5 Extreme Acts of Greed that Screw the American People

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Examples¬†of extreme inequality are becoming easier to find. Americans – especially young Americans – need to know the facts, and they need to know how they’re getting cheated, and they need to get¬†angry.

The following should help.

1. $1,000,000,000,000,000 in Sales. Not One Cent for Sales TaxThe trading volume on the¬†Chicago Mercantile Exchange¬†(CME) reached an incomprehensible $1 quadrillion in notional value in 2012. That’s a thousand trillion dollars. In comparison, the entire U.S. GDP is $17 trillion.On that quadrillion dollars of sales CME¬†imposes¬†transfer fees, contract fees, brokerage fees, Globex fees, clearing fees, and contract surcharges, many of them on both the buyer’s and seller’s side. As a result, the company had a¬†profit margin¬†higher than any of the top 100 companies in the nation from 2008 to 2010, and it’s gotten even¬†higher¬†since then.But not a penny in sales tax for the taxpayers who provide¬†publicly-funded¬†infrastructure, technology, systems of law, and security to help them process¬†billions¬†of financial transactions.Instead — incredibly — CME complained that its taxes were too high, and they demanded and received an¬†$85 million tax break¬†from the State of Illinois.

2. A Single Tax-Avoider Made More Money in 2013 Than ALL the Emergency Responders in the U.S.Warren Buffett watched his net worth grow by¬†$12 billion¬†in one year, much more than the $8.3 billion our country¬†spends¬†on almost a quarter-million Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics.Meanwhile, his company, Berkshire Hathaway, hasn’t been paying its taxes. According to the¬†New York Post, “the company openly admits that it owes back taxes since as long ago as 2002.” A review of Berkshire Hathaway’s¬†annual report¬†confirms that despite profits of almost $29 billion in 2013, a $395 million refund was claimed, while $57 billion in federal taxes remain¬†deferred¬†on the company’s balance sheet.Berkshire Hathaway¬†does report an income tax expense. But all of it, in the company’s own words, is¬†hypothetical.

3. Walmart: $13,000 per U.S. Employee Taken in Profits, $4,000 per U.S. Employee Taken from TaxpayersIt gets worse. In addition to Walmart’s¬†$19 billion¬†in U.S. profits last year, the four Walton siblings together made about¬†$29 billion¬†from their personal investments. That’s over $33,000 per U.S. employee in profits and family stock gains. Yet they pay their¬†1.4 million¬†American employees so little that the average Walmart worker depends on about¬†$4,000¬†per year in taxpayer assistance, for food stamps and other safety net programs.How does Walmart spend its profits? Instead of providing a living wage for its workers, company management spent¬†$7.6 billion, or about $5,000 per U.S. employee, on stock buybacks, in order to further boost the value of their stock holdings.

4. U.S. Wealth Grew by $25 Trillion in the Recovery, but 90 Percent of Us Got NONE of ItU.S. wealth¬†grew¬†from $47 trillion to $72 trillion in the four years after the recession, largely as a reflection of continued American productivity. In other words, a full¬†one-third¬†of the total wealth in the U.S. in 2013 was generated since 2009. But the richest 10% took¬†all¬†of it.That’s $6 trillion per year in new wealth for the rich. In contrast, the total annual cost of ‘entitlements’ and the safety net is¬†less than $2 trillion.One consequence of this redistribution of wealth is that more money has been transferred from minorities to prosperous white Americans. The richest 1% took¬†95 percent¬†of the gain.¬†Less than two¬†out of every hundred individuals in the richest 1% are black.

5. Extreme Fees: Nickeled and Dimed until the Retirement Fund is Almost GoneThe one- to two-percent fees don’t seem like much, but savvy financial minds know better. It has been¬†estimated¬†that the average underserved household spends $2,412 each year just on interest and fees for alternative financial services. Food stamp recipients have to¬†pay¬†companies like JP Morgan to process their benefits. The unemployed are getting their benefits through¬†banks¬†who issue fee-laden debit cards instead of cash. And it’s not just low-income households paying the fees. A two-earner household with median incomes will¬†pay¬†an average of over $150,000 in 401(k) fees over their lifetimes.The fees are not only draining us individually, but also at the levels of local and state government.¬†Los Angeles¬†last year spent more on Wall Street fees than it did on its streets. In¬†Detroit, financial expenses might approach a half billion dollars, in a city where homeowners can barely afford the water services.¬†Chicago¬†may end up paying Morgan Stanley $9.58 billion for a $1.15 billion parking meter deal. And in¬†Rhode Island, it has been projected that the state will pay $2.1 billion in fees to hedge funds, private-equity funds and venture-capital funds over twenty years, the same amount the state will be taking from workers by freezing their cost of living adjustments.Solutions?All these issues have solutions: a¬†wealth tax¬†for (1) and (4) above; a minimum wage increase for (2); a¬†speculation tax¬†for (3);¬†public banksand¬†Post Office banks¬†for (5).

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