Wednesday, March 06, 2013

A Ray Of Light Amid The Austerity Blight In Washington


Paul Ryan and his cronies want to import failed European-style Austerity. A better idea would be importing the Robin Hood tax on stock speculators

It looks like the country that once brought the world democracy, is now on board with the worldwide shift towards plutocracy and oligarchy. This week, Forbes reports that there are politicians on the 2013 Forbes Billionaires List. That helps explain how an Austerity Agenda that is disastrous for upwards of 95% of the people in the Western democracies just keeps chugging along. And that's why it was so nice to watch Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Congressman George Miller (D-CA) introduce their bill to raise the minimum wage yesterday. Their legislation, which Republicans have already said they'll vigorously oppose, doesn't just raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, it also indexes it so it adjusts annually with inflation. Robert Borosage, head of the Campaign for America's Future, called it "a ray of light amid the austerity blight in Washington."
This common sense reform is long overdue. The current federal minimum wage-- $7.25 per hour-- is not enough for a full-time worker to lift a family out of poverty. The current rate is lower than it was in the 1960s, adjusted for inflation. If the minimum wage had kept pace with rising worker productivity, it would be $21.72 per hour.

The decline in the value of the minimum wage is a reflection of the failure of the conservative era that began with Ronald Reagan. It has produced Gilded Age inequality. Today corporate profits are at record levels as a percentage of the economy; workers wages at record lows. In the two years coming out of the Great Recession, the top 1 percent captured a staggering 121 percent of the nation’s income growth. The rest of us lost ground. The Wall Street Journal reports that nine Wall Street moguls pocketed a total of more than $1 billion in dividends and compensation last year. At the same time, a full-time minimum wage worker-- most of whom work not in small businesses but in large companies-- can’t earn enough to lift her family from poverty.  It is time to raise the floor.

The Miller-Harkin legislation is an essential piece of the fundamental reforms needed if this economy is to work for working people. If Washington had any sense, it would turn from the destructive fixation on austerity and begin debating-- and moving-- a bold agenda for good jobs and growth.
There was another worthwhile glimmer inside the Beltway yesterday as well. Keith Ellison's introduction of a robust Financial Transaction Tax, sometimes called the Robin Hood Tax. Ellison called it the Inclusive Prosperity Act and it would levy a 0.5 percent tax on stock trades and also tax, at a lower rate, trades in bonds, derivatives and currency.
That could add as much as $350 billion a year to the federal treasury, providing vital resources that-- in combination with the elimination of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy and aggressive moves to prevent the sheltering of assets in tax havens-- would make a mockery of Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's fantastical claims about fiscal crisis.

“We’re not broke,” Ellison says of the United States. “We’ve got plenty of money. It’s just not in the hands of the American people because the people with so much of the wealth bought lobbyists and influence to get loopholes for themselves so that they would not have to pay for the civilization that is America.”
Paul Ryan and the rest of the legislators bought and paid for by the plutocracy are working hard to make Americans believe the country is broke. It isn't. The plutocrats-- enabled by the politicians they own-- have hoarded all the wealth. “The money," said Ellison, "is in the hands of the most privileged and well-to-do Americans, many of whom churn-- and I don’t say ‘trade,’ I mean ‘churn’-- stocks, bonds and derivatives on Wall Street... [O]ne of the ways for us as Americans to recoup the money is to tax them when they do this churning of these financial assets." Is it any wonder that one of the media's most notorious shills for the plutocracy, Sean Hannity, has gone on an unhinged rampage against Ellison, who his bosses see as a threat to their dominance?

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