No tax cuts for the rich

I’ve been writing a lot about lately about the growing gap between rich and poor in American, and the systematic destruction of the middle class, and how I believe both trends to be destructive to our Democracy. I didn’t want to write about it tonight, though. I was actually planning to take the night off, but then I happened across this op-ed by Nicholas Kristof in today’s New York Times, and felt compelled to share it. I don’t know what good it’ll do, as I suspect that most of you agree with me already that it’s a significant problem, but I suppose it’s possible that one of you out there tonight is right on the brink of getting off your ass and actually doing something about it. And, if that’s the case, and if I can be the one to give you that final push that’ll get you off the couch, I don’t see as how I can just take the night off. So, with all that said, here’s a clip from Kristof’s piece:

…My point was that the wealthiest plutocrats now actually control a greater share of the pie in the United States than in historically unstable countries like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana…

The best data series I could find is for Argentina. In the 1940s, the top 1 percent there controlled more than 20 percent of incomes. That was roughly double the share at that time in the United States.

Since then, we’ve reversed places. The share controlled by the top 1 percent in Argentina has fallen to a bit more than 15 percent. Meanwhile, inequality in the United States has soared to levels comparable to those in Argentina six decades ago — with 1 percent controlling 24 percent of American income in 2007.

At a time of such stunning inequality, should Congress put priority on spending $700 billion on extending the Bush tax cuts to those with incomes above $250,000 a year? Or should it extend unemployment benefits for Americans who otherwise will lose them beginning next month?

One way to examine that decision is to put aside all ethical considerations and simply look at where tax dollars will do more to stimulate the economy. There the conclusion is clear: You get much more bang for the buck putting money in the hands of unemployed people because they will promptly spend it….

But there is also a larger question: What kind of a country do we aspire to be? Would we really want to be the kind of plutocracy where the richest 1 percent possesses more net worth than the bottom 90 percent?

Oops! That’s already us. The top 1 percent of Americans owns 34 percent of America’s private net worth, according to figures compiled by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. The bottom 90 percent owns just 29 percent…

I think we have to draw a line in the sand. This is a fight that we can win. All the polling data says that a majority of Americans are against extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. And, the evidence, as we discussed yesterday, seems to indicate that extending them, despite what we’re being told, wouldn’t stimulate the economy. So, we’ve got the American people behind us, and evidence that these tax cuts wouldn’t fuel the economy the same way the middle class tax cuts would. But, for some reason, we’re still scared to stand up and fight for what we know is right… It brings to mind something that George Soros is said to have told people in a private D.C. meeting a few days ago. Explaining to a gathering of progressives why they might be better served investing in individuals other than our President, Soros said that he was:

“…used to fighting losing battles, but doesn’t like to lose without fighting…

And that’s how I feel right now. I’m tired of compromising on the things that matter. I’m tired of sitting back and taking it when the Republicans pursue policy that’s clearly destructive. I’m tired of letting them play their games, like walking away from the most recent nuclear arms agreement with Russia, for no reason other than to discredit Obama, when doing so makes us less safe. (It also makes Putin stronger, by the way.)

How did we get here? When Reagan was President, the tax rate on the most wealthy was considerably higher, for Christ’s sake. Have we moved that far to the right? Here we are, scared to death to even suggest that we might want to tax the rich at a rate less than Ronald Reagan…. And, speaking of Reagan and nuclear treaties, let’s remember that he said he dreamed of a day without nuclear weapons. Can you imagine a Republican saying that today? Or, how about this quote from President Eisenhower?

…Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people…

I can only think of two Democrats who might dare to make a speech like that today. We’ve let the pendulum swing way too far to the right, and it’s time to say that enough’s enough. It’s time to stand up and fight for what we know if right. And it starts with the killing of these Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. We can’t afford them. They won’t help us. And they’re destructive to Democracy.

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  1. Posted November 18, 2010 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Any time I, personally, say ANYTHING that might be construed as being anti-wealthy, here is what I hear:
    1) that’s class warfare, Patti
    2) not ALL rich are bad, Patti
    3) why are you trying to punish success, Patti?
    4) subtle implications that we all may too be part of that 1% one day so let’s don’t fuck it up
    5) shut up bitch jew bitch cunt fuck (<– okay it’s a bit more subtle than that, usually)
    Seriously though, IME, people react weirdly when I try to talk about this. Hell, on FB I once posted something that intimated some folks in education administration are overpaid and my friend, who is a low paid adjunct at Wayne State, crawled up my ass so far that I could taste what she had for lunch.
    How DO we talk about this, then? I’m not being facetious…I don’t know how to reply to folks who want to defend the wealthy.
    PS: On a happier note, Mark, I have figured out my Krampus costume!!!!!

  2. Tommy
    Posted November 19, 2010 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    The costume is an Ass Hook, isn’t it Patti?

    Going from 37% to 39% in terms of income taxes will not hurt anyone brining in 250K or more. On the other hand, 99 weeks of unemployment is a long time. I honestly don’t know how long is long enough. Is it 130 weeks (2.5 years), 180 (3 years).

    I don’t have the answers, but I am sure that someone – perhaps EOS – has it all figured out. He does, after all, speak with the Imperial Sky wizard regularly.

  3. Posted November 19, 2010 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    So who are those two Democrats you had in mind?

    I’d think the audience to which such a speech is made would influence the willingness to make the speech. On the House or Senate floor? Probably not. In front of an interest group? Maybe. At home in front of constituents? Much more likely.

  4. TeacherPatti
    Posted November 19, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Oh crap Tommy, you gave it away!! :)

  5. Edward
    Posted November 19, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Damn you! You made me look up “ass hook.” You’ll be happy to know such things exist.

    According to the definition, they’re generally not “load bearing” when used in suspension. I found that interesting.

  6. Posted November 20, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Of course I spent some time looking at the ass hook entry on Wikipedia. Then I spent about 10 minutes looking at other types of bondage equipment. There are some warped folks out there. Thank you, Al Gore, for inventing the internet and allowing me to gain this knowledge. I love you.

  7. Top Moves
    Posted November 26, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    I vote that any rich person can have a big tax cut, if first he’s willing to have his achilles tendons severed on live television by the poorest of his employees. I think the entertainment value to society would far exceed the monetary cost in terms of lost tax revenue.

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