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Friday, August 24, 2012

Life in the Lower 99

"So many of my friends post about how they feel about the present economy. I wonder how they would feel if, in the future, they were one of the fortunate ones who was earning a lot more money. Would you still be angry with them for having more than you? Would you still think they should pay more than they are now? Would you still think your money should support those who don't have, because they aren't ambitious as you?" (August 24th, Author Withheld)
In any other political climate, the litany of wrongheaded assumptions in this rant would leave me astonished. As it is, I know that any conservative voter could have written it. Living quite comfortably in a suburbian cashmere-lined bubble, in their heart of hearts these people actually believe that those less fortunate are just jealous. I've had that said right to my face. "You're just jealous." Well "your just jealous" is probably what they say, let's be real.

What's actually happening is this: those without a sufficiant grasp of the social contract are unable and/or unwilling to mentally align themselves with the plight of friends and neighbors living at or below the poverty level. Like school children that join in with the bully, they grasp at a chance to align with the privileged. And also, clearly, they don't seem to understand what taxes even are, or how it's all supposed to work. Let's break it down.

 Why should people who are well to do be punished for working harder to make more?

This is one sentence with a smattering of ideas that don't connect with anything. Who is talking about wealthy people being "punished" here? All we're saying is kill the tax loopholes and shelters that are siphoning the lifeblood from our economy and lining the pockets of people who have almost as much money as God. We need everyone's contribution or else there isn't enough in the kitty here. And what the hell do you mean "for working harder." I work my ass off, so did my parents. People are having to work two, three jobs just to put food on the table, struggling to keep up with how fast their kids' feet are growing. How dare you suggest that anyone without mansions and yachts just didn't work hard enough. It would be a personal insult if it weren't so stupid.

Would you still think your money should support those who don't have, because they aren't ambitious as you?" 

Excuse me, ambitious? See above. 

Would you still think they should pay more than they are now?

Yes. Of course I would. Do you think my belief in the concept of "fair share" changes depending upon my personal share? That's an appalling point of view, frankly. The reason that Mitt Romney only pays 14% in taxes has zero to do with how "hard" he has worked, lady. In fact that guy never had to put in a hard day's labor in his life. Martin Sheen put it, "He was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple." When income is in the form of capital gains, and those earnings are not taxed at the same rate as my paycheck, that means these people get to keep a significantly larger percentage of what they earn.

Would you still be angry with them for having more than you? 

Average Americans are not "angry" about top 1% "having more." We're not toddlers, what's wrong with you? Of course there will always be families who've done well for themselves, that can leave behind a legacy of wealth that shore up generations. And naturally there will always be average families living modestly as well. That's not even close to why we're "angry."

We are pissed off because our former robust democracy has transformed into a sick oligarchy. As a nation, thanks to this brand of upside-down, backwards thinking, we've exchanged "we the people" for an economy and society controlled by about four hundred guys, give or take. 

We are outraged that the wealthy have the means to insert politicians into power. These conservative money-backed politicians are mere puppets of the elite, ready with a "yes" vote on any bill that will empower the elite, a sweaty grip on the red pen to abolish any initiative designed to gut our basic American freedom. 


We are astonished that people like you think it's totally fair game to essentially rig the system in one's favor, to purchase policy that rewards wealth and obliterates the poor and the middle class. The people whose political seats have been paid for by the 1% have craftily engineered the tax code to siphon off funds that should be bolstering our nation's infrastructure. They have set up tax shelters where there should be homeless shelters and women's shelters. The Federal Reserve just came out with a report in black and white that shows what we have been saying for twelve years: the median net worth for the middle class family has dropped steadily since there was a Democrat in the oval office, and has plummeted ever further into the abyss since 2007; during the same time period, over 90% of all new income was earned by the top 1%. Does that sound right to you? That means 99% of people shared the remaining 10%. Does that sound right to you? That most of the American people are grimly trudging along, battling ever-higher housing, fuel, education, health expenses and growing poorer every year? And it's not because they are less "ambitious." And it's not because they're "jealous." It's a rigged system. "Loophole" is never defined as a positive thing. And that does not sound right to me.

We are incensed because the politicians who themselves feel safe with their top-rated health insurance (for themselves, and their families, and for life by the way) are empowered to decide what "affordable" health care means, doggedly slashing programs and insisting that privatized medicine is the answer. Everyone knows that "privatized" is code for "you get what you pay for," and going by that logic, all of the ailing rich will be treated while the poor will simply crawl off to some hole in the ground to die. Cancer isn't bad enough, we should also become destitute and homeless?

We are furious that the economy is in an unnecessary recession. Those of us with jobs are facing the highest food and housing costs ever, many haven't had a salary increase in years, Many are under-employed. I have brilliant friends with college degrees who are driving cabs and working the till at the supermarket. It wasn't the 99% that caused this recession. It was the greedy 1%, and now they want to fix it by taking even MORE from us. These people bullied their way into the big chairs, voted consistently to make sure the rest of us would need to struggle just to maintain the basics, and it all came to a head when there was no other option but to approve that sickening $700 billion bailout through the TARP program, plus the Federal Reserve provided $16 trillion to your schoolyard bully's gargantuan corporations. The media gave it a cute title (Too Big To Fail) and a jingle and a graphic and then talked about Angelina Jolie some more. Those people should have been thrown in jail.
"The enormous bets they made on worthless, complex, and exotic financial instruments went bad, and they stuck the American people with the bill," wrote Senator Bernie Sanders in June of this year. Senator Sanders also wrote that "the wealthiest 400 individuals own more wealth than the bottom half of America, 150 million people...the top 1 percent own 40 percent of all wealth, while the bottom 60 percent owns 2 percent...Incredibly, the bottom 40 percent of all Americans own just 0.3 percent of the wealth of the country."
I wonder how they would feel if, in the future, they were one of the fortunate ones who was earning a lot more money.

Really? Here's the thing about liberals. Our core value system is not for sale. That's the difference between liberals and "conservatives," which, frankly nobody understands what it is you're trying to conserve. Liberals want everyone in America to have enough healthy food, affordable housing, libraries, art programs and a chance at college and all of the other things that our combined taxes are supposed to support. What decent person believes that right idea is to gut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, food stamps and other social programs the bullies can get their sweaty hands on, whilst enhancing and strengthening the obscene tax shelters, corporate handouts and loopholes that are the real root cause of the problem? There is plenty of money. Plenty -- the system would work if the oligarchy wasn't rigging policy to beat the system in this sickening way.

How would I feel if I achieve a higher tax bracket? I would feel awesome that I could help more. Shame on you. Seriously, shame on you.