Category Archives: Paul Buchheit

New 2015 Wealth Data: U.S. Inequality at its Ugliest

by Paul Buchheit, published on October 19, 2015 at Common Dreams

According to new Credit Suisse data, nearly 50 million of America’s 243 million adults are part of the world’s poorest 10%.
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(Photo: Riccardo Romano/cc/flickr)

Bernie Sanders showed his outrage about inequality at the Democratic Debate, and more and more Americans are understanding his message. Indignation is likely to grow with new data from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook, which reveals the wealthy elite’s continuing disdain for the poor, for the middle class, and for people all around the world.

Some of the most troubling disparities are hidden in the myriad tables of this remarkably comprehensive publication. The purpose here is to translate the numbers into wealth gap realities that victimize the great majority of Americans. Details can be viewed at You Deserve Facts.

1. At the Bottom: Of the Half-Billion Poorest Adults in the World, One out of Ten is an American

That seems impossible, with so many extremely poor countries, and it requires a second look at the data, and then a third look. But it’s true. In the world’s poorest decile (bottom 10%), one out of ten are Americans, many of whom are burdened with so much debt that any remnant of tangible wealth is negated. Other nations have high debt, most notably in Europe, but without an excessive burden on their poorest citizens.

Incredibly, then, nearly 50 million of America’s 243 million adults are part of the world’s poorest 10%. In contrast, over 110 million American adults are among the world’s richest 10%.

2. At the Top: The Richest 1/10 of American Adults Have Averaged Over $1 Million Each in New Wealth Since the Recession

Housing rebound? Mostly for the rich, along with their taking of almost all the financial wealth. Total U.S. wealth increased by a stunning 60 percent since 2009, from $54 trillion to $86 trillion, but 3/4 of that massive increase went to the richest 10% of Americans.

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Five Great American Hypocrisies

by Paul Buchheit, published October 12, 2015 at Common Dreams

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A recent report found that untaxed or undertaxed offshore holdings amount to an estimated $620 billion owed to the U.S. taxpayers. That is just the tip of the hypocrisy iceberg. (Photo: rolffimages/Bigstock via Citizens for Tax Justice)

American ‘exceptionalism’ exists in the minds of super-patriots who are more than willing to overlook their own faults as they place themselves above other people. The only question may be which of their self-serving hypocrisies is most outrageous and destructive.

1. Corporations Hoarding $2 Trillion in Profits, Asking Taxpayers to Pay Their Employees’ Wages

Citizens for Tax Justice just reported that Fortune 500 companies are holding over $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore for tax purposes, with estimated taxes due of over $600 billion. But high-profile businessmen Peter Georgescu and Warren Buffett both recently recommended that government subsidies be used to increase worker wages, and Marco Rubio agreed, suggesting that government should pay the sick leave for corporate employees.

Georgescu proclaimed: “This country has given me remarkable opportunities..” In return, he concludes, taxpayers should “provide tax incentives to business.”

2. Mourning American Lives, But Not Foreign Lives

Two days after President Obama expressed grief and anger about the Oregon school shootings, a hospital in Afghanistan was bombed by the U.S., killing 22 people. Our government admitted its mistake. But we haven’t apologized for funding Saudi Arabia’s attacks in Yemen, which are killing hundreds of civilians. Or for our drone strikes in Pakistan, which led one 13-year-old to say, “I no longer love blue skies…The drones do not fly when the skies are gray.”

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The Many Ways Women Are Beaten Down in America

by Paul Buchheit, published October 5, 2015 at Common Dreams

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Photograph shows people standing in front of the United States Capitol with a banner reading “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex” and holding flags for various organizations including the National Organization for Women. July 9, 1979. (Photo: Archive/ Bettye Lane)

In 1955 Mrs. Dale Carnegie, whose husband wrote the best-seller “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” advised her fellow housewives: “The two big steps that women must take are to help their husbands decide where they are going and use their pretty heads to help them get there. Let’s face it, girls. That wonderful guy in your house – and in mine – is building your house, your happiness and the opportunities that will come to your children.”

Women were second-rate members of society and marriage in the 1950s. Those who went out to work were relegated to low-paying clerical, nursing, teaching, and domestic jobs, and to even lower-paying jobs for the nearly invisible Black female population. The newspaper want-ads had a separate section for women. The same type of humiliation existed in higher education, where many medical schools, law schools, and graduate schools were rejecting the “frivolous” applications of women, while female undergraduate students were often said to be pursuing an M.R.S. (Mrs.) degree.

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The Painful Facts, State-by-State: How We’re Victimized by Corporate State Tax Avoidance

by Paul Buchheit, published September 28 at Common Dreams

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When it comes to tax-dodging, the biggest companies are the worst. (Photo: Yuri Keegstra/flickr/cc)

Corporate data from numerous sources, including annual reports directly from the companies themselves, has been merged and matched and managed into two spreadsheets that reveal state-by-state corporate tax avoidance. The results show how people all over America are being deprived of revenue that should be going to education and infrastructure.

1. Most of the State Tax Avoidance is by the Largest Companies

Before considering individual states, it will be instructive to consider the total state tax payments (and non-payments) by 45 of the nation’s largest corporations. The data is derived from “current state tax” figures in the 10-K forms submitted to the SEC by the companies themselves.

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Why So Many Americans Defend the Failed Capitalist Experiment

by Paul Buchheit, published September 14, 2015 at Common Dreams 

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The mainstream media’s unwillingness to state the truth about inequality has led people to vastly underestimate the wealth gap in our country, guessing that the poorest 40 percent own about 10% of the wealth, when in reality they own much less than 1% of the wealth. (Photo: Curtis Perry/flickr/cc)

Capitalism has worked for big business and for the people with stocks and estates. But for the past 35 years our economic system, stripped of sensible regulations, has poisoned the nation with deadly inequality and driven much of middle America to an ever-widening lower class.

Yet for much of the nation the delusion persists, against all common sense, that deregulated free-market capitalism works, that it equates to true Americanism, and that people have only themselves to blame for their failure to thrive in this expanding world of wealth. The reasons for this delusion are not hard to determine.

1. The Rich are Easy to Understand: Capitalism Justifies Selfishness

Studies have consistently shown that increased wealth causes people to turn inward, to believe more in their own “superior” traits, and to care less about the feelings and needs of others. This anti-social attitude blends well with the Ayn-Randish “greed is good” message of unregulated capitalism.

Other studies have determined that money pushes people further to the right, making them less egalitarian, less willing to provide broad educational opportunities to all members of society, and certainly part of the reason that our investment in public infrastructure as a component of GDP dropped by 60 percent from 1968 to 2011.

2. The Would-Be Rich: Dollar Signs Dance in Their Heads 

Capitalism allows profit-seekers to view students as sources of revenue, and to drain money from the public school system. Jeb Bush likened schools to milk cartons in a supermarket aisle: “I wish our schools could be more like milk…You can get whole milk, low fat milk or skim milk…chocolate, strawberry or vanilla…milk alternatives, like soy milk, almond milk and rice milk…Who would have ever thought you could improve upon milk? Yet, freedom, innovation and competition found a way.”

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Why We Need a Guaranteed Income. Soon.

by Paul Buchheit, published September 7, 2015 at Common Dreams

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(Photo: Milwaukee Teachers Education Association/cc/flickr)

A thought for Labor Day: In the not-too-distant future we might wait around for a package delivery, hurry off to class, grab a taxi downtown, meet the family for dinner, and then take the train home. All without being served by a single human being. No delivery person, no teacher, no cab driver, no food server, no train conductor.

Our jobs are disappearing. The benefits of a half-century of productivity, in which we and our parents all played a role, have largely accrued to the relatively few people who know how to make money by coordinating all the technological components, or by managing the money themselves.

And despite the relentless optimism of starry-eyed pundits and tech leaders, the great majority of Americans will NOT be prepared to turn new technologies into life-sustaining employment.

1. Our Jobs Are Disappearing

The jobs that kept the middle class out of poverty — education, construction, social services, customer service, transportation, administrative support — have dramatically declined since the recession. Programmers and engineers and financial experts are still in demand. But nine of the ten fastest growing occupations don’t require a college degree.

Today’s tech and telecom companies build products that require less American workers, less middle-income workers, and less workers overall. But more big-salary workers. Netflix, for example, serves 57 million customers with less than 2,200 employees, who have an average salary of $180,000. Robert Reich notes that much of the photo processing once done by Kodak with 145,000 employees is now done by Instagram with 13 employees. Facebook’s messaging application WhatsApp has 55 employees serving 450 million customers, and a CEO who’s worth $6.8 billion, which would pay about 225,000 store workers $15 an hour for a year.

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The Evidence Keeps Pouring In: Capitalism Just Isn’t Working

by Paul Buchheit, published August 24, 2015 at Common Dreams

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(Photo: Jonny White/cc/flickr)

To followers of Ayn Rand and Ronald Reagan, and to all the business people who despise government, ‘community’ is a form of ‘communism.’ Even taking the train is too communal for them. Americans have been led to believe that only individuals matter, that every person should fend for him/herself, that “winner-take-all” is the ultimate goal, and that the winners have no responsibility to others.

To the capitalist, everything is a potential market. Education, health care, even the right to water. But with every market failure it becomes more clear that basic human rights can’t be bought and sold like cars and cell phones. The pursuit of profit, when essential needs are part of the product, means that not everyone will be able to pay the price. Some will be denied those essential needs.

Global Failures

Capitalism hasn’t been able to control runaway global inequality. For every $1.00 owned by the world’s richest 1% in 2011, they now own $1.27. They own almost half the world’s wealth. Just 70 of them own as much as 3.5 billion people.

Capitalism has not been able — or willing — to control the “race to the bottom” caused by “free trade,” as mid-level jobs continue to be transferred to low-wage countries.

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5 Ways Congress Disposes of Poor Minorities

by Paul Buchheit, published August 10, 2015 at Common Dreams

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Poverty is killing people in the United States. It always has. (Photo: Alex Barth/flickr/cc)

In a recent discussion of American neoliberalism, Henry Giroux described “the practice of disposability in which more and more individuals and groups are now considered excess—consigned to zones of abandonment, surveillance, and often incarceration.”

This is certainly true of poor Americans, especially those who are black or brown. Many of our well-positioned, mostly Republican Congressional leaders have shown through their actions that they don’t care about such people. The resulting neglect is life-threatening for the most vulnerable among us.

1. Denying Health Care: Tens of Thousands of Deaths Every Year

Numerous studies have shown that lack of health coverage can contribute to sickness and early death. Low-income minorities, of course, are least likely to have coverage.

Just having Medicaid greatly improves one’s chances of prolonging life. Yet Congress lets individual states decide the fortunes of their own poor residents. With 22 states opting out of Medicaid this year, over 5 million Americans are without vital health insurance coverage, and women—especially black women—are dying because of the lack of maternal care.

And now it’s getting worse, with an attack on Planned Parenthood, which saves women’s lives through breast cancer screenings, and reduces abortions by providing contraceptive services.

2. Subsidizing Pollution 

The IMF estimates that global subsidies for fossil fuels have reached about $5 trillion per year, with the greatest cost going to the smog-spewing coal industry.

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Great Embarrassments of an Unequal Society

by Paul Buchheit, published August 03, 2015 at Common Dreams

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Former Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, center, speaks during a news conference to announce the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s donation of $51.2 million dollars to the New York City school system at Morris High School in the Bronx, New York, Wednesday, September 17, 2003. He is flanked by Joel Klein, former chancellor of the city’s Department of Education and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

America has experienced “gush-up” rather than “trickle-down.” The shame is on the adherents of unregulated free-market capitalism, who have assaulted us with the message of “winner-take-all” wealth over the common good. George Will perpetuates the neoliberal myth by quoting one of his idols, John Tamny: “Income inequality in a capitalist system is truly beautiful…it provides the incentive for creative people to gamble on new ideas..”

But in the realm of reality, there are many reasons for embarrassment:

1. Just Because They’re Rich, Billionaires are Trusted to Design Our Education and Health Systems

Bill Gates leads the way here. He got rich in questionable ways from technology, and as a result much of America feels he’s qualified to be a great humanitarian. Because of his corporate-endowed foundation, says Arundhati Roy, Bill Gates can “find himself designing education, health, and agriculture policies, not just for the U.S. government but for governments all over the world.”

In addition to Gates, education ‘reformers’ include Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow billionaires Eli Broad and Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch and the Walton family, none of whom have much educational experience, and all of whom are promoting education reform with lots of standardized testing and little accountability to the public.

In agriculture, wealthy western philanthropists decide the future of African farmers from a corporate point of view, with a sense of disdain for traditional methods of small farming.

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How Big Corporations Cheat Public Education

by Paul Buchheit, published July 27, 2015 at Common Dreams

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But big business apparently views its tax responsibility as a burden to be avoided at the expense of the rest of us. (Photo: Basheer Tome/flickr/cc)

Corporations have reaped trillion-dollar benefits from 60 years of public education in the U.S., but they’re skipping out on the taxes meant to sustain the educational system. Children suffer from repeated school cutbacks. And parents subsidize the deadbeat corporations through increases in property taxes and sales taxes.

Big Companies Pay about a Third of their Required State Taxes

An earlier report noted that 25 of our nation’s largest corporations paid combined 2013 state taxes at a rate of 2.4%, a little over a third of the average required tax. Many of these companies play one state against another, holding their home states hostage for tax breaks under the threat of bolting to other states.

Without Corporate Taxes, K-12 Public Education Keeps Getting 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, with the majority of states spending less per student than before the 2008 recession.

It’s Getting Worse

Total corporate profits were about $1.8 trillion in 2013 (with other estimates somewhat higher or lower). The $46 billion in total corporate state income tax in 2013, as reported by both Ernst & Young (Table 3-A) and the Census Bureau, amounts to just 2.55% of the $1.8 trillion in corporate profits, a drop from the 3% paid in the five years ending in 2012.

The Worst Offenders

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