The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Pete Buttigieg, stepping up his progressive bona fides, offered his plan to rebalance the economy in favor of American families, while ensuring the largest corporations and the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share. This is from the Buttigieg campaign:
Los Angeles, CA – Today, Pete Buttigieg announced a series of proposals to rebalance
the economy in favor of American families while ensuring the largest
corporations and the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share.
Pete is announcing a series of proposals that
will provide tax relief to the 98% of American households that aren’t in the
richest 2%, including expanding the child tax credit to reduce child poverty by
2.5 million, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit by an average of $1,000 per
year for 35 million American families and rolling back the Trump
administration’s cap on the State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT), which
disproportionately hurts states like California in their efforts to enact more
progressive tax policies.
At the same time, Pete will hold Wall Street and
corporations accountable for paying their fair share. As president, Pete will
roll back the Trump and Reagan-era tax cuts on millionaires and billionaires,
impose a Financial Transaction Tax and make big banks pay for financial crisis
risk to ensure Wall Street no longer takes advantage of Main Street, and crack
down on multinational corporations shipping profits and jobs
“This president has done everything in his
power to line the pockets of corporations and the wealthy, while too many
working and middle class families are having to choose between child care and
saving for college, and while homeownership remains out of reach for millions,”
said Pete Buttigieg. “As president, I will rebalance our economy so it works
for all Americans, hold Wall Street and corporations accountable, and bring
fairness to our tax system so we can lift millions out of poverty and into
Pete’s plans to achieve tax fairness in America
Expanding the Child Tax Credit to reduce child poverty
by 2.5 million
Under the Trump administration, housing and health care costs have
outstripped working-class wages. As President, Pete will rebalance the economy
in favor of working and middle class Americans by making the current Child Tax
Credit fully refundable, so every family earning under $400,000 receives $2,000
per child per year in refundable tax relief. He will also create an additional
$1,000 refundable Young Child Tax Credit for children under 6. These policies
will lift 2.5 million children out of poverty, including 1.5 million Black and
Expanding the Earned
Income Tax Credit.
Pete will expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and grow workers’
incomes by an average of $1,000 per year for 35 million American households.
This tax cut will help put more money in the hands of workers and middle class
families by offsetting income taxes and other taxes that eat into workers’ take
punitive cap on the State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT) for households earning
less than $400,000.
SALT avoids penalizing states and cities in high-cost areas and
with robust social services, by allowing families to pay state and local taxes
out of pre-federal-income-tax dollars and thereby avoid double taxation. In the
2017 Republican tax bill, while at the same time as providing tax breaks to
corporations and millionaires, Trump placed a politically motivated cap on
SALT. Trump’s economic adviser gloated that it would deliver “death to
Democrats” by hurting families in Democratic-leaning states with high costs of
living and more progressive tax policies and social services. Removing the SALT
cap for families undoes Trump’s politically motivated tax increase and enables
governors and mayors across the country to enact progressive tax
These efforts bring Pete’s total direct
investments in the working and middle class families to $6 trillion and, in
combination with his other policy proposals, will cut child poverty in half. He
makes an additional $3 trillion of long-term investments in climate resilience,
strengthening our infrastructure, and protecting Social Security for American
workers and families.
At the same time as providing tax relief to
working and middle class Americans, Pete will hold Wall Street, corporations
and the wealthy accountable to pay their fair share by:
Rolling back the Trump and Reagan-era tax cuts for
corporations and the wealthy.
Pete will raise the total effective tax rate on millionaires from
31% to 49%, rolling back the Trump and Reagan-era tax cuts for the wealthiest
Americans and the corporations they own. In rolling back these tax cuts – which
lined the pockets of corporations, millionaires and billionaires – Pete will
achieve historic tax fairness by raising $9 trillion from corporations, Wall
Street, and the top 2% over the next ten years and will raise over $5 trillion
from wealth and wealth income.
Holding Wall Street
accountable through a Financial Transaction Tax and by making banks pay for
It’s time that Wall Street be held accountable for taking
advantage of Main Street. As president, Pete will impose a .1% financial
transaction tax on all stock and other securities trades to curb inequality and
Wall Street gambling that causes “flash crashes”. Pete will also make big banks
pay every year for the extra financial crisis risk they pose: the bigger and
more threatening the bank, the more tax they have to pay. Together, these
policies will raise $900 billion to pay for tax relief for working and middle
class Americans and to invest in priorities like education, infrastructure and
protecting Social Security.
Cracking down on
corporations shipping profits and jobs overseas.
Foreign profits of U.S. multinational corporations are currently
taxed at only 10.5% and on a weak “global basis” instead of a strong
“per-country basis”. As president, Pete will increase the tax on corporate
profits made abroad on a per-country basis at a 28-35% rate to ensure that
multinational companies are held accountable when they ship profits and jobs
overseas. This will raise over $700 billion to pay for tax relief for working
and middle class Americans and to invest in priorities like education, infrastructure
and long-term care for ailing seniors.
The vigorous contest of
Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent
policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Bernie Sanders, long a
crusader to end corporate influence and corruption in the political system,
unveiled his “Money Out of Politics” Plan. He has expanded upon it to
detail how he would end corporate greed and corruption, ensure corporations pay
their fair share of taxes and give workers an ownership stake in companies
where they work, end corrupt corporate mergers and break up monopolies. This is
from the Sanders campaign:
WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled a plan to end corporate greed and corruption, ensure corporations pay their fair share of taxes, give workers an ownership stake in the companies where they work, end corrupt corporate mergers and break up monopolies.
“For more than 40 years, the largest and most profitable corporations in America have rigged the tax code and our economy to redistribute wealth and income to the richest and most powerful people in this country,” said Sen. Sanders. “The American people are saying enough is enough. They are sick and tired of companies like Amazon, General Motors and Chevron making billions in profits, but paying nothing in federal income taxes. Under this plan, we will demand that profitable corporations pay their fair share of taxes. We will give workers an ownership stake in the companies they work for. And we will start breaking up some of the largest and most powerful companies in America to lower prices for consumers, help small business and make markets competitive.”
Bernie’s plan, the boldest and most comprehensive corporate accountability plan in modern presidential history, would bring an end to the era of unchecked corporate greed and return power to American workers.
As President Bernie would:
Workers an Ownership Stake in Corporate America and End Corporate Greed
workers 20 percent of shares in their companies and 45 percent of the seats on
their corporate boards.
all workers and savers have the right to vote the shares they own.
workers the right to purchase factories or offices they are employed in from
companies that decide to put them up for sale or shut them down.
a U.S. Employee Ownership Bank to provide low-cost financing to employees who
want to start their own businesses.
large-scale stock buybacks illegal.
companies to provide shares of stock to workers who lose their jobs as a result
of outsourcing or automation.
Monopolies and Make Markets Competitive
all Trump administration mergers and undo improper mergers.
the Federal Trade Commission to break up conglomerates and monopolies and
institute clear, strong merger guidelines.
caps for vertical mergers, horizontal mergers, and total market share.
mandatory arbitration clauses and non-compete clauses that trap workers in
low-wage jobs and strip them of their legal rights.
Large Corporations Pay Their Fair Share of Taxes
all of Trump’s corporate tax breaks
the corporate tax rate to 35% from 21%.
that corporations pay 35% by eliminating virtually all corporate tax breaks and
the use of offshore tax havens by:
corporations with revenues over $25 million to publicly disclose significant
portions of their tax returns and country by country financial information
including earnings, financial accounts, and tax payments in other
the 20% deduction on pass-through business income and requiring large
pass-through businesses to be subject to corporate taxes.
If this plan had been in effect last
year, instead of paying nothing in federal income taxes:
would have paid up to $3.8 billion in taxes.
would have paid up to $1.8 billion in taxes.
would have paid up to $1.6 billion in taxes.
have paid up to $1.5 billion in taxes.
The top ten percent of Americans today
own an estimated 97 percent of all capital income, including capital
gains, corporate dividends, and interest payments. Since the 2008 Wall Street
crash, 49 percent of all new income generated in America has gone to the top
one percent. The three wealthiest people in our country now own more wealth
than the bottom 160 million Americans. And the richest family in America
– the Walton family, which inherited about half of Walmart’s stock – is worth
$200 billion and owns more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of the American
I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. As we start the New Year. let me tell you about the “hate” part.
I hate that Christmas becomes the one day of the year that is supposed to make up for all the actions that have resulted in the greatest inequality and lowest upward mobility since the Gilded Age and the greatest of all advanced countries. The American Dream has been exported, outsourced, and rendered to myth rather than reality here at home.
This year, Republicans – even as they cling more ardently than ever to Guns and God – don’t even pretend to care about the less fortunate, and promise to perpetuate and make worse the very policies that have resulted in 22 out of every 100 school-age children living in poverty (16 million), while 45% of children live in low income families; and 14.3 percent of households (17.5 million, or one in seven households) were living with food insecurity. Rather than doing anything to correct the societal conditions that promulgate these travesties, they prey on people’s insecurities, foment their fears and anxieties (Ebola! ISIS!), but do everything possible to thwart progress to alleviate the real source of daily desperation.
I particularly hate the obsession with Toys for Tots – as if handing out a gift at Christmas will make up for all the misery and anxiety that children live through the rest of the year.
Many of the same people who make a show of handing out a turkey for Christmas also withdrew Food Stamps and attacked the school nutrition program, two of the mightiest tools in a limited tool chest to keep people out of poverty, while helping children succeed in school (hunger is a viscously powerful impediment to learning) – and not incidentally, stimulating local economies to break the vicious cycle.
“There are neighborhoods in Baltimore in which the life expectancy is 19 years less than other neighborhoods in the same city,” Susan Grisby reported in “The Most Racist Areas in the United States” (Daily Kos, May 3, 2015). “Residents of the Downtown/Seaton Hill neighborhood have a life expectancy lower than 229 other nations, exceeded only by Yemen. According to the Washington Post, 15 neighborhoods in Baltimore have a lower life expectancy than North Korea…And while those figures represent some of the most dramatic disparities in the life expectancy of black Americans as opposed to whites, a recent study of the health impacts of racism in America reveals that racist attitudes may cause up to 30,000 early deaths every year.”
We are living Charles Dickens “Christmas Carol” but while the classic story sets out the problems, I have always been troubled by the “moral”: that the rich guy who got so rich by exploiting the desperation of others can simply buy presents and give money away to redeem his soul. That’s not the solution.
But the “billionaire class” as Bernie Sanders likes to call them (George W. Bush called them “the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base.”) has no real interest in correcting the institutional causes of systemic poverty – public education system, tax policy, criminal justice system, health care, environmental policy and rigged election system – all of which also bolster the “haves” and “have-mores”. That’s because the demise of the middle class as more and more sink into poverty suits their greater purpose, and what the hey, if you can just throw around some bucks here and there to redeem your soul and your reputation, while lording over everybody else, so much the better.
And because “cash” is increasingly linked with “political power” (the Right Wing Majority on the Supreme Court equated cash with speech and corporations with people for the purpose of buying politicians), the more cash the more power. The converse is the less cash, the more politically silent and invisible you are. People who are juggling multiple jobs and living pay check to pay check tend not to have the same political influence.
The Republicans are working feverishly to increase the invisibility of the underclass, mounting a Supreme Court challenge that will effectively erase unregistered voters from the census altogether, meaning less representation, less funding (which is also apportioned based on that head count).
“Wages are too high,” self-proclaimed billionaire Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, bellowed in response to a call to raise the federal minimum wage, doing a perfect but unintended imitation of Ebenezer Scrooge.
The United States of America is not supposed to have an aristocracy or a class system of privileges, but these policies have done exactly that. And in the nation with the highest percentage of incarcerated prisoners in the world (5% of population but 25% of the world’s incarcerated), you even have a new criminal classification, “Affluenza” – the “affliction” that resulted in a 16 year old getting off scot free after murdering four people with a car he was driving unlicensed and drunk (he has since fled after violating the terms of his probation). It’s a justice system which sees the very bankers who bankrupted millions of Americans and clawed back pensions and health benefits of bankrupt cities (Detroit), collecting millions of dollars on their parachutes.
It’s “free money” (actually, not really free, it comes out of others’ pockets) that they turn around and “invest” in political campaigns and, yes, in philanthropy.
Some of the most notorious “banksters”, like Madoff and Great Neck’s own Steven Cohen, whose investment company SAC racked up $9.4 billion, are also some of the most generous. Cohen is a $1 billion patron of the Robin Hood Foundation among other philanthropic contributions (museums, hospitals, schools).
Another Great Necker, Leonard Litwin, who made a fortune with his Glenwood Real Estate company, has been a generous supporter of Temple Beth-el of Great Neck, funding the Litwin Challenge that enabled the synagogue to pay off its multi-million dollar mortgage. Glenwood Real Estate was at the heart of the corruption scandal that has (so far) taken down state leaders, Democrat Sheldon Silver and Republican Dean Skelos. In essence, his company made tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions that helped put these politicians in power, then gave favors in order to secure favorable legislation, like tax abatements.
“The money, according to Mr. Dorego, Glenwood’s senior vice president and general counsel, was used to ensure the developer would continue to benefit from tax breaks, government financing and favorable rent laws. One program alone saved them as much as $100 million, he said,” William K. Rashbaum reported in the New York Times (“Albany Trials Exposed the Power of a Real Estate Firm,” Dec. 18, 2015).
“Glenwood also benefited from another state-administered program, using it to obtain more than $1 billion in low-interest, tax-exempt bond financing since 2000, to buy land and construct eight buildings it has put up since 2001, according to testimony at Mr. Silver’s trial.”
This is far from benign, but has a big ripple effect on working stiffs. It is a big reason why New York City, with the richest property in the world, doesn’t raise enough in property taxes to pay for its public schools, but depends New York State aid for 50 percent of its $25 billion operating budget. That $12.5 billion comes from income taxes from the rest of us, and is a major reason why Long Islanders pay such high property taxes (we don’t get 50% of our public school budgets paid for out of state aid). Who pays for tax abatements? Why working stiffs, of course.
That’s where philanthropy comes in. Charity does not just buy redemption, it also buys respect and resurrects a reputation. Take the Koch Brothers, for example. They are the singularly greatest example of money buying political power (and vow to spend $889 million in the 2016 campaign) in order to direct policy to their own interest and against average people (promoting fossil fuels over renewables, overturning environmental regulations, tax policy that favors the rich especially a repeal of the estate tax, gun rights, anti-reproductive rights, and the latest, criminal justice “reform” so that their companies can pollute and claim ignorance of the law to evade accountability).
They slap their name on everything, from the Smithsonian Institution’s Hall of Human Origins to PBS programming, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, so we are to feel grateful for their patronage, like the Medicis. What we should feel is like peons, increasingly dependent on their largesse while public coffers are bankrupted.
It is especially dangerous when the contributions come with strings – like the Kochs funding economics departments at colleges in order to pick and choose the academics and the particular brand of economic philosophy. Or the Waltons (the six Waltons have more wealth than the bottom 30 percent of all Americans, 100 million people) funding charter schools in order to insert their own particular educational agenda (creationism as science, worker bees instead of independent thinkers).
It is in this same vein that we have Ebenezer Scrooge, who by the end of his spiritual awakening, “solves” the problems of horrendous poverty and inequality by throwing toys and money at it. It is like putting a band-aid on a patient with tuberculosis.
“The world may need a reimagined charter of philanthropy — a ‘Gospel of Wealth’ for the 21st century — that serves not just American philanthropists, but the vast array of new donors emerging around the world,” wrote Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, in a New York Times op-ed, “Why Giving Back Isn’t Enough,” (Dec. 16, 2015).
“This new gospel might begin where the previous one fell short: addressing the underlying causes that perpetuate human suffering. In other words, philanthropy can no longer grapple simply with what is happening in the world, but also with how and why.
“Feeding the hungry is among our society’s most fundamental obligations, but we should also question why our neighbors are without nutritious food to eat. Housing the homeless is an imperative, but we should also question why our housing markets are so distorted. As a nation, we need more investment in education, but not without questioning educational disparities based on race, class and geography….
“Whatever our intentions, the truth is that we can inadvertently widen inequality in the course of making money, even though we claim to support equality and justice when giving it away. And while our end-of-year giving might support worthy organizations, we must also ask if these financial donations contribute to larger social change.
“In other words, ‘giving back’ is necessary, but not sufficient. We should seek to bring about lasting, systemic change, even if that change might adversely affect us. We must bend each act of generosity toward justice.”
What would make a difference to break systemic poverty and inequality? Here are key ones:
Tax policy, which is supposedly “progressive” but in toto perpetuating extraordinary advantage to the wealthiest, taxing wages more than wealth. Raising the cap on income taxed to pay for Medicare and Social Security would alleviate the burden which is disproportionately placed on workers (if all income was subject to tax, you could reduce the percentage by a lot, which would mean a big boost in take-home income for everyone). Transaction tax on securities to de-incentivize short-term investing and make capital function more productively, as it is supposed to; making corporations pay their share, and taking away the incentive to offshore profits and jobs. (See, “For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions,” New York Times, Dec. 30, 2015).
Promote a living wage: raise the minimum wage and cease the war on unions.
Reform immigrationand provide a path to legal status for the undocumented residents (deal with the question of citizenship separately). This will eliminate a gigantic underclass which presently depresses the wages of everyone while suppressing the economic stimulus that would come from legal status.
Reform criminal justice that unfairly penalizes and imprisons poor people, disadvantaged people, people of color, and destroys families as well as that individual’s ability to get a decent job.
Continue the progress of Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) to make health care more affordable, accessible. Continue putting more resources into prevention and wellness, which will increase productivity and savings. Expand, don’t shut down, Planned Parenthood and access to contraception and reproductive rights. Treat gun violence as the public health crisis it is – not just in the dead, but in the lifetime of lost productivity due to injury, a cost estimated at $228 billion ($8.6 billion in direct costs, $221 billion in indirect costs, according to SmartGunLaws.org),
College affordability – eliminating a barrier to the best ticket to upward mobility, as well as the chains that result from student debt. Now amounting to $1.2 trillion, student debt is like indentured servitude, preventing graduates from buying a home, taking a loan to start a business or even pursuing careers of choice.
Improve access to home ownership – this not only gives a family an asset, a hedge against ever-rising rents, stability, roots, but a connection to community (and likely greater inclination to vote).
Make quality child care accessible and affordable.
Improve mass transportation and safe streets, so that people can get to work affordably, efficiently and without fear.
Give the underclass a voice and a force: Improve access to voting. Make voter registration more efficient and reliable and clear. Make Election Day a holiday, expand voting to include a weekend, overturn arbitrary limitations to absentee ballot. Have standards for polling places and voting machines so that some districts are not forced to wait hours to vote. Make sure the census counts everyone (not just registered voters). Eliminate gerrymandering. Because, just as money is becoming a greater factor in campaigns, politicians are increasingly beholden to maintaining the policies that only add to inequality and social injustice.
It’s scary how much “A Christmas Carol” and Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” still resonate today.
Consider what George Bailey says to Mr. Potter, speaking about George’s father who founded the Building & Loan: “He didn’t save enough money to send Harry away to college, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter, and what’s wrong with that? Why… here, you’re all businessmen here. Doesn’t it make them better citizens? Doesn’t it make them better customers? You… you said… what’d you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they’re so old and broken down that they… Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about… they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!”
In essence, such systemic improvements to our society would directly benefit, rather than detract from the wealthiest. It is the “rising tides lift all boats” scenario – not just in requiring less of society’s resources to go to “save” the destitute, but in a healthier, more productive society altogether. There will still be rich, middle class and even poor, but the difference is that poverty would not be as severe, as prolonged, or a generational sentence. Society would restore upward mobility – the essence of the American Dream – and benefit from individuals being able to fulfill their full potential.
So let’s turn to New Year’s resolutions, when we make pledges to be better people. And let’s hope this resolution carries through the Presidential Campaign season which already seems to be a test of who can be the cruelest (which to many interpret as “powerful” and “leadership”).