BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Our democracy is now probably better described as one dollar, one vote than one person, one vote. We have a tax system that reflects not the interest of the middle. We have a tax system that reflects the interest of the one percent.

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BILL MOYERS: Welcome. Avoiding taxes has become a hallmark of America’s business icons; Apple, Google, GE, and many more of the Fortune 500. The nation’s largest corporations are sitting on more than $2 trillion in cash while revenue from corporate income taxes have plummeted from just below 40 percent in 1943 to just below 10 percent in 2012. Government and big business have colluded to create what’s tantamount to an “unlimited IRA” for corporations.

That’s not my term, although I wish I had thought of it, because it explains so much about what’s gone wrong in a country where some 20 million workers who would like a full-time job still can’t get one. Yet the upper one percent of the population takes home a staggering 22.5 percent of America’s income while their effective federal income tax rate has dropped.

No, the phrase was coined by Joseph Stiglitz, a man eminently worth quoting, a Nobel Prize winner and one of the world’s most influential economists.

Currently he’s president of the International Economic Association. Former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Bill Clinton, and the author of best-selling books that have shaped worldwide debates on globalization, income inequality, and the role of government in the financial marketplace. Now he’s written one of his shortest but most important works: this white paper, published by the Roosevelt Institute where Joseph Stiglitz is a senior fellow. It’s a mere 27 pages, but in clear and cogent prose, backed up by facts and figures, it lays out a plan that not only would reform our taxes but create jobs and strengthen the economy. I’ve asked him here to tell us about it. Welcome.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Nice to be here.

BILL MOYERS: You argue that elimination of corporate welfare, or at least its reduction, should be at the center of tax reform. Why?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well, let me put it in a broader context. Our country needs, faces a lot of challenges. We, as you mentioned, 20 million Americans would like a full-time job and can't get one. We have growing inequality. We have environmental problems that threaten the future of our planet. I think we can use our tax system to create a better society, to be an expression of our true values. But if people don't think that their tax system is fair, they're not going to want to contribute. It's going to be difficult to get them to pay. And, unfortunately, right now, our tax system is neither fair nor efficient. Look at the tax rate paid by that one percent. It's much lower than the tax rate paid by somebody whose income is lower who works hard for a living, as a percentage of their income.

You know, Warren Buffet put it very, you know, why should he pay a lower tax rate on his reported income than his secretary? And the interesting thing that he didn't emphasize was most of his income is in the form of unrealized capital gains.

BILL MOYERS: Unrealized capital gains are not taxed as long as the owner keeps them, right, doesn't get rid of them?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: That’s right. And what's even worse, if you're a corporation and you even realize the capital gains but you're abroad, you don't bring the money back home, there's still no taxes.

As long as they don't bring the money back here, it accumulates, it grows and grows and grows, and they get wealthier. But it's even worse than that. Because it means that they have an incentive to keep their money abroad.

And what does that mean? They have an incentive to create jobs abroad. And with our trade agreements, they can take the goods that are produced abroad with this tax-free money, bring it back in the United States, basically making it unfair competition with the goods produced by Americans.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah. There are several startling statements in your report. This is one of them: “our current tax system encourages multinationals to invest abroad.” And create jobs abroad, as you just said. And yet, these are people who defend their practices by saying, we are the job creators, we're the job producers. And yet, you say they have an incentive to send jobs abroad.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: The whole discussion of who are the job creators, I think, has been misplaced. You know, what really creates jobs is demand--

BILL MOYERS: I spend my money to buy things.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Exactly. Americans of all income groups are entrepreneurial. You got people across our income distribution who, when there's a demand, respond to that demand. But if there's no demand, there won't be jobs. Now, the problem is that the people in the one percent have so much money that they can't spend it all. The people at the bottom are spending all of their income and hardly getting by. In fact, a very large fraction of those in the bottom 80 percent are spending more than their income. And it's part of the instability of our economy. So, the point is this inequality contribute, to which our tax system contributes actually weakens our demand.

And that's one of the main messages of my report, which is if we had a more progressive tax system, we could get a more efficient economy. Because there would be more jobs being created.

BILL MOYERS: So, these 20 million people I referred to, and you referred to in your report, who are looking for full-time work but can't find it, if they had that work, they'd be spending their money. They're not going to send it to the Cayman Islands, right. JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Exactly. And they're going to be paying taxes. Because they don't have the opportunities for tax avoidance that the people who have the Cayman Islands and can use these unlimited IRAs and other ways of tax avoidance. You know, they don't keep the money in the Cayman Islands because the sunshine makes the money grow better. They put their money there because the lack of sunshine, the way of tax avoidance--

BILL MOYERS: Dark money, money in the shadows, money now going into our political process, as you know so well, to reinforce this tax code.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: That's right. Reinforce the tax code, which has led America to be the country with the highest level of inequality of any of the advanced countries.

BILL MOYERS: Give us a working definition for the laity of corporate welfare.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well, this was an idea that I began talking about when I was serving as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers--

BILL MOYERS: Twenty years ago.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: --twenty years ago. And everybody was talking about how much money you were giving to the poor people. It wasn't, if you actually looked at the amount of money, it wasn't that much. But we said, well, you're also giving away a lot of money to rich corporations, directly and indirectly. Most of the indirect way is through the tax system. So, for instance, if you give special tax provisions for oil companies, so they don't pay the full share of taxes that they ought to be paying, that's a welfare benefit.

Lots of other provisions in our, hidden in our tax code basically help one industry or another, that can't be justified in any economic terms. And, so, that's where we coined the term "corporate welfare." It's caught on. And because it says it's a subsidy, but not a subsidy, help going to a poor person, which is where welfare ought to be going, but going to the richest Americans, going to our rich corporations.

BILL MOYERS: So, we have a tax code that encourages people to-- encourages companies to send their profits abroad, to send jobs abroad, and to reward owners of their company whose money may not come back to the United States?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: It doesn't make any sense, you might say. And the fact it doesn't, you know, one of the reasons I wrote the paper was, you know, there's a lot discussion going on about we have a budget of deficit. And we have to slash this, and slash that, and cut back education, and cut back research, things that will make our economy stronger, cut back infrastructure.

And I think that's counterproductive. It's weakening our economy. But the point I make in this paper is it would be easy for us to raise the requisite revenue. This is not a problem. This is not as if it's going to oppress our economy. We could actually raise the money and make our economy stronger. For instance, we're talking about the taxation of capital. If we just tax capital in the same way we tax ordinary Americans, people who work for a job, who pay taxes we pay on wages.

If we eliminate the special provisions of capital gains, if we eliminated the special provisions for dividends we could get, over the next ten years, over, you know, approximately $2 trillion. And those are numbers according to the CBO. And so, we're talking about lots of money.

BILL MOYERS: The figures make sense to me. But the politics doesn't. Because these are the people, once again, who dominate our system with their contributions to the politicians who then have no interest in changing a system that rewards their donors.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: We have this vicious cycle where economic inequality gets translated into political inequality. It gets translated into rules of the game that lead to more economic inequality, and which allow that economic inequality to get translated into evermore political inequality. So, my view, you know, the only way we're going to break into this viscous cycle is if people come to understand that there is an alternative system out here.

That there is an alternative way of raising taxes, that we are not really faced with a budget crisis. It's a manmade crisis. You know, when we had the government shutdown, we realized that that was a political crisis. That wasn't an economic crisis. And the same thing about our budget crisis, you know. It's not that we couldn't raise the revenues in a way which actually could make our economy stronger. We can.

If we just had a fair tax system, to tax capital at the same rate that we tax ordinary individuals, if we just made those people in that upper 1 percent pay their fair share of the taxes they got 22.5 percent of the income, well, let's make sure that they pay a commensurate part of our income tax, if we had taxes that would be designed to improve our environment.

BILL MOYERS: You mean by taxing pollution?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Taxing pollution.

BILL MOYERS: Carbon emissions.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: A general principle that we've known for a long time, a lot better to tax bad things than good things. Rather than tax people who work, let's shift some of that burden into things that are bad, like pollution.

BILL MOYERS: You make it sound so easy. And I'm still hung up on your saying, you know, it would be easy to do these things. And yet, if they were easy, why haven't we done them?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well, that’s the politics. The fact is that we have a political process that I won't say is broken, but is certainly not functioning the way we think a democracy is supposed to function, you know. In democracy, supposed to be one person, one vote. And there's a well-developed theory about what does that imply for the outcome of a political process?

We talk about it, called the median voter. It should reflect the middle, you know. Some people want more spending. Some people want less spending. Some people, you know, so the nature of democracy is compromise. And it's supposed to be compromise sort of in the middle. But that's not we have today in the United States. We have a tax system that reflects not the interest of the middle. We have a tax system that reflects the interest of the one percent.

BILL MOYERS: Let me cite some examples of the biggest tax dodgers. These come from the organization, Americans for Tax Fairness. Citigroup had $42.6 billion in profits offshore in 2012 on which it paid no U.S. taxes. Exxon Mobil had $43 billion in profits offshore in 2012 on which it paid no U.S. taxes. General Electric made $88 billion from 2002 to 2012 and paid just 2.4 percent in taxes for a tax subsidy of $29 billion, I could go on. Pfizer, Honeywell, Verizon, FedEx, Apple. What goes through your mind when you hear these figures?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well, so, many things go through my mind. But, you know, one of the things is how unfair this is, and how angry Americans ought to be about this. I also think of the ethics of the question. If I were a CEO, take of a company like Apple, use the ingenuity of America, based on the internet. Internet was created, in large measure, by government--


JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: --by government spending. They're willing to take but not to give back. So, there's really a whole set of problems that concern it, ethics, equity, fairness, resource allocations. What they don't seem to understand is our society can't function if these large corporations don't make their fair share of contributions.

BILL MOYERS: Aren't they likely to say, though, in response, well we do this because the law permits it. This is what the system incentivizes.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well the law does permit it. They use their lobbyists to make sure that the law gives them the scope to avoid taxes. So, this argument, oh, we're only doing what the law allows, is disingenuous. The fact is they created, their lobbyists, their lobbying helped create this law that allows them to escape taxes, pushing the burden of taxation on ordinary Americans.

BILL MOYERS: So, that's the big impact on people, right. They-- somebody has to make up the difference between--

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Somebody has to make up the difference. I mean, we can't survive as a society without roads, infrastructure, education, police, firemen. Somebody's going to have to pay these costs.

BILL MOYERS: Summarizing what you say in here about your proposal, raise the corporate tax rate, but provide generous tax credits for corporations that invest in the U.S. and create jobs here. Eliminate the loopholes that distort the economy, increase taxes on corporations, the profits of which are associated with externalities such as pollution, reduce the bias toward leverage by making dividend payments tax deductible, but imposing a withholding tax. I mean, these seem so common-sensical that a journalist can understand them. But they don't get into the debate.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Yeah, well, I hope this paper will help move that along. You notice when you were listing them that these are very much based on incentives. As I said--

BILL MOYERS: Your plan is based on incentives?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: On incentives that we've created a tax system that has an incentive to move jobs abroad. And what I want to do is create a tax system that has incentives to create jobs. And if you tell a corporation, look it, if you don't create jobs, you're taking out of our system, you're not putting anything back, you're going to pay a high tax.

But if you put back into our system by investing, then you can get your tax rate down. That seems to me, common sense, particularly in a time like today, when 20 million Americans need a job. When we have so much inequality and this unemployment is contributing to that inequality.

You know, in this, the first three years of the so-called recovery, between 2009 and 2012, 95 percent of all the gains went to the upper 1 percent. So, the American workers are not participating. And the reason they're not participating is there's just not enough job creation here at home. And, so, this is a way of trying to incentivize all these corporations who are sitting on all this money abroad to start using some of their huge resources, some of all those benefits that we've given them, for the benefit of the American people.

BILL MOYERS: You move in circles where you come into contact with the CEOs of these companies, many of whom are deficit hawks, you know. They keep, they’re on committees. They keep testifying in Washington. They call for deficit reduction. What do they say when you make this argument to them face to face, as you're making it to me?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Most of them are not economists. And most of them are concerned with their corporation's own bottom line and with their own salary. So, we've created a corporate system in the United States where the CEOs' pay is related to the shareholder value. The shareholder value is related to how little taxes they pay. Because if they get the taxes down, profits look high and people will pay more for their shares.

So, when they're making an argument for, let's lower the corporate income tax, let's lower taxes that I have to pay, let's expand corporate loopholes, they don't use those words. But what they're really saying is, pay me more, because if I succeed in getting Congress to do that, my pay goes up, not because I've worked harder.

I haven't invented something new. I haven't made my customers happier. I made my company more valuable by succeeding in getting provisions that allow my company to avoid taxes. And then, my shareholder value goes up, and my salary goes up.

BILL MOYERS: My conversation with Joseph Stiglitz will continue next week.

As if to prove a point, the U.S. House of Representatives, functioning these days as a legislative bordello for corporate America, is moving to extend and make permanent six separate tax cuts for big business. The whole package would come at a cost of $310 billion, virtually wiping out all the deficit reduction from last year. One of those tax credits, for research and development, already has been approved, at a cost over the next ten years of $156 billion. That’s 15 times as much as it would cost to extend unemployment benefits.

Did House Republicans offer to renew help for people out of work? Nope. They’re deficit hawks, and they said there’s no money to pay for it. Of course they could just ask their corporate friends to give the tax breaks back. But that would be asking too much, especially on the eve of the fall Congressional elections when secret or dark money from you-know-who will flow into you-know-whose campaigns like….well, like champagne on the company jet.

Yet another reminder that you need not impose fraud on people by stealth if you can succeed by law.

Next week, more on politics, taxes, and inequality with Joseph Stiglitz.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: We already have a tax system that has contributed to making America the most unequal society of the advanced countries. That doesn’t have to be. We can have a tax system that can help create a fairer society— only ask the people at the top to pay their fair share.

BILL MOYERS: At our website,, we’ll link you to Joe Stiglitz’s white paper for the Roosevelt Institute. You’ll also find a list there of ten corporate tax dodgers whose names and brands we bet you’ll recognize.

That’s at I’ll see you there and I’ll see you here, next time

Joseph E. Stiglitz Calls for Fair Taxes for All

May 30, 2014

A new report by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz for the Roosevelt Institute suggests that paying our fair share of taxes and cracking down on corporate tax dodgers could be a cure for inequality and a faltering economy.

This week on Moyers & Company, Stiglitz tells Bill that Apple, Google, GE and a host of other Fortune 500 companies are creating what amounts to “an unlimited IRA for corporations.” The result? Vast amounts of lost revenue for our treasury and the exporting of much-needed jobs to other countries.

“I think we can use our tax system to create a better society, to be an expression of our true values.” Stiglitz says. “But if people don’t think that their tax system is fair, they’re not going to want to contribute. It’s going to be difficult to get them to pay. And, unfortunately, right now, our tax system is neither fair nor efficient.”

Watch part two of Bill’s interview with Stiglitz »

Producer: Candace White. Segment Producer: Robert Booth. Editor: Rob Kuhns. Outro Producer: Lena Shemel. Outro Editor: Sikay Tang.

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  • GDub

    What’s missing from this story, and most stories like it-
    Who in congress is proposing legislation to make these changes?
    Name names, promote the individuals actually doing something for us-

    Just as important-What individuals ( or party) are opposed or obstructing efforts to make these changes-

    Start calling them out- The American people don’t pay enough attention, and will not figure that out without significant media attention, pulling back ther curtain and letting us see who really is responsible.
    I guarantee Fox is doing everything possible to muddy the issue, and leave people throwing their hands up and blaming ” both sides” for our problems.

  • Anonymous

    We need a Stiglitz Tax Code. We know there are problems, we need a specific bill that the people can demand to get passed.

  • Nancy Freeman

    What continues to baffle me is why haven’t the corp bosses figured out that if they created more and better-paying jobs here, there would be more people with money buying their products and services!

  • Anonymous

    Corporate tax-dodging not only undermines the economy and treasury, it sets a bad example, as does reneging on campaign promises or lying by so-called leaders. The former encourages a rationale for hiding income, the latter for non-participation in the democratic process. Dishonesty and unfairness at the top is trickle-down, creating a cynical, selfish, dysfunctional society. If a parent lies or cheats, it is more likely their kids will follow their example.

  • Anne Kurt

    In my opinion, some of the biggest Tax Dodgers are the Religious-Faith Based Organizations and their Non-Profits – as well Political Donors and their Non-Profits. Why do we not take them to task on the Bill Moyers Journal? Let’s do it!!

  • Anonymous

    Well, to be completely truthful, a fair amount of those regressively taxed corporate profits that are sloshing around corporate treasure chests today has been or will be loaned to the government in lieu of paying equitable tax rates on their earnings. Such a deal, the corporations get interest on that money they loan to the government, interest that comes out of tax payer’s pockets, and then they will get the loan principle back at the end of the loan. Sweet deal, beyond the occasional refund have you ever received any of your Tax Dollars back from the government with interest ?

  • NotARedneck

    Two peas from the same right wing pod.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed that this is a troubling element of our system of government. Those who receive special financial dispensation from the government put an increased financial burden on the rest of the population that may be unable to absorb the additional financial responsibility. In addition, this special dispensation given to faith based organizations only intensifies the argument that the Constitution disallows the government’s direct support or involvement with any specific religious belief or organization. Most Americans support ongoing charitable efforts giving assistance to the less fortunate but generally rebel at government sanctioning a specific private group or organization to oversee that effort. Like I said, a troubling element of our system of government !

  • Anne Kurt

    The church member gives income earned taxed “contributions”, to the Religious Organization..
    The R O then uses the money to avoid paying any kind on tax on any purchases, due to the fact they have a non-profit status #.
    The funds pay for salaries, homes, cars, travel, conferences, land, the buildings, etc, etc (check out what is allowed tax free by religious organizations). The mainline religions have offices and lobbyist housed in the same government buildings as Congressmen, Senators ……who is paying for that office space-lobbying?

  • Anonymous

    ALL THIS demonstrates that the tax system needs an OVERHAUL rather than an a mere revision.

  • Pierre Demers

    All the talk about the inequality of income is directed at the corporations and all their shenanigans to avoid taxes; however, the economy is not so much about investment, capital, dividends, or who is paying taxes, the economy is controlled by consumer spending. Consumer spending has been devastated not by big corporate profits but from the multi-million dollar salaries, stipends, bonuses, etc.which add to the cost of everything that the consumer buys. The economy needs investments to provide the goods, but the economy exist on consumption, not investments. The need for a sustained market is absolutely necessary, and no one is touching the real problem. It is not all very high income that is causing the economic problem; it is multi-million dollar salaries which 1; adds proportionally to the cost of all goods, 2; reduces the demand for goods which reduces employment, 3; reduces the ability of the employer to pay his workers who add the value to the product, and 4; like Joseph Stillitz said, their huge income that they don’t spend goes into the bank without being recirculated. And from the GDP numbers, the very rich can’t collect more than the 8% to 10% corporate profits which are distributed not only to the very rich but to every investor. 1 1/2 million people share in $25 trillion of salary or about $1.7 million each in salary, not investment income, of which 1/3 is banked or $8 trillion of our economy is dormant. And Joseph is correct in stating that our tax system needs to be corrected, but taxing only ultra high personal salaries would correct the consumer market which is where the economy belongs. The people must hear this but all they are hearing are comments about corporate misbehavior.

  • JJ042804

    Most of the Jobs are gone Overseas to cheaper Labor cost. Corporations and Banks don’t care about us. They live in their own little World of opulence and luxury. They created Laws through ALEC that only benefits them and makes life harder for the rest of us. A healthy Economy is driven by Consumer spending, but considering that spending is a dirty word in the US, the Economy bound to be weakened. Everyone in the US talks about saving Money and “we don’t need this”, or “we don’t need that”. People made a sport of living with the bare minimum. Of course Businesses and Corporations made up for what they don’t earn by shedding Jobs. That is just part of what we are dealing with, now Corporations figure that they can do just as well without us and they hit us hard where it hurts.

  • Anonymous

    My question is…..other than the fact that Mr. Stiglitz worked for President Clinton (which means he’s a Democrat), why isn’t the average voter – whether R or D – interested in tax reform? Middle class Americans are ALL harmed by corporations not being fully taxed and hiding their money off-shore. This is not a R or D issue – it is a fairness issue. How can this information be addressed to ALL Americans so they can demand equity?

    It’s like climate change, in my opinion. A problem that affects us all and will seriously affect future generations, but the Republican Party has made it a political issue, and has confused millions of voters. I read a comment yesterday on the NYT by a republican voter who said he/she can’t wait for the mid-term elections when “We” will regain control of the Congress. I assume he/she is a middle class citizen. Just how will a Republican congress help the average American? Will they push for tax reform? Will they push for lowering CO2 emissions?

  • JJ042804

    Republicans wont vote for any Tax Reform unless it means eliminating Taxes completely, (at least for the 1%. They also wont even admit to man-made Climate Change and CO2 emmissions, because it would put their Benefactors Profits in question and with that, their Campaign contribution would fade.

  • PublicAdvocate

    Under the current political establishment taxes are just a distraction. What working man or woman does not understand the unfairness? There is nothing to be done until the republic is revitalized with truly principled political representatives who understand and value democracy.

    Until then, howling at the Moon helps to assuage the frustration.

  • Invictus Corruptus

    Why the average American isn’t enraged over this is beyond me. Most are uninformed, brainwashed by decades of pro business propaganda and the demonizing of those in or near poverty who rely on social welfare just to survive.

    I get so tired of hearing those who say we can’t raise taxes on the job creators. For one, these alleged job creators have enjoyed tax cuts for over a decade and the majority of jobs they created were created overseas at our expense.

    Shouldn’t the working class also be considered job creators? Without our labor there wouldn’t be any products to sell. The working class through their labor create jobs directly and indirectly.

    It is morally wrong for capital gains and dividend taxes along with carried interest to be lower then the taxes ones pays for their physical labor. I once read a quote years ago which has turned out to be 100% correct.

    “When the wages of a nations money handlers is more than that of the farmer, the common laborer, the factory worker, that nations economy is doomed to fail.” ~ author unknown

  • Anonymous

    Yet another troubling aspect is their direct
    financial involvement in local, state, and national political campaigns, often
    using the gains from member’s contributions, and from their special tax status,
    to fund the campaigns of individuals and groups that promote the passage of oppressive
    faith based legislation. I doubt that every member of a church, and every tax
    payer who has to pay additional taxes to subsidize the non-profit status of
    religious institutions, would approve of their financial contributions being
    used to promote a private political agenda. The system is now rapidly collapsing
    under the weight of all the toxic special interest money in our political
    system, this is a good place to start by eliminating these embedded tax
    subsidies to various special interests groups !

  • Anne Kurt

    I doubt that the majority of church members who ‘Tithe”, even know,
    question, consider, are interested in how their money is used, except for the ‘fact’ that it is ‘one’
    sure entrance to Heaven – and quiets the conscience to the realities of reality. The falsity of the second amendment – as giving every american the ‘right’ to ‘bear arms’, as many as they want, and to kill whoever looks ‘suspicious’. We could go on and on and on about the discrepancies of human error and thought. In addition,these are only our truths for today and we can change our perceptions tomorrow?
    A truth – 2% of Tx voters, voted in yesterdays elections. Those 2% voted in all tea party candidates. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, eh?

  • Pierre Demers

    You don’t get the point. All of the stuff you talk about is real and hurts the distribution of money; but the economy is the flow of money and high salaries interrupts that flow.

  • Edward98

    And yet we think we are so damn smart. We obviously aren’t, but you can’t tell us that.

  • Calm CalmCalm

    In 1980, the U.S. Capitalists recognized that by the year 2000, 10 thousand Baby Boomers (those born after 1948) would begin lining up each and every day to collect 20 thousand dollars per year in Social Security and other medical benefits or promises made to the Working Class (75 million Americans) since the end of World War II.
    The U.S. Capitalists set out to abandon the North American Continent and to abandon or walk away from every promise.
    International Free Trade Agreements gave the U.S. Capitalists the unfettered ability to move all wealth and assets offshore and thus out of reach to any citizen who might wish to seize in lieu of broken promises.
    When I view folks like Stigltiz, I want to scream …. “It is too late”. The Capitalist’s have had a 25 or 30 year head start. There is no more “Wealth” in North America. Wealthy people live in North America, but their assets are offshore. And the Capitalists have no intention of returning any wealth or assets until after all the Baby Boomers have died off.
    When I hear folks like Stiglitiz, I laugh aloud because what he is talking about is “Reforming A Bankrupt System” and that is impossible.
    President Barack Obama is not attempting to “Reform” the system, he is simply “Managing” the bankruptcy.
    The domestic surveillance is all about “Managing” civil unrest as the bankruptcy continues.

  • NotARedneck

    It is easier to sell a racist version of our problems to most Americans and our corrupt, right wing politicians know this. It keeps them getting re-elected.

    The typical “discussion” about the economy revolves around the same old talking points – “blacks are lazy, illegal immigrants are voting to get more welfare, intelligent, well educated people are the elite, we don’t have enough fundamentalist religion in our lives, etc. etc.”

    All this is pure Madison Avenue BS, promoted by a well oiled right wing political apparatus that lavishly funds about 200,000 politicians, lobbyists, back room operators, think tanks and “charitable” foundations. You’ll never be poor if you can effectively support and promote the new fascism.

  • Tony Cohen

    Bill..stop being so kind to Stiglitz..what’s the risk of pushing him closer to your (our) limits?

  • NotARedneck


  • Jack

    Stieglitz tells the truth …….(to sell books and get attention). I just wish he done a better job of advising Clinton on some of these points. Clinton did more for the wealthy and free trade for corporations then the grand old party did. Why???
    Also, I have No middle East blood in me, but can anyone tell my why Iraq was not split up into 3 countries? Kurds are the largest group without their own country. The seeds of future civil have been planted by us, and I am ashamed of our piss poor leadership. I feel like telling people I am Canadian.

  • Anonymous

    The tragedy of this generation is that the only inequality recognized is the gap between the better off (those who are able to work and who still have jobs) and the rich. Out here in the real world, not everyone is able to work, due to health or circumstances, and we simply don’t have jobs for all who urgently need one. We shipped out a huge portion of our working class jobs since the 1980s, and ended welfare aid in the 1990s, yet the poor are weirdly excluded from the “inequality” discussion.

  • Anonymous

    Yes. And because the “masses,” the poor and middle class, workers and the jobless, have been so deeply divided, pitted against each other, there is no way that this generation can push back (unlike similar eras in the past). The middle class does welcome the poor to “stand in solidarity” to protect the middle class — but don’t expect a crumb to trickle down.

  • Anonymous

    Agree, but what social welfare? The last welfare check was issued in 1996. (TANF is a marginally-subsidized, short-term job program exclusively for those with minor children.) This generation did, indeed, simply dump our surplus population — the unemployable and those for whom there are no jobs. Because the primary causes of today’s poverty crisis are policies enacted and embraced by the Democrats (mainly, NAFTA and welfare “reform”), liberals have ignored the horrendous consequences.

  • Anonymous

    What is the fair response to those who can’t work, due to health or circumstances, and those for whom there are no jobs? The US shipped out a huge chunk of our working class jobs since the 1980s, then ended welfare aid in the 1990s (TANF is a marginally-subsidized job program, only for those with minor children.) Many low-wage workers are a single job loss from losing everything. You can’t get a job without a home address, phone, bus fare. Even our “bold progressives” have lacked the courage to address this.

  • Anonymous

    Because a growing chunk of the population is too poor to owe taxes? I know, right wingers rail with resentment against the low-income/poor who don’t owe taxes, not quite grasping the concept that people can’t be taxed on what they don’t have. On another point you make: Are middle classers still the majority? The middle class, by definition, has been getting phased out for years.

  • Anonymous

    These are complex issues for a culture that has post-length discussions. Currently, we are engaged in a false “inequality” discussion, since it utterly disregards the gap between the masses of jobless poor and those who are fortunate enough to still have jobs.

  • Anonymous

    Although we have been increasing our share of third world labor right here in the US, via prison labor, workfare replacement labor (note the word, “replacement”), etc.

  • Phillip Roger Loyd

    Mr. Stiglitz,
    Please stop saying, “it’s easy.” It is SIMPLE, but it is not at all easy, and may be impossible. I’ll keep hoping for a leader who can activate the voters to make the essential fundamental changes without major violence.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve yet to see a report about the impact of ending our former welfare aid programs. Every penny that went into welfare checks was promptly rolled into local economies via the purchases of essential consumer goods every month. (It also provided the stability that enabled roughly 80% of recipients to quit welfare for jobs within a reasonably short time.) That was ended.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe Jesus wouldn’t cut food stamps, but Democrats do, with the support of the middle class. With the latest budget, Dems voted with Republicans to cut food stamps to the elderly, disabled and working poor. Again.

  • Anonymous

    Every church provides their financial information (i.e., how contributions, etc., are used) to their congregations.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think that describes the majority of those who give money to their churches, etc.

  • Anonymous

    It has helped finance the incredible international expansion of US corporations while shutting down jobs here (working ultimately to turn Americans into a nation-wide workfare labor force — min. wage or less, NO workers’ rights).

  • Anonymous

    They no longer need to rely on US customers. They’ve steadily been increasing their reliance on consumers in other nations. I think the long-range plan is to turn most of America into a convenient third world workforce, producing goods to be sold to consumers in the more successful nations.

  • Anonymous

    Congress has their own agenda, and this has very little to do with We the People.

  • Anonymous

    No, racism makes most Americans very uncomfortable. What does sell is our class war, and almost, if framed in terms of “getting tough on the poor,” will be embraced by the middle class. This is the one segment of society we can still openly berate, lie about, scapegoat.

  • Anne Kurt

    Is continues to be my personal opinion that the biggest Tax Payer evaders are religious organizations-the church-and their non-profits. Amen

  • Calm CalmCalm

    Hi! DHFabian:

    I was born in 1948, and during my working career I was told not to be too greedy and to accept “Promises” rather than an increase in hourly wages. I was told that in my retirement, the shareholders would not abandon me with dog food as breakfast. I was told that the “Promises” were “Guaranteed”. I was told that the Unionism demands which required that these “Promises” be made in written contract like a credit note was an act of greed and mistrust.

    Rather than my demanding an increase in salary which I might save for my retirement years, I trusted the Capitalists to honor the promises made.

    I watched it all happen in real time.

    It was Ray-Gun and Oprah Winfrey who took to the airwaves and began to tell everyone that it did not take a village but rather a pillage instead. Oprah began telling us all that being poor was our fault and talked endlessly about self-help groups and “Personal Responsibility” because we were all on our own.

    At a time when government needed to hire additional employees just to handle the paperwork for the applications and benefits due to an influx 75 million seniors entering retirement, we were told that Big-Government was the problem.
    The Corporate leaders guide their compensation packages with reference to the M-1 money supply and not inflation like the Ordinary Joe does. The more money being printed, the higher the compensation required to pay the CEO just to keep up with “Real” inflation.
    What insults me the very most is that not only did the U.S. Capitalists abandon the North American Continent and move their wealth offshore, but while doing so they bankrupted governments with tax complaints, evasions and tax-break propaganda.

  • Rostale

    Due to marginal propensity to consume, dollars going to the poor are much more likely to go back into the economy and create jobs than tax cuts to the rich. If you give the money to the rich, there is no need for them to create more jobs, they already have the money.

  • Rostale

    Actually, the church I used to go to had monthly church business meetings that laid out exactly how much was spent on everything. Which didn’t include anything for political contributions by the way.

    Do you even know how much money is contributed by religious organizations compared to corporations? It is not money that these organizations primarily offer, it is voters. I disagree with faith based legislation, but what you suggest would just worsen the problem, the more Christians feel under attack; and I am not addressing whether they are justified in thinking this, the perception is what matters, the closer they will be tied to politicians who wish to use them for their political support.

  • Rostale

    What part of non-profit do you not understand?

  • CASSE3

    Great idea to tax the “bads” not the “goods” to reduce inequality and prevent environmental degradation, HOWEVER, the Stiglitz tax policy still aims to grow the economy. Any policy that strives for “long term sustainable and equitable economic growth” does not recognize the that we live on a finite planet and that it is not possible for the economy to grow forever. The right macro-economic policy goal would be a steady state economy.

  • Anne Kurt

    Rostale, The Major Religions ALL have offices in the Senate in Washington AND lobbyist, lobbying for their cause. What you heard was the monthly cost for the church, not the cost for the minister’s car, house, travel, clothes, clerical garb, expense account,etc,etc,etc. Do some serious research.

  • TBone

    I really like the idea’s this guy has. I have been stating this for the past year and a half. I hope this issue gains momentum and becomes an issue in the upcoming elections.

  • Pierre Demers

    All welfare payments are spent on goods and services only once and 25% of that money goes to pay those very high incomes which go into the bank, useless. IT IS ULTRA-HIGH SALARIES that must end. Yes, the salaries of the CEO’s and all those pro ball players, TV personalities, promoters who don’t ad anything in value to the economy. We need to shift the flow of money that is in the wage pool in the hands of the workers who really add value to the economy.If there was real competition, businesses could not waste their money on paying high salaries to people who don’t add value to the product.

  • Pierre Demers

    I know people who do?

  • NotARedneck

    Many racists don’t even realize that they are being racist. When I hear someone complain about illegal immigrants voting to ensure that they get more welfare (absolute idiocy) what they are really saying is: “those Latinos are not only stealing our jobs but our elections too. Reasonable people vote right wing, like me, because it is good for the country” (actually good for the privileged 1% of whites).

    The fact that 99% of recent immigrants from Latin America are either black or primarily Amer-Indian makes this a popular viewpoint among white right wing racists. The proof is that the <1% who are white and good looking (especially females) have no problem being accepted and often prosper or marry into prosperity. Their accent is considered a novelty rather than a source of derision.

    There is a similar situation with issues related to African Americans. Americans mostly fear race, not racism.

  • NotARedneck

    35 to 40 years ago, the wealthy feared losing their wealth, particularly their investments in productive capacity. Along came Reagan and they were handed a change that allowed them to exploit workers while they were able to gradually extract their plant and equipment to the third world or just fully depreciate it.

    Instead of having a tax code that gave incentives for real investment and taxed those who didn’t reinvest quite highly, there was a seismic shift towards speculation and financial manipulation.

    The question that few have asked is why would anyone invest when they can make easy, almost guaranteed return on speculation? Besides, the wealthy have the advisers and wherewithal to insure that they are in to these opportunities early and get out with little tax paid, before the crash wipes out the savings of the middle class. Additionally, there is almost no legal risk for those involved in financial fraud.

    The US middle class has been in a downward spiral ever since, while the millionaires became billionaires.

  • NotARedneck

    Do those attending these right wing, fundamentalist churches realize that the pastor could be earning $2 million or more a year? Probably hidden in payments to various dummy corporations for “services” to the church.

  • Pierre Demers

    It continues. The discussion about the inequality is all about getting the rich to redistribute their wealth,and to stop finagling to get favored treatment.
    The health of the economy is not wealth.
    The economy is people exchanging services and that is bog down because the employers continue to distribute the value produced and delivered by the workers to people who don’t add real value so that the exchanges can continue to happen. When the employer takes the value that the worker produces and give it to someone does n’t add value and who will holds on to it for a long time, the exchange cycle is interrupted and the worker doesn’t have anything to do until that value is returned in the cycle. That is what these multi-million dollar salaries is doing.and stopping these salaries from being paid will allow the economic cycle to return its normal pace.
    What is happening in the financial circles has to do with investment certificates which have value, and whoever owns them can collect whatever profits they earn. That is where the extra money that the high salaried people have goes There is so much buying of stocks that the P/E ratios are going through the roof. That means that the returns per dollar invested will drop because the earnings are shared with more and more people.

  • Graham Quigley

    I’m so glad you did a piece on this! What a joke, all this talk about a financial crisis and no talk about how these wealthy companies pay NO taxes. Makes me sick. So sad…

  • Nancy Freeman

    I fear that what you say is true. Sad but true… Thanks for the different perspective.

  • Anonymous

    Obama and the Dems had one-party rule in DC during 2009/2010. They didn’t change this, they didn’t fix anything.

    Candidate Obama solemnly vowed to close offshore tax havens, then he appointed the CEOs of some of the worst offenders to his tech advisory board.

    The Democrats get far more campaign donations from Wall Street and the big corporate tax evaders than Republicans. They didn’t change or fix this when they had the ability and opportunity to do so. Not one Wall Street crook was convicted by the Obama Justice Dept, not one Wall Street crook is under investigation by the Obama Justice Dept today.

    This is more empty rhetoric from the left, designed to dupe the low-information crowd that thinks Republicans run Washington.

  • Anonymous

    “If we had a more progressive tax system…”


    The wealthy pay a larger share of the US tax burden than the wealthy pay in ANY OTHER developed country.

  • Anonymous

    “If we just had a fair tax system, if we just made those people in that upper 1% pay their fair share of taxes… They get 22.5% of the income, let’s make sure they pay a commensurate part of our income tax.”

    UMMM, they collect 22.5% of the income and pay 35.06% of the income taxes.

    The bottom 90% of taxpayers pay 31.74% of income taxes, LESS than the top 1% pays.

  • Jack

    Does not sound progressive to me.

  • ccaffrey

    You know of course that we, the people, could fix this “bought and paid for” argument within a decade if we had the will. People of both parties could REFUSE to support any candidate that does NOT support amending the Constitution to provide for public funding of campaigns or STRICT individual contribution limits AND amend the Constitution to say that Corporations are NOT PEOPLE. Then get those things passed through Constitutional Amendment I think we either like having someone to blame, or we’re just not motivated enough in having a democracy. Elections right now are just another sporting event. Oh, and add in one more provision to help close the revolving door.of people moving from lobbyist to legislator to lobbyist (or to a high paying job in any industry where they had positions of oversight when an elected official). It’s a start.

  • ccaffrey

    There’s a point that Joseph Stiglitz brings up fairly early in this talk regarging trade agreements that I don’t think he gave enough attention to. He states that these corporations that have moved their money overseas to avoid taxes can then set up subsidiaries that hire overseas workers and, under trade agreements, sell products that compete with American made ones. It’s worse than that and something I’ve come to fear greatly the more I study what little has been leaked from the ongoing trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership or the European one known as TAFTA. Under those proposed agreements (and others already in existence) foreign corporations can SUE other governments (or units of government) for current or proposed laws or regulations that they deem to threaten future profits!! Not kidding!! Tobacco companies have been suing nations around the world for things like package warnings or product placement regulations! Some have been awarded HUGE judgments against poor countries roped into these agreements. These cases are not heard in some international court of law, but by special “tribunals” made up of a rotating slate of corporate attorneys! These same attorneys, when not serving as a judge may, on another day, be representing a corporate client in front of a similar group of attorneys! REALLY not kidding! I think these trade agreements are helping drive corporations to set up foreign subsidiaries. AS foreign companies, they could then sue the U.S. or any states or municipalities for everything from GMO labeling laws or bans, to labor standards!! You just see if we sign TAFTA if Monanto doesn’t sue European countries for GMO restrictions from HERE, and then sue US for them from their foreign subsidiaries!! One way to tell these trade agreements are bad for consumers is that groups like ALEC have never met a trade agreement they didn’t LOVE! And yes, the Dems have been as responsible as Republicans! I would really love to hear Mr. Stiglitz talk more about that!

  • D.B. Cooper

    Money doesn’t belong to the federal government.

  • Calm CalmCalm

    Hi! ccaffrey:

    About Free Trade …. I would like to detail a very real happening from the year 1992.

    The largest U.S. cereal maker had a manufacturing plant in Toronto Canada.

    NAFTA changed the import rules in Canada and where products containing flour and other grains (breakfast cereals) were no longer required to contain Canadian produce.

    I read the inter-office memo which detailed the plans for the company to leave Canada and it was written in stone. The American Capitalists set out to shut down and sell off all company assets in Canada and only needed to show that the cost of manufacturing the cereal in Canada was too high and not competitive in order to comply with NAFTA.

    Immediately; all top Canadian born executives were given promotions/transfers to Milwaukee and were replaced with American talent.

    In 1993, the union began to negotiate a new labor contract and the company deliberately took a very hard line on wage increases, but agreed to build an employee cafeteria, upgrade car parking areas and to invest millions into upgrading equipment already in place, and to introduce a new cereal baking formula or method which was quite revolutionary.

    The employees did not see it happening because they thought that no company would be investing so much into plant upgrades and especially new manufacturing equipment if they intended to leave.

    By spending milions on building upgrades and on plant equipment, the company was able to show that the cost of producing cereal in Canada as compared to the U.S. was quite prohibitive.

    Within 3 years the company was gone.

    All the upgrades and complete makeover made to plant facilities increased the actual value and made it easier the company to find a buyer.

    The new manufacturing equipment had only been bolted to the floor and were easily packed up and shipped to Milwaukee.

  • ccaffrey

    I am so very sorry to hear that! I suspect if more trade agreements go through the workers and the environment will suffer the most, if not through reduced pay/protections and sustainability, then through lawsuits by the corporations. I read a statement once from a Canadian businessman, Stephen Jarislowsky (sometimes compared to Warren Buffett here) that if countries would use wage equalization tariffs on imports, there might not be a race to the bottom on worker wages…and there’d be no advantage to paying dirt wages in the home country…might lift all boats. Instead, of course we get trade agreements that generally work only to the benefit of big corporations and hurt workers, small businesses, and economies. Mexico has suffered really badly too. The government took back public land that had been set aside for small family farms and leased/sold it too American agribusiness. The same President denationalized telecommunications in Mexico. The richest man in the world is now the guy who bought it and now owns all of Mexico’s phone service, which they pay really high rates for. Please know that there are a lot of Americans who are fighting these trade agreements AND the pipeline. All of us “folk” got to stick together! Again, sorry for your loss. I have a lot of union people in my family history. They’re all getting treated the same way.

  • Invictus Corruptus

    I’m not going to attempt to defend Obama or the democratic party as they are just puppets of Wall Street, banks and big business just like the Teapublicans are.

    I will say that the one party rule is kind of bs. You forget Al Franken’s seat in the senate was held up due to recounts and also the death of Ted Kennedy gave us a republican senator.

    I’m not surprised that no Wall Street crook was convicted under Obama. According to the ‘experts’ the Wall Street crooks didn’t break any laws which I find laughable. Remember Eric Holder in his previous career was a corporate lawyer who defend corporate a-holes.

    One thing I will say is that you let the republican party off the hook. Their goal since day one of the Obama presidency was to make him a one term president. They chose party over country with their scorched earth opposition to our president.

    As for who runs Washington….it is Wall Street, the too big to fail banks, multinational corporations, the US Chamber of Commerce, the military industrial complex, the oil industry…just to name a few.

    So in closing, those who want their country back better be prepared to take on Goldman Sachs, Exxon, GE, BP, Monsanto, Koch Industries, Haliburton, Lockheed-Martin, Raytheon, The Carlyle Group, Archer Daniel Midland, DuPont, General Dynamics, Bechtel, Northrup-Grumman, JP Morgan-Chase, Citi-Group, Bank Of America, etc, etc, etc,

  • Anonymous

    The tax plan is sensible, and I would ask my representatives to implement its tax reforms. However, we must clean upcampaign finances before we further finance a government that answers to a great extent to special interests.

  • Anonymous

    The 1% even get POLS to screw 70% disabled Decorated combat vets because when we age into Medicare we pay $109./mo for A&B which equals one month disability pension, which is deducted from our Social Security payments each month. The VA does not Bill Workers Comp or Medicare for VA services I have and continue to use and that’s pretty damn STUPID! and might be one other reason the VA is strapped, BECAUSE MY PAYMENTS GO TO PROVIDENCE HEALTHCARE! Not the VA! Paying the VA would be more acceptable, because it would help my fellow Vets while STILL PAYING FOR COVERAGE I QUALIFIED FOR, with my mind and body!
    This country really sucks because we ENDORSE THE MISERY OF HOMELESS SCHOOLCHILDREN AND VETERANS just to pay the rich their tax cuts and subsidies for the people that have bought both Partys’!I
    I really have to laugh when I see all those draft-dodging cowards puffing about “Patriotism” and American “Exceptionalism” wearing their little lapel flags which really represent what they have actually contributed to our country and the success of we the people! NOT VERY MUCH!

  • Anonymous

    Take the tax system of ANY other country and implement it here. Guess what will happen?

    The taxes on the uber-wealthy will probably go up a bit. The taxes on the very wealthy will probably go up a bit. The taxes on the middle and lower classes will SKYROCKET.

    Compared to every other tax system on earth, the US has a highly progressive system in place. The wealthy don’t pay as much as other countries, but the lower and middle classes pay almost NOTHING compared to the enormous share of taxes they are required to pay elsewhere.

    Democrats want to spend like socialists without taxing the masses. It doesn’t work, which is why every other country that has more generous safety net programs taxes the heck out of the lower and middle class.

    Here they bleat about inequality then say raise taxes on the wealthy. NO, if we are going to spend like socialists, we need to tax like socialists, meaning YOU and everyone lower on the ladder than you will pay far, far more.

  • Calm CalmCalm

    There is no such thing as Free Trade because it does not disallow the devaluation of currencies.
    The more competitive North America would become, the more devaluation of competing currencies.
    In North America, we could all agree to work for a dollar per hour and only to find that China will do it for 50 cents.
    And, after we all agreed to work for a dollar an hour, who is able to buy my home in the future which I bought with 1980 dollars? Will I need to sell it for half of what I paid for it because of an era of lower incomes?

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for pointing out that, by comparison, Americans are clearly under-taxed across all income groups.

  • Calm CalmCalm

    My final comment here would be in response to those who feel helpless amidst the chaos.

    You can begin today to elect only those who agree to a “Manifesto” just like the Norquist Tax Pledge. The Manifesto would detail Public funding of elections, Citzens United, Privacy and other items.

    This “Election” process would take at least 10 years to accomplish because the establishment will use all the financial and surveillance powers required in order to defeat opposition efforts.

    And, even if after 10 years, a majority of “Manifesto” candidates were elected, the Supreme Court would refuse to honor or support the legislative changes required or to carry out the elements within the “Manifesto”.

    I feel that the “Election Process” is quite impossible because the unelected Supreme Court claims ultimate powers even though this power was not stated in the Constitution. The constitution (1787) gave all the power to elected representatives, but in 1803 a rightwing justice changed the system all by his lonesome (Marbury versus Madison) and which gave all the power to the Supreme Court and said that it could strike down any law passed in congress.

    Protest Parades to Washington are old fashioned and passé. And there is no financial cost to the Ruling Class. Protest Parades only anger the general pedestrian public and drivers because of delays and police imposed restrictions.

    80 percent of all goods move by freight rail within North America. Slowing down rail traffic causes huge financial losses to the Ruling Class. They will be at the negotiating table in the morning.

    Choose a specific date and then encourage protesters to slowly walk along railway tracks at any time of day or night or at a time of their choosing, but on a specific chosen date. When announcing the planned protest, the plan must detail “Escalation” and that protests will occur each and every month into the future. Perhaps for 2 consecutive days the second month, and then to 3 days or more the following months There is no need to travel to Washington to protest, railways travel through the center of every city within North America.


  • Anonymous

    The true inanity of how politicians discuss our tax system is most apparent in the absolutely predictable response by Democrats to every tax reform proposal.

    They always say, guaranteed, that it will “raise taxes on the middle class”.

    OF COURSE it will. ANY reform that will change the tax code in a fair or healthy way will need to do so, to counteract the strong bias that exists in the current system.

  • Anonymous

    My vote isn’t for sale, is yours?

  • Meister Omega

    Considering the average “uber wealthy” pay less than 20% per annum, it would seem you are full of ****.

  • Meister Omega

    It’s not the “1%” stupid.
    “The top 10 percent of earners took more than half of the country’s total income in 2012, the highest level recorded since the government began collecting such data a century ago, according to an updated study by prominent economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty.

    The top 1 percent took more than one-fifth of the income earned by Americans, one of the highest levels since 1913, when the government instituted an income tax.”

    “More generally, richer households have disproportionately benefited from the boom in the stock market during the recovery, with the Dow Jones industrial average more than doubling in value since it bottomed out early in 2009.

    About half of households hold stock, directly or through vehicles such as pension accounts. But the richest 10 percent of households own about 90 percent of the stock, expanding both their net worth and their incomes when they cash out or receive dividends.”

  • Anonymous

    I quoted directly from the video, the top 1% take home 22.5% of the income. I found the share of income taxes that the top 1% pay elsewhere, and it is 35.06%

    My numbers are correct, you just repeated them yourself.

    The top 10% take home over 50% of the income. But look at my other number, the bottom 90% pay only 31.74% of income taxes, meaning that the top 10% make ~50% of income, and pay 69+% of income taxes.

    The US tax system is the MOST progressive in the world, period.

  • Anonymous

    Educate yourself.

  • Jeffrey G. Johnson

    I agree with your policy choices, but not your methods. Ten years is not much time to wait. We’ve been suffering this terrible upward distribution for nearly 40 years.

    I don’t believe that coercion will win hearts and minds, and you won’t get enough for full consensus out on the tracks. You might get people killed as well.

    No, we need to work harder and smarter and use information better to win politically. Where we need to reform democracy, we do that first. When we have fixed democracy, we can pass the policy that are best for the majority of Americans.

    Stiglitz himself said in the video that it is still an open question whether Citizen’s United and other changes to our electoral system have hopelessly skewed all power into the hands of the plutocracy or not. Only after I’m sure that our democracy has failed would I support your tactics. But it has not failed. I think we are failing to get focused on the right set of policies and to do the hard work of educating and convincing everyone.

  • Anonymous

    Everyone’s is. Via congress, to Wall St., via K St. And via marketplace, via purchase choices.

  • Calm CalmCalm

    Hi! Jeffrey G. Johnson

    The Capitalists have used coercion since time began and against whole communities in order to protect the shareholders interests.
    I think that coercion is a more appropriate act than violence at this time and when considering the urgency of the economic problems at hand.


  • Jeffrey G. Johnson

    Maybe you can morally justify your approach. I can’t argue against that. But the capitalists coercion relies only on having lots of money.Popular political movements rely on popularity. So you need to carefully assess what effect blocking commerce and endangering lives will do to public opinion, and how easily the capitalist owners of the media can demolish credibility in the eyes of the general public.

    The MayDay SuperPAC of Lawrence Lessig might be a more constructive approach. Beat them at their own game. Leverage population to beat wealth. The reason it is easier for wealth is that they need less coordination and communication to amass great monetary influence. But that doesn’t mean effective coordination and communication, something more possible today than ever before in history, can’t succeed.

    Effectively marshalling information and communication strategies to educate the public around organized political efforts have a better chance of succeeding than arbitrarily singling out for blame a transportation industry that benefits all Americans.

    A liberal version of Norquist’s Manifesto is a better idea than walking on the railroad tracks in my view.

  • Calm CalmCalm

    Hi! Jeffrey G. Johnson

    First of all, I am not quite sure what you personally think would be the top 5 paramount issues.

    I would think the issues would be about:

    Corporate Personhood
    NSA Surveillance and Privacy
    Public Funding of Elections

    If any “Constructive” change is to be made to the “System” itself, there needs to be Constitutional Change.

    The Supreme Court would never support changes to International Trade Deals and/or the SWIFT/Banking Financial System.

    The military never has and never would agree to a financial audit of the Pentagon. And the Supreme Court would support the military.

    To do it your way would take at least 20 years.

    As it is right now, 10 percent of Americans have a criminal record. All that will be accomplished in 20 years by doing it your way is that another 10 percent will wear a criminal record. The only thing that might alter these statistics is jury nullification and perhaps this could be implemented across the country as protesters are arrested. (Protesters being viewed as “True Patriots” and not “Criminals”.)

    It will take 20 years to “Elect” a majority of “Manifesto Candidates” and even then, the Supreme Court and Financial Class will fight your every step.

    These changes must be “Taken Back” because the Ruling Class will never willingly relent without first bringing tanks into the streets.

    I was born in 1948, and I saw it all happen in 1968.

    I saw it all happen against the Occupy Movement.

    The main difference between today and the 60s and 70s is that the Ruling Class has simply replaced the words “Druggie” and “Hippie” with “Extremist” and have created a Nation of “Suspects” which requires NSA surveillance.

    They have militarized our communities as well in preparation for the battles ahead as the economy continues to crumble.

    Perhaps recall the immigrant protests in 2006 and where they closed down major cities and prevented deliveries. Within a week the Ruling Class invented the term “Comprehensive Reform”. While I agree that not much has changed towards the immigration debate, the point is that the Ruling Class were at the negotiating table rather quickly.


  • Jeffrey G. Johnson

    I agree with your list. Off the top of my head I would add that we need to change elections from first-past-the-post to some kind of range voting or “instant runoff”. I would like to see federally mandated minimum standards for ballot access, voting rights and access to the polls, voting machines and vote counting procedures. But such changes would meet lots of resistance from states-rights conservatives who evidently see their only chance of holding onto any power in the ability to cheat and manipulate democracy.

    An alternative to federal changes would be to put together state law templates and lobby state legislatures in the way ALEC does. Again, borrowing from the current conservative playbook as your pledge idea does. When state laws end up being very successful and you reach a critical mass, the rest of the states usually follow pretty quickly. So if these changes worked very well in 5 to 10 states that may be enough to sweep the country.

    None of this would require Constitutional changes. Gerrymandering (i.e. some automated compactness computer districting algorithms) and public funding of elections would probably also need to happen in statehouses. I think passing that kind of thing state by state would ultimately be politically easier than trying to impose it top down.

    To fight the corporate personhood and money equals speech ideas, it may be necessary to amend the Constitution. Maybe to reign in the NSA as well, though I’m not sure about that. I think Congress has the power to do that if there is the will.

    My feeling about the NSA is probably kind of shocking to many liberals. I really don’t feel like bulk gathering and storage of metadata (as google and facebook already do) is truly a privacy violation until somebody actually singles it out and uses it. So the question becomes on which front do we fight that battle? Do we try to prevent the gathering and storage of data in the first place, or do we allow the government to provisionally store data but place strict procedures in place for authorized access and usage of the information with judicial authorization?

    I actually prefer the latter approach and believe it is possible to specify database access controls that can only be “unlocked” with very secure “digital warrants”. At the same time this would preserve some potentially very valuable law enforcement tools. Like any powerful tools they would be a double edged sword, so going this route presumes we have what it takes to learn to manage them well. I realize that this presumes healthy democratic control of government and a good degree of transparency in the methods used by government. But then stopping them from gathering the data secretly in the first place would require the same. So if we can’t repair our democracy, we are hopeless against runaway government power. I don’t think we have crossed any rubicon of danger yet. Our institutions are flawed but still working well for the most part. The post 9/11 exceptions are the most glaring problem.

    For this reason I would want to put priority on elections, districting, funding, etc. first. Solving those problems would make it easier to address the NSA, Lobbying, and Corporate Personhood.

  • Jeffrey G. Johnson

    I didn’t see your whole post before responding (which is on hold for some reason).

    I think protest movements can’t and shouldn’t change things much. They serve to alert the public to issues, to bring important points into prominence in the public debate. Despite the rude police interruptions of the Occupy Movement, it can be said to be a success in a very important way: it mainstreamed the problem of inequality in our political dialogue.

    But we should not change our political system by force and coercion. We should do the hard work of gaining consensus. The things that you or I “know” in our hearts to be good and correct ways to do things could in fact not work for reasons we can’t imagine. There have been many who believe so much in their cause they are willing to go to any length, from Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, and Stalin, to Islamofascist terrorists. I think the idea that a strike or social disobedience should become a hostage situation that forces change is wrong. It should be a way to get publicity and attention for democratic dialog.

    Of course if we can’t fix our democracy that is futile, but I think the kinds of changes mentioned in my other post should be non-partisan issues. There are improvements in how we manage political information independent of its content. For that reason I feel we can improve how we manage the political process and make it possible to get unstuck on lots of other policy debates.

  • Invasive Evasion

    The problem with your argument is that those countries still have a middle class, while we no longer do. We have billionaires, and serfs. Before you can worry about taxing the middle class, you have to create one. That means allowing people who work to actually benefit from their work.

    Republicans want to “spend like socialists” too, except they want to socialize the wealthy rather than the masses.

  • Invasive Evasion

    If you compare the ultra wealthy to the rest of the population, we have a nearly flat tax rate. The wealthy pay only a slightly larger proportion of their income in taxes. (A subgroup within the ultra wealthy population pays even less than middle class people, but the group as a whole pays a bit more, as you point out.)

    A flat tax rate is fair only if you have a fair distribution of income to begin with. In a heavily regressive income distribution system like ours, in which a tiny minority collects the majority of the profits, you need an equally progressive tax system to offset the original imbalance. Our mildly progressive system is not sufficient to do this. This is where your comparison to other countries fails. The level of progressivity in taxes has to be measured relative to the regressivity of the income distribution. Having taxes proportional to income (the group making 22.5% also paying 22.5%) does nothing to counter the massive imbalance of only 1% collecting that 22.5% of the nation’s income.

  • acabadaba

    Howard ,of course, was right.I’m almost 60 (in December) too. But I seriously doubt if Americans can make a revolution.It is still a long way off,if ever. They are too stupid. They would rather watch garbage like Bruce Willis movies while stuffing their faces in front of their T V s.

  • Larry Nelson

    Everybody who see’s and hear’s this needs to paste it on there social media page and tell all to call there politican and raise some hell!! This won’t change if we sit on our hands and hope things get better

  • Olga O. Pina

    I just did that!

  • Olga O. Pina

    I often write hand-written letters to President Obama…This interview is one instance that compels me to write to him again and recommend that he view this Bill Moyers’ interview. Bravo!