December 3, 2013

Letter: Unwitting tools?

— The t-e-a in tea party stands for “taxed enough already.” And if you are the average citizen this certainly is true.

But when you consider federal income taxes today as a percentage of GDP (gross domestic product) are about the same as they were in 1952, something seems wrong. Ask yourself if it’s possible that the Koch brothers, through Freedom Partners-funded tea party events, did so out of pure kindness. The truth is the tea party has just played into the hands of the rich. The Kochs are for lower individual and corporate taxes and restricted environmental laws (remember West, Texas). Who stands to win the most — you or the Kochs’ industries?

A study by USA Today found that 57 companies listed on the Standard & Poor’s 500 pay an effective federal income tax rate of zero percent. Goldman Sachs’ David Kostin points out that less than 10 percent of Standard & Poor’s 500 firms actually pay the statutory rate (39 percent). Lowering capital gains to 15 percent was said to boost the economy and create jobs. An analysis by economist Leonard Burman found no apparent relationship between low capital gains taxes and high economic growth. The top 1 percent of households own 57.5 percent of corporate wealth — dividends and capital gains. The top 5 percent own 82 percent of all stocks.

The easiest way to wealth is to have the government give it to you. The farm bill is a good example. According to the Environmental Working Group, on the Forbes 400 some 50 billionaires, or 1 percent of farms (commercial), averaged $1.5 million each in traditional farm subsidies between 1995-2012. Texas got $27.3 billion. Republicans Stephen Fincher and Doug LaMalfa both recently cited the Bible to argue that while Christians have the responsibility to feed the poor, the federal government does not. Agricultural Department records show they have received $3 and $5 million in subsidies.

A Chattanooga Times Free Press report on a Tennessee state audit said the state could not prove that incentives are creating the jobs they promised. Is Georgia getting our money’s worth? Kia got $419.4 million. Georgia’s governments give $1.4 billion in tax incentives away each year (a tax of $144 per person). Companies create jobs but the taxpayers are stuck paying for roads, land and infrastructure while there seems little oversight into the number of jobs and taxes generated. Do the tea party’s misdirected tax strategies make them unwitting “tools” of big business?

David Bean