Pissed Off!: 67 Percent Of Americans Are Dissatisfied With The Size And Influence Of Major Corporations

The American people are becoming increasingly angry about the extraordinary amount of power and influence that corporations have in the United States today.  A new Gallup poll found that 67 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the size and influence of major corporations in the United States today.  Not only that, the most recent Chicago Booth/Kellogg School Financial Trust Index found that only 26 percent of Americans trust our financial system at this point.  The mainstream media is acting as if this is a new phenomenon, but the truth is that a dislike of giant corporations goes all the way back to the founding of this nation.  Our founders held a deep distrust for all big concentrations of power, and they intended to set up a nation where no one person or no one institution could become too powerful.

Unfortunately, we have very much strayed from those principles.  In the United States today, the federal government completely dominates all other levels of government and mammoth international corporations completely dominate our economy.

If our founding fathers could see what is going on today they would probably roll over in their graves.

The history of the corporation can be traced back to the early part of the 17th century when Queen Elizabeth I established the East India Trading Company.

Our founders were not too fond of the East India Trading Company.  In fact, it was their tea that was dumped into the harbor during the original Boston Tea Party.

In his book entitled “Unequal Protection”, Thom Hartman described the great antipathy that our founders had for the East India Trading Company….

“Trade-dominance by the East India Company aroused the greatest passions of America’s Founders – every schoolboy knows how they dumped the Company’s tea into Boston harbour. At the time in Britain virtually all members of parliament were stockholders, a tenth had made their fortunes through the Company, and the Company funded parliamentary elections generously.”

So a disgust for great concentrations of financial power is built into our national DNA.

Many people today think of giant international corporations as being synonymous with “capitalism”, but that is just not the case.

Our founders envisioned a land where free enterprise could flourish in an environment where no institution held too much power.

So this false left/right debate about whether we should give more power to the government or more power to the corporations is largely a bunch of nonsense.

If the founders were around today they would say that we need to take a lot of power away from both of them.

Fortunately, it looks like the American people are starting to think the same thing.  Not only are the American people dissatisfied with government, they are also becoming increasingly dissatisfied with big corporations.

As mentioned above, according to Gallup two-thirds of Americans are now dissatisfied with the size and influence of major corporations in America today….

As you can see, the gap between those in favor of the size and influence of major corporations and those not in favor has been significantly widening over the past decade.

That is a good thing.

Not only that, but the latest Chicago Booth/Kellogg School Financial Trust Index shows that Americans have very little trust in the financial system at this point.

The following are some of the key findings from their most recent report….

*Only 26 percent of Americans trust the nation’s financial system.

*Only 13 percent of Americans trust big corporations.

*Only 16 percent of Americans trust the stock market.

*Only 43 percent of Americans trust the banks.

These numbers are staggering, but they should not be surprising.  The American people were not pleased at all when the major banks and big financial institutions were showered with bailouts during the recent financial crisis.  A lot of that anger is still simmering.

The recent housing collapse, which is still ongoing, was caused in great part by the behavior of the major banks and big financial institutions, but it is the American people which have suffered the most from it.  The following very brief animation from Taiwan demonstrates this very humorously….

The American people are still wondering where their “bailouts” are.  Most of the big banks and big corporations seem to be thriving even while the number of Americans slipping into poverty continues to grow.

According to Calculated Risk, approximately 15 million Americans are unemployed, about 9 million Americans are working part-time for “economic reasons” and approximately 4 million American workers have left the labor force since the beginning of the economic downturn.

When you total that all up, you get 28 million Americans that wish they had full-time jobs.

Ouch.

There are other numbers that are very disturbing as well.  In the month of November, the number of people on food stamps set another new all-time record: 43.6 million Americans.

So we have tens of millions of Americans that can’t get the jobs that they want and we have tens of millions of Americans that can’t feed themselves without government assistance.

No wonder so many people are angry at the big corporations!

The U.S. government has showered the big corporations and the big banks with bailouts, tax breaks and cheap loans and yet the big corporations and the big banks are not coming through for the American people.

Meanwhile, food prices continue to go up.  According to the United Nations food agency, global food prices set another new all-time record during the month of January, and they are expected to continue rising for months to come.

That certainly is not going to ease tensions in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world.  When people are not able to pay for the food that they need that tends to make them very, very angry.

For now we are not likely to see food riots in the United States, but as food prices rise all of those food stamp cards are not going to go as far as they used to.  Average American families are going to feel more strain at the supermarket.  There will be less money available for other things.

A key indicator to watch is the price of oil.  The price of oil is one of the key components of the price of food, and if we see the price of oil go up to $120 or $150 a barrel that could mean really bad things for both the U.S. economy and the overall global economy.

If we do see another financial crisis like we did in 2008, is the U.S. government going to rush to bail out the big corporations and the big banks like they did the last time?

As we have seen from the numbers above, that certainly would not sit well with the American people.

Why Democrats And Republicans Are Both Wrong About The Bush Tax Cuts

All over the Internet, Republican pundits are declaring that extending the Bush tax cuts will save the economy and Democrat pundits are declaring that ending the Bush tax cuts will save the economy. Well, you know what? Nothing will save the U.S. economy. The U.S. government is going to continue to drown in a sea of debt no matter what happens with these tax cuts. State and local governments are also going to continue to drown in a sea of debt. Thousands of factories and millions of jobs are going to continue to be shipped overseas every single year. America is going to continue to transfer tens of billions of dollars of its national wealth to foreign nations every single month. Nothing that the Republicans and Democrats are debating right now is going to do a thing to alter the fundamental problems that the U.S. economy is facing.

Not that I personally do not like tax cuts. I would like my own personal income taxes to be cut down to zero percent please. I will take as many tax cuts as I can personally get.

And it is absolutely undeniable that the federal government is already handed way, way, way more money than it ever should need. Starving the federal monster of cash is a good thing. We need a much, much, much smaller federal government. But the odds of us ever returning to the kind of limited central government envisioned by our Founding Fathers is somewhere between slim and none and slim just left the building.

So aren’t less taxes always good? Well, not necessarily. You see, the federal government is planning to spend much more money in the years ahead. When you combine significant tax cuts with huge increases in spending you get lots more debt.

Extending the Bush tax cuts (and throwing in a few extra ones) will help the U.S. economy in the short-term, but without accompanying brutal spending cuts it will make our long-term debt problems even worse.

But most of our politicians don’t think about the long-term. Most of them just want the economy to turn around in the short-term so that they can get re-elected.

For example, Barack Obama is not completely stupid. He realizes that these tax cuts are probably his best shot at a short-term economic boost. If the economy starts to get back to “normal”, it may be just enough to get him another term in office.

And self-preservation is what most U.S. politicians are most interested in.

Meanwhile, we are heading for a national debt nightmare that threatens to destroy our financial system and plunge us into national bankruptcy.

But if our politicians did attempt to make the brutal spending cuts that would be necessary to balance the budget, most Americans would start screaming bloody murder. The truth is that the American people have become dependent on the government and they like getting their checks, their handouts and their government contracts.

Okay, so what will this deal that Obama has made with the Republicans actually do?

Well, it will extend most of the Bush tax cuts for two years (right up through the 2012 presidential election). The following are some of the details….

*All income levels will continue to be taxed at the lower rates instituted by the original Bush tax cuts. That means that the highest rate will remain at 35 percent.

*Barack Obama claims that extending these tax cuts will save the average American family approximately $3,000 next year.

*The 15 percent rate on capital gains and dividends will be continued.

*As part of the package, Republicans have agreed to a 13 month extension of long-term unemployment benefits.

*One new tax cut included in the deal is a reduction of the Social Security payroll tax by two percentage points for one year. So for a year U.S. workers will be paying just 4.2 percent instead of 6.2 percent.  Barack Obama believes that Americans will save $120 billion next year from this tax cut alone. For the average American family, it will mean that they will have approximately an extra $1000 in their wallets.

*The existing $1,000 child tax credit will be extended for the next two years.

*Another tax cut that is new would allow U.S. businesses to immediately expense all business investments in 2011. The Obama administration is claiming that this tax cut would be the biggest “temporary investment incentive” in American history.

*A compromise was reached on the estate tax. There will be an estate tax exemption of 5 million dollars per person and the maximum rate will be 35 percent.

So how much will all of this cost?

Well, all over the Internet the Democrats and the Republicans are arguing over figures.

One figure that is being thrown around quite a bit is $900 billion over two years.

But what is another $900 billion when we are already caught in a death spiral of government debt?

The IMF was already projecting that federal government debt was going to exceed 100 percent of GDP by 2015.

So how soon will we get there now?

Today, our national debt is more than 13 times larger than it was just 30 years ago….

So can’t we just “grow” our way out of this debt?

Not a chance.

Reducing taxes and increasing government spending will both stimulate the economy in the short-term, but both of them will always cause government debt to go up.

The sad truth, as I have written about previously, is that it is now mathematically impossible to pay off the U.S. government debt.

If you took every dollar out of every single wallet, out of every single mattress and out of every single U.S. bank and sent it to the government you wouldn’t even make that big of a dent in the national debt.

So can’t the U.S. government just go out and create more money and solve the problem?

No.

You see, under our system the creation of more money is also the creation of more debt.

As long as the Federal Reserve system exists, the U.S. federal government will be trapped inside a perpetual debt machine.

The best we can hope for is to slow the expansion of government debt down to a reasonable level.

But as I explained in a previous article, it is extremely unlikely that the U.S. government will ever have a balanced budget ever again.

The U.S. government currently has to borrow approximately 41 cents of every dollar that it spends.  The spending cuts that would be required to slash that much out of the federal budget would be beyond draconian.

Sadly, the truth is that even the really bad official budget deficit figures severely understate the extent of the crisis that we are facing.

If the U.S. government was forced to use GAAP accounting principles (like all publicly-traded corporations must), the annual U.S. government budget deficit would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 trillion to $5 trillion.

So anyone who thinks that we are just a “tweak” or two from fixing U.S. government finances is living in a world of delusion.

Unfortunately, the years ahead look downright apocalyptic.  After analyzing Congressional Budget Office data, Boston University economics professor Laurence J. Kotlikoff concluded that the U.S. government is facing a “fiscal gap” of $202 trillion dollars.

But the American people don’t want to hear this.  The American people don’t want to hear that there are serious consequences for running up the biggest debt in the history of the world.  The American people just want to be told that there are smart people working on the problem and that they are on the verge of “fixing” it.

But it is all a lie.  We can keep trying to “kick the can down the road” for a while longer, but eventually a day of reckoning is going to come and it is going to be painful beyond imagination.

Somehow we have the arrogance to believe that our children and our grandchildren should pay back all of the debt that we have accumulated.  What we have done to future generations is beyond criminal.

America has enjoyed the greatest party in the history of the world, but eventually it is going to be time to turn out the lights.

For now, however, the Republicans and the Democrats are busy trying to figure out ways that they can keep the party going for a little while longer.

Perhaps they can just slash taxes all the way to zero and the federal government can just borrow all of the money that it needs.  At least that way we wouldn’t be endlessly pouring our own money into the financial black hole called the U.S. government.

2011: The Year Of The Tax Increase

Unless the U.S. Congress acts, there is going to be a massive wave of tax increases in 2011.  In fact, some are already calling 2011 the year of the tax increase.  A whole host of tax cuts that Congress established between 2001 and 2003 are set to expire in January unless Congress chooses to renew them.  But with Democrats firmly in control of both houses that appears to be extremely unlikely.  These tax increases are going to affect every single American (at least those who actually pay taxes).  But this will be just the first wave of tax increases.  Another huge slate of tax increases passed in the health care reform law is scheduled to go into effect by 2019.  So Americans that are already infuriated by our tax system are only going to become more frustrated in the years ahead.  The reality is that the U.S. government will soon be digging much deeper into our wallets.

The following are some of the tax increases that are scheduled to go into effect in 2011….

1 – The lowest bracket for the personal income tax is going to increase from 10 percent to 15 percent.

2 – The next lowest bracket for the personal income tax is going to increase from 25 percent to 28 percent.

3 – The 28 percent tax bracket is going to increase to 31 percent.

4 – The 33 percent tax bracket is going to increase to 36 percent.

5 – The 35 percent tax bracket is going to increase to 39.6 percent.

6 – In 2011, the death tax is scheduled to return.  So instead of paying zero percent, estates of $1 million or more are going to be taxed at a rate of 55 percent.

7 – The capital gains tax is going to increase from 15 percent to 20 percent.

8 – The tax on dividends is going to increase from 15 percent to 39.6 percent.

9 – The “marriage penalty” is also scheduled to be reinstated in 2011.

It is being estimated that the total cost of these tax increases to U.S. taxpayers will be $2.6 trillion through the year 2020.

Ouch!

But wait, there are even more tax increases coming.

The “health care reform law” contains over a dozen new taxes that will be implemented in stages over the next decade.  When you add all of these taxes to the taxes that were mentioned earlier, the result is going to be absolutely devastating.  According to an analysis by the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation the health care reform law will generate $409.2 billion in additional taxes by the year 2019.

Double ouch!

So is it any wonder why the public has such a low opinion of the U.S. Congress?

Every single major poll done on the topic shows that approval ratings for Congress are at record lows.

For example, Gallup’s 2010 Confidence in Institutions poll found Congress ranking dead last out of the 16 institutions rated this year.

Of course there are a whole host of reasons why the American people are upset with Congress, but one of the big ones is the fact that we are literally being taxed to death.

However, it is not just federal income taxes that are killing us.

In a previous article entitled “Taxed Enough Already!”, we listed just a few of the taxes that Americans have to pay each year….

Accounts Receivable Tax

Building Permit Tax

Capital Gains Tax

CDL license Tax

Cigarette Tax

Corporate Income Tax

Court Fines (indirect taxes)

Dog License Tax

Federal Income Tax

Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)

Fishing License Tax

Food License Tax

Fuel permit tax

Gasoline Tax

Gift Tax

Hunting License Tax

Inheritance Tax

Inventory tax IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)

IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)

Liquor Tax

Local Income Tax

Luxury Taxes

Marriage License Tax

Medicare Tax

Payroll Taxes

Property Tax

Real Estate Tax

Recreational Vehicle Tax

Road Toll Booth Taxes

Road Usage Taxes (Truckers)

Sales Taxes

School Tax

Septic Permit Tax

Service Charge Taxes

Social Security Tax

State Income Tax

State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)

Telephone federal excise tax

Telephone federal universal service fee tax

Telephone federal, state and local surcharge taxes

Telephone minimum usage surcharge tax

Telephone recurring and non-recurring charges tax

Telephone state and local tax

Telephone usage charge tax

Toll Bridge Taxes

Toll Tunnel Taxes

Traffic Fines (indirect taxation)

Trailer registration tax

Utility Taxes

Vehicle License Registration Tax

Vehicle Sales Tax

Watercraft registration Tax

Well Permit Tax

Workers Compensation Tax

Are you dizzy yet?

The reality is that the American people are being drained in dozens and dozens of different ways.

But what did you expect?

Did you think that our politicians would pile up the biggest debt in the history of the world and never ask you to pay for it?

Did you think that we could run deficits equivalent to about 10 percent of GDP without ever seeing tax increases?

The truth is that the U.S. government needs a whole lot more money than even these new tax increases will bring in.

After all, it is being projected that the U.S. government will be spending $2 trillion on the interest on the national debt alone by the year 2020.

To put that in perspective, the entire budget for the U.S. government is less than $4 trillion for 2010.

Are you starting to get the picture?

In the years ahead the IRS is going to be digging deeper and deeper into our pockets and a gigantic chunk of that money is going to go directly into the pockets of those who own our debt.

But very few Americans wanted to listen when this problem was actually somewhat fixable 20 or 30 years ago.

So now we are all going to pay the price – literally.

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