One thing that completely astounds me is how willing people are to work against their own interests. I got into a discussion today with some people about Tennessee’s ‘Professional Privilege Tax.’ Basically, people who are professionally licensed – e.g., southern female lawyers – have to pay Tennessee a tax for the ‘privilege’ of practicing law there. This is in addition to bar dues. EVERY attorney pays the same amount – $400 – regardless of how much (or how little) money you make. Lawyer A makes $500,000 a year and pays a $400 prof. priv. tax. Lawyer B makes $40,000 a year and pays a $400 prof. priv. tax. You get the point.
Clearly, this is one of several ways that Tennessee makes up for the fact that it does not have a state income tax. A tax which would be a percentage of income. But over and over again, Tennesseans refuse to adopt an income tax. Instead, we pay some of the highest sales taxes in the country (tied for #2) and when you add in local and county, it is about 10%. We also are taxed on food, which many states do not tax. So, essentially, the wealthy have somehow convinced the non-wealthy that an income tax would be WORSE for the non-wealthy. Which is utter bullshit. Everyone buys basically the same amount of food regardless of income. Certainly, the wealthy probably buy more expensive food, but look at it this way – Jon makes $15,000 a year and Chet makes $1.5 million a year; Jon spends 6,000 a year on food – I seriously doubt that Chet is spending $60,000 a year on food. Or 100 X what Jon spends on gas. Or health items. Or vehicles. Or clothes. Okay, maybe clothes. I know a lot of tools running around in suits that cost more than I spend on clothes for my family in one year. But still – who loses here?
And more importantly, how have the wealthy convinced the non-wealthy to consistently fight against their own interests? Well, glad you ask, because of course I have some opinions on this. One approach is what I call the puritan work ethic fingertrap – Chet, through various puppets such as Fox News, the Church of Prosperity Gospel, whatever, insinuates to Jon that supporting anything that doesn’t reward the wealthy somehow rewards the lazy, the drug addicts, the child molesters, and the illegals. Well, Jon CERTAINLY doesn’t want to be lumped in with THAT ilk, so of COURSE he must support policies that reward the wealthy, except by now Chet has also convinced Jon that the appropriate term for ‘wealthy’ is ‘the hard-working.’
The second approach is the American Dream bait and switch – Chet, again through his paid minions, convinces Jon that he, Jon, may someday be wealthy – because remember, ‘wealthy’ = ‘hardworking’ and if Jon works hard, then one day he will be wealthy, or may be, so shouldn’t he act NOW to protect his future wealth?
But in the meantime, Jon and others like him – the hardworking non-wealthy – are paying much higher percentages of their income for basics like food, healthcare, clothing, and shelter.
Keep livin’ the dream!