Take Another Look at Solving the Deficit
The debate on the California deficit goes something like this: The Republicans say any tax increase is unnecessary – “all that is needed is to cut government waste.” Clearly, there are working people out there, stretched financially, who hope this is true. The problem is that most of the “government waste” the Republicans actually want to cut is really the programs these same workers depend on. Educating their kids or the safety net for hard times or their very jobs if they provide public services to the rest of us.
For their part, the Democrats oppose these cuts pointing out correctly how necessary most of these programs are. Instead they want to extend taxes. The problem is that the taxes they actually get behind fall heaviest on these same financially stretched workers.
Enter Gov. Brown. “Everything is on the table,” he say,s and we all must sacrifice. His solution – some cuts, some taxes, but again the bulk falls directly on working people and the poor. He says this is the only alternative and wants a special election to get us to sign on.
We are being put in a classic bind – heads we lose, tails they win. Who exactly the ‘we’ is and the ‘they’ are is crucial to understanding the charade being played out in front of our eyes.
The ‘we’ is the vast majority of Californians who didn’t make out like bandits during the housing bubble, but have been paying for its collapse with overwork and retirement insecurity, unemployment or furloughs, escalating college costs, foreclosures, deteriorating schools and draconian cuts to desperately needed services. We had nothing to do with creating the crisis, but we sure are paying for it.
The ‘they’ on the other hand are the super rich, the top 1%, whose income more than doubled* in the 12 years leading up to the collapse. Their vast wealth provides ample cushion for any bumps in the road and enables them to make big campaign contributions to both Parties. For 2007 the average adjusted gross income of the top 1% was $1,832,123* (1.8+ million dollars).
The solution that won’t be on the table, if Gov. Brown, the Democrats and Republicans get their way, is the most sensible proposal of all – tax the super rich to pay off the deficit. It is about time they shared in the sacrifice.
Take a look at the numbers: 150,000 (1% of tax payers) times $1.8 million (their average income) equals $274 billion. Tax that by an additional 10% and you have over $27 billion – wiping out the deficit.
The fairness is clear. They have benefited way more than 10% from the Bush tax cuts to dividends and capital gains - where they, not us, make their money. Their income has been on a tear. In 2007 the average income of the top 1% increased $128,261* – more than 2/3rds of what a 10% tax would cost them. Compare that to the average middle income taxpayer. Our income increased only $180 that year - the sales tax increase alone wiped that out three times over.
The inescapable fact is they can easily afford it while most of us are tapped out or are about to be pushed over the edge with further service cuts. We don’t need fewer teachers in our schools or less home care for our elderly just so the ultra rich can pad their bank accounts.
It is up to us to push for better solutions than the ones we are being sold. Educate each other. Talk to your neighbors, co-workers, or fellow students. Bring it up at church and at the union. Show them the facts. It is only fair that the super rich pay their share.
Steve has spent the last 30 years raising a family and being a community activist in his east Oakland flatlands neighborhood – organizing block parties, being a friend to the youth, fighting foreclosures, and focusing on violence prevention. Steve says “Even in the best of times the flatlands is shortchanged and now with the crisis they want to take more away. It is time to fight back”.
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