Why is the California Tax Payer Fighting the Battle Alone?

By L.A. Ortega

“In my view, we do need to boldly address our deficit crisis, but we need to do it in a way that is fair — that is not on the backs of the sick, the elderly, the children and the poor,” Senator Bernie Sanders in a recent article published in the Huffington Post. We are leaving billions upon billions of dollars untouched, while having the shameless audacity to ask our poor, our elderly and our youth to do without.

This is almost comical, if it were not so tragically illogical.

We (the 99%’rs) exclaim, “Mr. Governor tax me, tax me!”  Meanwhile, Big Oil in California and our top one percent income earners are not even at the pay-your-fair-share table. The Republican Party has wrestled the argument down to one phrase, “No New Taxes,” which resonates with the voters. However, it does not accurately describe the revenue generating possibilities. When you consider the huge tax breaks the wealthiest of this country have received under Bush II and now Obama, on the idea they were going to create jobs, a different question needs to be asked. Is taxing the wealthiest of our Country/State the same as taxing the rest of us?

California should be allowed to vote for taxes to the wealthiest of our State. In so doing, it is not really a ‘new’ tax, it is merely a ‘restoration’ of a tax that helped us balance our books in California a decade or so ago. Given that so much has been given away in tax breaks to the wealthy of this country and in oil subsidies, not taxing these groups has played a significant role in the economic crisis in which we find ourselves. A Senator Bernie Sanders-type proposal, “…5.4 percent emergency surtax on income over $1 million…” is an innovative approach for California, and should be put to the voters.

We can frame the emergency surtax as a restoration of taxes (not new) and keep it in line with the Republican Party’s mantra. It’s not a new tax, it’s a restoration of a tax needed to balance the budget. We must work to change the language and the perspective on how we look and talk about taxes. It is necessary to separate the discussion about taxes between the wealthy (top 1%) and the rest of us (bottom 99%). Creating an understanding that taxing individuals earning more than $1 million annually is most definitely not the same as taxing middle and low income families of California.
There is no evidence that tax breaks for the wealthy, be they corporations or individuals, create jobs or help the economy. In fact, author after author says wealthy tax-break policies have created a greater disparity between a few hundred people with huge amounts of concentrated wealth and the rest of us.
There is a tremendous resource in the $1.85 trillion GSP (Gross State Product) in California from which we can tap. Why or who dictates that we are forbidden from looking at the entire ($1.85 trillion GSP) pie?  General accounting principles tell us there are two sides to the T-account. A revenue side: which has been badly damaged due to the unnecessary tax cuts for the wealthy; and an expense side: which has already taken huge cuts, and risks a worsening of an already weak economy, should more people be laid-off.
In as much as we are begging to tax ourselves, we too must tax big oil in California. The experts agree, an oil extraction fee will have no effect on gasoline prices and will not effect jobs. There will always be someone willing to dig the precious black gold out of the ground, at a cost of $20 per barrel, because at today’s prices that is a whopping $77 per barrel profit. “California still produces 567,000 barrels a day,” says a Daily Finance post on February 28, 2011. When we do the math on these numbers it reveals oil companies in California are making $44 million a day in profits.
Is it really so wrong to ask the wealthiest of our country to take a little less profit?  The voters should decide.
L.A. Ortega is president and CEO of the nonprofit Community Union, Inc. www.communityunion.org.

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April 7, 2011  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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