Tuesday, September 19, 2017 -
Print Edition

States redistribute the wealth

IN 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama was lambasted for supposedly endorsing policies of wealth redistribution. The right feared that under an Obama presidency, Washington would use federal power to take money from some Americans and give it to others. Yet, only a few years later, the most explicit examples of such redistribution are happening in the states, and often at the urging of Republicans.

The most illustrative example began in 2012, when Kansas’ Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed a landmark bill that delivered big tax cuts to high-income earners and businesses. Less than two years after that tax cut, the state’s income tax revenues plummeted by a quarter-billion dollars — and now Brownback is pushing to use money for public employees’ pensions to cover the state’s ensuing budget shortfalls.

Brownback’s proposal: Slash the state’s required pension contribution by $40 million to balance the state budget, even though Kansas already has one of the worst-funded pension systems in the nation.

Brownback defended his proposal to take money from middle-class state workers and use it to finance his tax cuts for the wealthy. Brownback is not alone.

He joins fellow Republican Gov. Chris Christie in coupling large tax breaks with cuts to actuarially required pension payments.

In New Jersey, Christie slashed required pension payments while signing legislation expanding tax credits to corporations, and doling out a record amount of taxpayer subsidies to businesses.

Many of those subsidies have flowed to firms whose executives have made campaign contributions to Republican political organizations.

THE OBVIOUS question raised by these episodes is: Where is the outrage?

These attempts to use workers’ money to finance massive giveaways to the rich have generated little media coverage or political opposition — and certainly less than the full-fledged frenzy that took place when Obama made his “spread the wealth” comment a few years ago.

The tepid response to this  wealth transfer suggests that for all the angry rhetoric about redistribution you might hear on talk radio, cable TV and in the halls of Congress, the political and media class is perfectly fine with redistribution — as long as the cash flows from the 99% to the 1%, and not the other way around.

Copyright © 2015 by the Intermountain Jewish News




Leave a Reply