As most readers of this blog are painfully aware, the vast majority of Republicans -- and virtually every newly-elected Teapartier in the 112th Congress - is a signatory of Grover Norquist's"I-will-never-ever-under-any-circumstances-even-at-the-point-of-an-AK-47-vote-for-any-tax-increase" pledge. Likewise, most of us are also painfully aware that many members of Congress signed on to the Norquist pledge even prior to taking their official oath of office -- the one in which they swear to " . . . support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. . ."
I don't know about you, but I think there ought to be a law against this sort of thing. Hey, come to think of it, there is a law against this sort of thing; for does not the Bible clearly state not once, but twice (Ex. 20:3-5 Deut. 5:7-9) that it is a massive wrong to make or bow down to any idol or false god? To "engrave" Mr. Norquist's "no taxes, no how" commandment onto the tablet of a political career is, in my estimation, as blasphemous as worshipping at the altar of Baal.
Over the past few days, President Obama has, like Abraham of old, taken an axe to the idols of Terach; with stiffened spine, he has unequivocally stated that in order to create jobs and begin fixing a broken economy, it will be absolutely necessary to spend money AND to raise taxes on the wealthy. In throwing down the gauntlet and picking up the axe, the president has, for the first time in a long time, started sounding like a Democrat. Not surprisingly, those who are committed to praying at the anti-tax "high places of wickedness" (c.f. Hosea 10:8) believe that the president has signed his political death notice; that the public shares their "no taxes" orthodoxy.
Once wonders . . .
Recent polling indicates that the great unwashed public is fed up with both Republicans and Democrats. They are beginning to understand that President Obama and the Democrats are not nearly as responsible for the economic nightmare on Main Street as the speculators, manipulators and banksters of Wall Street. The public is also beginning to understand that any country that can fund wars of whim and back bailouts and tax breaks for billionaires is not broke. As John Nichols noted in this week's The Nation, "There is money. It's just misallocated. The demand for jobs must be coupled with demands for better budgeting and new sources of revenue."
That's precisely what the president is talking about of late . . .
One proposed source of new revenue is a minuscule (less than .05%) tax on Wall Street trading of stocks, derivatives, currencies, credit default swaps and futures -- the same speculative financial instruments that got us into our mess in the first place. There is already a legislative proposal (H.R. 4191) before Congress that has collected more than 5 dozen cosponsors. Co-authored by Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio and Iowa Senator Tom Harkin H.R. 4191, the "Let Wall Street Pay for the Restoration of Main Street Act" was originally submitted in 2009. It has garnered the support of economists, Wall Street investors, labor organizations and consumer groups. By one conservative estimate this transaction tax could raise a minimum of $150 billion in new revenue, thus forcing the banksters of Wall Street to pay for at least some of the devastation they caused to the folks on Main Street. (Not surprisingly, DeFazio's bill has also drawn fire from many others, who claim that it will kill jobs by placing yet another layer of regulation on an already over-regulated financial world.)
The DeFazio bill is written in such a way as to ensure that the tax is targeted at speculators, and "has no impact on the average investor and pension fund." The tax will be refunded for:
- Tax-favored retirement accounts
- Mutual funds
- Education Savings Accounts
- Health Savings Accounts, and
- The first $100,000 of transactions annually that are not already exempted.
In a recent New York Times article, University of Massachusetts economics professor Nancy Folbre came out in support of the initiative: "Purchases of stocks, bonds and other financial instruments in the United States go untaxed but for a tiny fee (less than a half-cent) on stock trades that helps finance the Securities and Exchange Commission. In Britain, by contrast," Professor Folbre wrote, ". . . a 0.5 percent tax on stock transactions raises about $40 billion a year. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany recently announced plans to introduce a similar tax in the 27 nations of the European Community. Our current tax policies favor speculative investment in financial instruments over productive investments in human capabilities. . . "
On September 1, thousands of members of "National Nurses United" flocked to Capitol Hill, lobbying more than 5 dozen members of Congress. They called it the "National Day of Action to Tax Wall Street." Representatives were urged to sign a pledge in support of the Wall Street transaction tax. Unlike the Norquist pledge -- a sweeping across-the-board anti-tax stance signed by virtually every member of the GOP -- this one was in support of a single piece of legislation whose affect would be felt not on Wall Street, but rather on Main Street.
Without question, jobs and unemployment are going to be the major issues of the 2012 election. If the president and the Democrats will continue holding firm and show by both word and deed that they are fighting on behalf of Main Street, they may just pull off a major victory over Wall Street. The "Let Wall Street Pay for the Restoration of Main Street" bill is one weapon in their arsenal. And whether or not it passes Congress (it will not) is actually irrelevant; it serves to underscore just who is fighting for the middle class . . .
©2011 Kurt F. Stone