It’s Time to Stop the Redistribution of Wealth in America

Of great concern to many watching political developments in the United States over the past few years has been the issue of redistribution of wealth in America. It is time to look much more closely at this issue.

A recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities based on data from the Congressional Budget Office illustrates just how bad this situation has become.

In 2007, the share of after-tax income going to the top 1 percent hit its highest level (17.1 percent) since 1979, while the share going to the middle one-fifth of Americans shrank to its lowest level during this period (14.1 percent).

Yes, there is a major redistribution of wealth happening in our country. However, it isn’t the wealthy having their money taken away from them to support the poor. It is actually the other way around.

As a further illustration from the same report:

Between 1979 and 2007, average after-tax incomes for the top 1 percent rose by 281 percent after adjusting for inflation — an increase in income of $973,100 per household — compared to increases of 25 percent ($11,200 per household) for the middle fifth of households and 16 percent ($2,400 per household) for the bottom fifth (see Figure 1).

In 2007, the average household in the top 1 percent had an income of $1.3 million, up $88,800 just from the prior year; this $88,800 gain is well above the total 2007 income of the average middle-income household ($55,300).

Is this major redistribution of wealth a problem, and if so, how do we address it? Some people might attribute this simply to successful people being successful. We don’t want to punish or tax people in such a way that discourages success. Yet where is that success coming from?

On Monday, the White House issued a press release announcing that “Connecticut Based Projects win $11 Million for Groundbreaking Energy Research”. I believe we need to be doing much more in energy research and this would appear to be an important step in the direction of energy independence. However, digging a little bit deeper, we find that three out of four of these grants, or about $9 million went to United Technologies. United Technologies is a multinational corporation that had 2008 revenues of nearly $60 billion dollars, much of it coming from its military contracting.

What is the key to their success? Lobbying. Various reports show that United Technologies spent $1.4 million in lobbying in the third quarter of last year, $3.7 million in lobbying in the fourth quarter, and another $2.93 million lobbying in the first quarter of this year.

This is but one example of how wealth is being redistributed in our country. Others include lobbying by large corporations that seek to make sure any laws enacted are more beneficial for themselves than for smaller businesses or individual consumers.

It isn’t just lobbying of the legislative branch that is of concern. The Alliance for Justice has a report about the financial ties of judges that rule on various cases that affect the redistribution of wealth in America to the richest amongst us.

Some judges have large significant investments in companies their decisions affect:

Judge Feldman had financial investments valued at between $36,000-515,000 in
twenty-eight individual energy and energy-related corporations, among them Exxon Mobil,
Transocean, General Electric, Tyco International, and numerous smaller companies such as
Ocean Energy, El Paso, and Quicksilver Resources.

Others receive all expense paid trips to conferences sponsored by large corporations:

Judge Smith ... attended a seminar hosted by the Foundation for Research on Economics &
the Environment (FREE) in Big Sky, Montana, for which he was reimbursed transportation,
lodging, and meal expenses. FREE is a think-tank that promotes free-market environmentalism
rather than environmental regulation and is funded largely by corporations like ExxonMobil

How big is this problem? According to a report from Common Cause, Legislating Under the Influence,

In the last decade alone, big energy has pumped more than $2.9 billion into electing and lobbying federal officials and candidates, according to campaign finance and lobbying disclosure reports.

That’s about $5.5 million for each of the 535 seats in the House and Senate.

As energy dollars flow freely in Washington, the development of alternative energy sources proceeds slowly, at best, and the nation’s reliance on energy produced overseas grows deeper. Meanwhile, at the industry’s urging, a 27-year moratorium on oil and gas drilling off the east coast has been allowed to expire and legislation to cap carbon emissions, pushing oil-gulping industries to find new energy sources and use petroleum more efficiently, has stalled in Congress.

This number understates the influence of large corporations. It does not include money spent on corporate sponsored junkets such as those that Federal Judges go on, and it does not include money spent on state legislative elections.

Yes, there is a major redistribution of wealth going on in our country. Large companies are spending vast amounts to make sure that the redistribution of is moving in their favor. The richest among us are successfully using all branches of government to line their pockets at the expense of the rest of us. It is time to stop the redistribution of wealth in America and return our country to a government of, by and for all the people. How do we do this? It will be difficult. I do not believe that “Second Amendment Remedies” are the way to address this, but if I were a judge or legislator on the take of big companies, I’d probably start getting a little worried.

No, in spite of the corrupting role of money in politics and the ill advised decisions of the courts that money is speech and corporations are persons, we can, and indeed must, for the sake of our country, work to change the system to one that minimizes the corrosive effect of money in politics and returns our country to fair elections and fair court rulings.

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