Tax The Wealthy, They’re Asking For It

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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

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:

Obama, Lead Us To Clean Energy Now!

God love the actor who stands up for the environment, but there is something a little more significant (for me at least) when if comes from Robert Redford. (Maybe because he’s one of my favorites and one of the most respectable actors in Hollywood) See his challenge to President Obama:

Way to go, Mr. Redford! Thanks to Climate Progress for introducing this video to me.

Growthbusters: Hooked on Growth

Dave Gardner, film producer/director/writer, is in the process of completing would could be a monumentally important film in exposing the fallacy of “growth everlasting.” Armed with a camera and donations from regular folks, Dave has traveled the world questioning our growth addiction. He started in his home town of Colorado Springs and has now taken the filming to the national and global arena.

Hooked On Growth: Our Misguided Quest For Prosperity” is still in production and could use your help to finish off the process, please take a moment to make a tax-deductible donation to help fund the film’s release. Here’s a quick blurb from the site about the movie:

“Why is it more important to our society to have GDP growth than clean air? And why do communities seek andsubsidize growth even when it destroys quality of life andincreases taxes?

Our growth-centric system is broken. It’s not providing the happiness or the prosperity we seek. But that’s good news; it means a shift to a sustainable model will not require great sacrifice or pain. A transformation will allow us to be happier and more prosperous…

From Las Vegas to Atlanta, Mexico City to Mumbai, the White House to the Vatican, Hooked on Growthtakes us on a whirlwind tour of growth mania. It’s Wild Kingdom with a twist: the cameras are turned onhumanity as our own survival skills are examined. Hooked on Growth looks into the psychology of denial and crowd behavior. It explores our obsession with community growth and economic growth, and our reluctance to address overpopulation issues head-on. This documentary holds up a mirror, encouraging us to examine the beliefs and behaviors we must leave behind – and the values we need to embrace – in order that our children can survive and thrive.”

View the Trailer here (also below) and join the cause!

Citizen or Consumer? A Year in Reflection

One year ago I started writing out of passion (and some anger). My how things have evolved! This blog has seen 75 posts in the last year, some of them great, some of them alright, some perhaps less so. I have tried my best to write about the issues important to me: a sustainable society, a healthier planet, a ethcial economy, and a more just world.

I have also learned so much about life, happiness, sustainability, and where I want to be in the world. More importantly, I have learned there is quite a large group of people out there feeling the same way, and we are all beginning to see the division between economic growth and true prosperity. What do you think? I would really value your input on ways I could make this blog better, both in function and in form. Please comment on this post or email me!

Since today marks Steady State Revolution‘s one year blogiversary I decided to take a look at the very first post and revise it with some fresh ideas (and hopefully improved writing skill). Here’s the 75th post on the 1-year blogiversary!

Citizen or Consumer?

The US Consumer Unit
The US Consumer Unit

Yesterday was the start of the “Christmas Shopping Season.” Aside from the typical trampling of an elderly person at a Wal-mart, this day signifies the beginning of the American Consumer’s busiest time of the year. Between today and New Years we Americans will increase our waste by 25%.

Each year we start sooner and sooner with our Christmas consumption, this year marketers started preparing for the season around Halloween. The average consumer spends about $1,100 a year on gifts, over $800 worth of which is holiday-related purchases. This means 73% of all our gift-related buying is done in the holiday season. That’s a lot of consumption.

Consumerism accounts for a large cog in the economy. Consumption drives the sales of goods, which is incentive to produce more goods. Producing goods is the basis our growth model. In order to grow the throughput (GDP) of our economy, we must increase the production and consumption cycle. What better way to do so than to make it your intuitive nature to spend? What if we could find a way to move people from identifying as themselves, or their jobs, but instead as what they buy? From this the American Consumer is born.

Continue reading “Citizen or Consumer? A Year in Reflection”

Governance and Economy

The Wall Fell, But We Didn't Learn
The Wall Fell, But We Didn't Learn

The fall of the Berlin wall was a monumental event in history. Interestingly enough it acted as the end of a large-scale governance/economic experiment. Here we have two societies, each with similar backgrounds, but each with drastically different views of government and economics. On one side was placed a highly controlled society and on the other was placed a free market society. The prevalence of the capitalism in this instance was taken as proof of its superiority and also acted to secure it in our minds as they way for the future. However, there have not been any others to step up in competition – even if they would have been allowed socially.

So we are still locked in the same debate – capitalistic democracy or communism/socialism. Note how it is one or the other in this debate; no one seems to question that perhaps neither is the correct form for human prosperity. Given that the two extremes are both unsustainable, and the incredibly unlikely (and perhaps socially unwanted) possibility of a green, benign dictator coming to our rescue, we are ultimately left to our own devices to re-envision government So how do we make this change in the bureaucracies we have established and entrenched in unsustainable growth? How do we transition to a truly beneficial and socially just form of governance?

I would suggest we first ignore the initial pessimistic view (however likely it might seem to be) of a collapse of society in favor of an optimistic view of successfully transitioning without collapse. Why bother? Because the latter option gives us a challenge to work towards while the former option encourages laziness (and, in my case, would significantly increase my drinking habits in order to cope).

Continue reading “Governance and Economy”

Beyond Talk: Climate Action Now

Time For Action
Time For Action

I have written in the past about climate change and the need for decisive action. You might think this odd for a blog about economics to be talking about climate change. How can I not talk about it? Climate change poses the greatest threat to human civilization since the atom bomb. It is the ecological part of ecological economics. But I digress…

As a blog I hereby official support the Beyond Talk Campaign. It is time for non-violent civil disobedience to make change happen. The Copenhagen Climate Conference is now less than 100 days away and we need a groundswell movement to make change happen NOW.

Beyond Talk is a great campaign originally conceived by The Yes Men and initiated by a group of organizations to “turn up the political heat” and push for a global climate agreement NOW. Check out the founders:

Take the pledge and make a difference – be a true activist!

Steady State Economy: The Revolution Starts Now

The Social Revolution Starts Now!
The Social Revolution Starts Now!

I have been trying to present simple, logical discussions showcasing why our growth economy cannot be sustained. So far we’ve discussed the principles of the steady state economy, ranging from sustainable scale to fair distribution to global climate change to population stability.

Our addiction to growth is pushing forward global climate change and making scarce resources even scarcer. Meanwhile, our economy is in dire conditions. While our governments are trying to bailout the failed system, the people are suffering. Fat-cats are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer. Control of our money and banking is in private hands, perpetuating the very growth that is hurting us.

Continue reading “Steady State Economy: The Revolution Starts Now”