This month marks the tenth anniversary of the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans — one of the biggest economic injustices of the Bush administration and one of the biggest drivers of our federal deficit.
These massive tax giveaways to the wealthy were supposed to expire at the beginning of the year, but Republicans went to the mat to extend them, and Democrats caved when it was most important that they stand up and show courage.
|And now these same politicians who pushed for the tax cuts are saying we cannot afford our social safety net because "we're broke."|
There is something deeply wrong with our priorities as a country if we're cutting back on services for children and the elderly, the sick and the destitute, and anything that helps the middle class stay afloat while simultaneously cutting taxes for the likes of Paris Hilton and the Koch brothers.
There's an epidemic of home foreclosures. Unemployment is rampant. The cost of food, gas and health care is going up. Families across the country are falling into poverty, while many more are struggling just to get by.
Yet Republicans who support all the policies that created the deficit are holding Americans hostage in ongoing negotiations over raising the debt ceiling and the 2012 budget. And what are they demanding? Cuts, cuts and more cuts.
Progressives need to offer an alternative to the morally bankrupt and economically baseless dogma of "tax cuts for the rich, massive spending cuts for everyone else." And the alternative cannot be simply to propose slightly less brutal spending cuts. We need to put tax increases back on the table.
While some members of the Democratic leadership have fallen into this trap of accepting the rightwing framing of the debate, progressive champions Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Sen. Bernie Sanders are leading the fight for a real solution to our budget crisis.
They have each introduced a bill to raise the income tax rates on people who make more than one million dollars a year. And they need our help to start changing the narrative around the budget.
We won't be able repeal the Bush tax cuts anytime soon, but on their anniversary we need to speak out for the principle that the rich need to pay their fair share.
Increasing taxes on millionaires and billionaires won't be a silver bullet, but it would bring in tens of billions of dollars that would allow us to avoid some of the most brutal budget cuts we're now facing. And it would be a step toward making our tax system more fair.
The disparity between the rich and the poor is growing in a way that is deeply unhealthy to our society. The richest 1% of Americans are making 24% of the country's income, which is the highest share it has been since the 1930s. The 1930s were also the last time the richest 1% have so consistently paid such a low income tax rate. And as Michael Moore has pointed out, the top 400 Americans own more wealth than the bottom 50% of Americans put together.
This wide gulf between the haves and the have-nots not only affects our economy, it distorts our democracy. We have to take action before it's too late.
Our country isn't broke. But if the Republican's intellectually dishonest claim that we are is met with silence, our country's moral compass may become broken.
We cannot shred the social safety net when it's most needed. We cannot allow the budget to be balanced on the backs of the very people who've taken it on the chin during this economic crisis. It's long past time to require the super wealthy pay their fair share.