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The Austerity/Productivity Trap


Municipality, strapped for cash, demands firefighters work 33 percent more for the same salary.

Simultaneously, a man 75 miles away reports an annual income of $1.4 billion.

State and federal tax policy that favors wealth hoarding prevents those same governments from supporting the civic institutions our communities depend on. So cash-strapped towns and cities turn to their labor force to extract more labor instead of taxing passive collection of wealth.

As the firefighters work more hours for less, the gross domestic product and other economic measurements show an increase in productivity. Those people laboring extended hours do not benefit with expanded compensation. Rather, their lives and that of their families suffer so one man can keep $1.4 billion a year.

Taxing that one man at a higher rate means that we do not have to force our public servants to work more. Our government makes a choice. Our assemblies and executives prioritize an individual’s ability to amass extreme wealth over our communities’ abilities to provide for their collective, basic needs and to treat their workers with dignity.

To our brave who run into burning buildings to save us from the ravaging death of flame, our elected officials demand more blood, sweat, toil and tears. To the miser in the mansion, these same elected officials offer millions in subsidies and only ask him to pay back to the community mere percentage points above the firefighter.

Yes, his taxes are millions, but we should say to him that our communities merit the benefits of your wealth more than your private plane, your two yachts, and your 80,000 square feet worth of mansions in Florida, Montana and Connecticut. The pain of economic woe must be shared by all, equally.

A human making $65,000 a year should pay, pro rata, a much smaller share of his salary than a human who somehow, legally, manages to accumulate thousands of millions of dollars annually. Billionaires must be taxed at 20 and 30 percent rates, if not higher.

Some of us have been demanding this of our representatives for years, and they do not listen.

They give us an absurd result that cannot stand. In lieu of thisĀ  exchange of low tax rates on the rich for harder working public servants, we must put the community good before the private gain. We must say no to this privatization of wealth, and we must, in firm, united voices, demand an end to the madness of austerity.

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