Thursday, October 6, 2011

Obama OK With Millionaire Surtax, Americans OK With Taxing Millionaires

Urging Congress to pass his $447 billion jobs legislation, President Barack Obama Thursday told reporters that he was "comfortable" with Senate Democrats' proposal to pay for his plan with a 5.6% surtax on millionaires.

The American people were probably comfortable with such a scheme as well, as poll after poll has consistently revealed that about seven in ten favored raising taxes on the wealthy and big corporations to pay the nation's debts or bolster Medicare and Social Security. The other three in ten were Republicans, who favored coddling the rich and big corporations with bigger tax cuts, breaks and subsidies paid for by slashing services everyone depended on.

A CBS News poll released Monday found 64% of all respondents wanted to raise taxes on millionaires to lower the federal deficit. 30% figured millionaires should get a pass. 83% of Democrats and 65% of Independents favored hiking taxes on millionaires, while 54% of Republicans wanted to let them skate.

An American Express/Harrison Group poll released Tuesday likewise found 65% of respondents supported raising taxes on millionaires.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans quickly moved to vote on Obama's jobs bill without the millionaire surtax, hoping to be able to claim the legislation, which in its original form was expected to be defeated by a wide margin, was unpopular with both parties.

Obama told reporters, "We're still going to need to reform this tax code to make sure that we're closing loopholes, closing special interest tax breaks," pushing for implementation of his 'Buffet Rule' to assure the wealthy paid taxes at least at the same rates as the middle class. "But in terms of the immediate action of getting this jobs bill passed, I'm fine with the approach that they're taking," he added, supporting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) proposal for the 5.6% millionaire surtax.

Republicans were quick to dismiss any notion of making their wealthy cronies pony up. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-OH) said, "Democrats would rather talk about partisan legislation that they know won't pass than about actually passing legislation we know would create jobs."

Apparently to McConnell, the wishes of 65% of the American people were deplorable "partisan" harangues.

McConnell and the GOP were only interested in lavishing more tax breaks and subsidies on big corporations and their wealthy cronies, along with dismantling Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and abolishing all business and industrial oversight to allow their cronies unfettered plundering.

Americans, meanwhile, were beginning to understand that slashing taxes for the rich had simply concentrated 84% of the nations wealth into the hands of just 20% of the nation's wealthiest, while 40% of the nation's poorest had to make do splitting just three-tenths of one percent of the nation's wealth. Americans were beginning to understand slashing taxes for the rich and big corporations simply encouraged mergers, consolidations, layoffs, union-busting, outsourcing, and offshoring.

Americans were beginning to understand slashing taxes for the rich empowered billionaires to use their accumulated fortunes as blunt instruments to bludgeon the American policy-making process with their armies of lawyers, lobbyists and fawning politicians. Coal magnates Charles and David Koch had $50 billion to fund their Americans for Prosperity schemes. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch had $7 billion to funnel into the Tea Party.

Which was why poll after poll revealed Americans wanted millionaires to pay more in taxes.
  • A Gallup Poll from September 20 found 70% favored increasing taxes on corporations by eliminating certain tax deductions, and 66% favored increasing income taxes on those making $200,000 or much, much more a year.
  • The Economist/YouGov Poll taken Sept. 24-27 found 68% favored raising taxes on families making more than $1 million a year, and 55% favored raising taxes on families making more than $250,000 a year.
  • An Aug. 9 Marist poll found 68% of Americans favored raising taxes on those making $250,000 or much, much more a year, and 60% favored eliminating subsidies for oil and gas companies.
  • A CNN/ORC poll released Aug. 10 found 63% believed Congress should raise taxes on businesses and higher income Americans.
  • A Washington Post/ABC News poll taken July 14-17 found 72% favored raising taxes on those making $250,000 or much, much more a year to reduce the national debt.
Former Reagan Administration advisor and George H. W. Bush Treasury official Bruce Bartlett recently compiled a list of 23 polls conducted between Dec. 12, 2010 and Aug. 10, 2011 that all found Americans wanted the wealthy to pay higher taxes to address the nations debts, and to fund Medicare and Social Security.

Just as slashing taxes for the rich in the years leading up to the Great Depression of the 1930s caused wealth to accumulate in the hands of the few and choked off economic growth, thirty years of slashing taxes for, and lavishing subsidies on, the rich sequestered vast sums of American wealth in arcane financial instruments and choked off economic activity.

"Karl Marx was right," New York University economist Nouriel Roubini ruffled feathers recently. "At some point, capitalism can self-destroy itself. That's because you cannot keep on shifting income from labor to capital without not having an excess capacity and a lack of aggregate demand."

Of course, any economist not getting fat paychecks from Rupert Murdoch and Fox News understood businesses weren't hiring in America because Americans weren't buying enough goods and services to warrant putting on extra shifts or building new plants. Americans weren't buying because they were tapped out from decades of stagnating wages and unemployment, mountains of consumer debt, and having to pay more for things that used to be free: Parking, tolls, museums, school supplies, personal security.

And, as demand wasn't coming from consumers, any economist not getting fat paychecks from Rupert Murdoch and Fox News understood the government should be acting as the consumer of last resort, and kick-starting demand by fixing the $2 trillion in infrastructure that needed fixing, or building a high-speed rail network, or bringing broadband access to all Americans, or putting solar panels on everyone's roofs.

And paying for it by taxing the millionaires, billionaires and big corporations Republicans kept referring to with hallowed reverence as Job Creators, but who weren't actually creating any jobs.

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