Think that congressional Democrats are done lusting for the lucre of those they perceive as the filthy rich? Think again. They're far from finished.
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., signaled yesterday on Ed Schultz's radio show that the road to "fair share" is long indeed with many tolls along the way -- especially for those in limos. (audio clips after page break)
Schultz and Waters were talking about the fiscal cliff bill approved the night before in the House, after the Senate voted in favor of the same bill, that would return tax rates for the wealthy to their Clinton-era levels while extending them permanently for everyone else (audio) --
SCHULTZ: Your thoughts on what unfolded last night and where we go from here.
WATERS: Well, to tell you the truth, we came out with a piece of legislation that perhaps did one really good thing and that was to protect the middle class, the American taxpayer, and avoid them having increased taxes and make the tax deductions, the tax credits, taxes for them permanent, instead of them having to have their taxes increased because we were going to go over the fiscal cliff, we stopped it and that's the one good thing that came out of this.
SCHULTZ: What about the unemployment extensions? What about the business tax credits? What about ...
WATERS: Well, all of that, you're absolutely right. All of that, all of that's good. The main focus, however, everybody was focused on whether or not we were going to get a deal or whether or not the middle-income taxpayers, middle class people of this country, were going to have to suffer the same fate as the millionaires and the billionaires. The millionaires and the billionaires gotta pay more. That 39.6 percent that they have to pay is a good thing that came out of that, but you're absolutely right. When we talk about the child tax credit, we talked about the earned income tax credit, we talked about the alternative minimum tax, all of those were good things that came out. Plus, the president was able to negotiate investments in economic development and energy in ways that can do job creation and help our economic condition in this country. So, good things did come out.
SCHULTZ: All right, who's got the leverage in two months? (alluding to another looming battle over the debt ceiling)
WATERS: Well, you know, the Republicans are talking about, what all they're going to do with these tax cuts. The president has said we cannot cut our way out of a deficit and he's absolutely correct. The first thing that we've got to do is look at where we still have unfairness in the tax system and make sure that the people of influence, the billionaires and the millionaires and the corporate interests are paying their fair share. And I believe that whether we're talking about the financial speculation tax or the elimination of the carried interest or defense spending, we've got areas that we could look at to get fair share so that we're able to take care of the basic needs of this country rather than going to Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security and focusing on those areas as the only place that we can get more revenue.
Uh, wasn't this the song that liberals like Waters were singing before the deal to avoid the fiscal cliff? As far as Waters is concerned, it's as if a deal was never struck. There's only one tune in her songbook and she's determined to sing it regardless of whether it's a wedding or a funeral.
Later in yesterday's show, while talking with a caller who spoke in favor of a flat tax, Schultz offered up a gem of his own (audio) --
SCHULTZ: I think this is the limit, personal income tax, first time in 22 years Republicans have voted for this. It's at 39.6 percent. Now, you just heard Senator (Bernie) Sanders (Bolshevik of Vermont), I hope you did, saying that there are other areas where they're going to go do to try to get some revenue, corporations that, you know, comparatively speaking to other generations, are not paying anywhere near their fair share. Are you for or against that?
CALLER: Well, I actually agree that all loopholes should be done away with, that's what I'm saying. Why not come with a tax rate across the board, if it's 15 percent, 20 percent, no loopholes, no anything, any amount of profit, any amount of income you make, you know at the end of the year, OK, I gotta write a check for this amount. If it's 15 percent, this is how much I've made, this is how much I pay. Across the board, businesses, everything. Do away with ...
SCHULTZ: That's not, that's not the way, that would be favoring the wealthiest and really picking on the lower income Americans, to do that proportionally. We've always had a progressive tax system in this country and changing it, you're suggesting a flat tax, isn't going to be anywhere near revenue-gaining or neutral.
Wrong, Ed -- our progressive tax code has been around less than half the history of the country and required amending the Constitution a century ago this year to take effect.
In an essay titled "The Inequity of the Progressive Income Tax," the Hoover Institution's Kip Hagopian wrote in April 2011 --
The first time a federal income tax was imposed in the United States was in 1861 as a means of financing the Civil War. The tax rates were decreased after the war and the income tax was allowed to expire in 1872. The concept of an income tax was legally quite controversial; so when a new income tax was levied in 1894, it was challenged in the courts, and in 1895 was found to be unconstitutional. It was not until 1913, with the ratification of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, that the first constitutionally sanctioned income tax was enacted (which, incidentally, was progressive).
That Schultz believes the United States has "always" had progressive taxation isn't surprising. Like many liberals, he traces the start of American history to the Progressive Era and the tax scheme that shares its name. The history preceding this era, including such pittances as the Constitution, is irrelevant to them.