Friday, March 11, 2011

Squezing Blood from the Middle Class Turnip

The recent events in Wisconsin are, on one level, baffling. Somehow the GOP has convinced voters that the best way to balace state budgets is to squeeze the wages of middle class families, in this case public sector workers, while keeping taxes low for the wealthy. Today, a story on school property taxes in the New York Times sheds more light on this peculiar direction our country has taken. The article focuses on the decidedly upper crust community of Bronxville, New York, and the desire of its residents to maintain high academic standards and good schools, but not have to actually pay for them:

Most family incomes in Bronxville, about 15 miles north of Midtown Manhattan, are in the six and seven figures, ranking the village among the wealthiest enclaves in America. But even an additional $100 to $200 tacked on, in a village where the typical homeowner already pays $43,000 in annual property taxes, has met enough resistance to make town officials think twice.

Some residents argue that the town should be more businesslike, cutting other costs to offset the outlay for smaller classes. Peter P. Pulkkinen is one. A 40-year-old investment banker, he and his wife, Sarah, moved here in 2004 from the Upper East Side and their two oldest children are now in the first and third grades. He wants small classes for them. But rather than raise taxes, he would restrict teacher compensation— particularly their benefits.

So here we have a wealthy investment banker looking to slash middle-income teacher salaries rather than pay a dime more in taxes. Meanwhile, hedge fund maangers still pay taxes on million dollar incomes at a mere 15% rate. Class warfare is not dead in America, my friends. Far from it. It's just that at the moment, it's a very one-sided war.

(EDIT: More on this in an excellent Salon piece by Robert Reich.)

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