“Why do you rob banks?” someone once asked a notorious criminal.
“Because that’s where the money is.”
Any time progressives point out the need for Housing First to address our out-of-control homeless crisis, or universal pre-K, or universal childcare, or universal healthcare, or fare-free public transit, or tuition-free college and vocational training, or a rapid transition away from fossil fuels, the complaint is always, “Where are we going to get the money?”
No one asks that when we give the military $768 billion. Or when we give subsidies to fossil fuel companies. No one questions the multitude of other corporate handouts we give away regularly.
Even more mystifying, no one asks how much it will cost if we don’t create these programs.
But let’s put all that aside and just answer the question. Where are we going to get the money?
We’re going to get it from the only source that has it—corporations and wealthy individuals.
We can never raise the necessary money from sales tax. We can’t raise it by only requiring income tax from the bottom 90% of the population. We can’t raise it by increasing property taxes on middle income folks.
I earn $30,000 a year. My property taxes this year were a little over $3000. That plus my mortgage totaled roughly $9600. And I’m one of the lucky ones.
We’re not funding essential programs by squeezing the life out of poor, working class, or even middle class folks.
The wealthy, and the politicians they “donate” to, tell us we need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.
The wealthy, and the politicians they “donate” to, tell us we need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. They essentially yell, “Go fund yourself!” in a tone implying another four-letter word that starts the same way.
Do we “need” universal childcare? Do we “need” all public schools to receive equal funding? Do we “need” universal healthcare and tuition-free college and vocational training?
Only if we don’t want to live in a rapidly failing society.
Sure, we can step over homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk. We can live with a system of mass incarceration imprisoning more citizens per capita than any other country on Earth. We can suffer under a healthcare system that places life expectancy in the U.S. below that in forty-five other nations.
But the fact that we can accept widespread poverty and misery doesn’t alleviate any of that poverty and misery…or its consequences.
If raising taxes on the wealthy did nothing for me personally but only ensured that the thousands of unhoused individuals and families in my city had safe lodging, I’d be fine with that. If raising taxes on corporations didn’t help me personally but did ensure that trash cans in public spaces were emptied regularly and that portable toilets and shower facilities were available to the unhoused, I could get behind that.
I don’t need to benefit personally from the money raised from the wealthy and corporations to recognize the benefit to society. Because I’m part of society, and I do benefit. We all do.
It’s great not having to sidestep human feces. It’s wonderful to see toxic superfund sites in my city being cleaned. It’s fantastic to see a vibrant public transit system helping transport folks to their jobs, to medical appointments, to visit friends and know that public transit is better than private vehicles in adapting to a worsening climate crisis.
We’re not asking corporations and the wealthy to scrub our bathtubs. We’re asking them to do what we’re doing—pay their fair share.
If their personal share is larger, then their fair share is larger, too.
“Where will we get the money to fund essential programs?” you ask.
From the only source that has it.
Freedom isn’t free. Equity isn’t free. And a healthy, functioning society isn’t free, either.
Yes, we can back the two major political parties and their corporate agenda, but that won’t help us avert climate catastrophe or even the collapse of our nation. The tensions pushing us toward civil war are fed by widespread and increasing misery among millions of families of every political ideology.
Telling us to fund ourselves isn’t a solution.
Americans have needs that must be met, and if our elected officials don’t meet them, people will take their frustrations out on each other.
A few rich people at the top will probably survive even that cataclysm, but the rest of us had better understand quickly that, left, right, or center, our only real enemies are those who pit us against each other so they can keep all the resources for themselves.
People go to war for oil. They fight over water. Money to solve societal problems is a resource, too.
Who are the selfish here? People who want an education, a job, and to live above the poverty line? Or those who hoard more money than they could ever spend in a thousand lifetimes?
Even a minimally acceptable quality of life has a price tag.
Someone has to pay that price. And it can only be those who have the money to pay.
We don’t want all their money. We only want everyone to pay their fair share.
We must tax corporations and the rich.