The old adage about how “the other half” lives needs some serious updating. There is nothing even close “half” about them. The more accurate description is the other 5%. This is a good news/bad news story. The good news AND the bad news is that there are fewer of them. – the really rich, I mean.
And, conversely, there are more un-rich.
It wasn’t always this way. For a while there, let’s say from the 1950’s to the 1990’s, hard working middle class chumps actually had a shot at becoming rich. They were climbing that ladder to the America Dream.
But over the past decade Robber Baron Republicans have kicked the bottom rungs oout of that ladder, first outsourcing blue-collar entry-level jobs, then the next rungs up, white-collar jobs. And to make damn sure that no one puts those rungs back in, they now want to liberalized immigration laws to allow a flood of low-wage workers in from Mexico.
You think I exaggerate? Well, okay, I do sometimes. (But just for effect.) The numbers speak for themselves. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that one of the problems plaguing Social Security is not just that fewer people are paying into it, but that a rapidly increasing income gap between top earners and the rest of us is putting more and more income out of reach of the tax. You see, only the first 90 grand of income is subject to Social Security tax. Every dime above that escapes that tax.
The trouble is middleclass wages are not what they were, even ten years ago. Fewer of us ordinary folk are pulling in those fat $60,000-$85,000 annual incomes. Where did all that money go? Up, of course. Only shit rolls downhill. Money always rolls up.
Much of the income that was once subject to Social Security taxes now escapes that tax as wealth has shifted to the wealthiest Americans. Every dime they make beginning at $90,000.01 of is free of SSI taxes.
And, according to the Wall Street Journal, that wealth gap is getting worse every year. The rich really are getting richer. Man, are they ever. (Read here how well they are living - and then spare me any crapola about how pointing this out is “sour grapes” or “the politics of envy,” or “class warfare.”)
After decades of fighting for relief from taxes, unions, expensive environmental laws, paying into workers pension funds or any estate taxes, the rich finally busted through. After seventy years of “suffering” under pro-worker, pro-middleclass social policies that began with Franklin Roosevelt, the rich are finally once again free of virtually any social responsibility. (Free at last, free at last, thank George they are free at last.)
The rich may be stingy but they are certainly not stupid. They know they have had a great run, beginning with Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America and then super-charged when GWB won the Presidency and the GOP won majority status in both houses of Congress. But, as they say on Wall Street, “trees never grow to the sky.” There are limits and the rich know that this run is already long in the tooth and probably close to winding down. Backlash is in the air. So their goal now is to consolidate their wins and set them in stone.
Which is why we see them rushing through legislation like this:.
“The House voted 272 to 162 yesterday to permanently repeal the estate tax, throwing the issue to the Senate where negotiations have begun on a deep and permanent estate tax cut that can pass this year, even if it falls short of full repeal…. Democrats, who questioned how Congress could support a tax cut largely for the affluent that would cost $290 billion over 10 years, in the face of record budget deficits.
"This is reverse Robin Hood," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). "We're taking money from the middle class and giving it to the super-rich."
Class warfare it was, and they won. To the victor went the spoils. The rich did not work so long and spend so much money buying members of Congress to bag this windfall transfer of wealth to just see it go back into the pockets they picked when they die. No way, Jose. They stole it fair and square and they want it to say in the family. So the estate tax has now become the “death tax,” another Orwellian term designed to make something good, sound bad.
Here’s another law being ram-rodded through Congress in just the nick of time:
“Bankruptcy legislation that could make it impossible for thousands of people to wipe away their debts is nearing passage by Congress. After eight years of failed efforts by banks and credit card companies, the biggest overhaul of bankruptcy laws in a quarter-century has been catapulted toward enactment by a Republican majority buttressed by the fall elections.
"With solid control of both houses of Congress and the White House, the Republican leadership thinks they're free to show their true colors - taking from the middle class and giving to the wealthy and corporations," said Tom Matzzie, the Washington director of MoveOn's political action committee. "But we're going to call the Republican agenda what it truly is: a war on the middle class. ..." Matzzie said.
New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman calls this a march towards a “debt-peonage society.” The term comes closest to describing what we are becoming; a society in which wages are driven lower and lower by cheap labor and cheap imports and national employers like Wal-Mart.
Workers, whose wages can no longer keep up with prices, are encouraged to close the earning gap with offers of quick and easy credit that charges unconsciously high interest rates. Millions of working Americans a year soon find themselves drowning in debt that they can never seem to pay off. And now the final blow. Once the new bankruptcy law is signed, they will become defacto-indentured servants to predatory lenders -- who spent over $40 million on politicians to get this bill passed.
The new bankruptcy law will keep up to 210,000 working Americans from escaping debt through bankruptcy. Instead they will be tethered to a court-ordered repayment plan. And what if they can’t or won’t comply with the repayment plan? Now armed with a court judgment Shylock Credit Inc will garnish the wages of their growing herd of peons. A whole new profit center for credit card companies. And, if that’s not enough, well there’s always the late night visits from the Repo Man.
If you’re like me you get somewhere between one and five credit card offers a day in the mail. These companies are to hard-pressed working Americans what crack dealers are to inner-city poor. They are beneath contempt. They have no consciences, no scruples, and no values worth mentioning. There outta be a law.
Now, in my own small way, I am striking back. I scrawl,
“Stop sending me this crap”
on the pre-approved credit application and mail it back to them in their own postage paid envelop.
Pathetic, I know. But what else can I do? This is what it's come to under one-party Republican rule. The only weapon I have left against these voracious, predatory behemoths is to roll a 29-cent postage grenade into the bastard’s PO boxes.
By Stephen Pizzo
Raconteur at Large