Why We Should Tax the Wealthy to Reduce the Deficit

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'Tax us' to ease deficit, say some wealthy Americans

Column by Agence France-Presse, November 25, 2010

Globe - Stop Tax Breaks for the WealthyWith the US Congress hurtling toward a deadline on expiring tax cuts, a growing number of wealthy people are calling for higher taxes on the rich to help restore America's fiscal health. 

One effort gathered over 45 millionaires who signed an open petition calling for the end of the tax cuts adopted since 2001 on those with annual incomes exceeding one million dollars.

Tax breaks for the wealthy should expire "for the fiscal health of our nation and the well-being of our fellow citizens," the letter said. It was signed by Ben & Jerry's ice cream founder Ben Cohen, hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt and others.

Guy Saperstein, a retired California trial lawyer who organized the effort, said he was "frustrated" that President Barack Obama appeared to be wavering on his pledge to end tax cuts for the wealthy.

"I think the country's in trouble," Saperstein told AFP. "In hard times, the top strata who have done fabulously well need to sacrifice a bit, and it's not much of a sacrifice... We have among the lowest tax rates of any industrialized democracy."

Saperstein said an estimated 1,500 people have signed the letter although some of them did not want to be publicly identified on the group's website.

Philippe Villers, a French-born US businessman who founded Computervision in the 1960s and now heads Grain Pro, says he signed the letter even though it would mean higher taxes for himself.

"I don't think (extending the tax cuts for the wealthy) are fair or in the interest of building a strong economy," he said.

Villers argued that tax cuts enacted under former president George W. Bush gave a "disproportionate benefit to people with means" and contributed to the current economic woes.

Another 410 high-income Americans have signed a similar petition by Wealth for the Common Good, a network of business and civic leaders, calling for tax cuts to expire for families with incomes above 250,000 dollars.

"I've had a good run over the last few years. There's no question that others now deserve to share in that prosperity," said one of the signatories, Jeffrey Hayes, president of Stratalys Research & Consulting.

Similar comments have come from Warren Buffett, the investment guru who ranks among the world's richest individuals.

"I think that people at the high end -- people like myself -- should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we've ever had it," Buffett said in an ABC News interview.

The efforts come with Congress struggling in the face of tax cuts expiring at the end of this year.

If no action is taken by December 31, the current top rates of 33 and 35 percent would return to pre-Bush levels of 36 and 39.6 percent for the richest Americans. But taxes would also rise on all Americans if Congress fails to act.

Many Republicans are pressing to extend the tax cuts to stimulate a wobbly economy.

Obama and his Democratic allies are urging extended tax cuts for all but the wealthiest two percent of Americans -- claiming this move would help raise 700 billion dollars over 10 years to ease a crushing deficit.

"I'm glad there is a group of people who are sticking out their necks to say, 'Tax me more,'" said Mike Lapham of United For a Fair Economy's Responsible Wealth project, which has recruited 700 people in high-income brackets to work for a more progressive tax structure. (emphasis added)

"People complain that the government should do more for New Orleans (after Hurricane Katrina) and for the (Gulf of Mexico) oil spill, but the reality is we've cut back on a lot of the things our government could do." [...]  

Read the rest of this column on BankokPost.com or Breitbart.com



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The Rick Smith Show: Unemployment Benefits Held Hostage

The Rick Smith Show logo

November 19, 2010

UFE's Lee Farris joined Rick Smith – Pennsylvania talk show host and voice of the working class – to discuss the outright betrayal of struggling Americans by Congressional Republicans, who are holding unemployment benefits for millions of people hostage in their misguided push for permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

Download an MP3 of Rick's interview with Lee Farris. (37.5 MB)

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Pushing on a String: Why Tax Breaks for the Rich Won’t Help

The Hill Congress Blog logo

Pushing on a string: Why tax breaks for the rich won’t help

By Brian Miller
Originally posted on The Hill's Congress Blog, November 22, 2010

Income Quintiles from 1947-1979The future of America’s middle class is at stake as the battle over the Bush tax cuts heats up in Washington. Despite the fact that a strong majority of Americans support ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest, some in Congress are still hesitant. It’s at times like these that we should take a long, hard look at what got us into this economic mess.

On the eve of the Great Recession in 2007, income inequalities in America were at their highest levels since just before the Great Depression. 50 percent of all income went to the top 10 percent in 1928, leaving the bottom 90 percent to vie over the other half. That dropped to just over 30 percent during the Great Prosperity from 1942 to 1979, leaving nearly 70 percent of income for the remaining 90 percent of households, though overt racism barred many from sharing in that prosperity. The purchasing power of that broad and strong middle class became fuel for the roaring engine of our nation’s economy.

Then in 1980 our nation began to grow apart again – a divergence kicked off by financial deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy. The growing divide was made worse by the assault on organized labor and the weakening of social safety nets. By 2007, income inequalities had reverted to pre-Depression levels. Mark Twain once said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” And so it does.

With so much money in so few hands, high stakes speculation and wild bubble rides on Wall Street destabilized our economy. When the house of cards came down, it fell right on top of middle-class Americans. Communities were ravaged – with the stripping away of jobs, homes and savings – while the Wall Street gamblers sat comfortably in their velvety casino chairs lighting another cigar.

Income Quintiles from 1979-2008So far the economic recovery has been very one-sided. For low- and middle-income Americans, unemployment continues to be painfully high and millions of homes are in foreclosure. On the other hand, the Dow Jones has largely recovered since it bottomed out in early 2009, while the Wall Street crowd and Big Business execs are once again rolling in extravagant bonuses. For the wealthy, the recession’s storm has passed.

Despite this one-sided recovery, Congressional Republicans are telling us the problem with our economy is that rich people don’t have enough money. They want to make the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans permanent, adding $700 billion to our national debt over the next 10 years, paid for with more borrowed money. Ironically, these are the same people screaming about deficits. Of course, they claim that this is about creating jobs, but those tax breaks are more likely to sit in a bank or be invested overseas.

More importantly, pouring even more money into the pockets of the wealthy simply won’t get our economy moving again, especially in a recession as deep as this. Such a top down, “supply-side” strategy for economic growth is like pushing on a string. It’s futile and a wasteful use of borrowed money. It simply won’t work without a strong middle class to pull on the other end of that string, with the purchasing power to buy the goods and services produced.

It’s time to rebuild our economic engine by putting middle-class families first. Instead of expensive and wasteful tax breaks for the very rich, we should be focused on strengthening our middle class. Obama is right to target tax cuts to those earning less than $250,000. Even better, let’s use public dollars to create jobs directly for middle-class households while making long-term investments in our communities, such as building light rail for our cities and bullet trains in major corridors, installing green energy retrofits to public buildings, and putting more teachers in our schools.

Funny thing about pulling on a string. It moves even if there’s no one pushing on the other end. That’s the beauty of demand-side economic growth strategies. With a long-term focus on revitalizing our nation’s middle class with good-paying jobs, we can sow the seeds of another – more inclusive – Great Prosperity.

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Keep Pressure Up for a Strong Estate Tax

Conservatives in Congress say they are worried about small businesses and farms, so they want to repeal the estate tax at a cost of $700 billion over 10 years, or slash it at a cost of $383 billion. The same officials say they are worried about the deficit, but they want to spend another $700 billion to extend the Bush income tax cuts for the wealthy.It’s outrageous!

Call your two Senators and Representative now, toll-free, at 800-830-5738.

Tell them your name, your city/town of residence, and say:

  1. We don’t need more tax cuts for millionaires. We need a strong estate tax. I’d like the Senator to push for higher estate tax rates for multi-millionaires and billionaires, and vote against unlimited deductions for farms.

  2. I’d also like the Senator to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

  3. Congress should invest that money in programs that will put Americans back to work, create opportunities for our children and pay down our debt.

  4. Ask: Where does the Senator stand on the estate tax and the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy?

Add a personal statement about who you are and why you oppose cutting the estate tax, such as, “I am a small business person, and it is a myth that the estate tax hurts small businesses,” or “I am wealthy and will gladly pay the estate tax, because I believe it’s an important part of a fair tax system.”  

Your calls are important. They make more of a difference than emails, because Congressional offices count the calls.

Let us know how your three calls went by sending an email to lfarris@faireconomy.org. Tell us the name of your legislators, and what the staffers told you.

And, about that small business myth -- UFE just held a national press teleconference with four American business owners who strongly support the estate tax. Check out our press release for more. Watch an interview with one of our speakers below!

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Personal Finance for Economic Justice

Where would Jesus bank?This afternoon a spirited crowd of 150 people showed up at the Bank of America’s (BoA) main branch in Boston to kick off a campaign called “Move Our Money" as part of a national effort to reinstate federal usury laws with a 10% cap on credit card interest rates. The event was organized by the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, a coalition of over 50 faith-based and secular organizations (such as churches, synagogues, mosques, unions, and community development corporations), with whom UFE has provided support through our popular economics educational program.

With drums, horns, chants, whoops and hollers, the crowd responded to the call to “Move Our Money” by closing credit card, checking and savings accounts with BoA which refuses to go along with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ usury law capping interest rates at 18%. During the one-hour demonstration, 121 individuals and organizations divested from BoA.

Bank of America, GBIO literature points out, received a $5 billion taxpayer bailout in 2008 despite earning annual profits of $4.1 billion. In 2009, BoA awarded their investment banking employees bonuses totaling $4.4 billion, an average of $400,000 per employee. Yet they refuse to cap their credit card interest rates at 18%.

While GBIO’s Debt to Assets (D2A) financial literacy program teaches folks how mortgages and other loans work, how to avoid predatory lenders, and how to maintain a high credit rating, they have also invited UFE to provide D2A participants with an accessible big picture analysis of the economy. Together we explore how changes in financial regulations, tax laws, and spending decisions have enabled a relatively small group of wealthy investors and financial sector management to accumulate vast wealth, pushing economic inequality to heights not seen since just before the Great Depression.

The relaxing of the rules that permit banks and credit card companies to raise interest rates to what just a few decades ago would have thrown them in jail for usury, is directly addressed by GBIO’s long term campaign: 10 percent is enough! Since Massachusetts has a law that caps interest rates at 18% for banks chartered in the state, the current phase of the campaign is demanding that BoA (based in North Carolina) agree to abide by the Massachusetts cap.

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Three Messages to Build a Progressive Tax Majority

Shortly after the election, one of our supporters asked me what we as a progressive community needed to be doing now. In addition to things like building capacity to influence the broader media and shape the public dialogue, raising more money for organizing efforts across the nation, and pushing for reform to turn back the effects of the Citizen’s United case, I also suggested three core messages that we need to hammer at every opportunity to build a progressive tax majority. They are:

No man / woman is an island. As communities, our prosperity is bound together and dependent upon each other. The prosperity of others in our community impacts our own wellbeing. The recent foreclosure crisis is a classic example as the collateral damage of large-scale foreclosures in communities took down the value of all the homes in the area, including those who had been paying their mortgage, sending them underwater as well. Similarly, better schools doesn't just help the students, it has positive ripple effects across the entire economy. We rise together and we fall together.

The wealth of the most affluent is because of, not in spite of, the tax system and the public investments it makes possible. As long as people believe that the wealthy in our society achieved their status through hard work, smarts, and entrepreneurship alone, they (including those who are not wealthy) will resist any form of progressive taxation as an affront to their hard work and "American values." We must continually point out the ways in which public investments, including roads, courts, public education, parks, and more, make it possible for businesses in our nation to succeed and the wealth that is created for those at the top. Once this is grasped in a deeper way, people will be more open supporting progressive tax policies.

Inequality is bad for everyone. Our communities are stronger when prosperity is broadly shared. Over the past few years, there has been growing evidence validating what progressives have known intuitively all along, that inequality leads to higher crime rates, disintegration of communities, hopelessness and its spin-offs (poor health, obesity, etc), and more. A more broadly shared prosperity can be achieved on the front end through a higher minimum wage, living wage ordinances, caps on CEO pay, steeply progressive taxes that discourage huge paychecks at the very top, etc. On the back end, it can be achieved through progressive taxation, a strong safety net, etc. However we get there though, our communities will be stronger as a result.

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Estate Tax Teleconference - November 2010

Money, Main St & Farms

Estate Tax Teleconference - November 2010

On Tuesday, November 16, 2010, United for a Fair Economy brought together the voices of four American small business owners for a national press teleconference to discuss why the federal estate tax is important for small businesses. Our speakers shared personal stories, explained the facts and dispelled the myths about the estate tax. 

Click here for media coverage.

Our featured speakers:

  • Dave Eiffert, Snoqualmie, WA (statement)
    Co-founder and Co-owner of Snoqualmie Falls Brewery, craft brewery and tap room.
  • Jerry Fiddler, San Francisco, CA (statement)
    Principal of venture capital firm, Zygote Ventures, and Founder of tech company, Wind River Systems.
  • Jean Gordon, Little Rock, AR (statement)
    Co-owner of Frostyaire of Arkansas, agricultural freezing and cold storage company.
  • John Russell, Portland, OR (statement)
    Owner of Russell Development Company, real estate development.

Our speakers are joining us at a critical juncture for the estate tax. The window for legislative action creaks to a close with each passing day before the current law sunsets and reverts back to pre-2001 levels at the start of the new year. After sharing their statements in support of a robust estate tax, the speakers addressed questions from members of both mainstream and alternative media outlets. 

IF YOU ARE A MEMBER OF THE PRESS OR A BLOGGER , and would like to speak with UFE staff or one of our guest speakers about the estate tax, please contact Maz Ali at 617-423-2148 x101 or mali@faireconomy.org.

For other inquiries regarding the estate tax, please contact UFE’s Senior Organizer on Estate Tax Policy, Lee Farris, at lfarris@faireconomy.org or 617-423-2148 x133.

Thank you for your interest in this event.

ABC News logo

"Dave Eiffert, a small business owner who has worked with United for a Fair Economy, said he hoped for a higher estate tax ceiling and deeper tax cuts for the middle class instead of tax cuts for those making $200,000 and more. Eiffert, co-owner of Snoqualmie Brewery in Snoqualmie, Wash., said he is below the $200,000 income level and is opposed to the notion that tax cuts to the wealthiest will trickle down to create jobs for others.

But Eiffert said it is not too late for the public to speak its mind on the various tax issues before the year comes to a close.'I always hold out hope until it is a done deal,' said Eiffert. 'I urge people to contact their legislators and tell them what they want done. And I hope there will be something better than what has been proposed.'"

Read the full column on ABCNews.com

Forbes logo

December 10, 2010

Weak Estate Tax Could Derail Tax Deal

"'It’s obscene and unnecessary, and it benefits no one but a handful of heirs of rich parents,' stated Mike Lapham, director for United for A Fair Economy’s Responsible Wealth project, in a release today calling for stronger tax provisions in the deal, and applauding House Democrats for their commitment to strengthening the plan. 'The estate tax is reason enough to reject the deal,' Lapham said. [...]"

Read the full post by Ashlea Ebeling on Forbes.com.

Bloomberg logo

November 29, 2010

Estate Tax as a Hurdle to Resolving Bush-era Tax Cuts

"Forging an agreement [on the estate tax] has proven more complicated than splitting the difference on the numbers because this has been cast as a moral issue, said Lee Farris, senior organizer on estate-tax policy for United for a Fair Economy, a Boston-based group that advocates reinstating the estate tax.

“People are more dug in on their estate-tax positions on both sides than they are on the other positions,” Farris said. [...]"

Read the full column by Ryan Donmoyer on Bloomberg.com.

The Rick Smith Show logo

November 19, 2010

UFE's Lee Farris joined Rick Smith – Pennsylvania talk show host and voice of the working class – to discuss the outright betrayal of struggling Americans by Congressional Republicans, who are holding unemployment benefits for millions of people hostage in their misguided push for permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

Download an MP3 of Rick's interview with Lee Farris. (37.5 MB)

WSJ Business logo

November 18, 2010

Estate tax: Some Small Businesses Glad to Pay

"What do an 84-year-old family-business matriarch in Little Rock, Ark., a beer brewer in Snoqualmie, Wash., a real-estate developer in Portland, Ore., and a Silicon Valley entrepreneur have in common? They’re all calling on Congress to extend the estate tax — even if it takes a bite out of what they leave their heirs. [...]"

Read the full article on WSJ.com

MarketWatch logo

November 16, 2010

Estate Tax? Bring it on

Andrea Coombes, Personal Finance Editor of The Wall Street Journal MarketWatch blog, talks estate tax with Jerry Fiddler in this video interview. According to Fiddler, a wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur, because the strength of our educational systems and success of the private sector depend on public services, he considers it a point of pride – not pain – to be able to pay back into the public good.

Watch the interview on MarketWatch.com

Asheville Citizen-Times logo

November 5, 2010

OP-ED: I'm a Genetic Lottery Winner - Tax Me!

Responsible Wealth member, Judy Pigott, shares why she considers her good fortune a call to action to help protect the common good in the US, starting with preserving and strengthening the federal estate tax.

More >>

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Good Talking Point for Dialogue on Deficits

Dean Baker, intrepid economist at the Center for Economic Policy & Research (CEPR) who scrutinizes mainstream media reporting on the economy, has this gem about the little-discussed impact of health care costs on the deficit.

Dean Baker "If the United States paid the same amount per person for health care as any of the 35 countries with longer life expectancies, we would be looking at huge budget surpluses for the indefinite future."

Baker points readers to CEPR's "Health Care Budget Deficit Calculator," which allows users to compare baseline federal deficit projections by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) against the projected deficit under the CBO's "Low Health Care Cost" calculations.

Deficit projections as percent GDP -- baseline vs. low health care cost

Chart h/t Center for Economic & Policy Research

If you're curious to see how we stack up against the rest of the developed world, CEPR's calculator also lends a glimpse into what our projected deficits would look like if we spent the same amount of money per person on health care as they do in 30 other countries.

The main point here is that, while deficits aren't to be ignored, there are other puzzle pieces that are being brushed aside in the national debate. In this case, we're forgetting that inefficiencies, inequities, and the allure of private profits in health care are doing some major damage to our federal budget. Let's stop forgetting, start learning and sharing the important information that's going to move us in a better direction, and turn our lawmakers' attention to solutions that work for all of us.

Baker's daily posts can be seen in his Beat the Press blog on the CEPR website.

For more good sense on deficit madness, read Robert Kuttner's "What Planet Are Deficit Hawks Living On?"

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UFE Members Getting the Word Out on the Estate Tax

Letter WritingTired of hearing politicians' and pundits' lame and divisive arguments about taxes and the economy? Have thoughts and opinions you'd like to get off of your chest? Here are a few examples to get you started.

UFE member and author, Chuck Kelly, is doing his part to keep up the support for a strong estate tax. He recently wrote an op-ed that ran in the Asheville Citizen-Times in North Carolina. You can read it here on his website. He makes a several compelling arguments about why our country needs a robust estate tax.

Another UFE member, Jennifer Ladd, sent a letter to her local paper, The Daily Hampshire Gazette, urging Congress to end the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2 percent. She makes a great point – a point that needs to be made more and more.

Chuck and Jennifer are giving members of their communities the information they need to be more informed and active players in the national tax debate. As former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill, once said, "All politics is local." If you're someone who spends a more time in your community than most of the folks on Capitol Hill, you may have a much better handle on what that means.

Your voice matters, so go for it! Get your thoughts about the estate tax and the Bush tax cuts on paper (or computer), and submit to your local newspapers. You never know how many calls and letters to Congress you might spark. How many hearts and minds you might change. How much of an impact you might have at the policy tables. And, ultimately, how big of a difference you might make, not only for yourself, but also for those in your community, state and country.

We even posted some talking points and basic instructions to help get your letter placed last month. See our Estate Tax and Bush Tax Cuts pages for additional information.

The estate tax and all of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy are in the news right now, and will be until Congress takes action. We're working to keep the pressure on our elected officials to end wasteful tax breaks for the wealthy. This isn't an easy fight, so we can use all the help we can get. Speak to your community – write an op-ed or letter to the editor of your local paper today!

If your letter or op-ed gets published, we want to hear about it. We may even feature your piece on our blog. Just email comms@faireconomy.org with a link to the online version. If your piece doesn't get picked up, don't fret. You can still share with others through online social networks, blogs and comment sections in opposing articles. But, most of all, keep learning, remain hopeful and stay engaged.

Thanks, in advance, for taking action.

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Vote! Make Sure Your Voice is Heard

Go Vote!

Tuesday November 2nd is election day. Make sure that your voice is heard. Get to your polling place and cast your vote. In addition to Congressional elections there are many key local races and critically important ballot initiatives. Citizens for Tax Justice has a good rundown on the basics of tax related ballot initiatives. If you live in CaliforniaColoradoMassachusetts orWashington, click on your state for our take on the tax ballot initiatives in your state.

Image courtesy of Gov Gab.

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Responsible Wealth: Allies Inside the Castle Walls

How the Responsible Wealth project fits within the broader work of UFE

At UFE’s October Board meeting, we had a great discussion about what it’s going to take to build a broad social movement capable of fostering a more widely shared prosperity and a more just economy. We looked at everything from the need for a compelling narrative, a vision for the future, an organized base, an effective means of communication, and more. Part of that discussion came back to who we seek to organize and how, surfacing key questions about how UFE does its work.

One of our Board members, Bill Creighton, used a powerful metaphor that helped put this question, and the work of UFE in context. Imagine a castle that represents the power and privilege our lopsided economic system bestows on a small minority. Those on the inside represent the wealthiest among us, and those on the outside are the families struggling to make ends meet. Much of UFE’s work is focused on organizing and supporting those on the outside of the castle. Our Responsible Wealth project is organizing inside the castle walls.

UFE spends significant resources, through our educational workshops and our Racial Wealth Divide project, to engage low and middle-income households, immigrant communities, communities of color, labor unions, community groups, and others impacted by the vast inequalities created by our economic system. Much of our tax work, especially our Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative, helps support the grassroots infrastructure of organizing groups working for a more progressive tax system at the state and nation levels.

Through all of this work, we aim to build a movement capable of mobilizing and energizing those outside the castle, to march to the edge of the moat and demand an end of the vast inequalities, including the castle itself and its fortified walls that have divided our nation. However, after banging on the castle door for a while, it becomes clear that a few friends on the inside of the castle could radically change the dynamics of this struggle.

Through UFE’s Responsible Wealth project, we organize high-wealth and high-income individuals who share our vision to join us in this struggle. Responsible Wealth members, like the rest of UFE, believe that an economy so radically tilted to the benefit of the very wealthy, is not in the best interest of our nation or the communities where we live. Responsible Wealth members have spoken out in solidarity against extravagant CEO Pay, predatory lending, and tax breaks for wealthy individuals like themselves.

By engaging allies inside the castle, we stand a better chance of achieving our ultimate goal. Instead of endlessly banging on the outside of the castle door, our Responsible Wealth allies can help us to open the door from the inside. By working across class differences, UFE and our Responsible Wealth project are helping to change the debate about what a fair economy looks like. This is part of what makes UFE so unique, and in the end, effective.

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Share in Washington's Solution: Vote "YES" on I-1098

WASHINGTONIANS: This is your chance to help to make history in Washington State. Vote "YES" on I-1098 by mail or at the polls on November 2nd.
Ballot Initiative 1098 would levy an income tax on the very wealthy to fund schools and health care, as well as reduce taxes for property owners and small businesses.
Here's I-1098 in a nutshell:
  • Cuts state property taxes by 20 percent;
  • Eliminates the business & occupation tax for 80% of small businesses;
  • Establishes an income tax paid by only the wealthiest 1.2% of Washington State taxpayers (individuals earning $200,000+ or couples earning $400,000+ annually), who are currently paying a drastically lower proportion of their income in state & local taxes than low- and middle-income families;
[In other words, more than 98% of Washingtonians are NOT affected by this income tax.]
  • And, I-1098 would dedicate $2 billion per year for education and health care.
Don't fall for I-1098 myths! Read the facts below.
Passing I-1098 would enable desperately needed investments in education and health care – both vital components of a prosperous future – puts more money in the pockets of the middle class and small businesses, and significantly improves the fairness of Washington’s tax system (currently the most unfair in the country).
After three years of devastating budget cuts totaling $5.2 billion, it's clear that Washington State needs a new economic approach.

Vote "YES" on I-1098 to help place Washington on the track to prosperity.
Karen Kraut
United for a Fair Economy
Dispelling Myths About I-1098
The following and more on I-1098 are available at www.YesOn1098.com

MYTH #1:
Millionaires will flee Washington for tax havens if we implement an income tax.
Proponents of the “millionaire migration” myth argue that imposing a high earner income tax on the wealthiest 1.2 percent of Washingtonians will motivate them to seek tax havens in neighboring states with lower taxes.
Several studies of the experiences in other states have shown that high earner income taxes brings in significant state revenue with little to no impact on millionaire flight. Even millionaires, like the rest of us, value proximity to family, parks, quality education, climate, and healthy workers more than just cut-rate taxes.
MYTH #2:
Generating $2 billion a year in revenue for education and healthcare will only feed the beast of big government. Proponents of the “feed the beast” myth argue that Washington’s public services are flourishing and that our state does not need additional resources to fund public priorities.
Washington is struggling to provide the basic services its citizens deserve and expect, like quality education and healthcare. I-1098 will provide $2 billion a year to education and healthcare programs and create a stable revenue stream to fund these services for years to come.

MYTH #3:
Any income tax the people pass will soon apply to everyone.

I-1098 was written with strict legal accountability requirements that requires full public disclosure of spending, subjects all funds to independent audits, dedicates all new revenue to a trust fund protected from legislative meddling, and specifically prohibits changes to either the income tax rates or who is subject to them without a vote of the people. This is Washington: the people will have the final say.
MYTH #4:
 I-1098 will soak the rich and perpetuate class warfare.

Washington has the most regressive tax system in the country. It ranks dead last – 50th out of the 50 states – in terms of tax fairness. Middle class and lower income earners pay over 11 percent of their income in taxes while the wealthiest pay less than 3 percent. I-1098 will make the Washington State system fairer by asking the rich to pay as much as the middle class. As the Seattle PI wrote in their endorsement, I-1098 will not soak the rich: At most, “it qualifies as a light rinse job.”

MYTH #5:
I-1098 will hurt businesses and the economy.

I-1098 will cut taxes for most Washingtonians, eliminate B&O taxes for small businesses, and incentivize business owners to reinvest in their companies. I-1098 will slash state property taxes by 20 percent and newly exempt 118,000 business from paying the B&O tax, a sure fire way to get our stalled economy moving again. And I-1098 will not impose any new taxes on businesses. In fact, by taxing exorbitant salaries, I-1098 will incentivize business owners to invest more into their companies and workers.

MYTH #6:
 I-1098 will put our economy at greater risk of market fluctuations.

Any good investor knows that a diversified investment portfolio reduces risk and stabilizes revenue. I-1098 will put a fourth leg on the stool of the Washington State tax system by creating a new revenue stream that responds to market fluctuations in ways different from sales, property, and excise taxes. I-1098 will help stabilize our tax system and make it less subject to wild fluctuations that have made it difficult to plan for our future.
MYTH #7:
Washington State does not have a regressive tax structure.

The independent and non-partisan Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy reports that Washington State has the most regressive tax system in the country. Other national and state experts, including the bipartisan Washington State Tax Structure Study Committee, agree that Washington has a highly regressive tax system. I-1098 works to reverse the regressive aspects of Washington’s tax system by exempting small businesses from the B&O tax and cutting property taxes for all homeowners.

MYTH #8:
The income tax is permanent while the property and business tax relief is temporary.

Strict accountability provisions govern all aspects of I-1098. Section 1002 explicitly states that the tax cut provisions are contingent upon the validity of the income tax. This was meant to ensure that we will always have a way to pay for the middle class tax cuts in I-1098. The middle class tax cuts in I-1098 will be just as permanent as the tax on the wealthiest 1.2 percent of Washingtonians.
MYTH #9:
The Legislature will not spend I-1098 revenue on education and healthcare.

The writers of I-1098 included strict accountability and transparency provisions in the measure, including annual public audits, to ensure that revenues will only be used on education and healthcare. The Office of Financial Management has confirmed that the $2 billion I-1098 produces annually will be dedicated to a trust for education and healthcare. These protections, combined with a recent court order directing the legislature to better fund K-12 education, will ensure the legislature spends these funds as directed. At the end of the day, we the people elect the legislature and we will have the final say.
MYTH #10:
If I-1098 passes, Washington will have the 4th highest income tax in the nation.

For the 98.8% of Washingtonians who will not pay, the effective income tax rate under I-1098 will still be 0 percent. Further, because I-1098 will not tax a penny below $400,000 a year for couples ($200,000 for individuals), the wealthiest 1 percent of Washingtonians will only pay an average effective income tax rate of 4 percent. Thus, Washington will rank 26 out of 50 in its effective tax rate on the wealthiest 1 percent. In sum, Washington will still have some of the lowest effective income tax rates in the country, even for the few people who will pay it.
MYTH #11:  
I-1098 will be ruled unconstitutional if passed by voters.

A number of Washington’s leading legal scholars have publicly stated that I-1098 will likely be found constitutional. It is true that a Washington State Supreme Court case from 1933 ruled an income tax unconstitutional. Yet in the ensuing 80 years, the precedent upon which the 1933 ruling was based has been overturned. Nearly every other state with similar constitutional provisions has found an income tax constitutional. I-1098’s writers, leading constitutional scholars, and the findings of the Washington State Tax Structure Committee all agree that the Supreme Court will uphold the income tax established by I-1098.
Learn more at www.YesOn1098.com


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