An organization called United for a Fair Economy (UFE) issued the report “Flip It to Fix It: An Immediate, Fair Solution to State Budget Shortfalls” in late May.
The report discusses the injustices caused by the regressive systems of taxation that prevail in states across our country.
UFE suggests a simple and fair solution to the budgetary shortfalls facing state legislatures. They contend that we should expect more from those who have benefitted most from our society.
The solution is to invert the percentages of taxes being paid by the wealthiest and poorest citizens in each state.
In Oklahoma, when taxes from all sources are considered, the citizens in the lowest 20 percent of the income bracket pay 9.9 percent of their annual income in taxes.
The citizens in the highest 20 percent of the income bracket pay only 5.9 percent of their annual income in taxes.
UFE proposes that we reverse the percentage of taxes for the highest and lowest income quintiles.
Currently, citizens at the second lowest income quintile pay 9.5 percent of their annual income in taxes, while the citizens at the second highest income quintile pay only 8.2 percent of their annual income in taxes. Those percentages should also be inverted.
Taxes would remain the same for those at the middle income quintile.
Remarkably, these simple and fair inversions would increase revenues in Oklahoma by about $4.3 billion in a state where the entire budget for next year was projected to be $6.7 billion dollars.
(Click here to see the difference it would make in your state.)
The editorial staff at Oklahoma’s leading newspaper doesn’t like UFE’s solution. The Oklahoman says “‘Flip It to Fix It’ is a bad idea.”
In an editorial, The Oklahoman opines: “In pushing this program, UFE pays only lip service to economic equality. The real goal is to increase the size of government.”
It lambasts the plan for increasing the taxes of those earning between $48,000 and $79,000 from 8.2 to 9.5 percent.
The Oklahoman has provided an abysmally bad analysis. Nothing in UFE’s report talks about increasing the size of government.
The report offers a solution that would enable lawmakers to maintain woefully underfunded services that are being cut back or eliminated for lack of funds.
Record numbers of Oklahomans are on food stamps. Programs to prevent child abuse are being cut. Teachers are losing their jobs. Corrections officers are being furloughed at our filled-to-the-brim prisons. State parks are being closed. Pensions for state employees are underfunded.
Meanwhile, The Oklahoman continues to provide a smokescreen for the callous disregard that the most advantaged Oklahomans have toward the disadvantaged in our society.
Being in that $48,000 to $79,000 tax bracket, I know that these figures reflect earnings after subtracting all the tax deductions available for real estate and vehicle taxes, home mortgage interest, medical and dental expenses, charitable contributions, unreimbursed job expenses, tax preparation fees, losses from casualty or theft and political contributions.
I don’t think it would be unreasonable for persons in my tax bracket to pay 1.3 percent more in taxes to protect kids, to care for the disabled, to maintain our schools, to pay state employees and to keep our state parks open.
If the facts were known, I am confident that a majority of middle-class Oklahomans would be more than willing to pay their fair share in taxes. Unfortunately, they will never know the facts as long as they trust The Oklahoman to do their analysis for them.
Bruce Prescott is executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, president of the Norman, Okla., chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and host of “Religious Talk” on KREF radio. He blogs at Mainstream Baptist.
Editor’s note: For a religious educational resource on taxation, consider Sacred Texts, Social Duty. The documentary explores how Jewish, Christian and Muslim people of faith read their sacred texts and what they say morally about taxation.
Bruce Prescott, now retired, served as executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists from 1998-2014.