Keep The Nation's Estate Tax

The federal estate tax is up for renewal this year, and some of America's richest families have campaigned behind the scenes against the only tax on wealth in our country.   While permanent repeal is off the table, the terms of the estate tax are yet to be determined.

Read more in this editorial from the Concord Monitor.

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Connecticut Sharing in the Solution - Statement

Governor Rell and Members of the Connecticut State Legislature,

As upper-income residents of Connecticut who treasure the quality of life in our state, we believe that Governor Rell's proposed budget cuts unnecessarily limit the State’s ability to maintain public structures and human services that are vital to keeping Connecticut strong and vibrant.

Low-income and moderate-income families have already borne the brunt of the economic downturn in Connecticut.   In the last recession, Connecticut residents lost jobs sooner and recovered at a slower rate than the nation as a whole.   Unemployment is already higher now than it was at the peak of the last recession in 2003 (7.1% compared to 5.7%).   Meanwhile, the wealthiest fifth of Connecticut residents have seen a 45% increase in average real income since the late 1980s, while the poorest fifth have seen a drop in their real income.   State public service workers have already made $700 million in concessions, yet further cuts to the public services on which our residents are now relying in greater numbers are still being proposed.

Inequality in our state is growing, despite the fact that CT has the highest per capita income in the US.   As upper-income taxpayers, we are not carrying our share of the load.   The top 1% of Connecticut families pay 4.5% of their income to state and local taxes, while those in the lowest 20%   pay 12.1%.

Part of the solution to the budget crisis lies in asking those with more resources to pay higher marginal rates.   Progressive tax brackets are being used in many of Connecticut’s neighboring states and are an important means for establishing fairer, more reliable state revenue.

During times of economic hardship, we must all make sacrifices to support the common good.   Those of us who have incomes of $200,000 and above can well afford an increase in our income tax.   Instead of placing an even greater burden on communities and families already suffering from the economic crisis, we need to develop a balanced solution that will save the much-needed public services that benefit us all.

In this way, we can and should avoid severe cuts to our great state's services and continue to invest in our people and our communities.   As upper-income Connecticut State taxpayers, we are willing and able to share in the solution to our state's budget crisis.
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Moving Toward A Bottom Up Economy (Op-Ed)

"It’s been almost eight months since the financial crisis became a reality. It’s also six months since the election of President Obama, who made a campaign promise to rebuild the economy from the bottom up. But now, 100 days into his administration, we’re not much closer to a bottom-up economy. In fairness, such a major restructuring will require much more than 100 days. It will also require major involvement from the grassroots folks who helped get Obama elected."

Read the full article by UFE staffer Steve Schnapp in The Register Citizen.

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Rep. McDermott Presents Sensible Estate Tax Act on PBS

Under the law passed by President Bush, there is no estate tax in 2010, and estates pay only capital gains tax; then the estate tax returns with a $1 million exemption in 2011. President Obama wants to prevent this one year gap by making the 2009 estate tax law permanent.   There are several proposals on the table, including Rep. Jim McDermott's, D-WA Sensible Estate Tax Act, HR 2023, which will provide $62 billion more in revenue over 10 years compared to President Obama's proposal.   We expect that Congress will vote later this year on legislation to make permanent changes in the estate tax. You can read what Rep. McDermott says in support of his bill in this 5/21/09 PBS news transcript:

"Reviving the Economy" - Congressional Difference of Opinion - Congressman Jim McDermott, D-WA

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Restore Tax Fairness: Tax the Rich

By Joel Wendland

"President Barack Obama campaigned on and has already implemented the largest tax cut for working families in US history. As part of the president's economic stimulus package, beginning on April 1st, the Treasury Department revised its rules to make sure that 95 percent of workers will keep an extra $400 and working-class households will keep $800 per year.

In addition, the president has proposed shifting more of the tax burden to the very richest Americans and corporations by eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the upper bracket and by ending loopholes that allow corporations to gain at the expense of middle-income taxpayers."

Read the full article at Political Affairs.

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The Movement Builds for Progressive Tax Policy

By Desiree Evans of The Institute for Southern Studies.

"A movement aimed at shifting the nation's tax policy by raising taxes for the wealthiest is taking off across the country. Such a shift in policy would mean reversing 30 years worth of federal tax and budget policy that has primarily favored the rich.

Improving tax policy was a large part of President Barack Obama's campaign program. Although he's implemented one of the largest tax cuts for working families in U.S. history, economic justice advocates say that Obama's tax proposals must do more."

Read the full article at Facing South.

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Rhode Island Estate Tax Action Alert

Dear RI supporter of United for a Fair Economy,

We are passing on an alert from our partner in RI, Ocean State Action, which is a member of UFE’s Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative.  Please reply to Dan Bass at 401-463-5368 or dan@oceanstateaction.org.

Governor Carcieri's budget has several disastrous proposals that would vastly lower taxes for the wealthiest Rhode Island tax filers and large corporations at the expense of working and middle-income Rhode Islanders.  We need your help on Tuesday May 19th and/or Thursday May 21st to defeat the three most harmful and regressive of the Governor's proposals in his FY2010 state budget.  These proposals would:

  • Lower the estate tax by raising the exemption on estates from $675,000 to $1 million, and setting a dangerous precedent to move towards the potential elimination of the estate tax in its entirety (Article 36)
  • Phase out the corporate income tax in its entirety, which would mostly benefit the largest 50 corporations operating in Rhode Island (Article 37)
  • Flatten the personal income tax rates to benefit mostly the highest income tax filers in Rhode Island (Article 38)
The House Finance Committee will hold a hearing on these proposals on Thursday May 21 starting at 1:00 pm.  It is essential that Rhode Islanders make their voices heard against these regressive proposals that would deepen the state's economic crisis and would have dreadful repercussions for our communities, our schools, health care, public services and safety, child care, nursing homes, and so much more. 

That's why we need Rhode Islanders to come to the State House on May 21 to testify against any or all of these proposals, and/or to provide written testimony against them.  The Chamber of Commerce will come out in force to testify in support of these regressive proposals, so we need a strong presence to stand up against Big Business.

Please contact Dan Bass at 401-463-5368 or dan@oceanstateaction.org to let us know if you will be able to testify or provide written testimony, or if you have questions or need assistance. 

In these tough economic times, the last thing the state should do is lower taxes for the wealthiest and large corporations, and cut spending and investments in our communities, schools and social services.  The estate tax, the corporate tax, and a strongly progressive personal income tax are essential to tax fairness and allowing us to make the investments we need for strong and healthy communities. 

Also, the Senate Finance Committee will be hearing testimony on the same proposals on Tuesday May 19th at 2:00 pm. 
Please contact Dan Bass to let us know if you can testify at that time.

Please call or email your State Representative and Senator to urge them to oppose the Governor's reckless proposals to cut taxes for the wealthiest and large corporations.  You can find out who your State Rep and Senator are here and their contact information here

If you would like to write a letter to the editor in support of any of these bills, please contact Dan for more information.

Please forward this alert to people you know and post it on Facebook and other networking sites.

Thanks for taking action to promote a fair economy,

Lee Farris
Senior Organizer on Estate Tax Policy
United for a Fair Economy
617-423-2148 x133
lfarris@faireconomy.org
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The Executive Pay System is Broken

By Alistair Barr and Matt Andrejczak  

"No American citizen ought to have a net income, after he has paid his taxes, of more than $25,000 a year," he said, urging Congress to help him "keep personal and corporate profits at a reasonable rate, the word 'reasonable' being defined at a low level."

This wasn't Barack Obama. It was Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1942, only a few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Compensation -- especially for the highest paid -- has been controversial for almost a century.

Read the full article in MarketWatch.

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Sounding the Pay Gap Alarm

Walt Barnhart profiles Ken Monfort, one of the country's lowest-paid CEOs, calling attention to out-of-whack CEO pay:

"According to a study for the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy, in 2007 S&P 500 CEOs averaged $10.5 million, or 344 times the pay of typical American workers. In 1981 the average pay for the top 10 U.S. CEOs was $3.5 million. Monfort found that preposterous - and dangerous.

"Tremendous monetary rewards, too often with little risk, too often while serving on eight boards of directors running three or four charities and sporting a 5 handicap, and I wonder how they can be worth so much," he said in 1987. "And how does it happen? It's simple. You hire a consultant that tells you that you are underpaid compared to your peers so you catch up and it becomes an ever increasing comparison."

Read the full article in the Denver Post.

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Buffett and Gates, Jr. on the Estate Tax

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffet and Microsoft and Gates Foundation Chairman Bill Gates talk about the economy, estate taxes, charitable deductions, fast food, philanthropy and other topics in an entertaining interview with Fox Business News’ Liz Claman.

See the video on Fox Business News, May 4, 2009.

Daniel Farber writes in EconWatch blog on CBSnews.com:

Regarding proposals to repeal estate taxes, Gates and Buffet are in support of maintaining the tax, which delivers about $25 billion a year to government coffers. Every year about 2,450,000 people die in the U.S., and about 12,000 result in an estate tax return, the wily Buffett calculated. “If you go to a funeral per month, it will be on average 17 years before you would attend an estate tax funeral,”� he said. “Where do they want to get the $25 billion from? Do they want to get it from my secretary? She already pays a higher tax rate than I do.”�  

Read the full blog post in EconWatch.

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5th Summit of the Americas

The Declaration of Cumaná
April 23rd 2009, by ALBA Member Countries


ALBA
Cumaná, Venezuela

We, the Heads of State and Government of Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Honduras,
Nicaragua and Venezuela, member countries of ALBA, consider that the Draft
Declaration of the 5th Summit of the Americas
is insufficient and
unacceptable for the following reasons:

- The Declaration does not provide answers to the Global Economic Crisis,
even though this crisis constitutes the greatest challenge faced by humanity
in the last decades and is the most serious threat of the current times to
the welfare of our peoples.

- The Declaration unfairly excludes Cuba, without mentioning the consensus
in the region condemning the blockade and isolation to which the people and
the government of Cuba have incessantly been exposed in a criminal manner.

For this reason, we, the member countries of ALBA believe that there is no
consensus for the adoption of this draft declaration because of the reasons
above stated, and accordingly, we propose to hold a thorough debate on the
following topics:

1. Capitalism is leading humanity and the planet to extinction. What we are
experiencing is a global economic crisis of a systemic and structural
nature, not another cyclic crisis. Those who think that with a taxpayer
money injection and some regulatory measures this crisis will end are wrong.
The financial system is in crisis because it trades bonds with six times the
real value of the assets and services produced and rendered in the world,
this is not a “system regulation failure”�, but a integrating part of the
capitalist system that speculates with all assets and values with a view to
obtain the maximum profit possible. Until now, the economic crisis has
generated over 100 million additional hungry persons and has slashed over 50
million jobs, and these figures show an upward trend.

2. Capitalism has caused the environmental crisis, by submitting the
necessary conditions for life in the planet, to the predominance of market
and profit. Each year we consume one third more of what the planet is able
to regenerate. With this squandering binge of the capitalist system, we are
going to need two planets Earth by the year 2030.

3. The global economic crisis, climate change, the food crisis and the
energy crisis are the result of the decay of capitalism, which threatens to
end life and the planet. To avert this outcome, it is necessary to develop
and model an alternative to the capitalist system. A system based on:

- solidarity and complementarity, not competition;
- a system in harmony with our mother earth and not plundering of human
resources;
- a system of cultural diversity and not cultural destruction and imposition
of cultural values and lifestyles alien to the realities of our countries;
- a system of peace based on social justice and not on imperialist policies
and wars;
- in summary, a system that recovers the human condition of our societies
and peoples and does not reduce them to mere consumers or merchandise.

4. As a concrete expression of the new reality of the continent, we,
Caribbean and Latin American countries, have commenced to build our own
institutionalization, an institutionalization that is based on a common
history dating back to our independence revolution and constitutes a
concrete tool for deepening the social, economic and cultural transformation
processes that will consolidate our full sovereignty. ALBA-TCP, Petrocaribe
or UNASUR, mentioning merely the most recently created, are solidarity-based
mechanisms of unity created in the midst of such transformations with the
obvious intention of boosting the efforts of our peoples to attain their own
freedom. To face the serious effects of the global economic crisis, we, the
ALBA-TCP countries, have adopted innovative and transforming measures that
seek real alternatives to the inadequate international economic order, not
to boost their failed institutions. Thus, we have implemented a Regional
Clearance Unitary System, the SUCRE, which includes a Common Unit of
Account, a Clearance Chamber and a Single Reserve System. Similarly, we have
encouraged the constitution of grand-national companies to satisfy the
essential needs of our peoples and establish fair and complementary trade
mechanisms that leave behind the absurd logic of unbridled competition.

5. We question the G20 for having tripled the resources of the International
Monetary Fund when the real need is to establish a new world economic order
that includes the full transformation of the IMF, the World Bank and the
WTO, entities that have contributed to this global economic crisis with
their neoliberal policies.

6. The solutions to the global economic crisis and the definition of a new
international financial scheme should be adopted with the participation of
the 192 countries that will meet in the United Nations Conference on the
International Financial Crisis to be held on June 1-3 to propose the
creation of a new international economic order.

7. As for climate change, developed countries are in an environmental debt
to the world because they are responsible for 70% of historical carbon
emissions into the atmosphere since 1750. Developed countries should pay off
their debt to humankind and the planet; they should provide significant
resources to a fund so that developing countries can embark upon a growth
model which does not repeat the serious impacts of the capitalist
industrialization.

8. Solutions to the energy, food and climate change crises should be
comprehensive and interdependent. We cannot solve a problem by creating new
ones in fundamental areas for life. For instance, the widespread use of
agricultural fuels has an adverse effect on food prices and the use of
essential resources, such as water, land and forests.

9. We condemn the discrimination against migrants in any of its forms.
Migration is a human right, not a crime. Therefore, we request the United
States government an urgent reform of its migration policies in order to
stop deportations and massive raids and allow for reunion of families. We
further demand the removal of the wall that separates and divides us,
instead of uniting us. In this regard, we petition for the abrogation of the
Law of Cuban Adjustment and removal of the discriminatory, selective Dry
Feet, Wet Feet policy that has claimed human losses. Bankers who stole the
money and resources from our countries are the true responsible, not migrant
workers. Human rights should come first, particularly human rights of the
underprivileged, downtrodden sectors in our society, that is, migrants
without identity papers. Free movement of people and human rights for
everybody, regardless of their migration status, are a must for integration.
Brain drain is a way of plundering skilled human resources exercised by rich
countries.

10. Basic education, health, water, energy and telecommunications services
should be declared human rights and cannot be subject to private deal or
marketed by the World Trade Organization. These services are and should be
essentially public utilities of universal access.

11. We wish a world where all, big and small, countries have the same rights
and where there is no empire. We advocate non-intervention. There is the
need to strengthen, as the only legitimate means for discussion and
assessment of bilateral and multilateral agendas in the hemisphere, the
foundations for mutual respect between states and governments, based on the
principle of non-interference of a state in the internal affairs of another
state, and inviolability of sovereignty and self-determination of the
peoples. We request the new Government of the United States, the arrival of
which has given rise to some expectations in the hemisphere and the world,
to finish the longstanding and dire tradition of interventionism and
aggression that has characterized the actions of the US governments
throughout history, and particularly intensified during the Administration
of President George W. Bush. By the same token, we request the new
Government of the United States to abandon interventionist practices, such
as cover-up operations, parallel diplomacy, media wars aimed at disturbing
states and governments, and funding of destabilizing groups. Building on a
world where varied economic, political, social and cultural approaches are
acknowledged and respected is of the essence.

12. With regard to the US blockade against Cuba and the exclusion of the
latter from the Summit of the Americas, we, the member states of the
Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America, reassert the
Declaration adopted by all Latin American and Caribbean countries last
December 16, 2008, on the need to end the economic, trade and financial
blockade imposed by the Government of the United States of America on Cuba,
including the implementation of the so-called Helms-Burton Act. The
declaration sets forth in its fundamental paragraphs the following:

“CONSIDERING the resolutions approved by the United Nations General Assembly
on the need to finish the economic, trade and financial blockade imposed by
the United States on Cuba, and the statements on such blockade, which have
been approved in numerous international meetings.

“WE AFFIRM that the application of unilateral, coercive measures affecting
the wellbeing of peoples and hindering integration processes is unacceptable
when defending free exchange and the transparent practice of international
trade.

“WE STRONGLY REPEL the enforcement of laws and measures contrary to
International Law, such as the Helms-Burton Act, and we urge the Government
of the United States of America to finish such enforcement.

“WE REQUEST the Government of the United States of America to comply with
the provisions set forth in 17 successive resolutions approved by the United
Nations General Assembly and put an end to the economic, trade and financial
blockade on Cuba.”�

Additionally, we consider that the attempts at imposing the isolation of
Cuba have failed, as nowadays Cuba forms an integral part of the Latin
American and Caribbean region; it is a member of the Rio Group and other
hemispheric organizations and mechanisms, which develops a policy of
cooperation, in solidarity with the countries in the hemisphere; which
promotes full integration of Latin American and Caribbean peoples.
Therefore, there is no reason whatsoever to justify its exclusion from the
mechanism of the Summit of the Americas.

13. Developed countries have spent at least USD 8 billion to rescue a
collapsing financial structure. They are the same that fail to allocate the
small sums of money to attain the Millennium Goals or 0.7% of the GDP for
the Official Development Assistance. Never before the hypocrisy of the
wording of rich countries had been so apparent. Cooperation should be
established without conditions and fit in the agendas of recipient countries
by making arrangements easier; providing access to the resources, and
prioritizing social inclusion issues.

14. The legitimate struggle against drug trafficking and organized crime,
and any other form of the so-called “new threats”� must not be used as an
excuse to undertake actions of interference and intervention against our
countries.

15. We are firmly convinced that the change, where everybody repose hope,
can come only from organization, mobilization and unity of our peoples.

As the Liberator wisely said:

Unity of our peoples is not a mere illusion of men, but an inexorable decree
of destiny. – Simón Bolí­var

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King of the Hate Business

By Alexander Cockburn, co-editor of CounterPunch and a columnist for The Nation.

The sun is dipping low in the evening sky over the Republican Party as the Other Leading Brand. A mere 21 percent of the adult population identify themselves as Republicans. Sen. Arlen Specter sees the writing on the wall. He prefers to make his sixth senatorial run under the ample Democratic banner, rather than get mangled in the tiny shark tank of a Republican primary attended only by people who want to see the country run by Limbaugh and Hannity. With Franken certified, Specter crossing the aisle and Biden in reserve, the Democrats can no longer hide behind the excuse of a Republican filibuster. They’ll figure out a way, no doubt, but it could be embarrassing....

Read the full article in Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.  

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