"Wall Street Has Us Fighting Over The Leftovers"
The following is an excerpt from a guest editorial that appeared in the local paper here--The Medford Mail Tribune. It is one of the best summations of the runaway economic disparities in America today and why one party in particular seems bent on only a one-sided solution to our state and federal debt problems.
The editorial by Mark Witt was inspired by cuts to a local special-needs student education program. It seems its all about what to cut these days and no balance given to returning tax revenue to the indexing standards of prior years, especially for the well off.
Tax breaks that have been focused overwhelmingly on the few over the needs of a desperate middle and working class America is a state of affairs caused by the power of corporations over the political system through lobbying and unrestricted campaign financing. These disparities were decidedly was NOT typical in post-WWII American life until the 1980's, and do not exist in much of the developed world. **********************************
"U.S. corporations are sitting on the largest cash reserves and the largest profits in history, according to such pro-business sources as the U.S. Commerce Department and the Federal Reserve Board. The top 1 percent of Americans now own 42 percent of the financial wealth, while the bottom 80 percent own just 7 percent. The average corporate CEO makes 263 times the average worker — a gap that is six times greater than it was in 1980.
"When will we stop arguing over which essential service to cut and start doing something about Wall Street billionaires and big corporations that don't pay their tax share?
"Here are a few sample facts, readily available online from the Oregon Center for Public Policy, the Economic Policy Institute, and the Mail Tribune's own archives.
"The wealthiest 400 Americans — people whose income averages $345 million per year — pay federal income taxes at an average rate of 17 percent once they've used their special loopholes, about one-third lower than what they paid just 20 years ago and less than the average teacher, nurse or firefighter in our valley.
In December, Rep. Greg Walden and other members of Congress pushed through a tax cut of more than $60 billion per year for the richest 2 percent of Americans — at the same time that they were proposing a cut of that same amount in funding for student loans, public health and other programs.
"Corporations such as General Electric, Bank of America, Exxon Mobil and Citigroup paid no federal income taxes in 2009 even though they each pocketed billions in profits.
"When it comes to state and local taxes in Oregon, the wealthiest 1 percent pay at a lower real rate than the poorest 20 percent, and this reverse Robin Hood effect — taking from working people to give to the rich — is about to get worse. A tax cut for the wealthiest 4 percent of Oregonians that goes into effect in January will cost the rest of us $134 million. A proposed special tax break for capital gains would provide 68 percent of the new benefit to the wealthiest 1 percent and would drain away hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade from our communities.
"Meanwhile, the share of Oregon income taxes paid by corporations has plummeted by nearly two-thirds since the 1970s. In 2011-2013, working Oregonians will pay more than 12 times what all corporations operating in Oregon — combined — will pay in income taxes. In fact, taxes paid by big corporations operating in Oregon have dropped to the point that we have the lowest combined state and local business taxes as a share of our economy of any state in the nation.
"Every dollar of tax revenue should be spent wisely, and public services should be as efficient as possible. But robbing Peter to pay Paul and pitting one worthy service against another is not going to solve the crisis we are facing.
"At some point, our public officials are going to have to take on the barnyard bullies and address the primary reason for our budget shortfalls. That will only happen when our communities stop fighting over the scraps and insist that deadbeat corporations and billionaires start contributing their share."**************************************
Mark Witt is a freelance writer who lives in Talent.