While I was driving to coffee this morning, I couldn’t help but notice the ‘Vote No on 1098’ sign. Don’t worry, this blog is not one of those deeper-looks-into-the-finer-points-of-taxing-the-rich-to-fund-schools-for-families-who-are-too-poor-to-send-their-kids-to-top-tier-private-schools.
However, the sign did get me thinking about public funds and their source. For instance, people who tend to think socially (I’ll use that word word to avoid some of the insanity surrounding the pejorative-ness that surrounds the term socialism) expect tax revenue to fund social aspects of our culture and infrastructure. Those who prefer not to think socially, want the burden of funds for ‘social aspects’ of our culture and infrastructure to be funded through an unregulated and unfettered multinational private sector.
When I think about this argument politically, it makes perfect sense. The right wants less regulation so that the rich can manipulate the markets and the middle class as they see fit, while the left promises utopia-like public services while never being able to deliver on the specifics. For instance, I was one of the 50 million uninsured before the so-called Obamacare, and guess what, still uninsured. But back to the topic at hand.
If I take my political hat off, and try to think economically, the argument looks a little different. The promises of the left are limited by the amount of tax revenue they can produce, and there is of course, an upper limit on the level of tax that the population can handle. The right, on the other hand, is essentially promising to pull a fist full of rabbits out of their proverbial hat in order to pay for their version of infrastructure. Now, for the sake of clarity, let’s take the neo-cons out of this discussion. All they want to do is bankrupt the government to showcase what they see to be the failure of our democratic republic.
There is a whole other kind of promise of funding that comes from the right. And it’s difficult to grasp initially because it’s tacit. It hides behind terms like free market and patriotism and tax relief. Where is all that money supposed to come from to build up our infrastructure and sustain our system of government? Sure, they promise to cut out the fat. But that only goes so far. When roads and public schools and medicare are on the cutting table, it’s hard to call them fat and be convincing.
The tacit assumption behind the patriotic free market is nothing other than a veiled resurgence of imperialism. Deregulated markets and tax structures allow United States (truly multinational) companies to circumvent US tax law, environmental law, work safety standards, and business ethics. In short, this tacit promise of patriotism and free market as a solution to our economy is nothing other than an excuse to continue to rape, pillage, and profit from countries who have smaller economies and a smaller militaries than we do.
Needless to say, this is an unsustainable way of thinking about the economy. It has remained so entrenched among voters simply because it has allowed bigotry and imperialist tendencies to hide behind the mask of free market and patriotism.
I’m tired of it. So tired that I almost don’t have the energy to talk about it any more. But it’s time for the little folks like you and me to stand up for those who don’t have a voice. After all, last time I checked folks in sub-saharan Africa and Guatemala and Indonesia can’t vote in America. It’s time to start saying something that doesn’t sound very American at all, namely this:
“Tax me, not the environment. Tax my neighbors, not our allies. And tax our corporations, not the impoverished third world.”