Posts Tagged ‘election’

How the Pie is Sliced

When Paul Ryan appears in Dover NH tomorrow morning (11 am at the McConnell Center), someone should tell him about a new report from the Congressional Research Service, a non-partisan arm of the Library of Congress, on the impact of tax cuts.

In a report released Friday, September 14, Thomas L. Hungerford analyzed the changes in the top tax rates in relationship to GDP growth. 

Throughout the late-1940s and 1950s, the top marginal tax rate was typically above 90%; today it is 35%. Additionally, the top capital gains tax rate was 25% in the 1950s and 1960s, 35% in the 1970s; today it is 15%. The real GDP growth rate averaged 4.2% and real per capita GDP increased annually by 2.4% in the 1950s. In the 2000s, the average real GDP growth rate was 1.7% and real per capita GDP increased annually by less than 1%.

Before you tax-and-spenders out there conclude that high taxes produce faster growth, read on:

There is not conclusive evidence, however, to substantiate a clear relationship between the 65-year steady reduction in the top tax rates and economic growth. Analysis of such data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth.

So do changes in the tax rates of people at the top of the income ladder make any difference whatsoever?  Well, yes.  Hungerford concludes:

The top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution….    The evidence does not suggest necessarily a relationship between tax policy with regard to the top tax rates and the size of the economic pie, but there may be a relationship to how the economic pie is sliced.

On this anniversary of the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street protests, this report provides more evidence that the government is working well for the 1%.  So if you get a chance to chat with Paul Ryan tomorrow, ask him if he’s had a chance to read the new CRS study and if it changes his views.

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Soon to be a Statistic

Life in a “Battleground State”

I just got off the phone with a pollster who asked to speak to the youngest male voter in the house.  That was me.  It was no surprise to get a “right track, wrong track” question at the beginning.  Pollsters love that question, but since it seems to assume the country is on a single track I refused to answer.  My pollster let that slide and went on to ask my opinion of Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Kevin Smith, Ovide LaMontagne, Jackie Cilley, and Maggie Hassan and how I would vote if the election were held today.  (I helped her with pronunciation of “Ovide” and “Hassan.”)

At first the questions seemed even-handed.  Then she said something like, “President Obama has said the private sector is doing fine but the latest jobs reports show increased unemployment.” 

“Now I know where the sponsor of your poll is coming from,” I responded.  Then I explained that one of the reasons unemployment has been so high is because of layoffs in the public sector.  I told her that due to teacher layoffs in Manchester, classes this fall have as many as 40 kids.  

To other questions, I just said “that’s a lie.”   As to whether some factor would make me more likely or less likely to vote for Mitt Romney, I explained that nothing could make me less likely to vote for Mitt Romney.   (I told her I’d write her in for President before voting for Mitt, but she’s under 35 so she wouldn’t be able to serve.)

At the end she said she was calling on behalf of American Crossroads, a right-wing anti-Obama group headed by a bunch of GOP operatives.   The caller said she didn’t know anything about them.  It was an educational experience for me, and maybe the caller learned something, too.

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I wrote the first version of this in Spanish as a homework assignment.  This is a translation, with a few extra details and minor changes.  You can read the Spanish version below.  Many thanks to Lety, my Spanish teacher, for help with grammar.

– Arnie

oaxaca 2010 07 05 zocalo turistas

Tranquility Comes to the Zócalo, but what is Coming to Oaxaca?

It’s the day after the election in Oaxaca and the Zócalo, the picturesque park at the city’s center, seems normal. Tourists and Oaxacans enjoy the newly planted flowers. Elderly couples dance to a marimba band. The waiters are busy. Tables in the sidewalk cafes are full.

Three days ago, the Zócalo was occupied by thousands of teachers, and was full of tarps, ropes, and street vendors. What a difference!

It’s the day after the election, and the relief is palpable. The voters have thrownoaxaca 2010 07 05 zocalo bailantes out the Institutional Revolutionary Party (the PRI) after 80 years in power, the most recent of which were marked by repression. Oaxaca will have a new governor, Gabino Cue. He campaigned on a platform of “peace and progress,” and in his first speech after the election, he said, “We know that after the election it is a time for reconciliation.”

Leaders of the parties which make up the coalition he led are in agreement. “We are clear that the people’s will reflected at the ballot box was not only to search for a new road to change for the state, but also, fundamentally, for reconciliation,” said the president of the state council of the Convergence Party at a press conference the day after the election.

But in the Zócalo, the tranquility is interrupted by a march of about a hundred people, carrying a banner demanding justice for San Juan Copala, an indigenous village that has been besieged by paramilitary groups for months. They are chanting, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”[i] They don’t want reconciliation, at least not with Ulisses Ruiz Ortiz, who is still Governor, and who is widely thought to be responsible for multiple assassinations, kidnappings, oaxaca 2010 07 05 zocalo marcha acts of torture, and other human rights violations, including the siege of San Juan Copala.

So far, Gabino is speaking in principles, not details. He speaks of “results,” “a modern government,” “transparency,” and “participation.” He plans to visit each of Oaxaca’s 570 towns at least twice, and also to hold public meetings on the first Wednesday of every month.

With respect to the crimes of the past, he promises to choose a new Attorney General “who will be in the service of the people, not the government.”

“Neither a witch-hunt nor impunity,” says Gabino Cue. If there are accusations of abuse, “The officials will make an investigation and they will give us the results.”

The work of the new governor will be a balancing act. On one side will be the activists from groups of indigenous people, farmers, and teachers. They will want justice, and change. On the other side will be the dinosaurs of the old PRI establishment, and they will be able to interrupt “peace and progress” if they want to.

And underneath all that are problems more fundamental than those of political parties, elections, and occupations. These are poverty, unemployment, the scarcity of water in many communities, the threats to agriculture from climate change and free trade, and conflicts over land and natural resources. According to Abraham Cruz García, writing in Noticias on July 6, “As it has been in the days of Independence and Revolution, foreign companies, like devious birds of prey, favored by the state and federal governments, have appropriated thousands of hectares that small farmers need to raise grains and basic necessities.”oaxaca 2010 07 04 election day 010

Cruz García also writes about a new book by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who still insists the last presidential election was stolen from him, and who writes about the 30 people who control the Mexican economy, news media, and federal government. They are singing, “We Shall Not be Moved.”

One can find hope in the rhetoric of Gabino Cue, and in the citizen movement that elected him. Hope and rhetoric are pretty good places to start, but much more will be needed to achieve peace, progress, justice, and reconciliation.

6 July 2010

[i] This is the beginning of a popular street chant calling for Ulisses Ruiz Ortiz to be held accountable for his crimes.


Reconciliación, paz, progreso, y justicia

La tranquilidad viene al zócalo, pero que viene a Oaxaca?

Es un día después de la elección, y el zócalo parece normal. Turistas y Oaxaqueños se pasean, disfrutando las flores nuevas. Parejas mayores bailan al lado de una marimba. Los meseros están ocupados. Las mesas en los cafés están llenos.

Hace tres días, el zócalo estaba lleno de lonas, cuerdas, y tianguis. ¡Que diferencia!

Es un día después de la elección, y el alivio está palpable. Las ciudadanos han echado al PRI después de 80 años. Oaxaca tendrá un gobernador nuevo, Gabino Cue. Tiene promesas de “paz y progreso,” y en su primer discurso después de la elección, dijo, “Sabemos que pasada la elección es el tiempo de la reconciliación.”

Los líderes del PAN, el PRD, el PT, y la Convergencia están de acuerdos. “Tenemos claro que la voluntad ciudadana no solamente se reflejó en las urnas para buscar una nueva ruta de cambio para el estado, sino para que fundamentalmente la misma nos lleve a la reconciliación.,” dijo el presidente del consejo estatal de Partido Convergencia en conferencia de prensa el día siguiente de la elección.

oaxaca 2010 06 19 caldernon URO carcel Pero en el zócalo, la tranquilidad está interrumpida por una marcha de cien personas llevando una bandera pidiendo justicia para San Juan Copala. Están coreando, “Ojo por ojo, diente por diente.” No quieren reconciliación, al menos no con Ulisses Ruiz Ortiz, quien todavía está en el Palacio de Gobierno.

El sindicato de maestros, que se fue del zócalo solo 2 días antes de la elección, también está hablando de justicia, no de reconciliación. Todavía el sindicato, el grupo el mas fuerte de los movimientos sociales en Oaxaca, está exigiendo castigo de los crímenes de Ulisses Ruiz Ortiz.

Hasta ahora, Gabino está hablando en principios, no detalles. Habla de “resultados,” “un gobierno moderno,” “transparencia,” y “participación.” Hace planes para visitar “en cuando menos dos ocasiones los 570 municipios de Oaxaca,” y también, tener asambleas publicas cada mes, el primer miércoles. Con respecto a los crímenes de pasado, promesa del procurador “que este al servicio de la gente y no del gobierno.”

“Ni cacería de brujas pero tampoco impunidad,” dice Gabino Cue. “Los ministeriales van a estar para investigar y van a tener que dar resultados.”

El trabajo del nuevo gobernador será un malabarismo. Por un lado, habrá militantes de grupos de indígenas, de campesinos, de maestros. Querrán justicia, y también cambio. Y por el otro, habrá los dinosaurios, que podrán interrumpir la “paz y el progreso” si quieren.

Y debajo de todos estás problemas más fundamentales que los partidos, las oaxaca 2010 06 19 025 elecciones, y los plantones. Esas son la pobreza, el desempleo, el escasez de agua en muchas comunidades, las amenazas a la agricultura por los cambios de clima y libre comercio, y los conflictos sobre la tierra y los recursos. Según Abraham Cruz García, escribiendo en Las Noticias (6 Julio de 2010), “Como sucedió en las épocas de Independencia y Revolución, compañías extranjeras, cuales aves de rapiña, protegidas y solapadas por los gobiernos federal y estatal, se han apoderado de miles de hectáreas que campesinos destinan a cultivos de granos de primera necesidad.”

Cruz García también escribe sobre un libro nuevo por Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, sobre las 30 personas que controlan la economía, los medios de comunicación, y el gobierno federal. Cantan ellos, “no nos moverán.”

Se puede encontrar esperanza en la retórica de Gabino Cue, y en el movimiento ciudadano que lo elegía. Esperanza y retórica son bastante buenas, pero hay mucho más para ganar la paz, el progreso, la justicia, y la reconciliación.

6 Julio de 2010

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Another earthquake shook the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca Sunday, this one at the voting booths. After 80 years of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), in recent years marked by repression and corruption, a rightoaxaca 2010 07 05 gabino con ventaja-left alliance of the PAN (National Action Party) and PRD (Democratic Revolutionary Party) led by  Gabino Cue Monteagudo will take office December 1.

Although there were reports of vote-buying efforts by PRI officials in various communities, Gabino Cue’s lead and the widespread declarations that he was the victor clinched the election by late in the evening. PRI candidate, Eviel Pérez Magaña, conceded shortly before 1 am.

In the neighborhood where Judy and I are staying Election Day was quiet, but since I’ve never been here before on a Sunday I can’t really say if this is normal or unusual. I can say that the local laundromat was closed despite a sign that indicated they were open on Sundays. I don’t know if the closure had anything to do with the election; I just know I am out of clean clothes.

The local polling place, a neighborhood school, resembled ones at home, though  oaxaca 2010 06 3- election workers 2 without the campaign supporters holding signs and passing out leaflets. There were two tables of registrars, and at least one observer from a political party, the PAN. Voters had to present their voter ID cards, which were checked against a registry that included photos. There were two voting stations oaxaca 2010 07 04 election day 011and three paper ballots, one for Governor, one for Deputy (like a member of the state legislature), and one for the local council. Ballots had names and logos of parties, not names of candidates. A friend speculated this might be confusing to some voters, given that the major candidates were representing coalitions of parties and if more than one box were checked the ballot would be spoiled. There is also a space to annul the ballot, in effect a vote for “none of the above.” After completing their ballots, voters fold and stuff them into boxes, then have their fingers inked to prevent repeat voting.

As of this writing, with 95% of the ballots counted, Gabino has an 8 point lead over  Eviel, a solid victory for the supporters of change, which is surely in the air. The teachers ended their occupation of the city center late last week. That is good news for them, good news for the city’s tourism-based economy, and not bad for tourists like us.

The powerful teachers union, which had been on strike for weeks, exulted at Gabino’s victory despite the fact that they never gave him an explicit endorsement. Union leader Azael Santiago Chepi called it “a historic moment, a oaxaca 2010 07 04 election  ink finger croppedveritable parting of the waters.” But he also noted that underlying issues, including the need to bring to justice those responsible for the political crimes of recent years, have yet to be resolved.

As candidate of the Coalition for Peace and Progress, Gabino has promised change, and also promised reconciliation. With the crimes of the current regime still unpunished and political prisoners still in jail, reconciliation will be as much of a challenge as longstanding conflicts over land, water, and other resources. Gabino has a few months left to get ready.

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