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Bigger news than Charlie Sheen!

Posted By Ellen Ratner On 03/07/2011 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

On Friday, a confluence of two events happened. I had dinner with a friend who has done the math and wants to make sure that we increase the estate tax on the very wealthy. Paul Jay of The Real News figures that if the estates of billionaires living in Wisconsin were taxed fairly when they die, the entire debt of Wisconsin would go away. Wow, I thought, someone has really run the numbers.

Later that evening, I stopped by my office. Right in my mailbox was the news of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ new book, “The Speech.” It is basically the entire mini-filibuster speech that Sanders gave on the floor of the Senate on Dec. 10, 2010. Not only had Sanders done the numbers, he stood on the floor of the Senate for seven hours to make sure the rest of American had the same information he had compiled.

I like Sanders. He is never arrogant and always just a regular citizen. Once, I looked right in back of me in the homeland security line at the airport and there was Sanders, shoes off, going through the line without anyone knowing he was the senator from Vermont. He’s just a regular guy with the facts and figures behind him on what the tax system is doing to the middle and working class of America.

Sanders’ main thesis is that the gap between the wealthiest and the workers of America is getting dangerously large and that many billionaires, such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, say they don’t need a tax break. A few days before his speech, Sanders had tried to get checks of $250 out for disabled veterans and seniors on Social Security. Sanders’ attempts were turned down by the full Senate, but, as he points out the combined incomes in just one year of the top 25 hedge fund managers were $1 billion each. No, not lifetime income. It was income for one year.

During that day of Dec. 10, Sanders pointed out that when he and his wife went Christmas shopping, they had trouble finding gifts there were made in the United States. While we outsourced our manufacturing to China, the trade deficit with China grew. In fact, during the Bush years our trade deficit with China tripled.

Sanders did not just attack the rich; he went after some of America’s companies, starting with the credit cards. He pointed out that Judaism, Christianity and Islam prohibit usury. However, despite the fact that the U.S. taxpayer bailed out the banks, interest rates were still a staggering 20 percent or more on most credit cards. He also said that the U.S. credit industry is in a precarious position when one-half of the mortgages are owned by only four of the banks.

The banks were not the only corporations that came into Sanders’ view. He went right after the oil companies. Sanders said that in 2009, Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits, and according to their filings they did not pay any corporate income taxes but received a $156 million rebate from the Internal Revenue Service. In addition, individuals and corporations are avoiding $100 billion in taxes by going off shore to places like the Cayman Islands that have made their economies by becoming offshore tax havens.

If Sanders’ numbers are right, then one out of four large corporations paid not one dime in income taxes even though they collected $1.1 trillion in revenue.

Why, I ask myself every day, do we not hear those numbers when we hear about cutting the budget? Why don’t we hear those numbers when we hear about health care or student loan cuts? Where is the vast liberal media when it comes to who is really making out from the backs (and hands) of working Americans?

Why aren’t the tea party folks furious that the distribution of wealth in the United States rivals any oil oligarchy country for top of the unfair category? Where is the tea party on the fact that the top 1 percent of Americans own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent?

We hear all about how the “liberal” press sway the news and don’t tell the other side of the story. I have just one question for the people who think the libs are running things. How many of you knew about Sanders’ speech in December? How many of you knew about the firing of Charlie Sheen?

The answer, I think, is clear. Most everyone knows about Charlie Sheen, and most Americans have no idea the speech took place in December. Fortunately, you can now read Sanders’ speech in print. It is way more important than the exploits of Charlie Sheen.


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