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Smarter, more effective regulations and tax policy needed

By Shawn Olson, Alexandria, MN

DuWayne Paul casts a dire warning about “the intrusiveness of government” in his column “Have we crossed the Rubicon” (March 26). Unfortunately, he misdiagnoses the problem and comes to the wrong conclusion by blaming the usual red-herrings of the right wing: regulations and taxes. Those are distractions from the real problems.

For starters, it’s important to remember that many regulations are there for a reason. They should absolutely be streamlined for individuals and small businesses whenever possible, but they need be enforced better for big corporations that are abusing consumers, employees, and the environment. When you buy something, you need guarantees that the product is going to work and be safe. A deregulated “Let the buyer beware” style predatory market shreds real freedom for consumers. There are some greedy corporations that will literally poison your kids with lead-tainted toys to pocket one nickel on each purchase.

Any working American similarly needs regulatory guarantees that they are in a safe, healthy workplace, and that their rights at work are protected. In the absence of good regulations protecting you at work, you get disasters like the 2013 Chinese poultry plant fire that burned workers alive who were locked inside and the Bangladesh factory collapse that killed over 1,000.

We also need smart environmental regulations so we can all enjoy the planet safely and protect it for our grandchildren’s grandchildren. This is perhaps the area that has suffered the most from the deregulation scheme being thrust on Americans, as evident from the Tennessee coal ash slurry, the BP disaster in the Gulf, and the West Virginia chemical spill that caused 300,000 to lose water.

And while the health insurance regulations in the Affordable Care Act may need some improving, just remember how bad things were before, when you could be denied coverage due to “pre-existing conditions” like being a cop, get dropped when you got sick, or pay more just because you’re a woman.

Let’s not forget that it was deregulation of the financial sector, especially losing the Glass-Steagall Act that unleashed the speculative gambling on Wall Street that caused The Great Recession to strike America as well.

Mr. Paul insinuates that regulations and taxes are increasing, but in reality for more than 30 years, the U.S. has embarked on a disastrous experiment focusing on deregulation and tax cuts, mostly geared to help big corporations and the exceedingly rich. Be informed. Be an intelligent voter. The share of revenue paid by corporations plummeted from 30 percent to 7 percent and two thirds didn’t pay a penny in federal taxes between 1998-2005. The top marginal tax rates, which were 90 percent under the last great Republican president (Eisenhower), have disappeared completely, and there are many other tax avoidance schemes being used by the richest to avoid paying their fair share.

Worker productivity has more than doubled since these Republican pro-corporate measures were enacted, yet incomes have been stagnant or falling for most working families. Half the workers in America have an annual income less than $26,000 per year now, while CEOs that consume one third of all the pay in America, have gone from 20 to about 300 times a worker’s average salary, and the richest 400 have more wealth than half of all Americans. In essence, people are working longer, harder and faster for less, so the rich can get richer. That’s the real problem most Americans face.

We need smarter, more effective regulations and tax policy that favors regular working folks and small, locally-owned businesses instead of corporate behemoths. We need to combat the real problems: falling wages, a loss of good jobs, and dangerous levels of wealth inequality. And we need to restore The American Dream, where a fair day’s work is rewarded with a fair day’s pay.

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“The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.” - Thomas Paine