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Paul Buchheit
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Monday 18 February 2013
"We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all."

The Lamest Excuses Money Can Buy

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As we try to grasp the reasoning behind cuts to life-saving programs and while billion-dollar incomes and trillion-dollar profits are being made, we must understand that extreme wealth deadens parts of the brain. Empathy and honesty go first then rationality as evidenced by some of the outlandish excuses given by the very rich for their abuses. 

Excuses for Inequality

Here's what Goldman Sachs adviser Brian Griffiths said about it: "We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all."

U.S. wealth distribution has become so extreme that nearly half of America has, on the average, zero wealth(their debt exceeds assets). As for income, the richest 1 percent seemed to perform the impossible from 2009 to 2011, capturing more than 100 percent of the new income gains (income decreased for the other 99 percent).

As irrational as it might seem to find an excuse for all this, the Heritage Foundation is up to the task, claiming that poor Americans are actually doing quite well with their TVs and air conditioners. Nevermind the debt for the poorest quintile of Americans averages $27,000 more than their possessions.

Excuses for Bank Fraud

It seems unlikely that anyone would try to justify the lack of punishment for manipulating global interest rates and consorting with drug cartels, but excuses were readily available—hyperbole made up for incomprehensibility. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson warned us that without a bailout, the world economy would collapse "within 24 hours." Assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer added that with criminal charges "the entire banking system would have been destabilised."

Others questioned whether crimes had really been committed, or whether the people in charge even knew what was happening. In any event, bank backers noted the financial institutions were fined. Four weeks of profits and a bank CEO said he was "profoundly sorry."

Excuses for a Dormant Minimum Wage

Despite the logic and fairness of sharing record profits with low-wage workers who helped to make it all possible, a minimum wage increase has long been rejected because of the claim that it will increase unemployment. This has been refuted again and again and again. Yet well-positioned people persevere, armed with the same excuse as Paul Ryan said: "I think it's inflationary. I think it actually is counterproductive in many ways. You end up costing jobs from people who are the bottom rung of the economic ladder."

The Economic Policy Institute calculated that a minimum wage increase would actually create up to 100,000 jobs by the middle of 2014.

Excuses for Not Paying Taxes

Rather than excuses, corporate heads often take the more aggressive denial route with their comments:

-- A GE spokesperson: "We are committed to acting with integrity in relation to our tax obligations." GE paid zero percent from 2008 to 2010.-- An Exxon spokesperson: "..any claim we don't pay taxes is absurd...ExxonMobil is a leading U.S. taxpayer." Exxon paid 2 percent from 2008 to 2010. 

But CEOs still manage to come up with creative excuses. Caterpillar's CEO Doug Oberhelman blamed Illinois. He said the state has "created an environment that is unfriendly to business and investment." Caterpillar paid less than 1 percent in-state income taxes from 2008 to 2010.

As for individual taxes, the wealthy hang onto the foggy (and discredited) notion that a higher tax rate on the rich somehow "hurts the economy."

While numerous inventive excuses come with the estate tax, most of them are recycled from other tax arguments. The estate tax is accused of slowing economic growth, destroying jobs, suppressing wages, discouraging saving and promoting wasteful spending. Actual facts, meanwhile, come from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which notes that only the richest two in 1,000 estates pay any estate tax at levels generally less than one-sixth of their values.

Excuses were even available for the special case of Facebook's part-owner Eduardo Saverin, who serendipitously landed Mark Zuckerberg as a roommate at Harvard and used American resources to make billions then revoked his citizenship to avoid paying any tax at all. A Forbes writer called Saverin an "American hero" for quitting on America. The American Thinker said "the U.S. tax code is so oppressive that smart and successful people like Saverin are compelled to renounce citizenship." But Saverin's defenders might not be aware of the OECD report that ranked U.S. taxes among the lowest in the world.

Excuses for No Taxes At All

One might feel ashamed paying no sales tax on credit default swaps when low-income mothers pay 10 percent on winter clothes for the kids. But not the men on Wall Street. At any mention of a financial transaction tax (FTT), they get testy: It will ruin our liquidity! It will hurt the economy! It's a sin tax!

But an FTT is inexpensive to administer and proven successful in other countries, while being capable of generating hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

In conclusion, perhaps it's only fair to excuse the super-rich for their lack of empathy, honesty and rationality. They believe that their upward redistribution of wealth is showing everyone else the value of a little initiative and hard work. With such a spirit of free enterprise, we can all aspire to the lofty goals of Charles Koch: "I want my fair share—and that's ALL of it."

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ABOUT Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher with formal training in language development and cognitive science. He is the founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (,,, and the editor and main author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (Clarity Press). He can be reached at

Bozo has one fact wrong.

Bozo has one fact wrong. When the great Actor was president he started the ball rolling against Labor when he fired he Air Traffic Controllers and the country did not shut down.

We have seen all this

We have seen all this before.

In fact, the mid to late 20th Century was the only time in history when there was such relative economic equality.

While this "equitable" condition existed we enjoyed the highest living standards in history.

But this high living standard was an aberration. The government allowed these high standards of living as a way to demonstrate the superiority of the free enterprise system over Soviet Communism. After the fall of communism this demonstration was no longer necessary. After that organized labor was attacked unmercifully.

Now, without the influence of labor unions and the counterbalancing effect of the Soviet Union, one could predict this inequality to soar. We are witnessing it right before our eyes.

Want to return to the days of fairness? Promote organized labor.

BozoAdult, good comments.

BozoAdult, good comments. "Want to return to the days of fairness? Promote organized labor." AND we need to support small local mom & pop businesses instead of multinational corps with our purchasing power where ever we can. Recent history has shown that the multinationals have no loyalty to their labor, so why should we give them our blood sweat & tears? Better to work for ourselves or our neighbors who will keep our $ at home, and thats the place to shop, too.

I tend to believe it's

I tend to believe it's outright jealousy of Obama given the TEA-quest-traitors failed miserably to oust Obama in November. While billion-dollar incomes and trillion-dollar profits are being made there is staunch arrogance and caustic attitude towards the middle class and those lower on the totem pole. In fact there is no valid justification for the cuts made while protecting the top 2% who have the greatest financial resources and influence. U.S. wealth distribution has become so extreme that nearly half of America has, on the average, zero wealth(their debt exceeds assets). As for income, the richest 1 percent seemed to perform the impossible from 2009 to 2011, capturing more than 100 percent of the new income gains (income decreased for the other 99 percent). Starbucks roasting coffee beans is considered manufacturing for tax purposes. Marco Rubio, considered by TEA-Republican as a rising star, called this raising taxes on the public. Lobbying firms were paid thousands of dollars to get Tax code definitions changed benefiting one corporation. This is the kind of tax code changes president Obama is trying to get changed or modified to provide tax revenue which is supplanted by the middle class. Starbucks has saved $88 million dollars in tax savings and tax payers have made up the difference. Special interest jockeying has been rampant in Washington for way too long. Previous efforts to shut this down have gone unanswered and not acted on while the middle class continues to float the federal government. Getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions which have benefited those with money and influence should be the first action of this 113th Congress. Get registered, vote, and get out the vote! We well know the truth of the concentration of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people and the concentration of power in stricter, less compassionate hands. "Sweep your state Capital 2014" "Sweep the House 2014" "Sweep the Senate 2014"

My main comment is to not use

My main comment is to not use the terms "lame" or "lamest" as adjectives. People with disabilities find this expression offensive. As a teacher with training in language development, surely Mr. Buchheit has a thesaurus at his disposal.

It should be crystal clear by

It should be crystal clear by now "our" government has no intention of "fixing" any of this. As far as they are concerned, they did, and it is working.

Forget the government, forget the corporate world. We will have to grow an underground economy that cuts them out.

"I want my fair share; and

"I want my fair share; and that's All of it"...was he really so candid?
There it is in a nutshell...more, more, not enough, more...
We are in the same situation as 1774/75 and live in a time where most of our leaders do NOT represent us any longer. Period

I read these editorials and

I read these editorials and exposés EVERY DAY, and yet there's not a peep about fixing any of this. How come I don't hear about alternative minimums for business, or repealing the special tax rate for investments, or a transaction tax on stocks? When was the last time the Representatives or Senators from your state actually proposed or endorsed one of these? Is the entire Congress bought and paid for? The Republicans want to cut Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid and low income programs, in many cases the only reasons that people are surviving... but I don't hear any concrete bills coming out of Democrats either.

Same here. where is the We

Same here. where is the We have had Enough Party? I get the occupy Wall street thing, but why isn't somebody putting on a suit and running against these bought and paid for tea party,republicans and democrats? I would bet they would get more support than they realize being honest and saying what really is going on and asking for support from the middle class Americans that are taking the beatings.

"Is the entire Congress

"Is the entire Congress bought and paid for?" BINGO!!!

The 'top of the ladder'

The 'top of the ladder' wealth, truly, is out of touch with the reality of the average American. The ever increasing gap needs to be closed beginning at the 'top', Not by increasing 'minimum wage'. We are already paying higher prices, thanks to Corporate high profits and overpaid executives...someone has to pay oil executives and their stockholders at the pump...or the big bonus earned by the Corporate executive that found another loophole to avoid paying US taxes. Increasing minimum wage will sorely affect the small business who must either hire fewer employees or increase costs of their service or product to the consumer. In order to reduce inflation, which we already see in the increased prices at the store, Corporations need to reduce executive pay & benefits and redistribute to employees, benefits, increasing production to create new living wage jobs. Don't add to the burden of increasing day to day costs to the middle wage earner with a minimum wage increase...make the 'top' decrease!

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