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

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

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
- 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

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

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

“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

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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III Encuentro Latinoamericano de Economí­a Solidaria y Comercio Justo

”¨Sí­ hay alternativas: la economí­a social y solidaria y el comercio justo

Las y los participantes del III Encuentro Latinoamericano de Economí­a Solidaria y Comercio Justo, reunidos en Montevideo, Uruguay, del 22 al 24 de octubre del 2008, provenientes de 16 paí­ses latinoamericanos y caribeños, así­ como invitados de Europa, Norteamérica y Oceaní­a, luego de un ampio intercambio de experiencias e intenso diálogo entre diversas redes y movimientos que trabajamos orientados por el enforque de economí­a solidaria y social en América Latina y El Caribe, nos dirigimos a los movimientos sociales, gobiernos de la región y a la ciudadaní­a en general para expresar:

Qué, en Latinoamérica se han instalado nuevos gobiernos que evidencian la capacidad y las ansias de cambio de la sociedad civil, dando un vuelco en el panorama y las relaciones polí­ticas en la región. En su mayorí­a, estos gobiernos se han posicionado crí­ticamente frente al modelo económico neoliberal. Sin embargo, amplios sectores de los pueblos de América Latina y El Caribe continúan sin acceder al goce efectivo de sus derechos fundamentales, y sufriendo los impactos negativos de dicho modelo, que en lo económico, social, cultural y ambiental sigue favoreciendo a una minorí­a en detrimento de las grandes mayorí­as.
Que, los tratados de libre comercio, tal como lo denunciamos desde el primer Encuentro en Cochabamba, Bolivia (2005), además de afirmar la voluntad de darle carácter irreversible al modelo económico neoliberal e impedir la formulación de polí­ticas públicas nacionales soberanas, han debilitado los procesos de integración subregionales y han introducido nuevas condiciones desfavorables y de exclusión, en particular, a la pequeña producción del campo y la ciudad.

Que, la realidad actual del mundo presenta un panorama de peligrosa incertidumbre: las turbulencias financieras internacionales, la crisis energética y medioambiental, el calentamiento global y la inseguridad alimentaria para vastos sectores vulnerables. Todos estos elementos nos anuncian una nueva crisis sistémica de efectos aún imprevisibles, especialmente sobre las condiciones de vida y de trabajo de amplios sectores de la población de América Latina y El Caribe, la región con el más alto í­ndice de desigualdad en el mundo, y nos confirman que el modelo económico imperante hegemónicamente desde hace décadas no sirve.
Frente a este escenario:

1) Reafirmamos, una vez más, que la Economí­a Social y Solidaria es una alternativa para la humanidad, pues persigue como objetivo principal el bien vivir de todas las personas, a partir de la autonomí­a productiva, la equidad económica, la justicia social, la sostenibilidad ambiental y la participación polí­tica. Esta forma distinta de hacer economí­a tiene a la organización de base como el eslabón fundamental del proceso económico y propicia el empoderamiento de hombres y mujeres para afrontar el reto de ser sujetos de su propio destino, constituyendo una estrategia que contribuye al reconocimiento de los derechos económicos, sociales, culturales y ambientales, que enfatiza los enfoques de sustentabilidad, de interculturalidad y de equidad de género, y que fortalece los procesos de desarrollo local sustentable para la proyección nacional y regional.

2) Nos comprometemos a promover una integración regional que privilegie los derechos, sabidurí­as e intereses de los pueblos latinoamericano-caribeños, y que tenga como principales fundamentos la cooperación, la reciprocidad y la complementariedad en la producción, el comercio y las finanzas, así­ como en todas las dimensiones de la vida social de los pueblos; por lo tanto, diferente al modelo de libre comercio que, por incidencia de las grandes transnacionales, hegemoniza las discusiones y acuerdos en el seno de la Organización Mundial de Comercio (OMC) y en los tratados comerciales regionales y bilaterales que se pretenden imponer en la región.

3) Apoyamos y acompañamos las luchas y reivindicaciones de los pueblos de América Latina y el Caribe, reclamando respeto a su carácter multicultural, multiétnico y multilingí¼istico, y sus aportes socio-económicos, basados en relaciones de solidaridad, de reciprocidad y de cooperación.

4) Nos solidarizamos con las organizaciones sociales que en diferentes paí­ses de la región se vienen movilizando en defensa de la democracia participativa e incluyente, de la paz, de las conquistas polí­ticas y económicas, así­ como frente a la agresiva y violatoria penetración de las transnacionales en sus territorios.

5) Convocamos a compartir, perfeccionar e innovar instrumentos, métodos y sistemas para mejorar los actuales niveles de eficiencia económica y social de los emprendimientos solidarios, sus productos y servicios, con el ánimo de contribuir al bien vivir de sus integrantes y comunidades.

6) Adoptamos el compromiso de promover y/o fortalecer redes y movimientos nacionales de economí­a solidaria, consolidando espacios idóneos para la mejor articulación y el fortalecimiento de las organizaciones y sus integrantes, así­ como de impulsar alianzas estratégicas con otras redes y movimientos sociales para el fortalecimiento de la economí­a solidaria en las localidades, los paí­ses y la región.

7) Instamos a que el Banco del Sur constituya una oportunidad para favorecer la soberaní­a financiera en América del Sur y sea un instrumento para el desarrollo de la economí­a solidaria.

8) Exigimos a los gobiernos nacionales, parlamentos, y a las instancias estatales regionales y locales de América Latina y El Caribe, que abran y consoliden espacios públicos participativos para la formulación, implementación y control de leyes, polí­ticas y programas especí­ficos para el fomento y desarrollo de la economí­a solidaria.

Finalmente, agradecemos la infinita solidaridad de las hermanas y hermanos integrantes de las organizaciones uruguayas anfitrionas de este III Encuentro. Asimismo, invitamos a las organizaciones, entidades de apoyo, y académicos de la economí­a solidaria de la región a que contribuyan y participen en el IV Encuentro Internacional "Globalización de la Solidaridad", en abril de 2009 en Luxemburgo; así­ como a que se sumen nuevas fuerzas a nuestro movimiento, para consolidar y ampliar los niveles de participación y representatividad hasta ahora logrados, con miras a la realización del IV Encuentro Latinoamericano de Economí­a Solidaria y Comercio Justo, en Medellí­n, en noviembre de 2010.

Montevideo 24 de octubre de 2008
Más información del III Encuentro”¨Más información de RIPESS Latinoamérica

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A Serial Job-Killer Is Stalking America

Conservatives in Congress, predictably enough, are going after the wrong suspect. In the process, CEOs are getting away with economic murder - and labor law reform stands imperiled.

A new crime has burst out onto America's political blotter. Move over drug pushing and car stealing, meet the new menace. Job killing. But fear not. We now have in Congress a dedicated army of self-selected saviors who have loudly vowed to keep us protected.

And just how are these lawmakers going to keep our jobs secure? They're going to put the kibosh on labor law reform....

Read the full article in Too Much, A Commentary on Excess and Inequality.

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Montevideo Declaration on the Solidarity Economy


Montevideo Declaration

There are alternatives: the social and solidarity economy and fair trade

The III Latin American Solidarity Economy and Fair Trade Meeting was held in Montevideo, Uruguay, October 22-24, 2008. It was attended by women and men from 16 Latin American and Caribbean countries, plus guests from Europe, North America and Oceania. The various networks and movements whose work is geared to the social and solidarity economy in Latin America and the Caribbean had an extensive exchange of experiences and intense dialogue. We address the social movements, the region’s governments and the general public with the following message:  

In Latin America new governments have been established which demonstrate civil society’s capacity and desire for social change, altering the panorama and political relations in the region. Most of these governments are critical of the neo-liberal economic model. However, large sectors of the populations of Latina America and the Caribbean are still unable to enjoy their fundamental rights and suffer the negative impact of the economic model, whose economic, social, cultural and environmental aspects continue to favor a minority to the detriment of the large majority.

The free trade agreements, as we reported from the first Meeting in Cochabamba, Bolivia (2005), besides aiming to ensure that the neoliberal economic model is irrevocable and to hinder the formulation of sovereign national public policy, have weakened sub-regional integration and have introduced new conditions which are unfavorable and exclusive, particularly for small–scale production from the countryside and the cities.

The world currently faces a panorama of perilous uncertainty: international financial turbulence, the energy and environmental crisis, global warming and food insecurity for vast sectors of the most vulnerable. These phenomena all herald a new crisis in the system, whose effects we cannot yet foresee, especially those on the standard of living and employment of large sectors of the population of Latin America, the region with the highest rate of inequality in the world, and they confirm that the prevailing hegemonic economic model is of no use and has not been for decades.

Mindful of this:

1)      We affirm once again, that the Solidarity and Social Economy is an alternative for humanity, since its chief objective is the well being of all, on the basis of productive autonomy, economic equality, social justice, environmental sustainability and political participation. This different manner of running the economy has local organization as its fundamental link in the economic process and provides the empowerment of men and women to tackle the challenge of being subjects of their own destiny, and is a strategy which contributes to the recognition of economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, which stresses sustainable, cross-cultural and gender equality approaches, and strengthens local sustainable development to be projected nationally and regionally.

2)      We are committed to promoting regional integration which gives priority to rights, knowledge and interests of the Latin American and Caribbean peoples, and whose main foundations are cooperation, reciprocity and complementary action in production, trade and finance, as in all dimensions of the social life of peoples; hence unlike the free trade model which, owing to the pressure of the big transnational companies, monopolizes discussions and agreements in the World trade Organization (WTO) and in the regional and bilateral trade agreements which they wish to impose on the region.

3)      We support and accompany the struggles and demands of the people of Latin America and the Caribbean who ask for respect for their multicultural, multiethnic and multilingual character and their socio-economic contributions, based on relations of solidarity, reciprocity and cooperation.

4)      We express solidarity with the community organizations which in various countries of the region are mobilizing to defend participatory and inclusive democracy, peace, political and economic achievements, and to face the aggressive trespassing of their territory by the transnationals.

5)      We have come together to share, perfect and innovate instruments, methods and systems to improve the current levels of economic and social efficiency of the solidarity ventures, their products and services, in order to contribute to the welfare of their members and communities.

6)      We adopt the commitment to promote and/or strengthen national solidarity economy networks and movements, consolidating the opportunities for improving liaison and strengthening the organizations and their members, and for promoting strategic alliances with other social networks and movements to strengthen the solidarity economy in communities, countries and the region.

7)      We urge that the Bank of the South be an opportunity to benefit financial sovereignty in South America and an instrument for developing the solidarity economy.

8)      We demand that national governments, parliaments and local, regional and state entities in Latina America and the Caribbean open and consolidate public and participatory opportunities for formulating, implementing and monitoring specific laws, policies and programs for fostering and developing the solidarity economy.

Finally, we express our thanks for the infinite solidarity of the sisters and brothers of the Uruguayan organizations which have hosted this III Meeting. Similarly, we invite the organizations, aid agencies and academics working for the region’s solidarity economy to contribute to and participate in the IV International Meeting “The Globalization of Solidarity”� in April, 2009 in Luxembourg; and to redouble their efforts for our movement, to consolidate and extend the levels of participation and representativity achieved to date, bearing in mind the IV Latin American Meeting of the Solidarity Economy and Fair Trade, in Medellin in 2010.

Montevideo, October 24, 2008

Red Internacional de Promoción de la Economí­a Social Solidaria-Latinoamerica y Caribe (Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of the Solidarity Social Economy- Latin America and the Caribbean.
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Tax Fairness Campaign Victories

Tax Fairness Action News (TFAN)
The annual publication of the Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative (TFOC), showcases the critical organizing experiences and victories of TFOC's members.

TFAN Fall 2010

TFAN Spring 2009
TFAN Spring 2008

TFAN Spring 2007


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Analysis: Obama Tax Proposals Could be More Progressive

By Ed Cutlip

United for a Fair Economy has released a new report analyzing President Barack Obama's tax proposals. In the report, the progressive organization argues that Obama's tax proposals fall short of what is needed to implement a progressive tax structure and to reduce incentives for the kind of financial risk-taking that led to the current economic crisis.

The report compares Obama's tax proposals--unveiled in his 2010 budget--with recommendedations from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). The report finds that the IPS proposals would generate significantly more revenue and curtail many of the practices that led to the financial crisis. Their proposals would increase the tax rates on the richest Americans to bring them closer to what the average taxpayer pays.

Read the full post on Media Mouse.

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Racial Justice Communications in Obama’s America (Podcast)

On Febuary 25th, the Boston Chapter of the Progressive Communicators Network convened a panel discussion called “Talking About Racial & Economic Justice in Obama’s America.”�

Amaad Rivera [LISTEN] is the director of the Racial Wealth Divide program at United for a Fair Economy, and lead author of their "2009 State of the Dream Report: The Silent Depression." He discusses Racism without Racists, patterns of school segregation in Boston, and building racial justice frameworks.

Tarso Luí­s Ramos [LISTEN] is the director of research at the right-wing watchdog group Political Research Associates. He discusses the work of Ian F. Haney Lopez’s on   “colorblind white dominance,”� Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s work on White Supremacy and Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era, and the “Color Blind Ideology.”�

Doyle Canning [LISTEN] of smart/MEME, discusses some of the stories in the popular culture on racism and “post racism,”� and how story-based strategies can work to challenge some of the underlying assumptions of white supremacy in the dominant culture.

Read the full blog post on smart/MEME.

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Don't Eat the Rich; Just Tax Them

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Obama’s Budget Moves in Right Direction, Needs to Go Further

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  Racial Justice


President Obama's fiscal year 2010 budget proposes an ambitious and exciting agenda that invests in our nation's future. His budget substantially invests in the long-deferred and vital areas of health care reform, clean energy, and education. The President partially pays for these investments though a mixture of progressive tax changes and other revenue measures.  

United for a Fair Economy applauds the new direction President Obama appears to be taking our nation and supports a number of his proposals. Overall, the Obama budget takes steps that reduce economic inequality, but does little to reduce the racial wealth divide. We also believe there are some critical improvements needed in the budget in the areas of military spending, racial justice and federal tax policy. UFE is working to improve the budget with organizational allies who share our values.

While the general proposals were accepted by both Houses of Congress, much is left to be defined in the details stil be to hashed out. Please let your US Representative and both Senators know your opinions.  Find your legislators here.

Military Spending

While President Obama's budget makes significant strides in social spending, the budget also makes a disappointing choice to increase, not decrease, both Department of Defense and Homeland Security spending.  (See chart: US Military Spending vs. The World, 2008.)

Obama is proposing that the Defense Department receive $533.7 billion as a baseline budget for fiscal year 2010, with another $130 billion in supplemental funding to bring the total to almost $664 billion, a 1.4 percent ($9 billion) increase over FY 09. These figures do not include roughly $7 billion in personnel, health care and military construction spending recently appropriated under the economic stimulus law.

The President's budget seeks $42.7 billion for the Department of Homeland Security in fiscal 2010, up 1.2 % from $40.1 billion in FY 09. That's in addition to $2.8 billion for homeland security included in the stimulus bill.

We applaud the long awaited investment to improve the medical treatment of wounded service members and veterans and the President's commitment to pursue a reform of the acquisition process to make sure that funds are not being wasted on expensive and outdated weapon systems. Yet, we  believe the President's decision to expand the Army and Marines neither supports desperately needed economic recovery nor responds to the desires of a majority of Americans to reduce our reliance on the military as a means of achieving security, stability, and peace among nations.

If the Obama administration is serious about a shift in how we relate to other nations and how the US engages in global affairs, then we must move away from policies and budget decisions that serve to maintain global US military hegemony. From experience, the world sees the Marine Corps as the invasion and intervention military outfit of choice, and the US army as its occupying counter part.

A large portion of the homeland security budget goes to border security and immigration. It includes $1.4 billion to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to ensure that illegal aliens who commit crimes "are expeditiously identified and removed" from the United States. This investment is problematic as we have seen time and time again how ICE, under the guise of rounding up and deporting "illegal aliens who commit crimes", has indiscriminately rounded up and deported thousands of non-criminal undocumented workers and separated families. If the Obama administration is serious about controlling the influx of undocumented workers into our country, then it should consider redesigning US foreign and trade policies instead of implementing para-military persecution and building walls. (See  UFE's policy recommendations on Latin America.)

President Obama's budget proposal forecasts a roughly $50 billion yearly savings in war costs over time. But this doesn't really address the concern about spending billions of dollars to maintain and expand a neo-colonialist war machine instead of investing in the creation of a more just and sustainable national and international economic structure grounded in  solidarity and social economy principles.

The price we pay for being a military superpower with an interventionist agenda is unsustainable, both economically and politically. That needs to change. We want even greater increases in spending on public education, affordable housing and job creation, community-led economic development and fair global trade policies, rather than improved weapons systems and a bigger military force to keep the world in fear of us. We want a major step up in healthcare and renewable energy, rather than the build-up of fences on our borders.

Racial Justice

As this country experiences an economic recession, people of color are experiencing an economic  depression, with unemployment, stagnant wages and asset poverty that would be considered an epidemic if the country as a whole were experiencing similar dismal economic realities.

While some aspects of the President's budget attempt to address areas of concentrated poverty, isolated geographic areas, civil rights, and historically disfranchised populations, the attempts are sporadic. Virtually absent in the budget is the subject of race and its implications. If history is the litmus test of success, past federal policies that failed to systemically address the underlying racial disparities at best maintained these inequities and at worst exacerbated them nearly beyond repair. President Obama's budget inadequately addresses the issues of structural racial inequity.

This structural racism practiced during the recent economic bubble and bust - including  discriminatory policies of the financial industry  - led to the largest loss of wealth in modern history for people of color. The President's budget does not address the resulting economic crisis.

Further, Obama promotes "race-neutral" policies such as the increase in green technology to the tune of $34 billion, which, while important, lack a clear directive to concentrate such resources and jobs where they're needed most: struggling communities that are disproportionally the communities of color.

Understanding that Latinos are the least likely to have medical insurance, that Blacks are the most likely to live in areas of concentrated poverty, that Native Americans have some of the highest drop-out rates compared to the rest of the population and that APIA (Asian Pacific Islander Americans) are not even counted in a wide variety of disparity data, allows us to understand that not all people in this country are entering this 21st century economy equally.

This budget has the potential to both symbolize progress and address some of the persistent structural racial inequalities through adequate funding for the  enforcement of anti-discriminatory policies, new initiatives on inequality and improved data collection. As of yet, President Obama has not demonstrated a clear commitment to addressing the vast and growing racial inequalities in our nation.   Some have said, "if you are not using the race card, you are not playing with a full deck." As we enter a new chapter of American history, let us create a 21st economy that works for everyone. This is only possible by dealing with race, not ignoring it.

Federal Tax Policy

President Obama's budget proposes many changes in tax policy. Together, these changes make tax law somewhat more progressive, but they fail to raise greatly needed revenue. We would prefer tax changes that result in a steeply progressive tax system, and raise enough revenue to accomplish national goals.

We support the President's efforts to:

  • repeal the Bush tax cuts on those earning above $250,000
  • limit deductions for people in the top 5% of income
  • return the tax on investment income back to 20%
  • tax the compensation of hedge fund and private equity managers at the same rate as earned income
  • increase international corporate taxes
  • eliminate numerous oil company tax breaks, and
  • establish a "cap and trade" system to limit carbon emissions and reduce pollution.

We disagree with Obama's proposal to permanently reduce the Alternative Minimum Tax, which mostly benefits the wealthiest 10%. And we believe that, given our nation's massive deficit, this is not the time to hemorrhage revenue by cutting taxes for families earning less than $250,000 and extending business tax cuts, as Obama's budget does.

A particularly big disappointment is the President's handling of the estate tax. He proposes to make permanent President Bush's reduction in the estate tax with an exemption of $3.5 million per spouse and a tax rate of 45% on the amount above the exemption, which will cost $166 billion over 10 years. This benefits only people in the top 1% of income. Instead, United for a Fair Economy proposes an estate tax with a $2 million exemption per spouse and up to 55% rate over the exemption, which would bring in billions more over 10 years.

Obama missed his chance to introduce other new taxes that primarily affect wealthy people and corporations, and which would have made the tax system more fair, raised significant revenue, and created disincentives for some of the financial speculation that contributed to the economic meltdown. We support the Institute for Policy Studies' excellent  package of tax proposals, which could raise up to $422 billion per year more than Obama's proposals. In addition to a strong estate tax, the proposals include an income surtax on people earning over $5 million/year; a tax on speculative financial transactions; taxing investment income at the same rate as earned income; closing overseas tax havens; and ending subsidies for excessive executive compensation.

Here are some charts that show:

Where federal revenue comes from:  

and what it is spent on:

Without strategic tax changes and policies that reduce military spending and explicitly advance racial justice, our nation's economic inequality will not be reversed, and Obama's investments in health care reform, clean energy, and education will falter.

Again, please let your US Representative and both Senators know your opinions.  Find your legislators here.

If you have questions or comments about UFE's critique of President Obama's budget proposal, please contact:

Military Spending:  Adrian Boutureira, [email protected]

Racial Justice:  Amaad Rivera, [email protected]

Federal Tax Policy:  Lee Farris, [email protected]

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