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A New Declaration of Independence: 10 Ideas for Taking America Back from the 1%

The weight of the 1 Percent has become intolerable. How can we take our country back? Here's a fresh draft.

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A major contributor to our mass incarceration state is the “War on Drugs,” which after years of waging we’ve yet to win.

Full legalization of marijuana would lead to many fewer people being jailed for victimless crimes and immediately destroy a critical income stream for gangs and increasingly violent drug cartels. Legalizing marijuana would also give states and cities a desperately needed infusion of tax revenue. (Legalization or decriminalization of other drugs would be similarly beneficial, but a good deal more controversial.) Those who commit nonviolent drug offenses should never be sent to prisons for years. Those currently in prison for nonviolent drug offenses should be freed and rehabilitated into society.

9. Full equality for the queer community

Gay marriage is a no-brainer — rights granted to a majority are being denied to a minority based on arguments founded solely on bigotry — and should be recognized nationwide.

Let’s not forget, too, that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Americans are denied other rights, including, in most states, protection from  workplace discrimination and housing discrimination. I suspect lots of Americans don’t even know the LGBT community lacks those basic protections, and that is itself an outrage.

10. Fix the tax system

There are a million ways the tax code could be made fairer, simpler and more progressive, and most of those ways are opposed by powerful entrenched interests. But it is an inescapable fact that for most of the 20th century, federal income tax rates were very high on the wealthy — very, very high, in fact — and most of that period also happened to be a time of widespread prosperity for rich and middle-class Americans alike. The experiment in slashing taxes on the rich seems to have failed everyone but the rich.

The system as it currently stands forces states to fund essential services with the most regressive taxes possible, mainly sales taxes, in order not to scare businesses elsewhere. The current system allows hugely profitable transnational corporations to get away without paying anything, to make killings “overseas” while operating at imaginary losses domestically. Warren Buffett, as we all know, is paying less than his secretary.

So let’s create a millionaire’s tax bracket, and a financial transactions tax. Let’s close the carried interest tax loophole and raise the estate tax and taxes on capital gains. Let’s get the highest marginal tax rate back up to, at the least, Reagan-era levels. Let’s stop all being held hostage, as a nation, to the fanatical anti-tax doctrine of the 1 Percent.

 

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon. Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

 
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