Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Cut the Tax Talk

Cut Out the Tax Cut Talk
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, January 10, 2023, p. A6

To borrow from The Who’s concluding lines to a song, “Meet the New Year, Same as the old year.”

It’s not that our joys-and-sorrows balance doesn’t leave a lot to be thankful for, compared with most of the world’s people. But we still have more serious challenges than we can surmount — most beyond their “Best if solved by” dates.

So why am I limiting myself to just one? It’s like “why did French men kiss women’s hands?” “Because you have to start somewhere.”

I’m starting with taxes.

Politicians, including some Iowa officeholders, use “tax cuts” as a sure election winner — and coverup for opposing a program.

But letting re-election and taxes trump public needs is like cutting into the front of the line at the checkout counter.

As they say in Rochester, “Hold the Mayo, let’s take another look at this.”

The initial relevant issues are (1) What kind of lives do we want for ourselves and our fellow Homo sapiens — in our families, communities, states, nation, and world? (2) Given those goals, what programs will be most helpful and efficient in reaching them? And (3) for each of those programs, what is the most effective and economical way of providing them? [Photo source: wikimedia/commons.]

Only after reaching consensus on the answers to those questions need we address the administrative details — including funding sources.

Look around. There are many. The philanthropy of individuals and institutions totals $500 billion annually. There are 2 million nonprofits. A quarter of Americans volunteer an average of 50 hours a year — a $184 billion value “for free.” Twothirds of us help our neighbors. Most churches have helping programs. Public-spirited corporations contribute money, participate in community programs, provide training and health care for employees.

And yes, there will be occasions when a tax-funded government program, or assistance, is the most economical and effective source.

But we need to begin with “what do we want?” and “what’s the best way to get it?”

By now you’re thinking of a version of that question for the Lone Ranger, “Who’s this ‘we’ you’ve been talking about, Nick?” Ah, you got me. Yes, I was including you — as well as, sadly, the much larger population of millions who never read this column.

How do we go from a column to a coordinated national movement? For it is the coordination that is most difficult. There are already numerous organizations, institutes, foundations, think tanks, academic centers, governmental units, and journalists working on slices. Health care, housing, nutrition, mental health, climate change, transportation, education, international relations and trade, and more.

What we need is a single source, with a website, that provides links to the best proposals in each category. An organization that will promote universities’ and other institutions’ multiple ongoing discussions like The Gazette’s annual “Iowa Ideas.”

Finally, we’ll need more emphasis on experiential high school civics beyond reading, discussion and exams. Also organizations that give their members the experience of achieving desirable change opposed by the powerful.

How’s that for a New Year’s aspiration?
Nicholas Johnson is a dreamer, but he’s not the only one. mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org

The Who. The Who, “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” https://www.google.com/search?q=song+lyrics+for+%22Won%27t+Get+Fooled+Again%22&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS781US781&oq=song+lyrics+for+%22Won%27t+Get+Fooled+Again%22+&aqs=chrome..69i57j0i22i30i625.25925j0j15&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8 (“Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss”)

World & Iowa wealth. “Distribution of Wealth,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distribution_of_wealth#Global_inequality_statistics (“Global inequality statistics A study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research at United Nations University reports that the richest 1% of adults alone owned 40% of global assets in the year 2000, and that the richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of the world total. The bottom half of the world adult population owned 1% of global wealth.[10] A 2006 study found that the richest 2% own more than half of global household assets.[11]

According to the OECD in 2012 the top 0.6% of world population (consisting of adults with more than US$1 million in assets) or the 42 million richest people in the world held 39.3% of world wealth. The next 4.4% (311 million people) held 32.3% of world wealth. The bottom 95% held 28.4% of world wealth. The large gaps of the report get by the Gini index to 0.893, and are larger than gaps in global income inequality, measured in 2009 at 0.38.[12] For example, in 2012 the bottom 60% of the world population held same wealth in 2012 as the people on Forbes' Richest list consisting of 1,226 richest billionaires of the world.

A 2021 Oxfam report found that collectively, the 10 richest men in the world owned more than the combined wealth of the bottom 3.1 billion people, almost half of the entire world population. Their combined wealth doubled during the pandemic.[13][14][15]”)

Credit Suisse, “Global Wealth Report 2022,” Sept. 20, 2022, https://www.credit-suisse.com/about-us-news/en/articles/media-releases/global-wealth-report-2022---record-wealth-growth-in-2021-tapered-202209.html#:~:text=Global%20wealth%20per%20adult%20is,of%20UHNWIs%20will%20reach%20385%2C000.

Hand kissing. “Hand-Kissing,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hand-kissing

Tax Cuts. Erin Murphy, “Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signs into law $1.9 billion in tax cuts; Democrats say a flat tax mostly benefits high wage earners,” The Gazette, March 1, 2022, https://www.thegazette.com/state-government/iowa-gov-kim-reynolds-signs-into-law-1-9-billion-in-tax-cuts/ (“It is the third significant tax cuts legislation signed in the five years that Reynolds has been governor.”)

Hold the Mayo. Sean Baker, “Rochester as seen through seven decades of popular culture,” MedCityBeat, Aug. 27, 2019, https://www.medcitybeat.com/news-blog/2019/rochester-mayo-clinic-pop-culture-references (“AIRPLANE! “Alright, give me Hamm on 5, hold the Mayo.” In 1980, the film Airplane! pulled Mayo Clinic into the world of slapstick comedy. In this scene, Captain Clarence receives a call from a physician regarding a patient on the plane headed to Mayo Clinic for an organ transplant. The live heart for the transplant can be seen bouncing on the doctor’s desk.” With associated YouTube clip from movie)

Funding Sources. “Giving USA: Total U.S. Charitable Giving Remained Strong in 2021, reaching $484.85 Billion,” Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI [Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis], June 21, 2022, https://philanthropy.iupui.edu/news-events/news-item/giving-usa:--total-u.s.-charitable-giving-remained-strong-in-2021,-reaching-$484.85-billion.html?id=392#:~:text=Giving%20USA%202022%3A%20The%20Annual,%24466.23%20billion%20contributed%20in%202020 (“Giving USA 2022: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2021, released today, reports that individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations gave an estimated $484.85 billion to U.S. charities in 2021. Total charitable giving in 2021 grew 4.0% over the revised total of $466.23 billion contributed in 2020.”)

“Value of Volunteer Time,” Independent Sector, April 18, 2022, https://independentsector.org/resource/value-of-volunteer-time/

International Labour Organization, “Volunteer Work Measurement Guide,” May 2021, https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---stat/documents/publication/wcms_789950.pdf

Volunteer Hub, “Best Practices: 40 Volunteer Statistics That Will Blow Your Mind,” https://www.volunteerhub.com/blog/40-volunteer-statistics/ (“2. One out of four Americans volunteer, two out of three Americans help their neighbor according to a study performed by The Corporation for National & Community Service. 7. Volunteerism has a value of over $184 billion dollars; 16. Volunteers, on average, spend 50 hours per year donating their time to the greater good. 17. Over 71% of volunteers work with only one organization each year. 22. There are more than 1.8 million active nonprofits in the United States alone.”)

Civics. See “SOURCES” for Nicholas Johnson, “Civics Can Save Us,” The Gazette, Sept. 7, 2022, p. A5, https://fromdc2iowa.blogspot.com/2022/09/civics-can-save-us.html

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