The Budget noh play being performed on Capitol Hill trundled along interminably, all the actors blustering about the stage with stylized movements behind garish masks accompanied by the screeching cacophony of traditional music.
The government was supposed to be shut down March 4 if Republicans and Democrats couldn't agree to funding for the rest of the fiscal year, but, in finest noh tradition, a compromise promises the nation another two weeks of grinding incomprehensible drama. For a mere $4 billion in cuts to the President's budget, the Republicans have granted that the government may function for two more weeks.
The Republicans plan to keep allowing the government to functioning in two-week increments, each increment costing an additional $4 billion in cuts to increasingly vital services, until the United States is destroyed, or the Republicans get their $60 billion in tax subsidies for their wealthy cronies, whichever comes first.
Throughout this process, at no point has the President or Congressional Democrats put forth the real solution to balancing the budget: revenue reform.
Unless the government addresses revenue, no amount of fiddling will balance the budget or pay down debts. America has simply been robbed of its wealth by rampaging plutocrats who refuse to pay their share for maintaining the nation that gave each of them such a comfortable life. The constant Republican harangue that America is broke is just a lie. The Koch brothers, Rupert Murdoch, and Donald Trump aren't broke. Carly Fiorino still has her five private jets and three yachts. Meg Whitman still has the ill-gotten billions she wrangled herself at the expense of 30,000 U.S. jobs.
A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll revealed 81% of Americans believed those making more than a million dollars should pay a tax surcharge. Those Americans don't even realize that the vast majority of them shouldn't be paying any taxes, and virtually all of them should be paying significantly less (see Reich tax schedule sidebar). All it takes is for the wealthiest few to pay their fair share. And, as an added bonus, when the wealthy pay reasonable taxes, the lower- and middle-income earners, who would get much-needed tax relief, would help the economy by being able to buy more of the products and services their families need. It is the lower- and middle-income earners who spend the money for the groceries and shoes and school supplies and consumer durables that drive the economy. The high earners' Imelda appetites for Italian shoes and ice sculptures just doesn't drive a global economic powerhouse.
Now, there are those who will claim that the higher taxes on the upper income brackets would somehow disincent people from making more money. Those people have rocks in their heads. If anyone could make an extra dollar, he would, even if he has to give up 70 cents in the process. Those who claim that higher taxes would stifle investment because there would be fewer profits to divvy up have a point. Fewer investments after a company reaches a certain point of growth would mean the company couldn't get larger, couldn't leverage mergers and buy-outs, couldn't slash costs by combining operations and offshoring jobs. Investors would have to put their money into competing companies, which would have to vie for market share on quality. Instead of one or two behemoths churning out generic, low-quality products and services from least-cost plants, there would necessarily be many smaller, regionally-based companies competing on quality. The many companies would mean many more plants and staffs and employees.
America used to be such a country. Every city and every region of the country had small factories where well-paid, dedicated employees carefully made shoes and valves and clocks and potato chips they were proud of. Every city had an industrial base which gave the nation an economic strength that was the envy of the world and provided its people with a standard of living that was unparallelled in history.
That was the America, with its 99% tax bracket, that was the plutocrats' nightmare. All those companies and all those employees represented inefficiencies of scale that choked off the kind of roll-in-it profits plutocrats love. Besides, everyone at all those companies had to work for a living, instead of just playing god in an ivory tower. Starting with Howard Jarvis and the knucklehead B-movie cowboy president, the GOP plutocrats set about slashing the democratizing tax brackets, and created a nation where excessive untaxed profits enabled gratuitous cost-cutting through mergers, layoffs, off-shoring and dismantling America's industrial strength. And playing god from ivory towers.
The plutocrats dominion is complete. Although the nation has fallen to the point where steel for our warships has to be shipped in from China, and we cannot care for our sick or elderly, the plutocrats and their Congressional minions focus only on devouring ever-larger tax subsidies. While the rest of us worry over nurturing an America where we live and raise our kids, the plutocrats only allegiance is to the international monied elite that jets from Biarritz to Cannes to the Maldives.
The plutocrats have won this battle because they are ruthless and don't care who has to die so they could get one more platinum nose comb.
Americans must be at least ruthless enough to insist on a tax code that reins in the parasitic plutocrats while giving themselves a shot at rebuilding a great nation. Americans must be smart enough not to listen to the greed lust ravings of GOP money hoarders, and create the kind of America where everyone, including the plutocrats, can prosper once again.