Railways owned by the mega-rich racked up huge penalties for mistreatment of workers in the years leading up to the current labor dispute.
From warmaking and tax avoidance to consumer gouging and environmental destruction, the candidates for 2015 Hypocrite of the Year truly earned their spot on this list.
By Paul Buchheit
There are so many candidates. But the people included here stand out in their various areas of nefarious behavior: warmaking, tax avoidance, consumer gouging, environmental destruction, and criminal arrogance.
1. Charles Koch: Fighting For Prison Reform (So He’ll Never Have To Go To Jail)
The “scariest man in America” appeared suddenly sympathetic to the plight of the disadvantaged, advocating for criminal justice reform. But the bill supported by the Koch-funded Heritage Foundation would make it more difficult to charge executives guilty of financial fraud, environmental damage, and other high-level crimes. It’s all based on the argument that the guilty party doesn’t know he’s committing a crime.
Heritage defends “morally blameless people who unwittingly commit acts that turn out to be crimes and are prosecuted for those offenses.” Perhaps, in this comical viewpoint, years of oil pollution and years of mortgage lending fraud shouldn’t be held against the CEOs who claim they didn’t know what their employees were doing.
2. Warren Buffett: Demanding To Be Taxed at a Higher Rate (As Long As He Doesn’t Have To Pay)
Everyone seems to like grandfatherly Warren Buffett, who famously complained that “My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress.” But his company, Berkshire Hathaway, hasn’t paid any taxes in years, instead building a $62 billion liability in deferred taxes while using “hypothetical amounts” to dress up its reporting to the SEC. Meanwhile, the company’s stock has been growing for 50 years at an annual rate of well over 20 percent.
Barron’s describes the Berkshire Model as a process of buying other companies and holding the profits as a type of long-term capital gain. Says Barron’s: “It seems that Buffett and his businesses are serial deprivers of tax revenue to the U.S. Treasury. Yet that does not deter him from loudly advocating higher income tax rates for others.”
3. Mark Zuckerberg: America’s Most Admired Tax Avoider
With $45 billion in stock value transferred to his ‘charitable’ foundation, Mark Zuckerberg is widely considered a great American philanthropist. But his foundation is a tax-exempt limited liability company, which leaves him free to invest in other companies, make political donations, or even sell his holdings, all without paying taxes.
There’s more to Zuckerberg’s disregard for taxpayers and workers. Even though he used questionable methods to develop Facebook at Harvard, and despite the fact that public money built all the components of the evolving social network technology, his company provides relatively few jobs: 12,000 employees, or about $400,000 in income last year for each employee. Instead of hiring more people within the U.S., Zuckerberg started an immigration-reform lobbying group called FWD US to “attract the most talented and hardest working people, no matter where they were born.” And thus to gain access to cheap labor from around the world.
4. Martin Shkreli: Imposing an “Altruistic” 4,000% Price Increase
Shkreli raised the price from $13.50 to $750.00 on a single pill of an anti-infection medicine, even though, according to the chairman of the HIV Medicine Association, “This medication can be made for pennies.”
The price-raiser defended his move, saying: “I think there’s a lot of altruistic properties to it…with these new profits we can spend all of that upside on these patients who sorely need a new drug.”
Backlash over the price gouging caused a temporary change of heart in Shkreli, but he came to his capitalist senses and kept the cost to insurance companies at $750.00.
5. Barack Obama: Going from a Nobel Peace Prize to the Bombing of Innocent Civilians
Some quotes from our President: “The United States has been the anchor of global security…a standard bearer in the conduct of war…When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way.”
Here in America, it’s hard for most of us to imagine the constant fear of drones humming overhead, ready to drop a bomb at the command of a young soldier at a video screen thousands of miles away. But this is the Obama strategy. He has extended it beyond Iraq and Afghanistan to Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya, to many lands that are not at war with our country, all in the name of a war against the Muslim world that turned Iraq into “a nest of jihadism” and continues to empower anti-American terrorists.
It’s been reported that only about 10 percent of Afghan airstrikes killed the intended targets in a 5-month period, and that only about 12 percent of drone victims in Pakistan could be named as militants. But “crowd killings” have taken out women, children, and entire wedding parties. This from “a standard bearer in the conduct of war.”
6. Rahm Emanuel: Where To Begin?
—-Chicago’s mayor allowed the video of the Laquan McDonald killing to remain in the hands of the police for over a year, while quietly offering $5 million to the victim’s family, apparently to ensure that his close runoff mayoral election would be unspoiled by police murder allegations.
—-Even though Illinois corporations avoid billions of dollars of taxes per year, and even though Illinois already has the one of the highest property tax rates in the nation, Emanuel announced a half-billion dollar property tax hike.
—-Emanuel recently closed 50 public schools, almost entirely in poor African-American neighborhoods, even though he had rarely met with community leaders during his first year in office, and instead chose to appoint business-connected friends to the Board of Education and to make educational funding deals with profit-hungry Wall Street.
The Losers of the Hypocrite Award: Donald Trump and Bill Gates
Gates, like Zuckerberg, has converted taxpayer-funded research into a multi-billion dollar fortune and the image of a “self-made” man. He seems genuinely interested in saving the world. But delusion rather than hypocrisy is evident in his recent quote: “By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world.”
Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org), and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.