The 12 Days of a Capitalist Christmas

On the first day of Christmas my employer gave to me ONE penny for every $3 the richest 130,000 Americans make. It's been a national tradition since 1980.

On the second day my doctor showed me TWO Americans needing mental health care, but only one of the two could afford treatment. The doctor informed me that the 50 states have cut $1.8 billion from their mental health budgets during the recession, and that the 2013 Republican budget proposes further cuts. "It's crazy," I protested. "Some states are allowing guns in schools and daycare centers and churches and bars and hospitals, but they're cutting mental health care?" The doctor just nodded in frustration.

On the third day The Economist told me that it costs just THREE cents in administrative expenses for every $100 raised through a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) in the United Kingdom, versus $1.42 for the personal income tax and $1.25 for the corporate income tax. With up to THREE quadrillion dollars in total U.S. financial transactions, we could replace federal income taxes with a tiny FTT.

On the fourth day a food pantry gave me FOUR dollars worth of food. That's about what food stamp recipients get each day through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). To pay for rent and utilities, a family of three gets $400 per month from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which comes to about FOUR dollars a day per person.

On the fifth day a financial advisor introduced me to his FIVE richest investors, who were the only ones out of 100 Americans to increase their wealth over the past 25 years, by the impressive rate of almost 20 percent. It's like that throughout the entire country, the advisor said: only 5 percent took almost all the gains.

Five golden rings, indeed.

On the sixth day, as the traditional 12-day song started to get annoying, Santa appeared to take me by the hand to the U.S. corporate offices, where the tax lawyers gave to me SIX cents for the national treasury. "Hey," I said, "this used to be 25 cents. You've doubled your profits in the last 10 years, but individual and payroll taxes have to pay 94 cents out of every dollar!" The lawyers just smiled. Santa shook his head in frustration.

On the seventh day a guidance counselor informed me that one out of SEVEN Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 is neither working nor in school.

On the eighth day an IRS agent gave me these matching facts: Over EIGHT percent of the GDP (8.4 percent) goes for tax expenditures (subsidies provided through the tax code, mostly to the very rich). That's almost exactly the same amount (8.4 percent of the GDP) that goes to Social Security and Medicare.

On the ninth day an unemployed dietitian told me that the average male has increased his weight by NINE percent over the past 20 years (180 to 196), and the average female by 12 percent (142 to 160). As a NINE dollar per hour food-service worker gave me and Santa our burgers and fries and shakes, my jolly old partner chortled, "Ho Ho Ho, soon you'll all look like me!"

On the 10th day a Forbes article confirmed that the TEN richest Americans made more than our entire national housing budget in just one year. That's over $50 billion. The 20 richest Americans made more than our entire education budget. Santa assured me that the transfer of wealth from society's needs to a few individuals was not the norm around the world.

On the eleventh day a creditor gave me a bill for ELEVEN trillion dollars of debt incurred by the American consumer, including mortgages, student loans, and credit card liabilities.

And on the twelfth day Santa gave me an IOU for TWELVE trillion dollars, the U.S. share of up to $32 trillion held overseas, untaxed. "One problem," cautioned Santa, "my reindeer haven't been able to find any of it yet."

After all this I stood perplexed. "What does it all mean?" I asked Santa.

"Well, that's capitalism," I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight. "It's all about the individual getting all he can, because that will benefit everyone. And let me tell you," he added with a twinkle, "those benefits are just as real as I am!"

And with that he was gone.


Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (,,, and the editor and main author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (Clarity Press). He can be reached at


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