Saturday, December 17, 2011
Raise Taxes on Rich to Reward True Job Creators: Nick HanauerGo To Original
Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- It is a tenet of American economic beliefs, and an article of faith for Republicans that is seldom contested by Democrats: If taxes are raised on the rich, job creation will stop.
Trouble is, sometimes the things that we know to be true are dead wrong. For the larger part of human history, for example, people were sure that the sun circles the Earth and that we are at the center of the universe. It doesn’t, and we aren’t. The conventional wisdom that the rich and businesses are our nation’s “job creators” is every bit as false.
I’m a very rich person. As an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, I’ve started or helped get off the ground dozens of companies in industries including manufacturing, retail, medical services, the Internet and software. I founded the Internet media company aQuantive Inc., which was acquired by Microsoft Corp. in 2007 for $6.4 billion. I was also the first non-family investor in Amazon.com Inc.
Even so, I’ve never been a “job creator.” I can start a business based on a great idea, and initially hire dozens or hundreds of people. But if no one can afford to buy what I have to sell, my business will soon fail and all those jobs will evaporate.
That’s why I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is the feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion a virtuous cycle that allows companies to survive and thrive and business owners to hire. An ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than I ever have been or ever will be.
Theory of Evolution
When businesspeople take credit for creating jobs, it is like squirrels taking credit for creating evolution. In fact, it’s the other way around.
It is unquestionably true that without entrepreneurs and investors, you can’t have a dynamic and growing capitalist economy. But it’s equally true that without consumers, you can’t have entrepreneurs and investors. And the more we have happy customers with lots of disposable income, the better our businesses will do.
That’s why our current policies are so upside down. When the American middle class defends a tax system in which the lion’s share of benefits accrues to the richest, all in the name of job creation, all that happens is that the rich get richer.
And that’s what has been happening in the U.S. for the last 30 years.
Since 1980, the share of the nation’s income for fat cats like me in the top 0.1 percent has increased a shocking 400 percent, while the share for the bottom 50 percent of Americans has declined 33 percent. At the same time, effective tax rates on the superwealthy fell to 16.6 percent in 2007, from 42 percent at the peak of U.S. productivity in the early 1960s, and about 30 percent during the expansion of the 1990s. In my case, that means that this year, I paid an 11 percent rate on an eight-figure income.
One reason this policy is so wrong-headed is that there can never be enough superrich Americans to power a great economy. The annual earnings of people like me are hundreds, if not thousands, of times greater than those of the average American, but we don’t buy hundreds or thousands of times more 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, I go out to eat with friends and family only occasionally.
It’s true that we do spend a lot more than the average family. Yet the one truly expensive line item in our budget is our airplane (which, by the way, was manufactured in France by Dassault Aviation SA), and those annual costs are mostly for fuel (from the Middle East). It’s just crazy to believe that any of this is more beneficial to our economy than hiring more teachers or police officers or investing in our infrastructure.
More Shoppers Needed
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 enjoy any meals out. Or to make up for the decreasing consumption of the tens of millions of middle-class families that are barely squeaking by, buried by spiraling costs and trapped by stagnant or declining wages.
If the average American family still got the same share of income they earned in 1980, they would have an astounding $13,000 more in their pockets a year. It’s worth pausing to consider what our economy would be like today if middle-class consumers had that additional income to spend.
It is mathematically impossible to invest enough in our economy and our country to sustain the middle class (our customers) without taxing the top 1 percent at reasonable levels again. Shifting the burden from the 99 percent to the 1 percent is the surest and best way to get our consumer-based economy rolling again.
Significant tax increases on the about $1.5 trillion in collective income of those of us in the top 1 percent could create hundreds of billions of dollars to invest in our economy, rather than letting it pile up in a few bank accounts like a huge clot in our nation’s economic circulatory system.
Consider, for example, that a puny 3 percent surtax on incomes above $1 million would be enough to maintain and expand the current payroll tax cut beyond December, preventing a $1,000 increase on the average worker’s taxes at the worst possible time for the economy. With a few more pennies on the dollar, we could invest in rebuilding schools and infrastructure. And even if we imposed a millionaires’ surtax and rolled back the Bush- era tax cuts for those at the top, the taxes on the richest Americans would still be historically low, and their incomes would still be astronomically high.
We’ve had it backward for the last 30 years. Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs. Middle-class consumers do, and when they thrive, U.S. businesses grow and profit. That’s why taxing the rich to pay for investments that benefit all is a great deal for both the middle class and the rich.
So let’s give a break to the true job creators. Let’s tax the rich like we once did and use that money to spur growth by putting purchasing power back in the hands of the middle class. And let’s remember that capitalists without customers are out of business.
(Nick Hanauer is a founder of Second Avenue Partners, a venture capital company in Seattle specializing in early state startups and emerging technology. He has helped launch more than 20 companies, including aQuantive Inc. and Amazon.com, and is the co-author of two books, “The True Patriot” and “The Gardens of Democracy.” The opinions expressed are his own.)
To contact the writer of this article: Nick Hanauer at Nick@secondave.com.
50 Economic Numbers From 2011 That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe
Even though most Americans have become very frustrated with this economy, the reality is that the vast majority of them still have no idea just how bad our economic decline has been or how much trouble we are going to be in if we don't make dramatic changes immediately. If we do not educate the American people about how deathly ill the U.S. economy has become, then they will just keep falling for the same old lies that our politicians keep telling them. Just "tweaking" things here and there is not going to fix this economy. We truly do need a fundamental change in direction. America is consuming far more wealth than it is producing and our debt is absolutely exploding. If we stay on this current path, an economic collapse is inevitable. Hopefully the crazy economic numbers from 2011 that I have included in this article will be shocking enough to wake some people up.
At this time of the year, a lot of families get together, and in most homes the conversation usually gets around to politics at some point. Hopefully many of you will use the list below as a tool to help you share the reality of the U.S. economic crisis with your family and friends. If we all work together, hopefully we can get millions of people to wake up and realize that "business as usual" will result in a national economic apocalypse.
The following are 50 economic numbers from 2011 that are almost too crazy to believe....
#1 A staggering 48 percent of all Americans are either considered to be "low income" or are living in poverty.
#2 Approximately 57 percent of all children in the United States are living in homes that are either considered to be "low income" or impoverished.
#3 If the number of Americans that "wanted jobs" was the same today as it was back in 2007, the "official" unemployment rate put out by the U.S. government would be up to 11 percent.
#4 The average amount of time that a worker stays unemployed in the United States is now over 40 weeks.
#5 One recent survey found that 77 percent of all U.S. small businesses do not plan to hire any more workers.
#6 There are fewer payroll jobs in the United States today than there were back in 2000 even though we have added 30 million extra people to the population since then.
#7 Since December 2007, median household income in the United States has declined by a total of 6.8% once you account for inflation.
#8 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 16.6 million Americans were self-employed back in December 2006. Today, that number has shrunk to 14.5 million.
#9 A Gallup poll from earlier this year found that approximately one out of every five Americans that do have a job consider themselves to be underemployed.
#10 According to author Paul Osterman, about 20 percent of all U.S. adults are currently working jobs that pay poverty-level wages.
#12 Back in 1969, 95 percent of all men between the ages of 25 and 54 had a job. In July, only 81.2 percent of men in that age group had a job.
#13 One recent survey found that one out of every three Americans would not be able to make a mortgage or rent payment next month if they suddenly lost their current job.
#14 The Federal Reserve recently announced that the total net worth of U.S. households declined by 4.1 percent in the 3rd quarter of 2011 alone.
#15 According to a recent study conducted by the BlackRock Investment Institute, the ratio of household debt to personal income in the United States is now 154 percent.
#16 As the economy has slowed down, so has the number of marriages. According to a Pew Research Center analysis, only 51 percent of all Americans that are at least 18 years old are currently married. Back in 1960, 72 percent of all U.S. adults were married.
#17 The U.S. Postal Service has lost more than 5 billion dollars over the past year.
#18 In Stockton, California home prices have declined 64 percent from where they were at when the housing market peaked.
#19 Nevada has had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation for 59 months in a row.
#20 If you can believe it, the median price of a home in Detroit is now just $6000.
#21 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18 percent of all homes in the state of Florida are sitting vacant. That figure is 63 percent larger than it was just ten years ago.
#22 New home construction in the United States is on pace to set a brand new all-time record low in 2011.
#23 As I have written about previously, 19 percent of all American men between the ages of 25 and 34 are now living with their parents.
#24 Electricity bills in the United States have risen faster than the overall rate of inflation for five years in a row.
#25 According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, health care costs accounted for just 9.5% of all personal consumption back in 1980. Today they account for approximately 16.3%.
#26 One study found that approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans either have medical bill problems or are currently paying off medical debt.
#27 If you can believe it, one out of every seven Americans has at least 10 credit cards.
#28 The United States spends about 4 dollars on goods and services from China for every one dollar that China spends on goods and services from the United States.
#29 It is being projected that the U.S. trade deficit for 2011 will be 558.2 billion dollars.
#30 The retirement crisis in the United States just continues to get worse. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 46 percent of all American workers have less than $10,000 saved for retirement, and 29 percent of all American workers have less than $1,000 saved for retirement.
#31 Today, one out of every six elderly Americans lives below the federal poverty line.
#32 According to a study that was just released, CEO pay at America's biggest companies rose by 36.5% in just one recent 12 month period.
#34 The six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have a net worth that is roughly equal to the bottom 30 percent of all Americans combined.
#35 According to an analysis of Census Bureau data done by the Pew Research Center, the median net worth for households led by someone 65 years of age or older is 47 times greater than the median net worth for households led by someone under the age of 35.
#36 If you can believe it, 37 percent of all U.S. households that are led by someone under the age of 35 have a net worth of zero or less than zero.
#37 A higher percentage of Americans is living in extreme poverty (6.7%) than has ever been measured before.
#38 Child homelessness in the United States is now 33 percent higher than it was back in 2007.
#39 Since 2007, the number of children living in poverty in the state of California has increased by 30 percent.
#40 Sadly, child poverty is absolutely exploding all over America. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 36.4% of all children that live in Philadelphia are living in poverty, 40.1% of all children that live in Atlanta are living in poverty, 52.6% of all children that live in Cleveland are living in poverty and 53.6% of all children that live in Detroit are living in poverty.
#41 Today, one out of every seven Americans is on food stamps and one out of every four American children is on food stamps.
#43 A staggering 48.5% of all Americans live in a household that receives some form of government benefits. Back in 1983, that number was below 30 percent.
#44 Right now, spending by the federal government accounts for about 24 percent of GDP. Back in 2001, it accounted for just 18 percent.
#45 For fiscal year 2011, the U.S. federal government had a budget deficit of nearly 1.3 trillion dollars. That was the third year in a row that our budget deficit has topped one trillion dollars.
#46 If Bill Gates gave every single penny of his fortune to the U.S. government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for about 15 days.
#47 Amazingly, the U.S. government has now accumulated a total debt of 15 trillion dollars. When Barack Obama first took office the national debt was just 10.6 trillion dollars.
#48 If the federal government began right at this moment to repay the U.S. national debt at a rate of one dollar per second, it would take over 440,000 years to pay off the national debt.
#49 The U.S. national debt has been increasing by an average of more than 4 billion dollars per day since the beginning of the Obama administration.
#50 During the Obama administration, the U.S. government has accumulated more debt than it did from the time that George Washington took office to the time that Bill Clinton took office.
Of course the heart of our economic problems is the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve is a perpetual debt machine, it has almost completely destroyed the value of the U.S. dollar and it has an absolutely nightmarish track record of incompetence. If the Federal Reserve system had never been created, the U.S. economy would be in far better shape. The federal government needs to shut down the Federal Reserve and start issuing currency that is not debt-based. That would be a very significant step toward restoring prosperity to America.
During 2011 we made a lot of progress in educating the American people about our economic problems, but we still have a long way to go.
Hopefully next year more Americans than ever will wake up, because 2012 is going to represent a huge turning point for this country.
US hunger, homelessness soar amid cuts in social spending: Half of Americans either poor or low-income
US hunger, homelessness soar amid cuts in social spending
Half of Americans either poor or low-income
Amid continuous attacks on social services in the United States, hunger and homelessness are growing at epidemic rates, according to a report released Thursday by the United States Conference of Mayors.
The group’s annual survey of hunger and homelessness in its 29 member-cities states that requests for emergency food assistance grew by 15.5 percent in the past year. The number of homeless families grew by 16 percent. The survey covers the period between September 1, 2010 and August 31, 2011.
The mayors’ report is but the latest in a string of recent studies documenting the growth of poverty and social inequality in the US. Two days earlier, the National Center on Family Homelessness reported a 38 percent increase in child homelessness between 2007 and 2010, with the result that one in 45 American children are homeless. (See: “US child homelessness soars”).
The Associated Press, citing Census figures released last month, reported Thursday that half of the American population is either poor or low-income. With long-term unemployment at record levels, food pantries and homeless shelters are being overwhelmed by the growing ranks of the poor.
These grim statistics, which provide only a pale reflection of cascading human suffering and social distress, make a mockery of the claims of the Obama administration and the media that the US in an economic “recovery.” In recent days, Obama has hailed the November jobs report, which registered a 0.4 percent decline in the official unemployment rate to 8.6 percent, as evidence that his policies are working. He ignores the fact that the drop in the jobless rate was due to the exodus of 315,000 discouraged job-seekers from the labor force.
Nor has Obama mentioned, in his stage-managed attempts to present himself as an advocate of “middle-class” workers, any of the recent reports documenting the social disaster fuelled by his pro-corporate policies.
The mayors’ report cites cuts in federal commodities and funding as a factor in the diminishing ability of emergency kitchens and food pantries to keep up with surging demand. It notes that 27 percent of the people needing emergency food assistance did not receive it.
The amount of food distributed has failed to keep pace. While demand for food aid shot up by 15 percent, the amount of food given out by cities increased by only 10 percent.
The inadequacy of resources has had a tangible effect: 86 percent of cities surveyed said that food pantries and emergency kitchens have had to reduce the amount of food given out to visitors. Eighty two percent said they had been forced to turn people away from food kitchens, and 68 percent said they had to tighten rules on how often families could visit food pantries.
None of the 29 cities surveyed said they expected the demand for emergency food assistance to fall in the next year, while all but two expected the demand to increase.
Meanwhile, three quarters of the cities said they expected the amount of money available for aid to fall next year, and 41 percent said the decrease would be “substantial.”
About half of those seeking emergency food assistance came as families. A quarter were employed. Eleven percent were homeless.
Sixty percent of the cities reported an increase in family homelessness. Among individuals, homelessness increased by 6 percent.
The mayors’ survey found that an average of 18 percent of homeless people who requested assistance did not receive it. It also found that shelters in two thirds of the surveyed cities were forced to turn away homeless families with children, while 70 percent had to turn away individuals.
Sixty four percent of surveyed cities said they expected the number of homeless families to increase next year, while the same percentage of cities said they expected the amount of recourses available to help the homeless to decrease.
Individual cities paint an even bleaker picture of social distress. In Detroit, the number of requests for emergency food assistance grew by 30 percent in the past year, while in Salt Lake City, Utah the figure grew by 35 percent.
The mayors’ report comes a month after the Census Bureau released its 2010 Supplemental Poverty Measure, which, employing different criteria than the official report, increased the number of Americans estimated to be in poverty from 46.2 million to 49 million and the poverty rate from 15.1 to 16 percent.
Buried within the Supplemental Poverty Measure report is perhaps its most shocking finding: the percentage of the population classified as “low-income,” that is, making between 100 and 200 percent of the poverty rate, has nearly doubled. The official statistic puts the portion of families making between 100 and 200 percent of the poverty rate at 18.8 percent of the total population, while the new statistic puts it at 31.8 percent.
According to the supplemental Census report, there are 49.1 million people in poverty and an additional 97.3 million who are considered low-income. The two figures combined total 146.4 million out of a population of 300 million.
Alongside mass unemployment, falling wages play a critical role in the staggering growth of poverty in the US. Just over the past 12 months, wages have fallen by 1.7 percent in real terms.
This is the result of a coordinated and national corporate assault on workers’ wages that was inaugurated with the Obama administration’s forced bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler in 2009. Obama insisted that government loans to the auto companies be contingent on a vast expansion of tier-two wages ($14 an hour) for new-hires, and an overall reduction of labor costs to those at non-union foreign transplant auto factories.
Together with the collapse in home values, mass unemployment and wage-cutting have thrown even families with working adults into poverty. According to a study by the Working Poor Families Project released this month, the portion of employed families that classify as low-income grew from 27 percent in 2002 to 31.2 percent in 2010.
“Many of these families used to be solidly middle class but have seen their incomes drop below the low-income threshold because of a pay cut, a reduction in hours, or because a spouse lost their job,” said Mark Mather, a co-author of the analysis.
In the face of this mounting social catastrophe, no section of the political establishment, Democratic or Republican, is proposing any measures to alleviate the crisis and create jobs. Rather, the entire framework of the official discussion revolves around savage austerity measures to make the working class pay for the multi-trillion-dollar bailout of the banks. These measures include hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to food stamps, home heating assistance, education and core social programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.