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Excerpt: "When Republicans recently charged the President with promoting 'class warfare,' he answered it was 'just math.' But it's more than math. It's a matter of morality. Republicans have posed the deepest moral question of any society: whether we're all in it together. Their answer is we're not. President Obama should proclaim, loudly and clearly, we are."

Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)
Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)

The Moral Question

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

30 September 11


e dodged another shut-down bullet, but only until November 18. That’s when the next temporary bill to keep the government going runs out. House Republicans want more budget cuts as their price for another stopgap spending bill.

Among other items, Republicans are demanding major cuts in a nutrition program for low-income women and children. The appropriation bill the House passed June 16 would deny benefits to more than 700,000 eligible low-income women and young children next year.

What kind of country are we living in?

More than one in three families with young children is now living in poverty (37 percent, to be exact) according to a recent analysis of Census data by Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies. That’s the highest percent on record. The Agriculture Department says nearly one in four young children (23.6) lives in a family that had difficulty affording sufficient food at some point last year.

We’re in the worst economy since the Great Depression – with lower-income families and kids bearing the worst of it – and what are Republicans doing? Cutting programs Americans desperately need to get through it.

Medicaid is also under assault. Congressional Republicans want to reduce the federal contribution to Medicaid by $771 billion over next decade and shift more costs to states and low-income Americans.

It gets worse. Most federal programs to help children and lower-income families are in the so-called "non-defense discretionary" category of the federal budget. The congressional super-committee charged with coming up with $1.5 trillion of cuts eight weeks from now will almost certainly take a big whack at this category because it’s the easiest to cut. Unlike entitlements, these programs depend on yearly appropriations.

Even if the super-committee doesn’t agree (or even if they do, and Congress doesn’t approve of their proposal) an automatic trigger will make huge cuts in domestic discretionary spending.

It gets even worse. Drastic cuts are already underway at the state and local levels. Since the fiscal year began in July, states no longer receive about $150 billion in federal stimulus money — money that was used to fill gaps in state budgets over the last two years.

The result is a downward cascade of budget cuts – from the federal government to state governments and then to local governments – that are hurting most Americans but kids and lower-income families in particular.

So far this year, 23 states have reduced education spending. According to a survey of city finance officers released Tuesday by the National League of Cities, half of all American cities face cuts in state aid for education.

As housing values plummet, local property tax receipts are down. That means even less money for schools and local family services. So kids are getting larger class sizes, reduced school hours, shorter school weeks, cuts in pre-Kindergarten programs (Texas has eliminated pre-Kindergarten for 100,000 children), even charges for textbooks and extra-curricular activities.

Meanwhile the size of America’s school-age population keeps growing notwithstanding. Between now and 2015, an additional 2 million kids are expected to show up in our schools.

Local family services are being cut or terminated. Tens of thousands of social workers have been laid off. Cities and counties are reducing or eliminating their contributions to Head Start, which provides early childhood education to the children of low-income parents.

All this would be bad enough if the economy were functioning normally. For these cuts to happen now is morally indefensible.

Yet Republicans won’t consider increasing taxes on the rich to pay for what's needed – even though the wealthiest members of our society are richer than ever, taking home a bigger slice of total income and wealth than in seventy-five years, and paying the lowest tax rates in three decades.

The President’s modest proposals to raise taxes on the rich – limiting their tax deductions, ending the Bush tax cut for incomes over $250,000, and making sure the rich pay at the same rate as average Americans – don't come close to paying for what American families need.

Marginal tax rates should be raised at the top, and more tax brackets should be added for incomes over $500,000, over $1,500,000, over $5 million. The capital gains tax should be as high as that on ordinary income.

Wealth over $7.2 million should be subject to a 2 percent surtax. After all, the top one half of 1 percent now owns over 28 percent of the nation's total wealth. Such a tax on them would yield $70 billion a year. According to an analysis by Yale’s Bruce Ackerman and Anne Alstott, that would generate at least half of $1.5 trillion deficit-reduction target over ten years set for the supercommittee.

Another way to raise money would be through a tiny tax (one-half of one percent) tax on financial transactions. This would generate $200 billion a year, and hardly disturb Wall Street's casino at all. (The European Commission is about to unveil such a tax there.)

All this can be done, but only if Americans understand what's really at stake here.

When Republicans recently charged the President with promoting "class warfare," he answered it was "just math." But it’s more than math. It’s a matter of morality.

Republicans have posed the deepest moral question of any society: whether we’re all in it together. Their answer is we’re not.

President Obama should proclaim, loudly and clearly, we are. your social media marketing partner


+77 # Peacedragon 2011-09-30 16:42
What is needed is a swell of compassion rolling acrosss the country. How can we make this happen?
+58 # cybersleuth58 2011-09-30 18:07
Indeed, but you don't get compassion from people with hearts of stone.
+23 # doneasley 2011-10-01 20:03
These people not only have hearts of stone, they have heads of stone. In the last GOP debate, The Idiot Woman Michelle Bachman says she wants NO TAXES. How stupid can you be. They have bought into this Grover Norquist "No new taxes" idealogy to the extent that they will knowingly sink the American economy a 2nd time since 2008. They don't seem to realize that to carry on their wars of occupation takes money. Right now we're spending roughly $3 BILLION/wk in Iraq and Afghanistan. Included in those numbers is money designated for schools, roads, bridges, education, police and military training, etc. - the very things Republicans don't want to do here in America.

Class Warfare? Republicans are good at accusing others of the very things that they have been doing. What were the Bush tax cuts other than class Warfare? Just a few facts:
o We got a 3% cut while the top bracket got a 4.5% cut. That's a full $45,000 tax cut for each $1 Million of income.
o A person making $10 Million got a $450,000 tax cut, and a person making $100 Mill got a $4.5 Mill TAX CUT - enough to employ 100 people at $45,000/yr!

These "Patriotic Christians" are some of the most vile, vicious, and depraved individuals in our society, many of whom don't realize that their policies are going to boomerang on them and their families somewhere along the way.
+35 # PiscesCurveUS 2011-10-01 10:12
Imagine a world in which ordinary Americans get an even break- doing better than our parents did: a fair shot at a decent job; a modest but secure retirement; a world where our tax dollars bring us good education, pub. services, roads & bridges, buses & trains, a medical & social safety net; a better life & better future.
It's all possible. It used to be that way, but things got off track. Today’s problem lies in our BANKING system and how Wall St. bankers have abused it. In 2008 these abuses crashed our whole economy. We still haven't recovered, but the same Wall St. banks are bigger, richer & more powerful than ever.
States & cities continue depositing tax revenues- our money!- in these same Wall St. banks. More than a trn. dollars a year.
One state does it differently. By law, the State of North Dakota deposits all its tax revenue in one bank- the Bank of N. Dakota, owned by the State of N. Dakota.
It’s one of America's best kept secrets in plain sight: any state or city, or labor union, or any other organization with a decent revenue stream, can start its own bank. Banksters don't want you to know this.
Our states & cities have the power to give all of us an even break the way N. Dakota does for its citizens. Maybe even better. While America struggles, N. Dakota has a budget surplus & full money crisis...just the answer
+16 # Adoregon 2011-10-01 14:02
"Republicans have posed the deepest moral question of any society: whether we’re all in it together. Their answer is we’re not.

President Obama should proclaim, loudly and clearly, we are."

To answer your question, human awareness needs to expand the "we" in "we're all in it together" to include all life forms
on this planet [and ultimately all matter universally].

Until humans recognize on a deep level their connection and interdependence with the whole schmear the compassion necessary for cooperative symbiosis will prove elusive.

"The Expanding Circle" by Peter Singer may lend some clues.
-15 # Martintfre 2011-10-01 22:21
Does this compassion come from the end of a tax collectors gun?
+13 # mcartri 2011-10-01 22:54
Is there a way to make Christians behave as Christians?
+20 # DavePrice 2011-09-30 18:43
"The LORD enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?' declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty." Isaiah 3:14-15
+71 # Rick Levy 2011-09-30 19:21
Well what can one expect when the Republicans behave like a bunch of Somalian pirates, the Demos cave in, and the American people are apathetic when they should be taking to the streets?
+31 # Todd Williams 2011-10-01 09:38
Mr. Levy, the Americans ARE taking to the street. Look at the Occupy Wall Street and all the spinoffs that are starting next Thursday, Oct. 6. I will be attending the protest in Cleveland. Check where you live to see if an Occupy protest is plannned. Then go. Attend. Protest. Get arrested. Do it, man, do it!
+14 # Innocent Victim 2011-09-30 20:03
Proclamations from President Obama would sound very hollow. He is a warrior! He has been bleeding us white in the Middle East and in Central Asia. What he has spend on making war since January, 2009, could have saved many Americans from misery - and left many foreigners alive and uninjured. You are appealing to a war criminal, Mr Reich.
+29 # Todd Williams 2011-10-01 09:40
He is NOT a war criminal. Sorry, that was Bush and Chenney. Obama got stuck with 2 wars he didn't start. I'm not happy about what's going on, but to call Obama a "war criminal" is a bit over the top, I'd say.
+8 # Innocent Victim 2011-10-01 10:49
Mr Williams, I think you are misinformed. One does not need to start an aggressive, unnecessary war to be a war criminal. Continuing and expanding them are also war crimes.

You are additionally unaware that Obama was elected with a mandate for change by a base that opposed the Bush wars. Obama could have ended them in January, 2009, if he had wished to do so. He had the nation with him.

On these grounds, he is an even worse war criminal than Bush, because he had the opportunity to see what those wars were doing and could have ended them.
+4 # chick 2011-10-03 09:00
Congress starts and eds wars. Presidents do not. And in 2009 Republicans were still calling Americans cowards if they did not approve of the war.
+2 # mcartri 2011-10-01 23:00
Quoting Todd Williams:
He is NOT a war criminal. Sorry, that was Bush and Chenney. Obama got stuck with 2 wars he didn't start. I'm not happy about what's going on, but to call Obama a "war criminal" is a bit over the top, I'd say.

Georgetown Constitutional law professor, Jonathan Turley, said Obama was a war criminal himself by refusing to have clear violations of our treaties re:war crime acts prosectued by the DOJ. He is an accessory to war crimes. Obama is a war criminal. What's over the top is claiming he isn't.
0 # Texan 4 Peace 2011-10-02 22:46
He bombed another country (Libya) without approval from Congress, has refused to hold other war criminals accountable (though it is his legal responsibility to do so), and now defends his "right" to assassinate U.S. citizens abroad without a shred of due process. What else do you need?
+2 # chick 2011-10-03 09:02
That US citizen you are refering to lost his citizenship when he betrayed us and directed others to kill Americans.
+30 # SonnyEdwards 2011-09-30 22:42
I campaigned for Obama, raised money for him, put my hope in him, voted for him, and then watched the heartache begin. I was in denial for a brief time, but finally had to realize, he is one of THEM! I disagree with the above statement about him being a warrior. He has made some pretty good speeches. but has given the Republicans everything they wanted, and they still don't like him, nor will they ever. I would welcome another Democrat in 2012. Obama has not earned my vote a second time.
+16 # Susan W 2011-09-30 23:26
He's a warrior in that he wages at least four wars overseas; he is not a warrior for the people.
+33 # CL38 2011-09-30 23:51
I don't think he's one of them. He was inexperienced and has been weak and ineffectual. Let's see what he does from here.

If he runs, and you don't vote for him, you'll be giving your vote to Rick Perry or Mitt Romney or Chris what-ever his name is.

Would they make a better President?
-7 # futhark 2011-10-01 15:49
I'm not giving my vote to anyone who misrepresents himself or herself in the campaign. I've voted 3rd party in 3 elections in 39 years (including 2008) and will do it again. Right now I'm supporting Ron Paul, who, though not by any means perfect, is dedicated to the Constitution and withdrawal of U.S. military from the other side of the planet. Ron Paul rightly calls Bradley Manning a patriot and a hero, while Barack Obama keeps him in solitary confinement.
0 # Jane Gilgun 2011-10-03 09:12
Yes. Maybe Obama has had on the job training. We don't want any of the stone-hearted Repubs for president. Values, my foot. Their values are the Seven Deadly Sins.
+28 # balconesfalk 2011-10-01 02:16
Sonny, I am totally sympathetic with your POV. I wasn't for him, I was for HRC and was devastated when he careened around her and caught the ring. No elected officials are independent of the ones that brought them, ur, bought them. That is how capitalism functions. However, the specter of a Perry, or a Palin, or a Buchanan is so daunting that I must get behind Obama one more time. Presidential politics is like a tennis match. The winner is the one who doesn't make mistakes. The Republicans are making one mistake after another. That is Obama's only Hope (TM). It may be our only hope, too.
+3 # Innocent Victim 2011-10-01 10:57
balconesfalk: As bad as the Republican candidates are, our political system is in need of revolutionary change. The election of a Republican would very likely make matters to bad as to accelerate such a change. The election of another Democrat, even a Kucinich or a Feingold, would only continue the system as it is. He would not be able to accomplish very much in such an environment. Things have to get worse before they can get better. That's how bad things are in my view.
+17 # Todd Williams 2011-10-01 09:44
Sonny, you sir are making a big mistake. Sure, Obama is not perfect. Show me one person that would be absolutely perfect. No way. You seem to forget the obvious fact that Obma had some very weak kneed Dems in Congress and an obstinate Rethug Party. They wanted to destroy him from the beginning and by not supporting him now, you're playing into the hands of the right wingers. Suck it up and vote for the President. God help all of us if a Rethug gets in.
0 # mcartri 2011-10-01 23:02
Uh, Obama is, was and will remain a moderate Republican. To call him a Democrat is to perpetuate a myth.
+15 # Gordon K 2011-09-30 22:58
The simple fact that Mr. Reich feels the need to remind Mr. Obama about the most basic expressions of human decency, is a de-facto acknowledgment that the President doesn't really get it. It's sad, but it's the truth.

It's time for a real Democrat to challenge him in the primaries.
+9 # DPM 2011-09-30 23:42
To the barricades! They won't listen until they "bleed". Metaphorically speaking, of course/
+27 # sol4u2 2011-09-30 23:47
More of us need to pay attention to what was said here --- we are becoming a 2 class country no bones about it! We need to wake up and speak up every day to our reps in DC. And yes take to the streets as maybe that is what it will take BUT some already have OCCUPY WALL STREET is taking a stand or sit in but where is the Main Stream Media - oh forgot they are owned by mogul corps who are part of Wall Street -- We need to demand open and free news coverage from our networks and that our politicos represent the people who elected them. It is time they got rid of their ego and greed and whether they will be reelected and start working TOGETHER for the PEOPLE and the COUNTRY!! Let us make our voices heard!
+28 # CL38 2011-09-30 23:49
Republicans salaries are paid by 99% - they work FOR the government they're destroying, (except for their own jobs & entitlements--a nd those of the corporate rich).

They're not "serving" the American people or earning their salaries.

Give them what they want -- smaller government -- kick them out of the government they claim to hate so much.
+41 # Grouchy 2011-10-01 00:32
The question should be asked again and again--and loudly; "Why should the rich not pay their fair share of taxes?"--and then BLAST them when they come up (again and again) with the reply, "because the rich provide the jobs". THEN MAKE THEM PROVE IT!!!!

+28 # Ralph Averill 2011-10-01 03:23
How about this; on incomes over a certain amount, say Reich's $7.2 million figure, you must file only with a 1040 EZ form; no itemized deductions or credits, a 50% tax rate, and no differentiation between earned income and capital gains.
And yes, it is class warfare. The first shot was fired with the election of George W. Bush. It's about time we started firing back.
+1 # chick 2011-10-03 09:10
Why pick on Reich for Petes sake. He is one like Buffet who is telling the American people he should be taxed higher.

Pick on some Repiublican they are the ones who do not want a higher tax on the rich.
+18 # RichyD 2011-10-01 03:23
What could we humans possibly not understand about life and what it takes to maintain it? Perhaps the 'gods', those f'n Republicans, might deign to answer this question. I'm old and have laid down my life in support of people of all ilks-but I know of no justification of the 'gods' intentions to kill off we undesirables! Can we rise up and send those bastards to replace the military in lands of peril?
After all, the overwhelming majority of those elected have never served their country. They've only gamed it for their plan to kill the U.S. population, and the formerly grand experiment we used to call democracy. These Republicans are a cruel sham. We're sheep led to slaughter? Time to reverse roles and take up arms! Put them in pens and keep them in pens and pelt them with 'fertilizer' they're using on us, the people of a failed system.
+10 # futhark 2011-10-01 06:09
The problem is that Obama is NOT in this together with the rest of us, but continues to be a self-serving, craven lackey of the plutocratic establishment. I know his rhetoric occasionally touches issues for the common interest, but his actions (and inactions) tragically speak louder than his words.
+31 # Carolyn 2011-10-01 06:55
Why doesn't Mr. Reich address the re-instatement of FDR's Glass-Steagall, which saved our country from financial ruin in 1933? When I read about the proposed cuts for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the US Postal Service it reminds me of the well-known British Christmas tale of Scrooge, "let them die and reduce the surplus population."
+13 # MainStreetMentor 2011-10-01 07:26
The collective sociopathic displays of RepubTeacans is diametrically opposed to the principles and precepts on which this country was founded, and on which we gained the respect of the entire world – it’s one of the reasons citizens from foreign lands sought refuge here. The RepubTeacans, Mr. Reich, has written about are the same ones who step over the homeless man lying over a sidewalk grating seeking warmth, without giving that man even a passing glance, much less provide assistance. That homeless man could be lying there due to the greed of Wall Street, (run by conservative RepubTeacans). They are trading democracy for moral-less plutocracy.
+21 # Doctoretty 2011-10-01 07:31
It is totally beyond me why the polls are showing that most Americans think the Republicans are the ones who will keep us prosperous when they have done such a lousy job in the past!!
+4 # fhunter 2011-10-01 07:44
Full Republican charge for PLUTOCRATIC ARISTOCRACY. Obama did not understand what they are aiming for and let them out of the CAGE where they belong.
-5 # MidwestTom 2011-10-01 07:45
Obama will do nothing for us, because he is now one of them. Do a search under WHITE HATS REPORT #24, The whole series of reports is a look into the world of the people who control not just the United States, but the entire Western world.
+1 # chick 2011-10-03 09:17
Sorry, I could never belong to a group that called me, witch Dr. Unamerican, not born in the US. A Nazi, Hitler.

And much more. He is not a Republican. You expected a miracle. A man with a magic wand. There is no such thing or person. Remember at every turn the Republicans no, no, no.
And you forget he has done wome good.
+19 # rhpflanz 2011-10-01 08:33
"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right..." A quote from the first Republican president. Republicans have forgotten.
+24 # opinionaire 2011-10-01 08:51
While the Republicans try to present their agenda as not adding taxes to the wealthiest "job creaters," they appear to have no qualms about the theft of resources from those who can least afford it. It is, indeed, class warfare, and has been waged by the wealthy elite against both the middle and lower economic classes for a very long time. During times when the middle and lower classes have been busy trying to earn a living and raise families with some faith in the good will of others in this society, the wealthy have put energy into this war. It has taken the economic collapse--becau se of the overreaching greed of the upper economic classes--to force the other groups to wake up. How is it that the economic well off are able to have their distorted, self-serving world view turned on everyone else without howls of protest?
+13 # Larkrise 2011-10-01 12:27
There are howls of protest. They echoed in Wisconsin and they are reverberating on Wall Street. People are being beaten and maced to show their anger. We must join them in one way or another. Write a letter to the editor. The corporate-owned media does not want to cover this event. Call your Congressperson. Contribute money if you can. Go, if you can. Make the movement larger and louder. Those thugs on Wall Street and in Washington may drink champagne and laugh at the "peons"; but, trust me, they are nervous, they are adding to their security detail, they are pressuring Bloomberg to stop it, and they are afraid. So is Obama. He should be. He may not have started this morass of misery, but he HAS enabled it.
+10 # reiverpacific 2011-10-01 11:14
I doubt if it could come to pass here, so anesthetized are most Americans to their state of corporate and kleptocratic domination pushed the screen they rely on for information and sustenance BUT.
When I lived in Indonesia in Shuharto's time, the people knew that the government was utterly and openly corrupt (Shuharto's wife Tien, was openly spoken of as "Mrs. Tien Per Cent" -now THERE'S a title for Clarece Thomas' wife!) and gave not one shit about them.
So they became even in the cities, divided into "Kampungs" (village-coloni es) with their own head-men rotated and "Jamus" or doctors, in which everybody who was working gave 10% of their earnings to the head, who distributed these funds among the rest of the village according to need.
Sounds a lot like Socialism, what?
I hear a lot of talk about this kind of concept in smaller and more progressive communities, especially amongst the self-employed small businesses, who tend to depend on each other but I'm not seeing much except for the farmers markets proliferating all over the country -but it's a start!
+4 # minggnim 2011-10-01 22:14
Reaganomics killed Jesus.
+1 # Martintfre 2011-10-01 22:18
Government does not support the people, people support the government.

There is no right to the life of another any more then there is a right to enslave.

Government is force, charity does not erupt from the end of a tax collectors gun.
+4 # sandyclaws 2011-10-02 06:26
Everybody keeps saying/blaming Obama for all these ills. I think they need to look past him into the Congress. If we had a Democrat majority in both the House and the Senate (And I mean real Democrats, not republicants in Democrat's clothing) Then we could follow through with all the things that Obama initialy intended to do. But when a party's congressmen's only goal is to have Obama fail regardless of what it does to the citizens of this country, It makes me wonder how in the Hell anybody could possibly think that electing more republicants will do anything but totally destroy this country. Can people actually be that stupid? I have to laugh at the person bragging about voting for the third party candidates. All of which not only lost but pulled votes from a candidate that should have won! People are getting to the end of their rope. We are teetering on the edge of the abyss. If the republicants get control, we can kiss all of our programs and our Country Goodbye!
+3 # jayray2k 2011-10-02 12:01
I am reading about a lot of disappointment. A lot of intellectual people discussing Obama as a war criminal, et cetera. Please try to think critically about where we are a nation, as a people. Do you honestly feel that one person can accept the job of POTUS, and then shut off the spigot that is the Military Industrial Complex? Please. Obama is the horse in this race. Any other vote is a vote for ending social security, medicare, workers rights, womens rights, you name it. Let's all get behind the correct cause and fight with unity!
+3 # doneasley 2011-10-02 17:07
Amen Brother!
-4 # 2011-10-02 18:20
Obama is doing to protect "social security, medicare, workers rights, womens rights, you name it". You need to think "critically" about how got to this all-time low as a country since he took on USPOTUS. He is totally unqualified and his leadership or lack thereof shows it. He cowtows to Wallstreet and demonstrated malicious chauvinism to get HRC out of the primary. Most people are aware that Hillary would never have pulled our country down and discarded promises to the people as he has. Obama accepted the job and failed his constituents miserably and rather than fess up and take responsibility for HIS failed policies, decisions and negotiations he makes excuses, points his finger and tries to place the blame on anyone else. The buck stops with him and if he was incapable of being POTUS as "ONE PERSON" and all other POTUS did the job as "ONE PERSON" he should have had the INTEGRITY to say he was not capable which he has certainly proved to America and the world who holds the US in low esteem since he took office. He needs to step down NOW before he does more damage.
+2 # jayray2k 2011-10-03 14:05
My point is that the system is too large, broken, bought and paid for, call it what you will, for one man to "fix" in 3 years. "Ending 2 wars" is not done spontaneously. You sound like a Republican trying to stir up more trouble. Obama 2012!
+4 # Texan 4 Peace 2011-10-02 22:49
Want to do more than just vent on the Comments page? Go to OccupyTogether. org, Chances are there's a group in your city already.
+1 # Jane Gilgun 2011-10-03 09:15
Yes, this political polarization is about values and moral vision. The US is based upon values of justice, fairness, and equal opportunity. The Repub candicates are blind to the consequences of their beliefs. Their beliefs bling them to the values behind equal opportunity and level playing fields. None are so blind as those who will not see. They know not what they are doing.
+1 # Jane Gilgun 2011-10-03 10:26
Their beliefs BLIND them to the values behind equal opportunity and level playing fields.
0 # Raymond 2011-10-05 12:36
I have not reviewed all the commentary but I suspect that Greece (Italy, Spain, Portugal, etc.) may have the same basis for financial shortfalls as the U.S.: the richest of these societies are not paying their fair share, hence revenues are shorted just like they are here. Is this basically correct??

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