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Occupy Wall Street: Taxes, Jobs, and Environment

By Melanie J. Martin - 10 Oct 2011 8:10:0 GMT
Occupy Wall Street: Taxes, Jobs, and Environment

Wall Street via Shutterstock

If you're convinced lower taxes for corporations and higher bonuses for CEOs will help people and the environment, read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. It's a crash course in what happens when corporations are left to their own devices.

Yes, the Occupy Wall Street movement is still developing its focus, but the basic point is hard to miss: The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans are profiting at the expense of the rest of us, and our environment. In fact, says sociology professor Dr. G. William Domhoff of the University of California at Santa Cruz, "both wealth and income are super-concentrated in the top 0.1%." The salaries of the top 0.1% average over $27 million, while 90% of the American people average roughly $31,000. 

The belief that higher corporate profits will somehow create jobs has proven itself a pipe dream. Wall Street profits rose 720% between 2007 and 2009 (yes, you're reading that correctly) while unemployment rose by 102%. Are we to believe that we just need to wait a few more years, and these jobs will magically appear? Furthermore, are we to accept that our environmental crisis will halt until corporations decide to take on that challenge at some unspecified point in the future?

Business Insider reported in February that the U.S. will lose $628.6 billion in corporate taxes over a five year period, due to tax loopholes. The U.S. may have a high tax rate, at 35 percent, but the reality is that large corporations often leverage their power to avoid paying. There are credits for producing at home. There are credits for operating abroad. Corporations can get a 20 percent tax credit for research and development that they would probably pursue anyway because it makes them more competitive.

Thirty-seven companies in the Standard & Poor Index, including Citigroup and AIG, earned more in tax credits than they actually paid, says Business Insider.

Meanwhile, the U.S. scrimps and saves by making funding cuts in areas like education, science, and the environment. Demonstrators hitting the streets in cities throughout the U.S. and the world know that without progress in these areas, our future is stark. Cleaning up our environment, working to make cleaner sources of energy more available, and upholding strong environmental regulations would all create jobs and strengthen our economy, many believe. This seems a far more logical solution than business as usual, which has proven itself no solution to rising poverty, unemployment, and environmental destruction.

In a recent slam against human rights and our environment, the House passed the TRAIN act, notorious for putting corporate rights before human and environmental rights. The TRAIN act, if passed by the Senate and upheld by the President (who has promised to veto it if necessary), would require the EPA to consider how its regulations affect corporations, putting corporate profits before the planet and the people. This is a blatant human rights offense, as 80 million people in the U.S. already live in places where air quality falls short of U.S. standards, causing lung problems, asthma, and other health conditions to skyrocket.

At the same time, the U.S. audits far more small companies than larger ones. As CNN Money reported in 2008, "The IRS recently made an inexplicable decision to increase audits of small companies while easing up on large firms. In fact, the smallest companies saw the taxman 41% more often in 2007 than in 2005."

The article continues, "Meanwhile, companies with more than $250 million in assets were almost 40% less likely to be audited than in previous years--even though an average audit hour of large firms earned the IRS about $7,500...while a similar hour directed at smaller companies turned up $474."

"I came up empty of any rational explanation," said the director of the study that revealed these figures, conducted by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, as quoted in the article.

But there is an explanation: The leaders entrusted with upholding our rights are instead profiting from helping wealthy corporations grow wealthier. Sadder yet, they've convinced portions of the 90 percent of Americans earning an average of roughly $31,000 to support them. The rallies taking place around the nation are a wakeup call to those of us who work and pay our taxes, or search desperately for some job, any job, even one far below our level of education and experience. We must stand up for our own rights and the future of our environment, because wealthy corporations and the politicians who support them certainly won't do so on their own.

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