Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How to Build a Progressive Tea Party

US Uncut The Nation, How to Build a Progressive Tea Party, by Johann Hari:

Imagine a parallel universe where the Great Crash of 2008 was followed by a Tea Party of a very different kind. Enraged citizens gather in every city, week after week—to demand the government finally regulate the behavior of corporations and the superrich, and force them to start paying taxes. ... As people see their fellow citizens acting in self-defense, these tax-the-rich protests spread to even the most conservative parts of the country. ...

Instead of the fake populism of the Tea Party, there is a movement based on real populism. It shows that there is an alternative to making the poor and the middle class pay for a crisis caused by the rich. It shifts the national conversation. Instead of letting the government cut our services and increase our taxes, the people demand that it cut the endless and lavish aid for the rich and make them pay the massive sums they dodge in taxes.

This may sound like a fantasy—but it has all happened. The name of this parallel universe is Britain. ...

American citizens should ask themselves: I work hard and pay my taxes, so why don’t the richest people and the corporations? Why should I pick up the entire tab for keeping the nation running? Why should the people who can afford the most pay the least? If you’re happy with that situation, you can stay at home and leave the protesting to the Tea Party. For the rest, there’s an alternative. For too long, progressive Americans have been lulled into inactivity by Obama’s soaring promises, which come to little. As writer Rebecca Solnit says, “Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky…. Hope is an ax you break down doors with in an emergency.” UK Uncut has just shown Americans how to express real hope—and build a left-wing Tea Party.

US Uncut:

Enjoying record profits and taxpayer-funded bailouts as the economy slowly recovers from a financial crisis, nearly two-thirds of US corporations don't pay any income taxes, instead opting to abuse tax loopholes and offshore tax havens. According to this study from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, 83 of the top 100 publicly traded corporations that operate in the US exploit corporate tax havens. Since 2009, America’s most profitable companies such as ExxonMobil, General Electric, Bank of America and Citigroup all paid a grand total of $0 in federal income taxes to Uncle Sam. Tax havens alone account for up to $1 trillion in tax revenue lost every decade, money that could be invested in K-12 education, colleges, public health, job creation and hundreds of other worthy public programs.

If we pay our taxes, why don’t they? If corporations profit here, shouldn't they pay here?

It’s time for ordinary Americans to fight back and demand an end to the corporate tax avoidance. Join US Uncut and together let's make corporate tax avoiders pay.

(Hat Tip: Jeremy Bearer-Friend.)

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Corporations don't really pay taxes, they just collect and remit them on behalf of others. That's how economists and the CBO see it, anyway.

Posted by: Guy in the Veal Calf Office | Mar 2, 2011 6:13:54 PM

"The myth that the so called "Tea Party" is a leaderless "grass roots" movement is almost as silly as the myth of the "liberal media"."

I grew up in a very liberal state and family. At one point I remember thinking - "Why can't Republicans see themselves as evil?" ;) Life has changed me a great deal since then. I never saw the liberal media bias until I found myself general agreement with more conservative thinkers. (Just for the record, I don't watch *any* network news - no Fox, CNN, or PBS. It's entirely online reading, so if you are looking for someone to blame for my change of heart, you'll need to blame my struggles to understand the world.)

You may need to trust with whom you disagree but is very clear from my point of view that journalists in the MSM as a whole lean left. People with whom they disagree tend to have every error, however minor, jumped on. (It's newsworthy when the "evil" guy makes mistakes!!) People on their "side" tend to get a much freer pass to make mistakes. (Oh, common on, we all make mistakes.)

For instance when Bush was in power, it seemed like every 30 seconds we heard about the evils of Guantanamo Bay. Obamha (to my knowledge, please correct if wrong) has not actually shut it down yet. So why is it not newsworthy now??? Hmmm...

Truthfully, I'm okay that those biases exist because we all have them. Our common humanity says we must have a framework in which to process information. What drives me crazy is though, is the assertion of objectivity. No human gets that. They can try for fairness as much as possible (and that is a worthy goal.)

And it's pretty obvious to me, given this writer's biases that he completely does not understand nor is willing to give the American Tea Party movement a fair shake. As usual, there is the "Why don't they care about [random left leaning issue]?" (I do care but I'm much more focused on personal freedoms/longevity of the United States.) and "Europe does it better" (Sure they do - that's why all of these European Americans have been living here for generations.). As a speaker on the "evil, stupid" side, all of that gets pretty old, pretty fast. At least come up with some new reasons why I'm a stupid idiot. ;)

Posted by: Amy | Mar 2, 2011 4:22:42 PM

Lady M, Joe the Plumber isn't in a higher economic class, and I believe that most of the Tea Party participants agreed with him and were motivated, in part, by his exchange with Obama. But, I understand your point. It's just whatever one wants to believe fired up the Tea Party movement. I really do see it as grass roots. Also, I understand Sub-S corporations, which is why they should not be counted in a list of corportions that do not pay taxes.

George W, I was hollering when the last President refused to veto ridiculous spending bills. He may have been a Republican, but he was not a conservative. Also, I'm pretty mad that he signed a bill saying that I can't buy my incandescent light bulbs starting next year. How will my dimmer switches work?! There might have been a war or something in there, too.

Posted by: Woody | Mar 2, 2011 3:03:17 PM

It's going to be tough getting the people that don't pay any tax - close to 50% of the population - riled up. Good luck with the class warfare. I've been a TEA Party Coordinator since the beginning and I haven't received a dime from anyone but local citizens that also believe we live in the greatest country in the world and want to save it. Keep trying to divide us - we know the routine and it doesn't work anymore.

Posted by: Diane | Mar 2, 2011 2:55:58 PM

Woody: "Fake populism" refers not to the participants in the Tea Party movement, but to the idea that a populist movement is not generally one that seeks to improve the existing advantages of a higher economic class, but rather the position of lower economic classes, i.e. the "people." And subpart S corporations don't generally pay (federal) corporate taxes at the corporate level; that's one reason people use them, because they offer a single layer of taxation.

Posted by: The Lady M | Mar 2, 2011 9:49:34 AM

The myth that the so called "Tea Party" is a leaderless "grass roots" movement is almost as silly as the myth of the "liberal media". The so called Tea Party was and is funded by the same billionaires that funded the far right anti-Clinton groups in the 90's. It is fun to think otherwise but follow the money. They are aided and abetted by Murdoch and Fox "News". And they contain the usual suspects on the far right. They focus on government "debt" instead of why there is debt in the first place. Like the idea that people have been sold a bill of goods that they can have government services for free, just borrow. And complaining about the stimulus is like complaining about all of the water on the road after the fire was put out. They should have been hollering when the last administration was in office spending money like a drunken sailor and leaving the bank door open for their wall street friends to come and go as they pleased. The fact that they were not is quite telling. So quit blaming the fireman and look for the arsonists.

Posted by: George W | Mar 2, 2011 9:33:27 AM

This isn't a tough question. Banks, HF and the like can move money around easier than anyone or anything on earth. All the U.S./U.K/whoever has to do is impose higher taxes on anything (CG, Interest, etc.) and they will take there money else where. Is it unfortunate that banks can take their ball and go home while others can't? Yes, but thats how the world works.

Posted by: Big Bill | Mar 2, 2011 8:42:30 AM

The Nation: "Instead of the fake populism of the Tea Party, there is a movement based on real populism."

Still implying that the tea party is made up of "Astroturfers," huh? Did "The Nation" editors miss the 2010 mid-term elections?

Let's see if the left-wing version is "grass-roots" or if it's the real Astroturf. -- Liberals plan astroturf version of Tea Party town-halls

Democrats and unions are planning to stock town hall meetings with their people, to attack Republicans who voted for spending cuts.

I believe Democrats are operating under the assumption that American political life is roughly symmetrical -- which it isn't. The basic idea is to replicate the Tea Party summer of 2009, but the article shows that there are a few differences right from the outset.

First, this is an admittedly astroturfed movement, not like the grassroots and essentially leaderless Tea Party phenomenon of 2009. This time, the townhall rabble-rousing will be done by members of well-established organizations (unions, basically) who have been told by their leaders to show up. ....

But, don't counter their protests or be an enterprising businessman, or union goons will attack.

Oh, and don't believe their lying statistics, such as including Sub-S corporations in the number that do not pay corporate income taxes.

Posted by: Woody | Mar 2, 2011 6:46:35 AM

What a wonderful piece of satire. Thanks for the laugh!

Posted by: Todd | Mar 2, 2011 6:23:18 AM

I guess the only "real" populism is their populism. Anything else must obviously be a fake.

Posted by: Dr. K | Mar 2, 2011 5:17:34 AM