Occupy Wall Street has been accused of failing to provide specific demands of Wall Street and Congress. But the following three recurring themes are specific and sensible:
(1) Eliminate the 15% capital gains tax. Whose idea was it to claim that unearned income with invented names like "carried interest" should be taxed at a lower rate than wages from labor?
(2) Restore progressive tax rates to end the redistribution of income from the poor to the rich. The share of income going to the richest 1% has nearly TRIPLED over the past 30 years. The chief beneficiaries, those making millions (or billions!) per year, pay no more than 35% on any of their income, and probably a lot less because most of their 'earnings' are capital gains.
(3) Institute a financial transaction tax. Right now American families pay a sales tax of up to 9 percent on shoes for their kids, while millionaire investors pay ZERO percent for a financial instrument. A study by the Chicago Political Economy Group estimated that $537 billion could be generated annually by an FTT. That equates to 15 million jobs at $35,000 per year, which could put ALL unemployed Americans back to work.
In addition to these three reasonable demands, here are two polite requests:
(A) Stop whining about tax rates
Business leaders keep saying the 35% corporate tax rate is too high. Tax cuts, they insist, will spur economic growth and create jobs. But the facts can be found in U.S. Office of Management (OMB) figures, which show that the percent of total tax revenue derived from corporate taxes (OMB Historical Table 2.1) has dropped from about 20% in the 1960s to under 9% in 2010.
A PayUpNow.org analysis of the 10-K financial statements of 100 of the largest U.S. companies found that less than 10% of pre-tax profits in 2010 were paid in non-deferred U.S. federal income taxes. If these 100 companies had paid the 35% tax designated by U.S. tax law, an additional $150 billion would have been collected in federal taxes in just one year. This is approximately equal to the total budget deficits for all 50 states.
(B) Call off the dogs (i.e., regressive taxes)
The only budget 'solutions' seem to be increases in sales taxes and utility costs and service fees. And cutbacks at the library, the only place for many Americans to look for a job. And cutbacks of buses and trains, the only way for many Americans to get to a job. And cutbacks in police and fire departments, which are needed with or without a job.
OK 1%, is that specific enough? Maybe you should start paying attention. And start paying for everything a productive society has given you.