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Death By a Thousand Tax Cuts

Under the current administration, we are witnessing the deathblows to the economic and social policies of the New Deal

Participants hold up signs at a Stop 'Trumpcare' rally May 4, 2017 in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., May 4, 2017. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Every year at this time, US taxpayers (who bother to read news) are treated to a parade of stories about taxes and tax policy. We learn about the citizens who work multiple jobs and pay their taxes, while falling farther and farther behind in an economy that clearly exists to redistribute wealth upwards. We also learn about corporations, the real “welfare queens,” which have used the courts and legislatures to legally avoid paying their fair share of taxes, while demanding subsidies, tax breaks, and the dismantling of labor unions.

Under the current administration, we are witnessing the deathblows to the economic and social policies of the New Deal, FDR’s plan to save capitalism after the Crash of 29, which created the greatest economic expansion in the world, and with it the largest expansion of civil rights in US history. Tax policy was a core element of this transformation. After a false start or two, the New Deal became wildly successful. Besides the implementation of Social Security through a payroll tax structure, he raised taxes on the highest brackets and decreased or eliminated them on the lowest. He also adopted new monetary policy; FDR moved the US to fiat currency and running deficits. It worked for a long time.

The Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War had their effects and by the 70’s a huge deficit combined with inflation, stagflation, and unemployment created an opening for new economic policy. Rather than build off the New Deals’ successes, it was discarded in favor of neoliberalism—austerity and a quickened redistribution of wealth upwards—beginning with the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan. The deficit has exploded while federal tax percentages have fluctuated downward ever since; lack of tax revenue coupled with federal spending cuts have historically and meaningfully contributed to growing deficits.

Where has all that money gone? With the tech and mortgage crashes, hundreds of billions just evaporated into the thin air from which it was created, yet the vast majority of it landed in the pockets of the 1% and their corporations: the self-appointed, “deserving” beneficiaries of this nation’s wealth—and the peoples labor. No benefit was recognized for most taxpayers as state and local governments either increased sales, income, property, gasoline, and/or energy taxes, along with a host of other fees, or cut spending on programs of social uplift (or a combination of the two) to offset federal funding cuts to education, and health and human services.

The biggest beneficiaries of tax cuts have always been the 1% and their corporations, and the latest tax reform is no different. It is expected to hit low-income people the hardest unless states take immediate action to protect their most vulnerable citizens. Not the 99%, not our communities, not even our states benefit more from the new reform than the 1% and their corporations. Charities are also expected to take a huge hit, which spells bad news for advocacy groups and the people they assist. We are witnessing an economic theory beyond neoliberalism, even capitalism itself, fascism American-style.

Some of the money our craven aforementioned beneficiaries save in taxes is spent to elect lackeys who will legislate more tax breaks and spending cuts, schmooze officials who will deregulate their industries, and exploit our airwaves to disseminate false news and information so the majority of voters will just get in line for fear of losing everything.

Logic, common sense, street smarts, whatever you want to call it, any thinking person can look around and tell you that corporations aren’t people and that spending money buying media is a helluva lot different than free political speech. But our Constitution says different, thanks to decades of corporations and their owners chipping away at it through litigation and legislation, making legal--making real--the corporate person with human rights. Corporate First Amendment rights are just the tip of the blade the 1% are wielding to destroy our democracy and secure their wealth, for generations to come. The corporation, a “legal fiction,” also has 4th, 5th, 7th and 14th Amendment rights along with a special rights carved out in the Commerce clause.

When a judge peers over the bench, he sees the corporate charter as a person with constitutional rights, pretty much the same as you or me. There is no distinction between flesh and paper, blood and ink, animation or object, mortality and immortality. The only way to correct his vision, and the vision of our elected officials, is to legally establish that corporations are not people with constitutional rights, and that money is not protected political speech and can be regulated in campaigns. Corporations can flourish governed by state sanctioned privileges, as they did before they got greedy and started rewriting our Constitution, over 130 years ago. Please join me as a signatory on the Motion to Amend and show your support for House Joint Resolution 48 in Congress, the We the People Amendment. (If you’re really ready to roll your sleeves up, join me in person for the Move to Amend National Leadership Summit in June!)

As I sit here, trying to finish my tax returns, it is a gross understatement to say I am outraged. I was raised to believe that taxes are the price you pay to enjoy the benefits of being American. However, the benefits of being anything other than a rich, white, male member of the corporation-owning 1% are diminishing at an alarming rate. If we the people don’t embrace our Revolutionary DNA, come together, stand up and demand what is rightfully ours—a government that works for all of us—then the American experiment in democracy will slowly die by a thousand tax cuts.

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Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap

Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap serves on the Executive Committee Move to Amend. She is Field Organizing Coordinator for the campaign. She can be reached at kaitlin@MoveToAmend.org.

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