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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/17/20

How billionaires' short-term greed could upend America and destroy their own wealth

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The coronavirus crisis is highlighting how dysfunctional states run by Republicans are. This is a feature of GOP rule, not a bug.

For the past 40-plus years, a group of "conservative" billionaires have been working as hard as they can to reshape our federal government from one that provides education, health care, housing, food and other necessities into one that does nothing more than run the military and fight wars.

In the process, "blue states" can continue to flower and prosper, while "red states" go back to their pre-Civil War poverty and local oligarchies. All it'll take is a small tweak to our federal system, something that the billionaires have been pushing for since the 1970s.

First, end the federal income tax, as David Koch called for when he ran for vice president in 1980. Most billionaires don't pay much (if anything) into it anyway; as economists have documented and the New York Times (among others) reported, in 2019 billionaires paid a lower federal tax rate than anybody-including the working poor, the bottom 50 percent of American households.The federal income tax has become a massive annual transfer of wealth from blue states to red states. Just let it go, so the states can raise their own taxes to take care of their citizens without having to subsidize other states.

"Taker" Mississippi, for example, gets about 40 percent of its total budget in federal funds taken from "maker" blue states, with fully 24 percent of its residents being fed via the federal food stamp program (compared to 10 percent of Californians). If they're so gung-ho about "states' rights" when it comes to denying citizens the right to vote or to get a safe abortion, or putting limits on carrying assault weapons, why not give them the "right" to pay for their own social programs?

Education, housing, food stamps, health care, and pretty much every other program funded by the income tax (Social Security has its own separate tax and fund) can be picked up by the states. Ending the federal income tax (and leaving the federal government with tariffs and fees to pay for the military, as we did from the founding of the republic up until World War I) would give the states lots of elbow room.

Take away the 30 percent or 40 percent (for the top income brackets; or, before Reagan, even 91 percent to 70 percent on a progressive sliding scale) federal tax rate, and the states can then raise their state income taxes to those levels. Blue states, no longer having to subsidize red states via the federal government, can easily pick up all the social safety net costs and have enough money left over to build a multi-state world-class coronavirus-resistant nonprofit hospital system.

To make things easier, the blue states need to enter into a compact like several New England and Mid-Atlantic states did to control greenhouse gases, a move emulated by California, Oregon and Washington.

For a project this large, though (particularly if it includes a single-payer health care system), it'll take all of the blue states: an interstate compact including the New England and Mid-Atlantic states, the West Coast states, and the few remaining blue states in the Midwest like Illinois and Minnesota. And with their "pact" to decide when and how to open their states after the coronavirus crisis ends, numerous blue states have already laid the foundation for exactly this.

America's wealthiest billionaires, including Walmart's Walton family, the Kochs, and Jeff Bezos, have famously worked to gut the right of workers to form unions; fine, let them have their federal "right to work for less" law. But don't forbid the blue states from enforcing union rights; they're the key to the prosperous middle class America had between the 1940s and Reagan's election in 1980, and blue states are all about prosperity.

When the red states start to collapse or see a mass exodus of their people to blue states, let them join the compact but, as with the European Union, only if they agree to the terms of the Blue State Compact: higher taxes and fully funded health, education and welfare programs, as well as high-functioning infrastructure to support modern business activity.

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Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle (more...)
 

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