By Eric Leitzen
So Governor Walz has proposed some changes to the tax code, and in a surprising move for a DFLer that actually not too bad: raising taxes on the rich, lowering estate taxes so Mr. Moneybags may have to sell off his mansion before Junior gets to move in for free, and putting in capital gains taxes so all of those shady games the rich do with money will actually be held to some kind of rules instead of just running around in the shadows while the same bathtub full of billions of dollars sloshes back and forth above all of our heads. For those of us down here who don’t have trust funds or seven houses or cars that cost as much as a year’s pay or whatever other bizarre taste the rich have developed because they simply have too much money to be normal about it, we’re supposed to just keep working below that bathtub held up by popsicle sticks, and just hope that when it eventually comes crashing down (and it always does) we won’t be dead by the time it’s all over.
This plan from the Dems is better than nothing, but the problem is that it’s just that: one notch above zilch. In usual Democrat fashion, they know they have to do something, but they’re afraid to do enough. They’re afraid to go where they actually need to go, mostly because just like the GOP they have big money donors they need to please, so they don’t have that killer instinct. Ever since the 1980s the Dems have cozied up to money instead of the people, but they know they still have to at least look like they care about you and me, so they commit to half-measures like this one. It’s nice, but… it’s not enough.
Why is it not enough? Because not enough folks down here will feel it. It won’t have an impact on your day-to-day life, or mine. You won’t be able to see, plain and simple, the effects of these policies every day in your communities. You might see it from time to time, but overall we’ll still be in the same crummy situation: the rich have the power, and they use that power to make sure they get more and more while folks like you are working harder and harder for less. For 40 years now profits and productivity have gone up, but wages haven’t kept pace and our communities are suffering. Where did that money go instead? Into the pockets of a group of people who are richer than they have ever been before, almost disgustingly rich, even though you are the one doing the work to put that money into their pockets.
You worked hard, you earned it, but you didn’t get it. Essentially, you are owed 40 years worth of back pay, and it’s not ridiculous to ask to get your money back.
So why not try going big: double that tax bracket on the richest Minnesotan, the ones making over a million a year, to 20% of the million they made that year. That’s $200,000 that can go back to your pocket, your school, your road, your broadband internet, your local water quality, all while the poor little rich one gets to keep only $800,000 to dry their tears. Somehow, I think they’ll survive. Also, let’s tax the richest more so their kids can’t get a free ride on our dime: lower the estate tax to one million for the richies, so junior actually might have to get a job and see how it feels down here with the rest of us… but be sure to keep that five million exemption for small and local farmers, because farming is ridiculously expensive and we need to help your local farms (not the big corporate machines) and encourage new farmers to till the soil. We can support small towns, small businesses, and bring back the classic American way of living, but we can’t do it until we go big on taxing the rich because, after all, that’s your money and you deserve to have it back.
Eric Leitzen is a substitute teacher who currently lives on Main Street in Hokah.