Sunday, June 1, 2014

Unite! Rewrite!

What does revolution look like?

Is it the overthrow of a single leader? The upending of a corrupt system? The total elimination of the state?

Or the birth of a new social order?

Is it romantic?


Maybe it's all those things or none of those things. Or maybe it's something much more unassuming, like tax reform.

Don't be fooled by its dull, prosaic exterior. At its core, progressive tax reform is calling for something truly radical: the redistribution of wealth.

Ask yourself: What would society look like if billions of billions of billions, okay trillions, of offshore corporate profits were properly taxed or taxed at all? How would our national priorities shift if bad behavior, like polluting the earth, instead of good behavior like working, were heavily taxed?

What would happen if tax avoidance loopholes were sutured shut? if capital gains and working class wages were taxed fairly in relation to one another?

What would such a major recalibration look like?

I am wagering that working class Americans would for once stand a decent chance at obtaining the full reward of their labor, that the toxic, pervasive atmosphere of crisis defining the lives of 50 million poor Americans would relent, that the devastating economic disparities setting us apart from all other advanced nations would finally, courageously be confronted, that genuine democracy, in an era of growing plutocracy, would actually stand a chance.

Of course the only thing standing in the way of major policy changes like the rewriting of our backwards tax code is the policy makers themselves because Congress has been effectively purchased by corporate America.

However, what's most exciting about the prospect of tax reform is that it is possible. It is doable. Maybe that's what makes its so boring. Because it's the reform of - rather than dismantling of - the institution we love to hate. Yet real reform would be a huge victory for economic justice in this country. A majority of households would be positively affected.

But like all revolutionary change, it needs no small thing: a movement.

Nobel Prize-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, is calling for tax reform as a practical answer to the current era of unprecedented corporate welfare in his recent white paper: "Reforming Taxation to Promote Growth and Equity." I was happy to catch a portion of his interview with Bill Moyers on TV today:

A new report by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz for the Roosevelt Institute suggests that paying our fair share of taxes and cracking down on corporate tax dodgers could be a cure for inequality and a faltering economy.

This week on Moyers & Company, Stiglitz tells Bill that Apple, Google, GE and a host of other Fortune 500 companies are creating what amounts to “an unlimited IRA for corporations.” The result? Vast amounts of lost revenue for our treasury and the exporting of much-needed jobs to other countries.

“I think we can use our tax system to create a better society, to be an expression of our true values.” Stiglitz says. “But if people don’t think that their tax system is fair, they’re not going to want to contribute. It’s going to be difficult to get them to pay. And, unfortunately, right now, our tax system is neither fair nor efficient.”

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