Tuesday, August 7, 2012

New Research Shows That We Shouldn't Swallow Conservative Claims About Taxes: Thanks to the Citizens United decision, there are no curbs on how much Adelson could give the pro-Romney Super PAC, Restoring Our Future.

How the Rich Are Grabbing Bigger and Bigger Slices of Pie


What Happens When Nations Cut Taxes For Their Richest Citizens?

Economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, two of the world’s most respected authorities on the incomes of rich people, have a straightforward answer: In nations that slash tax rates on high incomes, the rich significantly increase their share of national income.

Here in the United States, for instance, the tax rate on income over $400,000 has dropped by half, from 70 to 35 percent, since the 1970s. Over that same span, the households that comprise the “1 percent” have over doubled their share of the national income, to 20 percent.

In many European nations and Japan, by contrast, tax rates on the rich didn’t fall as fast or as far. And rich people’s slice of the income pie increased “only modestly,” note Piketty and Saez in a new analysis they co-authored with researcher Stefanie Stantcheva.

This phenomenon doesn’t trouble conservatives. High taxes on rich people, they claim, do terrible economic damage by discouraging the entrepreneurship that makes economies strong. Lower taxes on the rich, this argument continues, encourage entrepreneurs, who invest and create jobs when lower taxes let them keep more of the income they take in.

Yes, conservatives freely admit, the rich can and do amass plenty of money in a low-tax environment. They’ll even increase their share of national income. But the rest of us shouldn’t worry. Thanks to the rich, right-wingers argue, we all benefit from a bigger and better economy.

Piketty and his colleagues put these claims to the test. If the conservative argument reflected reality, they point out, nations that sharply cut tax rates on the rich should experience much higher economic growth rates than nations that don’t.

In fact, the three economists note, reality tells no such story. Nations that have “made large cuts in top tax rates, such as the United Kingdom or the United States,” they explain, “have not grown significantly faster than countries that did not, such as Germany or Denmark.”

So what’s going on in countries where the rich all of sudden face substantially smaller tax bills?

In countries that go soft on taxing the rich, top business executives don’t suddenly — and magically — become more entrepreneurial, more “productive.” Instead, they suddenly find themselves with a huge incentive to game the system, to squeeze out of their enterprises every bit of personal profit their power enables.

The more these executives can squeeze, the more they can keep. The result? The 1 percent in nations that cut taxes on high incomes proceed, as Piketty and his fellow authors put it, to “grab at the expense of the remaining 99 percent.”

Millions of us know this grabbing first-hand. We’ve seen corporate execs routinely outsource and downsize, slash wages and attack pensions, cheat consumers and fix prices.

How can we start discouraging these sorts of behaviors? Piketty and his fellow analysts have a suggestion: raise taxes on America’s highest-income bracket. Raise them as high as 83 percent.

This suggestion, the three scholars acknowledge, may right now seem politically “unthinkable.” But back between the 1940s and the 1970s, they remind us, the notion that we ought to raise taxes on the rich to reduce the incentive for outrageous behavior rated as our conventional wisdom.

In those years, policymakers — and the public at large — felt strongly that pay increases for the wealthiest Americans reflected “mostly greed or other socially wasteful activities rather than productive work effort.”

Is this mid-20th century perception about pay at the top now about to make a comeback? Piketty and friends certainly think so. Let’s hope they have that one right, too.

Sam Pizzigati is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC, editor of the journal Too Much and author of The Rich Don’t Always Win, Seven Stories Press, New York, forthcoming 2012.
This column is distributed by OtherWords.

If people who believe in American liberty are ever to see it reclaimed, I implore them to gather at RenewAmerica.com. Here, they will be participating in a media project whose purposes are so vital, so foundational, that without success here, I do not see how our liberty is renewed and restored.

In the present political environment of lies, rabid propaganda, and unbridled partisanship, it goes pretty much without saying that the "elites" who control America's so-called "mainstream" media dismiss us. They believe We the People of this country, our love of truth, our heartfelt fealty to freedom, and our rising defense of founding principles undergirding our constitutional republic no longer matter.

These elites count on the assertion that has become a mantra of their power: Perception is Reality. The "mainstream" media governs perception. If they ignore the truth, or distort the facts, or flat-out lie about reality — these things cease to be real for far too many Americans. Reality, history, truth are ruined and rewritten. With no record, they didn't exist.

People who resent this arrogant dismissal of their understanding, actions, and feelings need to face this hard reality. As things stand right now in this country, the dismissive, self-worshipping, haughty elites have every reason to conclude that their attitude is justified by the facts. Many people who "know" better still can't wait to get to a television set, or a propaganda organ like the New York Times or the Washington Post, to see whether the so-called "mainstream" media will validate their views. Many hesitate to give full credence to what they know from firsthand experience and internal wisdom, or to act upon it, because they do not find external reinforcement from the "mainstream" media.

If these United States are to survive and again thrive as a bastion of liberty...this MUST stop. We the People MUST gather and share the truth in forums free from the taint of elite control. We must rely upon the public reality we can discover and sustain that is forged with our own hands, and with the faith that founded and preserved this nation free.

As you probably know, RenewAmerica is a news, analysis, and commentary site that is a "non-profit enterprise" in the true sense of the term (even though it has never applied for IRS non-profit status, so as to remain free from government control). RenewAmerica is not a "business": it has no employees, sells no product or service, and accepts no paid advertising. It depends entirely on the help of volunteers and the contributions of supporters in order to offer one of the premier conservative websites on the internet — a God-fearing voice of moral reason unlike any other.

RenewAmerica is a gift to grassroots America, from fellow citizens who care deeply about the future of our country in these challenging times. All of us who participate at RA are dedicated to doing our part to "secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity" (Preamble to the Constitution) — and we maintain that commitment at considerable sacrifice.

Keeping up with ongoing costs, however, in an economy that looks increasingly bleak, has proven no small challenge. So has enduring unimaginable opposition from powerful sources over many years. It's nothing short of Providential favor that RenewAmerica is still in operation a decade after it launched in January 2002 — and for that I thank God, and its faithful community of participants.

Although the site is still debt-free and independent, each month presents new challenges and obstacles; hence, the purpose of this fundraising appeal. With your generosity and sacrifice, RenewAmerica.com can stay strong and healthy in the upcoming months and years. But only with your help.

Please make a modest contribution to the cause of RenewAmerica — which, after all, is the cause of helping you, in your own sphere, renew our republic. We need your help in helping you.

 Wade Michael Page, the man identified as the gunman in Sunday's shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., was eyed by federal investigators "more than once" because of ties to white supremacist and extremist groups, the Los Angeles Times reports, but federal officials "determined there was not enough evidence of a crime to open an investigation."

A senior U.S. law enforcement official would not tell the paper which law enforcement agency had "looked at" Page or when that happened.

The report comes a day after the Southern Poverty Law Center said it had known about Page—a member of at least two white supremacist bands—for more than a decade. The Montgomery, Ala.-based law center said it had been tracking Page since 2000, when he "attempted to purchase goods from the neo-Nazi National Alliance, then America's most important hate group."

Seven people, including Page, were killed in Sunday's shooting at the temple. The six victims identified by police—five men and one woman—ranged in age from 39 to 84.

Christopher Robillard, who served with Page for three years in the U.S. Army, said he thought it was just talk when Page expressed his extremist views.

"He would often mention the racial holy war that was coming," Robillard told CNN's Piers Morgan on Monday. "And you know, we just looked at it as he was trying to get attention to himself. Because he was always the loner type of person. Even in a group of people, he would be off alone."

More from the transcript:

I really didn't become concerned until his 2000 motorcycle trip. He told me that he was going across country to visit old friends that, you know, he had lost touch with, and I happened to be one of those. I was living in Arkansas at the time. And he stopped to visit me for about a week. And I've noticed then that he had gone through a dramatic change. And his talk about the racist war was even, you know, it was more like he really did believe it.

And after he left, that was the last time I talked to him. I can't say that I wouldn't have seen this coming because honestly a couple of weeks ago, I was thinking of him. And, you know, just to see how he's been doing over the years and when I couldn't find any contact information, I did start looking for news articles, you know, that something like this might have happened somewhere, and I had missed, you know, didn't hear about it.

Robillard said Page was discharged from the military in 1998 after showing up drunk.

A U.S. Army spokeswoman told Yahoo News that Page served from April 1992 until October 1998 as a member of the psychological operations unit. He was never deployed, but was awarded numerous medals, including two for good conduct and one for humanitarian service. Page, a Colorado native, received basic training in Fort Sill, Okla., moved to Fort Bliss in Texas and finished at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

A psychological operations specialist is "primarily responsible for the analysis, development and distribution of intelligence used for information and psychological effect," according to the U.S. Army website.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Page "was a frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band." The band, called End Apathy, formed in 2005. According to the group's MySpace page, its music "is a sad commentary on our sick society and the problems that prevent true progress."

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Page is believed to have worked as a truck driver between 2006 and 2010 while living in Fayetteville, N.C. An employee at Barr-Nunn Transportation, the Granger, Iowa-based trucking company Page worked for, said he left "involuntarily" but declined to elaborate.

Law enforcement officials are treating the case as an "act of domestic terrorism," police said, and the FBI is leading the investigation.

WASHINGTON -- A former Department of Homeland security analyst who left the government after conservatives pummeled his report warning of right-wing extremism's growing threat said that the weekend attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin didn't surprise him because "politics and personalities" stymie investigators from targeting non-Islamic militants.

The latest attack, which left six people dead Sunday, was allegedly carried out by a racist skinhead named Wade Michael Page, who was killed by police. Tracked for more than a decade by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Army veteran was reportedly "looked at" by federal investigators, who apparently didn't follow through.


“This is a regime that has broken every rule,” Netanyahu says. “They very likely could use weapons of mass death.”

Billionaire Sheldon Adelson, along with his wife Miriam, has donated $10 million to the leading Super PAC supporting presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney-and that's just the tip of the iceberg. A well-placed source in the Adelson camp with direct knowledge of the casino billionaire's thinking says that further donations will be "limitless."

Thanks to the Citizens United decision, there are no curbs on how much Adelson could give the pro-Romney Super PAC, Restoring Our Future. Given that he’s one of the 15 richest people in the world, the Sands chairman could personally bankroll the equivalent of entire presidential campaign–say, $1 billion or so–and not even notice. (The $10 million donation he just made to Romney is equivalent to $40 for an American family with a net worth of $100,000.)

Adelson, ironically, has made more money during the Obama administration than just about any other American, based on Forbes tabulations. He had previously told me that just because he made money under Obama, it doesn’t mean he thinks the president is doing the right thing.

Does Adelson feel guilty about one American potentially steering the fate of the presidential election? “I’m against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections,” Adelson told me in February. “But as long as it’s doable I’m going to do it.

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