Friday, January 25, 2013

Mexican Farmers, Missouri EEZ, Nature

From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes: This morning, my heart is with Via Campesina and the Mexican farmers on a hunger strike to stop Monsanto, DuPont and Dow from planting six million acres with GM (genetically modified) corn. Remember, dear reader, that Mexico is the birthplace of corn, created by indigenous peoples through crossing vigorous, productive strains. It is an outrage that the native strains will be polluted by American GMO technology. They have chosen to camp at the Monuement of Independence from Spanish colonialism, and some are on hunger strike. The police have surrounded them. One of the peasant leaders, Alberto Gómez Flores, coordinator of Via Campesina North America, said, "It's very symbolic because they are preventing people of this country from being in front of the Monument of Independence from Spanish colonialism, and thus they are really serving their current masters, the new colonialists of Monsanto, DuPont and Pioneer." He continued, "We will stay here in camp, as close as we can be to the Monument, and if they come to evict us we will sit peacefully in resistance. They will not take us away from here." When I got to school yesterday, my friend Dr. John, the political scientist, said, “Congratulations! You won!” and I pretended to know what he was talking about. Knowing that he’d rattle on until he revealed the secret, I just said thanks, and “We always win, John.” And, true to form, he kept on effusing until I figured it out. We’d won the EEZ fight! It was in the papers, but we don’t get the Fulton Sun until late on the farm. At least for now, the Fulton Area Development Corporation has dropped its effort to declare my neighborhood blighted. They promise to return in March with a new map, based on the new census, but for now we’re un-blighted and, as far as FADC is concerned, un-develop-able. See, the EEZ scheme allows them to drop taxes for new developers. I mean, um, job creators. Even though I let John think I had something to do with the win, because he’d read my letter to the editor a week back, the real heroes were the Tea Party Patriots and Fair Tax advocates that kept calling meetings. All we had to do, from our neighborhood, is show up and ask questions. To be honest, I’m not generally with the Tea Party and Fair Tax folks. But we were united on EEZ. When I said, “We always win,” I was pretty much right. Problem is, it usually takes more than 3 months for the win to be recorded. In the Mexican farmers’ fight for social, environmental and health justice, which centers around GMO seeds, mid-Missouri will lose for another 2 generations because our present-day farmers are committed to the seeds. But nature will win in the end. Nature bats last, that’s for sure, but Nature is super slow. She’s like the kid from out-of-town that’s never played baseball, but knows all the rules for cricket. Once she figures out baseball, she’s gonna win.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Does golfer Phil Mickelson plan to seek Russian citizenship to avoid paying U.S. taxes?

By Marc Jampole
What do KPMG, Exxon-Mobil, Rolex, Barclay’s Bank and Calloway Golf have in common?  All of these corporations are paying tons of money to Phil Mickelson to say nice things about them. 
Mickelson is a professional golfer who has won more money playing golf than all but one other person in the history of the game. But his big pay-off comes from lending his name to products and companies. Mickelson earned a total of $53 million in endorsements in 2011 in addition to the $9 million he made playing golf that year. Mickelson routinely has made more than $40 million per annum for years.
And yet he’s complaining that his federal and California state taxes have gone up. After a golf tournament this past weekend, Mickelson made a veiled threat to change his public life because his taxes are too high. His exact words: “There are going to be some drastic changes for me because I happen to be in that zone that has been targeted both federally and by the state and, you know, it doesn't work for me right now.”
Some pundits think he’s threatening to retire from golf, while others think he’s threatening to relocate to a state that has lower taxes than California.
What’s he really threatening to do is become the poster child for tantrum-throwing selfishness.
Mickelson complains that his tax rate is 62% or 63% of his income.  That percentage is completely bogus, of course, because it doesn’t include the many deductions he probably takes and it applies the highest tax rate for both California and federal income tax to all his income, not just the amount above the floor for the highest marginal (or incremental) rate.
But even if we assume that Mickelson is actually paying 63% of all his income in taxes, that means that he and his family would have to get by on a mere $14.8 million a year, assuming he continues to make his low end of $40 million income before taxes.  Does that mean more hamburger helper and Top Ramen for the Mickelson household?  Of course, he could always supplement the budget by dipping into his estimated $150 million net worth.
Mickelson’s problem could be that he lives in a hermetically sealed environment of golf courses, resorts, country clubs and gated communities in which he only interacts with other golfers and a lot of rich folk who love golf.  He may never see the maid who cleans his hotel room, the guy who mows the green, the crews that repair the roads on which he drives or the TV engineer who makes sure his swing is transmitted to the millions of fans watching the tournament on TV. He may have never thought about how much—or how little—money his children’s teachers make, or how much or little the cashier makes who works the cash register where the hired help buy his family’s groceries.
Mickelson may have not done the math, so let’s do it for him: The $14.8 million that he would pocket a year if he only earned $40 million gross and he was taxed 63% on it computes to about 285 times what the average employed Californian earns before taxes.  
In his sequestered and rich little world, Mickelson may not be aware of the fact that our roads and bridges need work, that our public schools have been starved of funds, that we need to develop new technologies to address the threat of global warming, that the cost of public colleges is skyrocketing primarily because of a cutback in state support or that millions of people are unemployed or underemployed.
Mickelson may not know that he would have paid more in taxes in 1980, before Ronald Reagan began the conservative retrenchment that has led to the growing inequality of wealth in America. Mickelson may not know that he would have paid more before the Bush II tax cuts for the wealthy. He may not know that he would pay more taxes in virtually any other industrialized country.
I’ve had my fill of selfish a__holes like Phil Mickelson.  As far as I’m concerned he can follow the tax avoidance strategy of that overrated French actor Gérard Depardieu, who, rather than pay French income tax, has given up French citizenship and now makes his home in Luxemburg.  Maybe like Depardieu, Mickelson will be granted Russian citizenship by Vladimir Putin. 
I say, let Mickelson play 18 holes somewhere in Siberia.