Beyond Labels

A 360° Discussion of Foreign, National and Local Policy Issues

Scott Miller

For Monday 7/26: Haiti and Cuba

Over the last two weeks, Haiti has seen the assassination of its president and a conflict between two people claiming to be prime minster (one has since withdrawn his claim), and Cuba has seen the largest public demonstrations against the government since, some say, the 1950s. Both countries have large, impoverished populations suffering from shortages of food and medicine.

  • Who, if anyone, is responsible for the current conditions in each country other than the Haitians and Cubans themselves?
  • If others bear some responsibility for those conditions what, if anything, should those others do to remedy or mitigate the situation?
  • What might the consequences be to other countries (including, but not limited to, the US) if instability in either of those countries continues or gets worse?

Here’s a PDF of a recent NY Times article to get us started.

Whither the Democratic Party?

We next meet on July 12 in the Howard Room at BHPL. For those who wish to continue to join the discussion via Zoom, you can still register (and receive a link) via the BHPL event calendar. For those who attend in person, no reservation is necessary.

Several weeks ago, we discussed where the Republican Party might be headed. At the next Beyond Labels meeting on July 12 (the BHPL will be closed on July 5), we’ll turn our attention to the Democrats.

In particular, we’ll discuss “What do the results of the New York City Democratic mayoral primary tell us about the near-term future of the Democratic Party…in New York? …across the U.S.?

For a variety of perspectives on the leading candidates and to whom they appeal, here’s a PDF of a NYT Op-Ed on the subject.

“Fair Share”

It’s a great sound bite: “The [wealthy/corporations/etc.] should pay their fair share.” Who can argue with that? Particularly if the group who are implied to be not paying their fair share are someone (or something) that isn’t “us.”

So this coming Monday, we’ll explore this concept, in particular with regard to taxation and similar financial policies.

Here are some starter questions to consider:

  • What is the “fair share” for the wealthy (let’s say the top 1% of the population)?
    • Should this be measured by income? By wealth? By a combination of both?
  • What is the corresponding “fair share” for middle- and lower-income families?
  • Should fairness of share be measured in individual components (federal income tax, state and local income tax, local property tax, Medicare tax, Social Security tax, unemployment tax, state and local sales tax, excise tax, gasoline tax, etc. etc. etc.)?
    • Or should fairness be considered more holistically, either combining all of these contributions into a single bucket or several big buckets (federal, state, local)? Or something else?
  • Are income tax rates too low? Are there too many deductions and credits? Are they not sufficiently progressive?
  • If we were to adopt ProPublica’s “true tax rate” (which includes annual increase in wealth in “income”—see link below), shouldn’t it be a two-way adjustment (i.e., tax refunds for decreases in wealth)?

I think it would be interesting to play “king for a day:” If you could singlehandedly change the way Americans contribute (financially) to support the services provided by federal, state, and local governments, what would you do?

Here are some resources:

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