Opinion

Bill knows better

Bill Atwood knows better, but being a loyal conservative, he just has to spout the party line. In his July 9 column, he declared the US to be a socialized welfare state and bemoaned the “transfer of wealth forced by law” that supposedly has made it so.

Bill knows very well that all systems of government exist to define the distribution of wealth. Governments have existed in wide variety, from absolute dictatorships, in which all wealth flows to one person, to utopian communities, in which all wealth is shared by all citizens.

This country declared independence from England precisely because Americans wanted to create a transfer of wealth from King George and his cronies to themselves. And the founders chose representative democracy, not oligarchy, to replace rule by monarchy. But oligarchy - rule by a powerful few - is what many of the wealthiest are trying to achieve. Google the Koch brothers, who have unabashedly pledged $900 million to buy the presidency next year.

Bill knows the wealthy and powerful use their wealth to influence both legislation and court decisions, and have done so to a far greater degree than middle-income or lower-income Americans. The most egregious example was the 2009 Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision, in which the conservative majority decided corporations could make virtually unlimited donations to political campaigns. Citizens United is funded almost entirely by the Koch brothers. Spending on the 2012 election was more than double the amount spent in 2008, thanks to Citizens United, and the 2016 election may see well over $5 billion spent.

Bill knows the US is no more socialized today than it was in 1966, when Medicare became law. Since the Great Depression, only on rare occasions has the US has created laws specifically to benefit ordinary Americans: Social Security and Medicare, for example. And the deck is more stacked against middle and low-income Americans than ever before.

Bill knows the richest one-tenth of one percent of Americans control as much wealth as the bottom 90%. According to a November 2014 report in The Guardian ( theguardian.com), the share of household wealth owned by the top 0.1% has increased from 7% to 22% over the past three decades, while the middle class has remained stagnant. That unprecedented transfer of wealth is apparently fine with Bill, because it benefits the rich, who get richer by sending American jobs to sweatshops overseas.

Bill is concerned with government handouts, but only if the money goes to poor people. A March 2014 article in Forbes magazine cites a report from Good Jobs First ( goodjobsfirst.org) detailing tax breaks and subsidies to American and foreign corporations. The numbers should make Bill’s blood boil.

Since 1976, over 110 billion tax dollars – yours and mine and Bill’s – have been handed out to huge (and hugely profitable) corporations. Companies like Boeing ($13 billion), Alcoa ($5.6 billion) and Intel ($3.9 billion) top the list. This astonishing transfer of wealth was “forced by law,” to borrow Bill’s phrase. Law influenced by the wealthiest Americans for their benefit, and theirs alone. Why, one might ask, is it OK to give tax money to Boeing but not to a battered woman struggling to feed her children?

Bill Atwood is a decent, intelligent, educated man. But his slavish adherence to neo-conservative dogma is troubling. This nation is beset by serious problems, both foreign and domestic, and we need to stand united to solve them. Inflammatory rhetoric not supported by fact or logic is not helpful, and Bill knows better.

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