The wealthiest 5% of Americans control 72% of America's financial wealth. The bottom 80% control only 7% of the nation's financial wealth. The richest 400 Americans have more combined wealth than the poorer HALF of all Americans. That means 400 people have more wealth than 150,000,000 people combined. American corporations saw record profits in 2010. Nearly 80% of all economic gains made in the past thirty years have gone to the richest 1%. In the 1970s, the average CEO made 30 times what an hourly worker made. Today, a CEO makes 300 times what an hourly worker makes.
Meanwhile, unemployment remains around 9%. Underemployment is much higher.
Wages are stagnant. The cost of necessities like food, gas and healthcare are soaring.
If you were among the beneficiaries of this trend, if you had more financial wealth than 375,000 of your fellow citizens combined, if you made 300 times what one of your hard-working, middle class employees made, and if you saw the everyday struggle that middle-class and working class families go through, and if you were a humane, reasonable human being, your heart would go out to them. You could conclude that it was time to share the wealth. You would conclude that you are not worth more than three hundred of the people whose blood, sweat and tears really make your company successful. No humane, sane, reasonable and compassionate human being could honestly believe they were worth that much more than a fellow American.
Certainly no one who believes that "all men are created equal" could believe such a thing.
Only an ego-maniacal sociopath could think not only is he 300 times more important than his fellow human beings, but that he actually is entitled to a GREATER disparity in wealth and power than he already enjoys.
The logical conclusion, then, is that most of the people who comprise the wealthiest 1% of Americans are not humane, reasonable, sane, compassionate people. Why? Because instead of raising wages to reward productivity, instead of investing huge profits in hiring more workers, instead of contributing more to employee health plans and sharing the vast wealth that has been made for them by working people, they have declared war on the very people who made them rich.
Across the nation, they are demanding to be rewarded with even more wealth. While the middle class is struggling just to stay above water, the wealthy have tasked their puppets in the GOP with waging a three-pronged attack against what remains of middle-class power and wellbeing. It is a strategy that is being waged state by state across the country and also at the federal level in Washington, D.C. The strategy is simple:
First, pass massive tax cuts that primarily benefit large corporations and wealthy individuals.
Second, use the resulting loss of revenue to declare a "financial crisis" and begin making massive cuts to state and federal budgets.
Third, undermine the ability of middle and working class people to fight back by taking away their rights to collective bargaining and by selling off the institutions of a democratic state.
When you see this same pattern repeated in state after state across the country, when you see this same pattern reflected at the federal level, when you see it happening again and again you cannot escape the conclusion that it is a national, coordinated strategy to further enrich the wealthiest 2% at the expense of everyone else.
Last week I shared this chart by the Center for American Progress that shows this strategy in action at the federal level. The Republicans first demanded that we extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Now they complain that the deficit is "out of control" and has to be reigned in. But do they balance that budget by reducing billions in subsidies given to oil companies? Do they even consider touching the TRILLION dollars we spend per year on defense? No, because most of those dollars benefit big corporations.
Instead, Republicans, with Democrats eager to aid them, call for cuts in home heating assistance to the poor! The rich must get richer at the expense of everyone else.
Now I want to take a quick look at a few states where we see this national pattern repeated.
This is the most well known example right now. Scott Walker came into office and immediately offered his corporate friends more than $100 million in tax breaks. Then, after this fiscally irresponsible move, he warned of the imminent "budget crisis" and th need for "massive cuts" to resolve it. He demanded more than $100 million in concessions from public employees. This is no different than if he had demanded that teachers and firefighters and police officers and bus drivers just hand over $100 million to people who make hundreds of times more than they do. He just did it in the reverse order. He gave their money away first and then demanded that they fork it over.
But this wasn't enough for Walker. He and the Republicans in the state senate showed their true colors by going after collective bargaining rights, even AFTER the workers agreed to fork over their hard earned money to the super-rich. He's demanding the ability to sell off publicly owned power plants to private corporations that could then dictate what ordinary Wisconsites have to pay for utilities. And without unions and without public control, the middle class will have no say and no ability to fight back in the future.
Governor John Kasich and newly elected Republican legislators are following the same pattern in the Buckeye State. Massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy followed up by bills demanding massive cuts in spending that benefit the middle class and the poor.
SB 5 calls for drastic spending cuts in education, safety, healthcare and the like. Again, the budget crisis was largely the GOP's own doing.
And like in Wisconsin, just demanding money from public employees was not enough.
The government is trying to take away their very rights to organize collectively and to defend themselves. The GOP wants to take away worker's rights to strike and to collectively bargain. Kasich wants to sell off five prisons to private interest so they can run prisons for profit. That worked out well in Pennsylvania, didn't it? Remember the judge featured in Capitalism: A Love Story who took bribes to send innocent CHILDREN to juvenile detention centers so corporations could get rich off tax payer money? Free prison labor also means less demand for hired laborers. Free slave labor for for-profit corporations means fewer jobs and slave wages for law-abiding Ohioans.
I think this one really takes the cake. Same story as above except you have to add in the horrendous legislation that would give the governor authority to disband elected local governments and replace them with private "emergency fiscal managers."
Governor Snyder created his own budget mess as well, slashing corporate taxes by 86% while increasing taxes on the middle class by nearly a third. This mirrors what took place at the federal level. Lost in the "compromise" on tax cuts was the fact that the federal earned income tax credit was discontinued. That means any individual making less than $20k and any family making less than $40k is actually paying MORE in taxes than they did last year. The party that loves to cut taxes really only likes cutting them for their rich corporate sponsors. They have no problem at all raising taxes on working people.
These same tactics are being employed in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Tennessee, New Jersey and all over the country wherever the big corporations managed to get their pluto-puppets installed in office. This is nothing less than an all-out assault on the middle-class and the American way of life. The corporate plutocrats and their pluto-puppets have declared war on the American dream.
It is high time that working Americans stand up and defend themselves! We cannot sit idly by and allow the plundering of our states, cities and towns. We cannot sand for politicians who would sell off our political institutions and eviscerate the rights that workers fought and died for during decades of struggle. We cannot remain silent any longer.
And thankfully, many people are rising to the challenge. All of us have been inspired by the efforts of protesters in Wisconsin. Michigan protesters have followed suit and have tried to reclaim the people's house there as well. Defend the dream rallies in Ohio and around the country brought together thousands of people willing to fight back and Defend the Dream. We must all stand united if America is to once again be a land of opportunity for ALL people, not just for a select few.
Worker's rights are HUMAN RIGHTS. The right to come together and protest, to form unions that collectively petition for a redress of grievances, and the right to have a say in how your state and workplace are governed--these are FIRST AMENDMENT rights to assembly, petition and speech.
We must stand together and defend these rights against anyone who would assault them in the hopes of making a few more bucks.
United we bargain, divided we beg.
The plutocrats and their puppets started this war. We, the people, will finish it!