Let's Get Our Stuff Back

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Oct 07, 2009 at 16:14

If the public option campaign succeeds, it will be a proof of concept for the Progressive Block strategy--House Progressives threatening to join with Republicans to block must-pass Democratic legislation unless they receive a major concession. After all, the public option campaign would not even exist had House Progressives not voted to draw a line in the sand on the public option. If a public option passes into law those Progressives, through their new strategy, will have been the prime movers.

So, thinking ahead for a moment, what should House Progressives target next if they achieve this proof of concept? Climate change might not be feasible, since almost every House Progressive already voted in favor of the American Clean Energy and Security Act. Afghanistan probably won't work, since their won't be anymore supplemental appropriation bills (it will be merged into the budget now), and because Republicans will vote in favor of Afghanistan funding as long as it isn't tied to any other legislation. Financial regulation is difficult because it requires drawing a bright line on such a murky subject. Immigration is a possibility, but given all of the delays in even introducing an immigration bill, it isn't clear at all that the Democratic leadership considers immigration reform to be must-pass legislation.

The best bet is for Progressives to target the budget next year. Specifically, they should demand a substantial, probably 10% (a nice round number), increase in taxes on the wealthiest 1% of Americans. Here is why:

  1. Increasing taxes on the rich is pretty popular. In fact, it is one of the most popular things the federal government could do:

    CBS News/New York Times Poll. April 1-5, 2009. N=998 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3 (for all adults).

    "Do you think the tax code should be changed so that middle and lower income people pay less in taxes than they do now and upper income people pay more in taxes than they do now, or don't you think the tax code should be changed?"

    Should be changed: 65%
    Should not be changed: 29%

  2. The messaging has tons of populist potential, and would be easy to win. Sell it as "let's take our stuff back," while pointing out that the top 1% of income earners took two-thirds of the benefit from the last economic expansion:

    They took our stuff from us, and we are taking it back. How can the top 1% argue that they are the only people who add wealth to America? This is the sort of fight that can help Democrats regain the populist mantle heading into 2010.

  3. People are worried about deficits, but this would be a lot more popular than cutting spending.

  4. This is a clear bright line, the budget is an undeniably must-pass piece of legislation, and this proposal is guaranteed to have 100% Republican opposition.

  5. No question about Senate reconciliation for a budgetary measure like this. So, we wouldn't have to deal with the 60-vote Senate.
This seems like a winnable campaign and could shift the balance of economic and political power in this country. After health care, I hope the Progressive Block pivots toward addressing income inequality through a big, progressive change in the tax code.
Chris Bowers :: Let's Get Our Stuff Back

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I want my money back! (4.00 / 2)
Or "Give me back my stuff!"

Those are both good ad campaigns for this push.

It's tricky, but doable. (4.00 / 2)
I can possibly see problems in my district and a few other upscale suburban districts that flipped Democratic last year. These freshmen whined about the business taxes in HR 3200 this year, so I'm sure they will come up with another excuse to whine about taxing the rich next year.

Otherwise, I think this can really help progressives reach out to the Rust Belt and Rural West populists. People are rightfully angry over all the reverse Robin Hood policies that steal from us to give to the super-wealthy.

Yes, Virginia, there are progressives in Nevada.

Possibilities (0.00 / 0)
It's great to think of the possibilities that winning on the public option would open up.  More progressive taxation surely is one of them.  Deficits do matter (no matter what Dick Cheney says) and there is nothing more American than progressive taxation, those who can pay more should pay more.  Progressive taxation was how our country paid for World War Two and the New Deal.  Warren Buffett, hardly a socialist, recently noted that his secretary pays taxes at a higher rate than him (no doubt he has a batallion of accoutants & lawyers).  That is just wrong and if Obama really wants to be a transformative President, Progressive Taxation must be on the agenda.

Brilliant (4.00 / 4)
Absolutely, totally brilliant. The framing is genius and the politics are genius. Happy to help make this happen.

More I think about it (4.00 / 4)
They should probably call for a 20% increase and then have 10% be the compromise position.

10 percent is probably aiming big (4.00 / 1)
particularly if the surtax is used to finance health reform. But if it isn't something like a 45 or 50 percent tax for incomes over a million dollars would be a great campaign. And even make it tougher for Blue Dogs to oppose by tying it directly to deficit reduction.

If they oppose it because we can't raise taxes on the rich they are exposed clearly as fiscal hypocrites. If they vote for it and stay true to their stated principles we win a big victory for a more progressive tax system.

Really, no matter what happens with the public option this is something we should push for. The dynamics of it are much easier beacuse the Senate can't pull the 60 votes argument.  

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

Add 'Jobs' and you've got a winner (4.00 / 4)
I could be totally missing something, but would there be any way of tying an equality tax to job creation?  Jobs is going to be the defining issue in people's everyday lives for the next, uh... a long time.

If the progressive caucus can deliver results (and publicize the bejeezus out of them) on the number one issue better than Obama, well, we just proved who's able to win battles and gain territory.  And while the party is kind of a failure at rewarding real success (just look at the administration of the bailout), if we're lucky that could turn into even more leverage and respect.  Or is the tax battle a precursor and momentum builder to a jobs battle?

Figuring out how to be a progressive college graduate transplant to Ohio:  http://citizenobie.wordpress.com/

Jobs (4.00 / 7)
We need a jobs program; it's a moral and political necessity, even more important than financial regulation.

Pay for it by taxing the rich.

create jobs by taxing the rich? (0.00 / 1)
who do you think has the jobs?

that makes no sense whatsoever.  what are we going to do, create more government jobs on the backs of taxpayers?  its the rich people that own factory's, banks, warehouses, hotels, trucking companies, retailers, contruction companies, etc.  how is taxing them more going to create more jobs?  

[ Parent ]
Concern troll (4.00 / 7)
is concerned.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
RR (4.00 / 2)
Usually the initials that just coincidentally could stand for Ronald Reagan is more subtle than this.  But the writer is consistently conservative in all of her observations.

[ Parent ]
Zombie Reagan. (0.00 / 0)

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
I didn't say (4.00 / 4)
the jobs would be created by taxing the rich. I said we could raise money by taxing the rich, which could then be spent on things like infrastructure projects and aid to states.

But if we don't want to, or can't, tax the rich, we could simply run up the deficit, which pains me not in the least during a recession, though just about everyone in DC is a budget hawk now that we might actually spend money on social programs, as opposed to wars and tax cuts for the rich.

[ Parent ]
It's about fairness (4.00 / 2)
And what has worked and what has failed. Clearly Reagan's trickle down economic theory has failed. Even worse, the wealthiest have gained the most while the other 99% of us have tread water over the past three decades. There are lots of facts and charts to prove this disparity.

I'd hope progressives would have the courage to point out the connection between "free market" economics and the economic crash we're living through. And then argue that we, therefore, should return to reasonable tax rates for the wealthiest. And it's not 10% on top of an effective rate of 15% for the worst wealthy offenders. The effective tax rate on dollars over a million earned in a year were once 60-90% in the 1950s and 1960s. Surely we can argue that's the goal.

So it's not tax the rich to create jobs. It's tax the rich to restore economic fairness and return to sensible government economic policies that benefit all of us, not just one tiny group, 30,000 versus 300 million people.

Arguing for 10% increase, IMHO, uses the frame the wealthy and their defenders of unfairness use. That they somehow deserve to benefit indefinitely from the current unfair economic system. Our frame should be historical, what has worked over time based on facts and what helps the most people. We tried Reaganomics. It failed. Let's push what has worked to promote the economic health of the majority of Americans.

Get our stuff back has a nice populist ring. But really it is about returning to a fair and sane economic policy. The last time we had that was in the 1940s to 1970s. We should head back in that direction, in spirit and policy, as appropriate.

[ Parent ]
I think he's saying (4.00 / 1)
tax the rich and use the money for a jobs program. A two-for-one, make it even harder to vote against.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
The rich provide jobs? (4.00 / 4)
Actually businesses with customers create jobs.  More regular people with more money in their pockets means more customers for businesses.

Concentration of wealth at the top means fewer regular people with money in their pockets.

This is why GDP grows and more jobs are created when taxes on the wealthy are highest.  You can look at the record.

Remember when Clinton raised taxes on the rich?  More economic growth and more jobs.  Then remember when Bush cut taxes on the rich?  Economic detestation resulted.


Seeing The Forest -- Who is our economy FOR, anyway? Twitter: dcjohnson

[ Parent ]
Millionaire Tax Bracket (4.00 / 3)
I love this idea, but I'd make one change for marketing reasons.  First, I wouldn't base the tax on the top 1%, instead I'd base the tax on $1,000,000 dollar incomes.  It looks like the two numbers are pretty close to each other, so the only serious difference is marketing.  Some upper-middle class people might think they are in the top 1%, or will be someday, but 99% of us know we don't make a million dollars a year.

The marketing I'm less sure about is how much to tie this into deficit reduction.  Should this be presented front and center, or would that make it too easy for suggestions to "compromise" by balancing with budget cuts instead?  I'm thinking the latter, actually.  Deficit reduction is an important secondary point, though, to be used in all debates when pushed.

Disagree (0.00 / 0)
Pretty much everyone likes to imagine that SOMEDAY they will probably make a million dollars, because they are really smart.  But most people don't imagine that they'll be part of the "top 1%".  I think 1% will be more popular.

But then, that's the sort of thing that can be poll-tested and focus grouped.

[ Parent ]
The issue is fairness (4.00 / 2)
not potential self-interest. People may well think that they might be rich someday, but they are plenty willing to make the tax structure more progressive. They also support increased corporate taxes and a strong estate tax.  Democratic arguments centering on self interest fail because they cannot counter conservative fairness arguments.  

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
i like millionaire tax too (0.00 / 0)
but looking at the source that Chris cites above, the top 1% really starts around $400k.

so on the one hand, maybe top 1% is too low. don't want to upset the network reporters on their paltry $420k a year.

but on the other, maybe going after only millionaires doesn't produce enough revenue?

not everything worth doing is profitable. not everything profitable is worth doing.

[ Parent ]
Dedicated war tax (4.00 / 5)
If blue dogs and republicans want war, make them support the funding for it. Propose a tax as the source of funds for Iraq and Afgan, something like the "George Bush oil surtax for the support of energy independence", and if it doesn't pass, then let its failure be the defunding of the wars. Let there be a vote on paying for the overseas adventures.

Chickens. no premature counting (4.00 / 1)
Please, please let's not go here.  It seems to me that about a week ago, the progressive block STOPPED their whip count on resisting a bad bill because Pelosi is conducting a count on how many are in support of a strong public option.

On the surface, that sounds good, and progressive sites have been abuzz with the numbers.  The latest I've seen is 183 in favor and 22 opposed, meaning we need 35 of the remaining 51 dems who are undecided or not whipped yet.  Very unlikely to get commitments from 35 of them - these are not the easy pickings.  Yes, IF the debate continues to shift in our favor as it has the past 2-3 weeks, maybe there's a chance.  But I don't think a betting man would touch the odds on that.

My suspicion is that at some level this is by design.  The whip count of progressives who will hold the line no matter what has stopped.  BY the time it is "official" that we do not have the 218 votes FOR a public option, my guess is that we'll be within a day or 2 of a final House vote, with no time for a formal whip of progressives to hold firm against a bad bill.

Now, maybe that doesn't matter, because maybe the real action is and always has been the conference report.  But I have a very uneasy feeling about the shift in focus from a clear path to prevent a bad bill passing (and I think we all know that a bad bill is all too possible) to a focus on a far less likely and important whip count.

Want a progressive global warming novel, not a right wing rant? Go to www.edwardgtalbot.com for a free audio thriller.

not sure (0.00 / 0)
what stuff do you want to get back.  are you saying they stole money from you or that they earned too much money.  On taxes, you do realize the that bottom 40% or so of earners in America don't actually pay taxes (me included).  so what do you want to give back to us?    

I love the "reverse Robin Hood" analogy (steal from us to give to the super wealthy).  what was stolen from us?  the fact that we didn't earn as much as someone else.  I work hard every day and I earn every penny.  I don't want money handed to me that was taken from someone else.  some people grow up and become CEO's, Doctors, Lawyers, Politicians, writers, Actors, etc. and make lots of money.  most people work regular everyday jobs and do the best they can.  this is true in any society and in any country.

And yes, your right, most non-wealthy people would love it if the very rich where taxed higher.  but the reason is not because that money would come back to them. Reality is that most of us would never see that money.  The real reason is status envy.  Most people would agree to tax the very rich just because they are very rich.  nothing more.    

This stuff right here: (4.00 / 2)

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
They steal from you through their businesses. (0.00 / 0)
You buy stuff from them for $100. They keep $15 as profit. So they are "stealing" $15 dollars from you, or maybe a bit less if you want to leave them with some profit. Stealing because they could choose to sell it for $90 and still come out fine, but they charge you the extra $10 because they know you will have to pay it, because all the other businesses are doing the same thing.

Any tax on them only takes back a portion of that $15. It doesn't make it so they can't create just as many jobs, since all we're doing is taking a percentage of their personal income profit. The basic operations of the business aren't affected, just the part that the owners are left with at the end.

[ Parent ]
They steal from their workers. (4.00 / 2)
As Adam Smith said, all value is created by labor, and nothing else.

Workers make an object that sells for $100, and the factory owner pays them $20 and keeps $80 for himself, simply because he has the social and political power to do so.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
Sure, works either way. (0.00 / 0)
Customers or workers or both, someone is getting screwed. I'd say the workers are getting screwed more for some things (manufacturing Wallmart goods) and the customers are getting screwed more for others (buying tickets to a basketball game).

[ Parent ]
When you have no choice but to give someone your money (4.00 / 1)
When you have no choice but to give someone your money, they did not "earn" it. A fair look at the wealthiest 1% of people in the USA will probably reveal that most of their money was taken using either monopolistic practices or some other coercive business strategy. Or possibly just by stealing from the government.

If you hire lawyers to keep your workers from organizing, so you can increase you profit, that is not "earning" money either. That is taking by legal coercion.

A lot of us do earn our money, but I suspect that the "top 1%" are mostly people who do not earn it.

ec=-8.50 soc=-8.41   (3,967 Watts)

[ Parent ]
Your term is incorrect (0.00 / 0)
It's not status envy.  It's wealth envy.

You are correct.  With the present congress, we the people would never see a dime.

Conservative......CNN news:Nopenhagen: US PRES 2 WKS LATE ATTEND 1 DAY, GORE JOURNEY BY TRAIN.

[ Parent ]
what was stolen from us?! (0.00 / 0)
What was stolen from us is purchasing power per hour worked. The number of hours worked to buy any goods. This is true for nearly all occupations paying less than $50,000 and many paying more than that. In 1964 (for example) my father bought a nicely equipped new chevrolet impala off the showroom floor for a little more than $2800. As a construction electrician he made $4.11 per hour. That is about 700 hours worked (not allowing for taxes) to buy the car. Today in the same area, the same trade pays about $25.00 per hour, but nicely equipped top of line chevrolet costs up to $35,000, or more. It now takes about 1400 hours worked to own a fairly modest new car. And although the sweat shop nations cheep junk continues to steal our jobs, even their low price does not equal the lost purchasing power. So our lifestyle continues it's four decade downward slide....You sound like the nonunion worker that refuses to see that his wage rate IS set by the union scale in the area.

Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob..... FDR

[ Parent ]
Maybe a wealth tax too (4.00 / 2)
to really retrieve all the money that has been stolen by the slave traders, robber barons, oil barons, tycoons, etc. for the past several hundred years. They ripped off the American public and have passed that money from generation to generation with only minimal taxation (despite all the Rightwing wailing about the "death tax"). Why should someone living now inherit slave-trader trust fund money when they turn 18? They have earned nothing and this is all blood money.

A way to retrieve this money would be to either increase the estate tax (taxes on estates after people are dead and gone) or create a wealth tax on total accumulated wealth of more than $5 million.

Increasing the income tax is a also great idea. I'd opt for adding a 25% additional tax on incomes above $1 million and 10% more on incomes above $500,000. The top tax rate was once 90% so this is still a bargain. And there is no reasonable justification for the outrageous salaries of $10 million/year plus bonuses that so many executive feel entitled to these days.

Can we tax estates at 100% over a certain limit? (4.00 / 1)
Is there any support for that? Like make the maximum amount someone's heir can inherit be $10 million, and the rest goes to the government?

[ Parent ]
Sounds good to me (4.00 / 2)
I think it would be hard for opponents to argue that someone who has never worked a day in her/his life "deserves" to inherit $50 million just because their ancestors were able to earn/steal a lot of money. Inheritance like this is the opposite of a meritocracy. And inheriting $10 million, it is not like they are not "provided for" adequately. It is time for us to move beyond feudalism.

[ Parent ]
The only one who ever (4.00 / 2)
EARNED an inheritance was Anna Nicole Smith.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
Yes, but (0.00 / 0)
Not all of us have the equipment to make money like she did.  Maybe the new health bill will include some help?

Conservative......CNN news:Nopenhagen: US PRES 2 WKS LATE ATTEND 1 DAY, GORE JOURNEY BY TRAIN.

[ Parent ]
If we really do have clout (4.00 / 2)
Let's use it for some fundamental structural reform that will allow other reforms to occur more easily, like, for example:

Public financing of campaigns,

Five or ten year lock-out of former legislators becoming lobbyists, (or vice - versa)

The source of so many injustices is the anti-democratic details of how our democracy functions.  Fix the details, the rest will follow.

And an outside ethics commissioner (0.00 / 0)
who can actually do something about the corruption in Congress. The current ethics committees are now completely toothless.

I agree that public financing of campaigns and barriers/hindrances to the revolving door between government and K Street lobby firms/Defense contractors/etc. would be great. I'm not naive enough to think that these measures will completely clean up Washington -- money has lots of ways of exerting influence and if some are closed off, then others will be opened -- but the more we can empower regular people and those working for the common good and disempower money, the better off we'll be.

[ Parent ]
I agree (0.00 / 0)
Charlie Rangle is a perfect example of that.  He is a stain on all of us.

Conservative......CNN news:Nopenhagen: US PRES 2 WKS LATE ATTEND 1 DAY, GORE JOURNEY BY TRAIN.

[ Parent ]
term limits (0.00 / 0)
This would enable the party or group that wanted to maintain control; a constant drive to retain the office.

Conservative......CNN news:Nopenhagen: US PRES 2 WKS LATE ATTEND 1 DAY, GORE JOURNEY BY TRAIN.

[ Parent ]
This would be my top priority also. (4.00 / 1)
And I think it would work. The White House would push back hard to keep something like this from getting started. Obama is no Robin Hood.

I honestly think that more abstract battles like climate change are impossible in the USA until we address disparities in wealth, security and health.

ec=-8.50 soc=-8.41   (3,967 Watts)

Supreme Court (4.00 / 4)
I think this is great as an active campaign. But at the same time let's start preparing now for the next Supreme Court battle, insisting that Obama must nominate a liberal, not a centrist. This requires some preparation to prepare criteria and a list, since we do not know when the vacancy will occur. But it looks likely to be Stevens, so we need a liberal just to break even. We can count on almost unanimous Republican opposition and a sixty vote threshold, so a handful of liberal Senators can force Obama to start over.

Progressives also need to articulate (4.00 / 3)
what it is that they support in a justice.  The White House and Senate Dems started defending Sotomayor with the relatively bland term "empathy," and when conservatives attacked, they backed off even that.  If we are interested in something more than just getting a win, progressives have to build the narrative about the Court and its role.  

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
In Mold of Thurgood Marshall and Earl Warren (4.00 / 2)
The case can easily made there are no Supreme Court justices in the mold of Thurgood Marshall or Earl Warren.  Conservatives a a few justices in that mold (in reverse, of course).  A balanced court requires a liberal counterpoint.

[ Parent ]
Tax wealth, NOT work. (4.00 / 8)

the L curve (4.00 / 1)
If we look at the L curve, it is obvious that the top 1/10 of 1% of the population has taken the vast majority of what workers  have lost in the last four decades. The top tax rate should be at least 90%, but effect only the worst exploiters, and a proportionally reduced increase on decending income down to $500,000. I personally would advocate 100% of all income above a certin level, say $10 million. When anyone reached the 100% status they would recieve a Presidential award for super citizenship or some such. The award could be a golden elephant eating money and shitting on people,..... or maby not.

Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob..... FDR

Taxes (0.00 / 0)
Yes, bring back the 90% income tax rates.  They were one of the most popular things that FDR did.

FDR had them, Truman had them, JFK had them.  Even Eisenhower had them.  Things only started to go haywire when LBJ (a)cut taxes on the rich and big business; (b)launched a huge military program (the Vietnam War).  Yes that's right, it was really LBJ who started this fiscal chaos that we have been for over 40 years, although Reagan certainly added a great deal.

High taxes upon organized wealth would be a great thing for this country.  It would revive a more populistic approach that the left badly needs.  


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