(More) Taxation Without Representation
Our nation’s prehistory started with a clearly articulated complaint: No Taxation Without Representation. The idea is simple: We pay taxes, so we should have a voice in government.
But the fact is, today we the people DON’T have a voice in government.
Again, the concept is simple. In a democratic republic, we the people send representatives to Washington (and to our state and local governments as well) to represent our interests.
Do you see much of that happening lately? The Republicans have staged a legal coup in all three branches of our government, and no longer feel an obligation to represent their constituents. They are now freed up to work on behalf of their real employers — wealthy private donors and corporate lobbyists.
You know the story. The Orwellian “Citizen’s United” decision opened the funding floodgates. Starting in January 2010, Congress was now for sale. Got unlimited money to purchase public policy? Step right up, sir! We are open for business! Private interests snapped up Congress members like it was an IPO. The result?
Our Congress is owned.
George Carlin had it right back in 2005 when he talked about “America’s Owners.” In a brilliant monologue, he talked about the stranglehold of corporate control.
So sure, we can still call our Congress “representatives,” but they are not representing us, the voters. They are representing their Owners’ wishes.
We know that this is case (with 20 years of data behind it), but Republicans are taking it one step further. Quoting economist Umair Haque:
[On Friday night 12/1/17], “We saw a genuine authoritarian moment in American life. The first, at least, of our lifetimes: a key piece of legislation passed without deliberation, discussion, or even being able to read it, at all, in the dead of night.”
This key piece of legislation of course, is the Republican Tax Scam. The bill hit the Senate floor after sundown on a Friday night, and Democrats made a quick plea to defer a vote so that they could actually read the 500-page sweeping overhaul of American Life.
The request was denied, a vote was taken at 2 am, and under cover of night, it narrowly passed the Senate. A 51–49 simple majority. Despite what Mitch McConnell says, this is NOT regular order.
At this point in the story, I don’t want to hear any equivocating that “democrats do it too,” because every single senate democrat voted no on this tax bill.
See How Every Senator Voted on the Republican Tax Bill
The Senate voted 51-49 to pass the Republican tax overhaul bill. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee was the only…
Not to mention that every single senate democrat voted no on the Obamacare repeal effort as well.
Don’t fall prey to forced equivalency. Republicans are worse, and unfettered power is illuminating more proof of it each week. This is our new government in action — and it’s clear who they represent. We have been left out of the equation.
So, Why Are They Raising Our Taxes?
I won’t go into all the provisions of this Tax Scam, but the big picture plan is simple. Republicans voted to take our money away — yours and mine — and gift it to the wealthiest few. Those who need it the least, forcefully extracting more from the everyone else below.
If this isn’t the Story of America, I don’t know what is. It started with Europeans taking land from the indigenous population. Then it quickly moved to taking human rights against an entire race. Any amelioration was in gesture only — the system was left intact. I could do a roll call of injustice after injustice, but let me not get off track here.
This is not a “don’t raise my taxes” piece. I’d happily pay more taxes if it was applied in the right places:
- Healthcare guaranteed for all? I’ll pay more for that.
- Improved infrastructure? Where do I sign?
- Commitment to a social safety net for those who fall on hard times. Yes!
- Prevention-side help in the current opioid crisis. So obvious, it’s painful.
- Endowment for the arts, more support for artists. We need this more than ever.
- Guaranteed Minimum Income? Let’s try some experiments, and see if it works.
I could go on, and I’m sure that you could too. We as a nation have more than we could possibly ask for. Surely we can find something better to do with this extraordinary surplus than to pile wealth on top of more wealth?
Not for Republicans. They work for the Owners. And what the Owners want, the Owners get.
So, What Can We Do About It?
Without a seat at the table, we feel powerless. But we’re not.
There are two clear paths to make your voice heard and make them represent us:
1. VOTE Republicans out of office.
Sure, there are plenty of Democrats that suck too — but Republicans are worse. The problem is that Democrats don’t like to win elections. We have to help them. That means voting for a candidate that doesn’t represent every last pet issue of yours (or mine). It means that we grow up, hold our noses sometimes, and vote Democrat. In every single upcoming election—this year, in 2018, and especially in 2020, vote them out.
And here’s another idea. Let’s put more women in office. Sure, there are some awful women too, but at least you can expect some human empathy from them. For instance, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins both did the right thing and voted against ACA repeal. I don’t agree with them on much, but I called both of their offices to thank them personally for showing some grace and courage.
So. let’s put more women in office. If you run, you have my vote. If you don’t know where to start, Run for Something will help you with logistics and training on how to run a campaign. Or support Emily’s List, who is committed to electing progressive women candidates.
Let’s encourage more of the women we know to run for office. Tell them how you’d support them, make calls for them, knock on doors for them. They need to know that if it’s between a woman and a man, I’m voting for a woman. In any election, no matter how small the seat.
This is the easy part — we’ll get rid of as many of these “Representatives” as we can the next time they are up. We’ll replace them with women (and some men) who will actually represent us instead. Back to basics, and our Founding documents. It’s possible. Virginia wrote the playbook for that last month. Alabama just showed up big time this week to pull off a huge upset.
In other words, it’s possible. Voters are out there proving it.
2. VOTE with your dollars.
The tougher task is to get at the root of the problem: Corporate control of Congress. Lobbyists swarm the Capitol, along with those now-famous private donors like the “Black Gold Runs Deep” Koch Brothers, Robert “Give Us Our $6B Back” Mercer, and Sheldon “The House Always Wins” Adelson.
It’s difficult to hurt the Billionaires Bankrolling the GOP, but the lobbyists are somewhat easier to target. Many of them are hired by companies that sell consumer goods and services. Guess who pays for that stuff? Us!
So… what if we stopped paying for their stuff? That might make a difference, right?
This is where the real power lies.
If this Tax Scam passes, we are going to be paying our Owners a lot more. So let’s get our Rebate.
Let’s just take our money back from other sources, shall we? Let’s look at some soft targets, and see what we can do about it.
In a report entitled Swamped: More Than Half the Members of Washington’s Lobbying Corps Have Plunged Into the Tax Debate, the pharmaceutical and insurance industries led the pack, each hiring over 600 lobbyists to make sure that they get what they want out of this tax bill. But how about we get specific? How about we start punishing those companies who are buying up Congressional members?
- For instance, Verizon hired 97 lobbyists this year on this issue alone. Switch to AT&T or Sprint? Or kill Fios in favor of one of the other awful telecom companies? I know, they’re all bad — so how about another?
- Anheuser-Busch hired 90 lobbyists this year to make sure they got their tax breaks. There are great local beers everywhere across the country. There’s no need to have a Bud Light, Rolling Rock, Michelob, or even Shock Top. And ditch those AB-owned “craft” brewers such as Goose Island and Blue Point too.
- Walmart’s 57 lobbyists probably got some special provisions into the bill. I’ll bet there’s somewhere else you can do your holiday shopping this year…
- Nope, not Amazon. They’re even worse by this measure, with 64 lobbyists chasing your Congressperson around the halls of the Capitol. Yes, this one’s going to hurt. Cancel your Prime subscription? Ouch. Can you do without Red Oaks or Catastrophe?
- Speaking of entertainment, National Amusements put 29 lobbyists on the tax job. Hey, this is a good chance to support your local movie theater anyway — if your town even still has one.
- Don’t drive there in a Ford. They hired 33 lobbyists. Ask your Senator: “Did you actually buy that $100K Ford F-450 or was it (ahem) a gift?”
You get the idea. Find out who’s selling us out — and take your money back. Tell your friends to do the same.
They are not listening to us. This is the only way to get their attention.
The only vote that counts is with our dollars. Boycotting is easy (well, OK sometimes it’s hard), but the important component is to tell them why you’re doing it:
- “You propped up the plan to steal from working people to pile more wealth on those who don’t need it.”
- “I’m taking some of my money back — and giving it to one of your competitors.”
- “Realign your values with We the People, and maybe you can earn our business back.”
Pick your stance, pick your statement. Select your company. Make it hurt. Then tell them about why you’re doing it.
Money is everything to them. That’s the whole point of this Tax Scam. A money grab. Let’s just take some of it back. Fiscal punishment for the aggressors; ample reward for those businesses who contribute to the social good.
So when Trump and his loyalists say, “drain the swamp,” let’s take them up on that. Let’s drain it dry of all its corporate money. Let’s put real representatives in office. And let’s make it mostly women.
Let’s remind them whom they should be representing.
We the people still have a voice. We will be informed, and we will make choices. We will welcome you if you represent us. But we will speak with our dollars if you don’t. We will be represented.
Citations and Further Reading
Swamped: More Than Half the Members of Washington’s Lobbying Corps Have Plunged Into the Tax Debate, written by Taylor Lincoln, and published by the non-profit organization Public Citizen’s Congress Watch.
Analysis: More than 6,000 lobbyists have worked on taxes in 2017
Tax reform is taking over Washington, so much so that more than half of all registered lobbyists have disclosed working…
GE's Successful Effort to Change GOP Tax Bill Shows Lobbying Clout
General Electric lobbied successfully to change a measure in the Senate version of the Republican tax bill that could…
20 years of data reveals that Congress doesn't care what you think.
Study: Congress literally doesn't care what you think. But there's hope.
If you don’t want to read the full article about the 20 years of data, let’s cut right to their great explainer video that shows how our Congress flatly ignores their constituents’ wishes.
Or here’s another great example of zero regard for the public’s wishes.
Despite raising our voices to loudly declare that NET NEUTRALITY IS OUR RIGHT AS CITIZENS, three telecom-Owned Republican ideologues ignored us and proceeded anyway.