Every once in awhile we get a carrier pigeon from our friend, Charlie. Here’s what he had to say after seeing our ‘Four Horsemen’ post the other day:
One might wonder, what differences these Four Horsemen actually make, what is the result of their combined contributions. Well, look around, friend; their accomplishments are both readily apparent in our society today and evident in the historical record of societies that have preceded us. I suppose their most obvious achievements include three influential considerations that deserve examination, decadence, apathy and hypocrisy.
As we awaken to the decadence surrounding us today, it is important to remember this is nothing new.
The debauchery and corruption of social elites is common just before any collapse, as in the endearing Roman Republic our Founding Fathers wished to emulate, and its final imperial decline. Is today’s penchant plutocrat any different from those Roman elites whose unquenchable greed stimulated the fall of Pax Romana?
For example, 29 percent of America’s largest corporations now pay their CEO more in salary than they pay in Federal taxes. In fact, just seven of these firms earned a collective $74 billion in pre-tax profits, paid no taxes, and received $1.9 billion in tax refunds from the IRS (and those of us who did pay taxes last year). At the standard corporate tax rate of 35%, this amounts to an American loss of $27.8 billion (that is 27.8 thousand millions) in revenue. Obviously, this tax system doesn’t make paying their CEO’s an average of $32 million last year seem too difficult. The ten largest merger deals will earn those CEO’s involved a whopping $430 million in severance alone, thus making a $94 million luxury penthouse in Manhattan and a 32.5 million-penthouse vacation getaway at the Porsche Design Tower in South Florida seem reasonable. Be looking for the $250,000 Cadillac to compete with the half-million Rolls or Bentley, it is coming soon.
Meanwhile, folks like us whose labor earns $80,000 this year bear the same tax burden as someone receiving $5 million per week, yes, per week. We suffer the limitation of deferring no more than $18,000 per year in 401(k) contributions, yet these chief executives enjoy privileged corporate retirement plans that allowed one former CEO to invest 14 million last year alone, and save almost 7 million in personal taxes.
What roll does apathy play in an Interrupted Republic? Easy enough just ask yourself how many Americans bothered to show up at the polls a few weeks ago. Does the lowest voter turnout in nearly a century indicate a loss of interest? Perhaps differentiation between voters and their representatives holds a key. Just 6% of legislators have at any time held a blue-collar job, converse to 56% of Americans holding one today. Alternatively, consider median net worth and annual income, I’m afraid we’d be hard pressed to find a representative who doesn’t far exceed the national average. Add to this the more recent rise of oligarchy via refuted campaign finance regulations; are we surprised when our representatives cater to their donors, whose donation isn’t disclosed and has no ceiling?
More importantly, I suspect the apathy rises from our imagined future. The fact that a person with a four-year college degree earns, on average, 98 percent more than those without one; yet 46 percent of recent graduates now work in jobs that don’t require degrees and that means something here, particularly when coupled to the rise in education costs and student debt taking first place in terms of total dollars borrowed. This suggests that wages for those without a degree are shrinking; advancement in developing nations allows outsourcing of jobs and technology simply eliminates them. It is a straightforward supply and demand curve, demand drops and incomes stagnate. In any case, not a promising proposition for those aspiring to join the middle class and certainly the emergence of our second horseman.
This brings us to hypocrisy. The hypocrisy of tax loopholes that allows the largest earners to pay lower effective tax rates than the median American. Better yet, the hypocrisy of a system that enables the top 500 corporations to spend 54 percent of their profits buying back their own stock (rather than paying taxes) and inflating their net worth and the CEO’s rewards, more or less another example of the first horseman, debased money. The hypocrisy that our CEO’s are job creators, were that the case, wouldn’t they be accountable for destroying them, as the second horseman indicates. Doesn’t the fact that these people now pay themselves 500 times more than any other employee in their organization, illustrate the point? Or, perhaps, the hypocrisy that regular Americans are represented in their government, at all. Clearly, our third horseman holds its own hypocrisy, how can we imagine patriotism and a collective national interest when our largest institutions are stripping away our national wealth and borrowing our children’s future to ensure their corporate profits; multinational corporations whose products and services are global, and whose share holders are as well. Is it beginning to sound like the fourth horseman is already here, just look around. The hypocrisy of a free press is evident in the fact that just five of these multinational corporations now control 85 percent of our “free” press. Now doesn’t that sound as if the control of information might favor these elites and their cronies? I’m afraid the oligarchy is here, plutocrats have the reins and are driving the horses to the very edge, the Republic is on the precipice.