Well, with an annual income significantly below the median in Portland, that is to say 60% of the median income, (based on HUD Estimated Family Income Data for the Portland, Oregon Metropolitan Area in 2009), I think it’s safe to say that I am one of the 99%. (If time travel were possible, perhaps I could send myself and my household’s current annual income back to 1994, when our current income was the median income. Of course, we’d still be part of the 99%).
So, as one of the 99, I have been a bit dismayed by the lack of focus and agenda. On the one hand, there are people who say that these protests don’t matter because of the lack of focus. On the other hand, there are people who say that it doesn’t matter that there’s no focus, the very fact that people are coming out to “change the dialogue” is what’s important.
I have to say I disagree. The protests ARE important on their face because they do demonstrate the anger and disillusionment present in this country. They also belie the suggestion that the silent majority (that’s us folks!) agrees with the Tea Partyers or the Republicans, as they continue to insinuate. The suggestion is that our silence is a tacit approval of their rhetoric and a simultaneous condemnation of the Democrats agenda, President Obama, and the federal government in general. On the other hand, having some actual policy points to make would be helpful to actually CHANGING things for the better (we hope).
So, let’s get the ball rolling, folks! Here’s my list of possible reforms:
1. End all speculative trading and non-asset based financial instruments.
Buy and sell stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and actual THINGS (like gold or other precious metals) etc. – anything backed by an actual asset.
No more margins, no more hedge funds, derivatives, options, futures, or day trading for that matter. The stock market was originally designed to allow individual investors to purchase a stake in a company and benefit from sharing in the profits. It benefited the company by raising capital that the company could use to invest in equipment, materials or labor and thus increase profits. It was good for the company, good for the investor and good for the country. Now, the stock market is used by many like a Las Vegas slot machine. Day traders roll the dice and hope that day after day the trades balance out to a profit. It’s gambling.
2. Tax passive income at the same rates as active income.
Why do we favor investment (passive) income over earned (active) income? Where is the productivity in investment income? It existed when individuals bought shares of stock and raised capital for a company. But what does day-trading produce? Nothing. (Business for cardiologists perhaps). By taxing passive income at lower rates, we encourage people to favor it over earned income. But there is INHERENT value in earned income. The income is producing a good or service. Trading stocks has NO INHERENT value.
3. Let’s not be “too big to fail” anymore. What ever happened to anti-trust laws?
Banks should bank, insurance companies should insure and investment firms should invest. They used to be separate entities for a reason. They were allowed to expand into other areas for only one reason – consolidation of wealth. Media conglomerates, food conglomerates, communications conglomerates – the Federal Government (evil destroyer of unlimited personal wealth), used to put the kibosh on mergers that gave one entity too much market share. That was a GOOD idea. Republicans and Tea Partyers take heart, at the bottom of this idea is the PROTECTION of capitalism. Healthy competition = capitalism! Conversely, monopolies = a lack of competition and therefore threaten capitalism!
4. Real regulations with real consequences.
Why were “independent accounting firms” able to look the other way when presented with questionable financials? Their job was to verify the accuracy of the data. Regulations had loopholes. And in any case, what consequences were put in place to insure that these firms would be UNWILLING to certify the lies presented to them? Consequences could be in place to deter CEOs, and board members of corporations and the accounting firms of any and every company in this country from committing fraud. If the punishment is sufficiently severe, and it will be implemented, then it IS a deterrent. We could start by absolutely, 100% erasing (confiscating) ALL GAIN acquired by breaking the law. That of course would include the cold hard cash, the homes, the yachts, the furs and jewelry. All of it. ALL OF IT.
5. All federal employees, including members of Congress, the judiciary and the President shall have the SAME health care benefits and pension/social security benefits of ALL other Americans.
Instead of arguing about whether federal employees should have it better than the rest of us, let’s decide what is right and fair in terms of health care and retirement, and apply it to ALL of us. Would we resent federal employees for the health care they received if we received the same? Would we want to decrease their benefits, or increase our own? We’re all in this together folks!
We have decided that we all have the right to free speech, the right to bear arms. We all have access to a public education and public roads. Let’s decide whether or not we have the right to health care, and if so, to what extent. And for that matter, what kind of education do we believe we should provide? Is it enough that kids at the local high school can be physically present in the building for six hours every day, even if they only receive three or four hours of instruction? Do we want smoothly paved roads and infrastructure in good repair, or do we want to save our money for our own personal needs and drive over potholes?
6. End the failed war on drugs. End the privatization of prisons and military excursions.
It is morally repugnant that a man growing marijuana for sale may serve a longer prison sentence than a rapist. In Oregon the sentence for manufacture of marijuana is up to twenty years in prison. Rape in the first degree under Measure Eleven (mandatory sentencing for violent felons) is 100 months, or just over 8 years. It is also morally repugnant that a private contractor in Iraq will be better equipped and get paid two to ten times as much or more to do what a soldier in the U.S. Armed Forces is doing. Equally repugnant is the tax dollars of Americans that go directly into the pockets of these “for-profit” companies. Why should our government provide profit to anyone to fight crime or war?
7. Graduated flat tax. Or national sales tax in lieu of ALL other forms of federal taxation.
Graduated flat tax: That’s right. You heard me. I am in favor of a simplified tax code. I am also in favor of wealthier Americans contributing a higher percentage of their income to this great nation of ours than lower income Americans. Because they can. And still live in luxury. I am also, however, invested in the idea of ALL of us paying something. If we need to exempt people out of mercy, let’s exempt the abject poor. (note: if you own a cell phone, big screen TV or SUV, you are NOT abjectly poor).
National sales tax – (exempting food (NOT SODA OR CANDY OR GARBAGE WE PUT IN OUR MOUTHS THAT WE PRETEND IS FOOD – JUST FOOD), and medicine).
And while we’re at it. State income or sales tax as noted above. NO MORE property tax.
Want to exempt corporations, fine. All individuals deriving ANY income from a corporation (in the form of salary, bonuses, or stock options that MAGICALLY turn into cash at some point in the future), will pay taxes on that income. Or we’ll have no income tax at all, just a sales tax that everyone is subject to. No exemptions, no deductions, no IRS. And April 15th is just another lovely spring day.
There’s more, oh there’s so much more. But let’s start here. After all, it’s just a start.