Showing posts with label Fair Share. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fair Share. Show all posts

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Here is the full statement of Nick Hanauer, venture capitalist billionaire, given on June 5th of this year before the Subcommittee on Economic Policy (Senate Committee on Banking, House, and Urban Affairs).

For 30 years, Americans on the right and left have accepted a particular explanation for the origins of prosperity in capitalist economies. It is- that rich business people like me are “Job Creators” - That if taxes go up- on us or our companies, we will create fewer jobs. And that the lower our taxes are, the more jobs we will create and the more general prosperity we’ll have. Many of you in this room are certain that these claims are true. But sometimes the ideas that we know to be true are dead wrong. 

For thousands of years people were certain, positive, that earth was at the center of the universe. It’s not, and anyone who doesn’t know that would have a very hard time doing astronomy. My argument today is this: In the same way that it’s a fact that the sun, not earth is the center of the solar system, it’s also a fact that the middle class, not rich business people like me are the center of America’s economy. I’ll argue here that prosperity in capitalist economies never trickles down from the top. Prosperity is built from the middle out. As an entrepreneur and investor, I have started or helped start, dozens of businesses and initially hired lots of people. But if no one could have afforded to buy what we had to sell, my businesses would all would have failed and all those jobs would have evaporated. That’s why I am so sure that rich business people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. 

What does lead to more employment is a “circle of life” like feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion this virtuous cycle of increasing demand and hiring. That's why the real job creators in America are middle-class consumers. The more money they have, and the more they can buy, the more people like me have to hire to meet demand. So when businesspeople like me take credit for creating jobs, it’s a little like squirrels taking credit for creating evolution. In fact, it’s the other way around. Anyone who's ever run a business knows that hiring more people is a capitalists course of last resort, something we do if and only if increasing customer demand requires it. Further, that the goal of every business- profit-, is largely a measure of our relative ability to not create jobs compared to our competitors. In this sense, calling ourselves job creators isn't just inaccurate, it's disingenuous. 

That’s why our current policies are so upside down. When you have a tax system in which most of the exemptions and the lowest rates benefit the richest, all in the name of job creation, all that happens is that the rich get richer. Since 1980 the share of income for the richest 1% of Americans has tripled while our effective tax rates have by approximately 50%. If it were true that lower tax rates and more wealth for the wealthy would lead to more job creation, then today we would be drowning in jobs. If it was true that more profit for corporations or lower tax rates for corporations lead to more job creation, -then it could not also be true that both corporate profits and unemployment are at 50 year highs. There can never be enough super rich Americans like me to power a great economy. I earn 1000 times the median wage, but I do not buy1000 times as much stuff. My family owns three cars, not 3,000. I buy a few pairs of pants and a few shirts a year, just like most American men. Like everyone else, we go out to eat with friends and family only occasionally. I can’t buy enough of anything to make up for the fact that millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans can’t buy any new clothes or cars or enjoy any meals out. Or to make up for the decreasing consumption of the vast majority of American families that are barely squeaking by, buried by spiraling costs and trapped by stagnant or declining wages. This is why the fast increasing inequality in our society is killing our economy. 

When most of the money in the economy ends up in just a few hands, it strangles consumption and creates a death spiral of falling demand. Significant privileges have come to capitalists like me for being perceived as “job creators” at the center of the economic universe, and the language and metaphors we use to defend the fairness of the current social and economic arrangements is telling. For instance, it is a small step from “job creator” to “The Creator”. When someone like me calls himself a job creator, it sounds like we are describing how the economy works. What we are actually doing is making a claim on status, power and privileges. The extraordinary differential between the 15-20% tax rate on capital gains, dividends, and carried interest for capitalists, and the 39% top marginal rate on work for ordinary Americans is just one of those privileges. We’ve had it backward for the last 30 years. 

Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs. Rather, jobs are a consequence of an eco-systemic feedback loop animated by middle-class consumers, and when they thrive, businesses grow and hire, and owners profit- in a virtuous cycle of increasing returns that benefits everyone. I’d like to finish with a quick story. About 500 years ago, Copernicus and his pal Galileo came along and proved that the earth wasn’t the center of the solar system. A great achievement, but it didn’t go to well for them with the political leaders of the time. Remember that Galileo invented the telescope, so one could see, with ones own eyes, the fact that he was right. You may recall however, that the leaders of the time didn’t much care, because if earth wasn’t the center of the universe, then earth was diminished-and if earth was diminished, so were they. And that fact- their status and power- was the only fact they really cared about. 

So they told Galileo to stick his telescope where the sun didn’t shine –and put him in jail for the rest of his life. And by so doing, put themselves on the wrong side of history forever. 500 years later, we are arguing about what or whom is at the center of the economic universe. A few rich guys like me, or the American Middle class. But as sure as the sun is the center of our solar system, the middle class is the center of our economy. If we care about building a fast growing economy that provides opportunity for every American, then me must enact policies that build it from the middle out, not the top down. Tax the wealthy and corporations-as we once did in this country- and invest that money in the middle class-as we once did in this country. Those polices won’t just be great for the middle class, they’ll be great for the poor, for businesses large and small, and the rich. 

Since when did investing in our country's infrastructure becoming communism?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Temporarily Inconvenienced Millionaires

Yesterday, the Patriotic Millionaires, a growing group of wealthy individuals who are demanding that Congress raise their taxes, went to Congress and pestered the offices of Senators John Kyl, R-AZ, and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Reps. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., minority leader, Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., and Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., assistant democratic leader.

They were led by entrepreneur and former AOL exec Charlie Fink who apparently didn't get the memo that innovators and the wealthy are under attack by vicious government regulators and idiotic moochers all bent on taking the fruits of their hard earned labor with the butt of a gun. Shit, man, didn't this Fink guy see what happened to Steve Jobs and Apple? The US federal government destroyed him.

Fink, who lives in Washington, D.C., said if the Bush tax cuts do not expire, the country "is digging itself a big hole by foregoing revenue." "Without revenue, we will never solve the problem by giving tax cuts to the wealthy while supporting two foreign wars," he said.

Patriotic Millionaire Robert Johnson, former chief economist of the U.S Senate banking committee, said that the current economic system is not broken, but it is "working on behalf of those who designed it in their favor."

"America is no longer based on markets and capitalism, instead our economy is designed as 'socialism for the rich' – it is designed to ensure that the wealthiest people take all of the gains, while regular Americans cover any losses," he said at a press conference this afternoon in Washington, D.C.

"It's a Las Vegas economy where regular Americans put their money on the table and the richest 1 percent own the house," he said. "And if the 1 percent happen to lose money, the 99 percent bails them out – covers their losses and then stands by watching while the house does it all over again."

Amen, brother.

Of course, the response to these simple facts usually consists of any or all of four of the following. First, the wealthy pay more than half of the total taxes. Second, their portion or responsibility of total revenue has doubled over the last 30 years. Third, half of Americans pay no taxes. Fourth, the wealthy pay a higher ratio of taxes paid to income earned than any other country.

All of their points are true but, as is usually the case, they leave out information and don't tell the whole story. A recent article in The Christian Science Monitor explains all of this in a very balanced way. Here are four graphics that take a serious and critical look at the whole picture.

In looking at all of this information, it's obvious that the various cheerleaders for the wealthy (or at least only some of them now that Buffet and the PMs are out lobbying to have their taxes raised) are not being honest. No one is denying that the half of the story they are telling is true. It's the other half that brings out the technicolor and shows us that we have some very serious problems with the way our country is being run by both public and private leaders. As Mr. Johnson said above, it's "socialism for the rich" and no longer capitalism. But why is it this way? How can people (and I'm speaking specifically of a few my regular commenters here in addition to the 40 percent of this country who votes GOP) who aren't wealthy continue to support Bizarro Capitalism? Sadly, the answer is simple.

Because they view themselves as temporarily inconvenienced millionaires.