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A Tall Order for All of Us: Taxes are Good

chicago dyke's picture

A friend of mine likes to joke that "all Republicans are socialists," meaning that when it comes to the government handing out free money to bankers, large off-shore HQ'd corporations, or Red Staters sucking the Federal tit, they just can't say "No." We've spent a lot of time mocking them for the hypocrisy in this, as it comes from those people who are at the same time, the most loudly against "welfare" and other entitlements and funding for the rest of us. I bring this obvious set of points up, because I think it's time to do some real pushback, and perhaps use this framing as a wedge, against the notion that "tax cuts are good," and "tax increases are bad." In fact, historically and economically speaking, the very opposite is true.

The chatter is that the new administration started out offering 1/3 or 25% of the stimulus package in tax cuts, and the Republicans came back with, and received, the ~40% that are found in the most current form of the stimulus bill. Talk about dumb "strategy." Hasn't anyone in the Administration ever bought a rug in the Middle East? Haggling rule #1: your first offer should be offensively too low.

And if you're any experienced old woman with a missing front tooth and wrinkled hands, you know that you stick to the low end, and wail and weep about your starving children and impending beggary, until the other party accepts that the best they are going to get from you is another 5% or so. But, you all don't think that Obama really cares about the people most hurt by the reduction of actual stimulus in order to fill corporate coffers and keep rich people rich, so I won't take this any further than that.

What I will suggest is that in the spirit of "no one is going to help you but you," now seems a very good time to me to begin to slay the myth that "tax cuts are the solution to all our problems." As the link above notes, there are lots of ways in which it's already been proven that isn't true. What makes now an interesting time, is that despite Red State welfare and the good old boy network of employment in Hard Times, even Republicans and "moderates" are beginning to wonder, "where's mine? I'm starving here!" The TARP giveaway is another golden opportunity for us on the Left; I don't think there's ever been more willingness to drop the whole "responsible government can't afford Big Social Programs" than right now. Sorry, that dog don't hunt- if we can give $700Billion 2Trillion I mean upwards of $4Trillion and counting, no strings attached and no meaningful oversight, to a bunch of foreigners and faceless executives... well, you get my drift. And a lot of "low information" types do too.

Bringing back the notion of Good Taxation entails several discoursive elements that I can think of, and the first one is addressing middle and upper-middle class fear and ignorance. Speaking with my upper-middle class family members on this, the first thing they usually say to me is, "I already pay enough taxes," to which I resond, "Yes, you do. But the richest 5% don't, nor do large corporations, which in truth often end up getting tax rebates and avoiding payment of taxes altogether." (Bartcop has done some stellar visual work on this, and here's an oldie but a goodie which I'm sure is even more true now: 60% of corporations don't pay federal taxes, and that was under Clinton.) Reminding moderates and Republicans that they pay more taxes than those richer than they are is something I'd love to see more people take up as a conversation topic in mixed company. You richer relatives will listen today, where they ignored you 4-10 years ago.

As I mentioned earlier, now is also a really good time to kill the "we can't afford higher taxes and spending" memes. We *can* tax big business more, because they are *alread* laying people off and continuing to overcompensate their executives. A lot more people understand this than the SCLM wants you to believe, and people like to talk about sticking to the rich, these days. And we *can* afford 'deficit' spending, indeed it's a moral imperative in times like these, but for the penny-pinchers out there: that deficit spending is relieved and reduced if there are higher tax revenues to offset it. Finally, increasing taxes on the very rich and large corporations is easy, and cheap. They often pay quarterly, and the IRS would love to employ all the newly unemployed lawyers, bean counters, consultants, IT specialists and even financial analysts who've joined the Lucky Ducky class. Billions could be raised, and directly funneled into actual stimulus spending, in a relatively short time.

I guess what I'm stressing is that it's only true in the Village that the meme "all taxes are evil" really works. Properly framed, you can get a lot of support for tax increases from people who just a short time ago were completely deaf to the idea. Being cynical, human hypocrisy and memory loss knows no bounds, when it's one's own ass out on the street. And we'll have yet another chance to battle on this issue, after the Administration's "Stimulus One" fails to do much for the economy of the rest of us, and Obama finds himself scrambling to come up with something else, 6-12 months from now, to save his political bacon. Given the increasing unwillingness of foreign creditors to fund US spending idiocy, the President will be left with two options: cut entitlements, or raise taxes. Cutting entitlements in a Depression is political suicide, and I'd like to lay the groundword for the other option now, because I know just how long it takes common sense/the right answer to filter up through the dung to the upper echelons in the Village.

There's a whole 'nuther discussion about finding money for real stimulus in cutting the MIC budget. Let's get to that later.

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Andre's picture
Submitted by Andre on

about the receptionist in his office paying less taxes than he does sort of comes to my mind. But there's also the whole idea of finding a new word for 'taxes'. Someone here mentioned about how we could get rid of the air traffic controllers and let travelers keep their money, and their might be some air collisions, but those things happen. George Bernard Shaw, I believe said he liked taxes because he liked civilization. Or to put it more graphically, if I hit another pot hole, I'm gonna scream, or if we want that new high school, we have to make do with unplowed streets. How important are those things we as a community want?

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

Yeah, that's such a nineties idea -- 1990s, not 1890s, which is where we've been living since W stole the USSC decision in November of 2000.

Taxes pay policemen's salaries.
Taxes pay schoolteachers' salaries.
Taxes pay firefighters' salaries.
Taxes pay for maintenance on school buildings, police cruisers, and firetrucks.
Taxes pay for building or remodeling schools.
Taxes pay for building or expanding fire stations.
Taxes pay for water treatment plants -- and those are useful because no matter where you live, if you're in the USA and you're "on the grid," there's a town upstream from you dumping sewage in the water that supplies your community's drinking, washing and cooking needs.

It's the ultimate "free market" idea: if you want the service (protection from fire, crime, or simple ignorance although lately that one's harder to keep alive) you pay your taxes. Everybody puts in something, and everybody gains something.

Now I'd be all over the notion of making user fees commensurate to, say, water draw or effluent output, but that's communism, right?