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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Sire, The Peasants are Revolting!

Protesters crowd Wisconsin Capitol
I've been writing almost exclusively about Wisconsin on this blog and I realize that this is a switch from the national perspective I usually take. But I think I can justify it in a few ways: one, I'm in Madison and there's pretty much just one story here and two, Wisconsin is a warning to the country on the dangers of naked Republicanism. There's more here than just a desire to bust unions. That's just part of it. What's really going on is an attempt to move the tax burden off the wealthy and on to everyone else.

Wisconsin State Journal:

Low-income taxpayers in Wisconsin would lose hundreds of dollars in tax credits a year under Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget — at the same time the governor wants tax cuts for businesses and investors to boost jobs.

Walker proposes cutting about $16 million a year from the program, which in 2009 paid 273,939 low-income Wisconsin residents a total of $133 million.

Under Walker’s proposed biennial budget, a single mother with two children earning about minimum wage -- $15,000 a year -- would lose $302 of her $704 Earned Income Tax Credit next year, according to estimates from the nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. A two-parent household with two children earning $30,000 a year would see its tax credit cut by $194 to $258, the alliance said.

"Gov. Walker's raid on the Earned Income Tax Credit is the most egregious example of Walker's war on Wisconsin families," said Rep. Tamara Grigsby, D-Milwaukee. "At a time when Wisconsin is supposed to be putting people to work, Gov. Walker is actually stealing from working families in order to give big payouts to special interests."

Republicans raising taxes? According to the Walker administration, no. Sure, low-income families' taxes will go up, but don't call that a "tax increase." Really, let's not be crazy here and go with obvious facts.

See, in a masterful spin of facts, the EITC is welfare. According to the paper, "In an interview Friday, the Republican governor called the tax credit a 'redistribution program' that involves 'taking money from other taxpayers and giving it to individuals who have a limited tax liability.'"

This is a lie. The tax credit is a refund on a portion of payroll taxes, which aren't collected as income tax. Republicans like to pretend that people with incomes so low that they don't have to pay income tax are paying no taxes at all, but again, this is a lie. What Walker's really saying here is that families who collect EITC qualify for a credit no one else qualifies for and that this amounts to welfare. Fine. Then things like the estate tax or tax credits for corporations are also welfare, since most people don't qualify for those, either. Let's be consistent in our reasoning here.

And, since Walker's actually decreasing the tax burden on businesses, corporations, and the wealthy by increasing the burden on the poor, we can logically assume that, as much as he frowns over "redistribution programs," he's actually a really big fan. Just so long as it's redistributed in the right direction -- from those who need to those who'll never need. If this strikes you as grossly unfair, welcome to the club. Now you know why everyone's marching around with signs here. It's the economics of King Louis XVI, where the entire economy and workforce are just a support system for the wealthy. For the Wisconsin GOP, everything in the state exists to help the rich make money -- just as nationally Republicans feel the same way about America. You aren't a member of the citizenry, you're a member of the peasantry.

Union members are finding themselves in the same boat. According to University of Wisconsin historian Stanley Kutler, Gov. Walker sucked the state treasury dry with giveaways to top earners and is now looking to middle class families to foot the bill.

There is a kernel of truth in Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's claim of a "budget shortfall" of $137 million. But Walker, a Republican, failed to tell the state that less than two weeks into his term as governor, he, with his swollen Republican majorities in the Wisconsin Legislature, pushed through $117 million in tax breaks for business allies of the GOP. There is your crisis.

So Walker took a $20 million hole -- which could've been covered by modest cuts and restructuring the debt -- and ballooned it into a state emergency with $117 million in giveaways. Once again, Republicans rob everyone else to give to the rich.

And this is what we're seeing nationally. Republicans demanded we blow a $36 billion hole in the deficit by extending Bush's tax cuts for the top 2% and now, suddenly worried about spending, they're coming after your Social Security and your Medicare, your PBS and your Planned Parenthood. If it benefits you, it's a luxury. If it benefits the already stupid-rich, it's a necessity. The formula works this way; two off-budget wars + a tax giveaway to the wealthy = seniors, teachers, obstetricians, and Big Bird make too much money. If you're not seeing how that adds up, then you're not listening to enough talk radio or are watching too few talking heads on cable networks.

"Are we finally seeing average Americans stand up and demand a fair shake in an economy now grotesquely tilted toward the wealthy and the privileged?" asks Robert Reich. "Are Americans beginning to awake to the fact that our economy now delivers a larger share of total income to the very top than at any time in living memory? That big corporations are making more money and creating more jobs abroad than in the United States?"

We are in Wisconsin. And in Iowa, in Ohio, in Indiana, in Oregon, in Tennessee... on and on, state after state. If working people are the peasantry, then we're looking at a peasant revolt.


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