Confronting the Anti-Tax Hollow Men

That's how revolutions end -- not with a bang, but with a whimper. And that goes for the Republicans' 30-year anti-tax revolution.
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That's how revolutions end - not with a bang, but with a whimper. And that goes for the Republicans' 30-year anti-tax revolution. As my new nationally syndicated column today shows, the public is finally turning away from the me-first economic darwinism of the anti-tax movement, and at least some Democrats are getting out in front of the fight to change the tax debate for the better.

Now, I realize I wrote this in a week where we saw Washington Democrats hoist the white flag of surrender on the issue of making billionaire hedge fund managers pay the same tax rates as the people who shine their expensive shoes. I also realize that the example I cite in the piece - the war tax proposal by Rep. David Obey (D-WI) - has been predictably attacked by all sides in Washington. But I wrote this column in spite of all this for a reason: To remind everyone of the conflict brewing on all of these issues of economic power and inequality - the conflict between the Money Party and the People Party that I write a lot about, whether on trade, taxes, health care or anything else. This column is designed to remind everyone that, in fact, this is not a one-sided fight, that We The People have real allies in municipal governments, state legislatures and yes, even in the federal government.

Make no mistake about it: These allies have not changed the tax debate by themselves. The media likes to portray politics as a top-down sport, where the Grand Titans of Washington hand down edicts that Change the Country. But anyone who has actually worked a day on a political campaign or in a legislative body (which, of course, is very few of the reporters and pundits who purport to be political experts) understands that the acts of politicians are for the most part reflections of effective pressure. Usually that pressure is best honed by Big Money and corporate lobbyists, but every now and again - like in this new tax battle - it is administered by the public at large.

These allies are all courageous, but they are all smart politicians, too. They see both the public and personal benefits of having this fight. They see that good public policy makes good politics for them personally, and that they will ultimately benefit by spending political capital to reframe the tax debate on grounds that the broad public understands is moral.

I have no problem with politicians seeing personal opportunity in doing the right thing. In fact, the progressive movement should strive for this kind of dynamic on every issue. We saw it with Ned Lamont showing the Democratic Party that there were political benefits to taking a stand against the war. Now we're seeing it on the tax issue in a ground-up movement finally creeping into Washington. And so even as some Democrats keep pushing a new NAFTA expansion, even as other Democrats shy away from a tax fight and/or refuse to end the Iraq War - even, in short, as the Money Party does its best to crush the People Party - the People Party is making progress.

Go read the whole column here and let me know what you think. And if you'd like to see my column regularly in your local paper, use this directory to find the contact info for your local editorial page editors. Get get in touch with them and point them to my Creators Syndicate site.

Cross-posted from Working Assets

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