As most of my readers know, the underlying theme of this blog is democratic egalitarianism--the idea that institutions within our society should pay attention to inequalities and that policies to redress inequalities are supportive of true democracy. It is not that we will achieve perfect economic equality--that is not possible and likely not even a desirable end. But we do need to counter the tendency of human systems to concentrate desirable attributes in a tiny powerful elite. That is, human systems tend to redistribute desirable attributes upwards. Income, wages, wealth, health care, housing, natural resources, human capital opportunities--all these things that people need to live a decent life tend to be redistributed and allocated to those who already have more of them. Property begats property, and putting the owner class first begats a situation in which the owner class owns even more of whatever is valuable to own, and therefore commands, even more, the ability to keep the majority of the population in a state of quasi-servitude. In a democratic society with a primarily capitalist economy, one of government's primaryh purposes is to enable individual freedom for all by countering the brute power of the capital-owning elite and redistributing those resources downwards.
One way that a majority of Americans has favored for achieving this necessary justice result is progressive taxation policies--taxing the wealthy/higher income at a higher rate (or even on a broader base--to wit, the corporate tax). When there is progressive taxation, the gains that the elite have made merely because they are in the elite and hold the keys to power are marginally restrained. But more importantly, those revenues then can be used to fund government programs that expand public goods and create opportunities for the vast majority with significantly fewer resources, through programs like unemployment compensation, health care, public education from K-12 to university, public transportation, etc..
So we need to ask a few questions about our system today. Is it working or is the tendency for income, wealth and other favorable attributes to accumulate at the top overpowering the means of redress that exist? And does the population have a clear understanding of the democratic egalitarian principle, so that people will vote in the best interest of the continued functioning of a democratically premised society?
I fear the answer today in the US is no, to both questions. The US has long used its military might to support its wealthy elite and their multinational corporations. Today, that seems even more exaggeratedly so.
Think about the invasion of Grenada, Iraq, Afghanistan and the continuing erosion of human rights (read--the rights of ordinary Americans to go about their lives freely choosing how they will live and where they will go and what they will do) which has inevitably fed the military-industrial complex of arms manufacturers, private mercenary outfits, natural resource extraction, financialization of the economy and general globalization trends, all of which are part and parcel of the corporatist agenda for ensuring continuing power to Big Business and its owners and managers.
And the populace is ill-informed about the true mechanisms of individual freedom. They have been sold a bill of goods by the right-wing so-called "think tanks" supported, by and large, by wealthy owners of Big Business and the multinational corporations that benefit most by keeping the population ignorant. The fantasy concept of a "free market" has been pushed as the answer to all ills, even though there is no such thing as a free market. (And in fact the wealthy elite and Big Business have benefited from scores of policies designed to provide them distinct advantages, from CIA and military support against popular leftist regimes in Latin America that threatened multinationals grip on natural resources and labor there, to tax and spending policies in the US that favor large corporations over small, localized businesses.) The people have been told that if only the government will support the "competitiveness" of its multinational corporations, jobs and good fortune will eventually trickle down to them, even though of course the immediate observable result will be additional wealth to the owners and managers of the multinational corporations. The jobs and good fortune don't trickle down, however. With no commitment to place or people, multinationals and their owners and managers take the rentier profits and shove them into their own safes (often more investment in exploitative industries in third world countries and private equity ventures that exploit workers by dividing and conquering to eliminate unions).
Think about the current focus of the ultra-right House leadership and Senate minority and the ultra-right governors in many of our states today. They use divisiveness to turn private workers (long deprived of any real rights to associate in unions by law and practice, and therefore suffering through a decades-long diminution in both their wages/incomes and their general welfare from health care, pension rights, and job security) against their public counterparts who have generally maintained somewhat stronger unionization and and benefit rights, in order to justify even further curtailment of public employee unionization and benefit rights. They argue deficits (after supporting costly militarization and warmongering in Iraq and Afghanistan, privatization, deregulation and other legislation intended to push us into the greatest deficits ever) in order to stifle all government programs existing to aid the non-elite classes, such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment compensation. They suddenly find a problem with increasing the debt limit, after borrowing trillions to come to the aid of their bankster cohort, without imposing conditions that would require the banks to treat ordinary Americans fairly. They argue for the elimination of the little progress made from 2008-2010 in enacting a weak form of health care reform (weak because it favors the Big Insurance companies and their managers and owners' continued rent profits rather than including some form of single-payer, such as the "public option" in the national exchanges) and financial reform (weak because the Dodd-Frank legislation failed to create a fully independent consumer financial protection agency and failed to restrain sufficiently banksters' ability to gamble other people's money to make windfall profits out of a proprietarily managed system that operates to their favor and results in privatization of gains with socialization of losses). They stand at a line in the sand against all tax increases for the wealthy, on the claim that the wealthy are the people who create jobs (see Eric Cantor on the position that no debt limit increase is possible without a guarantee protecting the wealthy from tax increases), even though the wealthy are not entrepreneurs, have sufficient wealth to invest in their businesses even with high tax payments, and don't do it.
New jobs will be created when there is a broader middle class with extra money to spend on things that make life better, not when the wealthy have even more money to sock away somewhere because they can't possibly spend all they have.
So if we ask the question--what, then, is a fair tax policy, isn't the answer fairly straightforward? In any context, it is the policy that favors the most redistribution from the elite to everyman while raising sufficient revenues to provide adequate investment in public infrastructure that moves everybody forward and human capital development (like public education).
Readers, what say you?
If not, why not? Readers comments welcome.