A street theater troupe pretending to be “Billionaires” elicited the reaction they wanted from a lunch crowd in downtown Minneapolis: anger at Minnesota politicians’ refusal to tax rich people at the same rate they tax the lower and middle class.
Women Against Military Madness actresses played the part of uncaring billionaires who were happy that their incomes were not going to be taxed at the same rate as everyone else. The players echoed what Representative Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake, MN) recently implied… that people who aren’t rich haven’t worked hard.
“It’s not about revenue, it’s about a tax increase, because they want to go after those who have actually worked hard.” Representative Kiffmeyer told the St. Cloud Times.
The broad stereotype portrayed by the actresses isn’t true. But comments like those from Representative Kiffmeyer lead people to believe that. And the reaction it draws is quite heartfelt and real.
“I work, I pay my taxes and we pay higher taxes and we’re the low man on the totem pole” said one woman when confronted by the fake billionaires. “If we didn’t do what we’re doing you wouldn’t be rich baby.”
“It’s about people being able to survive and support and take care of their family. Are you taking care of your family when you’re taxing the lower people more money than you’re taxing the rich that already got it? That’s how the rich stay rich.”
“I take care of my family, but we bust our ass. Do you?” she asked the fake billionaire.
“Why are you not willing to share what you have with others who are less fortunate?” asked another woman of the fake billionaire. “You’re enjoying some of the breaks you get off the sweat of other people. Because if I have to pay taxes, I’m paying more taxes than you’re paying with all the money you have.”
It’s a refrain echoed not just in the lunchroom crowds of downtown Minneapolis, but also in the White House.“I don’t think hedge fund managers should pay taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries.” said President Obama during his weekly address to the nation. ” I don’t think it’s fair to ask nothing of someone like me when the average family has seen their income decline over the past decade – and when many of you are just trying to stretch every dollar as far it it’ll go.”
Minnesota has pushed off the debate on fairly taxing the rich past the next election when a change in the control of the legislature could make it more of a political reality. However, the issue is alive in Washington, fueled by the anger of those who are paying more, but getting less.