One of the appeals of America is its promise of equality for all citizens, but history shows that there has never been a time in nearly 236 years that one group or another was not discriminated against whether it was minorities, women, or Native Americans. There is, though, one group that has enjoyed preferential treatment since this nation’s founding that continues unabated and Republicans are desperate to carry on giving the wealthy advantages in spite of America’s promise of equality for all its citizens.
As the deadline to file income tax returns approaches, Americans should pause and consider why the wealthy continue being treated with reverence and adoration by conservatives when they have contributed nothing more than any other American to build this country into a great nation. Today there is a procedural vote on the so-called “Buffett Rule” that taxes the wealthy on their income in excess of one million dollars annually, and Republicans have used every pathetic argument in their arsenal to attempt to convince Americans that it is a sin to increase taxes on millionaires and billionaires. Republicans claim that increasing the wealthy’s taxes will prevent them from creating jobs, but for the past eleven years they have not created jobs despite their Bush-era tax cuts. Another way of looking at the absurdity of the Republicans’ “job creator” myth is; “if the top one percent already own wealth equal to ninety percent of the rest of us, then why do they need more wealth before they’ll create any jobs?”
The other myth about the Buffett Rule that Republicans fail to mention is that the small tax increase is on earnings over one million dollars. The wealthy person earning one-million and five dollars will only pay an extra percentage on five dollars, and they still maintain their Bush tax cuts on the rest of their income. The 400 highest-earning Americans pay an average federal income tax rate of just 18 percent, and in 2010, Warren Buffett’s effective tax rate was just 17.4%. Their tax breaks are more insulting to Americans because the majority of their income comes from investments and they are taxed at a lower rate than regular income most Americans earn, and it is why men like Willard Romney pays 13.9% in income taxes on earnings of $21 million annually, and why he promises to give more tax breaks to his wealthy elitist friends.
Every American benefits from past and current taxpayer dollars and although most Americans complain about paying taxes, it is only Republicans and their base that rails at the thought of paying for roads, schools, hospitals, Medicare, police and fire protection, Social Security, and the military that “protects our freedoms” at home and abroad. The inequity of a janitor paying a higher tax rate than Willard Romney should be a personal affront to every American, and yet Republicans are pushing to keep that policy in place to protect the rich that use the same roads and law enforcement the janitor pays for. The Republicans’ man-turned-god, Ronald Reagan, gave a speech in 1985 that addressed the issue of why a wealthy executive paid a lower tax rate than his secretary. Reagan’s speech was to garner support for a tax increase on the wealthy that is precisely the same as the Buffet Rule Democrats are proposing with unwavering support of President Obama, over 100 organizations, and the majority of Americans.
Americans should be happy to pay taxes whether it is income taxes, sales tax, or payroll taxes because every citizen reaps the benefits equally. However, every American does not contribute equally and although the Buffet Rule does not tax the wealthy at the same rate as working-class Americans, it is a start to bring a semblance of shared sacrifice and equality in supporting this country. Republicans argue that the Buffet Rule will not solve all the nation’s economic woes, but neither is giving the wealthy more tax cuts. Romney and the Heritage Foundation’s hero, Paul Ryan, have proposed budgets and grand economic plans that give $5-7 trillion in tax cuts over the next ten years to the wealthiest Americans while they make Draconian cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, healthcare, and education that unfairly burden every American who is not ultra-wealthy. Republicans claim the budget cuts are necessary to bring the deficit under control, but as drastic as their spending cuts are, they do not come close to equaling the tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of Americans that will definitely increase the deficit by trillions of dollars.
The only equality in America is that every person, rich and poor, takes advantage of the product of Americans’ tax dollars and it should be a privilege to pay taxes whether it is sales tax, fuel tax, or payroll tax. The wealthy do not even pay the same payroll tax rate as working Americans because their investment earnings are not consider wages, and yet they benefit from Social Security and Medicare the same as a janitor or investment banker’s secretary.
There is no doubt that every American would love to keep every penny they earn without paying taxes on anything, but every American loves good roads, schools, retirement income, police and fire protection and every other benefit their tax dollars provide. The only people in America who expect an unfair advantage are the wealthy and their lackeys in the Republican Party because they have enjoyed special treatment since this country’s founding and they are rabid to keep their privileged status. The majority of Americans do not expect special treatment, but they do expect equal treatment under the law whether it is a fair tax rate or freedom from religious interference in their personal healthcare choices.
Republicans will block the procedural vote on the Buffett Rule and it is why Republicans do not support equality or shared sacrifice. If Reagan believed the wealthy should pay at least the same tax rate as their employees, then the Buffet Rule should appeal to Republicans in 2012, but their focus is inequity that favors the rich and not equality. However, after 236 years of disparity that favors wealth, there is little reason to believe America will ever be a truly fair and an equal opportunity nation which is exactly what Republicans are fighting to perpetuate.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.