Our political system in the United States is not as invincible as the Titanic was once thought to be. The union is well on its way to the depths of the ocean. 310,273,690 of us are falling into the icy waters, and whether you are Black, White, Asian, or Native American, we all face the same shock to our system. Still, many of us remain oblivious to the calamity. Hopefully our kids will survive in the lifeboats and begin America again, but for now, consider these facts your rude awakening to the state of our sinking nation:
• As a country, we import more than we export, which means we spend more than we produce.
• We seem more obsessed with celebrity addictions than with the growing number of Americans starving and homeless on our streets.
• We fight more about a woman's right to choose life for an unborn child than about a born child's right to a healthy environment.
• You don't need an MBA to understand that our tax system favors the rich and overtaxes the middle class and poor.
The math is simple: we are losing more than we are gaining. Why do we push our kids into pre-algebra and algebra in 5th and 6th grade, when we adults can't manage basic addition and subtraction?
We give out huge tax breaks to the wealthiest and most successful companies, while we continue to squeeze out more money from the average American. Let me give you a few examples: According Fortune Magazine, the 5 biggest U.S. corporations were Wal-Mart, Exxon, Chevron, GE and ConocoPhillips. How much income tax do these top companies pay?
http://www.forbes.com/2010/04/01/ge-exxon-walmart-business-washington-corporate-taxes_slide.html Here is an excerpt from that Forbes article: (Thank you, Forbes!)
Sales: $401 billion
Pretax income: $20.9 billion
Income taxes: $7.1 billion
Tax rate: 34.2%
$1.2 billion of Wal-Mart Stores' taxes are international.
No. 2: ExxonMobil
Sales: $311 billion
Pretax income: $37.3 billion
Income taxes: $17.6 billion
Tax rate: 47%
None of ExxonMobil's income taxes were paid in the U.S. In 2008 the company's income tax bill was $36 billion.
No. 3: Chevron
Sales: $172 billion
Pretax income: $18.5 billion
Income taxes: $8 billion
Tax rate: 43%
Chevron paid $19 billion income tax in 2008. Of this year's taxes, just $200 million were paid in the U.S.
4: General Electric
Sales: $157 billion
Pretax income: $10.3 billion
Income taxes: (-$1.1 billion)
Tax rate: N/A
GE's financial services unit, GE Capital, keeps the overall tax bill so low. Over the last two years, GE Capital has displayed an uncanny ability to lose lots of money in the U.S. and make lots of money overseas, where tax rates are lower.
Sales: $152 billion
Pretax income: $10 billion
Income taxes: 5.1 billion
Tax rate: 51%
ConocoPhillips paid 13 billion in taxes in 2008.
Of the top 5 major companies in the US, at least two do not pay a nickel in taxes. What's worse, you and I have to compensate for their breaks. Many of these companies have shelters in offshore accounts, tax situations, and schemes that would put you or me behind a set of clanking bars.
Are you sick to your stomach yet?
Now the question is, where does the blame rest? We can start in Washington with the three P's of the Potomac that steered us right into the iceberg.
POSTURING: Our representatives are so busy posturing that they are not dealing with the issues at hand. The message that comes from Washington distracts us instead of educating us about the problem and its solutions. It is "spun" with less than all of the facts and is sometimes misleading and often filled with outright lies.
POINTING FINGERS: My mother always told me not to point fingers. Apparently there is a generation of lawmakers that did not receive such good training from their mothers. "He did it!" "She did it!" "The dog did it!" We can't seem to find a middle ground anywhere. Unfortunately, while everyone is pointing fingers, nothing is getting done.
POLARIZING: Lastly, the media seems to revel in this polarization of politics, for better ratings, ratings, and more ratings. Let me be clear, I am not saying it's one party's fault. Frankly, the words "Republican" or "Democrat" have become the equivalent of the "F" word in our house.
When did the system completely and irreversibly fail to serve the needs of Americans? When did our representatives become so swallowed up in their own self-importance that arrogance became the norm? When did Americans become so complacent that we remain oblivious to our severely limited number of lifeboats?
According to CNN's calculations, in the last presidential election of 2008: http://articles.cnn.com/2008-11-06/politics/voter.turnout_1_voter-turnout-curtis-gans-absentee-ballots?_s=PM:POLITICS Roughly 40% of US registered voters did not go to the polls. So we the PEOPLE don't even vote. We don't stay informed and continue to place our faith in the press. We have to take some serious responsibility for the state of our country.
President John F. Kennedy's famous quote today would sound something like this: "Ask not what your country can do for you, just allow your representatives to loot and run rampant in Washington." Our representatives are the first class passengers on the sinking boat called America. They are still drinking champagne and listening to music because they have access to the life rafts. Not surprising. In the real life sinking of the Titanic, it was only in the first class cabin that more people survived than died.
Follow Michealene Cristini Risley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@mcrisley,@tape