No Representation Without Taxation–A Call To Action this July 4th!

There are many challenges ahead if we wish to transform our dysfunctional, unsustainable and unjust government and economy into ones that are fair, humane and functional. One starting point is, I believe, to rephrase, the “no taxation without representation” call to arms from the revolutionary war to a more aptly worded call for change in the face of the trying times in which we find ourselves today: “No Representation without Taxation!”

The current debates surrounding what is labeled a “financial” or “economic” crisis of balancing the national budget conceal the more deeply rooted, growing, and more profound and troubling crises of politics and culture.  There is  an alarming and widening gap in power between the haves, on the one hand, and those who have-a-little-but-less-and-less and those who have not, on the other hand.  Or maybe I should say, between those up “above,” who are exceedingly well-represented and those down “below” whose interests and aspirations are not at well-represented.  This widening gap is fueled in great part by the trend over the past 30 years to shift a greater and greater portion of the tax burden away from those who are most well-represented in governmental decision-making.  The laws passed  and the social policies set forth are designed to support their successful quest for greater profits—at the expense of the most vulnerable:  our children, those who are ill, our elders, those born into poverty, those who fall into hard times including the growing  ranks of the unemployed, the underemployed, and the underpaid, and last but not least, the environment, our mother earth.  Hence, more than facing a financial crisis, we either sleep through deeper crises of nightmarish proportions out of which it is difficult to wake, or we finally wake up to find ourselves stuck amidst many crises resulting from skewed values and priorities.

In light of all this, we should join together to demand, “No representation without Taxation!”

The pursuit of this call for justice and sanity, by itself, will not solve all of our problems but it would be a very important start.  For one thing, greater tax revenue from those who are really benefiting from our system, is a practical and ethical way of dealing with some, even if not all, the problems underlying our economic crisis.  Secondly, and probably more importantly, it reframes many contemporary debates by identifying the “elephant in the room”–namely, that for the most part, our government is a collaboration between “politicians” and corporate leaders. Politicians are financed by powerful and wealthy individuals and corporations, and they are supported or opposed by debates framed by corporate controlled media.  We should no longer act surprised if our elected “representatives”of the people can seldom be counted on to work for the interests of the broad, diverse cross-section of people and groups who comprise our society, nor can they be counted  on to work for the long-term, sustainable health of our society.

This political and economic dysfunctionality profoundly affects that quality of our lives in many ways.  At a very basic level, the political and economic structure promotes a culture in which we are discouraged from even thinking about the Golden Rule of “do unto others as you would have others do unto you”—much less are we reminded to call on this ageless principle to inform personal action and public policy-making.  Sound bites in media commentary and political speech-making including, quite notably, public policy debates about “compromise” and finding a “middle ground”—inhibit creative dialogue, thwart curiosity, and impede inquiry and social justice.

Indeed, in my first post, I made reference to the inspiration and wisdom provided by Thomas Paine during the Revolutionary War, and just today, Richard Eskow of “Campaign for America’s Future” referred to Paine’s wisdom about the limitations of our elected leaders in this sort of cultural climate (see his article on “The New War of Independence Against Corporate Politics” —  http://www.truth-out.org/new-war-independence-against-corporate-politics/1309788086 ):  “In this corporatized system, we can’t expect many leaders to heed Revolutionary pamphleteer (and ur-blogger) Thomas Paine, who said ‘Attempting to debate with a person who has abandoned reason is like giving medicine to the dead.’ Paine also made this timely observation: ‘Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice.’”

The time has come for all of us to work together to lead, because our elected representatives, with some very notably exceptions, cannot be counted on to represent us, much less lead the way.  With such concerns in mind, a few days ago, I was moved to respond to a recent e-mail from President Obama that was soliciting my support (financial) for his upcoming Presidential campaign.  I wrote the letter out of conviction and principle as well as out of a sense of urgency and frustration.  I had no illusions that my letter would be taken seriously by anyone receiving my e-mail, much less forwarded to the President himself, but I would like to share here what I wrote. [His mass e-mail began, “Dear Friend” so I began my response by defining my relationship to the President]:

“Dear President Obama,

I am a friend, and I am a patriotic American.  I am very sad to say I’m no longer a supporter of yours.  I’m not against you, but I am for low-income Americans and fellow middle class Americans.  What’s true for me is also now true for many of my other friends (whom you previously counted on as your friends and supporters).  Many of us who
enthusiastically and energetically supported you, are no longer among your supporters.

We are deeply disappointed that you haven’t stood up for us, and for the rest of “main street” against the Republican onslaught to take from the poor and middle class and give even more to the wealthy and the powerful corporations.  I, and others, know that Republicans are fighting you every step of the way.  THAT IS TO BE EXPECTED.  However, we didn’t expect you to give in so easily, to compromise so far, and to stop framing the issues to support justice and fairness.

We want you to stop negotiating spending cuts, and start using your authority to explain how the wealthiest tiny percentage of individuals and corporations pay far, far less in taxes than they did 30 years ago, and how this is damaging our country and our country’s future
for my children, for our children, and their children.

I must put my energies and my money into grassroots efforts to stem the tide of economic attacks against ordinary Americans.  I am putting my energies and my limited funds into supporting these efforts.  In the future, I will support those who show by CONSISTENT LEADERSHIP AND ACTION that they are supporting these efforts.

As we approach July 4th, I am reminded that many years ago those who were working to form a new government, separate from European control, said “No Taxation without Representation.” Now, I and others among your previous supporters must step forward, WITHOUT YOUR SUPPORT, to free our government from its domination by powerful corporate and wealthy interests.  I have a message for these people and corporations who seem to be successful even in buying your allegiance, or at least in convincing you to stand aside, while they continue to rule and gain further wealth and power at the expense of the very country to which they owe their good fortune.  The message is NO REPRESENTATION WITHOUT TAXATION.  We will take on the task of
exposing how a very few get more than their fair share of governmental representation, even as their share of the taxes–necessary to creating and sustaining a vibrant, functioning democracy–continues to go down while their profits and benefits go up.

Sincerely,

John Bilorusky, PhD, Education (UC Berkeley, 1972)–parent of two middle school children and a young adult college student, husband, friend of many, head of a small non-profit educational institution, neighborhood volunteer, and committed middle class citizen”

There is much more I would like to say on the challenges with which  I and  so many of you are wrestling–many people under much more trying circumstances than I–but most of all I want to add that there is much to be hopeful about.  Many people are starting to take action (e.g., the many people in Wisconsin and Michigan who are fighting to regain their rights to have a say in State and local issues) because they sense the urgency of our circumstances .  I suspect, however, that they also see the hopeful possibilities of turning a crisis into an opportunity to transform our society for the better, to one that among other things, will support and build on the Golden Rule and social justice,  on curiosity and inquiry.

Please consider reading and learning more about:

  • Van Jones’ new movement/organization:
    Rebuild the Dream  . . .

    The following is an excerpt from his website:  “Right now the
    American Dream is under siege. Tens of millions of willing workers can’t find
    jobs. Millions of homeowners have lost their homes to foreclosure and millions
    more are underwater. Instead of investing in our shared future, politicians are
    giving tax breaks to the rich and then slashing vital services families depend
    on. Rather than expanding protections for the middle class during these
    difficult economic times, they’re trying to gut workers’ rights. But a new movement is rising all across America to fight back.” [The transcript from his meeting and video event on June 23rd in New York that launched “ReBuild the Dream” is available at http://www.rebuildthedream.com/pdf/annotated-launch-script.pdf ]
  • The efforts of Senator Bernie Sanders
    (Vt-Independent)

    Read the letter from Senator Sanders (Vt-Independent) to  President
    Obama and check out his website:  http://sanders.senate.gov/petition/uid=c1fd7f9b-abd8-4e7a-a3701867881259d8http://sanders.senate.gov/petition/?uid=c1fd7f9b-abd8-4e7a-a370-1867881259d8
  • Paul Krugman  wrote the following, in the New York Times just yesterday: “So here’s what you should answer to anyone defending big giveaways to
    corporations: Lack of corporate cash is not the problem facing America. Big
    business already has the money it needs to expand; what it lacks is a reason to
    expand with consumers still on the ropes and the government slashing spending. What our economy needs is direct job creation by the government and mortgage-debt relief for stressed consumers. What it very much does not need is a transfer of billions of dollars to corporations that have no intention of hiring anyone except more lobbyists.” [ New York Times, “Corporate
    Cash Con,” July 3, 2011 , http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/04/opinion/04krugman.html?_r=3&ref=paulkrugman ]

This July 4th, let’s commit ourselves to be more curious and to becoming more informed, to having dialogue with others, to forming coalitions  and even movements (!) that are committed to working both within the system and outside the system.  We cannot wait for
others to lead; we all have a role to play; I say that we need to demand “No Representation Without Taxation,” but we can’t wait to  be represented any more than the founders of this country waited for the colonial powers in England to represent their interests. In thoughts and in deeds, we need to take the initiative.

 

 

 

 

 

Profile photo of John Bilorusky

About John Bilorusky

John Bilorusky is President of WISR and Member of WISR's core faculty. John was one of WISR's four founders in 1975, and WISR has been, and will continue to be, the hub of his professional and community involvements. John received his BA from the University of Colorado (cum laude in Physics and cum laude in General Studies) in 1967. He received his MA from the University of California at Berkeley in 1968 and his PhD in Higher Education from UC Berkeley in 1972. He has also held major faculty appointments in the College of Community Services at the University of Cincinnati (1971-73), in the Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Studies at UC Berkeley (1970-71) and at University Without Walls-Berkeley (1973-74). He has actively written and published in the field of adult learning and social change. He lives with his wife, Janet, and 18-year-old twins, Kyle and Nicole. Janet is a nurse at the Regional Center of the East Bay, serving and supporting people with developmental disabilities. Kyle and Nicole are currently enrolled at Berkeley City College. He has an adult son, Clark, who has a Master's in Asian American Studies from San Francisco State, and who lives with his wife, Donna, and their two children, Ilaw and Tala, in Vallejo, CA. Clark provides Tech Support in the Union City School District.
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One Response to No Representation Without Taxation–A Call To Action this July 4th!

  1. Profile photo of dickins dickins says:

    No Representation without Taxation! This makes all the sense in the world! This is a necessary corollary to the democratic cry, “No Taxation without Representation!”
    This call for justice turns society on its head in a very powerful way. “No Representation without Taxation!” calls for the rich to do their part in supporting the society that is their backbone.
    Unequal taxation practices have benefited the rich, but yet they have had the biggest role in shaping it and in “voting” for how it develops. Unequal taxation policies have been one of the cruelest ways that social inequality has been perpetuated since the beginning of global society about 500 years ago. Corporate owners and managers have relied on taxation laws and policies that have been hidden away from public view. Taxation agents have been backed up by the repressive forces of the state. And the state was supposed to protect us, the people.
    The state should increase the taxes of the richest individuals and wealthiest corporations. The taxes of the wealthy should be collected and used for public good, and not diverted back to the rich through loopholes. This public money should be used for the good of society’s vast majority: us. Once this happens, I’d be happy to have this group of tax-avoiders participate in politics. Remember: one person has one vote in each situation, not a vote that is worth 1,000 times more than mine, and not a vote in things I don’t get to vote on. Business men have not been elected to run the country openly or in secret; they should be represented through the same democratic processes that every other person is.
    Our global society has been organized around business exploitation in our world. That has been the center of our world. But this has not been sustainable, just, fair, or healthy, let alone rational. Our lives have centered around the chaos of the market, and we have been subjected to the whims of businesses that work to compete against other businesses in the world.
    The world’s people did not agree to this, nor were they given a choice. But the operative idea behind our economy has been that business men should be supported who “take the risk” of organizing, exploiting, and underpaying people for their labor. These “risk takers” have used and extracted the world’s natural resources for their enterprises. Their enterprises were established to accumulate anywhere they could, in any way they could. Their work was not designed to benefit the people of the U.S. or the people of the world. From the start, the ruling elite have assumed that these business men should reap huge personal benefits from their competitive profit making. For those who fail at their “gambling,” the state have provided some compensation, such as when an industry faces intense international challenges. It is hard to imagine a global society where the world’s material benefits accrue to a small ruling elite, and not to the people of the world. But that’s the type of society we’ve been living in, and that’s why we have a sustainability crisis today.
    Rather than taking risks on their own, these globally acquisitive business men have depended on active state intervention, on the support of the IMF and the World Bank, and on collaborative agreements with other wealthy nation-states. And they have aggressively shaped the state so that it furthers their interests and departs from representing the vast majority of people at every bend.
    One of the hidden elements is how corporate owners and managers have not been ordered to pay their fair share of taxes, and how they even have avoided paying the disproportionately small amount of taxes that they have been charged.
    The owners and managers of large businesses and corporations are given the rights of citizenship–including representation–when they do not contribute a fair share of their taxes. No representation without taxation! This should have been a corollary of the American Revolution right from the beginning.
    But somehow the decision-makers at that time, white men who were drawn from the elite, were so focused on political freedom that they missed the need to establish guarantees for economic freedom. And they missed the fact that economic power in the hands of a few can strangle political freedoms.
    Corporate owners’ and business men’s representation with taxation shows how much we need to change, today.
    I continue to support Obama as he struggles to deal with the deficit. The deficit was created during the Bush administration, when the U.S. plunged into war. The Bush administration and his many supporters in Congress didn’t see the down side to any of his actions. The viable alternatives were bypassed. Now everyone around the world is living with the consequences of bad U.S. policy. The wars have been devastating and destabilizing for everyone, including those of us in the U.S. who used to count on good schooling, employment, housing, stable retirement, and basic government subsidies.
    The deficit also was created after 1970 when U.S. corporations started going overseas to employ low-cost, manufacturing and service-sector workers who lived in dictatorial and anti-union countries. The long-term job, technological, and educational costs of out-sourcing have been significant, especially for middle-years and the younger generations. The deficit also was created by the long-term impact of past and ongoing social service, healthcare, retirement, and education cutbacks, and by the housing and mortgage-borrowing crisis.
    The elites who don’t pay their fair share of taxes seemed to want our government to take all the actions that have led to the deficit crisis. Where were the rest of us?
    When are we going to reclaim our government and start nurturing the world and its people? When and how are we going to remake our society? Maybe we need to look for answers from everyday people who governments are supposed to represent.
    Torry Dickinson

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