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Thom Hartmann: Nobles Need Not Pay Taxes

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Excerpted from Thom Hartmann's newest book, Screwed; The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class -- And What We Can Do About It

A cornerstone of the cons' movement to consolidate power in the hands of a wealthy corporate elite is the campaign to end corporate income taxes altogether-- and leave the rest of us to pick up the entire tab for corporate use of our institutions and corporation despoliation of our commons.

Corporations are taxed because they use public services; they are therefore expected to help pay for them-- sort of like the example in chapter 2 of the Hershey bar in the 7-Eleven store.

Corporations make use of a workforce educated in public schools that are paid for with tax dollars. They use roads and highways paid for with tax dollars. They use water, sewer, power, and communications rights of way paid for and maintained with taxes. They demand the same protection from fire and police departments as everybody else, and they enjoy the benefits of national sovereignty and the stability provided by the military and institutions like the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the same as all residents of democratic nations.

In fact, corporations are heavier users of taxpayer-provided services and institutions than are average citizens. Taxes pay for our court systems, which are most heavily used by corporations to enforce contracts. Taxes pay for our Treasury Department and other government institutions that maintain a stable currency essential to corporate activity. Taxes pay for our regulation of corporate activity, from ensuring safety in the workplace and a pure food and drug supply to limiting toxic emissions in our air and water.

Under George W. Bush, the burden of cleaning up toxic wastes produced by corporate activity has largely shifted from the original polluter-funded Superfund and other programs to taxpayer-funded cleanups (as he did in Texas as governor there before becoming president).

Every year millions of cases of cancer, emphysema, neurological disorders, and other conditions caused by corporate pollution-- cases like my dad's-- are paid for in whole or in part by government-funded programs. From Medicare and Medicaid to government subsidies of hospitals, universities, and research institutions, these programs are funded by tax dollars through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Most drugs marketed in the United States were first discovered by taxpayer-funded research at universities.

Because it's well understood that corporations use our tax-funded institutions at least as heavily as citizens do, they've traditionally been taxed at similar rates. For example, the top corporate tax rate in the United States was 48 percent during the Carter administration, down from a peak of 53 percent during the Eisenhower and Kennedy years.

Today it stands at 35 percent despite a May 2001 suggestion by Bush administration Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill that there should be no corporate income tax whatsoever. This was the opening salvo in a very real war to have working people bear all the costs of the commons and of governance while the wealthy corporate elite derive most of its benefits.

In a feudal state, historian Ernest Bloch reminds us, "The nobles need not pay taxes."
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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. 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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