Is Justice Best Served By Cuts in Education and Social Programs or Tax Increases on the Wealthy?
by Mo Johnson
This was submitted to the News & Messenger as a Letter to the Editor. So, far it has not been published there. So, we published it here -- as we are almost always happy to do with commentary.
Prince William County Supervisor Pete Candland recently recommended tough spending cuts. Here's my reply:
I commend Mr. Candland for stating his position publicly and clearly. Mr. Candland is a Republican and represents the majority Republican opinion. This is significant because Republican politicians, like Mr. Candland, now control all levels of our local and state government. They control the school board, Board of Supervisors, State House, Senate, Lt. Gov, Atty Gen., Governor. Nearly every elected local official is a Republican. So, it is really important to seriously consider what Mr. Candland is saying since it is likely what will happen.
Mr. Candland says our problem is too much spending and he aims to cut it by cutting programs that provide needed services to the children and citizens of Prince William County. Mr. Candland so far has not identified what he will cut.
I am going to tell Mr. Candland, and anyone who will listen the truth. The problem we have on the State and Local level is not too much spending. Spending has been cut to the bone already over the past few years. The problem we have is insufficient funding. The truth is that the level of taxation in America is currently lower than any other industrialized country in the world and lower than it's been here in over 60 years. If you doubt this, just read this article by Bruce Bartlett, a conservative economist and advisor to President's Reagan and Bush Sr. Are Taxes in the US High or Low?.
Now, many of you say, "no way, I'm struggling to pay taxes more than ever." And, that is also true. The reason is that real wages (when adjusted for inflation) of most people (the bottom 90% of us) have been declining for the past 30 years. At the same time, income for the top 10%; particularly the top 1% has gone through the roof. But, the tax rates of these wealthy people have declined. Yes, Republicans are quick to point out that the share of taxes paid by the wealthy has increased, this is true. BUT, that share of taxes paid by the wealthy has not increased as much as their share of income has increased. So, in the end, we've had an overall decline in taxes paid by the society as a whole, but most of this decline has been caused by the sharp tax cuts for the wealthy. You can see this clearly (and thankfully publicly) when Mitt Romney released his tax return and we found he only paid a 14% tax rate. And, many of his friends pay even less. In the "good old" 50's, a rich person like Mitt Romney would have paid 3 times as much tax than he does today.
Overall, America has never been wealthier. We should be able to afford even better schools and roads not cuts in them; not selling off I-95 to a private company and leasing it back; not denying raises (even cost of living increases) to teachers for as far as the eye can see. I recently heard that Prince William County is the 9th richest county in America, yet not in the top 4000 jurisdictions in pay to teachers.
What's wrong? Actually, its simple and obvious if one looks at the facts. The wealthy are doing fabulously well -- never better. Many of them live in our county -- which is one of the richest in this rich country. But, they are not paying their fair share any more.
Mr. Candland makes a good point that our county should not be stuck making up for cuts in payments from federal and state levels. But, rather than consider why those cuts are happening, Mr. Candland simply accepts that they must happen and nothing can be done about them. This is what Grover Norquist and his wealthy patrons what us to do. This is their plan to continue shifting wealth from the poor and middle class to the wealthy. They do it by cutting taxes on the wealthy and starving our government into cutting programs for the common good that help especially the poor and middle class. The wealthy don't need those programs. They can send their kids to private schools. So, they aren't so interested in the common good. They are ok with the slow strangulation and starvation we are see in most of our society. It's not where they live.
If Mr. Candland (and all the Republicans in all the elected offices) are really upset about cuts from the State and Federal level -- why don't they ask their Republican friends at those levels to raise taxes on the wealthy, back to the levels we used to have "when America was great"?
I'll tell you why, and this is the God's honest truth -- the Republican party has been bought and paid for by wealthy interests that now write our laws and control our government. There is only one way we can become a great country again -- that way is to enact policies that promote the interests of the common good. That will only happen when the people elect Democrats at all levels of government.
The next time a Republican says we just have to cut more programs -- ask them why the wealthiest country in the world (indeed one of the wealthiest counties in that wealthy country) can't afford to pay it's teachers or pave its roads. Ask them why the rich are paying the lowest level of taxes since 1929.
And, for God's sake -- wake up people!
You can read more at Economic Inequality in the United States and Tax Inequality in the United States.