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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Common Sense Solution to Deficits? Tax Those Who Have Gotten a Free Ride

Nice rundown by Tracy Dingmann at Clearly New Mexico on the America Speaks town halls on the federal budget that took place in cities nationwide this past Saturday, including Albuquerque. Also be sure to follow her links to a couple of good posts on this on New Mexico FBIHOP.

The intent of the town halls has been called into question, with critics noting that one of their primary organizers -- billionaire Pete Peterson -- has been intent on making drastic cuts to "entitlements" like Social Security and Medicare for many years. Clearly, the focus of the events was to encourage participants to see our already meager social safety net as the main culprit in deficit spending, and to ignore the impact of such things as the massive revenue losses created by Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy and no-end-in-sight spending on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which Bush and the Congress have refused to pay for by raising revenues.

Despite the thinly veiled attempt by Peterson et al. to push attendees towards pre-conceived, right-wing notions about government spending and taxation -- not to mention that the makeup of attendees was not representative of American demographics -- a majority of participants managed to see things through a different, more progressive lens. As noted in an article on New Deal 2.0:

Remarkably, however, AmericaSpeaks got lucky (or perhaps, from Peterson’s point of view, unlucky.) Despite all the biases, on several issues town hall participants came up with opinions not very different from those that have been expressed by majorities of Americans in dozens of well-designed national surveys. Participants opposed cuts in Social Security benefits, insisting that benefits must be preserved when balancing the budget. They wanted to strengthen the economy, favoring the current stimulus bill (stalled in the Senate) by a margin of 51% to 38%. In order to reduce budget deficits, most favored cutting defense spending and enacting progressive tax measures: raising the payroll tax “cap” so that incomes over $106,800 are subject to the tax (85% in favor); raising high-end corporate and personal income taxes; and imposing new taxes on carbon and on securities transactions. Only on the Social Security retirement age did the results conspicuously stray from actual public opinion.

Dean Baker, a critic of the manipulative nature of the town halls, provides another good analysis of how the America Speaks effort backfired on Peterson and other anti-Social Security and Medicare zealots:

Given this stacked deck the participants rose up in revolt. They demanded the option to vote on a single-payer type health care system. The idea being to reduce costs by making health care more efficient rather than just cutting services in Medicare and other public sector programs. They also voted overwhelmingly for defense cuts and for every progressive tax option in the book, even though many had been seriously mischaracterized. For example, they listed the potential revenue from a financial speculation tax in 2025 as $30 billion a year even though there is good reason, based on the experience of other countries, to believe that we could raise close to ten times this amount.

Richard (RJ) Eskow, who also warned beforehand that the town halls were meant to persuade rather than sample, came away from the experience calling them "A Mind Control Experiment Gone Horribly Right."

And the Dems?
In response to right-wing pressure, President Obama has appointed what's being called a "deficit commission" to wrangle with a federal deficit that suddenly concerns Republicans and corporate-loving Democrats, despite the fact that most respected economists say cutting spending during a deep and widespread "recession" would be economic suicide. Take Paul Krugman, for example, who says such cuts -- which were also pushed at the recent G20 confab -- would create a Third Depression. Many progressives and Democrats are not amused, including Naomi Klein, who views such proposals as a way to force ordinary people to pay for a crisis caused by wealthy elites and greedy bankers.

Isn't it time we do the obvious to clean up the financial chaos produced by mega-corporations and wealthy chiselers? Tax the people who made out like bandits during the deregulation, de-taxation free for all -- globally, nationally and even right here in New Mexico. Democratic candidates, officeholders and leaders -- are you listening? 

Working families, teachers, Social Security recipients, those on Medicaid or Medicare and other ordinary Americans cannot take additional cuts so that the most well off among us can continue to avoid paying their fare share for the common good. There's no way around it and it's time for more Democratic leaders to start speaking truth to power instead of discussing what ails us entirely within right-wing frames that deem vital services we pay for as "entitlements." 

June 30, 2010 at 02:03 PM in Corporatism, Economy, Populism, Finance, Investments, Progressivism, Public Policy, Right Wing, Social Security, Taxes | Permalink


It's us vs. them. It's working people vs. corporations. It's regular Americans vs. the richest class. Democrats need to speak out for the little guy and call a spade a spade.

Posted by: Old Dem | Jun 30, 2010 2:43:44 PM

We need some spirited populism coming out of the mouths of Democratic candidates.

Posted by: Rogerout | Jun 30, 2010 4:44:18 PM

This "deficit" process should separate the corporatists from the Democrats.

Posted by: Fanta Se | Jun 30, 2010 5:55:00 PM

"This week, Reid and Baucus pulled out the unemployment benefits as a $33-billion standalone bill, attaching an extension of the homebuyer tax credit, yet it wasn't enough of a sweetener to overcome the deficit demands of most Republicans and Ben Nelson. After the vote, the Senate unanimously consented to the extension of the tax credit, as Reid said would happen if the vote failed."
58 to 38. Disgusting. The Democrats are still ruling like Republicans. Tax cuts only?

Posted by: qofdisks | Jun 30, 2010 11:08:11 PM