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PORTSIDE  August 2011, Week 1

PORTSIDE August 2011, Week 1

Subject:

Tycoons Laughing All the Way to the Bank

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Tue, 2 Aug 2011 21:46:00 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (123 lines)

Tycoons Laughing All the Way to the Bank 

By Linda McQuaig
The Toronto Star
August 2, 2011

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/from-the-debt-debate-to-the-coming-hostage-revolt/2011/07/30/gIQAZrDclI_story.html

There are likely few characters less loved in America these
days than hedge fund managers - widely regarded as among the
archvillains of the 2008 Wall Street meltdown.

So, months ago, when Washington embarked on a frenzied search
for ways to reduce the massive U.S. deficit, a tax loophole
that allowed hedge fund managers to pay tax at the
exceptionally low rate of 15 per cent certainly seemed like
low-hanging fruit.

Cancelling the loophole would save the treasury $20 billion
over 10 years, and the public would surely be unmoved by the
pain inflicted on hedge fund managers - the top 25 of whom
took home an average pay last year of $880 million each.

But as the stakes rose in the bizarre negotiations over the
country’s debt ceiling, the Republicans managed to push
reluctant Democrats into taking all tax increases off the
table. All deficit reduction was to come exclusively from
government spending cuts, hitting the middle and lower
classes hard.

Perhaps this seems like evidence of how resistant Americans
are to tax increases. In fact, it shows no such thing.
Rather, it shows how a band of far-right Republican Tea Party
extremists - financed initially by the billionaire Koch
brothers - have managed to effectively take control of the
U.S. political system and block the will of the American
people.

For the past two years, Americans have repeatedly told
pollsters that they support higher taxes on the rich as a way
to reduce the deficit. A Washington Post poll last month, for
instance, found 72 per cent supported raising taxes on those
earning more than $250,000.

The battle over whether to cut spending or raise taxes
predates the birth of Elvis. But for decades, compromise was
found between the Democrats’ support for social spending and
the Republican desire to lower taxes, particularly on the
rich.

That changed in the mid-1990s, with the rise of a more
radical, aggressive Republican flank. Led by Newt Gingrich
and backed by big corporate money, these radicals adopted a
no-compromise approach, obstructing all Democratic efforts to
enhance social spending, while relentlessly pushing for ever
lower taxes, regardless of the impact on the deficit.

Since then, the Republicans have grown ever more extreme,
intransigent - and flagrantly indifferent to the public good.

Once the party of Eisenhower-style moderation and fiscal
restraint, the Republicans have become the party of big
deficits - mostly due to tax giveaways for the rich.

Inheriting a surplus, George W. Bush added $5.07 trillion to
the debt, primarily due to his tax cuts and secondarily to
his wars, while Obama has added just $1.44 trillion, mostly
fighting the recession, according to data from the
Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

All this set the stage for the hair-raising drama played out
in recent weeks over raising the debt ceiling.

With the power to push the country into a Latin-American-
style default, the Republican extremists had a loaded gun.
And in their sights was not just holding the line on social
spending, but their ultimate fantasy of dismantling popular
New Deal social legislation - particularly social security -
that has seemed untouchable since the 1930s.

In fact, the "debt ceiling" is an artificial creation. The
U.S. Constitution doesn’t call for one. Except for Denmark,
no other advanced democratic nation has a debt limit.
Overseeing government spending is what the political process
is all about.

But a radical rump of Republicans, threatening to pull the
trigger, succeeded in forcing Democrats to abandon tax
increases on the wealthy - at a time when America’s wealthy
are as rich as the tycoons of the Gilded Age. Feeling the gun
at their temples, the Democrats joined the Republicans in the
quest for deeper spending cuts - which will only make the
disastrous U.S. unemployment situation worse.

So while programs helping students, the elderly and the poor
have been picked over with surgical precision, hedge fund
managers can get back to work destabilizing financial markets
with full peace of mind, knowing they’ll continue to enjoy a
tax rate lower than the mechanics who service their private
jets.

© Copyright Toronto Star 1996-2011

[Linda McQuaig is a columnist for the Toronto Star.]

___________________________________________

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on the left that will help them to interpret the world
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