We can do better than tax breaks for the mega rich: Neera Tanden

We can do better than tax breaks for the mega rich: Neera Tanden

We don’t need more tax breaks for the mega-rich. What we need are greater investments from governments that benefit everyones, writes Neera Tanden, the President and CEO of the Centre for American Progress, who will be addressing the Labor International conference A Progressive Labor Agenda: Tackling Inequality in Sydney this Saturday. 

One of the fundamental principles of all progressive movements — no matter the country where they are found — is to expand economic opportunity on behalf of every person who is struggling and striving.

As progressives, we know that this isn’t just the moral thing to do; we understand that economic growth is more robust when the economy grows for everyone.

Today, the need for progressives to fulfill this fundamental principle may be more important than at any other point in modern history.

Income inequality has increased in nearly every part of the international community over the past four decades. And unfortunately, too many working families in Australia have become swept up in this trend.

According to the International Monetary Fund, over the last 30 years, Australia has experienced one of fastest rising rates of income inequality in the world.

In the United States, the richest households now own more of our nation’s wealth than at any other moment in the last 50 years. Yet, despite the unambiguous evidence of such profound economic injustice, some American politicians are determined to widen the divide between the haves and the have nots.

President Donald Trump and his allies in Congress have recently passed a radical new law that further stacks the deck in favor of the millionaire class by enacting permanent tax cuts for corporations. In the year 2027, more than 80 percent of the tax breaks contained in their plan will wind up in the pockets of our nation’s top one percent. Meanwhile, by that same point in time, over 90 million working- and middle-class families would actually see an increase in their taxes — including more than 28 million households who earn between $20,000 and $50,000 per year (or between roughly A$25,000 and A$63,000).

Donald Trump has alleged that drastically slashing taxes for billionaires and big corporations will spark growth for those families farther down the social ladder. But we’ve seen over and over again that these promises will come up empty. In fact, one of the main architects of the tax agenda put forth by former President Ronald Reagan — perhaps America’s foremost proponent of trickle-down economics — has admitted that such claims are simply a myth.

The truth is that the policies backed by the Donald Trumps of the world are nothing except a flimsy veneer designed to mask their real intention: continuing to concentrate economic power within the closed grip of a select few elites — at the expense of everyone else. They envision an America where wealth keeps moving up the social ladder from the middle class to the rich.

While conservative leader Paul Ryan has boasted that his party’s new tax law will help families pay for their membership fees at Costco (a giant superstore retailer) by saving them $1.50 per week, millions of Americans are worried about much greater issues. And to make matters even worse, Ryan and President Trump plan to pay for their massive tax cuts for the wealthy — and the $1.45 trillion hole they will blow into our federal deficit — by drastically reducing public spending on critical social services.

The American people don’t need trickle-down policies that put the interests of CEOs and multinational conglomerates before those of middle-class families. What they need are greater direct investments from our government that will help more students get a decent education, allow more folks to secure health care, and guarantee that every person who’s willing to work can find a job with dignity. These kinds of investments will help our country to compete and thrive in today’s 21st century global economy. That’s true for people in the United States — and those in every corner of the world.

I hope that progressives in Australia will learn from the misguided policies of Donald Trump, and embrace instead a bold agenda that focuses on generating wealth and meaningful economic opportunity for the middle class — not just the top one percent.

Fortunately, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has already set forth a compelling vision for achieving these very goals. The initiatives at the heart of his platform — from raising the minimum wage to strengthening the bargaining power of unions and ending the gender pay gap — are dynamic ideas that help advance the central tenets of progressivism. What’s more, the Labor Party’s goals for fostering renewable technologies and achieving zero net pollution are the kind daring, forward-thinking proposals that every country will need to succeed in the future.

It is time for progressives around the world to join forces in rebalancing our economies and providing every working and middle-class family with a fair chance at securing a better tomorrow. I promise that progressives in the United States will do everything we can to hold up our end of the bargain — and I know that progressives in Australia will do their part as well.

Stay Smart! Get Savvy!

Get Women's Agenda in your inbox