A Union Clarion
Salt in the Wounds
By WILLIAM P. O’CONNOR
Right wing “constitutionalists” hurl epithets such as leftist, socialist or Kool-aid- sipper at anyone who refuses to support their views.
The same “constitutionalists” who supported Grover Norquist’s paradigm of “drown the beast” also approved Reagan’s trampling of the Constitution during the Iran-Contra debacle, and Bush’s dismembering of our sacred document under the euphemistically labeled, “Patriot Act.”
Now that the “beast” (an appropriate right-wing analogy for those in need) lays suffocated, Norquist and his brethren want to send the working-poor, and the lower-middle-class, to bottom feed with the unemployed. Right wing tax reformers blame the financial demise of the cities not on the tax cuts they insisted on, not on corporate- tax- loop-holes, but on organized labor.
The right-wing clamors that municipal contracts were ill-advised and those contracts should be re-negotiated. One would imagine city managers would prefer to re-negotiate these contracts in Beijing or Juarez where the absence of collective bargaining and an abundance of cheap labor would increase their bargaining power.
Astoundingly, as the Republican Party crucifies collective bargaining to a cross of corporate profit, somnambulant union members hand them nails.
Through media manipulation, corporations have convinced a large number of teacher’s, firefighters, policeman and other working men and women that their pensions are the cause of the cities fiscal problems. In the last presidential election, 40 percent of union men voted, against their union’s recommendations, Republican.
I have heard, first-hand, from brain-washed-working-men that unions have outlived their usefulness. The refrain insists union leaders are corrupt; therefore no longer relevant; yet omits any chorus about rotten legislators, and crooked CEOs, who have sold out the America that has made them rich. Organized greed can only be matched and fought by organized labor.
The wealthy purchase the media and convince working men that the poor, those without power, are robbing them. These airwaves were sold to corporations by corrupt politicians who should be protectors of the common good. The five corporate giants that own the media insure their tentacles pervert the bedrooms of the working class by using thinly disguised propaganda as news.
Over the so called “liberal” airwaves, the corporate media hammers the injustice of social welfare, yet ignores corporate welfare, which costs the taxpayer four times as much. The right –wing’s argument for such highway robbery is that corporations provide jobs and therefore the tax supplements are justifiable.
Jobs where and for whom? The canard that corporations do America’s work was exposed as fiction years ago by John Steinbeck in, “The Grapes of Wrath.” “They (corporations) breathe profits; they eat the interest on money. If they don’t get it, they die the way you die without air, without side-meat.” Corporations care neither about Americans nor humanity. They have no soul, no conscience and certainly no altruistic motives. They care only about profit.
Place the blame of the financial demise of the cities where it belongs, on right-wing-sideline-patriots who refuse to pay taxes to support wars they trumpet. According to E. J. Dionne’s Truthdig article July 28th, the simple truth is that the wealthy in the United States—the people who have made almost all the income gains in recent years—are under-taxed compared with everyone else.
Consider this report using Internal Revenue Service data to show that the effective federal income tax rate for the 400 taxpayers with the very highest incomes declined by nearly half in just over a decade, even as their pre-tax incomes grew five times larger.
The study found that the top 400 households “paid 16.6 percent of their income in federal individual income taxes in 2007, down from 30 percent in 1995.” We are talking here about truly rich people: Using 2007 dollars, it took an adjusted gross income of at least $35 million to get into the top 400 in 1992, and $139 million in 2007.
I grew up, in the fifties, in a Bronx neighborhood that could be economically described as working-poor. My dungarees, as we called our jeans then, were well patched and my sneakers often taped and stuffed with newspapers so the holes in their rubber soles wouldn’t ruin my socks.
When we couldn’t fish one out of a sewer, or find one on a roof, 20 of us would chip in a penny a piece to purchase a Spaldeen. A rubber ball that insured the rest of the day was spent in sheer ecstasy.
We were poor; but we never knew it. Few of my friend’s mothers worked, and whether unequivocal or delusional, I remember those as happier days.
American society was better served when women were able to supervise their children, insure they had nutritional breakfasts and still have energy left at night to check their homework. I’m not a sociologist, but the neighborhood seemed a microcosm of the country. We were all in it together. Post WW II propaganda, united us against a common threat—communism.
Movies hadn’t reached the independent or realism stage, and the majority of us grew up believing the United States, our country, was the paradigm, indeed savior, of freedom and democracy around the globe. We were among the mom, flag and apple pie idealists that later trudged off to Southeast Asia to defend Vietnam’s right to have more bomb tonnage dropped on them, by their “liberators,” than all previous wars combined.
Our president at the time, Eisenhower, was apolitical. While warning of the dangers of a military industrial complex, he governed over a progressive tax system that demanded 90 percent from those blessed with inherited wealth. We are currently “liberating” two more countries, but without Eisenhower’s fiscal prudence, through the miracle of deficit spending their cost will be paid for by our children.
The defense industry that Eisenhower warned against insures its budget avoids scrutiny by contracting in plants across the United States. No senator votes against a budget that costs his constituents jobs. So the defense industry was free to beat its drum to fight the red menace. It pounded it again to prevent the dominos from tumbling, and resounds it now to fight a war against an abstract noun—terror.
Right-wingers bang this instrument even when it’s out of tune. The $3 trillion star wars project, recommended by the great economist from Eureka University, Ronald Reagan, wouldn’t have been much good on 9/11, nor would the far right’s plan to funnel social security allotments into the collapsing Ponzi scheme that both corporate parties allowed the stock market to become.
Enough blasphemous babble, it’s time to talk a little treason. Capitalism, although the most successful economic system known, cannot succeed unbridled. Marx, after all, based his theories of a united workers revolution on Dickensian industrial England–a system harsh, prejudice and unsustainable.
What has helped prevent world revolution and dismantle Marxian theory has been the buffering of capitalism’s harshness with socialism’s softer caress. Progressive child labor laws, unions, and social programs like Medicare and Social Security in the U.S. have polished the free market’s diamond making it even more valuable.
The founding fathers never envisioned a United States where marriage assured tax benefits, where corporations received the same rights as citizens or a country where religious denominations gained tax advantages over atheists or agnostics. (which many of our country’s designers were.)
Our forefathers never envisioned a country where a person’s health was tied to his ability to produce products for his employer. Those stipulations came with time and acted as manacles to insure the merry little worker produces. His children, his family, indeed his very existence depends on it.
John F. Kennedy, the much maligned “liberal” president who followed Eisenhower, presided over the largest tax reduction ever shuffled to the rich in American history. One of the beneficiaries of this tax cut, the legendary Queen of Mean, Leona Helmsley, “ratted out” her contemporaries by ad-libbing to a reporter at the time, “What do I care about tax rates. We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.”
Cicero warns in his treatise on laws that people in power will make laws to benefit themselves. In today’s America, to be elected president, one must spend over $1 billion. That obscene amount makes epithets hurled at President Obama such as socialist, Marxist and communist run hollow.
No Obama serves his subjects corporate light while the Republicans serve only the corporations. In America– one of only two Western industrial countries without a labor party– from 1932 through 1981, the top tax rate was never less than 70 percent. From the late 1930s through 1982, the American middle class enjoyed prosperity and a steadily growing standard of living, yet the wealthy still got richer.
Since the first Reagan tax cut, the standard of living of the American middle class has steadily declined, yet the great percentage of the costs of running this nation has been dumped on them. The wealthy elite have trillions of dollars of under-taxed money and contribute next to nothing for the governmental functions and services that civilized nations require.
Why not raise the highest tax rate back up to 70 percent? That will fund the costs currently being borne by the middle class, much of which is used to benefit the business of the wealthy elite. This will cause more money, (middle class disposable income), to go into circulation. That will increase demand for product and increase hiring.
Until we return to a strong progressive tax system, this country shall continue to flounder both morally and financially. Promoting two wars while cutting taxes for the wealthy was the height of idiocy, and America has followed a paradigm for fiscal disaster since Eisenhower left office.
Corporate barkers demand workers produce from womb to tomb. Answering a woman’s campaign question, former President Bush said, “You work three jobs? What could be more American?” Bush, not callous, but unknowing, unfeeling and unaware; an instrument of the rich, indifferent to the needs of people, he was elected to serve.
Blame for the financial collapse of the cities also falls on corporations that bribe politicians with campaign contributions to enact laws that exonerate them from their fair share of fiscal responsibility. The Deepwater Horizon drilling platform that set off one of the worst oils spills in American history was flying the flag of the Marshall Islands to significantly reduce its American taxes. The owner, Transocean moved its corporate headquarters from Houston to the Cayman Islands and then to Switzerland in 2008, both maneuvers to avoid taxes.
An examination of the American tax code indicates that oil production is among the most heavily subsidized businesses, with tax breaks available at virtually every stage of the exploration and extraction process.
This upper-crust of extremely wealthy families is hell-bent on destroying the democratic vision of a strong middle-class which has made the United States the envy of the world. In its place they are determined to create an oligarchy in which a small number of families control the economic and political life of our country.
Jingoists that insist the less fortunate spill their blood in remote dessert sands; yet confine their personal battles to the stock market. The opportunists that seek tax shelters and no bid contracts to profit from their countrymen’s misfortune instead blame fiscal insolvency on social welfare, school lunch programs or pensions.
Since lawmakers are owned by the rich, the working man’s condemned to suffer. While men who shower after work hemorrhage from rotten legislators and unethical corporations, they are convinced by corporate shills to attack the only hope they have—organized labor. Corporations prescribe salt to cure the working man’s wounds and when labor heeds their adversary’s advice they wonder why their pain gets worse.
William P. O’Connor enlisted in the Air Force on August 1, 1966. He served in the Vietnam War from August 1969 to August 1970 in Nakhon Phanom in Northern Thailand. William was born in County Cork, Ireland in 1948. He is a former pub owner and retired NYC fire fighter. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.