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Laughing Until It Hurts

With 99% of America standing up to them, the super-rich probably don't feel very funny right now. But they have a history of humorous statements, as demonstrated by Mitt Romney's reference to Occupy Wall Street as "class warfare." Yes, Mitt, class warfare has been waged since 1980, as almost all of America's new income has gone to the richest 1%, who have tripled their share, mainly through tax cuts and deregulation. If the average American family had just kept up with U.S. productivity, it would be making almost DOUBLE what it is now.

More conservative humor can be found in the statement "Don't tax the rich - they're job creators," which ignores the fact that the total unemployment/underemployment rate has increased from 15% to 30% in just five years while middle-class household wealth has dropped 36%.

Then there's the notion of downtrodden rich people. Someone making "$200,000 is not a rich person,"stated Barbara Lang, president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. "$500,000 is not a lot of money, particularly if there is no bonus," said James F. Reda, director of a compensation consulting firm. "In some parts of the country," $250K "is middle class," suggested CNN reporter Kiran Chetry.

While the rich are just getting by, the poor, according to some conservatives, are doing quite well. "What are they complaining about?" asked CNN's Carol Costello, citing a Heritage Foundation study that suggested poor Americans were reasonably comfortable. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) claimed that "The poor..need to share some of the responsibility." Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger got right to the point: the poor should just "suck it up and cope."


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Taxes, while usually not funny, bring out the best in corporate spokespeople. Like Anne Eisele of General Electric, which paid no taxes from 2008 to 2010: "G.E. is committed to acting with integrity in relation to our tax obligations...GE did not pay US federal taxes last year because we did not owe any." And Ken Cohen of Exxon Mobil, which paid 2% in taxes from 2008 to 2010: "Any claim we don't pay taxes is absurd...ExxonMobil is a leading U.S. taxpayer." And John Watson of Chevron, part of an industry with the lowest federal tax rate: "The oil and gas industry pays its fair share in taxes" And Paul Ryan on Boeing, which paid no U.S. taxes on over $4 billion of income in 2010: "Their tax rate is extremely high, far higher than their competitors.

Next is the Orwellian "war is peace" humor, as in the claim by Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney that tax cuts increase revenue and help to reduce the deficit. And the contention by Mackubin Thomas Owens of the Foreign Policy Research Institute that high gas prices cause low gas prices (because of the increased incentive to open up new drilling sites).

Finally, this writer's personal favorite, full-delusional humor. Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, assures us that "Everybody should be, frankly, happy...the financial system led us into the crisis and it will lead us out."

It's all so funny it hurts.

Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit

screen_shot_2017-01-23_at_8.39.57_am.pngPaul Buchheit is an advocate for social and economic justice, and the author of numerous papers on economic inequality and cognitive science. He was recently named one of 300 Living Peace and Justice Leaders and Models. He is the author of "Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income" (2017). Contact email: paul (at)

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