BY VERN TURNER
You may have noticed that the Republicans in Congress are hard at work trying to make their friends, patrons and sponsors – aka corporate/banking America – happy with tax cuts and modest loophole adjustments. Meanwhile, the itemized deduction for state taxes and home mortgage interest are being either axed or reduced. This means that the vast majority of our middle class and poor citizens will not have their taxes reduced as promised by President Trump or other Republicans.
Why do Republicans talk about tax “reform” when they really mean shifting the burden of paying those wages for our society from those who can most afford it to those who can least afford it?
You also might recall the distortion of facts presented by the GOP: “40% of the people pay no taxes at all, while the top 10% pay almost 60% of those taxes.” What they don’t tell you is that the majority of those 40% don’t earn enough income to even hit the bottom of the tax tables. The 10%? Well, that tax rate is around 38% these days, but the majority of those earners have enough deductions such that almost none of them pay that 38%.
Meanwhile, corporate America has been allowed to stash its earned income from sales and services in off-shore banks around the world. This shelters them from paying U.S. taxes on that earned income, yet the money keeps earning interest for the stockholders and executives of those corporations.
Isn’t it funny that corporations are taxed at a lesser rate than the top wage earners? After all, the Citizens United vs. FEC decision held that corporations are people, so why don’t they pay 38% instead of just 35%? Oh, never mind.
Corporations get so many breaks in the tax code that very few of them pay anywhere near the 35% they moan about, and even fewer pay no taxes at all. That’s probably why there are many trillions of American dollars sitting in off-shore banks doing nothing but protecting stockholders and businesses from paying their fair share of the wages of society. But hey! It cost corporate/banking America a fortune in bribes to get the tax code written for them that way.
Those wonderful roads and highways we all drive on are built and maintained by tax dollars. Our massive military is built and maintained by tax dollars. Our public servants who manage all the government infrastructure that keeps our food disease-free, our children’s toys safe, our air clean enough to breath and our water clean enough to drink are paid for by tax dollars.
Companies that make things don’t have to pay for the roads and rails that get their goods to market, taxes do. Without those means of transport, the companies wouldn’t be profitable, with building and maintaining those transport mechanisms.
No, We The People pay for them through our taxes. When a corporation is “clever” enough or has hired enough tax attorneys to secure their loopholes and a tax-free operation, they are shifting their burden to the lesser among us who do have to pay our taxes.
What is even more craven than dodging taxes are the lies that accompany that selfish aspect of capitalism. Why did Donald Trump say he was smart by avoiding taxes? We are also not the most highly taxed nation on Earth. We are well into the second 10 of per capita tax burden as it is, and even lower in actual corporate taxes paid. The nations with the highest per capita tax burden are those nations that invest in their people and have a much more even distribution of wealth than the United States. Our Republicans turn up their noses at these countries and call them socialists.
It turns out that we are a socialist nation, too. As I said, our tax dollars pay for our infrastructure, our military and a host of other “social” services. Our military, for example is the most socialistic organization in the entire world. By the way, those “socialist” countries also have better, cheaper and more efficient health care systems for their citizens at no extra cost. Moreover, most of them educate their citizens through college for free. Is it any wonder that those nations produce far more competitive workers in all areas than we do?
There is an illustrative anecdote that speaks to this gaping inequality in income in the United States as well as to the pathetic selfishness of our richest citizens to do whatever it takes to avoid paying taxes.
A CEO of a major German corporation was interviewed by an American business news reporter. The reporter asked the CEO why he tolerated the 55% income tax he had to pay to the government. The CEO said that he made plenty of money and was able to provide handsomely for himself and his family and wanted for nothing as it is. The reporter persisted with the 55% topic.
The CEO retorted that he was happy to be rich, but didn’t want to live in a poor country. Poor countries were those who refused to invest in their people and let their infrastructure rot while the rich avoided their fair share of the wages of their society.
The Republican agenda has been one of making our nation poor, letting our infrastructure rot and making sure that the well-off became even more well-off at the expense of the middle and poor classes. This operating philosophy goes all the way back to post-Civil War times. They haven’t changed that basic economic tune.
With the advent of the craven Reaganomics era, the tax cuts, social services cuts and the privatization [for profit] of those services, the United States, as well, has fallen into the category of a poor country.
The other big lie is that we’re the richest country in the world. Well, not exactly. In terms of pure cash, yes, we are. But 90%-plus of that cash is owned by less than 1% of the population.
We rank in the 20s as the healthiest nation. We have over 50 million American citizens living in chronic poverty. We pay our school teachers less than any other industrialized nation in the world and the ranking of our high school graduates reflects that situation. Oh, and private/voucher school students do about the same as the public school students, no matter what Betsy DeVos tells you.
Our politics have become paralyzed by partisanship and the fight over money, mostly. Why won’t people come to realize that we are in the same boat and everyone must pull an oar to make the boat move and tend to the bailing bucket to keep it afloat?
Taxes are the wages of civilization and if we insist on being a civilized nation, maybe the tax burden should be more equitable with few loopholes for the rich to avoid their fair share. If the richest 1% can own 90% of the wealth, maybe they should be paying 90% of the taxes too, you know, like they did during World War II and for 10 years after that. The rich were still rich, but the infrastructure and the quality of life in America soared to unimaginable heights.
Now, our political rot has been caused by the hijacking of our national vigor by the super rich oligarchs whose names you know: Koch, Olin, Scaife, Mercer, Mellon, Coors. They don’t care if we the people are poor. They don’t want to invest in our health and education. They care only for profit and power.
They love buying politicians as if they were some kind of perverse brick-a-brack on their mantles. This is what the cravenness of capitalism creates. Karl Marx knew this way back in the 1850s, and even warned the world about these people.
Well, here they are: the gang of oligarchs doing what they do best to subvert our democracy for the sake of their own greed and power-madness. They are not our friends. They want to own everyone, and squeeze every bit of profit from everyone of us who isn’t “them.”
Yes, it is an us v. them time, and we let it happen. The current spate of deregulations from the year 2000 to present is exactly what these gluttons want. It is also what Karl Marx said would destroy capitalism.
Our only recourse, as the vast majority of the population, is to turn the tide of greed against the oligarchs and make them pay their fair share for our infrastructure, our quality of life and for the benefit of our children.
Our only recourse, in this still-democracy, is the vote. We must vote out those on the take from the oligarchs.
Sadly, some of them are Democrats who must be weeded out as well. But the majority of the graft-takers are Republicans.
Vote as if your nation depends on it. It does. Do you want to live in a poor country, while the 1% rub your noses in the mess they’ve created?
Vern Turner lives in Denver and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. His latest book, Racing to the Brink: The End Game for Race and Capitalism, is available through Amazon.com.