Northern California Carpenters Political Action
We can't be afraid to be fair
Daniel M. Curtin, Director California Conference of Carpenters
Sometimes you just have to talk about numbers to understand a problem. Bear with me on this. In 2010, household incomes in America increased by $288 billion. That's a lot of money. If it were equally divided among Americans, the average family of four would have seen their incomes rise by slightly less than $4,000. That would be nice for your average family, but that's not exactly how it worked. Actually, that's not even close to how it worked.
What really happened in very rough numbers is that around 30,000 Americans received about $100 billion of that increase—that is, about $3 million each. Approximately 3 million Americans received about $120 billion, around $40,000 each. The rest of us, around 300 million Americans, 99 percent of the country, received about $20 billion of the increase, less than $80 dollars each. In fact, most of us received none of that increased income, and many saw their incomes decline.
The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, about 3 million people, received 93 percent, $268 billion, of the increased income. The rest of us scratched for what was left. That's how it really worked.
At the same time, over the last five decades tax rates for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans have dropped like a stone while middle class workers, like carpenters, have seen their share of taxes increase. Warren Buffett, one of America's wealthiest men, recently pointed out that he pays taxes at a lower rate than his secretary.
Political democracy and individual liberty is gravely threatened by the growing economic dictatorship in this country. The wealthiest country in the world is deciding on a daily basis to concentrate that wealth in fewer and fewer hands while claiming it can't afford to provide basic services to its people.
In California, perhaps the wealthiest society in the history of civilization, we face continuing budget deficits and government cutbacks. Where we once led the nation and the world in education, transportation, water infrastructure and other basic services to our people and our industries, we now fail to even maintain what we have.
To allow our schools, roads, water and energy infrastructure to continue to crumble before our eyes will be the shame of our generation. This can and must be fixed.
Of course we must use our tax dollars wisely and pursue a reform agenda, but we must not allow that to be used as an excuse to starve government by those who simply are not willing to pay their fair share for the benefits they enjoy. The rich are doing just fine, the rest of us are struggling to get by.
Devastating cuts to education and health services are already threatening the future of our children and our elderly. To avoid further crippling cuts to our schools, community colleges, universities, roads, water supply and sewage systems, safety nets in health and shelter, public safety and so on, there must be more revenue from those who can afford to pay.
Governor Brown is one of the few leaders in our country who is pushing back. He is proposing a modest but fair tax increase for those who can afford it, basically the millionaires. It will be on the November ballot and will prevent more than $5 billion in future education cuts. The rich won't feel it if it passes, but rest assured, working families that are struggling to get by will feel the pain if it fails.