Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Billionaires Kill: Volume 1

The inability to grasp the pathology of our oligarchic rulers is one of our gravest faults. We have been blinded to the depravity of our ruling elite by the relentless propaganda of public relations firms that work on behalf of corporations and the rich. Compliant politicians, clueless entertainers and our vapid, corporate-funded popular culture, which holds up the rich as leaders to emulate and assures us that through diligence and hard work we can join them, keep us from seeing the truth ~ Chris Hedges (dob 9/18/1956) an American journalist and best-selling author specializing in American politics and society. With this quote from his 10/20/2013 commentary "Let's Get This Class War Started" Hedges warns us that we aren't taking the danger posed by billionaires seriously.

Recently I read a commentary on a Libertarian blog where the proprietor and author asked "whether having multiple billionaires in a Society is desirable or not". He added some caveats, but basically the answer was yes, billionaires are beneficial. In regards to this conclusion I am in strong disagreement. Progressive talk radio host Thom Hartmann wrote an article about this awhile back, and his conclusion was that we (as a society) should not allow anyone to accumulate a billion dollars (or more).

Thom codified his proposal by launching the "No Billionaires" campaign and website. As proposed by Mr. Hartmann, when anyone accumulates WEALTH (in aggregate, he isn't referring to income) in excess of a billion dollars, that a wealth tax of 100% should be assessed. While that may sound extreme and I'm sure the aforementioned Libertarian blogger would label me "Far Left" in response, I say Thom Hartmann's case against billionaires makes sense and is something I would support.

Regarding why I would support a tax that amounts to confiscation (oh, my!), I'd like to address that question with four quotes from the aforementioned Libertarian blogger and follow up these selected quotations with excerpts from the articled authored by Thom Hartmann in which he lays out his case. As follows...

1. Libertarian Blogger: In and of itself it's a meaningless question (the question of whether or not billionaires are desirable). You would also have to known, in my opinion, a) the overall size of the economy, b) the growth rate, c) the opportunity structure, d) the regulatory climate, e) the amount of crony capitalism involved...

My Commentary: No, you don't need to address those questions before deciding whether or not billionaires are desirable. They are not, whatever the answers to those questions might be. The reason they are not is that, when money is allowed to aggregate in the hands of a few the result is ALWAYS that those few (or some among them... example: The Koch Brothers) use their wealth to manipulate public discussion, public opinion and our legislators (via campaign donations AKA bribes). Wealth aggregated in a few hands breeds political corruption (the bribes I just mentioned). Mr. Hartmann points this out with the following (excerpt from his article)...

Thom Hartmann: We've been given political corruption as billionaires like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers can now buy politicians and legislation to benefit their own selfish interests like tax cuts for wealthy people, deregulation for polluting oil corporations, and free trade for job outsourcers.

2. Libertarian Blogger: I mean, I know that the left de facto wants me to say that billionaires are evil and all but I would simply point out that Cuba, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, and Indonesia don't have any billionaires and do we really want to emulate them?

My Commentary: Untrue. The Left does not want YOU (or anyone representing your Libertarian/Conservative) position to "de facto" say billionaires are "evil". This "evil" nonsense is a STRAW MAN the Right likes to break out whenever this question comes up. Selfishness may indeed be evil, but that is not what is at issue. The real question is whether or not having billionaires is beneficial to society. Also, the reason some countries are poor has nothing to do with them having or not having billionaires and we don't need to emulate any poor country to not have billionaires (this is another STRAW MAN).

Also...

Thom Hartmann: The issue is not punishing the wealthy. The issue is acknowledging that billionaires have sucked up so much wealth out of our economy that the rest of us are drowning. What's worse is the rest of us are working harder than ever. Productivity has steadily increased post-World War 2, and it used to be that income gains increased right alongside it. But around the time of Reagan, productivity and wages began to diverge. While productivity increased, wages stagnated. That's because all the extra profits made by increased productivity weren't given back to the workers, but instead pocketed by CEOs and executives.

3. Libertarian Blogger: You would also have to know... what the billionaires do with the money (do they waste it on politics or are they philanthropic?).

Thom Hartmann: Our nation does not thrive on the goodwill of billionaires. We thrive on the hard work of average Americans who wake up every day, go to work, care for their families, and raise children to believe that America is a "WE" society - a place where we all work together. Not a place where we wait for scraps to fall off the billionaires' dining table.

My Commentary: The Libertarian blogger has posted on the awesomeness of billionaire philanthropy before, but I'm with Thom Hartmann on this. Whether or not billionaires are philanthropic is not at issue. OVERALL the existence of billionaires is destructive, as Mr. Hartmann explains in his article...

Thom Hartmann: We've been given financial instability as billionaires, having more money than they can spend in a dozen lifetimes, go to Wall Street to gamble. As author Larry Beinhart has discovered, whenever tax rates drop below 50% - and the super-rich have a lot of hot money to play with - there are always subsequent economic crashes: It happened in the 1920s, it happened in the 1980s with the Savings and Loan crisis, and it happened just a few years ago with the housing bubble bursting.

My Commentary: An example of how the existence of billionaries is destructive would include the crony capitalism mentioned by the Libertarian blogger. It is CAUSED by billionaires spending money to influence our political system. The two go hand-in-hand (billionaires and crony capitalism). This is a fact Mr. LB is clearly oblivious to. Another harm billionaires visit on our economy is the crowding out (and outright targeting) of small business...

Thom Hartmann: We've been given gigantic transnational corporations - steered by billionaires - that can crush the competition of small business and kill the American entrepreneurial spirit. According to a newly released study by the New America Foundation, the number of entrepreneurs per capita in America has dropped by 53% since 1977. And since 1991, the number of Americans who are self-employed has dropped by more than 20%. Americans who use to be able to start their own businesses are increasingly being forced to join the ranks of the working poor - crowded out of the market by the billionaires' corporate domination.

4. Libertarian Blogger: Thankfully, the economy isn't a zero-sum game. (This is actually a comment Mr. LB makes to his own post).

My Commentary: Up to a certain point this is true, but the way the billionaries have been playing the game, it is NOT... as pointed out by Mr. Hartmann...

Thom Hartmann: ...the rest of us are working harder than ever. Productivity has steadily increased post-World War 2, and it used to be that income gains increased right alongside it. But around the time of Reagan, productivity and wages began to diverge. While productivity increased, wages stagnated. That's because all the extra profits made by increased productivity weren't given back to the workers, but instead pocketed by CEOs and executives. In other words, we're all working harder, but unfortunately by no will of our own have been forced to give up these fruits of our labor to the elites - to the billionaires whose wealth has exploded and continues to increase year after year.

My Commentary: Is Mr. LB completely unaware of the fact that income and productivity gains used to track each other and they no longer are? This is the very definition of zero-sum, Mr. LB! In another commentary on his blog Mr. LB says "the assertion that the rich are getting richer is a patently false one" and he "proves" his assertion by citing figures concerning the percentage of wealth held by the top 1%, a figure that does fluctuate and is currently lower than it has been in the past (in 1992 the top 1% held 37.2% of our nation's wealth and in 2010 they held 35.4%).

But this is yet another of Mr. LB's STRAW MEN! There are a lot of people who qualify as rich who aren't members of the 1% club. As a whole the rich (not just the 1%, Mr. LB) ARE getting richer. According to a 4/25/2013 article titled "It's Official: The Rich Are Getting Richer And Everyone Else Is Getting Hosed" from the Business Insider (an article that cites a Pew Research Center study that "looked at how American households have fared since the depths of the recession")...

Business Insider: The richest 7% of American households went from owning 56% of the country's net worth to owning 63% of it. That left only 37% of the country's net worth to everyone else. (article by Henry Blodget)

Proof positive that the rich are getting richer. Now, Mr. LB loves to defend the wealthy and use STRAW MEN to do it, but the aggregation of enormous sums of money *is* destructive and deleterious to our economy and our nation, no matter how you slice it. It is bad regardless of what the answers to the meaningless questions Mr. LB asks...

Thom Hartmann: ...our subservience to the billionaires has given us a perverse form of capitalism - corporate capitalism - which subjugates all the needs of our society like clean air, food and water, security, healthcare, education, retirement, and energy to the demands of quarterly profits. To the demands of billionaires who sit in corporate boardrooms and figure out what extra bit of profit they can squeeze out of their workers, out of the fracking wells, out of the Gulf of Mexico, out of bombs dropping on Afghanistan, out of healthcare premiums, and out of pensions and retirements. As Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges has routinely pointed out, corporate capitalism, if left unchecked, will kill us.

My Commentary: Yes, corporate capitalism brought to us by the existence of billionaires is killing us. Unless we want to die (economically as well as literally) we need to rein them in. Or, as Thom Hartmann concludes, "the way to put a check on it (the destructive power of the billionaires) ...is to cut off the spigot funneling what was once middle class wealth to the billionaires".

10 comments:

  1. This post certainly deserves a good read and some analysis. At present I only wish to add to the discussion by perhaps identifying the genesis of your opponent's blog post.

    This back and forth reminded me of something happening at RN's blog Rational Nation USA. Much to his credit, RN had raised the question of raising the marginal taxation rate on the top incomes in the U.S.A. Your buddie, Will Hart, seemed content to just say the usual bullshit until sagacious cephalopod, (O)CT(O)PUS weighed in on income equality. Will got a little bit excited at this point about how wonderful it is to have real movers and shakers pushing our economy into the stratosphere, and IMNHO, thus was inspired to write the post that you have deemed worthy of counterpoint.

    It is actually of no insignificant interest in that it provides some insight into why dumbfucks that barely scrape together a middle class living given all of the advantages that their self-sacrificing parents provided for them in the golden age of liberalism, still support the horrifying realities of the republican party and American right wing of today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, this is my rebuttal to that discussion... and not a "hate post" as the troll Steve claims yet again (in a comment I sent to the Spam folder). If anyone is filled with hate it is the troll Steve. In response to your comment about visiting Lisa's blog and seeing Steve there, Steve said you're a liar and that me and you have gay sex and he hopes we both get AIDS. He also says I'm a "Jew Hater" (with absolutely no proof of me saying anything against Jewish people). But there is nothing wrong with hating gay people in this idiot's mind, I guess. Take your hate elsewhere, Steve.

      Delete
    2. You know the biggest camel shitting in the living room is the fact that ordinary people can no longer afford to send their children to college. People with successful careers still live from paycheck to paycheck with little going into savings. And that's if they are intelligent and prudent. Millions more succumb to the enticements of the consumer economy and predatory credit.

      Delete
  2. I have no particular problem with a 100% tax rate at some point like maybe $100 million more or less.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's difficult for me to respond to the minutia of back and forth, (real or imagined) between Will and yourself, but my general impression is that lack of meaningful regulation and a generalized acquiescence on the part of shareholders and consumers concerning out-of-control abuse of power has resulted in a culture of consolidation of resources and prestige within the hands of the few, the insiders. Those in power who know how to take care of their own. Incredibly, this type of sanctioned cronyism is not limited only to the corporate power structure but has permeated just about every organization, institution and university in the U.S. Those with better jobs and higher responsibilities have been worshiping their own egos and nurturing a sense of superiority for so long that they really believe that they need to command a salary two hundred and fifty times greater for the CEOs than that of the ordinary worker. If a good worker was making $20.00/hour, his CEO counterpart would make an equivalent salary of $5,000/hour. Seems rather absurd, does it not? That's not including bonuses, stock options, travel, expense accounts, etc. Even institutions of higher learning offer million dollar salaries and paid-for mansions, staffs and automobiles to "attract" the kind of talent they need.

    It's just plain wrong.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The following is from a Daily Kos article and concerns how much more CEOs make compared to average workers...

      The AFL-CIO has released its CEO Paywatch with 2011 data. So how do CEOs stack up against ordinary workers? Well, the average CEO of a company on the S&P 500 Index earned 380 times the average American worker's wage, with average CEO pay having increased 13.9 percent in 2011.

      The highest-paid CEO in the country was Apple's Timothy Cook, whose total compensation was nearly $378 million. That's more than 11,000 times the average worker's income of $34,053. The 100th highest-paid CEO, Heinz's W.R. Johnson, had total compensation of more than $18 million, 543 times the average worker's income. (4/19/2012)


      In America's top companies the salary of CEOs was an average of 380 times that of a blue-collar worker, while in 1980 the average was 42 times. According to the article "High CEO-to-worker pay ratios can reduce the performance of companies. Academic research has found that steep pay disparities hurt employee morale and productivity". But I'm sure some would disagree with that assertion.

      Libertarian voting Lester Nation says "I love billionaires". Libertarians believe the nonsense about rich people being "job creators" when it is actually consumers (workers with money in their pockets) who are the job creators. Those who fill the needs of the real job creators (be they rich or otherwise) are just taking advantage of the demand created by workers spending money. Instead of being grateful some of them act like leaches and parasites by sucking up as much money as they possibly can instead of paying their workers fairly (and some even bribe our representatives in Congress for favors so they can suck up more).

      I'd go farther than saying it is "plain wrong"... IMO it is theft.

      Delete
  4. Hey dickhead, don't have the balls to qoute my entire comment? Doesn't fit yor template?

    You're nothing but a shill and and a asshat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If people want to read your idiotic comment they can follow the link. I LINKED TO IT! I wasn't trying to hide a damn thing, as you suggest with your stupid "balls" remark. You put a lot of qualifiers on your remark, but they are all largely fantastical. You say you love billionaires, but only "If they are actually job creators, provide a living wage and help grow the middle class, provide decent company sponsored (subsidized) health insurance, and take zero government help".

      THEY DON'T... by and large. This is how billionaires become billionaires... they do the things you say they shouldn't. Lying Lester lives in a fantasy world if he believes all billionaires will play by the rules he lays out by choice. Our government corrupted by billionaire money PROVES otherwise. Lester is the shill (and a deluded one, at that).

      Delete
    2. Ah, poor little wd, hit a nerve did I.

      Whimper, whimper. LMAO!

      Delete
    3. No. And your accusation is nothing but a dodge. Obviously Lester couldn't address the actual content of my reply.

      Delete

COMMENT MODERATION IS IN EFFECT. YOUR COMMENT WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED UNTIL IT HAS BEEN APPROVED BY THE BLOG ADMINISTRATOR.

Comments from anyone of any political stripe will be published as long as they follow my expanded commenting guidelines. All comments submitted will be subjected to these guidelines, whether you read them or not.

IMPORTANT: Comments from individuals whose profiles that are set to not display will likely NOT be published (I check profile links before publishing). In addition, bloggers who attempt to spoof another blogger's ID and bloggers using "parody" IDs (i.e. "Shaw Keewee") will also likely not be published.