(Remember Joel Grey in Cabaret?)
The following thoughts are follow-ups to yesterday’s post about the decline of organized labor’s political clout within the Democratic Party. (It goes without saying that Big Labor never had any significant voice within the Republican Party.) If yesterday’s thoughts were upsetting, please pay attention to the following and have some aspirin handy. This is from the first piece in a series that is running in Slate.com, called “The United States of Inequality.” This first article is titled: “Introducing the Great Diversity.” [The emphasis is mine.] (h/t Digby)
In 1915, a statistician at the University of Wisconsin...found [that] the richest 1 percent [of Americans] accounted for 18 percent of the nation's income. Today, the richest 1 percent account for 24 percent of the nation's income.
To put this another way, today a quarter of the wealth in this nation is owned, controlled and used by only 1% of our citizenry.
In 1913 in response to the inequity of the vast accumulation of wealth that was concentrated in the hands of only a few families, such as the Rockefellers, the Carnegies, and the Vanderbilts, the country passed the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The fight for this graduated income tax had been started during the Nineteenth Century by Democratic leaders such as William Jennings Bryan and was part of the Party’s political platform in 1908. [Here] (No doubt, you will soon be hearing some voices from the wingnut rightwing screaming for a revocation of this amendment.)
Before the enactment and ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, there had been a few instances of income taxation, but they were short-lived levies to meet fiscal needs due to special circumstances, such as military spending during the Civil War. The graduated income tax amendment was part of a national rejection of the vast differences of economic wealth and prosperity within pre WWI American society.
During WWII and immediately thereafter, income levels of rich and poor converged with wage increases for the lowest wage earners, but now those levels have once again diverged with more wealth concentrated in the hands of the few. Jim Hightower in Truthout has given us a glimpse of two of these Masters of the Universe and what they are doing with their wealth within the lax political climate for the wealthy. Hightower focused on two brothers, Charles and David Koch of Wichita, Kansas, whose family-owned business--Hightower calls it an empire--is involved in making things such as Northern tissue, Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups and Vanity Fair napkins. And much, much more. Koch Industries is also involved in producing oil, gas, timber, coal, cattle, asphalt, plastic and so on.
The Koch brothers are worth $14 billion--each. They inherited the business and an indeological idee fixe from papa Fred who was the founder and funder of the John Birch Society. Remember those bozos?
Hightower tells us that the Koch brothers have formed 3 foundations which in turn spin off and fund other groups which:
influence schoolteachers and high-school curricula, state and federal judges, lawyers and legal scholars, conservative policy thinkers and media producers, city-council candidates and local party activists.
The Koch brothers‘ Americans for Prosperity funded the original Tea Party movement and also many other anti-administration programs and initiatives. Hightower lists some of the organizations that AFP have funded or created: [Here]
Patients United Now (anti-health care reform), Hot Air Tour (anti-global warming), Free Our Energy (pro-offshore drilling), No Stimulus (tried to kill Obama's economic recovery plan) and Save My Ballot Tour (tries to keep workers from joining unions).
By the way, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Liberty Central, Clarence Thomas’s wife’s rightwing advocacy group, hasn’t received money directly or indirectly from the brothers Koch.
Bear in mind that the Koch brothers are only two individuals of that one percent of Americans who control a quarter of all of America’s wealth.
I warned you that you'd need aspirin...