Chickens in Every Pot? Or Bentleys in a Few Garages?

Lawmakers are really in a bind over whether to let the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy expire at the end of this year.  After all, they owe those millionaires a lot after all those campaign contributions this fall.

But extending tax cuts for households with incomes over $250,000 would cost an estimated $700 billion over the next decade.  Seems a little hypocritical to extend them, given all the hand-wringing over budget deficits.

How would you spend $700 billion? What do you value?  It seems that a bit of class bias may enter into this discussion.

Let’s see: Should we extend unemployment insurance for the millions of workers left high and dry in these hard times?  Or extend tax cuts to multi-millionaires and billionaires?

The spirited grassroots group, The Other 98 Percent, has provided a useful informational graphic to help us guide our priorities.  They support retaining tax cuts for the middle class during economic hard times.  But they advocate letting the tax cuts for the wealthy expire at the end of 2011.

Here are some of the choices they highlight for the $700 Billion Question:

We could give U.S. households “a chicken in every pot” (actually 170 chickens) – or a Bentley sedan in every Wall Street banker’s garage.

Do you support constructing 107,666 new schools? Or giving free Justin Beiber tickets to every affluent teenager once a year for their entire lives?

How about building high-speed mass transit and bullet trains? Or providing bail money for Lindsay Lohan for the rest of her life, assuming 2 million more arrests?

We could use the $700 billion to weatherize every home in the U.S., pay for dental care for everyone for the next ten years, or provide college scholarships for 14 million high school graduates.

Or if we extend the tax cuts for higher incomes, we could provide 6,960 trust funds for pet poodles.

Almost every state in the country is strapped for funds, as the recession has depleted state treasuries.  In the coming year our communities will face the prospect of huge budget cuts in education, public transportation, affordable housing, environmental protection, and other lifeline services. The federal government could allocate a portion of $700 billion in aid to the states so they could retain core jobs and services.

Or we could send the cast of Jersey Shore to the moon (and sell the rights to MTV).  See more examples at The Other 98 Percent.

Hundreds of thousands of people have signed public petitions calling on Congress to axe the tax cut, including Moveon.org and the Other 98 Percent.

This effort is happening across the whole class spectrum. Over 425 high-income individuals connected to Wealth for the Common Good have urged Congress to “let their tax cuts expire.”  And small business owners are speaking up through Business for Shared Prosperity, making the business case for letting them go.

These are the tough choices before our Congress. This week, lawmakers are seriously discussing a compromise to temporarily extend high-end tax cuts for an additional two years, costing $67 billion.  What could states and localities do with $67 billion over the next two years?

They really need our help sorting out priorities.

2 Responses

  1. CP

    Looking at the “deal” we were just saddled with (or shafted by), I’d say the message is loud and clear: the owning class isn’t interested in listening to our guidance or help. Their priorities are the only ones that matter.

    Listening to the President’s obscene rationalization of the gross abusive “deal,” was like listening to fingernails on the chalkboard. Especially as I then had to go collect bottles to cover gas for next week. I’m so happy my needs are being met in Washington DC. With benevolence like that, who needs democracy?

  2. Yes, to all of that. Another argument: tax cuts will not lead to job creation. It does not “trickle down”. As long as there is no demand employers will not be hiring. They will be paying down debt, spending more on advertising to grab market share, giving bonuses to execs who can figure out how to pare down the payroll and increase profits. The “jobless recovery” of the ’00’s is evidence enough of that. In the late Reagan era recessions I remember reading a cover story from Business Week, that prominent lefty mag, saying that what the economy needed was stronger unions. Why? Because higher wages would drive demand and lift the economy. Yes, if not for the seat belt I would have fallen out of my seat. But there you have it. More on my blog Working Class Weekly.

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