Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cable TV Giant Tried before Supreme Court

February 23, 2013 - Washington D.C. (AP) Last Friday afternoon a little known, and much less publicized, milestone event took place behind closed doors at the U.S. Supreme Court, while most of America had their attention diverted on the upcoming "sequester" cuts in government spending.

Bud Meyers, a long time advocate for the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed and the middle-class, had stood before the highest court of the land, to argue a case on behalf of millions of disenfranchised Americans regarding income inequality, political corruption, excessive wealth, corporate greed, tax evasion, healthcare fraud and anti-labor business practices.

This proceeding, and the Chief Justices' ultimate landmark decision on Wage Workers of the United States vs. Cablevision et al Corporate Others is expected to be one the most important cases ever heard by the Supreme Court in over 100 years, not since Standard Oil was broken up in 1911.

TV cameras were not allowed in the court, but Bud Meyers is expected to give an exclusive interview on this historic event to an as-of-yet unnamed major cable news station later this month.

As of this press release, Mister Meyers is on his way home to Las Vegas, Nevada --- where he has lived since 1989.


"Honorable Justices, members of Congress, and the American people --- thank you all for allowing me to present The People's case. Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court:

In August of 2011 CBS published a story reporting that twenty-five of the nation's highest-paid CEOs took home more pay than their companies shelled out in corporate income taxes, even though their companies earned an average of $1.9 billion, according to a study cited by the Institute for Policy Studies.

The IPS noted that 18 of these "hyperactive tax-dodging" corporations operate subsidiaries in offshore tax havens, such as Bermuda, Singapore and Luxembourg. They've also hired aggressive lobbyists to argue for special tax breaks.

There's a building in the Cayman Islands called the Ugland House of Grand Cayman Island. Inside, there is the office of the law firm Maples and Calder, which currently houses 18,000 shell corporations for the benefit of tax shelters. There was legislation regarding these tax havens that was recently introduced to Congress by Senator Bernie Sanders earlier this month.

#16 on the list in the CBS report was my ex-boss, Steve Wynn of the Wynn Resorts casino in Las Vegas. His company paid ZERO in federal income taxes and had 16 subsidiaries in tax havens.

Today I received an email for a petition on behalf of a 44-year-old woman named La'kesia Johnson. She and 21 other co-workers were just illegally fired for trying to unionize with the Communications Workers of America at Cablevision/Optimum. They were locked out last month on January 30th. (Full story here)

La'kesia wrote in her petition," I've worked as a Cablevision/Optimum technician for more than 6 years. A year ago, my co-workers and I voted to form a union, so we could have a voice on the job. The company said they had an 'open door' policy, but when we wanted to talk with them, they told us they were too busy. Later they fired 22 of us, then told us we were permanently replaced. I have two children, Alexis and Rayshawn, one of whom has needed serious medical care, which has left us with a stack of bills."

But La'kesia is lucky, because she doesn't live in North Carolina. Mister Jason Saine had received unemployment benefits for more than a year before he finally landed a job --- as a Republican state legislator in North Carolina. Then after he was seated, he joined with his fellow Republicans in supporting a bill that slashed unemployment insurance. Because of outsourcing and H-B1 VISAS, how are these people expected to survive without jobs?

#22 on the list in the CBS report was the CEO James Dolan, whose family controls Cablevision, and whose federal income tax was a negative $3 million. Jim Dolan is also the executive chairman of Madison Square Garden, whose assets include the NBA's New York Knicks and Radio City Music Hall. Dolan had a 6-year average compensation of $16.43 million a year.

Last year Cablevision was approved for a $37.5 million tax break for staying in Newark New Jersey to save 574 jobs with an average salary of $37,000. But 50% of the American workforce earns $28,000 or less a year. These wages, not even with the proposed $9.00 an hour minimum wage bill, can not sustain this economy. Are American workers' labor now only worth the price of a latte at Starbucks?

Recently another giant cable company, Charter Communications, has just struck a deal to acquire Cablevision's Optimum West holdings in four Western states for $1.6 billion --- in cash. Just who's economy is supposed to be doing bad, theirs or ours?

In 2007 the Dolan family, for $10.6 billion, had once attempted to take Cablevision private, but it's shareholders would not agree to the sale. Cablevision's stock trades under the ticker symbol CVC on the New York Stock Exchange and its current market cap is almost $4 billion. Just who exactly has been making this "shared sacrifice" that the American people have been hearing so much about? (* SEC filings and reports are here)

Also --- I sure hope La'kesia Johnson, the former Cablevision employee who was illegally fired, won't need to rely on ObamaCare® for her daughter's continued medical treatment, because the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan will soon stop taking new applications; and also, because La'kesia is now unemployed, I sure hope Medicaid and TANF and food stamps and unemployment insurance benefits are not also included in the upcoming sequester cuts.

And especially so if she or her daughter ever needs to make a hospital visit.

CNN and Time magazine investigated hospital billing and found a family that was charged hundreds of thousands of dollars. Hospitals are charging us $12 for those little paper pill cups and paying their hospital CEO's over $9 million a year. People who are fully insured, or those on Medicare, have their medical costs negotiated, and even though there is fraud in billing to the government, at least those patients aren't being bilked to death, at least, not like those who are either under-insured or can not afford any health insurance at all.

We now spend 20 percent of our GDP—an estimated $2.8 trillion — on health care every year. And we know the real reasons why, don't we? A special report on why our medical bills are so expensive can be found in a paper I wrote called "Fraud, Greed & Profits Drives Healthcare Costs".

The Center for Public Integrity also wrote an investigative series called “Cracking the Codes”, which found that thousands of medical professionals have steadily billed higher rates for treating seniors on Medicare over the last decade — adding $11 billion or more to their fees. The investigation suggested that Medicare billing errors and abuses are worsening as doctors and hospitals switch to electronic health records. (Read more...)

But just like with tax evasion, and hiring more auditors at the IRS to catch tax cheats, the Republicans had cut the IRS budget (saying that with lower taxes, there will be less tax evasion) --- just as the GOP would rather cut benefits to seniors on Medicare (or raise their premiums), rather than hiring more people to investigate fraud in the healthcare industry. Is that the permanent status quo between Congress and the top 1%?

The CEOs of these hospitals (as well as Big Pharma, the insurance companies, and other related providers in the healthcare industry), besides earning these huge salaries year after year after year --- they are also paying a much lower tax rate than the rest us do in the form of "capital gains taxes" --- by receiving stock options in company stock as a part of their annual compensation packages --- just like those cited in the CBS story, such as Steve Wynn of Wynn Resorts and James Dolan of Cablevision

Just as Senator Elizabeth Warren had said, the whole system is rigged from the top down.

A new study performed by Thomas Hungerford of the non-partisan Congressional Research Service noted that 71% of all capital gains went to those in the top 1% (e.g. James Dolan of Cablevision) --- and notes that historically low capital gains tax rates are by far the largest contributor to America's historically high income inequality. And the top 1% has enjoyed this special tax since 1921. Why are they so special? What makes them feel so ENTITLED to these special tax breaks when 46 million Americans need to rely on food stamps to eat.

What we've been seeing for at least the past two decades, some like myself say, for the past 40 years, is this: these very wealthy and politically connected CEOs have lobbied congress to pay less (or nothing at all) in corporate taxes, while at the same time, denying fair wages, healthcare benefits, and job security to their own employees --- just average hard-working Americans who, through no fault of their own, were being systematically pillaged while trying to care for themselves and their families

Our "captains of industry" and "pillars of the community" were doing this while also enjoying special tax breaks on their own executive salaries, and while the healthcare providers had been ripping off poor, sick and under-insured families --- while also engaging in Medicare and billing fraud.

They were engaged in these nefarious activates, all at the expense of the American taxpayers, who ultimately, in one form or another, have had to make up the difference in their taxes --- because, thanks to Congress, these CEOs and corporations were not legally obligated to pay "fair" taxes themselves --- even while the less wealthy and politically connected Americans have been suffering the most --- and being forced to live with the bulk of any cuts to government spending. It's always those cuts that most affects us the most --- the poor and middle-class.

We need tax revenues, but the Republicans like Senator John Boehner have always been falsely claiming that "We don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem" --- and say that "now, in a bad economy, is not a good time to raise taxes". But they always say NEVER is a good time to raise taxes on the very wealthy. And they always claim that "government doesn't create jobs, the private sector does", but government has always been the largest job creator ever since World War II. Walmart and McDonalds are the next largest job creators.

In closing, I'd like to finish with this:

What has the ultra-rich ever sacrificed in the last 100 years? In time of war, they dodge the draft. In time of financial need, they dodge taxes. For too long they have been dodging their moral and patriotic duties to this country, to us, the people of the United States of America. I beg the court for redress.

"You must find them all guilty on all counts --- and they all must be made to pay! Thank you very much your honors. I rest The People's case."


--- media frenzy --- applause --- cheers and whistles --- standing ovation --- pats on back --- handshakes --- camera flashes --- church bells in the distance --- young mothers with babies break into tears --- ticker tape parade upon exiting the courthouse --- the U.S. Marine Corps Band plays Star and Stripes Forever --- TV helicopters overhead --- a small child offers flowers --- a phone call of congratulations to Bud Meyers from President Obama ---

* Note to the Republicans members of Congress who don't realize parody or satire: A full disclaimer is applied to this post, which was posted on behalf of Bud Meyers, and can be found here.

** Also posted at the Daily Kos

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