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Durbin is wrong about taxing the rich

Dick Durb(D-Ill.) President Barack Obama's electinight event McCormick Place Chicago Ill. Wednesday November 7 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) at President Barack Obama's election night event at McCormick Place in Chicago, Ill., on Wednesday, November 7, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 4, 2013 6:09AM

Durbin wrong on taxing the rich

Last week, Sen. Dick Durbin criticized progressive Democrats who are standing up for what the majority of Americans — Democrats and Republicans alike — believe: that maintaining benefits for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is more important than reducing the federal deficit. Durbin himself, representing a state that just cut $1.6 billion in Medicare funding, is advocating cutting $400 billion from Medicare alone.

The Sun-Times Editorial Board agreed with Durbin in an editorial Nov. 29, claiming that progressives need to “give up the false notion that raising taxes on the wealthiest will alone solve the nation’s crippling debt problem.”

The only problem is that both Durbin and the Sun-Times Editorial Board are mistaken about the facts. We live in the richest country in the world. Corporate profits hit a record high last week. Our country doesn’t have a money problem; we have a distribution problem. It is entirely possible to generate $4-$5 trillion in revenue over 10 years without cutting benefits from the social safety net. Here are just some of the many potential sources of revenue that make good sense: 1. End the Bush-Obama tax cuts for people earning over $250,000 ($1 trillion); 2. Tax capital gains as income and cap the mortgage interest deduction at $12,000 ($1 trillion), 3. Impose a $20 per ton carbon tax to curb dangerous emissions ($1.2 trillion); and 4. Impose a financial transaction tax that will both raise revenue and curb reckless trading ($1.8 trillion). Perhaps Durbin hasn’t given this option the attention it deserves because CME is his second largest donor.

So, it’s clearly possible to balance the budget without cutting a cent from programs that move our communities forward. Beyond that, it’s simply the right thing to do. Join me and other progressives Dec. 6 at noon in Federal Plaza as we hold Durbin morally accountable and call on him to stand with working people, the poor, the sick and the elderly, instead of championing the interests of corporations and the rich.

Jacob A. Swenson, Ph.D. student

Philosophy Department

University of Chicago

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