Wednesday, October 19, 2016

"How will we pay for it?!?" Answer: With the $2 trillion we lose every year to military adventures and coddling the wealthy.

Above: In this video segment, taken from Thom Hartmann's show "The Big Picture" (10-17-2016), a whistle-blower describes how he blew the top off a massive tax evasion scandal. These type of tax evasion actions by the super-wealthy drive up the tax burden on non-wealthy Americans, in the form of increased taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates at the state & local level. YouTube link:

Whenever it's proposed that we fix our infrastructure, or make public college free, or forgive all student loan debt, or give more assistance to the needy, or create a public jobs program for the unemployed, conservatives typically respond with an exasperated "How will we pay for it?!?"

Well, there are all sorts of facts & figures out there, detailing the amount of money we spend on fruitless military adventures; and all the revenue we miss out on thanks to the tax shenanigans of the rich & powerful, as well as their historically low tax rates. Here are just a few things to consider:

"The $5 Trillion Wars," Boston Globe, October 17, 2016 (written by Linda Bilmes, Harvard professor and former assistant secretary of commerce).

"What could raising taxes on the 1% do? Surprising Amounts," New York Times, October 16, 2015.

"The Cost of Corporate Tax Avoidance: America’s largest corporations have been storing profits in offshore companies for decades," The Atlantic, April 14, 2016.

"Federal Revenue Lost to Tax Evasion," Demos, estimating $3 trillion in revenue lost to tax evasion (separate from tax avoidance losses) between 2001 and 2010.

"Tax Rate for Richest 400 People at Its Second Lowest Level Since 1992," Tax Justice, January 29, 2015.

"U.S. Military Spending Dwarfs Rest of World," NBC News, February 24, 2014.

Above: In this video segment, Dr. Richard Wolff, professor emeritus at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, gives one of the best explanations I've ever heard, of how the wealthy are causing so many problems with their tax evasion & avoidance. YouTube link:
You can do your own math, based on the sources I've listed above (and others), but I estimate that the U.S. loses, and misspends on military adventures, about $2 trillion each year (note: this figure includes lost revenue and debt taken on by the U.S. government). By my estimate then, about $34 trillion has been lost on military adventures and coddling the wealthy, since 2000. So, what could have been done, domestically, with that $34 trillion?

We could have done all of the following; not one or the other... but all of it:

We could have eliminated all existing student loan debt. We could have replaced or repaired all of the infrastructure in America. We could have created a new WPA to hire unemployed Americans on useful projects (historic preservation, environmental conservation & restoration, artwork for public buildings, improved roads & bridges, etc.). We could have jump-started a single-payer health care system, thereby getting rid of the greedy financial executives who arrogantly stand between us and our health care providers. We could have strengthened and expanded Social Security. We could have created a system of public financing for high political office, so that the rich & powerful could no longer corrupt our democracy. We could have done all this, and more; and the rich would still be rich (though a little less so) and our military would still be the largest in the world.

But we didn't focus on domestic needs, did we? Instead, we handed out massive tax cuts to the wealthy, these past 10, 20, 30, 40 years and more, and watched them buy private jets, private compounds, private islands, and their own private little politicians - little marionettes who sit on Capitol Hill, devising more ways to allow more financial predators to victimize more working-class Americans. And we also let our political "leaders" start wasteful and misguided military adventures in various parts of the Middle East - adventures that show no sign of ending, even after 10 to 15 years of troop deployments & troop withdrawals, then more troop deployments & withdraws, bombings, bombings, bombings, weapon sales, weapon losses, questionable contracts with private security firms, and Lord knows what else.

And worse than all of the above, is that none of this foolishness will end any time soon. Millions of people are saying "I'm With Her," throwing their support behind a war hawk who is a Wall Street darling and a multi-millionaire - a woman who has utterly no personal stake in the problems caused by our vast income & wealth inequality. Millions of others are saying "Make America Great Again," and throwing their support behind a man who has no governing experience and wants to hand out even more tax breaks to the wealthy. What about Bernie Sanders? The one major candidate who actually cared about the middle-class and poor? Oh, he was thrown out long ago - a victim of media bias, paranoia of the masses ("Socialist!!!"), and likely collusion between the Clinton Campaign and the biased DNC.

So, "How will we pay for it?" (i.e., our domestic needs)? Well... I guess we won't.

"When it came to taxes, [Franklin] Roosevelt simply believed that rich people should pay more than poor people. And in emergencies, they should pay a lot more." 

--Joseph J. Thorndike, Their Fair Share: Taxing the Rich in the Age of FDR, Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press, 2013, p. 45.

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