Wed, Feb 05, 2014 - Page 8

Make the rich poorer

Like the climate deniers, neoliberal free-market radicals repeat the same lie over and over again until it becomes the truth, no matter how illogical.

In a mind-bender that defies belief, Richard Haass claims that “making the rich poorer will not make the poor richer” (“The decline of the upwardly mobile,” Jan. 29, page 9). He then spouts forth the usual nonsense about not taxing the rich because, well, because they pay his paycheck.

To quote Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it” (“Busting the US myth of the undeserving poor and deserving rich,” Jan. 24, page 9).

Let’s do some elementary-school math here. If you tax a billionaire 50 percent, he is still filthy rich. If you then take this money and give US$10,000 each to 50,000 very poor people, who each earn US$10,000 a year, you just doubled their income and made these poor a lot richer. Some of them may waste the money on drink, drugs or other nonsense, but for most poor, extra resources translate into better education, better healthcare, better transport and so on — in short, a much better life.

Taxes are the lifeblood of any civilized society, and progressive tax rates are the basis for any just society. That is how societies lifted themselves up from the utter injustice of the early industrial revolution to build modern welfare states, where everybody is guaranteed a deserved minimum of earnings, education, healthcare and opportunity. It is through tax redistribution that upward mobility was achieved and still is achieved, in exact opposition to Richard Haass’ unfounded claims.

However, ever since former US president Ronald Reagan, former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and the neoliberal revolution they ignited in the 1980s, we have been forever told by the paid goons of neoliberal think tanks and media that government is the great evil and that taxes are the devil’s tool. Funded by plutocrats such as News Corp chief executive Rupert Murdoch, Australian mining tycoon Gina Rinehart and the US billionaire Koch brothers (“Truth and trolls,” Oct. 20, 2013, page 8), the neoliberal doctrine is distributed by endless numbers of lobbyists such as Haass, who, unlike me, get paid for writing and thus can command the editorial pages of the media and the commentary on television. Thus the system solidifies: The people with the financial and political resources define the policies, which make them even more powerful.

All I can say is that when a society pays bankers, chief executives, people who can throw a ball well or Justin Bieber a thousand times more than the people who actually hold society together, such as the workers, engineers, farmers, teachers, professors, doctors, nurses and government officials who make the system work and actually pay their taxes, then you know you are on a downward slope.

Unless lower and middle-class people wake up from their consumerist slumber, smell the neoliberal rat and demand to make the rich poorer to make the poor richer, their incomes and their opportunities will continue to decline.