"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. [...]"
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. [...]
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.'
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.
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
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."
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,".
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.
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.
"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."
"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.
"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
The "Temporary" Bush Tax Cuts that Won't Go Away...
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?
TFOC on the Radio
The following radio news stories about a recent TFOC report, entitled Solutions that Work for Main Street: Progressive Guidelines for Closing Recessionary State Budget Gaps, explain that budget cuts are not the only answer to widespread state budget deficits.
These stories, originally aired in Virginia, Tennessee, Florida, and New York, were syndicated for broadcast on radio stations across the country, reaching well over 4 million listeners! See below for transcript exerpts and click through to listen to the stories on Public News Service.
April 1, 2010
"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.
[...] Karen Kraut, director of the Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative, says [...] "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."
Listen to our 4/1/10 New York radio story on Public News Service.
April 1, 2010
"Daniella Levine, president and CEO of the Human Services Coalition, Miami, says legislators need to put politics aside because cutting state spending hurts economic recovery. Instead, she suggests they focus on fine-tuning the tax code so it reflects a progressive structure - meaning those who make the least pay the smallest share and those who make the most pay a larger share to fund critical services.
"We are looking at cutting some of the most basic services - health care and education and senior programs - and what is so worrisome is we are still continuing to reduce taxes for those who are able to pay."
Listen to our 4/1/10 Florida radio story on Public News Service.
March 31, 2010
"While many would argue against raising taxes in tough economic times, Elizabeth Wright, executive director of Tennesseans for Fair Taxation, says the discussion is more complex and needs to focus on getting rid of unsound and unfair taxes.
"Our state economy is based far too heavily on the sales tax. Most states have a more even balance: a sales tax, a property tax and a tax on personal income."
Listen to our 3/31/10 Tennessee radio story on Public News Service.
March 31, 2010
"David Shreve, report co-author and an economist with the Virginia Organizing Project, says legislators need to put politics aside, because cutting state spending hurts the economy. Instead, he suggests states focus on fine-tuning their tax code so it reflects a progressive structure -- meaning those who make the least pay the smallest share and those who make the most pay a larger share.
"This is not only much, much easier to do than anyone would imagine, it's very economically sound to approach it this way. If you're looking for the optimum way to move Virginia more quickly out of the recession, this is it."
Listen to our 3/31/10 Virginia radio story on Public News Service.
"Imagine this: your state has the option of reducing its residents’ combined federal tax bills by hundreds of millions of dollars a year and, at the same time, substantially reducing state taxes for almost 80 percent of its residents ... but then chooses not to do so.
Remarkably, that’s exactly what Wyoming and six other states are doing. Wyoming, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington are opting out of a state tax reform that would make those significant benefits to taxpayers possible.
Like the other six states, Wyoming raises revenue by relying heavily on sales taxes instead of levying a personal state income tax. Those two revenue approaches combined create a lose-lose situation for most Wyomingites.
Low- and middle-income residents lose because they end up paying significantly more of their income in total state taxes than do high-income taxpayers. And residents who itemize their federal tax returns lose the "bang for the buck" on the deduction for state tax payments (the "federal offset"), thereby missing an opportunity to export a more substantial part of their state tax load to the federal government. [...]"