Tax Day

Ah, Tax Day, the moment that all of us stand back to reflect on what it means to have a government and invest in the public good -- or, for the slackers amongst us, the day we scurry to get our returns in the mail.

As many have observed, the corporate-conservative right has almost completely dominated the debate about taxes over the last generation, with predictable results.

Their goal, of course, hasn't just been to reduce taxes -- although the rich have appreciated this perk -- but is one of several tools the radical right has used to undermine the very idea of government (whole-scale privatization of public assets being another).

Starving the state of resources not only removes government as a pesky countervailing force to unbridled greed and rapacious behavior by the powerful -- it also pushes the government ever-closer to being a "failed state," thus generating the horror stories of government incompetence which in turn open the doors for another round of government-bashing and -slashing (unless you're, say, the Pentagon).

To win back the tax debate, I think our progressive strategy needs to be three-fold. First, we need to win over the public to the vision of a public investment agenda. We need to show how most of the things that keep our communities working -- schools, health care, roads -- are either only made possible by, or are made better because of, our tax dollars at work.

Second, we need to support our own top-notch scholars and organizations (these folks here being three of my favorites) that put forward and advocate for workable, common-sense progressive tax policy. They're wonky so we don't have to be, and they need our help in the political trenches.

And lastly, we have to seize the opportunities where we can beat the other side on their own turf. From budget-busting boondoggles to war profiteering and other government waste (our friends at Taxpayers for Common Sense are always on the case), we need to show how the fiscal irresponsibility of the corporate-conservative right is undermining the country.

The importance of accountable public investment should be one of our strongest suits as progressives, not our weakest link. It's time to turn that around.