A Big Idea For America: End Socialism For The Rich

Since the 1980s, it has become increasingly clear that what America has done economically is perpetuate Socialism for the rich. Namely, we used our economic and tax policies to favor the rich at the expense of the middle class and the poor.

This has just about destroyed the middle-class and increased the population living in poverty. President Ronald Reagan and his ilk called it trickle down economics, but the problem is, nothing trickled down.
image of President Reagan explaining a chart(Image: Reagan pitching his Tax Reduction Legislation in 1981 – PD, courtesy of the Reagan Library, official government record)

Just one example: Since the meltdown of 2007, 95% of the wealth generated in America has gone to the top 1%. And that’s after we, the other 99%, bailed them out. To salt the wound further, the 1%ers then turned around and gave themselves bonuses.

Now that’s Socialism for the rich.

What could the average citizen recommend to remedy this “Robin Hood in reverse” situation and rebuild the middle class by lifting more poor people into it?

Let’s begin by re-instituting a truly progressive tax structure.

After all, we had one in place during the 1950’s and 60’s. Social progress requires investment, and progressive taxation sees to that by ensuring that those who benefit the most pay the most in taxes.

Let’s take those marginal rates back to where they were under Presidents JFK or even Eisenhower — and do so for some very sound economic reasons. High tax rates on the mega-rich make them keep their money in the game, or better put, in their businesses.
Image of Eisenhower and Kennedy(Image: Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy – PD, Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)

Under Eisenhower — a Republican — in 1952 the super rich had a 92% tax rate. 92% sounds like an awful lot, but from 1944 through 1963 the rate was over 90%. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxation_history_of_the_United_States).

The high tax rate on the rich, again, served a very good economic purpose that few economists talk about today.

They will quickly point out that after WWII America had to rebuild Europe and “Ike” had to and pay for the Interstate Highway System. These big, expensive tasks laid the foundation for the strong economic growth of the 1950s and 60s. That economic growth built the middle class.

But the biggest thing that high tax rate did to fuel America’s and the world’s economy was that it made the super rich re-invest in their businesses instead of stashing cash offshore, as is so much the rage today.

Remember, back then, if you took your profits out of the business you paid that 90% tax rate.
However, if you plowed that money back into your business, not only did you avoid the taxes, but your business expanded, more people were hired, more goods and services were purchased, and, as such, our market economy boomed and, again, the middle class was created.

That boom was all due to high tax rates on the rich.

Right now, the marginal tax rate on the rich is 39.6%. (Source: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/In-2015,-Various-Tax-Benefits-Increase-Due-to-Inflation-Adjustments)

And what are they doing with that historically low marginal tax rate? They are taking their profits out of their businesses, shipping them overseas or making the riskiest of investments — all done with the solid understanding that when things go bust, the average taxpayer will bail them out, after which these “rugged individualists” will give themselves bonuses and no one will go to jail.

Is there a better definition of Socialism for the rich? I’m afraid not.

Now, I am not against people becoming wealthy. I hope someday to have a little wealth myself. We don’t want to kill the incentive that some people have to be more powerful and better off.

But we had many rich people back in the pre-Reagan days, yet we also had a solid middle class because those rich people believed in the common good in America.

That common good, which benefits all, requires some sense of the greater good for the whole community, an idea that the privileged few appear to have forgotten.

To remind them of that grand idea and ensure the common good, let’s say we move the marginal tax rates on the uber rich up to at least 50%.

They will still be making a killing and living the good life, but after that first million or two, the effective tax rate should go up to 90%, whenever they take a profit, be it from income or capital gains. Rather than give that money to Uncle Sam, they will decide to reinvest in their business — but we need to make sure that reinvestment stays in the United States.

As history has shown, when they keep their money in America, paying workers well and creating real purchasing power, the whole economy thrives. At least that’s true if you really believe in market economies and not Socialism for the rich.

– Shawn

Shawn Casey O’Brien is the author of For The Love Of Long Shots…A Memoir on Democracy, available online at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, & IndieBound.

Why the Term "Poor People" Should Not Be Thought of as Political Dirty Words

You don’t need to be a political junkie or social worker to know that there has been a decades long war on the poor in America.

We understand that Republicans need to pander to their anti-government base when they propose to cut programs that benefit the poor, such as food stamps and housing assistance. This destruction of the social safety net and demonization of the poor allows them to deflect attention from the very real damage that their unnecessary tax cuts to the rich have done over the last fifteen years.

What is less understandable is why Democratswho should stand with the poorare afraid to even use the words poor people. They all talk about defending and expanding the middle class but you’ll find few politicians who will come out and say, I am running to protect and defend poor people, their families, and social welfare programs.

Occasionally they will refer to the 45 million Americans who live in poverty as low income or disadvantaged, but few will use the words “poor people.”

It wasn’t always like this. Remember the Poor People’s Campaign?

Image of Martin Luther King's Poor People's Campaign in 1968
Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign in 1968

Remember the “War on Poverty?

Image of President Lyndon Johnson enacting the
President Lyndon Johnson enacting the “War on Poverty” in 1964

No more. Few politicians even use the words the poor today.

This definitely wasn’t what our ancient Greek forefathers intended when they created the root democracy.” They specifically engineered it to protect poor people.

Back then the meaning of the words the demos meant the poor and the literal translation of the word democracy originally meant “the rule of the poor over the rich.”

Image of Cleisthenes, the father of Greek democracy
Cleisthenes, the father of Greek democracy (Attribution: http://www.ohiochannel.org/)

Strange as it may sound today, democracy was originally created to protect the poor from being exploited by the rich.

Those ancient creators of Western culture’s first democracy asked: What is the one thing poor people have in abundance?

The answer: their numbers.

And thus they created a system of governance which highlighted those numbers and the political principle that the majority rules. Not money or privilege, but, instead, the majority of the poor people who voted.

So what happened to give us today’s democracy, the one flooded with money and bent on benefiting the new oligarchs and their corporate sycophants who relentlessly push for “Socialism for the Rich”?

Blame the Athenians. They did the first spin-job of Western culture. After the first triumph of the poor, some slick-tongued ones came along and redefined the word demos” to mean the common people as opposed to the poor people.

As is true now, most common people were, in fact, poor people, but soon ancient democracy was “qualified” and that meant that the only people qualified to vote owned property.

American democracy has at times qualified the right to vote with poll and literacy taxes in the past.

Today, in most places you’re qualified to vote if you have simply registered — but increasingly people’s right to vote is challenged by Voter ID laws, and also in many cases people, especially poor people, just do not vote.

In light of the likely gains from getting out the vote, Democrats would be wise to start reminding America’s poor of the original intent of democracy and they should fight to expand the programs that protect all people and alleviate poverty.

In the process of explaining the why of democracy, candidates would give poor people a reason to vote for them, and this would help restore Western democracy to its original intent — to protect the poor from being exploited by the rich.

– Shawn

Shawn Casey O’Brien is the author of For The Love Of Long Shots…A Memoir on Democracy, available online at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, & IndieBound.

Bitter Tea

Bitter Tea – (originally published July 2012 by Disabled Citizens United)


Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and that the expansion of Medicaid – without duress – is a proper way to cover millions of low income Americans, some tea party backed Governors and legislatures are threatening to opt out of such an expansion.

Will the Governors actually forgo such Federal largess just to pander to a bunch of bitter tea partiers whose number one goal isn’t what is best for most Americans, but to undermine, humiliate and defeat a Democratic president?

A president who, in spite of GOP/Tea Party obstruction, managed to enact real and substantial healthcare reform.

Reform that now stands to give millions of low income Americans, many for the first time in their life, real healthcare protection — as well as take a lot of pressure off severely cash strapped state budgets.

Fancy that.

The truth is, before the tea party took over the GOP, these Governors, had they not had to pander to the tea baggers, would have welcomed such a beneficial expansion of Medicaid.

Now these Governors vilify it and say they won’t allow it in their state.

Really? With so many poor people, with so much healthcare coverage to gain, is that even politically viable?

We think not. As such, it is time for the Republican Party to collect what left of its senses, lay down its beastly teabags and get to work with the President and their Democratic colleagues to bring about real substantial healthcare reform that benefits all Americans, rich or poor alike.

This much is sure, if they don’t, they will be giving tens of millions of poor Americans a damn good reason to get registered and vote these obstructionists rascals out!

Denying millions healthcare coverage, at little to no cost to the state, amounts to political malpractice. And if the GOP follows through on its self-destructive threats to “opt out”, it’s quite conceivable that there will be an electoral blood-letting of epic proportions in 2012 and beyond.

Further, if Obama and the Democrats are smart they will make the case for the common sense expansion of Medicaid everywhere they go during the 2012 campaign.  And here’s the kicker, disabled voters, who understand the Medicaid program best, have the greatest ability to help them make that case — emphatically.  

Now is the time to enlighten your friends and families, particularly in those GOP-led states, as to what Medicaid has meant to you and how it has protected and promoted your good health over the years.

In the words of the old time Christian spiritual, this is our time “to testify!” And to testify in a way that helps others understand that Medicaid was good healthcare for us — and it will be good for them, if it is properly implemented.

This is the simple truth. Medicaid is much better than no healthcare coverage at all – which is all the GOP is offering.

That, and of course, a cup of very bitter tea.

Voter ID is legally redundant and thus unnecessary

[Originally posted by Shawn Casey O’Brien in January 2014]

It recently occurred to the former brain trust of Disabled Citizens United that all these new voter ID laws are not only an effort to suppress Democratic voters, but were legally redundant and, thus, unnecessary. 

Unnecessary because 49 of 50 states require new voters to fill out a voter registration form in order to vote.  A voter registration form which is signed under penalty of perjury, making it, in actuality, a voter registration “affidavit” i.e. a legal document with the full weight of the law behind it, and one that, if filled out fraudulently could land a person in jail for anywhere from one to ten years and fined anywhere from $500 in Kentucky, to $50,000 in Idaho, to a very costly $125,000 in Oregon.

Considering those stiff sentences and hefty fines, we wonder why anybody would even consider, much less put any false information on a voter registration form anywhere in the United States.

The fact that you sign your voter registration form under penalty of perjury and face such draconian punishment really lays the lie to the alleged need for Voter ID laws — practically anywhere in the U.S.

First, Federal law mandates that all new registrants must show some form of ID when registering to vote in a Federal election. That being so, why does anyone need to show any ID whatsoever, once they’ve been placed on the voter rolls of their state and after truthfully affirming — again, under penalty of perjury — that they are who, in fact, they are.   As we said, it is legally redundant and serves no other purpose then to set up obstacles for a variety of low-income, mostly Democratic voters, who, many times have neither the funds nor, the ability to travel to the appropriate government agency in order to procure proper ID.

The need to be registered in order to vote is a requirement in every state in the Union, except one. In other words, there is one state that actually has a reasonable need for voters with IDs.  That is the great state of North Dakota, where we were surprised to find, they don’t require their voters to register before voting.

The good people of N.D. abolished voter registration in 1951.

According to their Secretary of State’s website: “North Dakota’s lack of voter registration is rooted in its rural character and relatively small precincts” and “where election boards know the voters who come to the polls to vote on Election Day and can easily detect those who should not be voting in the precinct.”

Bully for them, they really are the one state that has a legitimate rationale for Voter ID. But they are the only one. Every other state’s Voter ID laws are unnecessary, as the vast majority of voters in ALL states fill out their voter registration form truthfully and accurately.

And thus, when these voters show up at their polling place, they should be allowed to vote without producing a photo ID.

Demanding such is just rank voter suppression.

Shawn Casey O’Brien is the author of For The Love Of Long Shots…A Memoir on Democracy. Available online at Barnes and Noble, Amazon & IndieBound.

Getting noticed by Amazon

Shawn’s book is now published!

It is available in many outlets; click the links on this site to the one of your preference.

We did have a little trouble being stocked by Amazon because the book is print on demand. They usually can get the books quickly, but there was a delay. Luckily, we have noticed that now Amazon has an inventory going, so hopefully this problem has gone away.

Of course, you may get the book through Barnes and Noble or Indiebound. There are choices. It is only our hope that you get the book quickly if and when you purchase it. We’d like to get noticed by Barnes and Noble and even Target and WalMart. We could use your help. People with disabilities especially can find inspiration in Shawn’s story. And anybody who reads it will want to get out and vote!

So, so far so good. As Shawn counsels in his book, you’ve got to start with the first steps.


The book is about to be published!

After the success of the Kickstarter campaign and a round of editing, the book is now ready to be published! Thanks to the early supporters. And please help us get out the word.



Barnes and Noble:


Skylight Books in Los Feliz (through Indiebound.org):