Sunday, June 24, 2007
COALITION FOR PROGRESS
********TAX THE RICH********
We plan to use ballot initiatives--beginning with the city or county of Los Angeles, California (ultimately nationwide)--to compel the federal government to levy new taxes on the very rich--which they can easily afford--in order to solve our national and global problems--such as a possible Great Depression!--and help build a better future for America and the world.
Let us know--by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to:
--Offer comments or suggestions;
--Get more information;
--Stay in touch--we'll email you (not more than once a month at least until enough people have signed up for us to start gathering signatures);
--Join our discussion group, online or with meetings;
--Help us publicize our idea;
--Help gather signatures to get our initiative on the ballot;
--Help register voters and get out the vote once we get on the ballot.
For references to economists who support the principle of taxing the rich, click on "Taxing the Very Rich" in the upper left-hand margin.
***Blogging January 9, 2009:
I fear the country is skating on thin ice with its huge budget deficits. We now project a $1.2 trillion deficit this year--and that is without counting Obama's stimulus plan, which could add $800 billion over two years, but I think they'll find that they need to spend that much this year alone, for a total deficit of $2 trillion this year and trillion-dollar deficits as far into the future as the eye can see.
We're standing at the brink of the $53 trillion entitlement abyss, digging it deeper as fast as we can, and I'm afraid we're going to lose it. Like Germany after WW I, we are saddled with debt we will never be able to repay even if we wanted to, and the whole world can plainly see that we have no intention of ever paying it off. Hyperinflation could keep our economy running for a while but eventually it will result in ruin.
We could still prevent this disaster by heavily taxing the very rich, but I don't think our government is going to do that--our system is so structured as to make it impossible for Congress to levy such taxes, and our movement to tax the rich via ballot initiatives is making no headway; and I fear we are heading for collapse.
But even if our system does collapse, the need to tax the rich will REMAIN--indeed more so than ever, although with the government broken, the ballot initiative process may no longer exist and we will have to resort to other methods, like Robin Hood. So we still need to organize and get active as much as or more than ever.
And even if extreme deficit spending doesn't ruin our economy, we should still massively tax the very rich for three more reasons:
(1) without massively taxing the very rich, we will NEVER obtain ANY of our great objectives of affordable housing, full employment, livable minimum wage ($12/hr), poverty-reduction, direct democracy, or space travel for all (for example, you will notice that in President-elect Obama's giant stimulus package, there is no mention of any of these vital goals);
(2) to avoid burdening future generations with this gigantic debt, and
(3) for real equality, we must level the aristocracy of wealth. Just as we don't want kings and emperors to lord it over us, we want democratic self-rule; so we should not allow the billionaires to be our masters, as they are now, for example as the major shareholders of the corporations, they are our bosses' bosses' bosses.
Obama is also making another big mistake by directing aid--tax cuts--more to the middle class than to the poor. Tax cuts don't help the neediest, who make too little money to pay taxes. We should help the most those who are having the hardest time of it, and that would also be the most efficient way of stimulating the economy.
December 16, 2008:
It is essential that the United States maintain all of our industries, and bring back all those, such as textiles, that we have lost due to foreign competition. We need to have these industries because they give us basic practical knowledge, capabilities, and empowerment and will provide the best job opportunities when the government sets out to create the 10-15 million jobs that unemployed people need. For this reason, I support the general principle of bailing out the auto makers. At this time, it looks as though the Bush administration will do this, even though Congress opposed the bailout; so it may seem like the question is settled. However, I don't think it is; if we bail out "the Big Three" now, we will need to bail them out again next year and probably a couple more times in the future. For this reason, I would like to discuss and propose conditions that we should attach to the future bailouts. Click on "Solving Other National and World Problems" in the upper left-hand margin (the last, bottom entry there).
Another issue I must comment on is the now prevailing view that it is a bad idea to raise taxes in a recession, and therefore when Obama becomes President he should postpone his plan to raise taxes on the very rich. That would be a bad mistake, because it would keep tax revenues low, which would prevent us from spending as much as we must in order to end the recession, poverty, and unemployment, and it would destroy all hopes of even trying to approach balancing the budget, which could cause the economy to spiral hopelessly out of control and bring hyperinflation and chaos. The vital principle to keep in mind, is that while taxing the rich will take their money out of the economy--while in a recession we need to put as much money as possible into the economy--the tax revenues will enable us to put more money into the hands of the poor, the middle class, and the government itself, who by spending it will more than make up for the reduction in the spending ability of the rich. This is because the poor, the lower middle class, and the government are "hot spenders"--needy and eager to rush to spend every dime they get ahold of, while the rich are more apt to hold on to the money, keeping it out of circulation.
December 6, 2008:
With 533,000 jobs having vanished last month, our economy is clearly in a major emergency, which will require drastic and extreme measures to solve--namely, massively taxing the very rich in order to support the enormous increase in government spending that will be necessary. Even though it may be a year or two before we can get our initiative on the ballot, we will still need to do this, because this recession or depression won't go away soon. In the Great Depression, for example, the economy shrank for four long years.
Some people think no Great Depression could ever happen again, but they are mistaken. The "welfare state" was supposed to prevent it--for example, today if you lose your job, you can collect unemployment insurance, so that you can still pay the rent and buy groceries and clothes, so those businesses are able to keep going. But Bill Clinton and the Republicans destroyed the last safety net with the "welfare reform" of 1996, so that now, after your unemployment benefits run out, you can only collect Welfare for a few months and then you fall into the Abyss.
Then you can no longer pay the rent or buy anything and so businesses will fail across the board, resulting in more layoffs, poverty, and homelessness, in a vicious downward spiral.
Only vast government spending can save us, and it must be paid for by massive new taxes on the very rich, because otherwise the enormous budget deficits might ultimately drive America into national bankruptcy and/or cause hyperinflation, and even if these things don't happen, the soaring national debt will be a huge burden on future generations.
November 10, 2008:
Soon--now that everyone knows that we are in deep trouble, economically, both nationally and worldwide--I will begin posting near downtown LA. The themes of the 22 different posters I plan to put up at this time are:
*****50 reasons why we must tax the rich MORE:
Redistribute the wealth; Redistribute the power
1-Because we need the money
2-Because they can easily afford it
3-To get back on the right track
6-For full employment
7-To balance the budget
8-To raise the minimum wage to a living wage
9-For universal health coverage
10-For more affordable housing
12-To solve our country's problems
17-To rectify the crazy differences in pay between various jobs
19-To solve the immigration problem
24-For real democracy
27-Because it is fair
28-To save Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and pensions in the long run
30-Because it is possible
32-For economic security
35-To solve poverty
36-To recover from the recession
41-To wipe out debt
45-Because we need a trillion dollars a year in new federal revenues
46-Because 1100 billionaires own as much wealth as half the world's people combined earn in a year
48-Because inequality is rising
The rest of the "Fifty reasons" are many items such as supporting the arts, alleviating world poverty, and going back into Space, which are very important but not as urgent as the 22 I have chosen to begin this campaign with.
***Blogging August 30, 2008:
Barack Obama has a mildly progressive domestic economic policy and is worth voting for for that reason only; his foreign policy is terrible but so is McCain's.
But Obama will not be able to achieve even his modest domestic reforms because he will not have enough money--that's where we come in. In order to save the economy, solve our problems, and get the country back on the right track to a better future, we will need a trillion and a half dollars a year in new federal tax revenues--which the very rich can easily afford to pay. Obama will raise taxes on the rich but only by a couple hundred billion dollars a year--totally inadequate for our needs and hopes for progress. The great obstacle is that Congress is controlled by the wealthy and corporations. That is why we the people have to rise up and compel the government to tax the rich and the first method we have for doing this is by using advisory ballot initiatives, which do not have the force of law, but which, when passed in enough cities and states, will manifest the will of the people which Congress ultimately cannot ignore and will have to obey. Large street demonstrations will help compel them to act. Our initiative must also give us the people more say-so in how the new tax revenues should be spent.
***Blogging August 25, 2008:
*****MARCH FOR JUSTICE*****
Halfway between May Day and Memorial Day, which would be Saturday, May 16, 2009:
Let us commemorate the 41st anniversary of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy with a March For Justice in cities nationwide.
Let us demand six great goals for America:
1. End Poverty in America!
2. Full Employment--Create 10 million jobs!
3. Living Wages--Raise the minimum wage to $12 per hour!
4. Universal Health Coverage--single payer!
5. Affordable Housing For All--build 10 million units!
6. Get Out of Iraq and Afghanistan! No War on Iran! Peace with Justice in Mideast!
In Los Angeles, we might march down Wilshire Boulevard, either from the Westwood Federal Building or Westlake/MacArthur Park to the downtown LA Federal Building. Please let me know if you agree with this proposal and I would be very interested in hearing any counterproposals. Of course, it is possible that things may have changed by next year so we may need to change some of these demands. I would especially like to hear from others in the LA area; and, of course, we will also want to have a large march in Washington, DC, as well as in as many other cities as possible!
Coalition For Progress
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Click on topics of interest in the left-hand margin:
The Coalition For Progress
A Great Future for America and the World
How Much will Progress Cost?
Taxing the Very Rich--Why, How, and How Much
Solving Unemployment and Underemployment
Direct Democracy--All Power to the People!
Electoral Reform--Restructuring the Government
Solving US and World Poverty
SPACE: Humanity's Great Destiny
Solving Other National and World Problems:
Saturday, June 23, 2007
The Coalition For Progress
In order to solve our national and world problems and build a better future for humanity, we will need a great deal of money.
We have to get it by heavily taxing the extremely rich. This is difficult to do, because they are very powerful, but it is possible if we are willing to work together for progress, justice, expanding opportunity, equal opportunity for all, and equality. And we have to do it, or else America and the world are doomed to ever-increasing inequality, injustice, poverty, stagnation, and hopelessness for the great majority, and we will never achieve the great destiny humankind deserves and is potentially capable of.
The key is uniting all progressives and populists, who are working for many and varied causes, from health care to the environment and the space program, from immigration reform to raising the minimum wage to balancing the federal budget, to work together--because the one thing we all have in common is the great need for a huge increase in national public spending--rather than fighting each other over shares of the current, limited, inadequate tax revenues.
The main key to taxing the rich is that we will have to hit the streets in large numbers, to demonstrate for our demands for government responses to our problems and our aspirations for a better nation and world. These demonstrations might be led by factions demanding jobs or some other specific issue, but we all in fact share the same values and can all join in the rallies, marches, and public forums.
We can also use techniques such as ballot initiatives to prove the support of the people for our ideas. But even with such proof of the popular will, our government might resist meeting our demands--because our rulers are dominated by the very rich, whose interests are contrary to the needs of the people--so we will have to force the issue by hitting the streets by the millions.
In the long run, I am very optimistic. Just as from 1929 to 1945, the United States had to endure a great economic disaster followed by a horrendous war, I believe there are some very hard times ahead of us, but I think we will eventually emerge from these troubles to enter a new era of unprecedented, broad prosperity and expansion and relative peace, as we did in the postwar decades before the mid-'60s.
We will build a new world order which will be as much of an improvement over our current system as the post-WW II order, with its United Nations, general and rising education and affluence, beneficial tide of foreign aid, medical advances and the beginnings of the Space Age, were over the dark, desperate, backward 1930s.
Here is my vision for our future (what is yours?).
Broad and rising prosperity and equality
This is the truly most immense change that we can and have to bring about. Poverty escapes the notice of many Americans, but it is by far and away the world's greatest problem with almost half the world's population having to live on under $3 a day, a billion people without access to clean drinking water, ten million children dying of poverty every year, and so on.
After the Revolution, giant transfers from the rich countries to the poor will enable the Third World to rapidly industrialize and lift their people up to American middle-class living standards within two generations, by the 2050s. Progressive domestic policies in the Third World, such as full employment and rapidly raising the minimum wage level, will eliminate poverty, both absolute and relative, everywhere. Ultimately, we will go far beyond that and achieve the dream of everyone becoming a millionaire, billionaire, and "every man a king"--in the best senses, meaning that all will have enormous wealth and power and the wisdom to use them well and without this being at the expense of others. It's not power over other people that we want, it is the power to solve our collective problems and help build a better world (and ultimately Solar System) for all. Our enormous prospective wealth will require lang-range planning, in order to avoid depleting natural resources and polluting the environment, but will ultimately be made possible by the immense resources of energy, space, and materials available in outer space.
A New World Order Based on the Equality of All Nations and All People
Today's rotten world order is based on the idea of a Darwinian competitive struggle of all nations against each other with the devil take the hindmost. This is totally intolerable as a world order. Our goal has to be that all nations shall succeed, attain roughly equal living standards, since all are roughly equally deserving, and ultimately share equally in the great adventure of Space. Thus, international cooperation and friendship ("No Nation Left Behind") will replace hostile, cutthroat, uncaring competition; there will always be friendly rivalry, however.
There will be a democratically elected World Government, with a World Parliament of 10,000 seats, with each district including half a million to a million people; but each seat should be rotated (or otherwise shared) among 4 or more officeholders, who will share the power of the office in proportion to the number of votes they receive--a type of proportional representation that will immensely broaden everyone's opportunity to serve in government. The WG will fund itself by printing currency to finance its programs, but don't worry--it will be controlled by discussion groups open to all, which will keep it from overprinting and getting too much power that way.
Between the World Government and the 200 or so national governments will be a new, intermediate level of government--the ten great regional superpowers. You can already see these starting to form, in such organizations as ASEAN, the Asociation of SouthEast Asian Nations. The European Union EU has advanced the farthest along this path--though it needs revolutionary change to tax the rich, solve poverty and unemployment, massively increase foreign aid, and redistribute the power by becoming more democratic. All these great regions must become DIRECT DEMOCRACIES, governed by discussion groups open to all people. Thereby power can be equally or at least very broadly distributed to all people, instead of tightly concentrated in a tiny percentage of the population, as it is in today's representative democracies. These regional superpowers should be funded by heavy taxes on people with great WEALTH (by contrast with the national governments, which should be funded by heavy taxes on extremely high INCOMES).
The Ten Great Regions are: Africa, Bharat (India), China, Europe, the Islamic world, the Japanese alliance (possibly including Australia, South Korea, etc.), Latin America, North America (the US and Canada--Mexico belongs in the Latin American region), a renewed, reformed, voluntary Soviet Union, and Tropical East Asia. (Names chosen so as to conveniently give 10 different initials--A, B, C, E, I, J, L, N, S, T). Places that do not belong to any particular one of these can be incorporated in a "World" region (W). Note that some of these regions overlap--for example, the Islamic world overlaps Africa, India, the Soviet bloc, and Tropical East Asia, and a few other places, like Albania in Europe. In some such cases, individual people may be allowed to determine which region they wish to belong to, or the decision might be made democratically, state by state or city by city within each such place. Since all regions are dedicated to progress and equality, there should be no conflict.
This uniting of people and nations in these great regions is most vital in order to:
(1) Build up their power to stand up to "the West" (the US and its allies who now have global hegemony);
(2) Build up their power, with giant armies where necessary, as it generally will be, in order to make the world democratic, so that the now almost powerless poor of Africa, etc., shall have just as much say-so in world affairs as the rulers of the richest countries do now;
(3) Redistribute the wealth within each region--e.g., from (the relatively rich) South Africa to the poorest countries of Africa, and from (wealthy) Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to (impoverished)Egypt and Indonesia in the Islamic world, etc.;
(4) Plan, organize, and develop their own economies, including the automobile and airplane industries which are beyond the capacity of small, poor countries, but that can be built up through collaboration among all the small countries in each great region;
(5) Design and build the many huge spacecraft which again are way beyond the capacity of small countries but that can be produced through collaboration among them within their region, which will enable their region to participate as equals with all the other regions in the great coming future Space Age.
Although people of all races and religions will be welcome in each region, it is important to note that it is the consciousness of racial and religious commonality that will make it possible
for progressive leaders to unite the diverse peoples and nations within their regions.
Universal Freedom and Democracy
The main impediment to freedom today is poverty and unemployment. People who are unemployed (there are about half a billion currently) are not free; nor are those who are too poor to travel or afford the things they need and want. One of our first great reforms must be full employment with good jobs for all, with high and rising minimum wage levels, total flex-time, full choice of type of work, and "full promotion" policies that will make it possible for ALL to rise to the top. All these things will require large government subsidies. (See blog on "Solving National and World Problems--Un- and Under-Employment".)
Another great reform must make it possible for all people to travel all over the world. This will require huge subsidies in order to build affordable motels everywhere and create all kinds of temporary jobs everywhere so that everyone can work his or her way around the world. Three further great reforms will help make travel easier and more enjoyable:
(1) There will be a world language--Esperanto, which everyone should learn as their second language in the future world where education has greatly expanded, making it possible for everyone to learn three languages--their native tongue, Esperanto, and some third language of their choice. Esperanto will be the world language, rather than English, which is the closest thing to a universal language today, because it is regular in spelling and grammar, making it easier to learn, and it is more neutral, not associated with any one national or ethnic group--in particular, not with the big English-speaking nations, whose foreign policies are making them widely hated around the world.
(2) From birth, everyone will have a universal ID card which will serve as birth certificate, Social Security card, driver's license, universal ATM, visa, and passport, which will eliminate this travel complication.
(3) There will be a universal currency, printed by the World Government. (Individual nations, however, will still be free to mint coins, though their size and color/material will be standardized so as to be easily usable everywhere.)
We must advance beyond the current practice of majoritarian representative democracy, by which the tiny number of usually unenlightened middle-of-the-road (and/or servants of the rich) rulers impose their preferences on all, to proportional representation and direct democracy in which power is broadly shared, and to a system of territories set aside in which people of all political philosophies--liberals, conservatives, socialists, libertarians, and beyond--can live and govern themselves according to their beliefs, and build their ideal types of society to demonstrate to visitors how their ideals would work in practice. Note that in general most of these territories will need to be subsidized (The lack of such subsidies is why many such utopian communities have failed in the past.)
The World Government will have the power and the mandate to persuade or depose any national rulers who do not give their people freedom, democracy, and human rights.
A Great and Glorious Destiny in Space
Perhaps one of the most important changes to be brought about by the Revolution will be the vision of where we as a human civilization are going. Today we drift. The ideal of progress, which was so prominent in the 1950s and early '60s, has been lost; our country and the world are stagnant, having no direction and going nowhere. There is no vision of any better world future, so each individual is just supposed to compete in an economic war of all against all, to take as big a share of whatever wealth exists as he or she can. Under this system, one person's success is always at the expense of others, and idealism and hope for a better future for all vanish. It doesn't have to be like this!
The thing that can give us all a great common, shared future to look forward to is the prospect of the Space Age For All. This will give our world civilization long-range direction, optimism, and dynamism, aiming towards the objective, which may be achievable by the 2050s, of making it possible for all people, perhaps numbering 10 billion by that time, to go to the Moon, Mars, and all of the other wondrous worlds of the Solar System. Billions of people already living can hope to live to see enjoy this Space Age!
In Space are freedom, room to roam, immense knowledge, wild adventure, vast resources, fantastic beauty, and unprecedented power to develop our human civilization to meet the needs, wishes, and dreams of everyone.
In the United States, in order to solve our national problems, improve the world, and help build a better future for humankind, we will have to raise taxes on the very rich and corporations by over a trillion dollars a year.
Here is a budget proposal showing what we should use the money for. (The figures below add up to over $1.5 trillion--indeed over $2 trillion--because there is some overlap and because the costs of some programs listed can be spread out over several to many years, requiring less per year. Another posibility to keep in mind is that we ought to slash defense and war spending by $400 billion a year, which would help save money for worthwhile purposes; but I wouldn't count on our being able to get most Americans to go along with that. But it might be worth trying.)
$450 billion to balance the budget and begin paying down the national debt, which is important to do, because it is costing us hundreds of billions of dollars in interest every year--money that is taken mostly from middle-class taxpayers and goes mostly right into the pockets of the overrich, without providing for any government services.
(Now by November, 2008, this seems outdated, because the annual budget deficit has exploded from $4-500 billion to a trillion, a trillion-and-a-half, or two trillion dollars, and not only that, but a consensus seems to have been reached that we should ignore the deficit for a couple of years, engage in massive deficit spending, and then, only once the economy has been saved, get back to worrying about the deficit.
(I believe they are mistaken to ignore the red ink; I believe it could cause terrible problems. But even if they are right, we are still going to need to massively tax the very rich by 2010-2011, and since it will take at least a year or two to get our initiative on the ballot and force the government to act accordingly, it is not to early to begin to go to work on this NOW!)
$200 billion to create full employment, create 10 million jobs, and raise the minimum wage to a living wage of $12 per hour, which will have to be paid for partly by government because not all private employers can afford to pay so much higher wages without raising prices, reducing hiring, or other harmful practices. (See the Solving Un- and Under-Employment blog.)
$100 billion for child care--pre-school and Head Start for all both to improve children's lives and education and in order to make it possible for more parents to work. This could also include the costs of providing income for parents who want to take time off from work to care for their children--a cost which should be paid for by the government, because it is a welfare cost, which is the province of government, rather than of employers, and because the amount of such pay should be the same for every such parent, instead of being proportional to the employee's salary, as it is if paid by the employer.
$100 billion to eliminate poverty by raising welfare benefits, for those who cannot work, to decent levels, rehabilitating addicts, etc.
$100 billion for universal health coverage.
$100 billion to convert to sustainable energy and solve the problems of global warming.
$100 billion to clean up the environment and switch to less-polluting technologies.
$100 billion for more affordable housing.
$100 billion to rebuild America's cties, replacing urban blight with beauty and diversity.
$100 billion to build and maintain infrastructure.
$100 billion to re-industrialize America. We need to manufacture here everything we're importing, requiring rebuilding and renovating factories, training new workers, etc.
$100 billion for education (See Education in the Solving National and World Problems blog).
$100 billion towards saving Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid in the long run. Some of the necessary savings can be achieved by reducing payments to the rich, and some can be achieved by encouraging, not forcing, older people to work for more years. But, on the other hand, immigration should be stopped, so that that source of Social Security revenues will not be available. That's why much of the shortfall must be paid for by higher taxes on the very rich.
$250 billion for foreign aid, as part of a $600 billion-a-year global plan: first towards eliminating hunger, disease, and illiteracy; but, increasingly, for creating good jobs for all and raising living standards and opportunities in the poor countries to equal those of the rich countries.
$100 billion for revenue-sharing to help state and local governments balance their budgets
$100 billion for animal rights and welfare, stop caging chickens, etc.
$100 billion for advanced vehicles such as computer-driven (safe!) cars and individual flying-machines.
$100 billion we want to encourage travel. Everyone should have the opportunity to travel all over our beautiful, amazing country and the world. This will require building lots of affordable hotels and motels and creation of P/T temporary jobs everywhere so that people will be able to afford the travel by working their way across the country and around the world. We must include subsidies to enable millions of people from poor countries to visit and tour the USA.
$100 billion for Space--ultimately, everyone should be able to go to the moon, Mars, and all over the Solar System.
We are proposing 3 new taxes: (1) Higher personal/family taxes on very high INCOMES, such as we had in WW II up until the 1960s, when the top marginal tax rates reached 91%--but we should even top that on excessive incomes now; (2) a new progressive tax on very high personal/family net worth (WEALTH); and (3) new or increased taxes on the assets and incomes of CORPORATIONS. EACH of these three taxes could yield up to half a trillion dollars a year or more in new revenues, but I would especially note the potential for the personal wealth tax, because it is almost wholly new in this country. It could yield very high revenue in the early years as the great fortunes are whittled down, much of which might be "in-kind"--the overrich could pay by transferring stock, real estate, etc., that they own (rather than having to sell them to pay the tax in cash). In later years, then, the wealth-tax revenues may decline, to be replaced by income from the assets transferred--dividends, rent, etc.
Topics covered in this blog:
Foreword: Economists who support the principle of taxing the rich
A. 5 reasons why we need to tax the rich -- and corporations
B. Why it is fair to do so
C. Countering other arguments
D. How can we tax the rich?
E. How much to tax them
F. Making the taxes fairer
G. International redistribution
Foreword: Economists who support the principle of taxing the rich. Many people are aware that economics is a huge and complicated field of knowledge, in which non-experts can be misled, so they want to know whether economic experts (and not just political activists like me) support the concept of taxing the very rich.
Many do (if not all). For example, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, in his book, "The Conscience of a Liberal" (2007), says on p. 258ff:
"Both historical and international evidence show that there is room for tax increases at the top that go beyond merely rolling back the Bush cuts. Even before the Bush tax cuts, top tax rates in the United States were low by historical standards--the tax rate on the top bracket was only 39.6 percent during the Clinton years, compared with 70 percent in the seventies and 50 percent even after Reagan's 1981 tax cut. . . . [Also] taxing capital gains as ordinary income . . . would yield significantly more revenue, and also limit the range of tax abuses like the hedge fund loophole.
Also, from the New Deal until the 1970s it was considered normal and appropriate to have "super" tax rates on very high- income individuals. Only a few people were subject to the 70 percent top bracket in the 70s, let alone the 90 percent-plus top rates of the Eisenhower years. It used to be argued that a surtax on very high incomes serves no real purpose other than punishing the rich because it wouldn't raise much money, but that's no longer true. Today the top 0.1% of Americans, a class with a minimum income of about $1.3 million and an average income of about $3.5 million, receives more than 7 percent of all income--up from just 2.2 percent in 1979. A surtax on that income would yield a significant amount of revenue, which could be used to help a lot of people. All in all, then, the next step after rolling back the Bush tax cuts and implementing universal health care should be a broader effort to restore the progressivity of U.S. taxes, and use the revenue to pay for more benefits that help lower- and middle-income families."
[To which I would hasten to add, use the revenue to create full employment with more and better JOBS for all, not just welfare, and to build a more dynamic, future-oriented civilization, progressing towards the Space Age, not merely higher living standards.]
Not an economist, yet a respectable Republican president who was expressing what was common knowledge in his time (and which was forgotten and lost under Reagan and following misleaders who have brought us the economic catastrophe we face today), Dwight D. Eisenhower said in 1960:
"[In some countries] a few families are fabulously wealthy, contribute far less than they should in taxes, and are indifferent to the poverty of the great masses of the people." "A country in this situation . . . is fraught with continual instability."
Back then, the U.S. tax code was so progressive that incomes of over $400,000 a year [a bit over $3 million today, adjusting for inflation] were taxed at a 91% rate. Of course, the very rich back then exploited loopholes just as they do today, but they still wound up paying a hefty tax. In 1955, for example, America's 400 highest-income taxpayers averaged about $12 million in income, in today's dollars. They paid, after loopholes, 51% of that in tax. By contrast, in 2005, the 400 richest taxpayers, averaged $214 million in income, and paid taxes at a mere 18.5% rate. . . . Americans prospered in those tax-the-rich years--typical family incomes more than doubled in the quarter-century after WW II, even after adjusting for inflation; over the last tax-cutting few decades, by contrast, wages today are actually lower, adjusted for inflation, than in the early 1970s. [Source: "Ike Wanted to Spread Wealth, Too" by Chuck Collins and Sam Pizzigati, Progressive Media Project--Nov. 3, 2008, Institute for Policy Studies.]
A. 5 reasons why we need to tax the rich -- and corporations.
1. The world's eleven hundred billionaires own more wealth than half the world's people combined earn in a year. What does this tell you? It tells you that the world's wealth needs to be redistributed on a collossal scale. No good purpose is served by this gigantic inequality; there is no justice or economic efficiency or productive incentive in it. It is wrong to respect it, and it is wrong to tolerate it. It could be remedied through massive taxation of the extremely rich to raise money for creating good jobs for the poor. We must try to accomplish that, because to whatever extent we fall short, the remaining redistribution is likely to be achieved by war (WW III).
The secondary reason that we need to tax the rich (and corporations) is to raise money for solving our national and world problems, making the world a better place, and moving us towards our great human destiny in Space.
The third reason for taxing the rich and corporations is to support our ideals such as democracy and equality of opportunity. Today's severe concentration of wealth destroys democracy because the extremely rich and corporations have too much control over our government; and equality of opportunity requires that everyone have the same access to education, training, experience, networking and mentoring that the rich have, which will obviously require a wholesale restructuring of our system. Yet also, mere equal opportunity as it is often understood doesn't do much good for those who are lacking in native, born ability or qualities such as IQ, good health, talent, or physical energy level, or assets such as friends and relatives, or good luck. Therefore people who are poor due to lacking these must be compensated if not cured, which will be very expensive--and who should pay for that? The poor themselves cannot, so it must be paid for by taxing those who are blest, through no deservingness of their own, with fortunes earned by such abilities, luck, gifts, and qualities.
The fourth reason for massively taxing the extremely rich is that they can easily afford it. Suppose, for example, that a hedge-fund manager making $570 million a year is taxed at a 99.7% rate. This would still leave him with an after-tax income of $1,710,000 a year--enough to buy 4 big new houses every year or to live as grandly and luxuriously as anyone could wish and to do anything he could reasonably want to do. This is by contrast with taxing the poor or middle-class, which decreases their living standards and imposes limits on what they can do and enjoy.
The fifth reason for taxing the very rich is that it is fair (See Section B below).
But as for taxing corporations (and other entities, such as charities, foundations, religions, and units of government), this is problematical, but may be necessary and at any rate will probably become a good auxiliary tool for building a better world. First, there is nothing really new about the concept of taxing corporations; for many years, corporation taxes were higher than personal income taxes. But it is time for a comprehensive new rethinking of the practice. Rather than impose across-the-board taxes, each company needs to be studied individually to determine what it is doing and planning to do with its wealth and income. Assets and income that it uses to create jobs and invest in machinery and supplies to provide goods and services may be taxed only lightly--depending on how vital we believe its goods and services are. But assets and income that it hoards, or uses to pay excessive salaries to its executives, or to pay out fat dividends to the already rich, may be taxed up to 100%. Corporations are publicly chartered and so they have to be completely accountable to the public and serve the public good. Bear in mind that their profits are generally a measure of how much they overcharge for their products and how badly they underpay their workers and vendors.
B. Why it is fair to do so.
The rich do not work any harder than middle-class or poor people, and therefore are no more deserving than they are--and therefore ideally should not make any more money than they do.
We must be prepared for extended debate about this, because the overrich and their apologists will offer many counterarguments, but they can all be defeated.
For example, they will argue that some rich people are rightly rich because they are highly talented.
Now, where people get super-rich due to great talent, whether as athlete, entertainer, inventor, entrepeneur, executive, or financier, etc., this talent is due to both inborn native "gift" and much hard work to develop that talent.
While you may admire the gift that some people are born with, it is also proper to envy and resent them, because they did not deserve their gift, this is just part of nature's own injustice, that you and I may have been born talentless, though we are as deserving of being gifted as anyone.
Since such people did nothing to deserve their born talents, it is wrong for them to reap huge economic benefits from them while the est of us get nothing.
Where the very rich and talented worked hard to develop those talents, they deserve to be rewarded for that hard work. But since they didn't work any harder at that than the rest of us, the untalented who have had to spend our lives slogging along in our often dreary, tiresome jobs, they do not deserve any more riches than ordinary people do.
NOTE, however, that we are not proposing to eliminate all or even most of the rewards to talent. The gifted can still make two or three or five or ten times as much as average. Our proposed taxation of the very rich doesn't even begin until a person's income is at least 5-10 times the average; and if a person is so talented as to earn a hundred to a thousand times the average income, they can still have 10-20 times the average income even after the taxes we propose.
Another thing you always want to keep in mind, when the overrich argue that our taxes are "robbing the successful of the fruits of their labors" is that one person's success is always at others' expense, and that it's not their own labors but other people's labors that they are exploiting and enjoying the fruits of. For example, success in business comes from paying workers low wages and charging customers high prices. The overrich will argue that there is nothing wrong with this, because the workers are glad to have their jobs and the customers are willing to pay those prices. But there most certainly is something wrong with it! This businessperson is exploiting people--taking advantage of their desperate need for work to pay them low wages, and taking advantage of the lack of competition to charge high prices. This is why the biggest profits go to companies that operate "sweatshops" or near-sweatshops in desperately poor countries. And you have to ask, why has this business no competition, that it is able to charge its customers so much? It is usually because the businesspeople have superior financing, knowledge, or managerial ability or something, which gives them an edge that enables them to destroy the competition. For example, a homebuilder might make $50,000 profit (in addition to, say, $20,000 salary) from building a house, while you or I or any poor person would be happy to make even say a $1,000 profit from building the same home (along with the same $20,000 salary, for example). And, of course, the homebuyer would much prefer to buy the house built by the poor, in order to save $49,000. But, instead, the buyer is forced to pay the homebuilder's fat profit, because poor people cannot compete with him or her, because they cannot get into the homebuilding business under the current system.
By taxing the excessive profits of such businesses, the government will raise money by which it can make it possible for everyone who wants to to go into homebuilding or any kind of business they want, thus eliminating excess profits and reducing the costs of housing and everything else.
If you still think that the overrich somehow deserve their excess riches, you should study about the richest billionaires of the world until you begin to understand why they are not in fact any more deserving than anyone else, so where we propose to tax them at 99%-plus rates down to being only ten to maybe fifty times as rich as the average hard-working person, we are in fact being exceedingly lenient towards them. Ask yourself, for example, why Bill Gates (whom I admire for his generous charity but) has been over a $50-billionaire while just-as-good computer programs were available for free from Linux, and all or most computer-users are worse off for this. How many mom-and-pop stores has Wal-Mart destroyed and how many American jobs were undermined by outsourcing to China tomake Sam Walton the third richest man on Earth? Etc, etc.
C. Countering other arguments. The overrich and their running-dogs will claim that they should not be heavily taxed because it will reduce their incentive to perform their vital economic role. Nothing could be further from the truth. Anything that they are doing that is beneficial to society could better be done by government bureaucrats or entrepeneurs being paid $50,000 a year--ten thousand times less than what top hedge fund managers extract from the economy.
D. HOW can we tax the rich? Above all, we need to hit the streets in massive demonstrations. We need to explain to the public why such taxes are necessary, beneficial, and fair. Hold sit-ins, teach-ins, and public forums. Still, the government and most of the rich are going to oppose us. We should use ballot initiatives to demonstrate that we have majority support. This will not be simple, because what we need is a national tax, while initiatives are merely state and local. Nevertheless, we can do it by using "advisory" initiatives, which state that the voters in a particular city, county, or state believe that the national government should enact our proposed taxes and spending budgets. As more and more such states and local areas pass such initiatives, the government will face increasing democratic pressure to act. Yet, I expect that they will continue to resist until we at last march upon the capitol by the millions and engulf them.
AND ALL THAT is merely to get good tax laws on the books! We will then have to force the rich to pay up, while we can expect some of them to engage in every form of tax evasion, legal and illegal. Of course, the first thing that many of them will think of is sending their money to some offshore tax haven. We have to prevent that by making the tax laws uniform worldwide. By and large, that won't be any trouble--by the time the US is taxing its rich, all of the world's other major countries will be starting to do so too. But there may still be some faraway little island that will try to get rich by catering to (undertaxing) billionaires. They'll have to be stopped. Then it will occur to some billionaires that if they distribute their wealth among a large number of countries, they will only have to pay each country taxes at the much lower rates that apply to hundred-millionaires. To stop that, we must establish the principle that each person has to be taxed at a rate that depends on his or her total wealth worldwide, even if they only have a small amount of wealth in a particular country. Meanwhile, the plutocrats will be paying millions to lawyers and accountants to scour the laws for loopholes, and they'll never give up trying to talk and bribe Congress into writing new loopholes into the laws. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance!
E. How much to tax them.
Our immediate goals for the near-term future, let us say for the next several decades, should determine how much we should tax the rich. Refer back to the blog on "How much will progress cost?" In Northamerica, chiefly the US and Canada, we need over a trillion dollars a year in new national tax revenues.
We should aim to get about half of that from increasing the progressivity of the existing income tax, and about half from a new progressive tax on wealth.
It is important to distinguish income from wealth. Income is a stream of money that comes to a person from their salary, interest on bank accounts, capital gains from the sale of stock or real estate, etc. Wealth is net worth, assets, all that a person owns--stocks,bonds, real property, furniture, vehicles, jewelry, objects of art, etc. Income and wealth are related,but they are two different things. Most very rich people have both high incomes and large net worth, but some have all income and no wealth, while others have all wealth and no income--and they escape taxation therefore in our present system even though they may be extremely rich.
It may be that when a wealth tax is first instituted, it could all by itself raise over a trillion dollars a year--but that amount could dwindle in later years as the great fortunes are gradually whittled down. People must be allowed to pay their wealth tax in kind--that is, by transferring stocks, bonds, and real property to the government, instead of having to cash them out. This means that if the wealth tax yields say $500 billion cash and $500 billion in valuables the first year, we might spend only the cash that year, while the stocks, bonds, rental properties, etc., that we get should be managed to produce a continuing income stream of perhaps $50 billion a year that we can use to supplement the dwindling wealth-tax revenues of later years.
I have talked of taxing individuals, but it may be better to make families the unit for wealth taxation, as they are for the income tax, in general.
Some will advocate taxing the wealth of corporations instead of, or in addition to, the wealth of people.
My view on that is that all corporate wealth has to be publicly accountable. The corporation has to explain to the public what it is going to use its hoard of wealth for. If it is going to use it in order to maintain and upgrade its productive machinery, or expand its factories to keep up with rising demand for its products, or do research and development for improving or creating new products, this is fine and I would not advocate taxing it. But if it's going to use its wealth to pay its top execs huge bonuses, then it should all be taken from the corporation instead. Actually, in such cases, the government should force them to lower their prices or raise the pay of their workers, or hire more workers, etc., so as to eliminate such wealth.
Therefore, I don't know or can't predict whether very much revenue would be raised from corporations in general. Similar considerations apply to wealth--and, indeed, income as well-- owned by philanthropic foundations, colleges, churches, city and county as well as state and national governments, etc.
But, at any rate, in order to reduce the excessive inequalities between people, between the very rich and the very poor, we have to tax the wealth of people.
The general rule for both the new progressive tax on very high incomes and the new progressive tax on wealth, is that the tax should be proportional to the square of the after-tax income or wealth, minus some amount to spare the not-extremely-rich from having to pay the tax.
This rule may sound a little bit tricky--it sounds as if in order to compute the tax, you would have to know what the after-tax income or wealth is--but how can you know that until you have calculated the tax? Nevertheless, a formula can be derived for this. Here is a description of how it would work over a wide range if net worths:
1. If the basic wealth tax on $1,001,000 is $1,000, it leaves $1,000,000 after taxes (about a 0.1% tax rate).
2. Therefore, if the after-tax wealth were TEN times that, or $10,000,000, then the tax would be ONE-HUNDRED (ten squared) times the above tax, or $100,000. Therefore, the tax on $10,100,000 would be $100,000 (about a 1% tax rate).
3. And, therefore, if the after-tax wealth were ten times THAT, or $100 million, then the tax would be 100 times that above, or $10 million. Therefore, the tax on $110 million would be $10 million (about 9%).
4. And so, if the after-tax wealth were ten times that above, or $1 billion, then the tax would be 100 times that above, or $1 billion. Therefore, the tax on $2 billion would be $1 billion (about 50%).
5. And so, if the after-tax wealth were ten times that above, or $10 billion, then the tax would be 100 times that above, or $100 billion. Therefore, the tax on $110 billion would be $100 billion (about 91%).
6. From these basic taxes, we will subtract an amount, for example, $25,000, in order to spare the non-extremely rich from having to pay the tax. In this case, no one with a wealth of less than $5 million would have to pay.
Here is a table showing these results:
------WEALTH----BASIC TAX-------RATE---minus $25,000----AFTER-TAX
1. ---$1,001,000---- $ 1,000---- about 0.1%------ 0------------ $ 1,001,000
2. ---10,100,000---- 100,000------- " 1%------- $75,000------- 10,025,000
3. ---110 million---- 10 million------- " 9%------$9,975,000-- about 100 million
4. -----2 billion------- 1 billion------- " 50%---- about $1 b'n-------- " 1 billion
5. ---110 billion---- 100 billion------- " 91%------ " 100 b'n--------- " 10 billion
The exact amounts of tax ( the parameters of the constant of proportionality and the tax threshhold [amount subtracted]) will need to be adjusted according to how much tax revenue is needed and how progressive the voters think the tax should be. Also, for example, in the future, if the need for more equality becomes salient, that consideration, rather than the need for revenues, could become the most determining factor for setting the tax rates.
However, over a long period of time, it may be desirable to hold tax rates steady, and this could be accomplished by indexing them, such as adjusting the wealth and income figures for inflation, in order to avoid the problem of applying high taxes to incomes that might be in the many millions but perhaps due to inflation might actually represent only middle-class living standards. Indeed, indexing to inflation would be a very conservative move, because the indexing really ought to be to the general level of income and wealth, so that a person whose income was rising more slowly than average, for example, would see his tax rate decline, even if his living standard were rising due to rapid economic growth in the society as a whole, which he might be missing out on to some extent, for whatever reason..
For indexing purposes, let me introduce the basis, AMPERC-IW ("amperk-yu"), which is the average/median-per-capita-income/wealth. In an egalitarian society, the median income and wealth are near the average, but in highly unequal societies, the medians (which half the population is above and half below) are far below the average (which is far above the median in such societies, because it includes the extremely high incomes or wealths of the very rich). Ideally, tax rates should be indexed to the medians, while welfare benefits should be indexed to the averages, but I shall use this combined index (the average of the average and the median) here, along with a combined income/wealth figure that is half of the total of: the (average of the average and median) annual income plus 1/3 the (average of the average and median) wealth. In societies where personal wealth tends to be about 3 times typical personal annual incomes, the resulting figure, AMPERC-IW tends to be near the average innual income.
Let us write the above table in terms of AMPERC-IW. The wealth-tax table would then look like this, assuming a mean wealth of $100,000--represented as 1.0:
--------1,100------110 millio-----------100------10 million--------9%
------20,000-------2 billion---------10,000------1 billion------50%
--1,100,000-------110 billion----1,000,000--100 billion-----91%
(Taxes and rates approximate.)
This kind of tax rate schedule, (the bold columns, expressed in units of AMPERC-IW instead of dollars), could hold constant through decades of inflation and growth.
Here is an example of a similar table for the high-progressive income tax (the new tax on very high incomes needed in combination with the wealth tax to raise the total tax on the very rich to $1-2 trillion in the US). Here, I am going to let the percentage to be subtracted decline as income rises [since the purpose of this subtraction is merely to keep the non-very-rich from having to pay the tax] according to the formula 540/(I + 60), where I is the income index, or AMPERC-IW).
----INCOME----BASIC TAX RATE--SUBTRACT---NET TAX-RATE
Assuming that typical incomes run to $33,000 and are about 1/3 the typical wealth, the dollar figures for this table would be:
---13.2 million--------11.86 million---------------1.35 million
--726 million--------717 million------------------9 million.
F. Making the taxes fairer.
There are many factors that must be taken into consideration in order to make these taxes fair. These will unfortunately complicate the taxcode,which will alas make it easier for the schemers and tax-evaders to find or stick loopholes into the laws, so we must be ever on the alert.
One factor is the taxes previously and otherwise paid on the assets. For example, if the person has paid property taxes on their real estate, then that may lessen their liability under the new wealth-tax. If their wealth came to them from salaries, inheritance, or any other type of income, then any income or estate taxes paid in the past may reduce their current wealth-tax liability, and so on.
Another factor is the variability of income and wealth from year to year. Ideally, if two people have the same total income over their lives, they should pay the same total amount of income tax over their lives. But a peculiarity of progressive taxation has often been that people with highly variable incomes will pay more taxes than people with constant incomes. For example, if two people earn $700,000 over a ten-year period, but one makes $70,000 each year while the other makes $700,000 in one year and nothing in any other year, then the first person, according to the above table, would probably pay less than $300 a year, or $3,000 over the decade, while the second person would pay about $300,000 in the one year, which would be around 100 times as much taxes as the first person. All incomes should be automatically averaged over each person's whole lives to determine their lifetime-to-date average annual income, and that should be the amount of income that they pay taxes on. For this purpose, their incomes must be measured in AMPERC-IW units.
Surprisingly, the same principle probably holds for wealths! An example would be a person who buys stock in some hi-tech dot-com start-up enterprise IPO, whose value skyrockets to billions of dollars for a year or two then collapses. Such a person's wealth should be averaged over their whole lives in order to avoid excessive taxation.
Another, similar relevant application of measuring incomes in the AMPERC-IW units would be for capital gains. If a person buys an investment in one year and sells it in a later year, both the buying price and the sale price should be expressed in AMPERC-IW units (that is, typically, roughly the averge incomes for the respective years).
Another factor is the person's family size, especially if we make the family, rather than the individual, the unit for tax purposes. We cannot just go by marriage licenses, adoption papers, etc., in determining how many members there are in the family--by and large, any group of people who claim to be a family must be considered one, the main criterion being whether each adult member has full individual rights to write checks on and withdraw cash from the combined bank account (for children, the main criterion is living at the same address; but of course there are always going to be exceptions). Also a person may claim (partial) membership in two or more families so this will be a little bit complex, but that is essential in order to make it fair.
Another factor we may consider is how deserving the person is, like did they make their fortune by contributing to human progress and societal improvement, or did they make it competitively, by outsmarting others, or by merely inheriting it or winning the lottery, etc. Those deemed better citizens might be rewarded with tax cuts accordingly. (Yet if the person has already won other prizes for their goodness, or been otherwise punished for their badness, then there is less point in adjusting their taxes accordingly).
G. Finally, there is the question of to which country the taxes collected truly belong. In the first instance,each country will be presumed to be entitled to the wealth tax revenues from all the assets that are located in their country. However, this will be called into question, for example, if an American's wealth is based on exploiting the workers or natural resources of another country, or selling to consumers or reaping interest income from lending to people of other countries. Get prepared for considerable, lengthy research projects and negotiations! Fortunately, as I've said, the fact that all countries will be dedicated to fairness, justice, and equality, will enable the discussions to proceed in a friendly and cooperative manner. I mean, the issue of which countries should get which tax revenues, though worth much study and debate, is of secondary importance to the much greater objective of equality.
Unemployment is the slavery of the 21st century--it is the great structural labor-market evil that we have to put an end to, just as slavery was legally ended in the United States and most other countries in the 19th century (yet it is still going on in many places, and must be eliminated along with "sweatshops" and un- and underemployment in the coming Revolution).
We cannot solve the problems of poverty, crime, drug or alcohol addiction, racism, educational failure, lack of affordable housing, urban blight, homelessness, or suicide, without FULL EMPLOYMENT--GOOD JOBS FOR ALL.
(1) Everyone has the right to work:
(2) for decent wages;
(3) for fair and equal wages!
(4) at any and every type of work that he or she desires;
(5) they have the right to flexibility of working-schedule;
(6) the right to whatever training and preparation they need in order to be able to succeed in their work;
(7) and the right to "full promotion" policies which will enable them to rise as high as they are willing and able to go.
To achieve these rights, we the people must demand that the government:
Create jobs for all un- and underemployed people; and these must be regular, permanent jobs, not make-work, low-paying temporary jobs of the sort that is merely intended to keep the person alive until he or she can land a private-sector job. This will require the (national or higher) government to either (a) subsidize jobs in the private sector or in the lower levels of government, or (b) organize, rebuild, or take over industries to create jobs in them. For example, we must rebuild American industries that have been destroyed by international competition.
We need to put an end to "free trade" and manufacture here everything we consume. The rebuilt industries must be regulated and subsidized so that they will produce goods of high quality and modest price, just as if they were subject to foreign competition, and so as to provide jobs for all who want to work in any industry.
This policy will cost at least $100 billion a year, maybe $200 billion or more, because we need to create jobs paying at least $10 per hour for at least 10 million people. It could be more expensive, because the people will need training, equipment, supplies, and supervision in addition to their wages; but it might be less expensive, because these do not all have to be full-time jobs, and because the private sector or lower levels of government might create millions of jobs with only a $5-10,000 subsidy from the federal government. Also, some of the costs of this policy overlap the costs of other programs, such as universal health care and affordable housing.
Establish a minimum wage of $12 per hour or high enough so that full-time work will pay half the average income (or, more precisely, 1/2 AMPERC-IW [see following paragraph]). This will require large subsidies, because not all private-sector employers can afford to pay such high wages without raising their prices, reducing hiring, or other harmful practices.
AMPERC-IW is an amount of money which is an average of the "typical" annual income and 1/3 the "typical" personal wealth, where by "typical" we mean the average of the mean and median.
The minimum wage should not be thought of as a wage level below which it is illegal to work, or illegal for an employer to pay, but instead as a pay level which is available to everyone who takes a regular job (these must be always available for all who want them). There may be many people working at various enjoyable or trainee jobs or charitable volunteer work, who can be paid less than the "minimum wage."
See Section 7 below on "full promotion": The minimum wage should rise with a person's age. This will require government subsidies, because it is not generally profitable for employers to raise their workers' wages just because they are aging.
(3) Fair and Equal Wages!
Why should a stockbroker make more than a soldier?
Why should an actor make more than a construction worker?
Why should a salesman make more than a teacher?
Wage level differences in our economy are total insanity and injustice; there is no rational basis for them. Certainly, there are reasons why some jobs pay more than others, but there is no merit to any of these differentials, it is wrong to respect or tolerate them, and we need to get rid of them by and large. The government must set wage levels in general, making them far more equal than they are now, and subsidize them where necessary, because fair and equal wage levels would be radically different from those which the market dishes out.
Why should a lawyer make more than a janitor?
Why should a plastic surgeon make more than a nurse who vaccinates poor children?
Why should a ballplayer make more than a farmworker?
Why should a lobbyist make more than a plumber?
Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera!!!
(4) Create new markets for all the desired types of work in which the private sector provides too few jobs.
For example, many people would like to make movies or perform music. Under the current system, only a few of them are able to do so. The government must both pay people (often amateurs, yet they could also be professionals out of work) to work at movie-making and music, and hire people to watch and critique amateur movies and listen to and critique amateur musicians. The wages for these types of job will not be high, and the hours available will not be very many, but they will be enough to give everyone who wants it some experience of working in the field they desire. The wages paid and hours of work given to each person will depend on the quality of the movies and music they produce, or of the critiques they give.
Here is how this would work:
The DGs (discussion groups open to all--see blog on Direct Democracy) would determine a total budget amount for creative jobs--including writing and painting as well as film-making and music, etc. Let us suppose they allocate $40 billion a year. (This should be in addition to, or overlapping, billions that should be added to support creative arts/music etc. classes in the schools.) This can be broken down into four broad categories of expense: (1) salaries for the creative workers; (2) costs of the equipment and materials they would need to make their music, their film, paint their pictures, etc.; (3) salaries for people who will be paid to view their pictures, read their writings, listen to their music, etc., and give their responses thereto and critiques thereof; and (4) merit pay, to be distributed to and among the producers of the creative works in proportion to their works' merits.
Let us suppose that the DGs decide to allot $10 billion to each of these four functions. We then put out the call for applications, and let us suppose that 30 million people want to do this kind of creative work. Dividing, we find that this would give $1,000 to each aspirant (which they may choose to distribute as salary, expenses, or audience pay however they see fit), plus whatever they might win in "merit pay" for their project or performance.
How much money any given applicant can initially receive from the program will not necessarily be exactly the same as all the others, but could depend on their other income and wealth, how much money they are receiving from other government programs, and how good their work has been in the past.
In practice, many such creatives might want to join a team, especially if they are aspiring to make a movie or some other collective project. The program will help match up people who have similar-enough interests that they may want to collaborate on a project. Also, note that the amounts of money given out to each participant in this program are likely small enough so that the artists will want to use some of their own money to help pay for their supplies.
When their project is completed, or maybe even while it is in process, the artists can ask for audience, feedback and critiques, and may specify what genre and demographics they want--e.g., country-Western or sci-fi; age, sex, ethnicity; G, PG, R, or X, etc. This audience's ratings will determine how much if any merit pay the producers will win. And the producers will also have input into determining how much the critics will be paid for their work, although obviously this will also require some third party to mainly judge.
Of course, you know, very often the critics will be wrong about any particular piece of work; but still, this program will result in an explosion of cultural creativity in every field! Of course, it will also result in an enormous amount of mediocrity, but that is all just an essential cost of enabling the most people to fulfill their creative potential as well as of enabling the whole society to achieve its fullest creative potential.
If the person's creations become a commercial success, then much of the proceeds, royalties and profit should revert back to the government.
A related area where the government needs to create jobs is in going through creative work of the past. There is a huge treasure-trove of art, music, film, and literature from decades and centuries past, most of which lies unviewed, unheard, and forgotten in various archives. Billions of people could enjoy much of this material if it were just dug up, brought out, and people were paid to read, watch, listen to and appreciate it.
Some of the other fields in which many will want to work, that will require the government to restructure the labor markets for, are entrepeneurialism, sports, politics, and farming.
Since being an entrepeneur can be exciting, fun, stimulating, and educational, we should make this opportunity available to everyone. First, though, look at the math--if everyone wants to spend a tenth of his or her life being an entrepeneur, then on the average, their enterprise will only have 10 customers. It doesn't seem realistic for everyone to try to be the Ford or Microsoft of their generation, because there is not a large enough market for a billion giant companies. However, if, knowing this, still millions want to try, I wouldn't stop them, but the problem is, how much support should the government give them? There needs to be a branch of the government--"the Bureau of Invention, Research, Development, and Entrepeneurialism (BIRDE)", which, much like a vastly expanded Small Business Administration, will provide capital for startups of everything from mom-and-pop grocery stores to world-transforming hi-nano-tech visions. There might still be private venture-capitalists, too, although their number may dwindle because we must put tight limits on how much profit such speculation will be allowed to gain--I'm thinking like less than $10,000 a year or a quarter of the mean annual per capita income--which doesn't seem like enough to motivate most venture capitalists as we know them. However, there are probably some, who, like some of the bureaucrats of BIRDE, are sufficiently motivated by the chance of making a difference, innovating and improving the world, to allocate capital to promising enterprises.
It's important to realize that entrepeneurialism is not necessary or important to our economic progress, and so venture capitalism serves mainly only to increase inequality, which is why we should not encourage it. Indeed, perhaps the best way to give everyone the entrepeneurial thrill and education would be simply through games--from Monopoly to high-tech virtual simulations to role-playing games.
In sports, of course one thing is that the top stars will have to pay far higher taxes--as noted in the Taxing the Very Rich blog, the taxes on incomes of $10-20 million might reach 90%, and some of this money could be used to pay people to attend minor-league, high-school, and kids' league ballgames. It should not take too much money to do that, since these games can also be fun and provide spectacular plays and exhibitions of great heart and spirit, and it should also help that these are teams which the spectators are far more likely to be able to join some day.
In politics, the greatest expansion of opportunities will be in the DGs, the discussion groups open to all ("Direct Democracy"). Anyone who wants to study, discuss, and influence public policies on any issue can join one or more of these groups, which typically will meet for 3 hours a week and pay at least $10 per hour. Yet also, the city, county, state and national governments must be restructured in such a way as to vastly expand people's opportunities to participate as officials in representative democracy (see blog on Electoral Reform).
There is much to love about farming, yet this vocation, which in past centuries occupied over 90% of Americans, is now virtually closed to almost everyone except foreigners, whose pay and working conditions are deplorable. The dream of the prosperous small family farm needs to be made into a real option for all again (and obviously the market can't accomplish this, government subsidies and protection will be needed). It's not generally desirable as a full-time, whole-life occupation, but as an intermittent kind of work. One approach to this is in the community farms that have been set up in many cities that enable many mostly low-income families to enjoy growing things and improve their living standards. Many institutions such as for prisoners or disabled people also maintain small farms, for the work is very therapeutic, enjoyable and rewarding. Another approach is large residential lots in suburban to semi-rural areas; even with just a fifth of an acre or less, you can grow a surprisinly large quantity of fruits and vegetables. Dude ranches might be another example; and I would like to see suburbs structured so that a cluster of neighbors could share responsibility for a few cows, pigs, chickens, etc. Another, perhaps the most ideal format, would be for the government to buy up some small farms (or subdivide large ones) and allow people to come and work the land, care for the animals, etc., for a few days at a time (such as on their vacations from their regular jobs).
US citizens need to do all the work involved in feeding our country. We must stop relying on immigrants to feed us. In order to make all these farm jobs appealing to citizens, the government, using the new taxes on the very rich, must greatly raise the wage levels and improve the working conditions (although it is possible also that some food prices might be allowed to rise in order raise some of the money needed).
(And of course the agricultural industry must be completely overhauled anyhow in order to improve animal welfare, reduce pollution, etc.; some of these changes overlap some of the changes needed to open up farm jobs for all who want them.)(5)
The right to flexible working-schedules. Everyone should be allowed to work whenever and for only as much as they want to. Usually, the costs of this freedom are not very great and can be paid for by the employee him- or herself. It is easiest where the employee simply wants to work fewer than average but still regularly scheduled hours, such as, say, 9 am to 2 pm Monday through Thursday. It should also not be too hard, usually, to arrange for a worker to take 1 to 5 or maybe even up to 10 extra weeks of vacation a year (perhaps merging with seasonal types of employment, such as summer interns or service workers at summer resorts, etc.). Probably, these types of schedules would be most easy to arrange in large companies and in types of work that many opeople can do. The employer should determine how much it costs them to allow the employee such flexibility, and charge them accordingly; the costs might be just like a few hundred or at most a few thousand dollars a year which the worker should be able to afford; although if the worker needs such such flexible scheduling due to health problems or other necessities, the government (or insurance) might pay part of the cost.
Our ideal is that everyone should be able to do all the kinds of work they want; probably many people would like to do a variety of jobs. Flexible work-schedules will be necessary to make this possible. For example, a person might want to be a policeman, a math teacher, a clothing salesman, and an artist. This should be made possible by allowing him to work just one or two days a week in each field.
Then there is the question of how much a person should be allowed to work at most. If the demand for a certain type of labor is finite, then a worker who works more than average may be taking work away from other people who want or need the work. If too many workers are too eager to take a particular type of job (or jobs in general), they may drive down the wages for that job (or for jobs in general--which is why labor unions have been essential to maintain decent wages in cases where the government fails to do this. Though I am advocating a type of system in which the government sets wages and makes them more equal, this type of market pressure cannot be ignored). So, while we should be open to allowing workers to work more than the standard average 40, 35, or 30 hours a week (this standard should be determined by plebiscite or public opinion polls), we should not make such permission automatic. If the work is highly-paid due to a shortage of willing or able workers, or a worker needs extra income to support unusually large numbers of dependents or pay off unusually large debts, for example, these could be reasons for allowing them to work extra hours.
Where wage levels are high, so that workers are not exploited, rates of overtime pay can be reduced as long as the overtime work is voluntary; so it will not be necessary to stick to the old formulas like time-and-a-half overtime/double-time on Sundays, etc.
Training (and job prep, etc.)
Under capitalism, the training needed for high-paying jobs, such as doctors, is very expensive--which helps to keep the number of people who can do the jobs low, which helps them to maintain and increase the amount their job overpays, which helps to keep the training expensive--a vicious spiral. We have to get out of this spiral by breaking this kind of semi-monopoly by the government providing the needed training to large numbers of people--which will help pull down the excessive wages, and will also thereby make the training less expensive (because the training has to be done by people who have to be paid as much as practitioners).
Once the professions and other overpaid types of work are broken like this, the cost of entry-level job-training should decline to around $10,000 or the cost of a year of vocational ed or community college just beyond high school; it would add only 10% or so to the total general educational costs for each individual.
Some people may need and should be given (if they cannot afford it themselves) additional assistance of various kinds in order to enable them to succed in the types of jobs they want--child care, counseling, medical therapy, etc.
Vertical mobility is essential for attaining equality. The ideal is that everyone should be able to start at the bottom and rise all the way to the top. It is not generally well-understood what keeps people from rising--it is the too-long terms of tenure at the top. It is not people's lack of ability or ambition that keeps them from getting to the top, it is the fact that the top executives hold on to their jobs for too long. The key to enabling everyone to rise as far as their ability and ambition warrant is speeding up the turnover at the top. If a corporation has 100,000 employees, all of whom are willing and able (or could be trained/educated/mentored) to do top-management type work, and they have a 50-year career, do the math: They should each get one hour of being the CEO. Now, let us say that everyone should be able to rise not merely to the top of this medium-large company, but to become the President of the World. If there are 7 billion people and each lives 3 billion seconds (about 94 years), then each should get 3/7 of a second at the top.
The fact that a CEO or President of the World could not actually accomplish any leadership in such a short period of time could be a good reason for re-lengthening the top terms of office, thereby reducing the number of people actually given such management duties, but it is NOT a reason for denying billions of equally-deserving people the enjoyment of the perks--the high income and fame, and even at least some of the power--that the top positions entail. It is easy to arrange for everyone to receive $50,000 an hour (like a $100-million executive) at the climax of their career, and to get a crown placed on their head and be on TV for 5 minutes before an audience of hundreds of thousands and give a little speech, or song and dance, etc.--about whatever interests them--like the old TV show, "Queen For a Day".
Even if all people were capable of being educated, trained, and mentored to the extent of becoming capable of performing top-executive or leadership duties, probably many of them could be persuaded to settle for less responsible positions--even if perhaps by actually offering them a little extra pay--so as to reduce the number of top officeholders to few enough--that is, with terms long enough--to actually provide the leadership that the corporation or the world needs. However, note also, that it is vital to divide up the duties of top management in such a way as to allow large, or even enormous, numbers of people to share in the top leadership functions--in case perhaps millions to billions of people want to participate in the duties, not just the perks, of the top. One obvious way of doing this is to divide the power into many different functions, like the ministers of a cabinet, who head the Department of Justice, Department of State, Dep't of Defense, etc. Another way is to divide the power into many different geographical areas, and another is to rule by committees, where the decision-making can be shared by huge numbers of people.
Meritocracy. Even though everyone should be able to reach the highest positions, the exact height, how long they can stay at the top, and how rapidly they can advance in their career, should all depend on how well they perform their jobs. For example, although three workers, one excellent, one average, and one lackadaisical slacker, might each get $50,000 an the hour at the height of their careers, they might be given 2, 1, and 1/2 hour, respectively, at this rate; in their highest year, they might be paid $3 million, $500,000, and $100,000, respectively; and they might each start out at a salary of $20,000 a year at age 20, but they might get promoted to the $50,000 level by age 30, 40, or 50, respectively. The obvious purpose of this sort of differentiation is to motivate employees to do their best and to obtain the best possible performance and service. In other words, the differences in pay should not be larger than whatever is needed to prod each worker to do their best. It is possible that that is far less than the differences in pay levels that prevail in today's labor market; some experimentation will be needed to determine this.
The result of all this is to create a system that is both egalitarian and meritocratic, where equality is far higher than today, with everyone enjoying at least some years of affluence and prosperity in their lives due to the greatly increased vertical mobility. With the hierarchy structured so as to keep everyone on the lists for promotions, nobody should get left out just because they fail to receive adequate mentoring or do enough schmoozing and kowtowing to the boss.
Each person's rate of pay should depend primarily on their age and performance; secondarily on their seniority within the company and the industry. Their ability, as measured by tests and interviews, can also be a factor. People must be able to take years off from their career, to raise children, travel, go back to college, work on writing a novel or screenplay, or whatever, without losing much if anything in their career advancement. With the rapid turnover at the top continuously opening up millions of advancement opportunities, you should have nothing to fear from taking time off.
The Average Career Salary Schedule
Here is the salary a person could be paid each year of a 50-year career, say from age 25 to age 75, at some time in the future when the average life span reaches 100 years and most people go to school or college until age 25 and enjoy 25 years of retirement after reaching 75. (Obviously since at present the mean life expectancy is well under 100 years, you will want to compress this schedule timewise accordingly; and in individual cases where perhaps a worker develops health problems and has shortened life expectancy, their ascent up the promotional ladder can be accelerated.)
The figures are given as a percentage of "AMPERC-IW" (see section 2 above), which is usually approximately the same as the mean annual per capita income--which is around $40,000 a year in the United States at present. This 50-year schedule assumes that the worker begins his or her career earning the minimum wage, which should be $10/hour and is indexed to stay at a level such that a full-time worker makes 1/2 (50%) of the mean annual per capita income (which would hopefully be rising). At the climax of their career, their income in their 50th year, according to this schedule, would reach 400--that is, 400% of the mean, or about $160,000, if the mean income (or, more precisely, AMPERC-IW) is still $40,000 at that time. Over the 50-year period, their average income would be 126.5--which implies that during their 50 non-working years their average income would be 73.5--so that over their whole life span, their average income would be 100% of the mean. Of course, if you are a really good worker, you can make quite a lot more than this, while if you are not so good, you will make less; but still, even if someone only makes half the average at each age, they will have a happy ending, making 200%, or $80,000 a year, at the end. And of course, you want to bear in mind that these terms "good worker" or "not so good" are actually just the bosses' opinion, which may well be wrong, in fact often is wrong, even if they are not biased by racism, sexism, ageism, nepotism, or cronyism, or just plain old human inability to judge others accurately. There must always be some ways for workers to get justice if they are misjudged by their bosses, whether through union grievance or civil service procedures (which should cover all workers equally, even if they are not in unions or civil service; but also these procedures must be made more reasonable, rather than, as they are often doing now, making it impossible to fire or demote anyone no matter how poor their work is), or just quitting your job and finding another, which should always be easy to do in the full-employment economy. But even if a worker finds that he or she cannot get a fair evaluation of their work, they are still protected ultimately by a generous welfare-state, which will provide high levels of welfare benefits for the unemployed.
Age Range---Year 1--Yr 2--Yr 3---Yr 4---Yr 5
----------Since people's compensation under this system will depart widely from what the employer would prefer to pay them, wages in general must be subsidized (or, in some cases, curtailed) by the government.