Transcript #166

Right-Wing Ramps Up Its Efforts To Protect The Vulnerable, On-The-Edge-Of Collapse Wealthy From The All-Powerful Progressives Out To Get Them


Partially hyperlinked to sources.  For all sources, see the data resources page.



Your sources today include:, the New York Times, the website of the Gallup polling organization,,,, and the website of the City of New York.


Here's a little vignette someone wrote in to a newspaper.  It seems that some New York City travelers were having difficulties in Florida with weather, airline connections, you name it:


[W]e waited outside for the hotel van in the howling wind, wearing light clothing suitable for Key West. Other stranded passengers joined us, each enveloped in self-pity.

We were all ranting to each other and to anyone who would listen on our cellphones, loudly cursing the airline that had sent only two agents to reschedule hundreds of stranded passengers lining the concourse.

As our van circled the icy roads of the airport, a pleasant-looking woman wearing a “Mothers Without Borders” sweatshirt spoke:

“If you want to see long lines, you should see the ones in Haiti. Those women wait all day in the heat for one cup of rice and a bottle of water, and then they must return the next day to wait again.”

For the first time that day, our intrepid group of New Yorkers was silenced.

I thought of this when I recently listened to a bunch of Fox News personalities start whining and complaining, also about a situation that requires some perspective.


The IRS had just announced some reasonable measures to, in their words, "combat offshore tax evasion."


What's wrong with that? Shouldn't everyone pay taxes they owe?  Especially the super-wealthy who are the ones who engage in offshore tax evasion?


Apparently not.  In the bizarre world of Fox News, the rich and powerful who control the world, are portrayed as pitiful victims in need of protection:


audio: Brian Kilmeade, other Fox News personalities

Brian Kilmeade: I love those people!  Not content that the top five percent of income earners pay more than 70 percent of all the taxes in our country, so the agency is finding a new way to squeeze the wealthy.  I’ll stop for animation:

IRS spokesman: We have a new global high-wealth operating unit where we’re taking a unified look at the entire web of business and economic entities controlled by high-wealth individuals so we can better assess their compliance...

Male Guest:  Talk about very consumer-friendly!

Female Guest: That might be because the United States is running out of money!  The problem?  Many of these people are the ones creating jobs.  Those high-wealth individuals.  So is it really a good idea to go after them? 

Squeeze the wealthy!   Go after them!


How about Laura Ingraham on Fox:


audio: Laura Ingraham

[M]ore Americans than ever are now deciding to leave our country for good because of high taxes and onerous regulations.

If we continue down this road of vilifying and penalizing prosperity, we'll have gone from soaking the rich to sinking them altogether. 

Sinking the rich altogether!


Now since the right doesn't want to be seen for what it is, shills for the rich, right-wingers try to cast their concern for the wealthy, as actually being in the self-interest of average Americans, who need jobs:


audio: Megyn Kelly, Rep. Steve King

Megyn Kelly:  Well, the IRS is announcing a new plan specifically designed to target the rich.  Critics are now asking:  are those the same rich who create the jobs in this country?...

Well, Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa joins me live.  Congressman, thanks for being here.  It sounds good in principle, because who likes the rich?  They just—they seem like they have more than we do.  But, on the other hand, they are the ones who give us our jobs.

King:  You can almost hear, Megyn, the bitterness in Doug Shulman's voice when he announces this.  There's a tone of animosity towards the rich when he speaks of this globalization—this game-changer—that he referenced, to go out and build a network with Japan and Germany, Canada, Australia, and Great Britain, to go after the wealth in the world to try to do a more effective job of taxing that wealth and punishing the producers.  Now, no one ever got a job from a poor person. 

A Fox nation graphic baldly stated: IRS Target: Job Providers


The right's propaganda frames the issue so that workers will say, yeah, those rich need their billions so I can have a job, so let them evade their taxes.


You may already know the first point I'm going to make, that the rich don't "create" jobs out of thin air out of the generosity of their hearts, and so if they could only pay less taxes, they'd be able to, out of sheer kindness, create some more jobs for us commoners.


No, an additional job slot is made possible, when the owner of a business calculates that he or she can sell the output of your job -- whether a tangible or intangible product -- for more than they pay you to do that work.


Nothing wrong with that. 


But the key point is, the only way they can sell the product for more than they pay you to make it, is if someone wants to buy it, if there's demand for the product.


Demand creates the conditions that allow jobs to be created.  What increases demand? People having more money in their pockets to spend.  They have more money in their pockets to spend when their wages go up.


If you want to create more jobs, you increase wages, not give more money to the wealthy, by letting them be tax cheats.


Society isn’t a pyramid standing on its pointed head, a tiny sliver of the ultra rich supporting the rest of society. No, society is a right-side up, if you'll forgive the expression, pyramid, which rests on a broad foundation of the workers of the society.


It's funny.  I don't know if you remember or not, but in the past I've let loose with tirades about how the top 10% own 70% of the wealth in the country, but they're not satisfied with that.   They want more and more.  How much more do they want?  80%?  90%  All of it?  I'd conclude, half in jest, that they seem to want to hearken back to a feudal society, where everything is owned by the lord of the manor,  who provides the serfs necessities as he deems appropriate, out of the kindness of his heart.


This current right-wing "don't make the rich pay their legally owed taxes, because then they wont' give us jobs" propaganda is the same thing.


The other major point for you to consider here would be, how are the right's beloved rich doing?  If there were rich guys on the street corner begging for cash to make the payments on their yachts, well then, maybe the right-wing's concern for their plight, that they're being sunk, would make sense at least emotionally, if not economic theory-wise.


But the reality is, that the rich are doing better than ever before in the history of the country.


For example, it recently came to light, that contrary to popular belief, the executives of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers were not wiped out financially when their companies melted down.  Quite the contrary.  Their net take from 2000 to 2008 averaged a cool quarter billion dollars each.


These guys need no right-wing pity, or protection.


Likewise with the latest stat the right-wing is hollering about, and which you may have already had thrown in your face.  Laura Ingraham again:


audio: Laura Ingraham

Consider this staggering fact:  the top one percent of wage earners in America pay more than 40 percent of the overall tax bill for the nation.  And the left is still arguing that the system is not progressive enough?

Notice how she said "wage earners," as if the richest one percent earn their keep on hourly wage jobs!


More importantly, I've almost never heard any progressive effectively counter this 1% pays 40% propaganda, with the simple retort:  "Yes, that's because they earn so much of the national income pie."


This is a stat you've heard me say many times:  the richest 1% have nearly tripled their share of the national income pie in the last thirty years.  It went from about 8½ percent to 23 percent.  So if they earn 23%, and pay 40% of the taxes, that's not even enough, given that we should have a much more progressive taxation system than that. 


In fact, if you look at the stats, their share of taxes didn't increase proportionally with their share of the income nearly tripling.


So that's why their after-tax income has more than tripled in thirty years.


While those at the bottom have, as one writer put it, "barely moved an inch."


According to government figures, the total federal tax burden on the wealthiest 1 percent and even higher of Americans, ranges from about 30-32%.  That includes income tax, social security and Medicare taxes, excise taxes for gas, alcohol, etc, and corporate taxes.


If a person's making tens of millions of dollars, it's hardly unreasonable that they pay 30-32% in federal taxes, wouldn't you say?


Now wealth is unspent income, excess income, accumulated over time.  To repeat what I've said many times, probably the most mind-boggling stat I've encountered in doing this podcast, is that the richest 400 American families have more wealth, than the entire bottom half of the nation, than 57 million American families.


And that's who Laura Ingraham and her ilk want us to be worried about?


Up next, I have two new juicy stats for you in this realm.  One may take the place of the 400 families stat as #1 in the Blast The Right lexicon.  Stay tuned.






Here are the new stats, suitable for use in your combat with the right.


First: the compensation Wall Street paid itself in 2009 was greater than the combined budget gaps of all 50 states last fiscal year.  Wall Street racked up $145 billion, and 50 states bled with a $117 billion shortfall.  Any connection?


Second, is the really super-amazing stat that may become my #1 favorite.  It's built on several other public numbers.  Let me paint you the picture.


Last month a magazine calculated that the top 25 hedge fund managers averaged $1 billion -- billion with a "b" -- one billion dollars  each in compensation in 2009.  These 25 guys together took home a $25.3 billion dollar paycheck.


Now, the right always replies, when you bring up the outlandish compensation of those in the financial world, "Athletes make a lot of money, why don't you complain about that?"


So I took a look at this.


What's the total payroll of Major League Baseball?  Every ballplayer combined, on every team, their total is only about two and three quarter billion dollars.  Gee, the 25 hedge fund managers got paid almost ten times as much.


What about if we add in, all the players in the NBA?  And for good measure, every football team in the NFL?


Think of the amazing skills of these professional athletes, and the joy and happiness they bring to millions who follow their endeavors.


You know what?  If you combine the salaries of all the professional athletes playing major league baseball, NBA basketball, and NFL football, the total is still only about a third of what the 25 hedge fund managers made.


But there's more.


This sports comparison is a bit light-hearted.  Let's get serious.  Deadly serious.


There are over one million students in the New York City public schools.  Tens of thousands of teachers instruct them.  It's not an easy job.  And it's a critically important one for society, creating an educated work force and voting population that will one day run the country.


Collectively, all these tens of thousands of teachers earn only about one-fourth as much as the 25 hedge fund manager billionaires.


Wait, more to come.


Over ten thousand fireman serve the people of New York City, risking their lives every day to stop conflagrations from spreading, and rescuing those unfortunate enough to be stranded in burning buildings.


But the 25 hedge fund guys make more than all the New York City firemen combined.


In fact, the 25 hedge fund guys make more than all the teachers and firemen combined.


New York City has 8 million people.  Tens of thousands of New York City policemen risk their lives every day to protect New York City residents from property crimes and crimes of violence.


As you may anticipate my saying, not only do the 25 hedge fund guys make more than all the policemen in New York City, but they make more than all the teachers, firemen and police in New York City combined.


And -- here's the grand finale --  if you add, perhaps incongruously, but most instructively, if you add together the amount of money made in a year by all major league baseball players, all NFL football players, all NBA basketball players, all the teachers in New York City, all the fireman in New York City, and all the police in New York City, you still wouldn't come anywhere near the amount of money that the 25 hedge fund managers somehow figured out a way to rake in as pay in 2009.


And the right-wing expresses concern about the plight of the put-upon wealthy?


Is this screwed up, or what?  What kind of an economic system rewards two dozen guys shuffling piles of money around and betting other people's money, thousands of times more, than those teaching our children, than those risking their lives to protect the citizenry from crime and fire?


What kind of a crazy system, inappropriate rules, do we have?!


And to add insult to injury, the hedge fund guys pay only a low 15% capital gains rate on much of their compensation, while everyone else I've mentioned has to pay up to about 40% at regular marginal income tax rates.


Up next, prospects for change, including polling data -- some recent, some stretching back to the Great Depression -- that'll give you another powerful mouthful to share with your favorite, friendly local right-winger.


Stick around.






What are the prospects for change?


In the last year there's been rising disaffection with government in general, and certain of Obama's policies in particular, especially on health care.


Yet during that same time period, support has remained steady at three-fifths of Americans in favor of tougher measures to regulate Wall Street.


On the other hand, you have the unfathomable financial power of Wall Street.  In the last ten years, the financial industry spent more than $3.9 billion to influence policy in the nation's capital.  Of course, our friends the wealthiest hedge fund managers were part of these heavy contributions.


Beyond Wall Street is the issue of taxes on the wealthy in general.  There are some increases upcoming.  In 2013, the Medicare payroll tax will go up just shy of a percent for individuals who make over $200,000 a year, couples $250,000.   And a Medicare payroll tax of 3.8 percent will now apply to investment income -- interest, capital gains, dividends, the like -- of these same taxpayers.


But again on the other hand, Congress can't seem to change the rule that allows hedge fund managers to pay a capital gains rate of 15 percent on some of their income, instead of the higher, ordinary income rate.  The House has passed such legislation, but the Senate blocks it -- Democrats as well as Republicans.  They're addicted to those financial industry campaign contributions.


As far as raising the marginal rates overall on the wealthy, Obama says he still intends to let the Bush tax cuts expire on those $200,000 plus individual/$250,000 plus couples households.  What about raising the rates even more than that?


Despite all the right-wing loud decibel propagandizing that the people want lower taxes, the people apparently don't want lower taxes on upper income folks.  The people want higher taxes on them. 


A recent Quinnipiac poll asked:


Do you think raising income taxes on households making more than $250,000 should or should not be a main part of any government approach to the deficit?

This was supported by 60% of the public, and, interestingly, an even higher percentage of those actually making over $250,000.


And get this: when the income threshold for the increased tax is raised to one million dollars, support shoots up to 72%, including a majority of Republicans!


I've often wondered why income brackets don't increase as the millions pile on.  Shouldn't someone making $50 million a year pay more than someone making one-hundredth that, $500,000 a year?  Right now, they pay the same rate.


Don't let a right-winger tell you that the Quinnipiac poll results are an anomaly.  The Gallup polling organization has been asking the American public since 1939 the following question:


Do you think our government should or should not redistribute wealth by heavy taxes on the rich?

Back in 1939 only a little more than a third of Americans agreed.  But the number has climbed steadily, and now a majority of Americans agree with this proposition.


Congressmen and --women, listen to your constituents!


To put these huge income numbers in perspective, if one of those $1 billion hedge fund mangers were taxed at 99%, he'd still be left with $10,000,000, an amount equal to four lifetimes of the pretax earnings of the average American.


Speaking of those 25 hedge fund managers who together made more than the combined salaries of all baseball, football and basketball players plus all New York City teachers, firemen and police -- speaking of them, remember that these hedge fund managers produce no tangible product, no artistic or intellectual output.  Nothing any human being can use or enjoy.  They simply work to make as much money as possible by placing financial bets utilizing outrageously complex financial instruments. 


Remember, the purpose of these financial instruments, as utilized by Wall Street generally, is to hide a company's true financial condition, hide debt, avoid capital requirements, evade taxes.


But even that's not good enough for the big shots on Wall Street.


They're now charged with outright fraud.


The Securities and Exchange Commission just sued Goldman Sachs for creating financial instruments designed to fail, but not telling purchasers of those instruments that they were designed to fail.  So those purchasers lost their money.


It was a hedge fund manager, John A. Paulson, who asked Goldman to create these instruments.  Paulson had identified a bunch of mortgage loan pools he felt would go bad, and wanted to bet against them.  So he went to Goldman and Goldman created the instruments that allowed Paulson to bet against these mortgage pools.


Goldman even told prospective purchasers that these instruments were created with the advice of an independent manager, but neglected to mention the small fact, that the manager was betting on the instruments to fail!


I don't know why Paulson wasn't indicted along with Goldman.  I read because he didn't sell the bad securities directly to anyone.  Can't they get him on conspiracy to commit securities fraud, or something like that?


Anyway, in case you're wondering, yes, Paulson was one of those 25 hedge fund managers who averaged a billion dollars in earnings last year.


Paulson's political contributions have mainly been to Democrats.  Houston, we have a problem.


I agree with the commentator who called these financial charlatans "traitors whose shell games broke the economy and stuck us with the bill."


Yet it is just these types of high income individuals that the right wing is crying crocodile tears over, because the IRS wants them to pay the taxes they legally owe.


Before I close, I want you to see how truly absurd it gets.  The right is trying to get us to worry that all these magnificent rich people, if we keep picking on them, will leave the country.  Stuart Varney:


audio: Stuart Varney

In the last three months of last year—the last quarter of 2009—double the number of people for all of 2008 renounced their U.S. citizenship.  Gave back their green cards.  Essentially left the country.  Those are probably very wealthy people who saw this move coming from the IRS and are getting out while they can. 


Throughout Europe, and now in America, if you’re very rich, even relatively rich, you’re going to lose half your income to taxation.  Now, is that fair?  You’re certainly going to chase people away to the likes of Monaco, where tax rates are much, much lower.

Monaco!  They'll all flee to Monaco.  I say, good riddance!


A Blast The Right mantra has long been, that everything the right-wing does is designed to accomplish one of two things: either (a) transfer wealth from everyone else to the already rich, or (b) distract everyone else from the fact that (a), that wealth transfer, is occurring.


That's it.  Plain and simple.  You can't get around it.


You have to face it,  and then be prepared for the consequences.


We once had a president who did, and was:


Listen to FDR:


audio: FDR

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace--business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me--and I welcome their hatred.

Would that we had such a President today.


You and I have to push Obama to be such a president.  Roll up your sleeves, it ain't going to be easy.



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