Updated Post: Why Obama’s [Original] Tax Plan Will [Would Have] Help[ed] Us

Its Election day tomorrow. With the economy sliding faster than a ride in “Great America”, we are justifiably nervous about the issues that have featured prominently – albeit not always answered with clarity – in the Presidential debates – the continuing war, government spending, tax reforms, jobs, education, mortages…

Sadly, in the Bay Area, even a 100k annual salary, is, shamefully, short of a mortgage on a three-bedroom home, quality K-12 education, and an occasional night out. The sad state of public schools in some of the Bay Area urban spots – San Francisco, Berkeley, and yes, the infamous Oakland School District, where I live, is testimony to the misplaced priorities even in this otherwise relatively liberal state.

Besides the crumbling public schools, Oakland, CA, also has the dubious distinction of being the homicide capital of America. But I disagree with such stereotyping. It is easier to stereotype than to scratch underneath such definitive descriptions, and find a solution for change.

Change, Obama’s promise, is not so easy to come to Oakland, and other poor neighborhoods of America, when taxes aren’t funneled into the areas where they should be, but funneled out into areas where they shouldn’t be.

First of all, – and this is not an original idea – it is easy to see that more taxes diverted to public schools means a better public school system that actually delivers what it is supposed to – teachers who can keep their jobs and kids, who can be inspired to learn. It means knowledge and skills that keep tomorrow’s graduates off the streets, and generates jobs here at home.

Yet, McCain argues that Obama’s tax plan will hurt the economy and American families, and that his won’t. Reducing taxes, means reducing government spending. With his support of the ongoing war, it means even less money left to address domestic issues, such as giving the crumbling public schools the boost they desperately need.

With not enough money diverted to schools, there should be little surprise if the jobs – that McCain claims his tax cuts for corporations will generate, even though a similar tax policy under Bush has failed to do so – are shipped overseas, or filled by H1-B workers that I, as foreigner, was a recipient of during the Clinton era.

I am not complaining. It is helping my birth country – India. But I do worry because my current home country is America, and my family would need those robust resources – such as a reliable public school system, right here at home.

Now here is the biggest loophole in the McCain criticism of Obama’s tax proposal – Obama has repeatedly said the tax increase would be levied on only those families who earn more than 250,000 USD per year – a pretty generous income, even by the high cost of living in the Bay Area, and yet McCain conveniently leaves this extremely significant detail out.

Simply put, the McCain tax plan, leaves very little room for the poor by not having more money to revamp the crumbling public school system, especially in areas where they are needed the most, such as my hometown Oakland, CA, because its denizens simply cannot afford private schools, let alone a decent home.

It creates conditions where the rich thrive, and the poor get left further behind due to poor public schools. Despite Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” campaign, there have been more than enough children left behind in this crumbling public school system.

What this means is that without hope of better education and, hence, jobs, the poor families have little option or inclination to get out of a cycle of crime. In my last 10 years, as a sustainable building design consultant, I have put in nearly as much time “greening” juvenile justice centers, as I have schools.

Isn’t that outrageous? Yet, we prefer to continue to create prisons to punish those who have turned to crime because we, as a society, have not created the conditions for a life away from crime through good education for children, and jobs when they get older.

From a purely self-centered, self-preservation point of view, should we not get our tax dollars to work for us, by keeping children in schools, and off the criminal streets, by cutting down prison spending, and yes, creating conditions that creates talent to fill the jobs right here in America, for Americans first? Isn’t it time that our tax money money catered to US tax payers before other countries?

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