Responsible Wealth on Your World with Neil Cavuto (video)

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Eric Schoenberg on Cavuto

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Taxes Are Not Charity

"Here's the thing: taxes are not charity. It would be a bad idea for wealthy people who feel they should be paying more taxes to instead contribute large amounts of money voluntarily to reduce the national debt. The first, less important reason for this is that any individual's contributions would be meaninglessly small; they can make far more difference by using the same amount of money to advocate for higher taxes, as these millionaires are doing. But the second, more important reason is that even if a million millionaires got together and voluntarily donated money in such quantities that it made a measurable dent in the deficit, it would be even worse, because they would be giving license to other people to continue pay less than their fair share of taxes. It's an invitation to free-riding, with the public-minded rich subsidising the irresponsible and selfish.

If America did not have a severe and potentially catastrophic national debt problem, one could have a legitimate argument in which some people argued for higher taxes and more defense, health care, transportation, etc, while others argued for lower taxes and less defense, health care, transportation, etc. That is not the situation in which America finds itself. For 30 years, we have systematically collected much less in taxes than our government spends; the structural deficit used to be around 3% of GDP, but over the past two years it's leapt up due to the recession. Over the long term, we need to make painful choices to bring expenses and revenues back into line. There are two legitimate arguments one can make here. One is 'I think we should raise taxes in the following ways.' The other is 'I think we should make the following massive cuts in defense, health care, transportation etc.' It is not legitimate to say: 'Hey, if you feel like paying more to reduce the debts we all incurred together, go ahead; as for me, I'll pass...' "

Read the full article from The Economist.

 

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What Is True Tax Freedom? Responsible Wealth on MSNBC (video)

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Starting in 2001, the Bush Administration enacted a series of tax cuts that have, to date, cost roughly $2.5 trillion. Nearly half of that went to the top 5% of wealth holders and income earners in the US and, as Responsible Wealth Project Director Mike Lapham explains, the way we see it, that's just "not good policy."

Lapham: "We don't think that it was the right choice [in 2001], and we think it's inexcusable that [the Bush] tax cuts are continuing now. They were set to expire in 2010 and we're trying to make sure through [our] Tax Fairness Pledge that they do actually expire."

Dylan Ratigan: "There's a huge difference between the tax rate for those who are wealthy and invest money and those who are poor and have to work for their money. We tax workers at vastly higher rates than we tax the wealthy in this country on the belief that lower taxes on the wealthy will incentivize them to invest in our future, when we know all we've done is create a giant gambling parlor in New York [...]. How do you deal with that?"

Lapham: "To the extent that tax cuts help create jobs at all, which is debatable, certainly tax cuts for lower-income people are much more effective [...] because they don't put [their money] into savings accounts or send it off shore or whatever else. The other thing is, government spending is much more effective at creating jobs [than tax cuts to the wealthy]. There's a very good study out by Peter Orszag and Joseph Stiglitz, recently, that covers all of that."

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Rich folks forgo Bush tax cuts

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"Read their lips: Raise their taxes.

A small Boston-based network of millionaires is asking other affluent folks...to forgo their Bush-era tax cuts and to oppose any extension of the tax reductions, set to expire at the end of this year.

'We are people who believe we should pay our fair share,' said Mike Lapham, project director of 'Responsible Wealth,' part of the 'United for a Fair Economy' activist group in Boston. [...]

'This is a key year,' said Lapham, whose liberal group has called for similar millionaire-level sacrifices in the past.

The Obama administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress have already made clear their intent to let the tax cuts expire.

Read the full article by Jay Fitzgerald on BostonHerald.com.

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Wealthy to call for an end to Bush tax cuts for the rich

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"Dozens of millionaires on Tuesday are expected to call for an end to their tax breaks enacted under President George W. Bush. 

The Responsible Wealth network, a subset of United for a Fair Economy, will lead a group of high net worth individuals in condemning the tax breaks they say have cost the country $2.5 trillion since their enactment in 2001. 

The group will call to restore the top two marginal tax rates to pre-2001 levels (from 33 percent to 36 percent, and from 35 percent to 39.6 percent); return tax rates for long-term capital gains and dividend income to pre-Bush levels; and create a 45 percent tax on estates worth more than $2 million (a 55 percent tax on larger estates). [...]" 

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

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Moyers, Winship: Dr. King's Dream - Still Unfulfilled

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"Forty-two years ago, on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated, gunned down in Memphis, Tenn. [...]

We sanctify his memory now, name streets and schools after him, made his birthday a national holiday. But in April 1968, as King walked out on that motel balcony, his reputation was under assault. [...]

A year before, at Riverside Church in New York, he had spoken out -- eloquently -- against the war in Vietnam. King said, 'A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death," a position that angered President Lyndon Johnson, many of King's fellow civil rights leaders and influential newspapers. The Washington Post charged that King had, "diminished his usefulness to his cause, to his country, and to his people.' [...]

With his popularity in decline, an exhausted, stressed and depressed Martin Luther King Jr. turned his attention to economic injustice. He reminded the country that his March on Washington five years earlier had not been for civil rights alone but 'a campaign for jobs and income, because we felt that the economic question was the most crucial that black people and poor people, generally, were confronting.' Now, King was building what he called the Poor People's Campaign to confront nationwide inequalities in jobs, pay and housing. [...]

All these decades later, little has changed when it comes to economic equality. If anything, the recent economic meltdown and recession have made the injustice of poverty even more profound, especially in a society where the top percentile enjoys undreamed of prosperity. [...]

The nonpartisan group United for a Fair Economy has issued a report that features Martin Luther King Jr. on the cover with the title 'State of the Dream 2010: Drained.' King's dream is in jeopardy, the report's authors write, 'The Great Recession has pulled the plug on communities of color, draining jobs and homes at alarming rates while exacerbating persistent inequalities of wealth and income.'

Nor will a recovery ameliorate the crisis. 'A rising tide does not lift all boats,' United for a Fair Economy's report goes on to say, 'because the public policies, economic structures, and unwritten rules of racism form mountains and ridgelines, and hills and valleys that shape our economic landscape. As a result, a rising economic tide fills the rivers and reservoirs of some, while leaving others dry and parched.'

Read the full article by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship on Salon.com

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States: Drop the Budget Ax!

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"In the most shocking cut yet seen in the nationwide state budget cutting frenzy, 38,000 poor children in Arizona no longer have health insurance. Arizona policymakers eliminated the State Children’s Health Insurance Program–a first for any state–as a budget gap closing measure.

Like many governors faced with a budget crisis caused by the Great Recession, Arizona Governor Janice Brewer said she had a duty to cut this program in order “to preserve State government’s fiscal integrity and to ensure Arizona’s long-term health.

But if the Governor really wanted to achieve these two important goals, she would have put the budget ax back in the shed.

This does not imply that state governments should stop looking for new efficiencies or dismiss concerns for frugality. These efforts must continue, as always.

The problem is that budget cuts during a recession are counterproductive. They 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. [...]

Since budget cuts are harmful, do states have another choice? After all, states, unlike the federal government, are limited in their ability to engage in “deficit spending”—spending more than the money they raise each year.

Yes, there is an alternative. The best choice is progressive tax policy– not “progressive” in a political sense of being generally pro-tax, but in the economic sense of taxing individuals and businesses based on their ability to pay. [...]"

Read the full op-ed by UFE's Karen Kraut on OlympiaNews.org.

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TFOC on Augusta Free Press Radio

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Listen to this interview with David Shreve on AugustaFree Press.com.

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State Budget Cuts - Not the Only Option During Recession

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Talk Radio MicrophoneListen to this radio story, featuring Karen Kraut and Ron Deutsch

NEW YORK - Balancing the state budget in New York has been a challenge, as it has for almost every state. Like most others, New York has focused on cutting spending. However, according to a new report, alternatives to those cuts would be a better choice to get states started down the long road to economic recovery.

Ron Deutsch, executive director of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, points out that Wall Street is one sector of New York's economy that has bounced back from the recession and into record profits. To head off painful state budget cuts, which also will send a negative ripple effect through the state's economy, he urges decisionmakers to consider taxing Wall Street's bonuses and excess profits, instead.

"We've spent trillions to shore up the financial sector, and Main Street basically bailed out Wall Street. So, what we're saying is there are a number of different ways Wall Street could help contribute to helping solve our state's budget gap right now."

The report, issued by the United for a Fair Economy Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative, also suggests tapping into rainy day funds, scrutinizing existing tax breaks and encouraging more federal revenue sharing.

While many would argue against raising taxes in tough economic times, Karen Kraut, director of the Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative, says the discussion is more complex than that, and legislators need to focus on getting rid of unsound and unfair taxes, too.

"We're also looking at things like closing corporate loopholes and ending tax breaks for businesses that don't produce the jobs that they say they're going to produce."

The report's bottom line is that states do have tools available, other than cutting spending, to balance budgets. It is available online at http://www.faireconomy.org.

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Responsible Wealth, Responsible Taxes

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 EDITOR'S CUT

Katrina vanden Heuvel Every day, the damage done by the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy becomes clearer.
With 15 million people unemployed, millions of families facing home foreclosure, and state and local budgets decimated by lost revenues, there is a huge struggle to find the resources needed to respond to our economic crisis.

If you're wondering why we're in such bad budgetary straits, remember those Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. Nearly half of the cuts went to W's "base"--the top 5 percent of income earners--while the bottom 60 percent received less than 15 percent. By the end of this year, W.'s fiscal malfeasance will have cost this nation--ready for this?--$2.5 trillion.

These regressive remnants of Bush's presidency are thankfully set to expire on December 31, 2010. But if there's one thing we can count on--like GOPsters calling modest healthcare reform a "government takeover"--we know Republicans and conserva-Dems will pull out all stops in trying to keep that from happening. That's why the work of Responsible Wealth (RW) network is so critical right now. RW is a group of 700 business leaders and individuals in the top 5 percent of wealth and income who've received the lion's share of Bush tax benefits.

The group was key to preventing Bush from permanently repealing the estate tax--which has generated $1 trillion in revenues over the last ten years and is paid by fewer than one percent of families. Now it's turning its attention to ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy once and for all by taking the Tax Fairness Pledge and directing their tax breaks to groups that fight for tax fairness that benefits all Americans. (Groups like Responsible Wealth/United for a Fair Economy.) There is a Tax Break Calculator anyone can access to determine the amount they receive from the Bush tax cuts.

Mike Lapham, director of Responsible Wealth and a signer of the pledge, said: "These tax cuts were irresponsible when they were passed in 2001 and 2003. In the midst of a deep recession, they are downright inexcusable. Members of Responsible Wealth recognize that their own prosperity and success would not be possible without the foundation of a strong public education system, an effective transportation network, a strong legal system and more. Responsible Wealth members are more than happy to pay their share to support those public investments that they have benefited so greatly from."

We need people who have benefited from these cuts to step forward and say plainly, "We don't want them and our nation can't afford them."

Check out the calculator for yourself and see what you receive courtesy of George Bush. Take the pledge if you can and join this important fight.

It's time to rebuild our country and that's going to require ending the Bush tax insanity--support Responsible Wealth's fight for a more progressive tax system.

Read this blog post on TheNation.com.

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