Category Archives: Fair Taxation

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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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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democracy vs. aristocracy

Check out this telling graphic from United for a Fair Economy, which makes me wonder: in a society where the political campaign prerequisites (read: money) are making it more and more difficult for most people to get elected as political representatives, and serve their constituency (read: not the wealthy), can our democracy survive this kind of egregious economic inequality?

It is fine to have financial incentives and rewards for those in society who value working hard toward those aims. But when the wealth of a few threatens the livelihood and economic opportunity of so many others, then it seems something is quite out of balance.

To me, this looks more like an aristocracy than a democracy. And that is not good.

 

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the wisdom of david simon: economic intelligence from the creator of the wire

I may be a bit slow to the proverbial party here (or there, or everywhere), but it’s only in the past week that I’ve become aware of the astute societal observations of David Simon.

Simon is best known as the writer/creator of The Wire, the unbelievably excellent and roundly appreciated “cop  show” that Simon says is really “a show about the end of American Empire.” Which seems quite a lot to take on, for an hour-long primetime television show. And so all the more impressive for the honest attempt.

A self-described socialist (but not a Marxist, he is quick to note), Simon was a crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun for over a decade. Then he wrote a book, Homicide, which led to the cop show Homicide, which were both based on his journalistic observations working the beat in Baltimore.

As is portrayed with his shows, he has seen the ugly underbelly of our uber-capitalist society. And he is dead set on sharing that story, so that it can’t be (as easily) ignored.

In commenting about The Wire (and his new show Treme, about post-Katrina New Orleans), Simon doesn’t mince words when articulating the unfortunate truths of our capital-obsessed social economy. “Every single moment, on this planet, from here on out, human beings are worth less. Not more, less,” he told a crowd at Loyola College. It’s a simple, stark truth with some revealing implications.  Continue reading

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the rich just ain’t what they used to be

Remember Robin Leach, the host of the television show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous who charmed us with “champagne wishes and caviar dreams”? Well, two decades later, it seems we’re all still hungover from the uber-affluent-extravaganza buzz we collectively endured. Celebrity gossip. The Fortune 500. Beltway politics. Who can sort through such porous distinctions anymore?

So is it really surprising that Donald Trump is deciding to run for President? He already has a tower, a board (bored) game, and a TV show. Is he supposed to just ride off into the sunset on his yacht, lounge on the beach of his own private island paradise, telling his martini cocktails they’re fired, never to be heard from again?

If only.

The uber-wealthy. Seems the more they get, the more they get in everyone’s face.

It’s tempting to reason that it has always been like this. “We seem to be made to suffer,” fatalist philosopher C-3PO reasons. “It’s our lot in life.”

But the reality is that today’s insane-ly rich have become even more brash than their power-wielding forbearers of yesteryear. (If that’s even possible. Which, unfortunately, it seems to be.) Commie-red rose-colored glasses aside, the rich just ain’t what they used to be. And an intriguing new study by (former Barnard College history professor) Thaddeus Russell, A Renegade History of the United States, makes that abundantly clear.  Continue reading

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a spot of tea for patriot’s day

Yesterday was Patriot’s Day. Here in Massachusetts, that means (Boston) Marathon Monday, the beginning of April Vacation, and the annual 11am Sox game.

But, social festivities aside, the day is, of course, named to commemorate the beginning of the American Revolution, which started with “the shot heard ’round the world” at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, back on April 19, 1775.

As we know (history geeks unite!), those battles were preceded and caused by the all-important Boston Tea Party, which, with the current Tea Party Movement hysteria, has drawn more than its usual share of attention of late. Today’s Tea Party heralds those early patriots for their direct action against overtaxation as the historical genesis of their own anti-taxation, anti-government ideals. But what if those at that original, infamous Boston Tea Party were not protesting against overtaxation, but performing a direct action against corporate tax cuts instead?

“The Tea Act,” states Thom Hartmann, “gave the world’s largest transnational corporation, the British East India Company, the biggest corporate tax break in world history. It was an actual tax refund on millions of pounds of tea they were unable to sell and were holding in inventory, and would have been billions in today’s dollars.”

Why was this so upsetting that it would lead the colonists to “commit a multi-million-dollar (in today’s money) act of vandalism”?

In the fascinating (history geeks unite!) video below, Thom Hartmann explains the largely unknown history of the Tea Party using a first-hand account, Retrospect of the Boston Tea-Party, written in 1834 by George R.T. Hewes, who was an actual participating member at that infamous revolution-stirring event, “a survivor of the little band of patriots who drowned the tea in the Boston Harbor in 1773,” as Hewes himself phrased it.

  Continue reading

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so much for death and taxes

As Ben Franklin famously observed, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” That is, unless you’re a large, powerful corporation type-of-person. In which case you can live forever, and completely dodge your tax-paying responsibilities.

So, this Tax Day, amidst a plethora of service-cutting budget proposals, here’s a medley of corporate tax-evading infuriation.

1. Chuck Collins, senior scholar for the Institute of Policy Studies urges us to “remember the tax dodgers” this tax day. “If you write a check over $10 to the IRS,” notes Collins, “you just paid more than Verizon, Boeing, Bank of America, Citigroup and General Electric combined [!] in federal taxes.”

Sounds unbelievable? It should. But unfortunately, it’s not.

2. The Nation magazine offers a slideshow of companies that made billions in profits, and yet received millions in tax breaks, including Exxon/Mobil, who reported “$19 billion in profits,” and received a “$156 million rebate from the IRS.” And General Electric, who got a “$4.1 billion refund from the IRS” despite raking in “$19 billion in profits,” as well.

One thing GE didn’t do, despite the recently-released (fake) press release stating so, was plan on returning their tax break in full by this year’s Tax Day.

3. Rather, the press release was created by activists at US Uncut to highlight the fact that GE and other “corporate persons” are avoiding their tax-paying patriotic responsibilities, despite the profits they are reporting. “No corporation is an island,” pointed out US Uncut spokesperson Carl Gibson, “even if they hide all their profits in tropical tax havens.”  Continue reading

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