By: Marcus Perriello | Our Voice Contributor
Embedded in American culture is the belief that taxes should be kept at the lowest possible levels, while profits should be allowed, and/or bolstered, to the highest possible levels. Arguments have been made, and continue to be made, from every angle about how to best establish a sound financial infrastructure that properly allows for the ideal arrangement of the production of goods and services from society. Traditionally, American ideologies have separated this debate around two distinct pathways (as Americans typically view economics and politics as a two-way street): Government Spending (taxation), and Private Investment (Profits). This debate presents an wide array of nuanced viewpoints in addition to the extremes that exist – and are constantly being presented (and exaggerated) by each extreme’s economic and political opposition. So how do we decide where taxation and profiteering are best suited to serve the needs of society?
Let’s start with the extremes, as they do seem to be the hot topics in modern political discussions.
First, we have Government Spending whereby the Government merely uses all of the nation’s wealth to provide the goods and services to the public. In this scenario, the Government is the sole employer and there is no room for profiteering. During the 20th Century, we understood this practice as “Communism.” People would learn skills, develop a craft, and become employed by the Government. There were, however, no shareholders or speculators to manipulate the money supply that circulated through the system. All the money was controlled by the Government, and the work a citizen put into making society run was what he/she got out of it in the form of Government benefits.
On the other side of this coin lies “Slavery.” Here is a scenario we here in the United States know all-too well! Slavery is the most extreme form of Capitalism whereby everything exists in the Private sector and the Government is strictly ornamental. Being in Government in this situation is more like an honorary designation, and always reserved for the most affluent and influential individuals of high society. These individuals would be recognized today as Slave Owners, or in less extreme circumstances, Aristocrats. This elite class controls all the wealth, and therefore are the only ones able to supply any compensation and/or benefits to people who are either declared property of a given slave owner, or who are actively seeking employment. In both cases, power and wealth are concentrated in the fewest possible hands and the majority of the public has basically no say in the country’s economic and political discourse.
But what about the nuanced range that exists in between the two extremes?
This is where the more moderate systems are nestled. Here, we generally see a range of taxation and profiteering that is quite broad. In modern political discussion, we always hear about the two extremes and how both sides are deathly afraid of their opposition’s intentions. Those who identify as “Conservative” or “Libertarian” are generally in favor of the lowest possible taxes and allowance for the highest possible profit margins. Those who identify as “Liberal” or “Progressive” are generally in favor of a more balanced arrangement where the roles of tax dollars and corporate profits are more clearly defined, and where the Working Class has at least an equal share in the balance of power within the economic and political infrastructure.
Here’s where the debate turns dicey. Because both arguing factions are hyper-aware of the extremes that exist in opposition to one another’s general ideology, the prospect of giving either side an inch is a frightening one because that awareness is born out of the knowledge that heading down a given path can lead to the total consolidation of unchecked power, and almost no Americans are in favor of any sort of Totalitarian arrangement.
By this logic, the answer must lie somewhere in the middle; right?
Not necessarily. The answer is far more intricate and nuanced than a simple act of pinpointing. In fact, the answer is no single answer at all. The nuances of what causes this debate have to be broken up and sorted out on a case-by-case basis. This becomes incredibly difficult in our system of Government, where one piece of legislation can have other pieces of legislation attached to it, thereby defeating the purpose of the original legislation and its intent.
This is one reason why passing meaningful legislation in our system of Government is often perverted into a collage of legislation that create so many loopholes and exceptions to the rules that the original legislation and its purpose become moot; and in the end, the most greedy and ruthless Capitalists in society end up using this confusion to craft the nation’s laws in their favor, which has ultimately led to the official law of the land representing the views of the wealthiest and most influential upper class citizens. What this shows us is that those who seek greater power are doing so in order to ensure that the debate of taxes v. profits is forever settled in their favor, and that their rule over the entire system – and all who live within it – is never to be challenged.
It is at this point that we experience the cruel and ruthless iron hand of Fascism.
Whenever those who gain power are deathly afraid of losing it, Fascism is the go-to methodology because it is so incredibly overt and forceful that it is believed that those who challenge power will ultimately give in to their instinct to survive, and therefore submit to the status quo. Sometimes this is the case, other times not so much. Wow! All this fuss over a simple debate over where to establish the roles of taxes and profits?! I’m afraid so. Greater profits mean greater security for those who are not concerned with the well-being of anyone outside of their own network. The fear is that if those profits are compromised, so too is the security of the profiteers.
But then we have the other side of this argument: In their quest to consolidate wealth and power, these profiteers have lost sight of the fact that without the rest of the public, their status would not have been possible; and only by ensuring the security and stability of the lives of those outside of their own networks can they themselves be secure from retribution.
Historically, whenever wealth and income inequality have reached the breaking point, Fascism kicks in and has either resulted in a more Socialist or Communist outcome (The Bolshevik Revolution), or a more Authoritarian and dictatorial arrangement (Nazi Germany). Fascism does not have a spectrum of understanding. There is no Right or Left. It is as simplistic as it is brutal. It is born out of a primal fear of not being able to survive; a desperate attempt to maintain the status quo, and it goes both ways.
So how can we get past this fear of insecurity and uncertainty with competing economic and political ideologies? This is the first step towards understanding the debate of Taxes v. Profits and only through this can we reach a more mutually beneficial agreement that will move society towards a new and more productive “normal.”
Lately, the consensus is that any basic human need should be provided through tax dollars, and everything else should be left up to the imagination of Private sector profiteers, which according to proponents of this ideology, would promote and stimulate innovation. While there is some truth to this, it is also not a foregone conclusion that progress and innovation are stifled in the Public sector. Here we have an instance where otherwise competing ideologies intertwine. Creativity and Innovation exist in every system. The Conservative and Libertarian crowds would argue that such feats are only reached because those who reach those pinnacles know they will be materially rewarded, and generously so. Others argue that while this is indeed true, there is more truth to this claim in that some people crate and innovate not for profit, but for personal satisfaction or even practical reasons.
Okay; so how do we make sure that both ideals are properly represented in society?
Based on how money functions, according to the world of Finance, the cost of everything needed to make society work with the most minimal amount of stress possible would not be fiscally possible. So what’s the solution? It’s really very simple: Change the monetary system. Make the monetary system so that no matter how much money is printed and circulated, it doesn’t lose it’s value; and make the entire banking system a public service, more like a public storage facility for public finances. But we’re also dealing with the world of digital currency, now. Who needs a physical storage space the size of a small state when a simple keystroke in cyberspace increases the balance? Knowing this, it’s reasonable to conclude that a monetary system can exist in a way where money is no longer constrained by physical resources to give it tangibility, but instead is simply a tool of trade that is distributed on an as-needed basis, depending on where the work is being done and how many mouths need to be fed. From this point on, it’s not so much a matter of balancing a budget as it is about reshuffling priorities.
Even here, we’d still be dealing with the debate of Taxes v. Profits; but the extremity of the debate can be greatly minimized. In the current system, this debate is so strenuous because of the increasing number of people compared to the amount of money that can be printed and circulated without it totally collapsing in value. Under this new system (i.e. The Hydrodollar System), budgeting is not nearly as much of an issue. Seeing as 97% of the money in circulation is digital, we’re most of the way there anyway. All that’s needed is to change our faulty credit system into a formally recognized legal tender on the same level of value as hard currency.
So the line we’re looking to draw is really not a line at all. It’s more of a matter of defining Needs v. Wants. What should be provided by default, and what should be left to the private market. The reason this isn’t a clear-cut line is because everybody’s needs vary slightly, depending on many factors that usually range from being born into a specific disposition to being mentally or physically dependent. Conservatives continue to argue that profits must be the means by which society is funded, which by extension makes everyone in society totally dependent on the decries of those who control the wealth; and in so doing, the wealth that the elites are willing to part with have to eventually make its way back into their pockets. But because the rest of the people want to have their own levels of wealth, this causes a discrepancy in the process that the more Conservative block wants to have in place.
Liberals and Progressives in the U.S. argue that while profits are nice, there is the issue of arbitrary declaration on behalf of the elites when it comes to basic human needs, when these areas are left up to the “Free Market.” Here’s where the argument of using Taxation comes in. Because these desired programs would be funded through tax dollars, there are no shareholders or CEOs to worry about generously compensating with the capital gained from consumer activity in the economy. Instead, those profits already have a predetermined use for social programs that make sure everyone in society’s basic needs are provided, which also limits the cost of these goods and services, saving the entire system from having to over-bloat the budget due to excessive greed.
Elitist Greed v. Public Well-Being: This is the real debate going on in the United States, right now, as millions of Americans are flooding the streets in droves to protest not only Police Brutality (a systemic byproduct of Capitalism), but also because the Government has been in the pockets of Corporate America to the point where the needs of the people are barely an afterthought and only the whims of the Rich and Powerful are satisfied. Taxes v. Profits. Public Welfare v. Personal Greed. This has been the cornerstone of American Politics ever since its inception, and the current civil unrest is the latest in a long history of events where that debate has boiled over, because neither side is willing to acknowledge that neither one can exist without the other.