Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be

No More Sympathy For The Devil


“Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game…”

Like the famous Rolling Stones tune,  Republicans and their Tea Party would like you to have sympathy for the job creators.

‘Cut them a break,’ they say, so they can hire you back, or you can at least get some  minimum wage part time position just to get by.

How many more breaks do billionaires need? Corporations are flush with cash, but they are not hiring.  How much more wealth will we subsidize while we eat Top Ramen?

As much as Republicans talk trash about Mr. Obama’s stimulus programs, they worked.

“CBO estimates that the overall employment impact peaked in the third quarter of last year when there were between 2 million and 5.2 million more jobs than there would have been without the stimulus. By late this year the impact will be less than half that great, CBO says.” [1]

Jobs are shrinking because companies are hoarding their cash. Sitting on the sidelines. 

To fix this, Republicans preach the Gospels of Austerity. You get your house in financial order by slashing spending, or you should, right?  They say that the Government should get to the kitchen table and balance their checkbook. That it will increase business “confidence” to go out and hire and spend.  Economist Paul Krugman’s New York Times opinion “In Search of the Confidence Fairy,” says that in the United Kingdom, though, where their conservatives are practicing what ours preach, it is the exact opposite.

“Austerity seems to have hurt, not helped, business confidence; as the [U.K. accounting firm] BDO says, ‘Private sector unprepared to fill the hole left by public sector cuts.’

“Why do we think the US experience — with the GOP proposals far less serious and responsible than Cameron’s — would be any better?”[2

The U.S. economy moves and grows in a circular motion. At a recent appearance on MSNBC’s Meet the Press, Dave Cote, Chairman and CEO of  Honeywell admitted that while the tax breaks are nice, uncertainty in demand is what stops these companies from hiring.

Companies can’t make goods, or provide services, unless they are going to get paid.  If you knew you weren’t going to find enough customers for what you sell, would you make a lot of it and put it in a warehouse, hoping for better times?  Would you open new stores to sell to people who don’t have jobs?  The likely to that question is no.

Uncertainty in knowing how many people will come in to purchase their goods and services keeps them from hiring more people now, unemployment keeps demand more uncertain because without money, people don’t shop. See how it comes full circle?

President Obama knows that we need a balance of budget cuts and higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans.  When he mentions it, though,  the Tea Party and the GOP shout that this is class warfare.  It is a claim which we, as Democrats and Liberals, immediately back away from.

‘It’s not class warfare!,” we say. ‘It’s all in the name of fairness.”

Then they call us Socialists. The conversation devolves into exactly what the wealthy backers of the GOP want. Name-calling and gridlock which both stall progress.

You want to call it class warfare?  Why the hell not?

Make no mistake: We are already at war. Even when those businesses go back to hiring, your jobs are going overseas, not here.

” The latest data show that multinationals cut 2.9 million jobs in the United States and added 2.4 million overseas between 2000 and 2009.” [3]

Companies are so secretive about their shifting of jobs overseas that government statisticians can only get the data on the promise that they don’t break down that number by company.

Class warfare is nothing new. In an article by Ben Stein for the New York Times on November 26, 2006, class warfare was discussed with billionaire Warren Buffet. At that time, Buffet compiled a data sheet of taxes paid by his staff and was appalled that the percentage he paid on his income was lower than those who made far less. He went on to tell Stein when asked about class warfare:

“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

Things have worsened considerably since Wall Street crashed the economy in 2008.

Fast forward to 2011.  On August 14 of this year, Buffet authored an op-ed  for the New York Times about the very sore subject of taxing the wealthiest among us.

“Our leaders have asked for ‘shared sacrifice.’ But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched…

“These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species.”[4]

He put the numbers right out there for everyone to see how the wealthy are protected:

“Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.”

Raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and closing high-earner and corporate tax loopholes so that, we,  the middle class, are not subsidizing private jets and corporate excursions to exotic locales, gets a laugh and a condescending pat on the head from the GOP and Tea Party.

They smile at us, and remind us to keep working. The sacrifices that we make today will benefit their grandchildren in years to come.   For that we should be happy, right?  I mean, middle class working people don’t create jobs.  It must be so hard being wealthy.  If we have to give them a jet or a new fleet of cars or some other ridiculous credit they get, then that’s just par for the course, right?

Wrong. Dead wrong.

The history of  the labor that built the great business empires of this country stands on generations of exploitation. Indentured servants. Slavery. Even in the “progressive” Northern states, factory workers  were taken advantage of because they didn’t sign their own paychecks.  There was nobody to protect workers. Children were put to work. Working conditions were bad.  The hours were atrocious.  There was rampant discrimination.  The pay was very low.

The entrance of unions, and the protection of workers by government balanced the scales. Wages rose to meet reasonable standards of living. The workweek normalized to a decent 40 hours. Child labor was ended. Safety standards were set.

Working conditions not only became a whole lot better, but making those conditions better for workers improved the economy.  It increased demand for the goods and services that these workers used, which in-turn grew companies and improved the prosperity of everyone, including the super rich.

Out of the 308,745,538 million Americans, according to the 2010 Census, 18.3% are on some sort of federally provided aid that is part of the social safety net. [5]

Who do we blame for that poverty?  Why the impoverished of course! Instead of asking corporations to stop sending work overseas or asking them to pay  better wages, we slap the poor guy for having the nerve to be poor.  According to most Tea Party types the problem is simple: The poor just don’t want to work. They’re true believers of that Horatio Algier myth about “Mark the Matchboy” who pulled himself up out of poverty through hard work and determination.  If you’re permanently disabled, poorly educated by a public system that let you down, or the job that you had for years was cut out by progress, or shipped to some cheaper factory overseas, that’s your tough luck.

The very same thing occurs with Social Security and Medicare. Those are entitlement programs because we are entitled to to them when we become  a certain age, or our ability to make a living turns on our age or our fate.

The GOP and the Tea Party have made this a dirty word that no one wants to use.  Elderly citizen: You didn’t save more retirement money while working in the steel mill and raising a family from your modest income? The people running the mill mishandled the company’s finances and badly invested your promised pension?  It’s you, not the billionaires, at fault, buddy. You should have known better.

If  we are losing the class war it is our fault, though.  We’ve had social safety nets, unions,  government regulations of the workplace,  pension fund regulations, and other rules for more than 78 years.  It’s what we expect.  We’ve become complacent. These Tea Party types are funded by dead billionaires and their grand children who have been fighting to destroy the New Deal since it was put into effect.  If we don’t fight back, they will win.  The Tea Party has guys like the Koch Brothers and the Adolph Coors Foundation with millions of dollars to spend to make their point.  Although we have  unions for some workers, millions more of us don’t have a lobbyist in Washington that we can call.  We have our politicians we elect, but we can see that big money talks, while the rest of us walk.

The sparkling new Super Committee working on the budget in Washington is going to figure out what to cut from spending by November. Several GOP members on this panel have signed the Grover Norquist pledge to never raise taxes. Who do you think they will let suffer when this group is done?

This isn’t a fight with wealthy people, who have earned their money, to pay for everything.  We just want it to be fair.

Thanks to Mitt Romney (See: “Corporations are People Too, Wackadoo, Wackadoo” on t2P)  the term wealthy Americans now includes corporations.

The middle class and the poor work their jobs.  Many, because most of the new private sector jobs are in retail and service businesses, for minimum wage with no benefits.

We pay for their overpriced products and get raped by gas prices just so we can get to these dead end jobs every day.  The United States is a great country. The wealthiest in the world. Yet 50.2 million of our citizens, just over 16% of our population, live in food insecure households. That poverty is felt hardest in African-American households (24.9%) and Hispanic households (26.9%)[5]

These billionaires recruit other struggling middle class and poor Americans to fight for them. How many of you have argued with a neighbor, in similar circumstances to your own, who fights to keep those loopholes in place for the wealthy because they believe in the confidence fairy?

“Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I’ll lay your soul to waste…”

No thanks, I got no more sympathy for the Devil.

About LPB

This is a "what's going on in the world" type of blog. Any and everything that interests me could make the cut! Politics, current events, fashion, television...we'll just have to see how I'm feeling that day.

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