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The Big Three Myths Fabricated By Right-Wing Fabulists to Frame America's Elections

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As for bloated, self-serving, out-of-control bureaucracies, how about dealing with insurance giants, credit-card gougers, cable TV monopolists, or Wall Street banksters? The corporate entity is an arrogant, autocratic, unaccountable fiefdom that insists it has no responsibility to anyone but its top executives and big investors. Cutting every corner it can -- on workers, customers, suppliers, shareholders, products, services, communities, the environment, public health, our nation, ethics, and the law -- is considered a legitimate part of the corporate business plan. Why bring this malicious ethos into the public sector?

Then there's the counter-intuitive assertion that privatization saves money for taxpayers by replacing "overpaid" government workers. Well, corporations certainly are energetic pay-slashers when it comes to workers, but -- hello -- the corporation tacks a hefty profit onto each job it snatches, plus adding on such overhead costs as the CEO's lavish pay, the palatial corporate headquarters, and marketing expenses.

Still, the myth persists, kept alive by such tireless promoters as the Heritage Foundation, yet another Koch-financed front group. In 2010, a team of Heritage fabricators issued a report showing that federal wages were 22 percent higher than what privatized workers would get for doing the job. Heritage's hide-the-pea calculation, however, counted only the salary of the contract employee, not the total that the corporation charges the government to provide that worker.

Last fall, the watchdog Project On Government Oversight  analyzed the full price (called the "billable rate") for farming out a public job. On average, corporations charge more than double the amount that a public employee costs. An in-house computer engineer, for example, costs taxpayers $136,000 a year (including benefits and administrative expenses), while the outsourced rate for the same work was $268,000.

Where are the "deficit hawks" when we need them? Hiding this billable-rate reality, that's where! They have their heads stuck deep up their own ideology as they willingly force taxpayers to pay billions of dollars extra each year for privatized workers. According to the last count, contractors had grabbed 7.6 million of our federal jobs -- nearly four times the 2 million public employees in the federal workforce.

3. THE "GOVERNMENT PUNISHES SUCCESS" MYTH.

This one is personal. It's the cry of the country club -- the long, high-pitched whine of the smug super-rich and corporate chieftains who feel put upon by a public that "envies" their wealth and by "moochers" who want to seize the rewards that the achievers have earned. Thus, goes the myth, Big Government redistributionists feel free to sock the successful with burdensome taxes.

Romney has plopped this plutocratic pout right into the center of the presidential campaign, denouncing Obama for even daring to point out the widening chasm between the rich and the rest of us. Obama "attacks success," wailed Romney when the Democrat went after his ducking and dodging on the issue of his personal use of offshore tax shelters and a secret Swiss bank account. Then came The Video -- Romney, speaking to a group of fellow millionaires at a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in Boca Raton, was caught on camera casually sneering at almost half of the US population, dismissing them as slugs who're "dependent upon government." They "believe that they are victims," Romney opined, adding condescendingly that they are "people who pay no income tax."

There's the rub for the far-right rich these days. They've internalized a self-pitying myth that they alone are forced to shoulder America's tax load, while 46.4 percent of the people pay zero federal income tax. To add to the outrage of the swells, these "shirkers" are also said by the whopperites to be "takers" who're on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment comp, food stamps, veterans benefits, and (in Mitt's words) "you-name-it."

Let's dissect this urban legend. First, who are these freeloaders, these "lucky duckies," as the Wall Street Journal calls them? Overwhelmingly, they're poor people! They're those who labor in menial jobs that pay less than $9,750 a year, (the level at which they'd begin owing income tax); low-paid single moms and even some of our poorly paid soldiers in Afghanistan who qualify for the Child Tax Credit; disabled veterans and people maimed on the job; and elderly folks whose Social Security benefits are too low to be taxed. Yeah, lucky duckies all!

Second, while 46 percent of Americans don't pay income taxes, they do pay billions of dollars in federal payroll and excise taxes and fees. These are very regressive assessments -- people who earn $20,000 to $33,000 a year pay 10.5 percent of their income in such taxes, while those hauling in more than $450,000 pay less than half that rate. Likewise, state and local taxes hit low- and middle-income people disproportionately hard -- those earning under $20,000 a year, for example, shell out 12.3 percent of their pay for state and local taxes, while the $450,000 class pays only 7.9 percent.

Then there is the gnashing of right-wingers' teeth over the "crushing" 35 percent tax rate that US corporations face. It's a job killer and a stifler of economic growth, they sob, lambasting it as the second highest rate in the world. Well, yes, unless you figure in the plethora of loopholes punched into the tax code by corporate lobbyists.

Corporate executives are gold medal champions in the Olympic sport of Creative Tax Dodging, which results in American corporations ending up with the second lowest tax payments in the developed world -- not only lower than corporations pay in such globally competitive nations as Japan, Canada, Sweden, and Korea, but also lower than the amount paid in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Turkey, and Slovenia.

In a comprehensive study released last November, the nonpartisan Citizens for Tax Justice analyzed the actual tax bills paid by 280 of America's biggest corporations in the previous three years. They averaged paying only half the official 35 percent rate, and a fourth of them paid less than 10 percent. Thirty of the giants paid zero during those three years. Among these was General Electric, which had a $5 billion profit on its US operations alone in 2010. Far from paying Uncle Sam, GE got a $3.2 billion tax rebate for that year -- a product of the 1,000 accountants, lawyers, lobbyists, and voodoo artists on its internal tax team. "We are committed to complying with the rules and paying all legally obliged taxes," said a spokeswoman. Sure -- rules they write.

You might remember that Obama appointed General Electric's CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, to be chairman of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in 2011. So much for punishing success.

Debunk Their Bunkum

By no means are the Big Three Myths that I've covered here the only ones that the plutocracy promoters want us simply to "believe" (a word, you might notice, that has LIE positioned right at its center). But this trio of myths -- "Self-Made," "Government Can't Do Anything," and "Government Punishes Success" -- are the key perversions of language and truth they have crafted to detour us off of America's historic path to egalitarianism, plunging us instead down the rabbit hole of corporate rule.

If we are to stand up successfully to the myriad corporate policies and laws that they want to impose on us, we must confront, expose, and reject at every turn their nefarious lies. Don't let them rewrite the basic truth that unites us as a democratic people: We need each other for all of us to succeed, both personally and as a nation.

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Jim Hightower is an American populist, spreading his message of democratic hope via national radio commentaries, columns, books, his award-winning monthly newsletter (The Hightower Lowdown) and barnstorming tours all across America.
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Why do people believe these lies? I cannot inderst... by Dorothy Przystas on Friday, Oct 5, 2012 at 6:14:00 AM
The wealthy believe because it benefits their pock... by Richard Pietrasz on Saturday, Oct 6, 2012 at 6:54:11 AM
Thanks for the article. Libertarians are advocates... by Libertarian International on Friday, Oct 5, 2012 at 10:11:26 AM
Are we taxpayers or mindless want to be's  --... by margaret beresford on Friday, Oct 5, 2012 at 8:48:05 PM
Once again, Hightower is right on the money. ... by Richard Pietrasz on Saturday, Oct 6, 2012 at 7:20:37 AM