Why Not Really Tax the Rich?

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Why Not Really Tax the Rich?

WASHINGTON - GAR ALPEROVITZ
Available for a limited number of interviews, Alperovitz is co-author of the new book "Unjust Desserts: How the Rich Are Taking Our Common Inheritance and Why We Should Take It Back." He said today: "The Obama effort is positive, but it needs to be put in larger perspective to understand its limitations: The top marginal tax rate was 91 percent in the Eisenhower administration. During the Nixon administration it was about 70 percent. Now it's 35 percent and we're talking about going back to 39.6 percent.

"Obama also promised proactively to end the Bush tax cuts during the election. He now seems instead to be allowing them to continue until they expire in Fiscal Year 2011.

"Most important: In recent years the top 1 percent has seen its income grow dramatically from 9 percent to 18-20 percent of the total. The tax increases are tokens compared with this doubling of their share. If the share of the top 1 percent was maintained at a 'mere' 9 percent, the budget deficit in most years could be largely paid for.

"In any serious historic perspective the proposed tax cuts for working people are also token; $65 a month for a working family is very modest. For 30 years, working people in the U.S. have seen their wages do little more than keep pace with inflation.

"We are also seeing very little discussion of corporate taxes. Corporations at one point paid 35 percent of total federal taxes. Now, depending on profit levels, they pay as little as 7 percent and never higher than 15 percent.

"I think what Obama is doing is good, but there are huge gaps in his policies. Most glaringly perhaps is that there's no meaningful discussion of poverty. It was the same during the campaign; Obama's focus is almost entirely on the middle class. The word 'poverty' rarely if ever is mentioned.

"We know from modern economic research that most wealth derives ultimately from socially created knowledge and other societal contributions -- an inheritance that should be devoted also to the entire society. A just and fair tax system would reflect this reality -- something people like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates Sr. now also regularly urge."

The author of numerous books, Alperovitz is professor of political economy at the University of Maryland.

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