Tuesday, 1 January 2013

So we all agree--taxes are evil?

It’s hard to get many details of the inane, last-minute deal cooked up by the sorry-ass solons in Washington (although delightful to see that they didn’t get time off for the holidays). Given the importance of what their bosses decided, it would be nice to read a newspaper article stating clearly what the gist of the agreement is.

However, one thing is clear enough: the ‘compromise’ now being trumpeted as an Obama victory includes his predictable caving on the principal issue of his recent re-election campaign: raising taxes on people earning $250,000 or more annually. The new figure is $400,000, which Obama didn’t blush to announce while surrounded in his photo-op by ‘middle-income persons’ [above] cheering him on.

Where to begin to dismantle this travesty? If challenged on his abandonment of the main argument Obama made to get our votes, Obama’s handlers will argue that those whose incomes fall between 250K and 400K are set to lose their Bush-era tax cuts down the road (no doubt subject to further ‘negotiations’). Raise your hand if you think that deal will stick when no one’s looking.

The entire ‘fiscal cliff’ nonsense was the result of a series of prior deals Obama foolishly agreed to when facing the intransigent congressional loonies two years ago, including his unnecessary agreement to let the Bush tax cuts continue, thus worsening the deficit everyone’s now got their panties in knots about. Only true Beltway wonkers will know or care about the details, but we see consistently that Obama will never use the enormous power at his disposal to push back against the steady chipping away at the New Deal/Great Society safety net that should be his top priority. And for which, incidentally, people have elected him twice.

The whole focus on raising taxes for a few comfy sorts is really a distraction anyway, notwithstanding the importance of a fairer tax structure. What we need is an emergency plan to counteract chronic, deep unemployment, which would promptly restore substantial health to the government’s accounts. Instead, we get a faith-based move in the direction of Euro-style austerity in the name of budget balancing, like that which has been so successful over in Greece and Portugal.

Obama is the principal culprit in this sleight-of-hand because he constantly pumps up the phony discourse painting the state as just another, rather larger, household that must cover its debts just like Mom and Dad do. This makes no sense during a persistent post-recession weakness that threatens to never end. As Michael Hudson from University of Missouri-Kansas City (a surprising hotbed of anti-neoliberal thought), explains, this is all part and parcel of the demonization of taxation itself to gain our complicity in our own destruction:

‘The emerging financial oligarchy seeks to shift taxes off banks and their major customers (real estate, natural resources and monopolies) onto labor. Given the need to win voter acquiescence, this aim is best achieved by rolling back everyone’s taxes. The easiest way to do this is to shrink government spending, headed by Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Yet these are the programs that enjoy the strongest voter support. This fact has inspired what may be called the Big Lie of our epoch: the pretense that governments can only create money to pay the financial sector and that the beneficiaries of social programs should be entirely responsible for paying for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, not the wealthy. This Big Lie is used to reverse the concept of progressive taxation, turning the tax system into a ploy of the financial sector to levy tribute on the economy at large’.

That’s why the Democrats always join their alleged GOP rivals in celebrating the needs of the ‘middle class’ while refusing to even acknowledge the existence of the lower ones (which must be there somewhere for there to even exist a ‘middle’). People at the bottom don’t pay much in tax, so the exclusive focus on the Holy Middle is an excellent way to undermine tax-paying by anyone. Now that Obama has set out to convince us that 450K a year equals ‘middle class’, the concept will soon mean ‘anyone who has to pay these annoying things at all’.

However, instead of the old notion of being a middle class society comprised of people who went off to secure jobs and looked forward to minimum comforts for themselves and their children, we are regressing to a state where only inherited wealth can assure one of a decent life. If Mitt Romney were president, this would be glaringly obvious. Obama, by contrast, looks like something less venal and so is the Man of the Hour for the banker/rentier class to push through its nefarious program. Will anyone in the political and moral swamp known as the Democratic Party stand up to him?

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