In the first half, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and author David Cay Johnston discussed the great inequality that exists in wealth and income in the United States. In the next five years, because of government policies, "we're going to see much worse conditions for the bottom half of Americans, and a continued concentration [of wealth] at the top," he forecast. According to official IRS data, since the recession ended in 2009, the bottom 90% of Americans saw their income fall by 2%, "but the people at the top have done incredibly well," he detailed, adding that of all the increased income that 316 million Americans had, a whopping third of it went to just 16,000 households.
Many American corporations have figured out loopholes to avoid paying immediate taxes by funneling their money into offshore subsidiaries-- amounting to a staggering seven trillion in cash, he reported. Further, in some 20 states, corporations have a deal in which they can keep their workers' state income tax-- in effect taking away money that would normally go to schools and state projects. America is moving away from being a democracy, and turning into an oligarchy, in which the rich rule, and citizens have become too passive about being taxed for such things as a local sports stadium or an oil pipeline, he noted.
In the latter half, Dr. Gary Ridenour, who worked for the Veterans Administration as a medical doctor between 1977 and 1980, outlined some of the problems associated with the bureaucracy-plagued VA system, which has recently undergone scandals for cover-ups and falsifying reports. The troubled history of the VA dates all the way back to 1932, when thousands of veterans showed up in Washington, DC and set up a tent city, complaining that they weren't getting the benefits they were promised. Currently, in Reno, NV (near where Ridenour lives), it was reported that vets must wait more than 44 days to get an appointment at the local VA.
The VA system is inefficient and overworked, not run in a transparent fashion (allowing some doctors who didn't attend medical school to practice), and offers an unfair physician bonus program, he commented. There is a massive amount of inertia in fixing the VA's problems, with politicians always offering to take a look at the issue after the next election, Ridenour continued. He also spoke about his work on viruses and pandemics, and how an outbreak of something like Ebola can occur.