"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.
"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
"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.
Listen to this interview with David Shreve on AugustaFree Press.com.
Listen 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.
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."
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.
Virtually every state is groping for solutions to budget gaps of historic proportions. Unfortunately, most states are closing the shortfalls in counterproductive ways that deepen the recession, exacerbate hardships for residents, and stifle economic recovery.
UFE’s Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative recently published report, “Solutions that Work for Main Street: Progressive Guidelines for Closing Recessionary State Budget Gaps,” provides a set of pragmatic principles for closing state budget gaps in ways that enhance economic recovery, ongoing stability, and more widely shared prosperity.
Key points of the Guidelines include:
Closing Recessionary State Budge Gaps
- Make more money available to state governments
- Make tax increases and tax reform one and the same
- Encourage of federal-state revenue sharing
Defending a More Progressive and Economically Sound Approach
- Don’t equate frugality or efficiency with budget austerity
- Challenge anti-tax mythmakers
DOWNLOAD THE GUIDELINES (PDF 176KB)
"In this period of painfully partisan politics, it's too easy for the focus to be on who won today, instead of the American people's needs. We're witnessing just that in two roiling debates--one over the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA), another over the recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. [...]
The new CFPA's sole mandate would be to shield consumers from deceptive and dangerous financial products and practices. It would have the authority to not only write rules to better protect consumers, but also to enforce them. [...]
The Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling in January granted unabated financing of campaign communications by corporations, equating political spending with the right to freedom of speech, as listed in the First Amendment.
The...ruling will only make efforts to re-regulate the financial industry more difficult in the years to come, so long as financial institutions have the ability to amplify their "voices" by simply writing a larger check. [...]"
Read the full op-ed by Mazher Ali on CommonDreams.org.
The Insight Center for Community Economic Development recently released a report, Lifting as we Climb: Women of Color, Wealth, and America's Future (PDF 493KB), which lays out the massive disparities of wealth between white women and women of color.
"It's rather shocking," said Meizhu Lui, Director of Insight's Closing the Wealth Gap Initiative and contributor to the report. [...] "Even for those of us who have been looing at the wealth gap for a while, we were shocked and amazed at how little women of color have."
One of the report's most grim findings is that while single white women between the ages of 36 and 49 have median net assets of $42,600, their non-white counterparts have only $5.
Much of the report's data was based on the Center's analysis of the Federal Reserve's 2007 Consumer Finance Surveys released prior to the economic larger collapse, which provides sufficient reason to believe that the numbers are worse today.
The report takes into account various factors exacerbating racial wealth disparities amongst women in the US. These include institutional factors, such as tax structures or access to education or fair lending, generational trends in asset-building, and even family and cultural factors, such as parental or marital situations.
"The popular image is that [women of color] spend too much...running up credit card and consumer debt, but the cost of living has risen faster than income, and they need to go into debt for basic daily necessities," said Lui. "It's compounded because unemployment is twice as hight in the Black community than it is in the white community."
The Insight Center intends to use this report to encourage government officials to implement measures to help close the racial and gender wealth gaps, as has been done with past legislation. Lui notes, "It's not about behavior. It's about government policies. [...] Our government knows how to build wealth for people. They've done it for others and they can do it for all of us."
Read the report (PDF 493KB)
Read commentary on the report by Tim Grant in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette.
Sears: "While the economy is still sour for the vast majority of Americans, and for most of the rest of the world as well, the world's billionaires appear to be doing quite nicely. Forbes published is 24th annual list of the world's richest people today. And, though the stock market crash caused a sharp drop in the number of billionaires from 1,125 in 2008 to just 793 last year, like an endangered species in an ideal environment, their numbers are close to being fully restored.
There are now 1,011 citizens of the world with wealth topping seven figures, and the 10 richest--3 of them are Americans--all saw their wealth increase by a total of $342 billion. So if the rest of us are still struggling to get by, why are those who don't need to struggle at all doing so well? Mike Lapham, Director of the Responsible Wealth project at United for a Fair Economy says for the American billionaires, at least, the answer is a combination of several factors."
Lapham: "We have a society that, in general, disproportionately values certain types of work over others. We also give a lot of tax advantages to investment over earned income. For example, the wealthiest folks are getting a huge portion of their income in capital gains. Starting back in 1997, we cut the capital gains rate from 28 percent to 20 percent. We cut it even further under George Bush down to 15 percent.
So if you're one of the top 400 taxpayers, you probably have about two-thirds of your income in capital gains and you're getting taxed a much lower rate than you're getting taxed on other things. That's one of the simplest ways that wealthy folks are amassing more and more wealth. But, if you're in one of the bottom quintiles in our society, you're paying almost all of your income on basic necessities...so you're not gaining much year over year.
The folks at the very top have figured out how to invest in things that are sheltered. They can invest in things that give them tax credits. They can take advantage of loopholes with the amount of money that they have that the average person just doesn't have. [...]"