On Tax Day April 17th 2012 the Money out of Politics and Political Action working groups of OWS are holding an action at the main post in Manhattan on 8th Ave and 31st Street. The purpose of this action is to bring attention to the fact that many corporations and members of the 1% do not pay reasonable taxes. This is especially egregious at a time when the Federal budget is being slashed. It is no surprise that most of these budget cuts are detrimental to the poor and middle class, while not providing any realistic means to deal with the our staggering national debt.
While our Tax Day action will draw attention to a problem that affects most Americans, we will also be presenting a solution: Get money out of politics through comprehensive election campaign finance reform. Right now corporate donations and lobbying have more influence on the government than peoples’ votes do. Savvy politicians know they cannot get elected without this funding, and often spend more time at fund raising than doing the work the voters elected them to do. Subsequently, when in office, their allegiance is to those who financed their campaigns, not the constituents they pledged to serve. Only after the corporate stranglehold on Washington is broken, will the American people be in a position to advocate effectively for legislation that serves their needs over the interests of a privileged few.
Claims that taxation of the wealthy will hurt the economy by causing them and their businesses to flee to more amenable climes resulting in the loss of jobs and therefore be a detriment to the middle class and poor is easily proved false if one looks at what has actually happened over past three decades, the time of the Reagan era tax cuts and those that followed. During this period, while the wealthy grew wealthier, middle class income has remained stagnant. Although actual wages themselves may have risen, increased costs of energy, food, and health care as a percentage of income has risen more. Coupled with reduced work benefits and outright competition with the overseas market for jobs (because, in fact, many big businesses did move production overseas despite low taxes) has produced a prescription for a precipitous decline of the working class. Trickle-down economics, in which the wealthy are given preferential tax benefits, has not shown itself to be the key to prosperity for average Americans. The average citizen now knows better. They get it, they sense what is happening, they deal with the struggles of survival every day, and they see the inequity and hypocrisy. That is why so many people responded favorably to the rise of the Occupy movement; it speaks directly to their frustrations and concerns.
Though the issue of taxation is not the only consequence of corporate controlled government, it is an apt example of the results of such influence. Statistics on corporate tax payments are difficult to assemble because many corporations do not release their tax returns. More transparency in this area may be a good idea. Available information shows that companies like Verizon and GE find ways to avoid paying adequate taxes. Then there is also the issue of taxation of the wealthy, such as the low capital gains rate and various loopholes. Warren Buffet’s well known comments on this subject highlight the disparity well. Exceedingly low capital gains taxes reward the rich for being rich and allow them to become richer. Meanwhile the average American could never compile enough capital to enjoy such advantages. This amounts to a kind of shell game most of us will never get to play.
The way to solve this issue will take more than simple tax reform. The issue of taxation is only one of the many problems that result from the influence of the 1% on our government. The real solution is to overcome that influence by taking the money out of politics, possibly by the seemingly radical, but achievable goal of public funding. This could result in an equal footing for all candidates and force politicians to serve their constituents’ needs instead of servicing the bottomless greed of a few. The real goal is a society that provides securities and supports that allows people to flourish and be productive.
Actions such as this Tax Day event must work in tandem with mass outreach and participation in pressing for real reforms on this issue. Public events are necessary for gaining people’s attention and support, and also letting the politicians and 1% know we are serious. The real need, however, is to work on comprehensive change. This will take time, organization, and patience. Not the kind of patience that becomes complacency. Nor can citizens expect other people to do the job for them. A new age of increased activism is necessary. The people must find common cause and take their government, and, indeed, their destiny and lives, back. The Tax Day action on April 17 is a call to join this cause.