Taxes Taxes taxes
Well, election day has come and gone in California, and the people have spoken. They want to take the fiscal mistakes of the past and pawn them off on the taxpayers of the future, they want to politically reward a governor who was elected on an idiotic promise--one he faithfully upheld to his credit--but that helped exacerbate the fiscal mistakes of the past, and they want to keep allowing a small minority in the state legislature to hijack the budget every year in the name of "no more taxes."
That's right. Proposition 56 failed and Propositions 57 and 58 both sailed through.
So what does this mean? It means it's time for a rant.
Liberals can talk about the way the right has poisoned the debate in this country, from Nixon's "Southern Strategy" of thinly veiled racism to gay-bashing to anti-abortion rhetoric, but the real damage--the worst damage, I will argue--they've done to society is in the right's destruction of the social contract by demonizing taxation by appealing to the selfish side of people.
The social contract--remember that? The little idea that in a society, by binding together and pooling resources we can accomplish huge tasks that none of us can handle on our own? The idea that we as a society are judged by how we treat the least among us (a concept lost on the religious right, I might add)? You know what fuels that contract, what turns it from mere rhetoric into action? Taxes.
Taxes are the dues we pay in order to have an advanced society. They're not theft, and yet that is exactly how the right has portrayed them for years. You want to know why our highway system is crumbling? Why we don't have reasonable security at our nation's ports and airports? Why our border is so porous? Why our schools are falling down around our childrens' ears? It's because we have allowed the right to demonize the idea of taxation to the point where anyone who mentions a tax hike of any sort is unelectable, because even those of us who don't earn enough to pay any appreciable sort of taxes won't vote to increase them on those who will pay them.
And the problem is related to how the left has allowed the right to frame the debate.
Someone tell me what defines the "middle class" in this country. What income range is it? Because I'll be damned if I know. And that's the problem--nobody knows. Too many people assume they're in the middle class, and the upper class is playing us for fools as a result.
You want to know how to argue for tax increases in this country? Put a hard number on it. John Kerry--now that he's presumptively the nominee--ought to go on the campaign trail and tell voters this.
If you make over $150,000 a year, then you have a responsibility to pay a little more in taxes than you do right now. We've got a huge deficit, and we've got more bills coming due, and quite frankly, the folks making less than you are can't pay any more because they've been hit harder by the current economic crunch that's been worsened by those tax breaks George Bush gave you. So you've got to pony up. If you don't make $150,000 a year, your taxes won't go up. Don't worry.
If you're a corporation, you're going to be taxed on your receipts--none of this hiding profits offshore crap anymore. I'll lower the rate you have to pay, but you're going to pay it on a bigger number. You make money here, so you're going to pay taxes here.
Will we be accused of class warfare? Sure. Is that a bad thing? Only if we allow the right to define what the classes are. Last year, 50% of wage earners in the US made less than $26,000.00. Look at that number closely. How many of those people think they got a tax break from George Bush? And why do they believe it? Could it be because our own politicians are too busy playing the same word game as their "opponents" are?
So enough with this mamby-pamby bullshit. Frame the debate. Put a hard number on the tax issue and tell people below it they don't need to worry and those above it they can either contribute to something larger than themselves and pay the dues that our society needs to function, or they can vote for someone else. Most of them were planning to do that anyway.