Proposed Tax On Million Dollar Living Spaces Serving As Second Home

“For properties valued between $5 million and $6 million, a 0.5 percent surcharge would be added on the value over $5 million. Fees and a higher surcharge would apply to homes that sold for more than $6 million, topping out at a $370,000 fee and a 4 percent surcharge for homes valued at more than $25 million.”

This would be huge in NYC where so many high end living spaces remain empty for they are just investments.

Would be great for a subway system revamp, and any leftover for remedying the housing crisis there.

Warren For President?

Elizabeth_Warren_Nov_2_2012Today at the the annual Netroots Nation conference in Detroit, the nation’s largest gathering of liberal activists and organizers, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) reportedly drew an applause that Hillary could only dream of. According to NYT and Politico reports, Warren was a rock-star while Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic candidate for President, was absent.

Warren’s populist talking points and her history of taking Wall Street to task (remember that Warren was an early advocate for the creation of a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and later worked on the implementation of the bureau as a special assistant to the president) has the left-wing of the left-wing of the Democratic party dreaming of a Presidential run. A site has even popped up at stating “Run, Warren, Run!”

But Warren has stated, over and over, that she will not run be running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, telling the Boston Globe “I am not running for president. Do you want to put an exclamation point at the end of that?” She is currently only serving as speaker at rallies for Dem candidates such as Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes and West Virginia’s Natalie Tennant. That’s all.

But it’s like the NYT wrote,

Progressives like Mrs. Clinton (and think she can win.) But they love Ms. Warren (even if they are not sure she can.)

I agree with the NYT’s observation. I see Warren as the Dem’s Ron Paul or Ted Cruz: a favorite of the fervent base, but not a viable candidate for November ’16. But if Warren could just move the dialogue a little bit to the left, just maybe Hillary will move a little to the left. And I believe, if presented in a balanced way, voters will be drawn to what Warren is espousing in some measure. For example:

A 6/16/2014 Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Survey states:

Voters still regard Wall Street and big banks as “bad actors.” A 64 percent majority believes “the stock market is rigged for insiders and people who know how to manipulate the system.” Another 55 percent majority believes “Wall Street and big banks hurt everyday Americans by pouring money into ‘get-rich-quick’ schemes rather than real business and investments.” Therefore, not surprisingly, most financial institutions generate huge negatives among voters.

Those results are indicative that Americans still hold a grudge against Wall Street and the 1%. So if Warren’s critical stance against large financial institutions can find its way into the spotlight, in any amount, we could really get something going here.



Minimum Wage Is Just Unfair

kshama-sawant-seattle-minimum-wage-victoryI’ve been reading about the minimum-wage increase to $15.00-an-hour in Seattle lately and the most important point made on the issue that I have read is in an op-ed by Will Hutton in The Guardian.

The campaigners had two important replies to the charges that this would make Seattle’s fast food, catering and hotel industries uneconomic. The first was that living on the old minimum wage of $9.10 (£5.41) an hour was scarcely possible; families depended on food stamps, homes were dark and the cheapest of presents for kids was simply unaffordable. Compare that with the profits of the corporations and pay of the fast food bosses: the CEO of McDonald’s is paid more than $9m (£5.3m). Maybe they could be paid less and their workers a fraction more?

The problem with living in the United States in an economic sense is the financial disparity. If you read Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century, the numbers are vertiginous (a term Piketty often uses.) The difference between the national income of the top decile (10%), not to mention the top centile (1%) of the population, and the rest of us is simply sickening.

The powers that be want us to think about whether if we believe a low-wage, working citizen deserves that $15.00 an hour. Do they work hard enough? Did they work hard enough in High School? Do they? Did they?

But let me turn that argument on it’s ear: does the CEO at McDonald’s actually earn $9 million dollars a year? What about the Wall Street CEO’s who make $150 million or $180 million in a year? Do they deserve that? Do they work hard enough? I’m sure they get a lot more vacation hours than the people at the bottom of the ladder, with better healthcare and all the perks they could desire.

It’s an issue of fairness and the minimum wage does not provide some of our hardest workers basic human dignity.





The Poor Are More Generous Than Wealthy Folks: What This Means – Part Two

Continued from part one here

Which brings us to one last element that should be addressed here: what does this mean for the believers of the failed theory of trickle-down economics?  The rich having the bulk of the money and wealth is a good thing for the believers of this ridiculous theory because everything will trickle on down to the lower classes and everybody will be living in a utopia.  Except it hasn’t and the inequality only continues to get worse.  But the argument always goes further by saying if the rich had to pay less taxes, they would give more money to charity and that would make its way down.  Also not true as the article states:

Of the 50 largest individual gifts to public charities in 2012, 34 went to educational institutions, the vast majority of them colleges and universities, like Harvard, Columbia, and Berkeley, that cater to the nation’s and the world’s elite. Museums and arts organizations such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art received nine of these major gifts, with the remaining donations spread among medical facilities and fashionable charities like the Central Park Conservancy. Not a single one of them went to a social-service organization or to a charity that principally serves the poor and the dispossessed.

Yep. They are laughing at you, not with you.

In other words, when given the chance to give away their money, the wealthy are doing it in a way that only breeds more inequality by giving it to institutions that do not actually help the poor.

We claim to be a Christian nation and some even argue we should have a Christian government.  But the way we would do that is by actually taking care of the poor and making sure they have the resources they need to truly pull themselves up, such as a livable minimum wage, better childcare programs, and better access to a college education.

And it is clear by the actions of the wealthy in how they donate their money these needed changes will not happen by talk of cutting social spending (or foreign aid, because that’s not what Jesus would do, is it?).  The government is also at fault by not providing assistance on a level truly needed by the poor. But it is very capable of doing just that and we should be pushing for improvements in this area.

We can claim all we want to be a nation shaped and driven by Christ.  But our actions do not reflect that and every call for a cut to the poor is a scream of hypocrisy by the alleged followers of Jesus.

The Poor Are More Generous Than Wealthy Folks: What This Means – Part One

An article on the Atlantic’s site this week is summed up in one simple line: “The wealthiest Americans donate 1.3 percent of their income; the poorest, 3.2 percent.”  The percentage difference is relatively small but certainly significant enough to warrant examination and the implications growing out of this are rather interesting when considering these facts along with some typical debate points.

Three key factors should be addressed:

  • Why is there such a difference?
  • What does this mean in relation to how the U.S. government gives in foreign aid?
  • What does this mean in relation to social policy and economic arguments?

    Know how the Bible says the rich man gets into heaven? Not this way.

Two of the key reasons for the difference are pointed out in the article.  The first is no surprise: the rich are greedy and prefer to hold on to more of their money.  But the second reason is a little more significant and should be considered further: economic segregation.  From the article:

Notably, though, when both groups were exposed to a sympathy-eliciting video on child poverty, the compassion of the wealthier group began to rise, and the groups’ willingness to help others became almost identical…greater exposure to and identification with the challenges of meeting basic needs may create “higher empathy” among lower-income donors…researchers analyzed giving habits across all American ZIP codes. Consistent with previous studies, they found that less affluent ZIP codes gave relatively more.

The fact that ZIP codes can determine how generous an area can be is a big part of many problems arising in political debates.  For example, many people on the right (usually wealthy pundits and politicians) make the argument social services aren’t needed and the poor just need to pick themselves up by their own boot straps.  This argument sounds reasonable until you realize the rich likely have no idea what the poor are truly up against in their areas of town and in their personal lives since they generally spend little to no time in poorer areas.

The reality is they do not see the conditions and do not understand the obstacles as our cities become more and more segregated along economic lines.  And if they do not get this part of the debate, what does their argument even mean other than useless rhetoric?  What are they backing this “boots straps” idea up with?  The answer is: nothing, other than their own experiences which does not typically mimic that of the poor given the lack of economic mobility in the U.S.

Another argument that rages on, especially now as the government looks for ways to shrink the budget, is foreign aid.  The wealthy giving less than the poor in terms of percent given is similar to the reality the U.S. gives less than many other countries around the world as a percent in foreign aid.  Whether it’s calculated with percent of GDP or GNI, the United States gives fives times or more less than the most generous countries around the world.

An analogy should be used when showing this difference.  Pretend you have two people who go to church each week, Patriot Jesus and Actual Jesus.  Actual Jesus brings home $100 a week and gives $10 to the church (the usual expectation of Christians in terms of percentage, by the way).  Patriot brings home $1000 a week and gives $20.  Who is more generous?  The guy who gives ten percent of what he makes or the guy who gives two percent?  The answer should be obvious.

Guess which one the United States is in this scenario.

Krugman on New GOP Rhetoric

Krugman_New-articleInlineA good op-ed in the NYT regarding how the rhetoric of the GOP might be changing to appeal to more voters in the wake of their recent defeat in November, but it’s not indicative of an honest change. According to Krugman, they’re just not saying they are the party of the “Makers,” and not the majority of “Takers,” in public any longer.

Read Here.

Inequality and the Wealthy Bubble: Dangerous to Progress

Prior to the presidential election last year, we saw a few rumblings from CEOs stating something along the lines the financial world would come to an end and they would have to close their large businesses forever if President Obama won reelection.  Now we are seeing another very wealthy figure emerge and say he might close up shop and leave the country because of higher taxes.

Professional golfer Phil Mickelson has apparently “hinted at a move away from California, perhaps the United States, and maybe even away from golf as he seeks to escape punitive taxes.”  We should all feel tons of pity for Phil since he has somehow managed to scrape by on an average of over $40 million a year for the past seven years and now faces these higher taxes.  How will he put food on the table?

Ignoring the ridiculousness of this story and looking at the bigger picture, we obviously have a problem in the United States.  The problem: the people at the top make so much money, they can take their proverbial ball and quit whenever they choose.

Some may look at this and suggest there isn’t a problem.  But there is.  Assuming the person that has the money obtained it by using a talent (not always the case by any stretch of the imagination) that far exceeds the talents of the average person in a respective area, we are causing a drain of talent and brains away from our country.  In short, too much inequality has led to a potential “brain drain” in the U.S. because these lazy %1ers just don’t want to work anymore.

The most disgraceful part of this thinking is the clear lack of patriotism shown by these folks.  Everyone can see the government is still recovering from a near catastrophic economic collapse caused in some cases by the same %1ers now crying foul over higher taxes.  In order to help this recovery along back to economic stability, the people that did well have been asked to sacrifice a little more.  And the answer by some: “No, thanks.  I rather leave and watch the country go down in flames than do my share and help out.”  Frankly, it’s appalling and bears a closer resemblance to treason than patriotism on a civic duty scale.

But there is hope.  One political party has championed a way in one aspect of our society that could be expanded to ensure there is no “brain drain” in the United States by the richest people quitting their jobs.  Everyone knows what party I would be speaking of here regarding this type of issue: the Republican Party.

Through their position on teachers and their allegation educators are paid too much, we can keep some of our most talented folks from packing away their talents for good.  Just don’t pay them as much.  Then, only the best and the brightest will do the work these guys do now and they will do it for less pay because they love what they do.  And remember, some of these guys aren’t claiming they are going to take their business elsewhere.  They are saying they will retire early and quit for good.  Paying them less will keep them working and using their talents longer.  Brilliant!  Thanks for the strategy, GOP!

Just think, if this happens, we will be able to enjoy the fruits of the labor of our most talented people, like Phil Mickelson, as they work well into their 60s.  Just like the rest of us.  Now that’s true progress for America!

Growth Stifled by Income Inequality

New studies are showing the slow recovery from the recession might not be due to the skittishness of the “job creators” but due to the fact that a tiny minority has so much more wealth than the rest of the United States population.  Inequality is a serious problem and we have been fed the story that growth will come if we just concentrate even more wealth in a small group of people at the top.  But that hasn’t happened as summed up in these lines:

The recession seems to have cemented the country’s income and wealth inequality, not reversed it. The top 10 percent earn a larger share of overall income than they have since the 1930s. The earnings of the top 1 percent took a knock during the recession, but have bounced back. In contrast, the average working family’s income has continued to decline through the anemic recovery.

The Fat Cats
The Fat Cats

When the Great Depression occurred, the wealth disparity was recognized at the time and was battled through legislation and this was followed by real growth in the U.S., particularly in creating a strong middle class.  The United States became an economic behemoth in the decades after the Great Depression and did it with policies, such as progressive taxes and strong unionization, that reduced income inequality.  Then the policies began to change and the U.S. slowly came back down to the relative economic levels of the rest of the world.  Which begs a question: did they mimic our good policies relative to income inequality or did we mimic their bad ones and is this the cause of bringing the U.S.’ economic growth in line with the rest of the world?

Some may argue the rest of the world would have gained ground over time regardless of the policies but how do we know that for sure?  The fact is we can’t and it is worth pondering whether the growth in the United States would have been even greater in recent decades had the income inequality not been allowed to grow to such dangerous, pre-Great Depression levels.  It is a discussion we should have in this country and, ultimately, a battle worth fighting.

Rich Don’t Even Believe in Upward Mobility Anymore

A good piece in The Guardian by Naomi Wolf professing that, with the release of the secret tapes of Mitt Romney discussing the “47 percent,” not even conservatives believe one can find success in America any longer if being born with the wrong socioeconomic status. The Horatio Alger-story like, “pulling oneself up by your own bootstraps” days are long gone.

Read Here.

GOP Opinion of Workers by Krugman

A good op-ed by Paul Krugman in the NYT regarding how the Republicans have “disdain” for the ordinary worker while favoring the 1%  or “job creators.”

Read Here.