Direct Representation for Taxation

Every year around mid-April, in the multi-various forms of the media, there is a huge surge of the old tale to do with the two inevitable things in life: Death and Taxes. There is a third, related ‘inevitability’ that has been shoved down our throats and gone mostly unexamined: Tax cuts for the rich help the economy; but has this really been true historically?

Who pays the taxes and who takes the cake?

While the percentages of taxes paid by the rich have been shrinking progressively over the decades, the amount extracted out of the majority of the population (the non-rich) has been kept pretty steady since the 1940s; the non-rich have always paid most of the taxes.

In newspaper articles published back in 2004, it was reported that: “[A Government Accounting Office] report showed that 61 percent of US corporations paid no federal income taxes from 1996 through 2000, a period of rapid economic growth and rising corporate profits,” (Boston Globe, April 11, 2004; emphasis added).

In the same article: “The percentage of federal tax collections paid by corporations has tumbled from a high of 39.8 percent in 1943 to a low of 7.4 percent last year [2003]… But since World War II, the share paid by individual income tax filers has remained relatively stable, bouncing between 40 percent and 50 percent.”

So, individuals like you and I have been paying the same amount of taxes steadily (i.e., most of the taxes), but those who can most afford to pay have been getting non-stop tax breaks, and most, whenever they can, pay none.

Now, what happens to our taxes? These days, they are spent mostly on tax cuts for the rich and of course on wars.

Here is one example of misspent taxes. As reported in a December 11, 2005 New York Times article, “The price tag for protection against a Category 5 hurricane [for New Orleans], which would involve not just stronger and higher levees but also new drainage canals and environmental restoration, would very likely run to well over $32 billion … That starting point represents just 1.2 percent of this year’s estimated $2.6 trillion in federal spending, which actually overstates the case, since the cost would be spread over many years. And it is barely one-third the cost of the $95 billion in tax cuts passed just last week by the House of Representatives.” To bring another beam of light to the subject, the $32 billion cost to rebuild New Orleans’ levees equals roughly the money spent in a 16-week period to rape and pillage Iraq.

The rebuilding of New Orleans’ levees is merely one example among hundreds of cases where our taxes are misspent while tax cuts are showered upon the rich and the powerful. There are also the colossal misappropriations as pertains to health care, education, infrastructural needs of all kinds, not to mention the environmental cleanups needed in cities across the U.S., and job creation schemes and investments to ensure future social health of the people.

Has the reduction of taxes for these corporations, sixty percent of whom, again, may pay no taxes, created a better economy? Not by a long shot. The increasing profit margins have been stashed in offshore accounts, spent on obscene luxuries or morphed into finance capital, in itself non-productive and purely speculative. In the meantime, increasing numbers of US corporations have moved their manufacturing capacities overseas, in search of increasingly cheaper labor. As a result recent economic recoveries have been recoveries mostly for the profit margins of the biggest corporations, with zero employment benefits for the U.S. workers.

Meanwhile, more than 45 million U.S. citizens and millions of undocumented immigrants have no access to any health care. More than 12 million families go hungry. Close to 18 percent of children under 18 live in poverty. Adjusted against the real buying power of the dollar in 2006, the minimum wages for workers back in 1968 were $9.27 an hour, the highest ever since. With the new legislation passed in January of this year, minimum wages are to stand at $5.85 an hour now, and ‘raised’ to $7.25 by 2009. Meaning, if it needed to be translated, the real wages have been dropping since 1968!

In other words, the tax cuts for the rich have been good only for the economy of the rich people, and disastrous for the economy of the rest of us.

A modest proposal

In the 2006 Congressional elections, people of the United States, outraged at the direction of the foreign policy dictated supposedly merely by the Republicans occupying two of the three branches of the government, expressed their outrage by giving the Democrats a majority in both houses of the Congress, in the vain hope that things may change. What was the result? No change at all in the direction of the foreign policy, as relates to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Let us look at an alternative situation. What if, instead of the Congressional representatives, the people themselves had the power of the purse? If such a mechanism existed, those millions of U.S. citizens who are sick and tired of the lies told them by the politicians could have used that mechanism long before the 2006 Congressional elections to start cutting off the funding for the war.

This, of course, would not have stopped the millions who do support the war party from continuing to fund the pillaging and the raping of Iraq. However, with direct representation for taxation the anti-war party too would be represented in the collective decision making process. As the political situation stands now, even when the people do vote anti-war, for example, their wishes are completely ignored; except when those wishes are taken into account for rhetorical fine-tuning to create a semblance that the people’s voices have been ‘heard’, and people should just relax and leave everything to the politicians.

In a previous article, I suggested a re-conceptualization of the taxation system, proposing the following:

“We can demand a new system of taxation to be instituted, whereby every year, as people file their taxes they also file a ‘Priority List’, submitting to the government their instructions for spending their money. In other words, at the same time as they hand over their money they dictate to the government the order of priorities for the expenditure of their money. So, for example, when I hand over my money to the IRS, I likewise hand over my instructions to the effect that of the taxes I have paid, the government must spend 25% of it on education for immigrants who are not documented; 25% on the health of the same population; 20% on environmental clean up efforts in poor neighborhoods and towns; 10% on infrastructure building in poor neighborhoods and towns; 10% on research into diseases; and 10% on the proliferation of artistic activities among the children in all neighborhoods. Individuals can choose any number of priorities, and rank them in any percentage they deem necessary. If individuals so wished, they could even give any desirable percentage of their taxes to the victims of imperialism.” (“Taxation or Racketeering,” Dissident Voice)

Those wishing to transfer fiscal decision-making powers to their Congressional representatives may do so. However, those who are more vigilant and wish to exercise a more intelligent form of political power by controlling how their money is spent may also wield their political power, and have a say in the political running of things.

What would be some of the consequences of such a system? First and foremost, we would transform the legislative representatives from masters they assume themselves to be, dictating to us how our money should be spent, to the public servants that they, theoretically, are supposed to be.

Second, such a system creates an electorate who is more involved, hence more intelligent, since more empowered to decide on questions regarding the expenditure of their taxes.

Third, such a system of taxation reflects more truthfully the collective and aggregate will of the people, and is a first step toward direct democracy; a system which is possible and, given our state of statistical sciences as well as technological capabilities, can be practically implemented.

Fourth, there will be an end to the fatalistic mentality encouraged by the ruling classes, who love to say, ‘There is no alternative!’ With the re-conceptualized taxation proposed above, people will have an actual mechanism to express their outrage and set things right, according to their own judgment and understanding as well as their ethics and morality. When, for example, people realize that they have been lied to and cheated in order send their sons and daughters as well as their money to start a war against an innocent population just so as to loot their resources, they can immediately stop their taxes from being used to fund such murderous projects. In short, there will be an end to “There Is No Alternative” mentality. People can indeed start to institute another world that is possible.

Plague on both their houses!

The real reason liberals find the right-wing politicians and ideologues too distasteful is because the right-wing does not mince words and openly talks about class warfare: a warfare they have been waging against the working people and the true left for at least a couple of centuries; the last few decades of which have been decidedly one-sided against the peoples and the left. A Liberal’s (with capital L) true passion and vocation in life is to conceal and deny the class nature of our society, so to them the right-wing rhetoric brings to the open, and rather too openly, with not much panache, that most important fact that is to remain concealed and denied; at, all, costs.

Next year we will see yet another round of buffoonery showcased by the Democrats who, in spite of the fact that they have been funding the sadistic aggression against the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan, not to forget the support for total and unconditional subjugation of the Palestinian people; in spite of all that, they will no doubt come out accusing the Republicans of lying to the people and ‘mishandling’ the ‘war on terror’.

The choice facing the true left is clear. The Left (with capital L) in the US has only one option if it means business beyond remaining reactive forever, ad nauseam, ad infinitum. The one option is to create a unified, pluralistic political party of the left that can present a realistic alternative to the business as usual. Such a party, I would argue modestly, can realistically present the idea of ‘Direct Representation for Taxation’, as part of its platform.

Further, a party of the left that does mean business can become a mass party. The fact that more than half of the electorate does not vote is not a sign of their apathy but a sign of their intelligence that recognizes that the ruling parties do not represent the interests of the people. So, let’s connect!

The question of taxation is one that every man and woman can relate to. This is not a revolutionary idea, yet can easily be posed as a practical necessity, and its institutionalized reframing can transform how political power is really wielded. This re-conceptualization of taxation can unite single-issue activists and organizations. Posed the right way, it is an inclusive platform, not a sectarian one. Further, it re-casts politics in a light that is avoided by corrupt politicians and their direct or indirect allies and lackeys in the corporate media and the academia: re-conceptualized, it brings back the economic dimension into the most political of all questions; the question of representation for taxation.

How long should we have to remain reactive; acting in reaction only to the agenda and the terms of the debate set by the Right, and ask only those questions allowed by them? How long will we have to allow our resources to be plundered by a governing (tiny) minority who will do nothing but plunder our lives, in the form of our children, our money and our futures, just so as to continue plundering the ‘lesser peoples’ of this planet, whenever and wherever they choose to do so? Can we not be less timid and more audacious?