Opinion: New laws are needed to combat inequality, climate change

By Jerry Yeargin, Taos
Posted 5/16/19

As billionaire Warren Buffett pointed out a few years ago, there really is a class war going on in America - and the rich are winning. The major problem in this country is simple: The wealthy classes …

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Opinion: New laws are needed to combat inequality, climate change

Posted

As billionaire Warren Buffett pointed out a few years ago, there really is a class war going on in America - and the rich are winning. The major problem in this country is simple: The wealthy classes are refusing to take their feet off the necks of the other 90 percent of Americans.

Upward mobility is dwindling in America today, with a few exceptions. And income inequality is growing by leaps and bounds.

Because of mushrooming costs for higher education and other factors, the wealthy classes, including professionals like doctors and lawyers, are becoming mostly a hereditary caste. That is why I call these people the American aristocracy.

Everyone, including working and middle-class people, want their children to be better off and have it easier than they did. The problem is that many of the wealthy have come to expect progress for their families to come at the expense of the "lower" classes, the people I refer to as the 90 percent.

The wealthy have various ways quietly to exploit middle-class and working people. Their methods include inflated professional fees, the use of lobbyists and captive regulating agencies, environmental destruction for profit and cutting funds for public education and health care.

But it really just boils down to the new Golden Rule: "He who has the gold makes the rules." That has to change.

As President Trump said back when he was a candidate, the game is rigged. Unfortunately, now that he is in charge of the casino the game is more crooked than ever.

We should even up the odds in America with tax laws aimed at achieving more economic equality and social justice. For starters, we need hefty new inheritance taxes at the state and federal levels to break the power of American family dynasties like the Kochs, Trumps ... and the Clintons.

In New Mexico, thanks to a Democratic legislature and governor, we finally have an updated state income tax with a top bracket that is taxed at a higher rate. The new minimum wage law is also a giant step forward for working people.

Next year, state legislators should build on that progress with new laws for stricter environmental oversight on the oil, gas, and mining industries, along with higher permitting fees and royalties. New Mexico also needs a higher homestead exemption rate so county governments have the option to raise property taxes on second homes, without hurting ordinary homeowners. And to combat climate change, this state should pass a modernized fuels tax that would place a surcharge on big carbon users to pay for generous rebates to every household.

We the people, as voters in New Mexico, have the political power to seize control of our own destiny. It is time for us to demand more progressive laws that will blunt the power of big money in this state and generate substantial tax revenues from international corporations and the wealthy. Then we can afford to invest in the future of all New Mexicans with major new funding for education, infrastructure, jobs and health care.

For the sake of public safety in New Mexico, new federal taxes on the wealthy and large corporations are needed to pay for humane methods to secure the border. We don't need a Great Wall. But more funding is needed for better border enforcement using modern technology and more personnel. Also, we urgently need immigration reform and good-faith diplomacy with Mexico from the president instead of threats.

At the same time, hopefully, New Mexicans will continue our tradition of welcoming legal immigrants and "dreamers" regardless of race or religion. Most of us still believe that everyone here is entitled to be treated with respect and the presumption of innocence from law officers. As Americans, we have to resist the prospect of an isolationist police state founded on the prejudice, greed, and paranoia of President Trump.

It is time for ordinary citizens in both major parties to wake up and start fighting to win the class war, which was started by the right-wing billionaires and giant corporations and is supported by many of the elites in the upper 10 percent. I believe middle-class and working people are now facing a climactic struggle against the vested interests for the survival of our children and grandchildren--and the planet. There is no substitute for victory.

Jerry Yeargin is a working-class guy and resident of Taos County. He can be reached at (575) 758-3327.

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