Tax the rich, find alternatives to capitalism

Guest Column


Published: Thursday, April 5, 2012

There is nothing more indicative of the fact that the play of humanity is a tragicomedy than when a worker can, in one gesture, turn out their empty pockets to the International Revenue Service while declaring with all sincerity that increasing taxes on the rich is, by its very nature, the punishment of success.

The crescendo of free market and doomsday prophecies has subsided and in its place we hear a new cry: Tax the rich! Finally awoken from their slumber, the people are just now recalling that the slanderous assault on so-called “socialism” was never a reality, but merely a nightmare. And how could we not? It was not three decades of harsh federal regulations that resulted in the global economic crisis, but the wholesale deregulation of risky, white collar gambling. It was not 30 years of overbearing taxes upon the wealthy that sucked dry the social and economic safety nets that provide us with stability, but tax evasion, cuts and fraud. Nor was it the bolstering of union power that crippled industry, but the outright massacre of organized labor.

One need only briefly examine the economic and political trajectory of the last three decades to come to an unwavering conclusion about the cause of the economic strife and political terror that threatens to suffocate us today.

Needless to say –– the residue of the McCarthy witch hunts and the astronomical effort put forth to smear and slander any and all elements of the Left continue to hamper our progress in encouraging a critical dialogue about capitalism and its alternatives. Luckily, recent events have helped us to begin to overcome these barriers –– from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, we find that even our greatest detractors feel the need to defend their sacred calf, whereas in the past its sanctity was supposedly self-evident.

While the Thatchers and Reagans of the world see this new popular discourse as a means of defending an obviously failing system, the mere existence of such a discourse betrays the frailty of capitalism.

Why must we tax the rich? Even if we set Marx aside and examine the current economic and political climate from a more moderate perspective, the reasons are clear: A deteriorating economy, abysmal levels of unemployment, overwhelming personal and national debt, depreciating wages, and low demand make for a cocktail of serious problems that cannot be ignored and whose solutions necessarily require large sums of money.

That money must come from somewhere and the reasons themselves speak to why that money must come from the wealthy: We cannot squeeze blood from a stone. The middle class –– if one ever truly existed –– is no more and the working class has shouldered the entire burden of our global economic crisis.

Only one class profited from the crisis, and even those who took a blow (though one could hardly call it such, given their enormous wealth) want for nothing. Except, perhaps, another personal jet. The logic is clear: We need money. Who has the money? The ruling class.

If we want to go so far as to base our judgment on moral or ethical grounds, again the reasons are clear. The economic crisis was not, as some may say, the result of this-or-that action of this-or-that individual or firm. It was, instead, an historical process that unfolded year after year. The ingredients that mixed to produce such a horrid dish, however, all came from the same pantry. Who had the will and power to deregulate hazardous markets? Who had the will and power to push for tax cuts, evade taxes and commit tax fraud? Who had the will and power to effectively assault the unions?

Who actively engaged in criminal (or at the very least unethical) activities that ignited and compounded the global economic crisis? Finally, who had the will and power to demand taxpayer money in the form of a bailout, which was never seen nor heard from again? It was not the teachers nor the coal miners. It was the wealthy.

While the suits repeat the refrain “There is no alternative to capitalism” we respond, with great humor “There must be!” For if there is no alternative to the current economic system –– whatever that alternative may look like –– then humanity is most certainly doomed.

Jordan Fannin can be contacted at



Still waiting for ‘notch’ payment from Congress

Still waiting for ‘notch’ payment from Congress


By LaVona McCowan
Sunday, July 19, 2009
LaVona McCowan

For the last several years we seniors have been bombarded with huge mailings of paperwork to send to our congressmen and we’ve been told we needed to face the fact that we are “victims” of a Social Security mix-up.

“Notch” victims, a group of senior citizens born 1917 through 1926, supposedly receive up to an estimated $1,000 a year less in their Social Security benefits than people born before that date.

I’ve read various publications and have sent in my requested eligibility paperwork due to the fact that I was born in 1919, one of the years that the mix-up occurred. I have gotten tired of being told that we are “victims.” That’s not a nice name to label us.

In the meantime the people eligible to receive restitution of lost money all these years are gradually dying by the thousands per day.

I have always wanted a lump sum of $5,000 as a one-time payment. This amount would certainly ease the financial crunch for us elderly citizens.

We have lived through one depression, the Second World War, war-time economies, rationing and food stamps.

If the millionaire bank CEOs need to be given funds for their interests, certainly we elderly seniors should be bolstered in life with this lift to our own personal economy.

I’ve often thought I’d like to speak to President Obama to bring us “victims” to his attention and to discuss this issue with him.

LaVona McCowan lives in Rochester.

Editor’s note: McCowan, 90, said she is lucky because her deceased husband worked for the U.S. Forestry Service, and she receives his pension as well as Social Security. Being dependent just on Social Security to support her would be very difficult, said the former nurse.

McCowan said it seems as if the cost of everything keeps going up.

“As long as we have a war going on, taking so much of our economy out of the country, it’s not going to get any better. It used to be that war meant prosperity because everyone was working. But that’s not true, war is bleeding us all,” she said.

The “notch victim” controversy has been discussed for years but is baseless, according a number of reputable sources, and has been used by several groups in the past to solicit money from the elderly.

It is true that a mistake in a formula used to calculate Social Security cost-of-living increases for retirees born 1910-16 resulted in them getting paid more than the system could afford. This was corrected by Congress over a five-year transition plan, which created the so-called “notch” for those born afterward who received less. (The original 1917-21 time frame has been expanded by victim advocates over the years.)

Still, letters and e-mails continue to circulate soliciting signatures to sign up for a notch victim petition of Congress. Experts caution that recipients should never send these groups money in hopes of receiving a settlement.


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