It is about time that we begin to attack the problem of our inadequate national revenues. We have not had sufficient revenues to balance the budget since before Ronald Reagan. After Ronald Reagan’s cutting the tax rates of the top income brackets by 50% and quadrupling the military budget in the early 1980s, we have never had sufficient revenue to balance the budget. Even in President Clinton’s two terms as President we only had sufficient revenues for a couple of years to actually balance the budget. Even in those years, it is not clear whether all government expenditures were included in the figures, as Social Security and some other actual government expenditures were off-budget.
In the last 8 years, we not only have not been able to pay for the cost of our government, but we have in fact actually doubled the national debt. The national debt is now over $11 trillion dollars, one trillion of which was added in one year, 2008, the last year of the Presidency of George W. Bush. It is true that the economic consequences of the attacks of 9/11 and the devastating Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast were heavy costs for the economy to bear. But even these costs were certainly no more than a quarter of the increase in the total debt for the eight years. The total national debt was $5.16 when President Bush entered office in 2001. When he left office, the national debt was $10.6 trillion. That is more than double obviously.
During the Bush Administration, there were two tax cuts. In the first tax cuts, the total amount of money saved in taxes by the average taxpayer from 2001 to 2005 was $3,205. For the top 1%, the average tax savings was $63,798. In total, over the ten years of the Bush tax cuts, the total tax savings for the average citizen will be $9,508. For those in the top 1% it will be $342,472.
Let’s put this into a very serious context. Over the ten years between 2001 and 2010, the top one percent of Americans received tax breaks totaling $477 billion. Considering the latest calculations on price reductions as a result of the latest health reform proposals, at least those with a public option, this could have a major impact. If we allowed those tax breaks for the top 1% to retire, we could pay for health care reform…just this amount…nothing else needed.
What is holding us back? If anything, the outdated and discredited attitude of the “trickle down” economists of the Chicago school. You remember their patron, Alan Greenspan, who said before a congressional committee that he had discovered that his lifelong belief about economic equilibrium had been dashed. He was clearly devastated. But he was devastated after the markets had crashed from over 14,000 to below 7,000, and after Lehman Brothers and over 300 banks had closed their doors and after $750 billion of your tax dollars had been dropped into the financial system to keep it from collapsing. One can wonder why Mr. Greenspan could not have had that revelation before all that happened.
Yes, let’s tax the rich. Tax the top 1%. Elsewhere on this blog it has been noted just how much wealth the top 1% and the top .1% have accumulated in the last twenty years. The top .1% has as much wealth as the bottom 90% of all Americans. As we look around and, with great sorrow, watch many of our fellow citizens…millions of our fellow citizens…fall out of the middle class to lower incomes, reduced assets, less opportunity and a much more restricted lifestyle, we should all agree that it is time for the “greed is good” segment of society to pay back some of that capital that has enabled them to grow and remain in the top income category in one of the most enjoyable and secure countries in the world.