By Ralph Nader
In early March 2023, President Joe Biden embedded in his proposed 2024 budget to Congress revenue increases through tax measures that the rich and corporations do not like. Like his predecessors Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, he doesn’t really mean what he says.
Biden’s four proposed increases are significant because they would restore the corporate tax rate to 28% from Trump’s decrease to 21% in 2017, raise the top rate for income above $400,000 a year from 37% to 39.6%, raise the 1% excise tax on massive stock buybacks to 4% and get rid of the gaping super-rich private fund managers’ “carried interest” loophole, so as to tax such income at ordinary rates.
He even tossed in a proposal to tax capital gains at the same rate as income for households with more than one million dollars in annual income.
The restorative taxes on these affluent tax escapees, compliments of Donald Trump, George W. Bush and Congressional Republicans, are little more than a wink to the major donors that Biden is summoning to Washington the weekend after next to grease his re-election campaign.
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Here are my suggestions to President Biden:
Mr. President: Like other Democrats’ verbal support for a $15 federal minimum wage and a public option added to Obamacare, the citizenry doesn’t believe you are going to fight for your proposed corporate super-rich tax proposals. Why should they? Your words on Capitol Hill are insufficient without the subsequent presidential and Democratic Party muscle to make these restorative increases credible.
For example, where is your presidential tour publicizing these necessary revenue increases? If you are really “Scranton Joe” you could start by going to Scranton, Pennsylvania and standing with blue-collar union workers to show the contrast in their federal tax rates compared to the plutocrats and the often zero-paying giant corporations. You could jar the sleepy Democratic National Committee to galvanize all Democratic members of Congress to barnstorm their districts to promote these overdue reforms during their numerous “recesses” back home.
You could make a major primetime address about redressing these deeply felt inequities, shouldered by liberal and conservative Americans alike, and urge your party to hold press conferences filled with examples and images that demonstrate serious resolve to make Capitol Hill shake from the electrified pressure back home.
Leading newspapers would print your op-eds on this subject. NPR, PBS and the Sunday talk shows would want to interview leading Democrats.
Join with leading citizen advocacy groups to tap into the civic community, so long skeptical of Democratic Party rhetoric not producing determined actions.
You can reject prejudged defeatism by your Democratic colleagues who say the corrupt and cruel Republicans have the votes to block such legislation. The Democratic-controlled Senate Committees can hold powerful attention-getting public hearings. If the Democrats had really championed tax justice, the GOP might not have taken the House of Representatives in the last election. (See: winningamerica.net).
The benefits of generating real muscle would serve as a contrast to the Republicans’ just-released 300-page sadistic assault on the well-being of all Americans, misleadingly titled the “Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023.” This legislation is a historic and shameful example of Congressional Republicans’ beholdenness to crass corporatism.
Don’t add to the pile of throwaway reformist lines. You need inspiring words to show the people that you are “Scranton Joe” and not “Delaware Joe” – from the notorious corporate state of weak laws relating to corporate power. (You might remember that in 1973 we published a book titled The Corporate State about DuPont’s enormous power over Delaware. DuPont then owned the two major newspapers in Wilmington and provided charitable contributions that were a fraction of its state and local tax concessions.)
A good start is to tell your visiting big donors that in their patriotic service to America, what is urgently needed is productive, paid-for public budgets. It is time for their tax holidays to end.
Ralph Nader is an American political activist, author, lecturer, and attorney noted for his involvement in consumer protection, environmentalism, and government reform causes. The son of Lebanese immigrants to the United States, Nader attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School.