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Interstate Highway System

Photo by David Martin on Unsplash

It's time for America to go back to the future — a future of true greatness created by a people united to build a strong nation for the Common Good.

From the start of our United States, rather than shrinking at the right-wing bugaboo of "Big Government," Americans have backed leaders who dared to do big public projects: Abraham Lincoln's fight for a transcontinental railroad and a land-grant college network to serve small farmers; Teddy Roosevelt's establishment of our national park system; Franklin D. Roosevelt's electrification of rural America, creation of social safety nets, and conservation initiatives; Dwight Eisenhower's interstate highway system; Harry Truman's GI Bill; John F. Kennedy's moonshot; and Lyndon Johnson's anti-poverty and civil rights achievements.

It's only during the last 40 years, since Ronald Reagan's "government is evil" demagoguery, that our presidents and lawmakers — Democrats as well as Republicans — shriveled to no-can-do mediocrities, unwilling to even try tackling America's big needs or invest in our people's unlimited possibilities. This meek failure of leadership is why our nation's infrastructure — once world-class — has deteriorated to an embarrassing 16th in the world, as ranked by the Global Competitiveness Report, putting us beneath such smaller and poorer nations as Iceland and Portugal. It's hard to muster any national pride in chanting, "We're No. 16!"

But — surprise! — here comes Joe, a lifelong go-slow Democrat, unexpectedly rising to the challenge by proposing a get-serious, roll-up-our-sleeves, $2 trillion package of investments to modernize and extend America's collapsing infrastructure. While President Biden's plan is not as big as it needs to be, neither is it merely more tinkering around the edges, meekly trying once again to "incentivize" the corporate plutocracy to put another coat of pain on our country's structural inadequacies.

Biden's proposal would not only repair roads, bridges and dams but also give a long-overdue boost to such needs as rural high-speed broadband, replacing the country's deadly networks of lead water pipes, building clean energy systems, constructing affordable housing, upgrading public transit systems, increasing home health care for the elderly, and providing affordable child care facilities — all geared toward creating good union jobs and lifting local economies.

Even more transformative than the particular components is Biden's back-to-the-future method of paying for the Rebuild America agenda: returning to highly progressive taxation. Instead of the same old no-tax, laissez-fairyland extremism that Washington has practiced for 40 years (leading to the deep infrastructure hole we're now in), Biden will at long last demand that multinational corporate behemoths and their greed-fueled, uber-rich chieftains stop dodging their tax obligations to America. It's the same fair-taxation policy that funded our interstate highway system and the Space Race — a period of unmatched USA productivity and rising living standards for millions of working families.

An old political truism expresses that often-frustrating challenge of making big change: "Where there's a will, there are 1,000 won'ts."

And, oh, what a hurricane of won'ts swirled out of Washington's power centers in March to pummel Joe Biden! Corporate lobbyists and their congressional hirelings howled and blustered at him for declaring that he would seek a tax increase on corporations to pay for the essential, overdue job of repairing and expanding our nation's antiquated, dilapidated and wholly inadequate infrastructure. Biden wants to raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from its present 21 percent. Blowhard Mitch McConnell, the GOP's Senate leader, practically blew a gasket, wailing that poor corporate America should not be singled out to bear this "burden."

But wait — didn't Mitch single out the corporate giants in 2017 to receive a windfall in their tax rate, lowering it from 35 percent? Yes, and they pocketed hundreds of billions of dollars from that giveaway. So, nudging them up to 28 percent is hardly punishment, for they still come out way ahead of the rates that regular people pay.

And the corporate tax rate is a sham, for the giants have wormed loopholes in the law to give them exemptions so they can avoid paying what they owe. A new study reports that at least 55 of the biggest corporations paid a goose egg in U.S. income taxes last year — zero, nada — despite hauling in billions in profits. As Sen. Bernie Sanders points out: "If you paid $120 for a pair of Nike Air Force 1 shoes, you paid more to Nike than it paid in federal income taxes over the past 3 years, while it made $4.1 billion in profits." In those three years, Nike honcho Phil Knight worked the system to increase his personal wealth by $23 billion.

That's the corrupt wealth system that McConnell, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the corporate plutocracy are defending. Oh, they exclaim, we think it's essential to repair and update America's crucial public systems — BUT, as McConnell so gingerly put it, "As much as we would like to address infrastructure," asking our corporate political funders to pay more "is not going to get support from our side."

So, who do they want to pay for it? You. Working people and the poor. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican and GOP leader, points to putting more user fees on drivers and adding taxes on consumers as the way to go.

To see a list of other major corporate scofflaws who've been pocketing billions in profits yet paying zilch to the upkeep of America, visit the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy website at ITEP.org.

To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

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