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Archive for May, 2020

Many corporations pay no taxes, and actually receive tax rebates from the government, and much of this tax avoidance is passed on to rich investors in the form of capital gains, dividends and bond interest. Corporate tax avoidance is only one way the rich get richer at the expense of the rest of us. There are a ton of others ways this occurs. Amazon paid no federal income tax in 2018 and received a $129 million tax refund on taxes it did not pay. That $129 million and the unpaid tax money goes straight into the pockets of billionaire shareholders. Click here for other ways the government is making the rich wealthier at your expense.

Reuters reported last week that the US government is “giving millions of dollars in American taxpayer money via the CARES Act to a number of corporations that have avoided paying U.S. tax.

“In all, Reuters’ analysis of public data found around 110 publicly traded companies have each received $4 million or more in emergency aid from the program.

Of those subject to taxes,” which means profitable, “12 of the companies recently used offshore havens to cut their tax bills, the analysis found. All together, these 12 received more than $104 million in loans from U.S. taxpayers. Seven of them paid no U.S. tax at all for the past year.

The program, which provides low-interest loans that are forgivable if companies use most of the money to pay employees, has been widely criticised for problems ranging from early bottlenecks that prevented small businesses from receiving money, to confusion that led millions of dollars to be handed out to relatively affluent firms.

The Treasury Department declined to comment.

Of the almost 110 recipients of $4 million or more, Reuters found 46 paid no U.S. corporate tax for the last year.”

This is just another example of the massive corruption of both major political parties, the Supreme Court, and the Federal Reserve. The billionaires control them all.

 

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Eight weeks into the pandemic, Inequality.com reported that during the eight weeks of March 18th to May 14th 2020 thirty-six million workers became unemployed. “Over these same eight weeks, U.S. billionaires saw their wealth increase by $368.8 billion, a 12.51 percent increase. On March 18th, U.S. billionaires had a combined $2.947 trillion, down from $3.111 trillion a year earlier, according to Forbes annual global billion survey. As of May 14, total U.S. billionaire wealth has increased to $3.316 trillion.” 

Their total wealth rose during the first eight weeks of the pandemic by $205 billion compared to just last year as tens of millions of people became unemployed. Anybody see a disconnect here?

“In the last eight weeks, 14 new billionaires joined the U.S. billionaire list, which increased from 614 to 628. Even with a recent decline in markets, Elon Musk’s wealth increased $3.5 billion in the last week, since May 6. Jeff Bezos’ wealth increased by $900 million and Eric Yuan saw his wealth increase by $800 million.  Mike Bloomberg saw his wealth increase by $400 million.

Between March 18, when Forbes published their 2020 annual Global Billionaire Survey, and the morning of Thursday, May 14, these billionaires have seen their wealth surge:

  • Jeff Bezos – up $30 billion
  • Mark Zuckerberg – up $21 billion
  • Steve Ballmer – up $11.6 billion
  • Elon Musk – up $11.3 billion
  • Michael Bloomberg – up $10 billion

The top 1 percent receive almost all their wealth and income from corporations. The first four government coronavirus bailouts were written in order to save the rich and their sources of income and wealth, while the rest of us got crumbs. (Click here for that story.) U.S. income and wealth inequality has been created by a corrupt government over the last forty years. Thank you Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell and Ron Wyden.  

Share prices rose since the Federal government and Fed stepped in to protect the assets of the billionaires in late March 2020 with the CARES Act, providing nice capital gains income for the billionaires in return. This increase in share prices also made CEO’s wealthier in the process. 

This should tell you how corrupt our democracy, the Fed, and both major political parties have become, and all three branches of government have become. The rich are saved from their losses, while the 99 percent eat theirs. Socialism is used to save the rich, while the vagaries of capitalism are for the rest of us. We know because the corporate news media tells us so. 

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As I mentioned back in March 2020, the economy is in free fall but the billionaires are thriving, and stocks of big private equity firms are soaring dramatically higher. As usual, the billionaires have been the real beneficiaries of the federal government’s massive rescue efforts. 

Ten weeks into the worst crisis in 90 years, the government’s effort to save the economy has been both a spectacular success and a tremendous failure.

Two events showed this better than anything. On Friday, May 8th, 2020, the government reported that 20.5 million people had lost their jobs in April. That is massive damage to the middle class. The rich receive 2/3rds to 100 percent of their income from holding corporate stock. The stock market rallied with the news of the 20.5 million lost jobs. They are likely expecting trillions more from the Federal government and the Federal Reserve. 

The second event happened on Thursday, May 14th. The government reported the middle class lost another 3.8 million jobs, and the stock market rallied again both that day and the following day. 

If you’re looking for the billionaire’s decision on who has won the four government and Federal Reserve bailouts, consider these returns: Shares of Apollo Group, the giant private equity firm, have soared 80 percent from their lows. The stock of Blackstone, another private equity behemoth, has risen 50 percent. The Nasdaq Composite Index has gotten back nearly all of its losses. 

 

ProPublica reports that billionaire clubs such as “Apollo and Blackstone, disproportionately the wealthiest and most influential, have been insured by the world’s most powerful central bank. This largess is boundless and without conditions. “Even if a second wave of outbreaks were to occur,” JPMorgan economists wrote in a celebratory note on May 9th, “the Fed has explicitly indicated that there is no dollar limit and no danger of running out of ammunition.”

“Many aspects of the coronavirus bailout that assist individuals or small businesses, meanwhile, are short-term or contingent. Aid to small businesses comes with conditions on what they can do with the money. The sums allocated by the CARES Act for stimulus and expanded unemployment insurance are vast by historical standards. But the relief they provide didn’t prevent tens of millions from losing their jobs. The assistance runs out in weeks, and the jobless live at the mercy of a divided Congress, which will decide whether that help gets extended and, if so, for how long.”

Meanwhile, the billionaire’s investment clubs can expect additional trillions of dollars from the Federal Reserve and U.S. government. Picture the CEOs of these firms manipulating puppets by a string, then picture Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell and you’ll understand how politics work. 

ProPublica went on, “The Fed’s efforts, universally praised for their boldness and speed, have come in two stages. First, in February and March, the central bank shored up the capital market “liquidity,” which marks how willing investors are to buy and sell. The central bank’s role is to be a “lender of last resort,” working through banks so they can get money to companies and people.

The second stage of the Fed’s extraordinary rescue goes beyond liquidity. It has said it will buy assets it has never bought before. For almost 100 years, the Fed purchased only government bonds. Now it has announced a wide variety of programs to buy various forms of corporate and other debt, either by direct lending, by buying bonds, or buying loans.”

The mere announcement that the Fed would do this had an immediate effect, spurring the boom in corporate borrowing. For example, if Amazon issued a bond costing $1 trillion at face value and it comes due in five years. The Fed simply buys the bond and Amazon gets $1 trillion from the Fed. When the bond comes due in five years,  the Fed will simply print up the money and pay itself. Meanwhile, Amazon and its mostly billionaire and multi-millionaire shareholders divvy up the trillion dollars among themselves. 

ProPublica reported, “The Fed didn’t stop with the most solid, safest corporate stalwarts. In early April, it also announced something unprecedented. The central bank said it would buy junk bonds, debt issued by fragile companies, many of which already have crushing debt loads. Sure enough, junk bonds roared back and their cousins, leveraged loans, revived.

In doing so, the Fed backstopped the riskiest markets in the world. The most dangerous investments in the world, it should go without saying, are not owned by middle- and working-class Americans, to whom every politician pledges fealty. No, they are owned by the most risk-seeking investors in the world, the ones that need the highest returns: private equity firms and hedge funds.

The Fed has to work through the credit markets. The House and Senate have much greater powers, the power of the purse and of legislation. Congress could have passed laws that directed help in different ways. Europe has essentially nationalized payrolls, a much more direct form of aid to people who have lost the ability to work. However, the rotted corruption of the U.S. Federal government has seen it reluctant to use sufficient fiscal measures going back to the 2008 rescue.

What happens if the economy doesn’t come back soon? If the health crisis does not pass quickly, or if the economy does not roar back, the Fed’s actions might prove inadequate. But investors shouldn’t be too worried. They have been taught they can count on the government to rescue them from their bad investment decisions, and so they can make plenty of bad investment decisions. 

The Bailout is Working for the Rich-ProPublica

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U.S. Senator Richard Burr sold between $600 thousand and $1.7 million shares of corporations just before the coronavirus hit the U.S. He had been informed of the likely devastation of the virus on the United States during a congressional committee, told this same story to a group of wealthy campaign donors, and told the rest of us we had nothing to worry about, that the coronavirus was not a big deal.

According to Propublic.com, “Before his sell-off, Burr had assured the public that the federal government was well-prepared to handle the virus. In a Feb. 7 op-ed that he co-authored with another senator, he said “the United States today is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus.”

Perhaps not so mysteriously, Richard Burr was not the only member of his family to sell off a significant portion of his stock holdings in February, ahead of the market crash spurred by coronavirus fears. On the same day Burr sold, his brother-in-law also dumped tens of thousands of dollars worth of shares. The market fell by more than 30% in the subsequent month.

Burr’s brother-in-law, Gerald Fauth, who has a post on the National Mediation Board, sold between $97,000 and $280,000 worth of shares in six companies — including several that have been hit particularly hard in the market swoon and economic downturn.

According to Propublica, “A person who picked up Fauth’s phone on Wednesday hung up when asked if Fauth and Burr had discussed the sales in advance.

In 2017, President Donald Trump appointed Fauth to the three-person board of the National Mediation Board, a federal agency that facilitates labor-management relations within the nation’s railroad and airline industries. He was previously a lobbyist and president of his own transportation economic consulting firm, G.W. Fauth & Associates.”

Burr was accused of insider trading and even FoxNews called for his resignation.

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