The wealth gap
During the Clinton years, a surplus was generated, but George W. Bush reversed that trend by granting the largest tax cut ever. The wealthiest people on Earth suddenly became much wealthier. One estimate puts the value of the Bush giveaway of 2003 at $100,000 per hour to the Walton family (Wal-Mart) alone.
Things have gotten a lot worse since Stahl’s report. Now the top 1% “earn” about 80 cents of every dollar of corporate profit generated. And two thirds of all large companies pay no tax at all. We actually use tax dollars to pay some, like highly profitable General Electric, to continue operating here. For tax year 2011, every statistical American—including the newborn, disabled, homeless, in hospice care, or comatose and vegetative—gave GE $12, which amounts to $3.5 billion in rebates, even though GE off-shored 15,000 jobs that year and showed $14 billion in profits.
The wealthiest Americans—both individuals and corporations—have money and assets beyond imagination, beyond counting, beyond spending. They have become like James Bond characters who seek only to distort reality with their power. Mitt Romney, from last year’s general election, is worth “only” $300 million, not even in the ballpark of real wealth in America, but during the election he reported that on yearly earnings of over $21 million, he paid less than 14% or about $3 million in taxes. He was able somehow to make ends meet and try to gain the White House, even though his money was “sheltered” in offshore accounts. But Warren Buffet, worth billions and vowing to give most of it away before he dies, asks why he pays a lower tax rate than the people who clean his house.
About that coincidence mentioned above, “In a naked pyramid scheme, 90.4% of people lose their money, while in product-based pyramid schemes, that number jumps to a shocking 99.88%” (money.howstuffworks.com). As the matching arithmetic tells, our economy has been made to perform exactly like a product-based pyramid scheme, the product here being the belief that the “open market,” free and fair, affords everyone equal opportunity to succeed. Our markets are so “open” that Medicare may not negotiate drug prices, lethal non-foods may not be removed from food-stamp eligibility and our largest corporations are on the dole. To wit: “Promoters at the top of the pyramid make their money by having people join the scheme” (scamwatch.gov). Everyone in the pool.