Go Back to Mayberry?

andy griffith showThis is a fun read and a great way to raise community awareness of the real story behind the economic crisis and racial inequality. A friend of UFE sent this letter to the editor of his local paper (The Winchester Star) in response to a misguided attack on immigrants. And it got published! If you grew up on The Andy Griffith Show, you'll enjoy this...

"One of the local malcontents wrote a letter to the editor about how we should all go back to Mayberry, before all these immigrants and freeloaders showed up. My response:

So I have good news and bad news.

The good news? You can go back to Mayberry any time you want. The bad news? That's because it's a TV show!!

But back in the real world, you seem to be disappointed with people who don't work hard, don't contribute, and don't go to church. So I know, despite your reference to immigration, that you aren't worried about Latino immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants. They all work, because if they don't work, they can't stay here, since they are not eligible for most benefit programs. They pay into Social Security at their jobs, even though they will never see a penny of it. And boy do they go to church.

Church membership is pretty high in the African-American community too, and most African-Americans have jobs if they can get em.

OK, so I know then who you are upset about when you write about folks taking advantage of the system. It's the large finance corporations that got the laws rewritten for them, and the Koch Brothers who are busy getting environmental regulations rewritten so they won't be held accountable when they cause deaths and disease. You're talking about the fact that the wealth gap has grown enormously (see http://www.faireconomy.org) and taxes on the rich have dropped since "Mayberry days," and that both Democrats and Republicans are in bed with the rich. So, welcome to Occupy Wall Street, Mayberry version!

By the way, you apparently didn't notice that the big banks and Wall Street took care of that immigration issue you are so concerned about. When they crashed the economy with fraudulent mortgage-backed securities, net immigration ground to a halt. Large numbers of immigrants lost their homes here, lost their jobs, and decided they were better off in their nation of birth. So I guess that's the good news for you. As our economy goes sour for everyone but the super-rich, we are less attractive to immigrants. Only healthy economies that are fair to everyone attract newcomers seeking jobs and creating businesses.

Sorry, Deputy Fife. We are not going back to Mayberry. But we don't have to keep going downhill either. Here's a good start -- ditch the Bush tax cuts for billionaires, reinstate Glass-Stegall, break up the biggest financial megacorps, and stop going to war for control of oil. Do all that, and you'll be surprised how things improve.

Heck, you will probably find yourself whistling down to the ol' fishin' hole."

(h/t to our friend and former board member, Larry Yates of Virginia)

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VIDEO: Reflections on Popular Economics Education

Now THIS is how you create a movement. Newly minted Popular Economics Educators reflect on their experience at UFE's most recent Training of Trainers Institute, held June 21-24th in Baltimore.

Popular education is an education that is "of the people." Rather than the traditional lecture format of traditional schooling, popular education creates an environment where people learn by reflecting, talking, and thinking together.

United for a Fair Economy has been a leader in training hundreds of Popular Economics Educators across the country to facilitate learning in communities most impacted by economic inequality. Several Training of Trainers Institutes (ToTs) are held throughout the year in various parts of the country.

You can learn more, request a workshop, or stay in the loop about our next Training of Trainers Institute by joining our mailing list.

UFE's Training of Trainers Institute: A Reflection from United for a Fair Economy on Vimeo.

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Hyatt Hurts - Take Action

Housekeepers nationwide need your help. If you’ve ever stayed at a Hyatt and had a good night’s sleep, you have a housekeeper to thank for your fresh sheets and fluffed pillows. But invisible to hotel guests is the pain and hardship that housekeepers endure to provide us with an atmosphere of comfort and luxury.

That’s why this week Hyatt housekeepers are launching a global boycott of Hyatt. Please take two seconds to support them by voting Hyatt the Worst Hotel Employer in America and supporting the boycott.

Why is Hyatt the worst? Hyatt has replaced career housekeepers with temp workers earning minimum wage. Hyatt housekeepers have heavy workloads that can lead to debilitating pain and injuries. Hyatt has fired women shortly after they have spoken out about abuse and indignities at work. And Hyatt even turned heat lamps on workers protesting these conditions during a brutal Chicago heat wave.

Worldwide, we are calling on two million people to take a stand and Vote Hyatt Worst.  By joining together, we will urge Hyatt to change its ways. Please join the boycott, vote them the worst employer in the country and share your vote.

This post was produced by HyattHurts.org. Please support the Hyatt Hurts campaign.

Hyatt Hurts! They’re the Worst!

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Robin Hood is STILL Right

Working Americans and rich and famous people support the Robin Hood Tax!

Robin Hood and his ragtag crew who took from the rich to give to the poor were simply serving justice in an unfair medieval economy. Today, feudal lords protected by high castle walls do not rule our economy, but we are again living in an age of extreme income and wealth inequality.

The big banks and Wall Street speculators are now the ones reaping enormous rewards and ruling over the economy while programs that serve the poor and middle class are slashed, which only serves to further enrich the wealthy by keeping their taxes low.

The Robin Hood tax is an idea that’s been around for a while. In our current age of austerity and Wall Street gambling, it’s an idea whose time has come. It is a financial transaction tax, a few pennies on each bet that the big banks make in the financial casino at the heart of the modern economy. The big banks would pay the vast majority of the Robin Hood tax and it would have two extremely positive results:

  1. It would raise billions of dollars that could be used to prevent cuts to vital social programs. The tax – even at pennies or even just fractions of pennies per transaction – would raise enormous sums from the immense volume of trades conducted on Wall Street.
  2. It would slightly discourage banks and financial institutions from making so many risky bets. High volume and high frequency trading make Wall Street a little bit richer but provide no social benefit and make the entire financial system riskier and more prone to crashes. A small disincentive to making so many trades would be a positive for the entire economy, and the tax isn’t so large that it would discourage genuinely profitable trades.
UFE at Robin Hood Tax Rally
UFE staff and interns joined the Massachusetts Nurses Association at the Robin Hood Tax Campaign launch in Boston.

Wall Street and the big banks are exploiting our system and people to generate never-before-seen profits. Meanwhile, the middle class is fading, poverty remains unshakable, people are losing their homes, health care costs are spiraling out of control, education is being pushed out of reach for millions, and there’s no meaningful job creation plan in sight.

A Robin Hood-like hero will not rescue us. Together, however, we can achieve truly heroic feats. We need revenue, and we need to raise it without further harming low- to middle-income families.

A global movement is working to develop support for the Robin Hood tax, and campaigns were recently launched in cities across the U.S. Your support can help to persuade world leaders to listen up and take action. Please join the Robin Hood Tax Campaign and help to build support in your own community.

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FREE WEBINAR: After the Gift: How to build donor loyalty

How can organizations working for tax fairness cultivate a strong and loyal donor base? This free Tax Fairness Tune-Up webinar will provide practical tips for grassroots organizers to build a strong donor program to keep supporters engaged year after year. Register today!

After the Gift: How to build donor loyalty
Thursday, July 19, 2012
1:00 PM - 2:15pm EDT

Register Now!

What do your donors want after they give? Why do they stop donating? And how can you increase the commitment, satisfaction and trust of your donors? This free Tax Fairness Tune-Up webinar will answer all these questions and provide you with lots of concrete tips for building a strong donor program that keeps your supporters giving year after year.

Presented by Tina Cincotti, owner and principal consultant of Funding Change, with over 15 years of development experience. Funding Change specializes in working with small nonprofits and has a particular focus on assisting grassroots groups working for social change. Register now!


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UFE has Moved!

We wish to inform all our members, partners, and the public that United for a Fair Economy's offices have moved! Our new location and address is:

1 Milk Street, 5th floor
Boston, MA 02109

The new office is located in the Downtown Crossing area of Boston—just around the corner from our previous location—and just minutes from all lines of the MBTA.

Our phone number remains 617-423-2148.

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Eight Reasons You Should Agree With Will Smith on Taxes

"America has been fantastic" to Will Smith. Like those profiled in our book, The Self-Made Myth, the 43 year-old actor, who makes an average salary of $36 million and has an estimated net worth of $215 million, knows much of his success wouldn't have been possible anywhere else but here in the U.S. As such, he has "no problem" paying higher taxes for the good of the country.

Here are eight reasons why you should agree that the rich should pay higher taxes:

  1. Tax rates on the richest U.S. households are at historic lows.
  2. The share of national income going to the top 1% has reached a historic high.
  3. The richest 1% have all but recovered from the Great Recession, while the bottom 99% experience stagnation.
  4. Low taxes increase economic inequality.
  5. Lower tax rates do not lead to economic growth.
  6. Low taxes on the rich worsens the racial economic divide. (pdf)
  7. Historically, the wealthiest Americans have paid higher taxes during wartime (like right now).
  8. He is the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. His break-through role was about a young man's infiltration of the top 1%. Now, he's actually in the top 1% and believes very wealthy people like himself should pay higher taxes. Considering the facts above, we should all agree.

In case you're unfamiliar with the show, the opening sequence sets the premise. Enjoy!

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What was YOUR share of the Bush tax cuts?

What was YOUR share of the Bush tax cuts?
Obamas' share of the Bush tax cuts
Take the Tax Pledge to help ensure the Obamas, the Romneys and other wealthy Americans pay their fair share!

This is a critical year for tax fairness. The Bush tax cuts are set to expire at the stroke of midnight on December 31st. Those tax breaks were a bad idea from the get-go, because they largely went to upper-income households that didn't need them.

We should let the Bush tax cuts expire—it's one of the only ways to meaningfully address our revenue crisis and make long-overdue investments in our economy. But, it's going to take bold action to ensure Congress and President Obama do the right thing by allowing them to expire.

United for a Fair Economy and Responsible Wealth are calling on progressive tax advocates throughout the country to support the movement to end the Bush tax cuts and restore fairness to the federal tax code. You can show your support today in three easy steps:

Calculate your savings from the Bush-era tax cuts by entering three numbers (or rough estimates) from your tax return into our tax cut calculator. 
Take the Responsible Wealth Tax Fairness Pledge to "reject" the Bush tax cuts. 
Donate your savings to the tax fairness organization of your choice.

Join Responsible Wealth members Marnie Thompson and Stephen Johnson of Greensboro, NC, both of whom will take the pledge again this year. Last year, their savings were over $12,000. Each year, they donate their savings to UFE's efforts to end the Bush tax cuts, strengthen the estate tax, "tax wealth like work" by raising the capital gains rate, and support state-level tax fairness organizing.

Thanks to the support of committed progressive tax activists like Marnie, Stephen, and many others, this work is producing results. More people are learning that our tax code is tilted in favor of the wealthy. And more people are taking action to bring the fight for progressive tax policies to Capitol Hill and to state capitols across the country.

We can make significant progress by demanding that Congress and President Obama do absolutely nothing by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire at the end of the year. But, it won't be that easy. It's going to take a lot of work over the next eight months—awareness-raising, organizing, educating, and mobilizing—and we need all the help we can get.

If you believe our tax code is rigged in favor of the wealthy and that the richest Americans should pay their fair share, then make a bold statement in support of progressive tax policies by taking the Responsible Wealth Tax Fairness Pledge today.

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Tax Time Media Highlights

The Great Recession has worsened inequality, and the wealthiest Americans have emerged unscathed—richer in some cases. Meanwhile, conservative officials are hacking away at programs for struggling poor and middle class households. Shared sacrifice is more important now than it has ever been. That's what we're fighting for and we hope you'll join us.

United for a Fair Economy and Responsible Wealth have been working on several fronts this month to spread word that the wealthiest Americans need to pay their fair share in taxes. Why? Because they've benefitted the most from our collective investments and should pay it forward so others have the opportunity to do the same.

Here are a few highlights of the coverage we've earned through our various efforts.


We participated in a Congressional briefing with a tax fairness all star panel moderated by the intrepid John Nichols of The Nation magazine. The event banded together representatives from five outstanding organizations, including Responsible Wealth director Mike Lapham, to discuss ways to generate federal revenue and revive our suffocating economy by raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

Our efforts paid off in a big way. The night before the event, we received word that C-SPAN would be there to nationally broadcast the discussion. It was a standing room only event with a very engaged audience. The country watched, learned and shared. And, so can you.

The Congressional briefing was the opening act for President Obama's address on the Buffett Rule. He enlisted the support of four millionaires, including Responsible Wealth supporter Abigail Disney, to stand with him in support of the millionaires' tax.

David Levine
David Levine

David Levine, Responsible Wealth supporter and former chief economist for investment management firm Sanford C. Bernstein, participated in another panel discussion with the Tax Policy Center.

The panelists explored this basic question: "Should the rich pay higher taxes?" David's expert perspective on marginal income tax rates garnered a citation on MSNBC.com and an extensive interview by Ezra Klein at the Washington Post.

Eric Schoenberg
Eric Schoenberg

One of our most active Responsible Wealth members, former investment banker and current Columbia professor of behavioral economics, Eric Schoenberg, spoke at a tax day rally in DC and blasted away at leading tax grump Grover Norquist. Eric's words were well-received by the energized crowd and are now making their way through the progressive blogosphere.

UFE's federal tax expert Lee Farris went on Between the Lines radio to discuss sensible ways to address our revenue crisis, including the Buffett Rule, ending the Bush tax cuts, "taxing wealth like work" by raising the capital gains rate and strengthening the federal estate tax. Listen now.

Responsible Wealth and our allies working with other affluent fair tax advocates have been making so much noise from the east coast that they heard us clear across the country. The San Francisco Chronicle threw us all a shout-out this week in a column about wealthy people of the west coast demanding that their taxes be raised.

This work is ongoing, and we can always use more support. You can still take action to help move a fair tax agenda forward. One specific way is to calculate your share of the awful Bush-era tax cuts and redirect those savings toward tax fairness organizing efforts by taking Responsible Wealth's Tax Fairness Pledge.

As an added treat, here are some photos from the tax day rally we joined in Boston. There were a lot of feet on the street, a lot of creative demonstrations and a lot of voices calling on Bank of America and other financial giants to stop tax dodging and pay their fair share. After all, we did bail them out. Now it's time to get ours. Yes, the tax justice movement is-a growin'.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

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Lee's Links for Tax Day 2012

Lee Farris, UFE's resident tax policy expert, has compiled a list of some of the best actions, information, and tools for organizing and learning on tax day:

Have a great tax day! Keep organizing, learning and sharing for tax fairness all year long.

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REGISTER TODAY: Raise the 'Roots Conference

Mark your calendars! Raise the 'Roots: Grassroots Organizing for Tax Fairness, the annual conference of the Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative,is coming to Nashville on May 16th and 17th! Spaces are limited; register today!

How can tax fairness organizers create a bottom-up economic justice movement in which those most affected by economic inequality are actively engaged, setting the agenda, and pushing for change? Raise the ‘Roots, the annual conference of the Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative, will examine this mission-critical question, exploring actionable tips and strategies for community organizers to connect more effectively with diverse constituencies to promote progressive tax policies.

The conference is presented by the Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative, a network of state-level grassroots organizations that advocate for progressive and adequate state taxes. The TFOC is a project of United for a Fair Economy, an economic justice nonprofit based in Boston.

Admission is $75 and open to allies and advocates involved in the tax fairness movement. This conference is appropriate for community leaders, activists, and organizers, legislators, people concerned with tax policy, people not yet concerned with tax policy, policy wonks, journalists, foundation representatives, people with good ideas, and anyone else who believes in the power of a bottom-up movement.

Learn more, read a draft agenda, and register now!


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OP-ED: Thirty-Year Forecast Shows Deepening Racial Inequalities

The Trayvon Martin case illustrates that we still have a hard time dealing with issues of race in this country. The issue of racial injustice, coupled with economic injustice, is not likely to fade away.

The Census Bureau estimates that by 2042, the population will no longer be majority white. Many believe that this demographic shift will automatically bring with it a qualitative improvement in the situation for people of color.

At the other end of the spectrum, there is a segment of white America that deeply fears the demographic changes and sees in them a threat to its status. Such fears lead some of these people to gravitate toward right-wing populism.

But the demographic changes are not expected to bring about any significant improvements for most people of color, particularly blacks and Latinos, according to a new study, State of the Dream 2012: The Emerging Majority, by the Boston-based United for a Fair Economy.

If current trends continue, we will witness widening gaps in income and wealth, as well as in education and incarceration rates. The study predicts, for instance, that blacks will make 61 cents and Latinos will make 45 cents for every dollar whites make in terms of median family income.

Contrary to right-wing populists' "dystopia for whites," the report paints a picture of a reconfigured Jim Crow — almost an apartheid situation of haves and have-nots.

Most whites won't be benefiting, either. The overall living standard of most of this country, which began to decline in the mid-1970s, will continue to decline. The fates of poor and middle-class whites will be much more connected to those of people of color than to the very rich and largely white ruling elite.

The implications of this report are sobering — even frightening.

We need concerted political and economic action in the days and months and years ahead if we are to conquer our racial and economic disparities. That means not just continuing affirmative action. It also means launching policies of redistributive justice.

Let's face it: Those at the top have been redistributing income and wealth their way over the past three decades. If we don't implement policies that redistribute income and wealth to the vast majority of Americans who need it, our country will become increasingly — and dangerously — divided.


Bill Fletcher Jr. is a scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the co-author of "Solidarity Divided." He wrote this for Progressive Media Project.

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