Moving from Debt to Assets: A Workshop Story

UFE - US Action Fair Taxes for All Training of  TrainersThese spring months have been particularly hectic for UFE's Education Team. So, with great pleasure, I get to write this.

For four years, UFE has partnered with the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) to present a bird's-eye view of the economy as part of their Moving from Debt to Assets financial literacy education and empowerment program.

The program assumes a multi-faceted approach to keeping low-income people, predominantly from communities of color, out of financial harm's way, using education, counseling, leadership-building, and ongoing peer support--sometimes continuing for years after graduation--to prepare these folks for financial stability and upward economic mobility.

Steve and Jeannette, UFE's Pop[ular Education] Stars, were working with a national crew of fair tax organizers in Baltimore, and needed a hand for this month's class. I stepped in with educator/historian, activist/motivator, Susan Hecht, to co-present UFE's custom workshop, "Getting Aboard the Asset Train: Race, Class & Wealth in the US," to a full room in Dorchester, MA.

Once Susan and I laid out the "doom and gloom" of what's transpired in the US economy over the past 6+ decades, the resounding message of the participants was: THIS ISN'T FAIR! and What can we do about it?

Glad they asked. Prior to the workshop, Joel Schwartz, manager of GBIO's Debt to Assets program, gave me fair warning that, in the past, one of the greatest challenges of this section of the class is to not weigh the scale too heavily on the side of the melancholy, but to balance it with an appealing call to action--one that's clearly worthwhile.

Susan and I came armed with an arsenal of resources and ideas, but more importantly, we came with a story to tell about how activism, even at the individual level, has led to change for the greater good of our society. 

Closing time came, class was adjourned, and spirited discussions of a better world spilled onto the sidewalk under a dim street lamp. It's an understatement to say that this class was galvanized, but this class was galvanized. Many of the highly motivated students expressed their readiness to leap into activism, and with the skills and knowledge imparted to them through this opportunity with GBIO, I'd say they're getting a pretty solid start.

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AFET Statement of Principles on Estate Tax Legislation

This year, members of Americans for a Fair Estate Tax (AFET), a coalition of progressive labor, faith-based, and social justice groups that has been fighting efforts to repeal or cut the estate tax for years, formally adopted a set of principles on the estate tax. Once you've reviewed the principles, please join our campaign by signing your organization's endorsement onto the document.

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Statement of Principles on Estate Tax Legislation

Our nation desperately needs revenue to invest in education, health, nutrition, and other priorities to promote a competitive workforce and ensure opportunity for every American. Only one-third of working adults have a college degree. One out of three Americans lacked health insurance at least once over the last couple years. Poverty, joblessness, and home foreclosures are harsh realities for millions of Americans.  
 
We are told over and over again that increased investments in the American people are not affordable because the federal budget deficit is too great. And yet, Congress has gradually eliminated an important revenue source that can help fund these priorities and reduce the budget deficit.  
 
Through a period of war, natural disaster, and now the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the Bush Administration and Congress set in place the gradual elimination of the federal estate tax. Since 2001, the tax was cut to exempt more and more estates so that in 2009, only one-quarter of one percent of all estates in the U.S. were expected to pay the tax. In 2009, only individuals with estates worth more than $3.5 million ($7 million for married couples) were subject to the tax. In January 2010, the estate tax was completely eliminated for one year.   
 
The federal estate tax has been repealed for 2010 and under current law will reappear in 2011. Congress must permanently reinstate the estate tax for 2010 and subsequent years because it serves these crucial purposes:  

  • The estate tax raises revenue that we need to invest in the American people. When Congress enacted the gradual repeal of the estate tax in 2001, it did not want to own up to the enormous cost of full repeal, which would exceed $800 billion over ten years. Therefore, after a year of outright repeal in 2010, the legislation calls for the estate tax to return to its old levels starting in 2011. Supporters of the Bush estate tax repeal assumed in 2001 that Congress would not allow the tax to be reinstated. Now that repeal has taken effect, Congress must take a hard look at the damage it is inflicting. Continuing the repeal will deepen the budget deficit by about $800 billion between 2012 and 2021. Keeping the estate tax at its 2009 level will cost about $400 billion over ten years.   
  • The estate tax ensures that families who have benefited the most from public goods pay their fair share to maintain them. Families that have accumulated massive fortunes in America could not have done so without the infrastructure, educated workforce, stability and other public benefits that taxes make possible. Society only works when everyone contributes to the common good.
  • The federal estate tax provides a check on the concentration of power in the hands of those born into great wealth. Such a concentration of power is contrary to American values and democratic principles. This is a growing problem today, as hard-working Americans are finding fewer opportunities for success because education and other paths to advancement are increasingly out of reach. The United States now has the greatest concentration of wealth in the hands of the rich in nearly a century. As billionaire Warren Buffett reminds us, “Without the estate tax, you in effect will have an aristocracy of wealth, which means you pass down the ability to command the resources of the nation based on heredity rather than merit.”
  • The estate tax corrects a feature of our tax system that would otherwise allow certain income to escape taxation entirely. Over half the value of inherited estates is capital gains income that has never been taxed. Most large estates include assets such as real estate, stocks or bonds. Any increase in the value of these assets is capital gain income that would be subject to the income tax if they were sold during the owner’s lifetime. However, this income is not subject to the income tax if the owner dies and leaves it to an heir.
  • The estate tax encourages charitable giving. The estate tax is not imposed on assets bequeathed to charity. Many wealthy individuals take advantage of this unlimited deduction for charitable giving. In 2004, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that if the estate tax had not existed in 2000, charitable donations would have been $13-$25 billion lower that year.    

 
Despite claims to the contrary, the estate tax does NOT affect the vast majority of small businesses and family farms. The Brookings/Urban Institute Tax Policy Center estimates that in 2009, only eighty small business and small farm estates nationwide owed any estate tax, and these estates paid an average tax of only 14 percent. This has not stopped estate tax opponents from spending millions in lobbying and advertising claiming that the estate tax hurts small businesses and family farms.  This is simply a ruse to convince average Americans to support another massive tax cut for the wealthy that they would otherwise reject.  
 
We call on Congress and the President to take the following steps when addressing
the estate tax: 
 

  1. Exempt no more than the first $2 million ($4 million for married couples) of assets in an estate.

    A $2 million per-spouse exemption for the estate tax was in effect from 2006 through 2008. This shielded over 99 percent of the estates of people who died during those years from taxation. A $2 million per-spouse exemption is also twice as large as the exemption that takes effect in 2011 under current law.

  2. Set a tax rate of no less than 45 percent for the taxable portion of estates, with an additional 10 percent tax on the taxable portion exceeding $10 million.  
     
    The taxable portion of an estate includes assets in excess of the exemption, and it excludes any assets bequeathed to a spouse or charity. Therefore, even if the taxable portion of an estate is taxed at a statutory rate of 45 percent, the effective tax rate on the entire estate, i.e. how much is actually paid, is much lower.  
     
    A fundamental tenet of a fair tax system is that those who have the greatest ability to pay should pay a larger share. Great wealth is the best indicator of ability to pay. The estate tax should continue to target the very wealthy, and the largest estates should be taxed at a higher rate.  
  3. Restore a credit for state estate and inheritance taxes.  
     
    The credit for state estate and inheritance taxes was gradually repealed under the tax cut legislation enacted in 2001, but will reappear in 2011. This credit allows states to share in estate tax revenues without having to administer a separate state tax.  
     
    Before the 2001 estate tax cuts were enacted, all 50 states had a tax on estates or inheritances. Many of these taxes have since disappeared because they were tied to the credit in the federal estate tax. Currently, only 20 states have such taxes. This is particularly problematic now, as this loss of tax revenue contributes to the severe budget shortfalls that many states are facing.

  4. Simplify the estate tax.  
     
    The estate tax should be simplified in two ways. First, the gift tax, estate tax, and generation-skipping transfer taxes should be “reunified,” so that transfers made during the lifetime or at death are subject to the same rules, exemptions, and tax rates. This will ensure tax fairness and reduce the need, and incentive, for complicated tax planning.
     
    Second, the estate tax should allow for the “portability” of any unused estate tax exemption from one spouse to another. If one spouse dies without using his or her entire $2 million exemption, the unused portion should automatically transfer to the surviving spouse. This would greatly simplify estate tax planning for many Americans and avoid the need to split up and re-title assets or set up complicated trusts. It also would eliminate situations in which some families have to pay the estate tax just because they failed to plan for it.

Click here to sign your organization on to the AFET Principles or you can send an email to Gary Therkildsen at gtherkildsen@ombwatch.org

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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 ABCNews.com


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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 NPR.org


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 CommonDreams.org.


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 NorthJersey.com.


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 Harikari.com does a nice job of putting some of the misinformation to rest.

Read the full post on Harikari.com.


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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 MarketWatch.com, "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 MarketWatch.com.


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 TakePart.com.


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 TheEconomist.com does a great job of explaining why that's not the answer...

Read more and see the full article from TheEconomist.com.



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 CNBC.com 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."

Read more on DailyKos.com.


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 USAToday.com.


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 MSNBC.com 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 CommonDreams.org

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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 BNATax.com

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