Guest Opinion: Shared prosperity — the time to unify
After an extended hiatus, I moved back to the majestic Roaring Fork Valley nearly four years ago. During this time, the American flag of my Garfield County residence has been damaged by the turbulent mountain weather. This tri-colored, Star-Spangled Banner — a symbol of our country’s birth right as a nation — was clearly damaged by the prevailing tumultuous climate.
In a sense, this weathered and tattered historical representation of our democratic nation symbolizes the current and damaging time marked by increasing division and ongoing turmoil. During its infancy, our country united and successfully declared our independence from a foreign force that threatened our existence as an independent nation.
President Abraham Lincoln, during an extremely challenging time of tragic national division that threatened our existence as a united country, provided this prophetic warning, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
During our rise to independence, our country was battling oppression from an outside force that greatly limited and took specific actions to oppose the power of self-rule. We are now confronted by internal forms of oppression, notably of economic nature.
During the revolutionary period, our country unified against “taxation without representation.” We now deal with representation whose views on a tax structure and distribution of prosperity does not benefit the vast majority of Americans.
The recent tax reform clearly illustrates this perspective.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (2017) was touted as tax reform that would target and benefit the middle class by those who crafted and supported the measure. On Fox News (Sept. 27, 2017), House Speaker Paul Ryan proclaimed, “The Republican tax reform proposal is focused on tax breaks for the middle class and not about people who are really high-income earners getting a tax break.” President Trump has stated on numerous occasions that tax reform would “massively lower taxes on the middle class.”
Clearly, such promises have been greatly exaggerated and largely unfulfilled. On the contrary, the Tax Policy Center analysis found most of the benefits of the tax cut  go to the top 1 percent.
It’s common for the vast majority of Americans to struggle financially while a very small percentage of our country possess a substantial share of net income and net worth. Newsweek reports (“Trump’s tax cuts benefit rich Americans, not American families” (Sept. 24)) “an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that compensation for top executives grew by 17.6 percent in 2017. Real average hourly earnings for workers, meanwhile, remained relatively stagnant.”
According to an internal poll commissioned by the Republican National Committee, “The survey found that 61 percent of all respondents thought the tax cuts benefited “large corporations and rich Americans” over “middle-class families,” as cited in the same article.
Currently, legislative action has begun to pursue the passage of Tax Reform 2.0. Based on false promises from last year’s tax measure, any claims of Tax Reform 2.0 benefiting those who need it most are suspect at best. Indications are that this measure, if passed, will disproportionately benefit the richest 1 percent.
Sadly, many Americans have lost hope in the democratic process.
Yet, this is where our salvation can be found. In 1776, the Declaration of Independence proclaimed the vision of a new nation based on a collective democracy. This ideal has been systematically diluted by a very small segment of the population — those with the most wealth — which equates to more power, at our expense.
Now it is time for us to recognize our interdependence, unite and share in our prosperity. Our country was founded on a democracy to benefit “We the People.”
It is time for us to unite and share in our prosperity.
“The government ought to be what the people make of it.”
— John Adams, second President of the United States and Founding Father.
Jim Coddington lives and writes in Carbondale.
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