Category Archives: Class

an affluent activist at occupy wall street says: raise her taxes!

Occupy Wall Street …

Here’s my latest article for The Valley Advocate, about 1%er Jessie Spector, the Program Director at Resource Generation, who was arrested participating in the Occupy Wall Street protests, against her financial interest.

RAISE HER TAXES

Earlier this month, an estimated 700 Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested while attempting to cross New York’s famed Brooklyn Bridge. It was one of the largest demonstrations to date by the amorphous “Other 99 percent” representing the majority of people who don’t benefit from the socioeconomic privileges enjoyed by the upper 1 percent of wealth holders in the country.

But among the protesters arrested was Northampton native Jessie Spector, who marched that day holding a most unusual sign: “I was born into the 1%, I want redistribution, we’ll all be better for it & Tax me!”

Why would Spector do this?

“I wanted to mix up the message,” she explains. “It’s important to show there are rich people in solidarity.”

Read on … 

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Filed under Accountable Wealth, Activism, American Dream, Class, Economic Justice, Economic Opportunity, Fair Taxation, Social Change

guest post for classism exposed

Here’s the guest post I recently wrote for Classism Exposed, the blog of the economic justice organization Class Action.

SCHOOLING THE SYSTEM OF PRIVILEGE

This “back to school” season got me to thinking about my own formal education, and the teachers and professors I’ve known who have or have not used their positions of academic influence to challenge the status quo, especially the economic status quo.

The current issue of Boston Review features Noam Chomsky’s essay, “The Responsibility of Intellectuals, Redux,” which is updated from his original 1967 treatise. “As the Vietnam War escalated,” notes Boston Review, “Noam Chomsky penned … a stunning rebuke to scientists and scholars for the subservience to political power. Today we face a similar array of crises, from wars to escalating debt. What are the obligations of intellectuals in this day and age?” Which is a mighty fine question.

Read more … 

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don’t look now, it’s media coverage of economic inequality! part two

Further congratulations to the folks at the Institute for Policy Studies, whose “Executive Excess 2011” report continues to make waves in the media. Thanks in part, no doubt, to the recent hoopla around the “Warren Buffett Rule,” proposing higher taxes on millionaires and billionaires. (“The horror.”)

As they note at the end of the video above, without effective media coverage, “this type of critical analysis would not be possible.”

And the analysis, theirs and others, of economic inequality is needed more than ever these days.

 

 

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Filed under Accountable Wealth, American Dream, Class, Economic Justice, Economic Opportunity, Fair Taxation

don’t look now, it’s media coverage of economic inequality!

While media coverage of economic inequality seems to occur with less frequency than hurricanes blowing though New York City, today appears to be the anomaly. Several publications, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Politico have all run stories about the new, revealing study, “Executive Excess 2011,” by the folks at The Institute for Policy Studies, which shows that last year “25 CEOs took home more in pay than their company paid in 2010 federal income taxes.”

Hopefully, this is the beginning of more to come. (Media coverage of economic inequality. As opposed to instances of tax abuse. Of course.)

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matt damon for president! (or at least secretary of the treasury)

As Doc Brown observed in the 1985 film Back to the Future: “Ronald Reagan? The actor [is President of the United States]? Then who’s Vice-President? Jerry Lewis? I suppose Jane Wyman is the First Lady! … And Jack Benny is Secretary of the Treasury!”

If Ronald Reagan can do it, then why not Matt Damon?

Recently, Damon put the liberal back in Liberal Hollywood with his commentary on our current tax structure, and the correlative economic inequality our society is mired in:

“It’s criminal that so little is asked of people who are getting so much. I don’t mind paying more. I really don’t mind paying more taxes. I’d rather pay for taxes than cut Reading Is Fundamental, of Head Start, or some of these programs that are really helping kids. This is the greatest country in the world. Is it that much worse if you’re paying 6% more in taxes? Give me a break. Look at what you get for it. You get to be American.”

Conceding that a $250,000 annual salary takes the focus too close to the middle class, Damon suggests a tax reform of raising taxes on those making over $1 million/year, with a tax of 50% for those making over $5 million/year. “Why don’t you just tax the really rich?” Damon challenges. “Guys like me.”

Good question.

Democrats, are you listening?

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Filed under Accountable Wealth, American Dream, Class, Economic Justice, Economic Opportunity, Fair Taxation

quote of the intermittent time period: james baldwin on the debt ceiling deal

Yesterday President Obama signed the bill that allows an increase in the debt ceiling. Yesterday was also the birthday of the late, great James Baldwin, who once made this comment, not about the recent political circus around the debt ceiling “negotiations,” but which I found myself thinking of nonetheless:

“People pay for what they do, and still more for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it simply: by the lives they lead.”

Do we have to be so blatant about which economic section of our populace our government is “serving”?

 

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dan savage cleans up billionaire mark cuban’s mess

There was an interesting spontaneous moment on a recent Real Time with Bill Maher that speaks to the complication of class relations.

While making a comment, Dallas Mavericks billionaire owner Mark Cuban accidentally knocked over the water of fellow panelist Christia Freeland. He apologized and continued with his thoughts. As he was speaking, someone off-camera put a towel on the table, so the water could be discreetly wiped up. As it turned out, it ended up being the third panelist, gay rights activist and sex columnist Dan Savage, who took care of the spilled water, pointedly saying as he did so, “Here’s the working class Irish guy, cleaning up after the billionaire.”

Upon first watching, I was immediately struck that the moment represented a central problem with the uber-wealthy: lack of awareness, and the expectation of others to deal with the mess you create. Cuban accidentally knocked over the water, nicely apologized, and then went on with things, paying no mind to the effects of his accident. And furthermore, it was tended to by Savage, reared in a working class household, who has been taught to do just the opposite.

But after a little reflection, it seems the class influences at work in this brief exchange between Savage and Cuban are a bit more complex.

Savage is an extremely successful columnist, radio host, published author, activist, and regularly-featured national commentator. He might not be a billionaire, but he’s more comfortable financially than most people. Of course, as he was brought up working class, maybe he still identifies with that reality, as is no doubt the case with many folks: being molded foremost by the class experiences of their childhood. But Cuban, too, was brought up working class. The grandson of Russian immigrants who were processed at Ellis Island, he sold garbage bags when he was twelve to pay for a pair of sneakers, and so forth.

So if Savage was still identifying as working class, then it seems a little unfair to negatively label Cuban as “the billionaire.”

Maybe this incident is not significant of any larger issues, class or otherwise? Maybe it was indeed an example of a class microaggression?

What to make of it?

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Filed under Accountable Wealth, Class, Lifestyle Economics