Behind the smoke screen of the news cycle, there are several genuinely excellent pieces of legislation that remain more or less entirely shrouded from public view. The bills described below are among the more progressive efforts underway in our 112th Congress, with sponsors and co-sponsors representing both sides of the aisle. And they warrant far greater attention than they're getting. So why aren't they getting it?
The Fairness in Taxation Act [H.R.1124]
Sponsored by Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky and co-sponsored by twenty other Democratic House members, the Fairness in Taxation Act [FTA] would create additional tax brackets at the top of the income ladder, starting with $1 million and ending at $1 billion. As things stand, the highest tax bracket is set at $373,000, meaning the top twenty hedge fund managers with an average annual income of over $1 billion pay the same marginal tax rate as those who make 2,500 times less than they do. Why is such an abomination ("Obamanation"?) allowed to persist?
If enacted, FTA would raise federal tax revenue by more than $78.9 billion in 2011 alone, according to Citizens for Tax Justice. That would more than enough to cover the $61 billion dollars in GOP-proposed cuts to Pell grants, community health centers, high speed rail, Head Start, NIH funding, housing cuts and Title X family planning. So why even contemplate the cutting of these valuable programs so as to provide additional tax cuts to billionaires?! And why isn't this issue being talked about in the mainstream media?
"This isn't about punishment or revenge. It's about fairness," Schakowsky said in a recent press release. "It's about avoiding budget cuts that harm middle class families and those who aspire to it. We can choose to cut education, job creation and health care, or we can choose to ask those who can contribute more to do so." And according to a March 2011 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, the large majority of Americans agree with Schakowsky, choosing "a surtax on federal income taxes for people earning over one million dollars a year" as the most popular method of reducing the federal budget deficit.
The Shortening Hours and Retaining Employees (SHARE) Credit Act [H.R.4179]
Wouldn't it be nice to work fewer hours but still get paid the same salary? Some economists, like Paul Krugman and Dean Baker, are saying that it's not only possible, but that the country could create millions of jobs and add billions of dollars to the GDP by doing so.
Michigan Congressman John Conyers has taken up the initiative by sponsoring the SHARE Act, a job-creation program that offers a tax credit of up to $3,000 to employers who shorten workers' hours in the form of "paid sick days, paid family leave, shorter workweeks or longer vacations."