I sit upon the shore fishing, with the arid plain behind me. Shall I at least set my lands in order?
–T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land”
The sad but intriguing reality is that the United States could afford to implement the reforms, curriculum enrichment programs and structural changes that would make education adequate and even excellent for all our students. We could afford to offer higher salaries that would attract and retain first-rate teachers. We could afford to design and build new model schools and to renovate and refurbish our existing sub-standard facilities all across the country. We could afford to offer comprehensive and enriched curricula for all our children and youth; we could afford to do this and more. The funds are there. The resources are available. Lacking is leadership, and will on the part of the people who have the power and control the funds, and a properly motivated, enfranchised, and insistent public sector. Unfortunately, we have been so indoctrinated by the dominant powers that we (the general public) believe the way things are is the way things must be.
If we truly believed education is fundamental to democracy, then we would fund it properly. How? By making income taxes truly progressive, by eliminating off-shore tax avoidance schemes for individuals and corporations, by reforming proposition 13 (in California), by restoring corporate taxes to their pre-Reagan levels, by expanding IRS investigations to cut down on taxpayer cheating and non-compliance; in short, by applying fairness and reason to our tax structure. Each is feasible. None is prohibited by God or nature, but simply ignored or dismissed out of hand. Why? Because the eternal goal of power is more power not redistribution or equalization. I believe we all want to provide quality education for every child in America and to bring some equity into the educational arena so that every child flourishes. This is not unAmerican; it is not unpatriotic. It is simply fair, ethical, and moral.
First of all, we need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that taxation is evil. It is not. It is, however, portrayed as such by those who do not want to be taxed – the rich and the super-rich. Taxation is the main source of government revenue. It is a means of leveling the playing field and investing in equality of opportunity. Second, we need to acknowledge that we Americans are not taxed at nearly as high a rate as other countries. In fact, of the 20 largest countries in the world, the U.S. has the lowest ratio of taxes to gross domestic product and we provide our citizens with fewer services than many of the other industrialized countries. Perhaps, as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently explained, there would probably be less revulsion against taxes if the word “services” replaced “taxes.” Since all people, rich or poor, have access to public services (unlike private wealth), slogans like “read my lips, no new services” might be sneered rather than cheered.
We do not tax ourselves excessively, not even reasonably. As we routinely complain that we do not have enough funds to rebuild our inner cities, provide housing and health care for all our citizens, and provide a superb education for every child, the disconnect is pretty easy to see. We do have resources and revenue possibilities; we simply need the courage to harvest these funds.
Where the Funds are:
Savings: Funds to Be Redirected on An Annual Basis
Restore Progressive Corporation Taxes $180 billion
Cut corporate welfare, i.e. subsidies
Cut defense spending by 15%
Eliminate offshore shelters
Require foreign multinationals to pay their U.S. taxes
Tax Cuts: Priorities & Equities (top 1% to return to 1977 tax levels)
Estate Taxes: With exemptions of $5 million
Wealth tax – a modest tax – conservative estimate
Increase IRS investigations: Cut tax cheating
Capital gains/dividends ______
Eco taxes – initially impose taxes similar to Germany
shift eco-destructive subsidies
Sin taxes _______
A Tobin Tax on international transactions (10% for the USA)
The 6% progressive-Social Security tax _______
The 2% Solution
$ 200 billion
Random Acts: A wild guess
CEO pay reform
$ 10 billion
Delete stock options as deductions _______
Total funds available to rebuild America: on an annual basis = Trillions