Category Archives: Paul Buchheit

Five Conspirators in the Eradication of the Middle Class

PAUL BUCHHEIT | JULY 18 2016 | COMMON DREAMS

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Unemployed and homeless people line up for a free meal and new shoes during a Good Friday event in Los Angeles, California in April 2015. (Photo by: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Their unspoken goal is a two-class nation, with a heavily armed security force to quell resistance from the more outspoken members of the lower class. It may be somewhat of an unwitting goal, since narcissistic wealth-takers, as they build their fortunes, tend to lose their ability to empathize with others.

Barack Obama said, “We are not as divided as we seem.” But those are just feel-good words. A middle class still exists, but in weakened form, as many families from the once-dominant mainstream of society continue to move up or down, mostly down. The conspirators in the breakdown of the middle class have complementary roles that allow them to divide the country as they perpetuate the myth of prosperity for all.

Congress: The Kingpins

Gun control is the most flagrant example of Congressional disdain for the middle class. Over 90% of Americans want background checks, but Congress has failed to act. The House of Representatives even rejected an amendment that would have allowed research into causes of gun violence.

The list goes on and on:

Over 90% favor laws on clean air and water, but Congress has proposed to weaken them. Almost 80% want to increase Social Security benefits. 83% want Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Nearly 90% support mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods. About two-thirds of polled Americans believe corporations pay too little in taxes. 90% support the protection of public lands.

Based on a study of 1,779 policy issues, Princeton researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page concluded that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

Military: The Enforcers

Barack Obama said, “They are not very good at feeding their people, but they invest a huge amount in their weapons systems.” He was talking about North Korea. In the U.S., where half the discretionary budget is spent on the military, one of five children live in food insecure households.

As we pour trillions into war, cutbacks decimate programs vital to the middle class—vital to the one out of five Americans who have mental health problems; to the dependent children who lost funding for the first time in nearly 20 years; to the neglected public schools; to injured workers; to food pantries.

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How the Super-Rich Will Destroy Themselves

Paul Buchheit | July 11 2016 | Common Dreams

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(Photo: Timothy Krause/cc/flickr)

Perhaps they believe that their underground survival bunkers with bullet-resistant doors and geothermal power and anti-chemical air filters and infrared surveillance devices and pepper spray detonators will sustain them for two or three generations.

Perhaps they feel immune from the killings in the streets, for they rarely venture into the streets anymore. They don’t care about the great masses of ordinary people, nor do they think they need us.

Or do they? There are a number of ways that the super-rich, because of their greed and lack of empathy for others, may be hastening their own demise, while taking the rest of us with them.

1. Pandemic (Because of Their Disdain for Global Health)

“A year ago the world was in a panic over Ebola. Now it’s Zika at the gate. When will it end?” –Public health expert Dr. Ali Khan.

It could end with a global pandemic that spreads with the speed of the 1918 Spanish Flu, but with a virulence that kills over half of us, rich and poor alike. Vanderbilt University’s Dr. William Schaffner warned us a decade ago, “You’ve got to really invest vast resources right now to protect us from a pandemic.” Added infectious disease specialist Dr. Stephen Baum, “There’s nobody making vaccines anymore because the profitability is low and the liability is high.”

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Independence Day Delusions

Paul Buchheit | July 04 2016 | Common Dreams

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However we interpret the concept, we may not be as “free” as we’re led to believe. (Photo: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

We thank soldiers for our “freedom” as they travel to foreign lands to keep us free from dangers that are exacerbated by their presence in those foreign lands. Many of them return home facing lifelong battles with physical or mental injuries.

We rightfully give thanks for the many freedoms that are denied the citizens of countries like North Korea, Somalia, and Saudi Arabia. Among our many liberties, having the freedom to criticize our national leaders helps to make us a better people.

The concept of “freedom” is at the very least ambiguous, and, at the most, destructive to those being deceived by false patriotism. The people who benefit from the uncontrolled pursuit of money push the concept of individual freedom on the rest of us, making us feel unpatriotic if we disagree. “Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself,” once blathered Milton Friedman, whose economic theories made America the most unequal developed nation.

However we interpret the concept, we may not be as “free” as we’re led to believe.

Is Our Nation Really “Free”?

According to the watchdog organization Freedom House, in terms of political and civil liberties the U.S. is tied for 44th freest country, after UK, Chile, Japan, Portugal, and most of the Scandinavian nations. The organization’s 2016 synopsis states: “The United States received a downward trend arrow because of the cumulative impact of flaws in the electoral system, a disturbing increase in the role of private money in election campaigns and the legislative process, legislative gridlock, the failure of the Obama administration to fulfill promises of enhanced government openness, and fresh evidence of racial discrimination and other dysfunctions in the criminal justice system.”

Freedom from Taxes? If We’re Willing to Send the Mentally Ill to Jail

Typical of a taker, Donald Trump claims that the tax collectors “take our tax money and throw it down the drain.” Another taker is libertarian Charles Koch, who said “I believe my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington.”

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The Growing Case for Massive Taxes on the Rich

Paul Buchheit | June 20 2016 | Common Dreams 

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Society’s takers, hoarders, and cheaters just ignore the injustice, and go on avoiding taxes while they blame the less fortunate for their own misfortunes. (Photo: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain/with overlay)

While candidates bicker and Congress stagnates and the rest of us dwell on the latest shooting tragedy, the super-rich enjoy the absence of attention paid to one of our nation’s most destructive issues.

The richest Americans are takers of social benefits. Yet they complain about paying 12% to 20% in taxes, even as respected researchers estimate an optimal revenue-producing rate of 80% to 90%, and even with the near-certainty that higher marginal tax rates will have no adverse effects on GDP growth.

The super-rich pay little in taxes because, as Senator Lindsey Graham said, “It’s really American to avoid paying taxes, legally…It’s a game we play…I see nothing wrong with playing the game because we set it up to be a game.” In reality, it’s a game of theft from the essential needs of education, infrastructure, and jobs.

The Richest Individuals Cheat the Most

According to a recent IRS report, an incredible $406 billion annual gap exists between owed and paid taxes, with individuals accounting for over three-quarters of the total, and with the most egregious misreporting coming from the highest income-takers.

That’s about $3,000 per U.S. household in annual lost revenue. Yet even though the IRS retrieves well over $100 for every dollar in salaries paid to their agents, the agency has been rapidly losing staff, making the tax avoidance game a lot easier for the biggest cheaters.

Corporations Cheat Most Creatively

Relative to a dollar of payroll tax, corporations used to pay $3 in income tax. Now they pay 30 cents.

Exxon uses a theoretical tax to ‘pay’ its bill, and grandfatherly old Warren Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway uses hypothetical amounts to avoid paying taxes.

Despite having billions in profits and nearly half of its sales in the U.S., Pfizer claimed enormous losses in the United States.

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Four Americans Who Should Be Crying Out For Socialism

Paul Buchheit | June 06 2016 | Common Dreams

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(Photo: Dan Cox/flickr/cc)

Beaten-down Americans are ignored by our neoliberal system of economics and government. A social democracy would help to restrain runaway capitalism by focusing on the needs of all citizens rather than just the money-makers. But unless our next president is Bernie Sanders, struggling Americans will continue to be ignored, as they have been since the Reagan years.

In particular, these four Americans should be clamoring for a change from a market-based to a people-based system:

1. The Children’s Advocate

There’s something terribly wrong with a society that allows a hedge fund manager to make a billion dollars while 16 million children are living on food stamps, and then House Republicans respond by attempting to cut back on lunches for over 3 million kids.

The ugliness of inequality is most apparent in the suffering of our children. For every THREE homeless children in 2006 there are now FIVE. Almost 40% of black children live in poverty. Yet spending on children’s programs recently declined for the first time in nearly 20 years, and states are spending less on schools than they did before the recession.

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Disposable Americans: The Numbers are Growing

Paul Buchheit | May 23 20176 | Common Dreams

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The sense derived from all this is that half of America is severely financially burdened, at risk of falling deeper into debt. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As often noted in the passionate writings of Henry Giroux, poor Americans are becoming increasingly ‘disposable’ in our winner-take-all society. After 35 years of wealth distribution to the super-rich, inequality has forced much of the middle class towards the bottom, to near-poverty levels, and to a state of helplessness in which they find themselves being blamed for their own misfortunes.

The evidence keeps accumulating: income and wealth — and health — are declining for middle-class America. As wealth at the top grows, the super-rich feel they have little need for the rest of society.

Income Plummets for the Middle Class

According to Pew Research, in 1970 three of every ten income dollars went to upper-income households. Now five of every ten dollars goes to them.

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The Collapse of the Middle-Class Job

Paul Buchheit | May 08 2016 | Common Dreams

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‘Evidence shows that living-wage, family-sustaining positions,’ writes Buchheit, ‘are quickly being replaced by lower-wage and less secure forms of employment.’ (Photo: Chris Devers/flickr/cc)

Our middle-income jobs are disappearing. That fact may be disappearing by free-market advocates, who want to believe Barack Obama when he gushes, “We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private sector job creation in history.”

But the evidence shows that living-wage, family-sustaining positions are quickly being replaced by lower-wage and less secure forms of employment. These plentiful low-level jobs have padded the unemployment figures, leaving much of America believing in an overhyped recovery.

The Incredible Shrinking Job

New research is beginning to confirm the permanent nature of middle-income job loss. Based on analysis that one reviewer calls “some of the most important work done by economists in the last twenty years,” a National Bureau of Economic Research study found that national employment levels have fallen in U.S. industries that are vulnerable to import competition, without offsetting job gains in other industries. Even the Wall Street Journal admits that “many middle-wage occupations, those with average earnings between $32,000 and $53,000, have collapsed.”

Productive Workers, but Less of Them

High-salaried jobs in technology still exist, but they’re available to fewer people as machines become smarter. Netflix, for example, serves 57 million customers with less than 2,200 employees, who have a median salary of $180,000. Google is worth $370 billion but employs only about 55,000 workers (50 years ago AT&T was worth less in today’s dollars but employed about 750,000 workers). Facebook’s messaging application WhatsApp has 55 employees serving 450 million customers.

As jobs are downsized, profits are maximized. Apple makes over $500,000 per employee; Facebook and Google are both over $300,000; Exxon and Phillips 66 are both well over $250,000; Merck and Allergan and Pfizer are all significantly over $100,000. Just 25 years ago GM, Ford, and Chrysler generated a combined $36 billion in revenue while employing over 1,000,000 workers. Today Apple, Facebook, and Google generate over a trillion dollars in revenue with 137,000 workers.

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The Case for More Immigrants

Paul Buchheit | May 02, 2016 | Common Dreams

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There is little evidence that a connection exists between immigration and unemployment rates in the United States. (Photo : John Moore / Latin Post Staff)

When refugees of a military or economic war swarm into a neighboring land, immigration is a problem: as in Lebanon, which took in a million Syrians terrorized by intervention (some of it ours), and then succumbed to the dangerous spread of poverty and unemployment by turning new immigrants away; and in the U.S., where the economic trade war called NAFTA caused displaced Mexican workers to seek simple survival across the border.

But overall, the merits of immigration greatly outweigh the potential disadvantages.

1. Immigrants Are Entrepreneurs

In Big Business: A recent study found that immigrants started more than half of current U.S. startups valued at $1 billion or more.

In Small Business: According to the Wall Street Journal, immigrants make up 13 percent of the population, but 28 percent of the small business owners.

Immigrants are nearly twice as likely to start businesses than native-born Americans, and, among people with advanced degrees, three times more likely to file patents.

2. Immigrants Are Job Creators

According to an SEC report, “Study after study has shown that immigration and economic growth go hand in hand.”

Research suggests that immigrants raise the standard of living of Americans through higher wages and lower prices. They tend to complement the existing workforce rather than compete with it. For example, the construction work of lower-skilled immigrants allows contracting companies to build more homes.

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Hillary’s Dance: The Two-Faced Hypocritical 12-Step

Paul Buchheit | April 18, 2016 | Common Dreams

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

If, sad to ponder, the presidential election comes down to Hillary Clinton vs. a Republican, we’ll be left either way with a business-friendly neocon White House. Given Hillary’s past deceits and reversals, it’s easy to see why she doesn’t inspire trust among the American people.

1. Environment

“I won’t let anyone take us backward, deny our economy the benefits of harnessing a clean energy future, or force our children to endure the catastrophe that would result from unchecked climate change.” —Hillary Clinton, 11/29/15

Greenpeace estimates that the Clinton campaign has taken $4.5 million from fossil fuel lobbyists and donors, and Naomi Klein and Grist have reported on all the money received from ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips and other oil sources. In response, Hillary explained, rather incoherently, “I have money from people who work for fossil fuel companies. I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me.”

2. War

“Is there really any argument that America must remain a preeminent leader for peace and freedom..?” —Hillary Clinton, 10/31/06

Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, an advisor to the United Nations, called Hillary “the candidate of the War Machine.” In her book, “Hillary’s Choice,” author Gail Sheehy claimed it was Hillary who encouraged the president to bomb Kosovo. Then, as Secretary of State in 2011, she strongly supported war in Libya, a country which today is overwhelmed with crime and joblessness and a lack of basic necessities. She backed the escalation of the Afghanistan war, and in 2012, according to Sachs, she was largely responsible for the obstruction of peace efforts in Syria.

3. Banks

“I’m going to go after big banks that pose a systemic risk.” —Hillary Clinton, 02/26/16

Go after their money, that is. In the two years before starting her presidential campaign, Hillary was paid over $4 million in speaking fees from the big financial institutions. As summarized by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, “Her closeness with big banks on Wall Street is sincere, it’s heart-felt, long-established and well known.”

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Tax Time: How Corporations Are Cheating Schoolchildren

Paul Buchheit | April 04, 2016 | Common Dreams

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‘It’s a devious double whammy: Taxpayers are giving money to the corporations and then paying a second time to meet the needs of the underfunded public schools.’ (Photo: OdysseyOnline)

Many of the largest U.S. corporations aren’t paying the state taxes that should be funding our schools. Kids are the victims. So are the average Americans who are forced to pay higher property taxes, sales taxes, and excise taxes to meet educational budgets. Government and media sources would have us believe there’s no alternative, for in a market-driven world it’s heresy to make demands of big business, even when the companies are flagrantly avoiding their taxes.

Illinois: Schools Held Hostage by Just Six Corporate Tax Avoiders

The mayor and governor of Illinois are blaming each other for the Chicago Public School budget crisis, and Illinois colleges are in danger of being shut down. But Illinois lost over $1.3 billion (more than the $1.1 billion school budget shortfall) in 2015 state tax revenue to just six companies (Abbott, ADM, Boeing, Deere, Exelon, United), which together paid much less than 1% of their profits in state taxes, just pennies on the dollar for the required rate of 7.75%.

“Government and media sources would have us believe there’s no alternative, for in a market-driven world it’s heresy to make demands of big business, even when the companies are flagrantly avoiding their taxes.”

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