May 2nd, 2009 16:02 EST
Tax Dodgeball: Right-Wing Style
I`m not sure even Jon Stewart can shame the politicians into talking straight, so ingrained is their hypocrisy and cowardice.
Take the tax issue. Republicans and conservative Democrats have made a career of associating taxation with devil worship. But across the land when push comes to shove at the local and state level they refuse to do what has to be done to tamp down taxes "things like dropping a first cousin from the highway department rolls, or eliminating redundancy at the regional level, the kind of syndrome that drives the total New York State tax burden higher than any other state`s.
Other examples abound. We know perfectly well that pervasive alcoholism and obesity are major causes of escalating health care costs. But we`re doing nothing about the former and little about the latter. We know that our one-horse (home building) economy can`t be repaired and diversified unless we reform health care, but our politicians are in the pockets of the health insurers and care providers.
We know from just-released data that the Internal Revenue Service audited only fifteen percent of the large financial services companies in 2008. We know that the IRS prefers to go after the little guys because the big guys fight back with pricey lawyers. But what do we do about this classic bullying? Nothing. We know that the securities and bond ratings agencies winked at unacceptable risk-taking by investment banks, and yet Congress poured tax money into those greedy banks while at the same time bad-mouthing taxation.
The political myth-making machine has been hard at work for decades, trying to convince us that corporations and individuals are overtaxed when the burdens placed on us come from corporate predators. These same myth-makers have been bad-mouthing the federal civil service for decades, calling it bloated and wasteful when in fact it is one of the most effective civil services in the world and works just fine when politicians like Al Gore and his drive to re-invent government, as he called it, leave it alone. (Re-invent means contract government jobs out to corporate bandits.) It`s not an oversized and inefficient civil service that `s the problem, it`s the politicians` efforts to corrupt the civil service that is the problem.
Consider this report from the Tax Policy Center:
The United States raises significantly lower tax revenues as a percentage of gross domestic product than do most other countries in the Organization for Economic Development and Co-operation. In 2003 taxes in the United States, including all levels of government, amounted to 25.6 percent of GDP, down from 29.6 percent of GDP in 2000.1 Other countries in the G7 raised 33.9 percent of GDP, while non-G7 OECD countries raised 34.7 percent. Within the OECD, Mexico raised the least tax revenues at 19 percent and Sweden the most at 50.6 percent. (The recovery of corporate profits and the stock market since 2003 subsequently boosted U.S. tax revenues to 26.8 percent of GDP in the first three quarters of calendar year 2005.)
Compared with other OECD countries, the United States relies more heavily on income taxes as a source of revenue and less on taxes on goods and services. In 2003 the United States raised 43.3 percent of its revenue from corporate and personal income taxes, compared with 30.5 percent for the rest of the G7 and 34.3 percent for non-G7 OECD countries. But unlike other OECD countries, the United States does not impose a value-added or other form of national sales tax. Consequently, the U.S. share of revenue raised from taxes on goods and services (state sales taxes and state and federal excise taxes on selected commodities) was only 18.2 percent, compared with 26 percent in other G7 countries and 32.6 percent in non-G7 OECD countries. Combining both the tax levels and tax shares, the United States raises more personal income tax and property tax as a share of Gross Domestic Product than other OECD countries do, but less corporate income tax, Social Security contributions, and taxes on goods and services, resulting in a lower tax burden overall."
The politicians prefer to yak about how high our corporate tax rate is, but they know damned well "because the Congressional Budget Office and other agencies tell them "that our collection rate is miserable, because Congress lets the corporations get away with dodging through tax loopholes a mile wide, loopholes carefully crafted by bought and paid-for politicians, usually the same ones who go home and cynically whip up anti-tax sentiment among their constituents. They know that the most onerous taxes are imposed in the form of abusive credit card interest rates by banks, predatory health care, pharmaceutical and insurance charges and a host of other piratical practices inflicted on us by their corporate patrons, not by government. Government taxation is a pittance compared to these rip-offs.
What the politicians are really good at is chucking red herrings at us. Gay marriage, family values, abortion, stem cell research "they have little to do with our health, our employment or our education "but the politicians know from experience that they can get us all riled up about these distractions so that we don`t notice politicians pocketing lobbyists` money and our civil liberties. Were it not for the pervasive corruption of politicians by the pharmaceutical and health care industries we would in all likelihood have found cancer cures by now. We`ll see now if these industries step up to the plate in the current swine flu crisis. A cured illness represents no profit for them; we should remember that the next time we hear a politician talking about the dangers of health care reform. Sickness means big money for somebody, health not so much.
As newspapers around the nation sicken and die the pols are more likely to get away with this flimflam. The press was never very good at protecting us from this sort of thing because it depends on advertisers who are in on the scam. Don`t expect that massive advertiser, the alcoholic beverages industry, to support a news organization that shows us how alcoholism is exacerbating health care costs. Don`t expect McDonald`s to hang in with a news organization that explores the ill effects of fast food.
And don`t expect local conservatives to associate local patronage with high taxes, either. Why? Because patronage means votes. And yet they go on blathering about high taxes when they know perfectly well they can do something about it any time they want to.
Without a strong, courageous and vigilant press all this will get worse, much worse.