MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Koch brothers' philosophy of the consolidation of wealth by the few is spreading like a cancer. Just look at how their hand-picked governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker - who received massive financial backing from the Kochs - is now being touted in the corporate media as a Republican contender for president in 2016.
Walker, who never graduated from college (leaving Marquette University in Milwaukee for mysterious reasons), has mercilessly attacked education in Wisconsin - starting with the teachers unions and recently extending to the University of Wisconsin.
On February 22, Kevin O'Marah wrote in a Forbes op-ed:
Gov. Scott Walker plans to cut $300M from the budget of the University of Wisconsin and, if he has his way, will alter its mission from a “search for truth” to “meeting the state’s workforce needs.” These steps are so fantastically at odds with what the business community, economy and state need from its public university system that no synonym for ‘stupid’ is too strong.
It should be no surprise then that the newly inaugurated governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner - a darling of the 1% - is metastasizing the Koch brothers' attack on an educated public. As blogger Lawrence Rafferty recently noted in a piece entitled, "Gov. Bruce Rauner Declares War on Higher Education and the Poor in Illinois":
I have to give Governor Bruce Rauner credit for not taking long to show his hand and publicly attack the Higher Education system in Illinois. It has only been a few weeks since he was inaugurated and he recently unveiled his budget. A budget plan that slashes over $200 million just from the University of Illinois alone.
In a February 20 informational email, David Hatch, who heads The People's Lobby in Illinois, wrote:
Two-thirds of corporations in Illinois pay $0 in state income tax, but Rauner won’t propose one cent of new corporate revenue. Instead, he plans to balance the budget with cruel and dangerous cuts, including:
Ending support for young adults aged 18-21 who grew up as wards of the state. Many of these youth will end up homeless or in prison - guaranteed.
Slashing support for public universities by 30%.
Gutting Medicaid coverage for people who would otherwise be uninsured.
Starving the public transit system that we rely upon to reduce congestion and carbon pollution and get to work.
Rauner's draconian proposals are an eerie echo of the Walker (i.e. Koch brothers) positions - and Rauner has wasted no time in stating his intentions, including a repeat of the Walker attack on public unions and pensions. Although Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is publicly denouncing Rauner's proposed cutbacks to the City of Chicago, there are reports that this weekend Rauner persuaded one of Emanuel's primary opponents to endorse Emanuel in the general election next month. Emanuel and Rauner are so close that the local media have taken to calling the duo "Rahm-Rauner."
The legacy of Citizens United and the unleashing of unrestricted money spent on television political campaign brainwashing is exemplified by another one of Rauner's plans to stifle higher education, as reported by The Chicago Sun-Times: "Rauner Budget Cuts Load Debt Onto Students' Backs."
Of course, there are other options for dramatically cutting the debt in Illinois. Foremost is raising taxes on the richest residents. The city of Chicago and its affluent suburbs contain a mini-Fort Knox of the 1%. Currently, Illinois has a regressive flat income tax for individuals, corporations and trusts and estates. Rich or working class, a person pays the same rate to the state.
A recent study by the Keystone Research Center proposes an alternative to the Walker-Rauner-Koch agenda: implement fair-share taxes on the wealthy to largely eliminate state deficits:
This report shows that states could generate large amounts of additional revenue to meet public needs by fixing inequities in state tax codes. The study shows that surging inequality has skewed huge amounts of income to the one percent, who pay far lower tax rates than the middle class, squeezing state budgets unnecessarily.
Taxing the top one percent at the same rate as the middle fifth of taxpayers would generate $68 billion in additional revenue, while taxing the top fifth at the same rates as the middle fifth would generate $128 billion.
Revenue lost because of rising inequality and regressive state tax codes has led states to impose years of unnecessary austerity—underfunding schools, cutting investments in higher education, and deferring maintenance of our aging infrastructure.
The analysis lays out tax increases that would hardly be a burden on the rich. As far as the wealthy, the suggested progressive taxes would be akin to pocket change. Add to that the imposition of higher - not lower - taxes on corporations, and public services might be able to be expanded instead of being cut.
As the Keystone Research Center concludes:
After 30 years of a middle-class squeeze, it’s time to restore balance through fairer taxation. Solving infrastructure deficits, restoring investments in education, community colleges and universities, and funding essential public services depend on it.
After all, the rich have enjoyed decades of tax cuts that have largely produced large state deficits. The largest redistribution of money - to the top asset holders and income earners in the US - needs to be reversed in order to enhance the well-being of our states and the country as a whole.
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