CBO: The rich could pay for more jobs (photo: bright strangely)

The proposed 5.6% surtax on millionaires, essentially the creation of a new tax bracket at the $1,000,000 income level, would raise enough money to pay for the American Jobs Act, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That pay-for will be used when the Senate attempts to pass a cloture vote this week on the bill.

The Congressional Budget Office said Friday the Senate Democrats’ proposed surtax on millionaires would raise $452.7 billion over 10 years, more than enough to pay for the $447 billion in spending and tax cuts included in President Barack Obama’s jobs bill.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the CBO estimated the net deficit reduction would be $6 billion, a modest impact but still added ammunition for the Nevada Democrat in trying to unite his caucus going into floor votes next week.

The fact that Republicans will unite against such a measure and have the votes to stop even consideration of it hasn’t stopped business groups from warming up their lobby machine to “stop” the surtax. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Business, among other groups, have started the hilariously named “Tax Relief Coalition” to oppose the surtax.

At the grassroots level, a bunch of struggling Americans who cannot bear to reason out why they’re struggling and who take it on as their personal responsibility have started a mean-spirited website called “We Are the 53%,” based on the fallacy that 47% of American “parasites” don’t pay taxes. The 4% figure, however, doesn’t include sales taxes, excise taxes, gas taxes, or anything else but the federal tax code, but no matter. This bit of misdirection is designed to obfuscate about our tax code and blame the general misery of the economy on poor people who haven’t pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.

Here on Planet Earth, the concerns of the 99% movement are broadly defined as: student loan debt, troubles with children, medical catastrophe and unemployment. So the failures of our health care and education system, as well as our impotent response to the financial crisis and the Great Recession, are the sources of most of the troubles of this class. [continued]

Upon reflection, it is very obvious where the problems are. There’s no universal health care to handle the randomness of poor health. There’s no free higher education to allow people to develop their skills outside the logic and relations of indentured servitude. Our bankruptcy code has been rewritten by the top 1% when instead, it needs to be a defense against their need to shove inequality-driven debt at populations. And finally, there’s no basic income guaranteed to each citizen to keep poverty and poor circumstances at bay.

We have piecemeal, leaky versions of each of these in our current liberal social safety net. Having collated all these responses, I think completing these projects should be the ultimate goal of the 99%.

We know how to fix all that. And while a millionaire’s surtax wouldn’t seem to fit into the equation, the political economy of the 1% dictates that reducing their power and influence is a gateway to the rest of the policies being enacted. While there are concerns about defining the conception of rich upward, having additional tax brackets (and you don’t have to stop at $1 million) makes a good deal of sense as a way to attack the inequality issue, of which a lot of these other issues are but a symptom. It’s being used as a talking point for the next election, but it’s about as good a talking point as any other.

Related: an interview with the creators of the We Are the 99% Tumblr.

David Dayen

David Dayen