America’s corporate royalty, Part Deux …

October 7, 2011
By admin

(This is the conclusion of the segment on America’s corporate royalty.)

Like so many things these days, the sad truth is that there isn’t likely to be any widespread embrace of radical changes to tax policy or corporate remuneration until it’s way too late for the embrace to make much of a difference. Millions of middle-class workers and pensioners have quietly stood on the sidelines through the years as an intrinsically flawed and unjust pay scale has been meekly accepted in the corporate world. It’s hardly questioned, except in the cases of the most flagrant malfeasance and headline-grabbing scandal, but the truth is that the very underpinnings of the whole structure ought to be under assault. Now that would be a noble and worthy sentiment for the Wall Street protesters to rally behind, but it’s one probably a bit to nuanced to be easily assimilated.

It would be more understandable – if not necessarily defensible – if those at the top were confronted with some genuine accountability tied to the lavish paychecks and stock bonanzas they receive, but even that is a pipedream. CEOs and hedge-fund managers are grandly paid under the guise of “bringing the best talent to the top of the organization,” but the reality is that every last one of them would still work for sums that didn’t even come close to what is routinely apportioned.

This was the most galling aspect of the bank meltdown in 2008: investment firms and banks took staggering risks that ultimately yielded enormous bonuses, then suffered not a whit as the federal government swooped in to rescue them from their own greed and avarice. Then, just to rub it in a bit, efforts by the Obama Administration to alter the landscape so that “too big to fail” would ostensibly be less likely to reoccur in the future were thwarted, watered down and largely neutered by the GOP to the point of being rendered toothless.

How splendid it must be for a tiny percentage of the American populace to have virtually an entire political party at its beck and call, willing to compromise the financial security of millions of middle- and lower-class Americans as they obsequiously scramble to craft legislation beneficial to the wealthiest among us. Think that might be a sticking point – even if largely unarticulated or properly understood – for the people protesting broadly under the banner of occupying Wall Street?

By hoodwinking an often befuddled electorate with disingenuous chants about “class warfare,” GOP pundits cajole millions of Americans into their devious campaign of serving the interests of the top one percent of taxpayers. By rolling out deceptive statistics that misrepresent the significance of the vast millions of dollars in taxation from the top of the pyramid, a case is seemingly made that they are paying their fair share. GOP hacks then belt out their refrain about those at the top being “job creators,” another gross distortion that has well served the campaign to obscenely reward those at the top at the expense of the great unwashed.

Voters need to pay closer attention to statistical evidence that abounds showing what a profound whupping the middle and lower classes have taken over the last 30 years. That’s roughly the period in which taxation rates from the top of the pyramid were largely disemboweled under the rubric of “trickle down” economics. I don’t know about you, but what I’ve felt trickling down my leg since Ronald Reagan waltzed into the White House in 1981 wasn’t the overflow of wealth from a generation of “job creators.” It was something far less enjoyable.

Government has interceded on the behalf of workers (historically, on occasion) and management far more frequently (almost shamelessly over the last two decades), lavishing on the latter a mind-numbing array of union busting, outright corporate welfare or more routinely treacherous tinkering with a vast, incomprehensible tax code, all designed to shove wealth upwards to the top. For much of that three-decade span, nobody seemed to mind too much, until things started to catch up with us right around 2007 or so. Now, that which has been trickling down from the top all these years has started to hit the fan, at which point folks seemed to notice that it isn’t exactly what had been promised.

The vast American populace of moderate means (or even below) has the power to influence all of that even to this day, though the likelihood of being able to overcome the billions of dollars of corporate payola to Washington declines every day that we patiently wait for a corporate and federal government nod to simple decency to somehow kick in. But if there’s one thing that government has been truly adept at in postwar America, it’s been keeping average Americans so distracted with hateful scare tactics, sleight-of-hand and scapegoating that they don’t seem to notice that they are getting thoroughly hosed along the way.
- T.S. O’Connell

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