Thursday, June 30, 2011

Anti-tax pols should look to the Greeks

Any U.S. Republican or Democrat who believes we can cut the deficit and balance the budget without a tax increase should listen closely to Greek protesters who ask "Why me?" when their government insists on austerity measures.

The Greek poor have a good argument if they haven't benefited from the huge debt their society built up before going bust over the last decade.

On the other hand, the hypocrisy of anti-tax politicians in Washington resounds all the louder because they ignored and allowed the speculative practices of Wall Street bankers and traders who got America into the mess we all find ourselves in today.

President Barack Obama took to the White House press-conference podium yesterday to scold Congress when he said, "These are bills that Congress ran up. ... Now they are saying, 'Maybe we don't have to pay.'"

Instead, the congressmen and women who oppose raising taxes -- mostly Republicans but including some Democrats -- want to cut government spending to the bone, which means they want the burden of curing the deficit placed squarely on the backs of the middle class and the poor.

Not only did the poor draw no benefit at all from the wealth generated on Wall Street before 2008, but companies all across America whittled away at the middle class by eliminating jobs; cutting salaries; pushing people into part-time, no-benefits positions; increasing health-insurance co-pays and deductibles; and forcing employees out of defined-benefit pensions into 401ks where their retirements were put at risk by the same Wall Street traders who caused the 2008 crash.

But the "cut-spending-only-crowd" has yet another motive. Opposing increased revenues for government today essentially means the rich will escape paying the government back for Bush tax cuts that made them even more wealthy over the past 10 years. Anti-tax pols have but one constituency it seems: the people who fund their re-election campaigns year after year.

Because George W. Bush promoted a lack of dissent as the only true expression of patriotism in America while all that was happening, neither the poor nor the dwindling middle class took to the streets to protest their lot.

But the Greek rock-throwers offer a glimpse of what could happen in America as more of the poor get poorer; more of what's left of the middle class gets pushed into poverty; and the rich inexorably keep getting richer, as seems the goal of the current Republican majority in the House.

Revolutions get started in the back streets of any nation; and the middle class in the U.S. elected Obama to change things for the better, not worse. If anti-tax Republicans and Democrats believe the population of their country will remain somnolent forever they should look to Greece and the Arab Spring, then remember the anti-Vietnam-war demonstrations of the 1960s.

The people here are not afraid to peacefully stand up against their government. They just have to be pushed hard enough.


  1. It is clear there are big, big problems. Good editorial in the Denver Post outlines the bait and switch of the financial bailout shell game, and those who did real damage to our economy actually benefiting big time.

    But George Bush has been out of office for some time now, seems counterproductive to keep blaming him for everything that's wrong with the world economy today.

    I brought yet another problem to my boss in a new job, and he'd finally had enough. "Come over here with me to the window," he said, and we both looked down on the busy sidewalks below. "I could bring almost any of those people in here, and they could show me the problems we have. I don't need to tell me what the problems are. What are the solutions? That's why I hired you."

    This crisis will bring about change. Someone will offer a solution. Things can, and I believe things will, get better.

    But not if we get stuck just looking at the past mistakes of George Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and the other leaders who have led the way to this mess.

    The big question is, what do we do now?

    Just raise taxes? How high? And raising corporate taxes is especially tricky, because those taxes just result in higher prices, and the biggest impact is on those who can least affort to pay.

  2. Thanks, John. No, not just raise taxes. Cut spending for sure, but in the places where it won't hurt the poor and middle class. Eliminate loop holes. Many corporations play the tax game so well they pay little to no taxes at all. I think we should be ready to pay for the privilege of operating a company in the largest and richest economy in the world. At least a minimum. That would bring us a long way toward curing the deficit. And if corporations want to pass it on to consumers, let the free market play its role. Let consumers buy the lowest-cost alternative. And let the corporations compete for the customer on the level playing field they all like to speak about even as the continue to try to tilt it to their advantage.

    Again, thanks for the comment.