Daily Planet, 8/2016
A previous column in this space included a quote about the whopping advantages that the top 0.5% have over the rest of us – tid-bits like borrowing at almost no interest, private wealth managers and influencing legislation.
The part about influencing legislation is a national abomination. But unfortunately, it’s a sin that only the U.S. Supreme Court can wash away. Let’s talk about something that can be fixed.
The lines in the quote that really boiled my britches say the super-rich can “hold personal assets in tax havens” and “they have access to the very best in accounting firms and tax attorneys.”
All my working life I paid taxes. All working people pay taxes. It’s our responsibility as citizens. It’s how our country and our state stay in business.
All through our history, Americans have held to this pay-my-share principle. When issues arose, as in the Whiskey Rebellion, they were about fairness and what the tax revenue would be spent for.
In the late 19th century, the idea of an income tax gained popularity. An income tax law actually passed Congress in 1894 – 2 percent on people making more than $4,000 a year ($100,000 today) – but it was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Opponents to an income tax were led by Andrew Carnegie and his steel lobby and old-time “establishment” Republicans, who were tight with industrialists.
The Sixteenth Amendment passed Congress in 1909 and went out to the states. In the election of 1912, all three presidential candidates – William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson – supported the amendment.
This is America. We believe in fairness. We have always believed that those who’ve got should bear more responsibility than those who don’t.
That brings us back to my boiling britches.
In the United States today, the super-rich not only have the stuff, they also have the politicians who write laws concerning stuff. (By the way, as The New York Times stated, “The share of national income captured by the richest 1 percent of Americans is even higher than it was at the dawn of the 20th century.”)
What attitude do you think the tip-toppers should have regarding taxes? You and I pay our taxes from our living money. These people could pay by taking one less hunting trip to Paraguay in their private Gulfstreams.
But they don’t. They have tax havens and slick tax attorneys to minimize, or eliminate, their tax debt.
What is this – greed? Yes, but more. It’s also cold-blooded cruelty. When they don’t pay, someone else has to pay to fund government. And that someone is the working sucker.
North Carolina is a neon case study. In 2013, the Republican General Assembly overhauled our tax code. They instituted a flat tax that lightens the rich end of the see-saw, and they eliminated a host of deductions, including those for medical and child-care expenses. They cut out the earned income tax credit for the working poor, and oh yes, they expanded the sales tax base. Our end of the see-saw clanked down hard.
The smirking, cynical tax-dodgers should be tarred, but it’s our legislators and governor who dance to their tune. They’re the tax villains.
They cackled around Raleigh that everybody would experience lower taxes (later modified). Well, I hadn’t paid state taxes since I retired, and then suddenly I owed over $200, and I’m paying sales tax for services all over town.
If everybody in North Carolina who experienced a tax increase after the General Assembly’s tax cuts were to vote to throw the self-serving perpetrators out, not even gerrymandering could save them.
Governor McCrory is not gerrymandered. November 8 is the day. Roy Cooper is the name. He’ll make taxation fair.