A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

‘Just the facts, ma’am’

Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., May 8, 9 or 10

The late James R. Schlesinger was a headstrong federal bureaucrat who served Republican and Democratic Presidents – Nixon, Ford and Carter – in various capacities: chair of the Atomic Energy Commission, CIA Director, Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Energy. Schlesinger, who died in March, is remembered for a 1973 comment during Congressional testimony: “You’re entitled to your own opinions. You’re not entitled to your own facts.”

Everyday folks may sometimes feel swamped with assertions derived from talk radio, Fox News, etc., that, upon closer examination, aren’t facts.

Here are a few factual statements and research that confirms their authenticity.

First, funding is falling for public schools and promised pensions as corporations have stopped paying taxes. Recently, three different studies – Citizens for Tax Justice’s “Corporate Tax Dodging in the Fifty States, 2008-2010,” the group Pay Up Now’s compilation of data from the federal Securities & Exchange Commission, “2011-12 State Taxes, Top-Earning Companies,” and the Center for Effective Government’s “Disappearing Corporate Tax Base” – all show that corporations pay less than half of their required state taxes, which are the main source of K-12 educational funding and a significant part of pension funding.

“The Disappearing Corporate Tax Base” found that the percentage of corporate profits paid as state income taxes has dropped from 7 percent in 1980 to about 3 percent today. Many companies also use loopholes unavailable to everyday taxpayers to escape their share of contributions to the federal treasury, too.

For corporations headquartered in Illinois, the “2011-12 State Taxes, Top-Earning Companies,” analysis of SEC records show: Allstate paid 0 on $4.2 billion in income from $52.6 billion in revenues; Archer Daniels Midland paid 0.6% of all corporate taxes on $4.7 billion in income from $169.7 billion in revenues; and Caterpillar 0.9% of all corporate taxes on $14.9 billion in income from $126 billion in revenues.

Also, Deere & Co. paid 2.9% of all corporate taxes on $8.9 billion in income from $68.1 billion in revenues; Exelon Corp. paid a -0.5% of all corporate taxes on $5.7 billion in income from $42.5 billion in revenues; and Walgreen Co. paid 3.5% of all corporate taxes on $7.6 billion in income from $143.8 billion in revenues.

Next, wealth in the United States is up $34 trillion since the 2008 start of the Great Recession, and 93 percent of Americans got almost none of it, according to an independent research organization and an international bank.

The Credit Suisse Group, a leading global financial services company, reports that U.S. wealth at the end of 2008 was $46.7 trillion, and at the end of 2011 was $60.0 trillion.

However, Pew Research reports that 93 percent of Americans during that post-Recession “recovery,” lost wealth, an average of $100,000 for every American. The people who already own most of the stocks took almost all of it. For them, the average gain was well over a million dollars – tax-free as long as they don’t cash it in.

Lastly, eight rich American individuals together made more income than what 3.6 million minimum-wage workers earned collectively, according to the national Low Income Housing Coalition’s recent report “Out of Reach 2014.”

It says that no full-time minimum wage worker in the country can afford a one-bedroom or two-bedroom rental at fair market rent. There are 3.6 million such workers, and their combined 2013 earnings are less than the 2013 stock-market gains of just eight Americans, all of whom take more than their share from society: the four Waltons, the two Kochs, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

So if you feel as if you’re working more and gaining less, do not tolerate a Dittohead or Sean “Cliven Bundy Fan No. 1” Hannity follower blame you.

The facts support your feeling that you’re not sharing in the wealth your productivity helps create.

As astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of TV’s “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” said – in some ways echoing Schlesinger’s remark – “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

[PICTURED: Chart from]

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