Here's a truism: The wealthiest 1 percent have never had it so good.
According to government figures, 1-percenters' share of America's total income is the highest it's been since 1929, and their tax rates are the lowest they've faced in two decades. Through bonuses, many 1-percenters will profit from the $23 trillion in bailout largesse the Treasury Department now says could be headed to financial firms. And, most of them benefit from IRS decisions to reduce millionaire audits and collect zero taxes from the majority of major corporations.
But what really makes the ultra-wealthy so fortunate, what truly separates this moment from a run-of-the-mill Gilded Age, is the unprecedented protection the 1-percenters have bought for themselves on the most pressing issues.
To review: With 22,000 Americans dying each year because they lack health insurance, Congress is considering universal health care legislation financed by a surcharge on income above $280,000 -- that is, a levy almost exclusively on 1-percenters. This surtax would graze just 5 percent of small businesses and would recoup only part of the $700 billion the 1-percenters received from the Bush tax cuts. In fact, it is so miniscule, those making $1 million annually would pay just $9,000 more in taxes every year -- or nine-tenths of 1 percent of their 12-month haul.
Nonetheless, the 1-percenters have deployed an army to destroy the initiative before it makes progress.