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The wealth distribution system, such as it is, is dangerously broken. Severe imbalances of wealth distribution are acknowledged to be socially destabilizing. In the past, severe imbalances have been localized in their effects due to the limitations of time, geography, distance and technology that tended to damp out the global economic effects of arrogant misjudgments by the super-wealthy. Historically the usual natural corrective mechanism has been revolution or conquest, locally disastrous, but merely an annoyance at most to the global economy.

 Additionally, the relatively insignificant effects of the concurrent past medical technology limited the effects of super-wealth upon differences in longevity between the rich and poor. Prior to antibiotics, gene therapy, transplants, etc., super-wealth could do little more than buy a more comfortable death. In the twenty-first century, however, allowing massive wealth imbalances to continue to grow will have vastly more significant effects: a much longer-lived ruling class will eventually, inevitably, emerge with foreseeable and grim consequences: a medically deprived lower class with lifespans one quarter to one-third less than the superwealthy. In three generations of such disparity a permanent short-lived underclass will emerge, even without any corporate class intent or unscrupulous genetic manipulation, slaves in practice if not in name. Modern technology and globalization have negated prior limitations that kept economic disasters local, amplifying the disastrous consequences of the hubris generated by excessive wealth chasing to global proportions. As we have recently seen, what had been a local fiscal wildfire becomes a global economic firestorm.

 What is required is a wealth limit to curtail addictive wealth-building. Where in the Constitution is the article that guarantees an American citizen the right to unlimited wealth? Every American lives in a world of limits: speed limits, catch limits, smoking limits, drinking limits, choice limits, and salary caps, to name but a few, and all these limitations are in accordance with the law. Each of those limits measure individual rights to take a share of the collective resource against the common good and recognize that unlimited taking has negative social consequences. It is time to place and enforce similar limits upon the amount of wealth Americans can control, for the same reasons we place and enforce speed limits, drinking limits, and all the others: for our collective safety and national well-being. Set the limit at one billion dollars, adjusting once a decade or so, allowing those currently over cap four years to draw down their wealth to the limit by allowing them to transfer their excess wealth in an orderly manner, redirecting their competitive zeal into constructive paths. Allow them to donate up to $50 million tax-free to any nonprofit, nonpolitical organization while limiting organizations to accepting four gifts total; pay any amount to reduce the national debt; use $100 million to establish a new nonprofit; gift family and friends up to $10 and $5 million respectively. Such a course would result in a strong vibrant internal economy that would dramatically transform lives worldwide, and restore some international respect to the United States.

 I'm not talking about communism: I'm talking about, well, ethical capitalism, or perhaps mature-stage capitalism. A reasonable limit on wealth would allow "trickle-down" to actually function: a living wage for workers could easily be accommodated while harming billionaires not a bit, save for ego pain, perhaps: they certainly wouldn't miss any meals or be lacking for healthcare.

 There are other, greater, motivating factors than more profits and greater wealth accumulation: lots of folks aren't motivated by money. Only selfish and greedy people would stagnate, science and such would leap.

To the argument that a cap would discourage progress or innovation I say this:

 If Bill Gates had retired when he hit a billion, about the only difference it would have made is that Microsoft wouldn't have stifled so many good competitive products. Gates never was so much of a great engineer as a ruthless businessman. The ideas came from the people he employed.

 And if you quit working after hitting a billion, that just opens a position for someone who hasn't reached that yet. And you wouldn't be missed, more than likely. Absolutely no one is indispensable to the economy, there's always someone talented to pick up the slack.

 Most of the world's innovations come from people who are simply curious or are challenged by solving the problem itself, not by how much money they can make off of it. Stagnation comes when the business class, itself bereft of ideas, refuses to invest in anything that threatens to change things from the way they are, for fear of losing their position from not understanding the new things.

 In a population of some 350 million people, high IQs are, in fact, a dime a dozen: ask any corporate recruiter. And as history has shown uncountable times, "irreplaceable" people have been and are replaced on a daily basis throughout the country.

 To those who say wealth is infinite and therefore shouldn't be limited:

 The idea of infinite wealth is a misunderstanding of the difference between potential wealth and realized wealth. Realized wealth is always finite at any given moment. It is its aspect of finiteness that gives anything its perceived value. Scarcity drives up the value. For instance, diamonds have value only because of their perceived (actually, tightly controlled) scarcity; if all the diamonds that are actually available were placed on the market, their value would be zilch. Potential wealth may be infinite, but realized wealth is always finite. Since it is finite, acquiring wealth becomes a zero-sum game: more wealth for you equals less wealth for others.

 By taking excessive amounts of wealth you rob others of the capital they need to achieve wealth for themselves, too. Too much wealth in too few hands always results in a decaying society as those with wealth seek to keep control of it by preventing the growth of new ideas, products, and innovations that might threaten their position.

 Capping wealth for some will create greater wealth for all, as many new inventions and ideas will blossom and create new markets that will create more realized wealth for everyone.

 I think that this is what the wealthy fear most: lacking any other measure, as others become wealthy, too, they lose their self-image of superiority.

To those who wonder how to count wealth and how to enforce a cap I offer this:

What counts is the sum total of cash, stocks, bonds, and all other financial instruments, plus all real property such as buildings, land, yachts, aircraft, cars, art, jewelry, furs, and collectibles. In short, anything that carries value and serves as a money sink.

 As for how do you police it, you hire forensic accountants (I actually know an excellent one who can find a misplaced dollar in a $100 million budget) to audit them on an annual basis. Some of the "best and brightest" could be doing that work instead of inventing new complex derivatives on Wall Street. Since there are a mere 1348 (last count I had) billionaires in the world the cap would apply to on a global scale, plus some 1,000 more near-billionaires, you'd need about 600 or so auditors to monitor them at 4 per auditor, less for the US alone.

 As to how to enforce it, that too is fairly simple. Make the punishment fit the crime. Any monies or property that is attempted to be hidden is simply confiscated: 100% loss, no tax writedown, no comp, just gone, and sold at auction, proceeds to the governments having jurisdiction shared equally between federal, state, county and city (or their foreign equivalents, speaking from a US perspective here). Get caught doing it twice, go to jail for a few years and lose the right to conduct business, period. Get caught more than twice, well, here's a 3-strikes and you're out law I can support: loss of citizenship, confiscation of all property and financial instruments within the borders of the country with jurisdiction and declaration of persona non grata status, and shown the door and no more business for you or any company you might have left.

And finally:

 Capping wealth won't destroy creativity or productivity. Capping wealth won't deny us any new products or innovations. Those arguments stem from the idea that the super-wealthy are personally responsible for all the ideas and inventions that flow from the companies they control. Get real: they aren't. Bill Gates is a piss-poor engineer who stole MS-DOS, but he was smart enough to market it and hire some really brilliant people to do the actual creating, most of whom didn't get nearly the rewards they deserved. Indeed, after a certain wealth point, it is in the best personal interests of the super-wealthy to stifle new inventions and ideas that might threaten their dominance.

 Humanity is marvelously inventive, and capping wealth would not stifle it, but rather unleash it, providing desperately needed capital to thousands of inventions waiting in the wings to transform our economies and world. The super-wealthy tend to retard that progress because they happen to like the world as it is, and don't care for it to be transformed.

 Even some of the super-wealthy admit they have too much, but under the system we have, they aren't allowed to stop accumulating lest the other sharks rip them to pieces. A wealth cap would allow them to safely retire and actually manage their fortunes wisely. A wealth cap is win-win for most, save only the sociopaths.

 It is not a utopian ideal, but rather a necessary and pragmatic evolution of capitalism. Capitalism without a cap is extremely destructive of societies, great for the very few individuals who ruthlessly exploit everyone and everything they can think of without regard for the consequences, but horrendous for those having to cope with the whims and competitions of the callous. Without a cap, there will inevitably be yet another revolution leading to yet more of the same.

 Isn't it time we stopped this insane merry-go-round and made a mature decision about when more than enough is enough?

 Without a wealth cap we are on the way to overt global slavery.

 There would be zero negative effect upon most people's lives, including those directly effected, the billionaires. The biggest negative would be purely emotional for them, and wouldn't effect their capacity to buy anything they wanted. If you disagree, please stipulate exactly what difference that you think it would make in their lives beyond the emotional one. I allow that they might get bored not being able to play money games anymore, but that's curable by simply finding different interests. But would they lack for food? For shelter, for medical care, for any of the things for which we work in the first place?

 On the other hand allowing the capital to return to circulation, to be used not for one person's agenda but for the myriad of enterprises that inventive people can unleash would solve many of the issues facing the world today. The economy would be restored and capitalism rejuvenated.

I see nothing but good from such an idea, and very little bad.

 What bad there might be, at the bottom it seems to be little more than hurt feelings and nothing provably substantive.

I ask you to think of the real freedom a cap would give: the freedom from hunger and want, the freedom from fear of sickness and homelessness, the freedom from sick sociopaths buying and perverting governments.


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Comment Preferences

  •  re: Constitution (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coffeetalk, erush1345, debedb, VClib, rcnewton
    Where in the Constitution is the article that guarantees an American citizen the right to unlimited wealth?

    It's right here:
    .                         .

    Because the Constitution is a document that confers enumerated powers, if it's not mentioned then the government can't do it.  IOW, since the power to tax wealth isn't in the constitution, the government can't do it.
    •  I was about to point out the same thing (6+ / 0-)

      very very very unconstitutional.  

    •  We Tax Property and Other Assets. Those Aren't (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:


      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Tue Jan 31, 2012 at 09:58:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  not taxing wealth, technically (0+ / 0-)

      A wealth cap is not a tax, but a limit.

      Even if it were considered a tax, that train left the station with the income tax.

      The Constitution is, at its heart, about balancing powers. The super-wealthy quite obviously have more power than the average citizen. Therefore it stands to reason that it is perfectly constitutional to balance that power by limiting the amount of wealth one individual can accumulate.

      •  "the power to tax is the power to destroy." (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VClib, rcnewton

        If you can't tax something, you certainly can't put a hard cap on it.  

        •  Why not? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          We put limits on most things in our society, why should wealth be exempt from them?

          Wealth comes from our shared resource, the economy, to which we all contribute and from which we must all derive our living.

          Shared resources always have limits upon how much individuals may take from them.

          A wealth cap is fundamentally identical to a hunting limit for game, a fishing limit for fish, and a speed limit for roadways, and for the very same reasons.

          Why do you accept a limit on the number of wives or husbands one can legally have?

          By your argument, one should have as many as one can acquire, since no where does the Constitution give the power to limit that.

          •  Fundamental constitutional principles. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            VClib, raincrow

            It's basic civics that Congress cannot do anything it wants just because it may be a good idea.

            1.  The federal government is one of enumerated powers, not plenary powers.  It can only do what Article I, section 8 authorizes it to do.  (That is why the mandate under the ACA is being justified as a regulation of interstate commerce, because that is one of the enumerated powers.)  If the Constitution does not authorize Congress to do something, that power is reserved to the States.  See 10th Amendment.  

            2.  The Constitution forbids a direct tax on individuals (one that is not "apportioned among the states):  

            Article I, Section 2, Clause 3:
            Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers...[1]
            Article I, Section 8, Clause 1:
            The Congress shall have power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises...but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States...
            Article I, Section 9, Clause 4:
            No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.

            If you are talking about the federal government taking all income (as in all income over $x million a year) or property above a certain amount (all wealth above $x total), that certainly would constitute a direct tax under the Constitution.  

            3.  The above is why it was necessary to pass the 16th Amendment in order for the federal government to enact a "tax on incomes."  A "tax on incomes" is a transactional tax; it is triggered by money or property changing hands, from one person to another.  It does not authorize the federal government to tax money or property that you have acquired and is  simply sitting there.  

            4.  State legislatures have plenary powers -- the can do anything not prohibited by their constitutions.  That is why states can do things like tax property that the federal government cannot.  (By the way, that is also the reason why people trying to justify the mandate in the ACA by pointing to states that require car insurance are off-base.)  

            •  placing a limit is not a transaction or a tax (0+ / 0-)

              If you place a limit on how much one can accumulate, there is no further transaction that can occur, therefore it is not a transactional tax.

              A limit is not a tax: two entirely different beasts.

              Once the limit is reached, you are saying: you don't have to work anymore, go and enjoy your wealth. Find something other than welath accumulation to occupy yourself with.

              I think you are just unable to shake free from the idea of eternally working to justify your existence.

              •  And what would you do if (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                VClib, raincrow, rcnewton

                I'm Bill Gates and I continue to accumulate interest, dividends, etc. after I reach the cap?  

                If you'd say, the federal government would take the money or property above a certain amount, that's a tax.  

                •  declare you ineligible (0+ / 0-)

                  I would say that those at cap are ineligible to receive any interest or dividends that would place them over cap.

                  Those funds would stay with the company to increase the amounts disbursed to others, i.e., "trickle down".

                  •  Well, that would be seizing (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    VClib, raincrow, rcnewton

                    private property without due process of law, a "taking" under the 5th Amendment.  

                    If I owned a company worth $1 billion (say that's the cap), and I made money off of it, you'd say that the company can't increase in value?  Or if I have $1 million in an interest-bearing account, I can't get the interest? or if I want to put $1 million in CD's, I can't?  Because I'm at the Cap? Severely limiting what I can do with my property -- effectively lessening the value of my property to me -- is a "taking" for constitutional purposes.  Suppose I owned an apartment building and I wanted to rent it out, but was at the cap?  you'd say I couldn't rent it?  That's a "taking" of my property -- if you so severely restrict the use so that I can't use it for it's intended purpose.  

                    And what if I made was giving speeches for $10,000 a speech, and I gave a speech for which people agreed to pay me $10,000 (they have no way of knowing if I'm at the cap or not)?

                    Suppose I'm at the cap and the real estate market rebounds, and my zillion dollar house goes up in value 10%?  I've got wealth over the cap.  Suppose I hold stock in Exxon and I'm at the cap and my stock goes up 10% in value?  

                    There's just so much wrong with what you've said.  

                    •  why do you want more? (0+ / 0-)

                      Nothing would stop you from giving speeches for free.

                      I think you need to examine the reasons why you are working after you have more than you can possibly spend in several lifetimes.

                      I think that you are focusing too much on making money, and not enough on living well.

                      The company can increase in value, but your share of it would decrease in proportion. What's wrong with simply walking away while you are ahead?

                      If an increase would place you over cap, then give away enough to keep you under or at cap, thereby controlling your "property" by defining where it goes.

                      •  I'm just pointing out the complete illogic (3+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        VClib, raincrow, rcnewton

                        in what you are saying.  

                        If I own a 100% of a company (lots of huge companies are privately owned) and the company made money, saying that "my ownership would decrease" is taking property of mine.  Same as if I owned 50% of the company.  Clear 5th Amendment violation.

                        Very very few uber rich are earning money.  They own stuff.  Like my apartment building that apparently would sit empty because I couldn't rent it any more.  Saying I have to rent it for free would clearly, clearly be a 5th Amendment "taking" without compensation.  The federal government does not have the Constitutional power to do that.

                        This has nothing to do with what I'd "want." This has to do with what the Constitution gives the federal government the power to do.  Nothing in the federal constitution gives Congress the power to take a person's property -- without, as the 5th Amendment calls it, "just compensation" --- simply because the federal government, for whatever reason, thinks that taking a particular person's property is a good thing for everybody else.    Congress clearly doesn't have that kind of power now, and I would never, never want to give it to them.

                      •  Why do you not want more? (0+ / 0-)
          •  Wealth "comes from" (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Neuroptimalian, nextstep, VClib

            If all wealth was ALWAYS material/realized, a limit would make sense. But it's not. Therefore, a wealth cap is NOT identical to a bag limit for hunting or fishing.

            Moreover, there is no logical relationship between wealth and roadway speed limit, or wealth and the legal number of spouses.

            I don't question your belief that we should cap wealth, although I disagree with you. I question your attempt to justify your belief by logic -- your argument is full of holes.

            •  how is it not? (0+ / 0-)

              Potential wealth is an idea, not concrete reality.

              potentially, my lottery ticket is a big winner, reality is it lost.

              Wealth that counts is always only realized wealth, concrete wealth. If you believe that wealth isn't always finite, prove it. Show how potential wealth benefits anyone in a real-world setting. Potential wealth is only used to incur debt, and debt is not wealth.

              Stop the world for a moment and count: what you count is realized wealth, not potential wealth, and that is always finite, how could it ever be otherwise?

              No logical relationship? Of course there is. I think what you're missing here is that excessive wealth is not neutral; it has consequences.

              We place a limit on speed for safety's sake; just because you own a Ferrari that can do 160 doesn't mean you have the skill to drive it safely, nor does it mean that others should be endangered  by their inability to get out of your way if you do.

              In a similar manner excessive wealth has consequences beyond merely existing: it has agendas that impact the lives of others negatively: just look at what the Koch brothers have done, for instance, in Wisconsin. Excessive wealth is dangerous for the societies that allow it. History shows us this over and over again.

              •  You are spinning poetry, not law (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                VClib, rcnewton

                Far from me to argue with you about the ills of massive wealth.

                I'm saying that you simply hold a BELIEF, one that is not supported by physical realities of resource limitations, one that is not supported by economics, and one that is not supported by the Constitution.

                I assume your intentions are well meant. But your logic is BROKEN. You are using poetic metaphor instead of rigorous analogy. And poetry does not make the trains run on time or put governmental policies in force.

                Thus you are not DIRECTLY developing a path of action through which your beliefs can be implemented into policy and/or law. If that's what you want to do, you need to abandon the poetry and start drilling into U.S. legislation and jurisprudence.

                What you're doing instead is using your poetry to attempt to persuade others to embrace your belief. If you are successful at that, someday you or someone you have inspired can THEN begin laying the actual/realized legal foundation for the wealth cap you believe in so ardently.

                •  first time this idea has been called poetic (0+ / 0-)

                  Thanks for that.

                  In some ways you are correct: I'm trying to insert a new meme into the political consciousness.

                  However, I disagree vehemently that a wealth cap constitutes a tax and should be justified under the tax sections of the Constitution.

                  It is a limit on behavior, not a tax, and should be considered under the powers granted by the commerce clause to regulate commerce, i.e., behavior, internationally and between the states.

                  The Commerce clause is a more appropriate Constitutional ground on which to address the issue of excessive individual wealth building that endangers the nation.

                  •  You can disagree vehemently all you wish (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    coffeetalk, VClib, rcnewton

                    But saying it's so doesn't make it so.

                    Present your constitutional theory. Show us the precedents in U.S. legislation and jurisprudence. Give us an idea how you think the a cap on wealth -- which I continue to believe is unprecedented in U.S. law -- can be legally instituted.

                    Until you can do that, you don't have a pathway toward  the achievement of your goal; you have another verse of "Imagine."

                    •  Ok, let's start here (0+ / 0-)

                      The Commerce Clause refers to Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.”

                      The Constitution enumerates certain powers for the federal government; the Tenth Amendment provides that any powers that are not enumerated in the Constitution are reserved for the states. Congress has often used the Commerce Clause to justify exercising legislative power over the activities of states and their citizens, leading to significant and ongoing controversy regarding the balance of power between the federal government and the states.

                      The Commerce Clause has historically been viewed as both a grant of congressional authority and as a restriction on states’ powers to regulate. The “dormant” Commerce Clause refers to the prohibition, implied in the Commerce Clause, against states passing legislation that discriminates against or excessively burdens interstate commerce.  The meaning of the word "commerce" is a source of much of the controversy.  The Constitution does not explicitly define the word.  Some argue that it refers simply to trade or exchange, while others claim that the founders intended to describe more broadly commercial and social intercourse between citizens of different states. Thus, the interpretation of "commerce" affects the appropriate dividing line between federal and state power.

                      The Commerce Clause has been used to justify the use of federal laws in matters that do not on their face implicate interstate trade or exchange. Early on, the Supreme Court ruled that the power to regulate interstate commerce encompassed the power to regulate interstate navigation. Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. 1 (1824). In 1905, the Court used the Commerce Clause to halt price fixing in the Chicago meat industry, when it ruled that Congress had authority to regulate the local meat market under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. It found that business done even at a purely local level could become part of a continuous “current” of commerce that involved the interstate movement of goods and services. Swift and Company v. United States, 196 U.S. 375 (1905). Despite these decisions, the Commerce Clause could still effectively be used to limit the federal government’s power, as the early years of the New Deal demonstrated.

                      With the advent of the New Deal, the powers of the federal government expanded into realms—such as regulation of in-state industrial production and worker hours and wages—that would not necessarily be considered “commerce” under the definitions set forth in Gibbons and Swift. As a result, prior to 1937, the Court exercised its power to strike down New Deal legislation as applied to certain plaintiffs. It found in Schechter Poultry Corp. v. US that the National Industrial Recovery Act was unconstitutional as applied to a poultry seller who bought and sold chicken only within the state of New York. 295 U.S. 495 (1935). The Court also found the Bituminous Coal Conservation Act unconstitutional. Carter v. Carter Coal Corp., 298 U.S. 238 (1936). Following his reelection, President Roosevelt responded to these attacks on his legislation by proposing what is known as the “Court-packing plan,” which would have expanded the size of the Supreme Court from nine to up to fifteen justices. Although the plan was defeated and the composition of the Court soon changed, the proposal was credited with changing the Court’s view on New Deal legislation. Beginning with the landmark case of NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., the Court recognized broader grounds upon which the Commerce Clause could be used to regulate state activity—most importantly, that activity was commerce if it had a “substantial economic effect” on interstate commerce or if the “cumulative effect” of one act could have an effect on such commerce. 301 U.S. 1 (1937).

                      The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed segregation and prohibited discrimination against African-Americans, was passed under the Commerce Clause in order to allow the federal government to charge non-state actors with Equal Protection violations, which it had been unable to do up to that point because of the Fourteenth Amendment’s limited application to state actors. The Supreme Court found that Congress had the authority to regulate a business that served mostly interstate travelers in Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States. 379 U.S. 241 (1964). It also ruled that the federal civil rights legislation could be used to regulate a restaurant, Ollie’s Barbeque, a family-owned restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama because, although most of Ollie’s customers were local, the restaurant served food which had previously crossed state lines. Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 274 (1964).

                      •  Your long, unattributed excerpt from Cornell LII (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        VClib, rcnewton


                        argues against you, if indeed it is at all relevant. (btw, the custom here is to provide a link, and to enclose the quotation with blockquotes.)

                        First off, this all deals with arguments concerning what does and does not constitute interstate commerce; hence, what is and is not a legitimate exercise of federal authority under the Commerce Clause. Maybe I missed it, but I saw nothing applicable to the imposition of an upper limit on the accumulation of wealth by a business engaged in interstate (or local) commerce, much less on the accumulation of wealth by an individual. What was the point you were trying to make with all of this?

                        Second, the final 2 paragraphs of the web page that you didn't excerpt step through the increasing restrictions the Court has placed in recent years on the government's use of the Commerce Clause.

                        Taken together, these mean that you would have a snowball's chance in hell of convincing the Supremes that the Commerce Clause can be used to cap personal income.

                        I think you're going to have to come up with a different theory backed by different case law.

                        Or you're going to have to convince 38 states -- and people like me who do not accept your premises or your remedy -- to amend the Constitution.

                        I'm out for now. Cheers.

                        •  can't please everyone (0+ / 0-)

                          First you complain about not providing any Constitutional basis for my argument, then you complain when I introduce the commerce clause into the discussion, providing the link to the source of those thoughts on it, not unattributed.

                          Not everything can be packaged neatly into a a single post, especially when you are trying to change minds. The effort takes time and new ideas must be brought forward slowly.

                          Posting the excerpt about the Commerce Clause is merely a way of introducing a different concept to those who are obsessed with equating regulating wealth with taxation, not an argument meant to stand alone.

                          It is not a matter of taxation: it is a behavioral issue similar to many that the Commerce Clause has been used to address many, many times now.

                          Most people agree that excessive wealth-building is immoral, but lack the power to do anything to contain it. I submit that the power resides not in tax codes, but in regulating commerce by telling those with too much they've had enough, since they don't seem able to stop themselves or to know when to say when.

                          The end game of excessive wealth-building results in illegal monopolies that aren't overt, because seeral corporations apparently are competing, but are in fact real because the same people own all the "competing" companies.

                          •  You simply cut and pasted a huge gob of (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            VClib, rcnewton

                            irrelevant text from a website without attribution. That is not an argument. And not a word of it came close to establishing a legal tie between interstate commerce and a cap on the earnings of entities engaged in interstate commerce, much less a cap on the earnings of individuals.

                            You have no legal argument to make, only an ideology you wish to impose on others.

                            Good luck persuading others to join you in amending the Constitution. Better luck trying to figure out how to word your amendment. And best luck of all trying to persuade 38 states full of people like me to pass it.

                            I'd say you have your work cut out for you.

                          •  Hmm... (0+ / 0-)

                            ... it would be tough to pass a law requiring a citizen to give up already accumulated assets (although FDR did take everyone's gold) but it would certainly be no difficulty to simply raise tax rates on the income generated by the possession of those assets to 100% or near enough.

                            Such a maximum wage would clear the Constitutional hurdles.

                            Being partisan and being right are not mutually exclusive.

                            by DynamicUno on Tue Jan 31, 2012 at 03:09:58 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  The IRS takes my accumulated assets (0+ / 0-)

                            -- in the form of cash -- every year.

                      •  Sigh. 3 points. (3+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        VClib, rcnewton, raincrow

                        1.  You've obviously cut and pasted someone's discussion of the Commerce Clause.  But you haven't explained why the Commerce Clause gives Congress the power simply to say a person has to give away property if Congress thinks that's a good idea -- for whatever reason.

                        2.  No SCOTUS is going to interpret the Commerce Clause to say Congress has the power to tell people they have to give away some of their property for nothing if the value of their property rises above a certain amount.  There are specific tests that the SCOTUS has for deciding whether a particular exercise of authority comes within the Commerce Clause.

                        3.  If I own $1 Billion in property (stocks, real estate, bonds) and that's the cap, and it increases 10% in value over a year, forcing me to give some of it away for free is so clearly a 5th Amendment violation.  The 5th Amendment is designed to say that Congress CANNOT simply decide that it would benefit everyone else if I gave up some of my property.  That's the whole POINT.  Congress can't just decide that I have to give up some of my property for the good of the country or for the good of everybody else.  The Constitution protects private property from that.

                        •  Sigh, you keep missing the point (0+ / 0-)

                          Ever hear of eminent domain?

                          Ever hear of the US taking tribal lands for the purposes of building dams?

                          The US can and does take property all the time, whenever it suits their purposes to do so, and those takings are nearly always upheld.

                          But basically, the rules are what we agree they are as a society.

                          If we as a society can agree that there should be a cap on wealth, then that cap will be "legal".

                          And no one would be giving it away for "nothing", they would give it away for prestige, a different form of currency, but equally spendable.

                          •  Netdahe - under eminent domain (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            raincrow, rcnewton

                            The person losing the property must be paid its fair market value. The federal government can't just take your property, that's a fundamental constitutional right.

                            "let's talk about that"

                            by VClib on Tue Jan 31, 2012 at 02:54:41 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  ask those who lost their land about that (0+ / 0-)

                            Where I live, eminent domain was used to break a certain family's business, and the land was never used for the purposes claimed under.

                            They went to court and lost, receiving a pittance for what was taken, and had to pay court costs to boot.

                            True, it wasn't the feds who took the land in that instance, and they weren't particularly nice folks to do business with, but still.

                            There are plenty of cases where the feds took tribal lands and paid next to nothing for it because those who marked the value of it said it was worthless.

                            You are extremely naive if you think constitutional rights ever trump the economic desires of the superwealthy, our history is replete with examples of money trumping "rights".

                          •  now Iknow you have no idea what you are talking (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            raincrow, VClib

                            about.  I am a lawyer.  In eminent domain, the government has to pay you fair market value for your property.  In currency.  That is the "just compensation" part of the Fifth Amendment.

                          •  but who defines it? (0+ / 0-)

                            As a lawyer you should know that it all depends upon who gets to define what constitutes "fair market value", and that there are many ways of assessing it.

                            You should also be aware that even "your" guy can be bought if the price is right.

                            Yes, the people in the case I mentioned were paid in currency, but what they were paid was less than what they paid for it, due to changes in the zoning laws. Those changes were changed back in a couple of years and that made the land extremely valuable again. I might point out that the land was resold after it was decided that the purpose for which it was taken didn't pan out, resold for a bit above what was paid in eminent domain, to a wealthy contributor to local politics. Who just so happened to have been behind the zoning changes in the first place.

                            Are you claiming that such games aren't played out all the time?

                          •  I have tried eminent domain matters (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            raincrow, VClib

                            the property owner has the right to go to court to challenge whether the compensation is FMV, because the property owner has the constitutional right to FMV.  So, yes, I know what I am talking about.  People may disagree as to FMV within a range (just as people can debate the FMV of a house) but the property owner is constitutionally entitled to FMV.

                          •  didn't say he wasn't (0+ / 0-)

                            Just said it was extremely manipulable.

                            As an aside, I might mention that judges are cheaper to buy than most people think.

                            I notice you completely ignored the facts of the case I cited, where the property was targeted via zoning laws, to manipulate the FMV. The case played out over about four years if I recall correctly, and in retrospect it was certainly a case of the property being targeted, the zoning changes bought and paid for, the cause for eminent domain a legal fiction, and a "decent" interval allowed prior to changing back, all to ensure a huge profit at the conclusion.

                            Slick as hell, and basically legal theft.

                          •  So "basically legal theft" is your idea (0+ / 0-)

                            of the way to impose an arbitrary earnings cap?

                            So from a mechanism you've just illustrated as unjust, justice will suddenly issue forth because YOU are the one wielding it?

                            So the government - or you? -- will select a certain level of income and declare it Officially Enough, and force individuals to divest themselves of sufficient wealth that they no longer exceed that upper limit? Eminent domain cases go to court even when people of modest means are aggrieved by the proposed taking. How many years will a billionaire be able to battle the gov in court, and at what cost to the Treasury? Or will you also deny the wealthy their day in court so you can hurry the taking along?

                            Wouldn't it be easier, cheaper, and faster to just apply an aggressive progressive tax on wealth?

                            Why, raincrow, you're right. It WOULD be easier, cheaper, and faster to apply an aggressive progressive tax on wealth. But that would not impose my personal, entirely arbitrary ideas about wealth, power, and what is Officially Enough on 1/3 of a billion people, so taxation is still the wrong answer.

                            Well, all righty, then!

                          •  Netdahe - but under your scheme (0+ / 0-)

                            People have assets taken from them without compensation so I don't understand why eminent domain is even a discussion.

                            "let's talk about that"

                            by VClib on Tue Jan 31, 2012 at 07:43:11 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

      •  Nope. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        raincrow, campionrules

        the income tax is specifically authorized by the 16th Amendment.

        You'd have to amend the Constitution in order to give the federal government the power to do this.  

        •  be glad to (0+ / 0-)

          Nothing wrong with amending the Constitution to address this issue.

          A proportional cap might be the way to do it: no US citizen may accumulate more wealth than some percentage of the median net wealth, say 500 times the median?

          If such an amendment were passed, would you leave the country because of it?

          How much more than the median would you be okay with?

      •  Your conclusion is completely unsupported (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Neuroptimalian, rcnewton

        It may be perfectly constitutional to balance the power of the wealthy vs. the power of the average citizen, but it does not follow that it is perfectly constitutional to do so by limiting the amount of wealth a person can accumulate.

        As constitutional law stands so far afaik:

        Without imposing a wealth limit, we can tax the uber-wealthy and invest those taxes in promoting the general welfare.

        Without imposing a wealth limit, we can tax estates (in accordance with the sentiments of the many Founding Fathers who despised dynasty and the idle rich).

        Without imposing a wealth limit, we can indirectly limit some of the influence of the extremely wealthy by busting up monopolies and rebalancing our not-at-all-free markets.

        And surely I'm missing some other so-fars that other people may helpfully supply.

        * * * *

        In the not-to-distant future, I hope:

        We can work with centrists and the right wing to pass a constitutional amendment allowing us to limit how a person applies his/her wealth in the form of campaign contributions (amount and perhaps also timing). No wealth cap required.

        * * * *

        You have a belief and a desired goal. As it stands, though, there is yet no constitutional route to achieve your goal.

        You claim to know something about the Constitution, but you haven't yet presented the first substantive hint of a constitutional theory of wealth capping.  

        If you believe precedents exist in our constitutional jurisprudence to support your assertion that a wealth cap is "perfectly constitutional," I look forward with great relish to the diary (or the lengthy downthread comment in this diary) in which you lay out your theory and provide links to the supporting cases.

        •  a cap is not a tax (0+ / 0-)

          So far most arguments concern themselves with debunking a cap as an unConstitutional tax, an idea I reject as a red herring.

          Capping wealth, placing a limit upon how much wealth can be accumulated, is NOT a tax.

          It is a limit on behavior.

          As such, it doesn't relate to the sections regarding taxation.

          I submit that what I propose falls under Article 1, section 8:

          To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.

          My reasoning is that excessive wealth by its nature impacts commerce internationally and between the states, and causes difficulties that require national intervention, difficulties that would be eased by a cap.

          The Commerce clause is a wonderfully elastic thing, and without a doubt could be stretched to cover this. Much of what the commerce clause has been used for has been for precisely that: placing limits on behaviors.

      •  Net - your idea would require an amendment (4+ / 0-)

        As others have noted your idea of a federal wealth cap would require a constitutional amendment because you are taxing away all assets that exceed the limit. The amendment, creating any tax on wealth, would  be like the 16th which allowed the income tax. No other country in the world has a wealth limit and your idea would encourage the most successful Americans to give up their citizenship prior to the law taking effect. The IRS treats a change of citizenship like a death and estate taxes would be due, but they would be a fraction of what your idea would cost.

        Several European countries have annual wealth taxes, in the range of 1-3% per year. Recently some of them have dropped their wealth taxes because they found that over the long term their tax receipts declined because of capital flight, lower domestic investment and lower economic growth, all of which tended to depress tax revenues.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Tue Jan 31, 2012 at 11:29:41 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Bullshit (0+ / 0-)

      ¡Viva Baja Libre!

      by Azazello on Tue Jan 31, 2012 at 10:01:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is why we're falling behind other countries (5+ / 0-)

        Our schools are failing people like you, who don't know fundamental civics.  This is schoolhouse rock-level civics.  

        •  Bullshit (0+ / 0-)

          Wealth taxes are constitutional in the states, and may well be so at the Federal level as well. It is not clearly unconstitutional and it's time for a court test.

          ¡Viva Baja Libre!

          by Azazello on Tue Jan 31, 2012 at 10:27:55 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Please educate yourself. (5+ / 0-)

            In my post "Fundamental Constitutional principles," I link to basic wiki articles that explain basic civics.  

            It explains why states can do things the federal government cannot, and includes links.

            It quotes the Constitutional provisions limiting the power of the federal government to impose a "direct" tax.

            It includes a link to a wiki explaining why the 16th Amendment was necessary in order for the federal government to impose an income tax.

            If you said something like "if it's constitutional for the states to do it, it must be constitutional for the federal government to do it," you'd fail high school civics.   At the very least, google "enumerated powers" and "plenary powers."  There's a simple explanation of the differences between state and federal constitutions here.

            •  Bullshit (0+ / 0-)

              It took me about two minutes to find THIS, THIS, and THIS. Spare me your simple-minded constitutional theories, Professor, educate yourself.

              ¡Viva Baja Libre!

              by Azazello on Tue Jan 31, 2012 at 10:54:30 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Of course I've seen Ackerman's argument. (4+ / 0-)

                I'm very familiar with Bruce Ackerman's argument as to (1) why he thinks the Pollock case was wrongly decided and (2)  why he thinks it should not be followed if the Court now were to address a wealth tax.   Even he recognizes, however, that under the Pollock decision, a wealth tax would be unconstitutional.  

                Unless and until the Supreme Court says otherwise, however,  Pollock remains the law of the land, and Professor Ackerman's musings are just that -- musings of a law Professor.  Interesting reading, but not the law or the correct interpretation of the Constitution unless and until the Supreme Court says so. That's how it works.  

                Given the current makeup of the Court, I'd place serious bets against it adopting Professor Ackerman's view if Congress were to pass a wealth tax.  

            •  pretty condescending of you (0+ / 0-)

              I do happen to know a fair amount about the Constitution, and know that it is honored in the breach more than the reality.

              Most of the Patriot Act and subsequent legislation is in fact unConstitutional, as is the Citizens United decision. Appointing Bush President was unConstitutional. However, since the Republicans spent two generations stacking the Supreme Court with pro-corporate judges, what is and is not Constitutional has become a moot point, one certainly subject to much debate.

              Be that as it may be, I'm absolutely certain that if the will was there, my proposal would ultimately be found to  be perfectly Constitutional by providing for the greater good, balancing individual rights against the needs of the nation.

              •  Netdahe - constitutional is in the eye (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                raincrow, rcnewton

                of the beholder. While you think that the Patriot Act, CU, and the Bush decision are unconstitutional the strict constitutionalists believe that all of the Supreme Court decisions that allowed the New Deal were clearly unconstitutional. The strict constructionists had almost a century and a half of historical SCOTUS precedents on their side limiting the power of the federal government. What is constitutional is depends on the current SCOTUS, and appointing conservative republicans to the Court is the right of GOP Presidents.

                "let's talk about that"

                by VClib on Tue Jan 31, 2012 at 11:44:11 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

  •  We Did this in the 1930's for Half a Century. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raincrow, SoCaliana

    However not with a cap, but with the array of individual progressive taxations and numerous business, finance and anti trust barriers that prevented it not on a hard-wired individual basis but statistically over society.

    Most of the wealth, presently and previously held by the richest 5-10% or more, was during that brief national exception held by the masses. That's what made them the only large comfortable middle class we ever had.

    We solved this most of the way before 1980, without simplistic laws that could violate the (nonconservative version of the) Constitution.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Jan 31, 2012 at 09:58:11 AM PST

  •  A pity no one addresses the issues (0+ / 0-)

    So far I see what I expected to see: knee-jerk conservative reactions of you can't do that!, instead of substantive discussions of the underlying issues of excessive wealth accumulation and the negative effects it engenders.

    I hoped for better here.

    Most of the problems in our society, the ones most here rail about, are caused by excessive wealth-building.

    The only true solution is that which I've offered, all else dances around the central issue without addressing it, without having the capacity to actually change anything at all. Until you say enough is enough, the super-wealthy will compete for more and more: they are addicted to wealth-building and cannot stop of their own accord, no matter how dire the consequences for the world.

    •  You'd have to amend the Constitution (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      campionrules, raincrow, VClib, rcnewton

      to do it.  Sort of like the 16th Amendment to authorize the federal income tax.

      Whether it's a good idea is a completely separate question from whether it's constitutional.  

    •  Netdahe - the first step is higher tax rates (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      raincrow, rcnewton

      on all high income earners. That limits wealth accumulation going forward. However, as I have looked at this issue all of the remedies to reduce EXISTING wealth require a Constitutional Amendment. So we can certainly agree and discuss the problem, but the solutions are very limited within our Constitutional structure.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Tue Jan 31, 2012 at 11:54:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I had hoped for better, too (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You have lurked for years.

      Then you come out of the shadows, posing as a sincere person asking for welcome and the opportunity to share your beliefs and ideas with the community.

      You encounter people who disagree to a greater or lesser extent with your beliefs; people who question your confident but unsupported assertions about constitutional law, economics, theories of wealth, etc.; people who ask you to more carefully present your arguments -- people who choose to think, rather than just swallow.

      And you can't handle it. You resort to characterizations. You tell us that you came here with the expectation that we would be inadequate to the task you set before us.

      •  Sorry if I offended you (0+ / 0-)

        But it takes time to allow people to bring forth their usual arguments against this.

        I  am not worried much about those who disagree, that is only to be expected.

        I do think that most are misunderstanding this a tax-related issue, simply because it involves money. But it is not: money is a component, of course, but at heart what we are dealing with is a behavioral issue.

        As the logical arguments develop I am presenting my proofs in my ways, which are different and perhaps slower developing than yours, but I think I haven't characterized anyone inappropriately.

        I advocate thinking strongly, even when folks disagree, I just don't regard refusal to look at things in a new way as thinking.

        Just because you assert this is a tax issue, doesn't make it so.

        As I have begun to point out, it is a behavioral issue that reasonably falls under the scope of the Commerce clause, and will present the reasons why I think so.

        •  Explain how the government (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          raincrow, rcnewton

          forcing people to give away money or property over a certain amount is not a 5th Amendment violation -- taking their property without just compensation. I've read your explanation that it's not a "tax" -- you just would be "ineligible" for wealth over a certain amount, or you'd have to "reduce" your ownership of things.  You might want to take a look at some SCOTUS interpretations of the 5th Amendment.

          If I'm at the cap, and I have $100,000 in the bank, and it earns interest, explain how forcing me to give it away is not a 5th Amendment violation. (Even saying that I have to forgo the interest that everybody else earns -- to the benefit of the bank -- is a 5th Amendment problem).  

          If I'm at the cap, and I own Exxon stock, and it goes up 10% in value, explain how forcing me to give away some of that stock is not a 5th Amendment problem.  

          If I own 100% of a $1 billion business, and the cap is $1 billion, and the company goes up in value 10%, explain how forcing me to divest some ownership in that company is not a 5th Amendment probem.

          If I own a rental property, and I'm at the cap, explain how either (1) prohibiting me from renting it, or (2) compelling me to give away rental space for free is not a 5th Amendment problem.  

          •  It's called retirement (0+ / 0-)

            Who says it has to earn interest? Stick in your private vault to secure it.

            Again, why the obsession with continually building wealth long after you have no further use for what you already have?

            There are many anomalies in interpretations.

            I'll explain away yours if you explain away mine:

            How is peeing in a cup as a condition of employment not a violation of 4th amendment rights?

            How is being groped by TSA to invoke your right of free travel not a violation?

            How are unwarranted wiretaps not a violation?

            I submit that the few people who would be effected by a cap could suck it up and "take one for the team", even it it were a minor violation of their rights. It certainly would effect far fewer people to a far less extant than the egregious violations of the 4th that are committed every second of every day.

            •  You're saying that because our constitutional (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              rights (1) are not perfectly understood by all to mean the same thing, and (2) are not perfectly protected according to that shared understanding, YOU are thereby justified in violating the constitution in order to decree for others what does and does not constitute an "obsession," justified in deciding for others what does and does not constitute their having any "further use" for what they already have, and justified in arbitrarily restricting an individual's ability to invest and otherwise engage in lawful commerce.

              And none of these draconian limitations you would impose are simply meant to obtain an economic end -- the effective limitation of individual wealth -- because you could very easily, and under current U.S. law, allow individuals wide latitude to accumulate wealth, then use taxation to recapture some of it according to the current needs of society.


              You would impose these limitations on others because you want the individual members of the species to behave as you believe they should behave. You want to be the arbiter of behavior, the bender and shaper, by choosing the limitations that will be built into the front end.

              Just...  wow.

              •  A $1 billion cap is draconian? (0+ / 0-)

                Words fail me.

                How could a cap that effects a few hundred out of 350 million possibly be considered draconian?

                We cannot "very easily, and under current law" use taxation to recapture anything when that wealth buys the government and explicitly works to shift taxation from the rich to the poor.

                That fight has been going on for generations, and the poor have lost nearly every round; it is not likely to change anytime soon.

                I want to arbiter,bender and shaper? Only to the extant of saying "you have enough, leave some for others". That doesn't strike me as overreaching much.

                Basically applying what was taught in kindergarden: don't hog all the cookies, leave enough so everyone gets a share.

                What's wrong with that?

                •  What's wrong: (0+ / 0-)

                  Just for starts:

                  (1) You think there is a big magic bucket somewhere labeled "Wealth," and abiding therein are alllllll the nation's remaining goodies, tangible and intangible, immutable and waiting to be consumed; and that it's alllll going to get used up if a few bad people take too much, because it's just like a bag of cookies in kindergarten.

                  (2) You think you are wise and incorruptible enough be the Kindergarten Teacher who ordains for the rest of the nation, perhaps for the rest of the species, how many cookies are Officially Enough.

                  I hear in your writing overarching paternalism, a driving need to exercise dominion over others, with no mind to your great ignorance and presumptuousness, and no awareness or desire to contemplate the ramifications of your social engineering policy. I hear no self-reflection, no nuance, no inclination toward compromise or consensus, no complexity, and no interest in the wishes and desires of those who do not share your beliefs.

                  I hear the stirrings of an unbending Little Dictator in utero.

                  Out of curiosity, are you actually interested in the goals of this site, i.e., electing more and better (more progressive) Democrats? Or are you just looking for a sounding board?

                  •  goals (0+ / 0-)

                    I am trying to open a dialogue about how much wealth is enough, among  the other things I've outlined, and to insert some thoughts into the Democratic Party's thinking.

                    As I said in the very beginning, this part is merely a part of the whole, and again, I ask for patience and some time to present the whole of the connected concepts and see them as a whole illuminated by their reflected influences, and then judge them as a system.

                    You may disagree with any or all of what I say, that is your right and perfectly acceptable to me. But you have at least had the meme placed in your mind, and can begin the process of exploring the concepts it drags in its wake. It is through this process that new ideas, new modes of being come into existence. Your creative responses, even those antagonistic, perhaps, especially those, to my proposals will, hopefully, eventually bring forth some hybrid that perhaps neither of us would readily recognize, but would serve the function of mitigating the evils we both admit to seeing, a goal that I think we agree upon.

                    Whether it is some tax scheme (been there, done that, it's failed every time in my lifetime so to expect it to ever work for longer than an election cycle is a fool's bet in my book) or a cap as I envisage matters not at all to me, so long as the end result is the same: a more fair distribution of the wealth generated by the population of our nation.

                    My goal isn't necessarily to elect anyone in particular, although I must say I loathe most of what the Republicans say, do, and think.  My goal is to influence the collective thought patterns of those who run and those who elect by giving them different food for thought. Consider my efforts the yeast that sparks a reaction.

                    As you point out my seeming illogic, and I yours, I believe we can find a common ground that accommodates both our ways of thoughts.

                    I warned you upfront that I come from a different world, a different way of thought. You keep judging me from your way as I am trying to share a different view of the world with you. Be patient and try to withhold judgment, it takes longer to say things and shape the mental landscape from where I sit but it is usually worth bearing with.

                    Clear enough expression of why I'm here?

        •  You did not offend me. You are frustrating me. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I have not asserted that this is a tax issue. I am asserting that this is an issue of human behavior the undesirable effects of which can be ameliorated or attenuated by taxes. I consider there to be highly desirable effects to this behavior that I do neither wish to suppress nor would presume to try to suppress.

          And I am asserting that you have so far in no way demonstrated that the Commerce Clause begins to bear on the limitation of personal wealth (and here I refer to the comment into which you pasted a lengthy excerpt from Cornell's LII website on Commerce Clause jurisprudence).

          I reiterate that IMNSHO you have come in sheep's clothing, saying you want a fair hearing of your ideas. And you have received it. But when met with other than unconditional acceptance, you have chosen to respond with characterizations and condescension.

          We who disagree with you bring forth our "usual arguments against this."

          We who disagree with you: "that is only to be expected."

          We who believe differently than you respond with "knee-jerk" conservatism.

          I am not responding in "conservatism," I assure you. I am responding in profound and fundamental disagreement with what I perceive to be the authoritarianism underlying your beliefs and aims.

          So far, the responses to your diary and comments that I've read have been respectful. You have answered with what I consider to be disrespect.

          •  out of context (0+ / 0-)

            I wasn't replying to you in that post, merely pointing out that I am used to hearing these arguments, and they usually are from conservatives.

            I agree you've been respectful as I have tried to be.

            New ideas are usually rejected out of hand, and that, truly, is only to be expected. It takes time to absorb and adjust to a new thought.

            What you are calling authoritarianism is something that would apply to a mere handful of citizens, and never in all likelihood exceed effecting a few thousand, if that. How could that possibly be considered authoritarianism?

            You will never, in all likelihood, approach the cap. I won't either, but that's because I have no desire to. Essentially, all it would do as far as you individually are concerned would remove the fantasy of being "the richest guy in the world". How does that harm you or effect your life?

            And what effect would it have on those it applied to?

            Nothing physical that I can see: there still wouldn't be anything they couldn't buy, except for governments maybe, and that's a good thing, I think. No the only  area where they would truly be effected would be emotional: their egos would suffer from being merely one of the crowd, albeit a tiny crowd. They might get bored, but that's curable.

            As far as using the tax code to implement changes, what we are looking at both here and globally is the utter failure of that idea: the world is on the verge of economic collapse because of untrammelled wealth-building. Past a certain point, and we've passed it some time ago, enormous wealth can make or break countries.

            Barring some curb, we will descend into postmodern feudalism shortly, and the last vestiges of democracy will be discarded completely. Who knows when, if ever, it would be resurrected, and at what cost?

  •  Excessive wealth is not neutral. (0+ / 0-)

    You are very correct on that. I am not sure about the nuts and bolts of how it could be done in lawful and constitutional way, but we do have the ability to amend and change as needed. I largely agree with you in concept.
    IMO I would prefer a "maximum wage". Set a maximum earning that is tied to minimum wage at something like a 100 to 1 ratio. If minimum wage is $8 per hour then max is $800. Capped at 2000 hours per year. $1.6 million is top earnings. Anything above that is taxed to the hilt. This would push top earners to have the concerns of bottom earners in mind. If they wanted a 100 per hour increase they would need to lobby congress to raise the minimum wage by $1!
    Good food for thought.
    I hesitate to call anyone a procapitalist troll, but it does amaze me how quickly your comment section filled with opposition to open minded thinking about how we might fundamentally change our system to better serve a larger group of society.

    •  beeninthewoods - an earnings max is a bad idea (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      raincrow, rcnewton

      The federal government has no legitimate role in setting maximum compensation for anyone. The correct public policy is to raise the top marginal rates for all high income earners. It makes no sense to have one set of rules for people who manage companies and another for professional athletes and entertainers. There are too many difficulties in setting wage caps. How do you treat a business owner who pays themselves a small salary, but takes the profits as a bonus or dividend? It's really not a good idea and would be very difficult to police and manage.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Tue Jan 31, 2012 at 11:50:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Regulation authorized by Commerce Clause (0+ / 0-)

    In Gibbons v. Ogden, Chief Justice Marshall says, among other things, concerning the power of the Commerce Clause to regulate:

    ''We are now arrived at the inquiry--'' continued the Chief Justice, ''What is this power? It is the power to regulate; that is, to prescribe the rule by which commerce is to be governed. This power, like all others vested in congress, is complete in itself, may be exercised to its utmost extent, and acknowledges no limitations, other than are prescribed in the constitution . . . If, as has always been understood, the sovereignty of congress, though limited to specified objects, is plenary as to those objects, the power over commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, is vested in congress as absolutely as it would be in a single government, having in its constitution the same restrictions on the exercise of the power as are found in the constitution of the United States.'' 607  

     Of course, the power to regulate commerce is the power to prescribe conditions and rules for the carrying-on of commercial transactions, the keeping-free of channels of commerce, the regulating of prices and terms of sale. Even if the clause granted only this power, the scope would be wide, but it extends to include many more purposes than these. ''Congress can certainly regulate interstate commerce to the extent of forbidding and punishing the use of such commerce as an agency to promote immorality, dishonesty, or the spread of any evil or harm to the people of other states from the state of origin.In doing this, it is merely exercising the police power, for the benefit of the public, within the field of interstate commerce.'' 608  Thus, in upholding a federal statute prohibiting the shipment in interstate commerce of goods made with child labor, not because the goods were intrinsically harmful but in order to extirpate child labor, the Court said: ''It is no objection to the assertion of the power to regulate commerce that its exercise is attended by the same incidents which attend the exercise of the police power of the states.'' 609  

    The power has been exercised to enforce majority conceptions of morality, 610  to ban racial discrimination in public accommodations, 611  and to protect the public against evils both natural and contrived by people. 612  The power to regulate interstate commerce is, therefore, rightly regarded as the most potent grant of authority in Sec. 8.

    I've bolded the part I think most relevant. I think a cap can be justified under the powers granted by the Commerce clause as enunciated by Chief Justice Marshall.

    Many of the superwealthy make use of child/slave labor internationally through their subsidiaries, capping wealth would remove the incentive to continue to do so, and the opportunity.

    Clearly there is precedent for using the Commerce clause to regulate immoral behavior. Now it is merely a matter of proving that excessive wealth building falls into that category of behaviors we consider immoral.

    •  Only "immoral behavior" that constitutes (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      raincrow, rcnewton

      interstate commerce.  

      There is no way -- nada, zero, zilch -- what you are proposing would be upheld as regulating interstate commerce.

      Several of us have explained this to you above.  

      Read, for example, United States v. Lopez, and United States v. Morrison, and see where the SCOTUS has said Congress exceeded its authority under the Commerce Clause.

      •  Still missing the point (0+ / 0-)

        I think a valid argument can be made that many corporations promote immoral behavior: e.g. use of child labor, slave labor, create hostile work environments through the use of harmful agents: pesticides, oil dispersants and the like, and corrupt governments.

        The root cause of this is greed the unending quest for more individual wealth.

        We can attempt to regulate case by case, a thankless and unending task as new ways of achieving the same goal are constantly being devised to get around whatever regulations you put in place, or we can address the root cause: the race to be top dog.

        Capping individual wealth makes most of the problems we face go away: poverty, pollution, corruption.

        Capping wealth removes the incentive to trash the world and abuse humanity.

        Will a corporate Supreme Court, such as we have, approve a cap?

        Doubtful, but you never know.

        Would a differently composed Court do so?

        I think that sufficient logical, legal, and moral reasons exist that the Commerce Clause can be invoked to uphold a law if it is passed, especially if those who were most effected would signal their acceptance.

        What would they have to gain by doing so?

        Oh nothing much: just a unique place in human history, and a chance to remodel the world economies and social structures in astounding ways.

        First pass the law, then argue its Constitutionality.

        Most would seem to prefer to strangle the idea in its crib.

        •  congress has an obligation not to pass laws that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          patently unconstitutional.   They get legal opinions on laws they write.  There has to be a non-frivolous argument that the law is constitutional.  Your areguments would be considered legally frivolous, which is legalese for an argument that has no basis in law.

          •  curtailing corruption is frivolous? (0+ / 0-)

            It is clear that the superwealthy are buying Congress, and that excessive wealth is fueling laws that are patently unconstitutional, like those authorizing renditions and torture in the name of national security. The anti-marijauna laws are clearly unconstitutional, based on the 9th Amendment.

            I see no impediment to passing such a law, based upon the history of laws already passed.

            I don't think that a law going to the source of the corruption problem is frivolous.

            •  passing an unconstitutional law is frivolous. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Congress is obligated to have a basis in the Constitution for every law the pass.  "A good idea" is NOT the same thing as Constitutional.  That is what you do not seem to accept.

              •  so why are there so many bad laws passed then? (0+ / 0-)

                Over my lifetime I've seen many laws passed that were later declared unconstitutional.

                Many that are unconstitutional remain in force.

                What you seem to not accept is that many in Congress don't really care if it suits their agenda, as witness the Patriot Act, and most drug laws.

                The obligation to have a basis doesn't dictate whether that basis is thin or thick or vaporous, just that someone thinks that it exists.

                It is only later that all those pesky legalisms come in, and then quite often, lawyers torture them out of existence.

                As a pragmatist, I believe in doing what the rules allow, and they allow pretty much whatever you can get away with while no one's paying attention.

                At the very least, passing such a law, or attempting to, would open an international dialogue upon what the limits of wealth should be.

                And for that debate alone it is worth the attempt.

          •  Chief Justice Marshall's opinion (0+ / 0-)

            In Gibbons v. Ogden the Chief Justice had this to say about the power of the Commerce clause

            ''Congress can certainly regulate interstate commerce to the extent of forbidding and punishing the use of such commerce as an agency to promote immorality, dishonesty, or the spread of any evil or harm to the people of other states from the state of origin.In doing this, it is merely exercising the police power, for the benefit of the public, within the field of interstate commerce.''

            Much of what the superwealthy do does indeed spread "evil and harm" from fracking, to oil blowouts, to derivatives, all in the name of pursuing more wealth. The utter failure of using the tax code or criminal code to curtail their excesses leaves a cap as the sole practical means of preventing the spread of evil and harm in pursuit of yet more wealth. Look at what the Koch brothers have done to Wisconsin. Is not their excessive wealth what is fueling the destruction of unions there?

            I challenge you show what real harm those effected would suffer, beyond the mere intellectual discomfort of not being able to get more.

            A case can be made that they are suffering from a mental disorder akin to the woman with 500 cats or the guy whose home is overstuffed with stuff. They have an unassuagable craving for more, one that pertains to no visible need.

            •  "use of such commerce as an agency (0+ / 0-)

              to promote immorality, dishonesty, or the spread of any evil or harm to the people of other states from the state of origin"

              Commerce is not the same thing as personal wealth. Why do you keep trying to insist they're the same, and that a legal linkage exists between them?

              Are you just trying to get attention, or do you actually want to accomplish something in the real world among real people who are really struggling?

              I'm having a very hard time believing you're serious.

              •  what is the origin of wealth, if not commerce? (0+ / 0-)

                Most wealth becomes realized as soon as a transaction that fixes a value upon it occurs.

                Commerce is predicated upon transaction of value, therefore commerce is the source of wealth.

                If, in pursuit of increasing an individual's share of the wealth generated by the energy outputs of the society, that individual or group of individuals causes harm to others (think Apple outsourcing all manufacturing to China and then exploiting them to the point of suicide, or fracking, or Deepwater Horizon) or internationally (think of the problems caused by corporate influence of foreign policy) or spreads evil ( think of supporting dictators to protect business interests, destabilizing other countries for profit), through an act of commerce, then I submit that the wealth generated by such commerce legitimately falls within the purview of the Commerce clause. Removing the goal of infinite wealth, or to be the most wealthy, setting a common boundary that effects all equally, serves the direct purpose of altering the behaviors that are creating the harms and spreading the evils.

                Since the source of the problem is the behavior of a handful of people unable to curb their appetites for more, regardless of the consequences of that behavior, the logical thing to do is to place limits upon it, much as we place limits upon how much one can drink in public. Conceptually, a limit on wealth is no different from a limit on drinking: both seek to avoid having to deal with the consequences of excess by preventing it in the first place, and punishing transgression of the rule as appropriate.

                No one has an inherent right to unlimited, infinite wealth. If you actually believe the Constitution guarantees such a right, please point out where it explicitly says so.

                Wealth-building is a behavior that can and does have negative consequences for societies when carried to excess. Behaviors that have negative consequences are usually regulated by those societies that recognize them as negative, legitimately so.

                So why should wealth-building be a behavior that is out of reach on regulation? What makes it so special that it requires an exemption from the rules that govern other excessive behaviors with negative societal consequences?

                There is no question but that what the current model allows is excessively engendering extremely negative consequences for most of society.

                Do you wish to continually fiddle with the edges, studiously avoiding looking at or dealing with the source of the problem, or do you wish to solve the problem?

                A cap solves the problem by disallowing the behavior, same as drunk driving laws have solved, for the most part, the problem of drunk drivers.

                Where is the fault in the logic?

  •  apparently not using links correctly (0+ / 0-)

    I've noticed that some of the links I've used are not showing up, so I'm doing something wrong.

    Please forgive my ignorance of the site and I will correct hte problem in future posts.

  •  Odd that so many fight the idea (0+ / 0-)

    I can only assume that it is a result of strong social conditioning to protect the superwealthy.

    Clearly, there are vastly more benefits to be derived from a cap than negatives, even for those who would be most directly effected.

    Throughout most of this argument, the main thrust against it is that it is not Constitutional, a very debatable point, given that we find limits on showing pornography, limits on gambling, and limits on a vast number of other behaviors to be perfectly fine.

    It is called a tax, which clearly it is not, limits aren't taxes: it would be as absurd as calling the speed limit an illegal tax on time.

    It has been called an illegal taking, but the crops of marijuana growers are taken all the time, based upon laws originally enacted for private financial gain for individuals having a vested interest in making it illegal. Lands are frequently expropriated for a variety of reasons for "the common good" through eminent domain, and that troubles few.

    What is interesting to me though is the depth of the emotional responses (for that is essentially what they are) against the idea by those who actually have no vested interests. A cap would never effect them in anything remotely like a harmful way, would only improve their individual lot in life, yet they fight assiduously against it.

    So what accounts for it?

    A misplaced sense of fairness?

    That somehow curtailing the greediest among us harms us all?

    By the arguments presented here, I'm glad most weren't around for the Revolution, for they would certainly have argued that the idea of electing one's leaders would be a taking of the rightful authority of those born to rule, or that the courts would never allow such a thing.

    The world, and the superwealthy, stands at the brink of a unique moment in human history: to continue as we have done for millenia, allowing the unfettered accumulation of wealth to constantly destabilize societies to their destruction, over and over again, or to put in place reasonable limits on individual wealth.

    There are some 1800+ billionaires in the world today, each striving to increase their wealth by 10% or more per year: no amount of productivity increases can possibly keep up with that demand. It brings us only the chaos we see in Greece, soon to be repeated throughout the globe.

    If the superwealthy would embrace a cap, they would find themselves hailed as heroes of humanity. They would have a once in history chance to truly create a new world of peace and harmony, where no human being need lack for food, shelter and healthcare. They could unleash an amazing amount of innovation, a true golden age unlike anything the world has ever seen before or would ever see again, and their place in history would be securely emblazoned as benefactors of humanity.

    In the end it is they who my words and ideas address.

    You, Mr. Buffet.

    You, Mr. Koch.

    You, Mr. Soros.

    You, Mr. Gates.

    And those you call your peers.

    What say you?

    I welcome discussion of the idea here, but most here are as incapable of effecting things one way or another as I am. I am capable merely of offering the idea with as much eloquence and reason as I can muster.

    Visionary poetry?

    Yes, perhaps.

    But change must start somewhere, and somewhen.

    I say today and I say this is how.

    Spare me the trivialities of old caselaw, and let us make new law and a new world.

    •  It is about religion and ideology, IMO (0+ / 0-)

      People have this sense that God has rewarded the rich, who have kept their nose to the grindstone and outworked the rest of us. The ideology of popular economics is reinforced by religion in this sense. This is why so many have difficulty understanding macroeconomics and the relation between their salaries and the world economy. They prefer to think of fiscal policy as the same as a household budget.

      There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

      by upstate NY on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 05:38:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  yes, but (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        upstate NY

        it is more complex and nuanced than that.

        The accepted paradigm is that if one works hard doing quality work with perseverance and generating good ideas, then anyone can become filthy rich.

        American culture also places a high value upon -er: faster, brighter, prettier, wealthier, etc. The cultural emphasis upon competition over cooperation belies the purported articles of faith concerning all being equal and we're all in this together.

        To think of removing one of the most culturally important -ers from the list strikes hard at the American psyche on a primal level, the one thing theoretically attainable by all, however untrue in reality.

        It is part of the mental scaffolding erected by the superwealthy to short-circuit true thought on the subject: limiting them limits oneself.

    •  Spare me your paternalism and condescension (0+ / 0-)

      Ah yes, we who disagree, so inadequate, so plebian, mesmerized, yoked by the "trivialities" of constitutional law, so unprepared to behold the wondrousness of your authoritarian mind, your grand vision for a true golden age.

      Who are you to tell people what to strive for and how much they can strive? Decisions concerning the "acceptable degree of wealth" should be decided collectively -- not by you -- and there is no indication, from all of recorded history, that the "acceptable degree of wealth" should be a fixed target.

      And no one here has argued for "unfettered accumulation of wealth." You have confused (mistakenly or deliberately?) disagreement with your means for disagreement with one of your ends.

      Clearly you have no intention of engaging in serious debate on how to bring into being reasonable, durable, democratic restraints on the power conferred by material wealth.

      Instead, you choose to dream in electrons about a true golden age in which your ideas rule the rest of humanity, wave your electron hands, spin electron utopias, write another verse of "Imagine" instead of "Step By Step."

      •  Disagree with you totally on this (0+ / 0-)

        There is always a relation between the accumulation of wealth at the top and the relative health of those at the bottom. The relationship is almost symbiotic and should be regulated.

        There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

        by upstate NY on Thu Feb 02, 2012 at 06:27:52 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

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