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How to Take on Wall Street and Win

It's up to us to embarrass lawmakers into making financial elites pay their fair share.

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    “In the Senate, John Kerry (D-Mass.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have all expressed a variety of reservations about paying for the jobs measures on the backs of fund managers. On the House side, high-ranking Democrats have spoken out in two separate closed-door caucus meetings this week against taking the vote against the hedge fund crowd.”

Mother of God, why can’t progressive Democrats close a loophole on the richest people in human history?

The answer is us. We let them wriggle off the hook. We let the big guns like Chuck Schumer get away with sounding like progressives while continuing their love affair with the hedge fund crowd and their campaign donations. It’s up to us to embarrass them into making financial elites pay their fair share.

And it’s ever so doable. Hedge funds are vulnerable because no one likes tax evaders. But it all comes down to progressive focus. We need to stick to the job until it’s done. Here’s some of what it requires:

  1. Progressive media need to publicize this issue until we’re all sick of hearing about it…and then some.
  1. The AFL-CIO and its key unions like SEIU and the Steelworkers need to make this a cause célèbre within their own memberships and with the hundreds of politicians they support. Lobbying on this issue, which SEIU did well the last time around, is not enough. They need to mobilize their ranks to press the case.
  1. All of us need to hound our elected representatives from meeting to meeting demanding that they explain why they are letting the richest Wall Street gamblers pay less than their janitors. In particular we need to let the Democrats know that they’ll never succeed as long as they keep kissing up to Wall Street.

But why bother? Aren’t we going to lose anyway?

Maybe. But we need to decide if we can live with ourselves while Wall Street walks all over us

Wall Street made record profits puffing up the housing boom and selling toxic securities all over the globe. When the game crashed we bailed them out and now they’re making record profits and bonuses all over again. Meanwhile state and local governments are in disarray because of high unemployment and the loss of business revenues caused by the Wall Street gamblers that we bailed out. And Wall Street is not paying one extra dime for the damage they have done. It’s as if nothing happened.

And it will stay that way until we shift the battle back to Wall Street. It’s insane that public employees and unions in state after state are bearing the brunt of a crash that Wall Street caused. To be sure, workers and unions need to defend themselves as well as our public infrastructure. But that’s not enough. We need to take the battle back to Wall Street where it belongs. We need to get the financial barons to pay for the damage they created. At the very least we need them to pay regular income taxes like the rest of us.

I realize how hard it is right now for progressives to feel empowered about anything. But as the Middle East has shown us, stranger things have happened.

So as you file your tax returns don’t just get nauseated, -- get mad and get even. Remember that billionaires will never pay their fair share until we force them to. Shutting down this hedge fund loophole is an achievable victory, and maybe, a big step toward salvaging our dignity.

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