Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Redistribution of Wealth...

...or, just how many millions of dollars are you worth?

Halloween is just around the corner.  This year's scariest costume is going to be Bernie Sanders, the socialist.  I just saw Michael Steele, that faux intellectual, on C-Span interviewing another conservative, i.e. wealthy, republican.  The inevitable question came up about "redistribution of wealth."  The answer being, if they are going to take all my money and give it away, I will no longer have the incentive to work to make that money.

Yeah, well, we've been hearing versions of that tune for a long time now.  It comes as the "job creator" myth, wherein if you let rich people keep their money they will grow their businesses and hire more people.  Also known as the "trickle down" theory of the Reagan years.  Turns out, it only trickles down when the rich folk pee all over us.

It seems odd to me that the middle class has had to work harder for less, but we continue to work hard.  More jobs, fewer benefits, worse health, less mobility.  Kids who can't afford to go to college.  Elderly who would eat cat food, but it's as expensive as tuna.  Working poor who have to turn to food stamps, who have to go to work sick and leave their kids home alone or get fired.  But we keep working.

And yet the Koch brothers, should they be required to pay a smidge more of their wealth to the government so that the middle class and the poor can breathe a little easier, well, they just might get discouraged and throw in the towel.  Take their marbles and go home is more like it.

The wordsmiths of the right wing have been all over this, telling lies and calling the fight for income equality "class warfare," the estate or inheritance tax renamed "death tax," turning "socialism" into a bogeyman.  If we want to see a Democrat in the White House after 2016, we need to understand the reality of income inequality and the bizarre wealth gap that exists in America.

Robert Reich, economist and sketch artist extraordinaire has a number of simple and eloquent youtube videos that tell the story.  Jon Oliver has had a few entertaining and informative segments that illustrate, for example, how we have all been led to believe the "death tax" should be abolished even though 1) it does not affect 99.86 percent of us, 2) you don't pay a penny under 5.3 million dollars and 3) the people who would pay the tax actually didn't earn it.

Here's the thing about this redistribution of wealth nonsense.  The rich pay a lower percentage of taxes than the poor and middle class.  They are able to hide wealth in tax shelters and have loopholes designed expressly in which to hide their wealth.  It is a gross falsehood that the poor do not pay taxes.  Here in South Carolina, food is taxed.  The inequities that persist in auto taxes in SC were documented in February in the Post and Courier:  the sales tax bill, regardless of the value of a vehicle cannot exceed $300, and then cars are assessed an annual property tax.  Each year I pay over $30 on my 2003 Mitsubishi, 180,000+ miles and counting.  Because legislators refuse to increase property taxes on the wealthy and stop giving away the store to corporations, we are forced to keep voting to raise the regressive sales tax to pay for needed improvements to our schools and libraries.

Our politicians have been schooled well in nurturing our ignorance and giving us a false sense that they are protecting our interests.  That is why we continue to elect those who promise to cut taxes and reduce government.  We see how government doesn't work, because the combination of giveaways to corporations and reduction in services becomes the self-fulfilling prophecy of bad government.

When opponents wake up to Bernie Sanders, and they will, socialism will come front and center as the dirty word of the 2016 campaign, and along with it the threat that the government is going to take the wealth away from all those hard-working job creators.  Don't let them get away with this nonsense.  Paying people a living wage, making sure that our children are well fed and educated, bringing our infrastructure, from electrical grids to the internet, into the 21st century, that is the job that government should be doing, and those who have gotten rich from our hard work should help finance it.

So this Halloween, when someone jumps out from behind the shrubbery and yells, "redistribution of wealth!" I plan on saying, "Oh, thank gods, I was afraid you were Donald Trump."

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