There's a web article on "The Ugly Truth About Infrastructure (and Taxes)", The Infrastructurist, May 12, 2011, that is worth a read. Don't miss the comments--one of the more intelligent comment threads about taxes, in part because though there are clearly both right and left represented, it does not appear that the thread has been taken over by the typical right-side trolls that repeat the same old sound bites on many of our websites these days.
The point of the article is that the US has allowed its infrastructure to deteriorate mightily, with deferred maintenance costs estimated at more than $2 trillion (and climbing). And infrastructure is the key to a decent life--potable water, clean air, trustworthy bridges, potholeless highways, dependable electric grid, gas lines that don't explode in the middle of a neighborhood killing dozens in their homes at night, sewage systems that don't dump the crap into fresh water streams or, even worse, into too-close potable water pipes, public transportation systems that meet 21st century needs with less pollution and more speed, public education systems that prepare our population for the world as it is, not a fantasy world of homeschoolers who study the Bible but leave out biotechnology and physics.
Why has our infrastructure deteriorated? Because we have not made it a priority. When thoughtful people suggested that the best way to deal with unemployment and the other awful results of our casino capitalist banking crash would be to fund necessary infrastructure improvements, the reagonomics crowd balked and voted for more spending on tax cuts, instead (mostly to the rich and big business, and not nearly so effective as economic stimulus).
So as the infrastructuralist notes, we need to raise taxes to pay for the things that we dearly desire and that make life worth living--clean water, etc. (see list above). Since we are a tax haven country, we can certainly afford to raise taxes. We can go back to the Clinton era tax code, lock stock and barrel by just letting all of the Bush tomfoolery expire on the slated date at the end of 2012. That would be a good start. Then we can enact a progressive estate tax system to move us out of the 19th century when a million was a fortune and into the 21st, when a billion is. We can enact the Fair Taxation of Hedge, Equity and Real Estate Partnership Managers Bill--to treat their pay for work the same way we treat everybody else's pay for work, as ordinary income subject to the highest tax rates, instead of calling it a "carried interest" that gets favored capital gains rates most of the time. We can get rid of the charitable contribution deduction for market value of stocks rather than for the amount paid by the owner for those stocks--that's a pure giveaway to the wealthy who own most of the financial assets. We can eliminate the corporate tax loopholes and the subsidies for Big Oil, WITHOUT lowering the tax rate to make ourselves even more of a tax haven. We can enact a tax on financial transactions to help pay for the mess that the big banks made of our economy with their derivatives casinos.
We can, in other words, pass real reform that gets rid of the giveaways in the tax code and helps us move forward as a nation.