Wealth and Want The URL comes from the subtitle to Progress & Poverty -- and the goal is widely shared prosperity in the 21st century. How do we get there from here? A roadmap and a reference source.
Reforming the Property Tax for the Common Good I'm a tax reform activist who seeks to promote fairness and reduce poverty. Let's start with the enabling legislation and state requirements for the property tax. There are opportunities for great good!
Henry George: Progress and Poverty: An inquiry into the cause of industrial depressions and of increase of want with increase of wealth ... The Remedy This is perhaps the most important book ever written on the subjects of poverty, political economy, how we might live together in a society dedicated to the ideals Americans claim to believe are self-evident. It will provide you new lenses through which to view many of our most serious problems and how we might go about solving them: poverty, sprawl, long commutes, despoilation of the environment, housing affordability, wealth concentration, income concentration, concentration of power, low wages, etc. Read it online, or in hardcopy.
Bob Drake's abridgement of Henry George's original: Progress and Poverty: Why There Are Recessions and Poverty Amid Plenty -- And What To Do About It! This is a very readable thought-by-thought updating of Henry George's longer book, written in the language of a newsweekly. A fine way to get to know Henry George's ideas. Available online at progressandpoverty.org and http://www.henrygeorge.org/pcontents.htm
Progress and Poverty, by Henry George Here are links to online editions of George's landmark book, Progress & Poverty, including audio and a number of abridgments -- the shortest is 30 words! I commend this book to your attention, if you are concerned about economic justice, poverty, sprawl, energy use, pollution, wages, housing affordability. Its observations will change how you approach all these problems. A mind-opening experience!
By this, I mean fixing the problem of low wages -- wages
insufficient to support an individual or a family in conditions we
consider acceptable on a reasonable number of hours of labor per week.
I don't mean minimum wage legislation, or living wage legislation, both
of which I regard as well-intentioned but ultimately destructive for
the community they intend to help. I don't mean measures like the
Earned Income Tax Credit, either. It appears that people must jump
through high hoops to get those dollars (which often seems to require
professional advice, at a price), and then a significant portion of the
money goes not to the wage earner but to his tax preparer/advisor, in
the form of fees and interest.
One of my standing google alerts took me to an article on Florida
taxes. On the comments pages, some people were proposing the FairTax as
a good alternative to the current federal income tax. I ended up
posting several comments in response to their statements, and thought
I'd cross-post my comments here.
Americans have a tendency to respect those who are "self-made men."
This seems to include people whose fortunes have been made in real
estate. The latest example in the news is the outgoing governor of New
York, whose father, Bernard Spitzer, reportedly has a $500 million
portfolio of properties, most or all in NYC.
I have nothing against real estate developers in their role as
developers. They bring large amounts of money and multiple talents to
bear to create new modern buildings on sites previously occupied by
more modest buildings suitable to another decade or century. And when
they build they generally create the venues in which dozens, even
hundreds, of entrepreneurial visions can be made into reality, and
where thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of people can be employed
in a single building. Appropriate development of choice sites, served
by existing infrastructure such as NYC's elaborate transportation
system and things as prosaic as city water, sanitary sewers, stormwater
runoff, and all the other systems that are paid for by we-the-people:
schools, public safety, public health, libraries, courts, hospitals,
etc., means that specialized work can take in the center of the central
business district, conducted by people who come from a 360 degree
radius. It minimizes sprawl on the fringe, and makes the economy work
But there are other facets of the real estate business that I think
are "opportunities for plunder" that should be restructured to serve
the common good instead of the private good. This involves a revision
of our notions of what is right, what is just, what is rightly private
property and what legitimately belongs to the commons.
I attempted to post this response to a blog, and ran into a
technical error. But even without the post to which it was responding
-- which praised the so-called FairTax -- I though it worth sharing
I'm still in Henry George's camp. Why tax the results of individual
human effort -- stealing from the individual, or for that matter the
corporation that which he/it created -- BEFORE collecting the economic
value of that which the community created?
Chicago will soon have the highest sales tax of any major city in
the US. Not the highest sales tax in the US -- there is a town in
northeastern Alabama, Arab, which imposes sales taxes as high as 12% --
but the highest of any major city. (Alabama's sales taxes -- designed
to place the maximum burden on poor people, while making life easier
for upper-income residents, particularly the property-owners --
typically tax even groceries!) An AP article reports:
Among the things Chicago wants to be known for, having the highest
total sales taxes of any major U.S. city is probably not one of them.
But that's what it's getting after the Cook County Board voted Saturday
to double the county sales tax to 1.75 percent. When added to the
city's sales tax, the county' increase has the cumulative effect of
setting a 10.25 percent sales tax on goods bought in Chicago.
When the county rate increase takes effect in November, someone buying $100 worth of merchandise in Chicago would pay $110.25.
The rates in New York and Los Angeles are below 8.5 percent. The next
highest rate in the country is in Memphis, Tenn., at 9.25 percent.
The tax increase is expected to add about $426 million annually to
county coffers, and the money is meant to close a projected $234
million deficit. The budget is also designed to create more than 1,000
new county jobs.