Declare class warfare now!
The bigger issue is whether the country can afford the systemic damage being done by the ever-growing income inequality between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else, whether poor, middle class or even rich. That burden is inflicted not just on the debt but on the very idea of America — our Horatio Alger faith in social mobility over plutocracy, our belief that our brand of can-do capitalism brings about innovation and growth, and our fundamental sense of fairness. Incredibly, the top 1 percent of Americans now have tax rates a third lower than the same top percentile had in 1970.
“How can hedge-fund managers who are pulling down billions sometimes pay a lower tax rate than do their secretaries?” ask the political scientists Jacob S. Hacker (of Yale) and Paul Pierson (University of California, Berkeley) in their deservedly lauded new book, “Winner-Take-All Politics.” If you want to cry real tears about the American dream — as opposed to the self-canonizing tears of John Boehner — read this book and weep. The authors’ answer to that question and others amounts to a devastating indictment of both parties.
Their ample empirical evidence, some of which I’m citing here, proves that America’s ever-widening income inequality was not an inevitable by-product of the modern megacorporation, or of globalization, or of the advent of the new tech-driven economy, or of a growing education gap. (Yes, the very rich often have fancy degrees, but so do those in many income levels below them.) Inequality is instead the result of specific policies, including tax policies, championed by Washington Democrats and Republicans alike as they conducted a bidding war for high-rolling donors in election after election.
Often, the more strident among my friends wonder how I can support the Corporatocracy Lite instead of opting for a third party. My answer, implicit in Rich's column, is Duverger's Law. We are never going to have a successful three party system. The bias towards two parties is way too strong and with all the money sloshing around out there for both parties, a successful third party bid that wouldn't be co-opted (watch the Teabaggers for proof) by Big Money is simply impossible under this system.
And there's the rub. We can stamp our feet and hold our breath until we turn blue, but the parental units will smile, maybe chuckle, and then turn around and do what they damned well please.
You want to cause trouble in this country, starting a third party is not going to do it. Starting a tax revolt, that might have the needed impact -- after all, if the hedge fund secretary refuses to pay her taxes, who's going to protect that hedge fund managers wealth? -- but it's going to require a coordinated effort that would make the Teabaggers seem like a grass-roots effort.
And we know they'll never be allowed off the leash long enough to join, even if it would be to their benefit.
(Side note: As Frank goes on to point out, the lapsing tax cut that Obama proposes to kill off would generate an average $700 annually at the lower and more populated end of the $250,000 floor. Know anyone who would work for that amount?)
(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)