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Date: 2024-05-21 Page is: DBtxt003.php txt00023329
PDA / RALPH NADER ELECTION SUPPORT
1. THE ECONOMY: For the Many, not the Few

TAXES: Tax the Rich, not the Poor written by David Cay Johnston

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Peter Burgess COMMENTARY

Peter Burgess
TAXES: Tax the Rich, not the Poor

David Cay Johnston

It’s absolutely critical in an election that you talk to people on a level that they understand and that’s not the policy wonk talk that probably all of us are deeply invested in. You need to talk to people where they live. Keep in mind Upton Sinclair, when he wrote The Jungle, expected that it would lead to revulsion by people over the treatment of meatpacking workers. Instead, as he put it, “I shot an arrow at America’s heart, and hit its stomach.”

Let me bring up a word that you should never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, unless you absolutely must, say again: that word is “spend.” It scares people. When Joe Biden said he wanted three and a half trillion dollars for his so-called “Build Back Better” bill, that’s all you heard on Fox, “Three and a half trillion dollars!” As if it would all be spent in one year. Instead, here’s the best way to make the point: “We want to invest in a wealthier future for everyone.”

And, by the way, the three and a half trillion dollars is over 10 years. That’s less than $3 a day per American.” Would you be willing to invest $3 a day so that you and your children and your grandchildren will be prosperous? Well, that’s what was proposed.” By the way, after I wrote a column about this, Biden used my language for one day, and then he went back to talking about spending with no context.

I’ll tell you another thing I know from talk radio: no one believed or had heard that the Biden plans included tax cuts for everybody who made under $400,000 a year. Nobody. They thought, “Oh, my goodness, the Democrats are gonna raise our taxes. We’re going to have to spend three and a half trillion dollars in one year, whatever that number means.” Million? Billion? Trillion? Meaningless numbers. Scary numbers. But you can reduce things down. People get “$3 a day.” Biden’s American Families Plan: at least 4 years of college education at no cost, childcare, family leave, sick leave. The cost of that plan was less than a dollar and a half a day per American. That is, Biden wanted to invest less than a dollar and a half to make all of us better off. “$1.50 a day.”

Here’s another thing to think about: what’s happened to wages? I can give you numbers off the top of my head all day, none of which you’ll retain, but perhaps this will be effective. In 2020, the median wage in this country went up by $26. That’s 50 cents a week. Would you notice if your income went up by 50 cents a week? Would it make any difference in your life compared to the year before? So imagine $26 is one inch, or the height of the heel of a man standing outside of Trump Tower. Now look at people who make over $1 million a year, how did their wages do? If that typical increase of $26 was one inch, the increase for the 1 in 900 workers who make over $1 million a year would go all the way to the top of Trump Tower, plus another 315 feet. It would be more than 900 feet high. A skyscraper of money.

The average increase in pay for people who make over a million dollars a year from their job—only including salary and bonus—was $330,000 in 2020. Under the radical Republican Trump plans, we were accelerating the conversion of our country from one where we reward people for their work into a system to transfer that money to the richest people in this country. That’s why we don’t have the revenue to invest.

Also: right now the bottom 99. 9 percent of Americans are being burdened with hidden tax increases to support the super wealthy—the richest 1/1,000 families. How? The Trump tax cuts were financed with borrowed money. That is, the government is borrowing money so that the wealthiest people in this country don’t have to pay as much in income taxes. And at the very same time, Republicans want to cut the programs that benefit the vast majority of us—like ending Social Security and abolishing the Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare”).

So number one, most important: Don’t talk “spend.” Talk “invest.” We want to invest in a wealthier future for all Americans. If we don’t have a better educated workforce, we will get left behind by the rest of the world. We need to invest in our workforce, not in super rich people. There are people in the United States with daily incomes of over $5 million a day, and some of them pay zero income tax; all of them pay a lower income tax than someone making $100,000 a year. Why? Because they got Congress to put in provisions to benefit them.

We also need to recognize that this system is getting worse. In 2020, the average person saw their income go up by nearly nothing. But of all the pay raises handed out in America that year, 82 percent went to people who make over $1 million a year—one of 900 workers. You could point to a crowd that’s gathered and say that’s just the leg of one man sitting in the front row—that man’s leg got 82 percent of all the pay increases. That’s what we’re doing in this country. We are creating a system in which the people at the top are taking more and more and more of the income and the productive capacity of this country for themselves, and they are holding back other people.

You will hear about the price of gasoline. There’s something called the Baker-Hughes rig count. With oil prices going up to over $100 a barrel, you might think that the oil drillers would be out there [drilling] for more oil. Nope. The drill count’s hardly gone up at all, and I look at it every week. Why would you go invest and spend money to drill for more oil—which will lower the price of oil—when you can simply sit around your living room drinking your 75-year-old Scotch and collecting super premium prices for the oil you’re already producing?

You’re better off not producing, and that’s something to hit the Republicans with. Republicans have created an economy and want to have more of this strategy of mining the interests of ordinary people, so they can move money into the pockets of people who are already so rich that they can’t spend all the money that they have.

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