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We All Know the Rich Don’t Need Tax Cuts

Photo by Darya Mead | CC BY 2.0

The Republican tax plan has plenty of critics, but not enough it seems. And the plan’s critics in Congress, where the battle is being waged, seem unable or unwilling to attack the plan where it is most vulnerable. Neither does the corporate media (most everything) strike where it will do the most good. Instead it poses periphery questions such as, ‘who will the winners and losers be’, followed by the box scores.

The trouble with this question of winners and losers is it only makes sense in a game that has started even. It also assures that the conditions before the game begins — the rich being rich and the poor being poor — need not enter into the discussion, distancing it from the outcomes of the plan if enacted.

Proponents of the plan must find this line of criticism to their liking. The answer they come up with — the best and only answer — is that the plan reduces everyone’s taxes. They then place an asterisk next to “everyone” and go on to explain, with justification, that by “everyone” of course they do not mean literally everyone, that no plan could possibly do that, but that, in this plan, there are cuts across every spectrum of income on average.

Well, this is a good argument but it’s not one that has to be argued against. If critics of the plan restrict themselves to details like outcomes then the plan is as good as enacted. It’s as if both sides agree on the main points — what’s going in — and tinkering around with the lesser points — what’s coming out.

Take the concept, “tax cut”. What does it mean, and who would want it? I think it’s fair to say that people can mean, in asking for one, that they are not holding onto enough of the money they’ve made. Following this, the people who would want it are those that feel they did not make enough. Pretty straightforward, and difficult to argue with.

Difficult, but not impossible. Some readily point out that low earners already pay very little in taxes. True enough.

As income levels rise, one can arbitrarily make any number of brackets. Low, middle, and high are favored terms of state propagandists. We have low earners and high earners, but we have only one class in our country. That is our great middle class. We don’t have a lower class here. No upper class either.

But let’s go up to it, up to the colloquial 1% and above, where spectacular earnings are the norm. Where earnings in the sense of earned income (wages) form the tiniest part of total income. Now to an examination of how the concept of a tax cut fits with this.

Do those with ultra high incomes feel that they are not holding onto enough of the money they’ve made? And do they also feel they did not make enough? To be fair, the answer to both could be yes. But since incomes at this level are not only astronomically higher than even average incomes but exponentially rising as well, there is no end in sight. That is, to answer yes to a tax cut can amount to a perpetual yes.

This is where someone has to step in! A benign parent could not grant one child unlimited resources while withholding same from the other. And a benign government could not allow unlimited resources to obtain to some few of its citizens, while so many of its other citizens suffer from their lack.

However, this is the present situation. It is astonishing that with the wealth and income disparities manifest in our country that the subject of a tax cut for the rich is not dead on arrival. It would be a third rail if polity rested with the people. A subject that could never come up.

And if one has to waste a breath on the subject of large tax cuts for giant corporations — the only kind that matters — it would be to mention that they are actually peopled by people, and it is these people: directors, officers, insiders, and shareholders that benefit from rising stock prices and dividends via ownership, and that these people suffer from the same human malady of wanting to hold onto more of their money while feeling they could be making more.

Therefore, it would be enough to enact tax cuts up to a diminishing point. It’s redistributive, but on a scale with taking a few drops of water from an ocean and dropping them into a bay. If, as expected, this does not come to pass, it would be nice to have an opposition party not merely content to debate in the austere halls, but to take it into the streets.

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James Rothenberg can be reached at:  jrothenberg@taconic.net

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