As most who listen to our show know, I have very good friends — people who are like family to me — who do not share my political and policy views. I respect them for having the courage of their convictions. What I have a harder time with are those who share my views and enjoy wearing the label of a Progressive, but who walk away from core positions in the name of political expediency.
I am not so naive to think that everyone who is a Progressive will share my idiosynchratic iconoclastic views. I probably do more harm to that label than good, but I stick by it. I also consider myself a fiscally conservative New England Yankee — which to some flies in the face of being a Progressive, but that’s only if you buy into the cliches and sensationalistic minimalistic rhetoric of the Palinistas who dishonestly cling to the notion of conservatives being fiscally responsible.
I think the current tax system should be scrapped entirely. It’s a tangled mess of codes stacked against the average working person and in favor of those with the power and money to hire legions of lobbyists and lawyers. I believe in the worth, dignity and integrity of our individual struggles to understand and reach our own potential in life. For the most part, that has absolutely nothing to do with government and the taxes needed to fund its operation, although sometimes the government can help, and other times it can get in the way. But to me we are more than a society of individuals. We are, for the lack of a better word, a collection of tribes, connected together and in need of a collective whose aim is to form ‘a more perfect union.’
I believe in fairness, and was taught by my parents — the poor son of a working class dairy farmer in Maine, and the poor daughter of a working class immigrant Polish family from Connecticut — about the necessity of hard work, the pride in taking risks, being curious and working creatively, hopefully earning financial and spiritual rewards. They also taught me about the need to give back — to the family, the church, the community and our society. There but for the grace of God go each of us, I was told many times. We, sometimes the government, but more often our friends, neighbors and “tribe” members — have a responsibility to help those who are less fortunate among us.
Life isn’t a means to an end — the unyielding quest for the next dollar earned — it is a means in itself. It’s not where we end up, but how we get there, how we take the journey. I recognize that we are in perilous financial times — this is not a trivial or frivolous matter. Great care must be given to how we get through these hard times…together. I am very fortunate, in life and in my line of work, to know people who love their work, work very hard, but unfortunately do not earn enough money to “make it.” These are very tough times for many people, struggling to make a living in tough economic times. I don’t think we can ask them to pay more in taxes.
I wish we lived in a society where we could give everyone everything and guarantee it for life, but that’s not the way things work. Tough choices need to be made. I want effective programs, like health care (with a public option), climate control…but we must all sacrifice, and the first thing we need to do now is get our fiscal house in order. If you consider yourself a Progressive Democrat like me, I don’t see how you can make the choice at this time in our history to support giving a tax cut to millionaires and billionaires, but that’s exactly the debate going on in Congress right now.
The Picture in 2000…
In midst of greatest economic expansion in history
- Inflation was non-existent
- Economy was growing, although GDP growth was erratic for the first time in 99
- Unemployment was low
- Savings rate went negative for the first time in 40 years, an ominous sign for the future, but represented wealth being generated
- $230 billion Surplus
- Paid down $360 billion in debt during Clinton, largest in US history
- US Debt has gone from $5.6 trillion in 2000 to $13.7 trillion today
- Bush takes office and conditions start to deteriorate. Congressional spending under Republican control increases substantially, and then later under Democrats. According to conservative Heritage Foundation, discretionary spending grows 80% faster than inflation since 2000. In the 1990s, Congress spent $21,000 per household. Last year they spent over $30,000 per household.
- In 2001, Bush offers a tax rebate to give back some of the surplus, which in retrospect had no stimulative effect. Given low savings rates, people put the minimal amount they received into savings.
- In 2003, Bush reduced tax rates on income, capital gains and dividends. Dividends were reduced from 40% – 15%. He also increased tax credits for education and retirement savings.
- Those making $1 million or more per year represent the top 2% of earners, and they disproportionately reap the windfall of the Bush tax cuts
- Simple truth: you don’t get something for nothing. Tax cuts need to be offset by added revenue elsewhere or spending cuts. Spending cuts weren’t made, but the government did seek additional revenue sources, which disproportionately hit lower and middle income households.
- In reality, the Bush tax cuts were actually tax “cuts” for 20% of households and increases for the other 80%, meaning most of us work harder for less and give more to the federal government when you consider how other revenues were adjusted to pay for the tax cuts. Low and middle income Americans are the biggest losers under the Bush tax plan. People with annual incomes above $1 million gain an average of $59,600 a year, or 3.1 percent of after-tax income. So that, in the end, is what we’re fighting for…money for millionaires.
Let the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires expire. Let the tax cuts go to “true” small businesses — not the hedge funds of the world that get lumped in with small businesses and skew the data, but the real mom and pop small businesses that are the engine of our economic growth.
I can guess where my Republican friends stand, but what about you, Progressives?
– Jeff Kimball