RAP’s Revolutionary Agenda
While we are against plutocracy, a good question to ask is, “what are you for?” No revolution continues indefinitely. Our revolutionary agenda has two components: political equality and economic equity. While the struggle for economic equity and against excessive inequality will be eternal, our revolution will be declared a success when plutocracy has been replaced by a comprehensive, campaign finance reform bill, signed into law, that creates genuine political equality, our primary, revolutionary demand.
Plutocracy, a government of, by and for the wealthy few, will need to be addressed with three key components: 1) an amendment to the Constitution to overturn Buckley v Valeo, Citizens United v FEC and McCutcheon v FEC, leading to 2) comprehensive campaign finance reform and –independent of the first two– 3) higher taxes on the top income and investment interest earners. While we do not support economic equality, we do believe that political equality is essential for any democratic society. Political equality before the law is not just one person/one vote but also $X.00 maximum/citizen in a given election cycle. This page is intended to explain the value of X and outline these three key issues.
Campaign Finance Reform
Talking Points Memo has reported that, according to a poll from the New York Times, some 85 percent of the American people believe that the way political campaigns are funded needs either “fundamental changes” (39 percent) or “a complete rebuild” (46 percent). Senator Sanders supports public financing of elections. While most of the American left agrees with that concept, we believe that it is immoral to have the taxes of left-wing Americans fund the campaigns of right-wing candidates for office and to have the taxes of right-wing Americans fund the campaigns of left-wing candidates for office. There is a better way.
Conservatives at the Take Back Our Republic website support a voucher program where Americans would receive a voucher back from the government for the first $200.00 they pay in income tax. The weakness with that idea is two-fold: 1) Americans who do not make enough to pay $200.00 in federal income tax would not fully benefit or they would be left out completely and 2) $200.00 would deprive the federal government of too much money. If every American citizen qualified to vote had a $50.00/year voucher to donate to candidates, PACs and/or political parties, the total amount of money available would be roughly equal to the total spent on all national campaigns in 2012.
Our creative compromise is a synthesis of “public”financing and a voucher program. Political equality means not just one person/one vote but also one person/$X.00 maximum available for political donations. No one should be allowed to give more than $X.00, and the value of X would be determined by compromise in legislation. For Americans who do not make enough to pay $X.00 in income or capital gains tax, their voucher could be supplemented or funded by a tax, not on citizens, but on American-based transnational corporations. The profits made by Exxon/Mobil alone in just the fourth quarter of last year, $6.6 Billion–that’s billion with a B–could fund virtually the entire voucher program of all citizens in the U.S. if X = 50. Taxing all American-based, TNCs to fund the vouchers of poor Americans would not amount to a significant tax increase for them. The value of X would have to be updated from election cycle to election cycle to adjust for inflation.
One way to decrease the value of X would be to provide all candidates, who are on the ballot, with free and equal amounts of radio and television air time. While we consider that preferable to high values of X, the campaign-media complex would push back against such an effort. The value of X will need to cover the costs of all campaigning. Under current conditions, if X = 50, the media corporations would not see their campaign advertising income decrease much. Keeping corporate media from opposing a campaign finance proposal would aid in its success
Once all American citizens attain political equality, our revolution will be completed; and we will declare victory against plutocracy.
Starting in 1976, the Supreme Court usurped the power of Congress and state legislatures to regulate the manner of holding fair elections. The decision, Buckley v Valeo, overturned limits Congress placed on the amount of money candidates could spend on electioneering communications (propaganda). The upshot of that decision was a modification of the First Amendment that equated money with speech. In the 2010 Citizens United decision, that logic was applied to associations including for-profit, American-based transnational corporations. While they already had First Amendment free speech rights, also granted by the Court in 1976, Citizens United allowed them to spend unlimited amounts of money helping elect the candidates of their choice. This is not democracy; this is corporatocracy. In McCutcheon v FEC (2014), the Court ruled that giving (not just spending) money to candidates for office is protected by the First Amendment.
The campaign finance reform described above to establish political equality would be ruled unconstitutional under current Court doctrine established by Buckley, Citizens United and McCutcheon. Congress can take back the power the Court took from them by passing a constitutional amendment to the U.S. Constitution that gives it and state legislatures the power to regulate the volume, not the content, of political speech. To replace our current plutocratic corporate-state, the Constitution must be amended to make clear to legislators and judges: money is not speech and corporations are not people (associations have privileges, not rights).
Taxing the Wealthy
In a recent email from Senator Sanders he noted, “It’s not an accident that 99% of new income created in the last 5 years went to the top 1%.” The upward redistribution of wealth in the U.S. over the last 35 years is primarily a direct consequence of the Reagan tax cuts, so called Reaganomics or supply-side economics. (The Reagan “Revolution” was more like a counter-revolution.) The basis of our perspective is Robert Reich’s film Inequality for All. Like Reich, we are not Marxists.
A constitutional amendment and comprehensive campaign finance reform will not happen anytime soon. While we struggle for political equality, the RAP revolution will support efforts to raise taxes on the top 1%. 63% of Americans believe wealth and income should be “more evenly distributed,” but this is not just a popular and ethical stand. As Reich points out in his film, the middle class is the engine of the economy. Tax increases on the top 1% can be used to pay for projects that hire people, renew American infrastructure, restructure the energy sector, rebuild the middle class and reignite upward mobility. Tax increases will also pay for Senator Sanders’ ambitious social agenda: free college, medicare for all, etc. If you doubt that there is more than enough money to accomplish all of that, read David DeGraw’s “Unprecedented Abundance.”
While it’s possible to over-tax the American wealthy, they currently have enough money stashed away in offshore accounts to nearly pay off the entire national debt! Senator Sanders is calling for a top marginal tax rate of 90%, and we support that idea. We will support all legislation, state and national, that would increase the tax rate on the top 1%. If investment cash for new businesses were to dry up at some point in the future, then the top marginal tax rate would need to temporarily come down a bit, perhaps to about 76% according to Kevin Drum at Mother Jones magazine. Currently, the top marginal income tax rate on the wealthy is 39% and the capital gains tax for the investor class, those earning more than $200,000 for singles, $250,000 for married couples filing together, is 18.9%. Those rates are too low!