject earlier in the week, which you can read or watch here, or watch below:

It's too bad Bernie Sanders isn't the norm rather than the exception, but it's refreshing to hear him speak. An earlier post, "Attack of the Plutocrats," goes into far greater depth, but as Bill Moyers says, "Plutocracy and democracy don't mix."

(Cross-posted at Hullabaloo.)


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