Photo credit: P. Morris/LondonGrip
IN September of 2011, the Occupy Wall Street movement surprised everybody in the United States and around the entire world. Still today — 6 years later — a lot of people have heard of the name whereas they don’t know what was happening there. It was unprecedented because it came out of nowhere and even the protesters themselves were confused why they were there — though they felt a need that they had to be there. Busy shoppers and gawking tourists had a front row seat on Broadway to witness the disturbance. Only a few blocks from where the movement got its name — in the belly of the beast, in the epicenter of corporate capitalism — the activists headed towards Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, to begin this century’s battle in Class Warfare.
With greater confusion surrounding the quagmires around the one core issue at hand — the wealth gap between the 1% and the 99% — there could no longer be silence among working class intellectuals and the people who felt screwed over. People came for many different reasons. One of its main follies was that the movement became more of a spectacle and not a political movement: it had way too many messages and no clear, cohesive voice among all of the angry chants. Thankfully the Huffington Post has a list of the 10 reasons why people centered around Wall Street, of all places. It was because of Wall Street(‘s):
1. Caused The Financial Crisis
2. Hurt Workers and the Middle Class
3. Employs K Street to Dominate Main Street
4. Greed Perverts Financial Markets
5. Dodges Fair Taxes
6. Drives Pay Excesses
7. Has Developed Into a Casino
8. Loves Predatory Lending
9. Has Not Been Held Accountable
10. Is Working to Kill Reforms
Nevertheless, the people were organizing as a social reaction to the Obama administration’s terrible management of the 2008 economic crisis. That was the catalyst — the spark that really pissed them off and got them off of their couches. The soon-to-be-working students and the working adults both had rising debts that they had never seen before, higher job insecurity that they had never experienced before and the sheer amount of anger that they all felt had reached a boiling point — when they saw crooked billionaires getting away with causing a global recession.
The American people were furious as they could only watch their “liberal,” Democratic President simply bail out all of the largest banks in the country. The exact same risky banks that literally caused the financial crash in the first place with trillions of taxpayer dollars. It was pretty much the same thing they saw Bush do with the automakers. For a moment let’s argue that Obama did the right thing with these bailouts because he saved the entire capitalist system. He essentially prevented a massive bank run by allowing the biggest banks in the world to continue operating. They were all about to collapse and if he did not do what he did at that time — nobody would have had any money at all. It would have been a complete disaster.
As I look back at it now, this wasn’t even a slap on the wrist. These were the banking executives who facilitated the foreclosure of millions of homes and nobody got arrested for what they did. There was no real justice for what happened to countless people. Instead of laying down the law, Obama merely handed the guilty more cash — straight out of the pockets of the taxpayers — so that they could carry on doing exactly what they were doing before. And the recovery that he promised has yet to arrive. Obama spent most of his time in office doing a lot of things but helping the economy, unfortunately, was not one of them.
For a while, the media couldn’t get enough of Occupy. By November of 2011, the New Yorker had put the spotlight on two particular men — Kalle Lasn and Micah White — who they claim were the original Godfathers of the cause:
White and Lasn tried to write a manifesto in the form of a letter to President Obama. They sought to have banking-industry regulations tightened, high-frequency trading banned, all the “financial fraudsters” responsible for the 2008 crash arrested, and a Presidential commission formed to investigate corruption in politics.
“We will stay here in our encampment in Liberty Plaza”—Zuccotti Park’s post-occupation name—“until you respond to our demands,”
The idea caught on like a wildfire. Celebrities joined in and everything got bigger and louder. Movements started to pop up in almost every major city and the once adorable looking, protesting puppy quickly had to get muzzled when it became too trendy. The US is a paranoid place. A free and democratic country — sure, I’ll give it that — but the establishment is sick with its teeth. It is ruthless towards dissent. The government is so terrified to lose its grip on power, that it will desperately lash out at its own people when they are calling out for its help. Why then did the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, the local police departments and “the big banks themselves” — plot to shut down the Occupy? They colluded against citizens because the stench of a revolution was wafting:
FBI documents… reveal that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat…
the … crackdown on Occupy last fall … was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved … violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves –was coordinated with the big banks themselves…
6 notes on the economic crisis
It is a fact that somewhere in the world, every decade or so — ever since the beginning of the 20th century — there has been a downturn in the economy that ended up leaving millions of people unemployed and homeless.
These predictable cataclysms are called Business Cycles. “They trace out a wavelike pattern with a length of between 3.5 and 7 years.” The response is always the same: the capitalist system failed again, it had a boom and then a bust, the business cycle just went around… Nothing is ever done to truly fix the systemic problems that come with capitalism because the capitalists think it is good for the economy to have booms and busts. To those that have a lot of spare cash lying around, it is great for the economy when millions of people are unemployed and homeless because then the real producers, the workers, become exactly what the capitalists want them to be — desperate and passive.
Socialism proposes no adequate substitute for the motive of enlightened selfishness that today is at the basis of all human labor and effort, enterprise and new activity.
–William Howard Taft
They want employees to be desperate and passive because anyone who has a job and depends on it — wants to keep it. There is a certain amount people who simply don’t want to invent things, run a company, become athletes, celebrities or become really rich — they just want to have a simple life. Some folk only desire a job with no responsibility and that is completely fine but the general attitude of workers being like: “oh ok, I’ll just deal with it, whatever”— that is not good for the economy. By creating and then keeping whole generations in work environments where they are unable to move on — to create new jobs with their own ideas, by turning them into hopeless worker drones — that does not help to stimulate anything in society.
Chris Hedges, an American Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist — someone I admire very much because he is brutally honest about foreign policy and important topics — was at Zuccotti Park during outset Occupy. In an interview he did later on with the Real News, he said that “the more we create self-sustainable systems that are local, the more we sever ourselves from these corporate forces, the less we need them.” This is an important perspective to consider when pondering President Taft’s quote about socialism. We could, in the 21st century — in the most developed countries on Earth — continue to motivate people with this old idea of “enlightened selfishness” for wealth and private enterprise, or we could stop trying to make that work for everybody and discuss better, more efficient ways of organizing our production. In the same interview — Hedges went on to say that:
building local centers that are self-sustaining and that can create new forms of community that are not dependent on these corporate forces, is a political act because these corporate forces need us to continue to consume their products and rely on their services.
This is a different way of thinking. It’s thinking outside the corporate box. We rely on “corporate forces” to motivate people into being selfish — which is what consumerism is. Socialism is about finding a way not to rely on corporations. A way to prevent these busts — a capitalist’s wet dream — in order to conserve a way of life that is sustainable, safe and livable for everybody.
The most known busts are the Great Depression, which lasted from 1929 to 1939; and the Great Recession, that began in 2008 and is still happening today. Whenever markets get really bad — like it did during the Great Depression and how it is now — unemployed workers (who have nothing better to do because they don’t have a job or any prospects for a new one) start to go out and occupy public spaces to voice their disapproval with the system. People, who have no more options or no more patience, start to demand alternatives to the defunct, catastrophic lifestyle. The problems that I’ve mentioned already seem so deep and complicated that it really does make me so grateful that I live in a time when information is so readily available, and that I live in a country where I’m freely able to access whatever facts are out there. There are more than a handful of countries that prevent their own citizens from freely looking up in information and that’s a chilling think about.
There should be more opportunity, not just for the rich and justice, not just for the poor. That’s real equality, that’s a real mission to have, but we have yet to find a balance between our creations and our realities. A social reformer from India — Nataraja Guru, who lived from 1895 to 1973 — wrote this about economics:
There is no textbook on world economics, though economics as a science—if it is really a science—should necessarily be most directly concerned with the happiness of humanity as a whole. Instead, economists visualize a world consisting of differently-colored Hitlerish patches of territories from within which each man is thinking hard economically so as to defeat his neighbor.
The subject of modern economics has been distorted in many ways. When a child grows up and goes to school, the word economics is never brought up — except maybe for home economics. No longer is it an education based on past civilizations, to learn from their mistakes. Institutions and business schools teach economics these days as a topic of maths and finances. When an adult decides to college or university, they must decide between a major in history or economics. If they do decide to enroll in an economics course — they will only be taught how to manipulate the market to get the most profits for their business, etc.
The role of economics in the 21st century is not how we got here and looking at what we can do to have a better as a society — it is about cheerleading only capitalism. Showcasing the system that consistently fails to provide basic needs, like food and water, for the overwhelming majority of society. It’s about teaching passive kids to accept the system for all of its flaws and to teach them how to become tricky bankers or accountants — so that they can get the most out of their own and their client’s investments. The teaching of historical economics halted during the Red Scare. The mysteries behind this hidden, yet seen system is among the rest of history’s controversial mysteries. Few people throughout the years have ever made these connections, but today we call them the Marxists: the critics of capitalism.
People on the extreme left and right — some would say — will be competing forever. There has always been competition within a country, between every countryman’s ego and also between whole countries for global economic dominance. Human nature and mother nature as we know it — is evil in this regard. It’s a dog-eat-dog world and everybody knows that. Economics is the science — the study — of how people use each other for their own survival, and I think that’s why it is categorized as sociology. Economics isn’t about money — it is about work. Our patriotism — our nationalism — spurs from this economic relationship and then does our partisanship. It doesn’t matter if we are liberal, conservative, socialist, libertarian, or anarchist — everything stems from our socioeconomic class. To use frank terms: Are you rich, do you already have wealth? Or are you poor, must you work for someone else to make money? Where you fit in, based on that fundamental question, is where Marxist thought is rooted. Marxists observe the fact that some people have, while some people don’t, and they notice it has been going on forever.
Marxism is this basic realization of a class conflict. It is coming to terms with the dirty realities of the capitalist system. On the Laura Flanders Show, Cornel West exclaimed that “Karl Marx was one of the great prophetic figures of the 19th century because he had an analysis of capitalism that kept track of the precious humanity of working people and poor people.” He added with, “Marx’s analysis is probably the most indispensable form of analysis to make sense of a highly financialized, monopoly capitalism in our day.”
If we take a look at the first paragraphs of the Communist Manifesto — written by Marx and his buddy Friedrich Engels, published in February of 1848 — it becomes very clear what Cornel West was talking about:
In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank.
In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations.
Subordinate means to be “Placed in a lower class, rank, or position” or “Submissive to or controlled by authority.” Marxists observe that people have always been in different gradations, or in different social classes, or in a different “sequence of gradual, successive stages; a systematic progression” throughout history.
The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.
Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms.
Class antagonism means the “collection or division of people or things sharing a common characteristic, attribute, quality, or property” or “the pattern of divisions that exist within a society on the basis of rank, economic status, etc.” It is a confusing term that means two simple things: the class structure itself and differences between the classes.
Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other — Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.
The imagery in Marx’s writing is very whimsical. If it wasn’t for his radical ideas, he probably would be known today as a master of literature. He discusses the entire history of our species in the Manifesto — the exploitation of human beings and how they use different labels — yet it feels like a fictional masterpiece, or a made up story. The corporate media will tell you that what he was talking about is Class Warfare instead of Class Struggle, but they’re the same thing and it doesn’t matter what you call it. The language of the class itself has been manipulated to in order to be used as a weapon against the mass of workers.
In 2008, it was being reported that at that time that the planet was “20 years into the greatest transfer of wealth in history.” President Obama’s legacy should be reconfigured in order to show that because with him and his predecessor, trillions of dollars has flowed out of the needy pockets of the workers, the people who needed the money, straight into the offshore and tax-free bank accounts of the world’s most wealthiest and powerful people, the people who didn’t need the money at all.
3. Overworked workers
Americans are the most overworked population in the 21st century and it’s shown clearly in these charts. Overall, the Western world is overworked but the US is the worst. In America, there has been an 80% rise in productivity and at the same time a 240% increase in the top 1 percent’s incomes. It’s a little bit too obvious what happened here. During that same time, the wages for everybody else — the workers primarily, the 99 percent — has stagnated ever since the 1970s. Thanks to the glorious internet and to
Thanks to the glorious internet and to American democracy — this sort of information has not been kept a secret anymore.
The only way that capitalists could have raised their incomes so astronomically since the 70s — the only way that somebody could have 87.5 billion dollars to their name today — is by not raising the wages of their extra productive workers and by not paying as much taxes to their government as they once did. The people who are in control of the profits — the bosses — easily pocketed their worker’s well-earned cash. That’s just another selfish thing that humans did. People found ingenious ways to get past paying local and national taxes, which workers cannot do because most of their taxes come directly off their pay cheques. Most of them off-shored most of the majority of profits, far away from their government’s grip, so they didn’t have to pay taxes on them. The workers on the other hand, who are stuck in one place — at their job — have to constantly work harder and harder to earn a minuscule raise, and the Fat Cats just sit back and accumulate all the bounty.
4. Rising inflation
total cumulative inflation… from January 1990 through December 2014 is 86.2%. In other words, something that cost $100 in January of 1990 would cost $186.20 in December of 2014… prices almost doubled.
This shows the real inflation. Saying that “prices almost doubled” in 20 years literally means that things have doubled in price — or in other words, the dollar has lost its value by over 50% — on top of the inflation that’s regularly occurring.
This is a very telling chart [below]. First, let us look at the biggest line item with housing. A new home today costs $270,200. That 1975 home adjusting for inflation would cost $209,417. This is a “real” increase of 29 percent. A new car costs $31,252 while that 1975 car adjusting for inflation would cost $16,578. This is a true doubling of cost here. Public college costs are up over 150% while private college costs are up over 160%. And you wonder why we have over $1.3 trillion in student debt outstanding.
What is more affordable relative to inflation? Milk, eggs, and a postage stamp. Unfortunately these are tiny line items on your household budget.
What you need to look at is the median income here. US households overall are simply poorer. They have less to spend relative to the cost of goods and services. Money is only as good as what it can purchase. You can’t eat hundred dollar bills. This is part of the reason why many people feel like they are poorer. It is also a big reason as to why the homeownership rate continues to fall.
Why do I bring up inflation? The average annual inflation rate in Canada is about 3%. My wage did not go up 3% last year, or even close to 3% in the last 5 years. When did you last get a raise? That is probably the most important thing to think about when comparing all of these figures. How much of a raise are the one-percenters getting? And why are the workers — in developed countries — not getting more money to afford the more expensive commodities? As businesses become more dependent on cheap labor overseas to combat the stagnation of productivity in the West — the more desperate the job market becomes.
The standard of living in the 70s stopped rising for average, working class people. Yet the luxuries that were awarded to the entrepreneurs of the 80s and 90s were so tremendously high — that the numbers are unimaginable, that they do not do any justice to our puny minds. This graph shows the inflation of the Canadian dollar from 1914 to 2016. Notice how flat the line is until the 70s.
5. Lowered taxes
Slashing taxes for the wealthy intensified in the 70s. Two generations ago, after WWI but before WWII, the last major hiccup in the business cycle was happening — the Great Depression. The President at that the time was Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) and he had a progressive plan to get the whole country out of the hard times that they were in. It would be called the New Deal. At the time, in 1932, the unemployment rate was at an astounding 20% but the regular people felt — according to Noam Chomsky — hopeful that everything was going to be okay.
Today in the richest country in human history, 20% of the population qualify for food stamps. Real unemployment today is at the level of the Great Depression for much of the population, manufacturing workers for example. And in fact their actual circumstances are much worse than in the Great Depression, which I’m old enough to remember. Most of my family were unemployed working class and the country was of course far poorer than it is today. But it was a hopeful period in many ways. There was a sense that people were doing something about it and that times would get better. And indeed they did, thanks to very active organizing, CIO, other things. And then an immense government stimulus, first during the War and then continuing through the post-war decades.
That’s not true today. The jobs that are being lost are unlikely to return, at least under the current programs of the masters of mankind.
Not graven in stone, but that’s their programs. While the population suffers, Goldman Sachs, which is one of the main architects of the current crisis, is now richer than ever and they have just quietly announced 17.5 billion dollars in extra compensation for last year with the CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, getting 12.6 million while his base salary more than triples.
Union membership in the 30s, in private sector, was at an all-time high. Communist and socialist parties — not being such a big deal as they are today — both had very high participation rates. FDR was a very wealthy man himself and he was friends or family with most of America’s elites. Facing such massive protests and a crumbling economy — he went to them and he gave them an ultimatum: either agree to a higher tax rate, to pay for the New Deal reforms I’m implementing, or there is going to be a revolution. And FDR today is famously remembered for saving capitalism at the time, which he did. He was able to convince enough of his pals that there had to be a higher taxes for the rich, or something bad was going to happen.
The tax bill originally got sent to Congress at 100% — FDR proposed a maximum income in the US — in other words: the rest somebody made above a certain amount, around $300,000 in today’s dollars, would have gone directly to the government. This, of course, this did not end up passing but after much debate, in 1944 the tax rate for the wealthiest individuals went up to a record 94% and it stayed above 90% until 1964.
Go here to use an interactive tool that lets you see what your tax rate would have been in the past
During this period, FDR’s New Deal plan got tens of millions of people back to work — in most cases working in newly created public (government) jobs. Billions of dollars in new tax revenue enabled the government to provide unemployment insurance and pensions — things that never existed before and that are taken advantage of now. Also during this period, between the 50’s and 90’s, while progress was at an all-time high — there were factions within the government and the corporations who did not like or agree with FDR’s radical New Deal plan. They were trying their hardest to break the chance of any more forms resistance. These groups of business men and politicians worked towards dismantling all the trade unions and communist parties in the US, and they succeeded masterfully.
In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan spoke of the terrible burden that the New Deal taxes were on his middle-class family when he was growing up. He envisioned a place where businessmen could keep even more of their worker’s hard-earned money. Reaganomics (or Trickle Down economics, again, whatever you want to call it) was a way for him to “stimulate the economy” and allow the rich to become even more ridiculously rich at the same time.
During his presidency from 1981 to 1989 — Reagan slashed the taxes for richest individuals down from 70% to 28%. Completely disintegrating what FDR did almost 60 years before. Reagan said that “We don’t have a trillion-dollar debt because we haven’t taxed enough; we have a trillion-dollar debt because we spend too much.”
With these tax cuts, MotherJones reports that “the wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers pay 32 percent of all income tax collected by the federal government.”
But the superrich don’t pay as much as they used to—and thanks to a combination of tax cuts and preferential tax policies, their tax obligations can be less demanding than the so-called little people’s.
In fact, the very wealthiest Americans’ tax burden has been steadily dropping for years, even as they’ve enjoyed astounding income growth not seen by the vast majority of Americans.
There are way more people paying 68% of the government’s taxes than the 1%, that is paying 34%. The problem with these tax rates is not necessarily the percentage the rich is being taxed versus what the poor is. The top marginal tax rate has been dropped dramatically from 94% in 1944 to 28% in 1989, but it is the bracket itself that’s much more interesting. After adjusting the dollar amounts for today’s dollars — the top tax bracket begins at incomes at or above $200,000 ever since 1941. Before 1941 it was $5,000,000. The latest numbers on this tax chart show that in 2013 the highest tax rate was 39.6% for any incomes about $225,000. That means that from the 40’s until now, the incomes of the top one percent has gone up, in part, by billions of dollars because the cut off amounts for the brackets have been changed. At the current tax rates, an anesthesiologist — a surgeon or dentist, anyone who’s in the “middle class” is making about $250,000 per year — is paying the exact same tax rate as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, Donald Trump or any of the another super rich individuals that makes at least $10,000,000 per year. How is this productive?
Fewer tax brackets eventually drive more levels of inequality.
On average a typical working class Canadian is paying more on their taxes than they are spending on anything else. More than food, shelter, transportation, etc. Canadian’s pay about 42% in income tax overall — that takes into account all taxes: income, sales, property, etc. That’s tremendously high. Corporations though, get away with paying as little as 10% in income taxes. And In 2017, the top tax bracket in Canada is set at 33% for incomes over $202,800 — even worse than the situation in the US. It is not a coincidence that CEOs everywhere are making way more money than they ever did before.
“Nobody’s worth that much money. I mean, this is absurd,” said Hugh Mackenzie. “Thirty years ago they managed to scrape by on 40 times what the average person is paid, and now, it’s 193 times.“
The lower taxes are on corporations and small businesses, governments think that this will encourage businesses and their CEOs to go there as to take advantage of the lower tax rate. But think about that: governments are lowering the tax rates for businesses in order to attract them to their jurisdictions. If the tax rates are being lowered for corporations, to promote more business in a certain area, where then does the government get the taxes that it is losing? The higher instances of deficits, the US has the highest debt in the world, and the general trend of cutting social programs so the government can save money.
But taxes on businesses continue to lower even more — a perilous dash for cash — as the burden of the taxes is quietly distributed among the rising population of poorer and poorer individuals. If you’re a really wealthy person — making over 5 million a year — a tax hike of one or two percent will be noticeable at all, a measly 50 thousand. But if you only make what an average person does — about 30 thousand a year– that’s a whole other story. Now you are messing with someones already limited budget. In 2016 in the US, someone making 30 thousand a year pays 15% tax, or $4500. So at the end of the year, they’re left with only $25,500. And someone who makes 5 million a year pays 39.6% or $1,980,000. Leaving them with $3,020,000. Keep in mind that only the corporations and very wealthy individuals can afford to hire a fancy lawyer, an offshore bank account and the few Ltd. licenses that are required to get away with fraud — by not paying their fair share in taxes.
6. Current inequality
In 2015, Oxfam International released a report urging that:
Across the global economy, in different sectors, firms and individuals often use their power and position to capture economic gain for themselves. Economic and policy changes over the past 30 years – including deregulation, privatization, financial secrecy and globalization, especially of finance – have supercharged the age-old ability of the rich and powerful to use their position to further concentrate their wealth.
This policy agenda has been driven essentially by what George Soros called ‘market fundamentalism’. It is this that lies at the heart of much of today’s inequality crisis. As a result, the rewards enjoyed by the few are very often not representative of efficient or fair returns.
A powerful example of an economic system that is rigged to work in the interests of the powerful is the global spider’s web of tax havens and the industry of tax avoidance, which has blossomed over recent decades. It has been given intellectual legitimacy by the dominant market fundamentalist world view that low taxes for rich individuals and companies are necessary to spur economic growth and are somehow good news for us all.
The system is maintained by a highly paid, industrious bevy of professionals in the private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries.
It is the wealthiest individuals and companies – those who should be paying the most tax – who can afford to use these services and this global architecture to avoid paying what they owe. It also indirectly leads to governments outside tax havens lowering taxes on businesses and on the rich themselves in a relentless ‘race to the bottom’.
As we continue to “race to the bottom” — our governments depend more and more on austerity measures like laying people off and using “stimulus” packages, to cure our financial woes. None of this helps the working class or even the middle. In 2016 Oxfam reported that 62 people have more wealth than half the whole world’s population. And in 2017, it is just 8 people. In a year or two, when only one person will have as much wealth as half the planet: what will happen then? The further accumulation of 3.5 billion people’s wealth into a few vaults — will eventually mean the destruction of the welfare state itself.
Just think for a moment how much money one billion dollars is: that’s one thousand million dollars. Bill Gates, the richest man on Earth, has eighty-seven thousand million dollars. There’s no way to have a progressive state without progressive taxes — a high tax on the rich, a medium tax on the middle, and low tax on the poor. To have progress and more equality — that’s the proven way to do it. Just look at the 50s and 60s. This graph below shows the rise in suicide rates among middle-aged, white people in the US particularly, and this scary statistic can only be explained in a few ways but,
Probably the biggest reason is socio-economic. We have about 150,000 people in our state that don’t have access to any type of healthcare, which is a major issue. We have a lot of people living in poverty.
Wages are not going up at the same pace as rising health costs, rising cost of living and inflation…
Legend: All-cause mortality, ages 45–54 for US White non-Hispanics (USW), US Hispanics (USH), and six comparison countries: France (FRA), Germany (GER), the United Kingdom (UK), Canada (CAN), Australia (AUS), and Sweden (SWE).
The system of unfettered capitalism that Marx wrote about means that capitalists and corporations will always seek out the most profitable alternatives. Always. What about the eco-system? Who cares about it! The system is all about profit. How can we make more things profitable? It’s not about conservation — it is about devastation. The black market and the criminals which operate within it are just as guilty as the corporate class is. How can anyone differentiate the contrast of evil that comes from either of them? One international criminal uses lawyers to make their money, and the other uses weapons to do the same thing. Both the plutocrat and the guerrilla kingpin are playing the same game with people’s lives, and the only difference is their legality — which is also very questionable right now since America’s democracy has been bought out by corporations. The wave of neo-liberalism did not destroy corruption, it concentrated and intensified it.
The precise annual cost to Canadian tax coffers is unknowable. But credible estimates peg Canada’s tax losses to offshore havens at between $6 billion and $7.8 billion each year.
Tax avoidance — the legal movement of wealth to offshore bank accounts in order to minimize tax burdens — is a grey area. But there is a much darker element.
Terrorist financing, money laundering and corruption are among the byproducts of offshore secrecy. The leaked records reveal a pattern of covert manoeuvres by banks, lawyers and companies concealing suspect transactions or manipulated records in ways that facilitated illegality.
The ongoing phenomenon ever since the 70s is stagnated wages for working people, workers then increasing their productivity, a rise in businesses offshoring their jobs, a rise in women and minorities entering the labor force, a rise in computers replacing workers, a rise austerity measures, a dramatic drop in New Deal tax rates for the rich and an astronomic rise in the incomes of the one percent. The culmination of the 20th century was a pseudo-capitalist system that strenuously centralizes wealth for only a few people while it ignores the rest of the population.
For at least the last forty years — Western governments and the defunct liberal institutions which operate within them — have been influenced and disfigured by the cash and power of the growing corporate aristocracy into providing large subsidies for the largest businesses and institutions. The argument is that they are essential to preserve the “modern culture” — that they are unable to fail or ever go out of business. They are “too big to fail” and too dogmatic to question their economic dominance. Just like the bailouts for the largest banks and the automakers — these corporate factions threaten the progress towards democracy and equality because of their immortality. The collusion against the people to deregulate, privatize and monetize every single aspect of life — will mean the extermination of the welfare state and all the good that it provides.
Wages are not going up for the mass of people and their taxes haven’t gone down enough to make a difference in their lives. The affluent are not paying as much taxes, proportionality, as they once were, and are still having their taxes cut. These and other causes I’ve mentioned have enabled the wealth and income of the one percent to skyrocket while the ninety-nine percent has not. That familiar smell of passive pessimism that’s in the air, that is labeled as neo-liberalism, is an unfair and undemocratic crusade against every uneducated consumer. It is the only reason why the world is how it is right now.
Chris Hedges is one of my most favorite authors. He spent 15 years as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times and now he writes a column for TruthDig. He asserts that we are in a revolutionary period right now because there is a “disconnect between the way we speak about ourselves and the way we actually function.” In a politically correct world where we cannot say what is on our mind, where we must always be mindful of the feelings of other people — we are hesitant and always “searching for the words to describe what is happening to us and then to articulate another vision of where we want to go.” So let us, who are looking for a voice, heed the lessons of the past — while not being afraid to use the language of class to express how we really feel. And let us also consider the circumstance of Occupy and the movements equal to it — to arm ourselves against unfaltering Class Warfare, in a way which will one day accolade the working people as victorious.♦♦