I have a sense of deja vu about the upcoming consideration of the debt ceiling and budget.
The last round of raising the debt ceiling had tens of millions of people on pins and needles while Republicans and Democrats played chicken.
A rerun of this scenario could be disastrous for a public still suffering from the Great Recession, an event that is ongoing for many. Sadly, a rerun is probable and we are likely to hear a “Grand Bargain” being touted, a compromise that would reduce the debt at the public’s expense.
For example, previous negotiations concentrated on the idea of cutting of benefits in Social Security and Medicare as a tradeoff for some relatively small tax increases.
It appears that the two major parties, especially Republicans, don’t realize that the public is angry about wealth and income inequality. These parties apparently don’t recognize that the Occupy Movement changed the discussion from debt reduction to economic inequality.
The latest data demonstrates the scope of inequality with 95 percent of gains in income from 2009 to 2012 going to those in the top 1 percent.
There is also greater realization that the rules of the game changed and are rigged to benefit those at the top of the economic ladder. For example, huge reduction in the top marginal tax rates and the decrease in the estate tax greatly benefited the wealthy while harming the public interest.
These changes have occurred partly due to the concentration of money that can be used to influence elections.
It is particularly frustrating that politicians are ignoring reasonable solutions to reduce the national debt without harming the public interest. This task could be accomplished through an emphasis on increasing public revenues.
Some ideas for increasing revenue include: No. 1, increase the top marginal tax rate to 70 percent on income over $1 million; No. 2, apply a small fee on stock market transactions; No. 3 stop attacking nations that are not a threat; No. 4, end the failed war on drugs; No. 5, eliminate corporate tax loopholes; and No. 6, remove the cap on the amount of earned income taxed for Social Security and include unearned income too.
It is unlikely that politicians will pursue these ideas, partly because they receive most of their campaign funds from people who would pay higher taxes. Unbridled capitalism is clearly a huge threat to democracy.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” column runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.