How hedge fund billionaires literally “check” the people’s will

Donnie Trump is for it, Barack Obama is too, as are Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.
“It” is the idea of finally ending a ridiculous tax loophole that was written by and for the richest, most pampered elites on Wall Street. An obscurely-titled “carried-interest” tax break allows billionaire hedge-fund hucksters to have their massive incomes taxed at a much lower rate than the one teachers, main street businesses, carpenters, and other modest-income people must pay.
This privileged treatment of money shufflers over people who do constructive work in our society adds to America’s widening chasm of inequality. It’s so unfair and unpopular that even Trump and Bush see that it has to go. So, it’s bye-bye loophole, right?
Ha – just kidding! Trump can mouth all he wants, but no animal hath such fury as a hedge-funder whose special tax boondoggle is threatened. Trump had barely gotten the word “unfair” out of his puffy lips before the tax-loophole profiteers deployed battalions of lobbyists, PR flacks, and front-group operatives out to defend their precious carried-interest provision. Just one group, with the arcane name of Private Equity Growth Capital Council, rushed a dozen Gucci-clad lobbyists to Capitol Hill to “inform” lawmakers about the virtues of coddling Wall Street elites with tax favors.
Of course, “informing” meant flashing their checkbooks at key members of Congress. After all, even the loudest blast of political talk is cheap – and it’s the silent sound of a pen writing out a campaign check that makes WashingtonWorld keep spinning in favor of the rich.
Sure enough, Rep. Paul Ryan, the new leader of the US House of Representatives, has assured the check writers that – the will of the people aside – he’ll not allow any effort to repeal the hedge-fund loophole to get out of committee.
“Defenders of Tax Break for Rich Rally to Defend It,” The New York Times, September 19, 2015.

Hijacking High Speed Rail hurts Americas future

People like trains. Whether taking a long trip or making the daily commute, riding the rails, without the hassles of airports and the tensions of driving, can be the most sensible and pleasurable way to get from here to there. Americans have been doing just that for 188 of the USA’s 226 years – on horse-pulled rail carriages in the 1830s; then going west on the steam-shrouded iron horse of the 1870s; next riding the Zephyr and other sleek streamliners of the 1930s; and today, taking the electric, high-speed Acelas running on some of Amtrak’s routes.
More than just another mode of transportation, trains have represented our people’s can-do spirit and our yearning to go beyond where we are. And though the 19th-century push to span the nation with rails came with huge human consequences – decimating native tribes and virtually enslaving many immigrant workers – the resulting system tied the country together and unified the economy.
A century later, however, our national passenger rail system is a wreck. Highway builders, auto lobbyists, and airline monopolists have hijacked America’s transportation policy. As a result, our mobility future has been clogged with their self-interest, blocking the rail-travel alternative. It’s shameful how our corporate and governmental masters of transportation have sidetracked what not so long ago was a world-leading, cross-country train system and reduced it to an underfunded hodgepodge that is an insult to the traveling public and wholly inadequate for a nation with pretensions of greatness.
Despite attempts to kill the notion of a national passenger rail system, trains are only getting more popular. The US High Speed Rail Association has a map of what a national rail system could look like. Check it out at

Why not televise the widening wealth gap?

The debilitating spread of inequality between the superrich 1-percenters and America’s downwardly mobile majority is of huge economic, political, and cultural significance to our country. So why is it largely ignored by the television media?
Meet David Zaslav, CEO of the Discovery Channel’s cable-TV empire. His salary last year was $3 million – but it was padded with an extra $6 million bonus, nearly $2 million in perks, and a neat $145 million in special stock gimmes, a total paycheck of $156 million. For one guy in one year. Zaslav is not just a 1-percenter, but a top 1-thousandth-of-the-1-percenters.
Les Moonves at CBS is up there, too, wallowing in the $54 million he was paid in 2014. In fact, of the 10 most lavishly-paid corporate chieftains last year, six are television barons, with Comcast, Disney, Time Warner, and Verizon joining the elite class. Someone should cast the whole bunch of them in a reality-TV show called, “The Wealth Gap Are Us!”
What genius do they have that warrants such extravagant pay? None. It’s simply that they are lucky hirelings of an exclusive club of wealth that owns and controls most television conglomerates. The billionaire media tycoon Sumner Redstone, for example, owns nearly 80 percent of the voting stock of both CBS and Viacom, so $50 million for Moonves is not a stretch for him, nor can other stockholders stop his excess. Likewise, only three billionaires control Discovery, and $156 million for Zaslav is nothing to them. Then there’s Comcast, which owns NBC and Universal Studios. It’s CEO, Brian Roberts, controls a third of the conglomerate’s stock – so he’s essentially able to set his own pay.
When so few people with such massive wealth control the media, the media is not likely to turn its public spotlight on the malefactions of great wealth.