Tax The Wealthy, They’re Asking For It

Take The Wealthy Banner
Tax Wealth Like Work

It’s apparent that the income and wealth gap in the US (and the world) is large and only getting worse. Out of the last ten years of economic growth all of the increase in wealth has gone to the top 1%. These extremely wealth people have seen an 18 percent increase in their yearly income and currently the top 1% control 40% of the total wealth in America!! During those same ten years the rest of us have seen a decrease in our yearly incomes. (The concept of “a rising tide lifts all boats” is utterly false by the facts)

All those facts are explained in Joesph Stiglitz’s article pretty clearly. While I suspected that our tax system was skewed towards the wealthy (and we know all about the infamous “Bush tax cuts”), I was unaware of the actual numbers on earned income taxes versus capital gains and dividend income. Those of us that work for a living, most contributing to the betterment of society in some fashion or another, are taxed 35% of our income. Those that live off dividends and investments, many of which are inherited, are only taxes 15%.

A recent group of wealthy individuals have come out to recognize this disparity and campaign for a change. Responsible Wealth and United for a Fair Economy have launched the “Tax Wealth Like Work” campaign. The goal of the campaign is to:

“Focus attention on the discrepancies in the U.S. tax system that reward income from wealth over income from work. Income from capital gains and dividend income – a type of investment income from stocks, real estate, and other holdings – is taxed at a top marginal rate of only 15 percent. Income earned from work, on the other hand, has a top rate of 35 percent.”

Check out the campaign here. (Thanks to Gift Hub for showing me this)

Here’s some graphics for your consideration, too:

Effective Federal Tax Rates = Wealth Inequality

Save Public Broadcasting

The House of Representatives recently voted to eliminate public broadcasting. This means no more NPR, no more Sesame Street (won’t somebody think of the children?!), no more Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me, no more PBS Kids. As a parent with a child who loves Elmo, as well as a frequent listener of npr’s great programs, I cannot remain silent while this great resource is voted out of existence. I know that our corporate house representatives want to make this last public supported media resource, I do not!If you won’t listen to me, listen to Mr. Roger’s saving public broadcasting in 1969.

Check out this infographic released by the campaign to save public broadcasting, 170 Million Americans:

Tell you senator to vote against this bill.

Perhaps instead of eliminating a valuable public resource (that costs relatively nothing when compared to the rest of the budget) we should start taxing our corporations – you know those business that make billions of dollars a year and pay practically nothing in taxes! Read my last post about the One Good Cut Campaign or check out the newest issue of Mother Jones to see just how much we pay and how little those big fat cats pay.

One Good Cut

When you first learn about how our money is controlled, created and loaned you might very well not believe it. In fact, it is both so simple and so outrageous that often people think it is a lie. The reality is that our privately owned, corporate banking institutions have the power to create money out of thin air, then charge you for it. There is no real effective oversight either. Another lesser known fact is that the Federal Reserve, which set interest rates for banks and oversees banking in general, is not a entirely government agency. It is mostly controlled by the very private, corporate banks that it oversees.

All of this information just shows how distorted our banking systems and how reprehensible the actions of these banks are that led to a massive taxpayer bailout. They still show record profits and give out million dollar bonuses. These are just people who manage our money, not doctors or nurses or teachers – people who give real benefit to our society. Instead, because of the economic collapse caused by our bankers we have to lay off doctors, nursers, police officers and teachers while banks pull in still greater profits. Do they really provide such a useful service to our society that they should make millions while our basic social services are cut?

The creation of our money should be entirely in the hands of our publicly represented government, where we can see and control it! Banks provide a very basic service to our society, but when it comes down to it they shouldn’t run the world or have the power to ruin it.

One Good Cut is a great little film put together by Positive Money that outlines this issue and how we can repair it. Check it out:

Check out more on the One Good Cut website and take action!

Towards A Not-For-Profit World

I’ve often thought that the profit motive is one of the roots of our problems. That’s basically the statement behind the documentary The Corporation, which shows that the corporate model is, clinically speaking, a psychopath. When we are constantly chasing the “up and to the right” we are no longer striving for enough but more than enough. And the more than that. And still more than that. Profit motive drives the growth economy.

My wife’s been doing a lot of reading for a class about diseases around the world. One thing she commented on was regarding the “industrialization” of a lot of third world countries, namely those in Africa around the time AIDS appeared. These relatively flourishing countries had small, cyclical economies – that is, economics that produced enough for everyone involved. (Rob Hopkins talks about a similar economy in the intro to The Transition Handbook) These countries we not “developed” by western thought, but most everyone had a job and a stable home. Farmers produced enough food for their families and those in their community.

Then in come the western industrialists, saying “you can produce more than that and sell it to people in the next city/county/country to make more money!” And it was all down hill from there… Then the westerners leave the country pillaged, in ruins and aimless. No one benefited by the introduction of the growth concept in these examples except for the big company’s pocket books. And in order to feed that profit motive, in order to make even more money, these companies move on to the next unsuspecting country.

What if we were to change this line of thought? What if we were to introduce a cyclical line of thinking back into our corporate models? Instead of constantly “up and to the right” what if we said we need to maintain a certain level in order to sustain our employees, our country, our planet? What if we reinvented our way of living to serve our community and ourselves instead of just our bank accounts? Where is my rambling going? Well…

Donnie Maclurcan is a fellow Post Growther whom I’ve had the pleasure to work with a lot recently. (He also wrote a guest post a while back) He gave a TEDx Youth Talk a while back that is now available online. His concept is this: change the world to a not-for-profit model. Remove this destructive and unsustainable profit motive and focus on enough, on sufficiency instead of excess. I particularly love the story of the African village.

Check out the video:

2010 Washington State Voter’s Guide

This November offers up some serious measures and elections, as well as seriously confusing measures and initiatives. I’ve outlined why I’m voting for some and not others, as well as my picks for the state elections. Democracy in action: research and vote!

I don’t usually use this blog as a direct political outlet, but after opening up my mail-in ballet for the Washington State November Election I was inspired to write something. This election is important – not only because it represents a serious threat to progressive action on a national level (don’t vote in republicans!) but also here in Washington there are some important initiatives and elections. You can’t just read the ballet and understand the implications of these measures – especially since many of them include multiple changes to law, overlap in odd ways and are all the source of much campaigning by corporate interests.

I did a little research, as all members of a democracy should – be educated and involved. There are numerous sites out there, but you should at least look at your state voter’s guide to read about the measures before you vote. In the past I have used the local free newspaper, The Stranger, and the county/state guides to help me come to a decision. This year I did a little more research on these complicated measures, although I’ll admit I came to similar conclusions as The Stranger on most of them, it was of my own decision making skills.

Continue reading “2010 Washington State Voter’s Guide”

The Green Economy vs US Politics

My apologies for the near two weeks of silence, we’ve had some computer issues in my house and a wave of fall cold. I’ve been twitting when possible, but limited computer time has made it difficult to write much. Here is something I think you might find interesting…

The United States political arena is mind-bogglingly idiotic. There, I said it. The fact that our media and politics can take a scientific fact (climate change) and turn it into a “four-letter word that many U.S. politicians won’t even dare utter in public” is despicable, detestable and degrading to the intelligence of the American people. Thomas Friedman just wrote a great article about the “next great global industry” and how our media-political system has pushed us behind the curve.

China’s leaders are mostly engineers and scientist. They understand scientific data, unlike our leaders that are politically-driven lawyers and scoundrels – they only seem understand money. It’s just unfortunate that most of the money is held by oil and coal companies with free reign to purchase elections and fund anti-climate campaigns. From Friedman’s short article “Aren’t We Clever?“:

“‘There is really no debate about climate change in China,’ said Peggy Liu, chairwoman of the Joint U.S.-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, a nonprofit group working to accelerate the greening of China… The push for green in China, she added, ‘is a practical discussion on health and wealth. There is no need to emphasize future consequences when people already see, eat and breathe pollution every day.’

“So while America’s Republicans turned ‘climate change’ into a four-letter word — J-O-K-E — China’s Communists also turned it into a four-letter word — J-O-B-S.

“‘China is changing from the factory of the world to the clean-tech laboratory of the world,’ said Liu. ‘It has the unique ability to pit low-cost capital with large-scale experiments to find models that work.’ China has designated and invested in pilot cities for electric vehicles, smart grids, LED lighting, rural biomass and low-carbon communities. ‘They’re able to quickly throw spaghetti on the wall to see what clean-tech models stick, and then have the political will to scale them quickly across the country,’ Liu added. ‘This allows China to create jobs and learn quickly.'”

So the old worry of communism may not be too far off – they are in fact stealing jobs from us. But not because they are communists and we are capitalists, but because they are intelligently transitioning to a new green economy and we are busy arguing over whether or not to trust the science.

Note: don’t let my tone make you think I don’t believe the US can transition to a greener economy, far from it. It is just frustrating to be in the one country with a non-functioning congress. If anything, I want you to not let the regressive party (republicans) win seats in this next election – it will make things worse. Vote out the idiots who don’t “believe” in the science!

Mr President, Put Solar On The White House

Lead By Example, Symbols Are Powerful

Symbols are important. The Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids, the Great Wall are all examples of important cultural symbols. But even small symbols are important, in fact I would venture that smaller, local symbols are even more important on a day-to-day basis – the example of a father, the blessing of a ship, the courtesy of a door held open.

In order for the United States to survive the coming few decades as a society it will need to invest in something called resilience. This term has devoid from our lives for the past 50-100 years in part because of our belief that we will forever have cheap energy. The truth of the matter is that oil is peaking, and will run out soon.

Even before it runs out completely, it will get super expensive. This might not seem like a big deal to some, but to many this will increase the costs of everything we do, because nearly all of it relies on oil. Electricity, supermarket food, pencils, transportation, fresh water, lawn mowers, sewer, medical supplies, and waste water systems – everything either requires oil directly or indirectly.

Therefore, in order to increase our society’s resilience, we need to be able to take the shock of post-peak oil in stride. This means, among many other things, having readily available renewable energy. We should take advantage of our cheap(er) oil now to build the structures that will sustain a more resilient society after the peak. Once the shocks come it will likely be too late to make any proper transition to a renewable energy-powered society without hardship.

Back to symbols – we need a strong leader in this venture towards a sustainable society. President Obama has a great opportunity to provide a great symbol of our commitment on top of his house – for free! The Glõbama Campaign is provide a means for us to send a message to the president that he should do just that – put solar panels on the white house!

Check it out here.

Points of Progress

This semi-regular report includes things happening in our world, policies, articles and practices in-line with the steady state economy or transitioning to it, that are worth some time to read about –  the good news, the promising results. They are all exciting things happening I just don’t have time to post about each in-depth.

Here are some cool things happening in the world:

Peter Victor Lecture in Toronto

For those of you in the great Canadian wilderness of Toronto, or nearby, Peter Victor will be lecturing at the Center for Inquiry this Friday, July 2nd at 7pm. More than just a man with two first names, Peter Victor is the famous Canadian author of Managing Without Growth and a professor in environmental studies at York University.

Victor’s book is the result of an economic simulation devised to study the Canadian economy if it turned away from growth as its main policy goal, shifting to a sustainable, steady state economy. Results from his simulation suggest that it is possible to have  full employment, eradicate poverty, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and maintain fiscal balance without economic growth. If you’re able to attend his lecture, please take notes and let me know how it goes!

Tales From The Steady State Conference

Just a few weeks ago a gathering of minds took place in the town of Leeds, UK. A blogger friend of mine, Jeremy Williams of Make Wealth History was there, along with writer and activist Lucy Glynn. Lucy is the first to write a report back from the conference, though I hope to be featuring a guest post soon from Jeremy and/or Rob Dietz with CASSE, who help host the event.

The conference included great workshops and featured keynote speakers including Peter Victor, mentioned above; Andrew Simms, Policy Director at nef; Dan O’Neill, European Director of CASSE; and Tim Jackson, author of Prosperity Without Growth and professor of sustainable development, University of Surrey.

Take a look at Lucy’s post at the nef triple crunch blog here.

Pacific Coast States Band Together To Ban Offshore Oil

As we transition to a steady state economy we will need to leave behind the unsustainable, destructive ways of our previous growth-driven economy. Foremost in my mind is the unbelievably harmful extraction, production and consumption of fossil fuels. We’re nearly out of oil. This is ever apparent in the lengths to which we now go to find more oil: oil shale, Alaskan oil, deepwater drilling, et cetera.

Happy news for my home the Pacific Northwest: All three pacific states have come together to ban offshore oil. Each state has banned it off their coasts and are now working together to remove it from the federal waters that extend outside of the state’s coastal jurisdiction. I hope this passes through out congress and the western states can live happily in the knowledge that the Gulf spill won’t be repeated here.