Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Inequality by the Numbers

I wanted to share with you today a graph that came from this week’s edition of one of our past featured partners, Too Much, illustrating the type of revenue that could be raised if certain changes were made to the tax code.

Along with this, the newsletter this week also featured a great piece on a memo that Justice Powell wrote in 1971 (back before he was a Supreme Court judge) for the Chamber of Commerce that outlined what they could do to “jumpstart a crusade to save free enterprise”. The article notes that even though the memo blasts left-wing “extremists,” the drastic inequality that has resulted from the past four decades of deregulation and decreasing tax rates on the wealthy would most likely trouble Powell. He “saw business as a champion for prosperity for all. He considered unions and collective bargaining ‘essential’ to the freedom Americans enjoy. Today’s U.S. Chamber of Commerce, by contrast, acts as the lobbying ringleader against any and all legislation that seeks to help workers organize and bargain.”

Free enterprise run amok.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What’s in a Title?

I am consulting with a small social justice organization which is about to hire a “CEO” and I have been giving a lot of thought to issues of titles.  Maybe I feel bad because I have never been a Chief Executive Officer, although I have worked in and around nonprofits for 35 years and have been the head person at several.  Long ago, before we knew the power of titles, the director of a nonprofit was simply called the “director.”   Later that title seemed too lightweight and nonprofits started using “executive director.”  I have been a Director and an Executive Director and I did make more money when I was the Executive Director.  Some organizations then began use the word “President” which meant that we could no longer call the President of the Board “President” so that person became a “Chair.” Somehow it seems a little bit of a demotion to go from “President” to “Chair”, but perhaps it is better than becoming the “Table”, which is often what the Chair did: tabled the motion, or put something on the table. Some friends of mine have held the title, “President and Executive Director” and now I know people who are the “President and CEO.”

These titles are all borrowed from the corporate world.  If I were to borrow titles, I would have probably used titles from a monarchy which are a lot more fun:  Duke, Knight, Princess, King and Queen, or from the big gorilla of nonprofits-- the Church --with their Bishops, Cardinals, Right Reverends, Monsignors and so on.  Or we could borrow from the military and be generals, admirals, colonels and the like. But nonprofits are not like the military, the church or the monarchy: we are like corporations and we name ourselves after them.

The organization I’ve been working with decided to use “CEO” instead of Executive Director because they thought they would attract more qualified people.  Whether this is the case remains to be seen, but they now grapple with the fact the people who want to be “CEOs” want the pay that comes with that title, and they may not be able to afford such a person.

What is the harm in calling someone a CEO?  In the larger scheme of things, perhaps there is none.  However, if the nonprofit sector, particularly the social justice subset of that, takes seriously our job which is to raise issues of the common good, and to promote rough social equity, we have to think seriously about where we are getting our ideas.  With all this title inflation, you would think we would see a commensurate decrease in poverty and oppression, but this is not the case, and that may be a clue that modeling ourselves after corporations will simply move us to a more and more corporate controlled society.   We name our children very carefully—should we not name the jobs we do to build a healthy society for them to be raised in just as carefully? 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Test your Tax Know-how

We’ve talked a lot about taxes on this blog, but how much do we really know about taxes? Test your knowledge with this quiz, created by our own Kim Klein and Jan Masaoka from Blue Avocado.

Let us know how you do!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The "Budget Control Act"

I have been racking my brain about what to say about the debt ceiling “crisis” and the “compromise” that was reached to solve it.  A cartoon in our local paper summarized it very neatly:  Obama says to Boehner, “You can have everything you want as long as you are willing to say this is a bipartisan agreement. “  Boehner says, “YOU got it, Mr. President.”

The following is from Citizens for Tax Justice and is an excellent summary of what happened and why:
CTJ Statement on the Debt Ceiling Deal: President Obama Breaks His Promise on Taxes Again

The so-called “Budget Control Act” that President Obama signed into law today to increase the federal debt ceiling and reduce the federal budget deficit marks the second time the Obama administration has capitulated on tax policy to the most extreme elements in Congress, those who are least in touch with the American people and most willing to risk economic disaster to get their way.

While our political leaders should be doing all they can to boost consumer demand and create jobs, the administration and Congress have instead agreed to slash public services without guaranteeing any increase in revenue.

To be sure, a revenue increase could result from the process established under this deal, despite Republicans’ claims to the contrary. But anti-tax lawmakers have already demonstrated that they will risk everything — including economic catastrophe — to block any and all revenue increases. As a result, we believe the only hope for a balanced approach depends on President Obama finding the courage (which he has lacked so far) to allow all of the Bush tax cuts to expire at the end of 2012.
Read the full statement. (PDF)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Corporate Accountability International

This week’s featured partner is Corporate Accountability International, which has run campaigns to challenge corporate abuse for more than 30 years. Of particular interest is their work on water, which includes supporting community water rights, while protecting against privatization.

They provide resources and tools to be used on a number of levels, including for government, on campuses, in establishments, in communities, and in faith groups. This is a great resource for getting a lay of the land when it comes to water campaigns, and other aspects of efforts to counter privatization of public space and goods.