Saturday, October 19, 2013

For A More Compassionate And Saner America

Some time ago I started an open Facebook Group called For A More Compassionate And Saner America.  I let it go idle when the Occupy movement started to capture media attention.  But now it seems to for it to resumes activity.  If you have a Facebook account, take a look.  And if you are interested in joining please request to do so.  Below is the message I posted earlier to day to the group site about the reasons to resume activity.

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Perhaps it is time to resume this group in earnest. When "Occupy" got up a head of steam, I more or less shut it down because it was clear that Occupy had captured media attention. Given the recent national politics, now seems like a good time to resume, with an eye toward the midterm election next fall.

Just to remind members, the core founding idea of the group (there is a Group Purpose document in the Files area) was to restore marginal income tax rates to their levels when Bill Clinton was President, for taxable income in excess of $100,000.

You'll recall that President Obama had a similar recommendation, but his floor income level was $250,000. So the proposal by our group is to broaden the base who bear responsibility for paying more in taxes.

There are many more people with taxable income between $100K and $250K than there are with incomes above $250K. For lack of a better term, you might call this group "the professional class." So the idea is that if the professional class, in numbers, can express this same view it will give cover for "reasonable elected officials" of both parties to support the idea as well. If the idea made some headway, conceivably there could be real revenue enhancement to the Federal budget in 2015. In today's NY Times, David Firestone has a piece that says not to expect much at all from the current budget negotiation.

Three other points that I suggest the group embrace are:
i) A call to immediately end the sequester.
ii) Support of a Martin Feldstein proposal to cap itemized deductions, with the caveat that Feldstein wanted to do this in the absence of raising rates. Our group should want both.
iii) A return of the capital gains tax rate to its level under Clinton.

These suggestions, if implemented, will hurt in the pocketbook. They are made to share responsibility for revenue enhancement more widely and as a partial pushback against the rising income inequality in society. They are also meant to counter the position of many of the non-Warren-Buffet uber rich on taxation. If the professional class will bear their share, then the uber rich must do so as well.

Now a brief thought on the politics and the timing. Many people, Independents included, are scared about the size of the National Debt. The Far Right has leveraged this fear into their shrink government stance. The recent events have affirmed the essential role that government plays. But the fear about the National Debt remains. The no-new-taxes position is disingenuous in light of this fear. The people who have been maintaining that position now appear like kooks, whereas in 2010 they may have been seen (especially by Independents) as having some interesting ideas. A theme that affirms the role of government but wants to see shrinkage of the National Debt might win in 2014. We have heard so much about gerrymandering and safe districts. But midterm turnout is traditionally low. If it can be boosted substantially, because Independents see there is substance in exercising their right to vote, perhaps the House can be retaken and sanity can be restored.

These are the reasons why it is time for our group to resume.

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