Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wealth For the Common Good

On national tax day tomorrow, the tea party movement will get a lot of media coverage for their strong anti-government, anti-tax stances, calling Obama a "socialist" and "fascist" with a variety of creative posters and chants. Meanwhile, a network of business leaders and wealthy individuals called Wealth For the Common Good just released a report that details the effects of American tax policy over the past 50 years on our economy: the wealthiest Americans have enjoyed drastic cuts while the middle 20% have actually had a slight increase in their tax burden. Wealth For the Common Good is a response to the Obama Administration's overall agenda to increase taxes for the top 2.5% of income earners while cutting taxes for the rest of us. Of course, this report advocates for Obama's tax policy and supports it with documented statistics.

Wealth For the Common Good claims that their tax proposals would do the following:

-Collect over $450 billion in revenue from those with the greatest capacity to pay.
-Discourage financial speculation.
-Strengthen the overall economy.
-Generate revenue for deficit reduction and investments in infrastructure and job creation.
-Introduce greater transparency, fairness, and simplicity to the tax code.

What are their proposals for tax reform? Here's the breakdown:

1. End the tax breaks for households with taxable incomes over $250,000: $45 billion per year.
2. Levy a progressive estate tax on large fortunes: $40-60 billion per year.
3. End overseas tax havens: $100 billion per year.
4. Tax financial transactions: $100 billion per year.
5. Create an additional top tax bracket for higher incomes: $60-70 billion per year.
6. Eliminate the tax preference for capital gains and dividends: $80 billion per year.

This report echoes the work done by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities which released this report two months ago, explaining the reasons for an expanding national debt: Bush-era tax policies, the economic downturn and financial rescues (the stimulus plan and bank bailout). This chart is a helpful visual:

In addition, a group calling itself The Other 95% released some recent facts on Obama's tax policy.

As competing tax facts and statistics wiz by our heads tomorrow, let us remember the Jim Wallis' penetrating question to the world's business leaders at Davos last year:

How will this economic crisis change us?

Truly, how can we regain the vital spiritual resources (from a variety of religious and non-religious traditions) that emphasize sharing, simple living and solidarity with the poor and marginalized? A combination of unjust systems and unwise personal financial decisions have led to the present crisis and continue to hamper millions in the United States and billions all over the world. We desperately need a more truthful and dialogical space to advocate for crucial changes that will affect everyone. This will take soul-searching, creativity, listening and sacrifice. In an increasingly fearful and angry environment, let's commit ourselves--on this "national holiday"--to praying, fasting and critically thinking about solutions for our future together.

--Theological Autopilot

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