/

Top Left Corner #155 — NTRVW:
Berkshire Fair Share committee

Grassroots organizers gearing up for a rally in support of the Fair Share Amendment fotomek, via stock.adobe.com.

Editor’s Note: At this time, we are able to provide a rough transcript of interviews. By choice, we edit the text of our conversations to remove verbal pauses (um, ah, uh, you know, etc.) and fragmented phrases not to make the speakers look smarter, but to make it easier for audiences who are unable to listen to the podcast and must rely on the transcript. We attempt to remain as faithful as possible to the speakers’ original meaning, and apologize for any errors of transcription.

That said, even the imperfect transcription we perform is costly. Please support us financially by becoming a member or making a one-time contribution to help us continue to provide this service.

Jay Velázquez: This is the Top Left Corner. And you are listening to Episode Number 155, First released Saturday, April 2nd, 2022. I’m your host, Jay Velázquez, and I do thank you for tuning in. I just want to let you know that some of the stories that we’ve been working on have been very intensive, a lot of research, a lot of interviews, and that means a lot of time and effort. And if you appreciate the time and effort that we put into local journalism for you, please consider joining our little, little band of merry supporters by going to Gorilla Glass Dotcom and tapping that support us link in the very top of the page, in the red, in the smaller menu. It’s really the only way that we can be guaranteed to have the resources that we need to keep working for you, because that’s why we do what we do. It’s it’s to keep you informed and sometimes entertained. So please become a member at $5, $10, any amount that fits your budget and your commitment to local news.

Today, on this show, gosh, we have a good conversation. We’re going to be joined by Henry Rose and Jim Mahoney of the Berkshire Fair Share Committee. There is an amendment that is gathering some attention here in the Commonwealth and it is the Fair Share Amendment which seeks to do some crazy-like tax the rich at a level that’s not even close to what they were being taxed back in the fifties and sixties, etc..


FAIR SHARE AMENDMENT RALLY

WHAT: Rally in support of the campaign to pass the Fair Share Amendment 

WHEN: Monday, April 4, 2022 at 2 p.m. 

WHERE: Berkshire Community College, Connector Building, 1350 West Street, Pittsfield 

WHO: Local teachers and school officials, students, labor leaders, elected officials, and activists from the Berkshire Fair Share Committee, a local group of activists working with the Fair Share Campaign’s Western Massachusetts regional organizing team


Jay Velázquez: But, you know, enough that would put some money in the coffers for use for programs that benefit everybody. And that’s what it’s all about, right? Making sure that there’s money to keep the state running. And that includes the towns because the towns rely on state money as well. So we’re going to be spending the entire hour. This was not my intention, but the content of this conversation is just so fascinating. I decided, why not? I’m not going to make it a premium premium episode. That was the thought. But now I know everyone needs to hear this will make it available to everybody will do the whole show. I think you’re going to want to listen to the entire thing front to back. So there is that. And I will say that this episode is sponsored by Shakespeare and Companies 45th season tickets available for both the classic and the modern shows that you can get to by going to Shakespeare. Rg And I am sure that this early in the season there are still some good seats left, I hope. But anyway, let’s get on with our show and welcome Henry Rose and Jim Mahoney to the top left corner.

CLICK HERE: Official Release of the Berkshire Fair Share Amendment Committee

PITTSFIELD – Local teachers, students, elected leaders, and community and labor activists from the Berkshires will gather at Berkshire Community College on Monday, April 4 at 2 p.m. to rally in support of the work being done in the Berkshires to organize and campaign for the Fair Share Amendment, the proposed state tax on incomes above $1 million which would raise approximately $2 billion a year for spending on transportation and public education. 

The event is hosted by the Berkshire Fair Share Committee, a local organization of activists working with the Fair Share Campaign’s Western Massachusetts regional organizing team. It will feature a speaking program and opportunities for those in attendance to learn more about the Fair Share Amendment, the campaign, and upcoming events – including the first area canvass slated for Saturday, April 23. 

The Fair Share Amendment, backed by the statewide Raise Up Massachusetts coalition of community organizations, faith-based groups, and labor unions, will appear on the November 2022 statewide ballot.

WHO: Local teachers and school officials, students, labor leaders, elected officials, and activists from the Berkshire Fair Share Committee, a local group of activists working with the Fair Share Campaign’s Western Massachusetts regional organizing team

WHAT: Rally in support of the work being done locally to campaign to pass the Fair Share Amendment 

WHERE: Berkshire Community College, Connector Building, 1350 West Street, Pittsfield 

WHEN: Monday, April 4, 2022 at 2 p.m. 

#

About the Fair Share Amendment 

The Fair Share Amendment will allow Massachusetts to improve our transportation and public education systems without asking working and middle-class families to pay more. The proposed amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution would create an additional tax of four percent on annual income above $1 million. This new revenue, over $1 billion a year, would be spent on quality public education and affordable public colleges and universities, and for the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and public transportation. (To ensure that the tax continues to apply only to the highest income taxpayers, who have the ability to pay more, the $1 million threshold would be adjusted each year to reflect cost-of-living increases.)

The Fair Share Amendment would only raise taxes on the wealthiest 0.6% of Massachusetts households: those who have more than a million dollars of taxable income in a single year. They can clearly afford to pay a little more – just 4 cents a dollar on their income above one million dollars in a single year – to make the investments we all need to deliver broadly shared prosperity.

Now, people from all walks of life are coming together to create better schools and transportation. With the Fair Share Amendment, we can make the big investments we’ve been putting off: new public-school buildings with great educators, safer roads and bridges, affordable public college, access to vocational education and job training programs, fast and reliable public transportation, and pre-K classrooms for every child. Learn more at raiseupma.org/fair-share-amendment-2022.

About Raise Up Massachusetts

Raise Up Massachusetts, which has led the campaign for the Fair Share Amendment since 2015, is a coalition of community organizations, faith-based groups, and labor unions committed to building an economy that invests in families, gives everyone the opportunity to succeed, and creates broadly shared prosperity. Since our coalition came together in 2013, we have nearly doubled wages for hundreds of thousands of working people by winning two increases in the state’s minimum wage, won best-in-the-nation earned sick time and paid family and medical leave benefits for workers and their families, and started to build an economy that works for all of us, not just those at the top. Learn more at raiseupma.org.

Henry Rose and Jim Mahon of the
Berkshire Fair Share Amendment Committee

Greylock Glass: And with me on the line, I have Henry Rose of Williamstown and Jim Mahoney of Dalton to talk about the Fair Share Amendment. Gentlemen, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today.

Henry Rose: Thank you for having us, Jay.

Greylock Glass: Well, I wouldn’t miss it for the world. You know, fair share. It’s such a. It’s such a dog barking in the background. Hey, dog. No, no, that’s. That’s the other bus. But the dog has learned that that the kids come home on the school bus. But she’s not very bright and she doesn’t understand that once the kids get off the bus, the little kids bus isn’t going to deliver more children to us. At least, I hope. I don’t think it’s going to. So she should be fine now. The Fair Share Amendment. It definitely has a ring of something that makes perfect sense to us. It it harkens to all of the the sort of. Equitable impulses, should I say, of the human, human species. But it is not something that is a given in the society that we all do get our fair share. One of you, please give us a little bit of a background on this, this initiative and how it got started here in Massachusetts.

Henry Rose: Well, we’ve had a flat tax in Massachusetts of 5% for a long time. And that flat tax of 5% is not fair to low income earners, because 5% when you’re a low income earner is quite a burden, whereas when you’re very wealthy, 5% is not as much. But in addition, the uber wealthy are able, through various investments and strategies and paying consultants and paying accountants, they’re able to even avoid paying that in a lot of cases. And plus, the the uber wealthy have managed with the federal tax laws and various loopholes managed to avoid paying federal taxes to a large extent. So our state legislature in two sessions overwhelmingly passed the the Fair Share Amendment, and this is to amend our state constitution to have an additional 4% surcharge on incomes exceeding $1 million. And the way you do a constitutional Massachusetts constitutional amendment in our state is it passes the legislature twice and then it goes to the voters. And then we’ll be voting November 8th on whether or not to impose an additional 4% surcharge, a tax on incomes over a million, meaning your first million, if you’re if you’re that wealthy, is taxed at the usual 5%, but your second and your third and your fourth, etc., a million is taxed at 9%. And these monies are specifically designed to go for education and transportation.

Greylock Glass: Hmm. Now, let’s break this down a little bit. You said that 5% is not is not the same across the board. Just just give us a hypothetical situation. Let’s say you’ve got a family of four and the combined family income is say, say $35,000. Is it possible that 5% is really that big of a chunk?

Henry Rose: If you’re barely making it, I submit to you that yes, it is. If you’re barely making it and struggling to pay your rent or your mortgage plus your food bill, I submit that that’s a huge burden and you don’t have to look hard to find people who are struggling.

Greylock Glass: What what does it look like? What does 5% look like to somebody who’s in one of the higher brackets?

Henry Rose: Okay. So first, their first million is taxed at 5%, but the second million gets taxed at 9%, meaning it’s an additional 40,000 on that 1 million. Do you really think the uber wealthy are going to miss that, that amount of money? I think one of the strongest arguments is that people in this very elite income bracket, of which there are about 20,000 people in the state. Do you realize that they are managing to use tax avoidance schemes already to minimise their burden? They’re able to do various investments things, things that allow them to offshore their money or use tax avoidance schemes already. So the fair share is fair because it’s not as difficult for somebody in the elite class to afford the extra 5% and they’re already using tax avoidance schemes.

Greylock Glass: Yeah, yeah, no question about it. That. The the number of families or households that are making below even just a minimum, you know, say $40,000. You know, you could conceivably, if you lived extremely frugally, you could raise a family of four on on 40 to $50000. But it would be so tight you could not have a single unexpected bill. So you’re right about that. Now. Millionaires are not the typically not just getting wages right. They are their, you know, earnings from other sources, you know, from from investments, for example, from property rentals, things like that. Does this include those sources of income as well?

Henry Rose: Yes, this is on taxable income when you do your Massachusetts taxes. Taxable income is what we’re after here. It would include it would include unearned income, although, like I said, they have ways to to avoid it, depending on what they do with their investments.

Greylock Glass: Hmm. So this seems like a no brainer. And as you said, the very wealthy are not going to miss this. But there has been pushback from various quarters. What who would you say the biggest opponents of this are and what are the justifications for for trying to squash this?

Henry Rose: The two biggest opponents, as mentioned in a recent article in the Berkshire Eagle, are the mass fiscal alliance. And the National Federation of Independent Business, NFIB And I submit to you that these entities represent the interests of big business, not small business. The average small business has an annual income of like $100,000. These organizations represent big business, and they also have undisclosed donors in many cases. So it’s about greed and it’s about how much how much is enough? And it’s about paying one’s fair share so our society can function better and. We have a tremendous need, especially in the area of transportation and education.

Greylock Glass: So yeah. Jim It does. It certainly seems like a family making say for making 40 or 45,000 is definitely going to feel the pinch does feel the pinch of 5% or so. And on the on the on the flip side, a higher earning income family is, you know, as Henry said, it’s not going to you know, it’s not going to be any sort of a hardship. Talk about you know, talk about maybe where we. How we got to this point where society has such deep divisions in in in not just income but wealth equality.

Jim Mahon: Yeah. Well, wealth inequality is always going to be worse than income inequality because it’s the result of income over time. And if any given amount of time that people accumulate income and some people on the top are accumulating more, then, then they will accumulate more wealth. So that’s that’s just one of the facts out there. But you have to think also about the larger picture about how we fund the things that are mentioned in the Fair Share Amendment. So we we fund transport or transportation and train transportation infrastructure with the sales tax, with gas tax. And if you’re looking at public transit with fares, these are all regressive. These are all things that hit poor people proportionately harder than they hit people who are richer.

Jim Mahon: Then you look at public education. It’s funded dominantly by local property taxes. Now that that’s inequitable because there’s going to be rich districts that have a lot of money and there’s going to be poor districts that have very little. So and it’s not just that this is sort of for high school and so on. If you look at the state education system, if you look at our community colleges and you look at our university system, well, yeah, that’s funded at the state level, but we’ve been funding it awfully. It’s been the funding for it has been reduced as a proportion of the total and the fees for University of Massachusetts have gone up incredibly since the 1980s.

Jim Mahon: So if you go back and look at the fees, the in-state fees, for example, in 1983, they were you can look at this as it’s on the US website. They were 3926 year dollars. In 2020, they were $29,768. That is the in-state required fees and tuition went up by seven and a half times over this period, while the Consumer Price Index only went up about 2.6%, 2.6 times. So so if you take a person who’s making, you know, not much money in an hourly wage job, they’re just not going to be able to pay for UMass. Back in the 1980s, a person could work minimum wage jobs, maybe a little bit on the side while they were in school and then during the summer and they could pay for the UMass tuition and fees. You can’t do that now. So basically in this country, we’ve created an awful lot of inequality since 1973 and we’ve reduced economic opportunity for people at the same time. So you’d think you’d think that if you’ve you’ve got more and more inequality, you think people would get more and more concerned about it in the tax the tax system and the fiscal system of tax and spending would do something to counteract it.

Jim Mahon: But it actually hasn’t done that and it hasn’t done it in Massachusetts. So yeah, it makes it really hard. So if you think about it, middle income people pay about a little over 9% of their income in state and local taxes and in the top 1% pays less, largely because they’re, you know, how nice their homes might be. They have all kinds of assets that are not houses. They’re not subject to local property taxes. So so they pay less. And of course, there they also have money in other states and so on. So, you know, it’s just it’s inequitable.

Jim Mahon: And it’s been it’s it’s really been for Massachusetts. It’s been a result or it has resulted in a great deal of loss of economic opportunity. And, you know, there’s not enough room in our vocational high schools. We’ve got a long waiting list someplace in places like McCann. And, you know, it’s not only is it a loss of equal opportunity, it’s kind of stupid because it costs somebody. It costs the state about a little less than $70,000 to put somebody through UMass or one of our public colleges. And that person’s going to contribute on average, about 146,000 in taxes during their lifetime. So that’s a pretty good deal for the taxpayers of Massachusetts.

Greylock Glass: All your money right there.

Jim Mahon: Yeah, except except that we keep not funding it. So if you just look at the way this is, this has evolved, it’s just. Let’s put it this way. Every one of these people who gets become successful and maybe is in a position to pay this millionaire’s tax. The 4% surcharge on incomes above a millionaire, $1,000,000. An awful lot of those people are going to say, yeah, I made it on my own. You know, this is an equal opportunity society. And I and I made it because I’m smarter and I worked harder and and so on. There’s going to be a lot of people who will say that to themselves. But at the very same time as this has all been going on the last couple of generations, we have kicked away the lower rungs of the ladder that get people up to the to the higher incomes. We’ve made it harder and harder to get success, to have an equal opportunity to win the race. And so the people who are making it are making it. They’re doing okay. But an awful lot of people are left behind in the economy that we have today. And this fair share amendment is trying to do something about that.

Greylock Glass: Yeah, I first of all, I want Henry to respond to that because I can tell you he’s got some things to add to it. And then we’re going to go back in time to the regret to the progressive era. Henry, what? What say you? Is this is this your what you’ve observed over your lifetime that things have gotten progressively unpleasant, progressively regressive, I should say?

Henry Rose: Yeah. Jim and I are friends, and we’re in the same organization together, so our worldview is very similar. So it’s not like I have a different viewpoint. I want to emphasize vocational education, which Jim touched on. We’re not just talking about university education, state university education, which is very important. And I agree with everything from the calendar year 2020 20 to 2021, 8000 Massachusetts students who wanted to attend vocational high school were waitlisted, and in that same year, 2000 students who wanted to go to a vocational program had no vocational program in their district.

Henry Rose: They just built a new high school in my town of Dalton, the Central Berkshire regional district. It has no vocational program in it. It has shop, which is good for learning things like home repair. But it’s not going to get you a middle class job that helps you to support a family and a good taxes and benefits society. So I want to emphasize that when we say education, we mean pre-K K through 12, vocational community college and public college, all of which have been underfunded. And I want to emphasize that the vocational programs are really lacking. In fact, I did volunteer tutoring of a student last year, an eighth grade student locally, and he’s now commuting to Northampton. An hour each way to get the vocational program that he wanted. And that’s a ridiculous amount of time for a ninth grader to be spending.

Greylock Glass: That’s appalling. That’s absolutely appalling. I want to go back to the progressive era we had between 1880 and 1915, 1920. A lot of conversation about these topics already. There was talk about wealth inequality. There was talk about a growing poverty, a base of poverty in the United States. And it was not so bleeding heart. Of course, people I’m sure that use the phrase bleeding heart back then, but it wasn’t so divisive back then that people didn’t say, you know, you’re probably right, people die. You know, children dying of malnutrition is probably not a good thing. But today it seems like there is, Jim, as you pointed out, there is this attitude that people should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps. You know, knuckle down, buckle down, do it. Do it to it. What’s the and you hinted at this this idea that the rungs are maybe it was Henry who said the bottom rungs have been kicked out. Can you go into that just a little bit about. About how that happened and about how that manifests itself. Either Jim or Henry?

Jim Mahon: Well, I can start. I think you don’t have to go back quite as far as the progressive era, although I do hope that we catch some of its its ideology at some point. But in order for somebody who is successful in in the financial sense to enjoy their success, I think in the United States anyway, people always tell themselves that they were the winners of a fair race. And. And so a really crucial part of it is the assumption that the race was fair and that that we had equal opportunity and so on. And I don’t think people go around saying to themselves that I won because of my my blue blood. And I’m really different from other people. But I think in the United States, it’s mostly about I, I showed my merit by coming out on top or being being pretty successful.

Jim Mahon: But the crucial part of that is the assumption of equal start. And when you go through a period when people have really made the starts, much less equal for everybody, then it’s harder and harder for these people to say to themselves, Yeah, I made it because of my merit, because I’m special. So you don’t have to go back to the progressive era. And I think the reason is because you could see in the post World War Two settlement of the idea that we would educate lots of people as far as they wanted to go because we knew that it would be beneficial for our entire society, the spirit of the GI Bill, for example, and the spirit of well-funded public universities.

Jim Mahon: Think of the University of California, which used to be the Berkeley campus, used to be the rated as the best university in the world, public or private. And, you know, you think of UMass and UMass was a really significant undertaking for the people of Massachusetts to say, this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to build this so everybody can get as much education as we as they want, and that’s going to help all of us. Well, starting in the 1980s, the commitment to that vision fell away. And I think it was no surprise that it was happening when Washington was controlled by what you had a Republican president and you had people talking in terms of we have to free up the markets, we have to free up people to do what they what they want to do with with their money and tax them less. And we have to let them free their animal spirits and everything will be great.

Jim Mahon: And I think what we did was we allowed some people who had already had advantages to really take advantage or to really make make a lot of money from those. And meanwhile, we forgot about the dynamic part of the system, the idea that you have to you have to create an ability for people to move up. And that’s when the we started creating a great deal of inequality in the economy. And then what happened was, rather than have public policy react against that inequality, public policy tended to make it worse starting in the 1980s.

Jim Mahon: You can just see it very, very clearly in the commitment to UMass and other institutions in Massachusetts and the institutions of higher education. And I think, yes, as well in the K to 12 and in vocational. So yeah, it’s and when you do all those things, you ultimately degrade the system that is supposed to be creating equality of opportunity. And you know, in a perverse sort of way, you are undermining the argument of the people who made it, that they made it on their own, because, in fact, they must have had some advantages because they didn’t have to start at the lowest rung, the lowest rung of that ladder.

Greylock Glass: Michael Parenti, who’s the. Progressive thinker, speaker academic has said for many, many years that. The nineties especially brought about these changes, in part because the battle for the hearts and minds had been won. You know, there was no competing system to which anyone might be tempted to turn. And corporations and the upper classes started to ask the question, why should we pay out of our hard earned money so that there could be a standard of. Why should the working class have a standard of living that allows them these things, in fact, allows them the chance to compete with us if they’re particularly entrepreneurial? Why should we be investing in our own demise?

Greylock Glass: Better to keep them down and hungry, hanging on to their bleeding fingernails so that they don’t have time to think about the dynamics, the gears that are at work. They can just focus on getting to work and back. And and that way we will assure that that it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy for decades to come, which is where we are, where people are rehashing that trickle down hogwash. Again, that we’ve got to we’ve got to, as you said, we’ve got to let people free up their money so that it’ll trickle down eventually. It doesn’t, as Michael Parenti says, it doesn’t trickle down. It is siphoned up from the pockets of the workers into the bank accounts of the wealthy. And I think that that is you know, that to me, when we heard people talking in 2008 about the the the reasons for the economic collapse.

Greylock Glass: Now that’s a huge subject and I know we can’t possibly go into it, but the thing that really got to me was people saying, well, why is it that we had these policies in place that promoted homeownership? There’s all of these people out there who, you know, they don’t they didn’t really work for homeownership. They didn’t save you should have, you know, 30%. Why should people be able to get a loan with 20% down payment? You know, this loose money that was accessible by the working class, that’s what caused the the collapse. People should not expect to be able to just own a home because it’s the American dream. After all, if you get the dream, there’s nothing to dream about anymore. Let them dream a little bit and let them have a little bit less of the stuff there.

Greylock Glass: And that pissed me off because I thought that is so disingenuous. There were, you know, as you probably know, when you own a home, as you pointed out, that’s generational wealth. That is the starting place. If you don’t if you have property and it could be a house, it could be other forms of property that you can pass along to your heirs. That’s that leg up, that’s that rung of the ladder that well, that you just don’t see anymore. And we won’t see if this if these trends continue. Henry, I know we haven’t heard from you in a bit. Do you have anything to to remark upon? I know Jim does, but what do you. What say you?

Henry Rose: Well, Jay, I’m really glad you said trickle down, because I want to inoculate your listeners against the propaganda that they’re going to hear over the next few months. In an attempt to discredit the Fair Share amendment. And I’m sick of hearing about trickle down. Trickle down does not work. It’s a slogan used by the uber wealthy and the corporations to to not have fair taxes, to not have progressive taxes, and to benefit the very wealthy and the corporations. I’m also sick of hearing the term job creator like we tax the the upper incomes more equitably then they won’t create jobs anymore. And that that’ll hurt the economy. I think nothing. I think that’s far from the truth. I think that businesses, especially small businesses, want an educated workforce and they want roads and bridges to ship their goods on. And by having an educated workforce and adequate transportation, that that will enhance our economy. But trickle down hasn’t been working. And those are slogans you’re going to hear from the the the propaganda machine that’s going to be ramped up against those the the the opposition on the fair share. The opposition to the fair share is going to spend several million dollars over the next several months to discredit the movement. And you’re also going to hear things like, well, our schools are already good.

Henry Rose: Well, are they really preparing people for a 21st century economy coming out without staggering debt? I’d say no, and we need to do something about it. We had an extremely prosperous time in our history in the 35 year after World War Two, and it was because we invested in our people, we invested in education, the people got good jobs and we’re able to contribute meaningfully and paid good taxes. It floated all boats. Jim Yeah, well, I think you could just say trickle down has been tried. We’ve been it’s been something that people have put in to put into public policy.

Henry Rose: And in the United States in general, the tax code, we’ve basically seen the tax code be very, very kind to people with capital income. If you if you’re worried about getting audited by the IRS, you’re much more likely to get audited if you’re somebody who claims the the earned income tax credit than if you’re a millionaire who with capital income. So we we we certainly have been coddling people who who make that kind of money. And we’ve been trying that now for a couple of generations. It’s not working. So I really do think that if you think about what does trickle down mean, it means ultimately the mechanism that’s supposed to be that supposed to work is that these people are supposed to be spending or investing and you’re supposed to be getting a job out of that.

Jim Mahon: Well, who knows where their investments are going? Who knows how many whether they’re actually going into things that that involve jobs. It might be you get a better wage as be becoming their gardener or something. So that yeah, maybe trickle down is just about becoming servants of rich people. I’m not sure it’s something that everybody wants to look forward to. The thing that distinguishes this vision that we had in Massachusetts was we’re going to get people educated so they can become independent, so they can be autonomous people with an education, with skills to offer in the job market. So they don’t have to wait for something to trickle down for themselves. So they can be so they can go out and find a good job and they can find a job in private sector and public sector. And and that means with an educated workforce, then the public sector and the private sector are both going to be able to offer more challenging jobs and more high productivity jobs and be more prosperous for everybody.

Greylock Glass: You know, I know that this is not exactly part of the conversation, but it’s definitely part of the equation. When I was. 16 lo those many decades ago I had a job pumping gas. And this was back in the days when you pumped gas and then you washed windshields and rear windshields and you checked oil and checked air pressure and then somebody would give you a nickel and think they were being exceedingly generous to you. This is in Litchfield, Connecticut. So you can imagine the sorts who would roll through with their with their Mercedes diesels and it would be, you know, five below. And they would literally tip me a nickel or a quarter and say, this is for you. And I say, well, thank you, ma’am, that I was freezing. But, you know, you know how much I was getting paid. This was in the mid eighties. I was getting paid 650 an hour. You know what? The minimum wage was four and a quarter. I was 16 years old. They started me at six. They bought me up to 650. They didn’t have to. They could have left me at minimum wage. But to many people in the eighties, minimum wage. Was something that you were almost embarrassed to pay. You. Minimum wage was there to protect the most vulnerable people who could only do certain jobs that required a lot of supervision and no skills, no customer service, no customer contact, no handling money, no learning how to patch a tire.

Greylock Glass: I mean, that wasn’t something that you pay. So minimum wage was really something that you would use to protect the most vulnerable, not if you actually expected any brains, any hard work, any, you know, personality to be applied to the to the job. So I really feel like this whole argument about minimum wage, I have I have been screaming, pulling my hair out, trying to get people to explain what it really was meant to be. Not just to bump it up to 15 because bumping it up to 15, we’ve been asking for 15 for ten years now. I mean, now that we need 25, especially given that inflation is is kicking us in the teeth every every week, the the arguments are going to be against this. You know, the fair share are going to be coming from the same people that are arguing against minimum wage. If you could talk a little bit about. How? There is a group of people who who really don’t pay any income tax and and shouldn’t, you know, they get a return or they they don’t pay any. And you brought up the point that you are more likely to get audited if you if you declare the earned income tax credit, then if you’re a multimillionaire, why don’t these people just hire accountants? You can find the loopholes for them. I mean, that’s, you know, that’d be the sensible thing, right?

Jim Mahon: Yeah. Well, yeah, the higher accountants. The higher accountants part. Right. That’s that’s good. Yeah. No, but a lot of actually interesting because they’re the IRS does barely fund a program called the the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. But the but many people end up going to the paid preparers who will take two or $300 off the top and say, look, here’s the money, you know, and then they’ll get give the rest of them to give the rest of the refund to people right away. And then and then, you know, and then take take take the refund when it comes in.

Jim Mahon: And so, yeah, it’s the equivalent of a payday loan where people are worried about because because they’re worried about these audits, they take it to say H&R BLOCK and H&R BLOCK will basically take this money off the top and give them what is effectively a payday loan because they’re anxious. So basically the IRS, because it because it has this high rate of of auditing on these returns, makes people anxious and makes and sort of drives them into the arms of these these companies that really just charge a wazoo. I wonder if we could get back to the things that are going to be said against the Fair Share Amendment? Would that be okay?

Greylock Glass: Yes, definitely.

Henry Rose: Another thing that you’re likely to hear your listeners likely to hear is that this is going to make the millionaires move out of state. And I. Well, it could be some truth to that. The benefit of the fair share, which is estimated to be capable of bringing in between 1.3 and $2 billion a year every year. The benefits would far outweigh the few individuals that might choose to move out of state. And we’re talking about maybe 20,000 people in the state of 7 million people. I want to point out that several states already have a progressive income tax or something similar to what we’re proposing. And the 9% on your second million wouldn’t be the highest tax rate in the country. California has a top tax rate of 13.3%, and not every California millionaire has moved to Florida to escape Tech. So you’re going to hear all kinds of propaganda, and that will be one of them that the job creators will move out of state. And I don’t think that’s going to be the case.

Henry Rose: And, in fact, if we have an educated workforce and we have the transportation system to get the workers to their jobs and to transport the goods, I think you’re going to see businesses wanting to come to Massachusetts to have their jobs and their businesses here. So we’ll be a lot of propaganda that will be thrown out. I also want to point out the Fair Share amendment is sustaining. It’ll be every every year. It’s not a one off like like the ARPA money that’s coming in. Right. So that we can sustain transportation. And when we say transportation, we mean not only buses, we mean potholes, bridges. We mean having rail systems that make sense for the 21st century. We are so far behind on rail in this country is pathetic. I mean, wouldn’t it be wonderful if if we could have a train that could get us to New York or Boston that’s reliable. That doesn’t take 4 hours to get. It doesn’t take 4 hours to get you there.

Greylock Glass: Right. I mean, nowadays, if you want to go from the Berkshires to New York City, unless it’s…

(dog barking)

Greylock Glass: No? dog?

Sunny the Dog: No.

Greylock Glass: I will have a studio one day. A soundproof studio. It’ll be wonderful. It’ll be a dream. If you want to go to New York City from the Berkshires, you have to plan on finishing up whatever it is that you’re doing by 445 or something like that. Pm. There isn’t another way to get back. I mean, they have one that goes from here to the to New York City at 5:00 in the morning or 6:00 in the morning. And then there’s one that comes back and drops you off here at, whatever, 9:00 at night. But like you said, it takes forever. Europe. Asia. Lord, the trains they have there, they’re just it’s a marvel that they they they actually get it. So, you know, and they didn’t have the big three investing in in ripping up the trolley tracks back in the sixties and seventies either. In fact, we’re having something of a of a spiritual twin conversation as that of between David Barsamian and that old firebrand, that 88 year old firebrand Ralph Nader. On Alternative Radio this week, this most recent edition, they had, in fact, he used the term job creator.

Greylock Glass: And you could just hear the acid dripping through the radio. Through the radio, because he had many of the same takes that we have here. The idea that transportation is is in shambles in this country and its intent. He would say that it’s intentionally in shambles. It was no accident and it’s no accident that that investment has not been made in education. It’s not an accident that that this this this gap between the the working class and the wealthy haves has gotten so obscenely wide. So if you get a chance, I’m sure it’s I think it’s still available as a podcast. This week’s episode of Alternative Radio with with David Barsamian featuring Ralph Nader’s is very similar. What are some of the counter? I mean, you’ve offered some great counter messaging. It’s going to create twice as much as it as it takes in in terms of value to the to the Commonwealth. But what are some of the bullet points that people should keep right here in their front, in their shirt pocket for conversations they might have with people who are pushing this trickle down? Poppycock.

Jim Mahon: Well, I’ll just go back to what I said before. It’s been tried now for two generations and it’s not working. And so if you go back and you look at what it what it took for when we had a fully funded vocational education system at the secondary level and when we had more equitable funding for all primary and secondary education, when we had a more fully funded UMass system and community college system, when we had all those things, there were all the rungs in the ladder. It was, it was people could move up. You could move up with a minimum wage job. By the way, when minimum wage was was made more for people, you know, the federal minimum wage at $7.25 an hour is pitiful. And it hasn’t been raised in a long time. And it’s and each time it gets raised, it doesn’t get raised enough. It’s you know, it was it was pretty good back in 1973 or so. But now it’s falling behind inflation. So so these things are all part of the same the same problem.

Jim Mahon: Like I said at the beginning, social inequality keeps going up. And instead of doing anything about it through public policy, we do the opposite. We make the tax system more comfortable for people who have a lot of money. And we make the the way we fund roads and bridges, the way we fund education, we make it more regressive, we make it more inequitable. And that’s not working. It’s not working for an awful lot of people. And I think a lot of the political division in this country comes from people who have a high school education or community college. A couple of years in community college, finding that a lot of doors are closed to them, that they’re they’re in debt and that and and then somebody starts lecturing them about how they should work harder. And at some point they’re going to, you know, they’re going to get mad.

Greylock Glass: So ask these ask these millennials and these gen Zs to work harder. See? See what that gets you in a couple of years. Yeah. I’m going to ask the $64,000 question. You ready for it? This is this is the one boy, if you can answer this one, we’ve got a real shot at change. There are people out there. Who follow the cult of personality down the primrose path into thinking that they are part of the ascendant class. That they are upper middle class or whatever they think they are, when in fact they’re not. They are falling behind. They are hanging on by their bleeding fingernails. But they think if you ask them, oh, well, they’re middle class. And they think that when they believe they listen, they follow the Pied Piper, the Pied Piper, whoever that Pied Piper might be when the Pied Piper tells them that. A minimum wage raising that is just for losers and that taxing the rich, even though these people I mean, you’re talking about incomes over $1,000,000 a year, right?

Greylock Glass: So ask these ask these millennials and these gen Zs to work harder. See? See what that gets you in a couple of years. Yeah. I’m going to ask the $64,000 question. You ready for it? This is this is the one boy, if you can answer this one, we’ve got a real shot at change. There are people out there. Who follow the cult of personality down the primrose path into thinking that they are part of the ascendant class. That they are upper middle class or whatever they think they are, when in fact they’re not. They are falling behind. They are hanging on by their bleeding fingernails. But they think if you ask them, oh, well, they’re middle class. And they think that when they believe they listen, they follow the Pied Piper, the Pied Piper, whoever that Pied Piper might be when the Pied Piper tells them that. A minimum wage raising that is just for losers and that taxing the rich, even though these people I mean, you’re talking about incomes over $1,000,000 a year, right?

Greylock Glass: I mean, most of the people that I’m talking about, the middle America types, you know, the common clay who are not going to be making $1,000,000 a year, they never have to worry about it. Somehow they feel like they’re being attacked because they associate with the Trumps of the world, with the the the the somehow associated with the billionaire class. I don’t know how this happened, but they really think that all of this is communist propaganda and they think that they are somehow targeted by all this and that they are they’re going to somehow lose. How do you get these people who are hard working? You know, they they they go to PTA meetings. They they coach Little League Baseball. I mean, they’re good community members, but they really think that this is some sort of liberal plot. How do you get them to disconnect? Just unplug from the from the the machine for a bit, which is called Fox News. And and actually, listen.

Jim Mahon: Well, let me start with this. I would say make Massachusetts great again. There we go. In fact, if all we’re saying is let’s go back to the political economy that we had around education and around public funding and amount around our tax system that we had in the 1960s and seventies. Let’s go back to that. Let’s go back to the mid 1950s when the top minimum tax rate, the top marginal tax rate was 91%. So let’s go back to that. So these are all things that came out of the Second World War when there was a sense of shared sacrifice and clearly know the Second World War, the period afterwards inherited that. And it didn’t start to get taken, taken down until the sixties a little bit and then later in the 1980s. So so yeah. Make Massachusetts great again. Let’s go back to the kind of funding commitments that our government had to to schools and to roads and to UMass. And and then we’ll be great again.

Greylock Glass: Hmm. Henry.

Henry Rose: J. You mentioned Donald Trump. And I’d like to emphasize that this amendment is nonpartisan, that I’ve talked to people who voted for Trump and still see the tremendous merits in this. They look at it from the point of view of this will benefit my town. This will mean that we’ll be able to fix that bridge that’s been out for a long time, that I won’t put my car out of alignment driving on a road that is riddled with potholes that I’ll be able to send my kid to school and maybe pay off my own educational debts too, and let them get a middle class job. And it will benefit towns like like the town I come from. So I want to make sure that any of your listeners out there who might have voted for Trump are not alienated by this, that they feel that this is something that will benefit their town and them personally. This is not partisan.

Greylock Glass: No. And I’m glad that you bring that up because, you know, I. I asked the $64,000 question, how do you get to them? And obviously you have. How did you start that conversation? That’s what I want to know. How did you get them to just sort of put their pre any preconceived notions they might have had on hold? What were the sort of rhetorical tactics that you used?

Henry Rose: Well, you’re assuming that they’re automatically oppositional to this, which I think is a wrong assumption. And the couple of people I talked to realize that their own town will benefit by getting a greater share of state income taxes. And the way to get a greater share is to increase the pool that the state needs more revenue to give that give it to cities and towns. The patient and transportation measure would do. I don’t think I did anything terribly creative to get people to say, that sounds good. I think the fact is that people who voted for Trump are not monolithic.

Greylock Glass: I agree with you. I do. I would say that those people who listen to say Fox News every night, they are fed a steady stream of anti raise the minimum wage pablum. They get that and and they believe I know people they near and dear to me who I have conversations with and they say, well, Tucker Carlson says this or whoever says this, and I can’t get them to understand that minimum wage is is so woefully inadequate. They really believe that anybody who says that minimum wage is not enough just isn’t working hard enough, or they just need to stop spending money, $4 on their coffee and maybe they don’t need that that fancy iPhone. I’m like, no, no, no. Has nothing to do with the coffee or the iPhones. It’s minimum wage that we need to talk about. So I think that you’re right, they’re not monolithic. But I am going to push back a little bit and suggest that there will be some people who have been they’ve been they’ve been at the fountain for a long time, and they’ve been drinking that message for a long time. And there will be some oppositional attitudes.

Greylock Glass: Hopefully, this is Massachusetts, and our oppositional attitudes are smarter than they are in other parts of the country. I don’t know. But. But I really do want to to find more and better ways of getting this message across. You would think that just, you know, knocking on doors and saying, we’re going to take some money from the rich and give it to you. To me, that usually works for people, I would think. But, you know, we’ll just have to see say we have, gosh, not as many months. I had a conversation about this about a year ago. With Sony, Bykovsky and Friends and this is now going to be just what we going to eight months now something like that before it’s on the before it’s great. Yeah. So what are people going to do. What can they do to help spread the word, push that message out there and gain some converts into the fold here?

Henry Rose: Well, one suggestion I have is to point out that it’s estimated some 70% of voters polled are in favor, that it passed our state legislature overwhelmingly twice. And we’ve come before several select boards. And already the ones that we went to have have endorsed the measure, including the Pittsfield City Council, the Dalton Select Board, the Windsor Select Board, the Lee Select Board, the Lee School Committee and the Pittsfield School Committee. And these are the places we’ve just gone to over the last few weeks, and they’ve all endorsed it. So there are a lot of good people that have thought about this, heard our presentation and have endorsed it. So I want to point that out to them.

Greylock Glass: Excellent. T-shirts, bumper stickers, any place that they can go for those? I mean, I would definitely slap one on my bumper.

Henry Rose: The bumper stickers just got printed and we are having our kickoff at DCC, a kickoff media event at PCC on April 4th at 2:00 at the location at PCC known as the Connector. The Connector is a building that you get to by driving to the upper parking lot at 2:00 on April 4th, and there’ll be several local dignitaries speaking. And by the way, the entire delegation from the Berkshires, meaning our state reps and our state senator, are all in favor and they’re all going to be there. So there’s massive support for this right now. And the bumper stickers, well, we’ll have them at that event.

Greylock Glass: Fantastic. And in the meantime, I know that it’s just a few days away, but in the meantime, where can people go to find out more? What where can they bookmark a Web page or a Facebook page? What what’s your what’s your contact? Central location.

Henry Rose: You can go to raise up Massachusetts.

Greylock Glass: So I have RaiseUpMA.org/Fair-Share-Amendment-2022/. I will put a link to this in the in the show notes. And I see that there’s a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram presence as well. So I’ll put some links in there as well. And so people can perhaps follow y’all on social media, and that way they won’t forget that April 4th is the place to come to get loud in support of this, grab a bumper sticker. And. And make this happen now, if it does happen and. Go ahead. Go ahead, Henry.

Henry Rose: RaiseUpMA.org is a good place to go.

Greylock Glass: Yes, I will have that link in the show notes and people can go there and they can get they can read more about it. And and probably there’s a fact sheet there. So if people need to to have those bullet points at the ready, as I said, to convince people who might be on the fence, I’m sure that fact sheet will answer the questions. All right. Well, gentlemen, Henry Rose, Jamon, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us here on the top left corner. Let us not lose contact if you if we need to talk again before November. Let’s do it.

Henry Rose: Thank you for having us. Thanks a lot.

Greylock Glass: Take care. Bye bye.

Henry Rose: Bye bye.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Previous Story

USDA Confirms Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Massachusetts, Wyoming, North Carolina, Ohio and North Dakota

Next Story

1Berkshire Starts Translation Project

Latest from News

0 $0.00