Congress, taxes and greed

Dear Mr. Berko:

Why is President Barack Obama reducing the amount of our future Social Security income increases, and why is he limiting the amount of money we can invest in our individual retirement accounts and 401(k) programs?

I voted for Obama because I believed he represented justice, fairness, brotherhood and equality. But I didn't think he would make changes in my future Social Security income or the amount of money I can put in my retirement plan.

HD, Oklahoma City

Dear HD:

Justice! Fairness! Brotherhood! Equality! You're either an idealist or a fool.

Most folks know that Obama wants to change our Social Security incomes by messing with the consumer price index. But most folks don't know that Obama also intends to limit the amount of money Americans can invest in their IRAs, 401(k) accounts and Roth IRAs beginning next year.

Obama wants a lifetime cap on your tax-deferred retirement accounts, so he's proposing a limit on a worker's total balance in his combined accounts of $3.4 million. Though $3.4 million is a large number, it opens the door to lower limits in the future.

By limiting the tax-deductible monies in our retirement plans, Obama believes that the lower contributions and smaller retirement plan balances will increase tax revenues. And there's talk that he wants to make this retroactive -- or, as some say, radioactive.

This president is intent on spreading the wealth, and you know what? Sometimes I find myself agreeing with this guy. Now, before some of you get your dandruff up, please read on.

Thanks to 11,927 registered lobbyists and nearly 24,000 major political contributors, the share of income for the richest Americans has slightly more than tripled, while effective tax rates have declined by 50 percent, since 1980.

Show me a member of Congress who isn't financially well-off and I'll show you a congressperson who doesn't accept bundles of cash from lobbyists, who doesn't have consultancies with foreign corporations or governments, who hasn't steered government contracts to friends, family members or campaign contributors, and who doesn't have nominee bank accounts in Switzerland or the Cayman Islands.

Most Americans have little idea how thoroughly Congress, tens of thousands of lobbyists and major campaign contributors over the past 30 years have perverted our capitalist system and made peons of most Americans.

For illustrative purposes, let's make two assumptions: There are 300 million Americans, and the combined assets in America are worth $1, or 100 pennies. Do you know that 1 percent of Americans (3 million citizens) own 50 percent of the assets in America? That's 50 cents! Those are the very wealthy. Do you know that 13 percent of Americans (39 million people) own 49 percent of the assets in America? That's 49 cents! Those are the rich. The remaining 86 percent of Americans (the middle class has disappeared), or 258 million of us, own less than 1 percent of the assets in America. That's a single penny, or 1 cent -- not even enough to buy catfish food at a flea market.

Most folks continue to blame Obama for the sins of Congress, whose collective venality, corruption and greed exceed that of the Roman Senate by orders of magnitude. And as my dad liked to say, "it's time to swallow the bullet because the sword of Damocles is hanging over Pandora's box."

There are 258 million Americans who don't own a pot to spit in. Lower tax rates for the wealthy and lower corporate taxes don't create jobs. Today we have some of the lowest individual and corporate taxes in modern history. So one would think the economy would be drowning in "help wanted" ads as members of Congress want us to believe. But unemployment and underemployment are at record highs, and the assets owned by that 1 percent continue to grow.

And while your congressman is sucking at the teats of his campaign contributors, his lobbyists and corporate sponsors continue to benefit the 1 percent. Obama is trying to level the playing field for the 86 percent, but he won't succeed.


Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775 or e-mail him at Visit Creators Syndicate website at

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Published: Fri, May 31, 2013