Thursday, April 30, 2009

All Over The Spectrum

Fascism and Communism are at two different ends of the political spectrum. Those claiming that President Obama is a communist (extreme socialism) in one breath and a fascist (extreme conservatism) in the next are displaying their ignorance of this political science precept.

In its simplest form, the political spectrum looks something like this:

Communist ---- Liberal ---- Centrist ---- Conservative ---- Fascist

Also, fascism is primarily considered an alliance of state and corporate power – corporate governance (which seems to be the system the Republicans have being trying to construct for the last three decades). From someone who knew, Benito Mussolini stated, “Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power.”

I, too, feel some of Obama’s policies – unquestioned, and apparently unlimited, aid for Wall Street while the auto industry must beg, plead, restructure contracts, and make cuts – are directly from the right-wing playbook and seem tilted in favor of rich capitalists. But would I label them fascist? No. George Bush’s many tax cuts for the wealthy, his allowance of self-regulation by big business, his numerous signing statements and assaults on the law, his use of torture, and his “you’re with us or you’re against us” attitude seem to fit much better with fascist tenets.

Would I label Obama's tax breaks for the middle-class, concern over the environment, aspiration for better health care, and desire for a more and equitable society as communist? No. These are all components of government’s role and a rightful attempt at resurrecting our tattered social contract.

Does Obama feel everything should be state-owned and also somehow corporate-owned? Does he believe government should be big and small at the same time? Does he believe in trickle-down economics while also believing in higher taxation and redistribution?

The right-wing needs to put a little more time and thought into these accusations they throw out so haphazardly. There needs to be some logical equivalence to their haranguing if they want to be taken seriously. Rather than just being seen as sore-losers ranting away with any allegation, and supposed slur, they can imagine. Better yet, they could actually develop a productive platform of their own from which to build the country, instead of just mudslinging all the time.

I know the Republicans are down-and-out, lacking any vision or new ideas, truly only care about the ultra-wealthy, and are willing to say anything unconstructive to smear their opponents…but can’t they at least have some consistency to their condemnation?

Down on the Farm

James Rowen, of the Political Environment, has the lastest on the disaster that is Pabst Farms in Oconomowoc.

For Further Reading:
Corporate Blackmail
Pabst Farms Mirage
Pabst Farms Pork

Death Trip

It's good to see Mayor Barrett opposing stimulus money being wasted on the sprawling suburban wastelands. Is this the DOT's idea of green stimulus? Investing the majority of the money on auto-centered development, while the city's infrastructure slowly continues to crumble? We need to amend the deferred investments in the city; to discourage sprawl and encourage high-density, walkable environments. There is no better place to start than the city.

"Is our children learning?"*

Stephen Colbert mocks the right-wing's disdain for education, textbooks, reading, learning, and thinking, in general.

* an actual quote from George W. Bush

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Purchasing Power

Two informative pieces by Stacy Mitchell on buying locally and the cost to communities of business models practiced by corporations such as Wal Mart.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Seizing Ill-gotten Gains

An excellent proposal from Charles Intriago and Robert Butterworth.

Power to the People

Great article from Bob Herbert.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Equitable Development

Two excellent articles on economic development - what it should and should not be:

Big, Empty Boxes

Developing Jobs or Developing Real Estate?

Corporate Tax Game

This is an older, but good article from Business Week on corporate tax avoidance, and why corporations paying less leads to individuals paying more.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Soaking Sean

Olbermann challenges Hannity to actually back up his words. I'm sure there are plenty of people who would be willing to donate a few bucks to charity for the waterboarding of Sean Hannity. Hell, maybe this is our new stimulus plan - the weekly Hannity waterboarding fundraiser.

Knocking Napolitano

Another manufactured Faux News political storm...because the Republicans have nothing else to add to our public discourse. Who cares what Great Van Susteren, Faux News, Rush Limbaugh, or any of the other hacks think, especially when they're simply constructing falsehoods.


General Growth Properties business model is about saturating markets with subsidized and unnecessary developments, and they're tax cheats on top of that. Schadenfruede washes over me with the announcement of their failure.

Milwaukee Parks

Even though we've been starving our parks of funding and slowly diminishing their amenities, we've still got some of the best parks in the country.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


This post (with reading material below) is meant, not to absolve Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from his delusional comments and periodic invective, but to inform that the history of U.S.-Iranian relations is more complex than its presented by the reflexive, anti-Iran politicians and pundits often frame the issue.

For Further Reading:
Military Action Against Iran
Revisiting Iran-Contra
The 1953 U.S. Backed Coup in Iran
The U.S. and Iran
The U.S. and Regime Change in Iran
U.S. Military Involvement in Iran
U.S./Iran Timeline
Win One For The Gipper

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Whole Foods Paradox

It's nice to see Whole Foods generous spirit toward Bradford Beach here in Milwaukee. It would also be nice if they applied the same attitude towards their own workers.

Water & Sprawl

An excellent post by James Rowen of the Political Environment on Waukesha's thirst for Milwaukee's water and it's (apparently) never-ending appetite to sprawl.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Capital Gains Tax

From the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy (ITEP).

Social Security Is Fine

From the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities (CBPP).

Monday, April 20, 2009


Community columnist, for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Matthew Gutierrez rambles on about decreasing property taxes by increasing other taxes.

Gutierrez feels, "Taxes should be increased on items that every Wisconsin resident spends money on," not just real estate. The perplexing thing here is that those other things already are taxed. We haves fees, the sales tax, sin taxes, the gas tax, and on and on. And, these taxes tend to take a larger portion of the non-wealthy's overall income - regressive taxes.

Gutierrez proposes a clothing tax. Again, this would only hurt those that he claims to want to help. The majority of homeowners would either pay more to clothe themselves, or they would have to go without replacing their clothing.

He then proposes raising taxes on gas and bus fare...we already do this. I agree gas taxes should be higher, to correctly cover the environmental costs and discourage sprawl. But raising bus fares primarily hurts, again, the non-wealthy. Similar arguments can be made against his call for an increased tax on food. It appears Mr. Gutierrez wants a tax on every single item in our society to discourage its use or to exclude it from those whom can afford it the least.

The reason the governor asks more from homeowners is because we allow him to ask less of corporations. There is a minimum of services we expect in Wisconsin, it's why we're a great state and beloved among so many of its residents and visitors, and that's why a certain tax level is needed to maintain our standard of living.

The best way to ensure fairness in the tax burden is to make sure we have plenty of auditors in the Commerce Department doing their job. Secondly, we need to remove the many exemptions and tax breaks which allow corporations to avoid so much of their tax responsibility.

It's The Environment, Stupid

Tom Brokaw has an op-ed in today’s New York Times. He basically makes the case for more regional provision of services as a cost-cutting measure during these tough times. This is not revolutionary nor is it a new proposal.

When discussing North and South Dakota’s 17 colleges and universities and why so many schools are unnecessary for such a small population he states, “They are a carry-over from the early 20th century when travel was more difficult and farm families wanted their children close by during harvest season.”

Both of these ideas - cheap travel and local farming - are two sides of the same coin, and two issues we need to address and think much more clearly about with regard to the environmental crisis we are facing.

Travel may be easier, but that is because it is heavily subsidized. We are encouraging environmental degradation with cheap fuel. Our jet-setting lifestyle is convenient for those who can afford it, yet this frivolously inefficient hyper-mobile culture is also destroying the planet.

Later Brokaw opines, “If this is a reset, it’s time to reorganize our state and local government structures for today’s realities rather than cling to the sensibilities of the 20th century.”

Today’s realities dictate that we concentrate more on local sustainability rather than global mobility. Certain places are naturally endowed to produce food and others have an abundance of natural resources. The last fifty years have seen a totally new development pattern – highways and exit ramp economies. We locate wherever we want regardless of the natural environment and then, because travel/shipping is cheap, we build and import whatever we need to make that place livable.

We dam and reroute rivers. We build over wetlands. We turn deserts into golf courses. We construct hundreds if not thousands of miles of irrigation systems and water supplies for farmlands and subdivisions that should never be.

I agree that service consolidation is an efficient idea. But we must also consider the environmental realities. We have built fantasy communities where they should have never been imagined – much of Arizona and Nevada comes to mind. Until we face the hard fact that some of these places are not sustainable and we come to grips with a more long-term, high-density lifestyle we’re really just spinning our wheels.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Facts and Figures

Courtesy of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Federal level:

Fewer than 3 in 1,000 estates in 2009 are expected to be subject to the estate tax.

About 11 percent of the federal budget in 2008, or $313 billion, supported programs that provide aid (other than health insurance or Social Security benefits) to individuals and families facing hardship.

Social Security provides benefits to 48 million Americans, with the average beneficiary receiving $10,500 per year. 10 million beneficiaries are adults below the age of 65, and 4 million are children. For one-third of the elderly, it provides nearly all of their income. Social Security is an extremely efficient program, with administrative costs equaling only 0.6 percent of retirement and survivors benefits.

State level:

Cash assistance to low-income individuals through Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and some smaller programs, such as general assistance, makes up only a tiny share of state spending — about 1 percent or $13 billion.

Courtesy of the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau:

The property tax is the largest source of combined state and local tax revenue in Wisconsin. It represents 28.1 percent of all municipal revenue.

In 2006 our property taxes per $1,000 of personal income ranked 9th, our property taxes per capita ranked 12th.

In 2007 residential property taxpayers accounted for 71 percent of total property tax collections, commercial property accounted for 21 percent. In 1970 residential accounted for 51 percent, while commercial accounted for 20 percent.

Tax Perspective

Here's a couple of interesting articles on taxes, money, debt, and the tax burden.

More Debt Bubbles

Richly Undeserved

Anti-Corporate Revolt

Thom Hartmann provides some historical information for all the Teabaggers out there. I thought it would be nice if they actually knew the historical circumstances they are supposedly drawing their inspiration from.

Auditors Wanted

Governor Doyle has been talking of cutting 32 full-time jobs at the Wisconsin Department of Revenue to deal with the state budget deficit. Unpaid taxes in Wisconsin are estimated at $1 billion (obviously part of the deficit problem). It seems we need those 32 employees, and could even hire more workers, to collect the owed taxes and to perform audits, making sure the state is getting the revenue it needs and verifying that everyone is paying their fair share.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Natural Law

Even the animals know taxes are for the good of all.

Shifting Tax Burden

How much of a tax burden do Wisconsin corporation's tax havens unfairly displace onto regular tax payers? $1,673,906,154

Bait and Switch

To paraphrase Dan Akroyd from a well-known SNL skit, "John, you ignorant slut." John Torinus, business-interest shill and Journal Sentinel "writer", spews forth yet another column of misinformation in his April 11th article, Cap-and-trade bill could devastate manufacturing. As usual, he derides anything regulatory toward business, and lectures about how cap-and-trade will be bad for business.

He is basically defending the do-nothing, status quo protecting, companies that have been too lazy and stupid to get their act together over these last few decades to address the sustainability and environmental challenges that are now at a breaking point.

David Yarnold, in an excellent commentary for McClatchy, discredits all of the lame excuses put forth by Torinus. All the proponents for doing nothing about carbon emissions incessantly scream about the cost and the (fictional) negative economic consequences. Strangely they never mention the negative economic consequences of destroying the planet. As Yarnold reports, the Department of Energy estimates a cap on carbon would cost just ten more cents a day. Roughly thirty-six dollars a year. A small price to pay to save the planet.

Torinus completely ignores that cap-and-trade could be an opportunity for Wisconsin's manufacturing capacity and comparative advantage, a chance to be leaders in the innovation and technology transformation to sustainable industries. This regulatory mandate alongside stimulus-bill infrastructure improvements (like light rail) are an opportunity for Wisconsin to lead in green-innovation, create living-wage jobs, protect the environment, and enable a favorable forward-thinking business environment for Wisconsin to grow and remain competitive into the future.

Energy is a pillar of modern society. It is a public good and should be a public utility. Otherwise, if it must remain in private hands (which have been unable to make advancements nor contain costs) the government should cap profits and rate increases substantially. (We have a hodge-podge system similar to this, but it works horribly and is inefficient.) Government could dictate an allowable profit margin while ensuring maintained infrastructure standards and quality service provision by the private provider.

Torinus then gives a woe-is-me for Serigraph, of which he is CEO, and the fictional costs they would have to endure if cap-and-trade were instituted. But maybe Torinus could use some of the money Serigraph is saving from not paying its fair share of taxes to cover those fictional costs.

He continues with the 'poor Serigraph' routine claiming they could not pass any additional cost onto their customers. But this is the cost of business, which is what business models take into consideration, and what managers are suppose to, well, manage. These considerations should be included in the real price of any service or product, rather than circumventing these costs onto the public through subsidies, exemptions, and loopholes, as is the typical route for most big businesses. Or is government supposed to do nothing, and benefit Serigraph, at the expense of the majority of citizens and the planet?

We're taught to believe that those with Ivy League degrees - John graduated from Yale - are incredibly smart, trained well, and can solve the tough questions our society faces. These are exactly the types of decisions (efficient and sustainable production methods) that CEOs should be making if they want to claim they are worth the millions of dollars they are paid. But, as always, it seems their solution is for government to change the rules for them, subsidize their continued misadventures, and allow these captains of industry to plunder and plod along.

Cap-and-trade will primarily induce sustainable efficiency. It will reward those companies which plan, innovate, and create. It will weed out the antiquated. The days of inefficient - economically, societally and environmentally - destructive business practices being allowed to continue to exist through subsidization and market manipulation is over.

Torinus also takes a jab at environmentalists, "Environmentalists assure us that the economic questions can be worked out. Not to worry." Somewhat reminiscent of how the CEOs and Wall Street executives assured us that they knew what they were doing and had conquered risk? Everything the business community claims to be, all the lofty jargon they emit, is false. Their emperor has no clothes. Thanks, John, but I think we'll listen to some entity other than the business community from now on.

He helps buttress his opposition's case by pointing out that the Midwest is 60 percent dependent on coal. What the hell have our politicians and captains of industry been doing these last thirty years? Then in an amazing show of inflexibility, obtuseness, and treachery, Torinus spouts off about the bogus "clean" coal. This is a finite, heavily-polluting resource. Torinus feels we are going to competitively move forward by investing in yesterday's energy source? And then, of course, he has to mention nuclear. But what do we do with that waste? The business community and their ilk seem to feel the solution to one problem (coal) is another problem (nuclear waste).

If a business can not get by without subsidization, the government manipulating the market in one's favor, exemptions, tax havens, or cooking the books, it should not be in business. We allow business to grow to enormous proportions, so enormous they're allowed to bet over fifty times their value. They are able to leverage billions and put whole communities and the economy in jeopardy. Businesses hire lawyers and buy politicians to write laws and devise tax breaks solidifying this privileged societal position.

It's time we actually have public policy for the public again, by following parameters constructed by government about what is best and how it will be accomplished. That is representative democracy.

For Further Reading:
Does Taxing Pollution Lead to Higher Prices and Lower Aggregate Output?
History of the U.S. Electric Power Industry
Jobs & The Environment: The Myth of a National Trade-Off
Regulation and Competitiveness

The Revolving Door Racket

Crony capitalism: exhibit A, exhibit B.


Check out these ridiculous numbers.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Creative Snake Oil

Richard Florida has gained popularity and riches with his creative class hypothesis, even though it has been discredited. Let's stop printing and listening to what this huckster is peddling.

For Further Reading:
Creative Economists New Theory is Old News
Review of Florida's Creative Class
The Curse of the Creative Class
The Rise of the Creative Class
Who's Your Economist?

Unthinking Sheep

Where were all these sheep when Bush was spending the surplus he inherited and running up record deficits?

Tax Falsehood Rectification

Crooks and Liars encapsulates and corrects the Republican tax falsehoods.

Tin Foil Hat Time

The Republicans have become so irrelevant that they are now just fabricating to keep their party in the spotlight.

Arianna Huffington discusses the many Republican charades with Keith Olbermann. In his "Bushed" segment Olbermann then pleads for the Republicans to stop lying about taxes and the tax burden.

Ed Schultz delves into the Teabag theatrics beautifully in this piece (starts around 0:58). The second part of Ed's show - especially the "Psycho Talk" segment at 5:40 - on the same issue is also worth watching. [Another segment, in the second part, on the profits of the Hospital Corporation of America at 12:30 should also be viewed.] Jon Stewart parodies the Teabag debacle. Karl Frisch also weighs in on this topic. Art Levine has more on this faux grass roots Teabag fiasco and the absence of any mention of CEO pay and corporate tax avoidance within this 'we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore' false consciousness.

Media Matters corrects the falsity of claims the Department of Homeland Security is targeting right-wingers. Olbermann also comments on this.

Eric Boehlert opines on the general paranoia of the right-wing.

Robert Parry writes about the right-wing and the media drive to destroy Obama.

City Attempting to Shaft Unionized Workers

Budget pressures may mean up to 1,400 job cuts, Barrett warns, by Larry Sandler, in the March 26, 2009 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, is not fully contextualized and seems to have the usual underlying tone from the media regarding workers in this country – take what you get and shut your mouth.

The article begins with doom and gloom reporting that up to 1,400 jobs may be cut from the city over the next four years. It then goes on to highlight factors weighing on the budget. Thereby setting the ominous scene for the article, implying that union workers must be insane to think their wages should at least keep up with inflation, especially during these tough times.

[Increasing taxes, removing exemptions, discontinuing business tax breaks, and other revenue-increasing options are not even mentioned in the article as a possible way to fill the budget gaps.]

Alderman Murphy and Mayor Barrett’s use of such words as - “astounded,” “unrealistic,” and “incredulous,” - regarding the contract demands is duplicitous and ridiculous. The contract in question (the old contract expired December 31, 2006) should have been resolved in 2007. The same time the aldermen were voting to give themselves and the mayor a raise. The article makes no mention of this hypocrisy.

When discussion about the aldermen’s contract (in negotiation back in 2007) began, the aldermen initially wanted a 12.3 percent increase over the 4-year term. Alderman Murphy referred to this as “fair compensation.” This is a 3 percent yearly raise. Inflation was 2.8 percent in 2007 and 3.8 percent in 2008. Is it wrong that workers are asking for their pay to keep up with inflation (which it seems the aldermen want for themselves)? Or do workers have to take pay cuts so that management can have their raises? City officials feel workers should receive no pension increase (the union is seeking a 2 percent increase) and a 2.5 percent yearly wage increase (7.5 total for the 3-year contract).

From a previous column of Sandler’s (Top cop’s pay closer to mayor’s), he notes, “The measure to increase elected officials' pay was approved, 10-4…That would raise the mayor's pay from $143,883 a year now to $147,336 next year and $158,665 in 2011. For most of the 15 aldermen, salaries would increase from $71,506 now to $73,222 in 2008 and $78,852 in their terms' last year. Pay for the council president would rise from $80,810 now to $82,749 next year and $89,112 three years later…Voting for the raises were council President Willie Hines Jr. and Aldermen Joe Davis Sr., Ashanti Hamilton, Robert Puente, Willie Wade, Jim Witkowiak, Terry Witkowski, Mike D'Amato, Robert Bauman and Murphy. Opposed were Bohl, Donovan, Dudzik and Zielinski.”

Sandler draws no connection nor discusses the flawed reasoning of city management in this matter. Why does management deserve a pay increase while city workers should go without?

The mayor’s pay initially increased 2.4 percent, but by 2011 it will have grown by 10.3 percent. The total percentage point increase over the life of the proposed 3-year contract for union members is 9.25 (as reported above, the City is only offering 7.5). What justifies this double-standard that city management can have their raises (on top of their salaries which are already nearly double the average unionized city worker), yet it is “unrealistic” for the workers to expect (near) the same?

How is it that the city has money for - or will create taxes to raise money for - TIDs, baseball stadiums, convention centers, motorcycle museums, private business parking garages, and a host of other private sector giveaways, yet they can’t find any money to pay city workers? Give me a break!

I hope the city workers remember the names of the alderman and council members who voted for their own raise but feel the workers shouldn’t get the same during the next election. I hope the city workers also remember Mayor Barrett and his unflinching contempt of city workers, in their want for a contract that keeps their pay in-step with inflation, during the next election. What kind of mayor and aldermen scorn their own workers, resist paying them, and simultaneously reward themselves?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Inflation & Valuations

I know people don't enjoy paying property taxes. But like any other investment or purchase, one must consider taxes (along with other expenses) when weighing the pros and cons of buying a property.

One factor that seems to slip most everyday homeowners' minds is inflation. This depreciates your home's value a few percentage points each year. Everything generally tends to cost slightly more each year. This process automatically lowers the values of properties. So even in the years when your property assessment valuation remained the same as previous years, you were actually losing money due to inflation. Some of this is offset during an appreciating market. But this can also be exacerbated during a downturn in the market, such as we're experiencing now.

Now one can always say, "I want the assessed value low so that my taxes are lower. I can always ask whatever I want, and get more than that, when and if I sell."

That is a bubble market mentality. "I can always get above the assessed value. Real estate doesn't depreciate." Savvy buyers, and those whom have been brought back to reality by our recent financial upheaval, would not pay a large amount above an assessed valuation - since it's based on sales of comparable properties. Hoping to pay a property tax amount below a property's fair share and then reaping large rewards later upon a sale is: 1) mostly a pipedream, 2) unfair to those paying their fair share, 3) hurtful to needed programs funded by property taxes, and 4) selfish.

Just something to think about as people complain about the [supposedly overly high] value of their properties. Do owners actually want to see their values decrease? It would be analogous to wanting your stocks to stay low in value (or decline) so you don't have to pay capital gains tax. Taxes are the price of civilization and we all need to be more aware of such when we make our investments and purchases...rather than complaining after we've overextended (bought too much house) ourselves.

For Further Reading:
Assessment v Property Tax
Tax Burden Shifting: Exemptions
Wisconsin Tax Truths in the Land of Tax Trickery

Communication Breakdown

While Journal Communications was downsizing it's staff (here and here), somehow it had to money to give bonuses to the CEO and four other top executives. Stay classy, JS.

Related: I'm starting a consulting firm specializing in firing costly workers. It seems that such business is booming the days, and it appears to be financially rewarding.

Grass Root Confusion

Stuart Varney, Faux News hack, works himself into quite an incensed state during this interview. The excuses, the attempts to put words into Steve Leser's mouth, the amnesia regarding Reagan and Bush I & II deficits, the continued lies about the Teabag spectacle being a grass roots uprising, blaming Obama for deficits (which is "pump priming," demand side spending necessary to jolt the economy back to life from the near-death experience of the Bush II years), and on and on.

I guess Varney can not tell the difference (since I'm sure he's never been involved in any type of activist project) between a movement started locally by people - what is usually meant as "grass roots" - and a movement dictated downward from right-wing Washington interest groups. Just because a few wingnuts latch on to the Teabag fiasco and have tea parties here and there does not make it a "grass roots" movement.

Grass roots start small and work their way to city halls, then to state capitols, then to Washington. They don't start with big names, think tanks, and large funding and work their down to people and localities.

Anti-Union Waukesha

Anti-union activities at Waukesha Electric.

Slashing Social Programs

There's plenty of money for bankers, Wall Street, and executive bonuses, but the poor need to "suck it up" and learn to do without. Disgraceful.

Tax Burden Illumination

Answers to Your Tax Day Questions.

Do the Rich Really Pay Over a Third of Their Income in Federal Income Taxes?

Guilded Age Taxation.

Is "Tax Day" Too Burdensome for The Rich?

Corporate Scofflaws

Two-thirds of corporations pay no taxes. We need to stop listening to the vested talking heads whom only report the marginal rates, while ignoring the effective tax rate (what they actually pay).

Mythical Excessive Litigation Claims

Todd Finkelmeyer of the Capital Times elaborates on a recent report discrediting the false claims (primarily by right-wingers) of excessive litigation.

CEO Pay Debate: Myths v Fact

Produced by The Institute for Policy Studies.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Crony Capitalism

I'm really tired of only hearing about price stability regarding the markets, our economy, and the Fed. The Fed has dual purposes; the other is full employment. Making sure those whom want to work are able to, is just as important, if not more, as monitoring the economy for possible price increases.

Thomas Palley expands on the Fed's brand of crony capitalism here.

This is an excellent piece by Robert Kuttner about Robert Rubin's involvement in the Wall Street takeover of our government.

Taxes: Our Friend. Republicans: Not.

Taxes, the perpetual Republican Boogey Man, supposedly hurt development and growth, or so their story goes. Yet, the post WWII period (primarily financed by government investment in employment and infrastructure - beginning in the mid 1930s and accelerating prior to WWII) until the early 1970s saw the highest growth rates the U.S has experienced. The paradoxical, as far as the "taxes hurt us" cabal is concerned, element to this is that during this period the U.S. also had it's highest marginal tax rates -- from around 63 percent in 1936 to 91 percent in 1963.

We've lived off the infrastructure built during this period, lessening inequality and creating a middle-class. But also, sadly, wringing every last bit of profit we could from it without making the necessary investments and improvements to maintain our standard of living. We spent less on our collective goods and services and allowed more and more of our profits to go to the bosses and the CEOs. Workers were producing more (and paying more in taxes) yet receiving less in services, and garnering less of the fruits of their productivity. All while watching the infrastructure - that made us so productive - crumble.

Beginning in the late 1970s and seeing it's full fruition with Ronald Reagan, a new individualist era of low taxes and uber free markets emerged. Since this, CEO pay is now roughly 400 times the average workers wage - in the 1970s it was only 40 times as much. Wages for the majority of workers have stagnated since then. Inequality has been steadily increasing. And, life, in general, has become much more volatile for the majority of wage-earners.

History seems to show us that taxes are good for everyone. With taxes at their highest, the economy was booming it's most. Business as well as workers benefited during this robust time.

The argument Republicans are trying to frame today - they would like us to believe it's about government spending badly, taxes being too high and hurting growth, and taxes generally inducing all-around inefficiencies - is really about who gains from productivity and what proportion. They want to make sure the "smart" guys, the Haves, concocting the lazy, usurious, corrupt money-making schemes (not the peon workers producing real things for the real economy) are the ones seeing all the gains and living a luxurious life-style.

The Republican platform represents and benefits the interests of roughly the highest earning 1 or 2 percent of the population. Their wish to kill the estate tax (which effects less than 1.2 percent of the population). Their obsession with continually lowering the capital gains tax (which effects only the top 5-10 percent of the populaton, the majority declaring capital gains). Issue after issue that they choose to fight over only matters to the most well-off among us.

Social Contract

Safety nets are a good thing.