Category Archives: Economic Justice

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

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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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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inside job: everything you ever wanted to know about the economy but were afraid to ask

I finally watched the (Oscar-winning) documentary Inside Job, “the first film to expose the shocking truth behind the economic crisis of 2008” (that continues today). The film’s conclusion (spoiler alert!): we have a “Wall Street government,” and have since the 1980s, which disproportionately serves the beneficiaries of the financial sector, often at the (very literal) expense of everyone else.

While I had been meaning to watch Inside Job for a while, something always delayed me from doing so. Now that I’ve watched it, I realize what it is: the disturbing reality of our embedded “financial-industrial complex,” which, unfortunately, has not changed at all under the Obama Administration.

As the film’s writer, director and producer Craig Ferguson notesContinue reading

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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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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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scott russell sanders breaks “the spell of money”

There’s an intriguing new essay by Scott Russell Sanders in the current issue of Orion, called “Breaking the Spell of Money,” which looks at an irony of wealth, and the corresponding challenge that the extremely affluent are failing to meet.

“The accumulation of money,” Sanders writes, “gives the richest individuals and corporations godlike power over the rest of us.

 “Yet money itself has no intrinsic value; it is a medium of exchange, a token that we have tacitly agreed to recognize and swap for things that do posses intrinsic value, such as potatoes or poetry, salmon or surgery. Money is a symbolic tool, wholly dependent for its usefulness on an underlying social compact. It is paradoxical, therefore, that those who have benefited the most financially from the existence of this compact have been the most aggressive in seeking to undermine it, by attacking unions, cooperatives, public education, independent media, social welfare programs, non-profits that serve the poor, land-use planning, and every aspect of government that doesn’t directly serve the rich. For the social compact to hold, ordinary people must feel that they are participating in a common enterprise that benefits everyone fairly, and not a pyramid scheme designed to benefit a few at the top.”

It’s easy to get lost, or dismayed, by statistics. This is especially true when trying to comprehend vast amounts of wealth. But by wondering “why … a billionaire [would] want more money” Sanders does a better job than most at illuminating the seemingly unrealistic reality of the insanely wealthy.

“Suppose you keep a billion dollars under your mattress,” Sanders explains, “where it will earn no income, and you set out to spend it;  Continue reading

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