Of Taxes, Tea, and Timidity: What Obama Should Tell the Protest’s Right-Wing Organizers

Today’s staged tea parties strongly suggest that the Right Wing Noise Machine has hardly been put to rest. The most worrisome part is the way in which everyday nonpartisan folks, incensed by government-subsidized executive bonuses in the finance sector, are joining in the fray.

As I write, President Obama is on the airwaves being his usual rational self (which is good) and talking about how his budget and tax plans actually include relief for middle-income payers, not to mention how his stimulus package is already improving economic prospects on Main Street.

I wish, however, that he would beard the no-tax monsters (Club for Growth, Cato, Limbaugh, Fox News, etc.) in their various dens in a much more frontal and devastating way. He could point out, for example:

* That so much money is lost to offshore tax havens for the super-rich that eliminating them, according to tax expert David Cay Johnston, would allow all of us non-super-rich payers to enjoy a 12 percent reduction in our Federal income taxes.

* That achieving tax fairness will be a serious matter under his Administration-that he will re-introduce progressivity by adding a range of new brackets for the very wealthy (currently the merely well-off-those with household incomes of $437,000-are taxed at the same marginal rate as Warren Buffett, which makes no sense at all); that he will collect all and not just some of the $43 billion that goes missing each year due to the Bush tax cuts for those above the $250,000 level; and that he will institute a progressive estate tax that will bring in $40 to $60 billion each year while impacting only 1 out every 200 estates. He should borrow the good ideas for re-instituting progressivity that were released this week by the Institute for Policy Studies.

* That raucous claims to the effect that the wealthy already pay the lion’s share of taxes obscure the more significant reality that recent decades have been so incredibly good to those folks-that the top decile’s share of national pre-tax income shot up from an already-outrageous 37.5 percent in 2001 to an appalling 41% in 2006.

* That he fully appreciates the fact that fully half of the effect of his stimulus package is directly undercut by the need for states and municipalities to raise taxes just to maintain basic services-and that he will insist that Congress take this into account in the next stimulus round.

* That he understands and opposes the regressive nature of FICA taxes and will address that problem by insisting that the current FICA cap that hugely benefits high-income people will be lifted in a way that both ensures more fairness and instantly solves the question of future funding of Medicare and Social Security.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., was right to observe that “taxes are the price we pay for civilization.” Religiously speaking, taxes-and tax fairness-are also the measure our commitment to lifting the yoke of the downtrodden and letting the oppressed go free. They are, in short, a measure of basic justice, from which it follows that today’s tax demagogues are agents of oppression who must be named as such.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *