REBUTTING ARGUMENTS AGAINST INCREASING INCOME TAXES ON THE WEALTHY

ABSTRACT: The Bush tax cuts, and the even larger cuts in the income tax rates for high incomes over the last 30 years, have contributed to creating the federal government’s deficit (see post of 12/22/12) and to dramatically widening income and wealth inequality in the U.S. There has been a dramatic shift of the tax burden from the well-off and corporations to middle and lower income households. This shift in the tax burden has contributed to stagnant incomes for middle and lower income earners while incomes at the top have skyrocketed.

 Despite the Republican rhetoric that high income individuals are “job creators,” the fact is that increased income for them is far less effective in stimulating job growth than increased incomes for low and middle income individuals. There is strong evidence, from multiple perspectives, that increasing taxes on the wealthy and redirecting the funds to productive investments or to lower income individuals, for example through unemployment benefits, will benefit the economy and job creation. It would also reduce inequality and address a root cause of the deficit.

FULL POST: The Bush tax cuts, and the even larger cuts in the income tax rates for high incomes over the last 30 years, have contributed to creating the federal government’s deficit (see post of 12/22/12) and to dramatically widening income and wealth inequality in the U.S., which are at their highest levels since the 1930s.

The 400 richest individuals in the US, as identified by Forbes magazine, have pocketed $1.3 trillion because of the Bush tax cuts. The best estimates are that these individuals actually pay only about 18% of their income in taxes, while their predecessors in 1960 paid more than 70%. Not only have their tax rates fallen dramatically (from 91% in 1960 and 70% in 1980 to 35% today [see 11/27/11 post for more detail]), but their increased use of offshore tax havens and other tax reduction strategies has further reduced the taxes they actually pay. For example, the tax return Mitt Romney released shows that he, and presumably his partners at Bain Capital, reported their management fees as capital gains rather than earned income. Assuming they all did, they saved an estimated $200 million on income taxes and another $20 million on the Medicare payroll tax. [1] Also since the 1960s, corporate taxes have fallen from over 27% of federal government revenue to about 10% today. [2]

These reductions in government revenue from high income individuals and corporations have dramatically shifted the tax burden from them to middle and lower income households at the federal, state, and local levels. This shift to regressive revenue sources [3] includes flat rate payroll taxes (i.e., Social Security and Medicare), and in the case of Social Security a cap so that no tax is paid on earnings over $110,000. It also includes most state and local revenue sources, such as sales and excise (e.g., cigarette, alcohol, and car) taxes; flat rate state income taxes; and state revenue from gambling (i.e., lotteries and casinos), all of which are quite regressive. [4] This shift in the tax burden has contributed to stagnant incomes for middle and lower income earners while incomes at the top have skyrocketed. [5] (See my post of 11/13/11 for more detail.) Both fairness and reversing causes of the deficit would argue for increased income tax rates on high incomes.

Despite the Republican rhetoric that high income individuals are “job creators,” the fact is that increased income for them is far less effective in stimulating job growth than increased incomes for middle and low income individuals. The US economy is driven by consumer spending; it’s 70% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a measure of overall economic activity. The lower an individual’s income, the more likely he or she is to spend any additional income to buy goods and services in the local economy. On the other hand, the wealthy are more likely to save additional income or to spend or invest it outside of the US. Furthermore, they are much more likely than the less well-off to use the money for speculative rather than productive investments. Speculative investments do not help the economy or create jobs; they actually harm the economy by increasing prices for consumer goods (e.g., food and gasoline [see my post of 3/5/12]) and by contributing to speculative bubbles (e.g., Internet stocks and mortgage investments) that eventually burst and harm the economy.

Republicans have opposed an increase in the tax rate on high incomes, claiming it will hurt small businesses. But only about 2 – 3% of “small businesses” would be affected and many of these aren’t really small or aren’t businesses at all. Republicans also claim that such a tax increase would hurt the economy and job creation, but “yearly gains in employment, GDP growth, and small business job growth were all greater after the Clinton tax hikes of 1993 than after the Bush tax cuts of 2001.” [6]

In summary, there is strong evidence, from multiple perspectives, that increasing taxes on the wealthy and redirecting the funds to productive investments (such as infrastructure building) or to lower income individuals (who will spend it in their local economies), for example through unemployment benefits, will benefit the economy and job creation. [7] It would also reduce inequality and address a root cause of the deficit.

In my next posts, I’ll take a look at cutting the deficit through spending cuts, the spending cuts in the austerity package, and alternatives to them.


[1]       Peters, C. Nov./Dec. issue, “The Bain of my existence,” Washington Monthly

[2]       Van Gelder, S., 12/8/12, “4 ways to leap the ‘fiscal cliff’ to a better USA,” YES! Magazine

[3]       Regressive revenue sources place a greater burden, relative to one’s ability to forego the income, on middle and lower income households than on higher income individuals.

[4]       Jacoby, J., 12/9/12, “Biggest lottery winner? That’d be the Treasury,” The Boston Globe

[5]       Appelbaum, B., & Gebeloff, R., 11/29/12, “Tax burden is lower for most Americans than in the 1980s,” The New York Times

[6]       Lehigh, S., 12/14/12, “Points of clarity through the fiscal cliff fog,” The Boston Globe

[7]       Judis, J.B., 12/12/12, “Rein in the rich: How higher taxes could lift the economy,” The New Republic

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INCREASING REVENUE TO CUT THE DEFICIT

ABSTRACT: Increased revenue needs to be part of the effort to reduce the federal government’s budget deficit. Two revenue sources that are not included in the austerity package are closing corporate tax loopholes and enacting a financial transactions tax. They could eliminate over half the deficit with little negative impact on the economy.

 The highest profile revenue issue in the austerity package is the personal income tax. Given that the 2001 – 2003 tax cuts on earned and unearned income were significant contributors to creating the deficit, reversing them for high income individuals would seem appropriate. Maintaining the Bush tax cuts on high incomes would cost up to $160 billion per year in lost revenue. Alternatively, using these funds on high impact spending will reduce the deficit over the long-term while strengthening the economy and creating jobs in the short-term.

FULL POST: Increased revenue needs to be part of the effort to reduce the federal government’s budget deficit. However, the increased or new taxes that produce the revenue should not be so large or so quickly implemented that they put the economy back into recession. Here’s a look at the revenue increases that are part of the current austerity package (aka the “fiscal cliff”), some of the negotiations that have occurred on them, and some alternatives that are not included in the package.

First, two revenue sources that are not included in the austerity package are closing corporate tax loopholes and enacting a financial transactions tax (as 10 European countries are doing). These could provide $250 billion and $350 – $500 billion annually, respectively, in new revenue, and eliminate over half the deficit with little negative impact on the economy. (See my post of 9/29/12 for more detail.) An alternative minimum tax for highly profitable corporations that would ensure that they pay a minimum tax rate – similar to the Buffet Tax proposal for high income individuals – would seem quite reasonable. Roughly a quarter of our large and profitable corporations pay NO federal income tax despite multi-billion dollar annual profits. (See my post of 11/5/11 for more detail.) Google, for example, avoided paying $2 billion in taxes in 2011 by funneling profits to overseas shell companies. [1]

The highest profile revenue issue in the austerity package is the personal income tax. The tax cuts enacted by President Bush in 2001 and 2003 are scheduled to expire. President Obama originally proposed letting the cuts expire on income over $250,000 per year, but keeping the cuts on income under that amount. The Republicans proposed a $1 million cut off and Obama has countered with a $400,000 cut off. As the cut off gets higher, the amount of revenue (and deficit reduction) is reduced. The difference between a $250,000 and a $400,000 cut off is estimated to be $40 billion per year in revenue (i.e., $160 billion versus $120 billion in increased revenue).

Expiration means the tax rate on upper incomes would increase from the current 35% to 39.6%, the rate that was in place in the late 1990s. (Note that for an individual with $20 million in taxable income, the Bush tax cuts of 2001 – 2003 have put roughly $1 million in their pockets each year for the last 10 years.) In addition, increasing the tax rate on unearned income – capital gains, dividends, and interest – back to 1990s rates is another hot topic. Given that the 2001 – 2003 tax cuts on earned and unearned income were significant contributors to creating the deficit, reversing them for high income individuals would seem appropriate.

The bottom line is that maintaining the Bush tax cuts on high incomes would cost up to $160 billion per year in lost revenue. Alternatively, using these funds on high impact spending, such as infrastructure investments or unemployment benefits, would generate an estimated net gain of 1.2 million to 1.5 million jobs and add 1.0% to 1.5% to economic growth. The growth in jobs and the economy will, in and of itself, reduce the deficit because taxes and revenue grow when the economy grows. Therefore, this approach will reduce the deficit over the long-term while strengthening the economy and creating jobs in the short-term. The only revenue increase in the austerity package that has a greater positive effect on jobs and the economy than letting the tax cuts on high incomes expire is terminating the cuts in the estate and gift taxes. [2]

In my next post, I’ll review the arguments against raising tax rates on high income individuals. In subsequent posts, I’ll take a look at cutting the deficit through spending cuts, the spending cuts in the austerity package, and alternatives to them.


[1]       Brown, C., 12/13/12, “Google on ‘immoral’ tax evasion: ‘It’s capitalism’,” Common Dreams

[2]       Bivens, J., & Fieldhouse, A., 9/18/12, “A fiscal obstacle course, not a cliff,” Economic Policy Institute

STOP THE GUN MASSACRES

ABSTRACT: Gun massacres must stop. We must enact sensible gun laws. Automatic weapons with magazines that hold over a dozen bullets turn tragic murder into horrifying massacre. Sensible gun laws would make a difference; they lead to much lower gun violence in other countries, and the federal assault weapon ban made a difference in the 10 years it was in effect.

The profits of gun and ammunition makers are at stake. The right to bear arms the framers of our Constitution had in mind was not unfettered access to weapons that fire a dozen bullets per second.

We must seize this moment to loudly and collectively demand that our elected leaders enact strong, sensible gun laws (detail below). To take action, start by going to the White House petitions site (https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petitions). Find a petition calling for action on gun laws and sign it.

FULL POST: Gun massacres must stop. We must enact sensible gun laws. Yes, guns don’t kill people, people kill people. But automatic weapons with magazines that hold over a dozen bullets turn tragic murder into horrifying massacre. There is no reason anyone other than law enforcement or military personnel should have automatic weapons with high capacity magazines. The federal bans on assault weapons and high capacity magazines that were in place from 1994 to 2004 need to be reinstated.

Why is getting a driver’s license so much more rigorous than getting a gun, including an automatic? With over 4 times as many civilians murdered each year with guns (over 12,000) as died in the September 11 attacks, why do we do so much to prevent terrorism and so little to prevent gun violence? Why do we allow gun homicides in the US at almost 20 times the rate in similar countries with similar overall crime and violence rates? [1]

Sensible gun laws would make a difference; they lead to much lower gun violence in other countries and the federal assault weapon ban made a difference in the 10 years it was in effect. In the struggle for sensible gun laws, remember that the profits of gun and ammunition makers are at stake. They support loose gun laws and the National Rifle Association so they can maximize their profits.

The right to bear arms (as part of a well regulated militia) that is in the second amendment to the Constitution was written when guns were muzzle loaders and the time per bullet – to reload and fire again – was measured in minutes. Today we measure the number of bullets fired per second. The right to bear arms the framers of our Constitution had in mind was not unfettered access to weapons that fire a dozen bullets per second.

We must seize this moment to loudly and collectively demand that our elected leaders – our President and Members of Congress, our Governors and State Legislators – enact strong, sensible gun laws including 1) a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, 2) limits on the number of guns and amount of ammunition an individual can buy, 3) reasonable requirements for obtaining a gun license, and 4) strong background check requirements for all gun purchases. In addition, the penalties for violating gun laws should be tough; any gun or ammunition seller who violates the law and allows an individual to obtain guns or ammunition illegally should be treated as an accomplice to murder, under criminal and civil law.

To take action, start by going to the White House petitions site (https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petitions). Find a petition calling for action on gun laws and sign it. (If you don’t already have an account you will need to go through the quick process of obtaining one.) There are multiple petitions on the firearms issue, which you can scroll down to find or select the “Filter by issue” button and select “Firearms”. I urge you to sign at least one and as many as you support if you have the time. This will send a strong signal of support for this issue. The two I’d suggest starting with are:

  • “Immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress” (http://wh.gov/RN6U). It already has over 100,000 signers; please add your voice.
  • “Today IS the day: Sponsor strict gun control laws in the wake of the CT school massacre” (http://wh.gov/RRkn). It has over 19,000 signers and you can add your support.

Also, call, email, and / or write your federal and state elected officials and demand gun laws that will end the massacres now. Participate in local or on-line actions to express your support for sensible gun laws.

It’s past time to take serious steps to reduce and hopefully eventually eliminate the occurrence of gun massacres. We must insist that our elected officials pass sensible gun laws.


[1]       Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, retrieved 12/15/12, “Facts: Gun violence,” www.bradycampaign.org/facts/gunviolence

A MANUFACTURED AUSTERITY CRISIS, NOT A FISCAL CLIFF

ABSTRACT: The so-called fiscal cliff you’ve been hearing so much about is actually a manufactured austerity crisis. There is widespread agreement that if nothing is changed by or relatively soon after December 31 that our economy is extremely likely to fall into a recession and unemployment is likely to increase to over 9%, an increase of between 1% and 1.5%.

 

The federal government’s deficit does need to be addressed, but doing so precipitously and in the wrong ways will hurt the economic recovery. The immediate problems are not the government deficit, but the lack of jobs, particularly middle class jobs, and the lack of consumer spending, which represents two-thirds of our economic activity. We should use strategies for addressing the deficit that minimize negative effects on jobs and the economy, and phase them in over time to reduce their impact on our weak economy.

 The austerity package bundles together a variety of measures that are largely unrelated. Addressing these complex issues individually and with time for thoughtful consideration would make more sense than doing so in a bundle under severe time constraints. The austerity package’s cuts to social programs would be 8.4% across the board, with a few programs exempted. These cuts would have very significant negative effects on low income families and on education.

FULL POST: The so-called fiscal cliff you’ve been hearing so much about is actually a manufactured austerity crisis. [1] Congress and the President agreed on this package of spending cuts and tax increases (which take effect on December 31) because the Republicans demanded it in exchange for their votes to increase the federal government’s debt cap back in August 2011. As you may remember, they pushed the government to the brink of default – which hurt its credit rating and the economy – in order to extract these austerity measures. (By the way, I believe this brinksmanship and the harm it caused is incredibly UNpatriotic; but that’s a separate discussion.) A Congressional “Super-committee” was created to find alternative ways to reduce the deficit but was unable to come to a consensus recommendation, so we are left with this “fiscal cliff.” However, the effects of the austerity package would occur over time, so it is actually more of a “slope” than a “cliff.” [2]

There is widespread agreement that if nothing is changed by or relatively soon after December 31 that our economy is extremely likely to fall into a recession and unemployment is likely to increase to over 9%, an increase of between 1% and 1.5%. The roughly $100 billion per year in spending cuts and $350 billion in annual tax increases would reduce the deficit from about $1 trillion per year to about $600 billion. But taking this $400 billion out of the country’s economic activity would almost certainly turn slow economic growth into a recession. (See my post, The “Fiscal Cliff” and the Economy of 9/19/12 for more details.) As we’ve seen in Europe, austerity measures have pushed Greece, Spain, and Britain into a recession and the whole Eurozone is teetering on the edge of recession.

The federal government’s deficit does need to be addressed, but doing so precipitously and in the wrong ways will hurt the economic recovery. The immediate problems are not the government deficit, but the lack of jobs, particularly middle class jobs, and the lack of consumer spending, which represents two-thirds of our economic activity. [3] In addressing the deficit, we should use strategies that minimize negative effects on jobs and the economy. (See my post, Addressing the Deficit on 9/29/12 for four specific policy changes that would eliminate the roughly $1 trillion per year deficit with minimal impact on jobs and the economy.) Furthermore, spending cuts and increased tax revenue should be phased in over time to reduce their impact on our weak economy. [4]

The austerity package bundles together a variety of measures that are largely unrelated other than they have some impact on the federal government’s revenue or spending; although some actually have no impact on the deficit. Therefore, some view this “fiscal cliff’ as more of a “fiscal obstacle course.” [5] Major changes to both the personal and corporate tax codes are included, as well as significant changes to spending on a wide range of government programs from defense to social programs. Addressing these complex issues individually and with time for thoughtful consideration would make more sense than doing so in a bundle under severe time constraints.

In addition to the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which expire for all income levels in the austerity package, other benefits for middle and low income households are scheduled to expire as well. These include:

  • Unemployment benefit extensions beyond the traditional 26 weeks (2 million individuals would lose benefits in December and another 1 million in April)
  • The reduction in the Social Security and Medicare payroll tax (by 2% of pay, which puts about $1,000 a year in the average worker’s pocket)
  • An enhancement to the Child Care Tax Credit
  • The expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which augments incomes of low income workers
  • An exemption from income tax on mortgage debt that is forgiven

The austerity package’s spending cuts come 50% from the military and 50% from social programs. Many members of Congress oppose the cuts to the military. However, there are strong arguments for cutting military spending: 1) it has more than doubled (to $733 billion per year) since 2001, 2) we are winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 3) we have far and away the largest military budget in the world, and 4) it’s widely acknowledged that there is significant waste in the military budget. Furthermore, military spending is not an efficient way to create jobs and at 58% of the federal government’s discretionary spending, it would be difficult and unfair to significantly reduce spending without cutting the military budget. (See posts of 9/29/12 and 11/17/11 for more details.)

The austerity package’s cuts to social programs would be 8.4% across the board, with a few programs exempted, such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. These cuts would have very significant negative effects on low income families and on education. It is estimated that: [6]

  • 75,000 3 and 4 year old, disadvantaged children would lose the enriched preschool services of Head Start;
  • 25,000 young children would lose subsidies for early care and education (aka child care);
  • 16,000 teachers and other school staff would lose their jobs;
  • 460,000 students would lose special education services and 12,500 special education staff would lose their jobs;
  • 20,000 youth would lose job training;
  • 734,000 households would lose heating (or cooling) assistance;
  • Community health centers would lose $55 million; and
  • 1.3 million college students would lose tuition support.

If cuts to military spending are reduced, but overall spending reductions are maintained, cuts to social programs would be even more severe.

In my next two posts, I’ll discuss reducing the deficit through alternatives to the current austerity package, including reviewing various alternative proposals that have been put forth. I’ll focus first on options for increasing revenue and second on options for cutting spending.


[1]       Klein, E., 11/28/12, “It’s not a fiscal cliff, it’s an austerity crisis,” Bloomberg

[2]       Stone, C., 9/24/12, “Misguided ‘fiscal cliff’ fears pose challenges to productive budget negotiations. Failure to extend tax cuts before January will not plunge economy into immediate recession,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

[3]       Krugman, P., 11/12/12, “On deficit hawks and hypocrites,” The New York Times

[4]       Woolhouse, M., 11/19/12, “Phase in deficit cuts, economists say,” The Boston Globe

[5]       Bivens, J., & Fieldhouse, A., 9/18/12, “A fiscal obstacle course, not a cliff,” Economic Policy Institute

[6]       Every Child Matters Education Fund, 11/16/12, “The pending threat of Congressional actions to children’s safety net programs,” Every Child Matters, http://everychildmatters.org

IRRATIONAL EXTREMISM BLOCKS PROGRESS

ABSTRACT: The irrational extremism associated with the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party has just blocked progress for disabled people around the world by defeating ratification of a treaty. Radical Republicans used scare tactics and lies to defeat it. They ignored the support of 61 Senators including John McCain, of former President G. W. Bush, of every veterans group in America, and of former Senator Dole, who came to the Senate chamber to support the treaty in a wheelchair as an 89 year old, disabled veteran, and former Republican Presidential nominee. They ignored the fact that it would improve opportunities for 4.5 million children worldwide who don’t attend school because they are blind.

This is an example of how a small number of extremists in Congress is blocking progress for millions of people in the U.S. – and around the world.

FULL POST: The irrational extremism associated with the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party has just blocked progress for disabled people around the world by defeating ratification of a treaty. The treaty, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, is:

  • Based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed 22 years ago.
  • Supported by 61 Senators including John McCain as well as former President G. W. Bush and former Senator Bob Dole.
  • Ratified by 126 other countries.

Despite 61 votesin favor of ratification, radical Republicans used scare tactics and lies to defeat it. (Treaty ratification requires a 2/3s majority or 66 votes.) [1]

Because it is based on the ADA, the U.S. is already basically in compliance. But because it conflicts with Tea Party ideology that views cooperation with the United Nations and other countries as surrendering U.S. sovereignty, arguments were fabricated to defeat it. Tea Party types argued that it would threaten parents and home schooling because it says that disabled children have a right to education, and that it would promote abortion because it says that disabled people have a right to health care including reproductive health. They argued both that the treaty was toothless in forcing other countries to provide access for disabled persons and that it would tie the hands of the U.S. and force unwanted changes here despite the fact that the ADA is already in place. [2]

They ignored the support of every veterans group in America, who viewed it as supporting disabled veterans, and of former Senator Dole, who came to the Senate chamber to support the treaty in a wheelchair as an 89 year old, disabled veteran, and former Republican Presidential nominee. Among other potential treaty benefits, they ignored the fact that it would improve opportunities for 4.5 million children worldwide who don’t attend school because they are blind.

This is an example of how a small number of extremists in Congress is blocking progress for millions of people in the U.S. – and around the world.


[1]       Calvan, B.C., 12/5/12, “Treaty for disabled rights falls short in Senate,” The Boston Globe

[2]       Boston Globe Editorial, 12/6/12, “Tea Party scare tactics doom disabled treaty in the Senate,” The Boston Globe

CAMPAIGN SPENDING: THE FUTURE

ABSTRACT: The huge sums of money in our political system are corrupting it, in subtle and not so subtle ways, and are undermining the promise of democracy of, by, and for the people. We the people need to work to blunt the impact and eventually stop the flow of these huge amounts of money. Steps that could and should be taken include: 1) Legislation at the federal and state levels should be enacted promptly that requires disclosure on a timely basis of all political spending and the sources of the funds; 2) Lobbyists’ contributions to candidates must be severely restricted and perhaps prohibited; 3) Tougher rules and enforcement are needed of the ban on coordination between Super PACs or other groups and candidates’ campaigns; and 4) Ultimately, a Constitutional Amendment is needed to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

 I urge you to communicate to your elected representatives at the federal and state levels your concern about the corrupting influence of huge amounts of money in our political system. Ask them what remedies they support and encourage them to support the steps listed above.

FULL POST: The huge sums of money in our political system are corrupting it, in subtle and not so subtle ways, and are undermining the promise of democracy of, by, and for the people. Despite the fact that all the outside money and all the advertising it bought were less effective in the 2012 election than was anticipated and than was hoped for by those paying for it, the big spenders learned some valuable lessons. They won’t give up on their efforts to influence and control government and its policy making. They will find more effective ways to use their money and will have substantial impacts in the future. [1] Therefore, we the people need to work to blunt the impact and eventually stop the flow of these huge amounts of money.

First, some of the lessons the big spenders learned:

  • Advertising, and particularly negative advertising, has diminishing returns as the amount of it and repetition of it increases.
  • Grassroots efforts to identify and turn out supporters can have a big impact.
  • Grassroots, person-to-person communications can be more effective than advertising.
  • Untested candidates or ones with extreme positions are more likely to lose.
  • Money can have a bigger impact in less visible, lower cost races.

The less visible, lower cost races include primary, US House of Representatives, and state office races (as opposed to the final Presidential election and final US Senate races). In the Republican Presidential primary, the big money from Super PACs clearly had an effect. Money from the Super PAC supporting Romney deluged state primary elections with negative advertising against whichever competitor was threatening Romney at that point. This clearly allowed Romney to win state primaries he wouldn’t have won otherwise. Huge Super PAC expenditures by extremely rich individuals single-handedly kept Gingrich and Santorum in the primary race longer than they would have been otherwise. [2]

In lower cost races, a given amount of money (e.g., $100,000) is more significant, may overwhelm other campaign spending, and can have a disproportionate impact, especially if spent late in the election period and as a surprise. State office races such as those for Governor, state legislative seats, and elected judges can be dramatically affected by relatively small amounts of money. State ballot initiatives can also be significantly altered by relatively small sums of money.

Given the corrosive effects of huge amounts of money in our political system, a New York Times Editorial stated, “A backlash against the damaging power of big money cannot come too soon.” [3] Steps that could and should be taken include:

  • Legislation at the federal and state levels should be enacted promptly that requires disclosure on a timely basis of all political spending and the sources of the funds. The DISCLOSE Act that has been introduced in Congress is one example. (It was filibustered by Senate Republicans multiple times.) Disclosure must cover all entities engaged in political spending, including non-profit, “social welfare” groups, known as 501(c)(4)s to the IRS.
  • Lobbyists’ contributions to candidates must be severely restricted and perhaps prohibited, especially for an elected official sitting on the legislative committee that oversees the special interest the lobbyist represents. The definition of a lobbyist must be expanded to cover all individuals and entities that work to influence government policies, rules, and regulations. The ability of lobbyists and others to deliver aggregated contributions from multiple individuals or groups, often referred to as “bundling,” and which can occur through fundraising events organized by a lobbyist, should be banned or at least fully disclosed.
  • Tougher rules and enforcement are needed of the ban on coordination between Super PACs or other groups and candidates’ campaigns. The overlap and connections between candidates’ current and former campaign staff and the staff of the supposedly independent groups, and the use of the same consultants, provide clear evidence that these groups are not, in fact, independent. [4]
  • Ultimately, a Constitutional Amendment is needed to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, to make it clear that corporations are not persons with Constitutional rights, that money is not the same as speech, and that corporations and political spending can be regulated.

 I urge you to communicate to your elected representatives at the federal and state levels your concern about the corrupting influence of huge amounts of money in our political system. Ask them what remedies they support and encourage them to support the steps listed above.


[1]       New York Times Editorial, 11/10/12, “A landslide loss for big money,” The New York Times

[2]       Boston Globe Editorial, 11/8/12, “Billionaires: Now, mind your own business(es),” The Boston Globe

[3]       New York Times Editorial, 11/10/12, “A landslide loss for big money,” The New York Times

[4]       Boston Globe Editorial, 9/29/12, “As super PACs link arms, mega-donors’ clout increases,” The Boston Globe