Category Archives: Economics

One Chart Shows How the Tax Burden has Shifted from Corporations to the Working Class

Chart comparing taxes in 1952 and 2015. Social Insurance and Retirement are the taxes on this chart that tend to fall on the poor or middle class.
Since the Greatest Generation’s “Golden Age” taxes ave gone down for corporations and up for the poor.
[screenshot of The Young Turks]

Just wanted to drop in here and share this astounding chart from yesterday’s “Hour One” of The Young Turks show. They shared this while building an argument against the Washington establishment consensus that budget proposals should be revenue neutral. As reported in Huffington Post,

But from the perspective of the [Elizabeth] Warren wing of the party, corporations pay far too little as it is, so making any plan revenue neutral is a loser. Before companies managed to start gaming the system, Warren noted, three out of every ten dollars of federal revenue came from corporate taxes, today it’s only one in ten.

Then he dropped this chart that shows how the tax burden in this country has shifted from corporations to the working class. Social insurance and retirement includes the Payroll tax, and it has tripled since 1952. Meanwhile corporate taxes are a third of what they once were.

Want to find out how that happened? Watch The Young Turks video below. In the video, host Cenk Uygur is cheerleading Elizabeth Warren’s one-woman battle against corporate tax holidays. A clear, simple argument. However, side affects of watching this video include rage, hair pulling, compulsive blogging, and sharing the above chart on social media.

I just wanted to pull that screenshot out, to make it easier to share on all the social things.

Elizabeth Warren: End Corporate Tax “Holidays” (The Young Turks)





The State of Things

1. Yesterday at the BART station I overheard a guy say he was sacked. There were 2500 people in his department and they got rid of 2000 of them.
2. In the last week I have seen two people in my neighborhood sleeping in their cars
3. My sweetie works in a school. I taught him to play a game that only requires a wall clock but none of the rooms where he works has working clocks
4. My sweetie teaches the kids computer lab. He had a kid recently seriously ask him how to get to "the game that makes a blank screen you can write with." He had another child who did not know what the space bar was for.

The budget cuts continue. 

Posted via email from Future is Fiction

Some Predictions About Books By Way of Some Predictions About Music

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the “future of publishing.” After all, books have never had as much cash to spare as the recording industry, and look at the mess they’re in. Already it is not so difficult for a self-published manuscript to sell itself on What will happen when everything goes digital? The suggestion is that there will be an opening of the gates, and the latest best-seller will stand on the same virtual shelf with thirty self-published manuscripts. The optimists claim that this is where the great unpublished books will be discovered and pessimists point to the unleashed masses of poorly thought-out, half-written tomes filled with spelling errors. But it doesn’t matter if fantastic self-published books are available if they’re drowned out by countless other books vying for the consumer’s attention.
I’m thinking of this issue again because Chuck Wendig just wrote a post on this very subject. I must requote a quote that he included in his piece from a article (“When Anyone Can Be A Published Author“)

Furthermore, as observers like Chris Anderson (in “The Long Tail”) and social scientists like Sheena Iyengar (in her new book “The Art of Choosing”) have pointed out, when confronted with an overwhelming array of choices, most people do not graze more widely. Instead, if they aren’t utterly paralyzed by the prospect, their decisions become even more conservative, zeroing in on what everyone else is buying and grabbing for recognizable brands because making a fully informed decision is just too difficult and time-consuming. As a result, introducing massive amounts of consumer choice leads to situations in which the 10 most popular items command the vast majority of the market share, while thousands of lesser alternatives must divide the leftovers into many tiny portions.

Chuck says in response, ” that doesn’t sound like what will happen when the FUTURE OF PUBLISHING is made manifest. It sounds like what happens right bloody now.”
As it is, there are about 100,000 brand new titles published and printed every year, and it is fair to say that even the most devoted readers may touch 1/100th of that. If you include self-published books, the number of books published is 600,000 to a million. That doesn’t take into account the thousands of reprints of absolute classics that exist. I am pretty sure that if I devoted my entire life to reading I would not get through every book on my imaginary wish list before I breathe my last breath. Now imagine compounding this with an onslaught of unpublished manuscripts, from gorgeous to garbage, that would land on the market place if the result of this revolution were a totally leveled playing field. What would happen?
Continue reading Some Predictions About Books By Way of Some Predictions About Music

We Burn Books

Burning the library in slow motion: how copyright extension has banished millions of books to the scrapheap of history Boing Boing.

I came across this nice article by Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing wherein he makes some interesting points on how current copyright laws have censored the majority of books.

the legal changes introduced in the years after Fahrenheit 451 did more than just extend terms. Congress eliminated the benign practice of the renewal requirement (which had guaranteed that 85% of works and 93% of books entered the public domain after 28 years because the authors and publishers simply didn’t want or need a second copyright term.) And copyright, which had been an opt-in system (you had to comply with some very minor formalities to get a copyright) became an opt out system (you got a copyright automatically when you “fixed” the work in material form, whether you wanted it or not.) Suddenly the entire world of informal and non commercial culture — from home movies that provide a wonderful lens into the private life of an era, to essays, posters, locally produced teaching materials — was swept into copyright. And kept there for the life of the author plus 70 years. The effects were culturally catastrophic.

This issue brings to mind the hardest part, for me, of working in publishing—seeing how many books are destroyed and being powerless to stop it. You would think that out-of-print books are worth more, since the moment it is declared out of print it is limited edition, i.e. those that exist now may be the only copies left in the world. The book industry in the only one where retailers are allowed to return the product if it doesn’t sell. But if they hold onto the book after it is out of print, the publisher will refuse the returns. Thus as soon as a book has been declared out-of-print book sellers nationwide box up every last company and return them to the publisher, who, having nowhere to sell them, has them demolished.

Naturally, you are wondering why they don’t just donante the books to libraries or other book-hungry institutions. The problem is again returns: they assume that a certain percentage of these would find their way back to the bookstores,  who will return it for full price. On each of these books the publisher, author and distributor are then paying the bookstore for the book and making zero profit—a risk they’re not willing to take.

So every time a book goes out of print, it is also removed from the shelves and incinerated. Yay, capitalism!

How a Raging Youth Becomes a Middle-Class Arm-chair Revolutionary

It’s hard when you are nineteen or twenty-year old radical to understand how older lefties “settle down” and get pulled into the system. You swear that will never happen to you. But the system has many ways of wrapping around you, like the vines that suffocated Sleeping Beauties castle.

One of these ways is home-ownership. An absolute radical would never pay rent. They would find an abandoned building and fix it up and make it home. When the supposed “owners” come to kick you out you would wage a battle of wills and ideas. You would point out that as you are actually using and improving the land, it is truly yours, regardless of whatever piece of paper they carry that grants them the right to leave it abandoned. You would refuse to pay rent to any person because as soon as we agree that the land under your feet belongs to someone else you become a slave.

But at some point you have to pick your battles. Most folks by the age of 25 decide that they have goals beyond lengthy arrest-records for squatting. It seems difficult to imagine balancing living in a squat with pursuing your noble dreams of becoming a writer/artist/feminist lawyer/eco-terrorist. No matter how radical, most of us don’t end up living as squatters.

This leaves two options: rent or buy.

Renting is odious. It is ludicrous to pay a third to half our income to some person just to have a place to lay our weary heads. And what does this landlord do for us? They hire someone to mow the lawn, if they are decent they hire someone to fix the stove when it breaks. And otherwise, we never see them. We can at best feel sorry for those people forced to piss and sleep in the alley because they have not paid, as we have, to have access to a toilet or a shower. When a homeless woman lays down her head to sleep she is a thief because every square inch of land in the city is “owned” by a person or a state and she has not paid for her right to sleep there. If every doorway and underpass is someone’s property, it would seem that those who don’t pay have no right to exist at all. Rent is like paying a capitalist tax to let us be part of the system. No other species of animal in the universe can understand why humans would allow themselves to be beholden to other humans for shelter. But we endure it.

For this reason, I would like very much to own my own home. Of course, property has become so expensive that one cannot just outright buy it. You must make an agreement with a bank that they will buy the house for you and you will pay them off for damn near eternity. This is equally absurd. Why should one of the fundamental requirements of life be so expensive that it takes a lifetime to pay for it? If this is ethical, why not a lifetime of debt for every piece of fruit we eat? Why not charge us for the air we breathe? We like to think we would never allow such a miscarriage of justice. Yet somehow we have come to agree that having a place to stack our books and make our bed should involve a lifetime of sacrifice.
But this arrangement with the bank is preferable to renting because at some far-off point you can hypothetically own your own home, which means living in peace without the burden of rent collection hanging at your back til the day you die. Many aging radicals eventually come to this same conclusion. To achieve this coveted relationship with the bank, one must prove themselves a fine and worthy borrower through the concept of “Good Credit.”

It is insufficient to merely pay your bills. To establish Good Credit, you must have several charge cards. I did not have a charge card until I was 26 because they so terrify me. Most radicals don’t want any part of a system that makes its money off of indentured servitude of the young and naive. However, in pursuit of Good Credit, I recently received my second credit card in the mail. It came with a blank check that encouraged me to “Make a purchase I’ve been putting off,” or to “remodel one of the rooms of your home.” Because if I can’t afford that new sewing machine and granite counters in the kitchen today, surely next month I will be able to afford it plus 15% compound interest! Of course I can’t. But everyone knows that the companies make all there money from debt, those who pay are leechers on the credit system (and how strange is it that a business model is set up that holds in highest regard those that lead it to no profit at all and denigrates the group that provides their billions in wealth?).
I have decided I need a second charge card because when my sweetie recently went to apply for a home loan, the bank told him he didn’t have enough credit. He has very good credit—he uses a credit card and has never been late on any bill or payment of any kind, yet this is not enough. So it seems that to buy a home one must have a stamp of approval from not just Visa or Mastercard, but both.
The pursuit of Good Credit is just one way that well-meaning radicals become entrenched in the system. It recently occurred to me that a positive consequence of having a significant amount of money I may have to pay to Uncle Sam in taxes this year will be the opportunity to be a war tax resister. I don’t know a lot about this but it seems like a small way to make a statement. There is no risk of arrest and it is a subtle form of direct action—I don’t want Uncle Sam to spend it so I won’t give it to him. But then I was told that becoming a war tax resister would destroy my Good Credit. When the government is unable to collect the three dollars I withhold for the war tax, they will turn me over to a collection agency who will relentlessly chase me down in pursuit of that three dollars. They will notify Visa and Mastercard that I am not to be trusted. All dreams of picket fences will be dashed.

Pehaps the person who told me this was incorrect. Perhaps the government is efficient enough to ignore a debt of three dollars. To some extent, it doesn’t matter. As long as this argument is widespread, it will influence many people. There are many people who hate the war and hate the idea that they are paying the government to continue the war. But there are few people who would be willing to withhold that money if it means they may never be able to buy a home. So Uncle Sam becomes a troll at the bridge, demanding tribute so that citizens can cross the bridge into the middle-class world they were promised as part of the American Dream. We pay not because we agree but because we must, to get this other thing.

So where does that leave us? Paying our taxes, worrying about the opinion of Visa and Mastercard, buying stocks and bonds in the hope that they will produce enough money that we will somehow, some day, be able to afford something that should go without saying is part of life—shelter. May the youth forgive us.

Psst…My Dollar Has A Secret

Beneath her cobwebby exterior and obscure, Masonic symbols, we know the dollar likes to keep things to herself. But this is too much.

I found a scary article in my email the other day. It frigtens me because it is not from a political blog, not from a left-leaning alarmist group, not from a group with any kind of alarmist bias. It was from a list-serve I am on, “Publisher’s Lunch” that is distributed to people who work in the publishing industry. Most of the stories are either “who got hired” and “big book contracts”. That’s why I was surprised to see this lead sentence:

Canada continues to grapple with the consequences of the ever-weaker US dollar.

From the article:

Prices [of books sold to bookstores] were adjusted once last fall, but as the dollar has continued to decline, that change is insufficient…The Globe and Mail reports that dominant chain Indigo plans to “imminently” pass on savings in the form of discounts or promotions. Random House Canada president Brad Martin indicates they “will give booksellers a 5-per-cent discount on U.S. books until the end of the year.” Penguin Canada will reduce prices 5 percent on their new fall books and on some backlist hits.

Ouch. Next time you pick up a book, imagine the Canadian and U.S. prices reversed to get a more realistic idea of the current value of the dollar. And that’s what its worth today. But what’s in store for the future of our currency?

Project Censored every year releases a top ten list of important stories that were buried by the corporate media. I heard on a podcast that OPEC is trading its dollars into Euros. According to the site, the value of our dollar has been a big white lie, which we have been able to get away with because it is tied to the price of oil. Which works out fine for us, as long as that continues. Then it is certainly bad news to hear that “Russia, Venezuela, and some members of OPEC have expressed interest in moving towards a petroeuro system for oil transactions.”

According to the article, China is the world’s second largest holder of U.S. currency (you would think the U.S. is number one. Its Japan).

“Maintaining the U.S. as a market for their goods is a pre-eminent goal of Chinese financial policy, but they are increasingly dependent on Iran for their vital oil and gas imports…But the Chinese government has indicated interest in de-linking the dollar-yuan arrangement, which could result in an immediate fall in the dollar. More worrisome is the potentiality of China to abandon its ongoing prolific purchase of U.S. Treasuries/debt—should they become displeased with U.S. policies towards Iran.”

Hmm…how can we displease China?…I know! Let’s go to war with Iran!

I kid, but this is serious busines. I’m accostomed to my currency maintaining its value. What good is the 25 dollars in interest I have earned in my savings account if the dollar itself is worth half what it once was? I don’t like to hear the words “plummet” and “dollar” in the same sentence (truly, “plummet is an unpleasant word. I don’t like to hear it in any sentence). But if you need to know how to spell “plummet” you can look it up in the Project Censored article, their right next to the word “dollar”.

This article is only ranked 9. Makes you wonder what the other, higher-ranking censored stories are, doesn’t it?

I can’t really blame the dollar for being coy. A little rouge on the cheeks, a corset under the bosom. She still wants to get into the swankiest clubs in town. And dance and dance all night. And we see her with rose-colored glasses. Beneath it all, I don’t just hope she is looking fresh tomorrow. I hope she’s still standing.