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Wealth, unions, the beleaguered middle class and the last cookie

Original post made on Jul 12, 2011

When 10 percent of the country holds three-quarters of its wealth, what's a tapped-out, ticked-off middle class to do? In this week's [Web Link Raucous Caucus], Danville recruiter, educator and animal enthusiast Tom Cushing discusses the strategies middle class families have used to stay afloat -- and how they haven't worked.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, July 12, 2011, 8:09 PM

Comments (35)

Posted by What?, a resident of Danville
on Jul 12, 2011 at 8:38 pm

Why are you giving this "educator" who is not even a real professor(adjust professor) at the "academic power house" Golden Gate University any space or time? He is a wanna be, with nonsensical views, who has nothing in commmon with us citizens of Danville? Danville is full of actually educated people from real universities with real jobs with real views, and this guy is a joke, and reflects bad on you, and bad on us.


Posted by cardinal, a resident of Diablo
on Jul 12, 2011 at 10:24 pm

Yeah -- Shoot that messenger!


Posted by Treebeard, a resident of Danville
on Jul 12, 2011 at 10:37 pm

The dog looks interesting. More info on him/her please and forget Cushing.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Danville
on Jul 13, 2011 at 7:02 am

Hey What!
What is your issue with this writer? I read his first blog and it was interesting. BTW it is adjunct professor not adjust professor. He is an educator and may have something to share. Open your mind a little and consider the views you may not agree with. Not everyone in Danville in a right wing tea bagger.


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville
on Jul 13, 2011 at 7:15 am

With all due respect to Dr. What?, I don't think there's a lot to be gained defending my credentials to someone who can't spell "adjunct." And while this site may not be the WSJ or NYT (sorry, Jessica!), they do both have websites, last I checked. I hope the good doc will venture down the board and contribute his/her commentary on the actual content of what I write -- "raucous" is great, but there's not much here beyond the personal attack.

Treebeard, though, has it right -- Genghis collie is one of life's great dogs, and much better company than I am. I'm sure he'll find his way into this column in due course.


Posted by I love it..., a resident of Danville
on Jul 13, 2011 at 7:15 am

when someone denigrates another's education or intellect and then does so in a paragraph full of spelling and grammatical errors. Classic!

PS: I just read his blog and think he's right on point - and I'm a conservative.


Posted by Sarah, a resident of Danville
on Jul 13, 2011 at 7:52 am

What:
Maybe if you got a dog you wouldn't be so uptight and wouldn't be worried about where and if your fellow Danville residents went to college.


Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville
on Jul 13, 2011 at 8:38 am

Dear middle class,

The top 1% of taxpayers pay more income taxes than the bottom 95% combined (Yes combined. Look it up). You just raised taxes on "the rich" by $1 trillion to pay for a middle class healthcare entitlement. And now you want the rich to pay even more.

You want all the benefits of a European welfare state without paying for it. You want to be like Europe? Fine. Then pay for it. Europe has a value added tax. What do you pay? Jack squat. You live off the wealthy. You pine for an America that never was.


Posted by Jessica Lipsky, a resident of Danville
on Jul 13, 2011 at 11:06 am

What -

Tom is an avid commenter on Town Square with interesting opinions and, thankfully, a thick skin. We're happy to have him as a blogger on the Danville Express and welcome ==I intelligent== comment and criticism on his posts.

Jessica Lipsky
Editor


Posted by psmacintosh, a resident of Danville
on Jul 13, 2011 at 11:48 am

Jessica, I too am wondering why the Danville Express is giving time, attention, and space to this particular "writer" of political and social commentary?
When his first article hit the DE, I thought that he had "started/entered/placed" it himself. Then I saw that it was Jessica who had introduced and placed his article on the DE (with a reference to his fuller blog). I was surprised that it came from Jessica and the DE, but then thought it was probably just a "one off" thing.
Now, with this second article, I wonder what's going on and how much space DE is going to expend on pushing Tom Cushing's opinions upon us.
Therefore, it would be helpful if the DE would explain what "relationship" it has with Tom Cushing? Is he a paid or unpaid author/contributor, staff, column writer, personal friend, political sympathizer....or what?
Why and how have his writings been chosen and selected for distribution to us, in contrast to any other author? Did he contact DE first and offer.....or what?
What method and criteria does DE normally use in deciding which authors and articles it will distribute to us? ( I can see and understand the majority of past selections and summarizations of quoted/referenced materials because the content usually pertains fairly directly to our local cities and EB region. It also appears that each of the DE staff (that introduces articles) has their own areas of interest and customary sources of reference materials that they choose from (reflecting their own agendas).
But, in this case, why are you choosing to foster Tom Cushing's editorial-type opinion articles on somewhat controversial, provocative subject matter that is clearly personally-biased and politically inspired for him, over all the other possible blog authors out there? How did it come to happen?
Don't we already have enough controversial, comment-inciting content happening from our own set of commentators?
Isn't it enough to have DE's site allowing local commentators to "start their own articles," without having you, Jessica, promoting this one author's writings to us.
Is the DE granting Tom Cushing an on-going "column" on the DE?
The short format of the daily email from DE does not really that much "room" to fill with local news. Is there really such a lack of local news that it is necessary to give space to Tom Cushing? Aren't his articles actually taking space away from other local news items that we'd probably rather consider?

So, it would be nice hear how the DE process of material selection works. And what is the overall objective and purpose of DE anyway?


Posted by Aubrey, a resident of Alamo
on Jul 13, 2011 at 11:54 am

I don't need a "professor" to tell me what Obama, Pelosi, and Reid have done to my country. They've wiped out the treasury, trashed the dollar, and divided the country by engendering class warfare.

Pelosi promised Paygo in 2006 and Obama promised it again in 2008, suspending it every time they passed a spending bill. Bush was no prize unless you compare him to Obama.

Obama has successfully destroyed the middle-class, blaming "the rich" at every turn. The buck stops in the Oval Office, period. Look no further...


Posted by psmacintosh, a resident of Danville
on Jul 13, 2011 at 11:57 am

Jessica,

Oh, I see that you wrote while I was offline writing my above comment.

Can you explain what exactly is "Raucous Caucus"--as it pertains to the DE online newsletter?
Is it a DE authored article.....or what?


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville
on Jul 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Yikes, Mac -- I think your objection was longer than my blog entry.

Most of your concerns are obviously for Jessica's response, if she wishes, but that "crowding out other news" argument is a bit of a stretch, don't you think?

It's a pretty big internet, after all.


Posted by Isabel Lau, a resident of San Ramon
on Jul 13, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Wow, last I checked we still live in a country that provides its citizens with free speech. As an American, I can also choose to listen/read or not the opinions of others. Listening and reading it doesn't mean I'm going to believe it or take it to heart.

Get a grip folks.


Posted by C. R. Mudgeon, a resident of Danville
on Jul 13, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Mr. Cushing's blog post starts with what I believe is a fundamentally flawed premise - namely that there are only so many coookies to go around. My suggestion to people who want more cookies, and who resent how many cookies others have, is to bake some cookies for themselves.

Then there is the fact, also mentioned above, that the money to pay for all of the benefits provided by our various levels of government, largely comes from those evil people who have made/baked lots of cookies.

The other little omission is that there is a fundamental difference between public employee unions and unions in general. Namely, that the pay and benefits of public employee union members comes from taxpayers, who therefore have a vested interest in wanting to obtain maximum value for their tax dollars.

Everyone deserves the opportunity to succeed. But that is a bit different from saying that everyone deserves the fruits of success.


Posted by Nan, a resident of Danville
on Jul 14, 2011 at 8:48 am

Yes, C.R. Mudgeon-

Equality(dividing up and giving away other peoples' stuff) vs. equality of OPPORTUNITY.

BTH, when "rich" people's private jets are taxed into oblivion, will Nancy Pelosi, etc. start flying commercial.... or will my tax dollars still support extreme luxury travel for our professional politicians?


Posted by Rufous, a resident of Alamo
on Jul 14, 2011 at 8:55 am

representation without taxation. Thats when the 48% of people in this country get to vote but pay no taxes. Now there is a recipe for class warfare. How about we require a tax return in exchange for voter registration.


Posted by Duffy, a resident of Danville
on Jul 14, 2011 at 9:04 am

Those who pay the piper get to call the tune! At least that is the way it is supposed to be. If you pay taxes you should get to vote - that's the only fair way!


Posted by collins, a resident of Vista Grande Elementary School
on Jul 14, 2011 at 10:58 am

Enjoyed the article. The comments are interesting, as well. I see many of our regular "haters" and "misinformed posters" have chimed in.

One question, for spcwt, it is easy to cite your source, do it! "Look it up" doesn't mean a thing! As a member of the great unwashed middle class, I have worked hard most of my life! I pay taxes, oh boy do I pay taxes.

Are there any CPA's, Tax Attorneys, MST holders or others with expertise out in cyberspace who have a Knowledgeable comment?


Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville
on Jul 14, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Collins,

Here's a good article from the tax foundation that summarizes IRS data about who pays taxes.

Web Link

It shows the top 5% pay more income taxes than the bottom 95%. It's based on 2008 data. For 2010, the fortunes of the top 1% did much better and consequently they paid a lot more income tax, more than the entire bottom 95% combined.

You comment about wanting a "knowledgeable comment" from a CPA / tax lawyer made me smile. I learned all I needed to know about taxes when I was 16 yrs. old working in a fast food joint. But if it makes a difference to you, I've been a tax lawyer for two decades. I also have a master's in tax from Georgetown.


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville
on Jul 14, 2011 at 8:57 pm

@ spcwt: That 5/95 raw stat could mean at least two things -- that the top 5 pay a hugely higher percentage of their incomes (demonstrably false), or that the income gap on which the taxes are based is a lot wider than most folks think it is. I'm guessing the latter is closer to the truth.

Assuming we wanted to address the obvious inequities of the former conclusion, however -- howsabout the Forbes idea of a two-line tax return: EVerybody paying something like 16% of their gross income? Wouldn't that be fairer to everybody?


Posted by Mike, a resident of Danville
on Jul 14, 2011 at 10:17 pm

All I can say is that none of these conservatives complained one bit while President Bus was running the country in the ground by over spending and relaxing financial protections. I saw it happening as a real estate agent. Janitors who could not speak English were qualifying for $300,000 to $500,000 mortgages. This is the kind of so called "free market capitalism" that will happen if a Republican is elected in the next election.


Posted by Jessica Lipsky, a resident of Danville
on Jul 14, 2011 at 10:23 pm

Psmacintosh,

Tom Cushing is a paid blogger for the Danville and San Ramon Express websites; I hired him on the suggestion of a colleague to write about state and national politics from a local point of view. While the topics he's written about have yet to tie back directly to the San Ramon Valley, I have full faith that he will continue to draw local interest. Judging by the astounding amount of comments to this post, I am correct.

Although I don't want to get in the habit of justifying my hires (no one has asked me about our Epicure, Doing College, Teen Wire or Art Space bloggers), Tom is out there in the community, well known and has good writing skills. While he did not approach us about blogging, no one on this thread is clamoring to write for the Express and therefore should not complain about who I choose to feature.

I am not "pushing" Tom's opinion on Express readers, but it is my goal to feature one blogger a day on each of the Express websites. To this end, what you call featuring is what journalists call a tease. The way to garner readers is to feature the blog in the Express, so I will continue to tease Raucous Caucus on both sites every Wednesday morning.

To answer another of your questions "why are you choosing to foster Tom Cushing's editorial-type opinion articles on somewhat controversial, provocative subject matter that is clearly personally-biased and politically inspired for him?"A blog is, in effect, an editorial where one goes to read the opinions of the author. There is no pretense that Raucous Caucus is a weekly news story. I don't think the blog is particularly biased, either.

To conclude, the overall objective and purpose of the Danville Express is to provide residents with breaking news, views and features of and about the San Ramon Valley – including the opinions of the residents (whether that be in the form of a blog or extended comment thread). The daily Express email is meant to display the top news of the day in the hopes that readers will be led back to the website itself for more stories. If there happened to be four large news stories in the San Ramon Valley, no blog would take precedence over breaking news. Unfortunately for our staff and readers, there isn't always that much news.

Thank you for your questions and obvious dedication to our news source. I hope I've adequately answered your questions.


Jessica Lipsky
Editor


Posted by Get a grip, a resident of Danville
on Jul 15, 2011 at 7:39 am

Jessica: you were very gracious to reply to "psmacintosh" when you certainly did not need to. When "mac" becomes the editor or starts paying the bills at the Danville Express, then he can decide what's fit to print. Until then, that job is up to you and it's up to me to decide what I want to read. I've always found it interesting that one thing that the far right and left have in common is that they are all for free speech as long as they agree with what you are saying.


Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville
on Jul 15, 2011 at 9:07 am

Tom,

Howsabout you do a little bit of homework before you enlighten everyone with your profound guidance?

Table 1 of that article shows that the top 5% paid more income tax ($605 billion) than the bottom 95% ($426 billion), and at a much higher rate (20.7%) than the bottom 95%, who pay, on average, less than 10%. The bottom 48% pay 0%. How is that fair?

I'd love to pay just 16% income tax as you suggest. But that's not going to be near enough to pay for the goodies you middle class folks demand. And of course you want someone else to pay for it all. Heaven forbid you actually pay for something yourself.

And your idea of "the rich" is a joke. To be in the top 1% of taxpayers, you only have to make $380,000 a year. That ain't rich, especially in a place like the Bay Area. It's hard working business owners, salesmen, doctors, etc. who make that much. Do you think they should be taxed at the same rate as someone like Bill Gates?


Posted by Alex, a resident of Blackhawk
on Jul 15, 2011 at 10:20 am

Great idea, Rufous-

Tax return= voter registration!

Your clean/clear suggestion is not "conservative" or "tea bagger" or- insert other accusatory inference here. Simply logical!


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville
on Jul 15, 2011 at 11:17 am

Homework? I've already done a lot of it, I'll not do all of it, it was late and I'm not your paralegal. The 16% number was a slightly mis-remembered version of Conservative Republican Pres. candidate Steve Forbes' flat tax plan. It was actually 17% of income > $36K. I don't know what the current balanced budget number would be -- but I would be surprised if it wasn't within 1-3% of that number. Web Link

So -- what about that flat tax? It solves your problem of all that freeloading rabble in steerage, and mine about the ephemeral numbers at the rarified end of the spectrum.

And think of all the tax-avoidance talent that would be released to undertake productive, value-adding labor. ;-)


Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville
on Jul 15, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Tom,

If you've done "lots of homework," then why do you claim that the middle class are somehow getting a raw deal on income taxes when compared to "the rich?" You should know "the rich" pay more income taxes than the bottom 95% combined and at more than TWICE the tax rate of the middle class. Based on your picture, it's probably more likely that your dog ate your homework.

As for a flat tax, I agree the tax code should be simple. Its sole purpose should be to raise revenue. The tax code should contain no special tax breaks for the politically connected. No favored industries. No social engineering. No redistribution of wealth. Take politics and politicians out of the equation. Good luck with that.


Posted by C. R. Mudgeon, a resident of Danville
on Jul 15, 2011 at 5:04 pm

As has been noted by several people above, the federal income tax is highly progressive, in that higher incomes pay higher percentages on their incremental income, and not just proportionally more. It's a little known fact that the Bush tax cuts actually made the federal income tax MORE progressive, with the highesst income levels paying a higher percentage of total taxes AFTER the Bush cuts were enacted, than before. This is because the percentage reductions of the Bush tax cut were largest at the lower income levels. The Bush tax cuts also greatly increased the number of filers who pay zero taxes, or even receive money back while paying nothing (so called "refundable low income tax credits").

The fact of the matter is that the tax code has gotten more progressive, with EVERY change to the tax code, whether it has been an increase or a decrease. Tax increases are aimed mostly at the higher income levels, to make them more "popular". And tax increases, even from those nasty Republicans, have provided greater percentage reductions at lower income levels (also to make them more popular). This is why we are basically at the "tipping point" where a majority of voters can vote to raise taxes with zero effect on themselves. As someone said above, "representation without taxation"....

EVERYONE should have some skin in the game, even if it is a small dollar amount.


Posted by C. R. Mudgeon, a resident of Danville
on Jul 15, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Oops, I'm re-posting my above comment, to correct a non trivial error. Here is the intended post, with corrected error marked:

As has been noted by several people above, the federal income tax is highly progressive, in that higher incomes pay higher percentages on their incremental income, and not just proportionally more. It's a little known fact that the Bush tax cuts actually made the federal income tax MORE progressive, with the highest income levels paying a higher percentage of total taxes AFTER the Bush cuts were enacted, than before. This is because the percentage reductions of the Bush tax cut were largest at the lower income levels. The Bush tax cuts also greatly increased the number of filers who pay zero taxes, or even receive money back while paying nothing (for example, so-called "refundable low income tax credits").

The fact of the matter is that the tax code has gotten more progressive, with EVERY change to the tax code, whether it has been an increase or a decrease. Tax increases are aimed mostly at the higher income levels, to make them more "popular". And tax DEcreases (I originally typed increases here, but meant decreases), even from those nasty Republicans, have provided greater percentage reductions at lower income levels (also to make them more popular). This is why we are now basically at the "tipping point" where a majority of voters can vote to raise taxes with zero effect on themselves. As someone said above, "representation without taxation"....

EVERYONE should have some skin in the game, even if it is a small dollar amount.


Posted by Mike, a resident of Danville
on Jul 15, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Makes sense. Someone bringing in $1,500,000 a year could be asked to pay more taxes than someone bringing in $15,000 a year. At $15,000 a year, every nickel is important. Years ago, when I earned very little, having the same tax rate as millionaires and billionaires, without their deductions, would have been something that would have prevented me from advancing my career and economic conditions. There's a logic to the progressive tax code. It enables people with limited means to create their part of the American Dream.


Posted by Farmer Dave, a resident of another community
on Jul 18, 2011 at 10:24 am

Farmer Dave is a registered user.

@spcwt:

The rich don't pay anywhere near the top tax rate.

In fact, a majority of the income of the truly rich is from capital gains, which since the Bush tax cuts is only 15%. And that's BEFORE deductions, credits, and exemptions.


Posted by cw, a resident of Blackhawk
on Jul 19, 2011 at 2:52 am

To Mike and Dave:
You are not informed! It wasn't Bush who enacted the "Community Reinvestment Act" which forced lenders to offer home loans to those who couldn't afford them! It was the Democrats; (Barney Franks and Chris Dodd to name two of them)! Bush actually attempted to "put the brakes on" the process but because the Dems controlled the House & Senate his hands were tied! Also, Bush ran the debt up to $3 Trillion in "8" years but he had 911, Katrina and two wars! Obama has increased the national debt to $14 Trillion in "2 1/2 yrs!!!
Mike, do you think someone who earns $250,000 is rich? Well, Obama does and wants to increase taxes on those individuals!
Perhaps if Obama and Michelle would stop taking those expensive vacations on the taxpayers backs and giving money to other countries such as the $2 Billion he gave to Brazil for "their" oil drilling and $1 Billion for "their" schools, (while our schools are closing due to lack of funds), the national debt would go down considerably. Why don't you call the White House and ask Obama when he intends to lift the moritorium on oil drilling for our country?
Everything Obama has done thus far during his presidency has hurt our country. If he is re-elected this country will be destroyed!
I agree that to vote one should be forced to show proof that he/she paid taxes, and I also believe a flat tax is the fairest form of taxation. Dave you sound like a jealous man. If you were rich I'm certain you wouldn't like being taxed at the higher level, especially if you had to take risks and work hard to achieve that status.
I'm appalled that Obama is giving amnesty to 12 million "illegal" aliens so he can get their votes! He is rewarding them for breaking our laws. They receive more benefits than "legal" tax paying citizens! Our country is going to the dogs and we have the Democrats to blame for it! They are "UNAMERICAN"!!!!


Posted by psmacintosh, a resident of Danville
on Jul 19, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Jessica,

Thank you so much for responding to my questions in a genuine and comprehensive fashion which directly answered my questions. It gives us all a lot more clarification and understanding both about this particular situation (the writings of Tom Cushing) and about the operation of the DE in general.

A. Initially I was confused. I had remembered that Tom Cushing—as an ordinary Commenter (just like the rest of us)--had formerly written some comments to articles. Then suddenly his writings were being elevated to a status that was beyond that of us ordinary commenters.
Now, due to your information, I understand what has occurred. Tom Cushing was writing his own personal blog and posting it out there on the Internet. Then the Danville Express (DE) selected his blog as being "advantageous" to furthering DE's objectives of generating and engaging readership, chose to hire him as a regular Columnist, and now airs (references/distributes/links) his blog to us DE readers.

It's irrelevant what I, personally, think about Tom Cushing's writings, style, or content. And I actually have NOT formed an opinion yet (contrary to what some might think). I was simply wondering why his blog was being given such promotion and prominence and now I understand.
To say it bluntly, you've decided to let Tom's writings "yank our chain" and theoretically cause more people to participate by reading and commenting more.

I definitely like and enjoy the subject matter and content of the OTHER Columnists. In the course of my normal day, I don't get to hear a lot, from my other news sources, about LOCAL restaurants/food or get insights into the lives of LOCAL High Schoolers. So I welcome the addition of those Columns to my life.
Hopefully I'll like Cushing's column as well.
However, my first inclination is to NOT want to be subjected to more social and political editorialization from any one person. I certainly hear enough political, social news items (and "talking points") and editoriolizations from the other media sources—it almost gets obnoxious.
Even the DE has lots of political news, both local and beyond. So I'm surprised that you think that we need Tom's column to get more people involved in reading and commenting. More fuel for the fires of our flaming commenters!?!

Thank you for affirming that LOCAL NEWS AND ISSUES are a primary objective of the DE and confirming that Tom hasn't been providing much "localness" yet. So time will tell.


B. I actually learned something significant about the Danville Express!
I'm almost embarrassed to admit that, as long as I've been reading and commenting on the DE, I didn't really understand how the Daily Email was operating. You've now clarified that the Daily Email only lists SOME of the articles (selecting and highlighting a few of the stories) from the DE site, rather than listing ALL of the articles of that day.
For some reason, I was thinking that the Daily Email listed ALL the new articles for my perusal. And, therefore, I haven't been going to the Town Square Forum home page, meaning that I've probably been missing some articles that have been in the Forum.

Now that I understand that you are trying to "tease" us over to the DE online site, I was wondering why you didn't actually make the Section Titles of the Daily Email into links.
Looking closer I see that there are links present, but that they follow the teaser items in small print. Wouldn't it be simpler and more intuitive if you just made the Section Titles into links—for instance,
TopStories by Staff — from Danville Express Home Page
HotPicks by Staff — from DE's Master Community Calendar Page
TownSquare Highlights by Staff — from the Town Square Forum Page
(where the words "from the Town Square Forum Page" are a link.) Having the links at the start of the section would get us there more quickly.
My final comment/suggestion is that having the Daily Email (as I'm calling it) be named the "Danville Express" and having the online website be named the "Danville Express" is a bit confusing and non-intuitive—two different things with the same name. This is probably why I was thinking I was getting the whole enchilada of stories every day. Maybe they should have distinct titles/names—like, Daily Email from Danville Express (or DE Daily) and Danville Express Website (or NewsSite or Newsletter).

Anyway, thanks again!


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville
on Jul 20, 2011 at 11:25 am

@ Mac: I hope you'll come to enjoy it, too. If you have particular locally-oriented political subjects for this weekly epistle, I'd be happy to hear of them -- just ask Madame Editor for my email address. One minor correction: I didn't previously have a formal blog that was brought here; I Have commented on many posts in this forum, and have also started a few.

I am hopeful that this can become a venue for discussion of these issues -- for instance, I think reader 'spcwt' and I have had a reasonably civil exchange on tax policy, that might even continue. I don't care so much about the name-calling and personal attacks by others -- they don't add anything. They'll either continue or they won't; I just hope they don't drive out honest conversation, civilly expressed. Like my Mama said -- "Son, you can disagree without being disagreeable."


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