Last night President Obama and congressional negotiators cut a deal to keep the government running, cutting “$38.5 billion under current funding levels, per Republican demands,” and $78 billion below what Obama called for in his initial 2011 budget.
Yet as Republicans and Democrats continue to battle over the deficit within a political framing that includes taking aim at Pell Grants for low-income students — which Obama preemptively proposed to cut, calling summer grants “too expensive,” while Republicans want far deeper cuts than that — Head Start funding, and other programs from Main Street Americans, there is one group of Americans that seems to be getting away without having any sacrifices demanded of them: the very richest.
As this chart from from Wealth for the Common Good shows, the top 400 taxpayers — who have more wealth than half of all Americans combined — are paying lower taxes than they have in a generation, as their tax responsibilities have slowly collapsed since the New Deal era as working families have been asked to pay more and more:
There have been a handful of proposals by congressional progressives to once again put requiring more sacrifice from the luckiest among us back on the table. The Congressional Progressive Caucus recently unveiled a “People’s Budget” that would boost taxes on the wealthiest Americans, returning them to levels closer to where they were under Ronald Reagan’s first term — hardly socialism.
Yet these proposals have yet to gain steam, and the budget debate in Washington appears to revolve completely around cutting spending for Main Street Americans who’ve already been asked to pay too much during the recession. That’s why there’s a Main Street Movement demanding fair sacrifice and standing up for the great American middle class. Whether it succeeds may determine the fate of most hard-working Americans for a generation to come.