On the rationality and justice of taxing the rich in times of recession (and other times as well)

Taxing the rich in times of recession

The local paper up the road apiece published an editorial (Jan. 18) from that workers' friend and objective source on tax policy, the Wall Street Journal. It's essential message is that passage of measures 66 and 67 will turn Oregon into Mississippi as tax collectors use bullwhips to drive business out of the state. (The WSJ and people like Alan Greenspan were silent when George W. Bush — remember him? — drastically cut taxes on the rich, created enormous budget and fiscal deficits, and told us all to go out and shop ... on credit, of course.)

The editorial claims that it is irrational to tax the rich and businesses, as 66 and 67 will do, as a way to get out of a recession. Now, those WSJ editors know better but they must keep up the official line that government can't do much about the economy (Bailouts? Let's not mention that.) and we should just let business "recover its equilibrium" and all will be well again.

Nonsense on stilts. We know from the Great Depression and from many other of capitalism's chronic crises since then that government intervention is the only thing that fends off utter disaster — but the WSJ and its corporate ilk want to be the only beneficiaries of the "Nanny State."

And please: This is not a "socialist" position. John Maynard Keynes called for precisely the type of interventions to be found in 66/67. When unemployment is high and rising, when workers are taking deep pay cuts — note, however, that total pay in Wall Street reached a record $145 billion in 2009; when the superrich (the top 5 percent), and the big banks and the big corporations are hiding trillions in "safe" (no risk/no interest) U.S. securities because they see no profitable investment opportunities — when aggregate demand is sinking into the slough of despond, when the foreclosure rate, the bankruptcy rate, the unemployment rate, the social tragedy rate keep rising with no end in sight, then clearly there is the inescapable need and duty of a democratic state to tax those with the money, to create jobs by initiating the massive public infrastructure works our country so desperately needs, to improve our public education system, to initiate and fund new technologies to replace our anachronistic transportation system and to combat global climate change and to make a sustainable economy to serve us all. Not one penny of such money so raised should be used for "defense," the biggest and most economically wretched waste of taxpayer money imaginable.

While I am about it, let's hear it for "class war." In his intelligent essay in the Tidings (Jan. 26), Jeff Golden lumped such a slogan in with the "manipulation of fear and resentment" so popular in what passes for debate in our politics today. But there are empirically well-founded and well-grounds for the cry of "class war." Since the 1970s, the tax burden on workers has grown, while the very rich have paid less and less; the wages of workers have stagnated and even declined, while the top 10 percent have flourished; labor unions have been legally and illegally trashed; workers' rights of unionization have been in fact negated; policies such as NAFTA and the WTO have destroyed America's manufacturing base and the jobs they used to provide; corporations and their lobbyists have managed to entirely pervert to their own needs and purposes our democratic powers; the costs of higher education have placed it beyond most students' reach ("2009 SOU grads had $24,000 in loan debt on average," Tidings, Jan. 13, 2009); our children and grandchildren face a lifetime of challenges paying off the debts incurred by what are in fact policies of "class war."

To utter the cry of "class war" is not akin to the nonsense spouted by

Teabaggers and Fox News and Glenn Beck and Russ Limbaugh. "Class War" is a fact of our political times and the sooner Americans see it, the quicker we may remedy it. Peacefully, of course.

Gerald Cavanaugh


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