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Archive for November, 2019

Eight billionaires possess the same amount of wealth, and probably more, as the lower half of the world’s population, according to an analysis from the charity Oxfam released last Sunday.

Six of these billionaires, from Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people, are American entrepreneurs: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Rounding out the list are Carlos Slim, the Mexican tycoon, and Amancio Ortega, the Spanish founder of a retail conglomerate that includes clothing chain Zara. Together their net wealth ― assets minus debts ― amounts to $426 billion.

“Left unchecked, growing inequality threatens to pull our societies apart,” Oxfam writes in its report, citing Brexit, the rise of President Donald Trump and a rise in the widespread disillusionment with the absolute corruption of mainstream politics, which has been provided by, and benefitted, the rich at the expense of everybody else.

In 2016, the richest 1 percent of the world held slightly more than half of the wealth of the entire planet, Oxfam noted. While the 1,810 billionaires on Forbes’s list, 89 percent male, hold $6.5 trillion, as much wealth as 70 percent of humanity.

In other words, 70 percent of the world’s population is fighting among themselves over crumbs the rich have yet to scoop up.

All of the corruption is used to tilt the economic game in favor of the billionaires allowing them via the government to redistribute income and wealth from the 99 percent to themselves. Some of the corruption in the United States have included the successful negotiation of trade agreements with an eye toward lowering wages worldwide, suppression of federal minimum wage increases, Supreme Court decisions that have nearly eliminated 100+ years of campaign finance laws, the war against labor unions waged by the rich via their helpful federal government and their corrupt United States Supreme Court, lowering the tax rates of the rich to the point where billionaires now pay a lower rate than middle-class income earners. and the privatization of public services.

Last year, when Oxfam did its report, it took 62 billionaires to equal the bottom half of the world. The change this year seems drastic because of improvements in the quality of the data Credit Suisse was able to get. If Oxfam had used that improved data last year, it would’ve taken just 9 billionaires to reach parity with the world’s bottom half, Kripke said.

Rising inequality causes more than a sense of moral outrage and the election of reality TV stars. There’s a wide body of research that shows inequality adversely affects the health of those at the bottom, raising the risk of cardiovascular disease, increasing suicide rates and shortening lifespans. Some attribute the rise in the death rate of white people and the heroin epidemic to inequality.

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I paid my wealth tax of almost $3000 earlier this month. Doing so left me broke for a couple of weeks. This wealth tax is called a property tax, but the land you own is part of your wealth and my property tax could just as easily be called a wealth tax since it taxes part of my wealth.

Until recently, progressive taxation had been part of the fabric of American democracy for over a century. The idea the rich can pay more is quite biblical, just ask Jesus. Somebody who has $100 billion in wealth is going to pay $3 billion or so in tax, and some of them are acting as though the taxman is going to swing an ax into their billion-dollar genitals if the tax legislation is enacted.
These billionaires have rigged the economy in their favor by using their billions to corrupt both major political parties and the federal government in the process. They have used corruption to redistribute trillions of dollars from working folks to themselves in the process. This is why three people (Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos) own more wealth than the bottom half of the U.S. population. This is why the 1 percent have gained $21 trillion since 1989 and the bottom half of U.S. citizens have lost $900 billion (See  the-corrupting-billionaires-have-gotten-richer-by-21-trillion-since-1989)

Exporting millions of jobs via trade agreements alone sent trillions of dollars from working people to the billionaires over the last forty years. The difference between the old higher US pay and the new lower third world pay goes straight into the pockets of the billionaires via higher corporate profits, rising dividends, and surging share prices.

Corruption and class warfare against the 99 percent are running wild in all three branches of government, and that tiny progressive tax is a step in the right direction that might help put an end to it and restore U.S. democracy in the process.

I do not agree with everything Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders propose. However, I agree with former President Barack Obama when he said: “Income inequality is the defining challenge of our time.” He said it one time. Then somebody likely took him to the side, told him never to say it again, and he never did. Now he makes $400,000 a speech, which is $150,000 more than Bill and Hillary Clinton make.

We can put an end to this type of revolving-door corruption and other forms of political corruption. The wealth tax is just a tiny step in the right direction.

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A recent Wall Street Journal story claimed socialism was an utter failure and no nation which has embraced capitalism has ever failed. That was a lie, plain and simple. There are plenty of examples and we can begin right here with the complete failure of capitalism in the United States.

The roaring twenties was a time of unprecedented income and wealth inequality. This period was followed by the Great Depression beginning in 1929. The Depression devastated the U.S. economy. From 1929 to 1932, half of all banks failed, unemployment rose from 2.7 percent to 25.3 percent and homelessness became rampant. Housing prices plummeted 30%, international trade collapsed by 65%, the stock market suffered a 90+ percent loss of value, real Gross Domestic Product (GNP) fell 30.5 percent, wholesale prices fell 30.8 percent, and consumer prices fell 24.4 percent. Wages plummeted. In manufacturing, representing 4 of every 9 jobs in the non-farm economy at the time, weekly earnings dropped 37.5 percent from 1929 through 1932.

From 1929 to 1932, the pro-capitalist policies of the incumbent Republican Party President Herbert Hoover and the Republican congress had utterly failed. The market did not correct itself.

In the summer of 1932, Hoover insisted he would easily defeat the Democratic Party challenger, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). At the time Hoover made this claim, the unemployment rate was 21.3 percent. However, 1932 was the year the Great Depression kicked into high gear. Manufacturing wages dropped more than 19 percent during that year alone, prices continued falling, and unemployment accelerated. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) collapsed by 12.9 percent, the highest fall on record. The capitalist economy of the United States was in a free fall in 1932, an utter failure of an economic system.

By the time FDR was inaugurated as president in March 1933, the unemployment rate was 25.3 percent. Unrest was occurring all over the nation; tax collectors were tar and feathered, and people were taking to the streets.

FDR infused socialism into capitalism to revive dead capitalism. His socialist policies arrested the collapse; GDP fell only -1.2 percent in 1933, and prices began to grow. GNP grew over ten percent in 1934, while prices and wages continued to rise. Socialist policies enacted by FDR included the Social Security Act to help protect the aged, unemployment insurance to keep people spending money, the minimum wage to stop wages from plummeting beyond a certain level, the Wagner Act which gave organized labor more rights to negotiate a better living with employers, and the Securities and Exchange Commission to police Wall Street criminals. Major federal programs and agencies included the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the Civil Works Administration (CWA), both of which put hundreds of thousands of people to work. FDR also created the Farm Security Administration (FSA) to provide relief to farmers from drought and falling prices.

As a result of the adoption of these and other socialist policies, GNP grew by robust amounts until FDR decided to curtail federal spending. The result was a short setback to the economy. FDR reversed course and continued federal deficit spending until the unemployment fell to less than 10 percent on the eve of World War II.

The United States has had a robust socialist sector as part of its economy ever since (Actually before then too). Think of all those public schools initiated 200 and more years ago in the United States, the Constitutionally mandated United States postal service (God damn socialist U.S. Constitution), the highway system, the military, the police, public parks, the court system, public employees, the national park system, the Food and Drug Administration, etc…. That is a lot of socialism for a capitalist nation, and the result has been a robust middle class, which has been weakened as the billionaires have taken over both major political parties (and your government in the process), privatized a lot of government services to take money from you and put it into their wallets, and redistributed trillions of dollars from the 99 percent to themselves during the last forty years. The rich love socialism for themselves, but not for you.

As for other capitalist nations that have failed a shortlist would include:

* Imperial Russia; people overthrew the capitalist system and replaced it with a communist system because the capitalist system had utterly failed. Yes, I know, the communist system also failed.

* Sweden: The late Nobel Prize-winning economist liked to tell the tale of the complete failure of Swedish capitalism. The Great Depression ushered in the first known nation that became heavily socialist by a vote of the people during the 1930s. The Swedes never looked back.

* The Weimar Republic was established as the representative democracy of Germany which aimed to give genuine power to all German adults. However, it had major flaws that contributed to its downfall in 1933-34, and it was replaced by Nazi Germany.

* Nazi Germany-the less said about it the better, but it did fall into the dustbin of history in 1945.

* Venezuela-Poverty ran rampant in capitalist Venezuela. Capitalism’s promises of prosperity failed miserably to improve the standards of living for the vast majority of Venezuela’s people, and that is why Hugo Chavez was elected and re-elected time and again up to his death. Thus the failure of capitalism gave birth to socialism. I know! I know! Somebody is going to say socialism has failed in Venezuela too! I will not argue that point.

On the other hand, I can name many successful socialist nations, like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, China, France, and by the way, you can also include the United States in that list, especially if one looks at all the ways the government enriches the wealthy through legislation, and through military spending, or how the Federal Reserve bailed out the rich with the $26 trillion bailout. $26 trillion? That’s socialism for you, well, not for you, but for the rich.

Socialism and capitalism have meshed together for ages. There is no pure socialist nation nor a purely capitalist nation. Purely capitalist nations have failed, and purely communist nations have failed. By the way, our capitalist health care system in the United States is the least efficient and most expensive system in the developed world, and also the only capitalist one.

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Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren understands economics and political power. She understands democracy, and she understands we no longer have a democracy. We have a plutocracy, which is a government for the rich and by the rich. The rich and their corporations have their power over all three branches of government, and they have used that power to redistribute tens of trillions of dollars from working people to themselves over the last forty years.

This week hedge fund CEO Leon Cooperman sent her a five-page letter complaining that she doesn’t know anything about billionaires, or him in particular. Leon apparently does not know that when you export millions of jobs, the difference between the old higher U.S. compensation and the new low, that is very low, third-world wages with no benefits goes straight into the pockets of the rich while the job losers get unemployment insurance.

This is why three people own more wealth than the bottom half of the U.S. population, This is why the six richest people in the world own more wealth than the bottom half of humanity. This is why 38+ percent of all income in the U.S. goes into the pockets of the 1 percent every year compared to roughly 8 percent as late as 1979. The billionaires have created massive amounts of political corruption and the destruction of United States democracy in the process. Warren understands this.

Leon Cooperman is facing a tax hike if Warren becomes president. Apparently, many billionaires are assuming this is the end of life as they know it.

Warren’s tax agenda has become a lightning rod for criticism by the ultrawealthy, including some, like Cooperman, who identify as political moderates. “What is wrong with billionaires?” Cooperman complained to Politico in a story that appeared last week. “You can become a billionaire by developing products and services that people will pay for.” Warren is not against billionaires who do this. She is against those who have rigged the economy and destroyed U.S. democracy in the process.

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