Best Move for Cash-Strapped States?

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"All but a handful of states have seen their revenues plunge since the great recession hit like a tsunami in 2008. State lawmakers have repeatedly slashed their budgets to address the massive shortfalls. But cutting to get out of fiscal crisis is tantamount to digging to get out of a crater.

Budget cuts deepen the recession and stifle recovery by immediately putting people out of work, reducing public and private investment, and abandoning residents in their hour of need. The long-term economic consequences are also damaging, including lost productivity, a less-skilled workforce, and reduced competitiveness.

The key to the twin goals of budget repair and economic recovery is significantly increasing progressive taxes. [...]"

Read the full column by UFE's Karen Kraut in the Christian Science Monitor

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Black Realities and Black Delusion in the Age of Obama

Unemployment line

Photo credit: Pan-African News Wire

"[...] Last week, the Economic Policy Institute released a study that projects Black unemployment — the official figure — will officially reach 17.2 percent by the third quarter of this year.

In five states, Black unemployment is projected to exceed 20 percent. Those states are Alabama, Illinois, Ohio, South Carolina and Michigan. And in Michigan, it’s projected to reach 27 percent. And we know that it’s already higher than that in Detroit, officially.

These facts are based on the way the federal government measures unemployment. And that means they are gross underestimates of real unemployment. Because they’re based on who actually shows up at a job center in four weeks. They underestimate everybody who is discouraged in the job market. Blacks...stay unemployed much, much longer than whites. They have far more reason to be discouraged than whites. And far more of us never, in fact, even enter the formal job market. Plus there is the huge population of Blacks in prison. Prison inmates are not counted as unemployed. And in some communities, at any given time, that figure exceeds 20 percent of the Black, male, working-age population. So that is a built-in undercount — a huge one. [...]

From the beginning of the current recession, which they date to September of 2007, to the third quarter of this year, white unemployment will have gone up five percent. Black unemployment will have gone up 8.6 percent. And Black people were already living at depression levels in 2007 when we start that count. So we see that there is an even deeper bottom that is falling out of the Black job market. [...] [T]he numbers were derived from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Based on those facts, the headline for the story of the Economic Policy Institute’s research said, 'U.S. unemployment Rate for Blacks Projected to Hit 25 Year High.' That same week another story appeared based on a study by the Pew Research Center [...] That study reports that, 'Black assessments about the state of Black progress in America have improved more dramatically than at any time in the last quarter-century.” Those two headlines are in the same week, and so, on one hand, we have Black unemployment to reach 25-year high, and on the other hand we have Black assessments of Black progress at…[a] 25-year high! So we are in the midst of a great disconnect.

Black perceptions and Black reality are in absolute conflict. They are diametrically opposed. [...]

the truth is Black people have been given the impression that they are materially better off than ten years ago by a relentless media barrage about Black progress. We hear it every day on every channel in every newspaper in every way. [...] The aim of that wall-to-wall propaganda is to declare that the struggle is over, or that the struggle should be over. Barack Obama’s election is put forward as the final proof of that.

We’re witnessing the greatest loss of Black wealth since slavery.

United for a Fair Economy [says] Black wealth is now 10 cents on the dollar of white median household wealth. But that figure is certainly too high.

That’s because the data on Black home foreclosures is not yet in. That tsunami has not crested yet. The data are incomplete because the federal government does not keep racial figures on home foreclosures. The feds do keep track, by race, of mortgages, but not by foreclosures. [...]

Read the full blog post by Glen Ford on the Pan-African News Wire




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Boston to Boycott Arizona

Boston City Councilors Felix Arroyo and Michael Ross filed a resolution this week, urging the City of Boston to review all business activities conducted with the state and municipalities of Arizona, and to the extent possible, cease those activities. The results came quickly -- it passed! The initiative was sparked by an uproar of Bostonians in response to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's signing into law the anti-immigrant legislation, SB 1070.

Councilor Arroyo shared his thoughts:

Felix  Arroyo, Jr., Boston City Councilor

"As a city, we have long rejected the idea that racial profiling is sound public safety policy. And we decided we don't want to invest in a state that believes otherwise."

From an "outraged" Councilor Ross:

Michael Ross, Boston City Councilor

"[I was] outraged when I heard about the Arizona law that requires anyone who looks 'reasonably suspicious' to be stopped and asked to prove that they're a legal resident of the United States. The last time people were stopped and asked for papers in this country, it was during the era of slavery."

Although this resolution is a non-binding measure, it's adoption certainly makes a powerful statement. Former UFE board member and Director of the AFSC's Project Voice, Gabriel Camacho, who attended the Cinco de Mayo City Council hearing, had this to say:

Gabe Camacho "Even if it's just a symbolic gesture, it sends a strong message that Massachusetts is the cradle of democracy in this country and sends a message to our fellow states that this can't be encouraged."

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, also a supporter of the Council's resolution chimed in:

Thomas Menino, Mayor of Boston

"It's a message saying America is a land of opportunity. Now there's one little state out there saying, 'We don't want that land of opportunity. We want to be isolationists.' To say you're not welcome in your state to work, that's wrong. This country was built on immigrants. My grandfather, so many other folks, came to America looking for that hope of a better future."

Boston's boycott of Arizona is the embodiment of democracy in action. And, it shows the continued and growing strength and solidarity of the human and civil rights movements, which gives great hope for the future of humane immigration policy.

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Bill Gates, Sr., Responsible Wealth in Seattle to Discuss Higher Taxes on Wealthy

Judy Pigott with Bill Gates, Sr.

Photo of Judy Pigott with Bill Gates, Sr. by Steve Shay, West Seattle Herald

"Author and activist Judy Pigott hosted 70 guests at her North Admiral house Tuesday, May 4, to discuss the need for the wealthy to give their fair share of taxes and lessen the buden of the poor and middle class. She was joined by William Gates, Sr., an outspoken estate tax advocate. [...]

Guests were members of the non-profit advocacy group, "The Responsible Wealth Project" with the [sic] "United for Fair Economy"...

'Tonight we are gathering people to share information about a proposal to roll back the Bush tax cuts on the rich and to let the estate taxes resume,' said Pigott, a Paccar family member who authored the book 'Personal Safety Nets' with a personal endor[s]ement from Gates, Sr.

'We look at taxes as an effective and ethical way of supporting all of us while recognizing we are all part of a community and nobody got here by him or herself no matter how hard he or she worked,' said Pigott.

'Tonight I'm going to talk about the state income tax,' said Gates. 'In this state the wealthiest people are paying too damn little. The richest people are paying about 3-percent of their income. And the bottom 20-percent pay 16 or 17-percent, five times as much. It stinks.'

Read the full column by Steve Shay in the West Seattle Herald

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Tax Fairness Pledge 2010 Media Digest

Tax Fairness Pledge 2010 Media Digest

Tax day has come and gone and the recession continues to weigh heavily on the shoulders of our economy. With the Responsible Wealth Tax Fairness Pledge, we set out to remind US taxpayers that the Bush tax cuts, which predominantly benefited the wealthiest Americans, are still with us today. And, with the federal deficit and budget cuts as a constant worry, we're spreading the message that these unfair and unnecessary tax cuts must come to an end.

The story of the Tax Fairness Pledge, including interviews with several Pledge signers, has shown up in national and regional media, including newspapers, blogs, radio, and even television. Take a look below for a sampling of some of that coverage, and be sure to check back for updates.

Listen to the April 6, 2010 Tax Fairness Pledge Press Teleconference (mp3)

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April 15, 2010

Responsible Wealth members, Marnie Thompson (Greensboro, NC) and Judy Pigott (Seattle, WA), join ABC News' John Berman via Skype™ to share why they, as wealthy individuals, believe we should end tax breaks for the wealthy once and for all.

Watch the video below or on

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April 14, 2010

Free from the ambush by a disagreeable panel on Fox Business' Varney & Co., Mike Lapham makes another visit to Fox News, this time for a chat with Shepard Smith, host of Studio B. Mike discusses the failure of "trickle-down" tax policies and states Responsible Wealth's case for ending tax breaks for the wealthy.

Watch the video on Fox News.

April 14, 2010

RW members Marnie Thompson and Jeffrey Hollender tell NPR reporter Yuki Noguchi why they support rolling back Bush tax cuts on the wealthy. " 'I'm proud to pay my taxes; it's a hallmark of democracy,' says Thompson." In response to arguments against allowing the cuts to expire, Hollender says, "These arguments are really about keeping money in the pockets of people who already have too much money."

You can listen to the piece, which appeared on Morning Edition or read the full story at

April 12, 2010

Responsible Wealth Director, Mike Lapham, continues the Tax Fairness Pledge media blitz with a less-than-welcoming group on Fox Business' Varney & Co. Even in the face of a triple team offensive from the Fox team, Mike holds strong and delivers the message to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

Watch the video on Fox Business.

April 12, 2010

Tax Fairness Pledge signers are a powerful voice of opposition, and reason, to the "tea-sipping fiscal hawks ... circling Capitol Hill squawking about the deficit amid a chorus of angry voices screaming for an extension of Bush-era tax cuts." The message: let the cuts die. Cape Cod Times writer Sean Gonsalves summarizes UFE and RW's argument in support of restoring top tax rates on the wealthy.

Read the full article on

April 12, 2010

Responsible Wealth member and Tax Fairness Pledge signer Eric Schoenberg explains why he supports letting the Bush tax cuts expire in this piece by columnist Harvy Lipman of the Bergen Record. Schoenberg states, "My fundamental argument is that what's in my best long-term self-interest is that we have a well-functioning society,".

Read the full article on

April 11, 2010

There are a lot of misconceptions about what, exactly, has caused such a huge budget deficit in the US over the past few years. And while no one factor is completely responsible for our current fiscal position, the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy have certainly done their part. A recent blog post on does a nice job of putting some of the misinformation to rest.

Read the full post on

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April 10, 2010

Fair tax policy has been a part of UFE and RW's work for years. And our members have been an important voice in pushing for fairer taxation. In a recent article by Kristi Heim in The Seattle Times, members Judy Pigott and Arul Menezes share their thoughts on why the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy should be allowed to expire in 2010.

Read the full article from The Seattle Times.

April 9, 2010

Job creation is often an excuse for continuing tax cuts for the wealthy. But, as Responsible Wealth director Mike Lapham notes in Al Lewis' piece on, "these tax cuts were supposed to free up vast amounts of capital and to spur investment and create trickle-down economic growth. As United for a Fair Economy and others have documented, tax cuts do not create jobs. [...] Instead of economic growth, the tax cuts have added an additional $2.5 trillion to our mounting national debt now headed for $13 trillion."

Read the full article on

April 9, 2010

Karen Datko points out the contradiction of anti-tax supporters demanding lower taxes, while telling government, 'Don't touch my (Social Security, Medicare, farm subsidies, or whatever their favorite government program is).' To keep these and other important public services, we'll need to let the wealth shift back by restoring top tax rates on the highest income earners.

Read the full blog post on MSN's MoneyCentral.

April 9, 2010

Max Linsky is right when he writes, "Change starts with changing assumptions." And that's what our Tax Fairness Pledge is all about - changing assumptions that have long allowed US tax policies to shift in favor of the wealthy.

Read the full blog post on

April 8, 2010

As Shelly Banjo puts it in her recent blog post from the Wall Street Journal, "not all wealthy Americans try to pay as little in taxes as possible." Signers of our Tax Fairness Pledge view restoring top tax rates on the wealthy as an answer to closing our country's budget deficit while maintaining important public services.

Read the full article on Wall Street Journal Blogs.

April 8, 2010

Some folks seem perturbed by the message our Tax Fairness Pledge signers are sending when it comes to tax fairness. And to those who donate a portion of their tax cuts to tax fairness organizing efforts, opponents ask "why don't you just donate to the federal government?" This article from does a great job of explaining why that's not the answer...

Read more and see the full article from

April 8, 2010

Responsible Wealth Director Mike Lapham goes toe-to-toe with conservative CATO Institute's Dan Mitchell on The Kudlow Report on CNBC, and holds his ground, even with opposition from Larry Kudlow, himself!

Watch the video from below.


April 7, 2010

On the Daily Kos, the Electablog writer shares UFE's fair tax sentiment, but writes it with a twist - of humor and satire - that is right on the money. "Let's face it: the Teapublicans are manning the ramparts to fight for the tax breaks of their bosses. They've been so brainwashed into thinking that all taxes are bad that they don't even realize they aren't fighting for their own self-interest, they're fighting for their boss's self-interest."


April 7, 2010

No matter how you feel about the expiring Bush tax cuts, it's hard to deny the power of the message our Tax Fairness Pledge signers are sending. Ending tax breaks for upper-income earners in the US will put a sizable dent in the national deficit, something 60% of Americans have said they support. And with a majority like that on President Obama's side, we agree with Dana Milbank that the odds of the cuts expiring at the end of 2010 are in our favor.

Read the full article from The Washington Post.

April 7, 2010

Fighting opposition to rolling back Bush-era tax giveaways will not be easy. But, the Obama Administration is notalone in supporting the end of the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy. As Richard Wolf highlights in his article in USAToday,"A March poll by Quinnipiac University [...] found60% of Americans support raising taxes on those earning more than $250,000, if the money is used to reduce the deficit."

Read the full article on

April 7, 2010

Responsible Wealth member, Eric Schoenberg, takes the hotseat, once again, opposite Neil Cavuto on Fox News. Eric argues that, given the "fiscal train wreck" we're headed toward, a fairer tax system would raise taxes on the wealthy.

Watch the video on Fox News.

April 7, 2010

On his MSNBC show, Dylan Ratigan asks Mike Lapham to define a fair tax policy for America. According to Tax Fairness Pledge signers, fair tax policy is grounded in having those who can most afford it, pay their fair share.

Watch the video from below.

April 7, 2010

"The wealthy are at it again, lobbying for tax changes. But not like you might expect." Don't Mess With Taxes blogger Kay Bell is right - the message UFE's Tax Fairness Pledge signers are sending is unexpected, but it shouldn't be. UFE and RW have been opposed to the Bush tax cuts since they were first enacted in 2001.

Read the full blog post by Kay Bell.

April 6, 2010

Jay Fitzgerald writes a brief profile of Responsible Wealth's campaign to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy in the Boston Herald. Mike Lapham mentions the importance of 2010 for this issue, as those Bush tax cuts are set to expire at year-end.

Read more and see the full article from The Boston Herald.

April 4, 2010

Jay Heflin discusses the Responsible Wealth Tax Fairness Pledge in The Hill. He raises the failure of trickle-down economic theory and still-sky-high unemployment as reason to believe that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy may be allowed to expire, but notes that Congress still has political sorting to do.

Read more and check out the full blog post from The Hill.

March 30, 2010

The Nation editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel, blogs about the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush tax cuts, and encourages readers to support Responsible Wealth's efforts to end tax breaks for the wealthy by taking the Tax Fairness Pledge.

Read the full blog from The Editor's Cut in The Nation.

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Ralph Nader: Wealth for Justice

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Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us cover image"There are signs that some super-rich are revolting against their "wealth fraternity." Last fall, mega-billionaire, Warren Buffet, traveled to Washington to meet with Democratic Senators and urge them to raise taxes on the wealthy like him. He pointedly said he pays at a lower rate than his secretary. [...] Earlier in this decade, he joined with a thousand other rich Americans led by lawyer William Gates, Sr. and Chuck Collins (founder of United For a Fair Economy) to successfully block the repeal of the estate tax (applied to 2% of wealthier decedents) by a Republican-controlled Congress.

Just last week, Mr. Gates, father of Microsoft's Bill, Jr. launched an initiative campaign in Washington state to impose a progressive income tax on the wealthiest citizens [...]

Last week, several megamillionaires held a conference call with reporters to express their desire for high taxes on people like them. 'I would with pleasure sacrifice the income,' declared Jeffrey Hollander, CEO of Seventh Generation. Eric Schoenberg, possessing investment banking riches, bewailed his 'absurdly low tax rates.'

According to the Washington Post, paper-mill heir Mike Lapham said that 'We're calling on other wealthy taxpayers to join us, send the message to Congress and President Obama that it's time to roll back the tax cuts on upper-income taxpayers.' He was referring to the Bush-Cheney tax cuts which saved the then-White House rulers hundreds of thousands of dollars, personally, over the near decade of cuts. At the time, I requested Bush and Cheney have the decency to exempt themselves from their own tax cuts, but they declined. [emphasis added]

According to a Quinnipiac University poll in March, a solid majority of Americans favor raising taxes on those earning more than $250,000 a year.

Then there is Dieter Lehmkuhl. Last October, he delivered to German Chancellor Angela Merkel a petition signed by 44 rich Germans urging a 5% wealth tax for two years to fund economic and social programs to aid Germany's economic recovery. The petition asserted that 'the path out of the crisis must be paved with massive investment in ecology, education and social justice.'

Megabillionaires in our country are encountering their peers here and around the world to commit fifty percent of their estates to 'good works.' They will grapple with the definition of 'good works' as to whether that means charity or justice.

The difference is important. For example, soup kitchens are a necessary and human charity. Whereas justice goes to the causes of why rich economies have any hunger at all.

With some super-rich thinking about moving from soft philanthropy to advocacy, or to shifts of power, I hope my recent work of political imagination -- 'Only the Super-rich Can Save Us!' will spark their interest."

Read the full column by Ralph Nader on

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The Tea Party: Merchants of Hate or Simply Misguided?

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"As a student of history and a longtime resident of Boston, I am very troubled by the so-called “Tea Party” movement’s current (mis)appropriation of the term.

 The original protest on Dec. 16, 1773, by British American colonists was the culmination of longstanding grievances against the British government under the battle cry of “no taxation without representation.” According to the British Constitution, only Parliament could levy taxes, and since colonists were prohibited from voting for members of Parliament or sending their own representatives to serve in Parliament, they considered the series of taxes, including the tea tax, a violation of their rights as citizens of the British realm.

 The current movement contains no well-developed political philosophy other than hatred of what they consider “Big Government,” which it views as the cause of the nation’s troubles. [...]

The Tea Partiers with their Republican allies have very deftly used the rhetoric of fear verging on paranoia to exploit people’s anxieties about their economic well-being and, quite ironically, even to vote against their own economic interests. [...]

While I would hope the vast majority of current Tea Party members would not personally condone oppressive actions, a number of followers have engaged in racist, homophobic, ableist and misogynistic name calling and other acts of violence. [...]

I actually agree with Tea Party followers’ contention that great economic disparities exist and are widening in this country, though not for the reasons they assert.

So-called “Big Government” is not the cause of the problem. The relatively unregulated and unfettered Wall Street, banking and “free market” systems constitute the actual threats.

United for a Fair Economy, a nonprofit organization that describes itself as raising “awareness that concentrated wealth and power undermine the economy, corrupt democracy, deepen the racial divide, and tear communities apart,” says that by 2004, the top 10 percent of the population owned 71 percent of accumulated wealth in the country.

Subdivided even further, the top 1 percent owned 31 percent of the country’s wealth. The wealthiest 1 percent owns approximately 45 percent of all stocks and mutual funds. In addition, the very rich pay less in taxes now than at any point in recent history. [...]"

Read the full op-ed by Warren Blumenfeld in The Ames Tribune.

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One Reason Why States Without Income Taxes Should Adopt Them

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"The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) has a proposal for Florida, Nevada, and five other states that do not impose an income tax: Swap a chunk of your sales tax for an income tax and Uncle Sam will foot much of the bill.

That’s the basic premise of Leaving Money on the Table, a joint effort of ITEP and United for a Fair Economy's Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative, which argues for a "revenue neutral" shift from sales taxes to income taxes in seven states.

Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming rely on sales taxes to make up for their lack of a personal income tax, according to the report. By adopting a progressive graduated-rate income tax, of between 4.5 percent and 6.5 percent, and offsetting it with a reduction in the sales tax, those states could reduce their residents' federal income tax payments by as much as $5.5 billion. [...]"

Read the full blog by Dolores W. Gregory on

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What's the Matter with Arizona???

Rally Against Arizona AP Photo via CBS News

In April, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law the anti-immigrant legislation, SB 1070. The law mandates state and local law enforcement to stop and check the immigration statuses of anyone they believe could be an undocumented immigrant. If a "suspect" can't prove legal status on the spot, he or she may be detained. And, built into the law is the right of legal Arizona residents to sue state officials or agencies that fail to or choose not to enforce SB 1070 (see Sec. 2, Article 8G).

You might be wondering, How can they tell if someone is undocumented? Simply put, they eyeball it. If you're a individual with brown complexion, you're fair game. If your next thought is, Isn't that racial profiling?, you're right on track.

Despite Gov. Brewer's defense of the law and assurances that racial profiling will not be a practice in its enforcement, it's clear that it was happening even before the law was passed, as in this case of wrongful detainment. What's still very unclear is how racial profiling won't be a practice in its enforcement. That being the case, we can safely say that the law is immoral, unconstitutional in the U.S, and in violation of international human rights standards.

There is a growing movement of cities, coalitions, organizations, and individuals--some very high profile--who have furiously protested Arizona's action since the law passed in April, an indication of its gaining momentum. But, this is no light debate. President Obama has taken a very public stand against SB 1070. And, while he earlier pledged to pass immigration reform this year, he more recently worked a vague pushing of that deadline into a Cinco de Mayo address.

If this movement for humane immigration reform maintains its intensity, a historic immigrant rights victory just may be on the horizon.

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Bush Tax Cuts & the Obama-GOP Tax Deal

The "Temporary" Bush Tax Cuts that Won't Go Away...


Tax Pledge 2011: Tax Wealth Like Work

In 2001 and 2003, the Bush Administration pushed through legislation that cut personal income tax rates, cut tax rates on capital gains and dividends, and cut the federal estate tax on multi-millionaires. The reductions were phased in over several years, then set to revert in 2011 to their pre-Bush levels (a gimmick designed to mask the true cost of the cuts).

But instead of expiring in 2011 as planned, these cuts were extended for another two years as part of the tax deal struck between President Obama and GOP leaders. The Obama-GOP tax deal also included other measures, including weakening of the estate tax to its lowest rate since 1932 and a temporary two percent reduction of the Social Security tax rate. The income tax rates, capital gains and dividend rates, and estate tax are all set to revert to their pre-Bush levels at the end of 2012.

The Bush tax cuts were bad policy, and any extension of these tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires is bad for this country. Here's why:

1. At a time of mounting federal deficits, we cannot afford such lavish cuts.

Including interest, the Bush Tax Cuts cost us $2.5 trillion through 2010. The Obama-GOP tax deal, most of which consists of the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts, will cost $855 billion over the two-year extension period. $424 billion of that is in 2011 alone, nearly 40% of which will go to the top 5% of income earners.

2. The Bush tax cuts were rooted in the failed trickle down policies of the past.

Over half of all the Bush tax cuts went to the top 5% of households, while the bottom 60% of households shared less than 13% of the Bush tax cuts. Instead of the promised trickle-down, we got stagnant wages for middle class Americans while the wealthy became fabulously wealthy. We now have the greatest economic disparity in wealth since just before the Great Depression.

3. Public structures are the foundation upon which prosperity is built.

Many wealthy people understand that schools, courts, roads, bridges and transportation systems all play a role in their own financial success. Every successful businessperson in this country is building his or her prosperity on the foundation of public structures our tax dollars make possible. It’s only fair that they are asked to give back to support those structures.

4. Public spending, not tax cuts, is the most effective strategy for creating jobs.

With pressure to rein in deficits, Congress is increasingly forced to choose between spending cuts or tax increases. Powerful analysis from Moody’s have shown that public spending on schools, roads, buildings, public safety, and even unemployment benefits, provides more economic stimulus ($1.36 to $1.64 for each dollar spent), than making the Bush tax cuts permanent (29¢ to 37¢ for each dollar given up).

5. Taxes are not charity. They are part of our shared contract as citizens of this country.

Achieving big things requires us to pool resources through our tax system. Individual charitable giving cannot build a road or defend a nation. Even if hundreds of people gave their tax savings back to the US Treasury, it wouldn’t fundamentally change things. We are all citizens of the same nation and we need to share the responsibility of supporting it, especially high-wealth individuals who have been the largest recipients of the wasteful Bush tax cuts for the last 10 years.

With the majority of tax cut provisions expiring at the end of 2012, the question remains - what will federal tax law look like in the future?

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