American Veto Singlehandedly Defeats Anti-Israel UN Security Council Resolution


— Alan Elsner and Jennifer Packer, The Israel Project

U.S says “unwise” measure would break trust between Israeli and Palestinians.

An American veto Friday defeated a United Nations Security Council resolution that condemned Israeli settlement activity as “illegal.” With only three exceptions (Eisenhower, G.H.W.Bush and G.W.Bush), American Presidents have wielded America’s veto as Israel’s last line of defense on the United Nations Security Council.

Calling it an “unwise” move for the peace process,
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice used the Obama administration’s first veto at the United Nations while the 14 other members of the Security Council voted in favor of the resolution.

Rice said the only way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue is to work toward a two-state solution.

U.S.: Only way to bring about peace is through direct negotiations

“The only way to reach that common goal is through direct negotiations between the parties with the active support of the United States and the international community,” she said. “Even the best-intentioned outsiders cannot resolve it” for them. “There simply are no shortcuts,” Rice added.

See responses from Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ), Marc Stanley and David Harris (NJDC), and Ronald Lauder (WJC) after the jump.
Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ), a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittees on Defense; and State and Foreign Operations:

I commend the Obama administration for using its first veto at the United Nations to do the right thing and block today’s anti-Israel resolution.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder

The issue of settlements needs be negotiated bilaterally, in final-status talks, between Palestinians and Israelis. It is exclusively an issue for the two parties.

The adoption of this Security Council resolution would have placed the peace process in even greater jeopardy and lent credibility to illegitimate Palestinian “back door” efforts to establish a unilateral state by pre-determining the outcome of negotiations with Israel.

Ongoing unilateral moves to establish a Palestinian state outside the agreed negotiation framework between the sides, based on Security Council resolution 242 of November 1967, represent a gross violation of previous signed agreements between the PA and Israel.

The resolution text that was proposed to the Security Council further promoted the fallacy that the 1967 borders have any basis in law or history. They never existed nor were they ever part of any agreed upon documentation concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict and have no basis whatsoever, neither in law nor in fact. The World Jewish Congress therefore urges the United Nations to stop undermining, condoning, and abetting
efforts to assault Israel’s legal and diplomatic rights in ongoing negotiations over the future of the disputed territories.

National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) Chair Marc R. Stanley and President and CEO David A. Harris:

On behalf of the National Jewish Democratic Council, we applaud the action this afternoon of President Barack Obama and his representative, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Susan Rice. Once again, after days of unfortunate and unproductive speculation, our President stood alongside our democratic ally Israel in the Israel-obsessed United Nations.

We know just how hard this decision was, as any outcome of a vote on this resolution is truly unfortunate – including for Israel. Permitting today’s vote against Israel to proceed, the path President Obama and his Administration wouldn’t take, was clearly, understandably and correctly not an acceptable choice for them. But today’s outcome has deeply negative fallout as well. From further isolating the United States within the Security Council to potentially further inserting anti-Israel sentiment into the awakening of democratic fervor throughout the Arab world, and in so many other ways, this vote to stand by Israel does have negative consequences.

And therein lies the heart and mind of this President and this Administration. Throughout, and well beyond recent days, the President and his team have worked night and day on behalf of the critical U.S.-Israel relationship and with Israel’s needs at heart. On all sides of this complex calculus, this Administration has clearly heavily weighed Israel’s best interests.

We, like all Americans who hold dear the special U.S.-Israel relationship, owe President Obama and his Administration our deep collective appreciation for his stalwart support for the State of Israel – today and always.

Birth Tax vs. Death Tax: Borrowing Money to Create More Paris Hiltons


Ten years ago, Bush and the Republican Congress set out to reduce or eliminate the estate tax which they derided as the “death tax.” However, is it fairer to tax people who are dead and can no longer make use of their wealth, than to increase the national debt which will be the legacy we are leaving our children and their children. Perhaps it would be fair to call the Republican proposal “a birth tax” since future generations will be born saddled with an increasing share of the national debt in order to fund lavish inheritances for multi-millionaire heirs and heiresses like Paris Hilton.

The Republicans wanted to completely eliminate the tax, but they could not resolve the budget implications involved in doing so. Instead, they employed a nice trick. They limited the budget implications by making the changes expire after a decade, but they made the changes incremental building up to this last year in which there was no estate tax whatsoever. By doing so, they hoped to set a favorable baseline for the current debate on future estate tax policy. Indeed, many people would now consider any return to the previous status quo to be a “tax hike”.

Republicans argue that taxing an estate is an example of double taxation. However, this is not true since many estates consist of appreciated assets (stock, businesses, real estate) which have never been taxed, since capital gains are only taxed at the time of sale.

Republicans argue that the income tax is a disincentive to work. However, the same cannot be said of an inheritance tax. If anything, huge tax-free windfalls leave an unskilled heir or heiress without any reason to work. Winston Churchill argued that estate taxes are “a certain corrective against the development of a race of idle rich”. Indeed, according to the  research at Syracuse University, the more wealth one inherits, the more likely one is to quit the labor market.

Year Plan Initial rate Applies only to income above: Top rate Applies only to income above:
2001 Original rates 18% $675,000 55% $3,000,000
2010 Current rates 0% 0%
2011 No action by Congress 18% $675,000 55% $3,000,000
2011 Obama GOP Compromise 35% $5,000,000 35% $5,000,000
2011 Obama 2008 45% $7,000,000 45% $7,000,000
2011 McDermott plan 45% $2,000,000 55% $10,000,000
2011 Sanchez, Sanders et al plan 45% $3,500,000 65% $500,000,000

There are a number of estate tax proposals on the table including one hammered out by President Obama and the Congressional Republicans, and recently passed by the Senate. They propose a 35% flat tax on estates beyond the first $3,500,000 (or $7,000,000 for couples). This plan is likely to meet stiff resistance in the House of Representatives.

If nothing is done by the end of the year, we will return to the estate tax rates prior to the passage in 2001 of Bush’s Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act. At that time, the estate tax applied to single people estates over $675,000 (or couples with estates twice as large). The amount over that amount was taxed progressively higher starting at 18% and reaching 55% for the portion of the estate over $3,000,000.

Though the Republicans try to frame the tax debate as a populist issue, only the richest quarter of a percent of our nation’s families would pay any estate tax at all under the plan negotiated between Obama and the Republicans.
Those that do pay would only pay a marginal rate of 35% which is less than the pre-Bush top rate of 55%, and far less than the top marginal rate of 77% which was in effect from 1941-1976.

Even if Congress does nothing and the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire, only 2% of estates will pay any inheritance tax whatsoever. Furthermore, this tax can be avoided in a number of ways such as leaving the excess estate to some worthy charity.

Last month Responsible Wealth gathered millionaire and multi-millionaire signers of the call who are small business owners and entrepreneurs to speak out on why they support a strong estate tax.

High-profile signers of Responsible Wealth’s “call to preserve the estate tax” include Forbes 400 members David E. Shaw, Julian Robertson, Jr., George Soros, John Sperling, and Ted Turner. All six children of David Rockefeller, the oldest Forbes 400 member, have signed too….

Microbrewery owner Dave Eiffert explained how when his parents died in 1994 and there was a federal estate tax exemption of $600,000 per person, an estate tax was due. “It was pretty hard to write a large check to the IRS, but I strongly thought it was the right thing to do, and look I still had enough money to start a business and provide jobs in my state.” The Snoqualmie Falls Brewery outside of Seattle that Eiffert co-founded in 1997 employs 20.

Another speaker, Jerry Fiddler, a venture capitalist in Oakland, Calif., who sold his software company Wind River Systems to Intel in 2009 and is clearly in estate tax territory, said: “The estate tax is the best possible way to pay back into the common good. I see it as a point of pride to pay back in.” He said that Congress should reinstate the estate tax at the 2009 levels, indexed for inflation, adding: “They should do it now and they should do it permanently.”

To find a lower tax rate imposed on the crème de la crème of society, we would have to look all the way back to the roaring twenties. This was a time when people earned their fortunes the old fashioned way, they inherited it. This was a time of the Great Gatsby and a time of speculation and excesses which led to the Great Depression.

As Justice Louis Brandeis said, “We can have concentrate wealth in the hands of a few, or we can have democracy, but we can’t have both.” Even Andrew Carnegie testified in support of the creation of an estate tax in 1916.

It seems that the Republican Party wants to “Take America Back” to an era of generations of entrenched wealth, creating a “new plutocrarcy to rival the industrial barons of America’s Gilded Age”. Unfortunately, as a misplaced gesture of “bipartisanship” Obama is willing to lead us along that road.
Estate Tax Facts

  • A table of historical estate tax rates can be found at http://jewi.sh/etax
  • The estate tax has been imposed in the United States since 1916. Small estate taxes were applied in the past: The Stamp Tax of 1797 (repealed 1802), The Revenue Act of 1862 (repealed 1872) and the War Revenue Act of 1892 (repealed 1902). These taxes were small percentage which in the later two cases varied by a factor of around 6 depending on how closely related the heirs were to the deceased. In a similar way, France’s inheritance tax depends on the relationship between the deceased and his heir. Immediately family pays a maximum 40% marginal tax rate, but siblings pay a maximum of  45%, “significant others” pay a maximum of 50%, other close relatives pay a flat rate of 55%, and distant relatives or unrelated heirs pay a flat rate of 60%.
  • Federal Estate Tax only applies to the amount over the personal exemption ($1,000,000 in 2009 and $3,500,000 in 2011 under Obama/GOP plan). This liability can sometimes be reduced by:
     
    • $1,000,000 in gifts given to relatives during your lifetime,
       
    • The part of the estate given to your spouse,
       
    • Part of the amount of your family business,
       
    • Designating a charity among the recipients of the estate.
       
    • The amount paid for a state estate tax.
       
    • Generation skipping transfers up to $1,000,000 (2009) or $3,500,000 (2011, Obama/GOP Plan)
       
    • Universal credit $345,800 (2009) or $1,455,800 (2011, Obama/GOP plan)
       

Obama Names Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient

President Barack Obama named Gerda Weissman Klein, President George H. W. Bush and thirteen others as recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  The Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.  The awards will be presented at a White House ceremony early next year.

“These outstanding honorees come from a broad range of backgrounds and they’ve excelled in a broad range of fields, but all of them have lived extraordinary lives that have inspired us, enriched our culture, and made our country and our world a better place.  I look forward to awarding them this honor.”

The following fifteen individuals will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

1. Gerda Weissmann Klein

Gerda Weissmann Klein is a Jewish Holocaust survivor who has written several books about her experiences.  After Nazi Germany took over her homeland of Poland, Klein was separated from both her parents:  they were sent to Auschwitz and she to a series of labor and concentration camps.  In 1945, she was sent on a forced 350-mile death march to avoid the advance of Allied forces.  She was one of the minority who survived the forced journey.  In May 1945, Klein was liberated by forces of the United States Army in Volary, Czechoslovakia, and later married Army Lieutenant Kurt Klein, who liberated her camp.  A naturalized citizen, she recently founded Citizenship Counts, an organization that teaches students to cherish the value of their American citizenship.  Klein has spoken to audiences of all ages and faith around the world about the value of freedom and has dedicated her life to promoting tolerance and understanding among all people.


2. President George H. W. Bush

George Herbert Walker Bush was the 41st President of the United States.  Prior to that, he was Vice President in the Reagan Administration, Director of Central Intelligence, Chief of the U.S. Liaison’s Office to the People’s Republic of China, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and a Member of the House of Representatives from the 7th District of Texas.  He served in the Navy during World War II.  President Bush and President Clinton worked together to encourage aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.

More after the jump.

3. Chancellor Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel is the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. She is the first woman and first East German to serve as Chancellor of a unified Germany, which this year marks its 20th anniversary.  She has often said that freedom is the happiest experience of her life.  Chancellor Merkel was born in Hamburg but was raised in what was then Communist East Germany after her family moved to Templin.  Her political career began when she joined the new Democratic Awakening party in 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  In 1990, as West and East Germany merged into one reunited country, her party joined with the Christian Democratic Union, and she was elected to the German parliament.  She has been chairman of the CDU since April 2000 and was recently reelected to another term.


4. Congressman John Lewis

John Lewis is an American hero and a giant of the Civil Rights Movement.  He served as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), helped to organize the first lunch-counter sit-in in 1959 at the age of 19, and was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington.  In May 1961, he participated in the initial Freedom Ride, during which he endured violent attacks in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and Montgomery, Alabama.  In 1964, he helped to coordinate the Mississippi Freedom Project, and, in 1965, he led the Selma-to-Montgomery march to petition for voting rights where marchers were brutally confronted in an incident that became known as “Bloody Sunday.”  Eight days later, President Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress, condemned the violence in Selma, and called for passage of the Voting Rights Act, which was enacted within months.  Since 1987, John Lewis has continued his service to the nation as the U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th District, which encompasses all of Atlanta.


5. John H. Adams

John H. Adams co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council in 1970.  Adams served as Executive Director and, later, as president of the nonprofit environmental advocacy group until 2006.  His tenure is unparalleled by the leader of any other environmental organization.  Rolling Stone writes: “If the planet has a lawyer, it’s John Adams.”


6. Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou is a prominent and celebrated author, poet, educator, producer, actress, filmmaker, and civil rights activist, who is currently the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.  She has served on two presidential committees, was awarded the Presidential Medal for the Arts in 2000 and the Lincoln Medal in 2008.


7. Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett is an American investor, industrialist, and philanthropist.  He is one of the most successful investors in the world.  Often called the “legendary investor Warren Buffett,” he is the primary shareholder, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.  Mr. Buffett has pledged that all of his shares in Berkshire Hathaway – about 99 percent of his net worth – will be given to philanthropic endeavors.  He is a co-founder of The Giving Pledge, an organization that encourages wealthy Americans to devote at least 50 percent of their net worth to philanthropy.


8. Dr. Tom Little (Posthumous)

Dr. Tom Little was an optometrist who was brutally murdered on August 6, 2010, by the Taliban in the Kuran Wa Munjan district of Badakhshan, Afghanistan, along with nine other members of a team returning from a humanitarian mission to provide vision care in the remote Parun valley of Nuristan.  Dr. Little and his wife, Libby, lived and worked  in Afghanistan for three decades beginning in 1976, raising three daughters and providing vision, dental and mother/child care to the people of that country through the NOOR program (Noor means “light” in Persian) that Dr. Little ran for the International Assistance Mission.


9. Yo-Yo Ma

Yo-Yo Ma is considered the world’s greatest living cellist, recognized as a prodigy since the age of five whose celebrity transcends the world of classical music.  Born in Paris, Ma was a child prodigy who went on to study with Leonard Rose in New York.  He made his Carnegie Hall debut at age nine.  He was the recipient of the Avery Fisher Prize in 1978, and, in 1991, Harvard awarded him an honorary doctorate in music.  He serves as Artistic Director of the Silk Road Project, and has won sixteen Grammy awards.  He is known especially for his interpretations of Bach and Beethoven, and for his ability to play many different styles of music, including tango and bluegrass.  He serves on the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.


10. Sylvia Mendez

Sylvia Mendez is a civil rights activist of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent.  As an eight-year-old, her parents attempted to enroll Mendez in an all-white school in their community, but were denied entry at and were told to go to the school for Mexican children.  Her father and other parents sued and prevailed.  The Mendez v. Westminster case was a landmark decision in the civil rights movement against segregation.  Mendez currently travels around the country giving speeches on the value of a good education.


11. Stan Musial

Stan “The Man” Musial is a baseball legend and Hall of Fame first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals.   Musial played 22 seasons for the Cardinals from 1941 to 1963.  A 24-time All-Star selection, Musial accumulated 3,630 hits and 475 home runs during his career, was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player three times, and was a member of three World Series championship teams.  Musial also served as the Cardinals’ general manager in 1967, when the team once again won the World Series.


12. Bill Russell

Bill Russell is the former Boston Celtics’ Captain who almost single-handedly redefined the game of basketball.  Russell led the Celtics to a virtually unparalleled string of eleven championships in thirteen years and was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player five times.  The first African American to coach in the NBA-indeed he was the first to coach a major sport at the professional level in the United States-Bill Russell is also an impassioned advocate of human rights.  He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and has been a consistent advocate of equality.


13. Jean Kennedy Smith

In 1974, Jean Kennedy Smith founded VSA, a non-profit organization affiliated with the John F. Kennedy Center that promotes the artistic talents of children, youth and adults with disabilities.   From 1993 to 1998, Smith served as U. S. Ambassador to Ireland, and played a pivotal role in the peace process.  Smith is the youngest daughter of Joseph and Rose Kennedy and is the Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the Kennedy Center.


14. John J. Sweeney

John J. Sweeney is the current President Emeritus of the AFL-CIO, and served as President of the AFL-CIO from 1995 to 2009.  The son of Irish immigrants, a domestic worker and a bus driver in the Bronx, he worked his way up in the labor movement to become President of the Service Employees International Union, growing the union to serve as a strong voice for working people.  As President of the AFL-CIO, he revitalized the American labor movement, emphasizing union organizing and social justice, and was a powerful advocate for America’s workers.


15. Jasper Johns

American artist Jasper Johns has produced a distinguished body of work dealing with themes of perception and identity since the mid-1950s.  Among his best known works are depictions of familiar objects and signs, including flags, targets and numbers.  He has incorporated innovative approaches to materials and techniques, and his work has influenced pop, minimal, and conceptual art.

Does Trickle Down Economics Work?


In 1981, Ronald Reagan took office and began instituting trickle-down economics.  The Democratic controlled House cut the marginal tax rate on the highest income tax bracket from 70% to 28% and made similar cuts in capital gains, corporate income tax, and various excise taxes. These policies were continued for the most part by the ensuing administrations.

According to the theory of supply-side economics, the rich would start spending more, and this would increase employment and wages for the poor, so everyone would be better off.

Opponents countered that the rich would simply invest the windfall, or spend it on goods produced overseas, yielding a net loss for the U.S. economy.

It has now been 30 years, so how has it turned out?

Actually, quite badly.

According to this chart from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, during the post-war period 1945-1980, the both the rich and the poor benefitted from the expansion of the U.S. economy. However, since Reaganomics went into effect the average income of the richest top 1% has almost tripled while the income of most of us (in the bottom 90%) has actually declined.

The “Bush tax cuts” enacted in 2001 and 2003 lowered the marginal tax rate for the high tax bracket from 39.6% to 35.0%. These tax breaks are set to expire at the end of this year.

Most Republican favor extending these tax breaks. Most Democrats favor making the tax breaks permanent only for the first $250,000 of annual income. What do you think?