by David T. Bruce
Many analysts and columnists are insisting that the economy is getting better. The state of the economy is a relative condition, however, as over 12 million Americans remain unemployed, with long-term unemployed men and women accounting for 38 percent of that number. At any rate, this perceived economic recovery has prompted President Obama to offer up an increase in the federal minimum wage over the next two years.
The arguments against raising the minimum wage are predictable, as they are consistent. Business owners contend that an increase in the minimum wage would force them to pass that cost on to the consumer. As well, the costs associated with paying employees more would limit the number of employees that they could hire, thereby further impacting the unemployment rate. This may be the case, certainly for small business owners who are trying to earn a living, but for those larger corporations that are doing well, these arguments amount to pure greed.
The current minimum wage of $7.25 amounts to $15,080 a year; this places a family of two below the poverty level. This is recovery? To pay rent in 1960, a person would have to work 71 hours at minimum wage ($1); a person would have to work 109 hours at the current minimum wage, to afford rent. This is recovery?
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (unaffectionatly referred to as Obamacare by dissenters) compels business owners employing over 50 people to provide those employees with healthcare benefits. Companies such as Wendy’s (in Omaha, Nebraska), Papa John’s and Walmart are systematically structuring their workforce to avoid providing benefits. This is greed. And the bottom line of the argument against increasing the federal minimum wage is greed.
Business owners regularly raise prices to keep pace with inflation. Local utilities and governments do likewise. When will big businesses and governments realize that at some point, prices will be raised so much that they will lose money? The federal government does understand this, as government employees have historically received a cost-of-living allowance to help offset inflation.
The unemployed and underemployed Americans cannot give what they do not have. At some point, everyone will suffer. There is plenty of evidence to support that an increase in minimum wage would be a good thing, and the numbers demonstrate that big businesses continues to prosper while the middle class deteriorates. Every time you read or hear that the economy is improving, you can bet that Wall Street is doing very well, while the rest of us are worse off than we were yesterday.
Only in America Can 1% Be The Majority
by David T. Bruce
A small group of students are responsible for launching a campaign against the practices of Wall Street and the United States government, the fiscally brutal corporate tag-team that has launched their own campaign against the poorest Americans. In an Associated Press article, the events of the past two weeks surrounding the Wall Street Protests have been summarized, giving voice to the hundreds of citizens who are taking the time to exercise their power of speech during a time when millions of Americans feel powerless to do anything else. While the Republicans and Democrats continue pointing fingers at each other and the President (regardless of who holds the office), our federal government as a whole is demonstrating to an increasing number of American citizens that their health and welfare, their life and liberty, and their happiness mean nothing.
While 14 percent of Americans are relying on the food stamp program to feed themselves, the Republican Party is proposing for the 2012 budget plan that this program should be curtailed and restructured much in the same was as they are proposing to restructure the Medicaid program. Subsidies would be eliminated, replaced by federal grants. Capitol Hill has been relentless in their less-than-bipartisan efforts to shave billions of dollars from the deficit by cutting back on “entitlement” programs from the Americans who need assistance the most.
I am not writing of the small group of Americans who indeed enjoy taking something for nothing. I am writing of the Americans who have worked hard to build a life and raise a family and now find themselves without a job, without a home, and without money for food and healthcare – primarily because of a system that favored corporate greed and Wall Street corruption that led to a broken economy. It is appalling that the government is cutting back on programs that these people paid taxes to help support while continuing to support tax breaks and loopholes for corporations and big oil. I am writing of the Americans that are trying to get ahead and improve their lives but are trapped in a system that almost forces people to make less or go hungry, as food prices continue to rise.
While the Associated Press suggests that a clear objective is not apparent, the rallying cry is clear enough: “Occupy Wall Street is [a] leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that we are the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.”
This objective seems clear enough.
It is blatantly clear that the 1% does not get it – or does not want to. The objective does not need to be detailed or obtuse. The plan does not need to have a laundry list of stake holders and varied implementation strategies. The United States Constitution is the governing plan for this country, and our current government officials have spent at least the past few decades manipulating and twisting the words of the Constitution to satisfy their (im)moral, corporate, and personal agendas.
We have a right to speak out against such corruption, and the protestors on Wall Street are doing just that. We must speak out with words, with votes, and with dollars that work in support of Americans, not for a political party.
We may not be at Liberty Square with the protestors right now, but we stand firmly with them in every way, as members of the 99% who will no longer tolerate the disintegration of America over the greed, hypocrisy, and the corruption of Wall Street, Congress, and corporations.
Every year, our government asks that we donate $3 to the Presidential election campaign. The instructions for the 1040 form specifically state that “the fund reduces candidates’ dependence on large contributions from individuals and groups.”
Candidates do not just depend on these contributions. They thrive on them, and the companies and groups that make these large contributions thrive on the support that their candidate gives to their cause.
Our federal government, led by either party, has done little or nothing for us over the past few decades – and little or nothing to change what is broken within the system. What little they have done has been to further their own interests and that of the major companies that have been filling and continue to fill the coffers of our elected representatives.
If any taxpayer is at all compelled to check the box that allows candidates to have any more money, please give the money to Occupy Wall Street or similar movements. Give $3 to a homeless person. Help feed a neighbor. Those people are the Americans that are fighting for the rights of all Americans, and they do so without massive contributions or media attention.
Take heed, Wall Street. Someday – perhaps soon – American citizens will have nothing left to lose and will gleefully sit by and watch while your economic empire crumbles.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.“ – Declaration of Independence
by David Bruce
Ever-embroiled in debate, members of Congress are now in dispute over how to avoid financial default. Most of us who live in the United States and work for a living to support ourselves and our families have some idea how to balance our budget and how to avoid financial distress. Our elected representatives, however, show little sign of fiscal competence or moral demeanor, as they publicly and shamelessly deliberate on the best approach for avoiding a situation that will largely affect the elderly and disabled citizens of our country. Additionally, should our government default, we more-than-likely would endure increased interest rates, and government employees would suffer delays in pay. Regardless of income-level, individual taxpayers would be adversely affected. Conversely, our government and largest corporations would continue operating in such a way that they would benefit to some degree, regardless of the political or economic fallout.
Should our government default, a worst-case scenario illustrates that government employees (including service members) and social security recipients would sacrifice timely receipt of their paychecks. Major corporations would make attempts to recoup any losses by raising interest rates on credit cards, mortgages, and other loans. Would these large businesses be deprived of anything? Indeed, the ledgers may initially reflect a less-than-profitable quarter: nothing that a government bailout wouldn’t resolve. The American public does not merit a bailout, though, even with an election on the horizon. The major corporations are the darlings of both Democratic and Republican parties.
A list of ten companies was recently compiled that illustrates the overbearing tax burden suffered by large businesses in America. Of course, the buzz about the earnings and refunds for General Electric has made headlines across the Internet. Also worth mentioning, however, is the recent tax refund of $1.9 billion that Bank of America received in addition to their $4.4 billion in profit. This is also a company that profited from the aforementioned bailout. In 2008 Goldman Sachs paid income taxes measuring 1.1 percent of its income. In 2010 Citigroup paid no federal income tax, yet they generated in excess of $4 billion dollars of income (let us not overlook the bailout monies). In 2009 Exxon Mobile paid no income taxes against profits of $19 billion. Additional evidence is easy to access.
The families surviving on wages that are considered to be poverty-level and not paying federal income tax are not the criminals. The well-to-do families who have benefited from hard work, raising their standard of living significantly are not the criminals. Yet these two demographics are pitted against one another, tools in the political mêlée waged by each and every one of our elected representatives. Individual American taxpayers in the lowest 20% tax bracket and individual American taxpayers in the highest 20% tax bracket are positioned as bitter rivals in this Congressional conflict. The poorest Americans pay little or no federal taxes, and the wealthiest Americans pay the largest percentage. While the former would most likely switch places with the latter without argument or hesitation, and while the latter certainly has a valid argument against further tax increases against money that have rightfully earned, the fact remains that the real criminals are on Wall Street and Capital Hill.
An article in the Tucson Citizen pointed out that in 2010 individual income tax accounted for 42% of total revenue, while corporate income tax accounted for a mere 9% of total revenue. From outward appearances, this is what and who our representatives are fighting for. In a Christian Science Monitor article, calculations demonstrate that tax breaks are worth about $1,000 to a typical family earning about $21,000 or less, augmenting their after-tax income by 9 percent. Middle income families earning between $40,000 and $70,000 receive an average of about $4,000, increasing their after-tax incomes by about 8 percent. For those in the top 1 percent, tax breaks allow those wage-earners to increase their after-tax incomes by more than 20 percent. According to this research, the highest-income 20 percent enjoy almost two-thirds of the benefits of tax expenditures. More than one-quarter of tax breaks are allotted to the top 1 percent alone.
The issue is not whether or not taxes should be raised or for whom taxes should be raised. The issue is the major loopholes that exist permitting major companies to bring their tax liability to a percentage lower than that of the average working American. The issue is our elected representatives who represent the interests of these companies and their own self-interests. These issues will not resolve themselves. The majority of our representatives do not care about us as people. They do not care how we live, if we live, or how we die. They want our vote. They have taken virtually everything else from us; do not give them a vote they have not earned.
Your enemy is not your neighbor.