4. Rein in government giveaways to corporations and the top 1 percent.
Besides ultra-low tax rates for the wealthiest, our tax code is, in many ways, upside down. Many of the largest tax breaks disproportionately benefit the wealthy. Whether the purpose is to promote homeownership, retirement savings, or investment, many of our $1 trillion in annual tax breaks provide the largest subsidy to those who need them the least.
This happens because deductions and exclusions are more valuable to those in higher tax brackets. Congress should make the upside-down subsidies right side up—making the benefits of special tax provisions the same for all. That’s only fair.
The tax code is also stuffed with about $130 billion in annual tax expenditures benefiting businesses or industries. Many of these are indefensible giveaways, such as low taxes for hedge fund managers, subsidies for corporate jet owners, and drilling incentives for oil companies already enjoying record profits.
Congress should scrub the tax code of these ineffective corporate subsidies.
5. Require Wall Street to contribute to the middle-class recovery.
It’s time for Wall Street to provide some relief to the taxpayers who funded their bailouts two years ago.
That’s why the United States should join other countries in imposing a very small tax on trades of stocks, bonds, derivatives, and other Wall Street products. Trillions of dollars in financial instruments are traded every year, so even a tiny tax could raise $50 billion a year in the United States alone.
A miniscule transaction tax wouldn’t be felt by ordinary people who “buy and hold” stocks as ordinary investments, but it could curb the kind of high-frequency robo-trading that causes market volatility and exacerbates bubbles.
France and Germany are spearheading a European push for an international financial transactions tax, which Microsoft founder Bill Gates recently came out in support of. The United States should be leading the effort. An international tax will make evasion much harder for an industry where the nature and location of a transaction is often just a matter of changing the books.
To its credit, the Obama administration has proposed a 10-year bank tax called the Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee to be paid only by firms with more than $50 billion in assets.
Whatever the mechanism, firms at the center of the financial crisis that caused the Great Recession should also be at the center of the middle-class recovery Americans are still waiting for.
6. Regulate banks and financial firms to protect consumers.
The animating sentiment that fuels the protests of the 99 percent is this: After the financial crisis, big banks got bailed out but the middle class got left behind. And we’re still hurting.
That’s why the administration proposed and Congress created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: a powerful watchdog looking out for ordinary people in their interactions with big banks and other sellers of mortgages, credit cards, and student loans—financial products that weigh heavily today on the 99 percent.
But now conservatives in Congress are blocking a confirmation vote for the CFPB’s first director (which it needs to assume its full authority), and fighting to weaken its mandate to take on powerful financial interests.
That’s an outrage. The economic hardships facing the 99 percent are a constant reminder of the need for a strong cop watching out for consumer interests.
Congress should immediately schedule a confirmation vote and support the CFPB. It should also resist efforts to weaken other new Wall Street regulations in the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill.
Read more: banks, bush-tax-cuts, center for american progress, consumer rights, corporations, foreclosure, labor unions, middle class, occupy wall street, one percent, student debt, tax cuts, tax cuts for the wealthy, taxes, unemployment, unions, universities, wage inequality, wages, wall street
Photo from DoctorTongs via flickr
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