Wednesday, April 11, 2018
The Alternative to Alternative Facts
The alternative to alternative facts is, of course, real facts. So, in the interest of straight talk, let’s list a few facts.
1. Fact: Contrary to the alternative fact repeated often by the GOP, the United States is actually one of the most undertaxed developed countries on the planet. Among the 35 member countries of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), only four have lower taxes as a percentage of GDP than the US. Total tax revenue in the United States rings in at 26.0 percent of GDP. The average among OECD countries is 34.3 percent. I’ll do the math for you. That’s 32 percent higher than the US. The UK is rather low at 33.2 percent. Germany is at 37.6 percent. Norway, 38.0 percent. Sweden and Finland, 44.1 percent. France, 45.3 percent. Denmark, 45.9 percent. Of course, these countries provide health care for all citizens and provide a far better social safety net, even though the United States spends a far larger percentage of GDP on health care than these other countries.
2. Fact: The US national debt is just north of $21 trillion. This bothered the Republicans when Obama was president. They were so bothered, in fact, that they were preaching austerity at a time when we needed government stimulus to keep the economy afloat. Now, however, when we really ought to be reducing the debt, Republicans don’t seem to care about the debt.
3. Fact: The Republican tax “reform” is estimated to increase the debt by $1.5 trillion over the next ten years. The lion’s share of this tax cut will go to corporations and to the wealthy.
4. Fact: The wealthy do not need more money. In 1989, the top 10 percent owned 20 percent of the nation’s wealth. In 2013, their share had risen to 51 percent. They did not need a tax cut. If they keep raking in an increasing share of income, wealth will soon be so skewed that the consumer classes will be unable to purchase all the products corporations need to sell in order to stay afloat, and a rapidly increasing number of Americans will be dependent on government to survive.
5. Fact: 12.7 percent of US families live in poverty. That represents 43.1 million people. 41 million people struggle with hunger. This number will increase substantially as wealth migrates to the top.
6. Fact: 35 percent of all adults in the US have only several hundred dollars in their savings accounts, and 34 percent have zero savings. Even older workers who can see retirement on the horizon aren’t prepared for it. The median savings for families whose wage earners are between 50 and 55 years old is only $8,000. For those who are between 56 and 61, it’s $17,000. In case you hadn’t noticed, that’s not enough to live a year on. Most of these people will be almost entirely dependent on Social Security.
7. Fact: Roughly 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 today. On average, that same number will turn 65 every day until the Baby Boom generation is all over 65. An increasing percentage of the population will be over 65 through 2050 because people are living longer and the birthrate has dropped. This will put an increasing strain on Social Security and Medicare.
8. Fact: Our infrastructure is crumbling. Almost 10 percent of our 612,000 bridges need to be replaced or repaired. Our airports are outdated and inadequate. Our highways need maintenance, as do our city streets, our water and sewer systems, and our electrical grid. We can’t pay for this the way we paid for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (with tax cuts).
Conclusion: We cannot continue funneling money to the top, undertaxing the wealthy and corporations, building up a massive federal debt, and cutting aid to the poor, the elderly, and the disabled. The notion that taxes are evil is simple propaganda. Taxes are how we pay for the things we expect government to do for us.
And let’s deep-six one other alternative fact. Money that goes to government through taxation does not simply disappear into a black hole, as conservatives sometimes insinuate. It is infused back into the economy, which is a much more efficient method of paying for what we need than borrowing that money.