5 Lies About the Estate Tax and the Truth Behind the Lies

On Tax Day this year, April 15, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to introduce legislation that would repeal the estate tax, a policy designed to limit the concentration of wealth in the United States, generate revenue for the federal government by having those most able to pay and encourage charitable giving. The legislation comes as congressional Republican budget plans propose to slash trillions of dollars in money that benefits working families and gives away massive sums to corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) has compiled a series of dishonest and hypocritical quotes from conservatives about the estate tax and related issues. ATF Executive Director Frank Clemente explained the Republican tax agenda:

Conservatives know their economic priorities are extremely unpopular—the American people want an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few. So when they try to eliminate the estate tax, which affects only multimillionaires and billionaires, they resort to outright falsehoods in making their case and use phony rhetoric claiming they care about the rest of us. Repealing the estate tax will only increase inequality in America. These quotes help the American people understand what conservatives do, not what they say.

Here are five common lies about the estate tax and the truth behind them:

  1. “[T]his tax doesn’t just hit the big guy. It hits the little guy—like the small business and the family farm. It is both unwise and unfair, and it needs to go.”—Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). In reality, this law only affects the top 0.2% of estates, those worth more than $5.4 million for an individual, or nearly $11 million for a married couple.
  2. “The Death Tax is still the number one reason family-owned farms and businesses in America aren’t passed down to the next generation.”—Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas). The estate tax (the non-right-wing propaganda name for the law) has never caused a family farm to be lost.
  3. “If you…make the argument that only rich and wealthy people pay this tax, that is not true. It’s not true for almost every farmer and rancher in this country, it’s not true for every small business owner out there.” “I am committed to repealing this unjust—and frankly, immoral—tax that hurts small businesses and family farms most.”—Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.). While there are millions of small businesses and small family farms in the United States, only 20 of them qualified to pay the estate tax in 2013.
  4. “The death tax is especially destructive to women and minority-owned small businesses in America who are building wealth often for the first time….A study by Boston College professors estimates the death tax could rob African American households of up to a quarter-trillion dollars of wealth over the first half of this century.”—Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas). The study that Brady cites shows that significantly fewer than 1% of African American households have a net worth that would cause them to pay the estate tax.
  5. “For too long the federal government has forced grieving families to pay a tax on their loved one’s life savings that have been built from income already taxed when originally earned.”—Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). In reality, 55% of the value of estates worth more than $100 million are unrealized capital gains that have not been subject to income or capital gains tax. For estates worth anywhere between $5 million and $10 million, the unrealized capital gains that have not been taxed is 32% of their overall value. Without an estate tax, heirs also can escape paying any taxes on those gains.

The AFL-CIO has joined a coalition of more than 70 organizations opposing the repeal of the estate tax. Read more facts about the estate tax.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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23 Things Poor People Have to Worry About That Wealthier People Never Even Have to Think About

A recent Reddit thread discussed experiences people had while experiencing poverty, with a particular focus on those things that people are forced to buy or do that people who aren’t poor never have to think about, much less worry about. In thousands of comments, people recounted hundreds upon hundreds of stories of trying to find ways to maintain a minimal lifestyle in the face of extreme poverty.  One of the things that labor unions were created to do, and a key focus of the AFL-CIO’s Raising Wages campaign, was to prevent workers from having to suffer through these hardships and in states where union density is higher, wages for both union and nonunion workers are higher, meaning fewer people have to live through such experiences.

Here are 23 examples of things that people in the discussion described having to worry about that wealthier Americans never even have to think about. These are some of the key things that working families and labor unions are fighting to reduce.

1. Staying in an extended stay housing, a motel, or a hotel (and paying the higher rate) because you can’t qualify to get an apartment because you don’t have proof of income.

2. Digging through the trash to find uneaten food.

3. Scavenging the ground for change to buy a meal.

4. Searching everywhere for coupons to make necessities affordable.

5. Stealing products like toilet paper from public restrooms so you can actually have them at home.

6. Selling plasma in order to afford groceries or pay rent.

7. Buying clothes on layaway.

8. Driving on tires so bald they could cause an accident at any moment.

9. Pulling your own tooth rather than pay for a dental visit.

10. Doing laundry in the sink with dish soap.

11. Buying antibiotics and other medicines meant for animals because you couldn’t afford the pharmacy.

12. Learning when things like meat, fish and bread get marked down in price because they are going to spoil soon, so they are reduced for quicker sale.

13. Living in pain because you can’t afford prescriptions.

14. Paying hundreds of extra dollars to obtain furniture through rent-to-own stores.

15. Buying cheap plastic toys at the dollar store so your children have birthday presents.

16. Stretching peanut butter or other staples by diluting them.

17. Washing and re-using plastic spoons, forks, knives and storage bags.

18. Visiting a store or public building to get a few minutes of air conditioning in the summer or heat in the winter.

19. Enduring the seemingly never-ending cycle of payday loans with exhorbitant interest rates that are hard to repay.

20. Dropping out of school to help your family pay the bills.

21. Using candles to keep electricity bills low.

22. Splitting two-ply toilet paper to make two rolls.

23. Buying lottery tickets to have some hope of a better future.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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7 Reasons Fast Track Is Off Track

During the secret discussion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, extreme corporate interests are pushing for a Fast Track process that would not only hurt working families in the United States, but in the other countries involved in any final deal. Here are seven reasons why Fast Track is off track.

1. People oppose it: More than 60% of voters oppose Fast Track for the TPP free trade deal.

2. It doesn’t reflect modern values: Fast Track is a copy of the approach to trade taken by President Richard Nixon, pursuing the passage of trade deals regardless of the effects a deal might have on wages, jobs, small businesses and the environment.

3. It’s a job killer: Past trade deals have cost American jobs in large numbers. For example, the North American Free Trade Agreement led to the loss of more than 682,000 jobs.

4. It makes it harder for workers to get a raise: Previous Fast Tracked deals have depressed wages and weakened the rights of workers to organize and collectively bargain.

5. It increases inequality: Previous trade deals have greatly exacerbated CEO-to-worker pay disparities, so that the current ratio is 354-to-1.

6. It’s undemocratic: Fast Track limits debate and prohibits amendments and doesn’t give the public the opportunity to influence the process.

7. It gives corporations more power: By including “investor-to-state dispute settlement” provisions, foreign investors in the United States and U.S. investors operating in foreign countries can skip traditional methods of complaining about laws they don’t like and sue nations directly in private arbitration tribunals made up of for-profit arbitrators. This would give corporations and foreign interests an influence over our economy that the rest of us don’t have.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Lawmakers Duck Moral Monday Protesters

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Several hundred people rallied at the state Capitol in Raleigh, N.C., yesterday in a Moral Monday action focused on environmental and health care issues. Eleven of the protesters were arrested on trespassing charges after a sit-in at the Capitol building, but none were arrested for violating the recent “imminent disturbance” gag rule.

The Moral Monday protests began last year in response to Gov. Pat McCrory’s (R) and the Republican legislature’s extremist agenda that has attacked voting rights, education, the environment, unemployed workers, health care and women’s right.

Those arrested were trying to deliver a letter to McCrory whose office, normally opened on a Monday, was closed. The letter urged the governor to:

“Reverse course by repenting, repealing and restoring our state to higher ground by eliminating the laws and policies pushed by this N.C. Legislature, led by Speaker [Thom] Tillis and Senate Leader [Phil] Berger and signed by you.”

Also, the legislature, which normally holds Monday evening sessions, was adjourned yesterday in an effort, some said, to avoid the demonstrators from faith, civil rights, labor, environmental, women’s health care and other groups. Said Rakhve Devasthklia.

“Deliberately not showing up on Monday for their constituents to speak with them shows who they’re representing. I don’t think they would do this when Duke Energy shows up.”

In February, Duke Energy’s Dan River plant was the site of the nation’s third largest spill of toxic coal ash that spread 70 miles downriver. Also, in March, North Carolina regulators said Duke Energy illegally pumped 61 million gallons of contaminated water from a coal ash pit into the Cape Fear River.

Moral Monday demonstrations are set for the next several Mondays, including next week, highlighting education and a June 16 action focused on workers’ rights.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW.

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While Many CEOs Were Scoffing At Raising The Minimum Wage, They Were Getting An 8.8 Percent Bump in Pay

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For the fourth straight year, the median CEO pay package increased in 2013, crossing $10 million.

Propelled by a soaring stock market, the median pay package for a CEO rose above eight figures for the first time last year. The head of a typical large public company earned a record $10.5 million, an increase of 8.8 percent from $9.6 million in 2012, according to an Associated Press/Equilar pay study.

As the Associated Press reports, the median CEO makes 257 times as much as the average worker, up from 181 times as much in 2009.

In the 1980’s, the average CEO made roughly 42 times as much as the average worker. In the boom times of the 1950’s, they made about 21 times as much.

From 2012 to 2013, as median CEO pay rose 8.8 percent, the value of the minimum wage actually fell roughly 1.6 percent. The value of the minimum wage has fallen every year since 2009.

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The Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law passed in 2010 contained provisions requiring companies to be transparent about the ratio between CEO and average worker pay. But thanks to aggressive lobbying, the SEC has been slow to issue rules.

As of today, nearly four years after the law passed, the SEC has still not finalized the rule on CEO-to-worker pay ratio disclosure.

Photo by kentwang on Flickr

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Trade, Inequality, and Sherpas: Punching In

Dems give Tran-Pacific Partnership two thumbs down

Obama’s Pacific trade deal can’t catch a break from his allies.

More hours for less economic equality

American middle class is working more hours, despite no longer being the richest class in the world.

Standing their ground

To avoid a costly Mt. Everest shutdown, the Nepalese government will meet with Sherpas to negotiate.

Proof that nothing is free

The FCC is working on a deal to allow ISPs to provide companies like Amazon and Netflix with speedier Internet, but will companies pass the cost off on the consumer?

Key Quote: “Giving ISPs the green light to implement pay-for-priority schemes will be a disaster for startups, nonprofits and everyday Internet users who cannot afford these unnecessary tolls,” Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron said in a statement.

A year after Rana Plaza, families and workers still struggle

Today marks the one year anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse that killed more than 1,100 garment workers in Bangladesh. Since then the victims’ families continue to struggle, while worker deaths and injuries continue.

Another tax break for the rich

A Missouri tax break for the wealthy could cost the state 60 percent of its revenue.

The jobs juxtaposition

Jobless claims increased by 24,000 during the Easter week.

While home prices in the Hamptons surged, likely due to those hefty bonuses and stock market gains.

Thank goodness

These companies have decided to divest money from the private prison system.

How many more repeals?

Infinity. Congressman hints that House Republicans will never stop trying to repeal Obamacare.

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The Thing the Pope, Beyonce and Everyone Is Talking About

In her debut blog post at MomsRising.org, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler discusses “something everyone seems to be talking about, from the pope to Beyoncé: economic inequality.”

“It’s a rare day when you have the pope and Beyoncé preaching the same message,” she says. “Clearly, this widespread focus on the need for equal opportunity provides us a powerful moment for action.”

Read the rest of Plenty Superpower here.

MomsRising is an online and on-the-ground multicultural organization of more than 1 million members and more than 100 organizations working to increase family economic security, to end discrimination against women and mothers and to build a nation where both businesses and families can thrive.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW 

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The Hunger Games Are Real

“The Hunger Games” are real. If you’re familiar with the books and movies, or have at least heard of the “Hunger Games” phenomenon, you’re probably aware that the series tackles some pretty serious issues of poverty and economic inequality that hit way too close to home. If you’re not, here’s some background.

“The Hunger Games” takes place in the fictional world of Panem, which is a dystopian North America sometime in the far off future. All the wealth in the country is concentrated in the Capitol and people in the 12 districts are constantly in fear of starvation. Everything the people in the districts produce, whether it is coal, grain, machinery or clothing, is controlled by the Capitol. People are forbidden to hunt or grow their own food, thus relying on the Capitol’s meager grain and oil rations. To punish the people of Panem for District 13′s rebellion (the Capitol wiped out the region in a nuclear war), each year two teenage tributes from each of the 12 districts must sacrifice their lives in an arena where they fight to the death, with only one victor remaining.

While the story is fictional, it reminds us of a lot of the issues surrounding economic inequality we see today. Some sobering facts:

  • Nearly all—95%—of the income gains from 2009–2012 have been captured by the wealthiest 1%.
  • In recent years, the wealthiest 1% have gotten richer and richer, while the median household income is down 8% since 2000.
  • Wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of national income since 1966, while corporate profits are now the largest share of national income since 1950.
  • The federal minimum wage, $7.25, hasn’t risen since 2009. The tipped minimum wage, $2.13, hasn’t risen in two decades.
  • One in 6 people in America are hungry and 1 in 5 children are.

Check out 8 Ways Economic Inequality in America Is Like the “Hunger Games.”

“The Hunger Games” bestseller books and blockbuster films represent a rare opportunity where these issues of social and economic justice are being widely discussed in pop culture and in homes across the United States.

Check out this video from the Harry Potter Alliance:

Disclaimer: Having a union doesn’t guarantee no workplace injuries on the job, but union mines have 68% fewer fatal injuries than nonunion mines.

Working families, union members and leaders are joining the online movement to lift up these issues of economic inequality and poverty using the “Hunger Games” as a jumping off point. Check out oddsinourfavor.org, where you can join the “resistance” and post a photo doing the “salute,” the symbol of solidarity of the working people.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Marty Walsh Finishes First In Crowded Field in Boston, But the Real Work is Just Beginning

Great news for Boston! Marty Walsh took first place out of twelve candidates in last night’s preliminary election for Boston mayor.

Walsh will face City Councilor John Connolly in the general election on November 5.

This isn’t just a victory for a candidate. It’s a victory for working people all across Boston, who are one step closer to having a mayor who will put their needs first. In every neighborhood in Boston, you’ll hear the same thing: voters want a mayor who will put job creation, affordable housing and great public schools first. Last night’s result shows that Marty Walsh has the record and the values we can trust on those issues.

We have all too many examples of what happens when mayor cities elect the wrong mayor. Michael Nutter in Philadelphia vetoed a paid sick days bill and made deep cuts to schools and city services, and Rahm Emanuel in Chicago has become the poster boy for school closings and corporate-backed education privatization. After 30 years of Mayor Thomas Menino, Boston is at an historic crossroads, and November will determine what path the city takes.

Marty Walsh is committed to tackling Boston’s number one problem: growing inequality. If you have friends or family in Boston, please share with them why Marty is the best choice for Boston’s working families.

Paid for by Working America, 815 16th Street NW, Washington DC. www.workingamerica.org.

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5 Signs of Hope for Working Families In Yesterday’s New York City Elections


City Council candidate Carlos Menchaca

Local and municipal elections matter.

Just ask a service worker in Philadelphia who can’t afford to take a sick day because the city council was one vote short of overriding Mayor Michael Nutter’s veto of a paid sick days ordinance.

Or ask a retail worker in Washington, D.C., where the City Council is currently one vote short of a veto-proof majority in favor the Large Retail Accountability Act (LRAA), which would establish a living wage for big box retail workers.

You can also ask anyone who sends their child to public school in Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has closed dozens of public schools, and where the city’s students are being moved around like chess pieces to make room for a pro-corporate education “reform” agenda.

Yes, city leaders of both parties have been too willing lately to kowtow to corporate interests over the needs of their constituents. But in last night’s New York City primary, there were some signs of hope for working families.

 

1.) Voters approved of plan to raise taxes on super-rich to pay for schools. To succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the richest people on the planet and a staunch defender of rich people’s interests, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio ran on a plan to raise taxes on New Yorkers making $500,000 or more and using the revenue to establish universal Pre-K. The plan was derided by Bloomberg and much of the the city’s wealthy elite.

But yesterday, de Blasio took 40 percent in a crowded primary, a sign that some of the folks in NYC making less than $500,000 a year (roughly, shall we say, 99 percent?) favor balancing out our tax system to bolster basic services.

 

2.) Opposition to earned paid sick days was a liability. The longtime expected frontrunner, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, saw her support recede and then evaporate over the summer. Partly, because she was seen as the main obstacle to a paid sick days ordinance for New York City. The ordinance was introduced in 2010 but Quinn refused to bring it to a vote, saying that it would put “undue burden” on NYC businesses, according to the New York Times.

It took three years of pushing from a broad coalition, including the Working Families Party and well-known activist Gloria Steinem, to finally get Quinn to compromise on a sick days ordinance, which sailed through with overwhelming support. Yet her long-held intransigence, which she never truly explained, hurt her in the race, particularly with woman voters.

“We were pleased the bill finally passed,” says Donna Dolan, Executive Director of the New York Paid Leave Coalition, “But all I could think about when I was at the press conference was the number of people I met who had been fired in the past three-and-a-half years.” Voters apparently agreed, giving the once-frontrunner Quinn a third place finish.

 

3.) The real estate lobby spent big money to beat a local labor leader, but he won anyway. In a crowded primary for the Queens-based 27th council district, I. Daneek Miller came out on top last night. Miller is president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056 and a supporter of affordable housing, so naturally the city’s powerful real-estate lobby was determined to stop him. A real-estate backed PAC spent $261,533 backing up one of Miller’s opponents, but Miller prevailed: the current count gives him a lead of 396 votes.

“There have been tough times for labor and working families,” Miller said last night, “The consensus is: we need a voice. Now we have that voice we set out to represent.”

 

4.) This 32 year-old won a huge upset in Brooklyn to become council’s first Mexican-American. Sara Gonzalez sat in Brooklyn’s 38th council district for decade, and regularly was a no-show at council meetings and public events. She may have expected a smooth reelection this time around. But Carlos Menchaca, a 32 year-old openly gay Latino community activist, unseated her last night by a 16-point margin. (“Men-shocka!” was the headline in The Brooklyn Paper.)

Menchaca will be the first openly gay elected official to represent Brooklyn and the first Mexican-American on the New York City Council. He was active with the Office of Emergency Management after Hurricane Sandy, especially in badly-damaged Red Hook.

“I’m going to be present. I’m going to be visible and vocal,” Menchaca told supporters last night, “I’m going to be someone that’s on the streets talking directly to the people of Sunset Park about your needs.”

 

5.) Pro-worker candidates won across the board. The New York Central Labor Council endorsed 43 candidates for City Council in run up to yesterday’s election. 39 of those candidates won outright last night, with two races (Kirsten John Foy in District 36 and Austin Shafran in District 5) still too close to call.

After 12 years of a Bloomberg Administration that was cold to outright hostile to New York’s labor community, it’s heartening to see advocates of working families have such a good night at the local level.

 
Bonus.) Dante de Blasio’s hair wins mayor’s race, observers say.

Check out this actual headline from USA Today. And this Twitter account. And this cartoon. We can’t remember the last time one person’s haircut played such a decisive role in an election.

What did you think of last night’s election? Let us know in the comments.

Photo of Carlos Menchaca by @lingene_1 on Twitter

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