Where’s the Outrage?

As I continue to follow the news reports I keep wondering when the public will wake up to the fact that it is being screwed.  Hardly a day passes without a new revelation about the excesses of the power elite, such as the fact that so many of them pay little or no taxes and reward themselves with huge bonuses and salaries. 

Examples abound, such as:

ü  GE not only paid no taxes in 2010, but they received a $3 billion refund;

ü  Boeing paid no taxes the last three years and last year had pre-tax profits of $4.5 billion; by the way, Boeing uses prisoners to assemble cable assemblies for the F-15 fighter

ü  Pfizer avoided paying taxes despite its hefty pre-tax profit of $9.4 billion last year; they reportedly use a perfectly legal “transfer pricing” to record “phantom profits in low-tax countries based on sales in other countries.”  Incidentally they were fined $2.3 billion in a fraud case involving the illegal marketing of a painkilling drug called Bextra.

ü  A recent report noted that so-called “hedge fund managers” have been raking in the dough – the top 25 earned $22.07 billion in 2010; one of these managers, John Paulson, earned $4.9 billion last year and, according to one report, this comes to $2.4 million an hour – it would take the average family about 47 years to earn this much money!  Oh by the way, because of a very generous tax loophole they only pay a tax rate of 15% instead of the normal 35%.

ü  Concerning the above hedge fund, if these 25 paid the normal 35% in taxes it would generate $4.4 billion, which is enough to rehire 126,000 laid-off teachers, according to the above-referenced report.

o    A very modest “financial speculation tax” of about .25% on the sales of stock would raise about $100 billion per year or about $1 trillion over a decade, according to a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research

ü  83% of the largest corporations "reported having subsidiaries in jurisdictions listed as tax havens or financial privacy jurisdictions" according to a new GAO report.

ü  Yet as I reported on this web site, there is a bipartisan support for lowering the tax rates of American corporations, many of which have received generous federal bailout money from taxpayers.

ü  Meanwhile millions of jobs are being created in foreign countries – where tax rates and labor are cheap.

Meanwhile, the conditions of the average American continues to disintegrate as millions live in poverty and millions more are one paycheck away from being homeless.  We are constantly being told that the country is broke and we all have to “tighten our belts” and reduce the deficit. This is all a sham, as demonstrated by several detailed reports found here and here.  While politicians on both sides scream about the debt, corporate profits continue to zoom upward and we spend trillions of dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – where was the talk of the “debt crisis” during the Bush years by the way? While all of this is going on the share of the total wealth going to the richest people continues to rise.

Social critic Paul Street’s latest commentary is aptly named America’s Unelected Dictatorship of Money.  He cites several polls that tell us that most Americans are very progressive and liberal when it comes to the role of the government and taxes on corporations.  For instance, a lager majority (71% and 66%) think that taxes on corporations and upper income people are too low.  Large majorities believe the “government should care for those who cannot care for themselves” and 69% think that the government should provide health care for all.

Yet what it’s all about comes down to this: a very small minority rules the country. In spite of what the people need – good paying jobs, affordable health care, decent housing, quality education, and various social services for the poorest citizens – the rulers continue to reward their wealthy benefactors with the hard-earned tax dollars of its citizens. Meanwhile, for those citizens at the very bottom of the social order, our jails and prisons have plenty of room, as indicated in a recent report documenting the opening or expansion of more than 100 prisons during the past decade.


As Michael Moore put it so bluntly, “We want our money back”! The rich in this country have soaked us dry. So where is the outrage? 


Chris Hedges, in his book The Death of the Liberal Class, outlines what must be done (quote is from the Kindle edition, location 2863-70):


The best opportunities for radical social change exist among the poor, the homeless, the working class, and the destitute.  As the numbers of our disenfranchised dramatically increase, our only hope is to connect ourselves with the daily injustices visited upon the weak and the outcast.  Out of this contact we can resurrect, from the ground up, a social ethic, a new movement.  We must hand out bowls of soup.  Coax the homeless into a shower.  Make sure those who are mentally ill, cruelly abandoned on city sidewalks, take their medication.  We must go back into America’s segregated schools and prisons.  We must protest, learn to live simply and begin, in an age of material and imperial decline, to speak with a new humility.  It is in the tangible, mundane, and difficult work of forming groups and communities to care for others that we will kindle the outrage and the moral vision to fight back, that we will articulate an alternative.


© 2011, Randall G. Shelden. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced without permission from the author.