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Posts tagged progressive politics

Mar 29 '12
barackobama:

MoveOn’s list of top POTUS achievements. What’s your vote for #1?

barackobama:

MoveOn’s list of top POTUS achievements. What’s your vote for #1?

Dec 13 '11
Nov 14 '11
"We’ve been at war for decades now - not just in Afghanistan or Iraq, but right here at home. Domestically, it’s been a war against the poor, but if you hadn’t noticed, that’s not surprising. You wouldn’t often have found the casualty figures from this particular conflict in your local newspaper or on the nightly TV news. Devastating as it’s been, the war against the poor has gone largely unnoticed - until now. The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement has already made the concentration of wealth at the top of this society a central issue in US politics. Now, it promises to do something similar when it comes to the realities of poverty in this country. By making Wall Street its symbolic target and branding itself as a movement of the 99 per cent, OWS has redirected public attention to the issue of extreme inequality, which it has recast as, essentially, a moral problem. Only a short time ago, the “morals” issue in politics meant the propriety of sexual preferences, reproductive behaviour or the personal behaviour of presidents. Economic policy, including tax cuts for the rich, subsidies and government protection for insurance and pharmaceutical companies and financial deregulation, was shrouded in clouds of propaganda or simply considered too complex for ordinary Americans to grasp. Now, in what seems like no time at all, the fog has lifted and the topic on the table everywhere seems to be the morality of contemporary financial capitalism. The protesters have accomplished this mainly through the symbolic power of their actions: by naming Wall Street, the heartland of financial capitalism, as the enemy, and by welcoming the homeless and the down-and-out to their occupation sites. And of course, the slogan “We are the 99 per cent” reiterated the message that almost all of us are suffering from the reckless profiteering of a tiny handful. (In fact, they aren’t far off: the increase in income of the top one per cent over the past three decades about equals the losses of the bottom 80 per cent) The movement’s moral call is reminiscent of earlier historical moments when popular uprisings invoked ideas of a “moral economy” to justify demands for bread or grain or wages - for, that is, a measure of economic justice. Historians usually attribute popular ideas of a moral economy to custom and tradition, as when the British historian EP Thompson traced the idea of a “just price” for basic foodstuffs invoked by 18th century English food rioters to then already centuries-old Elizabethan statutes. But the rebellious poor have never simply been traditionalists. In the face of violations of what they considered to be their customary rights, they did not wait for the magistrates to act, but often took it upon themselves to enforce what they considered to be the foundation of a just, moral economy."

Frances Fox PivenThe war against the poor in America - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

Rampant poverty and further welfare cuts have created a need to move towards a moral economy of the many, not few.

Sep 9 '11

Fact Sheet: The American Jobs Act | The White House

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release
September 08, 2011

Fact Sheet: The American Jobs Act

THE AMERICAN JOBS ACT
 

1. Tax Cuts to Help America’s Small Businesses Hire and Grow

  • Cutting the payroll tax in half for 98 percent of businesses: The President’s plan will cut in half the taxes paid by businesses on their first $5 million in payroll, targeting the benefit to the 98 percent of firms that have payroll below this threshold.
  • A complete payroll tax holiday for added workers or increased wages: The President’s plan will completely eliminate payroll taxes for firms that increase their payroll by adding new workers or increasing the wages of their current worker (the benefit is capped at the first $50 million in payroll increases).
  • Extending 100% expensing into 2012: This continues an effective incentive for new investment.
  • Reforms and regulatory reductions to help entrepreneurs and small businesses access capital.
     

2. Putting Workers Back on the Job While Rebuilding and Modernizing America

  • A “Returning Heroes” hiring tax credit for veterans: This provides tax credits from $5,600 to $9,600 to encourage the hiring of unemployed veterans.
  • Preventing up to 280,000 teacher layoffs,while keeping cops and firefighters on the job.
  • Modernizing at least 35,000 public schools across the country,supporting new science labs, Internet-ready classrooms and renovations at schools across the country, in rural and urban areas.
  • Immediate investments in infrastructure and a bipartisan National Infrastructure Bank, modernizing our roads, rail, airports and waterways while putting hundreds of thousands of workers back on the job.
  • A New “Project Rebuild”, which will put people to work rehabilitating homes, businesses and communities, leveraging private capital and scaling land banks and other public-private collaborations.
  • Expanding access to high-speed wireless as part of a plan for freeing up the nation’s spectrum.

3. Pathways Back to Work for Americans Looking for Jobs.

  • The most innovative reform to the unemployment insurance program in 40 years: As part of an extension of unemployment insurance to prevent 5 million Americans looking for work from losing their benefits, the President’s plan includes innovative work-based reforms to prevent layoffs and give states greater flexibility to use UI funds to best support job-seekers, including:
    • Work-Sharing:  UI for workers whose employers choose work-sharing over layoffs.
    • A new “Bridge to Work” program: The plan builds on and improves innovative state programs where those displacedtake temporary, voluntary work or pursue on-the-job training.
    • Innovative entrepreneurship and wage insurance programs: States will also be empowered to implement wage insurance to help reemploy older workers and programs that make it easier for unemployed workers to start their own businesses.
  • A $4,000 tax credit to employers for hiring long-term unemployed workers.
  • Prohibiting employers from discriminating against unemployed workers when hiring.
  • Expanding job opportunities for low-income youth and adults through a fund for successful approaches for subsidized employment, innovative training programs and summer/year-round jobs for youth.

4. Tax Relief for Every American Worker and Family

  • Cutting payroll taxes in half for 160 million workers next year: The President’s plan will expand the payroll tax cut passed last year to cut workers payroll taxes in half in 2012 – providing a $1,500 tax cut to the typical American family, without negatively impacting the Social Security Trust Fund.
  • Allowing more Americans to refinance their mortgages at today’s near 4 percent interest rates, which can put more than $2,000 a year in a family’s pocket.

5. Fully Paid for as Part of the President’s Long-Term Deficit Reduction Plan.To ensure that the American Jobs Act is fully paid for, the President will call on the Joint Committee to come up with additional deficit reduction necessary to pay for the Act and still meet its deficit target. The President will, in the coming days, release a detailed plan that will show how we can do that while achieving the additional deficit reduction necessary to meet the President’s broader goal of stabilizing our debt as a share of the economy.

AMERICAN JOBS ACT OVERVIEW
 

The American people understand that the economic crisis and the deep recession weren’t created overnight and won’t be solved overnight. The economic security of the middle class has been under attack for decades. That’s why President Obama believes we need to do more than just recover from this economic crisis – we need to rebuild the economy the American way, based on balance, fairness, and the same set of rules for everyone from Wall Street to Main Street.  We can work together to create the jobs of the future by helping small business entrepreneurs, by investing in education, and by making things the world buys. The President understands that to restore an American economy that’s built to last we cannot afford to outsource American jobs and encourage reckless financial deals that put middle class security at risk.

To create jobs, the President unveiled the American Jobs Act – nearly all of which is made up of ideas that have been supported by both Democrats and Republicans, and that Congress should pass right away to get the economy moving now. The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: put more people back to work and put more money in the pockets of working Americans. And it would do so without adding a dime to the deficit.

 Tax Cuts to Help America’s Small Businesses Hire and Grow

 New Tax Cuts to Businesses to Support Hiring and Investment:The President is proposing three tax cuts to provide immediate incentives to hire and invest:

  • Cutting the Payroll Tax Cut in Half for the First $5 Million in Wages:This provision would cut the payroll tax in half to 3.1% for employers on the first $5 million in wages, providing broad tax relief to all businesses but targeting it to the 98 percent of firms with wages below this level.
  • Temporarily Eliminating Employer Payroll Taxes on Wages for New Workers or Raises for Existing Workers:The President is proposing a full holiday on the 6.2% payroll tax firms pay for any growth in their payroll up to $50 million above the prior year, whether driven by new hires, increased wages or both. This is the kind of job creation measure that CBO has called the most effective of all tax cuts in supporting employment.
  • Extending 100% Expensing into 2012:The President is proposing to extend 100 percent expensing, the largest temporary investment incentive in history, allowing all firms – large and small – to take an immediate deduction on investments in new plants and equipment.
  • Helping Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses Access Capital and Grow: The President’s plan includes administrative, regulatory and legislative measures – including those developed and recommended by the President’s Jobs Council – to help small firms start and expand. This includes changing the way the government does business with small firms. The Administration will soon announce a plan to accelerate government payments to small contractors to help put money in their hands faster. The President is also charging his CIO and CTO to, within 90 days, stand up a one-stop, online portal for small businesses to easily access government services. As part of the President’s Startup America initiative, the Administration will work with the SEC to conduct a comprehensive review of securities regulations from the perspective of these small companies to reduce the regulatory burdens on small business capital formation in ways that are consistent with investor protection, including expanding “crowdfunding” opportunities and increasing mini-offerings. Finally, the President’s plan calls for Congress to pass comprehensive patent reform, increase guarantees for bonds to help small businesses compete for infrastructure projects and remove burdensome withholding requirements that keep capital out of the hands of job creators.

Putting Workers Back on the Job While Rebuilding and Modernizing America 

  • Tax Credits and Career Readiness Efforts to Support Veterans’ Hiring:The President is proposing a Returning Heroes Tax Credit of up to $5,600 for hiring unemployed veterans who have been looking for a job for more than six months, and a Wounded Warriors Tax Credit of up to $9,600 for hiring unemployed workers with service-connected disabilities who have been looking for a job for more than six months, while creating a new task force to maximize career readiness of servicemembers.
  • Preventing Layoffs of Teachers, Cops and Firefighters:The President is proposing to invest $35 billion to prevent layoffs of up to 280,000 teachers, while supporting the hiring of tens of thousands more and keeping cops and firefighters on the job. These funds would help states and localities avoid and reverse layoffs now, requiring that funds be drawn down quickly. Under the President’s proposal, $30 billion be directed towards educators and $5 billion would support the hiring and retention of public safety and first responder personnel.
  • Modernizing Over 35,000 Schools – From Science Labs and Internet-Ready Classrooms to Renovated Facilities:The President is proposing a $25 billion investment in school infrastructure that will modernize at least 35,000 public schools – investments that will create jobs, while improving classrooms and upgrading our schools to meet 21st century needs. This includes a priority for rural schools and dedicated funding for Bureau of Indian Education funded schools. Funds could be used for a range of emergency repair and renovation projects, greening and energy efficiency upgrades, asbestos abatement and removal, and modernization efforts to build new science and computer labs and to upgrade technology in our schools. The President is also proposing a $5 billion investment in modernizing community colleges (including tribal colleges), bolstering their infrastructure in this time of need while ensuring their ability to serve future generations of students and communities.
  • Making an Immediate Investment in Our Roads, Rails and Airports: The President’s plan includes $50 billion in immediate investments for highways, transit, rail and aviation, helping to modernize an infrastructure that now receives a grade of “D” from the American Society of Civil Engineers and putting hundreds of thousands of construction workers back on the job. The President’s plan includes investments to improve our airports, support NextGen Air Traffic Modernization efforts, and resources for the TIGER and TIFIA programs, which target competitive dollars to innovative multi-modal infrastructure programs. It will also take special steps to enhance infrastructure-related job training opportunities for individuals from underrepresented groups and ensure that small businesses can compete for infrastructure contracts.The President will work administratively to speed infrastructure investment through a recently issued Presidential Memorandum developed with his Jobs Council directingdepartments and agencies to identify high impact, job-creating infrastructure projects that can be expedited in a transparent manner through outstanding review and permitting processes. The call for greater infrastructure investment has been joined by leaders from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka to U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue.
  • Establishing a National Infrastructure Bank:The President is calling for Congress to pass a National Infrastructure Bank capitalized with $10 billion, in order to leverage private and public capital and to invest in a broad range of infrastructure projects of nationaland regional significance, without earmarks or traditional political influence. The Bank would be based on the model Senators Kerry and Hutchison have championed while building on legislation by Senators Rockefeller and Lautenberg and the work of long-time infrastructure bank champions like Rosa DeLauro and the input of the President’s Jobs Council.
  • Project Rebuild: Putting People Back to Work Rehabilitating Homes, Businesses and Communities. The President is proposing to invest $15 billion in a national effort to put construction workers on the job rehabilitating and refurbishing hundreds of thousands of vacant and foreclosed homes and businesses. Building on proven approaches to stabilizing neighborhoods with high concentrations of foreclosures, Project Rebuild will bring in expertise and capital from the private sector, focus on commercial and residential property improvements, and expand innovative property solutions like land banks. This approach will not only create construction jobs but will help reduce blight and crime and stabilize housing prices in areas hardest hit by the housing crisis.
  • Expanding Access to High-Speed Wireless in a Fiscally Responsible Way: The President is calling for a deficit reducing plan to deploy high-speed wireless services to at least 98 percent of Americans, including those in more remote rural communities, while freeing up spectrum through incentive auctions, spurring innovation, and creating a nationwide, interoperable wireless network for public safety.
     

Pathways Back to Work for Americans Looking for Jobs 

  • Reform Our Unemployment Insurance System to Provide Greater Flexibility, While Ensuring 6 Million People Do Not Lose Benefits: Drawing on the best ideas of both parties and the most innovative states, the President is proposing the most sweeping reforms to the unemployment insurance (UI) system in 40 years help those without jobs transition to the workplace. Alongside these reforms, the President is reiterating his call to extend unemployment insurance, preventing 6 million people looking for work from losing their benefits and extending what the independent Congressional Budget Office has determined is the highest “bang for the buck” option to increase economic activity.
  • Reemployment Assistance: States will be required to design more rigorous reemployment services for the long-term unemployed and to conduct assessments to review the longest-term claimants of UI to assess their eligibility and help them develop a work-search plan.  These reforms are proven to speed up UI beneficiaries’ return to work.
  • Work-sharing:The President will expand “work-sharing” to encourage arrangements using UI that keep employees on the job at reduced hours, rather than laying them off.
  • State Flexibility for Bold Reforms to Put the Long-Term Unemployed Back To Work:The President is proposing to provide additional funds to allow states to introduce new programs aimed at long-term unemployed workers, including:
  • Bridge to Work” Programs:States will be able to put in place reforms that build off what works in programs like Georgia Works or Opportunity North Carolina, while instituting important fixes and reforms that ensure minimum wage and fair labor protections are being enforced.  These approaches permits long-term unemployed workers to continue receiving UI while they take temporary, voluntary work or pursue work-based training. The President’s plan requires compliance with applicable minimum wage and other worker rights laws.
  • Wage Insurance:  States will be able to use UI to encourage older, long-term unemployed Americans to return to work in new industries or occupations.
  • Startup Assistance:  States will have flexibility to help long-term unemployed workers create their own jobs by starting their own small businesses.
  • Other Reemployment Reforms:  States will be able to seek waivers from the Secretary of Labor to implement other innovative reforms to connect the long-term unemployed to work opportunities.
  • Tax Credits for Hiring the Long-Term Unemployed:The President is proposing a tax credit of up to $4,000 for hiring workers who have been looking for a job for over six months.
  • Investing in Low-Income Youth and Adults: The President is proposing a new Pathways Back to Work Fund to provide hundreds of thousands of low-income youth and adults with opportunities to work and to achieve needed training in growth industries. The Initiative will do three things: i) support summer and year-round jobs for youth, building off of successful programs that supported over 370,000 such jobs in 2009 and 2010; ii) support subsidized employment opportunities for low-income individuals who are unemployed, building off the successful TANF Emergency Contingency Fund wage subsidy program that supported 260,000 jobs in 2009 and 2010; and iii) support promising and innovative local work-based job and training initiatives to place low-income adults and youths in jobs quickly.
  • Prohibiting Employers from Discriminating Against Unemployed Workers: The President’s plan calls for legislation that would make it unlawful to refuse to hire applicants solely because they are unemployed or to include in a job posting a provision that unemployed persons will not be considered.  

 More Money in the Pockets of Every American Worker and Family

  • Cutting Payroll Taxes in Half for 160 Million Workers Next Year:The President’s plan will expand the payroll tax cut passed last December by cutting workers payroll taxes in half next year. This provision will provide a tax cut of $1,500 to the typical family earning $50,000 a year. As with the payroll tax cut passed in December 2010, the American Jobs Act will specify that Social Security will still receive every dollar it would have gotten otherwise, through a transfer from the General Fund into the Social Security Trust Fund.
  • Helping More Americans Refinance Mortgages at Today’s Historically Low Interest Rates: The President has instructed his economic team to work with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, their regulator the FHFA, major lenders and industry leaders to remove the barriers that exist in the current refinancing program (HARP) to help more borrowers benefit from today’s historically low interest rates. This has the potential to not only help these borrowers, but their communities and the American taxpayer, by keeping borrowers in their homes and reducing risk to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Fully Paid for as Part of the President’s Long-Term Deficit Reduction Plan. 

  • To ensure that the American Jobs Act is fully paid for, the President will call on the Joint Committee to come up with additional deficit reduction necessary to pay for the Act and still meet its deficit target. The President will, in the coming days, release a detailed plan that will show how we can do that while achieving the additional deficit reduction necessary to meet the President’s broader goal of stabilizing our debt as a share of the economy.

 

 

$, bn

Tax Cuts to Help America’s Small Businesses Hire and Grow

70

Cut employer payroll taxes in half & bonus payroll cut for new jobs/wages  

65

Extend 100% expensing in 2012

5

Putting Workers Back on the Job While Rebuilding and Modernizing America

140

Teacher rehiring and first responders

35

Modernizing schools

30

Immediate surface transportation

50

Infrastructure bank

10

 

Rehabilitation/repurposing of vacant property (neighborhood stabilization)

15

 

National wireless initiative

0*

 

Veterans hiring initiative

n.a.

Pathways Back to Work for Americans Looking for Jobs

62

UI Reform and Extension

49

Jobs tax credit for long term unemployed

8

Pathways back to work fund

5

More Money in the Pockets of Every American Worker and Family

175

 

Cutting employee payroll taxes in half in 2012

175

TOTAL

447

* Proposal has a gross cost of $10bn, but a net deficit reducing impact of $18bn because of spectrum auction proceeds.

Sounds good to me …

Aug 11 '11

Neil Degrasse Tyson on Bill Maher - The Future of the U.S.

'Highlights of Physicist Neil Degrasse Tyson's appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher on 8/5/2011. He talks about our future and what's left for the youth of today to have

The talk about what our tomorrow looks like.

Check out our facebook.page and support our tomorrow:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Future-of-the-US-Stand-UP/148185588594587

Aug 9 '11

"A Declaration of War on the Poor": Cornel West and Tavis Smiley on the Debt Ceiling Agreement | Democracy Now!

The veteran broadcaster Tavis Smiley, and the author and Princeton University Professor Cornel West, are in the midst of a 15 city, cross-country trek they have dubbed, “The Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience.” The tour comes on the heels of last week’s deficit agreement, which has been widely criticized for excluding a tax hike on the wealthy as well as any measures to tackle high unemployment. “Any legislation that doesn’t extend unemployment benefits, doesn’t close a single corporate loophole, doesn’t not raise one cent in terms of new revenue in terms of taxes on the rich or the lucky, allows corporate America to get away scot-free again, the banks and Wall Street getting away again, and all of these cuts ostensibly on the backs of everyday people,” says Smiley.

Aug 7 '11

Chart: Defense Cuts in Debt Deal Are Not the Security Threat We Should Be Worrying About | ThinkProgress

Media_httpmediaeconom_gfpuy

The bottom line is that the United States continues to run 2+ wars and be policemen to the world while conservatives insist that we must not have millionaires spend a dollar more in taxes to pay for any of that. At the same time, the real long-term threat to US security – global warming and peak oil — get eviscerated in the debt deal while conservatives insist we must not have uber-profitable oil companies give of one dollar of their lush subsidies. Ah, but that is news, is it?

Aug 7 '11

30 Years Ago Today: The Middle Class Died by: Michael Moore, MichaelMoore.com | Op-Ed | Truthout

Media_httpuploadwikim_wlqaq

Reagan had been backed by Wall Street in his run for the White House and they, along with right-wing Christians, wanted to restructure America and turn back the tide that President Franklin D. Roosevelt started — a tide that was intended to make life better for the average working person. The rich hated paying better wages and providing benefits. They hated paying taxes even more. And they despised unions. The right-wing Christians hated anything that sounded like socialism or holding out a helping hand to minorities or women.

Reagan promised to end all that. So when the air traffic controllers went on strike, he seized the moment. In getting rid of every single last one of them and outlawing their union, he sent a clear and strong message: The days of everyone having a comfortable middle class life were over. America, from now on, would be run this way:

* The super-rich will make more, much much more, and the rest of you will scramble for the crumbs that are left.

We must remember history, so the future will be better than it is today ….

Aug 7 '11

New Exposé Tracks ALEC-Private Prison Industry Effort to Replace Unionized Workers with Prison Labor - Democracy Now!

Many of the toughest sentencing laws responsible for the explosion of the U.S. prison population were drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which helps corporations write model legislation. Now a new exposé reveals ALEC has paved the way for states and corporations to replace unionized workers with prison labor. We speak with Mike Elk, contributing labor reporter at The Nation magazine. He says ALEC and private prison companies “put a mass amount of people in jail, and then they created a situation where they could exploit that.” Elk notes that in 2005 more than 14 million pounds of beef infected with rat feces processed by inmates were not recalled, in order to avoid drawing attention to how many products are made by prison labor.

Aug 7 '11

Yet More Charts That Should Go With Debt Discussions - James Fallows - Politics - The Atlantic

Media_httpcdntheatlan_tnyik

Any discussion of the causes of America’s public-debt problems, or any discussion of the solutions to it, that is “spending only,” and excludes the role of revenues — for instance, the discussion that raged through Congress last week — is a pointless and unrealistic discussion. It is historically ignorant and economically fanciful. You’ll note, for instance, that the last time the federal budget was in surplus, 11 years ago, total taxes were higher than they are now. That doesn’t prove anything about future policy but is a crucial fact to grasp.

Aug 6 '11

Bill Maher’s New Rule: “The only way they’re going to pull the debate back from the far right is for liberals to elect their own slate of 60 unstable, looney-toon, mad-as-a-hatter, crazy motherfuckers.” | Mediaite

In Bill Maher’s final New Rule of the night, he suggested that if tea partiers get to control the Republican party and act like hostage negotiators, the Democrats should have their own branch party that would be just as ridiculously partisan as the tea party, because the only thing they haven’t tried yet is fighting crazy with crazy.

Reflecting on the past week of debt talks, Maher compared the tea party to that loon you always see in the subway who’s rambling on about something or other. He then compared the tea party’s influence over the Republican party to a really cheesy action movie where a bank robber is pointing a gun at some woman’s head in order to get her cooperation. In these scenarios, as Maher stated, you have the typical police negotiator (played by some random character actor) who can’t get anywhere with the psycho holding a gun, so they have to bring in the renegade, a “Mel Gibson” character, who can talk the robber down because they’re both operating on the same insane level. Maher concluded that if the Democrats are going to be effective negotiators against tea party Republicans, they’re going to need “their own Mel Gibson.”

“The only way they’re going to pull the debate back from the far right is for liberals to elect their own slate of 60 unstable, looney-toon, mad-as-a-hatter, crazy motherfuckers.”

He called for liberals to search for “angry left-wing lunatics” to make them part of a new party, a party residing within the Democratic party, as the tea party does within the Republican party. Maher’s name for this party-within-a-party? The Donner Party. Their platform? “We will literally eat each other before we give an inch.” (Oh, great. Now I’ve got a hankering for Harry Reid stew.) And Maher brought back a familiar face to regular show viewers: face-ripper monkey, who would be the leader of this new Donner party.

But shifting to the serious momentarily, Maher took on the idea that liberals already have groups like that anyway in the ACLU, Greenpeace, or MoveOn.org, arguing “those are educated people,” and a liberal Donner party can only exist with “loudmouths” who can act just as stubborn and partisan as the tea party.

Aug 4 '11

Making More, Contributing Less: Millionaires’ Tax Rates Have Declined While Everyone Else Contributes to Deficit Reduction | Center for American Progress

Making More, Contributing Less

Millionaires’ Tax Rates Have Declined While Everyone Else Contributes to Deficit Reduction

SOURCE: iStockphoto

The final budget deal struck this week won’t ask America’s millionaires to contribute a single dime. That’s unfortunate because they certainly can afford it. Not only have their incomes been skyrocketing but their tax rates have plunged over the last two decades. As a percentage of their incomes, millionaires are now paying about one-quarter less of their income to federal taxes than they did in the mid-1990s.

By Seth Hanlon | August 4, 2011

Republicans in the House of Representatives got their way this week: The final budget deal struck with President Barack Obama raises no additional revenues while cutting more than $2 trillion from public investments, defense, and government services that all Americans rely upon. That’s a better outcome than a Tea Party-caused default but it’s a bad deal for America’s middle class.

Meanwhile, America’s millionaires won’t be asked to contribute a single dime. That’s unfortunate because they certainly can afford it. Not only have their incomes been skyrocketing but data released this week by the Internal Revenue Service reveal that their tax rates have plunged over the last two decades. As a percentage of their incomes, millionaires are now paying about one-quarter less of their income to federal taxes than they did in the mid-1990s.

Millionaires paid an average tax rate of 22.4 percent in 2009, down by a quarter since 1995, when they paid an average of 30.4 percent. (see chart)

Millionaires' tax rates

Big benefits from the Bush tax cuts

So what’s causing the tax bills of the wealthiest to drop? The average millionaire will pay $136,000 less this year because the Bush tax cuts are still in effect, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 lowered the top marginal rate from the Clinton-era 39.6 percent to 35 percent. They also dropped the rates on capital gains and dividend income to a historically low 15 percent. (Capital gains rates had already been cut from 28 percent to 20 percent in 1997.)

That move was a boon to millionaires because they receive more than 60 percent of all income from long-term capital gains and nearly 40 percent of all income from tax-favored dividends.

And it was a super-boon to mega-millionaires and billionaires. IRS data show that the tax rates of the richest 400 Americans declined from 29.9 percent in 1995 to 18.1 percent in 2008, largely because that exclusive group derives two-thirds of its income from capital gains.

Mounting inequality

To be sure, tax rates on middle-class Americans have also declined. But their incomes have stagnated, which is decidedly not the case for millionaires.

Tax return data show that millionaires are now taking home one-tenth of all income in the country, even though they comprise only 0.2 percent (or 1 in 500) of all tax filers. That continues a troubling trend of growing inequality: From 1979 to 2007, pretax incomes of the richest 1 percent nearly tripled in real terms, while the income of the middle 20 percent of Americans grew by only one-quarter.

Now what?

The budget deal requires Congress to convene a “Super Committee” to consider additional deficit reduction measures, and some members will undoubtedly push for far-reaching changes to Social Security and Medicare. But before cutting more of the programs that middle-class families rely on, the Super Committee should insist that millionaires pay taxes at the rates they did just a short time ago.

If millionaires were simply paying the same level of federal income taxes as they were in the mid-1990s, the federal government would have collected an additional $65 billion in revenues in 2009. That amount of revenue over 10 years, $650 billion, exceeds the cuts to domestic discretionary programs in the budget deal. Those $600 billion in cuts will result in reduced investment in infrastructure, education, housing, public health, food and drug safety, medical research, law enforcement, and other important areas.

Proponents of the Bush tax cuts argued that lower taxes on top earners would boost the economy. That didn’t happen. The United States experienced real economic growth of 3.2 percent during the 10 years before the Bush tax cuts but only 1.7 percent since. (And this anemic growth was not just a result of the Great Recession; pre-recession growth from 2002 to 2007 averaged only 2.7 percent.) The IRS data also show the effect of the recession on middle-class families: Average income declined 14 percent from 2007 to 2009.

In the 1990s, when the tax rates on millionaires were higher, the United States grew its economy, closed large deficits, and started to pay down the debt. Alas, the Bush tax cuts and other policies set us on a different fiscal course.

Despite the fact that their taxes were higher, the 1990s were also a pretty good time for millionaires. The after-tax income of the richest 1 percent of the country grew by 77 percent in real terms during that decade—and it’s now double what it was in 1996.

It’s time to ask the people who have benefited the most from unequal income growth and round after round of tax cuts to help reduce the deficit.

Seth Hanlon is Director of Fiscal Reform at the Center for American Progress.

Endnotes

[1]. Internal Revenue Service, Publication 1304 (tax year 2009), Figure 4 (based on the broad “1979” measure of income).

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Well that makes perfect sense.

Aug 4 '11

Washington Turns its Attention to Job Creation - House Democratic Leaders on Jobs Agenda (Tues.) | C-SPAN

With the debt limit bill complete, Washington is now turning its focus to job creation. This issue is expected to heighten even further when a leading government agency that measures the nation’s employment statistics releases its monthly jobs report tomorrow.

Shortly after the Senate passed a bill on Tuesday, Pres. Obama along with top Democrat and GOP members spoke about shifting their political priority this fall to jobs.

During a briefing by Democratic Leaders, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that “jobs won’t have to play second fiddle to the deficit anymore,” he added, “we welcome this chance to shift the playing field to jobs.” “Our caucus is very united, reducing our deficit with job creation being a part of it,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also said during a briefing that, “we are talking about jobs and small business creation.”

Also speaking to reporters, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said lawmakers must do more for American families.

President Obama insisted from the White House Rose Garden that “When Congress returns from its August recess, I will urge them to immediately take some steps, bipartisan, common sense steps that will make a difference.” The President also called on Congress to pass a number of initiatives including pending free trade deals, an infrastructure bank and extension of unemployment benefits.

Senate Republicans also said they welcomed the opportunity to discuss jobs because, as Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) stated, “Republicans have never taken our eye off of job creation.”

“I’m often asked, ‘What would you do to get the economy going?’” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said. “My answer is always the same: We need to quite doing what we’ve been doing. Quit borrowing. Quit spending. Quit trying to raise taxes. Quit over-regulating and let the private sector flourish so we have a chance again to have a growing economy.”

On Friday, lawmakers will likely react when the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides a snapshot of the U.S. economy when it releases its Current Employment Statistics report. Last month, the BLS reported that the nation’s unemployment rate for June went up to 9.2% percent. Economic analysts expect tomorrow’s July report to show very little upward movement in those and other job sectors.

Updated: Wednesday at 4:37pm (ET)

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Jun 21 '11

Van Jones - Rebuild The Dream Netroots Nation 2011 (by TheAgendaProject)