BOGUE, Kan. - It was past time, he said.
"We're going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that have allowed some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share. In theory some of those loopholes were understandable, but in practice they sometimes make it possible for millionaires to pay nothing while a bus driver was paying ten percent of his salary and that's crazy." He paused.
Then with a wide grin, "You think the millionaire ought to pay more taxes than the bus driver ... or less?" A thunderous "MORE!" from the crowd.
It's Obama and his class war .... W-w-w-wait. You're shaking your head. Not Oba..? Wha... Reagan? Reagan, a Marxist economic justice'er?
Well, indeed. It was Ronald Reagan. He was speaking at Northside HIgh School in Atlanta on June 6, 1985, shortly after starting his second term.
But as always there's more to the story. Even as he grinned and wagged, the gap between the wealthiest and the rest of us kept right on growing while we were kept distracted by fear-mongering and ramped up jingoism. Today, the gap is wider than at any time since the Great Depression and, yes, keeps widening as you read.
Today, the top 10 percent report $165 thousand in taxable annual income, nice but unremarkable. The top 1 percent, over $1.2 million. The top .01 percent, a cool $27 million. In comparison, average annual family income for the bottom 90 percent of us is barely $31 thousand (Mother Jones, Jan. 2011). And unlike the 70's and earlier, both husband and wife must work to make ends meet -- a fact often conveniently overlooked.
Now from Tax Foundation. In 1970 the top tax rate for taxable income over $200 thousand was 70 percent. In 1982, Reagan's first year, it dropped to 50 percent for income over $352 thousand. In 1985, as Reagan spoke at Northside High, the same 50 percent rate still applied but to incomes over $169 thousand. In his last year, the rate dropped to 28 percent for incomes over $56 thousand. In the H.W. Bush "read-my-lips" administration, the rate rose modestly to 31 percent.
Under Clinton the top rate went to 39.6 percent, accompanied by a budget surplus, and 23 million new jobs.
Then came Bush II. Rate dropped to 35 percent. He called it the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act. Juicy label, piddle in the jar. The Wall Street Journal credits George W. with "the worst track record for job creation since the government began keeping records." And your coffee buddy still buys 'trickle down'?
It got worse. Unregulated banksters led to a predictable bust, except for the banksters. Add continued shipping of US jobs overseas for cheaper labor. Add offshore tax accounting for corporations pampered here at home. Add continuing tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. Add wars -- one we were lied into, the other an ill-advised try at nation-building. Add fewer unions to stick up for working people, and declining wages and benefits. Add skyrocketing health care costs.
It is no mystery why average Americans are occupying Wall Street and elsewhere. We're the SEA Party: Screwed Enough Already. Well, it's no surprise the pampered classes (and their Astroturf Tea Party) work overtime to discredit or dismantle the growing protest -- whatever that takes. They don't want to be held accountable.
Okay, one more subject. Global warming, aka climate change. Jon Stewart on the Daily Show chided Fox News for giving just 24 seconds coverage to a new study on climate change ... in favor of promoting McDonald's "Mc-Rib."
The study was directed by physicist Richard A. Muller (a climate change skeptic!) and funded largely by $150,000 from the fingers-crossed Charles Koch Foundation. Oh, oh. It reaffirmed global warming.
Anthony Watts (a TV weatherman with no college or university degree) blogs at "wattsupwiththat.com", a favorite watering-hole for global-warming skeptics. Of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project, Watts avowed, "I'm prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong." Naah, he was just kidding. (Somebody should ask him to produce his birth certificate.)
Not long ago Fox News and fellow right wingers were gleefully celebrating the leaked Climategate e-mails as "proof" that scientists conspired to promote the "hoax" of climate change. The confirmation of warming by BEST twisted the Fox's tail, and embarrassed anti-regulatory libertarians. If you're a Fox News regular you haven't heard much about that (and won't). But McRib is really good, you betcha.
A couple columns back I quoted Okahoma City preacher Robin Meyers that the number one problem in the U.S. is greed. Willing ignorance ranks up there pretty close. (Next time, maybe the Keystone XL pipe-line project)