May 2012

From the Officers
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The War on Common Sense

"We're going to close some of the unproductive tax loopholes that allow millionaires to pay nothing while bus drivers pay 10 percent of their salary." Who said it? If you guessed President Obama or Nancy Pelosi, you're wrong. It was Ronald Reagan, speaking in support of the Tax Reform Act of 1986, a comprehensive bipartisan bill that simplified the tax code and shut down many of the shelters that allowed the richest Americans to get out of paying their fair share.

Even a tax-cutter like Reagan knew that it's wrong for an electrician or a teacher to pay more of their salary in taxes than a chief executive of a Fortune 500 company.

But despite the Republicans' continued rhetorical fealty to the former president's legacy, the Gipper would be on the outs with today's party leadership.

Last month, every single member of the Senate GOP caucus, with the lone exception of Maine Sen. Susan Collins, blocked tax reform legislation known as the "Buffett rule" from even coming to a vote. Named after billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who has noted that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, the bill would require that those making $1 million or more pay at least a 30 percent tax rate — still far below what the rich paid during the relatively prosperous Clinton years.

That's right. Tax rates on the top income earners are at historic lows, but the idea that the prosperous class — who are doing better now than before the 2008 financial meltdown — could kick in a little bit more to plug the deficit and invest in infrastructure and education is verboten among the GOP. Presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney says that rates on the top 1 percent should be even lower!

This is from a party whose dream budget includes slashing Social Security and dismantling Medicare as we know it, a party that has put everything from work force training and highway funding to educational programs like Head Start on the chopping block, a party that from 2000 to 2007 blew a $237 billion surplus left over from the Clinton administration on wasteful tax breaks for the rich — giveaways that have cost the federal government more than $1 trillion.

Even purportedly "moderate" GOP elected officials like Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown showed themselves more interested in appeasing Grover Norquist and his gang of anti-tax zealots than fixing the debt and creating jobs.

Admittedly, the Buffett rule is a drop in the bucket — estimated to bring in only $47 billion. But if the GOP can't even handle that, how can we expect them to work across the aisle on the bigger issues confronting our economy?

We've learned the hard way that tax cuts for those least in need don't create jobs, reduce the deficit or encourage economic growth. The GOP's near-fanatical faith in lessening the tax burden on the top 1 percent at the expense of everyone else has made it clear it isn't serious about any of those goals — a lesson I hope every IBEW member will take to the ballot box next November.


Also: Chilia: Who Is Behind Our Laws?

Edwin D. Hill
International President