How Washington Can Improve The Lives Of Ordinary Americans

Barack Obama

On December 28, 2014, Michael Hiltzik writes in the Los Angeles Times:

Obstruction is easy; governing is hard.

This may become the watchword of the new Republican majority in Congress in 2015, as the House and Senate try to work with President Obama to confront numerous economic issues that either can’t be put off or on which the voting public desires action.

“I think, talking to Speaker Boehner and leader McConnell, that they are serious about wanting to get some things done,” President Obama said at his recent year-end news conference. He specifically mentioned the tax system, in which he wants “more simplicity” and “more fairness” and an end to corporate tax avoidance by “parking money outside the country.”

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell(R-Ky.) acknowledged in an interview with the New York Times that the Senate “basically didn’t do squat for years.” For that he blamed, in part, the extreme tea party wing, which has stood adamantly against government spending of almost any sort.

“One of my challenges is to try to convince some of my members that passing an appropriations bill is a good thing, not a bad thing,” he said. He added that “there are two kinds of people in politics. Those who want to make a point and those who want to make a difference. All of us from time to time make a point. But it is time now to make a difference.”

Many Republican members of Congress ran on a promise to make a difference in the lives of the middle class, perhaps the most disaffected segment of the American public.

The question is whether they were merely telling voters what they wanted to hear, or are genuinely committed to change. So here’s a brief rundown on how Congress, working with the White House, can improve the lives of ordinary Americans.

The Affordable Care Act: McConnell said that the Senate will take at least one more vote to repeal the act — the very definition of a waste of time as long as Obama remains in office. The Supreme Court will take up the question, raised by conservative opponents, on whether the act’s language bars federal tax subsidies for low- and middle-income residents of states that relied on the federal government to run their insurance exchanges. Oral arguments in the case will be heard in early March, with a decision expected in early summer.

A ruling against the subsidies — one of the act’s crucial provisions — could deprive as many as 13.4 million residents of 37 states of $65 billion in aid that makes their health insurance affordable, according to an estimate by the Kaiser Family Foundation. They live in 283 congressional districts, mostly represented by Republicans.

The easiest way to stave off this $65-billion disaster would be for Congress to pass a corrective amendment of a few words, removing the ambiguity that opponents have seized upon to undermine Obamacare. To do so, however, the majority will have to recognize that the act has brought health insurance to more than 10 million working-class and middle-class Americans who didn’t have it previously. Is the Republican Congress willing to rip health insurance out of these families’ hands?

Infrastructure spending: At age 50, the Brent Spence Bridge, which connects McConnell’s home state with neighboring Cincinnati, is desperately in need of a $2.6-billion repair. It has outlived its normal life span, lacks an emergency shoulder and is carrying twice the traffic it was designed to handle. Yet so far neither the Kentucky nor Ohio legislatures have figured out how to come up with the money, and McConnell has been unable, or unwilling, to help.

That defines the quandary facing America’s greatest investment — its physical infrastructure. A large construction program would fix crumbling bridges, tunnels and roads while bringing the unemployment rate sharply down and establishing a base for strong economic growth. Yet our cheeseparing Congress has been unable to see the difference between “spending” and “investment.” In the name of “making a difference,” they should enact an infrastructure spending bill in 2015.

Infrastructure spending has broad public and bipartisan support; the absence of a program is a symptom of dysfunction on Capitol Hill. Conservatives loathe tax increases, and one leading option is to raise the federal gas tax to shore up the Highway Trust Fund. Saddling motorists and truck owners with the burden may not be the fairest way to fund highway repairs, since a more efficient road network benefits society as a whole by reducing the cost of transported goods.

Indeed, there’s no time like the present for funding infrastructure repairs through borrowing, which imposes some of the cost on future users. As former Obama economic advisor Lawrence Summers said in September, “We can borrow money for the long term in a currency we print ourselves at just about 2.5%. If now is not the time to repair our infrastructure, I don’t know when that time will come.” Since then, government borrowing rates have drifted even lower.

Income Inequality: This could become the issue of the year. The U.S. economy appears finally to have shifted into high gear, judging from the latest Commerce Department estimate that gross domestic product grew at a healthy 5% annual rate in the third quarter.

If the benefits continue to flow almost exclusively to the top 1% — as has been the case in this recovery through 2012 — pressure may mount on Congress and the White House to address the economic consequences. “Even higher GDP growth isn’t a cure-all if most of the benefits go only to a few,” conservative commentator James Pethokoukis wrote last week after the Commerce Department released its estimate.

The malady of income inequality may be recognized, but the remedy is where the White House and a putatively results-oriented GOP will be crossing swords. Broadening the income tax and making it more progressive isn’t a panacea, but would help communicate the government’s conviction that too much of the growth harvest has gone to owners of capital and not enough to labor.

Edward Kleinbard, the veteran tax expert at USC, advocates for the restoration of all pre-2001 tax rates and returning the estate tax, which is now 40% with an inflation-indexed exemption of nearly $11 million per couple, to its 2009 rate of 45% after a couple’s exemption of an inflation-indexed $7 million. He also recommends capping the standard and itemized deductions to eliminate the advantages enjoyed by wealthier taxpayers through such breaks as the mortgage interest deduction.

Obama told the media before leaving for his Christmas vacation that “the tax area is one area where we can get things done.” Genuine tax reform has been hampered in recent years, though not entirely blocked, by the Republican defense of the Bush-era tax cuts.

Washington must address the unanswered question: What kind of country will America be: a nation that treasures its middle class, or one that serves only its wealthiest citizens? The legislative blockade that Congress has erected for years, as McConnell acknowledged, benefited the latter. “Getting things done,” however, will serve everyone.

http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-20141228-column.html#page=1

Without a focus on Ownership Creation and the necessary policies, including tax reform, to reform the System, the approach presented in this article are dead ends as solution to greed hoggism and the continued accumulation of concentrated wealth-creating, income-producing capital assets.

The proposals present the same old rhetoric (which is disguised to benefit the already wealthy ownership class) that sounds appealing to the uninformed, but does not provide for the necessary stipulations that require companies benefiting from government contracts to demonstrate that they are employee owned or that require corporations who benefit from corporate tax reductions or elimination that they pay out fully their earnings in the form of stock dividends to the corporate owners and finance all new expansion by issuing and selling new shares of stock that represents asset-backed capital asset growth with full dividend payout provisions to create new capital owners.

If you would like to learn more about the proposals for such a system reform and dive deeper into the specifics and the supporting economic policies to completely eliminate the concentration of capital ownership wealth, investigate the proposed Capital Homestead Act and the agenda of the Just Third Way. These are the nucleus ideas supported in the platform of the Unite America Party.

Support the Capital Homestead Act at http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/capital-homestead-act-a-plan-for-getting-ownership-income-and-power-to-every-citizen/ and http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/capital-homestead-act-summary/.

Support the Agenda of The Just Third Way Movement at http://foreconomicjustice.org/?p=5797http://www.cesj.org/resources/articles-index/the-just-third-way-basic-principles-of-economic-and-social-justice-by-norman-g-kurland/, http://www.cesj.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/jtw-graphicoverview-2013.pdf and http://www.cesj.org/resources/articles-index/the-just-third-way-a-new-vision-for-providing-hope-justice-and-economic-empowerment/.

Support the Unite America Party Platform, published by The Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gary-reber/platform-of-the-unite-ame_b_5474077.html as well as Nation Of Change at http://www.nationofchange.org/platform-unite-america-party-1402409962 and OpEd News at http://www.opednews.com/articles/Platform-of-the-Unite-Amer-by-Gary-Reber-Party-Leadership_Party-Platforms-DNC_Party-Platforms-GOP-RNC_Party-Politics-Democratic-140630-60.html.

Wage Stagnation Puts The Squeeze On Ordinary Workers

wages

On December 28, 2014, David Lazarus writes in the Los Angeles Times:

Laurie Chisum works as a manager for a small office-equipment company in Orange County. She puts in about 30 hours a week on the job and spends much of her time at home caring for her mother, who is afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.

She’s not complaining — she’s thankful to have a steady paycheck. But no matter how hard she works, it feels as if she just can’t get ahead.

“It’s been six years since anyone at our company has had a raise,” said Chisum, 52. “It seems like I just keep falling further into a hole. The price of gas has gone down, but nothing else has.”

It’s a refrain we’ve heard throughout the year: wealth gap, income inequality, wage stagnation.

No matter how you say it, the upshot is the same. The rich are getting richer and everyone else is feeling squeezed.

The wealth gap in this country is now the widest it’s been in decades, according to a report this month from the Pew Research Center.

The median net worth of upper-income families reached $639,400 last year. That’s nearly seven times as much as for those in the middle and almost 70 times what people at the lower end of the economic spectrum are making.

That’s not just a data point. It’s sad proof of a system that grossly favors the rich over ordinary working families — even when the economy is improving.

“Far too many people simply aren’t feeling the benefits of this economic growth,” said U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. “People are working harder and smarter, but their sweat equity hasn’t translated into financial equity.”

David Neumark, director of the Center for Economics and Public Policy at UC Irvine, said that “people at the top have had phenomenal wage growth,” whereas “people at the lower end of the spectrum have seen their real purchasing power decline.”

Corporate profits are at or near record levels. So’s the stock market. Chief executives are doing just fine, thank you very much. A recent report found that some of the biggest U.S. companies pay their CEOs more than they pay in federal income taxes.

For ordinary working stiffs, the numbers are more sobering. Average hourly wages rose an itsy-bitsy 0.4% in November, according to the Labor Department. And this was seen as good news because average wages increased a pitiful 0.1% in October and didn’t budge in September.

For the year, average hourly earnings through November rose 1.7%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since the end of the recession in 2009, they’ve gained about 11%.

At the same time, though, the consumer price index — the cost of living — has increased 1.3% since the beginning of the year and about 11% since the end of the recession.

Wages, in other words, are barely keeping pace with overall inflation. That’s why many people feel as if they’re stuck in a financial rut.

“You wonder from month to month what else you’re going to have to cut back on,” said Chisum, a single mom who also is caring for a grown son with Down syndrome.

Things look even tougher when you tighten the focus on specific expenditures, such as food and rent.

Average food costs have climbed 12.5% since the end of the recession, according to the bureau. Average residential rents have risen 12%. The average cost of healthcare has jumped nearly 17%.

In that context, the 11% gain in wages since 2009 means that each of these necessities has taken a bigger bite out of family budgets and has left fewer dollars for other expenditures, such as the occasional restaurant meal or movie.

“There’s no evidence I can see that this is going to change in the near future,” said Edward Lawler, a professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business. “These are tough times for workers.”

One key issue, he said, is that labor unions have less clout than they once enjoyed. This denies workers a unified voice at the bargaining table.

Improvements in technology have boosted productivity and allowed employers to limit hiring. And it’s become easy to ship jobs abroad, where people are willing to work for a fraction of the cost of American workers.

All these factors conspire to keep wages down while profits and the compensation of senior managers skyrocket.

Earlier this month, Microsoft shareholders approved an $84-million pay package for the company’s new chief executive, Satya Nadella, making him one of the country’s highest-paid corporate leaders. He’s run the company for less than a year.

Boeing, Ford, Chevron, Citigroup, Verizon Communications, JPMorgan Chase and General Motors each paid their CEOs more last year than they paid in income taxes to Uncle Sam, according to a report from the Center for Effective Government and the Institute for Policy Studies.

A recent study by Harvard Business School found that most Americans believe chief executives make roughly 30 times what the average U.S. worker makes. That was indeed the case in the 1960s. Nowadays, CEOs pull down more than 350 times the average worker.

Chief executives are important people, to be sure. But is their importance to a company 350 times that of their employees? I doubt most people — other than CEOs — would think so.

More effective unions would help, as would programs to give workers the skills they need to compete better in the 21st century workplace.

Chris Tilly, director of UCLA’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, said a key step would be establishing a national minimum wage of $10 to $12 an hour, and then indexing that wage to consumer prices so that paychecks automatically rise with inflation.

“That way you wouldn’t have to wait for Congress to act every year,” he said. “This would be a basic decision that wages would keep up with the cost of living.”

Perez, the labor secretary, also called for a higher minimum wage, plus “strengthening overtime protections” and “ensuring that workers have a strong voice in the workplace.”

A rising tide lifts all boats. At least that’s how we’re told things are supposed to work.

The reality is that the tide is rising in a big way for some, and they’re comfortably sunning themselves on the decks of their yachts.

For most others, that rising tide is more like a stormy sea threatening to swamp the family lifeboat.

We’ll likely hear a lot in the coming year about how the economy is improving and businesses are thriving. Chief executives will point toward fast-rising stock prices as proof that they’re worth every million they’re paid.

And everyone else will try to make their 0.4% hourly pay hike go as far as they can.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-lazarus-20141228-column.html

The focus on jobs and wage growth is a dead end as solution to greed hoggism and the continued accumulation of concentrated wealth-creating, income-producing capital assets. The vast bulk of productive capital assets are owned by corporations, which are owned by individuals as stock share holders. It is this extremely small group of people who elect and control the corporation’s Board of Directors, who intern retain the CEO and upper level managers to oversee and direct the operation of the corporation. The salaries and benefits, which also include significant stock options, put these managers’ incomes shamelessly and substantially greater than even the highest paid non-management workers, which results in resentful income inequality among the work force.

Additionally, full employment and paying more than absolutely necessary to employee workers is not an objective of businesses. Companies strive to keep labor input and other costs at a minimum in order to maximize profits for the owners. They strive to minimize marginal cost, the cost of producing an additional unit of a good, product or service once a business has its fixed costs in place in order to stay competitive with other companies racing to stay competitive through technological innovation. Reducing marginal costs enables businesses to increase profits, offer goods, products and services at a lower price, or both. Increasingly, new technologies are enabling companies to achieve near-zero cost growth without having to hire people. Thus, private sector job creation in numbers that match the pool of people willing and able to work is constantly being eroded by physical productive capital’s ever increasing role. Over the past century there has been an ever-accelerating shift to productive capital––which reflects tectonic shifts in the technologies of production. The mixture of labor worker input and capital worker input has been rapidly changing at an exponential rate of increase for over 235 years in step with the Industrial Revolution (starting in 1776) and had even been changing long before that with man’s discovery of the first tools, but at a much slower rate. Up until the close of the nineteenth century, the United States remained a working democracy, with the production of products and services dependent on labor worker input. When the American Industrial Revolution began and subsequent technological advance amplified the productive power of non-human capital, plutocratic finance channeled its ownership into fewer and fewer hands, as we continue to witness today with government by the wealthy evidenced at all levels.

Also, there are the small stock holders (which number in the millions among all the corporate stock held) with comparatively little in stock ownership who are denied the payout of the full earnings of the company, which they share ownership in. Thus, corporations continue to expand and operate more efficiency through technological invention and innovation with less and less workers while simultaneously concentrating more ownership in the hands of those who already own the corporation, using retained earnings and/or debt financing, while NEVER creating any new capital owners.  This is the scenario that persists and that results in enormous income and wealth (capital ownership) inequality.

In the meantime, while all the ownership concentration is occurring, the stock market exchanges provide a gambling service for those betting the up and down prices of stock trading. This is nothing short of risky business and one should be prepared to lose their “past savings” pledge in the betting game.

Why is this happening and what can be done to abate the situation and put our nation on the path to prosperity, opportunity, and economic justice?

The problem is in the design and operation of the SYSTEM. The system of investment finance fundamentality requires one to have substantial savings to participate and grow richer and richer. (The saying is essentially true in todays financial sector that “it’s takes money to make money.”) Thus, in a nutshell, investment finance is based on the requirement of “past savings” invested or pledge as security in the event than a capital loan does not produce the return expected to pay off the bank or lender. As one should realize, this results in the reality that ONLY those with substantial income, property holdings, or capital assets, can participate in the system to accumulate wealth-creating, income-producing capital asset ownership.

One may think, well that is how it has always been, and I would have to agree. But is this what we should want and expect for our future and for our children and grandchildren? There is a more just way. We can reform the system so that the capital ownership concentration mechanism is disabled and replaced with a new system whereby new capital asset formation is created using financial mechanisms that provide asset-backed new money extended to EVERY citizen to acquire personal ownership shares in the FUTURE growth capital assets of the economy. This would take the form of extending insured, interest-free capital credit to EVERY child, woman and man to acquire newly issued shares of full-dividend paying stock by the viable corporations growing the economy. The capital credit loans would be paid back with the earnings produced by the investments. There would be no requirement for “past savings” or equity pledges or reductions in current income and benefits. Either private capital credit insurance and/or government reinsurance would substitute for the “past savings” security requirement.

If you would like to learn more about the proposals for such a system reform and dive deeper into the specifics and the supporting economic policies to completely eliminate the concentration of capital ownership wealth, see the proposed Capital Homestead Act and the agenda of the Just Third Way. These are the nucleus ideas supported in the platform of the Unite America Party.

Support the Capital Homestead Act at http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/capital-homestead-act-a-plan-for-getting-ownership-income-and-power-to-every-citizen/ and http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/capital-homestead-act-summary/.

Support the Agenda of The Just Third Way Movement at http://foreconomicjustice.org/?p=5797http://www.cesj.org/resources/articles-index/the-just-third-way-basic-principles-of-economic-and-social-justice-by-norman-g-kurland/, http://www.cesj.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/jtw-graphicoverview-2013.pdf and http://www.cesj.org/resources/articles-index/the-just-third-way-a-new-vision-for-providing-hope-justice-and-economic-empowerment/.

Support the Unite America Party Platform, published by The Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gary-reber/platform-of-the-unite-ame_b_5474077.html as well as Nation Of Change at http://www.nationofchange.org/platform-unite-america-party-1402409962 and OpEd News at http://www.opednews.com/articles/Platform-of-the-Unite-Amer-by-Gary-Reber-Party-Leadership_Party-Platforms-DNC_Party-Platforms-GOP-RNC_Party-Politics-Democratic-140630-60.html.

Greed Kings Of 2014: How They Stole from Us

GreedKings2014122914

The theft of society’s wealth may be due to ignorance as well as to greed. Why are we wrongly being advised that the best way to defuse the situation is to teach tolerance for inequality?

On December 29, 2014, Paul Buchheit writes on Nation Of Change:

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘steal’ is to take the property of another wrongfully and especially as a habitual or regular practice. Much of our country’s new wealth has been regularly taken by individuals or corporations in a wrongful manner, either through nonpayment of taxes or failure to compensate other contributors to their successes.

1. The Corporations

As schools and local governments are going broke around the country, companies who built their businesses with American research and education and technology and infrastructure are paying less in taxes than ever before. Incredibly,over half of U.S. corporate foreign profits are now being held in tax havens, double the share of just twenty years ago. Corporations are stealing from the nation that made them rich.

There are many examples of greed among individual firms. Based largely on 2014 SEC documents submitted by the companies themselves:

Exxon has almost 80% of its productive oil and gas wells in the U.S. but declared only 17% of its income here. The company used a theoretical taxto account for 83% of last year’s income tax bill, and paid less than 2% of its total income in current U.S. taxes.

Chevron has about 75% of its oil and gas wells and almost 90% of its pipeline mileage in the United States, yet the company claimed only 13% of last year’s income in the U.S., and paid almost nothing (less than 1/10 of 1%) in current U.S. taxes.

Pfizer had 40% of last year’s sales in the U.S., but claimed losses in the U.S. and $17 billion in profits overseas.

Bank of America, despite making 84% of its 2011-2013 revenue in the U.S., declared just 31% of its profits in the United States.

Citigroup had 43% of its 2011-2013 revenue in North America but declared less than 3% of its profits in the United States.

Apple still does most of its product and research development in the United States. Yet the company moved $30 billion in profits to an Irish subsidiary with no employees, with loopholes in place to avoid establishing residency in any country. The subsidiary files no returns and pays no taxes. Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “We pay all the taxes we owe.”

Google’s business is based on the Internet, the Digital Library Initiative, and the geographical database of the U.S. Census Bureau. Yet the company has gained recognition as one of the world’s biggest tax avoiders.

2. The Forbes 40

Defenders of inequality argue that fortunes are deserved because of innovation and hard work. But many of the 40 Americans who own as much as the poorest half of the country have relied on less deserving means of accumulating great fortunes (details here).

—Warren Buffett’s company (Berkshire Hathaway) made a $28 billion profit last year, yet claimed a $395 million refund.

—The Koch brothers have taken clean air and water from us.

—The Walton siblings take our tax money to subsidize their employees.

—Larry Ellison was #1 on Sam Pizzigati’s Greediest of 2014 list.

The rest of the Top 40 List (details here) is speckled with instances of fraud, tax avoidance, and billionaire subsidies. The worst is probably hedge fund manager John Paulson, who has built a $13 billion fortune after conspiring with Goldman Sachs in 2007 to bundle and bet against sure-to-fail subprime mortgages that took the homes from millions of Americans.

Speaking of hedge fund managers, the carried interest loophole allowed just 25 individuals to take almost $5 billion from society last year by claiming that their income is different from the rest of ours.

3. The Deniers

After 35 years of wealth theft there are still inequality deniers — notably theAmerican Enterprise Institute, which claims that income inequality has been shrinking since 1989, and that we should be asking whether or not the bottom 60% are paying their fair share.

Another insult from The Federalist: Income Inequality Is Good For The Poor.

The Reason Foundation tops it off, advising us that the best way to defuse the situation is to teach tolerance for inequality.

All of which suggests that the theft of society’s wealth may be due to ignorance as well as to greed.

http://www.nationofchange.org/2014/12/29/greed-kings-2014-stole-us/

Paul Buchheit presents an excellent MUST READ article on greed hoggism and the continued accumulation of concentrated wealth-creating, income-producing capital assets. The vast bulk of productive capital assets are owned by corporations, which are owned by individuals as stock share holders. It is this extremely small group of people who elect and control the corporation’s Board of Directors, who intern retain the CEO and upper level managers to oversee and direct the operation of the corporation. The salaries and benefits, which also include significant stock options, put these managers’ incomes shamelessly and substantially greater than even the highest paid non-management workers, which results in resentful income inequality among the work force.

Also, there are the small stock holders (which number in the millions among all the corporate stock held) with comparatively little in stock ownership who are denied the payout of the full earnings of the company, which they share ownership in. Thus, corporations continue to expand and operate more efficiency through technological invention and innovation with less and less workers while simultaneously concentrating more ownership in the hands of those who already own the corporation, using retained earnings and/or debt financing, while NEVER creating any new capital owners.  This is the scenario that persists and that results in enormous income and wealth (capital ownership) inequality.

In the meantime, while all the ownership concentration is occurring, the stock market exchanges provide a gambling service for those betting the up and down prices of stock trading. This is nothing short of risky business and one should be prepared to lose their “past savings” pledge in the betting game.

Why is this happening and what can be done to abate the situation and put our nation on the path to prosperity, opportunity, and economic justice?

The problem is in the design and operation of the SYSTEM. The system of investment finance fundamentality requires one to have substantial savings to participate and grow richer and richer. (The saying is essentially true in todays financial sector that “it’s takes money to make money.”) Thus, in a nutshell, investment finance is based on the requirement of “past savings” invested or pledge as security in the event than a capital loan does not produce the return expected to pay off the bank or lender. As one should realize, this results in the reality that ONLY those with substantial income, property holdings, or capital assets, can participate in the system to accumulate wealth-creating, income-producing capital asset ownership.

One may think, well that is how it has always been, and I would have to agree. But is this what we should want and expect for our future and for our children and grandchildren? There is a more just way. We can reform the system so that the capital ownership concentration mechanism is disabled and replaced with a new system whereby new capital asset formation is created using financial mechanisms that provide asset-backed new money extended to EVERY citizen to acquire personal ownership shares in the FUTURE growth capital assets of the economy. This would take the form of extending insured, interest-free capital credit to EVERY child, woman and man to acquire newly issued shares of full-dividend paying stock by the viable corporations growing the economy. The capital credit loans would be paid back with the earnings produced by the investments. There would be no requirement for “past savings” or equity pledges or reductions in current income and benefits. Either private capital credit insurance and/or government reinsurance would substitute for the “past savings” security requirement.

If you would like to learn more about the proposals for such a system reform and dive deeper into the specifics and the supporting economic policies to completely eliminate the concentration of capital ownership wealth, see the proposed Capital Homestead Act and the agenda of the Just Third Way. These are the nucleus ideas supported in the platform of the Unite America Party.

Support the Capital Homestead Act at http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/capital-homestead-act-a-plan-for-getting-ownership-income-and-power-to-every-citizen/ and http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/capital-homestead-act-summary/.

Support the Agenda of The Just Third Way Movement at http://foreconomicjustice.org/?p=5797, http://www.cesj.org/resources/articles-index/the-just-third-way-basic-principles-of-economic-and-social-justice-by-norman-g-kurland/, http://www.cesj.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/jtw-graphicoverview-2013.pdf and http://www.cesj.org/resources/articles-index/the-just-third-way-a-new-vision-for-providing-hope-justice-and-economic-empowerment/.

Support the Unite America Party Platform, published by The Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gary-reber/platform-of-the-unite-ame_b_5474077.html as well as Nation Of Change at http://www.nationofchange.org/platform-unite-america-party-1402409962 and OpEd News at http://www.opednews.com/articles/Platform-of-the-Unite-Amer-by-Gary-Reber-Party-Leadership_Party-Platforms-DNC_Party-Platforms-GOP-RNC_Party-Politics-Democratic-140630-60.html.

Export Bank's Future Up In The Air

Air Tractor crop-duster

The Export-Import Bank charter needs to be reformed to provide stipulations that workers are empowered and aided using insured capital credit loans repayable with pre-tax future earnings to create over time significant individual worker ownership shares in these companies. A Justice-Based Managed Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) (http://www.cesj.org/?s=eSOP) is the financial mechanism that should be used for this objective so that new manufacturing growth becomes broadly owned over time and the workers benefit from a Second Income from dividend earnings to supplement their wages.

Where is the rallying cry for OWNERSHIP NOW!?

Fight For Our Progressive Vision

On December 29, 2014, Senator Bernie Sanders writes on The Huffington Post:

As I look ahead to this coming year, a number of thoughts come to mind.

First and foremost, against an enormous amount of corporate media noise and distraction, it is imperative that we not lose sight of what is most important and the vision that we stand for. We have got to stay focused on those issues that impact the lives of tens of millions of Americans who struggle every day to keep their heads above water economically, and who worry deeply about the kind of future their kids will have.

Yes. We make no apologies in stating that the great moral, economic and political issue of our time is the growing level of income and wealth inequality in our nation. It is a disgrace to everything this country is supposed to stand for when the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and when one family (the Waltons) owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent. No. The economy is not sustainable when the middle class continues to disappear and when 95 percent of all new income generated since the Wall Street crash goes to the top 1 percent. In order to create a vibrant economy, working families need disposable income. That is often not the case today.

Yes. We will continue the fight to have the United States join the rest of the industrialized world in understanding that health care is a human right of all people, not a privilege. We will end the current dysfunctional system in which 40 million Americans remain uninsured, and tens of millions more are underinsured. No. Private insurance companies and drug companies should not be making huge profits which result in the United States spending almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation with outcomes that are often not as good.

Yes. We believe that democracy means one person, one vote. It does not mean that the Koch Brothers and other billionaires should be able to buy elections through their ability to spend unlimited sums of money in campaigns. No. We will not accept Citizens United as the law of the land. We will overturn it through a constitutional amendment and move toward public funding of elections.

Yes. We will fight for a budget that ends corporate tax loopholes and demands that the wealthy and special interests begin paying their fair share of taxes. It is absurd that we are losing more than $100 billion a year in tax revenue as corporations and the wealthy stash their profits in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens It is a disgrace that hedge fund managers pay a lower effective tax rate than teachers or truck drivers. No. At a time when the middle class is disappearing and when millions of families have seen significant declines in their incomes, we will not support more austerity against the elderly, the children and working families. We will not accept cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, nutrition or affordable housing.

Yes. We believe that we must rebuild our crumbling infrastructure (roads, bridges, water systems, wastewater plants, rail, airports, older schools, etc.). At a time when real unemployment is 11.4 percent and youth unemployment is almost 18 percent, a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure would create 13 million decent paying jobs. No. We do not believe that we must maintain a bloated military budget which spends almost as much as the rest of the world combined and may lead us to perpetual warfare in the Middle East.

Yes. We believe that quality education should be available to all Americans regardless of their income. We believe that we should be hiring more teachers and pre-school educators, not firing them. No. We do not believe that it makes any sense that hundreds of thousands of bright young people are unable to afford a higher education while millions leave college and graduate school with heavy debts that will burden them for decades. In a highly competitive global economy, we must not fall further and further behind other countries in the education we provide our people.

Yes. We believe that the scientific community is right. Climate change is real, is caused by human activity and is already creating devastating problems in the United States and throughout the world. We believe that the United States can and must lead the world in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy. No. We do not believe that it makes sense to build the Keystone pipeline or other projects which make us more dependent on oil and other fossil fuels.

Let me conclude by relaying to you a simple but important political truth. The Republican right-wing agenda — tax breaks for the rich and large corporations, unfettered free trade, cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, nutrition and virtually every other program that sustains working families and low-income people — is an agenda supported by Fox TV. It is an agenda supported by The Wall Street Journal. It is an agenda supported by Rush Limbaugh and the 95 percent of radio talk show hosts who just happen to be right-wing. It is an agenda supported by the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable and much of corporate America.

It is not an agenda supported by the American people.

By and large, poll after poll shows that the American people support a progressive agenda that addresses income and wealth inequality, that creates the millions of jobs we desperately need, that raises the minimum wage, that ends pay discrimination against women, and that makes sure all Americans can get the quality education they need.

In the year 2015 our job is to gain control over the national debate, stay focused on the issues of real importance to the American people, stand up for our principles, educate and organize. If we do that, I have absolute confidence that we can turn this country around and become the kind of vital, prosperous and fair-minded democracy that so many want.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rep-bernie-sanders/fight-for-our-progressive_b_6391234.html

If the progressive movement is to gain control over the national debate, the singular issue to focus on, which is of REAL importance to the future of the American people, is the abatement of concentrated capital ownership of the means of production of products and services needed and wanted by society. This is the core, fundamental issue that MUST be addressed. Once the system is reformed to empower EVERY citizen with the equal opportunity to acquire wealth-creating, income-producing capital assets using financial mechanisms in which the investments pay for themselves without the necessity for savings or wage and benefit reductions, then we will have put our nation on the path to prosperity, opportunity and economic justice whereby all citizens would become empowered as owners to meet their own consumption needs and government would become more dependent on economically independent citizens, thus reversing current global trends where all citizens will eventually become dependent for their economic well-being on our only legitimate social monopoly –– the State –– and whatever elite controls the coercive powers of government.

The solution to income and wealth inequality is not expanding the minimum wage but ensuring the opportunity and the  means to acquiring personal ownership in the non-human means of production––capital assets. Focusing on this issue will force ALL candidates for the Presidency and Senate and Congressional offices to address the economics of reality and to enlighten the general public as to why the rich are rich and how they continually get richer, while the vast majority of Americans are regulated to wage slavery and welfare slavery.

Stiglitz Urges U.S. Overhaul of Unfair Tax Policies

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia University, talks about U.S. income inequality and tax policy. He speaks with Tom Keene on Bloomberg Television’s "Surveillance Midday." (Source: Bloomberg)/ This video was published on June 4, 2012.

Stieglitz: “It’s absolutely essential that we have a fair tax system and one that directs our economic activity to production not to speculation.

“If you have a tax system in which people at the very top pay half the rate of somebody who is working hard for their income, simply because they get their income from speculation, that’s an unfair system and it’s a distorting system and leads to lower economic growth.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AobXhjuTj-8

A Tax System Tilted Toward The Rich––How To Make Taxes Fair Again

Taxes

On December 26,2014, Joseph Anthony writes in the Los Angeles Times:

Congress managed to pass a tax bill in December — a great relief to tax professionals like myself. But what our legislators didn’t do was address the fundamentally unfair way the United States taxes people who work for a living compared with people who live off of the earnings of their investments.

Our current system hits working Americans with punishing rates compared with what the investing classes are charged. A generation’s worth of legislative twists have left our tax code so warped that during the coming filing season, one married couple bringing in $150,000 in total income from two jobs could find itself paying almost three times as much in federal income taxes as another couple that is alike in every way — except for the source of its income.

The tax code started to tilt in the direction of favoring income from investments — or favoring the 1%, if you will — more than 20 years ago. In 1993, the year Bill Clinton took office, a married couple claiming the standard deduction — with no children, tax credits or other adjustments to income — and earning $75,000 apiece in wages, would have paid $35,650 in federal income taxes.

A similar couple, whose income came solely from long-term capital gains, would have gotten a small break thanks to what was then the 28% top rate on those gains. Their total tax bill, $34,158, would have been about $1,500 lower than that of the wage earners.

By 2000 — the year George W. Bush was first elected — the tax gap between wage earners and investors had already opened up. In that year, our two-wages couple would have paid $33,607 in taxes. They also would have paid that amount if all of their income had been from stock dividends; there was no preferential treatment for dividends at that point.

But the couple whose income came from long-term capital gains would have paid $23,025 in taxes — almost a third less.

Fast-forward to the 2014 tax season. Our two-income couple are still working full time to make the same $150,000 (not a farfetched scenario in our new-normal era of stagnant wages). After a decade’s worth of inflation adjustments to their tax bracket, their tax bill is now $24,138.

And the couple living off of their investments? Their tax bill — whether their money came from long-term capital gains or qualifying dividends — has been slashed to $8,385, or a little more than one-third of the tax load on wage earners.

Some of my clients who get their money from unearned income find this discrepancy unbelievable when they compare their federal taxes to their state bills. During this tax season, I know I will have clients — in California and Oregon, where I live — who will pay more in state income taxes than they do in federal taxes. I may even have some clients who will be stunned to learn that they face a four-figure state tax bill while paying exactly zero in federal income taxes for the year.

The reason: The federal code provides that there is no tax on capital gains or qualifying dividends for people in the 15% income tax bracket. That means that a Los Angeles married couple filing jointly for 2014 with $94,100 of adjusted gross income, all from long-term capital gains and qualifying dividends, would pay nothing — zero! — in federal income tax. But their California tax bill would be north of $3,000.

How did we get to this point? No legislator ever campaigned saying, “Tax laborers more than investors!” But several changes in the code since the early 1990s, including lowered tax rates on capital gains and lowered rates on qualified dividends, have conspired to produce that result. My high-income clients were dismayed last year by the new 3.8% net investment income tax, which applies to joint filers with modified adjusted gross incomes of more than $250,000 ($200,000 for singles), but that affects relatively few filers and, perversely enough, applies to non-tax-advantaged income such as rentals, as well as to dividends and long-term gains.

Neither political party gets sole credit or blame. President George W. Bush was most aggressive about pushing such tax changes, but breaks for unearned income were also passed and extended under both the Clinton and Obama administrations. Supporters argued that lower rates would benefit retirees living on fixed incomes and also spur investments. But the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says that almost half of all long-term capital gains in 2012 went to the top 0.1% of households by income. For the nearly 60% of elderly filers who had incomes of less than $40,000 in 2011, the lower rates were worth less than $6 per household.

In 1924 — a different era to be sure— industrialist-robber baron-Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon wrote in support of treating wages more favorably than investments. “The fairness of taxing more lightly income from wages, salaries or from investments is beyond question,” he wrote. “In the first case, the income is uncertain and limited in duration; sickness or death destroys it and old age diminishes it; in the other, the source of income continues; the income may be disposed of during a man’s life and it descends to his heirs. Surely we can afford to make a distinction between the people whose only capital is their mental and physical energy and the people whose income is derived from investments.”

Well, that’s certainly not going to happen any time soon. But leveling out the tax treatment of wages and investment incomes would increase both the perceived and actual fairness of the tax code. It would eliminate preferences that distort investment and financial planning decisions. A fairer code might also increase respect for the system and improve tax collection rates overall.

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-anthony-capital-gains-reform-20141226-story.html

 

 

Let’s All Screw The 1 Percent: The Simple Move Obama Could Make To Strengthen The Rest Of Us

Let's all screw the 1 percent: The simple move Obama could make to strengthen the rest of usEnlargeA still from “Titanic” (Credit: Paramount Pictures)
You’re working more hours and not getting paid for them. We can fix that — and put more people to work. Here’s how
On December 26,2014 Paul Rosenberg writes on Salon:

“The economy” in the abstract is doing relatively well, with strong job growth, a booming stock market, and rising GDP. But the American people aren’t feeling it—and Democrats have paid a serious political price as a result—simply because the concrete, individual experience is quite different.  Raising the minimum wage is one way to get at the problem—but for a problem that big, it’s a limited line of attack. There are millions of Americans making well more than the minimum wage, yet still doing much worse than their similarly situated parents did a generation ago.

“So what’s changed since the 1960s and ’70s?” progressive billionare venture capitalistNick Hanauer asked in Politico back in November. “Overtime pay, in part,” he answered: “Your parents got a lot of it, and you don’t. And it turns out that fair overtime standards are to the middle class what the minimum wage is to low-income workers: not everything, but an indispensable labor protection that is absolutely essential to creating a broad and thriving middle class.”

Although the details are a bit complicated, the bottom line is not: there’s a wage level below which everyone qualifies for mandatory time-and-a-half overtime, even if they’re on a salary, and that level has only been raised once since 1975, with the result that only 11 percent of salaried Americans are covered today, compared to over 65 percent of them in 1975.  If you make less than $23,660 a year as a salaried worker, you qualify for mandatory overtime—if not, you’re out of luck.  Only those hanging on to the lowest levels of the middle class have those protections anymore. Just adjusting the wage level for inflation since 1975—an act of restoration, not revolution—would be as significant an income increase for millions of middle-class Americans as a $10.10 or even $15 minimum wage is for low-wage workers.  It would cover an additional 6.1 million salaried workers (by one account) up to $970 per week, about $50,440 annually—the vast majority of those it was originally designed to protect, but who have slowly lost their protections since the 1970s. Hanauer proposes a slightly greater increase, intended to cover roughly all the workforce that was covered in 1975. That would raise the threshold to $69,000 annually, and would cover an added 10.4 million workers.

“Salaried Americans now report working an average of 47 hours a week—18 percent report working more than 60 hours per week,” Hanauer wrote in a follow-up piece for the Hill in December. “If it feels like you’re working more hours for less money than your parents did a generation ago, it’s probably because you are.” But the solution, as indicated, is simple and the best part is that Congress has absolutely no say in the matter. It’s purely an executive branch decision whether to raise the eligibility level.

Oh, sure, conservatives are bound to yell, “Socialism!” But the original rationale behind the overtime regulations—enshrined in the Fair Labor Standards Act during the Great Depression, along with the minimum wage—comes right out of Adam Smith.  Here’s a description from a March 2014 report on the subject from the Economic Policy Institute by Ross Eisenbrey and Jared Bernstein:

“The fundamental idea behind overtime coverage, and the minimum wage, is to maintain a basic norm within our labor market. Under certain market conditions, for example when unemployment is high or workers hold especially low levels of bargaining power, employers might be able to require employees to labor long hours without receiving additional compensation. This was, in fact, the case prior to the passage of the FLSA. Congress decided that this was a market failure based on the asymmetrical bargaining positions of affected workers and employers, and thus enacted the OT rules to create a financial disincentive to subject employees to excessive work hours.”

And here’s Adam Smith on precisely that same sort of power imbalance and market failure:

“In all such disputes the masters can hold out much longer. A landlord, a farmer, a master manufacturer, a merchant, though they did not employ a single workman, could generally live a year or two upon the stocks which they have already acquired. Many workmen could not subsist a week, few could subsist a month, and scarce any a year without employment. In the long run the workman may be as necessary to his master as his master is to him; but the necessity is not so immediate.”

As for how that translates into policy, Smith was equally blunt:

“Whenever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between masters and their workmen, its counsellors are always the masters. When the regulation, therefore, is in favour of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters.”

And this is exactly how the history of overtime pay regulations has worked out, in large part simply by doing nothing, and allowing inflation to erode away all the protections for tens of millions of Americans.

The fact that Adam Smith would be sympathetic is not the only sign that the logic involved ought to appeal to honest, principled conservatives, if any such unicorns actually existed. First, as already indicated, one purpose of the law is to shape social norms—a purpose that conservatives have repeatedly endorsed in a wide array of policy areas.  Laws cannot make people good, they may say, but they can express society’s approval and disapproval, they can encourage and support virtuous behavior, and that behavior itself can, in turn, change people’s hearts over time. In the meantime, vice should not be rewarded.

OK, fair enough, you might say. But why would conservatives see overtime pay as good? Because of family values, of course, as Heidi Shierholz noted in an August 2014 EPI report, “Increasing the Overtime Salary Threshold Is Family-Friendly Policy”:

“To ensure the basic, family-friendly right to a limited workweek, the Fair Labor Standards Act requires that workers covered by FLSA overtime provisions must be paid at least “time-and-a-half,” or 1.5 times their regular pay rate, for each hour of work per week beyond 40 hours.”

Supporting strong families is a social good, which benefits from limiting the work week. If parents are asked to sacrifice family time, they should be paid extra for it. And the need today is greater than ever before, as Bernstein and Eisenbrey noted:

“Preserving this right is just as important today as it was 75 years ago, and, when it comes to child-rearing, might be even more important. Between 1968 and 2008, the share of children living in households in which all parents work full time doubled from 24.6 percent to 48.3 percent.”

Of course, I don’t expect any movement conservative  activists, media figures or politicians to make such an argument—or any other argument in favor of higher wages for ordinary Americans. But it does square rather well with what they at least once pretended to believe, and what legions of their sometimes followers still believe, which is part of why it would be very popular for Obama to expand the scope of overtime coverage—which, again, he doesn’t need anyone else to sign off on.

The rationale for bold action from Obama is clear, as Hanauer noted back in mid-November:

“Since the Republican Party’s takeover of both houses of Congress in the midterm elections, all the talk in Washington has been about what won’t get done because of gridlock between the White House and Capitol Hill. And Obama has talked of moving things forward by making unilateral changes to immigration law and climate protections.

“But what about the most basic need of all—jump-starting the real economy by giving more middle-class Americans a fair shake? You would think that for a Democratic administration, raising the threshold back to where it once was would be a no-brainer….”

However, Hanauer notes, with evident dismay, that the Obama administration seems to once again be going wobbly, to say the least. Administration officials “are likely to raise the threshold only partly,” he wrote, “ and the Obama administration has not yet grappled with the broader question of how moves such as this are critical to helping to restore America’s middle class.” And he’s not just guessing. He’s been in contact with those on the inside:

“It is my sense, based on my conversations with government officials, that the administration is buying the line from corporate lobbyists who are arguing that such rule changes would devastate their bottom lines, forcing them to lay off workers. You know, the old trickle-down gambit—if workers earn more money, it would be bad for business, the economy and workers. The Obama team, in other words, is buying into the same discredited theories that were used to erode the threshold in the first place. Officials will very likely raise the overtime threshold just enough to say they’re doing something, without actually doing much of anything for the middle class or our demand-starved economy at all.”

This is the sad truth about Obama’s economic policy—it’s still stuck in Ronald Reagan’s first term, when trickle-down was still a wild, untested theory, rather than one that had been thoroughly discredited by 30+ years of evidence, showing that supply-side economics is inferior in producing investment growth, productivity growth, GDP growth,faster job creation, growth in median income or wages while also causing the national debt to increase substantially. Obama doesn’t just say nice things about Ronald Reagan from time to time, he thinks like Ronald Reagan, deep down in his bones, and—like Reagan—no amount of pesky facts are going to change his mind. But groundswells of public pressure got Reagan to change his tune several times—in making Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday, for example. So a similar groundswell of pressure on Obama to restore overtime protections to what they were in 1975 sure  couldn’t hurt—and it could even help shape the direction of the next presidency, provided that the Democrats win, as now still seems overwhelmingly likely.

The opportunity that Obama and the Democrats have is clear, as Hanauer wrote for the Hill:

“Just think about it: With the stroke of his pen, President Obama could force your employer to pay you time-and-a-half for every hour you work over 40 hours a week. And if corporate America didn’t want to pay you time-and-a-half, they would need to hire hundreds of thousands of additional workers to pick up the slack—slashing the unemployment rate and forcing up wages. That’s 10.4 million middle-class Americans with more money in your pocket or more time to spend with your friends and family.”

That’s money that would not just make those workers better off, it’s money that would fuel the rest of the economy as well, in sharp contrast to money in the hands of the 1 percent or higher, who spend far less of what they earn, and invest far more in speculative ventures, rather than solid productive enterprises. That’s how the basic logic of Keynesian economics works, and despite decades of propaganda to  the contrary—much of it coming from economists  who should know better—that’s exactly what America’s economic history confirms. Doing what Hanauer advises—and firing the supply-siders in his own administration—would be the smartest thing President Obama could do right now, to ensure that the economy keeps on growing, regardless of what congressional Republicans try to do in the next two years.

One final thought.  In her report, the source of the 6.1 million figure mentioned above, Heidi Shierholz summarizes her main findings as follows:

  • 6.1 million workers would be newly covered by an increase in the salary threshold from $455 per week to $984 per week.
  • The newly covered workers would be those at the low end of the salary scale who have limited individual bargaining power and would therefore benefit from the overtime protections of the FLSA.
  • The increase would disproportionately help women, blacks, Hispanics, workers under age 35, and workers with lower levels of education because these workers are more likely than other subgroups to have lower salaries that put them below the proposed new threshold

It’s not really a surprise that the proposed changes would have such an effect.  It’s no surprise, since those left behind by the erosion of protections in place 40 years ago are disproportionally female, black, Hispanic, young and less educated. These are precisely the groups who were largely excluded from the salaried job marketplace “When Affirmative Action Was White,” as the the title of Ira Katznelson’s book puts it. And they are precisely the groups who have formed Obama’s electoral base. Older white males—the conservative beneficiaries of America’s welfare state in its most robust form—will no doubt scream bloody murder when this is pointed out to them, by Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh or some other blowhard, who of course “doesn’t see race” anywhere.  And that should be the surest sign of all to Obama that it’s exactly the right thing for him to do.

http://www.salon.com/2014/12/26/lets_all_screw_the_1_percent_the_simple_move_obama_could_make_to_strengthen_the_rest_of_us/

 

 

Full Show: What The 1% Don’t Want Us To Know

On April 18, 2014, Moyers & Company published:

The median pay for the top 100 highest-paid CEOs at America’s publicly traded companies was a handsome $13.9 million in 2013. That’s a 9 percent increase from the previous year, according to a new Equilar pay study for The New York Times.

These types of jumps in executive compensation may have more of an effect on our widening income inequality than previously thought. A new book that’s the talk of academia and the media, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, a 42-year-old who teaches at the Paris School of Economics, shows that two-thirds of America’s increase in income inequality over the past four decades is the result of steep raises given to the country’s highest earners.

This week, Bill talks with Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, about Piketty’s “magnificent” new book.

“What Piketty’s really done now is he said, ‘Even those of you who talk about the 1 percent, you don’t really get what’s going on.’ He’s telling us that we are on the road not just to a highly unequal society, but to a society of an oligarchy. A society of inherited wealth.”

Krugman adds: “We’re seeing inequalities that will be transferred across generations. We are becoming very much the kind of society we imagined we’re nothing like.”

http://billmoyers.com/episode/what-the-1-dont-want-you-to-know-2/

 

Tech Billionaire Slams His Peers For Being 'Stingy'

Marc BenioffFlickr/TechCrunchSalesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff

On December 24, 2014, Julie Bort writes on Business Insider:

Marc Benioff, the co-founder CEO of Salesforce, is one of the highest paid people in tech.

But in his hometown of San Francisco, where a tear-down home can cost $1 million, he’s not the symbol of gentrification. He’s more like a Robin Hood.

His company, the largest tech employer in San Francisco, is famous for its 1-1-1 model of philanthropy where the company donates 1% of employees’ time, 1% of its profits, and 1% of its equity to charity.

He and his wife are also personally generous. They’ve donated $200 million to build a new Children’s Hospital in San Francisco and to support another one in nearby Oakland.

But he looks around and sees a lot of wealthy CEOs not doing their fair share, particularly for the town where they’ve set up shop. In an interview with Brad Stone of Bloomberg Businessweek, Benioff lobbed these barbs:

  • “Our industry has a history of stinginess … We have done a phenomenal job creating value for the world through our technology, but we are not really an industry known for giving that wealth back.”
  • On viewing charity as a drag on profits: “We no longer live in a world that can tolerate maximizing shareholder values.”
  • On the protests over the “Google buses” that transport high-paid tech workers from homes in San Francisco to their offices elsewhere and have contributed to soaring rents: “I think they’ve gotten off way too easily, actually. … The tech industry is setting up shop here, and it’s creating a lot of change in the city, and we should all be making sure that we are doing this in the right way.”
  • On Bill Gates’ Giving Pledge, in which wealthy people vow to give away their money at the end of their lives, or after they die. “I think we have to give now. I think we have a lot of problems right now that need direct attention, and I don’t want to give any air cover to people who are putting money away to give later.”

So he’s got a new challenge for his peers. He plans to give away $1 billion of his own money by 2024 and he wants others to meet or beat his generosity.

He particularly wants them to personally help improve something in the Bay Area and to get others to do the same. “That is my goal. I think I can achieve it.”