Overprivilege is Bankrupting America 2/2

Uncle Sam is looking a bit down at heel these days.

Good Clean Fun Becomes a Crime

In order to commence mass incarceration, first you have to criminalize some behavior patterns. Harry J. Anslinger, longtime director of America’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics, took a giant step in that respect with his pioneering criminalization and persecution of marihuana in the early 1930s. A contemporary version of a similar phenomenon is the Patriot Act, which set civil liberties back centuries. Never have America’s proud citizens been so perfectly surveilled and bereft of essential civil liberties. What a serendipitous set of circumstances were conjoined on September 11, 2001, just when George W. Bush urgently needed an overseas war and a domestic crackdown on dissent, what a fortuitous coincidence.

What About the Better Class of People?

So much for the underprivileged; what about the overprivileged? Their maintenance incurs costs, too. Let’s look first at the most overprivileged sector of the entire US uber-capitalist zoo, the military-industrial-government complex. It starts with the incestuous relationships between government officials and the lobbyists for all the business behemoths: energy, big pharma, insurance, banking and financial services, the tech whiz kids and, of course, the arms business. The tools of the trade in these sectors are revolving doors, cost-plus contracts, scare propaganda, astronomically overpriced goods and services, a captive mass media and, perhaps the most egregious element, the utter impunity under which they operate.

The government writes its own laws, interprets them and enforces them. If Al Capone had worked under those conditions he would today dominate the bathtub gin market in the entire Milky Way Galaxy. Then there’s military spending. According to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections, if the plans described in the 2020 Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) were implemented, defense costs would increase from the $718 billion for 2020 to $776 billion (in 2020 dollars) by 2034, not that anyone–including the authors themselves–actually believes those modest figures.

The other sectors of big business aren’t too bad off, either. Their top executives are entitled to benefits unheard of in human history, approaching the Sultan of Brunei with his collection of 5,000 cars, including 600 Rolls-Royces. These benefits are the product of decades of rule under Republican ideology. (Yes, the Republicans continued to rule during the Obama years.) That impoverished ideology is straight out of the standard American right-wing (which would be the far right wing in any other place in the world) playbook: lower taxes, so-called “free-market” capitalism, severe immigration policies, virtually-unlimited military spending, insane gun rights, abortion restriction, deregulated business and strictly-regulated unions.

At this rate and with these rules of the game the United States will never again be able to lift its head as a world leader, nor will its citizens live decent lives. Its leadership is already being contested by honest competitors on all sides. It’s clear that the principal cause of American decline is the price Americans pay to maintain their advantaged classes. What to do with the rich? To do to them what they have done to the underprivileged might be considered too extreme. That is, to persecute them, to criminalize their country clubs and private jets, to surveil their extravagant habits and vices, to imprison them and, in extreme cases, shoot them down in the street with total impunity. The solution is much less dramatic that all that, and it’s perfectly obvious and do-able: tax them.

A Few Relevant Facts

Just a few scraps from a recent piece in TheBalance.com should suffice to illustrate how ex-President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) is affecting Americans:

  • The top individual tax rate dropped from 39.6% to 37%, and numerous itemized deductions were eliminated. (For comparison purposes, the top federal income tax rate in 1952 and 1953, was 92 percent.)
  • The TCJA also cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% effective in 2018. The corporate cuts are permanent. The individual changes expire at the end of 2025.
  • The Tax Foundation has indicated that those who earn more than 95% of the population will receive a 2.2% increase in after-tax income. Those in the 20% to 80% range would receive a 1.7% increase.
  • Rejoice if you have an important property portfolio. The TCJA doubled the estate tax exemption from $5.6 million in 2017 to $11.2 million in 2018.
  • The TCJA act will add $1 trillion to the debt over the 10 years it’s in effect.

That last item on the list poses an obligatory question: What would that $1,000,000.000000 have contributed to the wellbeing of Americans? How many schools and hospitals would it have built, how many bridges and highways? How much medical care would it have meant, and how many college educations? How much public housing, how many social programs? By extension, how many lives would have been uplifted? All of these lost benefits and much more are the cost of coddling the rich.

The cost of overprivilege to America is not only economic. It’s also costly in terms of credibility on the world stage. Comparisons are inevitable and the United States doesn’t fare well. No sane person in the real world can understand the justification of massive tax cuts for the rich in these times, nor in the prosecution of unending wars under false pretenses. The Iraqis and Afghans cry out to heaven for justice.

And this is not to mention the “defense” budgets cooked up in hell. Their principal purposes are two:

  • To enrich the American arms industry, its investors and running dogs.
  • To create myriad dangerous enemies for the US and divide the world into enemies and allies, thus assuring a thriving arms market.

The elimination of merely half of this obscene military spending and the application of that wealth to America’s real problems would relax tensions worldwide and further increment the Americans’ quality of life. Everybody wins at home and abroad except America’s army of war mongers. And they have won too much already.

Back to Part 1
Thanks for sharing.
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