In October of 2010 I wrote an editorial on Death and Taxes entitled “Why You Shouldn’t Vote… Ever.” My sub-headline read: “What to do if you’re courageous enough to admit the Obama administration and Democrats are full of shit and the Tea Party and Republicans are dangerous and stupid?”
To a degree, I still feel the same. Shortly after Obama assumed office in 2009, he let Wall Street off the hook. He lost me in that moment. I never expected him to magically lead us out of the Great Recession like many opportunistic conservatives (the GOP) demanded. In such tough economic times, there are no easy answers or paths. There is however plenty of opportunity for political parties to cast blame and point fingers. But I did expect Obama to punish those who dragged us into this mess—which was, granted, a product of corporate and government maneuvering.
Two years ago I wrote, “I must admit, I erred most spectacularly in my vote for Barack Obama. There I sat front and center in the Obama Magic Show: my reason lobotomized by my desire—no, need—to see a man of great intellect inhabit the office after the devolutionary presidency of George W. Bush.”
This was the residual anger of the Wall Street bailout and get-out-of-jail-free card. I maintain that Obama supplicated himself before Wall Street. He had to. Which makes the GOP’s claims of an Obama anti-corporate, socialist empire particularly absurd. One man cannot make banks lend and businesses expand their workforce. There has to be the will to do so, and it’s largely nowhere to be seen.
And America’s big business megaphone can blare all it wants, suggesting that taxes are the real problem; but the reality is that with tax deductions being what they are (like GE’s 0% tax rate), corporations are paying very little comparatively This anti-tax chorus is all smoke and mirrors to obscure the real truth: American corporations do not want to pay their employees a fair wage. America’s 20th century prosperity—no doubt the result of Europe’s post-WWII economic desolation—raised the country’s living standards and wages. And as these prosperity markers rose, taxes fell accordingly.
The real corporate game now is in trying to avoid paying American employees at all or very little. They don’t give a fuck about American middle and low income communities. Their products are global, as is their workforce. People across the planet will work for far less than the average American. And while corporations take more and more advantage of this reality, they claim that it is merely a response to tax rates; which, again, as I noted above, are low because of a host of deductions.
The effective corporate tax rate in America, after deductions and other loopholes, sits at 12.1%. Don’t believe me? Read the Wall Street Journal’s study of the Congressional Budget Office’s numbers. After all things are considered, corporations are paying the lowest taxes in 40 years.
What disturbs me now, and has compelled me to vote again after a hiatus, is that if Obama has been so business-friendly, so accommodating to Wall Street, what will happen if Mitt Romney is elected president and the GOP gains control of the Senate? My guess is that a Romney White House would collaborate with the House and Senate GOP to cut taxes, but do absolutely nothing about deductions. In other words, they would lower corporate taxes but keep in place the cheating, so that 12.1% effective tax rate would probably look more like 6%. Think I’m crazy? As noted above, GE plays 0% in federal taxes. That is crazy. Then again, perhaps Romney is serious about eliminating loopholes. Lobbying will probably change his mind.
Obama dropped the ball on Wall Street. He handed the insurance companies a nice victory with Obamacare (though he succeeded in ending the pre-existing conditions atrocities in America). His record with drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere is particularly appalling. But in spite of the GOP blockading of the economy, Obama has managed to improve the economy, albeit incrementally. He has stood up against the GOP’s dark ages philosophy on vaginas. He has come out in support of equal protection for those looking to marry their gay partner. And he is the only thing standing in the way of corporations taking total control of Washington D.C.
That last sentence may sound naive. I understand that corporations and banks hedge in elections. They distribute their money to Democrats and the GOP alike for access and favorable legislation. I know that Obama has Wall Street people on his staff. But consider that Obama has been vocal enough about shared responsibility in this recession that some corporations are mercilessly attacking him with the “socialist” meme; and openly willing to unload millions upon millions to defeat him. Obama must be doing something right.
Obama, despite his failings, is after a more fair economy—one that brings prosperity to all instead of the elite few. He is not after this imaginary socialist redistribution idea we constantly hear from the GOP propaganda machine. And for that reason I will be voting in 2012, and I will be voting for Barack Obama.
And, yet, I must face the possibility that we will head inexorably toward a more corporate-controlled government in spite of Obama’s efforts. That he is, to borrow a line from the move JFK, a mouse fighting a gorilla.
It’s no time to give up.