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Shifting Taxes from Rich to Poor
December 17, 2002
By punpirate

Folks, the push is now on. Over the last couple of weeks, the mainstream press has repeated the pronouncements of the right-wing think tanks that the poor don't pay enough in taxes. And the latest, from the Washington Post, is that the upcoming newest policy shift of the Bushies, with regard to taxes, is that the rich pay too much in taxes.

Where's the surprise in this? Kevin Phillips, in his Wealth and Democracy, provides ample evidence that, over the last couple of decades, that the very wealthy, in their effective tax rates, pay slightly less in tax percentage of income than do the middle class. The working poor pay less percentage in taxes now, but that's because they have little to pay in without becoming clients of the systems the right-wingers want to destroy; those safety nets are, for the moment, still in place, meager though they may be.

Phillips also describes the decline of empire in very stark terms. The arrogance of acquisitive war and the deficits such wars create, the dependency upon speculative markets, all combine with the attempts of the wealthy to manipulate government to concentrate their wealth, at the expense of nation and people.

The latest attempt by the right wing to shift tax load to the lower classes is nothing new. It's been going on since Roosevelt's New Deal. Now, Bush tells us we're in the midst of war, but doesn't tell us that the budget is heading for penury due to open-ended presidential declarations of war--against anyone and everyone who has a grudge against us. The latest spin, of course, is that this shift in taxation is necessary to simplify the tax code. There's no mention that about 90% of the tax code today is devoted to carefully drafted loopholes for individual corporations or industries or the wealthy.

In times past, we have faced greater problems--in 1944, for example--when we faced world war, of a more desperate kind than the President suggests now in the face of terrorism. But, if we are in the midst of war, and need simplification of tax codes and of government, that sacrifice is necessary to win both economic and military adventures, then let's do the simple and decent thing--let's return the tax code to its 1944 standards. Then, the country at war accepted the necessity to pay for the war effort and made sacrifices, at both personal and corporate levels. The tax code then was, indeed, simpler. Corporations paid their fair share of taxes. The wealthy paid more taxes because they were most likely to lose their wealth if the country were to lose a war. Everyone, grudgingly, was, if not happy, then satisfied with the arrangement.

Now, the right-wing extremists are not happy with the situation. They want less taxes on the rich, though the rich pay much less now than they did in 1944. Corporations now pay about 80% less in taxes than they did during the last major war, even though they largely benefit by government spending for war.

Right-wing conservatives have long wanted to destroy the aims of the Great Society and the New Deal, and now see never-ending war and nationalism as the means to that end. But, they don't want the rich to suffer in any way by war, by economic upheaval, by corporate fraud. They simply want to enable and further a system which has stagnated the gains of the middle and lower classes of the country in the last thirty years. Phillips reports that, in the last couple of decades, the wealthy have seen their real wealth increase by some 150%, while the middle class have seen 9-10% increases. The working poor, at which proposed tax simplification is targeted, saw no gains at all.

In this regard, Bush the Younger is an enabler of addicts to wealth. Corporations and the top couple of percent of American families are cheering, but the rest of us should be worrying about what the next two years will bring, in economic terms alone. Al Gore has recently announced his decision not the run for President, and while he's said, "this is not the best time," underlying his decision is the recognition that 4-8 years of Bush and the right will create an economy and political nightmare which no Democrat can expect to undo in four years. Gore, like other careful observers in the Democratic Party, is waiting for the Republican right-wing and "bipartisan" Democrats to destroy the country's economy and the country's constitutional base. After widespread riots in the streets, calculating Democrats will outline their political aims to return the country to its previous stability, however tenuous that stability may have been. Unfortunately, the changes and debts wrought by the Bushies will be too much to overcome, economically and politically.

By that time, it may be too late. Kevin Phillips, the Republican who did voting analysis for the Nixon administration, now writes in favor of progressive economic and tax policy, and knows what the current administration's policies on war, taxes and social programs will wreak, because he's researched the same policies in previously failed empires. Some things, under the sun, never change. Wars of aggrandizement and their attendant expenses, combined with a legislative paean to the rich and a diminution of production in favor of speculation, result in the destruction of democracy, and the empire the right wing desires so much.

The names of legislators in favor of an empire based solely on increasing wealth of the wealthy are legion. Many of them are now household names. They will vote for increasing taxation of the poor and the middle class, because the rich have paid their way into the national legislature. The only correction available to the ordinary voter is to vote those whores to wealth out of the very offices which enable them to vote against the ordinary voter's interests, locally and nationally.

punpirate is a New Mexico writer who thinks that Kevin Phillips will make a damned good independent.

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