In today's On the News segment: Millionaires in New York want to pay higher taxes; our election process should be a national embarrassment; Los Angeles is standing up for the homeless; and more.
Thom Hartmann here -- on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News...
You need to know this. Millionaires in New York want to pay higher taxes. In fact, 51 of those wealthy individuals felt so strongly about paying their fair share, they have signed on to a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking him to make their temporary high tax rates permanent. That group of millionaires includes names like Steven C. Rockefeller and Abigail Disney, and they want to help their state invest in things like infrastructure and programs that help those in poverty. Their letter was sent to New York lawmakers and the Governor last Monday, and it was published in full by major outlets like the Washington Post. These patriotic millionaires wrote, "In the spirit of shared sacrifice, we, the undersigned, call for a balanced solution that includes maintaining, expanding and making permanent the top marginal income tax rates for upper-income New Yorkers like us who can afford to pay more." They explained that they understand that those who have benefited the most from the Empire State have a responsibility to help care for the society that provided their success. In addition to calling for a temporary "Millionaire's Tax" to be made permanent, the letter's authors also announced their support for the "1% Plan for New York Tax Fairness." That's the Fiscal Policy Institute's proposal, which would raise state taxes on New York's highest earners from 7.65 to 9.99 percent. They wrote, "We can well afford to pay our current taxes, and we can afford to pay even more. Our state needs to invest this revenue in our struggling schools, in anti-poverty measures and in infrastructure improvements." They added, "Our state's long-term economic prosperity depends on strong investments in our people and our communities." That is what being patriotic looks like. Hopefully New York lawmakers listen to these millionaires and make sure that their state has the revenue to invest in programs and infrastructure that will help everyone succeed in the future.
Our election process should be a national embarrassment. According to a new report from the Electoral Integrity Project, our elections "were ranked worst of any long-established democracy." That research group is based out of Harvard University and the University of Sidney, and it was founded with the goal of improving accountability in government and elections. The researchers analyzed dozens of factors, including campaign finance rules, voter registration, election laws, vote count and the voting process. After reviewing our 2012 and 2014 elections, the "experts expressed concern about the quality of the electoral laws, voter registration, the process of drawing distinct boundaries, as well as the regulation of campaign finance." Out of 139 countries being reviewed, the United States ranked 47th. And, by just about any measure, the 2016 election cycle isn't shaping up to be the vision of election integrity. However, despite all these issues, Congress refuses to restore the full Voting Rights Act or enact reforms to reign in the flood of corporate money in our elections. This is absolutely unacceptable and it's time to demand that the integrity of our elections be restored.
Los Angeles is standing up for the homeless. According to a recent article over at the ThinkProgress blog, that city may soon revise the ordinance that allows police to sweep homeless encampments and confiscate the belongings of homeless individuals. They're considering that change because of a lawsuit brought by several homeless residents who were thrown in jail and lost their belongings simply because they are homeless. That lawsuit alleges that Los Angeles has "begun a renewed, vigorous and cruel enforcement of so-called 'quality of life' offenses against the homeless," which violate their constitutional rights. So, the city council will soon vote on a measure to allow the homeless to store their possessions in 60-gallon containers provided by the city, and it may enact restrictions on how and when police can sweep homeless encampments. People should not be abused or have their belongings destroyed simply because they're homeless, and the Los Angeles City Council should put an end to this immoral practice.
Despite the fact that it's 2016, many women still make 79 percent of what their male counterparts make. As we work towards gender pay equality, people still try to argue that the persistent pay gap is the result of women opting for lower paying jobs or not wanting the intense careers that come with higher salaries. But, according to a new analysis of salary data by Glassdoor, many women are paid less than men, despite having the same experience, the same education, the same job title and despite working for the exact same companies. After controlling for variables like state, industry and company size, men made on average 5.4 percent more than women in base salary, and 7.4 percent more in overall compensation. Although those pay differences are much smaller than the overall gender wage gap, the pay disparity shows that there's still a bias against women in the workplace. Women have made tremendous gains in the workforce, but there's still more work to be done to ensure that they're not being undervalued because of their gender.
And finally... March has been a good month for legal cannabis in the United States. First, the state of Oregon announced that pot sales taxes far exceeded the Department of Revenue projections. Then, the United States Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit that could have overturned Colorado's legal pot law. In Oregon, state officials anticipated raising $8 million in tax revenues over the first two years of legal cannabis sales, but ended up raising $3.5 million in the first month alone. It's unclear whether that news played any role in the Supreme Court's decision to uphold Colorado's law, but the justices rejected an attempt by Nebraska and Oklahoma to have that law declared unconstitutional. The fact is, even the members of our nation's highest court can see that legal marijuana is a wild success in Colorado and other states, and that it's time to reevaluate cannabis prohibition nationwide. From tax revenues to medical benefits to safe, responsible recreation, the benefits of pot far outweigh the list of debunked safety risks. Let's learn from Colorado and Oregon, and make pot legal in every state in the US.
And that's the way it is - for the week of March 28, 2016 -- I'm Thom Hartmann -- on the Economic and Labor News.