Problems in America, Debt, the Roots of Poverty, and Some Solutions! Richard J. Garfunkel July 31, 2019

I don’t like Bernie Sanders, but what he is saying, is not all wrong. As for Elizabeth Warren, she understands many of our deep-seated problems, but her solutions to these problems are, at the moment unworkable and cannot be passed unless the Democrats attain super majorities.

Meanwhile, the greatest threats to our Democracy is the concentration of the wealth in the hands of the few and the ignorance, know-nothing thinking, greed and venality of Trump.
The increase in poverty is related to many factors. The first factor has been the decline of the middle class as our economic society has changed from diamond shape with a large middle class and small levels of the very poor and the very rich and the top and bottoms of the diamond to an hourglass with a small middle class at the pinch of the hourglass along with a large lower middle class and poor on the bottom and with a growing number of upper middle class and rich at the top.

Since Reagan resources have been flowing to the rich through fiscal policies regarding taxation and spending. In 1980, there were 12 billionaires, today there are 600. The wealth of America has flowed from the large middle class to 650 families which control almost $4 trillion of America’s wealth, and the 3-4% (12-5 million) who control another %1.5-2 trillion. The six Walmart heirs, who control $150 billion, have more wealth than the bottom 40% of the American population.

Under Nixon and other presidents there was revenue-sharing to the states, but that has declined. This revenue funded infrastructure projects which created domestic jobs. Under Republican Administrations there has been a trend towards corporate conglomeration, the rise of giant box stores and marginalization of labor. As the influence of trade unions has declined, real wages have not kept up with inflation. Corporate compensation for high paid executives accelerated dramatically from 1970 through 2000, with a 3500% increase in Fortune 500 CEO pay as their wages went from a ratio of 37 to one over their average employee to over 1000 to one. In the same vein they received a tax cut from the Kennedy top bracket of 70% to Reagan’s 28%. The average worker in these companies saw his real wages go up, after discounting inflation, less than 10%. In 2017, US Corporations paid a small percentage into the Federal Treasury than at any time since the Federal Income Tax (FIT) was established in 1916.

Many on the right complain about the National Debt and its threat to our economic stability, but few are being realistic about what can be done. The Debt cannot be balanced on the backs of people who least can afford to pay or afford to lose vital services. That is a formula for social upheaval and revolution.

Want to eliminate the National Debt?
1. Bring back the Kennedy Era top tax bracket of 70% of incomes over $1 million.
2. Have a minimum tax on all income above $15,000, even with deductions
3. Eliminate the mortgage deduction over $750K
4. Eliminate all generation skipping trusts
5. Cap yearly contributions for the wealthy into IRAs or 401ks
6. Eliminate all overseas tax shelters
7. Raise the Corporation tax back to Clinton Era 39%
8. Eliminate all corporate stock options for executive pay
9. Tax corporate Golden Parachutes at their full value as soon as they are given.
10. Tax corporate health insurance as income for anyone making over $1 million per year
11. Force repatriation of all overseas sheltered income
12. Cut and cap the sale tax in every state to 5% and add a 1% Federal sale tax
13. Cap the property tax, in every state, to 3% with a Homestead rule, capping any increase.
14. Raise the state income tax to make up the loss on property taxes and fund the public schools statewide.
15. Cut the Carrier Group from nine to seven and accelerate the naval air arm to drones
16. Reinstate the draft for the Army and maintain as a volunteer force the Air Force, Navy and Marines
17. Make a Federal gasoline price through taxation at the pump, the minimum price for 87 octane should be $2.80 no matter what the price of oil falls to. (Create a minimum price at all grades).
18. Cut farm subsidies, currently $5 billion, the annual cost for all farm support is between $15 and $35 billion annually.

Causes for poverty

1, Generational poverty, passed from parent to child
2. Failure to take advantage of education, bad parenting
3. Single parent homes and illegitimacy
4. Ignorance resulting from a lack of an education
5. Lack of vocational schools, inability to hold a job
6. Not teaching financial fundamentals to children
7. Poor savings habits, most Americans do not save
8. Excessive credit card debt, inability to manage a personal budget
9. Conspicuous consumption, buying what is not needed
10. The excessive cost of higher education,
11. Endemic regional unemployment, the rise of the Big Box store
12. Lack of Federal revenue -sharing to low income areas
13. The high cost of housing, the lack of federally subsidized housing
14. Lack of workforce housing
15. Healthcare needs, and the lack of insurance
16. Too low of a minimum wage


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A lifelong New Yorker, who now lives full-time in Palm Beach County, Richard was raised in Mount Vernon, New York and he was educated in the Mount Vernon public schools He graduated from Boston University with a BA in American History. After spending a year on Wall Street as a research analyst with Bache & Co., he joined a manufacturing and importing firm, where over the next twenty-five years he rose to the position of chief operating officer. After the sale of that business, Richard entered into the financial services field with Metropolitan Life and is a Registered Representative, who has been associated with Acorn Financial Services which is affiliated with John Hancock Life Insurance Company of Boston, Ma. Today, he is a retired broker who had specialized in long-term care insurance and financial planning. One of Richard’s recent activities was to advise and encourage communities to seek ways to incorporate “sustainability and resiliency” into their future infrastructure planning. After a lifetime in politics, with many years working as a district leader, which involved party organizational work, campaign chair activity and numerous other political tasks, Richard has been involved with numerous civic and social causes. In recent years, Richard served in 2005 as the campaign coordinator of the Re-Elect Paul Feiner Campaign in Greenburgh, NY and he again chaired Supervisor Feiner’s successful landslide victory in 2007. Over the next few years, he advised a number of political candidates. He has served as an appointed Deputy Supervisor of the Town of Greenburgh, with responsibilities regarding the town’s “liaison program.” He was a member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board of the Town of Greenburgh, NY. Richard has lectured on FDR, The New Deal and 20th century American history in the Mount Vernon schools, at the Westchester Council of Social Studies annual conference in White Plains, and at many senior citizen groups, which include appearances at the Old Guard of White Plains, the Rotary Clubs of Elmsford and White Plains, and various synagogue groups around Westchester. In the winter of 2006 Richard was the leader of the VOCAL forum, sponsored by the Westchester County Office of Aging, which addresses the concerns of Westchester County’s Intergenerational Advocacy Educational Speak-out forums for senior citizens. Richard has given lectures for the Active Retirement Project, which is co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Center on the Hudson, the Greenburgh Hebrew Center, and other groups around Westchester County. Richard also is the founder and Chairperson of the Jon Breen Memorial Fund, that judges and grants annual prizes to students at Mount Vernon High School who submit essays on public policy themes. He also sponsors the Henry M. Littlefield History Prize for the leading MVHS history student. Richard serves on the Student College Scholarship Committee of Mount Vernon High School. In past years Richard chaired and moderated the Jon Breen Fund Award’s cablecast program with the Mayor and local and school officials. Richard has been a member of Blythedale Children’s Hospital’s Planned Giving Professional Advisory Board, and was a founding member of the committee to re-new the FDR Birthday Balls of the 1930’s and 1940’s with the March of Dimes’ effort to eliminate birth defects. Their renewal dinner was held at Hyde Park on January 30, 2003. Richard is currently an active contributor to the Roosevelt Institute, which is involved in many pursuits which included the opening of the Henry A. Wallace Center at Hyde Park, and the Eleanor Roosevelt – Val-Kill Foundation. In 2007, he proposed to the City of Mount Vernon an effort to develop an arts, educational, and cultural center as part of a downtown re-development effort. Richard was a team partner with the Infrastructure & Energy Solutions Group. IEFG which has developed innovative strategies for the 21st Century. Richard hosted a weekly program on WVOX-1460 AM radio, called “The Advocates,” which was concerned with “public policy” issues. The show, which was aired from 2007 until May 15, 2013, has had amongst its guests; Representative Charles Rangel, Chairperson of the House Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, along with hundreds of others. All the 300 shows are archived at Richard currently gives lectures on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, FDR and the Jewish Community, The New Deal, FDR and Douglas MacArthur, 20th Century American Foreign Policy Resulting in Conflict, and Israel’s Right to Exist. Richard lives in Boynton Beach, Fl, with his wife Linda of 44 years. They have two married children. Their daughter Dana is a Rutgers College graduate, with a MS from Boston University, and is the Assistant Director of Recruitment at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Their son Jon is an electrical engineering graduate of Princeton University and a senior software architect at NY/Mellon Bank in NYC. Richard J. Garfunkel Recent Appearances: KTI Synagogue, Rye Brook, NY- Long Term Care & Estate Conservation- Anshe Shalom Synagogue, New Rochelle, NY- Long Term Care- American Legion Post, Valhalla, NY- Long Term Care and Asset Protection- Doyle Senior Ctr, New Rochelle, NY-Long Term Care and Asset Protection- AME Methodist Ministers, New Rochelle, NY, LTC and Charitable Giving- Profession Women in Construction, Elmsford, NY, LTC and Business Benefits- Kol Ami Synagogue- White Plains, NY, Long Term Care and Disability - Beth El Men's Club-New Rochelle, NY-Long Term Care-Is it Necessary- Greater NY Dental Meeting Javits Ctr, NY, NY- LTC and Disability- IBEW Local #3 , White Plains, NY, Long Term Care and Asset Protection, Health Fair -Bethel Synagogue, New Rochelle, NY-LTC and Disability, Heath Fair- Riverdale Mens Club CSAIR- Riverdale, NY- LTC- Life Weight Watchers of Westchester and the Bronx-LTC and Tax Implications Sunrise Assisted Living of Fleetwood, Mount Vernon, NY-LTC Sprain Brook Manor of Scarsdale-LTC- November 15, 2001 Sunrise Assisted Living of Stamford, Connecticut, February 2002 Kol Ami Synagogue, White Plains, NY, February, 2002 The Old Guard Society of White Plains, NY, April, 2002 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY August, 2002 Kol Ami Synagogue, White Plains, NY, October, 2002 JCC of Scarsdale, Scarsdale, NY, November, 2002 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY, January, 2003 The Rotary Club of White Plains, NY January, 2003 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY April, 2003 Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, NY January, 2004 Mount Vernon High School, Mount Vernon, NY March 2004 Kol Ami/JCC of White Plains, NY November, 2004 The Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, January 2005 The Sunrise of Fleetwood, Mount Vernon, April, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, November, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, December, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, January, 2005 Rotary Club of Elmsford, April, 2006 Kiwanis Club of Yonkers, June, 2006 Greenburgh Jewish Center, November, 2006 Temple Kol Ami, White Plains, February, 2007 Hebrew Institute, White Plains, March, 2007 Temple Kol Ami, White Plains, NY, April, 2007 Westchester Meadows. Valhalla, November, 2007 Hebrew Institute. White Plains, November, 2007 Art Zuckerman Radio Show- January, 2008 JCC of the Hudson, Tarrytown, February, 2008 Matt O’Shaughnessy Radio Show, March, 2008 WVOX –Election Night Coverage, November, 2008 WVOX – Inaugural Coverage, January 20, 2009 The Advocates-host of the WVOX Radio Show, 2007- 2010 Rotary Club of Pleasantville, February, 2009 Hebrew Institute of White Plains, May, 2009 JCC Hudson, Tarrytown, December, 2009-10-11-12 Brandeis Club, Yonkers, March 25, 2010

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