No Tears for George Steinbrenner

George Steinbrenner

Photo credit: Hazboy

Long before I moved to the Boston area in 1977 I had no love for the NY Yankees. Despite the fact that I grew up just a few blocks from Yankee Stadium, my family divided it’s loyalties between the Brooklyn Dodgers — the first team to break baseball’s color barrier — and the Giants (we would walk to the Polo Grounds to watch Willie Mays’ show off his amazing talents. To our working class sensibilities, the Yankees represented the ruling class of baseball, dominating the sport with the largest team payroll year after year, and displaying arrogance both on and off the diamond.

George Steinbrenner, who inherited his wealth from his father’s shipbuilding company and bought the team from CBS in the early 1970s with money from the family business, raised the level of pin-stripe hubris to new heights. In his first 17 seasons as owner, Steinbrenner hired and fired 17 managers; skipper Billy Martin was fired five times! His temper tantrums were legendary and his willingness to doggedly pursue free agents — the Kansas City Athletics were jokingly referred to as the Yankees’ farm team — ensured a steady stream of stars. Off the field, George’s antics included illegal contributions to Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign. Apparently, Steinbrenner had an affinity for employing seedy characters to bring down one’s enemies: he once hired gambler Howie Spiro to find dirt on on Dave Winfield, his own player, during contract negotiations.

While the Wall Street Journal eulogized Steinbrenner, praising his success in turning the Yankees “into a financial powerhouse,” they declined to mention that the wealthiest team in baseball received $362 million from New York City to build the lavish new stadium (New York State Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, D-Westchester, said the taxpayers' tab for Yankee Stadium eventually will total $4 billion, including potential property tax revenue over 40 years given up in the deal). The promised benefits to the neighborhood that, due to the construction, lost their ball fields and parks — where I played as a kid — have still not been replaced as promised.

And, oh yes, George Steinbrenner died with an estate worth about $1.3 billion, not a penny of which will return to public coffers through an estate tax. Due to the tax cut package George Bush signed into law in 2001, the Estate Tax was phased out step-by-step until January 1, 2010 when it ceased to exist all together. George is the fourth billionaire in the US to die so far this year leaving all their vast wealth to their heirs and designees alone.

Fortunately, the tax cut law has a sunset provision which means that on January 1, 2011, the estate tax will be restored to its 2001 level. Of course, the folks who think the Great Recession is no reason not to push through even more tax cuts for the wealthy are fighting the sunset tooth and nail. So if like me, you think George born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-his-mouth Steinbrenner will not appear on your list of the top 10 human beings who passed in 2010, you might consider contacting your Senators and Representatives and telling them to restore a responsible estate tax in “honor” of the Yankee capitalist.

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Massachusetts Immigrant Rights Groups Fight to Win

After a 19-day protest, the Student Immigrant Movement (SIM) and allied organizations celebrated a victory in their campaign, Mass Hope 2010, for the Massachusetts legislature to overturn a budget amendment laden with anti-immigrant language.

For those 19 days, SIM members staged a 24/7 vigil in front of the State House, risking arrest by local law enforcement, as a stand in solidarity with immigrants, both documented and undocumented, in Massachusetts.

SIM RallySIM initiated Mass Hope in late May when the state legislature's conference committee released its budget proposal for the new fiscal year, which was laden with provisions  that would have been an affront to the rights of immigrants and children of immigrants with regard to employment, housing, education and public services.

The anti-immigrant legislation, amendment 172.1, was not only a threat to immigrants' civil liberties, but would have also been costly for taxpayers and highly inconvenient for a state government that's already stretched thin by the ongoing recession.

Amendment 172.1 would have exemplified government at its worst. Its wasteful and punitive measures were neglectful of its impacts on the families of undocumented immigrants, and Massachusetts' immigrant communities as a whole. And, it would have done absolutely nothing to address the root causes of unlawful migration to the US.

SIM's mobilization succeeded in getting the conference committee to take their proposal back to the drawing board. The outcome was, in large part, a win for immigrant rights. While most of the proposed new restrictions and regulations were struck down, the final budget proposal contained provisions that codified existing practices and regulations as law.

The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Coalition (MIRA) expressed mixed feelings about the final budget. In the process of drafting their final budget proposal, the conference committee eliminated a program that has been providing state-subsidized healthcare for nearly 30,000 documented immigrants, raising concerns for the physical and financial well being of thousands of men, women and children. Another concern MIRA has conveyed is the closed-door message the immigrant-related codifications send to future immigrants to Massachusetts, which has come to be known as one of the most immigrant-friendly states in the US.

The budget is now headed to the Governor's desk for review. Although most involved in Mass Hope are content with the conference committee's decisions, MIRA still cautions Gov. Deval Patrick to carefully consider the implications of the immigrant-related provisions they've deemed as problematic.

The vigil has officially ended, but SIM and other activists will keep up the pressure on their state legislators to defend and expand the basic rights of immigrants in Massachusetts. UFE is proud to have participated in Mass Hope. UFE staffers participated in the vigil, in rallies, provided support, resources and a space of community for the campaign planners, protesters and others involved.

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Live Blogging: Talking Taxes

How do we make the case for government, the economy, and federal aid? Today, during day two of the National Coordinating Conference for the Campaign for Federal Aid to Communities, we'll hear from Patrick Bresette from Demos about how to talk taxes to generate support.

<a href="http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=24c275e8f2" mce_href="http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=24c275e8f2" >Live Blogging: Talking Taxes</a>

 

UFE's Shannon Moriarty is live-blogging from the National Coordinating Conference for the Campaign for Federal Aid to Communities on July 13th and 14th. Follow along as state organizers develop a national strategy for demanding federal aid for jobs and essential public goods and services. 

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Live-Blogging: Understanding the Political Landscape

What do people think about jobs, the recovery, and banks and how can organizers speak to populist concerns during the upcoming election? During session two of the National Coordinating Conference for the Campaign for Federal Aid to Communities, we'll hear from pollsters and union representatives about the public opinion landscape and how activists can shape their messaging this electoral season.

<a href="http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=42d1b29600" mce_href="http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=42d1b29600" >Live-Blogging: Understanding the Political Landscape</a>

 

UFE's Shannon Moriarty is live-blogging from the National Coordinating Conference for the Campaign for Federal Aid to Communities on July 13th and 14th. Follow along as state organizers develop a national strategy for demanding federal aid for jobs and essential public goods and services.  

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Farmers, Ranchers & the Estate Tax; UFE's July Teleconference in The Hill

The Hill

Ranchers demand a fix for the estate tax

With less than 30 legislative days left on the congressional calendar, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association on Tuesday warned lawmakers that time is running out to fix the estate tax.

The tax is repealed, but barring congressional action will return next year to the pre-2001 levels that hit estates worth more than $1 million with a 55 percent tax.

Steve Foglesong, the cattle association’s president, warned that the reinstatement of the tax would force some ranchers and farmers to close their operations.

“They’re in essence handing down a death sentence to family-owned farming and ranching operations,” he said in prepared remarks. “Taxing family farmers and ranchers out of business will have serious impacts on all Americans, not just in our rural communities.”  

Read the full blog post by Jay Hefflin on TheHill.com

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Former Treasury Head to Urge Congress to Move on Estate Tax

The Hill logo

"Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin will join several others in calling on Congress to reinstate the estate tax before the August recess. 

The July 21 event will be hosted by United for a Fair Economy, which has been fighting to preserve the estate tax since 1999.

Rubin is expected to discuss his reasons for supporting a permanent estate tax fix. [...]"

Read the full blog post by Jay Hefflin on TheHill.com

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TFOC Live-Blogs from the National Conference on Federal Aid to Communities

UFE's Shannon Moriarty will be live-blogging from the National Coordinating Conference for the Campaign for Federal Aid to Communities on July 13th and 14th. Follow along as state organizers develop a national strategy for demanding federal aid for jobs and essential public goods and services.

Live-blog coverage starts on Tuesday, July 13th at 1:30pm. The first session kicks off with a discussion of key issues facing the federal campaign, including a recession retrospective, federal legislation, and the 2010 fall elections.

<a href="http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=e8458f4f1f" mce_href="http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=e8458f4f1f" >Key Issues in the Federal Aid to Communities Campaign</a>

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The Significance of the Second US Social Forum

Imagine thousands of people meeting, mingling, and marching peacefully through your city streets for nearly a week. Last month, a racially, ethnically and geographically diverse crowd of more than 15,000 people vitalized the epic, but destitute, city of Detroit–the epicenter of the Great Recession in the US.

The second US Social Forum (USSF)—the first was in Atlanta in June 2007—was inspired by the 2001 World Social Forum in Brazil. The 2001 gathering was an international attempt to pose and discuss alternative economic models and rules to those discussed at the corporate-dominated World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

Jeannette Huezo 
at USSF workshop

Four UFE staff members, as well as several board members, volunteers, and supporters, led popular economics education workshops, participated in planning meetings, marched in demonstration, attended plenaries, networked, and enjoyed cultural activities.  Our message about the scope of economic inequality and our method of engaging people in dialogue about its consequences and what to do about it, were very well-received. New relationships were forged, old ones strengthened, and a great deal of enthusiasm for collaboration was generated.

But, the significance of the Forum goes way beyond these specific outcomes for UFE. What we witnessed (and participated in) was a key step forward in building a powerful social and economic justice movement that will realize the USSF theme: "Another World is Possible, Another US is Necessary."

Steve Schnapp, USSF 
WorkshopLabor & racial justice activist Bill Fletcher provided his take, “...[the USSF] was the antithesis of the Tea Party movement. Instead of the fear, ignorance and hatred that emanates from the Tea Partiers, here there was a sense of optimism.” The  provides a vibrant and safe space for exchanges of ideologies and strategies. While we still struggle to construct a common narrative that explains how we got here and a common vision of where we want to go, the willingness to engage open-mindedly in the hard work to build such consciousness, was on display throughout the Forum.

“For five days in Detroit, an incredibly diverse group of progressives became a community,” said Steve Schnapp, UFE's senior education coordinator. “We are making the road as we walk. But, more importantly, we do so in ways that draw upon our unique perspectives and celebrate our unique gifts. This feeling of solidarity inspires us to continue our important work. A world where power and wealth are not concentrated in the hands of a few is indeed possible!”

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UFE Reaches Across the Northern Border

A year ago, UFE traversed the northern border of the US to Ottawa, Ontario for a visit with the largest public workers union in Canada, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). We were invited by PSAC’s National Education Program Officer, Victoria Gibb-Carsley, who once participated in a UFE Training of Trainers Institute.

Victoria found UFE's use of popular education methodology to be highly effective, and decided it was just what PSAC needed in developing a new leadership training program. Today, PSAC's program is acclaimed as one of the most comprehensive and powerful in Canada's labor movement.

This week, Victoria shared with us the most recent outcome of our collaboration–a project that highlights the lasting impacts of UFE's work to raise awareness of economic inequality, and exemplifies the proliferative nature of a clear call for justice.

At our workshop in Ottawa last year, I shared a short video, produced by UFE volunteer, Matt Chana, called the "BBs of Wealth," which provides an illustration of wealth inequality in the US. The concept of our "BBs" video resonated strongly with the folks at PSAC, and inspired them to produce one of their own to share with their membership and use in their trainings.

PSAC's final product, “Pennies of Prosperity,” is a chilling representation of the vast Canadian wealth divide. Their video is another entry in the toolbox of educational materials that tells the story of inequality. And, it will undoubtedly galvanize many more people to become engaged in efforts for progressive social change.

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Support The Responsible Estate Tax Act

Urge Your Senators to Co-Sponsor The Responsible Estate Tax Act, S.3533

Dear Friend of United for a Fair Economy,

Senators Sanders (I-VT), Harkin (D-IA), and Whitehouse (D-RI) have just proposed a strong, fair, and fiscally responsible estate tax bill. The Responsible Estate Tax Act (outlined below) would make the wealthy pay their fair share, while ensuring that the estate tax will not affect the middle class, small businesses, or family farmers. Call your Senators now and urge them to co-sponsor the Sanders/Harkin/Whitehouse Responsible Estate Tax Act S.3533 so that we can begin the path towards a fairer and more responsible tax system.

1. Call toll-free 800-830-5738 or 202-224-3121 (Capitol switchboard) and ask to be connected to your two US Senators, or call their direct lines. Then, ask for the staff person who handles taxes, or tell the person who answers the phone:

  • My name is _____________. I am a constituent.
  • I am calling to urge the Senator to co-sponsor S.3533 the Sanders/Harkin/Whitehouse Responsible Estate Tax Act .
  • If we are going to get out of this recession, we need to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s time to restore the progressive tax system that made our country strong, beginning with a robust estate tax. The Sanders/Harkin/Whitehouse The Responsible Estate Tax Act is an important step on the road to an economic recovery that benefits all Americans.
  • This bill is a common sense solution. It balances the desire to protect small businesses and farms with the assurance that the super-wealthy give back and support the country that made their prosperity possible.

Email me (don't reply to this email), Lee Farris, at lfarris@faireconomy.org to let me know what you heard and how it went. If you get a reply email or a letter from your legislator, please send me a copy.

2. Write a letter to the editor. Find the editor's email from the Contact the Media box. Use the talking points above and connect your letter to any story about taxes or deficits. Please send me a copy of the letter you submit.

3. Share this alert with everyone you know. Please forward this email, post it on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and everywhere else you communicate.

Thanks for taking action,



Lee Farris
Senior Organizer on Estate Tax Policy
United for a Fair Economy
617-423-2148 x133
lfarris@faireconomy.org



THE SANDERS/HARKIN/WHITEHOUSE RESPONSIBLE ESTATE TAX ACT, S.3533

  • Exempts the first $3.5 million of an estate from federal taxation ($7 million for couples), the same exemption that existed in 2009. Doing this would mean that 99.75 percent of all estates would be exempted from the federal estate tax in 2011 alone.
  • Includes a progressive rate structure so that the super-wealthy pay more. The rate for the value of the estate above $3.5 million and below $10 million would be 45 percent, the same as the 2009 level. The rate on the value of estates above $10 million and below $50 million would be 50 percent, and the rate on the value of estates above $50 million would be 55 percent.
  • Includes a billionaire's surtax of 10 percent. The bill also imposes a 10 percent surtax on the value of an estate above $500 million ($1 billion for couples). According to Forbes Magazine, there are only 403 billionaires in the United States with a collective net worth of $1.3 trillion. Clearly, the heirs to these multi-billion fortunes should be paying a higher estate tax rate than others.
  • Closes all of the estate and gift tax loopholes requested in President Obama's Fiscal Year 2011 budget. These loophole closers include requiring consistent valuation for transfer and income tax purposes; a modification of rules on valuation discounts; and a required 10-year minimum term for Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATS). OMB has estimated that closing these loopholes that benefit the super-wealthy, would raise at least $23.7 billion in revenue over 10 years.
  • Protects family farmers by allowing them to lower the value of their farmland by up to $3 million for estate tax purposes. Under current law, the value of farmland can be reduced up to $1 million for estate tax purposes under 2032(a) of the Internal Revenue Code (Special Use Valuation). The bill increases this level to $3 million and indexes it to inflation.
  • Benefits farmers and other landowners by providing estate tax relief for conservation easements. The bill provides tax relief to farmers and other landowners by amending estate tax rules for conservation easements through an increase in the maximum exclusion amount to $2 million and increasing the base percentage to 60 percent.

This legislation would exempt over 99.7% of Americans from paying any estate tax whatsoever, while ensuring that the wealthiest Americans in our country pay their fair share.


BACKGROUND

The future of the federal estate tax is still up in the air. Due to the Bush Tax Cuts, there is no estate tax in 2010. However, it will return in 2011 with a $1 million exemption and a 55% rate. It is likely that the Senate will act on the estate tax by the end of the year. This is creating a pressure cooker of debate over what the estate tax should look like in 2011.

President Obama proposed keeping the 2009 estate tax, with a $3.5 million exemption per spouse and 45% rate. That loses about half as much revenue as full repeal.

As a stronger alternative to the Obama proposal, UFE has supported H.R. 2023, The Sensible Estate Tax Act, sponsored by Rep. McDermott, (D-WA)., which would set the exemption level at $2 million per spouse, and establish progressive tax rates of 45% to 55%. Because the McDermott bill has not been introduced in the Senate, UFE also supports the Sanders/Harkin/Whitehouse Responsible Estate Tax Act.

Senators Lincoln (D-AR) and Kyl (R-AZ) proposed a dangerously weak estate tax that includes a $5 million dollar exemption per individual and a 35% tax rate. This proposal would cost our cash strapped nation additional tens of billions of dollars in the coming years and would do so to the exclusive benefit of multi-millionaires.

America quite literally can’t afford the kind of estate tax that Lincoln and Kyl propose. Senators Sanders, Harkin, and Whitehouse have proposed a viable solution. Call your Senators as soon as possible and urge them to co-sponsor S.3533 the Sanders/Harkin/Whitehouse Responsible Estate Tax Act and help bring fair taxation back to America!

P.S. Remember to call toll-free 800-830-5738 or 202-224-3121 (Capitol switchboard) to support a strong estate tax, and ask to be connected to both your US Senators, or call their direct lines.

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