Nothing v. All
“There's gotta be some kind of rebellion between the people that have nothing and the people that got it all. I don't understand. There's no in-between no more. There's the peple that got it all and the people that have nothing.”
—Peoria, Ill., man, in 2009, about to be put out of his home, in Michael Moore's “Capitalism: A Love Story.”
I have some sympathy for this guy but I still wonder about his voting patterns. Did he vote, for example, for Ronald Reagan for president? Once? Twice? When Reagan came into office in 1981, the tax rate for the wealthiest one percent of the country was 69%. When he left office? 28%. The rich got richer under Reagan and the unions got screwed. And that's just the beginning. Moore's doc is best in that short segment on the Reagan years but in the end he winds up flailing all over the place, and pulling the usual stunts about not getting into places he'd never get into. Most egregiously, he makes the initial bailout, the TARP bailout in September 2008, seem like a Bush plot when it was actually a repudiation of everything Bush believed in and stood for. It was a caving in. It was a mea culpa without the mea culpa.
But the Peoria man's question is the right question. How did we lose our middle class? For me, the answer starts with Reagan and those tax rates.
So the question for today isn't whether or not to roll back the Bush tax cuts from 35% to 39%. The question is why stop there? And why stop at the “top one percent,” which supposedly includes families making $250,000 a year? Why not divide this group further? The top .5 percent. The top .1 percent. Tax those making $1 million at a higher rate, and tax those making $10 million at a higher rate, and those making $100 million at a higher rate, etc., etc., until maybe we have something like a middle class again.