Posts tagged with "tax reform"

360 football illustration for sports articles

THE ECONOMIC SUPER BOWL

In midst of a pandemic that devastated society, including sports, the total wealth of 64 billionaire sports barons shot up by $98.5 billion, or over 30 percent. Taxpayer subsidies for stadiums of 26 billionaire team owners have totaled $9 billion since 1990, with most in last decade.

We won’t know the winner of this year’s Super Bowl till Sunday, but we already know the big winners in our COVID-ravaged economy include dozens of billionaire sports barons.

On the eve of the big game, and after 10 plus months of the pandemic, 64 billionaire owners of major league sports franchises—including the AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs’ Hunt family and the NFC champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Glazer family—have enjoyed a $98.5 billion rise in their collective net worth, a 30 percent increase, as millions of fans have fallen ill, lost jobs, neared eviction, gone hungry and died due to the coronavirus.

The 64 billionaires, who together own or co-own 68 professional sports franchises, had a combined wealth of $426 billion on January 29, 2021. This number is up from $326 billion on March 18, 2020, roughly since the start of the pandemic lockdowns, according to a new analysis by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), and data analysis from Forbes and Wealth-X. (Note: The increase in total billionaire wealth from March to January was $100 billion, but has been adjusted to $98.5 billion because an additional billionaire reached that status in January 2021.)

The sports billionaires’ private gain in the midst of so much public pain is particularly galling since many of their franchises have been the beneficiaries of taxpayer handouts. Over the past several decades, according to data maintained by Field of Schemes, 28 pro sports teams owned by 26 billionaires have received $9 billion in taxpayer subsidies (see Table here) to help build or update stadiums and arenas and make other investments that billionaires could presumably afford on their own. These publicly subsidized team owners have seen their wealth increase $45 billion since mid-March.

For the full report go to Pandemic Super Bowl 2021: Billionaires Win, We Lose.

Over the past five years—when a lot of sweetheart tax deals were cut—the collective wealth of sports billionaires shot up $165 billion, or 67 percent. Their combined wealth of $247 billion in March 2016 had grown to $426 billion by January 29 of this year. (Nine billionaires on the list in 2021 were not billionaires in 2016, accounting for the $14 billion discrepancy.)

The $98.5 billion wealth gain by 64 sports franchise billionaires since March 2020 could pay for:

  • A stimulus check of $1,400 for over 70 million Americans—almost half of the 153 million people who likely will be eligible under the pandemic relief plan proposed by President Biden based on the 2020 stimulus payments.
  • More than one-third of the $290 billion cost of providing $400-a-week supplements to existing unemployment benefits through September, as proposed by President Biden in his COVID rescue plan.

March 18 is used as the unofficial beginning of the pandemic because by then most federal and state economic restrictions responding to the virus were in place. Moreover, March 18 was also the date on which Forbes estimated billionaire wealth for the 2020 version of its annual report. That report provided a detailed baseline that ATF and IPS have been comparing periodically with real-time data from the Forbes website. [See past reports here] This methodology has been favorably reviewed by PolitiFact.

Last March is when the nation’s emergency response to the deadly virus threw professional sports, along with the rest of society, into turmoil. Thousands of low-paid stadium and arena workers lost their jobs as sports seasons were cancelled and curtailed.

The long winning streak of America’s billionaire sports owners is just part of the dominance of a national dynasty of 661 U.S. billionaires whose wealth has grown by $1.2 trillion, or 40%, during the pandemic. The number has climbed from $2.9 trillion on March 18 to $4.13 trillion, as of January 29, 2021 (see link here for all data).

Though only one of their teams will lift the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl champs this year, both the Chiefs’ Hunt family—specifically, Ray Lee Hunt and W. Herbert Hunt—and the Bucs’ Glazer family will continue their long reigns among the nation’s biggest economic winners. The Hunts’ net worth is estimated by Forbes at $6.3 billion, up $482 million during the COVID crisis. The Chiefs received $250 million in taxpayer subsidies for stadium renovations in 2006.

The Buc’s Glazer family is worth an estimated $1.7 billion, according to Wealth-X. Taxpayers provided a total of $218 million in subsidies for construction and renovation of the Buccaneer stadium in 1998 and 2015.

Sixty U.S. billionaires—roughly one in ten of the country’s 661 total billionaires—own one or more major league professional sports teams in the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MBL), and National Hockey League (NHL). Four other billionaires—three from Canada and one from Germany—own four additional teams.

“These billionaire sports barons have seen their wealth rise as their fans lose their lives, livelihoods, health and wealth,” said Chuck Collins, director of the Institute for Policy Studies, Program on Inequality.  “As a country, we should be investigating pandemic profiteering and taxing windfall gains during these extraordinary times.”

“The Super Bowl brings the whole nation together, but we have not come together as a country to beat the pandemic,” said Americans for Tax Fairness executive director Frank Clemente. “Billionaire sports owners have continued their long winning streak of ever-growing fortunes while fans at home are losing their lives and livelihoods. Real team work would require billionaires to pay their fair share of taxes so we can get the whole U.S. back to its winning ways.”

“Every year, wealthy sports team owners rake in more than two billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies for new stadiums and arenas that, according to innumerable economic studies, provide zero measurable economic benefit to the public,” said Neil DeMause, co-author of Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit, and editor of the stadium news site. “Letting billionaire owners socialize their costs and privatize their profits has allowed the rich to get richer, while starving local governments of revenue to pay for schools and other genuine public needs.”

Tax reform that ensures the wealthy pay their fair share—the principle President Biden’s tax plan is built on—would transform a good chunk of those huge billionaire gains into public revenue to help heal a hurting nation. But getting at that big boost in billionaire fortunes is not as simple as raising tax rates: tax rules let the rich delay, diminish and even ultimately avoid any tax on the growth in their wealth. What’s needed is structural change to how wealth is taxed.

The most direct approach is an annual wealth tax on the biggest fortunes, proposed by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, among others. Another option is the annual taxation of investment gains on stocks and other tradable assets, an idea advanced by the new Senate Finance Committee chair, Ron Wyden. Even under the current discounted tax rates for investment income, if Wyden’s plan had been in effect in 2020 America’s billionaire sports owners would be paying billions of dollars in extra taxes this spring thanks to their gargantuan pandemic profits last year. Another reform is needed to significantly strengthen the estate tax so that the riches accumulated by these ultra-wealthy sports franchise owners pay their fair share of taxes when these dynasties get passed onto their heirs.

Kaelen Felix illustrates Ritchie Torres for 360 Magazine

TRAILBLAZER: CONGRESSMAN RITCHIE TORRES

By Elle Grant

January 3rd marked the commencement of the 117th Congress and the swearing of its newest members. For many, it marked the beginning of a new dawn. One that will be followed by the inauguration of TIME’s People of the Year, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. They will replace President Trump on Inauguration Day on January 20th. Yet several other remarkable individuals were elected this year and sworn in a bit earlier, solidifying the 117th Congress as the most diverse in American history. One of these representatives is a freshly elected Ritchie Torres, a 32-year-old politician serving the 15th congressional district in the Bronx, New York. Torres is the first openly gay Afro-Latino man elected to Congress, and one of two gay Black men that will serve in the 117th Congress, a distinction he shares with fellow New Yorker Mondaire Jones. 360 Magazine had the opportunity to sit down with Torres to discuss the story of his life, the issues he considers vital, as well as pick his brain for his thoughts on current events.

“I am a product of the Bronx,” Torres says of his childhood, “I spent most of my life in poverty.” Ritchie Torres was raised by a single mother, one of three children, in the Throggs Neck neighborhood of the East Bronx. He recalls the difficulty his mother had raising a family on minimum wage in the 1990s, as well as the awful conditions of the public housing he grew up in. Torres recollects these experiences with the soft yet fluid countenance that marked his speech throughout 360’s conversation with him. He floats between topics and memories with ease.

He recalls, with a rich sense of irony, the construction of Trump Golf Links as a child. “My life is something of a metaphor. I grew up right across the street of what became Trump golf course and actually something funny, is when the golf course was undergoing construction, it unleashed a skunk infestation. So, I often tell people I’ve been smelling the stench of Donald Trump long before he became President.” His own situation, compared with the government subsidized construction of the Trump Golf Links, deeply unsettled Torres’ image of society. He says collectively of his youth, “Those experiences shape not only who I am as a person, but as a public official.”

Such injustices prompted Torres to seek to become “The change that you wish the see in the world,” he says, quoting Mahatma Gandhi. He named public figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Ted Kennedy as role models. He got his start as a housing organizer and eventually took the leap of faith to run for public office, becoming New York’s youngest elected city official at age 25. He had “No ties to the machine. No ties to the dynasties of Bronx politics, but I was young and energetic. I knocked on thousands of doors,” he claims that kind of face-to-face contact won him that election. Torres then became the first LGBTQ+ official elected from the Bronx.

“I think it has several implications,” he says when asked what this early accomplishment meant to him. “I mean, first, we are all products of our identities and our lived experiences. Right? Who we are as people shapes what we do as policy makers. It is important to have LGBTQ policy makers in the room where decisions are being made. A wise person once said, ‘If you don’t have a seat at the table, then you are probably on the menu.’” Referring to his 2020 election win, he says “My election means that LGBTQ people of color, in particular, will have a seat at one of the most powerful tables, the United States Congress.” He calls the reality of his election both empowering and normalizing. “I am a symbol of possibility.”

“I met Mondaire for the first time four years ago,” Torres says of Mondaire Jones, U.S. representative of New York’s 17th congressional district. “I remember when I met him for the first time, we had a conversation about the lack of LGBTQ representation of color in New York state politics. And I never imagined that four years later, he and I would become the first openly LGBTQ Black members of United States Congress.”

Congressmen Torres recognizes that his path, though marked with accomplishments, has not been one of only highs. Torres stands apart as a public official on the national stage who is open about the lows of his life and his struggles with mental health. When asked why he chooses to be so transparent, he says “I felt a deep sense of obligation to speak openly about my own struggles with depression in order to break the silence and shame and stigma that surrounds mental health.” He seeks to evolve, not perpetuate, the current ideas surrounding mental health. He hopes to show that “there is a way forward” out of difficult moments, which for him were struggles with substance abuse, the loss of a friend, and moments when he considered taking his own life. But seven years later, Torres was elected to city council. “I would not be alive today, much less a member of the United States Congress, were it not for mental health care which saved my life.” He aspires to send a message that “Recovery is possible. You can take an antidepressant, as I do every day, and find normalcy and stability” and achieve feats like being elected to Congress.

The 117th Congress is slated to be the most diverse in history. Torres says of this reality, “I think American is increasingly becoming a multi-racial, multi-ethnic inclusive democracy. We are witnessing the collapse of politics as an old voice network. I am part of a new generation of young leaders every bit as diverse as America itself. Congress is becoming what it always should have been, a miniaturization of America itself.”

Torres acknowledges the year 2020, monumental in many ways, as harrowing for his Bronx community. “COVID-19 has been a catastrophe for the city and the country, and the South Bronx has been the epicenter of COVID-19. The South Bronx had the highest rate of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality during the peak of the pandemic. And just as destructive as COVID-19 itself were the deeper inequalities that were brought to light.” He argued that the coronavirus exposed the deeper health inequalities, racial inequalities, and class inequalities laid bare by the pandemic.

These issues are at the forefront of Torres’ mind in thinking of his work as a legislator. When asked what he saw as the first step to rectifying the rampant racial injustice in the United States, he answered “the first thing is to bring greater accountability to policing in America,” an argument familiar to many Americans following the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd and their ensuing protests. As the Black Lives Matter movement swept the nation with greater momentum than ever before, cries for justice and defunding the police became common across the country’s cities. “Where there is no accountability, there will never be an end to police brutality” Torres says, being especially critical of qualified immunity in the United States.

Torres heads to Congress as a man with a mission regarding many issues. He himself declares “My great passion is affordable housing,” reflecting a long journey working continually in the housing sphere. He seeks to secure far greater funding for public housing in New York City and to expand the Section 8 program. The Section 8 program, also known as the Housing Choice Voucher program, created by an act in 1978, provides assistance to eligible low- and moderate-income families to rent housing in the private market. Torres says, “For me the surest way to stimulate the economy is to put money in the pockets of struggling families.” In order to do that, he believes the solution is an expanded child tax credit, which he describes as the single largest tax expenditure in America, yet he finds fault with a system that is “so regressive that it excludes a third of American families. Particularly the poorest families in America.” Torres’ passion shines through when he discusses the subject, detailing how this solution could slash childhood poverty by 40% in the span of the year. He calls its potential an absolute “game changer.”

Without question, affordable housing and tax reform are the first issues Torres hopes to address after being sworn in to the 117th Congress on January 3rd, 2020. “For me, the central mission of my life is to fight poverty in America. Racially constructed poverty in America. The South Bronx is said to be the poorest district in America and if we can make progressive policies work in the South Bronx, we can make them work anywhere.”

360 Magazine also had the opportunity to discuss a variety of current issues with Congressman Torres, one of which being the then impending Senate run-offs in Georgia. Following races too close to call in November 2020, Republican incumbent David Perdue is facing a challenge from Democrat Jon Ossoff. Additionally, GOP appointee Kelly Loeffler is defending her seat against Democrat Reverend Raphael Warnock. The election is vital because it will determine which party will control the Senate. “The stakes are supremely important,” Torres says of Georgia. “As long as Mitch McConnell refuses to bring critical bills to the floor for a vote, there is a limit to what we can accomplish. For me, Mitch McConnell is the single greatest obstruction on the path to progress. Winning those two seats in Georgia are essential.”

Regarding the impending mayoral race in his home of New York City, as well as early polls that display former Presidential candidate Andrew Yang as the frontrunner, Torres is coy. “The mayor’s race is wide open. Anyone who claims to have it figured out is lying.” He goes on to affirm “It is full of more than one credible candidate.”

“To be clear, I never announced that I wasn’t going to be in the squad.” Torres says, referring to ‘The Squad’ of United States Congress, composed of Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a fellow New Yorker, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib. With new young progressive politicians like Torres joining the fray, claims of expanding membership are common. Torres, along with the aforementioned Mondaire Jones, as well as Congresswoman Cori Bush, Congresswoman Marie Newman, and Congressman Jamaal Brown are commonly referred to as impending members.

Instead, Torres clarifies, “I would never issue an announcement that I would not be a part of something. That would be an odd thing to do. Whenever I’m asked about the squad, I simply state that I’m my own person and I prefer to be judged on the basis of my own story and my own record, on my own terms.” He goes on to assert he is willing to work with “anyone and everyone in the service of delivering to the people of the South Bronx. That is my highest priority.” Torres is clear in this declaration that he is willing to work with more conservative members of his own party or the Republican party in hopes of progress.

On a future in politics, Torres affirmed his intent to serve the people in the moment and to “let the dice fall where they may” regarding the future. When asked what wisdom he would impart to a younger generation, Congressman Torres says “We are all only as strong as the support we have in our lives and be grateful for the supporters you have. The friends and family. I would not be here today if not for the friendship of people who believed in me more than I believed in myself. Know who those people are and value them and be grateful for them.”

Update as of 1/14/21, Congressman Ritchie Torres has formally endorsed former presidential candidate Andrew Yang for mayor of New York City. This comes just a day after Andrew Yang announced his campaign in a video titled ‘Why I’m Running,’ which features Torres in it.

Trump’s Christmas Gift To America

TAX REFORM BECOMES LAW DELIVERING ON PROMISES FOR WORKERS TO KEEP MORE OF THEIR HARD-EARNED MONEY

Businesses Already Putting Real Money in Workers’ Pockets 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Celebrating the signing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law by President Trump, Independent Women’s Forum Senior Policy Analyst Patrice Onwuka offered the statement below:

“Today’s signing of the tax legislation is a win for President Trump, but ultimately more so for American workers and families. It’s been more than 30 years since we’ve had meaningful reforms to our tax code. Now, new generations will experience the blessings and prosperity of policies that accelerate economic growth, creating jobs, raising wages and spurring innovation.

“This bill delivers on promises to allow workers to keep more of their hard-earned money, makes American businesses more competitive, and simplifies our tax code. Businesses are already responding by making new investments, giving workers generous bonuses, and announcing new hiring.

“Our economy is showing signs of strength, but these reforms will lead to stronger markets, higher wages, and better-paying opportunities for Americans. It will be a happy holiday season indeed.”

First NYC Mayor Open Debate

** TUESDAY 7PM ON NY1: FIRST-EVER BOTTOM-UP MAYORAL OPEN DEBATE **

De Blasio, Malliotakis, & Dietl Face Off in First-Ever Mayoral Open Debate in NYC

Fresh Off Major Success in 2016 Presidential Debates, Open Debate Coalition Partners with NY1, Politico, Others for First-in-the-Nation Open Debate for Mayor

50% of Questions to be Chosen from Top Questions Submitted and Voted On By the Public at OpenDebateQuestions.com

Tuesday at 7pm on NY1 News, New York’s mayoral candidates will face off in the first-ever, bottom-up mayoral Open Debate. The October 10 debate will be between New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), Nicole Malliotakis (R), and Bo Dietl (I). Moderators will dedicate half of the 90-minute debate to top questions submitted and voted on by the public at the bottom-up platform, OpenDebateQuestions.com.
Over 33,000 votes have been cast on user-submitted questions. Some of the top questions cover issues like homelessness, housing issues, Vision Zero, police reform, and recycling.

Lilia Tamm Dixon, director of the Open Debate Coalition said: “The Open Debate Coalition is very excited to bring our bottom-up format to the local level after great success in having questions from the public included in presidential, governor, and senate debates in 2016. New York City will help us prove that Open Debates should be the new norm in American politics — inserting the will of the people more into races for President, Congress, Governor, Legislature, Mayor, and other offices.”

WHAT:

  • First bottom-up Open Debate ever held at the city level, for New York mayor.

WHO:

  • New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D)
  • Nicole Malliotakis (R)
  • Bo Dietl (I)


WHEN:

  • 7pm ET, Tuesday, October 10


WHERE:

  • Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway, New York, NY 10025


LIVESTREAM:

  • Available at NY1.com.

The same platform will also be used to source questions from the public for next week’s public advocate and comptroller debates, on Oct. 16 and 17, respectively.
The cross-partisan Open Debate Coalition is partnering with NY1 News, Politico, WNYC, Citizens Union, Intelligence Squared, the Latino Leadership Institute, and Civic Hall on this historic project.

Question submission and voting is now open at OpenDebateQuestions.com and lasts through 12 noon on Monday, October 16, just before the public advocate debate. Anyone across the nation can submit and vote on questions. Only New York City votes will be counted when selecting the top 40 questions, but others nationwide can cast votes to impact which questions are trending on the site — influencing which questions voters see and vote on most.

The Open Debate Coalition made history last year when it was prominently credited as a source of questions in two presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. After 3.6 million votes were cast online, ABC’s Martha Raddatz and Fox’s Chris Wallace cited the Open Debate Coalition by name during the live debates in front of their combined audience of more than 100 million people, and asked questions from the coalition’s voting platform. Open Debates for Senate and Governor were also held last year.

The cross-partisan Open Debate Coalition was formed during the 2008 election cycle, and includes Americans for Tax Reform, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, FreedomWorks, MoveOn, Faith & Freedom Coalition, the National Organization of Women, Young Republicans, Young Democrats, craigslist founder Craig Newmark, Electronic Frontier Foundation President Cindy Cohn, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, and many more (See full list of coalition members here).

Prominent national and local promotion of NYC Open Debate voting: