Thursday, September 01, 2005

What the country needs: FDR, higher taxes on the rich, and the WPA

The only way out of the horrific mess in New Orleans and the ripple effect it's just starting to have across the nation is for someone like a Franklin Delano Roosevelt to step forward into the leadership gap, to do what our current officeholder, President Nero, cannot. (He's too busy playing guitar as New Orleans and surrounding areas sink into further destitution.) The recipe is simple, time-tested, and doable (as a physical feat, not necessarily as a political feat):
  1. Raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Before you start to scream - remember that we have a progressive tax system. So we're only talking about raising taxes on the portion people make over the first 200,000 - that sort of thing. Everyone pays the same at every income level, but those who make more get more benefit from the police, the army, etc. and should pay a higher share. Think insurance. Those who have a poor car pay little. Those who have a nice car pay much more. So should it be with our tax system.
  2. Take the money raised and use it to create a new Work Projects Administration (WPA) ala the New Deal. Create jobs for people newly displaced by Katrina, and many of those jobs will be directly related to rebuilding the infrastructure of the cities and homes destroyed by the hurricane.
  3. Enact legislation tying the highest salary in a corporation to the lowest salary in a corporation. We used to have a strong middle class, and executive compensation was a few multiples of the average wages in the company. But the research Donald Bartlett and James Steele did for the Philidelphia Inquirer, later published in their book America - What Went Wrong, showed that "Between 1980 and 1989, the combined salaries of people in the $20,000-$50,000 income group increased 44 percent. During the same period, the combined salaries of people earning $1 million or more a year increased 2,184 percent." (Thank you, Reagan and Bush Sr.) No one person adds all that value to a company. At best, they manage and motivate the others who do the physical gruntwork (be it computer gruntwork or manual labor) to bring about the profits. For CEOs to take exorbitant salaries is not only bad for America on an economic level, it's also inherently immoral. Greed is, after all, one of the seven deadly sins.
  4. Strengthen unions. When people act together in their collective best interest, they have true power. When they are prohibited (hello, "right to work" crap) from joining together in common interest, the middle class is weakened. And remember that tired adage about a rising tide lifting all boats? Hello, that only works if the boats are in the same ocean. Put the yachts in a private pool and raise the pool level and I'm sorry, but no one outside of that pool is affected. And that's where we're at with the obscene concentration of wealth in this country. These aren't people you've ever met, or likely ever seen unless you frequent the Hamptons or St. Barts. Remember - Bush Sr. had never seen a grocery store scanner until he ran for President. Those kind of people. Sure, I'd like to be rich as hell too. But not at the expense of those whom I would have the honor and good fortune to employ.
  5. Put the notion of the commons back into our lives. No man, no family, no small group is an island. We're all interconnected. We need to share with each other, to help each other. Should each person have to buy hundreds of thousands of books? Isn't it better, simpler, and more efficient to pay a small portion of tax money to fund public libraries? Should we be at the mercy of private road owners who can exact whatever toll they want? Or should we fund public "free"ways? I'm sick to death of hearing people bitch about paying taxes. Bitch about where the tax money goes, but don't bitch about paying them. There are lots of good uses for tax money. I just mentioned two, and schools, health care, and social security are three more.

Look. We had all this. We had it for years under the extremely competent and forward thinking Roosevelt. But the private business interests hated him with a passion, because he was making others more like them, and they saw themselves becoming less "special." They revolted and formed various groups. The neocons are the denoument of the Reagan Revolution. The pendulum has swung so far to the right that if it swings any further it will break free. The pendulum needs to swing back to the left to restore sanity and order, to help employ the hundreds of thousands left suddenly jobless and homeless. These are drastic times, calling for drastic measures. Why not start with measures that have already worked?


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