Error messageCan not retrieve story from NPR API. You do not have permission to download this story.
Wed January 14, 2009
Talking taxes, questioning laws, and reviewing fiscal goals with David Cay Johnston.
By Rich Fisher
Tulsa, Oklahoma – The rich get richer, as the saying goes . . . but in America today, especially given the current --- and global --- economic meltdown, does this really have to remain the case? Must the U.S. remain a nation where people who make $100 thousand a year pay a HIGHER percentage of taxes than people who make $10 million a year --- and where those making $50,000 annually pay the same share of their income to the federal government as those making $87 million? On today's StudioTulsa, we speak with David Cay Johnston, the bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who recently retired from The New York Times. His latest book, "Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill)," is just out in paperback. Johnston is also the author of an article called "Fiscal Therapy" in the January/February 2009 issue of Mother Jones magazine. That very interesting (and at times quite radical) article begins: "For years now, whenever I've been invited to lecture students on how our tax system works, I have asked a simple question: What is the purpose of the United States of America? The most common answer, be it at prestigious universities, elite prep schools, rural community colleges, or crowded urban high schools, is this: To make people rich. This should come as no great surprise. For anyone born after, say, 1970, the world has been shaped by Ronald Reagan's remaking of government's relationship with private interests --- a vision of lower taxes, less regulation, and maximum economic leeway for those at the top. In this view, the pursuit of wealth is the warp and weft of America; everything else will follow. By contrast, the preamble to the Constitution tells us the nation's reason for being in 52 words that can be reduced to six principles: society, justice, peace, security, commonwealth, and freedom. Individual riches don't make the list. They are a product of American society, not its guiding purpose." On today's show, Johnston tells host Rich Fisher how and why we in America must find our way back --- fiscally speaking --- to that guiding purpose.