Don’t Say, “Tax the Rich”May 15th, 2012

Don’t Say, “Tax the Rich”

Three little words that can’t be uttered,
Shouted out or even muttered:
You may gripe and you may bitch,
But better not say, “Tax the Rich.”
Neojournalists’ Style Book

It’s so simple. Tax the rich. For the people, it’s win-win-win. They get money for their government. They take back political power by reducing the power of the current owners. And they get a bit of justice, removing, in the process, some of the incentives for misconduct that now tempt and corrupt rich people at every turn.

It’s so logical. Short of money? Get it from those that have it. Ordinary people, despite their TV-induced stupor, are beginning to catch on that they have been subisidizing their betters. Also that they outnumber them a thousand to one. Not a lot of dots to connect here, even on a normal dose of prozac or cannabis.

And it’s so practical. You don’t have to amend the Constitution or appoint a new Supreme Court. You just have to elect people who are willing to make a few laws, laws that would be so popular that people would almost certainly be willing to make adjustments to see them succeed. Many of the changes would simply restore laws that worked well for us in the past.

You wouldn’t know any of this from the mass media. They hardly ever say the words, much less argue the case for taxing the rich. Google it. You find almost nothing. Public opinion polls show big majorities believing the rich don’t pay their fair share of taxes, but the findings are ignored by the media. The neojournalists of NPR and the rest will talk about “anti-austerity” in Greece and Germany and hard times in California, but they can’t talk about taxing the rich, which is the real unifying issue among most people worldwide. What occupy wall street and the tea party have in common is resentment and bitterness over the obscene wealth of a few.

The rich think we don’t know how much they have, and they may be right about that. It’s true they got it all from us, and we do pay them for just about everything we need and do. But they get huge sums from government, which they own, in the form of subsidies, contracts, and financing arrangements. No one knows exactly how many of our dollars pass directly from government to rich people and the businesses they own, but it’s a big portion of what we spend as a nation.

Before Reagan, rich people (including Reagan) used to pay most of their income–90 percent in the top bracket–in taxes. Every once in awhile, you’d hear somebody complain about it, usually jokingly, but high-earning stars like Mickey Mantle (and Reagan) didn’t play any less well because of the tax bite, and there seemed to be jobs for everybody in those days.

And so history seems to tell us that when we taxed the rich, it was good for the country. Please drop me a line if you hear anybody else say this, because I’m listening and I’m not hearing it, except the occasional stifled squeak that slips out of a reporter or analyst by accident. Even the very modest tax on the rich that’s under consideration in California, so tiny as to be insignificant, is hardly discussed in the national media.

Think of what might happen if we demanded in this election year, from every candidate regardless of party, a promise to support taxation of the rich. We might debate how much to take and what to do with the proceeds, but the commitment to tax the rich could be a matter of consensus.

Some say we would raise enough by taxing the rich to keep payments current on our debt and restore many of the services we’ve eliminated over the last thirty years or so. We could solve the SuperPac problem. There simply wouldn’t be as much money available to rich people for bribery and political manipulation. And imagine a world in which retribution is exacted from the living, breathing people (not corporations) who stole our banking system, who lost two wars over resources they wanted to control, who pollute without limit, who degrade our culture for profit and who enslave us with oppressive debt and mass unemployment.

Some of the proceeds might go for public works or relief of stressed homeowners and renters. Universal Medicare would certainly be adopted. The only thing that’s stopped it so far is the influence of the insurance industry, owned mainly by rich people. That influence would be reduced by a corresponding reduction in the size of their bankroll.
Responsible legislators might adopt the approach of Robin and his Merry Men, redistributing the surplus assets of the rich among the needy or maybe simply on a per capita basis. What might happen if the stock of General Electric were confiscated by government and redistributed to the general public?

There is only one argument against taxing the rich and that’s the argument of the rich. It’s not so much an argument as blackmail. “If you tax us,” they promise, “we will withdraw all financing, and your economy will fail.” They press their point with rewards for those who make the tax rules, and they get richer as the rest of us pay. In fact, the world won’t stand still if we tax the rich. It will become a better place.