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They want you to pay more

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Posted: Wednesday, December 15, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 8:19 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

I always thought the idea of income redistribution was the exclusive property of tax-and-spend liberals like me. We’re the ones conservatives accuse of “class warfare” for wanting to have one group of Americans pay higher tax rates to benefit others.

But lately, Arizona’s conservatives have turned into born-again believers in income redistribution.

The difference is, I advocate higher tax rates for the rich so government can fund programs to benefit the poor and middle class. Arizona’s conservatives want the poor and middle class to pay more so corporations and the rich play less.

Talk about class warfare. Conservatives are the sheriff of Nottingham dressing up as Robin Hood and breaking into poor folks’ cottages to steal their money.

Exhibit #1 for conservatives’ redistribution schemes is their push to cut property taxes for businesses, which would result in higher taxes for the rest of us. Cities, counties and school districts depend on property taxes for their funding, so if businesses pay less, homeowners have to pay more. Even Republican legislators admit that’s true.

But, they say, homeowners will happily pick up the tab for businesses because we realize it’s in our own best interests.

Republicans assure us, businesses will be drawn here by lower taxes like metal filings to a magnet. In a few years, our economy will blossom, we’ll have jobs galore and everyone will be rolling in clover. They ignore what every business journal says is true: when business people check out states for possible relocation, they look for attributes like a strong infrastructure, quality public education and attractive recreational opportunities.

The tax structure is only one part of the larger picture, and not the biggest part. A state like ours with a crumbling infrastructure, the lowest spending per student in the country and state parks with padlocks on their gates isn’t going to attract many new businesses by throwing them a tax break.

Exhibit #2 is the conservative push to raise sales taxes so high we can get rid of the state income tax. The poor and middle class would pay more while the rich make out like bandits. But they say it’s for our own good, because higher sales taxes, like higher property taxes, will produce more jobs, so everybody wins. Of course, the rich win more than everybody else, but hey, who’s counting?

Note to conservatives: Trickle down economics doesn’t work. It never has. Blanket tax cuts to businesses don’t create substantial numbers of new jobs, and lower taxes for the rich don’t do much of anything except raise government deficits and cut services.

Big American corporations are doing great right now. They just came off one of their most profitable quarters ever. But they’re still not hiring. Where are all those new jobs they’re supposed to be creating with their increased profits?

Since the 1970s, income for the richest 1 percent of the country has gone up 15 times faster than everyone else’s. We’ve reached Banana Republic levels of income disparity. Meanwhile, we’re suffering through the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression, salaries for most people have been basically flat for 40 years, and the minimum wage is about $1.50 per hour less in real dollars than it was in 1970. How much richer do the rich have to get before it helps the rest of us?

Arizona’s conservatives aren’t alone in their desire to cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations, of course. Congressional Republicans are fighting mightily to preserve income tax cuts for the rich and permanently abolish the estate tax. (You know, the estate tax that doesn’t kick in until after the first couple million dollars?) They want to cut corporate taxes and capital gains taxes as well.

Conservatives keep telling me, tax cuts for the rich increase prosperity. It’s just that, the only people who seem to be getting more prosperous from all those tax cuts are the rich.

Dave Safier is a regular contributor to Blog for Arizona.

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