COLUMN: The Me-First, Screw-Everyone-Else Crowd

by: David Sirota

Fri Aug 07, 2009 at 09:18

If the hate mail I receive means anything, the anti-health care and anti-tax war that the teabaggers are waging at congressional town hall meetings is bringing out the worst and ugliest impulses among the Me-First, Screw-Everyone-Else Crowd. And as my new newspaper column this week shows, the furor is finally laying bare the greed and selfishness at the heart of the conservative movement.

In my column, I walk through - and debunk - the major myths coming from the Right on taxes. I try to provide a step-by-step guide for having a conversation with someone in the Me-First, Screw-Everyone-Else Crowd. I'll let you read the column for that, but just so you have it, here are the links to the most important points:

David Sirota :: COLUMN: The Me-First, Screw-Everyone-Else Crowd
- General Accounting Office, two thirds of corporations pay no taxes at all.

- According to the OECD, America has among the lowest effective corporate tax rate in the industrialized world.

- The wealthiest 5 percent of America pays 38.5 percent percent of the total taxes in America precisely because they make almost exactly the same share - 36.5 percent - of the total national income. So what the wealthy are really arguing when they claim they are persecuted is that they should actually pay a substantially lower percentage of total taxes than the percentage of total income. That is, they are arguing for a grossly regressive system (thus, for instance, their support for things like a flat tax). And in fact, for the richest of the rich, that's exactly what we have. As a recent IRS report noted, the 400 richst income tax filers paid just 17.2 percent of their adjusted gross income in federal income taxes - down substantially from just a few years ago.

The anti-tax myth of the persecuted fat cat comes from right-wing think tanks like the Tax Foundation, which periodically put out deceptive reports like this most recent one. Notice how the underhanded the deception is: the headline says the "Tax Burden of Top 1% Now Exceeds That of Bottom 95%," and yet the report - by its own admission - only refers to "total income taxes."

Yes, the report deliberately ignores federal payroll taxes, state taxes, county taxes and local taxes - that is, it ignores precisely the taxes that make our tax system so regressive. When you factor in all the taxes for the total "tax burden, you find that, for example, you start to understand why the 400 richest Americans paid just 17.2 percent of their income in taxes. You start to understand, in other words, exactly what billionaire Warren Buffett has admitted: that the wealthy often pay a lower effective tax rate than their secretaries.

Read the whole column here for my conclusion as to what is really fueling these anti-tax and anti-health care rallies from the Me-First, Screw-Everyone-Else Crowd.

The column relies on grassroots support - and because of that support, it is getting wider and wider circulation (a big thank you to all who have helped with that). So if you'd like to see my column regularly in your local paper, use this directory to find the contact info for your local editorial page editors. Get get in touch with them and point them to my Creators Syndicate site. Thanks, as always, for your ongoing readership and help contacting local editors. This column couldn't be what it is without your help.  

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This is powerful data for talking about the injustice of our system. (4.00 / 2)
It is really high time to find a better way to talk about how the tax burden shifting onto those that cannot aford it, to tlak about how shifting it was a cynical move to try and drive  support for public policy, public programs and democracies that work.

This is the basis of the argument that we have all heard far too often: we dont have the money for that any more, we can't afford programs like that any more, times have changed and that was the past.

This is why Reagan and Bush trashed the federal budgets, by both piling up the largest debts every before. I had hoped people would notice that Regan creating more debt that all Presidents before him, precisely for the purpose of making good government impossible.

That the public has moved beyond that argument, despite the burden this regressive tax shift has placed upon them, is very encouraging. If they are going to be demanding and getting Health Reform even with this system, imagine how happy people will be when the tax burden is shifted back.

If the Democrats want to govern forever, if progressives want policy to be democracy driven and popularly supported, then we need a progressive tax platform that centres on the fact that two thirds of Americas Corporations paid no tax at all.

And lastly, there is no major narrative about the fact that this theft of money from the working and middle classes in America is THE source of the economic collapse we are in now.

No major narrative that explains that shifting buying power and mortgage paying power and family supporting power BACK to the middle and working classes is the ONLY solution to the crisis we are in, the crisis we put off with bailouts and increasing the money supply.

The economy collapsed because of what John Kenneth Galbraith the largest transfer of wealth from one class to another in the history of the world, the economy can only be made well again by returning that to the average people of America. Raising wages in the road out, more services is the path to health, unions will save America.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

today's column (4.00 / 2)
Your myth debunking in today's column was very reminiscent of your myth busting in Hostile Takeover. Good work!  

I vote Democratic, I think Independent

Here's the real meta argument about wealth in US (4.00 / 1)
First, bitchin column, as always. Straight to the point. And I like that you link to all these smaller papers. It's a great way to see the country.

On wealth, in talking to people about taxes and wealth, often with wealthy or self-employed people, the point I make is that wealth is impossible without taxpayer funded capital. Think roads, bridges, courts, research, education, police, fire, and all the rest that wealth has to have before it can exist. No courts, no legal contracts, for example.

However, while venture capitalists and investors get a return on their capital, taxpayers rarely do. And certainly not from the wealthy these days. Levying a 60% or greater tax on dollars above one million dollars earned in a year is a reasonable way for taxpayers to get a return on the crucial investment in infrastructure that makes that wealth possible. And that sort of tax protects 95-99% of small businesses that, after all their business deductions, make less than a million.

There are many other ways to talk about wealth, for example, how generational wealth breaks out (first generation probably is ok, third and fourth generation is family-funded welfare). But talking about taxes as a return on investment for taxpayers seems to work every time. You can't dispute that taxpayers investments in infrastructure is capital. And that taxpayers deserve a reasonable rate of return. And that wealth can't happen without taxpayer capital.

nice column david (0.00 / 0)
The anti-tax myth of the persecuted fat cat

yes, that's what it is: a myth


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