The right-wingers on cable television and radio will be howling over today’s White House announcement that the nation’s ten-year budget deficit is now estimated at $9 trillion, but there are simple ways to fix the problem.
Here are two ways to address the deficit: Congress could raise taxes on the country’s most wealthiest citizens and corporations, and the government could immediately end the military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of course, that won’t happen because the nation’s wealthiest citizens and defense contractors buy the type of political influence through campaign contributions denied to ordinary Americans. But it’s important to raise these issues even if the right-wing attack machine marginalizes the ideas through its own special theater of the nonsensical.
At least one poll shows Americans do think the wealthy should be taxed more, and Democrats have floated ideas about taxing the wealthy more to help pay for health care reform.
So this question bears repeating: Why in the world are tax hikes on the nation’s wealthiest citizens not a larger part of the national conversation during a time of economic distress?
Some financial experts argue that tax hikes can delay an economic recovery by preventing business expansion, but what about the millions upon millions of dollars in disposable income held by the wealthiest among us? Should these citizens—I’m speaking of multi-millionaires here—be allowed to essentially hoard money while most of us struggle with stagnant wages, high health care costs and unemployment? Wealth disparity is the problem, not the answer, to our economic problems. The country learned this lesson in the 1930s, but somehow forgot it in the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan.
Apparently, the country now has the greatest wealth disparity in its history, according to a report that looks at the numbers since 1913. This does not bode well for basic democracy.
A two or even three percent federal tax hike on, say, those earning $350,000 or more a year could help stabilize the budget. Maybe the hikes should be even higher, and the income level should be lowered to $300,000. Tax hikes on massive corporate profits above a certain threshold could be instituted as well without affecting small businesses. My numbers may be off here, but the point is we need an extended conversation about our taxation system that deals with real numbers and facts. What we don’t need is more right-wing, slippery-slope arguments that only serve the interests of the wealthy.
The failed military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan speak for themselves. Every dollar spent and every life lost in these occupations are tragic wastes. Estimates vary, but as of April, 2009, the Iraq occupation had cost approximately $642 billion and the Afghanistan occupation had cost around $189 billion, according to a congressional report. These costs grow by the day and don’t take into account the extended medical treatment needed by wounded veterans.