It's so easy to get distracted. To lose focus. It's what Foxaganda, the Republicans, the Chamber of Commerce and the subsidized deadbeat corporations want. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the battle over shutting down the government. It's not that Democrats are wrong to make a big deal over Planned Parenthood funding for women's health. This issue matters. And it matters a great deal. The war on women has been a major theme of right-wing attacks for a long time and, as one can see in Congress and a plethora of state legislatures, it's being ratcheted up. These attacks should be fought against every inch of the way because, as Joan McCarter has written, they are part of a radical agenda that will have a negative impact at the most fundamental level. So huzzah for the Democratic caucus standing together against this latest woman-hating attack.
But there are two dangers. One of those, joanneleon points out, is that a (probably temporary) win on Planned Parenthood funding will be touted as an overall victory in the shutdown fight. The associated danger is that we will lose sight of the big picture in the heat of our battle on the details, even if those details are important ones. That big picture was recently described quite well by Sen. Bernie Sanders, a fellow who isn't a Democrat but who Democrats ought to be emulating. Here he is addressing the crux of our predicament:
Two- and five- and seven-minute versions of that speech ought to have been on the lips of every Democrat who's spoken about the government shutdown for the past two weeks. Every time.
While it may not provide the entire solution, the response to Paul Ryan's roadmap and every other Republican's effort to gut federal social spending and cut taxes for the benefit of the wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations should include references to the need to restore progressive taxes. Because that is, at its core, what the government shutdown is really about, the 30-year failure to block right-wing efforts to transfer more of this country's wealth upward. Here's the outline of a proposal by Chuck Collins, senior policy analyst at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-author with Bill Gates Sr. of Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes:
By reversing years of tax giveaways to America’s rich and the corporations that enrich them, Congress could raise trillions in revenue. We could fund the public structures that safeguard our families and our future.
There are four revenue raisers that Congress could institute tomorrow that would generate $400 billion a year–or $4 trillion over the next decade. Such programs would restore greater fairness to our tax system and reduce the extreme levels of inequality polarizing our society.
Congress could levy a modest financial transaction tax on the transfers of stock, currency, and speculative investments that do little to strengthen the real economy. This would generate $150 billion a year while exempting smaller investors.
Lawmakers could reduce corporate tax dodging by closing overseas tax havens and requiring companies to pay U.S. taxes on the profits they actually earn in this country. This could generate as much as $100 billion a year.
Congress could establish new top tax rates on households with annual incomes over $1 million, which could generate another $100 billion a year. Under our current tax system, a person earning $374,000 a year pays the same top tax rate as someone earning $10 million a year.
Lawmakers could institute a progressive estate tax on fortunes over $5 million, with higher rates on billionaire estates. That would generate $45 billion a year.
Taking all four of these straightforward steps could raise a total of approximately $400 billion per year.
Class warfare? No. Self-defense. Which is our basic right as working Americans.
It will, of course, be argued that the Democrats shouldn't talk about raising taxes as Collins and Sanders propose because Republicans (and the remaining Blue Dogs) control the House and the votes just aren't there. And besides tax-raising proposals will be used to crush the Democrats and put Michele Bachmann or Mitt Romney or Donald Trump into the Oval Office. And blah, blah, blah.
Whether put forth by Democrats who are lined up with the corporations or by those too chickenhearted to actually fight, this is the approach that has got us where we are today, arguing over how much to cut Head Start, how best to eviscerate Medicaid, how far to reduce the top marginal tax bracket for billionaires.
It's obviously true that if some Democrats who aren't in the corporate bag vigorously took up the need for restoring progressive taxes, they would not succeed this year. The obstacles aren't imaginary. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't hammer the issue now. Relentlessly, incessantly, with passion and determination. Perhaps Sanders could give seminars.
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