train of reflections on that unequal division of property which occasions the numberless instances of wretchedness which I had observed in this country and is to be observed all over Europe. The property of this country is absolutely concentred in a very few hands [..]. These employ the flower of the country as servants, some of them having as many as 200 domestics, not laboring. They employ also a great number of manufacturers and tradesmen, and lastly the class of laboring husbandmen. But after all there comes the most numerous of all classes, that is, the poor who cannot find work.That was indeed a world where you had to thank a rich man for work like todays tea-bag Republicans urge us to do. A world where ordinary people competed to get jobs as servants for the rich and where the rich were able to shelter themselves from competition and taxation.
Like Koch, Donald Trump's first great business decision was inheriting a fortune. When wealth is concentrated in a few hands and dug in and protected, the rich don't have to worry about the market, about competition, about innovation. They don't have to invest in risky projects like electric automobile companies or solar power manufacturers or companies that are trying to make fuel from algae or anything else where they have to work or might lose money. They don't have to worry about some upstart with a better idea building a business that threatens their wealth and power - because they control the keys. And when wealth is too concentrated, the rich have the political power to avoid paying taxes. Jefferson was writing to Madison just a few years before France exploded into revolution partly because the French government was collapsing under the weight of debt. Here's something that's all too familiar for comfort. In the late 1700s, the French government, was reeling under the weight of debts from wars, tried to raise taxes and was forced to back off:
The reason for all that indignation in the name of French "liberties" was that these taxes were levied on all sections of the French population irrespective of social rank. (from Schama, Citizens)In other words - the rich didn't want to pay their share. As a result, the government tried to finance itself only by loans - the similarities between the Bush government and that of Louis XVI are spooky. Schama also writes: It may seem odd to us that the French public [..] did not see this opposition as motivated by the selfish protection of priviliged tax exemptions, but it shouldn't seem odd to any American of our times.
In 2007 the top 400 taxpayers had an average income of $344.8 million, up 31 percent from their average $263.3 million income in 2006[..] Their effective income tax rate fell to 16.62 percent, down more than half a percentage point from 17.17 percent in 2006, the new data show. That rate is lower than the typical effective income tax rate paid by Americans with incomes in the low six figures, which is what each taxpayer in the top group earned in the first three hours of 2007. Taxpayers on the 95th to 99th steps on the income ladder paid an effective income tax rate of 17.52 percent [..] Taxpayers in this category earned between $255,000 and $451,000 in 2007, compared with an average daily income of almost $945,000 for the top 400, who paid lower effective tax rates on average.[cite]The result of tax unfairness is that wealth accumulates at the top:the government is effectively transferring wealth from the middle class and the poor to the rich by making the first two groups carry the full cost of operating the public sector.
In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2007, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 34.6% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.5%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 85%, leaving only 15% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one's home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.7% [cite]And the wealthy want to prevent anyone from ever challenging the power of their families.
dynasty trusts [..] enable affluent people to provide their heirs with money and property largely free from taxes and immune to the claims of creditors. And rather than benefit only children and grandchildren, dynasty trusts provide for generations in perpetuity — truly creating an American aristocracy. [..] A couple can, for example, put $7 million (their two $3.5 million exemptions) into a life insurance policy owned by the trust. They apply their exemption at the start, and the trust is forever free from taxes — even when, after the death of the second spouse, the life insurance policy pays off at $100 million. Alternatively, a trust can use the $7 million as seed money for a profitable business that the trust then owns. An ordinary trust dissipates as money is distributed to the beneficiaries. But a dynasty trust can avoid this by discouraging outright distributions and instead encouraging trustees to buy, for the use of the beneficiaries, things like houses, artwork, airplanes and even businesses. Because the trust retains ownership, the assets can pass tax-free and creditor-proof to the next generation. Beneficiaries don’t pay taxes on the use of this property. In contrast, a worker whose employer provides housing or other benefits is taxed on those benefits. But tax breaks are not the only special advantages that dynasty trusts provide. Even more troubling, they commonly include a “spendthrift clause,” which provides that trust assets cannot be reached by a beneficiary’s creditors. If a beneficiary causes a car accident, for example, the victim cannot be compensated with assets from the trust, even if they are the driver’s only resources. So beneficiaries are free to behave as recklessly as they like, knowing that their money is forever protected for themselves and their heirs.[cite]The aristocratic idea of economics is that the more money the rich have, the more they will be inclined to invest and create prosperity. But what really happens is that inequality of wealth chokes off innovation and wealth creation. Take this classic from the Manhattan Institute "think tank":
Anita Danner, co-owner with her husband Mike of Danner's Hardware Store, on Ferry Street, in business since 1837, is also against tax increases. Another small business owner who buys her own health insurance, she told me that if she had to pay the 8% tax on her employees then she and her husband would close the store. "Taxes and government intervention don't solve many problems," she said. [cite]If you look up Mrs. Danner, you'll find that her husband is a 5th generation business owner. He's just a small timer compared to Koch and Richard Mellon-Scaife and even Don Trump, but it's not surprising that he doesn't want government intervention that can shake things up and maybe see some kid in his town get a loan to set up a competing hardware store.
Koch, who gets his money from highly polluting oil industry certainly does not want to have to interrupt his life as a sponsor of right wing hate groups and "economists" who think the rich have a bad deal and actually have to work to make his business competitive if it had to pay a fair share of taxes or pay for its pollution.
You say that you've got ambition/Stop your dreaming and your idle wishing/You're outside and there ain't no admission to our play- Ray Davies
The world is facing a host of environmental challenges, from global climate change to smog in specific local areas. Many of these environmental challenges seem daunting and the costs of action appear high, given existing technologies and know-how. Yet, the ability of firms and consumers to innovate – finding new means and technologies to reduce pollution – can drastically reduce the costs of environmental policy. The key is finding environmental policy tools that ensure environmental improvement now, but that also stimulate innovation and development of cleaner technologies for the future. This report specifically explores the ability of price-based policy instruments – taxation and tradable permits – to bring about both of these benefits. Taxes on pollution provide clear incentives to polluters to reduce emissions and seek out cleaner alternatives. Compared to other environmental instruments, such as emission level or technology prescriptions, environmentally related taxation encourages both the lowest cost abatement and incentives for abatement at each unit of pollution. Because they impose a direct cost on the polluter, environmentally related taxes also encourage innovation to seekout newproducts and processes that can reduce the polluter’s tax burden. This innovation both reduces pollution levels and the tax burden on the polluter.[cite]Here's Jefferson again - when you read this modernize and replace "uncultivated lands" with "unused business opportunities".
I am conscious that an equal division of property is impracticable, but the consequences of this enormous inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind, legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property, only taking care to let their subdivisions go hand in hand with the natural affections of the human mind. The descent of property of every kind therefore to all the children, or to all the brothers and sisters, or other relations in equal degree, is a politic measure and a practicable one. Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions or property in geometrical progression as they rise. Whenever there are in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on. If for the encouragement of industry we allow it to be appropriated, we must take care that other employment be provided to those excluded from the appropriation. If we do not, the fundamental right to labor the earth returns to the unemployed.The short sighted selfishness of the French rich in the mid and late 1700s had terrible consequences for them and for all of Europe as the French Revolution lead to terror and then to a world war. America got rich because it was a place where the people at the top could not sit on the lid and keep ambitious people from finding opportunity. The illustration on the left shows the meetings organized by young Ben Franklin where he and his friends, who were ordinary working people could meet to discuss politics and business and morals. Here's Franklin arriving in Philadelphia
I was dirty from my journey; my pockets were stuff’d out with shirts and stockings, and I knew no soul nor where to look for lodging. I was fatigued with travelling, rowing, and want of rest, I was very hungry; and my whole stock of cash consisted of a Dutch dollar, and about a shilling in copper.There's no doubt that the David Kochs of Philadelphia did not benefit from having a smart young troublemaker arrive in their town to stir things up. And, no doubt, the spiritual ancestors of today's teabaggers would have been angry about Franklin's unwillingness to "thank a rich man".
Originally published in DailyKos before my bad thinking got me driven off from their whiny pages