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9 Ideas for Congress to Address the 99 Percent

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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.

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Photo from DoctorTongs via flickr

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1:16PM PST on Nov 30, 2011

Here's my declaration of the 99%, which you can feel free to post/share/whatever.

12:05PM PST on Nov 30, 2011

Here's my declaration of the 99%, which you can feel free to post/share/whatever.

7:29PM PST on Nov 27, 2011

For Immediate Attention: Legalizing the right to "blow away" anyone!

6:37PM PST on Nov 27, 2011

Businesses shipped our jobs overseas so they wouldn't have to pay American workers good wages, unionized or no. Products are now made by cheap/slave labor. Businesses take said products, selling them to Americans. Some products are over-priced, some aren't: win-win for big business. Hey, bring back the Fairness Doctrine.

9:55AM PST on Nov 27, 2011

Don't forget the Koch's.

9:54AM PST on Nov 27, 2011

Thanks to the OWS for bringing this to the forefront. We, the 99% have seen this coming for a long time. I have been upset about the widening gap between the rich and everyone else. The lowering of wages and benefits for working people.
Unfortunately going to the Congress and Senate to argue for more fairness in our system, and to do something about the shenanigans in the financial entities in our Country. They don't even hear us. Maybe they will hear the 99% when we get together to make our voices heard.

12:52AM PST on Nov 27, 2011

Thanks for the article.

6:48PM PST on Nov 26, 2011

Loved the idea of calling it the 99% because it prevents the 1% from trying to dismiss or radicalise us by calling us 'just another fringe minority'. We truly are the 99%.

6:45PM PST on Nov 26, 2011

Don't forget the Murdochs.

3:18PM PST on Nov 26, 2011

Doreen A. it's most likely the devil that owns these four families, because it certainly isn't humanity, or reason.

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