Category Archives: Economy

Taxing the Wealthiest

©2011 by Fred Flaxman
Last month Democratic Representative Jan Schakowsky introduced a Fairness in Taxation Act, which seeks to establish new tax brackets for the wealthiest Americans. The highest bracket is now 35 percent for those making $379,150 or more a year. For most of President Reagan’s time in office, top earners were taxed at 50 percent.

Schakowsky says, “We can choose to cut education, job creation and healthcare, or we can choose to ask those who can contribute more to do so.”

I agree with her except for the word “ask” and the mild tax increases she asks of the super-rich. The word should be “compel,” as the rich are likely to fight any increase in their taxes. And Schakowsky’s bill would create a top bracket of 49 percent only for those earning $1 billion and up!

This is the kind of legislation I would expect of a liberal Republican, if there were still such a creature in Congress. Democrats should go for a Greed Tax with a top bracket of 100 percent for those raking in anything over $1 million a year. No one should need more than that to lead a good, healthy, happy, productive life. No one should earn more than that, and nowhere in our Bill of Rights does it say that anyone has the right to be so greedy.

When the top 400 households in the U.S. rake in more money than the bottom 60 percent combined, it is time for a much stronger Fairness in Taxation Act than Schakowsky has proposed.


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Saving Our Democracy from Corporate Rule

Polls show that most Americans think there is too much money in politics. A majority wants campaign finance reform. But there is plenty of disagreement on just what should be done to reform the system. The citizens’ lobby Common Cause, for example, favors public financing. But I don’t like public financing because I think it is unfair to force taxpayers to finance the campaigns of politicians they don’t want elected to office.

I sure wouldn’t want to see my money used to purchase TV time for a Nazi. Or for Sarah Palin. Nor would I want to subsidize Rupert Murdock. As his net worth has been estimated at $8.3 billion, that would seem particularly absurd in light of the difference between his financial resources and my own.

I think I have a better idea — a nine-point solution which could be made possible by amendments to the U.S. Constitution:

1. Limit political contributions to donations from individuals. Totally outlaw campaign contributions from corporations, unions, committees and other groups.

2. Place a cap on the amount of money any individual can donate to a candidate or party each year. A limit of — let’s say — $100 per person would assure that wealthy people have no more influence on their representatives than other individuals.

3. Reduce the tremendous costs of campaigns by providing for free and equal air time on television and radio for all qualified candidates for office. I find it nothing short of outrageous that commercial stations, which are licensed to use the public airwaves for private gain — but are supposed to do so in the public interest — charge candidates for public office to use the public’s own airwaves.

4. Limit these free campaign radio and television programs to broadcast within eight weeks prior to the election, thereby encouraging shortened campaign periods.

5. Outlaw the use of commercial advertising spots for political purposes. Candidates and ballot measures should not be sold like soda pop and hemorrhoid creams. This leads inevitably to the distortion of the truth and the demeaning of the political process.

6. Outlaw the use of paid signature gatherers to qualify candidates, political parties, propositions or measures for the ballot. This would greatly reduce the number of such measures to those which are sincerely desired by significant numbers of individuals.

7. Eliminate the Electoral College in favor of direct election of the president and vice president of the United States by the citizens.

8. Force the U.S. Senate to abide by majority rule on all votes, eliminating the totally undemocratic filibuster, which is not sanctioned by the Constitution in the first place.

9. Eliminate the totally undemocratic Presidential veto. One person should not be able to thwart the democratic will of both the House and Senate.

Will this ever happen?

If Congress can spend its time seriously considering such unneeded and silly amendments to the Constitution as outlawing flag-burning, which they have done repeatedly in the past, surely they can debate an amendment which would take our democracy back from the corporations and special interest groups. This is especially true now that the Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution as it stands now allows corporations and other organizations to spend as much money as they want to influence politics. A Constitutional amendment is the only way of keeping our government one which is by, for, and of the people, and preventing corporate rule of our government as well as our economy.

But Congress is not likely to pass such proposed amendments, since congressmen and women are in their seats to begin with because they have succeeded at the corrupt system we now have in place. So these Constitutional amendments may have to take the other route specified by the Constitution but never yet used: A Constitutional Convention would have to be called by two-third of the legislatures of the States, and that Convention would have to propose these amendments. They would then be sent to the states to be approved by three-fourths of the legislatures or conventions.

For all this to happen the American people will have to finally wake up to the fact that real health care insurance reform, financial system overhaul, economic structural changes, and any other major reform, depends on this most basic of all reforms: getting rid of what Will Rogers famously called “the best Congress money can buy,” and turning our nation into a true democracy.

Fred Flaxman is the author of Sixty Slices of Life … on Wry: The Private Life of a Public Broadcaster.


Filed under Campaign Finance Reform, Economy, Health Care Insurance, Politics

Obama is no Einstein

Albert Einstein, who is considered by most to have been pretty good at problem-solving, said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

And yet when it comes to solving the three hardest problems inherited by the Obama Administration, that is precisely the approach the President has taken and why none of these three problems is likely to be solved: the economy, health care insurance, and the war in Afghanistan.

The Financial Meltdown

To solve the financial meltdown, Obama chose to put in charge those who were largely responsible for creating the problem in the first place.

Instead of breaking up private banking institutions that were “too big to fail” and turning them into smaller, nonprofit corporations dedicated to doing good for society rather than making enormous profits for the already well-off, he bailed them out with borrowed money that needs to be paid back by U.S. taxpayers.

Instead of saving Main Street, he saved Wall Street. He acted like Robin Hood in reverse: taking taxes, jobs and homes from the poor and the middle class to save the wealthy. If he’s trying to prove that he’s no socialist, he’s doing an excellent job of it, although the far-right is too blinded by their ideology to see it.

Health Care Insurance

To solve the health care insurance problem, which is caused by the greedy, profit-making health care insurance and pharmaceutical companies and their overpaid executives, it appears that Obama will end up signing a law that forces most people to purchase expensive private health care insurance, rather than legislation which provides a far less expensive, far less bureaucratic, single-payer, Medicare-for-All, nonprofit, public option.

Americans don’t seem to realize that we don’t have a health care problem in this country, we have a health care insurance problem. We don’t want or need socialized medicine. What we want and need is nonprofit, reasonably priced socially responsible health care insurance.

Many Americans are so against tax increases they don’t realize that it would be less expensive for them to pay a bit more in taxes to obtain greatly improved health care coverage than it would be to pay private insurance companies for the same coverage.

They also don’t realize that private insurance companies paying for each medical service is far more expensive and bureaucratic than a single-payer system in which hospitals are paid their operational costs without having to account for the expense of each individual service to patients.

The War in Afghanistan

To solve the problem of the war in Afghanistan, Obama is in real danger of using the same thinking that led to our involvement in the first place: that you get rid of the threat of terrorism in that country by invading and occupying it while killing Afghans. That is a formula for increasing Afghan-based terrorism, not eliminating it.

I would personally love to see Afghanistan become a functioning democracy with equal rights for everyone. Let’s help them as much as we can in that direction without literally killing them and us in the process. Let’s stop trying to force other countries and cultures to adopt our values and our way of life. Instead, let’s spend our lives and money trying to make our own country live up to its own democratic, egalitarian values.

I did all I could to help elect Barak Obama as our President. I was full of hope that real change would result from his election, but I am less and less optimistic that such change will come about. President Obama is a very intelligent man, but, it appears so far, he is not nearly as wise as Albert Einstein.

Fred Flaxman is the author of Sixty Slices of Life … on Wry: The Private Life of a Public Broadcaster, a tongue-in-cheek memoir. He lives in North Carolina.

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Filed under Economy, Health Care Insurance, Politics, War & Peace