Thoughts on Tax Day 2012

mitt thurston howell iii romneyAs Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., wrote in 1904, “taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.”

But the wealthiest Americans, who haven’t raked in as much of America’s income and wealth since the 1920s, are today paying a lower tax rate than they have in over thirty years. Even though America faces a mammoth federal budget deficit. Even though public services at all levels of government continue to be slashed. Even though the median wage is still dropping, adjusted for inflation. Even though the typical American is paying more of his or her earnings in taxes – including payroll taxes, sales taxes, and property taxes – than ever before.

I’m not a class warrior. I’m a class worrier. And my worries go to why all this has happened.

I worry about the political power that comes with great wealth – such as the power of the wealthy to reduce their taxes, cut the public services most other Americans depend on, while at the same time garnering special subsidies and tax breaks for their businesses – big oil, big pharma, big agriculture, military contractors, big insurance, Wall Street.

I worry about the well-financed big lies that the very rich are the nation’s “job creators,” that the benefits from tax cuts on the rich “trickle down” to everyone else, that American corporations will create more jobs if only their taxes are lowered and if regulations protecting health, safety, and the environment were jettisoned.

I worry about the increasing dominance of Wall Street over our economy and democracy, and the near political impossibilities of closing the “carried interest” loophole that allows private-equity and hedge-fund managers to treat their income as capital gains subject to only 15% tax; of resurrecting the Glass-Steagall Act separating investment from commercial banking, and of breaking up the big banks to protect against another financial crash and bailout of the Street.

robert reichYou and I have every right to be class worriers – and to be outraged at what has occurred. But we have to get beyond worry and outrage, and do everything in our power to take back our economy and reclaim our democracy.

It was another justice of the Supreme Court, Louis Brandeis, who wrote in 1897, “we may have a democracy or we may have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.”

Robert Reich
Robert Reich’s Blog 


  1. JoeWeinstein says

     The strikes and other stuff that Marie sees as necessary won’t by themselves suffice, unless they are informed by a shared vision of how, starting on the morning after, our society is supposed to work – and in particular how to make group decisions.   That vision can’t be merely Reich’s notion of just ‘reclaiming’ a ‘democracy’ that never was a democracy.  How about instead having real democracy in government policy-making and legislation?  All proposals could and should be agendized, decided on, and precautionarily reviewed not by expensively chosen career politicians but by short-term randomly chosen teams of willing ordinary citizens. 

  2. Marie says

    of the 1% wealth has been safely stored in stocks and bancs and corporations,
    out of reach for the less fortunate, and protected by a network of laws and regulations.
    Living in their protected castles, with a militarized police-force to defend
    it. They are in power. Why should those Scrooches be willing to give in and pay
    their equal share of taxes and other responsibilities. As long as they feel
    safe and comfortable, why would they pay attention to demonstrations?

    of a men-to-men fight it has become like a men fighting with computerized
    drones (people facing big corporations).

    we not getting at a point that the only way we can force around any change in this
    selfish corrupt top is by a massive total strike, causing disorder in their organized
    battalion ? …

    is one other big problem. Many, a few steps down on the social ladder, have
    their own big or little corruptions, and who don’t want to risk the comforts
    they still enjoy, by stirring up the structure…

    And  without Unity , strikes don’t work either.

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