Yesterday I had a diary that's spending quite a lot of time in the Community Spotlight. (Andy Cuomo - Getting Ready for 2016) It got a lot of page views and some good comments. One late comment got my attention, asking for me to do more than just bitch about problems - what about solutions? Here's the comment:
Where's your solutions, xaxnar?
I see a whole lotta bitchin' - and I understand as a state worker how you would feel the way you do.. they keep asking state workers to give up more and more.
But you provide no alternative solutions.
Tax more? Foolish. The wealthy are already leaving NY in droves. Between state and local taxes, NYC residents are some of the highest taxed people in the country. In a state where the 1% pay 40% of the taxes, you really want to give them more reasons to move to NJ or elsewhere?
Did you see what happened to California after raising taxes? Revenues dropped precipitously.
So.. let's hear it. How are you going to solve NY's budget woes.. I'm all ears.
by Jerry J on Fri Mar 16, 2012 at 09:23:33 PM PDT
Let's start with a prime stinker of an arguing point right up front:
In a state where the 1% pay 40% of the taxes, you really want to give them more reasons to move to NJ or elsewhere?I still can't believe people fall for that one. 40% sounds like a huge share... as long as you don't ask how much income they're paying it on, or what share of the total income of the state they're getting. Would you feel as bad for them over that 40% if you knew they were getting, say 40% of the total income coming out of the state? (Hypothetically 40% - it could be more. It's almost certainly not less.)
Would it still bother you if you knew that their income after taxes was still orders of magnitude above the amount of money needed to live well in this state? You have to be careful with numbers in isolation. People who pay a lot in taxes because they have a lot of income to pay taxes on - well that's kind of the way the system is supposed to work.
Regarding taxes, we already had one in place that was helping quite a bit with the budget gap (which I remind you was created when the Masters of the Universe wrecked the economy.) Cuomo fought to let that expire. (You DID follow that link, right?)
Mass exodus by the rich? This guy maybe - good riddance too. He used his money to make NY State government even more dysfunctional before he left. As for the rest, where are these droves of whom you speak?
It's a nice story, one loudly repeated by the usual suspects every time progressive taxation is brought up, but the facts don't support it. We're talking about people who have so much money (and an entirely different tax situation than 99% of us), that their rationales for decision making don't correspond to the way most of us make choices.
Now the non-rich, that's another story. People who have jobs in this economy aren't going to move because of taxes. They don't dare. Retirees though are another matter. See, people on a fixed income are going to flee taxes when they can no longer afford them. (Especially when the benefits they paid for over their working careers keep getting slashed, to keep taxes low on the rich.) So they end up in low tax places - with lousy schools and infrastructure. But retirees aren't concerned about that so much. But here's the thing.
What would those low tax states that are retiree magnets look like if you could subtract Social Security and Medicare payments out of their economies? I suspect those states are getting some significant subsidies via our tax system. State employee pensions are not subject to state income tax in New York. But, slash those pensions so they can't afford to live here any more, they move away and the money they get from the state is no longer getting pumped back into the state economy. Doh!
California? What tax increases are you referring to? Prop 13 is still in effect as far as I know. Licensing fees, tuition on state schools, etc.? Maybe - and I believe I've seen studies over at Kevin Drum's place that show decreases in funding/tuition assistance for education in California are almost evenly matched or exceeded by increased spending on prisons.
The legislature needs (if I recall correctly) a 2/3 majority to raise taxes (but not to cut) which they do not and never will have, because no California Republicans ever vote for a tax hike. There's proposals to raise the sales tax - while cutting corporate taxes, closing versus protecting loopholes, etc. Not to mention the ballot initiative process...
If you want to argue that California shows that stupid tax policies carried out badly by a dysfunctional political system are counterproductive, I can agree with you on that.
WYFP? Try these:
You say you want solutions? Let's begin by seeing if we can agree on the problems.
• A system that takes the productivity of the economy and funnels it into the hands of a tiny fraction of the population is one. A HUGE one.
• A system that systematically increases productivity by driving down wages, cutting benefits, externalizing environmental costs, or just shipping jobs overseas is another.
• A system that over-rewards the financial sector for moving piles of money around while allowing the manufacturing sector to wither is another.
• A system that increasingly shifts the tax burden to the middle class while giving them less in exchange for it, even as middle class income is under attack, is yet another.
• A system that demonizes government, the public sector, the public good, refuses to invest in infrastructure is, ipso facto, a problem. You know, good public schools, clean air/water, Social Security, etc. etc. All things we can no longer afford, luxuries we have to do without. Yeah, right.
• A system that seeks to deregulate in the name of economic growth, but rushes in to bail out the big players at the expense of everyone else when they screw up (too big to fail) - well that's definitely a problem.
• A system with chrono-myopia and collective amnesia, one that can't/won't see past the next quarter or the next election, and can't/won't look back at the past to see what worked and what didn't, that's a problem.
• A political system of, by, and for whomever has the most money (Welcome to Griftopia).... Do I really need to say more?
The Road Too Traveled
For over thirty years, we've been told America has a simple problem: Government is too big, and taxes are too high. Cut government, lower taxes, and it will be morning in America again. We'll all be wealthy and freer than ever.
Here we are several decades down that road. Still look like morning? Are you still thinking "It'll all get better round that next bend - we just have to stay on this road."
Here's my problem with Cuomo and too many other neoliberal, centrist, corporate Democrats. (Pick whatever label suits your fancy.) They might not like where we're going - but they refuse to talk about turning around or maybe trying a different route. (Yeah, the old sexist stereotype about men never asking directions or wondering if they're going the right way. Maybe why we need more women in politics. Well, not the ones who are delusional anyway.) When was the last time you heard Cuomo or any other potential Democratic candidate for the White House flat out say Reaganism has been a disaster? When have you heard any of them even hint at policies that reject Reaganism, other than indirectly?
If you want solutions, number one is rejecting Reaganism in all its forms. It hasn't worked and it will never work - save for the very few at the top who are making out like bandits. It's not even the 1% - it's the .1%. Start by reversing the concentration of wealth, defang its hold on politics, and that alone will make a huge difference.
Number two is acknowledging the problems listed above. It's time to stop ignoring them or pretending that we have no way to deal with them. We need to put an end to the distractions deliberately created to divide and incapacitate us and our government. We can't ignore the culture wars, but we also have to realize a big reason conservatives stir them up is to sap our energies and our resources. We can start a counteroffensive to do the same to them - in fact it was already underway: remember Occupy Wall Street? The Right Wing went absolutely freaking nuts over OWS because they know they can't win on Class War - that's why they have worked so hard to suppress it. But here's the deal: Class War IS about addressing our real problems. OWS arose in large part because those problems are getting too big to ignore.
Number three is laying out policies that actually address our real problems. We're not there yet, but progress is being made. Via Kevin Drum:
1. Passed Health Care ReformNo, we're not all the way there yet. If you want change overnight, sorry. What the right wing knows is too much is never enough. They never give up - that's why the same battles have to be fought again for every new generation - if on different ground and with new weapons. We have a long way to go to push the country back to where it should be. But - we have plenty of answers that can work and have worked, unlike conservatives. (Take a look here, here and here for ideas to keep us moving in the right direction. If you've got others, share them in comments.)
2. Passed the Stimulus
3. Passed Wall Street Reform
4. Ended the War in Iraq
6. Eliminated Osama bin Laden
7. Turned Around US Auto Industry
9. Repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
12. Reversed Bush Torture Policies
14. Kicked Banks Out of Federal Student Loan Program
16. Boosted Fuel Efficiency Standards
18. Passed Mini Stimuli (July 22, 2010; December 17, 2010; December 23, 2011)
22. Created Conditions to Begin Closing Dirtiest Power Plants
27. Achieved New START Treaty
These are all big deals. Big fucking deals, to quote our vice president. Unless you're just bound and determined to sulk in your tent while insisting that health care was a sellout and the stimulus was too small and Dodd-Frank was feeble and the mini stimuli were more like micro stimuli, there's just no way around the fact that this is a historically colossal set of progressive accomplishments, especially in the face of a historically hostile political environment.
I was asked for solutions for New York State. Well, here they are. It's up to us to see them implemented at whatever level we can, and keep it up.
We'll know we're making progress when the Andy Cuomos of the world stop sucking up to the 1%, start working for the 99%, and are not afraid to say so.