Graffiti I recently spied in the men’s room at one of my favorite brunch joints said it all. In gaudy yellow felt on the toilet seat sanitary cover dispenser was the phrase “TAX THE RICH,” in all caps and fat letters. Written right below it, in thin-lined blue ink were much smaller letters that read “And loose (sic) your job.” It wasn’t just the content of the words themselves, but their presentation that truly brought the point home. In the populist message, echoing the sentiment of a large part of society, the letters nearly scream themselves hoarse. While the other message, let’s call it the establishment message, presents itself with the sort of understatement that only smug self-assurance can afford — which of course would have been more convincing except for the glaring spelling error. I’ll leave it to you to make the obligatory comments about lack of funding for education, etc.
Class warfare is an expression you rarely hear from anyone but conservatives who are duty bound to protect the very wealthy at any cost. Mr. Spelling Boo-Boo’s warning about losing ones job if the rich are made to pay higher taxes is one of the greatest weapons conservatives have in maintaining historically low tax rates for upper income earners. This principle was perfectly demonstrated Monday morning during an interview on MSNBC. Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) made the class warfare claim against taxing millionaires and stated how he himself was a businessman with several Subway and UPS store franchises. The host noted that he made $6.3 million gross from his businesses, but he quickly countered that after paying salaries for 500 employees and other expenses that he only brought home $600,000. And from that he needed to invest another $400,000 into his businesses, leaving his family only $200,000 to live on. He also receives a congressional salary of $174,000. When the host tried to get him to see that most folks don’t make anywhere near $200,000 a year, he retorted that “Class warfare never created a job.” Also during the course of the interview, he intimated that if he had to pay higher personal taxes, he would likely have to lay off some folks. Because then he’d likely only take home $195,000 or something like that, and that just won’t do.
Mark Zuckerberg gets it. When President Obama appeared at a town hall at Facebook last April he told Mr. Zuckerberg to his face that, under his plan, he would have to pay more in taxes, to which the Facebook founder famously said “I’m cool with that.” Warren Buffett gets it. The President capsulized Mr. Buffett’s declaration that he can afford to pay more in taxes by calling it the Buffett Rule. Once upon a time, during times of stress and strain, it was considered patriotic to pay taxes. My parents lived through the Great Depression. My father fought in the Second World War. They knew sacrifice. Yet in the last decade, when the US declared two wars — both of which are still quite going on, incidentally — President Bush lowered taxes. Families have sacrificed loved ones to the wars while US citizens were encouraged to go shopping.
Years of tax cuts did not lead to a mass creation of jobs during President Bush’s misspent days in office. Subsidizing wildly profitable industries like the oil industry and mega-corporate farms has not created tons more jobs. Trickle down doesn’t happen and has been rounded discredited except in the jaundiced eyes of those protecting the very wealthy — like Mr. Spelling Boo-Boo. Do I believe in making cuts to the budget? Of course. The right cuts, not cuts that will impoverish more citizens or throw those on the edge of disaster into the abyss. But lets not continue to protect the obscene profits of the very rich at the expense of society as a whole. Avarice and greed are not qualities worth protecting. But clean air and water, education, police and fire service, safe roads and bridges, and everything else that makes up a decent, civilized society are.
© 2011, gar. All rights reserved.