January 1, 2011
An Open Letter to Andrew Cuomo
December 30, 2010
Dear Governor Cuomo,
Congratulations on your election.
During our recent Gubernatorial contest, we emphasized different approaches as to how best restore the states fiscal health and to reduce the onerous impact of local property taxes. But as you prepare to start your administration, it is critical that the long term needs of our state take priority over the political rhetoric that dominates election campaigns.
For most New Yorkers, especially the more than one million who are unemployed or underemployed, the lack of jobs is the most critical issue. And with our state and country facing the greatest recession in seventy years, it is imperative that government policies at all levels provide a cost effective economic stimulation.
Progressive tax reform, starting with ending the rebate of billions of dollars annually from the Stock Transfer Tax, should at the top of the list for three reasons: for fiscal responsibility, for jobs and economic recovery, and for providing needed public services.
Fiscal Responsibility: As economists such as Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz have pointed out, it is fiscally irresponsible in a major recession to rule out progressive tax reforms that raise taxes on the wealthy and cut taxes for the middle and working classes. In particular, tax cuts for the wealthy such as recently enacted by Congress will do nothing to stimulate the economy because they do nothing to stimulate demand. The share of income taken home by the richest 1 percent of Americans has almost tripled in the last three decades to 24 percent. New York has the most unequal income distribution of all 50 states. Yet the rate for the top income tax bracket in New York is less than half of what it was in the 1970s. The wealthy need to pay their fair share of taxes again.
Retaining the revenue from New Yorks existing Stock Sales Tax would generate at least $13 billion in additional revenue, eliminating the projected $10 billion budget deficit for 2011. Along with other revenue reforms it would generate a surplus for job creation and public services, which will help the economy to recover.
The Stock Transfer Tax is a tiny sales tax on stock purchases, with a graduated scale topping out at 1/20th of 1 percent or $350, whichever is less, on large purchases of a stock. Compare that to the 8 percent sales tax on consumer goods. The tax has been collected since 1915. But since 1981, it has been collected and then immediately rebated.
This sales tax primarily hits on those who speculate on stocks rather than those who make long-term investments. The sales tax revenue been growing rapidly due the computerized high-frequency trading on their own accounts by big financial firms like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase a form of insider trading that distorts the market and should be discouraged. These firms, which the taxpayers bailed out with trillions in federal loans and guarantees and are now highly profitable, pay the lions share of the Stock Transfer Tax.
Jobs and Economic Recovery: The economy needs public spending to raise demand in an economy that is stagnant, with excess productive capacity, intractably high unemployment, and mounting foreclosures and bankruptcies. The banks and corporations are sitting on trillions of dollars in cash. But they are not lending and investing because the consumer demand to make such investments profitable is not there. If government doesnt step in with spending to raise demand, the economy will continue to deteriorate, lowering tax revenues, and necessitating further public spending cuts, which will further depress the economy. It is a vicious downward spiral. With consumer demand and therefore business investment depressed, only increased government spending can turn the economy around.
Public Services: In this stagnant economy, there is an increased need for public services, from safety net programs to aid the unemployed and their families to public jobs in public works and services to reduce unemployment. Whether it is the under-staffing of schools and snow removal crews due to recent budget cuts, it makes no sense to cut public jobs and services when we face high unemployment, depressed consumer demand, and increased needs for public assistance.
I highlight the Stock Transfer Tax because it is revenue the state already collects but gives right back. It is not a new tax. It just requires that the state retain revenues it already receives.
Income tax reform is another option. The massive and growing disparity of wealth in NY and the US is a fundamental cause of our present economic crisis and needs. The Progressive Caucus of the NYC City Council recently proposed changing the state and city income tax laws to recapture part of the hundreds of billions of dollars in a tax cut windfall recently given to the wealthy by Congress.
If New York went back to the progressive income tax structure we had in 1972, the state would raise $8 billion more in revenue while giving 95% of New Yorkers a tax cut. In 1972, New York State had a personal income tax with 14 graduated brackets, ranging from a low of 2% to a high of 15%. Today New York has only five flatter brackets, between 4% and 6.85%. Most people with a full-time job reach the top bracket. A single person reaches the top 6.85% rate once his or her taxable income reaches $20,000, a married couple at $40,000. A more progressive income tax would increase state revenues and, due to the tax cut for the working and middle classes, increase consumer demand to help the economy recover.
The states fiscal crisis is not due to excessive spending, but rather to under-taxing the wealthy. Lets not make the states economy and fiscal crisis worse with austerity measures that cut public spending while leaving the existing regressive tax structure in place.
There are certainly areas of wasteful spending that should be addressed. We need to control our skyrocketing health care costs, by far the biggest part of the state budget. The first step should be to eliminating the enormous waste associated with our odd system of private health insurance. We need to stop spending billions of dollars on economic development and tax expenditures that reward campaign contributors rather than creating jobs. We need to stop wasting enormous amounts of tax dollars in contracting out services, such as we witnessed with the recent payroll scandal in NYC. We need to stop the endemic graft among state legislators.
It seems like every politician these days talk about a green vision for the future of New York. That will only begin to be realized under your tenure as Governor if you provide the leadership needed to make the necessary public investments to rebuild New York for a sustainable prosperity.
Howie Hawkins 2010 Green Party candidate for NY Governor Syracuse NY
September 27, 2010
While Senators Block Tax Cuts for the Middle Class, Dont Ask, Dont Tell and Countless Other Bills, DFA Works to Shake Up Senate BURLINGTON, VT Democracy for America, the people powered PAC, endorses progressive Senators who will move critical legislation forward. Going into November, DFA endorsed key challengers and incumbents who will work to break the gridlock in the Senate. Its time to get some new blood in the Senate and shake things up. Thats why we are supporting fighters, said Jim Dean, Chair of DFA. DFA endorsed candidates will take back the Senate for the American people. DFA endorsed the following Senate fighters this year: Incumbents: Barbara Boxer Russ Feingold Patrick Leahy Challengers: Jack Conway Roxanne Conlin Paul Hodes Elaine Marshall Scott McAdams Joe Sestak Its time to get the Senate working for the people again, said Charles Chamberlain, Political Director for DFA. DFA members were motivated in the primaries to get the best candidates possible and they have already donated $425,000 to get fighters in the Senate in 2010. In the past year key policy priorities for the American people have been stymied in the Senate including tax cuts for the middle class, important campaign spending rules, the public option, climate change legislation, and civil rights for LGBT Americans serving in the military. ABOUT DEMOCRACY FOR AMERICA Democracy for America is a people-powered Democratic Political Action Committee. With over one million members nationwide, DFA is a grassroots powerhouse working to change our country and the Democratic Party from the bottom-up. Paid for by Democracy for America, www.democracyforamerica.com, and not authorized by any candidate.
September 20, 2010
Democracy for America Endorses 23 House Candidates Burlington, VT In a year when the media buzz is about potential Republican gains in the House, Democracy for America bucks the trend by endorsing 23 bold progressive House challengers and incumbents who could change the game. After a 67 percent winning record in the primaries, DFA endorsed candidates could change the equation with a strong showing making the House even stronger for Progressive values. Do the math progressive momentum will be the key to Democratic success, said, Jim Dean, Chair of DFA. When bold progressives like Ann McLane Kuster can win overwhelmingly in a primary, and look strong for the general, the twenty-three DFA endorsed candidates could be game-changers in this midterm election. This year DFA endorsed the following bold progressive Democrats for the House: Challengers Krystal Ball (VA-01) Tarryl Clark (MN-06) Justin Coussoule (OH-08) Russell Edwards (GA-10) Joe Garcia (FL-25) Raj Goyle (KS-04) *Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01) *Bill Hedrick (CA-44) Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02) *Beth Krom (CA-48) *Steve Pougnet (CA-45) *Ed Potosnak (NJ-07) *Manan Trivedi (PA-06) Incumbents Donna Edwards (MD-04) Alan Grayson (FL-08) Raul Grijalva (AZ-07) Mary Jo Kilroy (OH-15) Nancy Pelosi (CA-08) Tom Perriello (VA-05) Jared Polis (CO-02) Chellie Pingree (ME-01) Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) Martin Heinrich (NM-01)
* Districts Obama won in 2008 currently held by a Republican.
Progressive champions in the House have fought hard for affordable health care, an economy that works for everyone, and an America where everyone is treated equally. Those are the issues that people care about this year and voters are looking for fighters, said Charles Chamberlain, Political Director for Democracy for America. When Progressives stand up and fight for change that matters, they win elections. DFA endorses candidates up and down the ballot who stand up for bold progressive values and support those candidates with money, media, and boots on the ground volunteers. ABOUT DEMOCRACY FOR AMERICA Democracy for America is a people-powered Democratic Political Action Committee. With over one million members nationwide, DFA is a grassroots powerhouse working to change our country and the Democratic Party from the bottom-up.
Paid for by Democracy for America, www.democracyforamerica.com, and not authorized by any candidate.
September 8, 2010
Top Ten List Includes Progressive Democratic Fighters in House and Senate BURLINGTON, VT Democracy for America, the people powered PAC, announced the winners of the DFA 2010 Progressive Hero endorsements - Senator Barbara Boxer and Representative Alan Grayson. The online vote asked the over one million members of DFA which incumbent Democrats deserved the full-force of DFA's nationwide volunteer network, raising tens of thousands of dollars, and providing volunteer boots on the ground working to deliver the win on Election Day. The winners are listed here: http://www.democracyforamerica.com/heroes-and-villains DFA Members will stand up and fight for the bold champions who fight for them in Washington, said Jim Dean, Chair of DFA. Thats why Alan Grayson and Barbara Boxer earned DFA's support. These Democrats don't back down when pressured by corporate lobbyists or attacked by Tea Party Republicans. Theres no enthusiasm gap for Democrats who stand up and lead. The competition was held for both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House and only Democrats who stood up for inclusion of a public option in healthcare reform were eligible to win. Sen. Boxer and Rep. Grayson bested tough competition including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (7th place) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (2nd place). The impressive top-ten list of our Heroes both in the Senate and House are diverse in their opinions, but all have shown bold leadership as fighters and truth-tellers. The Top-Ten lists are as follows: SENATE 1. Barbara Boxer 2. Bernie Sanders 3. Al Franken 4. Russ Feingold 5. Sherrod Brown 6. Patty Murray 7. Harry Reid 8. Dick Durbin 9. Charles Schumer 10. Bill Nelson HOUSE 1. Alan Grayson 2. Nancy Pelosi 3. Anthony Weiner 4. Dennis Kucinich 5. Barney Frank 6. Barbara Lee 7. Raul Grijalva 8. Jay Inslee 9. Paul Hodes 10. Joe Sestak The winners of the anti-endorsement Villains contest will be announced tomorrow. ABOUT DEMOCRACY FOR AMERICA Democracy for America is a people-powered Democratic Political Action Committee. With over one million members nationwide, DFA is a grassroots powerhouse working to change our country and the Democratic Party from the bottom-up. www.DemocracyForAmerica.com Paid for by Democracy for America, www.democracyforamerica.com, and not authorized by any candidate.
July 29, 2010
Tens of Thousands of Engaged Progressive Activists Voted Online to Pick the Best Democratic Congressional Challengers for 2010 BURLINGTON, VT Democracy for America, the people-powered PAC, announced the winners of the Grassroots All-Stars endorsement contest today. Beth Krom D-CA (48th) was the winner, with Mac D'Alessandro (MA-09) in second place, and Bill Hedrick (CA-44) in third. This year 66,248 people voted online to make this the largest DFA Grassroots All-Stars contest so far. Theres no question that progressives are engaged in this mid-term election year and were fighting for the candidates who stand up for us, said Jim Dean, Chair of Democracy for America. We hope the Grassroots All-Stars endorsement will propel Beth Krom to victory in this important race. Beth Krom, winner of the DFA Grassroots All-Stars endorsement, is the former mayor of Irvine, CA -- a city that was recognized as one of the safest, greenest big cities in the country during her time as mayor. She's running against Republican Rep. John Campbell, a birther who cosponsored a bill requiring presidential candidates to show their birth certificates when filing papers to run for office. Today, DFA sent the first email asking for donations from the netroots for Kroms campaign. The winner of the 2010 Grassroots All-Star Competition receives at least one national fundraising e-mail from DFA Chair Jim Dean to over one million members with the commitment to raise $20,000 from DFA members nationwide; in-state crowd-sourcing emails for volunteer events with a commitment to raise 500 volunteer hours from DFA members in the All-Stars' home state; at least one national volunteer e-mail to over one million DFA members with the commitment to deliver at least 200 national phone bankers; a $5,000 contribution from Democracy for America PAC; and appearances by DFA Chair Jim Dean at available campaign events. Two runners-up will receive the DFA-List endorsement, a $5,000 contribution from Democracy for America PAC, and in-state crowd-sourcing emails for volunteer events.
DFA has helped elect nearly 600 progressives up and down the ballot since 2005. ABOUT DEMOCRACY FOR AMERICA Democracy for America is a people-powered Democratic Political Action Committee. With over one million members nationwide, DFA is a grassroots powerhouse working to change our country and the Democratic Party from the bottom-up.
Paid for by Democracy for America, www.democracyforamerica.com, and not authorized by any candidate.
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