A Powerful Voice For Social Democracy.

Rutger Bregman, Dutch historian and author of Utopia For Realists recently spoke to some of the world’s wealthiest people at Davos, Switzerland in which he said, “I hear people talking the language of participation and justice and equality and transparency, but almost no one raises the real issue of tax avoidance and of the rich just not paying their fair share. I mean it feels like I’m at a firefighters conference and no one’s allowed to speak about water. We’ve got to be talking about taxes! That’s it. Taxes, taxes, taxes. All the rest is bullshit in my opinion.”

His speech went viral.

Following that event, he appeared on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, where he was asked to address the current debate over socialism in the US. “To me, it seems a bewildering discussion,” he replied. “Because what we’re actually talking about are policies that are hugely popular among the vast majority of Americans. 67 percent want guaranteed paid maternity leave. 70 percent want Medicare for all. 81 percent is enthusiastic about the New Green Deal. 75 percent want higher taxes on the rich. These are hugely popular policies that work really well in the countries that tried them. So it has nothing to do with socialism or communism or whatever.”

“Actually, capitalism and the welfare state need each other. So something like a guaranteed basic income that I’ve been arguing for would actually be venture capital for the people. So that everyone can start a new company or move to a different job or a different city, which will make the economy much more dynamic. Now if we look at the history of innovation – take the Iphone, for example – every sliver of the fundamental technology of the Iphone was invented by researchers on the government payroll….all these breakthrough technologies are financed by the government. Capitalism and the government – they need each other.”

Asked how Democratic candidates should handle this in the campaign, he responded, “You’re just being a realist, right? Basically advocating the ideas that the majority of Americans want. We need a massive transformation of the economy when we talk about issues like climate change or inequality. It’s really the so-called moderates…the centrists…I think that’s the real radical fringe. It’s really a crazy radical idea of sticking to the status quo right now. The challenges are huge right now. We have to halt emissions on a global scale by 2050. So we need that huge transformation of the economy. So then if you say, ‘I’m a moderate, we should tinker around the edges’ that’s a pretty crazy proposition if you ask me.”

The Real IRS Scandal.

The IRS should be embarrassed by revelations that it singled out Tea Party Patriot groups for extra scrutiny after they applied for 501(c)4 status. Not because scrutinizing these groups was wrong. But because the IRS did not deny them such status.

That’s right. None of these groups deserve to be considered 501(c)4 organizations. Neither do liberal groups. As Lawrence O’Donnell has pointed out on his show, The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, that designation is supposed to be reserved for groups┬áthat promote the social welfare. In fact, the tax code describes qualifying organizations as “civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.”

What in that code describes the Tea Party?

Tea Party groups that have received the designation have almost entirely devoted their money and time to attack President Obama, Democratic candidates, progressive issues and the federal government. How does that meet the criteria of promoting social welfare?

Amazingly, despite the increased scrutiny, not a single Tea Party organization was denied 501(c)4 status. The same cannot be said for progressive groups. During the same period, numerous progressive groups were also asked to submit more information (I was involved with one), and, unlike the Tea Party, some progressive groups were denied non-profit status!

Congress and the IRS need to revisit the tax codes governing political groups. They should also take a serious look at the tax-free status of churches.

The Constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.” The tax-free status of churches flies in the face of this clause by forcing those who do not choose to belong to a church to indirectly subsidize religion through taxes. Indeed, it was because some states forced residents to subsidize churches that James Madison included the establishment clause in his Bill of Rights.

By declaring all church property (including church-owned hospitals and other income-producing businesses) tax-exempt, the rest of us have to make up for the lost revenue through increased taxes. And this amount is not insubstantial. Some reports claim that as much as 25 percent of all US property is tax-exempt for religious purposes.

If this public subsidy of churches is not bad enough, many churches intentionally involve themselves in politics contrary to IRS codes governing their tax-free status. In fact, hundreds of churches have not only campaigned from the pulpit. They have recorded their political rants and sent the videos to the IRS to show their contempt for the codes.┬áDuring the last election, many churches (the Catholic Church primary among them) even told their members that they would “go to hell if they voted for President Obama.” Yet the IRS refused to enforce its own codes.

Now that’s a real IRS scandal!