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This blog is cross-posted at StewartAcuff.com

Was it Willie Sutton who said he robbed banks because that’s where the money is? That would be a good message for radical rightwing members of Congress to learn and apply to the ongoing, never-ending self imposed budget and economic crisis.

As long as the radical Republicans insist on starving our government, cutting more programs that benefit average Americans, cutting unemployment, INFLICTING EVEN MORE PAIN, laying off tens of thousands of federal workers, taking even more money out of this weak economy – weakened by the same policies: we will continue to suffer AUSTERITY. Then when radical rightwing Republicans aim at Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid that will force more working families and retired workers into poverty, our economy will remain stuck.

Go where the money is.

WORKING FAMILIES HAVE SUFFERED 35 YEARS OF STAGNANT WAGES.

AS WE ALL KNOW BY NOW, THE TOP 2% OF OUR POPULATION HAVE SOAKED UP THE GAINS OF OUR PRODUCTIVITY, GAMED OUR TAX SYSTEM WITH TAX CUTS AND A TAX RATE ON STOCK INCOME THAT IS LESS THAN HALF THE RATE THAT WE WORKERS PAY ON OUR WAGES, AND BUSTED THE WORLD’S ECONOMY WITH THEIR FOOLISHNESS ON WALL ST.

ONCE AGAIN WE LEARN THAT CAPITALISM MUST BE REGULATED AND FETTERED OR IT WILL DESTROY EVERYTHING INCLUDING ITSELF.

Go where the money is – the rich beyond imagination who’ve taken advantage of all of us and our country and our world. The big issue is inequality. That is what we must focus on.

© Creative Commons Copyright 2013

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Stewart Acuff is the former organizing Director of the AFL-CIO. Acuff has also written two books: Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing, and Getting America Back to Work.
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Originally posted to StewartAcuff on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 05:14 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Actually, the "money" -- as far as the budget (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib, nextstep

    goes -- is in the middle class, and in middle class programs, because there are so many more in the middle class.

    Example:  Bush tax cuts for families over $250,000 -- about $700 - $800 billion over 10 years.  Bush tax cuts for families UNDER $250,000 -- about $3 trillion over 10 years (total $3.7 trillion for all).

    Another example -- Buffett Rule (30% effective tax rate on all income over $1 million) raises only about $4 - $5 billion a year, at best.

    And, course, on the spending side, Medicare, Medicaid, and SS together make up some 45% of the budget.

    •  Discretionary money. (0+ / 0-)

      All depends on what you consider discretionary. The 2% have lots of it and it grows every day. Not because they earn more, but because policy gives them more.

      When 1% take 121% of the gains from "recovery", people actually recovering from lost employment are trading down on wages and benefits. Current strategies by moderates don't even consider winning the Class War.

      by Words In Action on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 07:57:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You missed the point. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VClib

        1.  You can raise taxes on "the rich" and it's only a drop in the bucket in the context of our annual deficit.  Taxing the rich is only a very very small part of the solution.

        2.  As for that "2%" -- a two-income couple earning $250,000 a year together,or $125,000 each -- what "policy gives them more"?????

        3.  How many hours a day should a CPA, an architect, an engineer, a dentist, a lawyer, a business owner, work to pay federal income taxes?  Right now, due to the AMT, that working professional couple each works about 2 hours  out of an 8 hour day, each and every day, to pay federal income taxes (not counting state income taxes, and SS and Medicare taxes).  How many hours a day are you willing to work to pay federal income taxes?

        •  Wow. This is why we can't have nice things. (0+ / 0-)

          This is why the Third Way fails the Democratic Party platform every time. Some Democrats have been using it so long they think supply-side economics actually works.

          1. No one EVER said the total solution was taxes on the rich.

          2. Naturally you grab for the bottom of the scale to make your point... Having earned that kind of money many times, it's a no-brainer that people filing long forms have more tax breaks than those who do not. And if you are a small business owner, well, there are a whole bunch of things you'll never have to pay full price for again... And if you make a bunch more and go to the "trouble" of setting up trusts and what not, shee-ite what you can do. Because of policy. Supply-side economic policies and the attitudes that make them socially acceptable has greatly increased the earnings of the top. Today's executives don't earn 400 X the average worker because they are 10 X better than their predecessors in the 1980's, who earned "only" 42 X the average. They simply take and get more because their taxes have been slashed in half and exorbitant greed has become acceptable.

          Again the top 1% pays about 20% effective tax rate... less than many, many people earning far less...

          3. Your example suggests a 33% tax rate. On average, the people in the top 10%, 5% and 1% pay UNDER 21%. If you're paying much more, then you need a new CPA. And stop whining, your parents paid a lot more and they raised you. We are the least taxed we have been in decades and among the lowest taxed among developed countries and people whine and whine and whine. And for a Democrat to whine, well...

          When 1% take 121% of the gains from "recovery", people actually recovering from lost employment are trading down on wages and benefits. Current strategies by moderates don't even consider winning the Class War.

          by Words In Action on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 08:34:41 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Response. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            VClib, Hangpilot

            1.  There often is an inordinate focus on "tax the rich" as the solution to all ills.  In fact, in 10 years, if not sooner, we are probably going to have to have some kind of broad-based tax on the middle class, like a VAT, according to people like Krugman.  I assume you've seen him saying "Death Panels and Sales Taxes" is what we will eventually need? (He says that's the "snarky term" for a VAT and some kind of end of life rationing).  

            2.  Your effective tax varies greatly depending on whether you get most of your income from earned income or whether you get it from capital gains.  In terms of sheer numbers, most people in the top 2% have more earned income.  There are far more people in the household income of $250,000 - $1 million than there are above $1 million, so there are far more of the top 2% who get the majority of their income as earned income.  That $250,000 to $1 million is largely 2 income working professional couples, especially some doctors at the upper ends.  They pay taxes on earned income, and they are often subject to the AMT.

            3.  You need to familiarize yourself with the AMT. It is designed to bring an EFFECTIVE tax rate of about 26% - 28%.  And please, please, please show me the accountant who can (legally) get around the AMT.  Not. Gonna. Happen.  

            I'll add another point.  If by "the rich" you mean "people who earn millions as capital gains income," if you LIMIT "the rich" to that, there's a legitimate point there.  But that's EXACTLY what the Buffett Rule is designed to get to, by mandating an EFFECTIVE tax rate of 30% on incomes phasing in at $1 million and applying to everything over $2 million.  Go ahead and advocate for that -- I'm fine with that -- but that gets you maybe $4 billion a year.  That's a rounding error in a $3.5 trillion dollar annual budget.  It makes no real difference in the overall scheme of things.

            The bottom line is that we can't pretend that we can have all the government we want and somebody else -- "the rich" -- will pay for it.  If we want this government, we are all going to have to pay for it.  If we want to continue with the government we have, if we don't want significant cuts in the government we have, we are going to end up with, as Krugman says, "Death Panels and Sales Taxes."  

            •  Here: (0+ / 0-)

              When 1% take 121% of the gains from "recovery", people actually recovering from lost employment are trading down on wages and benefits. Current strategies by moderates don't even consider winning the Class War.

              by Words In Action on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 09:21:11 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Frankly, the Buffet Rule (0+ / 0-)

              was just more incrementalism not seriously intended to halt the Class War.

              You want to reverse the Class War and revive the economy by exploding demand: create a 10 year plan to go back to the 1980 tax schedule.

              Deficit cuts should not be the priority during a recession -- and yes, we're back.

              You're just feeding right-wing memes. And that's why we are failing as a Party. We aren't even trying to deliver the Party platform anymore.

              When 1% take 121% of the gains from "recovery", people actually recovering from lost employment are trading down on wages and benefits. Current strategies by moderates don't even consider winning the Class War.

              by Words In Action on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 09:28:58 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  People would be a lot less confused about who to (0+ / 0-)

              blame for sequestration if there weren't so many moderate Democrats championing austerity during a recession, as if job and wage growth weren't more important.

              And I think some people will figure out that it's not just the Republicans who are responsible for the impending results...

              When 1% take 121% of the gains from "recovery", people actually recovering from lost employment are trading down on wages and benefits. Current strategies by moderates don't even consider winning the Class War.

              by Words In Action on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 09:36:38 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  And you ignored my comments about executive (0+ / 0-)

              wages AND the fact that no one is saying everything can be solved with tax increases.

              When 1% take 121% of the gains from "recovery", people actually recovering from lost employment are trading down on wages and benefits. Current strategies by moderates don't even consider winning the Class War.

              by Words In Action on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 09:37:47 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  WiA - For someone in the top 2% to pay (0+ / 0-)

            less than the ALTMIN rate they have to generate a significant portion of their income from capital gains. Even people in the top 1%, earning more than $400,000, can't drop their tax rate to 21% if that $400,000 is all or nearly all earned income. It's really the top .1 or maybe .25%, who are primarily investors and generate most of their income from capital gains that drops the averages to 21%. Mitt Romney was a very good example. This isn't about having better accountants. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 removed nearly all of the mechanisms that were available to reduce taxes on earned income. If you have a cardiac surgeon who makes $500,000 a year he is going to pay at least ALTMIN rates.

            Coffeetalk's main point is that there is only so much we can raise in taxing the income of the top 2% because there are only 2% of them. Small additional taxes from the middle class provides an overwhelming about of additional tax revenue because of the large numbers. To work our way out of Trillion dollar annual deficits will take more revenue which will need to include tax increases for most Americans.

            "let's talk about that"

            by VClib on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 09:03:50 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I know I have paid far less many times (0+ / 0-)

              both due to investment income from IPOs and M&A events AND owning small businesses...

              It's never been that difficult.

              Again, no one suggest that the whole solution is increasing tax rates. But the fact is, taxes for the top have been slashed in half and it hasn't raised all boats, like people were promised it would. In fact, historically, we've done better when those rates were much higher. Let's go back to the 80s. Ditto for executive wages...

              Last, who said that working our way out of the trillion dollar annual deficits is the top priority. If DEMOCRATS would stop repeating this Right-wing talking point, maybe it would be easier to lobby for an alternative...?

              When 1% take 121% of the gains from "recovery", people actually recovering from lost employment are trading down on wages and benefits. Current strategies by moderates don't even consider winning the Class War.

              by Words In Action on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 09:25:59 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  The other thing, VC, if executives weren't (0+ / 0-)

              earning 400 X the average, but say 40 X, as in the 80s, AND they were paying 1980s tax rates, THAT would make a huge difference...

              THAT's what we really need.

              And the only reason we won't get it is not the Right, it's the Middle... If the middle were as intent as the Left, the Right would be irrelevant...

              When 1% take 121% of the gains from "recovery", people actually recovering from lost employment are trading down on wages and benefits. Current strategies by moderates don't even consider winning the Class War.

              by Words In Action on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 09:54:59 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  WiA - If executives were earning less (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                coffeetalk

                but paying the statutory RATES of the 80s, prior to TRA86, we would be in new territory. However in the 80s, 70s, and 60s executives made less and had effective rates that were half the top statutory rates because the code allowed you to effectively shelter your earned income from federal taxes. The grand bargain of TRA86 was dropping rates and a complete rewrite of the IRS code for individuals, which eliminated nearly all tax shelters. Rates from the 80s, and the current code, would be new territory with effective rates for high income earners the US has never seen, which I am sure would please many.

                Regarding senior executive compensation, I have some thoughts about why they have skyrocketed and will someday soon put them in a diary.

                "let's talk about that"

                by VClib on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 10:41:58 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I'd like to see that. I'd also like to see your (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  VClib

                  thoughts on the relationship of concentration of wealth -- now v.s that of the late 70s -- on the overall health of the economy and society. Because it seems to me that if you recognize how destructive it is, then you can't be satisfied with the policies that allow current concentration to continue and even grow. In fact, dissatisfaction should be a mild way of putting it.

                  We've all Republicans say how the Party has left them. With each year, the path of the Third Way seems to stray farther and farther from the Party platform. You simply can't achieve that platform with the kind of policies we pursue and accept these days.

                  When 1% take 121% of the gains from "recovery", people actually recovering from lost employment are trading down on wages and benefits. Current strategies by moderates don't even consider winning the Class War.

                  by Words In Action on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 01:15:47 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  WiA - we can't have a wealth tax (0+ / 0-)

                    without a Constitutional Amendment and the results in Europe in the countries that have them is very mixed. Some have dropped them. On a federal level you have estate taxes and higher marginal income taxes, and changing the treatment of capital gains as the major dials that can be turned. With only those tools it will be a few generations before the wealth accumulation would be affected unless the estate taxes were very high.

                    "let's talk about that"

                    by VClib on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 04:59:24 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

        •  Too many Democrats compromised by their (0+ / 0-)

          own personal ambition, too invested in the status quo, to ever substantively combat the Class War that has decimated the middle (and lower) class the past three decades.

          Don't blame incrementalism so weak that the 99% continue to fall behind every day on Republicans, blame it on moderate Democrats. Without them, Republicans wouldn't have any oxygen to operate.

          When 1% take 121% of the gains from "recovery", people actually recovering from lost employment are trading down on wages and benefits. Current strategies by moderates don't even consider winning the Class War.

          by Words In Action on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 08:49:23 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  There you go again... (0+ / 0-)

      pretending Social Security is part of the budget, as if it isn't paid for with FICA. And as if it couldn't be fixed over nitght by simply removing the cap.

      $3 trillion over ten years ... that's real money. Hasn't Obama been talking about cutting $4 trillion over ten years as a real cut in spending???

      And I notice you didn't mention Defense spending or corporate welfare...

      Isn't this the more and better Democrat site? I feel like I'm talking to one of my old Republican colleagues in the board room.

      When 1% take 121% of the gains from "recovery", people actually recovering from lost employment are trading down on wages and benefits. Current strategies by moderates don't even consider winning the Class War.

      by Words In Action on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 08:41:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  WiA - SocSec and the cap (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        coffeetalk

        The Defend Social Security Group is having a Diary event in late March and I will be writing on this topic. The reason there is a cap is that SocSec is wage insurance, not an income redistribution program. There has always been the view that higher income participants don't need to "insure" their wages and salaries beyond some number, and therefore there is a cap. The cap could certainly be higher than $110,000, but there is no logic to removing the cap, unless you view the goal of SocSec to redistribute income. If you do, that's fine and a public policy issue that many people advocate. However, it does violate one of the founding pillars that FDR set in place for the program.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 09:12:05 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Income is already being redistributed. (0+ / 0-)

          The biggest difference between the 80s and now is simply a re-jiggering of how income is distributed. Ditto for 1980 and the previous 40 years since the New Deal.

          I mean, we're basically talking about collecting rent on other people's labor, right?

          How much is reasonable, how much is too much?

          The fact is, the kind of concentration of wealth we have created is unhealthy...for everyone.

          If income was distributed more equitably in the first place, we wouldn't be talking about tax rates or eliminating the cap or any other ways to try and create an equitable, effective economy. The reason we talk about those things, like voter suppression, is because certain people stop themselves from rigging every game they're involved in.

          When 1% take 121% of the gains from "recovery", people actually recovering from lost employment are trading down on wages and benefits. Current strategies by moderates don't even consider winning the Class War.

          by Words In Action on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 10:00:16 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  ..."can't" stop themselves.. (0+ / 0-)

            from rigging every game they're involved in.

            When 1% take 121% of the gains from "recovery", people actually recovering from lost employment are trading down on wages and benefits. Current strategies by moderates don't even consider winning the Class War.

            by Words In Action on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 10:16:40 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

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