Just 10% of Americans own 91 percent of the nation’s stocks and mutual funds, according to economist Edward Wolff (Table 7). Most of the remainder is held by a “middle class” that is steadily losing ground. The bottom 60% is almost entirely shut out (Table 2).
Stock owners, some of whom made billions of dollars last year, can defer their income taxes indefinitely, pay a reduced capital gains tax when they decide to cash in, or pass on the capital gains tax-free to their heirs.
America is gradually, but unrelentingly, destroying part of itself. The facts to support this are well-documented, told in many ways from past to present.
The most egregious example of Americide is our country’s treatment of African-Americans. Almost everyone agrees about the evils of slavery, once dismissed simply as a Peculiar Institution. But a debate goes on about reparations, with passionate arguments on both sides, ranging from a demand for a Reparations Superfund for jobs and education, to a claim that blacks actually benefited from slavery because of the years of ‘reparations’ received through poverty programs.
Reparations opponents insist that there is no clear modern connection to the era of slavery. But there is a connection, and it’s exhibited in the many profitable corporations — manufacturers, banks, insurance, railroad — that had their roots in slavery. Reparations haven’t been paid, or, if theyhave been extended in the form of poverty programs, they haven’t worked. Standards of living for blacks have worsened relative to whites in the past half-century. Many of the modern-day practices of our free-market capitalist system are at least partly responsible for this.
1. American Corporations Are Partly Responsible for the Sale of Human Beings
Horace Greeley, Editor of the New York Tribune and an abolitionist, described a slave auction: “The negroes were examined with as little consideration as if they had been brutes indeed; the buyers pulling their mouths open to see their teeth, pinching their limbs to find how muscular they were, walking them up and down to detect any signs of lameness, making them stoop and bend in different ways that they might be certain there was no concealed rupture or wound..”
The Negro slaves on the auction block, 500 of them, stood nervously waiting as the buyers lit cigars and studied their log books, scanning the list of ‘chattel’ available to them, preparing to start the bidding. The facial expression of each slave stepping on the auction block was the same — anguish about an unknown future, despair at the thought of never again seeing their loved ones.
In fact, except for the debilitating effects of poverty, our public school system may be the best in the world.
The most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reveal that the U.S. ranked high, relative to other OECD countries, in reading, math, and science (especially in reading, and in all areas better in 4th grade than in 8th grade). Some U.S. private schools were included, but a separate evaluation was done for Florida, in public schools only, and their results were higher than the U.S. average.
Perhaps most significant in the NCES reading results is that schools with less than 25% free-lunch eligibility scored higher than the average in ALL OTHER COUNTRIES.
The Obvious: Reduce Poverty and Improve Education
What should be obvious to our legislators is apparently not. K-12 funding declined in 2011 for the first time since the Census Bureau began keeping records. A 2014study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that “States’ new budgets are providing less per-pupil funding for kindergarten through 12th grade than they did six years ago — often far less.”
An Apple executive recently said, “The U.S. has stopped producing people with the skills we need.”
It’s hard for a nation to build work skills when its corporations, the beneficiaries of a half-century of public support, have largely stopped paying for education.
Most of the attention to corporate tax avoidance is directed at the nonpayment of federal taxes. But state taxes, which to a much greaterextent fund K-12 education, are avoided at a stunning rate by America’s biggest companies. As a result, public school funding continues to be cut, and the worsening performance of neglected schools adds fuel to the reckless demands for privatization. Inner-city schools are being devastated by this insidious process.
A 2011 report by Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) showed that corporations pay less than half of their required state taxes, which in addition to K-12 educational funding provide a significant part of pension funding. More recently, the report The Disappearing Corporate Tax Base found that the percentage of corporate profits paid as state income taxes has dropped from 7 percent in 1980 to about 3 percent today.
It may be getting worse. A PayUpNow analysis of 25 of our nation’s largest corporations shows a total state tax payment of 2.4%, about a third of the required tax, based on the average maximum state tax rate of 7.3%. Among them were:
• Boeing, which paid zero federal taxes last year, and about 1/50 of its required state taxes.
• Caterpillar, which paid less than a quarter of its tax bill after recently threatening to leave Illinois. Rand Paul said Caterpillar should get “an award” for saving money.
• Verizon, which paid about one-tenth of its required tax. A company spokesman recently said, “Verizon fully complies with all tax laws and pays its fair share of taxes.”
• Google, which paid less than a quarter of its state tax bill. Referring to tax havens, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said, “I am very proud of the structure that we set up.”
Starving the Public Schools
As a result of the decline in state tax money, education gets cut. Overall spending on K-12 public school students fell in 2011 for the first time since the Census Bureau began keeping records over three decades ago. The cuts have continued to the present day.
A Good Jobs First report describes how companies play one state against another, holding their home states hostage for tax breaks under the threat of bolting to other states. Incompetent or complicit governors simply play along.
Finding a good old-fashioned mailbox where you can drop off a letter is becoming almost as difficult as finding a pay phone. The iconic blue boxes are getting to be few and far between.
Fifteen years ago, there were almost 400,000 collection boxes in the country. Now there are fewer than 160,000 of them, and the number goes down every year.
Earlier this week the Postal Service submitted its Annual Compliance Report (ACR) to the Postal Regulatory Commission for the Commission’s Annual Compliance Determination report. The main purpose of the review process is to determine the extent to which each type of mail is covering (or not) its attributed costs. The ACR therefore contains a mountain of data about postal rates.
According to the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which says what the ACR should include, the Postal Service is also supposed to report on customer access to postal services. But the subject gets just one page in the report, and collection boxes merit just one sentence:
“Nationally, there were 156,349 collection boxes available at the end of FY 2014, compared to 159,729 at the beginning of FY 2014.”
The ACR also includes a table showing the number of boxes, area by area, at the end of FY 2012, 2013, and 2014. The following table uses those numbers, along with the year-to-year changes in percent from the previous year.