France's newly elected Socialist President Francois Hollande has vowed to impose a 75% tax on anyone's income above a million Euros equivalent to $1.24 million. Clearly there is growing concern among the upper echelons of the France's business class as Hollande presses forward his 'manifesto of patriotism' to 'pay extra tax to get the country back on its feet again' ("Indigestion for 'les Riches," New York Times, August 8, 2012).
The political rationalization for Hollande's initiative is to provide political cover for the deep cuts that the government may need to make to France's extensive social and welfare programs.
Yet the motivating force can be ascribed to a far more destructive impulse imbued with the class animosity dating back to the Revolution. Significantly, Hollande has been quoted, "I don't like the rich." Voila!
And that goes to the root of Europe's visceral response to the growing backlash against the wealthy, be it to France's everyman's historically uncomfortable relationship to money and class distinctions, on to the cultural pervasiveness of that heavily laden German word "Neid," freely translated as 'envy.'
It has always stood in sharp contrast to one of America's great strengths and core to its culture of economic advancement and opportunity. The celebration of the self-made man. Here a Steve Jobs or a Bill Gates is both honored and regaled as having achieved the American dream, a dream that can be shared and dreamt by all Americans for themselves or their children. All of which really brings us to the heart of the issue, the growing backlash in this country against the wealthy.
In these United States, government agencies, peopled too frequently with those who are beholden to -- or revolving door alumni of -- the very industries they are meant to regulate, do their work braying about financial settlements they have achieved from a plethora of civil fraud actions. Left unsaid is that given the massive wealth of the companies involved, these settlements appear little more than a slap on the wrist.
The oversight agencies are seemingly unaware that their task is of a much higher order. Their mission is first and foremost to keep in place the intrinsic values of what has made America great. For the Justice Department, the SEC, the CFTC to achieve a moneyed civil settlement, paid out of the pockets of a company's shareholders does not make up for the universal outrage at company managements walking away, not only scot-free to loot again, but with their perverse bonuses based in measure on fraudulent earnings in tact, and without fear of claw back.
It is an issue that gnaws at the American sense of fair play. It has conveyed to Americans of all means and background that the playing field has become fundamentally corrupted, a playing field not always perfect, but good enough to be cherished and to be recognized as one of the key impulses to American greatness and achievement. That our system has descended into a maelstrom of crony capitalism that no longer speaks to the American dream nor can be counted upon to enhance America's destiny.
It is clear that the playing field has become fundamentally corrupted to the advantage of the purveyors of crony capitalism. That this is not the America that gave us the pride in the accomplishment of a Microsoft, a Google, an Apple, an Oracle, a Starbucks, an Estee Lauder, a DreamWorks, the list could go on for pages. That now even the extraordinary achievement of a Facebook can be brought to heel through the greed of its bankster-organized IPO costing investors billions of losses, to the benefit of those who were insiders. That it has become a system of special privilege and access. Those on the inside hold all the chips while Main Street goes down the drain.
Ironically, or perhaps propitiously on the very day the New York Times regaled us with the "Indigestion for les Riches" another article, "Fraud Cases Often Spare Individuals," focusing on "More civil penalties than ever but few criminal charges" raising the issue that while collections have supposedly been a boon to taxpayers, resurrecting questions about the paucity of indictments at companies getting the stiffest penalties. Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.), chairman of a subcommittee that oversees securities regulation, is quoted: "A lot of people on the Street are wondering how a corporation can commit serious violations of securities laws and yet no individuals seem to be involved and no individual responsibility was assessed."
If the rule of law is not applied equally, whereby a teenager harboring a pack of marijuana gets jail time while executives who cashed in millions peddling fraudulent financial instruments remain untrammeled, the very edifice of America begins to crumble.
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