Tax The Rich...But Not For War!

Posted by CODEPINK Staff

By Sharon Miller, CODEPINK San Francisco intern

By now, you’re probably aware of the people’s movement to occupy Wall Street, K Street in Washington, DC, and public spaces across the United States. Maybe you’ve read CODEPINK’s alert connecting the movement for social and economic justice with the need to end the US wars in Afghanistan and beyond. Maybe you’ve read some of our previous PINKtank posts about our own experiences among the people occupying Wall Street and Washington, DC. Maybe you’ve looked through some of the testimonies from “the 99%.”Maybe you’ve even experienced this movement firsthand. Wherever you are, and whatever your level of engagement with the movement, you may have noticed that news of these protests and occupations has started to reach the American “mainstream.”

For example, did you know that footage of Occupy Wall Street and other movements against corporate greed made it onto Inside Edition, a TV tabloid show I tend to associate with vapid celebrity gossip? As it turns out, the journalists of Inside Edition, after showing footage of police brutality against activists, interviewed some “Wall Street types,” one of whom had the following message for the movement: "Why don't you go get a job or something? Don't block traffic, [don’t] block the bridges."

Another example has been posted and re-posted by several of my friends on Facebook—a quote attributed to New York Republican representative Peter King:  "We have to be careful not to allow this to get any legitimacy. I'm taking this seriously in that I'm old enough to remember what happened in the 1960s when the left-wing took to the streets and somehow the media glorified them and it ended up shaping policy. We can't allow that to happen."

You may wonder why I’m focusing on such negative reactions, instead of simply waxing optimistic about the power of the people. It’s because these negative reactions are signs of the power of the people. If “Wall Street types” and politicians had no clue about the power of the people, they would not be so angry or so panicked.

So, yes, the corporations and the rich are starting to get the message: the American people want the rich to pay their share. But is it enough that the rich and powerful know that the people want them to pay their fair share? More to the point, would it be enough if policies were enacted to force the rich and powerful to pay more taxes?

Feeling the power and energy of the people’s demands to tax the rich, we still need to acknowledge the proverbial elephant in the room: war spending. Robert Naiman sums it up very well: “If we're going to use the money to kill, imprison, and otherwise oppress people in other countries who have done us no wrong, I would just as soon let Warren Buffett keep his money. “

Ouch! Talk about a potential buzzkill, right? Well, it’s only a buzzkill if we don’t make the connection between war spending and income inequality. We would actually do well to ask ourselves what the point is of simply demanding that the rich pay taxes, when so much of that tax money pays for wars. We need to pair our demand to “tax the rich” with our demand that the US government bring our war dollars home: redirecting war funding toward creating jobs, educating ourselves and our children, increasing access to healthcare, protecting the environment, and other programs that meet the needs of the American people and people around the world.

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