Regressive Taxation

By Bill Becker

Bill BeckerAccording to the Tulare County website, “Tulare County is the second-leading producer of agricultural commodities in the United States, and its strategic location and valuable tax incentives make this area a desirable distribution point for many major corporations.”

On November 7, Tulare county residents will have an opportunity to provide another valuable tax incentive for “major corporations” to locate here: Measure R, the ½-cent sales tax designated for repair and improvement of Tulare County’s road network. I will vote ‘No’ on Measure R.

Perhaps unrealized by the Tulare County officials and managers who put it on the ballot, Measure R is simply another method of transferring wealth from the middle and lower economic classes to the already very rich. This fabulously successful transfer of wealth to the rich has been going on for many years now, as former — and now repentant — Republican Party strategist Kevin Phillips has made clear in several books since his 1991 blockbuster “The Politics of Rich and Poor: Wealth and the American Electorate in the Reagan Aftermath.” I simply do not want to participate.

An early appeal for the yet-to-be-named Measure R fairly screams: “We were supposed to receive $34 million in new funding for the next five years. Instead, we will get only $2 million.” Writing in “Wealth and our Commonwealth,” William Gates Sr. (father of Microsoft’s Bill Gates) gives at least one reason why Tulare and other rural California counties come up short at the revenue-sharing table: the passage of the federal Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001. Promoted by the super-wealthy and supported by millions of hard-working, but misinformed middle class Americans, this bill reduced California’s share of federal revenues by $1 billion in 2005. California’s own wealth-driven “tax relief” measures only make the shortfall worse.

True, the so-called “tax relief” bill of 2001 does give most American taxpayers a few extra bucks at the end of the year. But we can be sure that as more and more wealth is transferred to the already very rich, we will be called upon to impose more and more such regressive taxes as Measure R on ourselves. How else will we pay for fire stations, police departments, health centers and a host of other necessary local services? (Libraries, strictly speaking, are not necessary, so we can expect fewer of them to survive over the years.) Little by little, the very modest benefits of the 2001 bill that now accrue to middle class America will be eaten away. The “major corporations,” their owners, and their stockholders will of course be very grateful for these “tax incentives.” But not on my account.

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