Friday, April 1, 2011

Guest Column

Last night, MM and I watched (on our new toy, of course!) a video entitled, The One Percent.  The film essentially was made by James Johnson, heir to the Johnson and Johnson Pharmaceutical Company fortune.  It was an HBO documentary made in 2006.  A young maverick, by any definition, Johnson defied his parents' wishes that he not produce a film detailing the excesses of the Super Wealthy and how they "own" the world.   

Of course, I am sure you all know that one percent of the U. S. population controls more than 40% of the assets of this country.  And that the divide between rich and poor is widening precipitously and rapidly. Since 2006 the gap has grown much wider.  Frighteningly so. 

You'll notice that my blog list contains one entitled Old Otter Holler FarmIt is maintained by a very thoughtful man whose life revolves around a well-run, modest but sustainable farming operation not far from our farm JOTOLR.  Thomas penned a blog entry early last week that caught my eye, and I later asked him if I could post it on my blog as a guest column.  He was delighted to share and hoped to find others who feels as he does.  So, this is my first guest column, and maybe after a year-plus, it's about time!  It was strictly serendipity that MM and I happened to watch The One Percent last night!  Those gods know!!

A small disclaimer here:  I leave it up to you as to whether you agree with Thomas or not.  We all reserve the right to disagree with any or all of his treatise.  Respectfully.

So, here we go:

Laws and Regulations Are For Small People

I recently read an eye-opening report in the New York Times on how GE, America's largest corporation, reported $14.2 billion in worldwide profits in 2009, $5.1 billion of which was earned in the United States, yet paid ZERO in U.S. federal taxes. In fact, according to the article, the corporation received a tax BENEFIT of $3.2 billion! GE is not alone. There are many U.S corporations who are evading federal taxes through tax shelters, credits, subsidies, and creative accounting (e.g. Bank of America and Verizon just to name two). Even more shocking is that the corporate share of the total federal tax revenue in the mid 1950's was 30% while in 2009 it was 6.6%, this despite the official top corporate tax rate of 35%! Knowing this, then my question is why do I hear politicians, particularly the Republicans, beating their drums and saying that our government must cut corporate taxes to make these companies competitive around the world? Really! If U.S. multinational corporation are already paying ZERO in federal taxes, why do you need to lower the tax rate? So where has the federal government made up this stunning reduction in revenue since the 1950s? It has been from people like you and me who pay way more than our fair share of taxes. What really pisses me off too is that the drive for corporate personhood, which is now essentially complete, affords them the same rights (and sometimes more) as citizens, but only in regards to some things...taxes are obviously not one of them.

Another glaring inequality between corporations and the masses is regulation. The recent legislative session in West Virginia failed to provide any regulation on the Marcellus Shale drilling for natural gas, but they did manage to pass generous tax breaks and subsidies for the multi-billion dollar industry. Do you think I can get a permit to remove millions of gallons of water from my watershed and return it laced with untold toxic chemicals, radiation, heavy metals, and a host of other carcinogenic substances? Hell, I can't even legally dig a swimming hole in a creek that runs through my property without a permit. I guess the good news is that I can get a permit for many other things I want to do such as sell local eggs, meat, vegetables, and other agricultural products. All I have to do is jump through the right hoops, get the right training, follow the long lists of applicable regulations, and did I mention pay a fee? If I don't follow the rules, I face huge fines, confiscation of my property, and possible imprisonment.

The bottom line here is that tax codes and regulation (and the justice system for that matter) are designed for the small people, not the ruling elite or big business. Working together, they craft legislation, pass laws, and implement regulations that severely restrict our activities and options while creating profitable opportunities for themselves...all at our expense. In fact, all their profits are privatized while the true cost of them doing business is socialized meaning you and I suffer the consequences and have to pick up the tab if things go bad, or to clean up their mess. Two recent examples include too-big-to-fail business bailouts and the ongoing BP oil disaster. I am personally getting sick of this and have made it one of my missions in life to do what I can to circumvent and/or bring this unfair and unjust system down. More people need to wake up and take an interest in what is going on around them. Laws, policies, regulations, and lucrative business deals made by and/or between politicians and business leaders that used to be made behind closed doors and kept hush hush are now conducted openly with no fear of retribution from those who are being exploited, namely you and me. Maybe when the retirement age is raised to 80, the education system is totally gutted, there are no more labor unions, all social programs are eliminated, most of your income goes to paying taxes, and our environment is not fit for man or creature to live will people wake up and notice. Unfortunately, it will be too late. I think it is already too late.

Let me close with an old Cree Indian saying recently passed to me by a friend:

" Only when the last tree has died, the last river has been poisoned, and the last fish has been caught, will we realize that we cannot eat money."

Back to Elora:  if you can, watch the film made by James Johnson.  You'll recognize the "stars" Warren Buffet, Milton Friedman, Steve Forbes, and Robert Reich in the "white hats" group....the list is arresting.  The revelations are amazing...Feel free to post your comments here.

Little bits of snow this morning.  Winter's claws are still embedded!  I got my blog fixed and I know what to do, now.  May have a few more hurdles and bloopers, but, hey!  Life's an adventure!!  Thanks to all for putting up with me this past week!  Love you all!  We're pulling for sunshine..soon!  Thank you for all your comments and forgive me for my lapses on your wonderful blogs! 

The Final Four begins Saturday!  I am torn between sheep and dogs! 

Have a lovely weekend.  See you Monday!

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