Saturday, March 16, 2019

2020 And The Rise Of Democratic Capitalism

Can we please clear up one thing right now? Next year’s election is not about socialism versus capitalism. It’s about democratic capitalism versus republican capitalism. Nothing better illustrates the difference than Liz Warren’s brilliantly conceived ultra-millionaires tax. It is by far the most interesting policy proposal of this nascent 2020 presidential campaign. In a nutshell, she proposes that the richest one-tenth of one percent of Americans should pay an additional two cents in taxes for every dollar they have – with the first fifty million dollars of their net worth being exempt from the tax. No I’m not kidding. That’s two cents on the dollar with the first $50 million free from any additional taxation. This simple, straightforward proposal would generate nearly $3 trillion in new revenue over the next decade.

Still, within literally seconds there were howls of protest from the Boo-Hoo Billionaires Brigade and their paid apologists whining about what an intolerable burden this would be for them. Socialism, they screamed! Which tells you all you need to know about who we are dealing with here: the greediest pigs on the planet.

Unfortunately for our country, these porcine plutocrats have been running things for practically ever and the results are miserable. Look around. The stock market is high. Productivity is higher. Unemployment is low. Yet most Americans are anxiety ridden wrecks living paycheck to paycheck under crushing debt because their wages have been flat since Ted Turner launched CNN. Where did all the wealth they created go? Unless you’ve been living under a rock since the Great Recession of 2008, you already know the answer. It went to that filthy rich sliver of the population who are now calling Liz Warren a socialist.

You want to know why AOC and the House freshman class of 2019 are so popular? Because for the first time since Watergate, voters are finally woke to the fact that republican capitalism is a no rules, no holds barred, free-for-all shit show that has been rigged for the super rich for years at the expense of everybody else. Admittedly, it took an unapologetic crook in the White House to focus the mind. But make no mistake about it. The country is focused right now. And the old “socialism” trope that failed in 1935 against Social Security, failed in 1965 against Medicare, and failed in 2008 against Obamacare, is going down spectacularly again in 2020.  For nearly a century, with overwhelming popular support, democratic capitalism has included two fundamental American values: fairness and compassion. Republican capitalism has no use for either. But don’t take my word for it. Gallup has been polling these same issues for decades. The numbers speak for themselves. The fact that policies central to democratic capitalism -- which are consistently supported by a substantial majority of Americans -- can’t seem to find their way into law is the result of a broken political system, not a divided electorate.

Gore Vidal famously defined capitalism (the republican variety) as, “socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor.” Which brings me back to the new crop democrats who are finding their voices and their footing this year. People, I’m begging you. If you must have a label for a country with a living minimum wage, health care and higher education for all, fair taxes and a clean environment, please just call it “compassionate capitalism” or “democratic capitalism.” Then let Trump’s GOP squabble over which concept they hate the most: compassion or democracy.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Oh How Far The GOP Has Fallen

From President Abraham Lincoln's Message to Congress
---December 3, 1861

"...there is one point to which I ask a brief attention. It is the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above labor, in the structure of government. Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

You Can't Always Get What You Want

Consent Of The Governed

By Nick Paleologos
June 27, 2017

As we prepare to celebrate the 4th of July, we keep being told that as a country we are hopelessly divided, polarized and siloed. That we are getting exactly what we what we want – indeed what we voted for. But the dirty little secret is this: our system is badly broken. It routinely gives us exactly the opposite of what we want. The simple, documentable truth is that Americans are remarkably unified on most key public policy issues – and have been for decades. Here are just a few examples:

Universal Healthcare
For the past sixteen years (half under a republican president and half under a democrat) the Gallup Poll asked Americans the same question -- eighteen different times:

Do you think it’s the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage, or is that not the responsibility of the federal government?

If you average America’s responses since 2000, it’s not even close: 

57% - Yes, healthcare is a federal government responsibility.
40% - No, healthcare is not a federal government responsibility.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. Americans are increasingly aware that universal healthcare is a fact of life in Austria, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and even Croatia – for crying out loud. So the arguments that it’s too expensive, or that it can’t be done, or that we are deeply divided on the subject, are all just plain false.

Universal College Education
Last summer, in the heat of the presidential campaign, CNBC reported on a poll asking Americans the following question:

Would you support or oppose making tuition at public colleges and universities free for anyone who wants to attend?

62% - Support free public colleges
35% - Oppose free public colleges

This result should not be a surprise to anyone. Eight million fathers of Baby Boomers built the Great American Middle Class on the back of the GI Bill. We tried this idea already. It worked like a charm. And pretty much everybody knows it.

Universal Background Checks
Here again, the Gallup Poll has asked the same question eleven times over the last twenty-five years and America’s answer, on average, has been remarkably consistent:

In general, do you think the laws governing the sale of firearms should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are now:

58% - More Strict gun laws
32% - Same gun laws
 9% - Less Strict gun laws

Back in the fall of 2015, Gallup asked this question:

Would you favor or oppose a law, which would require universal background checks for all gun purchases in the U.S. using a centralized database across all 50 states?

86% - Favor background checks
12% - Oppose background checks

Call me crazy but that doesn’t look very polarized to me.

Social Security & Medicare
In 2015, on the 50th anniversary of these two laws, the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a national survey asking Americans which government programs were very important to them.

Social Security (83%) and Medicare (77%) topped the list – followed closely by: Federal School Aid (75%); the Military (73%); College Loans (64%); and Medicaid (63%). Yet we keep being told that all but the military are “controversial” government spending programs. Go figure.

Tax Cuts For The Rich
Finally, the Gallup Poll asked this question no less than nineteen times in the last twenty-five years:

Tell me if you think upper income people are paying their FAIR SHARE in federal taxes, paying TOO MUCH, or paying TOO LITTLE?

This, on average, is how America has responded since 1992:

65% - Rich people pay TOO LITTLE
22% - Rich people pay their FAIR SHARE
10% - Rich people pay TOO MUCH

Americans clearly understand that the two most recent tax cuts for the rich (under Reagan & GW Bush) were the cause of, and not the cure for, massive annual deficits and an exploding national debt. Yet despite America’s sustained opposition to tax laws that consistently favor the rich at the expense of the working poor and middle class, ever more noxious tax cut proposals just keep on coming.

We are told that America is hopelessly divided on the bread and butter issues. That’s not true.

We are told that we can’t afford the country we want.  That’s not true.

Two of our last three presidents got the job after losing the election, most recently by a whopping three million votes.

When the policies most of us want, don’t become law, and the candidates most of us voted for don’t become president, the time is ripe to re-read that document we venerate on July 4th -- especially that second sentence about governments deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed:

“That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it…”

Friday, January 6, 2017

What's America Worth To You?

Can You Spare A Quarter For Your Country?
By Nick Paleologos

I grew up in Woburn Massachusetts. My grandfather settled there from Greece in the early 1900’s. He labored in one of those tanneries the city became famous for. Our sports teams are still called the Woburn Tanners.

It was mostly immigrants who did that work because stripping animal hides and transferring them by hand - one at a time - into a series of increasingly toxic open baths was the best job they could get. Every day, “Papou” left his modest home on Conn Street, walked a few blocks, donned his “protective” apron and rubber gloves, then inhaled poisonous chromium-sulfate fumes from dawn till dusk.  

And not once did he ever complain about paying taxes to his adopted country.

Donald Trump on the other hand is a billionaire. He loves billionaires. His cabinet is lousy with them. You know what most of these billionaires have in common – besides not having to sweat the price of gas?

They can’t stop complaining about the taxes they pay to their country. 

They are among the richest people on the planet and all they can do is whine incessantly about how rough it is to make a buck in America with a personal tax rate of 39% for billionaires and 35% for corporations – even though not one of these chronic cry babies have ever paid anything close to those tax rates.

You would think they’d have the common decency of my immigrant grandfather and shut up about it already. But they just can’t help themselves. Whenever America says it wants universal healthcare or higher education, we get the same answer. Our country can’t afford it. Which begs the obvious question. How much is your country worth to you? Or put another way, how much are you willing to pay for the stuff you want in the country you say you love?

In 2015, total personal income in America was $15.45 trillion. And that’s with the average person’s wages being essentially flat for the last thirty years. US Corporate profits that same year were $6.44 trillion. That totals nearly $22 trillion and includes everybody – Main Street, Wall Street, and everyone in between. So if we all kicked in a quarter for every dollar of earnings and profits in 2015, our country would have had revenue of $5.5 trillion. The entire federal budget in 2015 was $3.8 trillion.

In other words, if we cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25% and cut the top personal income tax rate from 39% to 25% - and everybody actually paid their 25 cents on the dollar - we could afford everything the country currently does for its citizens, and still have a $1.7 trillion surplus left over -- every year.  

But wait, you say. It's not fair for Joe Six Pack to pay the same tax rate as Richie Rich -- because the basic costs of living take a much bigger bite out of Joe than Richie. And you are right. So here's how we fix that. The first $75,000 of everybody's income should be federal tax free. That shouldn't be a big problem since the top 20% in America already pay 87% of individual federal income taxes. By the way, that ought to tell you something, since few if any of them are paying the top rate now.

So you see if we all paid just a quarter on every dollar we earned (over $75,000 per year) there would be no need for any deductions at all; we'd have a massive annual budget surplus immediately; our country would be debt free in just over a decade; Social Security would be solvent for all time; Medicare could be extended to every citizen from birth; and we'd still be spending more on our military than the next ten largest countries combinedIn short, we’d have a country that can keep us safe and secure, guarantee our healthcare and education, and treat us fairly so that every citizen can have the opportunity to be the most that they can be.

My immigrant grandfather was happy to pay for that country. Are you?