Sequester ends blank check for Pentagon–badly

Friends Committee on National Legislation has a different take on automatic cuts to Pentagon spending: cut away. The core Pentagon budget still hasn’t fallen even after the scale-back in Iraq and Afghanistan, and almost equals that of Vietnam and the Cold War.

The New York Times agrees, but views the sequester as a blunt instrument.

The arbitrary budget cuts known as the sequester will exact a toll on not only domestic programs but military spending as well. Hence the howls in Washington from the Pentagon chieftains and their ardent Congressional supporters. But the truth is that the military budget not only can be cut, but should be cut, though not with this kind of political machete and not in the way the service chiefs say they plan to wield it…

If the Pentagon is ill prepared to deal with the sequester, it is to some extent a self-inflicted wound. Military leaders assumed the sequester would never happen and refused to mitigate its effects in advance. The Pentagon also does itself no favor by continuing to throw money at troubled weapons. As for the sequester’s impact on defense contractors, experts say the contractors have long known military spending was on the decline and built that into their projections.

Tax the corporations, tax the uber-wealthy

Photo by Lisa Norwood

It’s tax day, 2012! As you press the key to electronically file your taxes, or make the frenzied trip to the post office as I did, let’s contemplate another year when Congress wailed over the country’s debt yet failed to tax corporations and the super-rich.

This just in: Senate Republicans blocked the proposed minimum tax on top earners known as the Buffett Rule. No surprises there.

Common Dreams has two good articles addressing the plight of the rich in America. “Five Reasons Why The Very Rich Have NOT Earned Their Money” gives you some facts to back up what you intuitively know: American workers aren’t losing ground because they’re lazy.

So workers have TRIPLED their productivity over 30 years while the richest 1% have TRIPLED their share of income. Worker pay remained flat as the top 10% took almost all the productivity gains since 1980.

Tax victimhood is the refuge of the rich. Titans of entrepreneurship are carrying average American leeches on the back of their tax burdens, right? Well, no.

Real tax rates for the richest Americans have gone way down over the last 30 years, from 34% in 1980 to 23% in 2006. Yet the 1% claim they pay most of the taxes. They don’t, if all taxes are considered. Based on recent data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the total of all state and local taxes, social security taxes, and excise taxes (gasoline, alcohol, tobacco) consumes 22% of the annual incomes of the poorest quintile. For the top 1% of Americans, the same taxes consume less than 10% of their incomes.

In “The Rich Are Different from You and Me – They Pay Less Taxes,” Bill Moyers gives us the straight story on corporate profits and gluttonous CEO’s:

In a story headlined, “For Big Companies, Life Is Good,” The Wall Street Journal reports that big American companies have emerged from the deepest recession since World War II more profitable than ever: flush with cash, less burdened by debt, and with a greater share of the country’s income. But, the paper notes, “Many of the 1.1 million jobs the big companies added since 2007 were outside the U.S. So, too, was much of the $1.2 trillion added to corporate treasuries.”

To add to this embarrassment of riches, the consumer group Citizens for Tax Justice reports that more than two dozen major corporations  – including GE, Boeing, Mattel and Verizon — paid no federal taxes between 2008 and 2011. They got a corporate tax break that was broadly supported by Republicans and Democrats alike.

Last year, among the 100 best-paid CEOs, the median income was more than $14 million, compared with the average annual American salary of $45,230. Combined, this happy hundred executives pulled down more than two billion dollars.

Also not to be missed: The Nation features a slide show of “Ten CEOs Who Tax-Dodged Their Way to Riches.”

The 1 Percent isn’t a figment of the 99 Percent’s imagination.