What You Probably Have in Common with Matt Damon

August 18, 2011

Matt Damon might be a super-rich movie stud, but it appears we've got plenty in common when it comes to taxes. This summer, Damon attended a "Save Our Schools" rally in D.C. to show solidarity with public school teachers and to demand an end to the conservative political crusade against them. To our delight, he also took a moment to share his views on taxes and the wealthy. Here are a few of his comments.

  • On the debt ceiling debate: "I'm so disgusted." 

(We were too. And, so was the majority of the country.)

  • On the wealthy paying more taxes: "Yes...the wealthy are paying less than they paid...certainly in my lifetime. [...] It's criminal that so little is asked of people who are getting so much. [...] I really don't mind paying more taxes. [...] Is it that much worse if we pay 6 percent more in taxes? Give me a break. [...] Why don't you just tax the really rich, you know, guys like me?"

(Amen, brother. The alternative to new revenue is more bone-deep budget cuts. Among those who would "feel the pinch" of more budget cuts are students, seniors, the unemployed and even our service men and women. We're talking about drastic reductions to programs that, whether we realize it or not, we all benefit from in some way.)

  • On education as a national priority: "I'd rather pay for taxes than cut Reading is Fundamental or Head Start or some of these programs that are really helping kids."

(Cuts to education budgets — an exercise in poor judgment and shoddy governance — have become an epidemic. No good can possibly come of them. Even Time magazine's "Curious Capitalist," Michael Sherman is calling for an alternative to the debt-driven growth model of recent decades. He calls for, among other things, "massive investments in education and job re-training to take advantage of the new world." Sherman explains, "More education will prepare more people to work in new industries, or to invent new industries of their own.")

Damon's comments on education and the economy have made him a lightning rod for media attention and, thus, an important awareness-raising figure. The work of the progressive movement isn't getting any easier, so we're thankful for all the help we can get. Like many others, we're glad to have his support. 

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When is too much too much

Of course Matt Damon and Warren Buffett are exempt from my criticisms below. They and people like them are the real patriots of The United State of America, willing to give their fair share and will to tell our government they should raise taxes on the very rich.

Taxes, how I hate taxes, when I don’t make enough money to feed my family. When I get that pay check and see that the government has nicked me for a nice little chunk that could feed us for a few days, I burn inside. So maybe those Republican azzules have a point. But why tax poor people and allow rich people to walk around looking down on us and screaming no more taxes, like they need more money. OK, $250,000 isn’t that much money, maybe they do need tax breaks to keep what they’ve got. But for rest of us, we don’t have anything that amounts to much. Why do we get taxed at all, taxing us just makes thing worse. I’m not asking for rich people to be taxed unfairly, especially the upper middle class, I’m talking about really rich people that have so much money it’s ridiculous. The kind of money that looks for loopholes and tax breaks, so they can bankroll 50 million dollars for rainy days. People like that own several homes, several cars, and private jets. When is too much too much? If only 400 people have more money than all the rest of us 350 million people, something is wrong. But worse than that, our government is letting them skate without paying their share in taxes. So why must the rest of us suffer in this rich powerful economy, that we helped create, just so some arrogant, hubristic, over paid, over fed, billionaires can claim they did it or made it. And because they feel they own the country, they should be exempt from paying taxes? To be real clear, they don’t even ask, they pay for it. That’s why we see these Republican azzules screaming no more taxes. Not for us, or the middle class, or the upper middle class, but for the super rich who pay them to say it and legislate it. Don’t think it’s a conspiracy, it’s not. It’s woven into the fabric of our government and our economy, the greedy part. They call it capitalism. The capitalists own us. So, in spite of our democracy, government is more a matter of money than voting on legislation. Nothing gets in the way of money and greed. Money is addicting, it’s exactly the same as being hooked on pills, or alcohol, or heroin, but much more insidious and beguiling. We can’t live without it but, taken to the extreme, we can’t live with it, either. To live in a democracy based partly on capitalism, it needs to be regulated. Taxation is the only way. But as long as government is controlled by the ultra rich, chances are we will always be on the verge of failure. Unemployment will be high, entitlements decreased or eliminated, welfare in general could completely disappear. Privatization would take over and even more money would go to the ultra rich and the taxes would go up too, not for the ultra rich but for those who could least afford them, the poor and the middle class. This isn’t a futuristic scenario, this is now, you are living in it. The bitch is how do you correct it. And the answer is: With a revolution! Which is conveniently written into our Constitution; how cool is that? Don’t tell me our founding fathers didn’t see this coming. Obviously they expected it. So what do we do next we march to Washington D.C., roll out a guillotine, cut the head off a chicken, pluck it, gut it, wash it, cook it, and eat it. If they don’t get the message, try something else. And keep trying until they do. Voting might work but the chances of solidarity in this country is slim. Let’s face it, the money addiction reaches all the way to the bottom. We all want to be rich, so taking sides against the ultra rich isn’t easy, it feels unfaithful. Like we owe it to ourselves be on the side of the winners. But think about it, the richest 400 people out of 350,000,000 get to be free from real taxation. I’m quite sure that’s not right.

So euphemistically speaking, pick up your torches and pitch forks and start marching.