Educators Call for Fair Share of Taxes on the 1%

Posted on 23 November 2011

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By Joshua Pechthalt
California Federation of Teachers

A University of Southern California (USC)/Los Angeles Times poll showed the greater majorities of Californians support increasing income taxes on the top 1 percent of earners. The idea resonates with all geographic areas of the state, age groups, ethnicities and political persuasions because the 99% understands what has been happening.

The top 1 percent of California's income earners has doubled its share of all income earned by individuals in the state, but pays a lower tax rate than before. Yet, when Congress extended Bush's tax cuts for the rich in December 2010, it handed California's wealthiest 1 percent a $9 billion tax windfall - equal to half this year's state budget deficit. It's time to rethink taxes.

Everyone in our society – individuals and businesses alike – benefit from public structures like schools, roads and courts. These systems are built and maintained by the taxes we pay. But today low- and middle-income taxpayers are contributing a greater share of their incomes than the very wealthy to support these activities. It’s time to rebalance this system so that everyone pays an appropriate share.

According to a statewide survey last March of likely voters sponsored by the California Federation of Teachers, overwhelming majorities support a tax on the top 1 percent income bracket, people who make more than $500,000 per year, rather than see further cuts to schools, public safety and other vital services.


Joshua Pechthalt is President of the California Federation of Teachers (CFT). The CFT represents faculty and other school employees in public and private schools and colleges, from early childhood through higher education.

The question is not should the rich--or middle class, or poor--pay more taxes, but rather how are taxes spent once they are collected. Left wing people simply want to continue and even increase all their favorite programs ( transportation, education, food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, school lunches, subsidies of farms and many other things). Those on the right also have their favorites...especially wars.

Let's go to zero-based budgeting. Have performance studies of each and every federal program (no more tea museums, bridges to nowhere, etc) and determine which of those are important and efficient and draw up a reasonable budget for them. (e.g., no salary of a public employee, including members of Congress, could make more than the national mean, which is about $50,000 today. Exceptions could be made for the President and the members of the Supreme Court.) That determines the amount of taxes needed; then, go to the next step which is how much each person should contribute.

Another approach is to drastically cut all federal taxes. States and cities could levy taxes with permission of their voters to determine which servicies they want to provide. Federal taxes would only be used for actual national purposes: i.e., defense and the three branches of the governent. (Also, eventually a national, single-payer health system). All of these must also undergo performance audits.

University of California Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau hijack’s all our kids’ futures.
I love University of California (UC) having been a student & lecturer. Like so many I am deeply disappointed by the pervasive failures of Birgeneau from holding the line on rising costs & tuition increases. On an all in cost, Birgeneau has molded Cal. into the most expensive public university.
Paying more is not a better education. Instate tuition consumes 14% of Calif. median family income! Faculty wages must reflect California's ability to pay, not what others are paid.
Chancellor Birgeneau ($450,000 salary) dismissed many much needed cost-cutting options. He did not consider freezing vacant faculty positions, increasing class size, requiring faculty to teach more classes, doubling the time between sabbaticals, freezing pay & benefits, reforming pensions & health benefits.
Birgeneau said such faculty reforms “would not be healthy for Cal”. Exodus of faculty, administrators: who can afford them?
We agree it is far from the ideal situation. UC Berkeley cannot expect to do business as usual: raising tuition; granting pay raises & huge bonuses during a weak economy that has sapped state revenues & individual Californians’ income.
Birgeneau can bridge the trust gap with alumni, donors, politicians, and the public with reassurances that salaries & costs reflect California’s ability to pay.

Chancellor Birgeneau’s campus police deployed violent baton jabs on students protesting increases in tuition. The sky above UC will not fall when Chancellor Birgeneau ($450,000 salary) is ousted.

Opinions? Email the UC Board of Regents