Transcript: Thom Hartmann: That giant sucking's the Oligarchs. 25 March '13

Thom Hartmann: And greetings my friends, patriots, lovers of democracy, truth and justice, believers in peace, freedom and the American way, Thom Hartmann here with you.

Oh what’s wrong with the economy? You know the oligarchs are sucking dry American’s middle and working class while the rest of us are left behind to feed off their crumbs. And this is, you know, Reaganomics 101, right? This is how it was designed. Remember David Stockman? If you’re old enough back in the 1980s going, “Well you know, it’s trickle-down economics, give the billionaires a lot of money and stuff will fall off the edge of the table, it will trickle down eventually." Reagan even quoted John Kennedy saying “A rising tide lifts all boats," as if he was creating a rising tide. What he was creating was a fountain of wealth, rather differently.

In any case, Paul Buchheit, I think I am pronouncing that right, B-U-C-H-H-E-I-T. He is a professor of economic inequality at DePaul University and he wrote this brilliant piece that you can see at Alternet right now. Laying out how large and outrageous is the wealth gap between the oligarchs, and let’s just call them that, oligarchs, and the rest of America has become. I mean for example, case in point, the Koch brothers. Both of the Koch brothers, David and Charles, saw their investments grow by a staggering six billion dollars each. Or excuse me, six billion dollars last year. Which means if you do the math, no six billion each. So if you do that math they each made about 3 million dollars an hour and that’s assuming a 40 hour work week. Gee, I would love a 40 hour work week. I think all of us would love to work a 40 hour work week. I don’t think there’s anybody on this show who works less than a 50 hour. It’s like oh yeah, this is half work half mission. But in any case, a 40 hour work week, they’re making three million dollars an hour, and Buchheit compares that, actually I wouldn’t’ want to work a 40 hour work week. I enjoy what I am doing. I am not complaining. But in any case, but I am not making three million dollars an hour and neither are most Americans, and that’s the point that I am pointing out. In fact restaurant servers, on average, make $2.13 an hour. So the Koch brothers make a million times more per hour than a restaurant server. Now can we really genuinely look at each other in this country and say that guy, his brilliance, his importance, his, the quality that he brings to society is so great that it’s a million times better than the guy who is serving him his food? Can we really say that? I mean we have not, we have never said that before in the United States.

And that only begins to paint a picture of wealth inequality in the United States. On any given day in the winter of 2012, last year, last winter, the best estimate is that around 630 thousand, 633 thousand homeless Americans were on the streets. During the winter. Okay? Buchheit did the math and he says okay at SRO, single room occupancy, you know this is the, arguably the most expensive way to house the homeless, instead of putting them in giant warehouse buildings, but you know, single room occupancy hotels, they run around $558 a month. If you took the ten richest Americans and just ask one of them, not to give up a penny of his wealth or her wealth, the Walton family is in there. Not to give up a penny of their wealth but just to take a year’s worth of income, in other words, just take a pause on your income for one year. Do like Lee Iacocca did when he took over Chrysler. Take a one dollar paycheck for the year. Do like Steve Jobs did when he took over Apple. Take a one dollar paycheck. The money that that person earns is enough income to pay for a room in a single room occupancy hotel for every homeless person in the United States, not just for that winter but for the entire year. One rich person, not even sacrificing one penny of their multibillion dollar wealth, just setting aside a year’s income, could end all homeless in America. I mean if that’s not mind boggling enough, the total combined wealth of these ten wealthiest Americans is more than the entire U.S. federal housing budget. Even if all ten of them were to give up a year’s income, they’d still be mind bogglingly rich. Right? They’d never even notice it. Well they might notice it, depending on how much they obsess on their wealth.

According to a survey by the U.S. Conference of Marriage nearly 20% of the homeless population in America is Hispanic, and that number is growing every day. In fact, for every single dollar of assets the single black or Hispanic woman has, a member of the Forbes 400 has over 40 million dollars. So Buchheit said, oh let’s throw that into context, let’s make that real for people, what does that mean? What it means is that for every can of soup, $1 can of soup, some soup is more expensive than that. For every can of soup owned by a single black or Hispanic woman, one of our wealthiest Americans owns a 30 million dollar mansion and a ten million dollar yacht. Ten million is a hell of a lot of yacht, by the way. 30 million is a hell of a lot of mansion. As of 2009 which is the latest we’ve got numbers for, the poorest 47% of Americans, how much wealth did they have? The poorest 47%? Now keep in mind before Reagan the poorest 47, the bottom 47% had 2 and 1/2 % of America’s wealth. Now that ain’t much, but hey, it’s 2 and ½ %! How much do they have now? Zero. It’s actually negative. They actually owe more than they own.

The nation’s wealth is now instead in the hands of the wealthiest Americans, the Oligarchs, I mean right now the 400 wealthiest Americans own as much wealth as 62% of our nation. 400 rich people, 62% of our nation. Which is why we have the fourth highest level of wealth inequality in the world. So how did these guys get so rich? How did they get all that money that, you know, for every Hispanic woman who has a can of soup there’s a rich guy who’s got a mansion and a yacht, 40 million dollars worth? In part it’s high levels of financial secrecy in the United States. The tax justice networks financial secrecy index highlights places around the world, Cyprus, that provide the safest havens for tax refugees. Otherwise known as millionaires and billionaires who don’t want to pay their fair share. And not surprisingly the United States ranks 5th in the 2011 financial secrecy index behind Switzerland, Cayman Islands, Luxembourg and Hong Kong. In other words, there’s millions of Americans who are struggling to survive, the wealthiest Americans, our oligarchs, let’s just call them that, are accumulating vast sums of wealth without anyone saying a word or raising a finger. I mean just look at Mitt Romney. During the campaign of 2012, there’s this huge battle over, “yeah shouldn’t we know how much money Mitt Romney has?" See I think he has over a billion. All of his peers do. He did disclose some information about his assets but we know he has got off, he’s got piles of offshore money. Bottom line is that the outrageous levels of wealth inequality in America have been driven in large part by our society’s coddling of, and our media’s willful ignorance toward out oligarchs. It’s time for us to say enough already. Reaganomics has been a failure, all it has done is make the rich richer. As Elizabeth Warren pointed out if wages kept up with productivity, the minimum wage right now would be $22. It’s time to start calling our oligarchs what they are.


Thom Hartmann: 20 minutes past the hour, yeah let’s just call the oligarchs what they are, oligarchs. And let’s roll back the Reagan tax cuts and say okay let’s do something about this. I mean it’s really pretty incredible. Business Insider has a great piece, this was published back in June of last year. Henry Blodget, B-L-O-D-G-E-T, on June 12, 2012. It’s titled “The Most Important Story in America: Family Net Worth Collapses 40% in 3 Years." And it is the most important story in America.

And he goes through all the different graphs and charts which I can’t show you on the radio, so, but net net, corporate profits are at an all-time high. The wealth of the top 1% is at an all-time high. Wages for people is at an all-time low. Family income has just barely kept up but that means two people working instead of one, before Reaganomics. CEO pay has exploded. Average hourly earnings adjusted for inflation, you go back to 1964 to 2008, they reached a peak in the last year of the Jonson administration, 1972. No that would have been the last year of the first Nixon administration, of $20, that was average hourly earnings. Right now, $18.52. Actually that was 2008, it’s lower than that now. I’m surprised frankly it’s that high. Oh well that’s because it’s average. That includes people making piles of money. Meanwhile CEOs and shareholders have been cashing in. Wages as a percentage of the economy have dropped to an all-time low from .53% in 1970 to .44% now. The top 1% share of pre-tax income was just before the crash, 1928, it was at 25%. And then in the ‘70s, you know before Reaganomics, it was down around 8.9%. Guess where it is now? This is the top 1%, all the money made in America, the part that they get, the 1%. It was at 8% before Reagan came into office. Now it’s at 23 and ½ %. You wonder where your paycheck has gone? You wonder where your standard of living has gone? Talk to somebody who is making a half million, a million, two million, five million. Talk to the over 100 executives at United Healthcare making a million dollars a year or the CEO who has made a billion. And then you look at the United States and other countries and you see that our, the top 1/10 of 1% share of income, it’s off the chart. We beat Japan, the UK, France, we beat everybody.

And by the way it wasn’t always this way. If you look at the era from 1917, you know more or less the end of World War I, until 1981, the beginning, the year that Ronald Reagan was sworn into office. At the bottom 90% of wage earners. So basically three, four generations of Americans, a good solid three generations, 1920 to 1980, yeah that’s three generations. 60 years. It’s actually a 63 year period, but 60 years. Three generations. Bottom 90% of wage earners, the vast majority of wage earners, 90% of all wage earners, made 69% of all wages. Right? So 90% of us made 2/3 of all the money in the country. That sounds not unreasonable. Including, because included in that bottom 90% is the bottom 10%, 20% people who are making very, very little, and I’m not saying it should be that way, but it is. And the top 10% got 31% of the wages. Alright, 69 plus 31 is 100. So from 1917 until 1981.

Then you take 1981 to now, Reaganomics, how has Reaganomics worked out? Keep in mind, bottom 90% of us used to make 69% of all income in the United States. Now the bottom 9% of us make 4% of all income in the United States. Excuse me, these are income gains. Let me include the word gains. So as income goes up. So from 1917 to 1981, all increases in income, all income gains, 69% of all income gains went to the bottom 90%, to 90% of us. Now 90% of us get 4% of the income gains, the top 10% get 96% of the income gains. And by the way, in the last couple of years all of the wage gains have gone to the top 1%, and the bottom 99% have actually seen their wages slide. Wage gains have become negative. Net worth has become negative. In fact just consider income inequality. This is from the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA. They compiled this, the CIA fact book, you can look this stuff up. Again this is over at Blodgett’s blog on Business Insider. Here’s the United States, countries that have a better income inequality than we do, in other words there’s fewer rich and fewer poor, more middle class. Iran, Russia, China, Israel, Japan, now these are 2010 figures, this is the last year that the CIA had them. Israel, Japan, India, Egypt. And then you get the more equal countries, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, France, and as we go through this list it’s getting better and better and better in terms of income inequality. France, Canada, Italy, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Norway, and Sweden with the lowest income inequality in the world. And who doesn’t love Sweden? Well of course the conservatives don’t. Ha! Oh man.

So what do we do about it? Well like I said, roll back Reaganomics. This is a, what you’re looking at here, is a 30 year, 32 year experiment. You know, we tried this in the ‘20s, we tried it again. It didn’t work out so well in the ’20 sand it’s not working out so well again. This is not rocket science. Roll back Reaganomics, roll back the Reagan tax cuts.

Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.

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