Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

I fully endorse Katha Pollitt's call for progressive taxation. Of course, Katha's not the first to raise this banner. Marx and Engels included it in The Communist Manifesto. More recently, my good friend Peter Camejo used to say, "If the richest 5 percent in California just paid the same percentage of taxes that the poorest 20 percent pay, the state budget deficit would disappear." So, right on, Katha. Make the rich pay!

This or that comma aside, the only point in her article I'd take issue with is the idea that any self-respecting socialist would complain to a homeless person on the street that "that begger should shape up and join the ISO!" Sometimes jokes go awry, so be it. But if Katha honestly believes there is a kernel of truth to her witticism, she ought to reconsider.

My guess is that socialists are, on average, more generous when they come across struggling souls on the street who are suffering the brunt of what capitalism has to offer. Debs used to literally give the coat off his back to workers who'd fallen on tough times. That never stopped him from demanding the kind of progressive taxation Katha supports in order to get at the root of the problem. In fact, old Debs wanted to tax rich right out of business. Not a bad idea.

In the meantime, not only should you spare a dime when you can (more like a dollar these days), but if you've got some extra bills laying around, why not make a donation to TheNation.com or SocialistWorker.org? As Katha says, what we really need are "concerted acts of solidarity," and we need progressive publications to not only survive this economic crisis, but to thrive and help us all build a better world.

Todd Chretien

Oakland, CA

Feb 19 2009 - 2:42pm

Web Letter

Dear Katha,thank you for your smart analysis re the dangerous reliance on the generosity of strangers for addressing the worst social and economic problems stemming from inequality. I would just add that in addition to justifying tax cuts and cuts in government services, the boom in philanthropy also was the cause for lost tax revenue. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, charitable deductions cost the Treasury Department $40 billion in lost tax revenue in 2006. One critical question missing from the conversation about philanthropy is: whose money is it anyway? Some philanthropy experts estimate that at least 45 percent of the $550 billion dollars in assets that foundations have belong to the American public. As we push for greater regulations and transparency of corporations and government, we musn't forget this very powerful sector: private foundations.

Christine Ahn

Oakland, CA

Feb 13 2009 - 2:59pm