Immigrants. Taking our jobs and public assistance. The cause of all our problems.
But it's not true. We're blaming people who are struggling day-by-day to survive on their own or support their families, while we applaud a system that allows a financial expert to make enough money to pay the salaries of 50,000 police officers.
Here are some facts:
The Census Bureau and the World Wealth Report 2010 both report increases for the top 5% of households even during the current recession.
Based on Internal Revenue Service figures, the richest 1% have TRIPLED their cut of America's income pie in one generation. In 1980 the richest 1% of America took one of every fifteen income dollars. Now they take THREE of every fifteen income dollars. That's a TRILLION extra dollars a year.
Some ultra-rich individuals, like hedge fund managers David Tepper and John Paulson, made $4 billion in a year (on most of which they paid only a 15% capital gains tax rate). This is enough to pay the salaries of every public school teacher in New York City.
But we blame the immigrants instead of the people taking unimaginable amounts of money from society.
Howard Zinn wrote about the petty thieves who go to jail for crimes averaging $1000 per offense, while sophisticated financial insiders get probation for swindling millions from the system. The only difference now is that it's "legal" to use financial trickery to divert funds from education and infrastructure to a few well-positioned money managers.
The way it's supposed to work, say the free-market tax-me-not supply-side trickle-down tea-party advocates, is that the rich will create jobs and stimulate the economy by investing in new production. But the richest 1%, who used to take $7 of every $100 of America's income, have increased that to $20 of every $100 in just one generation.
To put it another way, if the bottom 90% had shared in America's prosperity at a level consistent with 1980 incomes, the average middle-class family would be making $45,000 a year instead of $35,000.
And it's not just the rich individuals, but also the corporations that are taking money meant for jobs and public needs. Fareed Zakaria noted in Newsweek that the 500 largest non-financial companies are sitting on $1.8 trillion in uninvested cash.
Zinn said change will occur only through direct action by the people, as occurred in the 1960s and 1970s. The poor foreigner is not the enemy. It's the person or corporation who siphons money away from the rest of us while supporting our irrational fears through the media and the military.
Give us your tired, your poor.
Give us your manipulator of finances.