Accountability of the wealthy

By MARSHALL WARD

President, Calloway County Retired Teachers Association

April 15 has come and gone.  We have either filed for an extension, pulled out our checkbook, or we're waiting for a refund.

We have developed separate federal, state, and local taxes on income, payroll, property, sales, capital gains, dividends, imports, estates, gifts, and various fees to fund our values.

Governments are required to create realistic budgets to reflect those values.

There has been a long-standing debate between the Republican and Democratic parties about taxation and priorities.

The current Trump/Republican Budget Cuts clearly reveal a set of priorities/values:

Cut 31 percent from the EPA, 19 percent from transportation, 16 percent from Housing, 15 percent from agriculture, 12 percent from health and education and 11 percent from Energy

Additional cuts are $845 billion over 10 years from Medicare, $241 billion from Medicaid, $220 billion from SNAP, a nutrition program for low-income families, and $207 billion over 10 years from student loan programs.

As usual, the Republicans are proposing no replacement programs. Will Communities continue to be forced to cut personnel and important services?

Additionally, by Republicans weaponizing the tax code, Blue States have been punished with tax increases while Red States are rewarded with tax refunds.

Kentuckians have suffered through Republican tax increases on certain services from last year’s budget with no GOP strategies for closing corporate loopholes for new revenue.

So Kentuckians find themselves in a budget year with diminished revenues from Republican tax cuts, pension obligations, and promises for school safety.

Locally, Calloway County taxes will have to be increased because of negligent long-term tax planning, and Murray State will have to make an additional $3.5 million cut from its already barebones budget.

This funding crisis comes from irresponsible Republican tax cuts at the national, state, and local levels.

The Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 provided huge tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals that created the largest budget deficit in U.S. history. 

Sixty of the country’s largest companies paid ZERO taxes and, in many cases, got a tax refund. Untaxed windfall profits were used for stock buybacks, NOT worker paychecks, which have been flat since 1972.

In 1899, Thorstein Veblen, who wrote the Theory of the Leisure Class, observed that Mark Twain’s “Gilded Age” from 1865 to 1900 produced a “predator class seeking only profits and power”. The working class, ridiculed for their station and preyed upon by their “masters”, seemed to be mesmerized by their “instinct of emulation”.

Instead of Robber Barons like Rockefeller (oil), Carnegie (steel), Morgan (banking), and Vanderbilt (shipping), we have Multi-Billionaires Gates (Microsoft), Zuckerberg (Facebook), Bezos (Amazon), Brin and Page (Google), and Kochs (oil and gas). They are among the 26 people who have as much wealth as 3.8 billion people or half of the World’s population.

There is a discussion beginning to materialize among the wealthiest Americans that demands the government pass real tax reform that will transform our economy for ALL citizens.

These billionaires are advocating for higher taxes for the top 1 percent. “Government should require people in my position to pay significantly higher taxes," says Bill Gates who agrees with the multi-millionaires/billionaires who have signed on to “Patriotic Millionaires” for higher taxes for the wealthy.

Finally, some of the wealthy are making the connection that unbridled capitalism without a fair tax system is bad for America.

However, Republicans continue to frame this debate as a socialist conspiracy by Democrats where no one is held accountable, and no one must work for what they receive. 

That’s exactly the society that Trump, McConnell, Paul, Comer, Humphries, and Elkins are promoting for the wealthy.

Let’s call it socialism for the wealthy and unbridled capitalism for everyone else. Example, GM receives federal contracts, millions in tax breaks, and huge CEO pay - the socialist playbook at GM. The GM employees play by Capitalist rules – 14,000 laid off workers, 3 assembly plants, and 2 component factories closed by the end of 2019.

This all comes from the decades old Republican playbook!

Whatever happened to meritocracy, a system that gives everyone access to resources to get ahead through hard work, and economic gains go to those who earn them?

Democrats, Republicans, and Independents must establish real Accountability of the Wealthy.

Next week – “Bevin or Faust : Blacklisted Russia Co.’s 40 percent ownership of Braidy Aluminum Mill in Ashland, KY”