Clinton takes aim at executive pay, hedge fund managers

On day two of Hillary Clinton’s campaign through Iowa, she made an effort to distance herself from some of the Wall Street crowd she used to represent (and drew a lot of financial support from) as a US Senator from New York. Reuters:

“There is something wrong when hedge fund managers pay lower tax rates than nurses or the truckers that I saw on I-80 as I was driving here over the last two days,” Clinton said, perched on a stiff metal chair in the automotive shop of a community college.

Some hedge fund managers and private equity firm partners, among the wealthiest financiers on Wall Street, benefit from a tax code loophole that lets them pay the capital gains tax rate, which is lower than the ordinary tax rate, on large portions of their incomes.

Clinton also repeated her concerns, first voiced on Sunday, that chief executives make 300 times more than the average worker, and sympathized with students discussing the high cost of a college education.

 
The United States has the highest executive pay packages in the world, and the already large disparity between CEO compensation and salaries of the average American worker has exploded since 1980 (although the gap peaked in 2000).

The Globalist itemizes the facts in “CEOs and the Rest of Us”:

1. On average, the CEOs of large U.S. companies received $12.3 million in compensation in 2012, based on an analysis of S&P 500 companies.

2. Given that the average American worker earned $34,645 in 2012, the typical U.S. CEO earns 354 times what the average worker does.
[…]
5. A worker at the U.S. minimum wage would have to work 813 hours — or 20 weeks — to earn an hour’s worth of CEO pay.
[…]
9. The CEOs of the 100 largest companies in the United Kingdom earned an average of just under $3.8 million in 2012. That is 84 times the average British worker’s compensation of $44,743.

10. Britain’s CEO-to-worker wage ratio today is almost exactly the same as the one in the United States in 1990 — more than two decades ago.

11. At that time, U.S. CEOs earned “only” 85 times the average U.S. worker’s wage.

 
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist, has been speaking in Iowa on these issues as well for many months, as he decides whether or not to run against Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. Another likely contender, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, also called recently for stronger regulations on Wall Street.

new-york-stock-exchange-slider

“What distinguishes Labour”

Whether it comes from a Democrat or a Labour member, I’m always glad to hear someone vocally explain what distinguishes a mainstream left-leaning party from the alternatives, after so many years of “triangulation” and wishy-washy hedging.

Here’s an excerpt from Glasgow City Council Leader Gordon Matheson’s column in the Daily Record jokingly headlined “The Labour Party is up to its old tricks – standing up for working families”

Have you noticed that the Labour Party is up to its old tricks? I’m delighted to say it’s true. We’re making the wealthiest pay a bit more to help those who need support. And we’re holding the powerful to account to secure a fairer deal for the ordinary citizen and working families. That, after all, is what distinguishes Labour from the other political parties.

 
Policies to help young people and tax wealthier citizens to pay for progressive programs benefiting the working class are described and detailed thereafter. He also questions the leftist credentials of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in light of their tax policies, which he says don’t favor redistribution. (Since they’re independence focused, I think most of the SNP’s funding plans derive from using North Sea oil royalties or tax revenues extracted from England to fund projects in Scotland, which is its own kind of redistribution, I suppose.)

It would be nice to hear more Democrats arguing non-defensively (like Matheson for Labour) about helping “ordinary citizen and working families” get “a fairer deal” via taxes on the wealthiest, i.e. those who can comfortably afford it.

Governor Charlie Baker’s MBTA problem

Anti-tax Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker says tax-revenue-starved MBTA’s service during these massive storms — wherein ancient equipment has been breaking down at the mechanical level from all the record-breaking snow and ice — has been “not acceptable.”

He’s just proposed $40 million in cuts to state transportation (not to mention his legacy role in under-funding transportation since the 1990s) but also has the audacity to complain about the functionality of the state’s transportation …. It’s amazing how refusing to properly fund government services keeps them from performing effectively.

Pictured: MBTA Orange Line platform at Green station, early afternoon on Monday February 9, 2015.

Pictured: MBTA Orange Line platform at Green station, early afternoon on Monday February 9, 2015.

December 3, 2014 – Arsenal For Democracy 109

AFD-logo-470

Topics: Big Ideas – Cash transfers for poverty; Nigerian politics; US state legislatures. People: Bill, Nate, Sasha. Produced: December 1st, 2014.

Discussion Points:

– Big Ideas: Are cash transfers more effective on poverty than “workfare” and tax cuts?
– Is Nigeria’s ruling PDP feeling threatened in the upcoming elections? Are Boko Haram attacks widening?
– What should we expect from US state legislatures after heavy Republican wins in 2014?

Episode 109 (53 min)
AFD 109

Related links
Segment 1

AFD: “Social inclusion, anti-poverty policy are great for the economy!”
The Globalist: “Bolivia: Where Socialism Appears to Work”
AFD: “Weirdly, tax cuts don’t solve poverty, finds UN in New Zealand”
AFD: “Indonesia debuts world’s largest cash transfer program ever”

Segment 2

AFD: “Report: Tear gas used in Nigeria parliament”
AFD: “Nigeria government raids opposition offices”
AFD: “Kano: Boko Haram strikes Nigeria’s 2nd largest city”
African Arguments: “Nigeria Forum – What Happens When Oil Prices Fall?”

Segment 3

AFD: “Beyond the Senate: The 2014 state losses”
Al Jazeera America: “The Democratic comeback plan”

Subscribe

RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Weirdly, tax cuts don’t solve poverty, finds UN in New Zealand

Building off the theme in my most recent post, about anti-poverty programs in Bolivia and Brazil, let’s look at two industrialized economies. A UNICEF report compared the anti-child-poverty programs of the (center-right) New Zealand government with the anti-child-poverty programs of neighboring Australia (led by a center-left government until 13 months ago). Here’s what they found, according to TV NZ:

A United Nation’s report says New Zealand’s child poverty and inequality rates aren’t improving, despite what it describes as the Government’s ‘ambitious’ programme of tax cuts.
[…]
It says several Australian policies, which have increased Government spending on families with one-off payments, have had a greater effect.
[…]
The National Advocacy Manager for UNICEF NZ, Deborah Morris-Travers, says the numbers suggest the Government needs to review how it is tackling child poverty.

“The report points to Australia where cash payments were made available to low-income families, protecting the poorest children and stimulating consumption to promote recovery. This is contrasted with New Zealand’s policy of tax cuts, which have done nothing to improve the situation for child poverty.”

 

What a surprise!

Granted, while Australia is similar in many ways, it is also many times larger by population and economic capacity; so how does New Zealand’s effort stack up against other peer economies?

There has been a 0.4% drop in child poverty rates here [in New Zealand]. But in similar-sized countries like Norway and Finland, child poverty rates have reduced by 4.3% and 3.2%, respectively.

 
In other words, further evidence (like in Brazil and Bolivia) that simpler, more direct transfer programs — instead of the indirect, “trickle-down” tax cut theories George H.W. Bush once dubbed “voodoo economics” — seems to work better to combat extreme poverty, even in developed economies.

After all, the very poor tend to earn so little money that they are not paying taxes that can be cut. Without a “negative income tax” system, tax refund money will never reach them directly. Hence, direct and hassle-free benefits have more impact. The money in such programs goes directly to the problem spots and helps establish a clear safety net and economic floor for children. That allows them to grow up healthier and with better prospects, while permitting up their parents to make ends meet and start to climb the economic ladder out of dire poverty and debt traps.

Flag_of_New_Zealand

Jessica Williams heads to Kansas for The Daily Show

In September, I noted that the situation in Kansas was becoming quite dire for some of the Republican statewide incumbents on the ballot. A lot of that is due to the state’s unmitigated disaster of a fiscal experiment headed by hardline-Republican Governor Sam Brownback. Here’s what I said in September:

Closer to home, in Kansas itself, creating a second competitive statewide race in Kansas could further help boost left and moderate voter turnout against the now-near-universally-loathed Governor Sam Brownback.

Brownback very plausibly might be about to lose re-election to the governorship of Kansas for cutting taxes — because his magical-thinking-based plan cut them so far that there’s a budget catastrophe unfolding. A former Republican state party chair suggested the state may be bankrupt (or at least deeply in debt) within 2 years … and the bond outlook to finance that is not great.

According to PPP in February, Brownback had a lower approval rating in Kansas than Obama has in Kansas. And even Republican-leaning Rasmussen polling [in August] put the Democratic challenger, Paul Davis, ahead of Brownback by an impressive 10 points, pulling above 50%, and with a very low undecided block — which adds up to almost certain doom at the ballot box. (It was unclear, last I checked, what the Democratic challenger would do instead regarding the budget, but I’m guessing Kansas will have to elect first and ask questions later, while hoping it’s better than the monstrosity Brownback enacted.)

 
The Daily Show sent its brilliant and incredibly talented correspondent Jessica Williams into the field in Kansas this week to bring the story to wider attention.