On the evening of the day that President Barack Obama was inaugurated as President of the United States, a group of Republicans met in a private room at a large downtown restaurant in Washington D. C. By this time, January 2009, very few facts about anything could be concealed any longer from any American who wanted to find them. Social scholars, however, were searching for new words to describe the outrageous and unprecedented manner in which the President and the First Lady were being verbally abused by others, not only committed racists, but racists among Republican politicians.
By now, this entire spectrum of vehemently insulting, ridiculing, haranguing radio and Fox News Channel hosts had been operating for a decade or more. All of the horrifically crude expressions common among anti-social elements of the lower class, the groups that Hillary Clinton would eventually refer to as American “deplorables” were being spewed out across the airwaves by those media slugs, Hannity, Limbaugh, Coulter, et al., all growing rich—tens of millions of dollars a year–becoming themselves part of the rich Right Wing—by attacking the Middle and Lower Classes and affluent Democrats through racial attacks on President Obama.
These low brow, insidious, former disk jockeys, failed military, failed attorneys and failed academics, like—Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Praeger, Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Ollie North, Bill O’Reilly and lesser clowns like Bill Cunningham and Charlie Sykes and Mike Gallagher and Chris Plante and even radical advocates of outright idiotic nonsense like Alex Jones—all became part of hate-radio. Almost none of them had accomplished anything before they latched on to the Right Wing radio meal train on the networks underwritten by the corporations owned by the billionaires who own the majority of their stock. These losers-turned-political hacks delivered regular rants on radio or Fox News attacking those whom they said wanted to live on the government dole. There was no way for their audiences to know that the super-rich who paid for this trash-talk would spend literally hundreds of millions to divide the people but nothing in private investment to create jobs for them.
The Middle Class, but even specific groups like Hispanics, would be caricatured as “Mexican Joe” holding a can of Dos Equis, not working, standing on a corner. Most of their racist jabs they tried to pass off as casual comments, but there was no mistaking the political intent–deliberate slurs against Mexican-Americans, Democrats. Or Blacks, also Democrats, or the elderly or union workers or teachers–anyone who could possibly organize into a group to fight their tax cut proposals. The audience for the Right Wing message was the largely White, high-school graduate and the unsuspecting truck driver who resented how his wages were not going up and looked (not unnaturally) for someone to blame. The Super-Rich and their subordinates, the Republican Party, wanted to point the finger away from themselves and right back at the Middle Class.
The Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson and Robert Mercer and their friends are—make no mistake about it—as dead serious as an AR-15 when it comes to wanting their taxes reduced. They will tell you, sir, when and where they will give their money away. But it won’t be to the government. And it won’t be to help workers. Workers are a commodity. The Super-rich pay them only as much as their technological or other skill demands. These kinds of Right Wing rich are not people you will ever meet. You will meet only their smiling, their public, face. You will never see the hideous side that pays the bills for all the propaganda meant to divide Americans. Astonishingly, all this effort at propaganda is just to reduce their taxes.
It is important to understand the reality of taxes. In order to prevent paying taxes, that is, whatever taxes they are currently paying—which they see as too much—the Right Wing Rich like the Koch brothers, the crude-oil polluters or Sheldon Adelson the Asian casino owner (but not other super-rich like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates for some reason) are willing to demean almost the entire U.S. population. What’s more they would divide a country and suppress wages until a man without a college education can barely afford a place to live with the wages from an average job.
The Right Wing Republican Rich have spent huge sums to promote images of a government “out of control” (although smaller as a percentage of population than in many decades) or anti-immigration policy only to help divide us. They look to use hate speech or denial of rights against anyone they can find who is “different.” And, using their radio host propaganda outlets they have found that a large number of Americans can be turned into people who ridicule others and even have a real distaste, in some cases real hatred, for others (whom they know only from the depictions of the Right Wing hate mongers who win them over simply by telling them lies on the radio about people who in reality are almost the exact same as they.
When it comes to paying taxes, the rich do pay more in absolute numbers. But who hurts more after paying their taxes? In the year 2000, the top 400 earners in the U.S. made approximately $174 million each. The tax rate was…let’s just say…40%. (It was 39.6) But those 400 after deductions and miscellaneous discounts, paid an average of 22 percent out of pocket to Uncle Sam. That is still a lot of money. They paid an average of $38,280,000 and they kept $135,720,000. That was what taxation looked like under that horrible man—remember him—Bill Clinton, who gave this country (over the vote of every single Republican in this country) the “highest tax increase in the history of”—well, everything and all time, according to the billionaires. So that was what the largest tax increase in history, according to Republicans, looked like for the super-rich. They somehow survived.
Now, let’s see what happened to others who happened to have at least some income at that time. Let’s just take an average American salary which would have been between $40,000 and $50,000 in or around the year 2000. Let’s be generous to the rich and take the higher figure–$50,000/ An average family in 2000, making a household income of $50,000, would have paid an average income tax, the amount they finally write the check for, of 15.3% or about $7,650. Leaving them $42,350, which sounds like a reasonable amount. But let’s kick out a few key monthly expenses to see how much they eventually end up with. Mortgage at least $1,000, auto insurance, at least $50, health insurance $800, electric, heat, gasoline another $200 at least. So what do we have left for food and clothing? About $370 a month. For food, clothes, school costs, entertainment and anything left out, like household insurance or life insurance and—emergencies.
Let’s also stipulate that average (white) Americans mostly live in decent circumstances, often in reasonably good neighborhoods, often with good schools—but they live relatively modestly. Still, you can see the problem. A family with only $370 left over each month is in drastically different circumstances from a family whose net after taxes is $11,310,000 per month and who can afford to spend almost unlimited amounts on mortgage, cars, insurance, travel, education, health and, of course, food and clothing in virtually any combination. The point is this: the very rich do not need more tax breaks. The corporations do not need more tax breaks, because those same rich own fully 65% or more of all corporate stocks and bonds.
No, the problem is not that we pay too much in taxes. And it is not that we spend extravagantly. We do not have costs of living that are outrageous. We do not have governments that burden us with rules or wasted administration. Our problem is that over the last 40 years, then 30 years and then accelerating over the last 20 years the money that comes in from everything…cars, guns, oil, food, pharmaceuticals, health care, toys, clothing, meat, buildings, tires, golf clubs, travel….everything we buy and sell as Americans or American businesses…goes as, if by some magic chimney, swooping up to the top, to the top income earners. And the amounts are huge.
The fact is that 50% of the annual income, the money we make from everything that we do, statistically, goes to the top 10% of Americans. And while that ten percent–31 million people–is a lot, the amount of money that encompasses 50% of all U.S. income is staggering, simply beyond the imagination of most Americans. And remember that the rest of us, the 300 million people in the bottom 90% share the other half.
Worse yet is that fact that the top 1 percent and then the top .1 percent do not share that money evenly and so on down the chain. For example, the top .1% average ten times or twenty times what the top 1% average. And so it goes until you get to the person who is the final member of the top 10 percent. And while still in the top 10 percent, that person’s income is enormously reduced from that of the top 1%.
What Americans have learned is that people can apparently, with almost no evidence, be made to believe by Right Wing radio that others in society, average working families, are lazy and stupid and dependent on the government. In reality, the average American driving a truck, working construction, teaching grade school, assisting and cleaning up after the disabled or extreme elderly, fixing brakes on cars, stocking groceries, behind the counter at the drug store, working in a bakery, transporting patients from the operating room to their recovery room, washing cars at an auto dealer, selling cars at an auto dealer, waiting on tables in a restaurant, making coffee at a coffee shop or a hamburger at a fast food restaurant—or hundreds of thousands of other jobs—make this country work for the rich to enjoy.
And they suffer far more from taxes than do the rich. For example, when, in fact, it was these average Americans who did pay most of the taxes, paid for Social Security, Medicare, military expenditures—and sent their sons and daughters to die in the service while the rich hid their children behind the walls of gated communities. Or maintained that a heel spur was debilitating enough to keep a man who is now President from being drafted but not bad enough to keep him from playing baseball.
One final point on taxes is one that was made by a more recent study done by the independent Congressional Budget Office regarding distribution of 2013 income and taxes by quintile. In that study, the top income quintile (top 20%) earned an average of $265,000 and paid an average of about $70,000 in income taxes. The bottom quintile earned $25,000 (which is comprised of only an earned income of $15,800, but also government ‘transfers” of $9,600, meaning food stamps or unemployment insurance, Medicaid perhaps, during the year.)
In this CBO study, the people in the exact middle made about $70,000 and paid $9,000 in taxes. The point here is that, yes, the top income group pays slightly more as a ratio of income to taxes than the ratio of income-to-taxes paid by the next lower group. At the lowest quintile, however, you are basically homeless returning an average of $800 to the government in return for subsidies. At the second quintile up, you are barely making an existence but have a longer term residence. In the second lowest quintile, the income is only $31,000 but the assumed government transfers now (2013) are an additional $16,000 to supplement that income. And while those assumed government services are not always used or always available, that quintile pays an average of $4,000 in taxes per year.
Returning to the attacks on President Obama by Fox News and national radio networks they were so racially vicious for a particularly disgusting reason. They were completely gratuitous. For example, the Fox News hosts Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity as vicious and racist as possible on air were both raised and educated in the New York/New Jersey area. They were both products of civilly and morally conscious Roman Catholic families. Yet, for huge sums of money, underwritten by those who merely wanted to drive a wedge between members of the Middle Class to form an anti-tax political movement, they used race in the most despicable and cynical way. Both were raised in neighborhoods and schools where racists and bigot would actually be shunned and avoided by neighbors. But when Obama became President and Roger Ailes said that Fox News would now embrace racism and use it to attract Southern and border state and rural bigots to their audiences, O’Reilly, and Hannity and others, jumped on the gravy train, literally earning tens of millions of dollars a year merely for telling gigantic lies with racial overtones, especially to an audience composed of those who were ignorant of the facts and particularly susceptible to propaganda.
The goal was always to tell a small lie and then expand it into a bigger lie. Let’s say that the small lie is the “small lie” that gun control has not worked. The truth is that gun control has worked in many places, and especially where it has been effectively integrated. In those places, deaths from misuse of firearms are a mere fraction of the percentage of gun deaths we experience nationally. The bigger lie is that…since gun controls don’t work (the lie)…we need to have more “good guys” with guns to take care of the “bad guys with guns.” In other words, we need more guns. So the first statement is a lie. The fact is gun controls do work. And the second lie is even bigger—“good guys” with guns will stop “bad guys” with guns. This idea is not only wrong; it is foolish and dangerous, and it is only promoted by the NRA to sell more guns.
Right Wing radio propaganda is even worse. The first two lies become assumptions. After all, no one is allowed to come on the air to contradict them. So, soon, a Rush Limbaugh will begin to wonder—since gun controls don’t work, and since “good guys” with guns can overcome “bad guys” with guns—why aren’t more schools arming people with guns. Soon after that others are coming on the air to ask why this or that Congressman has not done his or her job—namely promoting legislation to get more “good guys” with guns into schools. And so it goes on and on.
It is difficult to characterize the kind of radio and television commentary that is so gratuitously insulting and racist and crude as began to take place in the early Obama years. As one very small example, Glenn Beck was removed from Fox News for claiming that President Obama was, of all things, a “racist” who “hated” white people. What? A man who idolized his white mother, his grandfather and grandmother, and had far more close, white, educated, cultured colleagues than even most white Ivy league graduates?. Yet the problem is best understood by realizing that this was, by far, not the worst or even close to the worst insult experienced by the President of the United States in the first two years of his Presidency. For those, we’ll need a little more time.