Amid all the post-election excitement, we also want to celebrate the amazing work of some of UFE’s Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative (TFOC) partners and other contributors in the state progressive tax movement.
In New Hampshire, our allies prevented a constitutional amendment to ban the state’s income tax. This is a huge win, and it’s one that can be looked to by other states facing regressive policy initiatives. Much hard work is still to be done in the Granite State, but we’re optimistic. That a broad and diverse coalition was able to come together to stop this measure bodes well for positive change in New Hampshire.
Oregon also enjoyed two exciting victories. TFOC partner organizations Tax Fairness Oregon and Our Oregon worked hard to save the Oregon estate tax from repeal. They won a resounding victory for fairness, and ensured that hundreds of millions of dollars would continue to flow to vital services in the Beaver State. As well, measure 85, which eliminated the Corporate Kicker Tax passed with ease, and will allow for much needed revenue for Oregon’s public education system.
Since 2004, conservative activists, led by the corporate-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), have tried with all their might to enact Taxpayer Bills of Rights (TABOR) measures in 30 states. Florida's TABOR, which would have limited public investment and revenue, while requiring a supermajority to override these limits, would have severely hamstrung the state's ability to fund vital services for Floridians. In state after state, voters have turned down this extreme measure, and this year, Floridians joined in that rejection! This was made possible by amazing organizing efforts, combined with voter education and mobilization to stop such a restrictive and economically harmful measure.
Here are a few things we can all take away from these inspiring election day triumphs:
- To achieve victory you have to educate, not just by telling the voters why they should be for or against a measure, but by also learning from them how these measure affect them and their communities.
- Organizing still works, even on the less-than-sexy matters of fiscal policy and ballot measures. Effective partnership-building contributed greatly to these successes. Don’t go it alone. We’re stronger and louder when we pool our resources and work together.
- There is still a tremendous amount of work required to establish fair, progressive tax structures in states across the country. While much of the focus over the next few months will be about federal taxes and budget issues, we can’t forget that the tax fairness movement has to continue at all levels of government.
These statewide election day victories can be models for what’s possible in your state and beyond. We congratulate all of those involved in those efforts and are excited to help keep building momentum for tax fairness and a more just and equitable economy.
Virtually every speaker used the phrase, with sometimes misty-eyed stories of bootstrapping, "I did it alone" success (with no help from government). Signs featuring the phrase hung over the main stage and filled the convention center, boasting: We built it! We built it! We built it!
Meanwhile, fact checkers, writers, and progressive organizations fired back, both recounting the full quote from President Obama (his "You didn't build that" comment was referring to the roads and infrastructure, not the businesses themselves) and making the case for why businesses do, in fact, depend heavily on public investments.
This debate is only getting started. As NRP's Ron Elving wrote, "The central theme… in Tampa is about to become the party's mantra for the fall." So get used to a lot of talk about who actually built it, what they built, and why it matters. Looking beyond this one election, this is a critical debate about core values that shape our views on taxes and the role of government in our society.
In March, months before Obama's statement in Virginia, we published a book entitled The Self-Made Myth: And the Truth About How Government Helps Individuals and Businesses Succeed. In it, we contrast the "self-made myth" with the "built-together reality." Little did we know when we came up with the term "built-together," that this would become a defining theme of this election cycle.
The stories of business leaders tell a more honest and complete story of their success. Jerry Fiddler, founder of Wind River Systems (sold to Intel for $880M), talks about publicly-funded research and land-grand universities as key to his business success. Jim Sherblom, former CFO of the Genzyme, notes the importance of the SEC in providing a stable financial market. Kim Jordan, CEO of New Belgium Brewing, declares "beer is heavy" as she emphasized the importance of roads and transportation infrastructure in making her business possible.
We also investigated people like the Koch Brothers who graze their cattle on federal land and use eminent domain law for their pipelines. We examine Donald Trump, whose father constructed FHA-guaranteed homes for US naval personnel, leaving the junior Trump with a sizable inheritance. Similarly, Ross Perot's software business rode to success on the backs of the federal Medicare program.
Governmental supports and public infrastructure are an important part of any success story in America, along with a bit of luck, various head starts in life, privilege, and the contributions of others, including the many employees (The AFL-CIO responded to last weeks convention theme with an email titled, "No, WE built it"). Such an honest and more rounded assessment helps put the "self-made" narrative in perspective.
But that's not what we heard last week. We heard, "I built it," and from that bootstrapping narrative comes a host of policy implications.
If they can convince us that the successful business leaders achieve their wealth through gumption and hard work alone, then extreme inequality is simply the result from their exceptional intelligence and hard work of those at the top …and the sloth of others. Efforts to rein in that inequality are thus viewed as "punishing success." Efforts of workers to demand a fair wage are viewed as "thuggary." Taken to its logical conclusion, this frame helps to fuel an anti-tax, anti-government, and anti-worker agenda.
The business leaders we spoke with understand that their hard work was matched in many ways by the contributions of society, not to mention a good bit of luck. As such, they take a very different view on taxes and the role of government, actively speaking out for a strong estate tax and ending the Bush tax cuts for top income-earners. Many also insist on paying their workers fair wages, or even sharing ownership with their workers.
In the weeks ahead, we have an opportunity to open a more meaningful discussion about the origins of individual and business success, and in doing so, shifting the public policy debates in positive ways. We sincerely hope our book, The Self-Made Myth, is a valuable contribution to this discussion. But we also need writers, bloggers, and organizers across the nation to pick up on this message. If we're going to create a new narrative, we'll need to "build it" together.
Tax Fairness Oregon, a member of UFE's Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative, needs your help today. They need 600+ signatures of Oregon voters to place a statement of opposition to Kevin Mannix’s effort to repeal the Oregon estate tax in the November voters' pamphlet.
Signatures from you and others in your community will help Tax Fairness Oregon get the following statement placed at no cost so they can use those resources for other important work:
Millionaires can pay taxes — Vote "NO" on Measure 84
- Only the 730 richest Oregon families would benefit from Measure 84.
- Vote "NO" on MEASURE 84
- Millionaires would pay as little as $0 tax if Measure 84 passes.
- Vote "NO" on MEASURE 84
Millionaires too can pay their fair share of taxes.
Vote "NO" on Measure 84.
(Signed by more than 600 friends of Tax Fairness Oregon)
Click here to download a petition form (pdf). Print the forms and carefully follow the enclosed instructions.
Please aim to fill two sheets with gathered signatures or just send in your very own signature. All gatherers and signers must be registered Oregon voters.
Don't forget to sign and date the bottom of the signature sheet before mailing the form to:
Tax Fairness Oregon
Petitions must be submitted in Salem by 5:00 p.m. next Tuesday, August 14. You are also welcome to personally deliver your signature sheets to the address above by noon on Tuesday.
Oregon's estate tax has been in place for 109 years without hurting Oregon businesses and family farms. It is a fair and sensible policy that provides the state with revenue for schools, infrastructure, and other shared priorities. And, it has the added benefit of helping to combat economic inequality. Learn more about Measure 84 >>
Oregon can't afford to give special tax breaks to those who don't need them, especially during this moment of economic hardship.
Please vote "NO" on Measure 84 on November 6.
|Working Americans and rich and famous people support the Robin Hood Tax!|
Robin Hood and his ragtag crew who took from the rich to give to the poor were simply serving justice in an unfair medieval economy. Today, feudal lords protected by high castle walls do not rule our economy, but we are again living in an age of extreme income and wealth inequality.
The big banks and Wall Street speculators are now the ones reaping enormous rewards and ruling over the economy while programs that serve the poor and middle class are slashed, which only serves to further enrich the wealthy by keeping their taxes low.
The Robin Hood tax is an idea that’s been around for a while. In our current age of austerity and Wall Street gambling, it’s an idea whose time has come. It is a financial transaction tax, a few pennies on each bet that the big banks make in the financial casino at the heart of the modern economy. The big banks would pay the vast majority of the Robin Hood tax and it would have two extremely positive results:
- It would raise billions of dollars that could be used to prevent cuts to vital social programs. The tax – even at pennies or even just fractions of pennies per transaction – would raise enormous sums from the immense volume of trades conducted on Wall Street.
- It would slightly discourage banks and financial institutions from making so many risky bets. High volume and high frequency trading make Wall Street a little bit richer but provide no social benefit and make the entire financial system riskier and more prone to crashes. A small disincentive to making so many trades would be a positive for the entire economy, and the tax isn’t so large that it would discourage genuinely profitable trades.
|UFE staff and interns joined the Massachusetts Nurses Association at the Robin Hood Tax Campaign launch in Boston.|
Wall Street and the big banks are exploiting our system and people to generate never-before-seen profits. Meanwhile, the middle class is fading, poverty remains unshakable, people are losing their homes, health care costs are spiraling out of control, education is being pushed out of reach for millions, and there’s no meaningful job creation plan in sight.
A Robin Hood-like hero will not rescue us. Together, however, we can achieve truly heroic feats. We need revenue, and we need to raise it without further harming low- to middle-income families.
A global movement is working to develop support for the Robin Hood tax, and campaigns were recently launched in cities across the U.S. Your support can help to persuade world leaders to listen up and take action. Please join the Robin Hood Tax Campaign and help to build support in your own community.
"America has been fantastic" to Will Smith. Like those profiled in our book, The Self-Made Myth, the 43 year-old actor, who makes an average salary of $36 million and has an estimated net worth of $215 million, knows much of his success wouldn't have been possible anywhere else but here in the U.S. As such, he has "no problem" paying higher taxes for the good of the country.
Here are eight reasons why you should agree that the rich should pay higher taxes:
- Tax rates on the richest U.S. households are at historic lows.
- The share of national income going to the top 1% has reached a historic high.
- The richest 1% have all but recovered from the Great Recession, while the bottom 99% experience stagnation.
- Low taxes increase economic inequality.
- Lower tax rates do not lead to economic growth.
- Low taxes on the rich worsens the racial economic divide. (pdf)
- Historically, the wealthiest Americans have paid higher taxes during wartime (like right now).
- He is the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. His break-through role was about a young man's infiltration of the top 1%. Now, he's actually in the top 1% and believes very wealthy people like himself should pay higher taxes. Considering the facts above, we should all agree.
In case you're unfamiliar with the show, the opening sequence sets the premise. Enjoy!
|What was YOUR share of the Bush tax cuts?|
|Take the Tax Pledge to help ensure the Obamas, the Romneys and other wealthy Americans pay their fair share!|
This is a critical year for tax fairness. The Bush tax cuts are set to expire at the stroke of midnight on December 31st. Those tax breaks were a bad idea from the get-go, because they largely went to upper-income households that didn't need them.
We should let the Bush tax cuts expire—it's one of the only ways to meaningfully address our revenue crisis and make long-overdue investments in our economy. But, it's going to take bold action to ensure Congress and President Obama do the right thing by allowing them to expire.
United for a Fair Economy and Responsible Wealth are calling on progressive tax advocates throughout the country to support the movement to end the Bush tax cuts and restore fairness to the federal tax code. You can show your support today in three easy steps:
|Calculate your savings from the Bush-era tax cuts by entering three numbers (or rough estimates) from your tax return into our tax cut calculator.|
|Take the Responsible Wealth Tax Fairness Pledge to "reject" the Bush tax cuts.|
|Donate your savings to the tax fairness organization of your choice.|
Join Responsible Wealth members Marnie Thompson and Stephen Johnson of Greensboro, NC, both of whom will take the pledge again this year. Last year, their savings were over $12,000. Each year, they donate their savings to UFE's efforts to end the Bush tax cuts, strengthen the estate tax, "tax wealth like work" by raising the capital gains rate, and support state-level tax fairness organizing.
Thanks to the support of committed progressive tax activists like Marnie, Stephen, and many others, this work is producing results. More people are learning that our tax code is tilted in favor of the wealthy. And more people are taking action to bring the fight for progressive tax policies to Capitol Hill and to state capitols across the country.
We can make significant progress by demanding that Congress and President Obama do absolutely nothing by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire at the end of the year. But, it won't be that easy. It's going to take a lot of work over the next eight months—awareness-raising, organizing, educating, and mobilizing—and we need all the help we can get.
If you believe our tax code is rigged in favor of the wealthy and that the richest Americans should pay their fair share, then make a bold statement in support of progressive tax policies by taking the Responsible Wealth Tax Fairness Pledge today.
The Great Recession has worsened inequality, and the wealthiest Americans have emerged unscathed—richer in some cases. Meanwhile, conservative officials are hacking away at programs for struggling poor and middle class households. Shared sacrifice is more important now than it has ever been. That's what we're fighting for and we hope you'll join us.
United for a Fair Economy and Responsible Wealth have been working on several fronts this month to spread word that the wealthiest Americans need to pay their fair share in taxes. Why? Because they've benefitted the most from our collective investments and should pay it forward so others have the opportunity to do the same.
Here are a few highlights of the coverage we've earned through our various efforts.
We participated in a Congressional briefing with a tax fairness all star panel moderated by the intrepid John Nichols of The Nation magazine. The event banded together representatives from five outstanding organizations, including Responsible Wealth director Mike Lapham, to discuss ways to generate federal revenue and revive our suffocating economy by raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations.
Our efforts paid off in a big way. The night before the event, we received word that C-SPAN would be there to nationally broadcast the discussion. It was a standing room only event with a very engaged audience. The country watched, learned and shared. And, so can you.
The Congressional briefing was the opening act for President Obama's address on the Buffett Rule. He enlisted the support of four millionaires, including Responsible Wealth supporter Abigail Disney, to stand with him in support of the millionaires' tax.
David Levine, Responsible Wealth supporter and former chief economist for investment management firm Sanford C. Bernstein, participated in another panel discussion with the Tax Policy Center.
The panelists explored this basic question: "Should the rich pay higher taxes?" David's expert perspective on marginal income tax rates garnered a citation on MSNBC.com and an extensive interview by Ezra Klein at the Washington Post.
One of our most active Responsible Wealth members, former investment banker and current Columbia professor of behavioral economics, Eric Schoenberg, spoke at a tax day rally in DC and blasted away at leading tax grump Grover Norquist. Eric's words were well-received by the energized crowd and are now making their way through the progressive blogosphere.
UFE's federal tax expert Lee Farris went on Between the Lines radio to discuss sensible ways to address our revenue crisis, including the Buffett Rule, ending the Bush tax cuts, "taxing wealth like work" by raising the capital gains rate and strengthening the federal estate tax. Listen now.
Responsible Wealth and our allies working with other affluent fair tax advocates have been making so much noise from the east coast that they heard us clear across the country. The San Francisco Chronicle threw us all a shout-out this week in a column about wealthy people of the west coast demanding that their taxes be raised.
This work is ongoing, and we can always use more support. You can still take action to help move a fair tax agenda forward. One specific way is to calculate your share of the awful Bush-era tax cuts and redirect those savings toward tax fairness organizing efforts by taking Responsible Wealth's Tax Fairness Pledge.
As an added treat, here are some photos from the tax day rally we joined in Boston. There were a lot of feet on the street, a lot of creative demonstrations and a lot of voices calling on Bank of America and other financial giants to stop tax dodging and pay their fair share. After all, we did bail them out. Now it's time to get ours. Yes, the tax justice movement is-a growin'.
Lee Farris, UFE's resident tax policy expert, has compiled a list of some of the best actions, information, and tools for organizing and learning on tax day:
- The 99% Spring is well on it's way to training 100,000 activists. Take the free online training here, and find a local 99% Spring event here.
- The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) continues to provide excellent information on taxes. Their three-part series, "Thinking About Tax Policy," is a clear and easy to read refresher on tax reform. Part 1: The Most Important Tax Reform Chart, Part 2: Taxes Today Are Low, and Part 3: In the Search for More Revenue Start at the Top. Misconceptions and Realities About Who Pays Taxes (PDF) from CBPP is also an important read.
- Learn about six ways to restore balance to our tax system from Demos and the American Prospect.
- The National Priorities Project has wonderful tools for understanding where our tax dollars come from and what you are paying for. With Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), they're keeping track of how much the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest are costing us every minute of the day.
- CTJ also put out some great tools of their own this tax season. The Buffet rule didn't make it out of the Senate, but their report on it is still worth reading. Their research is featured in a new documentary on corporate tax dodgers; watch a preview here and find a local screening here. And while you're watching things, you ought to learn about Mitch who wants to pay no taxes at all.
- And please sign on to the National Education Association petition to close corporate tax loopholes.
Have a great tax day! Keep organizing, learning and sharing for tax fairness all year long.
Updated April 17, 2012
Tax Day is here! This Tax Day, we at United for a Fair Economy urge you to work with us for Tax Solutions for the 99%.
Our tax code is rigged to benefit the richest 1% among us.
We need Tax Solutions for the 99%.
2012 is a pivotal year. Not only do all of the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of this year, but the outcome of the November elections could very well determine the future of our tax system.
We must tell Congress that Tax Solutions for the 99% will raise enough revenue to fully fund the vital government services that we all count on. The richest 1% and big corporations have gained the most from our economic system and can afford to fund the government that helped to enable their success.
Here are five actions you can take on Tax Day to help advance Tax Solutions for the 99%:
1. Tell Congress and President Obama to support Tax Solutions for the 99%.
Sign on to our letter that outlines a comprehensive plan of tax changes that will lead to a tax system where wealthy people and big corporations join the rest of us in paying their fair share.
2. Put your money where your values are!
Take UFE’s Responsible Wealth Tax Fairness Pledge today! Calculate your tax savings from the Bush tax cuts and redirect those savings to tax fairness organizing efforts around the country.
3. Attend a Tax Day event.
UFE is working with many organizations tax day events that will highlight the need for Tax Solutions for the 99%, including:
4. Attend a training or local tax day event.
Be a part of the goal to train 100,000 people in non-violent direct action. Participate in the free online training to be a part of the 99% Spring. And you can find a local Tax Day event through MoveOn.org or WeAreOne.
5. Spread the word.
Be an ambassador for the 99%. Check out Lee's Links for some of the best tax day actions and info. Share infographics on your Facebook wall. Tweet about inequality via @ufe and #fairshare. Download and print a rally sign. Make noise; create change.