A lot has happened since my last post. There have been five well-publicized suicides — one a generally admired public school teacher whose students’ test scores (published by the Los Angeles Times) were low, and four gay teenagers who were bullied and/or “outed.” These occurred in what we loosely refer to as “civilized society.”
But behind the headlines are other stories — if not as dramatic or tragic, at least discouraging, especially when placed in juxtaposition. Michael Hiltzik reports in the LA Times (10/3/10, page B1) that the pay of American corporate CEOs has risen from 24 times the pay of the average worker in 1965 to 411 times the pay of the average worker in 2005.
Careful Times readers (9/28/10, page B4) also learned that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed two bills intended to reduce corporate theft of wages earned by those average workers, which has been estimated in a recent UCLA study to amount to $26 million PER WEEK in Los Angeles County alone. The Governor claimed that these bills, one of which would have created a MISDEMEANOR crime for employers that willfully fail to pay wages due within 90 days, were unnecessary. (Why wouldn’t it have been a FELONY?)
So, will someone please explain to me how CEOs getting wealthy and average workers being cheated out of hard-earned wages is part of the American dream?
As a salaried employee, my earnings are subject to income tax withholding. I don’t have the opportunity to pay bills with money owed to the State of California and then tell the tax collectors that, oops, I already spent it. But guess what some businesses are doing — exactly that! According to the Times (9/28, page A1), businesses are NOT required to remit sales taxes collected from consumers immediately; they pay either monthly or quarterly.
Not only is that unfair because money invested can earn more money (and heaven knows the State of California needs it!) — but it also results in default if a business goes bankrupt (or claims to) before the taxes are paid. Especially egregious, apparently, are the auto dealerships.
One such dealership owes the State about $1.2 million but cannot pay because “the money was mixed in with the revenue from car sales and was not sequestered in a tax only account” (according to the Times). Of course, the dealers themselves defend the practice. According to the spokesman for their trade association, “if you shorten the time you have to remit sales taxes, that has a huge effect on the cash flow of dealers.” Wow, no kidding. Since it’s such a good deal, I think I’ll just take a little longer to pay my state income tax and purchase an extra package of hot dogs.
Finally, we find (LA Times, 9/30/10, page AA3) that three former LA County Sheriff deputies lost their jobs because they beat an inmate, fracturing his cheekbone and causing injuries to his rib cage and his ear. Are they in prison now — like a poor guy probably would be if he stole a loaf of bread to feed his family (maybe not on a first offense, but certainly if it were a “third strike”)? Nope. All three got probation — two of them “unsupervised” — which is apparently what they were when the incident occurred. And it would never have been discovered (or at least proven) had a fourth deputy not recanted his previous false testimony during a subsequent job interview.
OK, nobody promised Americans a rose garden. But I just don’t get the “…and justice for all” thing. It simply isn’t true. Not even close.