Beinstein column: A merciful and compassionate public
To any sober person, the world has seemed upside-down for a long time.
Ordinary people have gone to jail or know somebody that has for a small infraction. And yet, virtually no bankers went to jail for all the damage they caused in the 2000s.
Any time a normal person gets a job at a company or shops at a store, they pay tax (at least in all states with a sales tax). Many corporations, on the other hand, employ all kinds of gimmicks to avoid their tax liability. They set up a dummy corporation in Ireland with its 12.5 percent corporate rate. After establishing a residence in Ireland, these same companies will then set up a separate company in a place like Bermuda, charge their Irish company licensing fees thereby avoiding taxes in Ireland, and pay no tax in Bermuda.
And, to cap it all off, these same companies will often borrow their Bermuda money from their American company at 0 percent interest, not pay the loan back, and essentially get the money back into America tax free.
The people themselves are the ones who have the greatest experience in navigating government programs like Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, and all the rest. And yet there are countless stories of politicians switching their votes on a key issue because of the objection of one billionaire donor.
Most people who run small businesses know there’s a day of reckoning if they take on too much risk or don’t sort out their finances. And yet the biggest banks can still gamble without consequence, knowing full well they’ll get bailed out again, because they are still too big to fail.
Aspiring professionals borrow heavily for college and graduate degrees that only seem to have the effect of leaving the borrower in even worse financial debt. And meanwhile, many of these institutions are run by people making six-figure salaries who often can’t even lose their job if they want to.
We spend a tremendous amount on defense with the goal of spreading freedom. And yet it’s hard for others to accept this banner of freedom when those in the Middle East see photos of torture, people in China don’t see many Chinese-Americans in prominent positions like that of the Supreme Court or being CEO of a major corporation, and Russians see an America that seems to care more about Saudi oil than Saudi people.
Many humble church goers leave small cash donations at their house of worship every week, prohibiting them from writing those donations off on their taxes as a “charitable donation” (small cash donations are prohibited as write-offs). Meanwhile, billionaires can often get away with inflating a piece of art they own, “donating” it to a museum, and taking a much bigger charitable donation on their taxes than what the value of their art really permits. And, in addition, they can “loan” their art to a museum they own, use that as a charitable deduction, and still own the art themselves.
The nation continues to slide into more and more debt without much to show for it. There’s no post-World War II victory to which we can point. For all of our health care spending, our results are often inferior to those of our European and Asian allies. And we’re not even close to the economic growth we experienced after the Civil War or during the 1960s. And countries like Finland and South Korea tend to do much better with education. So when interest rates rise, which will bring tremendous pain to everyone, we won’t even be able to look back at happier, more glorious days.
Most Americans admire those who work hard, innovate, and add value for the rest of us. And yet most of today’s economic winners bear no resemblance to a Henry Ford or Thomas Edison; their fortunes are often due to stock and real estate speculation or inheritance or creepy Silicon Valley spying. And these are the same people who seem to control our elections.
All of this resultant anger and anarchy make perfect sense. And it’d all probably slide into total violence and despair if America weren’t such a religious country.
But it is, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” And for everybody who has contributed to this mess, that is what they should be most grateful for, a merciful and religious public. It is what stands between them and total madness.
Alex Beinstein of Carbondale was a Republican primary congressional candidate in 2016 challenging Congressman Scott Tipton. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent.