wealth

Error message

  • Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/menu.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Deprecated function: implode(): Passing glue string after array is deprecated. Swap the parameters in drupal_get_feeds() (line 394 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).

The Truth Behind “Self-Made” BillionairesWhy do we glorify...

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/09/2022 - 9:46am in

The Truth Behind “Self-Made” Billionaires

Why do we glorify “self-made” billionaires?

Well, being “self-made” is a seductive idea —it suggests that anybody can get to the top if they’re willing to work hard enough. It’s what the American Dream is all about.

If Kylie Jenner can become a “self-made” billionaire at age 21, so can you and I!

Even as wages stay stagnant and wealth inequality grows, it’s a comfort to think that we’re all simply one cosmetics company and some elbow grease away from fortune.

Unfortunately, a nice idea is all it is. Self-made billionaires are a myth. Just like unicorns.

The origins of self-made billionaires are often depicted as a “rags-to-riches” rise to the top fueled by nothing but personal grit and the courage to take risks — like dropping out of college, or starting a business in a garage.

But in reality, the origins of many billionaires aren’t so humble. They’re more “riches-to-even-more-riches” stories, rooted in upper-middle class upbringings.

How much risk did Bill Gates take on when his mother used her business connections to help Microsoft land a deal-making software for IBM?

Elon Musk came from a family that owned an emerald mine during the time of Apartheid South Africa.

Jeff Bezos’ garage-based start was funded by a quarter-million dollar investment from his parents.

If your safety net to joining the billionaire class is remaining upper class – that’s not pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.

Nor is failing to pay your fair share of taxes along the way.

Along with Musk and Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, George Soros, and Carl Icahn have all gotten away with paying ZERO federal income taxes some years. That’s a big helping hand, courtesy of legal loopholes and American taxpayers who pick up the tab, all while our tax dollars subsidize the corporations owned by these so-called “self-reliant” entrepreneurs.

Did you get a thank you card from any of them? I sure as hell didn’t.

Other common ways that billionaires build their coffers off the backs of others include paying garbage wages and subjecting workers to abusive labor conditions.

But portraying themselves as rugged individuals who overcame poverty or “did it on their own” remains an effective propaganda tool for the ultrawealthy. One that keeps workers from rising up collectively to demand fairer wages – and one that ultimately distracts from the role that billionaires play in fostering poverty in the first place.

Billionaires say their success proves they can spend money more wisely and efficiently than the government. Well they have no problem with government spending when it comes to corporate subsidies.

When arguing for even more tax breaks, they claim each “dollar the government takes from [them] is a dollar less” for their “critical” role in expanding prosperity for all Americans, through job creation and philanthropy. Well that’s rubbish.

50 years of tax cuts for the wealthy have failed to trickle down. As a result of Trump’s tax cuts, 2018 saw the 400 richest American families pay a lower tax rate than the middle class. And U.S. billionaire wealth grew by $2 trillion during the first two years of a pandemic that was economically catastrophic for just about everyone else. They want to have their cake, everyone else’s cake, and eat it, too.

Behind every ten-figure net worth is systemic inequality. Inherited wealth. Labor exploitation. Tax loopholes. And government subsidies.

To claim these fortunes are “self-made” is to perpetuate a myth that blames the wealth gap on the choices of everyday Americans.

Billionaires are not made by rugged individuals. They’re made by policy failures. And a system that rewards wealth over work.

Know the truth.

If Everyone Is King Then No One Is

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 19/08/2022 - 1:16pm in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/bb6366998518d90604ca7cd8d9eed5b2/href

The concept of “wealth hoarding” has gained traction in the wake of the Occupy movement and the Bernie Sanders presidential campaigns, the idea being that billionaires are amassing treasure like mythical dragons in the same way someone with a hoarding disorder amasses newspapers or clothes.

It’s an understandable way of looking at the problem. The capitalist class is indeed grabbing up a greater and greater percentage of the wealth that’s being generated by the working class, and it just doesn’t make sense that someone would need billions of dollars when you can only drive one car at a time, wear one pair of pants at a time, eat one meal at a time, etc.

For normal people, the idea of wealth is associated with security, so once your family’s needs are met and their future is secure it’s hard to understand the impulse to keep amassing wealth far beyond that point without it being driven by some kind of compulsive neurosis. The fact that they pour so much money and energy into manipulating political systems to ensure they aren’t forced by taxation to share more of their wealth with the public makes them look even more like compulsive hoarders.

But this notion of vast wealth as a hoarding behavior misses the mark. And no, it isn’t because billionaires are awesome beneficent job creators whose wealth is being used by banks to grant people loans for homes and businesses and making the world a wonderful place to live.

It doesn’t work to think of the very rich as wealth hoarders because what they are doing has very little in common with the behavior of a compulsive hoarder. A compulsive hoarder gains nothing from their behavior, which generally ends up being self-destructive and socially alienating. It costs them everything, and gives them nothing. Their behavior is born of neurosis, and is entirely irrational.

The so-called wealth hoarders are not amassing wealth at the expense of others out of neurosis, and the motives driving their behavior are perfectly rational. They’re just a lot more depraved and a lot more uncomfortable to think about.

The ruling class continually extracts wealth from the public not so that they can become wealthier than they already are, but to keep the public from having that wealth. They’re not worried that they’ll be unable to support their needs in the future if they don’t extract another billion dollars, they just understand that the wealthier everyone else gets, the less their own wealth matters. They’re not wealth-hoarding, they’re wealth-obstructing.

https://medium.com/media/87e4139ef0a887d8f1758a3bd422fe44/href

Wealth is a zero-sum game, as is its good friend power. The more power everyone else has, the less power our current rulers would have over us. This is why so much energy goes into ensuring that votes have as little effect as possible on the operations of the state and making sure everything stays the same no matter what the public wants.

Imagine if ordinary people started having as much influence over the direction human civilization will take as war profiteers, oil tycoons, globalized wage slavers and Silicon Valley plutocrats. Imagine if the working class had enough disposable income to begin funding grassroots political campaigns, building their own media networks, or even funding think tanks and NGOs to advance their own interests like plutocrats do today. Imagine if everyone could afford to work less and relax more, and finally start learning about what’s really going on in the world.

Wealth is meaningless if everyone is wealthy. Power is meaningless if everyone has power. The kings of our day have a vested interest in keeping everyone poor and powerless, because if everyone is king, then no one is king.

This is why our status quo systems work the way they work, and this is why you see a convergence of interests from such groups as corporate plutocrats, plutocrat-owned politicians and media, the arms industry, and military and intelligence agencies. These groups all have a vested interest in preserving the status quo and the ability to put that agenda in place, so they’ve fallen into a natural, de facto alliance with each other toward that end.

body[data-twttr-rendered="true"] {background-color: transparent;}.twitter-tweet {margin: auto !important;}

function notifyResize(height) {height = height ? height : document.documentElement.offsetHeight; var resized = false; if (window.donkey && donkey.resize) {donkey.resize(height);resized = true;}if (parent && parent._resizeIframe) {var obj = {iframe: window.frameElement, height: height}; parent._resizeIframe(obj); resized = true;}if (window.location && window.location.hash === "#amp=1" && window.parent && window.parent.postMessage) {window.parent.postMessage({sentinel: "amp", type: "embed-size", height: height}, "*");}if (window.webkit && window.webkit.messageHandlers && window.webkit.messageHandlers.resize) {window.webkit.messageHandlers.resize.postMessage(height); resized = true;}return resized;}twttr.events.bind('rendered', function (event) {notifyResize();}); twttr.events.bind('resize', function (event) {notifyResize();});if (parent && parent._resizeIframe) {var maxWidth = parseInt(window.frameElement.getAttribute("width")); if ( 500 < maxWidth) {window.frameElement.setAttribute("width", "500");}}

It’s why we’ve seen a historic upward transfer of wealth during the Covid pandemic, with billionaires raking in trillions while ordinary people struggle with unemployment and soaring prices. And it’s why that transfer of wealth has been happening for decades since long before Covid. In a system where money is power and power is relative, a ruling class naturally emerges which needs to suppress the wealth and power of its subjects in order to continue to rule.

Rulers do not historically give up their rule voluntarily, so we can expect this continual pattern of wealth obstruction via wealth extraction to continue until people get tired of being kept poor and powerless by those who benefit from their poverty and disempowerment and use the strength of their numbers to force the emergence of a more equitable system. We can also expect our rulers to do everything in their power to prevent this from happening, including propagandizing the public into accepting the status quo and believing that anything better is impossible.

Drastic change in the not-too-distant future does seem to be inevitable, though, if only because we’re headed toward environmental collapse or nuclear winter if we don’t rise to the revolutionary occasion first. Humanity’s self-destructive patterning is in a race with our better angels, and right now it’s anybody’s race.

_________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, buying an issue of my monthly zine, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. All works co-authored with my American husband Tim Foley.

Bitcoin donations:1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2

Feature image via Enoch Lau, (CC BY-SA 1.0)

You Are Being Lied to About the IRSThe IRS is set to receive its...

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/08/2022 - 11:00am in

You Are Being Lied to About the IRS

The IRS is set to receive its largest funding increase in years thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act.

You know who should be worried about this?

Wealthy Americans who dodge taxes.

Recent figures estimate that the richest 1 percent are hiding more than 20 percent of their earnings from the IRS, accounting for more than a third of all unpaid federal taxes

Some estimates show that collecting all unpaid federal income taxes from the wealthiest Americans could generate anywhere from $200 billion to $1.75 trillion over the decade.

So why hasn’t our government been able to collect all that untaxed money from the richest of the rich? Because the IRS has been underfunded and severely understaffed – thanks in large part to a decades-long campaign from Republicans to transfer wealth to the top.

Over the past 10 years, the IRS budget has been reduced by roughly 20%. Its staffing is at a level not seen since 1973 although the American population is about a third larger now.

On top of that, the tax returns of the wealthy are very difficult, time consuming, and incredibly costly to audit – and rich taxpayers often have platoons of lawyers and accountants that shield them from tax liabilities.

Without proper resources, it’s harder for the IRS to go after the wealthiest Americans who avoid paying their fair share.

As a result, just 2% of the richest Americans had their taxes audited in 2019, down from 16% in 2010.

Meanwhile, the poorest Americans – who often claim a tax break known as the earned income tax credit – are five times more likely to get audited because their tax returns are less complex, and because of pressure from congressional Republicans to root out incorrect payments of the credit.

When the IRS can’t function properly, all taxpayers aren’t off the hook evenly – and the result is a tax system stuck in a cycle where the working class bears the brunt while the rich hoard wealth that could be used to invest in America.

So, don’t believe the lies coming from the oligarchs and their propaganda machine– it’s all fear mongering. The 1% have an incentive to keep the IRS hobbled and unable to excavate their hidden wealth.

They also know the public is against them – boosting the IRS budget to strengthen tax enforcement on high-income taxpayers is a popular policy supported by more than two-thirds of registered voters.

IRS funding is a good thing. It means the agency can finally go after the real freeloaders in America: The super-rich.

Gross economic inequalities in the US

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/07/2022 - 1:33pm in

Tags 

poverty, wealth


An earlier post (link) highlighted the growing severity of inequalities of wealth and income in the United States, as well as Elizabeth Warren's very sensible "billionaire" tax proposal. According to a 2020 article in Forbes, "According to the latest Fed data, the top 1% of Americans have a combined net worth of $34.2 trillion (or 30.4% of all household wealth in the U.S.), while the bottom 50% of the population holds just $2.1 trillion combined (or 1.9% of all wealth)" (Forbes, link). That bears repeating: 1% of Americans own 30.45% of wealth in the United States, while the bottom 50% owns under 2% of wealth. Those disparities in wealth have worsened during the past two years of pandemic. The Forbes story notes that Elon Musk's wealth increased from $100 million to $240 million in the first eight months of 2020, and Jeff Bezos' wealth increased by $65 billion in 2020.

A recent story in the New Yorker on mega-yachts underlines the obscene imbalance that exists between the super rich and the rest of us. Evan Osnos' "The Floating World" offers a glimpse into the mega-luxury and consumption associated with super-yachts (link). Much of the world's attention to super-yachts has gravitated to the Russian oligarchs and the economic sanctions that have resulted in seizure of a number of multiple-hundred-million dollar ships around the world. But of course, it is not only Russian oligarchs who have captured their nations' wealth. Oligarchs and billionaires from the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Central America are part of the same bleak picture.

The level of consumption on luxury involved in the world of super-yachts in the article is obscene in the original sense of the word; it is a conspicuous display of wealth that makes one sick. The idea that a single individual or family would have the financial ability to purchase a 500-million dollar ship (limited by maritime law to carrying only 12 guests and unlimited crew) is grotesque. (Osnos quotes a luxury yacht industry estimate that the annual cost of maintaining a mega-yacht is 10% of its purchase cost. So a half-billion dollar ship requires $50 million in annual maintenance.) And this grotesquerie is especially stark in a world where global and national poverty are persistent obstacles to free human development for the world's population and climate change imperils everyone. (Osnos notes that experts estimate that "one well-stocked diesel yacht is estimated to produce as much greenhouse gas as fifteen hundred passenger cars".)

It is impossible to describe the situation of wealth inequality in the United States as anything other than a "laissez-faire robber baron regime" of wealth creation and consumption. We functionally have no effective tax policy that constrains the accumulation of hundreds of billions of dollars by a small number of individuals and families.

Here is a very interesting video panel organized by the Brookings Institution on the current status of wealth-tax proposals (link). Especially interesting in the discussion is the emphasis on wider positive effects of a wealth tax, including a shift in political power and an enhancement of racial and gender equity.

So what about the rest of us -- the population falling below the 90th-percentile of income? Here is a graph of recent income-distribution data by select percentiles (link):


Several things are apparent from this graph of income distribution. (It is important to recall that the distribution of wealth is much more extreme than the distribution of income.) First, the median household income (50th percentile of households) is $67,463. This is just under 2.5 times the Federal poverty level for a household of four individuals. This income is pre-tax; so the monthly budget of the median household is roughly $4,000 per month. This is a very tight budget that must cover all expenses: housing, food, transportation, clothing, healthcare, and so on. It is clear that households at the 50th percentile are financially struggling, and are unlikely to be able to afford a mortgage on a house. These Americans are also likely to be unable to save significantly, including savings for future educational costs for their children. Second, the 99th-percentile household income is about 7.5 times the median household income. A family with over $500,000 household income has no month-to-month financial constraints; it is not difficult to save significant resources over time; and owning property for this household is entirely feasible. 
What would a more equitable world look like? Robert Lynch attempts to construct a rough estimate of the economic benefits of achieving economic equity across racial, ethnic, and gender lines in "The economic benefits of equal opportunity in the United States by ending racial, ethnic, and gender disparities" (Equitable Growth, link). Here are the reforms that Lynch believes are crucial for substantive progress on equality of opportunity without regard to race, ethnicity, or gender:

To achieve an equal-opportunity society where there are no barriers to economic success that are the consequence of race, ethnicity, or gender disparities would obviously require tackling overt racism and sexism.

But true equal opportunity requires more than that. It involves addressing many other disparities that undermine worker productivity, such as unequal access to jobs, education, credit in the form of home mortgages and business loans, affordable child care, high-quality pre-Kindergarten, and senior care; inconsistencies in family leave and workplace policies and in treatment in the justice system; imbalances in access to healthcare and insurance; unequal exposure to damaging levels of environmental pollutants; and inadequate and unequal access to high-quality physical infrastructure, which is essential to maximizing economic efficiency.

Here is his conclusion:

The U.S. economic consequences of eliminating racial, ethnic, and gender inequalities are large, particularly for individuals of color and women. The total earnings in the nation would swell well beyond what they currently are, and the incomes of Black, Hispanic, and Asian workers would be substantially higher. The largest earnings gains would be experienced by non-Hispanic White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian women.

Whose wealth is it anyway? The libertarian laissez-faire ideology is that the "creators" of wealth are solely responsible for this wealth, and it morally and legally belongs to them. But a much more credible view is that a national economy is a vast and extended system of economic cooperation, with a substantial "social product" that should not be captured by a small number of strategically located actors. The term "rent-seeking" appears to apply perfectly here. There is also the familiar but spurious argument that vast inequalities are needed in order to generate incentives for productivity and innovation. This argument is spurious: first, much innovation comes forward from ordinary participants in economic activity who rarely see financial benefits from their innovations; and second, it is laughable to imagine that only the prospect of a $200-billion windfall would motivate an "entrepreneur" to his or her wild and crazy new ideas. Would the prospect of a billion-dollar windfall not work as an incentive? Would $100 million not work? Ha! The idea of the moral or economic inevitability of unlimited wealth accumulation is simply self-serving ideology.

In large strokes the Warren wealth tax proposal represents a moderate tax on the super-rich; and it could have a very large impact on a range of issues of political stability, economic equity, and equality of opportunity that are crucial for the future of our democracy.

SUPREME COUP: Happy Hour with Hightower at the Lowdown Chat & Chew Cafe with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Imani Gandy of Rewire News Group

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/05/2022 - 9:00pm in

For two decades, the GOP’s network of corporate and right-wing operatives has painstakingly fabricated the Supreme Court as its own political weapon. In short order, backed by a few billionaires, these anti-democracy zealots have incrementally been imposing on America an extremist political agenda that they could not win at the ballot box. Join Hightower as he sits down with right-wing dark money expert Lisa Graves to learn how this happened– and what we’ll do about it.

Watch on YouTube | Watch on Facebook

 

The post SUPREME COUP: Happy Hour with Hightower at the Lowdown Chat & Chew Cafe with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Imani Gandy of Rewire News Group appeared first on Hightower Lowdown.

SUPREME INJUSTICE: Happy Hour with Hightower at the Lowdown Chat & Chew Cafe with Lisa Graves

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/04/2022 - 9:00pm in

For two decades, the GOP’s network of corporate and right-wing operatives has painstakingly fabricated the Supreme Court as its own political weapon. In short order, backed by a few billionaires, these anti-democracy zealots have incrementally been imposing on America an extremist political agenda that they could not win at the ballot box. Join Hightower as he sits down with right-wing dark money expert Lisa Graves to learn how this happened– and what we’ll do about it.

Watch on YouTube | Watch on Facebook

 

The post SUPREME INJUSTICE: Happy Hour with Hightower at the Lowdown Chat & Chew Cafe with Lisa Graves appeared first on Hightower Lowdown.