Spokesman and organizer for US Uncut
While sipping on an iced coffee and getting some work done in a Starbucks in the white, conservative, wealthy part of Connecticut, I kept hearing three old, white, conservative, wealthy Connecticut men carrying on about how the Senate doesn't work anymore because the Democrats haven't been able to pass a budget in three years. Unable to concentrate, I set my coffee down, turned to them, and said:
"The Senate doesn't work anymore because the Republicans will filibuster absolutely everything that isn't in lockstep with their plutocratic views."
The Starbucks got really quiet. One guy chided me about how "brainwashed" I was, and asked me how the Kool-Aid tasted. His friend, the more outspoken one, decided to engage.
"The Democrats control the Senate. And they haven't passed a budget in three years," he spat.
"Did you know the Republicans actually stopped the Buffett Rule from even coming to a vote? They wouldn't even allow debate on a bill that would make the top half of the top 1 percent pay the same tax rate as me and you," I said, feeling my blood start to run hot. "If you don't make a million dollars a year, the Republicans don't care about you. Unless you have a lobbyist. Do you have a lobbyist?"
The guy who chided me about drinking Kool-Aid stood up and walked back over to the counter and let his friend fend for himself.
"The Democrats still haven't passed a budget," he continued. "And any bill that comes out of the House just gets thrown to the side."
"That's because the House Republicans put in a clause to build the Keystone XL pipeline in every bill they pass, even if it's something like a resolution commending the kid who won the spelling bee," I retorted.
I felt the eyes of everyone in the Starbucks on me. So I went on the offensive.
"Why are you shilling for these guys, anyway? How many lobbyists do you have?" I asked.
"I don't have any lobbyists," he replied.
"Corporations don't pay taxes," he said predictably. "If corporate taxes go up, they raise the prices on their goods. The customers pay the corporate taxes."
"No, they don't," I said, laughing. "I'm a small business owner. I have revenue and costs. If my revenue and my costs zero out, then I pay zero taxes. If my revenue exceeds my costs, I pay taxes on those profits. The cost of my service is in no way affected by the taxes I pay. It's like Puff and Biggie said - 'Mo Money, Mo Problems.'"
The hip-hop reference was lost on the guy. "We definitely need to reform the tax code. You know, 47% of Americans don't pay any taxes at all," he said nauseatingly. "We need to make sure everybody pays something."
"You know 83% of the top 100 corporations didn't pay taxes for at least one year over a 7-year period?" I asked him. "The dollar in my pocket is a dollar more than Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and GE all paid in federal taxes since 2008, combined."
The guy's friends all got quiet, watching me with their noses turned up. I continued:
"And that 47% already pays a third of their income in sales, property, payroll and excise taxes. Now you want to tax those people more instead of make millionaires and big corporations pay the same tax rate we already do?"
"You're obviously too brainwashed for me to save," he said. "So I'll close with this: Your generation is already going to pay tens of thousands of dollars because of Obama's debt. And he's going to make the debt hit $20 trillion by 2020. That means we'll have to make cuts of $800 billion a year. Everyone with common sense knows we need to balance the budget with spending cuts and tax increases."
I didn't let him go.
"I totally agree with you. As far as spending cuts go, we can start with ending the wars and the F-35 program. That's $1.5 trillion that hasn't done a thing. Even John McCain says it's wasteful. That's a few hundred billion a year right there. And as far as the tax code is concerned, all you need to do is five things."
"Five things?" he scoffed. "It'll take a lot more than that."
"No, it won't," I said. "First thing - new tax bracket for households making over a million a year."
"That won't make a dent," the guy said.
"Let me finish. That's about $100 billion a year, every year. Next, you put in a 3-cent financial transaction tax on derivatives and other speculative trading. That's $1.5 trillion in ten years. Then you close excessive corporate tax loopholes, and make those guys pay what small businesses pay. That's another $155 billion a year. Then you progressively tax estates worth $5 million on up. Not even $3 million, just five. All that equals $4 trillion in ten years. Know what number five is?"
"Use all that new revenue we just gained to reverse all the budget cuts at the state level, and create a massive WPA-style jobs program to cut unemployment in half and fix all of our roads and bridges and schools and parks. And we'd still have a couple trillion left over to put towards the debt. But since most of that debt comes from tax cuts for billionaires and the wars, we won't even have a deficit."
The coffee shop was quiet. The guy's friend was still watching me from the counter.
"Look! I just fixed the economy and it only affected 0.1% of the population!"
The guy's friends left shortly after he did.
Maybe some folks might be critical of me for launching into a sensitive political conversation on a Saturday afternoon at a coffee shop. But the only way to get the GOP (Guardians Of Plutocracy) out of office is to vilify them in public and shame their supporters. It isn't about Republican vs. Democrat anymore. It's about if somebody's end goals and policies are geared towards helping the top 0.1%, or everyone else. We shouldn't be afraid to call people out when we hear them shill for Plutocrats.
And I guarantee you if those guys see me in public again, they'll shift the conversation toward sports.
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