Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Multi-millionaire Bill O'Reilly thinks the Rich are too Poor

Or most likely, he just believes that the uber-rich are not rich enough, and therefore, need more tax breaks, not less...

Jay Bookman at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in response to Bill O'Reilly's outrageous Talking Points Commentary.

Before we examine Bill O'Reilly's bearing false witness again, let's take a quick assessment of cable TV news in general, and then see where Bill fits in to the scheme of things (pun intended) — or ... ... you can just skip to the rebuttal.

Via Journalism.Org: According to Pew Research, surveys of news consumption shows that local television remains the most popular way of accessing news — and that the nightly network newscasts draw far larger audiences than the prime-time cable news shows. But while the largest audiences tune into local and network broadcast news, it is national cable news that commands the most attention.

  • 71% view local television news
  • 65% view network newscasts
  • 38% view some cable news

But the cable viewers spend twice as much time than broadcast viewers do with local or network news — and the deeper level of viewer engagement with cable news may help to explain why cable television (despite a more limited audience) seems to have an outsized ability to influence the national debate and news agenda.

In prime time (when the audience is the largest) cable talk shows tend to hammer away at a somewhat narrow news agenda that magnifies the day’s more polarizing and ideological issues. Nielsen data make it clear that cable’s audience is "staying for a healthy helping of that content".

Also, significant portions of the Fox News and MSNBC audiences spend time watching both channels: 34% of those who watch the liberal MSNBC in their homes also tune in to the conservative Fox News Channel — and 28% of Fox News viewers also watch MSNBC. (Even larger proportions of Fox News and MSNBC viewers, roughly half, also spend time watching CNN, which tends to be more ideologically balanced in prime time.)

The three major cable TV news competitors differ somewhat in their viewership levels, with CNN reaching 20% of U.S. adults, Fox News reaching 18% and MSNBC reaching 14%. But yet, CNN consistently trails Fox News Channel in the rating wars [because Fox viewers are watching the Fox channel more often and for longer periods of time].

But emerging digital technology has changed news consumption choices, and local television has experienced viewership declines in the last several years, most acutely among young people. And there's also been significant declines in Americans’ reliance on newspaper and radio over time — 38% of Americans now access news online at home via a desktop or laptop computer. Some of the most popular news websites are affiliated with the three major cable news channels — CNN, Fox and MSNBC. (Nielsen did not measure those getting news at home from a smartphone or tablet device because they spend very small amounts of time on that task.)

Pew Research - Cable TV Ratings

Current cable TV news ratings (which doesn't include previous ratings for Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, etc):

  • CNN/HLN: 97.1 million
  • Fox News Channel: 94.7 million
  • MSNBC: 94.5 million
  • CNBC: 93.6 million
  • Fox Business: 79.9 million

Bill O'Reilly's show (The Factor) on the Fox News Channel is "the most watched cable TV news show" for that one hour time slot — but that may also be because it's heavily monitored by the left. smiley But, as CNN states at their website: "O'Reilly is the biggest star on cable news overall." Even though he was once getting some competition from Jon Stewart (whose viewers are younger, more intelligent and more affluent than O'Reilly's).

Last month, while discussing income inequality, Bill O’Reilly made the wild claim (text and video here): "Taxes are through the roof on affluent Americans and business profits; but for the rest of Americans, things are not so bad. How much more can the government take from the affluent without crashing the entire free market economy?”

Actually, at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jay Bookman points out in a response to O’Reilly’s rant that the “entire free market economy” did nearly crash in 2008 — and that was after a decade of tax cuts for America’s most affluent. Bookman offers a variety of additional facts to rebut O’Reilly — such as his claim about corporate taxes going “through the roof”. In 1989, corporate taxes amounted to 1.9 percent of GDP. Last year, a quarter-century later, corporate taxes still amounted to 1.9 percent of GDP.

But to really get at the utter fraudulence of Bill O’Reilly’s claims, we need to extend our historical frame of reference. At one time the top earners faced a federal income tax rate of 91 percent. Today the top marginal tax rate for "wages" is 39.6 percent, less than half of what the top rate used to be — and that was during the nation’s greatest period of middle-class prosperity (ever). But of course, we can always rely on right-wing publications like the Wall Street Journal (owned by the same person who owns Fox News) to say otherwise: The Fantasy of a 91% Top Income Tax Rate:

"The confiscatory top marginal rates of the 1950s were essentially symbolic—very few actually paid them. In reality the vast majority of top earners faced lower effective rates than they do today."

We can always expect publications such as the Wall Street Journal (and people like Stephen Moore at the Heritage Foundation, formerly of the Wall Street Journal) to make claims such as these whenever referring to personal income taxes, but yet, they will never admit to this when referring to corporate income taxes. As a percent of GDP, corporate taxes were once much higher as well (7.1% in 1945, 5.9% in 1952, 4% in 1960, 3.1% in 1970 and 2.6% in 1979). From Reuters, the three charts below via the St. Louis Federal Reserve showing 1) corporate taxes as a percentage of total profits, 2) corporate taxes as a percentage of GDP, and 3) corporate taxes as a percentage of pretax profits.

1) corporate taxes as a percentage of total profits, 2) corporate taxes as a percentage of GDP, and 3) corporate taxes as a percentage of pretax profits.

U.S. businesses made $1.8 trillion in after-tax profits last year. To date they have over $2.1 trillion in overseas profits stashed offshore. They are also currently paying historically low "effective tax rates"while many pay no tax at all, and may actually get a government subsidy.

And last year the U.S. merger-and-acquisitions market (in deals worth $1 billion or more) rose 43% from the year before. And last year American companies have spent nearly $1 trillion on stock buybacks and dividends. Not to mention, the stock markets are at all-time record highs. So if corporations and the very rich have been over-taxed, where did they find all that spare cash? And it's not as if they've been re-investing in America and hiring domestic workers and paying them living wages.

And again, the issue of capital gains is always ignored by the right-wing media and the Republicans. This is where the top 0.01% makes most of their money; so they aren't even taxed at the top marginal rate as regular wages are (and that's why Warren Buffett's secretary pays a higher tax rate).

The Wall Street Journal also says: "When Ronald Reagan finally lowered rates in the 1980s..." Actually, it wasn’t Ronnie, it was really Jimmy:

  • In 1979 Jimmy Carter (a Democrat) lowered the capital gains tax rate from 40% to 28%
  • Then in 1981 Ronald Reagan (a Republican) lowered the capital gains tax rate again from 28% to 20%; but later, before leaving office, he raised it back to 28% to help pay for his "Star Wars" program.
  • In 1998 Bill Clinton (a Democrat) lowered the capital gains tax rate from 28% to 20% (later in 2013 on a Sunday talk show he claimed he "regretted" doing that).
  • George W. Bush (a Republican) lowered the capital gains tax rate again in 2003 from 20% to 15%. This rate was set to expire at the end of 2010 and then go back to 20%
  • But in 2010 Obama (the “Socialist”) EXTENDED this 15% capital gains tax rate to benefit the very rich for 2 more years as a "compromise" with the GOP to extend federal unemployment benefits.

When this 15% tax rate was allowed to finally expire at the end of 2012 (as it was originally intended in 2010), Bill O'Reilly (the Fox News liar) accused Obama of raising taxes (including payroll taxes for wage earners). But all that Obama and Congress did was just to allow those temporary tax cuts to finally expire. The 3.8% surtax on capital gains was a provision of Obamacare that was passed by Congress in 2010 to help expand Medicaid to the states.

And capital gains (unlike regular wages) is still not taxed one penny for Social Security either. So when compared to a tax rate of 40% for capital gains in 1979, or a top marginal rate of 39.6% in 2015 for regular wages (that are taxed for FICA), a 23.8% capital gains tax rate today (for Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mitt Romney and the Walmart heirs) it's still a lot lower than what Warren’s secretary still has to pay on earnings from her regular wages.

According to a report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, in nearly every state, low- and middle-income families pay a bigger share of their income in state and local taxes than wealthy families. Patricia Cohen wrote in her very detailed and comprehensive article at the New York Times: "When it comes to the taxes closest to home, the less you earn, the harder you’re hit."

According to the study, in 2015 the poorest fifth of Americans will pay on average 10.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes, the middle fifth will pay 9.4 percent and the top 1 percent will average 5.4 percent. In Bill Gate's great State of Washington, the tax system is the most regressive — where the bottom 20 percent of taxpayers pay 16.8 percent of their income in taxes, while the top 1 percent pay just 2.4 percent.

Not to mention, when it comes to federal income tax, Bill Gate's capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than regular wages for people earning over $36,000 a year. Add to that, those wage earners also pay Social Security taxes on 100% of their earnings up to $118,500 (and 95% of all wage earners make less than this) — whereas, there is no Social Security taxes for billionaires, whose only income is usually from capital gains. And finally: billionaires pay cash for homes and other big-ticket items, so they don't have to pay annual interest on 30-year mortgages and 5-year auto loans.

But Bill O'Reilly and the Republicans think the rich aren't rich enough, and that they already pay too much in taxes — but, besides just paying a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than the poor, the rich get other goodies as well:

  • Washington Post: The rich get government handouts just like the poor — Here are 10 of them.
  • Washington Post: Elite private universities like Harvard and Princeton get from five to ten times more in taxpayer subsidies per student than do public colleges and universities. And these elite schools pay no taxes on their huge endowments ($35 billion for Harvard alone).
  • Bill Ackman (the billionaire hedge fund kingpin who built a fortune off low-wage labor at Burger King and privatizing prisons) is benefiting from a special real estate tax break that costs New York over $1 billion a year. Bill Ackman's penthouse cost $91.5 million — so he NEEDS a tax break.
  • Ice Cream kings Ben & Jerry say there are no good reasons for the "tax cut nutters in Congress [the GOP] to abolish the estate tax" for millionaires and billionaires.
  • But the rich control the politicians (those who write the tax code). In 1980 the top 0.01% donated 16% of all campaign contributions. In 2016 close to HALF the money in American politics might be coming from the the top 0.01% (A ratio of 1 rich person to every 6,000 registered voters).
  • And the rich are above the law. In its first four years, the new federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has forced financial services firms to return over $5 billion directly to consumers that they cheated. Yet not one of today’s top financial industry execs has so far been jailed.
  • On the latest Forbes list of the world’s billionaires, four heirs to the Walmart fortune — Christy Walton, Jim Walton, Alice Walton, and S. Robson Walton — occupy four of the top 12 slots with a combined fortune of $160.8 billion.

Bill O'Reilly and the GOP thinks they all (even Ben and Jerry) need MORE tax breaks, not less. Why? Because they're not rich enough? Maybe some people are too rich — and maybe some people shouldn't be rich at all.

And maybe Bill O'Reilly envies the Walton heirs and others who are much richer than him. The poor and middle-class don't envy the rich. Just the opposite — a lot of ordinary working folks admire and aspire to be more like them. It's usually rich people who feels envy towards someone much richer than they — the uber-rich. Did you every hear of yacht envy?

Bill O'Reilly and the GOP thinks that our billionaires need MORE tax breaks — because they're not rich and powerful enough. How much has this growing inequality cost average Americans? A NPR analyst ran the numbers earlier this year: If the United States today had the same distribution of income today as it did in 1979, average incomes of America’s middle 20 percent of families would be $8,700 a year higher today — and the average incomes of the nation’s top 1 percent would be $825,000 less.

But trying to convince all the non-believers at Fox News may be impossible: A study by an MIT researcher shows that any attempts to debunk political rumors with facts may only reinforce their strength. And so therefore, Bill O'Reilly (the uber-rich con artist) will most likely be free to continue selling his toxic snake oil to the ignorant and misinformed poor ... because he doesn't want HIS taxes to go up. And even though President Obama raised Bill O'Reilly's taxes (not), Bill still works at Fox News, even though he said he would quit his job if his taxes were ever increased.


1 comment:

  1. UPDATE ////////////////////// --------------------------

    Bruce Bartlett wrote an 18-page paper: How Fox News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics

    "The creation of Fox News in 1996 was an event of deep, yet unappreciated, political and historical importance. For the first time, there was a news source available virtually everywhere in the United States, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with a conservative tilt. Finally, conservatives did not have to seek out bits of news favorable to their point of view in liberal publications or in small magazines and newsletters. Like someone dying of thirst in the desert, conservatives drank heavily from the Fox waters. Soon, it became the dominant – and in many cases, virtually the only – major news source for millions of Americans. This has had profound political implications that are only starting to be appreciated. Indeed, it can almost be called self-brainwashing – many conservatives now refuse to even listen to any news or opinion not vetted through Fox, and to believe whatever appears on it as the gospel truth."

    The author behind the paper: Bruce Bartlett @ Wiki:

    The owner of Fox News: Rupert Murdoch @ Wiki