robertogreco + taxes   161

The Rebel Alliance: Extinction Rebellion and a Green New Deal - YouTube
"Extinction Rebellion and AOC’s Green New Deal have made global headlines. Can their aims be aligned to prevent climate catastrophe?

Guest host Aaron Bastani will be joined by journalist and environmentalist George Monbiot and economist Ann Pettifor."
extinctionrebellion  georgemonbiot  gdp  economics  capitalism  growth  worldbank  2019  greennewdeal  humanwelfare  fossilfuels  aaronbastani  climate  climatechange  globalwarming  mainstreammedia  media  action  bbc  critique  politics  policy  currentaffairs  comedy  environment  environmentalism  journalism  change  systemschange  left  right  thinktanks  power  influence  libertarianism  taxation  taxes  ideology  gretathunberg  protest  davidattenborough  statusquo  consumerism  consumption  wants  needs  autonomy  education  health  donaldtrump  nancypelosi  us  southafrica  sovietunion  democrats  centrism  republicans  money  narrative  corruption  diannefeinstein  opposition  oppositionism  emissions  socialdemocracy  greatrecession  elitism  debt  financialcrisis  collapse  annpettifor  socialism  globalization  agriculture  local  production  nationalism  self-sufficiency  inertia  despair  doom  optimism  inequality  exploitation  imperialism  colonialism  history  costarica  uk  nihilism  china  apathy  inaction 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
How Harvard and Other Colleges Manage Their Endowments - YouTube
"College is expensive, but there is one place in higher education where there's no shortage of money – endowments. There's more than $616 billion worth of endowments assets in the U.S. Lawmakers are starting to questions why tuition is still rising if some schools have billions of dollars."
colleges  universities  ivyleague  endowments  2019  money  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  inequality  finance  highereducation  highered  power  wealth  universityoftexas  hedgefunds  yale  charity  hoarding  taxes  investment  stanford  divestment  economics  policy  politics  princeton 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Philanthropy Con | Dissent Magazine
"Alongside the privileges our tax system has provided to the rich, we have imported into our welfare system charity’s penchant for humiliating the poor. To be sure, for centuries welfare programs have often rested on the assumption that poverty is a personal failing. But the conservative war on “entitlements” brought new sophistication to this old tradition. Multiple states now require welfare recipients to pass drug tests, even though their rates of drug use are demonstrably much lower than the general population. We have insisted to a mother left quadriplegic by a hit-and-run driver that her family sell their cars, so as to be adequately indigent as to receive public benefits. We have, just this year, placed work requirements upon Medicaid.

The implied question that these policies ask is whether beneficiaries warrant our sympathy. Are they hard working enough, morally upright enough, destitute enough? These questions are patronizing—literally, the questions a patron asks of a supplicant.

Sympathy is a fine criterion for charity. It need not and should not be the standard for government benefits. Instead of worrying whether other people are worthy of being our dependents, we could ask what we must provide so that people have their independence: the independence that freedom from want provides. That was the logic behind Social Security and Medicare, two programs that are bureaucratic without being insulting to their recipients. The impressive voter participation rates of older people are in part a consequence of Social Security; until the program was established, a third of elderly people lived in poverty, and older Americans participated in politics less than the young. Entitlement programs do more than allow people to live with dignity. At their best, they can make better citizens.

By its nature, charity reinforces social inequities and encourages a deference to wealth incompatible with democratic citizenship. In a healthy democracy, taxes should be as “uncharitable” as possible: based in solidarity, not condescension for the poor and privilege for the rich. The first step is to recognize what opponents of democratic governance understood hundreds of years ago: that democratic taxation has within it the power of emancipation."
philanthropy  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  charitableindustrialcomplex  charity  inequality  democracy  2019  vanessawilliamson  taxes  society  governance  government  citizenship  civics 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
Opinion | The Real Legacy of the 1970s - The New York Times
"How different this was from previous economic crises! The Great Depression, the 20th century’s first economic emergency, made most Americans feel a degree of neighborly solidarity. The government wasn’t measuring median household income in the 1930s, but a 2006 Department of Labor study pegged the average household income of 1934-36 at $1,524. Adjust for inflation to 2018, that’s about $28,000, while the official poverty level for a family of four was $25,100. In other words, the average family of 1936 was near poor. Everyone was in it together, and if Bill couldn’t find work, his neighbor would give him a head of cabbage, a slab of pork belly.

But the Great Inflation, as the author Joe Nocera has noted, made most people feel they had to look out for themselves. Americans had spent decades just getting more and more ahead. Now, suddenly, they were falling behind.

Throw in wage stagnation, which began in the early ’70s, and deindustrialization of the great cities of the North. Pennsylvania’s Homestead Works, which had employed 20,000 men during the war, started shrinking, closing forever in 1986. Today that tract of land along the Monongahela River where the works once stood is home to the usual chain restaurants and big-box stores, those ubiquitous playpens of the low-wage economy.

Inflation also produced the manic search for “yield” — it was no longer enough to save money; your money had to make money, turning every wage earner into a player in market rapaciousness. The money market account was born in the 1970s. Personal investing took off (remember “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen”?).

Even as Americans scrambled for return, they also sought to spend. Credit cards, which had barely existed in 1970, began to proliferate. The Supreme Court’s 1978 decision in Marquette National Bank of Minneapolis v. First of Omaha Service Corporation opened the floodgates for banks to issue credit cards with high interest rates. Total credit card balances began to explode.

Then along came Ronald Reagan. The great secret to his success was not his uncomplicated optimism or his instinct for seizing a moment. It was that he freed people of the responsibility of introspection, released them from the guilt in which liberalism seemed to want to make them wallow. And so came the 1980s, when the culture started to celebrate wealth and acquisition as never before. A television series called “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” debuted in 1984.

So that was the first change flowing from the Great Inflation: Americans became a more acquisitive — bluntly, a more selfish — people. The second change was far more profound.

For decades after World War II, the economic assumptions that undergirded policymaking were basically those of John Maynard Keynes. His “demand side” theories — increase demand via public investment, even if it meant running a short-term deficit — guided the New Deal, the financing of the war and pretty much all policy thinking thereafter. And not just among Democrats: Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon were Keynesians.

There had been a group of economists, mostly at the University of Chicago and led by Milton Friedman, who dissented from Keynes. They argued against government intervention and for lower taxes and less regulation. As Keynesian principles promoted demand side, their theories promoted the opposite: supply side.

They’d never won much of an audience, as long as things were working. But now things weren’t, in a big way. Inflation was Keynesianism’s Achilles’ heel, and the supply-siders aimed their arrow right at it. Reagan cut taxes significantly. Inflation ended (which was really the work of Paul Volcker, the chairman of the Federal Reserve). The economy boomed. Economic debate changed; even the way economics was taught changed.

And this, more or less, is where we’ve been ever since. Yes, we’ve had two Democratic presidents in that time, both of whom defied supply-side principles at key junctures. But walk down a street and ask 20 people a few questions about economic policy — I bet most will say that taxes must be kept low, even on rich people, and that we should let the market, not the government, decide on investments. Point to the hospital up the street and tell them that it wouldn’t even be there without the millions in federal dollars of various kinds it takes in every year, and they’ll mumble and shrug."
1970s  economics  greed  inflation  selfishness  us  policy  ronaldreagan  joenocera  greatdepression  johnmaynarkeynes  newdeal  taxes  solidarity  miltonfriedman  liberalism  neoliberalism  regulation  supplysideeconomics  paulvolcker  michaeltomasky 
february 2019 by robertogreco
You Don’t Want Hygge. You Want Social Democracy.
"It’s the holidays, and you long to be cozy.

You want to curl up in a plush armchair next to a crackling fire. You want the softest of blankets and wooliest of sweaters. You want to devour grandma’s pecan fudge, get tipsy on eggnog with your cousins, and watch Miracle on 34th Street — mom’s favorite — for the thirty-fourth time. Or maybe neither Christmas nor family gatherings are your thing, but you like the idea of sipping hot toddies and playing board games with a few close friends while outside the snow falls and the lights twinkle.

But you can’t have it, because you couldn’t spring for a plane ticket. Or relatives are in town, but times are tight, and it seemed irresponsible to pass up the Christmas overtime pay. Maybe everything circumstantially fell into place, but you can’t relax. You’re eyeing your inbox, anxious about the work that’s not getting done. You’re last-minute shopping, pinching pennies, thinking Scrooge had some fair points. Or you’re hiding in your childhood bedroom, binge-watching television and scrolling social media, because a rare break from the pressures of daily life feels more like an occasion to zone out than to celebrate and be merry.

Either way, you feel terrible, because you know that someone somewhere is literally roasting chestnuts on an open fire, and you’re missing out.

The Danes have a word for the thing you desperately want but can’t seem to manifest: hygge.

The word isn’t easy to translate. It comes from a Norwegian word that means “wellbeing,” but the contemporary Danish definition is more expansive than that.

In The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, author Meik Wiking writes, “Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It’s about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allowed to let our guard down.”

You can have hygge any time, but Danes strongly associate it with Christmas, the most hyggelig time of the year. When asked what things they associate most with hygge, Danes answered, in order of importance: hot drinks, candles, fireplaces, Christmas, board games, music, holiday, sweets and cake, cooking, and books. Seven out of ten Danes say hygge is best experienced at home, and they even have a word for it — hjemmehygge, or home hygge.

But Wiking stresses that while hygge has strong aesthetic properties, it’s more than the sum of its parts. You don’t just see it, you feel it.

“Hygge is an indication that you trust the ones you are with and where you are,” he writes, “that you have expanded your comfort zone to include other people and you feel you can be completely yourself around other people.” The opposite of hygge is alienation.

It’s no coincidence that this concept is both native to and universally understood in the same country that consistently dominates the World Happiness Report and other annual surveys of general contentment. On rare occasions when Denmark is surpassed by another country, that country is always a Scandinavian neighbor.

What makes people in these countries happier than the rest of us is actually really simple. Danes and their neighbors have greater access to the building blocks of happiness: time, company, and security.

Scandinavians don’t have these things just because they value them more, or for cultural reasons that are congenital, irreplicable, and beyond our reach. People all over the world value time, company, and security. What Scandinavians do have is a political-economic arrangement that better facilitates the regular expression of those values. That arrangement is social democracy.

The Politics of Hygge

Denmark is not a socialist country, though like its neighbor Sweden, it did come close to collectivizing industry in the 1970s. That effort was driven by “unions, popular movements, and left parties,” write Andreas Møller Mulvad and Rune Møller Stahl in Jacobin. “It was these mass forces — not benevolent elites, carefully weighing the alternatives before deciding on an enlightened mix of capitalism and socialism — who were the architects and impetus behind the Nordic model. They are the ones responsible for making the Nordic countries among the happiest and most democratic in the world.”

A strong capitalist offensive stopped this Scandinavian coalition from realizing the transition to socialism, and the legacy of their efforts is a delicate compromise. The private sector persists, but taxes are both progressive and high across the board. The country spends 55 percent of its total GDP publicly, making it the third-highest government spender per capita in the world. Meanwhile, the power of employers is partially checked by strong unions, to which two-thirds of Danes belong.

This redistributive arrangement significantly reduces the class stratification that comes from capitalism. As a result, Denmark has one of the highest degrees of economic equality in the world.

All of that public spending goes to funding a strong welfare state. Everybody pays in, and everybody reaps the rewards. This egalitarian, humane, and solidaristic model allows the values associated with hygge to flourish. It also gives people more opportunities to act on them.

In Denmark, health care is free at the point of service. Same goes for education, all the way through college and even grad school. Twenty percent of the Danish housing stock is social housing, regulated and financially supported by the state but owned in common by tenants, and organized in the “tradition of tenants’ participation and self-governance.” Denmark offers year-long paid parental leave, and guarantees universal child care for all children beginning the moment that leave ends, when the child is one year old.

Similarly, due in large part to the past and and present strength of unions, Denmark has worker-friendly labor laws and standards which make for a more harmonious work-life balance. Danes get five weeks’ paid vacation, plus an additional nine public holidays. Unlike the United States, Denmark has a national paid sick-leave policy. Denmark also has generous unemployment benefits and a wage subsidy program for people who want to work but, for reasons outside their control, need more flexible arrangements.

The normal work week in Denmark is set at thirty-seven hours, and people tend to stick to it. Only 2 percent of Danes report working very long hours. In a survey of OECD countries Denmark ranked fourth for people spending the most time devoted to leisure and personal care. (The US ranked thirtieth.)

All of this has a profound effect on individuals’ ability to experience pleasure, trust, comfort, intimacy, peace of mind — and of course, the composite of these things, hygge.

For one thing, there are only so many hours in a day. And there are some activities that make us happy, and some that make us unhappy.

The Princeton Affect and Time Survey found that the activities that make us happiest include playing with children, listening to music, being outdoors, going to parties, exercising, hanging out with friends, and spending time with pets. (These are also the activities that Danes associate with hygge.) The ones that make us least happy include paid work, domestic work, home maintenance and repairs, running errands, personal medical care, and taking care of financial responsibilities.

Everyone has to do activities in the unhappy category in order to keep their affairs in order. But it makes sense that if you take some of those responsibilities off people’s plate and design the economy to give them more time to do activities in the happy category, they will be more content and lead more enriching lives.

Many working-class Americans don’t have much time for activities in the happy category, because they work multiple jobs or long hours and also have to keep a household in order without much assistance. Many more are afraid that if they take time away from their stressful responsibilities, they will overlook something important and fall behind, and there will be no social safety net to catch them — a pervasive anxiety that creeps up the class hierarchy. This breeds alienation, not intimacy.

Additionally, working people in highly capitalist countries, where economic life is characterized by cutthroat competition and the punishment for losing the competition is destitution, tend to develop hostile relationships to one another, which is not very hyggelig.

The social-democratic model is predicated instead on solidarity: my neighbor and I both pay taxes so that we can both have a high standard of living. We care for each other on the promise that we will each be cared for. By working together instead of against each other, we both get what we need. Universal social programs like those that make up the Scandinavian welfare states are thus engines of solidarity, impressing upon people that their neighbor is not an opponent or an obstacle, but a partner in building and maintaining society.

By pitting people against each other, neoliberal capitalism promotes suspicion and animosity. This frequently maps onto social divisions and manifests as racism, sexism, xenophobia, and so on. But it also just makes people guarded and antisocial in general. People who live in social democracies are far from invulnerable to prejudice or misanthropy, but the social compact remains more likely to promote kindness, trust, and goodwill among people than neoliberal capitalism — and indeed the Danes are some of the most trusting people in the world, of friends and strangers alike.

One of these political-economic arrangements strengthens people’s connection to the fundamentals of happiness, and of hygge — time, company, and security — while the other severs it. The abundance or scarcity of these fundamentals forms the material basis of collective social life.

The Ambiance Agenda

Hygge is not just a cultural … [more]
hygge  meaganday  2018  denmark  socialdemocracy  socialism  socialsafetynet  politics  policy  happiness  comfort  us  coreyrobin  scandinavia  solidarity  wellbeing  responsibility  uncertainty  anxiety  neoliberalism  capitalism  risk  civics  qualityoflife  pleasure  multispecies  family  trust  intimacy  peaceofmind  leisure  work  labor  health  healthcare  unions  time  slow  fragility  taxes  inequality  company  security 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Why Japanese houses have such limited lifespans - Nobody’s home
"EVERY 20 years in the eastern coastal Japanese city of Ise, the shrine, one of the country’s most venerated, is knocked down and rebuilt. The ritual is believed to refresh spiritual bonds between the people and the gods. Demolishing houses has no such lofty objective. Yet in Japan they have a similarly short life expectancy.

According to Nomura, a brokerage, the value of the average Japanese house depreciates to zero in 22 years. (It is calculated separately from the land, which is more likely to hold its value.) Most are knocked down and rebuilt. Sales of new homes far outstrip those of used ones, which usually change hands in the expectation that they will be demolished and replaced. In America and Europe second-hand houses accounted for 90% of sales and new-builds for 10% in 2017. In Japan the proportions are the other way around.

The reasons for Japanese houses’ rapid loss of value lie partly in tradition. In many countries people buy when they pair off, when they move to a bigger place after they have children or when they downsize on retirement. Japanese people have tended to see out all life’s stages in the same dwelling, a custom they attribute to their history as a farming nation, when they had to stay put. As a result, they never got used to second-hand homes.

The frequency of earthquakes also plays a part. Large tremors tend to be followed by tougher building regulations. Many people want to live in a home built to the most recent standards. History also helped to form habits. During the second world war dozens of cities, including Tokyo, had been flattened by American bombs. The population then was growing fast. Quantity was valued over quality. Big prefab manufacturers, such as Daiwa House, survive to this day, bringing out new models every year that, as with cars, people aspire to upgrade to.

One careless owner
In a vicious cycle, houses are expected to depreciate and are therefore not maintained, so second-hand homes are often dingy and depressing. Japanese people also shun wake-ari bukken, buildings “stigmatised” because, say, a former resident committed suicide there or a cult resides nearby. “In Japan, the words old and charming do not go together,” says Noriko Kagami, an estate agent (who tore down a house she bought herself).

Unsurprisingly, given the speed at which the value of houses falls to nothing, banks are more willing to offer loans for new places. Government policy, long aimed at resolving a housing shortage, further skews housebuyers’ incentives. It is not tax-efficient to improve a house, says Daisuke Fukushima of Nomura, since property taxes are based on value. Someone who buys a new-build must pay 0.4% of its value to register ownership. Registering a change of ownership costs 2%.

Construction and home-fitting companies benefit from this speedy housing cycle. But in the longer term is it wasteful. Chie Nozawa of Toyo University compares it to slash-and-burn farming. “We are not building wealth,” says Yasuhiko Nakajo, who leads the property department at Meikai University.

When the number of mouths to feed is growing, slash-and-burn at least makes short-term sense. But Japan’s throwaway housing culture, shaped by a once-urgent need to house growing numbers, makes no sense now that the population is shrinking. The country currently has an estimated 10m abandoned homes, a number that is expected to rise above 20m by 2033.

That is a problem for entire neighbourhoods: a derelict lot drags down the value of nearby houses. It also complicates the transfer of wealth from the big post-war generation. A house that is worth nothing cannot be sold to pay for an assisted-living apartment or a place in a nursing home, or handed on as an inheritance.

The government has, belatedly, started to rethink its policies. It set itself the target of doubling the number of used-housing sales in 2020 compared with ten years earlier, and is strengthening a home-surveying system introduced in 2013. From next month estate agents will have to give prospective buyers more information, including disclosing the results of any inspection. Much still remains unclear, though, including how long the results of a survey will remain valid, and whether the seller will be liable for defects that were not disclosed during the sale.

The government is also considering reducing the taxes associated with buying a home if it is currently vacant. Some regions are offering incentives to buyers of abandoned homes, including financial aid and lower taxes.

Banks are becoming a little more forthcoming with loans for second-hand housing. Some housing companies are starting to offer renovation and refurbishment services. When Motoazabu Hills, a posh building of rented apartments in central Tokyo, recently changed hands, the new owner decided to gut and redo the interiors rather than knock the whole thing down. AERA, a magazine, recently published a guide to buying property that will retain its value. Among its tips was to buy in an area that is home to lots of women in their 20s and 30s (ie, of childbearing age).

All this is having some success. In the cities a larger share of people now rent than own places, and move more often. “We are entering a stage where people are starting to see a used home as an option,” says Mr Nakajo. In 2017 a record 37,329 second-hand flats were sold in Tokyo, a 31% increase on ten years earlier. Yet until what Mr Nakajo dubs the “20-year-mentality” changes, the preference for shiny and new will remain."
japan  housing  depreciation  economics  2018  policy  construction  taxes 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Meet the ‘Change Agents’ Who Are Enabling Inequality - The New York Times
"Giridharadas rightly argues that this misallocation of resources creates a grave opportunity cost. The money and time the MarketWorlders spend fixing the edges of our fraying social order could be used to push for real change. This is especially so in the political battles in which the country is currently engaged, where a majority of the Supreme Court and members of Congress seem hellbent on rewriting the rules of the American economy and political system in ways that will exacerbate economic disparities, increase monopoly power, and decrease access to health care and women’s reproductive rights.

Moreover, the ideology of the MarketWorlders has spread and just espousing it has come to seem like a solution instead of the distraction that it is. Giridharadas shows how this is done. One category of enabler he describes is the cringeworthy “thought-leader,” who nudges plutocrats to think more about the poor but never actually challenges them, thus stroking them and allowing them to feel their MarketWorld approaches are acceptable rather than the cop-outs they are. Another recent book, the historian Nancy MacLean’s “Democracy in Chains,” provides a salutary lesson on the dangerous ways a self-serving ideology can spread.

Giridharadas embedded himself in the world he writes about, much as the journalist David Callahan (who edits the Inside Philanthropy website) did for his recent book, “The Givers: Wealth, Power and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age.” And like Callahan, Giridharadas is careful not to offend. He writes on two levels — seemingly tactful and subtle — but ultimately he presents a devastating portrait of a whole class, one easier to satirize than to reform.

Perhaps recognizing the intractability and complexity of the fix we are in, Giridharadas sidesteps prescriptions by giving the book’s last words to a political scientist, Chiara Cordelli. “This right to speak for others,” Cordelli says, “is simply illegitimate when exercised by a powerful citizen.” Although a more definitive conclusion would have been welcome, Cordelli does point to the real lesson of the book: Democracy and high levels of inequality of the kind that have come to characterize the United States are simply incompatible. Very rich people will always use money to maintain their political and economic power. But now we have another group: the unwitting enablers. Despite believing they are working for a better world, they are at most chipping away at the margins, making slight course corrections, while the system goes on as it is, uninterrupted. The subtitle of the book says it all: “The Elite Charade of Changing the World.”"
inequality  change  anandgiridharadas  elitism  neoliberalism  2018  josephstiglitz  economics  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  charitableindustrialcomplex  wealth  taxes  reform  changeagents  instability  davos  ideology  chiaracordelli  capitalism  power  control 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Opinion | The New Socialists - The New York Times
"Socialism means different things to different people. For some, it conjures the Soviet Union and the gulag; for others, Scandinavia and guaranteed income. But neither is the true vision of socialism. What the socialist seeks is freedom.

Under capitalism, we’re forced to enter the market just to live. The libertarian sees the market as synonymous with freedom. But socialists hear “the market” and think of the anxious parent, desperate not to offend the insurance representative on the phone, lest he decree that the policy she paid for doesn’t cover her child’s appendectomy. Under capitalism, we’re forced to submit to the boss. Terrified of getting on his bad side, we bow and scrape, flatter and flirt, or worse — just to get that raise or make sure we don’t get fired.

The socialist argument against capitalism isn’t that it makes us poor. It’s that it makes us unfree. When my well-being depends upon your whim, when the basic needs of life compel submission to the market and subjugation at work, we live not in freedom but in domination. Socialists want to end that domination: to establish freedom from rule by the boss, from the need to smile for the sake of a sale, from the obligation to sell for the sake of survival.

Listen to today’s socialists, and you’ll hear less the language of poverty than of power. Mr. Sanders invokes the 1 percent. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez speaks to and for the “working class” — not “working people” or “working families,” homey phrases meant to soften and soothe. The 1 percent and the working class are not economic descriptors. They’re political accusations. They split society in two, declaring one side the illegitimate ruler of the other; one side the taker of the other’s freedom, power and promise.

Walk the streets of Bushwick with a canvasser for Julia Salazar, the socialist candidate running to represent North Brooklyn in the New York State Senate. What you’ll hear is that unlike her opponent, Ms. Salazar doesn’t take money from real estate developers. It’s not just that she wants to declare her independence from rich donors. It’s that in her district of cash-strapped renters, landlords are the enemy.

Compare that position to the pitch that Shomik Dutta, a Democratic Party fund-raiser, gave to the Obama campaign in 2008: “The Clinton network is going to take all the establishment” donors. What the campaign needed was someone who understands “the less established donors, the real-estate-developer folks.” If that was “yes, we can,” the socialist answer is “no, we won’t.”

One of the reasons candidates like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Ms. Salazar speak the language of class so fluently is that it’s central to their identities. Al Gore, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton struggled to cobble together a credible self out of the many selves they’d presented over the years, trying to find a personal story to fit the political moment. Today’s young candidates of the left tell a story of personal struggle that meshes with their political vision. Mr. Obama did that — but where his story reinforced a myth of national identity and inclusion, the socialists’ story is one of capitalism and exclusion: how, as millennials struggling with low wages and high rents and looming debt, they and their generation are denied the promise of freedom.

The stories of these candidates are socialist for another reason: They break with the nation-state. The geographic references of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez — or Ms. Tlaib, who is running to represent Michigan’s 13th District in Congress — are local rather than national, invoking the memory and outposts of American and European colonialism rather than the promise of the American dream.

Ms. Tlaib speaks of her Palestinian heritage and the cause of Palestine by way of the African-American struggle for civil rights in Detroit, while Ms. Ocasio-Cortez draws circuits of debt linking Puerto Rico, where her mother was born, and the Bronx, where she lives. Mr. Obama’s story also had its Hawaiian (as well as Indonesian and Kenyan) chapters. But where his ended on a note of incorporation, the cosmopolitan wanderer coming home to America, Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez aren’t interested in that resolution. That refusal is also part of the socialist heritage.

Arguably the biggest boundary today’s socialists are willing to cross is the two-party system. In their campaigns, the message is clear: It’s not enough to criticize Donald Trump or the Republicans; the Democrats are also complicit in the rot of American life. And here the socialism of our moment meets up with the deepest currents of the American past.

Like the great transformative presidents, today’s socialist candidates reach beyond the parties to target a malignant social form: for Abraham Lincoln, it was the slavocracy; for Franklin Roosevelt, it was the economic royalists. The great realigners understood that any transformation of society requires a confrontation not just with the opposition but also with the political economy that underpins both parties. That’s why realigners so often opt for a language that neither party speaks. For Lincoln in the 1850s, confronting the Whigs and the Democrats, that language was free labor. For leftists in the 2010s, confronting the Republicans and the Democrats, it’s socialism.

To critics in the mainstream and further to the left, that language can seem slippery. With their talk of Medicare for All or increasing the minimum wage, these socialist candidates sound like New Deal or Great Society liberals. There’s not much discussion, yet, of classic socialist tenets like worker control or collective ownership of the means of production.

And of course, there’s overlap between what liberals and socialists call for. But even if liberals come to support single-payer health care, free college, more unions and higher wages, the divide between the two will remain. For liberals, these are policies to alleviate economic misery. For socialists, these are measures of emancipation, liberating men and women from the tyranny of the market and autocracy at work. Back in the 1930s, it was said that liberalism was freedom plus groceries. The socialist, by contrast, believes that making things free makes people free."
coreyrobin  socialism  liberation  capitalism  latecapitalism  freedom  2018  canon  dsa  wageslavery  billgates  markzuckerberg  liberalism  neoliberalism  taxes  society  anxiety  socialjustice  democrats  us  politics  economics  markets  berniesanders  sovietunion  nordiccountries  scandinavia  domination  alexandriaocasio-cortez  rashidatlaib  kevinphillips 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Gospels of Giving for the New Gilded Age | The New Yorker
"Are today’s donor classes solving problems—or creating new ones?"



"
We live, it is often said, in a new Gilded Age—an era of extravagant wealth and almost as extravagant displays of generosity. In the past fifteen years, some thirty thousand private foundations have been created, and the number of donor-advised funds has roughly doubled. The Giving Pledge—signed by Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg, Larry Ellison, and more than a hundred and seventy other gazillionaires who have promised to dedicate most of their wealth to philanthropy—is the “Gospel” stripped down and updated. And as the new philanthropies have proliferated so, too, have the critiques.

Anand Giridharadas is a journalist who, in 2011, was named a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute. The institute is financed by, among other groups, the Carnegie Corporation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Gates Foundation. The fellowship, according to its Web site, aims to “develop the next generation of community-spirited leaders” by engaging them “in a thought-provoking journey of personal exploration.”

Giridharadas at first found the fellowship to be a pretty sweet deal; it offered free trips to the Rockies and led to invitations from the sorts of people who own Western-themed mansions and fly private jets. After a while, though, he started to feel that something was rotten in the state of Colorado. In 2015, when he was asked to deliver a speech to his fellow-fellows, he used it to condemn what he called “the Aspen Consensus.”

“The Aspen Consensus, in a nutshell, is this,” he said. “The winners of our age must be challenged to do more good. But never, ever tell them to do less harm.” The speech made the Times; people began asking for copies of it; and Giridharadas decided to expand on it. The result is “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.” “I hadn’t planned to write a book on this topic, but the topic chose me,” he writes."



"Inside Philanthropy is a Web site devoted to high-end giving; its tagline is “Who’s Funding What, and Why.” David Callahan is the site’s founder and editor. If Giridharadas worries that the super-wealthy just play at changing the world, Callahan worries they’re going at it in earnest.

“An ever larger and richer upper class is amplifying its influence through large-scale giving in an era when it already has too much clout,” he writes in “The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age.” “Things are going to get worse, too.”

Part of the problem, according to Callahan, lies in the broad way that philanthropy has been defined. Under the federal tax code, an organization that feeds the hungry can count as a philanthropy, and so can a university where students study the problem of hunger, and so, too, can a think tank devoted to downplaying hunger as a problem. All these qualify as what are known, after the relevant tax-code provision, as 501(c)(3)s, meaning that the contributions they receive are tax deductible, and that the earnings on their endowments are largely tax-free. 501(c)(3)s are prohibited from engaging in partisan activity, but, as “The Givers” convincingly argues, activists on both sides of the ideological divide have developed work-arounds.

As a left-leaning example, Callahan cites Tim Gill, who’s been called “the megadonor behind the L.G.B.T.Q.-rights movement.” A software designer, Gill became rich founding and then selling a company called Quark, and he’s donated more than three hundred million dollars toward promoting L.G.B.T.Q. rights. While some of this has been in the form of straight-up political contributions, much of it has been disbursed by Gill’s tax-exempt foundation, which has financed educational efforts, message testing, and—perhaps most important—legal research. “Without a doubt, we would not be where we are without Tim Gill and the Gill Foundation,” Mary Bonauto, the attorney who argued the 2015 Supreme Court case that legalized gay marriage, told Rolling Stone last year.

On the right, Callahan points to Art Pope, the chairman of a privately held discount-store chain called Variety Wholesalers. Pope has used his wealth to support a network of foundations, based in North Carolina, that advocate for voter-identification—or, if you prefer, voter-suppression—laws. In 2013, pushed by Pope’s network, the North Carolina state legislature enacted a measure requiring residents to present state-issued photo I.D.s at the polls. Then the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law—another Pope-funded group—led the effort to block challenges to the measure. (The I.D. law was struck down, in 2016, by a federal appeals court that held it had been “passed with racially discriminatory intent.”)

It is difficult to say what fraction of philanthropic giving goes toward shaping public policy. Callahan estimates that the figure is somewhere around ten billion dollars a year. Such an amount, he says, might not sound huge, but it’s more than the annual contributions made to candidates, parties, and super-pacs combined. The result is doubly undemocratic. For every billion dollars spent on advocacy tricked out as philanthropy, several hundred million dollars in uncaptured taxes are lost to the federal treasury.

“It’s not just that the megaphones operated by 501(c)(3) groups and financed by a sliver of rich donors have gotten louder and louder, making it harder for ordinary citizens to be heard,” Callahan notes. “It’s that these citizens are helping foot the bill.” That both liberals and conservatives are exploiting the tax code is small consolation.

“When it comes to who gets heard in the public square, ordinary citizens can’t begin to compete with an activist donor class,” Callahan writes. “How many very rich people need to care intensely about a cause to finance megaphones that drown out the voices of everyone else?” he asks. “Not many.”"



"
Critiques of “The Gospel of Wealth” didn’t have much impact on Andrew Carnegie. He continued to distribute his fortune, to libraries and museums and universities, until, at the time of his death, in 1919, he had given away some three hundred and fifty million dollars—the equivalent of tens of billions in today’s money. It is hard to imagine that the critiques of the new Carnegies will do much to alter current trend lines.

The Gates Foundation alone, Callahan estimates, will disburse more than a hundred and fifty billion dollars over the next several decades. In just the next twenty years, affluent baby boomers are expected to contribute almost seven trillion dollars to philanthropy. And, the more government spending gets squeezed, the more important nongovernmental spending will become. When congressional Republicans passed their so-called tax-reform bill, they preserved the deduction for charitable contributions even as they capped the deduction for state and local tax payments. Thus, a hundred-million-dollar gift to Harvard will still be fully deductible, while, in many parts of the country, the property taxes paid to support local public schools will not be. It is possible that in the not too distant future philanthropic giving will outstrip federal outlays on non-defense discretionary programs, like education and the arts. This would represent, Callahan notes, a “striking milestone.”

Is that the kind of future we want? As the latest round of critiques makes clear, we probably won’t have much of a say in the matter. The philanthropists will decide, and then it will be left to their foundations to fight it out."
philanthropicindustrialcomplex  charitableindustrialcomplex  2018  elizabethkolbert  charity  philanthropy  inequality  andrewcarnegie  gildedage  inequity  disparity  wealth  inheritance  hughpricehughes  society  williamjewetttucker  patronage  ethics  wealthdistribution  exploitation  billgates  warrenbuffett  michaelbloomberg  larryellison  anandgiridharadas  aspenconsensus  georgesoros  socialentrepreneurship  laurietisch  darrenwalker  change  democracy  henrykravis  billclinton  davidcallahan  power  taxes  thinktanks  nonprofit  activism  timgill  publicpolicy  politics  economics  us  influence  artpope  votersuppression  law  superpacs  donaldtrump  equality  robertreich  nonprofits  capitalism  control 
august 2018 by robertogreco
The Wrongest Profession | Dean Baker
[via: https://economicsociology.org/2018/07/21/bb-populism-rostows-economics-and-vietnam-war-informal-economy-grows-universities-privatization-failures-deficit-hawks-deceive-you-inequality-one-sided-economists/ ]

"How economists have botched the promise of widely distributed prosperity—and why they have no intention of stopping now"



"OVER THE PAST TWO DECADES, the economics profession has compiled an impressive track record of getting almost all the big calls wrong. In the mid-1990s, all the great minds in the field agreed that the unemployment rate could not fall much below 6 percent without triggering spiraling inflation. It turns out that the unemployment rate could fall to 4 percent as a year-round average in 2000, with no visible uptick in the inflation rate.

As the stock bubble that drove the late 1990s boom was already collapsing, leading lights in Washington were debating whether we risked paying off the national debt too quickly. The recession following the collapse of the stock bubble took care of this problem, as the gigantic projected surpluses quickly turned to deficits. The labor market pain from the collapse of this bubble was both unpredicted and largely overlooked, even in retrospect. While the recession officially ended in November 2001, we didn’t start creating jobs again until the fall of 2003. And we didn’t get back the jobs we lost in the downturn until January 2005. At the time, it was the longest period without net job creation since the Great Depression.

When the labor market did finally begin to recover, it was on the back of the housing bubble. Even though the evidence of a bubble in the housing sector was plainly visible, as were the junk loans that fueled it, folks like me who warned of an impending housing collapse were laughed at for not appreciating the wonders of modern finance. After the bubble burst and the financial crisis shook the banking system to its foundations, the great minds of the profession were near unanimous in predicting a robust recovery. Stimulus was at best an accelerant for the impatient, most mainstream economists agreed—not an essential ingredient of a lasting recovery.

While the banks got all manner of subsidies in the form of loans and guarantees at below-market interest rates, all in the name of avoiding a second Great Depression, underwater homeowners were treated no better than the workers waiting for a labor market recovery. The Obama administration felt it was important for homeowners, unlike the bankers, to suffer the consequences of their actions. In fact, white-collar criminals got a holiday in honor of the financial crisis; on the watch of the Obama Justice Department, only a piddling number of bankers would face prosecution for criminal actions connected with the bubble.

There was a similar story outside the United States, as the International Monetary Fund, along with the European Central Bank and the European Union, imposed austerity when stimulus was clearly needed. As a result, southern Europe is still far from recovery. Even after another decade on their current course, many southern European countries will fall short of their 2007 levels of income. The situation looks even worse for the bottom half of the income distribution in Greece, Spain, and Portugal.

Even the great progress for the world’s poor touted in the famous “elephant graph” turns out to be largely illusory. If China is removed from the sample, the performance of the rest of the developing world since 1988 looks rather mediocre. While the pain of working people in wealthy countries is acute, they are not alone. Outside of China, people in the developing world have little to show for the economic growth of the last three and a half decades. As for China itself, the gains of its huge population are real, but the country certainly did not follow Washington’s model of deficit-slashing, bubble-driven policies for developing countries.

In this economic climate, it’s not surprising that a racist, xenophobic, misogynist demagogue like Donald Trump could succeed in politics, as right-wing populists have throughout the wealthy world. While his platform may be incoherent, Trump at least promised the return of good-paying jobs. Insofar as Clinton and other Democrats offered an agenda for economic progress for American workers, hardly anyone heard it. And to those who did, it sounded like more of the same."



"At this point, the deficit hawks typically start raising apocalyptic fears about higher taxes impoverishing our children. I have three responses to this claim.

The first is that we are all paying much higher Social Security and Medicare taxes than our parents and grandparents did. Are we therefore the victims of generational inequity? What’s more, the main reason Social Security costs are rising is that our kids will live longer lives than we will. In other words, the dire specter of a generously subsidized cohort of older Americans is actually a sign of widespread social progress. (High Medicare costs are due to an incredibly inefficient health care system, but that’s another story—one that deficit hawks are also in the midst of monkey-wrenching in order to delegitimize any state-supported solution.)

My second reply is that we should be worried about after-tax income, not the tax rate. Recall that austerity policies favored by deficit hawks may have already cost us the equivalent of an increase in the payroll tax of 14 percentage points. We’re supposed to get hysterical over the prospect that our kids may pay 2 to 3 more percentage points in payroll taxes, but be unconcerned about this huge and needless loss of before-tax income?

More generally, if we manage to reverse the wage stagnation of the past thirty-plus years and see ordinary workers once more take a share of the gains of economic growth, their before-tax pay will be 40 to 50 percent higher in three decades than it is today. If they have to give back some of these gains in higher payroll taxes in order to support a longer retirement, it’s hard to see just what the problem would be. (The bigger question, of course, is whether we can succeed in creating a political economy in which ordinary workers will once again share in generalized economic growth.) And taxes are just one way in which the government imposes costs on citizens. Donald Trump wants to have a massive infrastructure program financed by the creation of toll roads. These tolls will be paid to private companies and will not count as taxes. Feel better?

On a much larger scale, the government grants patent and copyright monopolies as an incentive for research and creative work. In the case of prescription drugs alone, these patent monopolies cost close to $350 billion a year (approximately 1.9 percent of GDP) over what the price of drugs would be in a truly free market. Even as deficit hawks try to convince us that the government can’t afford to borrow another $50 billion a year to finance the research done by the pharmaceutical industry, they tell us not to worry about the extra $350 billion we pay for drugs because of government-granted patent monopolies. This monomaniacal obsession with tax burdens, to the exclusion of any reckoning with the burden of patent monopolies, shows yet again that the deficit hawks’ oft-professed concern for our children’s well-being is purely rhetorical, and in no way serious.

We should remember that we will pass down a whole society to our kids—including the natural environment that underwrites the quality of life of future generations. If the cost of ensuring that large numbers of children do not grow up in poverty and that the planet is not destroyed by global warming is a somewhat higher current or future tax burden, that hardly seems like a bad deal—especially if the burden is apportioned fairly. Now suppose, by contrast, that we hand our kids a country in which large segments of the population are unhealthy and uneducated and the environment has been devastated by global warming, but we have managed to pay off the national debt. That is, after all, the future that many in the mainstream of the economics profession are prescribing for the country. Somehow, I don’t see future generations thanking us."
economics  economists  us  policy  politics  deanbaker  health  healthcare  deficits  government  governance  gdp  priorities  labor  markets  capitalism  socialsecurity  bubbles  greatrecession  2018  china  portugal  spain  españa  greece  eu  paulryan  timothygeitner  donaldtrump  taxes 
july 2018 by robertogreco
For Housing Affordability, California Must Amend its Constitution - Opinion | Political News | thebaycitybeacon.com
"This fall, California voters may have the opportunity to amend Proposition 13, one of the most regressive tax laws in the country. The 1978 initiative essentially freezes the assessed value of real estate at the time of sale—inevitably establishing and perpetuating wild inequities between the young and old, renters and landlords, immigrants and incumbents. How can California’s political “third rail” be reformed, albeit incrementally, with lasting, sustainable progress? There are several ways.

Evolve California is currently gathering signatures to place a measure on the 2018 ballot to allow re-assessments of commercial aka business properties—a move that could generate ~$10 billion a year for health care, education and other badly need investments in California society.

Another significant contributor to inequality, segregation, and the housing crisis stands unchallenged in 2018.

Article 34 of the California Constitution, enacted by voters in 1950, states that no cities, towns or counties may ”develop, construct or acquire” any “low-rent” housing “unless approved by a majority of qualified electors of the city, town or county” at the ballot box. Practically, this means our local governments and representatives are prevented from directly providing the homes struggling Californians need so direly today.

Article 34’s proponents intended to control the development of large, federally-funded public housing tower projects. The law also restricts local governments from efficiently building even mid-rise public housing or subsidizing low-income housing. A mid-century, single-story city building, or even a vacant lot, could become a five-story building with affordable rents and public services on the ground floor. Alas, we can’t really have that without an expensive ballot referendum and subsequent approval by a majority (or supermajority) of voters.

Moreover, the referendum process makes the provision of publicly-owned housing intractably slow. In California, prudent politicians tend refrain from placing affordable housing bonds on the ballot until they absolutely know the measure can win a supermajority of voters. When municipal coffers fill up with tax revenue or development fees, cities cannot use it to invest in modern mid-rise public housing directly, absent an expensive and risky Article 34-triggered election.

The crux of the issue is this: California’s landowners have become vastly more wealthy and powerful, by government fiat, at the expense of renters. This inequality is unsustainable. Homeowners receive exponentially more in public subsidies, and Proposition 13 tax rates disproportionately reward greater wealth and “incumbency” of property owners, but renters ultimately foot their landlords’ property tax bill. Not only do renters get little to no relief from this regressive system—because of Article 34, they are essentially forced to beg localized pockets of voters for the direct public provision of badly-needed affordable housing. Property owners, on the other hand, do not have to ask for their Mortgage Interest Deduction through a popular referendum every time they claim it.

Say it with me: public housing already exists. It exists largely not as shelter for the neediest, but as vestiges of historic inequality that abstractly, disproportionately rewards legacy homebuyers with secure asset wealth.

There have been concerted efforts to overturn this unfair system for almost as long as we’ve had it. Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown led two unsuccessful efforts to repeal Article 34 in the ‘70s and ‘80s. The most recent effort, in 1992, was defeated before an entire generation of eligible voters was born, so the current electorate may feel differently about our status quo.

Perhaps its time has finally come.

Since 1950, California courts have whittled down Article 34’s power, and some cities work around the law by delegating the job of affordable housing construction to privately-run nonprofits. But given the severity and depth of our affordable housing shortage, California cannot afford more roadblocks to directly providing publicly-owned affordable housing.

To state the obvious, Article 34 also maintains racial and economic segregation. Requiring voter approval for the development of publicly-funded affordable rental housing means that racially and economically homogenous communities can effectively veto integration. The electorates of San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley have consistently voted to approve low-income housing placed on the ballot at regular intervals. Compare the generosity of those voters to, say, communities in Marin County or Palo Alto—I can guarantee that the results will not surprise you.

Governing by popular referendum may sound ideal, but California’s experience with direct governance over the last 107 years has demonstrated that local pluralities of voters can sometimes succumb to fear, uncertainty, and outright animus towards marginalized groups.

If you think this is all ancient history, think again: in 1994, nearly 59% of California voters approved of Proposition 187, designed to bar undocumented people from accessing public services like health care and education, prior to it being ruled unconstitutional by the courts. More recently, California voters repudiated marriage equality by approving Proposition 8 in 2008, only for it also to be overturned by jurists. In 2016, California voters brought back the death penalty.

Occasionally, the state’s voters have been unwise enough to approve unconstitutional legislation, and federal courts have found such laws especially offensive when they discriminate against political minorities in the exercise of civil rights or use of public programs, as was the case with Prop 187. Unfortunately, the United States Supreme Court found no such violation by Article 34 of equal protection under the 14th Amendment in James v. Valtierra (1971).

Renters from Santa Clara and San Mateo counties sought to have Article 34 invalidated on the basis of racial and wealth discrimination. Instead, Justice Hugo Black, writing for the 6-3 majority found such mandatory referendums on low-rent and public housing to indicate a “devotion to democracy, not to bias, discrimination, or prejudice.” (If only!)

Article 34 of the California Constitution, much like the general political aversion to subsidized housing, is explicitly rooted in prejudice against poor people, people of color, and immigrants writ large. The history is stark and ugly, and it is high time for California to face it head-on. That history, as it unfolded in Oakland, will be the subject of Part 2 in this series."
housing  california  policy  racism  class  2018  1950  article34  inequality  segregation  race  proposition13  sanfrancisco  oakland  bayarea  publichousing  affordability  taxes  williebrown  berkeley 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Opinion | The Democrats’ Gentrification Problem - The New York Times
"Research that focuses on the way city neighborhoods are changing by income, race and ethnicity, while not specifically addressed to political consequences, helps us see the potential for conflict within the Democratic coalition.

Robert J. Sampson, a sociologist at Harvard, published a detailed study in 2015 for the St. Louis Federal Reserve of the economic composition of neighborhoods. Overall, he found, “middle-income neighborhoods are tenuous,” while neighborhoods at the top and bottom of the economic ladder have remained strikingly stable."



"Upscale liberal whites “who consider themselves committed to racial justice” tend to be “NIMBYists when it comes to their neighborhoods,” Cain wrote, “not living up to their affordable housing commitments and resisting apartment density around mass transportation stops.”"



"As intraparty economic and racial divisions have increased within the Democratic coalition, the political power of the well-to-do has grown at the expense of racial and ethnic minorities."



"The maneuvers in California are a reflection of a larger problem for Democrats: their inability to reconcile the conflicts inherent in the party’s economic and racial bifurcation."



"Democratic politicians should respond by imposing higher taxes on the wealthy and spending the proceeds on the less well off."



"The progressivity of income taxes has decreased, reliance on regressive consumption taxes has increased, and the taxation of capital has followed a global race to the bottom. Instead of boosting infrastructure investment, governments have pursued austerity policies that are particularly harmful to low-skill workers. Big banks and corporations have been bailed out, but households have not. In the United States, the minimum wage has not been adjusted sufficiently, allowing it to erode in real terms."



Rodrik cites the work of the French economist Thomas Piketty, who argues that political parties on the left have been taken over, here and in Europe, “by the well-educated elite” — what Piketty calls the “Brahmin Left.” The Brahmin Left, writes Rodrik,
is not friendly to redistribution, because it believes in meritocracy — a world in which effort gets rewarded and low incomes are more likely to be the result of insufficient effort than poor luck.
"



"The Democrats will become the party of urban cosmopolitan business liberalism, and the Republicans will become the party of suburban and rural nationalist populism."



"The force that had historically pushed policy to the economic left — organized labor — has for the most part been marginalized. African-American and Hispanic voters have shown little willingness to join Democratic reform movements led by upper middle class whites, as shown in their lack of enthusiasm for Bill Bradley running against Al Gore in 2000 or Sanders running against Clinton in 2016.

The hurdle facing those seeking to democratize elite domination of the Democratic Party is finding voters and donors who have a sustained interest in redistributive policies — and the minimum wage is only a small piece of this. Achieving that goal requires an economically coherent center-left political coalition. It also requires the ability to overcome the seemingly insuperable political divisions between the white working class and the African-American and Hispanic working classes — that elusive but essential multiracial — and now multiethnic — majority. Establishing that majority in a coherent political coalition is the only way in which the economic interests of those in the bottom half of the income distribution will be effectively addressed."
inequality  us  politics  democrats  meritocracy  2018  democracy  taxes  capitalism  capital  gentrification  cities  urban  urbanism  nimbyism  california  policy  progressives  wealth  unions  labor  thomaspiketty  michaellind  danirodrik  elitism  liberalism  neoliberalism  republicans  donaldtrump  race  racism  class  classism  segregation  thomasedsall 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Why are Democrats so afraid of taxes?
"Tax hikes on the rich to fund child care, universal health care, higher education, and a green infrastructure bank would immensely benefit both the college-educated and non-college folks who are seeing their standard of living threatened by the GOP. According to Global Strategy Group polling, 85 percent of working-class whites and 80 percent of college-educated whites support higher taxes on the one percent.

Class politics do not threaten the Democratic Party — they may be the only way to save it. But all camps in the Democratic Party are grasping at different parts of the problem. Many strategists on the Hillary Clinton-end of things have rightfully noted that a shift in college-educated white support for Democrats is a positive harbinger for the party. But they have seemingly failed to grasp that the Bernie Sanders wing has a point: these voters can be won over on classic tax and spend social democracy. In 2016, only three percent of college-educated white Clinton voters made more than $250,000 a year, according to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study from that year. Far from worrying about taxes, these voters are increasingly worried about proving health care and child care for their children. Most have seen their retirement security erode and worry about whether their children can afford college. Instead of trying to appeal to a mushy center that doesn’t really exist, Democrats should embrace high taxes, particularly on the rich, to fund social services. The public is ready."
democrats  taxes  policy  208  economics  healthcare  childcare  inequality  banking  finance  richardrorty  hillaryclinton  berniesanders  spencerpiston  class  infrastructure  climatechange  publicgoods  materialism  psychology  emptiness  capitalism 
january 2018 by robertogreco
OHCHR | Statement on Visit to the USA, by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights*
[See also:

"A journey through a land of extreme poverty: welcome to America"
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/dec/15/america-extreme-poverty-un-special-rapporteur

"Extreme poverty in America: read the UN special monitor's report"
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/15/extreme-poverty-america-un-special-monitor-report

"Trump turning US into 'world champion of extreme inequality', UN envoy warns"
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/dec/15/america-un-extreme-poverty-trump-republicans ]

[Thread by Allen Tan:
https://twitter.com/tealtan/status/942934883244171264

"if a progressive party wanted to build a platform for 2020, it could just copy paste this

if a newsroom wanted to cover US poverty in a systematic and rigorous way, here is the blueprint

this is how you make a case for a social safety net when you don't assume that everyone is already on board with you ideologically

1) human rights
“the US is alone among developed countries in insisting that while human rights are of fundamental importance, they do not include rights that guard against dying of hunger, dying from lack of access to affordable healthcare, or growing up in…total deprivation.”

2) debunking myth of poor people as lazy or scammers
“poor people I met from among the 40 million living in poverty were overwhelmingly either persons who had been born into poverty, or those who had been thrust there by circumstances largely beyond their control such as…”

“…physical or mental disabilities, divorce, family breakdown, illness, old age, unlivable wages, or discrimination in the job market.”

3) disenfranchisement in a democratic society (just gonna screengrab this one)

4) children
“In 2016, 18% of children – some 13.3 million – were living in poverty, with children comprising 32.6% of all people in poverty.”

etc, etc, etc

stay for the extended section on homelessness and its criminalization

re: drugs testing [screen capture]

treating taxation as a dirty word and third rail means the state must raise money on the backs of the poor [screen capture]

Ok one last thing and then I’m done:
notice how you can talk about poverty and not make it just about white people, weird"]
philipalston  us  poverty  un  himanrights  policy  politics  inequality  2017  donaldtrump  mississippi  alabama  california  puertorico  housing  georgia  exceptionalism  democracy  employment  work  socialsafetynet  society  incarceration  warondrugs  criminalization  children  health  healthcare  dentalcare  disability  race  racism  fraud  privatization  government  governance  environment  sustainability  taxes  taxreform  welfare  hunger  food  medicare  medicaid  chip  civilsociety  allentan  journalism  homeless  homelessness 
december 2017 by robertogreco
After Tax Cuts Derailed the ‘California Dream,’ Can the State Get Back on Track? | The California Dream | The California Report | KQED News
"In essence, Proposition 13 became the first shot across the bow in a series of referendums some dubbed “racial propositions” that reached their apogee with Proposition 187, the famous 1994 measure that sought to cut off nearly all public services, including education, to undocumented immigrants.

That was followed by voter-approved measures to ban affirmative action, eliminate bilingual education and expand a prison system marred by racial disproportionality in its sentencing and rates of incarceration.

That Prop 13 itself was a sort of generational warfare with overtones of race was clear in its structure. Since the assessment didn’t increase more than 2 percent unless property changed hands, incumbent homeowners (who were older and whiter) wouldn’t see their tax burden change much as long as they didn’t sell. Meanwhile, new homeowners (more likely to be younger, minority and eventually immigrant) would have to pay higher tax rates and thus bear a disproportionate share of the costs of local services.

And that wasn’t the only bias against the future. The requirement for a supermajority to pass legislation to raise taxes effectively constrained the ability of future state governments to pour in the sort of money that had built the state’s famed transportation, water and university systems.

The Consequences

The immediate damage from Prop 13, however, was masked. When local property tax revenues quickly fell by about 60 percent, the state government stepped in to fill the gaps.

But over time, the damaging effects of Proposition 13 in terms of education spending and income inequality became increasingly apparent. In the 1960s, California ranked among the top 10 states in terms of per-pupil spending. By 2014, its ranking had plunged to as low as 46. And while California’s level of income inequality was in the middle of the pack nationally in 1969, it is now the fourth most unequal state in the country.

While Proposition 13 was the not the only culprit behind these trends, it didn’t help. About half of the total residential property tax relief provided by Prop 13 went to homeowners with incomes in excess of US$120,000 a year – or about 15 percent of all households.

And because the property tax was no longer a growing source of revenue for local governments, cities and counties had more reason to chase sales taxes with retail development and less incentive to promote housing, helping to set in motion the severe housing shortage that wracks the state today.

The final irony is that Prop 13 – a measure promoted by those in favor of smaller government – pushed authority and decision-making to the state capitol, which became the main source to bail out local municipalities.

Efforts to Change It

So why has Proposition 13 not been overturned?

Its political appeal remains, particularly to older residents who vote and to businesses worried about any increase in taxes. Efforts to keep the protections for residential homeowners but allow commercial and industrial property to be assessed at market rates – a so-called “split roll” – have failed or stalled and currently command the thinnest possible majority in public polling.

So while the split role remains a goal for some reformers, many concerned about the effects of Prop 13 have simply tried to raise taxes elsewhere to offset the lost revenue. California voters approved a temporary “millionaire’s tax” in 2012 and its long-term extension in 2016. And more than two-thirds of voting taxpayers in Los Angeles County approved sales tax hikes in 2008 and 2016 that will generate $160 billion over the next 40 years for transportation investments ranging from rail expansion to highway improvement to new bike paths.

But such tinkering does not solve the fundamental problems with Prop 13 that I’ve noted above. Addressing those will require a new set of conversations about optimal tax policy and how to address legitimate concerns such as how to protect older homeowners with a fixed income from the potential end of Prop 13.

California – and the Country – at a Crossroads

Unfortunately, the same demographic shifts, economic anxieties and political polarization that spurred Prop 13 have since gone national. The president’s plan to “Make America Great Again” similarly involves slashing taxes while underinvesting in education and social services – the kinds of investments that actually made America great in the 20th century.

California has the opportunity to show the nation how to get this right and invest in our future and our collective dreams rather than shortchange them. And a growing number of voices, including local governments, unions and political groups, are calling for reform.

The ConversationSo while the discussion about Prop 13 might seem to be about a few obscure tax rules, it is highly symbolic: At stake is the future of the state and, indeed, the nation. A day of reckoning for a measure that seems increasingly out of date may soon be upon us."
proposition13  california  law  education  finance  racism  race  2017  generations  infrastructure  cities  municipalities  inequality  manuelpastor  taxes  government 
november 2017 by robertogreco
💜🏳️‍🌈 ♿️✡️ Mx. Amadi Says Ban Nazis on Twitter: "Students eligible for Pell Grants are those most likely to have education interruptions because of ongoing financial issues. Forcing them to… https://t.co/blRHN9RvGu"
"Students eligible for Pell Grants are those most likely to have education interruptions because of ongoing financial issues. Forcing them to repay because they had to pause education would significantly reduce their chances of being able to resume it.

Ultimately we know Republicans want to eliminate Pell Grants entirely. This would be a first step toward that goal.

Couple this with the effort to make grad school tuition waivers taxable income, the disappearance of Title IX guidance & students with disabilities guidance and the Trump perspective on affirmative action programs & charter schools and it is an all out assault.

The end goal is to make access to all levels of education from kindergarten through graduate programs the privilege of the wealthy.

You can throw in the ending of broadband access programs for rural and highly impoverished areas as well. The GOP wants Americans stratified into educated haves and intentionally uneducated worker drones.

When you add in the destruction of any means of getting healthcare unless you have an employee or a benevolent enough to give you insurance (which may not be comprehensive) it becomes a larger, uglier picture.

It becomes: intentionally uneducated worker drones who cannot have any basic necessities of human existence without pledging their labor (without protections) to the owner class.

Add their perspective on the environment into the picture and it becomes intentionally uneducated worker drones who cannot have any basic necessities of human existence including clean air and water.

You’ll be buying water credits from your employer the same way some people earn time off now. Every month you work nets you 100 gallons of potable water.

The goal is the reformatting of the entirety of society to benefit — solely benefit — a minuscule number of uberwealthy people. There are FAR more of us than them. We cannot allow this.

8 people, 8 dudes, 4 of them old and frail have as much wealth as 162.5 million of us. Think 162.5 million could subdue 8 people and take their unearned surplus of blood money? I do. Just saying."
amadiaeclovelace  taxes  2017  policy  pellgrants  healthcare  capitalism  latecapitalism  gop  us  politics  inequality  wageslavery  education  wealth  wealthinquality  incomeinequality  plutocracy  labor  work  privatization  affirmativeaction  disabilities  highered  highereducation  schools  publicschools  charterschools 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Why Texas Is No Longer Feeling Miraculous - The New York Times
"The tale of the Texas Miracle was a big fat lie: Plentiful oil, low regulation and even lower taxes are not a panacea. Sure, they don’t hurt. But they don’t help, not without consistent, well-considered state policy to attract and build businesses."
texas  politics  policy  2017  longview  richardparker  taxes 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Episode 12: Reducing Inequality at the Top de On The Economy | Escúchalo gratis en SoundCloud
"Few people deny inequality’s existence anymore, but its nature and causes are still hotly debated. Along with Richard Reeves and Marshall Steinbaum, Ben and Jared explore a couple theories of what’s driving income and wealth concentration among the rich and some policies that could potentially curb it."
economics  inequality  policy  taxes  richardreeves  marshallsteinbaum  wealth  jaredbernstein  benspielberg 
july 2017 by robertogreco
The Fault isn’t with Napolitano: On Funding California Higher Education – Boom California
"The 2008-2010 recession generated havoc in state revenues and was especially bad for the unprotected areas of the state budget. Douglass reports a cut of $813 million in the funding of the UC system in 2009 and 2010.[4] Public funding, the bedrock of long-term planning in the early decades of the Master Plan, is now more volatile and less predictable than tuition revenues and other private sources. UC campuses are beginning to imagine a future in which state funding is negligible. In the decade between 2002-03 and 2012-13, state revenues received by University of California Berkeley declined from $497 to $299 million in current dollars, a reduction in constant price terms of 54 per cent.[5] Successive state governments have learned that they can reduce university funding without a severe public backlash, but there is more likely to be public opposition if they sanction the tuition increases necessary for institutions to make up the shortfall. From the 1990s onwards, a new pattern was established, in which the years of funding recovery were insufficient to compensate for years of reductions. Small cuts were not undone and tended to accumulate. In this asymmetrical policy framework, and given the continued legal/fiscal constraints on the state, California’s recession-induced cuts now look to be largely irreversible.

Like their public sector counterparts in many other states, the UC and CSU finds (and will continue to find) it extremely difficult to secure state support to raise tuition so as to compensate for the effects of state cutbacks. Nevertheless, tuition increases sufficient to plug the gap in spending also carry problems. Public institutions depend on public support, both to secure favorable state policies and more generally, to function effectively in a highly networked society and economy. Public support is no doubt undermined by rising tuition, and this also eats into the access mission of the University of California, which so far has been largely maintained despite the circumstances. On the other hand, public support is weakened also by reductions in service quality due to insufficient funding, and the access mission needs to be subsidized.[6] In 2013, after the recession, the student-to faculty ratio in the University of California was 24 to 1, compared to 19 to 1 a decade earlier, and 15 to 1 in the 1980s.[7] The public university campuses find themselves positioned between the Scylla of a resource decline that would undermine all objectives, including the research outputs and quality on which so much else depends, and the Charybdis of public unpopularity and mission compromise. They feel forced to become more like a private university, so as to uphold their public mission effectively in social competition with the real private sector. They have limited options, with only research funding, foreign students and noncore revenues as potential sources of much needed additional resources. In this setting the University of California campuses have no clear-cut forward strategy.

The problem is specific to public higher education rather than general to higher education as a whole. The effects of the recession differentiated between the University of California, which depends partly on the Californian state budget and whose tuition is state regulated; and private universities such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Princeton, which are free to manage their prices and carry significantly larger endowments than Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego. Though both state funding and university endowments fell sharply in value in the first two years of recession, the recovery in each case was different. By 2014 endowments had been largely restored in value but the state funding cuts seemed at least partly permanent.

While the UC campuses and the beleaguered UCOP are struggling to cope, right now, the deeper effects of today’s crisis will play out over decades. Of all the jewels of American science, California public education has shined the brightest. As I discuss in my book published last year, The Dream is Over: The Crisis of Clark Kerr’s California Idea of Higher Education, the UC still houses four of the world’s top twenty research universities, in terms of the amount of high quality science produced—Berkeley, UCLA, San Francisco, and San Diego—and seven of the world’s top sixty. Not if present trends are maintained.

Money matters in research and education, as it does in most everywhere else. Past patterns show this. In a study of American science , James Adams finds that in the 1990s there was an overall slowdown in the output of the public universities. Though their share of federal research grants grew their revenues from their respective state governments fell, which ate into the capacity to sustain research infrastructure and faculty time on research.[8] It is a sign of what is to come. The drop in state support across the country in the 1990s, studied by Adams, was nothing compared to what happened after the 1990s in California. Between 2002-03 and 2012-13 the proportion of Berkeley’s revenues coming from state sources dropped from 34 to 13 per cent.[9] That decline is continuing. Unless the state, and ultimately the taxpayer, have a change of heart the UC position is going to get much worse."
funding  universityofcalifornia  education  highered  highereducation  california  2017  history  taxes  proposition13  simonmarginson  uc 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Common Claims About Proposition 13
"Proposition 13 was a landmark decision by California’s voters in June 1978 to limit property taxes. Today, there are many questions about the impacts of these changes. This report examines some of these questions and which of them can be answered by the data available."

"Table of Contents
Introduction
Background
Are Similar Property Owners Taxed Differently Under Proposition 13?
Do Proposition 13’s Benefits for Property Owners Vary With Income?
Does Proposition 13 Reduce Property Turnover?
Did Proposition 13 Cause Residential Properties to Pay a Larger Share of Property Taxes?
Does Proposition 13 Discourage New Business Creation?
How Does Proposition 13 Affect the Stability of Property Taxes?
How Did Proposition 13 Change Local Governments Mix of Tax Revenues?
What Happened to Local Government Revenues After Proposition 13?
Did Proposition 13 Reduce the Number of New Local Governments Formed?
Does Proposition 13 Alter Local Government Land Use Decisions?
Does Proposition 13 Alter Property Owners’ Development Decisions?
Did Proposition 13 Increase Fees on Developers?
Did Assessments Associated With Development Rise After Proposition 13?
Does Proposition 13 Increase Homeownership?
Figure Data Sources"
proposition13  california  taxes  policy  government  housing  property 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Richard Walker: The Golden State Adrift. New Left Review 66, November-December 2010.
"Since the apotheosis of the state’s favourite son Ronald Reagan, California has been at the forefront of the neoliberal turn in global capitalism. The story of its woes will sound familiar to observers across Europe, North America and Japan, suffering from the neoliberal era’s trademark features: financial frenzy, degraded public services, stagnant wages and deepening class and race inequality. But given its previous vanguard status, the Golden State should not be seen as just one more case of a general malaise. Its dire situation provides not only a sad commentary on the economic and political morass into which liberal democracies have sunk; it is a cautionary tale for what may lie ahead for the rest of the global North."



"California’s government is in profound disarray. The proximate cause is the worst fiscal crisis in the United States, echoing at a distance that of New York in the 1970s. Behind the budgetary mess is a political deadlock in which the majority no longer rules, the legislature no longer legislates, and offices are up for sale. At a deeper level, the breakdown stems from the long domination of politics by the moneyed elite and an ageing white minority unwilling to provide for the needs of a dramatically reconstituted populace.

The Golden State is now in permanent fiscal crisis. It has the largest budget in the country after the federal government—about $100 billion per year at its 2006 peak—and the largest budget deficit of any state: $35 billion in 2009–10 and $20 billion for 2010–11. The state’s shortfall accounts for one-fifth of the total $100 billion deficit of all fifty states. These fiscal woes are not new. They stem in large measure from the woefully inadequate and inequitable tax system, in which property is minimally taxed—at 1 per cent of cash value—and corporations bear a light burden: at most 10 per cent. Until the late 1970s, California had one of the most progressive tax systems in the country, but since then there has been a steady rollback of taxation. In the 1970s, it was one of the top four states in taxation and spending relative to income, whereas it is now in the middle of the pack.

The lynchpin of the anti-tax offensive is Proposition 13, passed by state-wide referendum in 1978, which capped local property taxes and required a two-thirds majority in the state legislature for all subsequent tax increases—a daunting barrier if there is organized opposition. Proposition 13 was the brainchild of Howard Jarvis, a lobbyist for the Los Angeles Apartment Owners’ Association. Support for it came not so much from voters in revolt against Big Government as from discontent with rising housing costs and property-tax assessments. But it was to prove a bridgehead for American neoliberalism, which triumphed two years later with Reagan’s ascent to the presidency."



"The fiscal crisis overlays a profound failure of politics and government in California. The origins of the stalemate lie in the decline of the legislative branch, which has popularity ratings even lower than Schwarzenegger’s. Led by Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh in the 1960s, California’s legislature was admired across the country for its professionalism. But by the 1980s, under Speaker Willie Brown, it had become largely a patronage system for the Democratic Party, which has controlled the state legislature continuously since 1959. Republicans went after Brown and the majority party by means of a ballot proposition imposing term limits on elected officials in 1990. Term limits neutered the legislature, taking away its collective knowledge, professional experience and most forceful voices, along with much of the staff vital to well-considered legislation. Sold as a way of limiting the influence of ‘special interests’, term limits have reinforced the grip of industry lobbyists over legislators."



"Efforts to jettison Proposition 13, such as that by the public-sector unions in 2004, have been stillborn because the Democratic Party leadership refuses to touch the ‘third rail’ of California politics. Most left-liberal commentators attribute this impasse to an anti-tax electorate and organized opposition from the right, but this does not square with the evidence. Electorally, the Democrats have easily dominated the state for the last four decades: both houses of the legislature, one or both us Senate seats, the majority of the House delegation, and the mayoralties of Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco; and, from Clinton onwards, every Democrat presidential candidate has carried the state by at least 10 per cent.

Rather than electoral vulnerability, it is the Democrats’ fundamental identification with the agenda of Silicon Valley, Hollywood and financiers—and dependence on money from these sources—that explains their unwillingness to touch the existing system."



"The victor, septuagenarian Democrat Jerry Brown, was governor of the state from 1975–83 and mayor of Oakland from 1999–2007; his most recent post was that of state Attorney General. Once a knight-errant of the liberal-left, it was his blunders in dealing with a budget surplus that paved the way for Proposition 13, and his harping on the theme of an ‘era of limits’ made him a rhetorical precursor to neoliberalism. In Oakland, his main contribution was to revivify the downtown area through massive condo development in the midst of the housing boom; he was also instrumental in pushing through charter schools. Brown’s low-key campaign kept its promises vague, but adhered to a broadly neoliberal agenda: pledging to cut public spending, trim the pensions of public employees, and put pressure on the unions to ‘compromise’. He has a fine nose for the political winds, but lacks any strong connection to a popular base."



"Yet whites have continued to dominate electoral politics, still making up two-thirds of the state’s regular voters. The majority of colour is vastly under-represented, because so many are non-citizens (60 per cent), underage (45 per cent) or not registered to vote. Turnout rates among California’s eligible Latinos are an abysmal 30 per cent, and the number of Latino representatives in city councils, the legislature and Congress remains far below what would be proportionate; Antonio Villaraigosa is the first Latino Mayor of Los Angeles since the 19th century. The fading white plurality continues to exert a disproportionate influence on the state. Markedly older, richer and more propertied, the white electorate has correspondingly conservative views: for many, immigrants are the problem, the Spanish language a threat, and law and order a rallying cry. Even the centrist white voter tends to view taxes as a burden, schools of little interest, and the collective future as someone else’s problem."



"The current economic and fiscal crises are just the latest symptoms of the slow decline of California’s postwar commonwealth. Here, as much as anywhere in the us, the golden age of American capitalism was built on a solid foundation of public investment and competent administration. Here, too, the steady advance of neoliberalism has undermined the public sector, and threatens to poison the wellsprings of entrepreneurial capitalism as well. This is especially apparent in the realm of education, from primary to university levels. The state’s once-great public-school system has been brought to its knees. Primary and secondary education (K–12: from kindergarten to twelfth grade) has fallen from the top of national rankings to the bottom by a range of measures, from test scores to dropout rates; the latter is currently at 25 per cent. There are many reasons for the slide, but the heart of the matter is penury—both of pupils and of the schools themselves, as economic inequalities and budget cuts bear down on California’s children."



"The upper middle class shield themselves by simply taking their children out of the public-school system and sending them to private institutions instead; previously rare, such withdrawals have now become commonplace—along with another alternative for the well-off, which is to move to prosperous, whiter suburbs where the tax base is richer. If public funds are insufficient, parents raise money amongst themselves for school endowments. In July of this year, a combination of civil-society groups launched a lawsuit over the injustice of school funding, hoping to produce a ‘son of Serrano’ ruling."



"California has been living off the accrued capital of the past. The New Deal and postwar eras left the state with an immense legacy of infrastructural investments. Schools and universities were a big part of this, along with the world’s most advanced freeway network, water-storage and transfer system, and park and wilderness complex. For the last thirty years, there has been too little tax revenue and too little investment. To keep things running, Sacramento has gone deeper and deeper into debt through a series of huge bond issues for prisons, parks and waterworks. By this sleight of hand, Californians have been fooled into thinking they could have both low taxes and high quality public infrastructure. The trick was repeated over and over, in a clear parallel to the nationwide accumulation of excessive mortgage debt. As a result, California now has the worst bond rating of any state."
richardwalker  california  via:javierarbona  2010  politics  policy  proposition13  inequality  education  schools  publicschools  highereducation  highered  government  termlimits  democrats  neoliberalism  liberalism  progressivism  elitism  nancypelosi  jerrybrown  ronaldreagan  race  demographics  history  1973  poverty  children  class  economics  society  technosolutionism  siliconvalley  finance  housingbubble  2008  greatrecession  taxes 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Build a Better Monster: Morality, Machine Learning, and Mass Surveillance
"technology and ethics aren't so easy to separate, and that if you want to know how a system works, it helps to follow the money."



"A question few are asking is whether the tools of mass surveillance and social control we spent the last decade building could have had anything to do with the debacle of the 2017 election, or whether destroying local journalism and making national journalism so dependent on our platforms was, in retrospect, a good idea.

We built the commercial internet by mastering techniques of persuasion and surveillance that we’ve extended to billions of people, including essentially the entire population of the Western democracies. But admitting that this tool of social control might be conducive to authoritarianism is not something we’re ready to face. After all, we're good people. We like freedom. How could we have built tools that subvert it?"



"The economic basis of the Internet is surveillance. Every interaction with a computing device leaves a data trail, and whole industries exist to consume this data. Unlike dystopian visions from the past, this surveillance is not just being conducted by governments or faceless corporations. Instead, it’s the work of a small number of sympathetic tech companies with likeable founders, whose real dream is to build robots and Mars rockets and do cool things that make the world better. Surveillance just pays the bills."



"These companies exemplify the centralized, feudal Internet of 2017. While the protocols that comprise the Internet remain open and free, in practice a few large American companies dominate every aspect of online life. Google controls search and email, AWS controls cloud hosting, Apple and Google have a duopoly in mobile phone operating systems. Facebook is the one social network.

There is more competition and variety among telecommunications providers and gas stations than there is among the Internet giants."



"Build a Better Monster
Idle Words · by Maciej Cegłowski
I came to the United States as a six year old kid from Eastern Europe. One of my earliest memories of that time was the Safeway supermarket, an astonishing display of American abundance.

It was hard to understand how there could be so much wealth in the world.

There was an entire aisle devoted to breakfast cereals, a food that didn't exist in Poland. It was like walking through a canyon where the walls were cartoon characters telling me to eat sugar.

Every time we went to the supermarket, my mom would give me a quarter to play Pac Man. As a good socialist kid, I thought the goal of the game was to help Pac Man, who was stranded in a maze and needed to find his friends, who were looking for him.

My games didn't last very long.

The correct way to play Pac Man, of course, is to consume as much as possible while running from the ghosts that relentlessly pursue you. This was a valuable early lesson in what it means to be an American.

It also taught me that technology and ethics aren't so easy to separate, and that if you want to know how a system works, it helps to follow the money.

Today the technology that ran that arcade game permeates every aspect of our lives. We’re here at an emerging technology conference to celebrate it, and find out what exciting things will come next. But like the tail follows the dog, ethical concerns about how technology affects who we are as human beings, and how we live together in society, follow us into this golden future. No matter how fast we run, we can’t shake them.

This year especially there’s an uncomfortable feeling in the tech industry that we did something wrong, that in following our credo of “move fast and break things”, some of what we knocked down were the load-bearing walls of our democracy.

Worried CEOs are roving the landscape, peering into the churches and diners of red America. Steve Case, the AOL founder, roams the land trying to get people to found more startups. Mark Zuckerberg is traveling America having beautifully photographed conversations.

We’re all trying to understand why people can’t just get along. The emerging consensus in Silicon Valley is that polarization is a baffling phenomenon, but we can fight it with better fact-checking, with more empathy, and (at least in Facebook's case) with advanced algorithms to try and guide conversations between opposing camps in a more productive direction.

A question few are asking is whether the tools of mass surveillance and social control we spent the last decade building could have had anything to do with the debacle of the 2017 election, or whether destroying local journalism and making national journalism so dependent on our platforms was, in retrospect, a good idea.

We built the commercial internet by mastering techniques of persuasion and surveillance that we’ve extended to billions of people, including essentially the entire population of the Western democracies. But admitting that this tool of social control might be conducive to authoritarianism is not something we’re ready to face. After all, we're good people. We like freedom. How could we have built tools that subvert it?

As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

I contend that there are structural reasons to worry about the role of the tech industry in American political life, and that we have only a brief window of time in which to fix this.

Surveillance Capitalism

The economic basis of the Internet is surveillance. Every interaction with a computing device leaves a data trail, and whole industries exist to consume this data. Unlike dystopian visions from the past, this surveillance is not just being conducted by governments or faceless corporations. Instead, it’s the work of a small number of sympathetic tech companies with likeable founders, whose real dream is to build robots and Mars rockets and do cool things that make the world better. Surveillance just pays the bills.

It is a striking fact that mass surveillance has been driven almost entirely by private industry. While the Snowden revelations in 2012 made people anxious about government monitoring, that anxiety never seemed to carry over to the much more intrusive surveillance being conducted by the commercial Internet. Anyone who owns a smartphone carries a tracking device that knows (with great accuracy) where you’ve been, who you last spoke to and when, contains potentially decades-long archives of your private communications, a list of your closest contacts, your personal photos, and other very intimate information.

Internet providers collect (and can sell) your aggregated browsing data to anyone they want. A wave of connected devices for the home is competing to bring internet surveillance into the most private spaces. Enormous ingenuity goes into tracking people across multiple devices, and circumventing any attempts to hide from the tracking.

With the exception of China (which has its own ecology), the information these sites collect on users is stored permanently and with almost no legal controls by a small set of companies headquartered in the United States.

Two companies in particular dominate the world of online advertising and publishing, the economic engines of the surveillance economy.

Google, valued at $560 billion, is the world’s de facto email server, and occupies a dominant position in almost every area of online life. It’s unremarkable for a user to connect to the Internet on a Google phone using Google hardware, talking to Google servers via a Google browser, while blocking ads served over a Google ad network on sites that track visitors with Google analytics. This combination of search history, analytics and ad tracking gives the company unrivaled visibility into users’ browsing history. Through initiatives like AMP (advanced mobile pages), the company is attempting to extend its reach so that it becomes a proxy server for much of online publishing.

Facebook, valued at $400 billion, has close to two billion users and is aggressively seeking its next billion. It is the world’s largest photo storage service, and owns the world’s largest messaging service, WhatsApp. For many communities, Facebook is the tool of choice for political outreach and organizing, event planning, fundraising and communication. It is the primary source of news for a sizable fraction of Americans, and through its feed algorithm (which determines who sees what) has an unparalleled degree of editorial control over what that news looks like.

Together, these companies control some 65% of the online ad market, which in 2015 was estimated at $60B. Of that, half went to Google and $8B to Facebook. Facebook, the smaller player, is more aggressive in the move to new ad and content formats, particularly video and virtual reality.

These companies exemplify the centralized, feudal Internet of 2017. While the protocols that comprise the Internet remain open and free, in practice a few large American companies dominate every aspect of online life. Google controls search and email, AWS controls cloud hosting, Apple and Google have a duopoly in mobile phone operating systems. Facebook is the one social network.

There is more competition and variety among telecommunications providers and gas stations than there is among the Internet giants.

Data Hunger

The one thing these companies share is an insatiable appetite for data. They want to know where their users are, what they’re viewing, where their eyes are on the page, who they’re with, what they’re discussing, their purchasing habits, major life events (like moving or pregnancy), and anything else they can discover.

There are two interlocking motives for this data hunger: to target online advertising, and to train machine learning algorithms.

Advertising

Everyone is familiar with online advertising. Ads are served indirectly, based on real-time auctions … [more]
advertising  facebook  google  internet  politics  technology  apple  labor  work  machinelearning  security  democracy  california  taxes  engagement 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Hard for California to Calexit federal government | The Sacramento Bee
"California and some other parts of the U.S. are in different political orbits when it comes to presidential picks. But the nation’s largest state and the federal government are more deeply entwined than ever on tax, spending and other fiscal matters.

In the wake of the presidential victory by Republican Donald Trump – who lost to Democrat Hillary Clinton in California by nearly 4.3 million votes – some Golden State denizens have suggested more autonomy if not outright independence from the rest of the United States.

Little mention is made of the federal government’s major role in the lives of Californians, from the $47.5 billion in federal contracts awarded to state businesses and other recipients in federal fiscal year 2015, or the nearly $96 billion in federal funds in the current state budget, representing more than one-third of the budget total.

About 344,000 Californians work directly for the federal government, according to the most recent census data, paying state taxes and generating economic activity.

Some Trump supporters, meanwhile, have opined that the rest of the country would be better off without California and its Democratic-leaning electorate.

Yet those people rarely note that California, which represents about 12 percent of the country’s population, generated 13.5 percent of the total federal income tax payments in 2014, the most recent data available – the most of any state.

Compared to most other states, California generally has paid more to the federal government than it receives in federal spending.

A report last year by the New York Office of the Comptroller concluded that California received 99 cents in federal spending for every dollar it paid in federal taxes during the 2013 federal fiscal year, one of 11 states that received less federal money than they paid in taxes.

California, though, has outsized involvement in some federal programs. For example, the state has embraced the federal Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, opting to expand Medi-Cal to cover more than 3.5 million new participants.

If Trump and congressional Republicans follow through on their threat to repeal the law, annual federal funding for Medi-Cal would drop by more than $15 billion, according to the California Budget and Policy Center."
california  calexit  us  money  government  data  2016  taxes  healthcare  employment  obamacare  affordablecareact  medical  economics 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Prop 13: Winners and Losers From America's Legendary Taxpayer Revolt - Trulia's Blog
"Households in Most Expensive Cities Paying Lowest Property Tax Rates

What’s more, residents in cities with higher home values and a higher share of long-term residents pay the lowest effective property tax rates in the state. And for the most part, these cities lie in expensive coastal areas of the San Francisco Bay Area and Coastal Southern California. Median home values in each of the ten cities with the lowest effective property tax rates are all above $1.2 million. In addition, half of top 10 cities with the lowest effective property tax rates are in the heart of pricey Silicon Valley: Palo Alto, Millbrae, Los Altos, Burlingame, and Sunnyvale. Four are in Coastal Southern California – Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Laguna Beach, and Beverly Hills – while the last is the exclusive Central Coast town of Santa Barbara."
proposition13  california  property  taxes  inequality  housing  2016 
december 2016 by robertogreco
The California Ballot Measure That Inspired a Tax Revolt - The New York Times
[same video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pF4xnxk0Oas

"When Howard Jarvis declared that he was mad as hell about rising property taxes in California, he started a tax cutting movement that rolled across the nation. Thirty-eight years later, Jarvis's Proposition 13 is still on the books in California, but the debate over its consequences remains."]
proposition13  taxes  california  2016  1978  housing  policy  politics  history  howardjarvis  government 
october 2016 by robertogreco
California's Proposition 13 is bad policy, and here are some graphs to show you why
"Of course, California already has a handful of state laws that influence local land use, among them Proposition 13, the 1978 ballot measure that capped the state's property taxes and unleashed some very unfortunate effects for the young and the poor. On Monday, the California Legislative Analyst's Office released a delightfully graphical report that shows how Prop 13 has shaped life in California over the last 40 years, helping to enrich one generation in homeownership and impoverish the next in overpriced rental housing.

Prop 13 fixed the statewide property tax rate at 1 percent, and applied that millage to purchase price (plus a small annual rate of increase), rather than market value. That means that as home values have skyrocketed in California, property taxes have not. If you bought a home in California in 1980, the difference between the market value and assessed value of your home is, on average, $300,000. It has paid to stay put. Look how uneven tax collection rates are in one neighborhood of Los Angeles:

[graph]

That amounts to a giant, rent-control-sized subsidy to Californians who bought their homes a long time ago. (It's particularly sweet for Californians with big, expensive houses. Tax relief from Prop 13 aligns almost perfectly with household income.) It's one reason why the proportion of the state's properties that change hands each year fell from 16 percent in 1977 to under 6 in 2014. It's a seller's market.

More anecdotally, longtime homeowners are among the most stringent opponents of new housing. They're the ones lining up behind L.A.'s Neighborhood Integrity Initative.

Obviously, Prop 13 changed the way cities raise money. Property tax went from 90 percent of local revenue in the '70s to under two thirds today. What took its place? Hotel taxes, utility taxes, and new fees. Mostly, the highly regressive sales tax.

You can see that this creates some incentives for city planners. Zoning for a hotel, auto dealers, or strip malls is going to generate a lot more money than setting aside land for residential. But here, the LOA report punctures a common myth: It turns out that cities don't really favor other uses over residential. Cities more reliant on sales taxes are "at most, modestly more likely to prefer retail over other types of development."

Still, Prop 13 contributes to California's housing shortage in other ways. It seems to play a role in encouraging land-banking: It's very cheap to keep long-held land vacant, even if it has become extremely valuable. (Of course, another reason for this is that new buyers are more likely to have plans for vacant land.) That's ironic; since one argument against property taxes is that they discourage people from improving their land.

[graph]

More importantly, California cities have begun to use a host of fees on new development—like impact fees, parcel taxes, and special assessments—to compensate for foregone property tax revenue. These produce tens of thousands of dollars in new revenue per building permit, a cost that gets passed on to new buyers.

Sorry, young Californians: Your parents screwed you."

[See also: http://lao.ca.gov/Publications/Report/3497 ]
california  proposition13  housing  economics  plutocracy  2016  taxes  inequality  policy  politics 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Waste not want not: Sweden to give tax breaks for repairs | World news | The Guardian
"Government to tackle ‘throwaway culture’ by cutting VAT on fixing everything from bicycles to washing machines"
sweden  repair  maintenance  2016  via:anabjain  jugaad  throwaayculture  mending  taxes  government  policy 
september 2016 by robertogreco
The Earth Belongs to the Living | Online Only | n+1
"Yet for some reason, we find these proposals less jarring than a tax cut for, say, white men, even though they afford similar biological advantages. An inheritance is a reward, beyond the myriad benefits of having been raised wealthy, for one’s lineage. It ensures that economic power begets further economic power, in the literal sense of the word. Our society is fueled, by virtue of our tax code, by dynastic economics."



"What is, at its basest level, a biological imperative, can be transformed instead into the hallmark of a healthy society: the vested interest of its members in preserving that health beyond the span of their own lives. For what Friedman called irrationality is in fact humanity. And just as Friedman accused the student of having a limited conception of what it is that people value, he, too, suffered from a limited view.

A 100 percent inheritance tax is thus not desirable as a significant revenue generator for government or as a way of amassing power, but as a way of dispersing it, of preventing inherited wealth from corrupting our markets, and social, cultural, and political norms. As parents live their lives outside the narrow confines of economic self-interest, so too tax policy ought to reflect a view of the “decent system” in which they hope to establish their families as one that extends beyond material comfort, a more fully human way of improving the world in which their children live."
inheritance  2016  silpakovvali  economics  inequality  power  politics  taxes  policy 
july 2016 by robertogreco
The American Dream Is Alive in Finland - The Atlantic
"If the U.S. presidential campaign has made one thing clear, it’s this: The United States is not Finland. Nor is it Norway. This might seem self-evident. But America’s Americanness has had to be reaffirmed ever since Bernie Sanders suggested that Americans could learn something from Nordic countries about reducing income inequality, providing people with universal health care, and guaranteeing them paid family and medical leave.

“I think Bernie Sanders is a good candidate for president … of Sweden,” Marco Rubio scoffed. “We don’t want to be Sweden. We want to be the United States of America.”

“We are not Denmark,” Hillary Clinton clarified. “We are the United States of America. … [W]hen I think about capitalism, I think about all the small businesses that were started because we have the opportunity and the freedom in our country for people to do that and to make a good living for themselves and their families.”

Opportunity. Freedom. Independence. These words are bound up with American identity and the American Dream. The problem is that they’re often repeated like an incantation, with little reflection on the extent to which they still ring true in America, and are still exceptionally American.

Anu Partanen’s new book, The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life, argues that the freedom and opportunity Americans cherish are currently thriving more in Nordic countries than in the United States. (The Nordic countries comprise Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Finland.) But she also pushes back—albeit gently—against the trendy notion that Nordic countries are paradises.

Partanen is an unusual messenger. After all, her personal story is a testament to the Land of Opportunity’s enduring magnetism and vibrancy; she recently became a U.S. citizen, after moving from her native Finland to the United States in part because she felt she was more likely to find work as a journalist in New York City than her American husband was as a writer in Helsinki. But her time in America has also convinced her that Finland and its neighbors are doing a better job of promoting a 21st-century version of the American Dream than her adoptive country.

Partanen’s principal question is the following: What’s the best way for a modern society to advance freedom and opportunity? She explains that Nordic governments do so by providing social services that the U.S. government doesn’t—things like free college education and heavily subsidized child care. Within that big question, Partanen poses more pointed questions about contemporary life in the United States: Is “freedom” remaining in a job you hate because you don’t want to lose the health insurance that comes with it? Is “independence” putting your career on hold, and relying on your partner’s income, so you can take care of a young child when your employer doesn’t offer paid parental leave or day care is too expensive? Is “opportunity” depending on the resources of your parents, or a bundle of loans, to get a university degree? Is realizing the American Dream supposed to be so stressful?

“What Finland and its neighbors do is actually walk the walk of opportunity that America now only talks,” Partanen writes. “It’s a fact: A citizen of Finland, Norway, or Denmark is today much more likely to rise above his or her parents’ socioeconomic status than is a citizen of the United States.” The United States is not Finland. And, in one sense, that’s bad news for America. Numerous studies have shown that there is far greater upward social mobility in Nordic countries than in the United States, partly because of the high level of income inequality in the U.S.

In another sense, though, it’s perfectly fine to not be Finland. As Nathan Heller observed in The New Yorker, the modern Nordic welfare state is meant to “minimize the causes of inequality” and be “more climbing web than safety net.” Yet the system, especially in Sweden, is currently being tested by increased immigration and rising income inequality. And it’s ultimately predicated on a different—and not necessarily superior—definition of freedom than that which prevails in America. “In Sweden,” Heller argued, “control comes through protection against risk. Americans think the opposite: control means taking personal responsibility for risk and, in some cases, social status.”

Last week, I spoke with Partanen about what she feels Nordic countries have gotten right, where they’ve gone wrong, and why, if Finland is really so great, she’s now living in America. An edited and condensed transcript of our conversation follows.

Uri Friedman: You make an argument in the book that if you think about the American Dream in a certain way—if you define it in terms of opportunity, independence, and freedom—it is actually flourishing in the Nordic region more than in the United States. Why?

Anu Partanen: For a long time now, we’ve all, both in the United States and in Europe, thought that the United States is the land of freedom. For a long time, it was certainly true: American democracy was leading the way, the American middle class was the wealthiest. America was really the place where you could make your own life and you could decide who you wanted to be and pursue the dream.

When I moved to the United States in 2008, that was the idea I had. [But] when I came here, I was actually surprised [to learn that] people were very anxious. They were in many ways very dependent on their circumstances, the opposite of being a self-made woman or man. And a lot of this is related to family: if, [when] you were a child, your parents could provide opportunities, if they could offer you a life in a good neighborhood, offer you a life in a good school.

…"
culture  economics  europe  finland  us  policy  norway  denmark  sweden  iceland  freedom  independence  opportunity  denamrk  anupartanen  urifriedman  democracy  socialism  inequality  middleclass  income  incomeinequality  immigration  taxes  daycare  healthcare  health  qualityoflife  government  society  nathanheller  politics 
july 2016 by robertogreco
American Capitalism’s Great Crisis | TIME
"America’s economic problems go far beyond rich bankers, too-big-to-fail financial institutions, hedge-fund billionaires, offshore tax avoidance or any particular outrage of the moment. In fact, each of these is symptomatic of a more nefarious condition that threatens, in equal measure, the very well-off and the very poor, the red and the blue. The U.S. system of market capitalism itself is broken.

[…]

America’s economic illness has a name: financialization. It’s an academic term for the trend by which Wall Street and its methods have come to reign supreme in America, permeating not just the financial industry but also much of American business. It includes everything from the growth in size and scope of finance and financial activity in the economy; to the rise of debt-fueled speculation over productive lending; to the ascendancy of shareholder value as the sole model for corporate governance; to the proliferation of risky, selfish thinking in both the private and public sectors; to the increasing political power of financiers and the CEOs they enrich; to the way in which a “markets know best” ideology remains the status quo. Financialization is a big, unfriendly word with broad, disconcerting implications.

[…]

The changes were driven by the fact that in the 1970s, the growth that America had enjoyed following World War II began to slow. Rather than make tough decisions about how to bolster it (which would inevitably mean choosing among various interest groups), politicians decided to pass that responsibility to the financial markets. Little by little, the Depression-era regulation that had served America so well was rolled back, and finance grew to become the dominant force that it is today. The shifts were bipartisan, and to be fair they often seemed like good ideas at the time; but they also came with unintended consequences.

[…]

This sickness, not so much the product of venal interests as of a complex and long-term web of changes in government and private industry, now manifests itself in myriad ways: a housing market that is bifurcated and dependent on government life support, a retirement system that has left millions insecure in their old age, a tax code that favors debt over equity. Debt is the lifeblood of finance; with the rise of the securities-and-trading portion of the industry came a rise in debt of all kinds, public and private. That’s bad news, since a wide range of academic research shows that rising debt and credit levels stoke financial instability. And yet, as finance has captured a greater and greater piece of the national pie, it has, perversely, all but ensured that debt is indispensable to maintaining any growth at all in an advanced economy like the U.S., where 70% of output is consumer spending. Debt-fueled finance has become a saccharine substitute for the real thing, an addiction that just gets worse. (The amount of credit offered to American consumers has doubled in real dollars since the 1980s, as have the fees they pay to their banks.)

[…]

Remooring finance in the real economy isn’t as simple as splitting up the biggest banks (although that would be a good start). It’s about dismantling the hold of financial-oriented thinking in every corner of corporate America. It’s about reforming business education, which is still permeated with academics who resist challenges to the gospel of efficient markets in the same way that medieval clergy dismissed scientific evidence that might challenge the existence of God. It’s about changing a tax system that treats one-year investment gains the same as longer-term ones, and induces financial institutions to push overconsumption and speculation rather than healthy lending to small businesses and job creators. It’s about rethinking retirement, crafting smarter housing policy and restraining a money culture filled with lobbyists who violate America’s essential economic principles.

It’s also about starting a bigger conversation about all this, with a broader group of stakeholders. The structure of American capital markets and whether or not they are serving business is a topic that has traditionally been the sole domain of “experts”—the financiers and policymakers who often have a self-interested perspective to push, and who do so in complicated language that keeps outsiders out of the debate. When it comes to finance, as with so many issues in a democratic society, complexity breeds exclusion. "

[via: http://finalbossform.com/post/146159698129/americas-economic-problems-go-far-beyond-rich ]
ranafarhoo  culture  economics  us  capitalism  banking  taxes  accounting  policy  politics  finance  banks  hedgefunds  inequality  financialization  wallstreet  debt  speculation  interestgroups  corruption  government  instability  regulation  democracy  markets 
june 2016 by robertogreco
I'm an American living in Sweden. Here's why I came to embrace the higher taxes. - Vox
"It seems that Americans would rather have inaccessibility to public places and crumbling infrastructure than pay more in taxes, right? After all, every American seems to know that taxes in Sweden are high and that they want nothing to do with high.

My wife and I have been dividing our time between jobs in Sweden and Wisconsin for the past dozen years, and I'm here to tell you that taxes in Sweden are not that high. To my surprise, I found that there are lots of things to love about the Swedish tax system. Swedish taxes are easy to pay, rational, and efficient. Best of all, rather than take away opportunities, Swedish taxes expand them.

Here are six reasons I have come to love Swedish taxes."
sweden  taxes  economics  2016  scandinavia  healthcare  healthinsurance  policy  politics  freedom  choice 
may 2016 by robertogreco
I live in Denmark. Bernie Sanders’s Nordic dream is worth fighting for, even if he loses. - Vox
"There is no question that America — heck, the world — would be a better place if it more resembled the Scandinavia that Sanders evokes. Even I, a British transplant to Denmark and sometime-Scandiskeptic, can see that America is badly in need of a little Scandi-therapy. But Scandinavia doesn't offer a quick fix for what ails the United States — and in recent years even Scandinavia itself has been backing away from some of the qualities that Sanders praises it for.

Scandinavia is more equal than the States

In terms of economics, the gap between richest and poorest, measured by the Gini coefficient, is far smaller here than in the States; in terms of gender equality it has a greater proportion of women in the labor force and more women in positions of power, and there is absolutely no question that women should have the right to decide over the inhabitants of their own wombs. Sweden was recently ranked the best country in the world in which to live as a woman.

And Scandinavia is more equal in terms of opportunity. It is far easier for a working-class Scandinavian kid to achieve a university education and attain professional qualifications than it is for a child from a similar background in the USA. Social mobility is far, far better here than in the States. As I only slightly grudgingly conclude in my book The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia, these are the true lands of opportunity.

As Sanders rightly points out, America badly needs a dose of wealth redistribution. Rapidly spiraling poverty, unemployment, and homelessness with record repossessions, while billionaires pay 17 percent income tax? That doesn't tend to happen up here "beyond the wall."

Scandinavia's multi-party system works better than America's two-party system

America's political system would also benefit from a little Scandi-style transparency and multi-party consensus. Both help temper the extremes of political dogma that have afflicted the US political landscape. "But doesn't that lead to political stalemate?" I hear you ask. Like Washington, you mean? No, it's not that bad.

But really it all comes back to equality, the bedrock of the so-called Nordic miracle and Sanders's campaign mantra. The awkward truth about capitalism is that without proper equality of opportunity, the market cannot distribute wealth fairly or democratically, nor can it provide a safety net for the vulnerable. That's the role of government, and I'm afraid it requires everyone to pay their taxes.

But prosperous, Scandinavian-style societies don't happen overnight

Though Scandinavia has much to teach the world, sadly there is no quick fix to be found here. As with any region, Scandinavia has attained its current state of almost near perfection as a result of decades, perhaps centuries, of evolution, conflict, and change. The region is a product of its history, climate, and topography — not to mention of living so close to Germany and Russia.

You don't impose tax rates like these overnight; they creep up on you like bindweed without people really noticing until, whoops, you have five weeks of holiday a year and free health care, and young people are paid to go to university — but you are also paying more than half your income to the state.

You don't pick up democratic systems like this at the checkout. These levels of political and corporate transparency, devolution, equality, and accountability are formed following decades of debate and negotiation. Decent public transport takes long-term cross-party will; consensus politics require multiparty systems free of interference from large-scale corporate interest; effective labor relations are only possible if trade unions remain strong and are integrated into the decision-making process.

Even as Sanders praises Scandinavia, Scandinavia is becoming more and more like America

The great irony in all this is that while Sanders advocates Scandinavia as the default reset for America, the region itself is busy changing and reforming itself in the face of regional crises and global challenges — often making itself more American in the process.

In my book, I explain why these societies are so successful and happy — but I also spend some time explaining why Denmark, Sweden, and Norway (plus Finland and Iceland, for the full Nordic spread) are not the utopias the global media has made them out to be this past decade or so.

I live in Denmark of my own free will and find a great deal to admire about the Danes and the society they have built, but I felt there was a need for a counterbalance to the Scandimania that has characterized much of the reporting on Denmark and Scandinavia.

In many ways, Scandinavia has had enough of being Scandinavian. It has certainly had enough of socialism. As the Danish prime minister said in a recent speech at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, "I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy."

In many ways, Scandinavia has had enough of being Scandinavian. It has certainly had enough of socialism.

These days, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway are all mixed economies with relatively low corporation taxes, for instance. Many former state-run services are now privatized, and a large proportion of the population has private health care. Denmark regularly ranks high in global "ease of doing business" surveys, and Sweden in particular is currently experiencing impressive economic growth. Goldman Sachs recently bought a large stake in the Danish state energy company. Economies don't get much more mixed than that.

Some argue that high taxes are a disincentive to risk-taking and innovation and that generous welfare benefits engender a sense of complacency and entitlement, and I am sure there is some truth to this. There have been high-profile cases of able-bodied Danes playing the unemployment benefit system for years, and I once overheard a Danish parent complaining that her son's first choice of university did not have the surfing degree he wanted to take. Still, the region has given birth to a notable number of innovative global brands: Skype, Spotify, Novo Nordisk, Carlsberg, Ikea, and Lego to name just a few.

And Nordic governments are cutting back on their welfare states

Meanwhile, all of the Nordic governments have curbed the expansion of their welfare states over the past years to varying degrees, and many inhabitants of the region have opted out of their struggling state health and education systems. Politically, these countries began to move to the right 10 years ago, to the extent that far-right parties are now among the most popular with voters.

Neither do any of these countries have the "free" health care or "free" university tuition that Sanders wishes for. Bernie, let me tell you, we who live here pay for those free services with tax rates that would make your hair turn white. In Denmark I pay around 56 percent income tax, along with 25 percent retail tax, the highest energy taxes in the world, a veritable smorgasbord of property taxes, huge tariffs on alcohol and cars, and even a tax on air. (Soft ice cream is taxed based on its volume after the air is mixed in.)

And all of these countries have problems: Norway's oil income, upon which so much of its prosperity relies, has fallen off a cliff; like the teenager who advertised a house party on Facebook, the Swedes are now somewhat dismayed that tens of thousands of refugees and economic migrants have turned up on their front lawn; and with its own modest oil revenues dwindling, Denmark is facing up to the fact that the growth of its much-vaunted welfare state is no longer economically sustainable.

Believe me, get a Dane talking about the country's school system or to ask a Swede about immigration, and you will unleash a torrent of moans, gripes, and complaints that would make a New York cabbie blush. But — and it's a big "but" — all of these countries remain highly affluent, well-educated, free, democratic, "happy," and relatively equal. So that's why I'm rooting for Bernie and his vision for a more Scandinavian America."
denmark  socialism  scandinavia  2016  politics  policy  society  inequality  equality  welfare  sweden  norway  economics  taxes  berniesanders  transparency  accountability 
may 2016 by robertogreco
James Meek · Robin Hood in a Time of Austerity · LRB 18 February 2016
"How like the Middle Ages, if it were so. Behind the twisted rhetoric of a hardworking majority oppressed by a welfare-mad government, a modern version of the medieval world has been constructed, one where the real poor are taxed more heavily than the rich; where most of those who are not rich are burdened by an onerous roster of fees and monopolies levied by remote, unaccountable private landlords; and where many of us live out our lives shackled to an endless chain of private debt.

Since the Thatcher revolution in 1979, British governments have boasted of how they’ve lowered taxes. And they have, except for one section of society: the poorest 20 per cent. In 1977, the least well-off fifth of households paid 37 per cent of their gross income in direct taxes (like income tax) and indirect taxes (like VAT), against 38 per cent for the richest fifth. In 2014, the tax take from the poorest group had gone up to 37.8 per cent, while the taxes paid by the richest had gone down to less than 35 per cent.

Not only does this understate the extent of tax cuts for the top 1 per cent; it shows only part of the burden borne by the least well off. Piketty writes that ‘modern redistribution does not consist in transferring income from the rich to the poor, at least not in so explicit a way. It consists rather in financing public services and replacement incomes that are more or less equal for everyone, especially in the areas of health, education and pensions.’ This is a very cautious definition of the modern social state. Health, education and social security make up the lion’s share of public spending, but they’re intimately linked to a wider set of networks that includes energy, water and transport and, some would argue, should include housing. What these networks have in common is that society has decided they’re essential, and therefore should be universal – that is, we think everyone should have access to them, all the time. The significance of this is that, on the one hand, society takes on itself the obligation to give its poorest members access to these networks, which they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford; and, on the other, payment to use these networks, if it isn’t funded out of general taxation, becomes in itself a tax, particularly when that network is a monopoly. In Britain, many of these universal networks, such as electricity and water, have been privatised, often twice – once to put them on the stock market, once to put them into the hands of overseas owners. Bills for these services have increased faster than inflation, and take little account of people’s ability to pay. It is the poorest, then, who as well as paying the heaviest combination of indirect and direct taxation bear the brunt of such hybrid public-private taxes as the water tax and the electricity tax.

Other universal networks, such as health and education, haven’t been privatised, but have been through another process that makes them ripe for the introduction of flat fees for usage in future. This process really got going under Labour, and it is a sign of the liberal left’s failure to recognise what it has done that there isn’t a name for it. One word to describe it might be ‘autonomisation’ – the process by which state-run bodies continue to be funded by the state but are run autonomously on a non-profit basis. So state secondary schools become academies, NHS hospitals become NHS foundation trusts, and council estates are transferred to housing associations. The British state is in a condition of rolling abdication, leaving behind a partly privatised, partly autonomised set of universal networks, increasingly run by absentee landlords in the form of global companies and overseas corporate investors, that is disproportionately funded by the poorest payers of taxes, fees and duties, many of whom are also deep in debt.

There is a cynical view which says that as long as the majority of the population feel they’re doing all right, a democratically elected government is safe to squeeze the poor and pamper the rich. But cynicism is a risky thing to rely on when a government is simultaneously cutting spending and shedding control of the universal networks on which its entire population relies. As Hobsbawm writes in Bandits, ‘concentration of power in the modern territorial state is what eventually eliminated rural banditry, endemic or epidemic. At the end of the 20th century it looks as though this situation might be coming to an end, and the consequences of this regression of state power cannot yet be foreseen.’ We’re a long way from the return of the literal outlaw to Nottinghamshire. But we need to remember the insight given our ancestors when they saw through the illusion of the Robin Hood myth, when they saw that the strongbox of silver coins wasn’t just money stolen from each of them individually, but power robbed from them collectively, and that they needed to wield that power collectively as much as they needed their money back. For sure, freedom to choose is a grand thing, and the market will try to help you exercise it. With a bit of money in the bank, a middle-class family might choose to send their child to private school, provided by the market; but that same family can’t choose to build and maintain a universal education network by itself, and the market won’t provide it. With money, you can choose to buy a car, and the market will provide it; but you can’t choose, all by yourself, to build and maintain a universal road network, and the market won’t provide it. To make and keep universal networks requires the authority of the state, an authority that has been absent; and it’s hard to see where that authority might come from if the people don’t find a way to assert their kingship."
2016  jamesmeek  capitalism  politics  policy  welfare  poor  class  rich  wealthdistribution  inequality  taxes  taxation  health  education  thomaspiketty  neoliberalism  autonomization  housing  uk  finance  davidcameron  margaretthatcher  ronaldreagan  stephenharper  us  canada  australia  marcorubio  georgeosborne  power  money  economics  labor  erichobsbawm  government  markets  universalnetworks  infrastructure  via:anabjain 
april 2016 by robertogreco
I Used to Be In Love With Hillary Clinton | theindependentthinker2016
"I used to be in love with Hillary Clinton.

These days, not so much.

It always hurts when you allow yourself to be duped.

I didn’t really know Hillary.

I projected my wants onto her.

I believed that she represented me and when I found out that she didn’t it hurt.

I’ve moved on and I sincerely hope others will learn the things that I did.

I do not believe that Hillary supporters are bad people.

I believe they are just like I was.

Life is busy.

Who has time to research politicians.

Pretty lies are more fun than ugly truths.



But I can’t support someone who has done the things she has done.

Maybe you will think I am just a scorned, former lover.

All I know is that the more I learned, the more it hurt me to see someone with so many people looking up to her, do things that hurt so many.

I cannot vote for Hillary Clinton.

I cannot live with blood on my hands."
2016  hillaryclinton  us  politics  policy  corruption  money  campaignfinance  tpp  prisonindustrialcomplex  inequality  welfare  taxes  unions  labor  walmart  monsanto  climatechange  arms  miltary  democrats  podestagroup  childlabor  wallstreet  finance  racism  doma  iraq  history  libya  syria  campaigning  vicitmblaming  gender  feminism 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Universities Are Becoming Billion-Dollar Hedge Funds With Schools Attached | The Nation
" Students are beginning to urge divestment."



"All told, hedge funds have over $3 trillion worth of assets under management globally. In theory, they exist to provide a “hedge” to protect investor portfolios in tough times. Hedging, seen in this light, is simply one investment strategy among many. In practice, however, they are alternative investment vehicles that tend to be housed offshore to avoid oversight and taxes, which means they are largely unregulated, face minimal disclosure requirements, and can engage in all sorts of risky bets and market manipulations.

Not long ago universities were, in the words of one report, “careful stewards of endowment income” and avoided such shenanigans. In the early seventies Harvard and Yale spearheaded committees on investor responsibility and devised ethical investment policies for endowments that considered things like social impact. In the nineties things began to change. Many schools, private and public, have become high-risk gamblers, with finance overtaking fundraising as the main engine of endowment growth. A more aggressive approach to investing paid off—until the economy melted down and caused some endowments to lose up to 30 percent of their value.

But experts and activists have other concerns. Some commentators, for example, are troubled by public tax-exempt educational institutions doing business with companies notorious for dodging taxes in offshore havens. More generally, tax exemption is a giant government subsidy that disproportionately benefits elite schools (the ones that attract the biggest donations and earn the largest investment returns), thus further polarizing an educational system already separated into haves and have-nots.

And it gets worse. In a report called “Educational Endowments and the Financial Crisis,” Joshua Humphreys, president and senior fellow at Croatan Institute points to an even more disturbing consequence of risky investment practices. By embracing speculative trading tactics, exotic derivatives, hedge funds and private equity, “endowments played a role in magnifying certain systemic risks in the capital markets,” Humphreys writes. What’s more, their initial success encouraged other institutional investors (think pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, and foundations) to follow in their footsteps, amplifying the system’s overall volatility and instability. In other words, endowments were not just innocent victims of the 2008 financial crisis, but actually helped enable it.

“Hedge funds, as they were initially conceived, have a potential role to play in a long-term endowment seeking to ‘hedge’ certain risks,” Humphreys told me, making clear he’s hesitant to write them off entirely. “But their arbitrarily high fee structures, the excessive compensation of their managers, and their deliberate evasion of taxes and transparency make hedge funds easy targets for stakeholders rightly concerned about the simmering crisis of higher education today.”"



" The time has come for students to connect the dots between ballooning student debt, the poor treatment of campus workers, and the obscene wealth of hedge fund oligarchs. Once they do, they can fight back by following in the footsteps of recent mobilizations against the financial sector. In 2013, a group called Kick Wall Street Off Campus forced Minnesota’s Macalester College to move some, though not all, of its money out of Wells Fargo to protest the bank’s role in community foreclosures. In June of last year, Santa Cruz County pulled together to get its money out of five giant banks—including Citicorp and JPMorgan Chase and Barclays—that pleaded guilty in the spring to felony charges that they rigged the world’s foreign-currency market. Similar campaigns could easily be waged against university endowment partnerships with hedge funds.

Of course, kicking hedge funds of campus won’t solve the college crisis or instantly reform the financial sector. Nevertheless, targeting hedge funds remains a promising tactic for uniting students and workers against hedge funds’ efforts to increase inequality, and using our tuition dollars and public subsidies to do so. This tactic would be especially effective at public institutions where divestment campaigns should be coupled with calls for increased state funding for higher education and better pay for low-wage workers.

“It’s easy to feel powerless, but hedge funds need university endowments, just like they also need public pensions. If that money was taken away, it would really affect them,” Strain says, and he’s right. Campus divestment movements have a proven track record, going back to campaigns against Apartheid in the 1980s. Over the last few years, climate activists have pressured school trustees to divert trillions of dollars from fossil fuels, and last year Columbia became the first university to divest from private prisons. Hedge funds deserve to be next on the chopping block."
astrataylor  education  neoliberalism  2016  universities  colleges  endowments  divestment  finance  politics  money  hedgefunds  highered  highereducation  nonprofit  taxes  taxation  funding  inequality  ivyleague  harvard  princeton  stanford  yalconflisctsofinterest  nonprofits 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Why Harvard should be taxed ["Harvard is a 'hedge fund with a university attached to it'"] - Business Insider
"“The joke about Harvard is that it’s a hedge fund with a university attached to it,” Mark Schneider tells me. It’s a quip that, for obvious reasons, has become pretty popular in recent years.

In 2014, the university’s legendary endowment, overseen by a team of in-house experts and spread across a mind-bending array of investments that range from stocks and bonds to California wine vineyards, hit $36.4 billion.

“They’re just collecting tons, and tons, and tons of money,” says Schneider, a former Department of Education official who is currently a fellow at the American Institutes for Research.

Of course, normal hedge funds have to pay taxes on their earnings. Because it’s a nonprofit, Harvard doesn’t. And since bestowing tax exemptions is the same as spending cash from the government’s perspective (budgeteers call them “tax expenditures” for a reason), that means the American public effectively subsidizes Harvard’s moneymaking engine.

The same goes for Stanford (endowment: $21.4 billion), Princeton (endowment: $21 billion), Yale (endowment$23.9 billion), and the country’s other elite institutions of higher education.

Aiding wealthy research universities that cater to largely affluent undergraduates might have been acceptable in a more flush era. But at a time when state colleges are still suffering from deep budget cuts that have driven up tuition and politicians are stretching for ways to make school more affordable for middle-class students, clawing back some of that cash to spend on needier schools is starting to sound awfully appealing. Which is why it might just be time to start taxing Harvard and its cohort.

This isn’t a new idea by any stretch—in 2008, lawmakers in Massachusetts considered slapping a 2.5 percent tax on large university endowments—but Schneider has made an especially intriguing case for it."



"Another quandary: Today, the government generally doesn’t tax savings. It taxes income. So why take a cut of wealth from colleges when we don’t do it to individuals? As Kim Rueben, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, put it to me, “We’re going to tax Harvard, but we’re not going to tax Warren Buffet?”

And, of course, there might be unintended consequences. Even with write-offs for financial aid, taxing endowments could encourage schools to spend less on things society generally likes, such as new research labs. The government could tax schools and require them to spend a minimum amount, which is how it treats private foundations. But then you have to consider to what creative lengths Harvard might go to avoid the IRS.

Cutting down the tax advantages of rich schools, obviously, would not be simple. But it still worth seriously considering the idea. Maybe we should consider taxing the Met as well. Maybe the government could stick to what it knows and tax Harvard’s capital gains instead of its whole endowment. Maybe we could learn to live with a little tax avoidance. However we choose to do it, I think we’d all like to spend a little less money sending other people’s kids to Harvard."
colleges  highered  highereducation  nonprofit  universities  money  finance  taxes  taxation  funding  inequality  ivyleague  harvard  endowments  princeton  stanford  yale  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  government  hedgefunds  jordanweissmann  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  nonprofits  capitalism  power  control 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Why Philanthropy Hurts Rather Than Helps Some of the World's Worst Problems | The Progressive
"In America today, big time philanthropists are often lauded for helping to even the playing field for those less fortunate. Every week, millionaires flock from TED conferences to "idea festivals" sharing viral new presentations on how to solve the world's biggest problems (give village children computers, think positive thoughts etc.). But this acceptance of the philanthropic order was not always the case. In the era of Carnegie and Rockefeller, for instance, many distrusted these philanthropic barons, arguing they had no right to horde would-be tax dollars for their own pet causes, especially since these "donations" came from the toil of the workers beneath them.

In her new book No Such Thing As A Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy Linsey McGoey reasserts this challenge to the legitimacy of philanthropy in today's new era of philanthropic superstars. McGoey’s book investigates the Gates Foundation’s interventions in US K-12 education and global health, raising serious concerns about the extent to which the massive philanthropic sector depletes funding for traditional social services and prioritizes the agendas of unelected foundation leaders.

As institutions like the Gates Foundation take increasingly leading roles in policymaking and governance, McGoey argues, the line between traditional notions of charity and top-down consolidation of power becomes unclear; and with this largely unchecked influence, philanthro-capitalists, like Bill Gates, have pushed countries across the world to accept market based solutions for crises like education inequity and disease proliferation—despite evidence that these problems are often rooted in actions taken by those philanthro-capitalists themselves.

No Such Thing As A Free Gift asks, what is the place of such philanthropy in a democratic society? The answer seems to be “none at all.”

Q: You start the book by putting the rise of today's "philanthrocapitalists," like Bill Gates, into historical context. Could you explain what philanthrocapitalism is and what is actually new about it? How do the Bill Gateses of today compare to the Carnegies and Rockefellers of old?

A: The term philanthrocapitalism was coined by Matthew Bishop, an editor at the Economist and expanded in a 2008 book co-written with Michael Green. They define the term in two key ways: First, they argue that philanthropy is becoming more business-like and results-oriented, with donors increasingly applying the profit motive to giving practices.

Secondly, they suggest that capitalism is a ”naturally” philanthropic practice, and therefore grants should be aimed at helping the private sector to solve social problems. Bill Gates has never called himself a philanthrocapitaist, but people like Bishop and Green see him as an exemplar of the trend.

What’s not new about the ”new” philanthropy is the emphasis on cost-effectiveness and strategic giving. Champions of philanthrocapitalism exhibit quite astounding historical amnesia when it comes to the history of large foundations such as Carnegie and Rockefeller, which were modelled on the corporate structures of their founders’ businesses. Results-oriented, strategic philanthropy is a modern phenomenon, but it can be dated to the turn of the 20th-century and the late Gilded Age, not to the start of the 21st century.

Q: There was a recent hullabaloo about Mark Zuckerberg's public announcement that he was going to "give away" 99% of his Facebook shares to charity—which turned out to actually mean a LLC under his control and exempt from non-profit rules against political expenditures and profit-making. Do you think Zuckerberg genuinely understands this as charity? And if so, is this profit-oriented "giving" a major new trend in the philanthropic sector?

A: Through setting up an LLC, Zuckerberg has skirted any requirements to publicly list any grants made to either for-profits or non-profits. His giving can take place in total secrecy: we’ll know only about the grants that he wishes to disclose. When an entity such as the Gates Foundation offers grants to for-profit corporations, it needs to legally exercise "expenditure responsibility," which means that it needs to take measures to ensure that the grant is used for charitable ends, rather than private profiteering. There are no such restrictions on Zuckerberg’s LLC.

Zuckerberg can legally offer the bulk of his "philanthropy" to any for-profit recipients he wants and still receive public acclaim for "gifting" his fortune. We’re seeing the rise of a new, horizontal philanthropy—the rich giving directly to the rich—at a level that’s completely unprecedented.

I think the entire meaning of "corporate philanthropy" is shifting. It once meant corporations surrendering a portion of their revenues to non-profits. Now the meaning is reversed: corporate philanthropy means getting charity to for-profits that position themselves, however disingenuously, as deserving charity claimants.

Q: Though American wealth inequality is at its greatest since the Great Depression, today's philanthropic titans receive much less skepticism from the public than they did in years past. Both Rockefeller and Gates were entangled in some of the most high-profile anti-trust cases in U.S. history. Yet while Bill Gates tops some of today's most admired celebrity surveys, Rockefeller faced so much hostility that he was forced to register his charity in New York State instead of at the federal level. What accounts for the huge shift in the public's mind?

A; Something that separates today’s donors from famous benefactors of the past is that the bloodiest, most fatal effects of wealth extraction have been largely outsourced to developing regions, where brutal labor battles occur regularly but are less visible and therefore less salient for consumers in the west. When Andrew Carnegie, the steel baron, first called for the wealthy to spend their fortunes on the poor, his workers were engaged in very visible struggles over harsh working conditions at Carnegie’s steel plants. These workers had a high degree of public support. Thus, while his philanthropic benefactors did curry some public favor, there was widespread skepticism over the motivations of his charitable giving.

Also, high-profile, 19th-century authors such as Oscar Wilde and Charles Dickens often wrote essays and fiction that satirized and denounced the way that philanthropy seemed to entrench inequalities rather than dissipate them. That literary thread seems almost absent today.

Q: In the book, you document how philanthrocapitalism is seeking to make both charities and public sector institutions run more like corporations, both in structure (with the seeding of for-profit "social enterprises") and operation (as in the case of teacher evaluation reform). What is gained and lost in this approach?

A: It’s very obvious there’s been a considerable shift in how donors, particularly at large foundations, understand and measure their own impact. Garry Jenkins, a law professor at Ohio State, has done important work here, showing how large foundations such as the Gates Foundation increasingly refuse to accept ”open-door” proposals from smaller non-profits: returning again and again to proven recipients. This tendency is undermining genuine competition.

Grantees feel increasingly burdened by unreasonable expectations and short turnarounds for demonstrating a gift’s impact. The education sector in the United States has gone through upheaval after upheaval as schools and school districts try and meet the mercurial demands of donors who are themselves accountable to no one other than a foundation’s trustees or board of directors.

Q: In a review for The New Republic, Dana Goldstein asserts that your book wrongly insinuates the Gates Foundation's philanthropic work is about laying the ground for Bill Gates' own financial gain. This seems to be a misreading of your book's entire premise, which argues that the philanthrocapitalists seek to solve problems of social inequality through market expansion—not because of their own "lust for profit" but because of a sincere faith in unbridled capitalism. Could you clarify the significance of this distinction with specific reference to the Gates Foundations' work?

A: My main argument is not that Gates is trying to position himself to profit personally. My point is that he’s overly sanguine about the value of positioning and helping other elite actors to benefit financially from his own giving. His foundation has offered tens of millions in non-repayable grants to some of the world’s largest corporations, including Mastercard and Scholastic. In email interviews, a spokesperson for the Gates Foundation suggested to me that any giving to for-profits is in keeping with IRS regulations which stipulate that grants must be used solely for charitable gain. But clearly the foundation’s giving is used in a highly commercial manner by recipients such as Mastercard.

U.S. taxpayers subsidize philanthropic foundations such as the Gates Foundation through displaced tax revenue. I’d like to see more media and congressional scrutiny over whether the Gates Foundation’s charity towards Mastercard is really a fair use of taxpayer money. I also worry about the precedent that is being set. If the Gates Foundation can offer a gift to Mastercard, there’s nothing stopping the Koch brothers from directly subsidizing any corporation they want—as long as they can argue that the gift was in line with their own charitable mandate.

Q: In the book you grapple with one tenet of this faith in business: the idea that the "data-driven" and "market-based" philanthropic efforts of today are far more efficient and productive than social services provided by the government. Is this true? What are the numbers on who philanthropy helps today and who it costs in lieu of tax revenue?

A: Scholars like Robert B. Reich place the yearly cost to the U.S. treasury at $40 billion—this is what overall deductions… [more]
georgejoseph  2015  philanthropy  philanthrocapitalism  charitableindustrialcomplex  gatesfoundation  billgates  melindagates  schools  education  policy  democracy  power  lindseymcgoey  interviews  fosterfries  robertreich  robberbarons  charity  taxes  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  capitalism  control 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Mark Zuckerberg and the Rise of Philanthrocapitalism - The New Yorker
"The announcement, on Tuesday, by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, that, during their lifetimes, they will donate to philanthropic causes roughly ninety-nine per cent of their Facebook stock, which is currently valued at close to forty-five billion dollars, has already prompted a lot of comment, much of it positive. That is understandable. The fact that Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and a number of other billionaires are pledging their fortunes to charity rather than seeking to pass them down to their descendants is already having an impact.

Last year, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which was founded in 2000, dispensed almost four billion dollars in grants. A big slug of this money went toward fighting diseases like H.I.V., malaria, polio, and tuberculosis, which kill millions of people in poor countries. Zuckerberg and Chan have also already donated hundreds of millions of dollars to various causes, including eradicating the Ebola virus. In their latest announcement, which they presented as an open letter to their newborn daughter, on Zuckerberg’s Facebook page, they said that the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the new philanthropic organization that they are setting up, would focus on “advancing human potential and promoting equality.”

It’s not just the size of the donations that the wealthy are making that demands attention, though. Charitable giving on this scale makes modern capitalism, with all of its inequalities and injustices, seem somewhat more defensible. Having created hugely successful companies that have generated almost unimaginable wealth, Zuckerberg, Gates, and Buffett are sending a powerful message to Wall Street hedge-fund managers, Russian oligarchs, European industrialists, Arab oil sheiks, and anybody else who has accumulated a vast fortune: “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”

Speaking at Harvard in 2007, Gates attributed this quotation to his dying mother. (A slightly different version of it appears in St. Luke’s gospel.) In 2010, Gates and Buffett challenged fellow members of the ultra-rich club to give away at least half of their wealth. Since then, more than a hundred billionaires have signed the “Giving Pledge.” Some of these mega-donors, such as Buffett, are content to let others direct their donations. (In 2006, he signed over much of his fortune to the Gates Foundation.) Increasingly, however, wealthy people are setting up their own philanthropic organizations and pursuing their own causes—a phenomenon that has been called “philanthrocapitalism.”

That is the positive side. It is also worth noting, however, that all of this charitable giving comes at a cost to the taxpayer and, arguably, to the broader democratic process. If Zuckerberg and Chan were to cash in their Facebook stock, rather than setting it aside for charity, they would have to pay capital-gains tax on the proceeds, money that could be used to fund government programs. If they willed their wealth to their descendants, then sizable estate taxes would become due on their deaths. By making charitable donations in the form of stock, they, and their heirs, could escape both of these levies.

The size and timing of the tax benefits to Zuckerberg and Chan are uncertain, but they are likely to be large. In the initial version of this post, based on the open letter Zuckerberg and Chan posted on his Facebook page, and on the opinions of several tax experts, I said that the couple, in donating stock to the new philanthropic organization, would gain immediate tax credits equal to the market value of the stock, some of which could be rolled over into future tax years. Typically, that is what happens when a rich person donates stock to a family foundation or to certain types of L.L.C.s constituted for philanthropic purposes, such as ones owned by family foundations.

On Wednesday, in a follow-up post on Facebook, Zuckerberg provided more details about the couple’s plans. Evidently, the L.L.C. that he and Chan are setting up will not be seeking tax-exempt status. “By using an LLC instead of a traditional foundation, we receive no tax benefit from transferring our shares to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, but we gain flexibility to execute our mission more effectively,” Zuckerberg wrote. “In fact, if we transferred our shares to a traditional foundation, then we would have received an immediate tax benefit, but by using an LLC we do not.”

Even if the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative doesn’t obtain tax-exempt status, over time its activities will most likely have a big impact on the taxes its founders pay. The I.R.S. treats ordinary L.L.C.s as “pass-through” structures, and shifting financial assets to such entities doesn’t usually generate any immediate credits or liabilities. But whenever the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative issues grants to nonprofit organizations, it will almost certainly do so by donating some of its Facebook stock, and that will generate tax credits for Zuckerberg and Chan equal to the market value of the stock at that time. As the years go by and the Initiative steps up its charitable activities, these credits seem likely to add up to very large sums.

Unlike a regular family foundation, the L.L.C. may also generate some tax liabilities for Zuckerberg and Chan. If it invested in a commercial enterprise, such as an online-learning company, taxes would be owed on any profits the investment generated. And if, as Zuckerberg also pointed out, the L.L.C. sold some of the Facebook shares that he and Chan have donated to it, they would have to pay capital-gains taxes on the proceeds. But since the couple will control the L.L.C., they will be able to decide how it finances itself, and whether it sells any stock.”

If what Zuckerberg is doing were an isolated example, it wouldn’t matter much for over-all tax revenues. But the practice is spreading at a time when the distribution of wealth is getting ever more lopsided, which means the actions of a small number of very rich people can have a bigger impact. In 2012, according to

By transferring almost all of their fortunes to philanthropic organizations, billionaires like Zuckerberg and Gates are placing some very large chunks of wealth permanently outside the reaches of the Internal Revenue Service. That means the country’s tax base shrinks. As yet, I haven’t seen any estimates of the over-all cost to the Treasury, but it’s an issue that can’t be avoided. And it raises the broader question, which the economists Thomas Piketty and Anthony Atkinson, among others, have raised, of whether we need a more comprehensive tax on wealth.

Arguably, there is another issue at stake, too: democracy.

Although organizations like the Gates Foundation portray themselves as apolitical, nonpartisan entities, they aren’t completely removed from politics. Far from it. The Gates Foundation, for example, has been a big financial supporter of charter schools, standardized testing, and the Common Core. (It has also given some money to public schools.) Zuckerberg, too, has also provided a lot of money to charter schools. They featured prominently in his costly and controversial effort to reform the public-school system in Newark, New Jersey, which Dale Russakoff wrote about in the magazine last year. In the letter posted on Facebook, Zuckerberg signalled that he isn’t done with such efforts. “We must participate in policy and advocacy to shape debates,” the letter said. “Many institutions are unwilling to do this, but progress must be supported by movements to be sustainable.”

My intention, here, isn’t to enter the education debate. It is simply to point out what should be obvious: people like Zuckerberg and Gates, by virtue of their philanthropic efforts, can have a much bigger say in determining policy outcomes than ordinary citizens can. (As Matthew Yglesias pointed out on Vox, one of the advantages of registering the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as an L.L.C. is that it can spend money on political ads.) The more money billionaires give to their charitable foundations, which in most cases remain under their personal control, the more influence they will accumulate. And relatively speaking, anyway, the less influence everybody else will have.

Some Americans—not all of them disciples of Ayn Rand—might say that this is a good thing. I have already cited some of the Gates Foundation’s good works. Isn’t Michael Bloomberg, with his efforts to reform gun laws, promoting the public interest? Isn’t George Soros, through his donations to civil-rights organizations, lining up on the side of the angels? In these two instances, my own answers would be yes and yes; but the broader point stands. The divide between philanthropy and politics is already fuzzy. As the “philanthrocapitalism” movement gets bigger, this line will be increasingly hard to discern.

So by all means, let us praise Zuckerberg and Chan for their generosity. And let us also salute Gates, who started the trend. But contrary to the old saying, this is one gift horse we should look closely in the mouth."

[via: http://hackeducation.com/2015/12/23/trends-business/ ]
philanthrocapitalism  charitableindustrialcomplex  2015  facebook  markzuckerberg  johncassidy  philanthropy  influence  corruption  democracy  power  charity  capitalism  gatesfoundation  taxes  billgates  thomaspiketty  inequality  anthonyatkinson  dalerussakoff  newjersey  education  michaelbloomberg  georgesoros  priscillachan  warrenbuffett  policy  politics  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  control 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Silicon Valley’s New Philanthropy - The New York Times
"THE enduring credo of Silicon Valley is that innovation, not money, is its guiding purpose and that world-changing technology is its true measure of worth.

Wealth is treated as a pleasant byproduct, a bit like weight loss after rugged adventure travel.

The tech world is home to some of the planet’s wealthiest entrepreneurs and most dynamic philanthropists, 21st-century heirs to Carnegie and Rockefeller who say they can apply the same ingenuity and zeal that made them rich to making the rest of the world less poor. San Francisco also has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the nation, with the wealth distortion most concentrated among the very people who are driving the economy as a whole.

A similar paradox seeps into philanthropy. Tech entrepreneurs believe their charitable giving is bolder, bigger and more data-driven than anywhere else — and in many ways it is. But despite their flair for disruption, these philanthropists are no more interested in radical change than their more conservative predecessors. They don’t lobby for the redistribution of wealth; instead, they see poverty and inequality as an engineering problem, and the solution is their own brain power, not a tithe.

As Marc Andreessen, the venture capitalist and philanthropist who invested in, among other things, Twitter and Airbnb, put it in a Twitter post: “Thanks to Airbnb, now anyone with a house or apartment can offer a room for rent. Hence, income inequality reduced.”

Increasingly, though, idealistic tech leaders find themselves giving back to a world that complains that they took too much in the first place. The skepticism is all the more wounding because some tech luminaries ardently believe their businesses can solve social ills."



"But second-guessing in Silicon Valley is a pesky inevitability. As Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, put it at a Vanity Fair tech conference in San Francisco in October, “Basically, everything impactful you want to do has some controversy.”

In Silicon Valley, there is pious disdain for Wall Street’s showy, status-seeking ways of giving. “The primary reason my wife and I give to charity is to accomplish some change in the world,” said Elie Hassenfeld, who quit his job at a hedge fund to help create GiveWell, a San Francisco-based charity-evaluating service that guides the philanthropical choices of, among others, Dustin Moskovitz, one of the founders of Facebook. “We don’t attend galas or give to my alma mater.”

Those may not be such big distinctions. “There is a bit of delusion in Silicon Valley that they are not like the other rich because their technology is ‘making the world a better place,’ ” said Steve Hilton, a former aide to Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain and a co-founder of Crowdpac.com, a political start-up. “But McDonald’s and Walmart also think that their businesses help society. Walmart says it lowers the cost of living for poor families. All corporations think they are having a positive impact.”"



"“The techno-utopianism of hackers has already transformed our lives,” Mr. Parker wrote. “But the greatest contribution that hackers make to society may be yet to come — if we are willing to retain the intellectual and creative spirit that got us this far.”

Bay Area nonprofits pride themselves on efficiency and “scalability,” applying sophisticated metrics to assess the success of social programs. Give Directly, for example, is a charity that uses cellphones to give unconditional cash transfers to poor people in Africa without government bureaucracy, corruption or costly overhead. The program relied on a 2013 study in rural Kenya that used satellites to distinguish thatched roofs from tin ones, because villagers with thatched roofs are poorer. It also monitored how the income was spent and even how it made recipients feel: the villagers’ saliva was collected to see if their cortisol levels decreased, a sign of reduced stress. The report concludes: “We document a 0.19SD increase in happiness.”

Back home, happiness is in the eye of the beholder. “There’s a lot of giving and impact investment and caring, but those people are not looking to change the fundamental rules of how power operates,” said Michael Gast, a consultant for social justice nonprofits in Oakland.

The disaffection isn’t merely manifested in a few protesters blocking Google shuttle buses or in Tesla-hating, or in labor unions fighting the “sharing economy.” Nor is it just the economists who complain that tech companies like Google and Facebook are monopolies — the Standard Oils of the moment.

Academics and relief workers have been grumbling for a while about so-called philanthrocapitalists who try to micromanage their giving. The writer David Rieff questions the tech-centric approach to fighting global poverty of the Gates Foundation in a new book, “The Reproach of Hunger.” In “The Prize,” the journalist Dale Russakoff looks at what went wrong with Mr. Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to Newark to resurrect its schools.

And the transformative power of Silicon Valley is slapped down by one of its own in “Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change From the Cult of Technology,” written by a Microsoft apostate, Kentaro Toyama.

Rob Reich, a political-science professor at Stanford who is also a co-director of the Stanford Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society, notes that the tax deduction that comes with a billionaire’s grant to charter schools is essentially money that won’t be spent on public schools, calling Silicon Valley largess “an exercise of power that is unaccountable, nontransparent and tax-subsidized.”

While tech titans champion efforts to strengthen the social safety net for the most disadvantaged, many express less concern for the stagnating middle class. Alec Ross, who was an innovation adviser to Hillary Rodham Clinton when she was secretary of state and is the author of “The Industries of the Future,” notes that entrepreneurs privately complain about workers, skilled and unskilled, who haven’t kept pace with the new tech-based economy.

“You hear derision for the working- and middle-class people who think that their education ends at the age of 22,” Mr. Ross said. “People who want their work to stay the same without doing anything to improve themselves.”

Nor is there much talk in these circles about taxing the rich to even the playing field. A few tech billionaires like Reed Hastings, a Netflix founder, have said they support raising taxes on the wealthy. There are many more who don’t publicly oppose a tax increase but feel they are paying plenty already. There is also a libertarian streak in parts of Silicon Valley that allows some to believe they can spend their tax dollars better than the government ever will.

There are, of course, some in Silicon Valley who blend tech savoir faire with old-school Carnegie-style philanthropy."
philanthropy  2015  siliconvalley  technolosolutionism  charity  nonprofits  inequality  middleclass  marbenioff  marcandreesen  marksukerberg  billgates  gatesfoundation  wallstreet  seanparker  economics  taxes  taxation  robreich  nonprofit 
november 2015 by robertogreco
The Thriving World, the Wilting World, and You — Medium
"We are a community branded as leaders living through this revolutionary moment, living through this extreme winning and extreme losing. It falls on us to ask the tough questions about it.

But we here in Aspen are in a bit of a tight spot.

Our deliberations about what to do about this extreme winning and losing are sponsored by the extreme winners. This community was formed by stalwarts of American capitalism; today we sit in spaces named after Pepsi (as in the beverage) and Koch (as in the brothers); our discussion of Martin Luther King and Omelas is sponsored by folks like Accenture, David Rubenstein and someone named Pom; we are deeply enmeshed and invested in the establishment and systems we are supposed to question. And yet we are a community of leaders that claims to seek justice. These identities are tricky to reconcile.

Today I want to challenge how we reconcile them. There is no consensus on anything here, as any seminar participant knows. But I believe that many of our discussions operate within what I will call the “Aspen Consensus,” which, like the “Washington Consensus” or “Beijing Consensus,” describes a nest of shared assumptions within which diverse ideas hatch. The “Aspen Consensus” demarcates what we mostly agree not to question, even as we question so much. And though I call it the Aspen Consensus, it is in many ways the prevailing ethic among the winners of our age worldwide, across business, government and even nonprofits.

The Aspen Consensus, in a nutshell, is this: the winners of our age must be challenged to do more good. But never, ever tell them to do less harm.

The Aspen Consensus holds that capitalism’s rough edges must be sanded and its surplus fruit shared, but the underlying system must never be questioned.

The Aspen Consensus says, “Give back,” which is of course a compassionate and noble thing. But, amid the $20 million second homes and $4,000 parkas of Aspen, it is gauche to observe that giving back is also a Band-Aid that winners stick onto the system that has privileged them, in the conscious or subconscious hope that it will forestall major surgery to that system — surgery that might threaten their privileges.

The Aspen Consensus, I believe, tries to market the idea of generosity as a substitute for the idea of justice. It says: make money in all the usual ways, and then give some back through a foundation, or factor in social impact, or add a second or third bottom line to your analysis, or give a left sock to the poor for every right sock you sell.

The Aspen Consensus says, “Do more good” — not “Do less harm.”

I want to sow the seed of a difficult conversation today about this Aspen Consensus. Because I love this community, and I fear for all of us — myself very much included — that we may not be as virtuous as we think we are, that history may not be as kind to us as we hope it will, that in the final analysis our role in the inequities of our age may not be remembered well.

This may sound strange at first, because the winners of our disruptive age are arguably as concerned about the plight of the losers as any elite in human history. But the question I’m raising is about what the winners propose to do in response. And I believe the winners’ response, certainly not always but still too often, is to soften the blows of the system but to preserve the system at any cost. This response is problematic. It keeps the winners too safe. It allows far too many of us to evade hard questions about our role in contributing to the disease we also seek to treat."



"Now, a significant minority of us here don’t work in business. Yet even in other sectors, we’re living in an age in which the assumptions and values of business are more influential than they ought to be. Our culture has turned businessmen and -women into philosophers, revolutionaries, social activists, saviors of the poor. We are at risk of forgetting other languages of human progress: of morality, of democracy, of solidarity, of decency, of justice.

Sometimes we succumb to the seductive Davos dogma that the business approach is the only thing that can change the world, in the face of so much historical evidence to the contrary.

And so when the winners of our age answer the problem of inequality and injustice, all too often they answer it within the logic and frameworks of business and markets. We talk a lot about giving back, profit-sharing, win-wins, social-impact investing, triple bottom lines (which, by the way, are something my four-month-old son has).

Sometimes I wonder whether these various forms of giving back have become to our era what the papal indulgence was to the Middle Ages: a relatively inexpensive way of getting oneself seemingly on the right of justice, without having to alter the fundamentals of one’s life.

Because when you give back, when you have a side foundation, a side CSR project, a side social-impact fund, you gain an exemption from more rigorous scrutiny. You helped 100 poor kids in the ghetto learn how to code. The indulgence spares you from questions about the larger systems and structures you sustain that benefit you and punish others: weak banking regulations and labor laws, zoning rules that happen to keep the poor far from your neighborhood, porous safety nets, the enduring and unrepaired legacies of slavery and racial supremacy and caste systems.

These systems and structures have victims, and we here are at risk, I think, of confusing generosity toward those victims with justice for those victims. For generosity is a win-win, but justice often is not. The winners of our age don’t enjoy the idea that some of them might actually have to lose, to sacrifice, for justice to be done. In Aspen you don’t hear a lot of ideas involving the privileged and powerful actually being in the wrong, and needing to surrender their status and position for the sake of justice.

We talk a lot here about giving more. We don’t talk about taking less.

We talk a lot here about what we should be doing more of. We don’t talk about what we should be doing less of.

I think sometimes that our Aspen Consensus has an underdeveloped sense of human darkness. There is risk in too much positivity. Sometimes to do right by people, you must begin by naming who is in the wrong.

So let’s just come out and say the thing you’re never supposed to say in Aspen: that many of the winners of our age are active, vigorous contributors to the problems they bravely seek to solve. And for the greater good to prevail on any number of issues, some people will have to lose — to actually do less harm, and not merely more good.

We know that enlightened capital didn’t get rid of the slave trade. Impact investing didn’t abolish child labor and put fire escapes on tenement factories. Drug makers didn’t stop slipping antifreeze into medicine as part of a CSR initiative. In each of these cases, the interests of the many had to defeat the interests of the recalcitrant few.

Look, I know this speech won’t make me popular at the bar tonight. But this, for me, is an act of stepping into the arena — something our wonderful teacher-moderators challenged us to do.

I know many of you agree with me already, because we have bonded for years over a shared feeling that something in this extraordinary community didn’t feel quite right. There are many others who, instead of criticizing as I do, are living rejections of this Aspen Consensus — quitting lucrative lives, risking everything, to fight the system. You awe me: you who battle for gay rights in India, who live ardently among the rural poor in South Africa, who risk assassination or worse to report news of corruption.

I am not speaking to you tonight, and I know there are many of you. I am speaking to those who, like me, may feel caught between the ideals championed by this Institute and the self-protective instinct that is always the reflex of people with much to lose.

I am as guilty as anyone. I am part of the wave of gentrification and displacement in Brooklyn, one of the most rapidly gentrifying places in America. Any success I’ve had can be traced to my excellent choice in parents and their ability to afford incredibly expensive private schools. I like good wine. I use Uber — a lot. I once stole playing cards from a private plane. I want my new son to have everything I can give him, even though I know that this is the beginning of the inequality I loathe.

I often wonder if what I do — writing — is capable of making any difference.

When I entered this fellowship, I was so taken with that summons to make a difference. But, to be honest, I have also always had a complicated relationship to this place.

I have heard too many of us talking of how only after the IPO or the next few million will we feel our kids have security. These inflated notions of what it takes to “make a living” and “support a family” are the beginning of so much neglect of our larger human family.

I walk into too many rooms named for people and companies that don’t mean well for the world, and then in those rooms we talk and talk about making the world better.

I struggled in particular with the project. I couldn’t figure out what bothered me about it for the longest time. I wasn’t very good at coming up with one or getting it done.

And I realized, through conversation with fellows in similar dilemmas, what my problem was. Many people, including some being featured later tonight, are engaged in truly extraordinary and commendable projects. We are at our best when our projects take the system head on. But I wrestled with what I perceived to be the idea behind the project, of creating generous side endeavors rather than fighting to reform, bite by bite, the hands that feed us. I felt the project distracted us from the real question: is your regular life — not your side project — on the right side … [more]
anandgiridharadas  capitalism  change  cooperation  aspeninstitute  philanthropy  climatechange  inequality  virtue  competition  inequity  elitism  power  systemschange  privilege  finance  wealth  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  wealthdistribution  davos  riggedgames  goldmansachs  indulgence  handwashing  via:tealtan  risk  stackeddecks  labor  employment  disruption  work  civics  commongood  abstraction  business  corporatism  corporations  taxes  government  socialgood  virtualization  economics  politics  policy  speculation  democracy  solidarity  socialjustice  neoliberalism  well-being  decency  egalitarianism  community  indulgences  noblesseoblige  absolution  racism  castes  leadership  generosity  sacrifice  gambling  gender  race  sexism  emotionallabor  positivity  slavery  socialsafetnet  winwin  zerosum  gentrification  stewardship  paradigmshifts  charitableindustrialcomplex  control 
august 2015 by robertogreco
Living in Switzerland ruined me for America and its lousy work culture - Vox
"Here are seven ways living abroad made it hard to return to American life.

1) I had work-life balance…

2) I had time and money …

3) I had the support of an amazing unemployment system …

4) I witnessed what happens when countries impose wealth-based taxes …

5) I had lots of paid vacation time and was never made to feel guilty about taking it …

6) I never had to own a car …

7) I had excellent health care when I gave birth — and then enjoyed a fully paid 14-week maternity leave …"
us  economics  well-being  switzerland  work  culture  society  2015  chantalpanozzo  vacation  employment  unemployment  taxes  taxation  inequality  qualityoflife  work-lifebalance 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Broad-Based Wage Growth Is a Key Tool in the Fight Against Poverty | Economic Policy Institute
"Over the last three-and-a-half decades, progress in reducing poverty has been painfully slow despite significant gains in economic productivity and average incomes. During the same time period, the inflation-adjusted wages of most low- and middle-income households have been essentially stagnant, which is the root cause of rising income inequality.

A primary objective of the Economic Policy Institute’s Raising America’s Pay initiative is to expose the roots of growing inequality and demonstrate inequality’s real, adverse effects on low- and middle-income households (Bivens et al. 2014). In this paper, we explore how wage stagnation and growing inequality have undermined progress in reducing poverty.

Between 1979 and 2013, hourly wage growth stagnated for the vast majority—even while those at the bottom relied increasingly heavily on their wages to make ends meet. At the same time, the vast majority of annual earnings increases for the bottom fifth were due to increasing work hours, not rising hourly wages. Income inequality over this period also increased—largely due to stagnant wages for low- and middle-income households—and became the single most important factor in the increase in poverty.

To show the significance of wage growth in reducing poverty, we simulate what would have happened to poverty rates had we experienced broad-based wage growth from 1979 to 2013. We first examine the effects on poverty had wage inequality not increased since 1979 (i.e., had everyone’s wages grown at the same rate as average wages). Next we examine how the poverty rate would have been lower had economic gains been broadly shared (i.e., had all wages grown at the same rate as economy-wide productivity). Both simulations show that we could achieve real gains in poverty reduction by ensuring that lower-income workers are able to share in our country’s economic growth. And even these projected gains likely understate the extent to which a full-employment economy could alleviate poverty, as it would disproportionately benefit low-wage workers. Had wages grown in tandem with productivity over 1979–2013 and if the economy were at full employment, the non-elderly market-based poverty rate (i.e., the poverty rate for Americans under age 65 before safety-net supports are taken into account) would be 4.2 percentage points lower. This means that 11.2 million fewer people would be in poverty.

These simulations show that increasing inequality, stagnant wages, and chronic shortfalls in labor demand have come at a serious cost to poverty-reduction efforts. Indeed, the economy’s failure to deliver gains to low-wage workers in recent decades means that the tax-and-transfer system is responsible for all of the progress made in poverty reduction since 1967. To boost the pace of poverty reduction going forward, fiscal transfers that help low-income families almost surely need to be accompanied by policies to foster widely shared wage growth. In fact, the simulated 4.2 percentage-point poverty-rate decline from using full employment and broad-based wage growth to reduce poverty is more than half as large as the poverty reduction from our entire range of anti-poverty programs.

Without wage gains, the tax-and-transfer system needs to work harder every year simply to keep poverty rates from increasing. We argue that a policy agenda to fight poverty must include an agenda to raise wages. This agenda should include raising the minimum wage, setting a new overtime threshold, eliminating wage theft, strengthening workers’ collective bargaining rights, and targeting full employment.

The paper’s key findings include: [continues]"
poverty  inequality  us  economics  2015  productivity  policy  wages  income  taxes  taxation  wealthtransfer  labor  work  elisegould  alyssadavis  willkimball 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Why One Silicon Valley City Said “No” to Google – Next City
"Big money and even bigger egos are colliding in the tech world’s new company towns."



"In 2012, Mountain View and Google entered into a $222,000 annual contract for Google to pay for city planning staff to handle all the reviews needed to get Google’s projects off the drawing board and into construction phases. Today, that contract is valued at $377,838. While the city normally charges companies an hourly rate for municipal services, the vetting of Google projects required more hours than the city had available. Instead of rejecting the company’s plans outright for lack of staff, Mountain View asked Google to fund the hiring of two additional planners. It was an unusual arrangement, the kind usually reserved for corporate polluters that must pay for large-scale government cleanups.

The agreement to have Google subsidize public servants didn’t necessarily raise many local eyebrows. After all, like it had before, Google solved the problem it had created, albeit by playing a major role in government affairs.

But local will for such involvement appears to have waned. In rejecting the vast majority of Google’s campus expansion, the Mountain View city council also rejected most of the company’s $240 million community benefits package, from the bike lanes and affordable housing, to the $15 million public safety center and ecological restoration, all planned at Google’s behest and design.

The vast majority of the North Bayshore area was instead granted to LinkedIn, which offered far fewer community benefits, but had one major factor in its favor: It’s not Google.

The political climate for tech companies in the Bay Area is, to a great extent, confused. The Googles of the world are blamed for a sharp rise in the cost of living and an increased strain on public services and infrastructure, but at the same time, no one can deny the huge boost they’ve given local government coffers.

Still, there is a discrepancy between the billions of dollars these companies make and the checks they write to the local governments that host them.

The sales tax model that served California cities for decades doesn’t work in the knowledge economy. While Apple remits local tax on the products it sells, Google and Facebook don’t collect sales tax on the digital ads we click away and the data we unwittingly share. Community benefit deals can potentially bridge the gap between those taxes and impacts, but they allow companies to determine which civic projects should be priorities. Facebook might want more police and Google might want more local ecology — but what do residents want?

If cities want to take greater control of their future, they’ll have to create and enforce new tax revenue streams — something Mountain View council member Lenny Siegel says he is working toward.

Without a significant local tax burden, companies can afford to drive policies and services, superseding the role of local government and advancing their own ideology. When that ideology includes bike lanes and public school support, this arrangement might work well.

But in a region in the grips of a controversial housing crisis spurred in no small part by an influx of high-paid tech talent, Silicon Valley companies on the whole appear comparatively disinterested in funding the affordable homes these cities so desperately need."



"Big companies in small cities are bound to exert some of their own power, either purposefully or passively. Much of this seems inevitable — it’s how this valley was named “Silicon” decades ago. But these companies are no longer dealing just in silicon. Regardless of Google’s loss in North Bayshore, soon Mountain View will feature Google-designed cars running on Google-funded roads planned by Google-paid city engineers. Where they once built semiconductors and software, tech is shaping the future of human communication, infrastructure, transit, law and collective lived experience — all the things that make up a city."

[Related: “New Balance Bought Its Own Commuter Rail Station [in Boston]: Instead of asking the cash-strapped public-transit system to add a stop, the company simply paid for one itself.”
http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/05/new-balance-bought-its-own-commuter-rail-station/392711/ ]
siliconvalley  google  mountainview  california  infrastrcuture  taxes  2015  susiecagle  government  governance  economics  publictransit  transportation  housing  law  transit  boston 
may 2015 by robertogreco
I Have to Take a Second Job to Support my Teaching Habit: Thanks #ialegis | ThinkThankThunk
"Here’s my plan: I’m going to take another job as a web developer and database consultant and donate this salary back to my school district. The Cedar Rapids Community School District can then issue me a part-time contract. I will work my usual 60 hours/week at Iowa BIG and do development work after my kids are in bed and on the weekends.

Because that’s what teachers do.

I’d love to have just one job, but in 2015, I suppose I’m supposed to be innovative and feed my family on altruism."



"We’ll have to save the property tax nightmare for another post! Suffice it to say, I’m really excited for my 80/hour work weeks, because they’ll allow my school district be able to afford schools like Iowa BIG.

TL;DR: I’m taking a second job, donating income to CRCSD, so that I can work for free full-time at Iowa BIG."
eduction  funding  iowa  2015  shawncornally  schools  publicschools  policy  taxes  propertytaxes  us  cv  teaching  howweteach 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Tax private schools.
"My colleague Allison Benedikt has a worthy rant attempting to use moral suasion to persuade people not to send their children to private school. She's absolutely right. She also very reasonably says that private school should not be made illegal. Freedom, after all, counts for something.

That said for the public policy literalist in your life, I would say that the relevant issue here is taxes. Private elementary and high schools are, like many other classes of nonprofit institution in the United States, subject to some very favorable tax treatment. One part of this is that donations to private schools can be deducted from your income tax bill. For normal people, the charitable tax deduction isn't a particularly large subsidy. But for the kind of people who send their children to private schools and who pay very high marginal income tax rates, this can be extremely valuable. Second, non-profit institutions are generally exempted from property taxes which, again, can be a big deal in expensive cities.

I'm a little bit skeptical about both of these practices in general. But as applied to private schools it seems totally and obviously outrageous. A private high school may be a non-profit organization, but it's certainly not a charity. It's a private club for the benefit of the families involved. At best private school is a private consumption good like buying your kids expensive clothes or fancy toys. There's no reason municipal tax codes should encourage land to be used for private schools rather than houses or regular businesses and there's no reason the income tax code should encourage rich parents to spend money on private school tuition rather than anything else. John Cook's view that private school should be illegal goes too far, but I'm skeptical that hectoring alone is enough to solve this problem. Make prep schools start paying property taxes, and deny their donors lavish tax subsidies for their donations and I think we'll start to see some real change."

[See also: “There's a Simple Solution to the Public Schools Crisis”
http://gawker.com/5943005/theres-a-simple-solution-to-the-public-schools-crisis
privateschools  education  schools  charitableindustrialcomplex  allisonbenedikt  matthewyglesias  economics  taxes  nonprofit  policy  johncook  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  nonprofits  capitalism  power  control 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Why Should We Support the Idea of an Unconditional Basic Income? — Working Life — Medium
[Section titles: ]

"What would you do?
Didn’t they try this in Russia?
The magic of markets
Can we really improve capitalism or is this just theory?
Larger rewards lead to poorer performance.
Capitalism 2.0 sounds great and all but can we afford it?
Okay, it’s affordable… but wouldn’t people stop working?
But still, what about those few who WOULD stop working?
Why would (insert who you dislike) ever agree to this?"
universalbasicincome  capitalism  communism  economics  markets  2014  scottsantens  namibia  poverty  danielpink  productivity  power  choice  workweek  hours  thomaspiketty  psychology  motivation  canada  seattle  denver  1970s  taxes  taxation  inequality  alaska  mincome  employment  unemployment  work  labor  freedom  empowerment  ubi 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Breaking Down Without a Spare — Basic income — Medium
"America’s lopsided welfare system of counterproductive public assistance"



"Our current system is not productive. It is not the fully functional safety net we need, especially as technology increasingly disrupts our day to day lives. If one day we can be a driver for Uber, and the next day Uber can buy a fleet of self-driving cars and fire all of us, that’s a world where we need a real safety net that doesn’t just drop away. We need more than a safety net. We need a floor set above the poverty level, so that regardless of any amount of disruption, we are still allowed to stand on our own two feet and start climbing again.

Don’t catch us and trap us with nets. We need a solid foundation that allows all of us a space in which to build our futures.

We also need to understand that those at the bottom aren’t the only ones receiving welfare. There exists a great deal of netting underneath the feet of all of us. We just don’t see it. It is the invisible safety net, lacking in any stigma."



"But is that what the working Americans who work for them want?

Driving on Spares
It may have seemed a small detail and one possibly gone unnoticed, but it’s possibly the most important detail of all in our automotive parable.

“Unfortunately there’s no spare. We had no choice but to drive on it.”

It’s not that we made the unwise choice to go driving around without a spare tire. It’s that we could not make the wise choice, because our car had already suffered a previous blown tire and there was no money in the budget for a new one. After replacing our blown tire with our spare tire, we could only hope nothing else would happen until there was money for a new tire.

But something did happen. That’s the nature of unfortunate surprises.

It is this fact we must recognize, possibly above all. No one wants to suffer a flat tire, and no one wants to have no options but to call for help when we do get one. And we see this reflected in what we have done for decades now, as we have faithfully sought all possible avenues of increasing our incomes.

We went from one earner per household to two.

We asked for more hours and sought second, third, and even fourth jobs.

We got credit cards, took out second mortgages, and are now even tapping our own retirement funds."
universalbasicincome  economics  us  policy  taxes  safetynet  publicassistance  welfare  welfaresystem  scottsantens  2014  bureaucracy  socialsafetynet  stadiums  inequality  freedom  welfarecliffs  income  uber  labor  work  housing  ubi 
february 2015 by robertogreco
The Guardian view on private schools: time for them to give back in return for their tax breaks | Editorial | Comment is free | The Guardian
"Tristram Hunt is right to ask private schools to share their expertise with the state sector"



"Mr Hunt’s recognition of the social injustice embodied by educational privilege is welcome, and he clearly intends his proposals to reflect differences in resources within the private sector – between, say, a public school such as Eton and a small Christian primary. Not every independent school could run an inner-city academy. Some already do. But more of them could certainly do more than, say, invite local schools to the A-level art exhibition. Fee-paying parents who protest that that’s not what they’re paying for face paying a bit more to make up for the loss of business rate relief. Labour should brush aside claims that it’s anti-aspiration, or launching a new class war. Tackling entrenched privilege is nothing to do with the politics of envy. This move could be a small step towards a fairer society."
uk  education  privateschools  taxes  inequality  policy  publicschools  socialjustice  privilege 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The Coming Showdown Over University Endowments: Enlisting the Donors [.pdf]
"This Essay focuses on the discordance between universities with particularly large endowments and what is occurring in the rest of higher education, particularly with respect to skyrocketing tuition and a growing institutional wealth gap. The Essay considers absolute endowment values, the amount of endowment per student, and expense-endowment ratios at sixty private universities. It concludes that a small number of schools have an excess endowment, and then provides a convenient proxy for determining when an endowment is so large that it should receive less preferential tax treatment. The Essay then considers the effects that large endowments have at their home institutions and throughout higher education, the arguments in defense of large endowments, and some frequently proposed modifications to the tax code. The Essay recommends that policymakers modify the charitable deduction for gifts to universities with mega-endowments, as part of a multifaceted effort to spur endowment spending and control tuition."

[See also: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:5dcd8b659f56 ]
sarahwaldeck  charities  nonprofit  2009  law  legal  finance  universities  colleges  wealth  taxation  taxes  endowments  charity  nonprofits 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Wandering The City Heights Data Desert | KPBS
"For a foundation that's made such a public commitment to turn City Heights around, you'd expect its president to come to an interview armed with statistics that trumpet the group's accomplishments in the community. That didn't happen with Robert Price of Price Philanthropies.

"We haven't focused so much on statistics," he said. "We're more about doing. We feel that if we're doing enough good things here, a lot of it will stick and help people."

Price Philanthropies has transformed the physical and nonprofit landscapes of City Heights, developing more than 50 acres with affordable housing, a police station and library. It's spent about $100 million on resident leadership programs during the past decade."

[See also: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2014/nov/18/san-diegos-richest-poor-neighborhood-two-decades-l/
https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:d05290a9d991 ]

[Cross-posted to:
http://voiceofsandiego.org/2014/11/20/wandering-the-city-heights-data-desert/ and
http://www.speakcityheights.org/2014/11/wandering-the-city-heights-data-desert/ ]

[See too the comments here and on the same cross-posted at VOSD. Ignore the immigrant hater “California Defender” and consider the following:

Ann Martin: "The lack of a measurable impact of all the dollars invested demonstrates that concentrating socially and economically disadvantaged people in one area does not provide a benefit to them. This "urban apartheid" contributes to the problem. If the City mandated that affordable housing units will be built as a percentage of every new development (actually built, not pay to get out of it), people in the situation that the folks in City Heights are in can then live everywhere throughout the City. They would have access to the same high performing schools, live in areas with lower crime rates, more parks and other amenities, be closer to better jobs, and be able to escape the cycle of poverty and despair that permeates the disadvantaged areas of the city."

Matt Wattkins: "Strikes me that any organization seeking to do good things in a beleaguered community has to straddle a line: how to make things better for residents while still keeping it affordable to live here. (I am a City Heights home owner/resident.) City Heights is within walking distance of North Park and Kensington and Normal Heights. Those neighborhoods are among the most desirable neighborhoods south of the 8. (I'd argue there are no more desirable neighborhoods anywhere in San Diego county; Normal Heights is easily the most walkable neighborhood in the city.) Those neighborhoods have also gentrified relatively recently, so it doesn't take much imagination to see that process encroaching east of the 805 and south of Meade. White collar families like my own are already buying into City Heights because property values are relatively reasonable (my house located a mile west of its current location would cost 2-3 times what I paid), and it has walkable amenities and fairly quick access to Adams Ave. and 30th St., i.e. a 10 minute bike ride. I mean, if a Trader Joe's had gone into the Albertsons spot instead of El Super, I think affordable housing in our community would have been doomed within a decade. (And it's not terribly affordable now; rent for a stand-alone house with 2 or more bedrooms runs $1500+/month.)

Anyway, neither the article nor the study mention quality of life improvements to the neighborhood; the Urban Village complex is always in use. Our library is open longer hours than most libraries in the city; our Starbucks is bustling; the playground is teeming with kids; the rec center and swimming pool offer great classes; every evening (it seems) there are soccer or baseball games on the playing fields, and local youth swarm the walkway doing tricks on skateboards and BMX bikes. We have a brand new YMCA going in on El Cajon; a couple of walk-in health clinics, pretty good transit access, some really great city parks (Azalea Garden, Hollywood) and a lot of potential in our canyon spaces, with teams of folks currently doing monthly maintenance in Olivia, Swan, and Manzanita Canyons. Most of these things are directly or indirectly a result of philanthropic dollars in our community. It's hard to quantify their impact, but similarly hard to argue that they don't improve the quality of residents' lives."

Chris Brewster: "Interesting to note that on Price Charities’ tax forms (apparently a different but related organization) the highest paid executive is Sherry Bahrambeygui. According to these forms her reportable compensation from related organizations was approximately: $1.8 million in 2010; $3.79 million in 2011 (plus $60k in other compensation); and $7.9 million in 2012 (plus $56k in other compensation). Rather astounding actually, but perhaps there is a back story?"

Dan Beeman: "adly the wealthy are manipulating the "public" system. Here we see two large conflict of interests, by two different media companies that are not asking the hard questions. This will continue to happen until we get the rich out of the media business, and trying to control community/public by their wealth. Remember they are not dumping all this money in without getting tax credit and/or write offs, it is not about being altruistic, but generally about getting their way by paying out some tax credit donations while were caught up with the long time bills. Here it was first the tenants of the housing, and businesses along 44th St/Fairmount area. We the City constituents and taxpayers are still paying off the Redevelopment loans, loan financing and insurance, plus other costs. Also the private landholders lost lots of land that is now off the tax rolls because they are either non-profits and/or government owned.



You see the report didn't say anything about the cost of living increases in the area/community. It also didn't mention the costs of the new schools, redevelopment loans, or other government funding put into the area. It didn't tell about what businesses failed or moved: ie tortilla store, 2 auto dealerships, the old Albertsons, etc. The new national franchise stores pay higher rent, increasing the market rate commercial rent in the area, as well as adding lots of other new commercial spaces that do the same! These higher rental rates, and astronomical new property values kill small businesses while also hurting families. The national franchises bring a few new management positions, but mostly pay low wage/limited to no benefit jobs, that many times get HUGE government tax credits! So when the BIG corporations don't pay their fair share of the taxes who do you think pays for it? YOU!! the "weak" taxpayer! They didn't make one mention of the higher cost in gasoline/fuel and/or the huge rate of inflation for vehicles. But they don't want to mention these things. They want you trapped in public transportation that also pays low wages to their workers while giving the private corporation and Billionaire CEO/owner that runs it huge profits.

This is just a few of the truths that should be known in projects like this. Be aware next ten years they will be looking to steal property from Barrio (already happening), Sherman Heights and SE San Diego via Civic San Diego and more eminent domain. And once again you will flip for the bills while the rich gain lots of property, huge tax credits, and write offs. Just like they have gentrified North & South Park, they will continue to steal the property, hope, and money from the poor. All while patting you on the head and kissing your cheek. Good luck City Heights, you will continue to be in my prayers."]
cityheights  sandiego  2014  data  statistics  pricephilanthropies  californiaendowment  crime  employment  income  meganburks  unemployment  healthinsurance  inequality  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  corporations  eminentdomain  taxes  costofliving  funding  government  redevelopment  incentives  charitableindustrialcomplex  capitalism  power  control 
november 2014 by robertogreco
A broader tax base, it is thought, will insure... • see things differently
"A broader tax base, it is thought, will insure that wealthy suburbanites pay for essential services needed by the poor. No evidence is available to indicate that this actually happens in large cities.

Poor neighborhoods receiving ”services” which are not tailored to their needs may not be better off when increased resources are allocated to their neighborhood. In large collective consumption units, residents of poor neighborhoods may have even less voice about levels and types of services desired than they do in smaller-sized collective consumption units. Increasing the size of the smallest collective consumption unit to which citizens belong may not help solve problems of redistribution."

[PDF: http://socsci.colorado.edu/~mciverj/Ostrom-PG%26PC.PDF ]
elinorostrom  vincentostrom  economics  resources  colonization  imperialism  universalbasicincome  taxes  services  pverty  cities  urban  urbanism  development  democracy  redistribution  ubi 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Capitalism Whack-A-Mole | MattBruenig | Politics
"There is no general framework of morality or justice that supports laissez-faire capitalism. This is a problem of course for those who wish to argue on behalf of it. When you talk to such people, a familiar argumentative pattern emerges that I have come to call Capitalism Whack-A-Mole.

Someone playing Capitalism Whack-A-Mole moves seamlessly between three different — and mutually incompatible — frameworks of justification. Those frameworks are desert (each person should get what they produce with their labor), voluntarism (each person should get whatever they come about through voluntary, non-coercive means), and utility (the economic system should be created to maximize well-being). This Capitalism Whack-A-Mole does not need a starting point, but, in my experience, either desert or voluntarism comes first, with utility the back up when the argument turns really bad.

Here is a simulation of one such argument."
capitalism  2014  mattbruenig  inequality  voluntarism  utility  desert  taxes  libertarianism 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Inside Colorado’s flourishing, segregated black market for pot - The Washington Post
"The resentment goes something like: We Latinos and African Americans from the ‘hood were stigmatized for marijuana use, disdained and disproportionately prosecuted in the war on drugs. We grew up in the culture of marijuana, with grandmothers who made oil from the plants and rubbed it on arthritic hands. We sold it as medicine. We sold it for profit and pleasure.

Now pot is legalized and who benefits? Rich people with their money to invest and their clean criminal records and 800 credit scores. And here we are again: on the outskirts of opportunity. A legion of entrepreneurs with big plans and rewired basements chafes with every monthly state tax revenue report.

Ask someone who buys and sells in the underground market how it has responded to legalization and the question is likely to be tossed back with defiance. “You mean, ‘Who’s been shut out of the legal market?’ ” asks Miguel Lopez, chief community organizer of the state’s 420 Rally, which calls for legalization of marijuana nationally.

“It’s kind of like we made all the sacrifices and they packed it up and are making all the money,” says Cisco Gallardo, a well-known gang outreach worker who once sold drugs as a gang member. For the record, he does not partake. It rattles him a little, he says, to see the young people with whom he works shed their NFL and rapper dreams for the next big thing: their own marijuana dispensary.

In this light, taxation is seen as a blunt instrument of exclusion, driving precisely the groups most prosecuted in the war on drug further into the arms of the black market where they remain at risk for arrest or robbery. In one Denver dispensary, a $30 purchase of one-eighth of the Trinity strain of cannabis includes $7.38 in state and local taxes – a near 33 percent rate. As Larisa Bolivar, one of the city’s most well-known proponents of decriminalizing marijuana nationally and opening a true free market, puts it: That seven bucks buys someone lunch.

“It’s simple,” she says. “A high tax rate drives black market growth. It’s an incentive for risky behavior.”"
colorado  2014  blackmarket  warondrugs  inequality  legalization  marijuana  markets  economics  taxes 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Our Work Here Is Done: Visions of a Robot Economy [.pdf]
"The essays in this volume address a number of possibilities for how the proceeds of a robot revolution might be redistributed. Notably, Noah Smith’s piece argues for a universal basic income for everyone, paid for from the proceeds of robot–enhanced productivity.

What is clear is that if automation necessitates a big shift in how we tax, it offers an opportunity to start taxing more sensible things. Economists have long argued for taxing land, carbon emissions and other bads, rather than taxing work. If there is less work about in the future, this may be the chance to make a change.

There is also the question of how we share out the rewards of a robot economy. We may not yet be ready for a universal basic income, since at least for the time being so many people’s conception of (their own and others’) value to society is bound up in work. But it is surely worth making policies to encourage ownership of robots is widely dispersed. The simplest way to make sure everyone has a stake in robots is to encourage widespread pension ownership – so that people own shares in the companies that own the robots.

But if the riches of automation are really as abundant as some people think they are, we could go further, and learn a lesson from the few countries that have dealt well with natural resource riches, like Norway and Alaska, by establishing a national endowment to hold wealth on behalf of citizens. The proceeds of this could be used to pay an annual dividend to citizens (as in Alaska) or to invest in future productivity (as has been proposed in Norway)."
universalbasicincome  labor  robot  income  taxation  taxes  economics  2014  nesta  change  jsutice  future  competition  cooperation  ryanavent  noahsmith  francescoppola  alanwinfield  nickhawes  ertruitt  jonturney  izabellakaminska  georginavoss  machines  slavery  edwardskidelsky  frederickguy  tessreidy  steverandywaldman  machineage  power  wages  ubi 
june 2014 by robertogreco
MultipliCITY | Molleindustria
"SimCity promises endless possibilities. You can create the city of your dreams. But in reality you always end up with Phoenix, Arizona. The only type of city you can create is the modernist, car centered, grid based, North American city (Although in some recent versions like SimCity Societies they tried to add variety).

And it’s not just a matter of appearances. Here I tried to build an alternative city based on Situationist principles of Unitary Urbanism. I mixed work places and recreational place, I invested in public transportation and green areas.

But the citizens hated it. It was not a thriving city.

Another issue is the relationship between urban settlements and nature. You can start from an existing city and try to improve it, but the game is really meant to start from a tabula rasa, with a city built from scratch. The natural environment comes up as a blank slate, uninhabited and pre-packaged in discreet square units, ready to conquer and exploit.

It’s very common in games to have a territory that comes already partitioned in units of lands. Civilization uses a grid system too. There are technical reasons for that. But still, it suggests a very specific vision of the nature and ecosystems.

SimCity is not just about planning, you have to take decisions like how to tax your citizens. In pretty much all the titles of the series if your tax rate is around 12% or higher citizens get upset. Typically with a 20% tax, wealthy citizens will simply leave regardless of the services you provide. Some players even managed to run cities with 0 taxes.

This is a pretty clear libertarian bias. In many countries people tolerate high taxation if they feel like they get valuable services from the state.

It’s true that SimCity doesn’t have a stated goal but there is an implied goal which is growth. You can play subversively in many different ways, you can destroy things by triggering disasters. But the only truly rewarding way to play is by trying to make a big, functional city.
SimCity encourages endless growth without ever confronting the player with scarcity of resources. In SimCity 2000 when the map is full you can build arcologies that are cities within cities. And when you fill the map with arcologies, they simply take off to some other planet and you start over. It perpetually postpones the issue of the limits to growth.

Race and class conflicts are also sanitized. Crime can usually be addressed by building more police stations. And you’ll never see racial riots or experience disruptive suburbanization – the White flight. These conflicts were crucial for the development and the decline of North American cities (Detroit being a textbook case). And yet they are not included in the SimCity model.

Probably the most fundamental problem with SimCity is the premise itself: that a single person, the mayor/city planner/dictator, can address the contradictions of contemporary capitalist cities though judicious planning. Seeing the city as organism that can be in good or bad health is denying that there are irreducible conflicting interests at play.

Moreover, there are some more general bias that make SimCity a problematic artifact. Some bias are related to the mathematical, computational nature of the medium: everything is reduced to quantity, to numbers, variables, flows. Some bias are related to the management genre: this top down cybernetic approach is inherently reductionist. It embodies the modernist paradigm of city planning “from above” ignoring the city as lived at street level. This is the approach that informed carefully planned but ultimately unlivable cities like Brasilia.

But most of the bias and the issues I just mentioned come from the fact that between a real city and a simulation of a city there are actual people. People with their own values, experiences, and beliefs that inevitably affect the design of the game."
simcity  modernism  frowth  urban  urbanism  cityplanning  planning  urbanplanning  libertarianism  taxes  brasilia  multiplicity  paolopedercini  2014  brasília 
june 2014 by robertogreco
America’s demented welfare mentality: How we choose to inflict misery — while protecting the rich - Salon.com
"The U.S. welfare state has been a smashing success over the last four decades. Income transfer programs reduced impoverishment by 1.2 billion people-years between 1967 and 2012. In fact, due to the increasingly unequal distribution of market income, our nation’s welfare state is the sole reason the national poverty rate fell over that period. However, this overall success has coincided with one very negative development: The neediest in our country have seen their aid systematically stripped away.

According to a new study by Robert Moffitt, aid to the poorest single-parent families in this country dropped 35 percent between 1983 and 2004. During that period, reforms substantially cut assistance to those with incomes below 50 percent of the poverty line, while expanding it to those between 50 percent and 100 percent of the poverty line and to those between 100 percent and 200 percent of the poverty line. As a result, these days “a family of four earning $11,925 a year likely [gets] less aid than a same-sized family earning $47,700.”

The maldistribution of welfare spending is even worse than Moffitt’s study suggests, though. His study focuses only on 15 programs that people tend to think of as welfare programs. But these 15 programs do not include any of the major tax expenditures that direct obscene amounts of money toward the rich.

In 2014, for instance, the tax expenditure budget includes $248 billion in subsidies for homeowners, approximately 73 percent of which flow to the richest fifth of families and none of which flow to the poorest fifth of families. Another $176 billion is spent on retirement subsidies, with 66 percent of that money flowing to the richest fifth and 2 percent flowing to the poorest fifth. Overall, more than half of the entire tax expenditure budget goes to the richest fifth, while the poorest fifth receives just 8 percent of it and no other fifth receives more than 18 percent.

The small size and bizarre design of our welfare state has created a horrific spectacle of child poverty that has no equal in the developed world. This spectacle is often blamed on single mothers, the people whom we’ve systematically stripped aid away from over the last 30 years. But the U.S. does not have an especially high percentage of children growing up in single-mother families, and has around the same percentage of single mothers as the countries with the lowest childhood poverty rates in the world.

While we have directed relatively little and dramatically declining amounts of aid to the neediest single-mother families in our country, low-poverty countries like Finland, Norway and Sweden have done exactly the opposite. In 2000, transfer programs in this country cut relative child poverty among these families down from 65 percent to 55 percent. In Finland, Norway and Sweden, such programs cut child poverty among single-mother families down from an average of 53 percent to an average of 11 percent. It is because of these kinds of transfers, not just to single-mother families but to all families, that the average child poverty rate in these three countries stood at 3 percent, while the child poverty rate in the U.S. stood at 22 percent.

The cuts we have made to the incomes of the poorest in our society have been unnecessary, cruel and unconscionable. The good news is that we don’t have to continue along like this. There are very simple policies that could be implemented that would usher in dramatic effects.

For example, we could replace the child tax credit and the personal tax exemption for children with a child allowance program, something many other countries already have in place. Under such a program, every family would receive a monthly check for each of their children. At a $300/month benefit level, such a program would cut official child poverty by 42 percent and pull 4.7 million adults out of poverty as well. Those not pulled out of poverty by such a program would still see dramatically increased incomes from it.

This is just one example of such a program, but there are many others as well. What’s important here is just to note that the misery suffered by those on the bottom of our society is something we choose to inflict. We chose to dramatically reduce the incomes of those at the bottom over the last three decades and we continue to choose to deprive them of income every year that we keep our constructed system the way that it is, rather than changing it. We can choose to distribute our national income differently and more humanely and we should."
mattbruenig  poverty  us  policy  inequality  taxes  2014  incometransfers  welfarestate  children  society 
may 2014 by robertogreco
The Welfare State for Rich Homeowners | Demos
"I don't know who started it, but everyone has been talking about homes lately, and whether they are a good investment. I chimed in at The Week yesterday, noting that most analyses claiming home ownership is a categorically bad investment fail to account for the value of a home's imputed rent, which should normally comprise the majority of the financial returns people get from home ownership. In the piece, I also talk about our large federal welfare programs for home owners and the way in which they make investing in a home even more likely to pay off. Here, I put numbers to those homeowner welfare programs and provide a simple idea for improving them.

The Numbers

According to the Treasury, in 2014, we will spend $248 billion on the four major tax expenditures for home owners: [graph]

The mortgage interest tax expenditure is the biggest at $101.47 billion. Capital gains tax exclusions come in second at $75.5 billion. Imputed rent exclusions cost $45.9 billion. Property tax deductions cost $25.2 billion. For comparison purposes, the SNAP program in 2013 cost just $80 billion, and provided income assistance to 47 million poor people.

Who do these tax expenditures go to? According to the CBO, almost all of them go to the rich: [graph]

Around 73 percent of the mortgage interest tax expenditures flow to the richest fifth of families. Around 18 percent flow to the next richest fifth of families. Negligible amounts flow to everyone else, with the poorest fifth getting approximately none of them. The CBO tax expenditure report does not estimate the distribution of the other three main home owner tax expenditures. But they should all be at least as lopsided as the mortgage interest tax deduction, and are very likely more lopsided for a number of reasons I won't go into here.

If we take the low estimate of the distribution of these tax expenditures provided by the mortgage interest tax deduction figures, we find that the richest fifth of families will receive $181 billion in home owning subsidies this year. That is 2.25x more money than food stamp recipients received last year.

A Better Way

Needless to say, this is a pretty ridiculous way to spend $248 billion to help people afford housing. If one were cynical about these things, one might even think that this is nothing but a giveaway to rich people.

There are a long list of better ways to spend $248 billion on housing assistance. One better way would be to give it out universally so that everyone received the same amount of housing assistance. With a current population around 318 million, that would mean a housing assistance check of $780 per person. Thus for a family of four, that would be equal to $3,120 in housing assistance each year. Home owners could spend this money on their mortgages and renters (which is what most low-income people are) could spend it on their apartments rents.

This won't ever happen, of course. Subsidies for rich families are untouchable for obvious political reasons, so much so that they aren't even on the political radar (meanwhile, food stamps, which is a much smaller program, seems to be suffering budget cuts and extreme scrutiny every few months). But we could do this if we wanted to. And it would be a huge improvement."
mattbruenig  2014  taxes  housing  inequality  policy  government  wealth 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Tuttle SVC: The Supply of Good Jobs Does Not Automatically Expand to Match the Number of Educated Citizens
"Matt Bruenig nails it:
Education boosters bizarrely think that providing everyone a high-quality education will somehow magically result in them all having good-paying jobs. But, as Finland shows, this turns out not to be true. Apparently, it’s not possible for everyone to simultaneously hold jobs as well-paid upper-class professionals because at least some people have to actually do real work. A modern economy requires a whole army of lesser-skilled jobs that just don’t pay that well and the necessity of those jobs doesn’t go away simply because people are well-educated.

The reason Finland’s ultimate distribution of income is so equal is not because its great education system has made everyone receive high paychecks (an impossible task), but because Finland has put in place distributive policies that make sure its national income is shared broadly. In 2010, Finland’s tax level was 42.5 percent of its GDP, which was nearly double the tax level of the U.S. By strategically spreading that tax money around through a host of cash transfer and benefit programs, Finland’s high market poverty rate of 32.2 percent fell to just 7.3 percent. Its child poverty rate, which Finland focuses extra attention on, fell down to 3.9 percent. Overall economic inequality took a similar dive.

This is so obvious that it is hard to figure out how so many apparently smart people can't grasp it. The only explanation that I can come up with is that for a lot of prominent commentators, wonks and politicians, low paying jobs and the people who hold them are simply an abstraction."

[Direct link to the Bruenig article: http://www.salon.com/2014/05/12/americas_dangerous_education_myth_no_it_isnt_the_best_anti_poverty_program/ ]
economics  finland  poverty  education  socialism  2014  tomhoffman  policy  taxes  politics  work  labor 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Now That’s Rich - NYTimes.com
"First, modern inequality isn’t about graduates. It’s about oligarchs. Apologists for soaring inequality almost always try to disguise the gigantic incomes of the truly rich by hiding them in a crowd of the merely affluent. Instead of talking about the 1 percent or the 0.1 percent, they talk about the rising incomes of college graduates, or maybe the top 5 percent. The goal of this misdirection is to soften the picture, to make it seem as if we’re talking about ordinary white-collar professionals who get ahead through education and hard work.

But many Americans are well-educated and work hard. For example, schoolteachers. Yet they don’t get the big bucks. Last year, those 25 hedge fund managers made more than twice as much as all the kindergarten teachers in America combined. And, no, it wasn’t always thus: The vast gulf that now exists between the upper-middle-class and the truly rich didn’t emerge until the Reagan years.

Second, ignore the rhetoric about “job creators” and all that. Conservatives want you to believe that the big rewards in modern America go to innovators and entrepreneurs, people who build businesses and push technology forward. But that’s not what those hedge fund managers do for a living; they’re in the business of financial speculation, which John Maynard Keynes characterized as “anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be.” Or since they make much of their income from fees, they’re actually in the business of convincing other people that they can anticipate average opinion about average opinion.

Once upon a time, you might have been able to argue with a straight face that all this wheeling and dealing was productive, that the financial elite was actually providing services to society commensurate with its rewards. But, at this point, the evidence suggests that hedge funds are a bad deal for everyone except their managers; they don’t deliver high enough returns to justify those huge fees, and they’re a major source of economic instability.

More broadly, we’re still living in the shadow of a crisis brought on by a runaway financial industry. Total catastrophe was avoided by bailing out banks at taxpayer expense, but we’re still nowhere close to making up for job losses in the millions and economic losses in the trillions. Given that history, do you really want to claim that America’s top earners — who are mainly either financial managers or executives at big corporations — are economic heroes?

Finally, a close look at the rich list supports the thesis made famous by Thomas Piketty in his book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” — namely, that we’re on our way toward a society dominated by wealth, much of it inherited, rather than work.

At first sight, this may not be obvious. The members of the rich list are, after all, self-made men. But, by and large, they did their self-making a long time ago. As Bloomberg View’s Matt Levine points out, these days a lot of top money managers’ income comes not from investing other people’s money but from returns on their own accumulated wealth — that is, the reason they make so much is the fact that they’re already very rich.

And this is, if you think about, an inevitable development. Over time, extreme inequality in income leads to extreme inequality of wealth; indeed, the wealth share of America’s top 0.1 percent is back at Gilded Age levels. This, in turn, means that high incomes increasingly come from investment income, not salaries. And it’s only a matter of time before inheritance becomes the biggest source of great wealth.

But why does all of this matter? Basically, it’s about taxes.

America has a long tradition of imposing high taxes on big incomes and large fortunes, designed to limit the concentration of economic power as well as raising revenue. These days, however, suggestions that we revive that tradition face angry claims that taxing the rich is destructive and immoral — destructive because it discourages job creators from doing their thing, immoral because people have a right to keep what they earn.

But such claims rest crucially on myths about who the rich really are and how they make their money. Next time you hear someone declaiming about how cruel it is to persecute the rich, think about the hedge fund guys, and ask yourself if it would really be a terrible thing if they paid more in taxes."
paulkrugman  income  inequality  wealth  oligarchy  2014  economics  instability  politics  policy  taxes  finance  productivity  jobs  labor  thomaspiketty  society  class 
may 2014 by robertogreco
To Have and Have Not | Jedediah Purdy on Capital in the Twenty-First Century
"With that mission, Capital in the Twenty-First Century asks questions that blend empirical complexity and political urgency. How unequal is the division of wealth and income? How did it get that way, and where is it going? How worried should we be, and what can we do? And — check this out — are democracy and capitalism in conflict?

Spoiler alert: Yes. And Piketty’s answer spoils, in a different sense of the word, the longstanding conventional wisdom, supported by economics Nobel winners like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, plus lots of less controversial characters, that capitalism is democracy’s best friend. Free markets respect freedom by honoring personal choice, we’ve been told. They treat people as equals by tying economic rewards to social contributions and opening paths to social mobility. They check an overreaching government by dispersing power among owners, workers, and entrepreneurs. They create widely-shared wealth, so no one’s life needs to be hopeless or degraded.

Pretty to think so, but Piketty’s vast stockpile of new data, weaponized with some simple algebra, vaporizes that story. It shows a world getting radically more unequal, the return of hereditary wealth, and — at least in the US — an economy so distorted that much of what happens at the very top can be fairly described as class-based looting. And he gives some fairly strong reasons to suspect that this, not the relatively open and egalitarian economies of the mid-20th century, is what capitalism looks like.

Piketty’s book feels, itself, economical: it’s undramatic and almost always clear, and the French is handsomely translated by the indispensable Arthur Goldhammer. Reading it is like talking to a smart person who knows you’re smart and knows, too, that you’re not an economist. It’s a pleasure, but — and this is one measure of its success — it’s also a spur to frustration. Since Capital is economics on Piketty’s terms, it diagnoses, gives little comfort, and doesn’t pretend to offer a complete cure. So as it builds its case for an inexorable conflict between democracy and capitalism, it leads its reader to an urgent question it doesn’t, in itself, do all that much to answer: how can democracy prevail? After Piketty, this has to be our question."



"Suppose you care about civic equality, social mobility, the dignity of ordinary people, and the long-term prospects of democracies that need all these values. What to do in the face of rising inequality and oligarchy? Piketty recommends a small, progressive global tax on capital to draw down big fortunes and press back against r > g. He admits this idea won’t get much traction at present, but recommends it as a fixed point in political imagination, a measure of what would be worth doing and how far we have to go to get there.

It’s an excellent idea, but it also shows the limits of Piketty’s argument. He has no theory of how the economy works that can replace the optimistic theories that his numbers devastate. Numbers — powerful ones, to be sure — are what he has. He has counted things that were harder to count before now — income, asset value — and adorned the bottom line with some splendid formulas for holding onto their importance. But r > g, as Piketty readily admits, is not a theory of anything; it is a shorthand generalization of some historical facts about money’s tendency to make money. Those facts held in the agrarian and industrial societies of Europe and North America in the nineteenth century and seem to be holding in today’s industrial and post-industrial economies. But these are very different worlds. Is there something constant that unifies different versions of inequality — that unites plantation owners and Apple shareholders, in their shared privilege above bondsman and Best-Buy techs — or is the inequality itself the only constant? Without answers to these questions, we don’t have a theory of capitalism, just a time-lapse picture of it.

This is not only a theoretical problem. It bears on whether past is prologue, whether inequality yesterday forecasts inequality tomorrow. Without a theory of how the economy produces and allocates value, we can’t know whether r > g will hold into the future. This is essential to whether Piketty can answer his critics, who have argued that we shouldn’t worry much. They claim that rates of return on capital should fall rapidly toward that of the overall economy, as much mainstream theory would predict, or that the overall growth rate will spike with new technological innovations. Either would greatly blunt r > g. Piketty doesn’t really have an answer to these challenges, other than the weight of the historical numbers.

The lack of a general theory is a bit of an epistemic irony. Piketty’s work is a triumph of the Enlightenment aim to make the world intelligible, demystifying it by showing us the patterns that emerge from millions of facts. But by calling for economics to become a historical science, concerned with what has happened and is happening rather than with evermore refined mathematical models, he carries out a massive epistemic dethroning. History happens only once. Its “natural experiments” are few and highly incomplete. And casting light on big and inconvenient facts, he also points out an area of darkness; ignorance where we had been lulled into thinking we had knowledge."



"Piketty shows that capitalism’s attractive moral claims — that it can make everyone better off while respecting their freedom — deserve much less respect under our increasingly “pure” markets than in the mixed economies that dominated the North Atlantic countries in the mid-20th century. It took a strong and mobilized left to build those societies. It may be that capitalism can remain tolerable only under constant political and moral pressure from the left, when the alternative of democratic socialism is genuinely on the table. Piketty reminds us that the reasons for the socialist alternative have not disappeared, or even weakened. We are still seeking an economy that is both vibrant and humane, where mutual advantage is real and mutual aid possible. The one we have isn’t it.

Reading Piketty gives one an acute sense of how much we have lost with the long waning of real political economy, especially the radical kind. As mentioned, Piketty does not expect his one real proposal, a modest wealth tax, to go far in this political environment. Ideas need movements, as movements need ideas. We’ve been short on both. In trying to judge what to do about Piketty’s grim forecasts, there is a crevasse between “write op-eds advocating higher tax rates” and “rebuild the left.” It isn’t Piketty’s job to fill that gap, but he does show just how wide it yawns, and how devastating is the absence it represents."
thomaspiketty  economics  inequality  democracy  capitalism  capital  2014  jedidiahpurdy  freedom  wealth  incomeinequality  inheritance  taxes  morality  democraticsocialism  time  history 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Richard Wolff presents Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism at the Baltimore Radical Bookfair - YouTube
"Called the leading social economist in the nation by Cornel West, Richard D. Wolff, professor of economics at the New School, host of WBAI's "Economic Update," and prominent critic of capitalism lays out his vision for a world without bosses, in which workers run their own workplaces democratically."

[More on Mondragon:
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/jun/24/alternative-capitalism-mondragon
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondragon_Corporation ]
richardwolff  democracy  economics  capitalism  hierarchy  hierarchies  horizontality  labor  2012  unions  organizaedlabor  socialism  communism  inequality  history  unemployment  newdeal  fdr  socialsafetynet  society  government  taxes  taxation  egalitarianism  mondragon  spain  españa  greatdepression  greatrecession  recessions 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Pure Capitalism = Pure Fantasy? | Interview Richard Wolff - YouTube
[See also: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/17256-pure-capitalism-is-pure-fantasy ]

"Abby Martin talks to Richard Wolff, Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, and author of 'Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism', about the recent school closures in Chicago, and how it reflects a systemic problem within the current capitalist model."
richardwolff  economics  2013  abbymartin  austerity  capitalism  policy  government  inequality  taxes  socialsecurity  democracy  employment  greatrecession  work  wealth  schoolclosures  chicago  politics  corruption  corporatism  horizontality  hierarchy  cooperation  grassroots 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Bill Gates preaches the aid gospel, but is he just a hypocrite? | Ian Birrell | Comment is free | The Guardian
"The world's richest man is seen as a secular saint. But he should question the example that Microsoft is setting by avoiding tax"



"Governments could do far more to challenge tax-avoiding firms, not least refusing to award them state contracts. But given his status as a development guru, Gates should question the example his own firm is setting. One of the key problems facing the developing world is capital flight, which, according to one report, takes 10 times as much out of poor countries as they receive in aid. It is not just corrupt politicians and their cronies stashing stolen cash in secret accounts, but major companies using tax havens to boost profits at the expense of the poor.

Gates has every right to do what he wants with his wealth. It is to his credit he is giving away so much, persuading other billionaires to do the same and championing causes close to his heart – although as others have pointed out, even this is not immune to tax advantages. His determination to push vaccinations and prevent malaria is laudable. But if he wants to discuss development, preach about poverty and tell nations how to spend taxpayers' money, he should put his own house in order first."
billgates  policy  taxes  taxevasion  2014  ianbirrell  philanthropy  charitableindustrialcomplex  taxavoidance  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  capitalism  power  control 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Plutocrats at Work: How Big Philanthropy Undermines Democracy | Dissent Magazine
"From the start, the mega-foundations provoked hostility across the political spectrum. To their many detractors, they looked like centers of plutocratic power that threatened democratic governance. Setting up do-good corporations, critics said, was merely a ploy to secure the wealth and clean up the reputations of business moguls who amassed fortunes during the Gilded Age. Consider the reaction to John D. Rockefeller’s initial request for a charter from the U.S. Senate (he eventually received one from New York State):
In spite of his close ties to big business, Progressive presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt opposed the effort, claiming that “no amount of charity in spending such fortunes [as Rockefeller’s] can compensate in any way for the misconduct in acquiring them.” The conservative Republican candidate, William Howard Taft denounced the effort as “a bill to incorporate Mr. Rockefeller.” Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, sneered that “the one thing that the world would gratefully accept from Mr. Rockefeller now would be the establishment of a great endowment of research and education to help other people see in time how they can keep from being like him.”*



One hundred years later, big philanthropy still aims to solve the world’s problems—with foundation trustees deciding what is a problem and how to fix it. They may act with good intentions, but they define “good.” The arrangement remains thoroughly plutocratic: it is the exercise of wealth-derived power in the public sphere with minimal democratic controls and civic obligations. Controls and obligations include filing an annual IRS form and (since 1969) paying an annual excise tax of up to 2 percent on net investment income. There are regulations against self-dealing, lobbying (although “educating” lawmakers is legal), and supporting candidates for public office. In reality, the limits on political activity barely function now: loopholes, indirect support for groups that do political work, and scant resources for regulators have crippled oversight.

Because they are mostly free to do what they want, mega-foundations threaten democratic governance and civil society (defined as the associational life of people outside the market and independent of the state). When a foundation project fails—when, say, high-yield seeds end up forcing farmers off the land or privately operated charter schools displace and then underperform traditional public schools—the subjects of the experiment suffer, as does the general public. Yet the do-gooders can simply move on to their next project. Without countervailing forces, wealth in capitalist societies already translates into political power; big philanthropy reinforces this tendency.

Although this plutocratic sector is privately governed, it is publicly subsidized. Private foundations fall into the IRS’s wide-open category of tax-exempt organizations, which includes charitable, educational, religious, scientific, literary, and other groups. When the creator of a mega-foundation says, “I can do what I want because it’s my money,” he or she is wrong. A substantial portion of the wealth—35 percent or more, depending on tax rates—has been diverted from the public treasury, where voters would have determined its use.

The main rationale for both the tax exemption and the charitable contribution tax deduction (created in 1917) is to stimulate private giving. Yet this is a weak rationale when applied to the super-rich; a more effective way to stimulate their giving would be to raise the estate and capital gains taxes. It is a meaningless rationale for the 65 percent of American taxpayers who don’t itemize their deductions and therefore can’t use the charity tax break.

Despite scores of studies, the relationship of charitable giving to tax incentives remains unclear. Too many different factors determine giving: religiosity, innate altruism, family tradition, social attitudes, community ties, alumni loyalty, fluctuations in income. But other patterns of giving are well known. Less than 10 percent of all charity in the United States addresses basic human needs. The wealthiest donors devote an even tinier portion of their giving to these needs. Most major donations go to universities and colleges, hospitals, and cultural institutions, often for highly visible building projects carrying the donor’s name (New York Times, September 6, 2007).

Another public subsidy to private foundations comes from the “5 percent minimum payout requirement.” To prevent private foundations from hoarding all their wealth, the 1969 tax reform requires them to make grants annually that equal or exceed about 5 percent of their endowment’s value. There is, however, a loophole. The payout includes all “reasonable” foundation administrative expenses—from salaries and trustee fees to travel, receptions, office supplies, equipment, rent, and new headquarters. Only the cost of financially managing the endowment is excluded. Thus an extravagant “lifestyle” can cost a wealthy foundation nothing: any part of the 5 percent payout that a foundation doesn’t spend on itself must go to grants anyway.



A Modest Proposal

Big philanthropy is overdue for reform. The goal should be to reduce its leverage in civil society and public policymaking while increasing government revenue. Some possible changes seem obvious: don’t allow administrative expenses to count toward the 5 percent minimum payout, increase the excise tax on net investment income, eliminate the tax exemption for foundations with assets over a certain size, and replace the charity tax deduction with a tax credit available to everyone (for example, all donors could subtract 15 percent of the total value of their charitable contributions from their tax bills). In addition, strict IRS oversight of big philanthropy—especially all the “educating” that looks so much like lobbying and campaigning—is crucial.

Another reform would require private foundations to “spend down” their endowments over a designated number of years. They would no longer exist in perpetuity. This idea has some promise of success: the living donors of several mega-foundations, including Bill and Melinda Gates, have already decided to spend down and are recruiting others to do the same.

The foundation sector will fight reform ferociously—as it has in the past. When asked to forgo some influence or contribute more in taxes, the altruistic impulse stalls. The foundation sector acts like any other powerful interest group. The Obama administration, for example, tried several times to lower the charitable deduction cap, but the foundation lobby battled each effort successfully. Still, the reforms are sound, necessary, and worth pursuing.

Meanwhile, the public needs more critical, in-depth information. The mainstream media are, for the most part, failing miserably in their watchdog duties. They give big philanthropy excessive deference and little scrutiny. Public television and radio live on big philanthropy’s largess. Collaborative programming with mega-foundations has undermined the credibility of major for-profit news organizations as well as public media, especially on health and education issues.

Early twentieth-century skeptics were rightly suspicious of plutocrats deciding how to improve the human condition and then paying to translate their notions into public policy. Now it’s time for a new progressive era—complete with muckrakers and trust-busters to cast a critical eye on big philanthropy."
philantropy  charity  us  influence  corruption  wealth  power  capitalism  taxes  charitableindustrialcomplex  lausd  joannebarkan  progressivism  history  plutocracy  2013  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  control 
october 2013 by robertogreco
If a Business Won't Pay a Living Wage, It Shouldn't Exist
"Look at it this way: when someone opens up a business, they’re entitled to all sorts of special tax breaks that most people can’t get. They can write off fancy meals; they can write off nights stayed at five-star hotels; they can write off airfare to anywhere in the world they do business, or even might do business; and they can even write off any legal expenses they incur when they get busted for breaking the law. Drug dealers who push pot can’t write off their lawyer’s fees, but drug dealers at Big Pharma, even when they lie and break the law in ways that kill people, can - all because they’re incorporated.

All these breaks come in exchange for the company receiving these benefits giving society something back in return. Besides a useful service like selling meals or a good product like a well-made car, the single most important thing a business owner can give back to society is a well-paying job with benefits.

A job that pays a living wage isn’t just good for the workers who get to take home a livable paycheck, it’s good for other business owners and the economy as a whole. Businesses need people with a reasonable income to buy their goods. When workers are paid so little that they can barely afford to eat, they can’t spend additional money and as a result, the entire economy suffers. This is economics 101.

That implicit contract between society and the business owner used to be common knowledge in this country and, until the Reagan Revolution, was kept intact by businesses. Now, however, corporate America has thrown it out the window.

Walmart is the most egregious example. The nation’s largest employer is one big corporate welfare scheme for the company’s executives and the billionaire Walton family.

Walmart makes nearly $35,000 in profit every minute and, as of 2012, its average annual sales stood at $405 billion dollars.

According to Mother Jones, the six Waltons, whose money comes from Walmart, control an estimated $115 billion dollar fortune. In total, that’s more than a staggering 42% of Americans combined.

And where did they get all that money? They took it out of the business instead of paying their workers a living wage.

Thus, at the same time that Walmart executives are raking in the millions and the Walton family’s fortune is ballooning, Walmart employees struggle to get by.

The average Walmart employee makes about $9 per hour, and would have to work over 7 million years at that rate to accumulate as much wealth as the Waltons have. To make matters worse, only some of the company’s employees qualify for its very minimal health insurance plan.

As a result, you and me - and the rest of America’s taxpayers - are subsidizing Walmart by paying for the healthcare costs, housing, and food of Walmart employees. In fact, Walmart employees are the single largest group of Medicaid recipients in the United States.

A report released earlier this year by Congressional Democrats showed how much taxpayers subsidize the billionaire Walton Family at just one Walmart store in Wisconsin.

That report found that just that one Wisconsin store “costs taxpayers at least $904,542 per year and could cost taxpayers up to $1,744,590 per year.”

That’s $1.7 million that could be used to build a new school for kids, patch up one of our country’s many crumbling bridges, or build a community health center. Instead, the Walton billionaires are taking that $1.7 million as dividends and they even get their own special low tax rate – about half of what working people pay – because it’s dividend income.

Walmart isn’t living up to its end of the American business bargain. It gets billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies while its employees need government assistance to survive. If we're going to give businesses, like Walmart, the privileges and tax breaks associated with running a business, they should at the very least conduct themselves in ways that benefit society, rather than hurt it."
walmart  costco  taxes  corporatewelfare  livingwage  mininmumwage  politics  economics  business  2013 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Trevor Paglen: Turnkey Tyranny, Surveillance and the Terror State - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
"A few statistics are telling: between 1992 and 2007, the income of the 400 wealthiest people in the United States rose by 392 percent. Their tax rate fell by 37 percent. Since 1979, productivity has risen by more than 80 percent, but the median worker’s wage has only gone up by 10 percent. This is not an accident. The evisceration of the American middle and working class has everything to do with an all-out assault on unions; the rewriting of the laws governing bankruptcy, student loans, credit card debt, predatory lending and financial trading; and the transfer of public wealth to private hands through deregulation, privatization and reduced taxes on the wealthy. The Great Divergence is, to put it bluntly, the effect of a class war waged by the rich against the rest of society, and there are no signs of it letting up."



"…the effects of climate change will exacerbate already existing trends toward greater economic inequality, leading to widespread humanitarian crises and social unrest. The coming decades will bring Occupy-like protests on ever-larger scales as high unemployment and economic strife, particularly among youth, becomes a “new normal.” Moreover, the effects of climate change will produce new populations of displaced people and refugees. Economic and environmental insecurity represent the future for vast swaths of the world’s population. One way or another, governments will be forced to respond.

As future governments face these intensifying crises, the decline of the state’s civic capacities virtually guarantees that they will meet any unrest with the authoritarian levers of the Terror State. It won’t matter whether a “liberal” or “conservative” government is in place; faced with an immediate crisis, the state will use whatever means are available to end said crisis. When the most robust levers available are tools of mass surveillance and coercion, then those tools will be used. What’s more, laws like the National Defense Authorization Act, which provides for the indefinite detention of American citizens, indicate that military and intelligence programs originally crafted for combating overseas terrorists will be applied domestically.

The larger, longer-term scandal of Snowden’s revelations is that, together with other political trends, the NSA’s programs do not merely provide the capacity for “turnkey tyranny”—they render any other future all but impossible."
trevorpaglen  surveillance  terrorism  2013  edwardsnowden  climatechange  authoritarianism  thegreatdivergence  disparity  wealth  wealthdistribution  tyranny  global  crisis  society  classwar  class  deregulation  privatization  taxes  taxation  unions  debt  economics  policy  politics  encarceration  prisons  prisonindustrialcomplex  militaryindustrialcomplex  socialsafetynet  security  terrorstate  law  legal  secrecy  democracy  us  martiallaw  freedom  equality  fear  civilliberties  paulkrugman  environment  displacement  socialunrest  ows  occupywallstreet  refugees 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Britain can no longer afford to bankroll the rich | Nick Cohen | Comment is free | The Observer
"The Anglo-American model works for the few, not the many. We have yet to come to terms with how strange as well as unjust it has become.

In most recessions, societies become more equal. Unemployment may rise and wages stagnate. But the gap between the top and the rest narrows as those with the most to lose lose the most. In our time, the gap is widening, and I am tired of hearing lectures on how we can do nothing about it from supporters of the status quo, who have been wrong about everything for years.

The rise of the plutocracy is not the inevitable result of irresistible global forces. Politicians and central bankers have decided of their own free will to create a world in which the majority is left behind. I'll pass over the catastrophe of the eurozone – what is there left to say about it, after all? – and concentrate on Britain."



"The unstoppable march of the wealthy has two consequences we should talk about more. When rich parents can buy internships for their children at school auctions, the elite becomes closed to outsiders. Chrystia Freeland, an observant chronicler of the plutocracy, said last week that the political power of the top 1% will grow as inequality increases and its reactionary views will become ever more influential."



"The real charge against a future dominated by the super-rich, however, is not that it will be as asinine as Tudor Jones or that it will be cruel and immoral – although it will be all those things – but that it won't work.

Joseph Stiglitz and others have been arguing to the point of exhaustion that the working and middle classes are more likely to spend to keep the economy moving and hence to produce jobs for the abandoned young. More wealth for the wealthy generates more frequent and more severe booms and busts. This is not a future worth having but it is the future we are getting. The experience of the west since the crash has taught us that the rich are always with us. The novel question for today is: can the rest of society afford them?"
nickcohen  josephstiglitz  economics  2013  uk  us  wealth  wealthdistribution  recessions  trickledowneconomics  trickledown  disparity  inequality  plutocracy  power  politics  taxation  taxes  booms  busts 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Hullabaloo: No matter what Obama does, Republicans won't care and won't fold
"We are in uncharted waters, an era unprecedented since the Civil War in which one side is willing to let the country burn down in order to achieve its goals. Californians already know this well, having been forced into perpetual fiscal crises by a bare 1/3 Republican remnant in each chamber. Even as Republicans continued to slowly lose ground and seats, the vast majority of the caucus remained entrenched, fearing only opposition from the right. They were more than happy to let the Democratic-controlled state slip into chaos in order to get their way. California Democrats were left in the ugly position of making a series of Sophie's Choices, determining only which children to shoot to appease the tiny Republican minority. In an era of perpetual and consequence-free hostage taking, the only calculation that matters is which hostages to save and which ones to shoot.

Changing that equation doesn't involve intimidating Republicans or opening the eyes of their constituents.They're not…"
debtceiling  debtcrisis  barackobama  republicans  taxes  government  economics  politics  fiscalcliff  california  2013  davidatkins  from delicious
january 2013 by robertogreco
Economic Personalities for our Grandchildren | Jacobin
[Now paywalled, so read here: http://www.peterfrase.com/2012/11/economic-personalities-for-our-grandchildren/ ]

"Lebowitz relates…she loved to write as a young woman, but developed crippling writers’ block once she began to get paid to write…posits that she is “so resistant to authority, that I am even resistant to my own authority.”

"It’s people like this that I’m thinking of when I say that with reductions in working time & something like a generous Universal Basic Income, we would begin to discover what work people will continue to do whether or not they get paid for it. That’s not to say that all work can be taken care of this way… But we can at least start asking why we don’t make an effort to restrict wage labor to areas where it actually incentivizes something."

"I ultimately have a lot of optimism about what people are capable of, and I believe a socialist future would, among other things, bring us more music and literature from the Chris Cornells and Fran Lebowitzes than does the system we live in now."
capitalism  society  incentives  money  economiccompulsion  compulsion  idleness  creation  writing  franlebowitz  soundgarden  robertskidelsky  keynes  humans  behavior  rewards  intrinsicmotivation  trevorburrus  earnedincometaxcredit  taxes  lanekenworthy  mikekonczal  ubi  universalbasicincome  matthewyglesias  nacyfolbre  jessethorn  motivation  economics  behavioraleconomics  cv  authority  creativity  leisurearts  artlabor  labor  peterfrase  socialism  2012  chriscornell  post-productiveeconomy  artleisure  from delicious
november 2012 by robertogreco
Tax Cuts Don't Lead to Economic Growth, a New 65-Year Study Finds - Derek Thompson - The Atlantic
"In short, the study found that top tax rates don't appear to determine the size of the economic pie but they can affect how the pie is sliced, especially for the richest households.

The paper is a good reminder to be humble about taxes as a tool for growing the economy. They remain, above all, a tool for collecting revenue and tweaking incentives for specific economic behavior. Congress has cut tax rates repeatedly over the last 60 years, while the country and the global economy have undergone considerable changes that probably had a greater effect on growth. For years after World War II, the U.S. was a singular economic powerhouse with an enormous manufacturing base that employed nearly 40% of the economy. For the last decade-plus, the economy has grown at a considerably slower pace and the gains have accrued to a smaller and more elite share of the economy."
economicgrowth  taxpolicy  policy  wealth  wealthdistribution  incomegap  growth  statistics  history  taxcuts  taxrates  taxes  us  economics 
september 2012 by robertogreco
matthew gallaway - A Few Notes On Overgentrification
"The piece also fails to address the problems that really afflict neighborhoods in NYC and elsewhere around the world undergoing similar transformations. In West Chelsea, the problem is clearly not the High Line, but rather the effects of an unfettered system — at local and federal levels — that has allowed an arguably unprecedented concentration of wealth in our country, which (yes) makes it all but impossible for those without millions of dollars to afford to live (or at least buy) in those neighborhoods now being populated by those who have — let’s just call it — too much money. At the same time, however, the solution is not to stop the development of parks or to whine about gas-station/auto-shop leases not being renewed; the solution is rather (and this is hardly revolutionary or at least revelatory) to tax the rich, both individuals and corporations, and to distribute the money to the less-than-rich, in ways that are reasonably fair and equitable. That’s what government is for…"
society  urbanplanning  wealthdistribution  policy  taxes  us  wealth  highline  manhattan  brooklyn  nyc  2012  gentrification  from delicious
august 2012 by robertogreco
A Self-Made Man Looks At How He Made It – Whatever
"So much of how their lives will be depends on them, of course, just as so much of how my life is has depended on my own actions. We all have to be the primary actors in our own lives. But so much of their lives will depend on others, too, people near and far. We all have to ask ourselves what role we play in the lives of others — in the lives of loved ones, in the lives of our community, in the life of our nation and in the life of our world. I know my own answer for this. It echoes the answer of those before me, who helped to get me where I am."

[Update 29 Dec 2012: See also http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4965041 AND https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqUG2_cmZ6I ]
via:litherland  interdependence  community  society  socialsafetynet  2012  opportunity  economics  socialism  johnscalzi  libraries  poverty  socialcontract  individualism  taxes  from delicious
july 2012 by robertogreco
23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism - YouTube
"Development economics expert Ha-Joon Chang dispels the myths and prejudices that have come to dominate our understanding of how the world works in a lecture at the RSA."
ideology  taxes  taxation  freemarkets  growth  regulation  trickledowneconomics  inequality  wealthcreation  financialcrisis  myths  via:chrisberthelsen  2010  economics  capitalism  ha-joonchang  from delicious
february 2012 by robertogreco
Why San Diegans Are to Blame for the City's Problems - voiceofsandiego.org: Q & As
"There are really two faces or sides to San Diego. There's the San Diego the tourists see. There's a high-tech industry that spawned the new economy by places like UCSD. That's the public face of San Diego at least in terms of the local PR machine, which is very good at getting the San Diego image out.

The reality of San Diego is on the public sector side. I think on the first page we talk about an increasingly grim and visible civic reality, which is dry rot for public services and infrastructure. That's still largely hidden. You get intimations of it like during the 2003 and 2007 fire when you suddenly realize we have very little fire protection.

The problem with San Diego is that the ocean and the sun are both our blessing and our curse. Obviously, it's a wonderful place to live in if you can afford it. But the problem is, is that it induces sort of a sense of complacency that as long as the sun comes up everything is OK."
sandiego  2011  politics  steveerie  jerrysanders  policy  finance  taxes  services  deficit  crisis  finances  california  losangeles  revenue  from delicious
october 2011 by robertogreco
THE PERIMETER PRIMATE: Elizabeth Warren on class warfare, etc.
“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You build a factory out there – good for you.

But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for...

Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea – God bless! Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
elizabethwarren  class  society  us  policy  taxes  entitlement  2011  markets  economics  business  entrepreneurship  infrastructure  government  from delicious
september 2011 by robertogreco
The Blog : How to Lose Readers (Without Even Trying) : Sam Harris
"Many of my critics pretend that they have been entirely self-made…seem to feel responsible for their intellectual gifts…freedom from injury & disease…fact that they were born at a specific moment in history. Many appear to have absolutely no awareness of how lucky one must be to succeed at anything in life, no matter how hard one works. One must be lucky to be able to work. One must be lucky to be intelligent, to not have cerebral palsy, or to not have been bankrupted in middle age by the mortal illness of a spouse.

Many of us have been extraordinarily lucky—& we did not earn it. Many good people have been extraordinarily unlucky—& did not deserve it. & yet I get the distinct sense that if I asked some of my readers why they weren’t born w/ club feet, or orphaned before the age of 5, they would not hesitate to take credit for these accomplishments. There is a stunning lack of insight into the unfolding of human events that passes for moral & economic wisdom in some circles."

[via: http://lukescommonplacebook.tumblr.com/post/9573656199/ ]
culture  economics  policy  money  taxes  politics  samharris  objectivism  libertarianism  luck  unlucky  life  illness  bankruptcy  society  religion  belief  selfishness  wisdom  class  wealth  incomegap  wealthdistribution  warrenbuffett  2011  sharing  socialism  democracy  goodfortune  morality  success  from delicious
august 2011 by robertogreco
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