When Rev. Al Sharpton attempted to get Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) to truthfully examine fairness in our tax code in a heated exchange on his MSNBC show, Politics Nation, he clumsily dodged the issue at each opportunity.
Building on President Barack Obama's State of the Union references to billionaire Warren Buffett's secretary paying taxes at a higher rate than the business magnate, Sharpton asked Huelskamp a simple yes or no question:
"Is it fair that billionaires pay a lower tax rate than their own secretaries?"
Huelskamp refused to answer the direct question; instead, he countered that the mere supposition that the tax rate is unfair is false:
"Well they actually don't, according to the IRS," Huelskamp said.
Sharpton, refusing to be deterred, insisted that Huelskamp assume that the facts, are indeed, correct, and answer the question:
"On the basis of the report -- if the report is inaccurate, fine, you stipulate that -- I'm asking you, is it fair? Is the arrangement fair, in your opinion?" he asked.
"Well the arrangement is not the fact. The fact is 2 million Americans are out of work today because of the President's policies."
Though the same tired tactics of blaming Obama for the political sins of his predecessor, George W. Bush, is as transparent as racism within the Tea Party, the real reason that the Grand Ole' Party refuses to address the concept of fairness is because they are painfully aware that the corporate elite in this country -- those fortunate enough to skew policies and tax rates in their favor -- are in fact, getting rich off of the suffering of the working class.
A prime example of this blatant theft of wealth, is the Koch Brothers. Forbes Magazine reports that Charles and David Koch increased their wealth by 43 percent -- an estimated joint increase to $50 billion dollars. How did they manage to accomplish this Herculean feat while the vast majority of Americans experienced a steep decline in wealth?
Think Progress uncovered the manipulative means by which they preyed on oil speculation to drive their wealth upwards:
"Like many oil companies, Koch uses legitimate hedging products to create price stability. However, the documents reveal that Koch is also participating in the unregulated derivatives markets as a financial player, buying and selling speculative products that are increasingly contributing to the skyrocketing price of oil. Excessive energy speculation today is at its highest levels ever, and even Goldman Sachs now admits that at least $27 of the price of crude oil is a result from reckless speculation rather than market fundamentals of supply and demand."
What does this mean for the average American working overtime to make sure that they have an extra $20 dollars to fill the tank at the end of the week?
Each and every time we go to the pump, billionaires are getting richer, while the poor gets poorer.
According to Yahoo Finance, the nation's wealthiest are worth a combined $1.53 trillion, nearly equivalent to the GDP of our neighbor Canada.
With an estimated 20 percent of children living in poverty, companies laying off workers while increasing productivity and "the global economy" ensuring that American workers are competing with worker in China and Cambodia who makes cents on the hour, conservatives, such as Huelskamp, who are bought and paid for by these corporate bloodsuckers, refuse to answer a simple question about fairness.
Tragically, in the midst of this class struggle, the one segment of the population that continues to be ignored in hopes that their warranted criticism will vanish, is the African-American community.
The Pew Research Center reports that the beating that the Black community experienced at the height of the recession, continues to have far-reaching ramifications:
"From 2005 to 2009, inflation-adjusted median wealth fell by 66% among Hispanic households and 53% among black households, compared with just 16% among white households. As a result of these declines, the typical black household had just $5,677 in wealth (assets minus debts) in 2009; the typical Hispanic household had $6,325 in wealth; and the typical white household had $113,149. Moreover, about a third of black (35%) and Hispanic (31%) households had zero or negative net worth in 2009, compared with 15% of white households."
During her investigation into the wealth -- or lack thereof -- in the African-American community, CNN's Soledad O'Brien spoke with Rev. Soaries of First Baptist Church in Lincoln, New Jersey, who made the sharp comparison that "debt is slavery":
"When I'm paying last month's bills with next month's check; that's slavery. When I 'm writing a check hoping that it doesn't bounce, or when I pull out my credit card praying that it's not rejected, then I'm living in financial bondage."
Though corporations -- and the wealthy Republican who love them -- are clearly the benefactors in this unfair race to the top, President Obama is not exempt from criticism.
Though he mentioned financial regulation, homeowners, Latinos/Hispanic community, education, out-sourcing, banks and Wall Street, in his third State of the Union address, there was still no mention of the African-American community's unemployment rate standing at a stark 15.8 percent, the highest its been in 27 years and nearly double the national average.
Fairness does not just extend to the tax rate; it encompasses the entire elitist structure of our financial system. A system that profited immensely from the blood, sweat and tears of slave labor, while refusing to make good on the loan of our livelihoods and collective economic value. A system, that according to Harpers magazine (November 2000) stole an estimated $100 trillion dollars for 222,505,049 hours of forced labor between 1619 and 1865 with compounded interest of 6 percent. A system that heavily relies on what many consider to be Dixiecratic handouts, vilifying those who are forced to accept them, while simultaneously, condescendingly stating that, "Rising tides lift all boats."
Newsflash: If the boats have historical, psychological and economic holes blown through them by Jim Crow and Uncle Sam, rising tides without life rafts do nothing but drown us deeper into debt.
When Rev. Sharpton called Huelskamp on his refusal to discuss fairness, he had this to say:
"Fairness is not the end result, it's the opportunity. And everybody in America today has the opportunity to get ahead."
Sharpton replied with the confidence of a man who has his opponent backed into a corner:
"I think you're absolutely right and I think the only way we're going to get ahead is we at least have to agree on fairness."
You're absolutely right, Reverend Sharpton; and, regardless of party affiliation, that seems to be a term that the United States government -- with it's corporate bailouts, clandestine affair with Big Bank and, yes, unfair tax system -- refuse to comprehend.
I'm quite sure that Warren Buffett's secretary would agree.
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