By Rex Sinquefield , May 16, 2013
This week, the Rockefeller Foundation celebrates its 100th birthday. Notably, the organization has named innovation as the key component for its philanthropy in the next century.
The finalists for this new round of funding clearly articulate the interests of Rockefeller and a growing number of contemporary large scale donors. The Foundation’s “Next Century Innovator Awards” focus on projects that transform society and reimagine new approaches to the treatment of cancer, sanitation, education, social-service program funding, and marketplace literacy, just to name a few.
One of the more interesting programs, and one of this year’s three awardees, is Innovate Salone of Sierra Leone. Anyone who believes that poor children cannot learn need not look any further than this incredible program for proof that they are wrong.
Through Innovate Salone, young people are given the opportunity and the support they need to develop workable solutions to problems that they have identified in their own communities. Winning ideas are financially supported, and prototypes are improved during a summer camp at which students benefit from the input given by peers and mentors. A network of support works with the youth to advance the project while building a culture of innovation in local communities.
Clearly, in Sierra Leone, there is an opportunity to challenge established attitudes that limit self-realization and community development.
The Rockefeller Foundation joins a growing group of new donors who are sharpening their philanthropic focus. The potential societal impact of these new giving programs is vastly greater than that made by simply writing a large check every year.
Universities also have taken a giant step toward reimagining the future of higher education, as demonstrated by the remarkable success of Harvard’s MOOC program. The opportunity for expanding student access to some of our country’s best educational institutions will mean real advantages for students who otherwise would not have such opportunities.
Ten years ago, my good friend Garry Kasparov created the Kasparov Chess Foundation, which promotes the study of chess in schools all around the world. Headquartered in New York, the Foundation developed a comprehensive K-12 chess curriculum that, according to the website, ”encourages creativity, instills self-discipline and offers hope and a feeling of accomplishment to millions of children.”
Reimagining the future of education here in Missouri is something on which my wife Jeanne and I spend a considerate amount of effort and resources. We have integrated our commitment to improving high quality educational access and student outcomes with our two personal passions (music and composition for Jeanne, chess for me.) In St. Louis, through the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, which sponsor chess programs in hundreds of classrooms and community centers throughout the region, we have seen firsthand how behavior and performance improve once students enroll in our chess program.
Across the street, the World Chess Hall of Fame is developing interesting programs that establish new paradigms for what defines an arts organization and the impact it can have on a community. Exhibitions explore chess’ connection to such diverse fields as hip-hop, fashion, nature, science, and contemporary art.
Jeanne’s commitment to finding and growing young composers is changing the trajectory of hundreds of Missouri students’ lives. For the last seven years, the Missouri New Music Initiative has provided young composers with the training and opportunities to compose, to have their music performed, and to have their music to be recorded.
Philanthropy can directly impact the long-term future of our youth, schools, healthcare initiatives, and the arts. Social impact giving programs now are found in communities from Bogota to Botswana, and the key driver for most of the successful programs is innovation. As physicist William Pollard once said, “Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”
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By Rex Sinquefield, May 3rd, 2013
For nearly a year, this column has provided evidence that taxes matter and that income tax policy, in particular, directly impacts business decisions, employment, and ultimately the economy and the stability of workers’ lives. This week, for those who fervently refute this position, developments in France and the U.S. offer sound and practical proof in support of my ongoing thesis.
It all began in October last year, soon after France’s president Francois Hollande’s all-out assault on the French workers’ and business owners’ ability to acquire working wealth. His new administration’s revenue-generating approach of raising taxes on income, property, inheritance, and capital gains resulted in outrage from a large cadre of young (25-34 years old) entrepreneurs, dubbed Les Pigeons (French slang for one who is being duped), and prompted an organized social media campaign protesting business-stifling taxes.
By Rex Sinquefield, April 5, 2013
Those of you who have been following me know that about half of my columns deal with California’slackluster leadership and its resulting failed, irresponsible tax-and-spend policies. And, while I would prefer to shift my focus to other states and issues, this week’s Golden State-related headlines are — quite simply — impossible to avoid.
The leadership vacuum that exists in our country’s most populous state seems to have trickled down to local municipalities. Sadly, it is hard-working taxpayers and small business people who will pay the price for municipal ineptitude.
Tuesday, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge ruled that Stockton, California, may move forward with its Chapter 9 bankruptcy, which the city filed last summer.
by Rex Sinquefield, March 22, 2013
In 2011, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo promised a major overhaul in the state’s tax code. Along with that promise he set out to empanel a tax reform commission “to address long term changes to the tax system and create economic growth.”
Instead, Governor Cuomo seems more committed to tweaking New York’s antiquated and punitive tax structure and turning a blind eye to the devastating impact those policies are having on The Empire State. Unfortunately for the taxpayers of New York, the research shows that things do not look good, even if the millionaire’s tax would expire.
by Rex Sinquefield, March 8, 2013
According to the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey, employers and high wage earners are not the only groups frustrated by California‘s wrong-minded tax policies. According to a Wall Street Journal article that recently referenced the survey, 95% of those individuals who have moved out of the Golden State earn less than $80,000 per year. The median annual income level of those who have left is around $40,000.
Without a doubt, this new revelation does not support the commonly held belief that California’s punitive tax policies are only impacting successful entrepreneurs and high-income workers. In reality, the state imposes a minimum income tax rate of 9.3% on all workers earning more than $48,000 per year, an income level that is well below the state’s media income level of $60,000.
by Rex Sinquefield, February 21, 2013
Lone Star State Governor Rick Perry seriously amped up his West Coast recruiting efforts this month in response to California’s passage of Proposition 30, a statewide vote that dramatically increased the state’s personal income tax rate. Taxpayers there will be paying up to 3% more on earned income, and that increase is retroactive to January 1, 2012. More than a thousand miles away from Sacramento, a far more positive outlook counters the frustration felt by many California employees and business owners.
Just last week Governor Perry met with 200 Golden State business owners, and two weeks ago he purchased $24,000 in radio ads intended to lure entrepreneurs with lower individual taxes and a business-friendly climate. The 30-second spots tout Texas’ “zero income tax, low overall tax burden, sensible regulations and fair tax system.” The targeted campaign and face-to-face marketing efforts appear to be paying off… in spades.
by Rex Sinquefield, February 8, 2013
In the wake of the U.S. economy realizing its most significant decline since 2009 (an annualized decline of 0.1 percent during the 4th quarter of 2012), this week President Obama laid out his plan to kick the “sequester can” even further down the road. His renewed call for tax increases, along with limited spending cuts, is a prime example of what President Ronald Reagan was referring to when he claimed, “Some people have labored so long at making government bigger that they’ve developed a knee-jerk addiction to tax increases. Every time their knee jerks, we get kicked.”
The federal government’s seemingly insatiable appetite for out-of-control spending affects far more than jut the wealthy. In fact, Washington’s tax-and-spend tendencies will impact more than three-quarters of American households this year. Many American workers were caught off-guard in January, when they saw their annual take-home pay shrink by hundreds of dollars due to a broad-based increase in payroll taxes.
The Sacramento Kings’ Departure From Hypertaxed California Signals Return Of The Seattle SuperSonics
by Rex Sinquefield, January 24, 2013
Fans of the Seattle SuperSonics, the beloved NBA team whisked away to Oklahoma City in 2008, will soon have reason to stand up and cheer. No, the Oklahoma City Thunder isn’t headed back to the Pacific Northwest – but the Sacramento Kings will be calling Seattle home before too long. The resurrection of the SuperSonics has spirits soaring in the Evergreen State.
On Monday morning, the Seattle Times reported that a Seattle group helmed by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer agreed to purchase the Sacramento Kings. Pending approval from the NBA Board of Governors, the team would move to Seattle and play its first season as the SuperSonics this fall.
by Rex Sinquefield, December 13, 2012
In writing The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith’s goal was to share the wisdom of how individuals, groups and governments behave within markets. In it he laid out four critical principles of a “good” tax or, more precisely, taxation that encourages rather than limits growth: equity, transparency, convenience and efficiency. On convenience, he wrote:
“What improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconveniency to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.”
And on transparency, Smith offered this:
“The tax each individual is bound to pay ought to be certain, and not arbitrary. The time of payment, the manner of payment, and the quantity to be paid, ought all to be clear and plain to the contributor, and to ever other person.”
It can be argued, as Adam Smith did, that taxing production or personal income is intrusive and destructive to the greater interests of the whole. That being said, if local, state or federal governments are to siphon tax revenues from personal income or production, it is contingent upon a representative government to provide transparency to those paying the tax. Transparency allows taxpayers to clearly see how their money is spent on their behalf. Just as importantly, deeper study of the effects of taxation casts a light on how certain taxes affect where taxpayers decide to live and where businesses locate.