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Making politicians answer to working families, not the 1%

November 30, 2011, 3:26 pm | Posted by Jennifer Butler

This week’s political drama is squarely focused on a proposal payroll tax cut, financed by a modest tax on millionaires. The proposed cut could help millions of working families, but entrenched right-wing interests in Washington aren’t having any of it. And on the heels of a fascinating New York Times article about how the richest Americans continue to take advantage of our tax system, avoiding paying their fair share, the debate is more charged than ever.

Earlier this month, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who subscribes to Ayn Rand’s anti-Christian ideology of selfishness, even told CNN that since we all “work for rich people” it won’t help the economy to “punish rich people.” But the wealthy aren’t exactly in need of a break. The federal income tax rate for the 400 wealthiest Americans fell from about 30 percent in 1995 to 18 percent in 2008. A recent report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found that a quarter of U.S. millionaires pay a smaller share of their income in federal taxes than many middle-class families.

Thankfully, there’s a new voice for middle-class families in Occupy Wall Street. While not long ago the Tea Party and conservative ideologues dominated national political debates over debt, taxes and government spending, Occupy Wall Street is shifting the debate towards jobs, inequality, and opportunity.

A groundbreaking recent statement from the Vatican calling for more robust regulation of the global financial sector and a financial transactions tax also made a potent moral argument for economic fairness and the common good. And it seems that top Democrats in Congress are sensing the shifting cultural and political winds made possible by this steady moral drumbeat and are focusing on jobs and income inequality as the leading issues heading into 2012.

We have a responsibility to hold politicians accountable when they ignore or distort basic economic reality, and to ensure that they put the needs of families before the desires of the wealthiest 1%.

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