Who Is Sharing The Shared Sacrifice?

There has been much talk lately about the necessity of a shared sacrifice in regard to our current state and federal budget deficits.

Unfortunately, there is a skewed definition of shared sacrifice emanating from our capitols and statehouses whose reverse-Robin Hood agenda proposes sacrifices almost entirely from the poor and middle classes to pay for tax breaks and tax loopholes for corporations and the rich.

Instead of cutting state and federal budgets, the United States should crack down on the corporate tax dodgers thumbing their noses at us.

Across the nation, states are making deep cuts that will wreck the quality of life for the majority of us to close budget gaps that total more than $100 billion.

But there's a more sensible option. Overseas tax havens enable companies to pretend their profits are earned in other countries like the Cayman Islands. Simply making that ruse illegal would bring home an estimated $100 billion a year.

The next time you read a story about some politician moaning that "there's no money" and "we have to make cuts," just point to artful tax dodgers in our midst.

They include some of the banks that trashed the economy but gladly took our tax dollars to stay alive after the economic meltdown. Bank of America received $45 billion. Wells Fargo received $30 billion. Citigroup received a whopping $50 billion. Yet they paid little or no taxes?

Goldman Sachs took a $10 billion taxpayer bailout but then gamed its effective tax rate down to one percent through what its shakedown-artist executives call "changes in geographic earnings mix."

Next time you see that FedEx delivery van go by on the roads you paid for think about that fact that they paid zero taxes in 2010, as they claim they do the majority of their business on some 20-square mile piece of real estate in the Atlantic Ocean. I say to FedEx, don't pretend you're not making billions in the U.S. and don't lie and tell us you made all those profits on some island with more palm trees than people. We know the demand for coconut delivery is not that big, but we know that the demand for U.S. corporations to pay their fair share is.

These corporations are heavy users of our taxpayer-funded public infrastructure and property rights protection systems. They use our regulated marketplace; call upon our law enforcement and legal systems to remedy disputes. They're protected by U.S. police forces and firefighters. They enjoy all the privileges and benefits of tax-paying citizens. They just don't pay their fair share for them.

Pharmaceutical giants have rigged and raided our national research and development apparatus to such a degree that we spend more on subsidies for designer drugs for healthy people than we do on a cure for cancer.

Those of us who pay sales taxes and have income taxes withheld from our paychecks will bear the brunt of state and federal budget cuts in schools, public transportation, public services and recreational facilities. Our most vulnerable family members and neighbors will suffer thanks to cuts in schools, nutrition, mental health services, elder care and Medicaid.

Boeing, you want another billion dollar contract for a taxpayer-funded military jet? Your bottom line is comprised of over fifty percent of U.S. tax-payer funded defense contracts, yet you claim that the majority of your business is not done here? You could fly a 747 jet through that tax loophole.

These global corporations will complain that forcing them to pay their fair share of taxes will "kill jobs." Let's be clear: the patriotic businesses that currently pay their taxes and have to compete against these tax dodgers are the employers we want. It undercuts American jobs for domestic banks, retailers and manufacturers to have to compete against companies that can game the tax system. There are many businesses in this country that are doing the right thing.

If we really desire a meaningful state of shared sacrifice in which we all pay our fair share, we need a clear strategy to rebuild the economy and to revive the middle class.

This requires making the investments vital to our future by taxing what we have too much of (financial speculation and extreme concentrations of wealth) and investing in what we have to little of (education, new and improved infrastructure, renewable energy).

And it means addressing the real source of our long-term debt crises: not Social Security or Medicare as peddled by the deficit hawks and austerity pushers, but rather our bloated corporate welfare and tax-evading state and our broken healthcare system dominated by colossal and powerful drug, insurance and hospital corporations and their armies of lobbyists, that costs more than twice as much per capita as the health systems of any other industrialized country and producing worse results.

I have always believed that the arc of American history trends toward justice and that the greatness of the people of America is our ability to repair our faults. Unfortunately, justice often comes after far too much misery is endured.

I propose that we undertake this repair. The first step is to accept the need for repair. We might be guided by an insight offered by Franklin Roosevelt: "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics".

The hard truth is that inequality is economically as well as socially harmful. Stark inequality and extreme concentrations of wealth breed stress and social isolation and sickness. An ever-growing mountain of evidence indicates that inequality was a key driving force behind the latest financial and economic collapse. And the historical evidence is clear: inequality undermines economic growth.

The fact is that we are interdependent, and social investments that help our neighbors almost always end up helping us as well. Ask your father and mother (or grandparents) what Social Security means to them, or how their lives changed when Medicare began shielding them and their parents from catastrophic medical bills, foreclosure and premature death.

In a democracy, if we sit back and just grumble, we get what we deserve--perpetual corporate welfare.

Chris Perry

My Family and I relocated to the City of Lakewood in 2008 to be near my Wife’s extended Family. We have two young children that attend Lincoln Elementary School.

I have over 25 years experience as a community organizer, political campaign manager, director of a non-profit, environmental and social/economic justice writer, lobbyist, demonstrator, non-profit board member and lifelong community activist and volunteer. I am passionate about economic and social justice, environmental causes and identifying and addressing the root cause of social, economic and ecological ailments that undermine our long-term prosperity and sustainability.

In my spare time I enjoy time with my wife and kids hiking, kayaking, gardening, traveling, enjoying all four seasons and exploring all that Lakewood and Northeast Ohio have to offer. I’m also an avid runner and have a passion/addiction for running marathons and 100-mile ultra-marathons.

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Volume 7, Issue 14, Posted 8:25 AM, 07.13.2011