I'm on the roof of The Blast Factory in Chicago. The view troubles me.
I look to the left and see money and opportunity. I look to the right (south) and I see poverty, violence, and racial tension. I listen. I can hear gunshots. Gunpowder. Killing.
There are more people living in poverty in this country than the population of Afganistan. 41 million people. Just think about that for a minute. And, If I lived in poverty and was oppressed for decades. I would riot and burn thing, too. And not just for my art.
The reason for all the violence is the loss of economic opportunity and the loss of hope. Langston Hughes wrote, "What happens to a dream deferred...does it explode? So let's blow it up. Here are my eleven ideas to stop poverty and save The United States.
First, we have to raise some money to pay for our plan. (By my calculations this will raise over a trillion dollars in 10 years.)
1. Eliminate net operating loss (NOL) tax breaks for businesses when related to an acquisition or merger. How cool is it that your company can call the purchase price of another company a loss, then use that loss to offset taxes on future profits. So add a company. Increase your profits. Reduce your tax bill. How great is that for business. It works. This is why so many large corporations do deals and reduce their tax basis. We should eliminate this business tax break.
2. Make Capital gains tax rates zero for your first $50,000 in capital gains and qualified dividend income each year. So everyone gets $50 grand tax-free each year in investment income. After that have all of it taxed 25%. This protects small investors investment income and will encourage people to save and invest more.
3. I also like the flat tax rate. First 30 grand tax-free for everyone, then 15% on all income, after that. Same for business, too.
4. Add a $5 a gallon gas tax. This will reduce commutes. More people will move to cities. And it will help the environment as more people turn to new technologies and they become more affordable.
So yeah, you can call these ideas “tax the rich”. They do. I don’t see anything wrong with that. In fact, if it brings 41 million out of poverty, I am proud of it. And, “trickle down” has never worked and never will. So this plan is fair and will put more money in the hands of those who will spend it. And if all “rich” are so damn smart, rather than lobbying for better "rules", they can figure out a way to make even more money. The most successful people I know never worried about the tax rate. There were being creative finding new ideas, products and services to make more money.
5. Raise the minimum wage. Why we don't do this is beyond me.
6. Rebuild a youth nutrition program. Kids develop better, get educated, they are smarter and don’t end up in jail. We have a choice of feeding kids or building more prisons. Seems pretty simple to me.
7. Develop a bigger tax break for being married (and anyone can marry). A strong home is another indicator of successful kids and moving people out of poverty. So let’s pay for that.
8. Invest more in education. We need to find a way make education better and more affordable. (Maybe some of my teacher or professor friends can help me out with a plan that works and doesn't just throw money at the problem). And we need to get reduce student debt. It will put more money into the economy.
9. Consistently in a slow, disciplined way, devalue the dollar. We need to make imports more expensive. That is the only way to bring jobs home. (Having done a lot of business in China I have seen this first hand for many years how they control their currency).
10. Create Inner-city jobs programs to fortify and build our infrastructure against the changes coming from climate change. We need to do this. And we can put people to work. We can also build the economy with new technical jobs to save cities and the world from environmental disaster.
11. Make it a law that everyone votes. And have strict term limits. This will take some of the money out of politics.
An improved economy is more important than ramping up social spending. Good jobs and the prospect of a better future is ultimately what matters. Let's not "defer the dream!"
Maybe you've got some ideas, too! Please, add to the list. We can do this.
Let’s blow up poverty.
Stick Vega is the American Gunpowder Artist and author of LESS KILLING. He creates explosive pop art and blogs from The Blast Factory in Madison, WI and Bucktown, Chicago, IL. Follow Stick on Facebook and/or Twitter.