According to recent IRS data, from 2000 to 2006 the income of the 400 richest Americans doubled, but their tax rate fell by a third to only 17.2 percent.
The drop in the tax rate for the richest Americans is due mainly to ex-President Bush’s push to lower the capital gains tax to 15 percent in 2003.
As pointed out in my post Bob Edgar Stresses Poverty, Bush also drastically increased government spending, leaving even more government debt for working class taxpayers to pay since the rich people’s tax rate was decreased. In other words, Bush increased the total amount that the taxpayers have to pay by increasing government spending, but he changed the proportions so that rich people pay less of it while the rest of us pay more of it.
I also ask you to remember that the richest people in America pay less in taxes than their secretaries in percentage of income.
I think those policies of the Bush Administration and the mostly Republican legislature contributed to the current economic crisis. Worse yet, many politicians actually continue to propose the same policies as a solution to the problem. For example, Republican politicians are actually suggesting changing the “stimulus package” to include more Bush-type tax cuts for the rich while eliminating tax credits for the working class.
Please tell us your thoughts about this topic at the Philosophy of Politics Online Forum in threads such as this one.
In the discussion Food for Some, Not for All on the Philosophy Forums, I made this post. In that post, I argued that the problem in our society causing world hunger and poverty is that control over natural resources has been unfairly distributed through the use of deception and violence.
It is generally another rendition of the same point I often make on this blog in posts such as The Nature of the Current Food Crisis, Oppression, Capital and Poverty, and many of my other favorite posts.
But I do especially like the fun analogy I made:
Let’s say I claimed to own all the air in the world and threatened to imprison or kill anyone who breathed the air without my permission. I could get you guys to all work like slaves for me for barely anything because the desperation caused by your poverty would make you the equivalent of sweatshop workers. So I would gain control not only over the air in the world but also the labor. And I’m sure many people would die from lack of oxygen. I would benefit from keeping such a system, but everybody else would benefit from changing it. In that example, I represent the ruling class (a.k.a. the upper class or just the wealthy); my desperate workers represent the working class; those who die from lack of oxygen represent the poorest of us; and the air represents natural resources, namely land, water and the machinery passed down from previous generations.
Please do check out the whole forum post and join the forum discussion.
I appreciate that the current food crisis has gained a lot of media coverage lately. Today, I want to clarify part of the nature of the current food crisis that I think some people may not realize.
We do not actually have a shortage of land, food or other resources. As I often stress on this blog, the world has more than enough food to feed everyone. The world has more than enough resources to provide food, clothes, clean water, shelter, education and healthcare to everyone. The problem is not a lack of resources such as land and food. The problem is the way our society distributes and uses those resources.
Whether we like it or not, we currently live in a capitalist society in which resources–including natural resources–go to the people willing and able to pay the most. The groups of people who want land and other resources for luxuries or bio-fuel production are willing and able to spend more for those resources than the people who need the resources for food and such.
Basically, I see two general methods of solving that problem.
Firstly, we need to find a way to alleviate and hopefully eradicate poverty so that all people have enough money to buy what they need by outbidding other people who want the resources for luxuries.
Secondly, we need to find a new and fairer way to distribute resources, namely natural resources such as land, water, oil and so forth. As I have said before, I believe we can end poverty by ensuring that all people have an equal right to natural resources. I believe most of the cost of products such as food come from the high cost of obtaining usage rights of the natural resources used in their production.
Poor people generally are not poor because they lack labor or the willingness to work hard to get what they need. What leaves them poor, despite their abundance of labor, is generally their lack of rights to the usage and control of natural resources. In our current society, money and capital represents that ownership or ability to own natural resources. So we either need to ensure that all people have enough money and capital to not be poor, or we need to change the fact that people need money and capital to get rights to the usage and control of natural resources. Of course, we can work on doing both.
What do you think? How would you explain the nature of the food crisis, and what solutions do you see? Answer those questions and post your comments about the above blog post at the World Hunger and Poverty Forums.
I wrote a short article on the philosophy forums explaining why I think what is often called ‘selfishness’ is actually compatible with kindness. Check it out: Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness?
I think we can more effectively organize to alleviate poverty if we realize the various ways that kindness and humanitarianism are actually in our own self-interest. In other words, let’s realize that we do not sacrifice our own happiness by choosing to help other people, alleviate poverty, and build a better world for all. Helping others makes us happy!
Over the last few months on this blog, I have made a few posts about how what I call “neo-slavery” helps cause poverty and about how I believe giving all people equal rights to natural resources can end poverty.
In the philosophy forums today, I made a post about how government-managed currency enables a minority to oppress the majority by using currency to claim ownership of more than their fair share of natural resources. Check it out and join the discussion: Government and Currency
Without oppression robbing them of the fruits of their labor, I believe the working class would have so much more wealth that the working class families currently in poverty or at risk of poverty would no longer be in poverty or at risk of poverty. Additionally, the working class people would have enough wealth to fix the problems affecting their communities such as poverty and lack of education.
On my Philosophy Forums we have a topic discussing what would be the most ethical way to prevent overpopulation if inaction meant overpopulation was inevitable.
I explained why I think we can prevent overpopulation by doing what we would want to do anyway–end world hunger, poverty, and socioeconomic inequality. I will re-post what I wrote here.
Currently, 18,000 children die every day from world hunger. Billions of people live in poverty. As far as I know, poverty exists in every nation in the world. For example, in the United States, millions of people in the United States live in poverty, including millions of working people and millions of college graduates.
However, the world currently has more than enough food to feed everyone. The world has more than enough resources to provide food, clean water, shelter, healthcare and education to all people.
But we choose not to do it. Partially it is because we are not behaving charitably enough, but I think it is more because some people have claimed much more than their fair share and much more than they need of the natural resources and the productive labor of others.
As a result, we see the problems that would be associated with overpopulation and a scarcity of resources, which includes not only world hunger and poverty as a direct result, but also war, violence, government corruption, and other examples of people fighting over natural resources and getting angry about not receiving their fair share.
Since we already have these problems, overpopulation would not be a significantly noticeable change. Because of that, the people in society probably will not notice the effects of overpopulation since those ‘effects’ will just be more of the same (e.g. war, violence, fighting over natural resources, socioeconomic inequality, etc.).
I believe the way to prevent overpopulation would be to fix the current political system that allows world hunger and poverty to happen now. Fixing the current problems are desirable to me and many people regardless of the fact that fixing them would prevent overpopulation, which is also desired.
Basically, our current system of distribution of wealth is so barbaric and unfair that for most people in the world it feels like the world is already overpopulated (because such people are receiving such an unfairly small share of the world’s wealth). So there is little incentive to stop overpopulation and little notice of the effects of increases in population.
If the people in the world found a more effective and fair way to share the world’s wealth such that world hunger, poverty and so forth were ended, and as a result there would be significantly less war, violence and corruption, then I believe that would prevent overpopulation based on three main points: Firstly, there would be direct consequences of increases in population on most people (since people would be receiving a fair share, which would be less when there is more people). Secondly, as a result of the first, there would be more of an incentive to fix overpopulation (since it would be creating a problem which wouldn’t already exist in a fair, povertyless society). Thirdly, there would be more social ability to address global threats and problems such as overpopulation (and global warming, etc.) because our ability to work together would not be so hindered by the war, fighting, and corruption of a world with poverty and socioeconomic inequality.
In short, I believe the way to prevent overpopulation is to fix those horrible qualities that our current world would have in common with an overpopulated world. Namely, these problems are world hunger, poverty and socioeconomic inequality.
What do you think? Please join the discussion at the Philosophy Forums.
I just read Barack Obama’s speech on race. Firstly, I must say, Wow!
I cannot think of a speech that explained the issue in a more accurate, productive, and agreeable way. Better yet, he made the speech not in some isolated, marginalized sector of society. He made it as a front-running presidential candidate.
He explained much more than his relationship with Reverend Wright by offering an excellent speech on modern race relations in the United States.
He mentions the different ways that different groups experience similar emotions such as fear and anger, which can lead to divisiveness, racism, or the accusation of racism. He explains that those emotions can increase divisiveness and contribute to the racial stalemate in the United States. But he encourages the people of the United States to unify and work-together to overcome the common problems that face us all and that can cause the anger and fear.
He points to the common need for education, healthcare coverage, and good jobs–three needs that I routinely focus on heavily in this blog. He points to the common obstacle of government corruption, marked by corporate interests, lobbyists, special interest groups, and backroom deals.
He also makes note of what he fondly calls the “quintessentially American” notion of self-help, which to me empathizes that we need a culture that encourages individuals to work hard to better their lives as much as possible and that we need to unify and help ourselves as a country (and world).
He emphasizes his belief that the United States people want to unify and make the aforementioned mutually beneficial changes and his hopefulness about it. He, of course, has firm hope in his ability to bring about the changes as president.
As nothing specific to Obama, I see reforming the current government “from the inside” through voting and electoral politics as hopeless. I do not vote, and I do not endorse any political candidate. I instead find hope in non-government methods and direct action. However, if all politicians transcended, as much as Obama does, the usual divisiveness and bland political correctness of electoral politics, then I probably would not see it as hopeless.
Regardless of my feelings about reformist politics in general, I love Obama’s speech, and I admire him for using his powerful words to help spread understanding and unity even in the context of an issue as divisive, angering and seemingly hopeless as race. Even though Obama preaches hopefulness in electoral reform, I see the speech as revolutionary!
I posted the speech in the forums. I beg you to read it in its entirety.
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) determines when the United States is in a recession. However, the group usually does not make the determination until 6 to 18 months after we enter a recession. Generally, economists define a recession as two consecutive quarters of economic contraction. Using that definition, a recession would not become an official recession until about 6 months into it.
The president of the NBER, Martin Feldstein, has said that we are in a recession, but that is not an official NBER declaration.
Also, three out of four Americans now think that the United States economy is in a recession, according to a CNN poll.
I worry that a recession will worsen the poverty problem in the United States. After having observed the international instability caused by the recent credit crisis, I worry that a United States economic recession would worsen poverty internationally.
A recession will also greatly hinder the ability of anti-poverty organization to find investments, loans and other funding.
At the risk of sounding cliché, I recommend we hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
Whatever happens, I hope we all learn that we need to find a more stable economic system. The boom/bust cycle makes people too complacent during booms, and too weak and fearful to change anything during busts. The very existence of poverty demonstrates a massive flaw in our economic system. We need to create a more stable and meritocratic economy without poverty and preferably without so much speculation and usury.
I encourage everyone interested in United States economics to research the Federal Reserve. As Henry Ford said, “It is well that the people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”
If you do research the Federal Reserve, I recommend you try to figure out its actual interests, and do not assume it has the interests of the typical citizen in mind. Also, research the effects of inflationary monetary policies. Remember, people in power predictably tend to do what benefits themselves regardless of whether it hurts or helps people like you and I.
In his song Changes, Tupac Shakur said, “Instead of a war on poverty, they got a war on drugs so the police can bother me.” That powerful line has always stuck with me.
I believe we, the people of in society, can end poverty whenever we decide to end it. However, we generally rely on a government that underfunds poverty alleviation programs. Instead of putting it towards ending poverty, we let the government put our tax-dollars towards waging a needless war on drugs.
Estimates generally say that the “war on drugs” costs the United States government $50 billion per year. Worse yet, prohibition hands the lucrative drug market over to violent criminals, thus funding and increasing violent crime, which has a lot of unmeasured socioeconomic costs.
Just like with the alcohol prohibition, drug prohibition does not seem to decrease usage, but instead it costs a lot of money while increasing violent crime and corruption. Drugs may cause problems in society on their own, but I firmly believe drug prohibition makes matters much worse.
I would much prefer if drugs were legalized and the money spent on the “war on drugs” was put towards poverty alleviation. Better yet, the money could be given back to the tax-payers in the form of working-class tax-cuts, which I believe would also help reduce poverty.
In addition to saving the money spent on the needlessly devastating war on drugs, the government could tax drugs. In theory, I do not like any taxes, but I would much prefer taxing drug usage than income paid for labor. And I would much prefer taxing drugs than criminalizing them. Taxing drugs could bring in hundreds of billions of dollars in tax revenue. Again, the government could put that money towards poverty alleviation programs or income tax cuts.
Instead of wasting so much money throwing non-violent pot smokers in jail, imagine if we put all that money and extra tax-dollars into poverty alleviation programs. For example, imagine how much education that funding could provide to poor kids.
What do you think about the relationship between poverty and the war on drugs? Post your comments in this thread at the World Hunger and Poverty Forums.
Over year ago, I posted the music video for the song Imagine by John Lennon. I love that song! It has inspired me to ask you to imagine some things today.
Imagine a world without overstocked grocery shelves or hungry children.
Imagine a world without war or religious violence.
Imagine a world without racism or nationalism.
Imagine a world without murder or rape.
Imagine a world in which nobody dominated anyone else. Imagine if all people in the world had freedom and political equality.
Imagine a world in which everyone had an equal right to the natural resources. Imagine if nobody had to slave away for other people who had monopolized the natural resources.
Imagine a world where everyone received healthcare. Imagine a world where every child received a complete, high-quality education.
Imagine a world without poverty!
Can you imagine that? Tell us what you imagine and what you want us to imagine in this thread at the World Hunger and Poverty Forums.