My Unorthodox Query Letter is Rejected. But I Wouldn’t Have Changed it.

My brother’s query on a unique travel destination between Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe. Tonapah was a roaring mining camp back in late 1800’s and through the turn of the century. There is a nice hotel in town that has been restored recently. It makes a great pit stop.

thomas farley's blog

My query letter to National Geographic’s Traveler was just rejected. But I think I did the best I could. Here are the details. Perhaps you will be inspired to put your own off-the-wall query letter into the mail.

I proposed a travelogue to central Nevada, participatory tourism to discover turquoise at the Royal Royston claim outside of Tonopah. That was what my Rock&Gem (internal link) article was all about and I thought I might interest Nat Geo in a piece tailored toward their audience.

Since my article and query letter revolved around turquoise, I decided to confort the query letter editor with the real thing: real turquoise. I bundled up two samples, one rough, one finished, and sent them off. I included my magazine article and a photo of Kate Blanchett at the Academy Awards wearing a turquoise necklace. Just to show turquoise is in style. (See the image below.)

Alas, my…

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Coming in Fall 2017

Cover16Signed on today with Mountain Press Publishing Co to publish the biography of James A. Murray, a radical Western millionaire.

Murray built his fortune alone and unaided. The Irish immigrant was a fervent supporter of labor and Irish Nationalism, and fought at every turn against corporate capitalism. He operated his business empire, stretching from Seattle to San Diego and east to Colorado, out of saloons and hotel lobbies.  He dined with hack drivers and prostitutes in Rocky Mountain mining camps, and Diamond Jim Brady and Lillian Russell in New York City. During the Gilded Age he owned the most magnificent home on the California Coast and a five star resort at the edge of Yellowstone Park.

 

 

 

Tax History 101 for CBS Debate Moderators

Nancy Cordes, CBS Congressional correspondent, and a moderator at this cordesweekend’s Democratic Presidential debate, was shocked and amused at Bernie Sander’s response to her question about the top rate in his tax plan. Sanders’ remarked that it would not be as high as President Eisenhower’s ninety percent (90%) top rate – adding a humorous note that he was not as big of a socialist as was Ike.  Cordes’ amusement revealed that she either knew little about the history of tax policy in this country, or she is personally opposed to raising tax rates – neither being a good quality for a moderator.

The history of tax policy in this country is critical to understanding many of the issues that are highlighted in presidential debates. Income inequality, the cost of higher education, and the lack of funding for veteran’s programs are all tied to dramatic, and relatively recent reductions in tax rates applied to the wealthiest Americans.

The History of Income Tax Rates in America

Federal Income tax was reinstated in this country in 1913 after a nineteen-year hiatus, and by 1917 the top marginal tax rate jumped to 67% on income above $2.0 million per year (the equivalent of $35 million in 2013). The top rate dropped significantly leading up to the Great Depression, before rising again to fund F.D.R.’s New Deal.

Figure 1 below provides the tax rate applied to the highest income bracket (in blue)and the tax rate applied to households with annual incomes of $500,000 (adjusted each year to 2013 dollars and illustrated in red). Note that the differential in tax rates on the wealthiest Americans (making over $500,000) were reduced starting in the Kennedy administration and eliminated completely by the end of Reagan’s first term.

Figure 1

The chart illustrates several important points:

  • Bernie Sanders and others speaking to a higher tax rate for the 1% have history on their side (sorry Nancy, but you should have done your homework on this).
  • Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation” was served by federal programs funded through tax rates that placed a greater burden on the wealthiest Americans.
  • Medicare, aimed at serving the aging members of the Greatest Generation, was adopted at a time when tax rates focused on the wealthiest Americans.
  • Recent decreases in tax rates and elimination of free tuition (1) followed the adoption of the Civil Rights Act, denying minorities the educational opportunities afforded to the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers.
  • Practically every presidential candidate, and debate moderator, lived during a time when tuition was free at public universities (or just a fraction of what it is today).

Figure 2 below compares the top tax rate and the top income bracket since 1913. The top income brackets are adjusted to 2013 dollars and displayed on a logarithmic scale.

Figure 2

Going forward, perhaps the questions for presidential candidates should be:

  1. “Why shouldn’t Millennials benefit from educational opportunities afforded to the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers?
  2. Why should free college tuition, withheld from minorities prior to the Civil Rights Act, be denied to minorities after passage of the Act?
  3. Why aren’t the tax rates and tax brackets that served the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers not being used for the benefit of Millennials?

(1) The University of California system is used to illustrate the end of free tuition in public universities.

Note: Historical tax rates can be found at the Tax Foundation.

Our presidential contenders could all benefit from free college tuition when they were 18

Daily ClogLilia Vega of the Daily Clog takes baby boomers on a walk down memory lane with her piece that details the history of tuition and fees in the University of California system since 1868.

The UC system, one of two in California, and home to UC Berkeley and UCLA, started in 1868 with a goal of free tuition for all students. The system met that goal for over one hundred years. Here are the undergraduate tuition and fees that our presidential candidates would have paid if they entered the UC system when they were 18:

The above charges were fees for non-classroom expenses. Tuition was free. Adjusting these fees to today’s dollars, results in annual college costs for our candidates of $1,123, $1,348, $1,510, and $2,146.

And the cost for our next generation of leaders?

In 2015-16 our next generation is paying $5,006 per quarter ($15,000 per year) for the UC system. Of this amount, $3,740 per quarter is for tuition ($11,220 per year) and $1,266 is for fees ($3,800 per year). The new college catalogs address this with an entire section devoted to student loan programs, a feature missing in catalogs from the baby boom years.

Presenting this Weekend at the American Conference for Irish Studies Western Regional

CoverThe theme of the conference is Ireland: Memory and Monument. My presentation is about the potential meaning behind three monuments commissioned by James A. Murray, an Irish immigrant; a Celtic cross, a theater stage, and a pick and shovel.

Murray built a fortune in the American West with discipline, ruthless determination, deception, and colorful shenanigans that made him a favorite of the press. Murray’s accentuated personality included a remarkable radical streak unmatched by other Western millionaires. His radicalism first surfaced during the Irish Land League protests of 1883, and reached a zenith when Irish-American nationalism surged following the Easter Rising in 1916. Estranged nephew, NYU-trained lawyer, and future U.S. Senator James E. Murray served as elder Murray’s main political operative following The Rising. Elder’s money and younger’s ambition formed a powerful combination that rattled military agencies tasked with protecting wartime industries and filled coffers for Ireland’s revolution.

My paper explores the motivation behind Murray’s remarkable actions to support radical Irish organizations and labor unions, using three unusual monuments he commissioned over 100 years ago.

My Day, by Eleanor Roosevelt, September 5, 1953

FDR, Eleanor, and Senator Murray (University of Montana Mansfield Library Archives)

FDR, Eleanor, and Senator Murray (University of Montana Mansfield Library Archives)

Senator James E. Murray was a prolific writer and speaker on all progressive issues. Here, Eleanor Roosevelt reflects on a speech Senator Murray gave on the importance of food and clothing in creating peace in the world. Roosevelt’s column is available on-line through George Washington University.

I have been thinking a great deal of late about a speech made some time ago by Senator James E. Murray of Montana when a Senate Joint Resolution was introduced on a nonpartisan basis to “provide for an international food reserve.” Members of both parties joined in backing this resolution and Senator Murray gave very good reasons why it should be backed by every farmer in America and by every processor and distributor of farm commodities because, he explained, “it would encourage abundant production of food and fibres and provide a constructive method of preventing market surpluses.”

Then he remembered to consider the consumer, the general public, you and I, who are usually forgotten in the press of special interest groups, and he said it would protect against “shortages and the consumer price increases which accompany shortages.” Finally he said this resolution would be of interest to the other nations of the world which produce or import agricultural commodities. He pointed out that food and clothing are two of the most vital weapons in mankind’s struggle for a happier and more peaceful world and for all these reasons he felt we should create at once an international food reserve.

It was an unusual thing to have a resolution of this kind come from the Senate and not through negotiation on the part of the executive branch of the Government first with other nations but, as the Senator pointed out, sometimes these negotiations on the part of governments come to nothing because they are not inspired or participated in by the Congress which in the long run does have to put the machinery in operation to bring anything of this kind about.

The resolution is simple. The first section indicates why an international food reserve is needed. The second section explains the purposes that will be served by an international food reserve, and the third section authorizes and directs our mission members in the U.N. to enter promptly into international negotiations for the purpose of preparing a specific plan. The fourth simply asks that this plan and the information pertaining thereto come to the Congress for approval. No funds are provided but the mere fact that the information supporting this resolution was before the Congress must have started much thinking, not only in our own country, but in the world and I hope that it will go on until something really constructive comes of it.

Eleanor Roosevelt, September 5, 1953

Toward Revolution!

Untitled pictureNext week I will be speaking on the campus of University of Wisconsin – La Crosse at the Midwest Section of the American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS). The theme of the conference is “Towards Revolution,” and my contribution will be a paper on the path of James E. Murray to the top of Eamon De Valera’s support group, the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic. Murray’s involvement with De Valera started when the Irish leader first toured America in 1919 and ended with the start of the Irish civil war in 1922.

Murray’s climb was promoted by the Butte Bulletin, a radical labor daily funded by his wealthy uncle. The paper, distributed to labor camps throughout the West, was backed by the IWW and championed labor, socialism, and the end of British Imperialism. New information will be presented at this conference on the relationship between Uncle Murray and the Butte Bulletin.

Book Review: When Mandates Work: Raising Labor Standards at the Local Level

when_mandates_workWhen Mandates Work [1] is a good resource guide for use in cities and airports located in primary urban markets. Most of the research centers on San Francisco, which likely applies to cities like Seattle, Portland and San Diego and their airports. The content of the book is drawn from individual journal articles written by several different authors, so the content varies dramatically from chapter to chapter.

Part one of the book looks at living wage ordinances in cities and airports. Significant benefits are found in terms of reduced turnover rates and improved employee morale. For restaurants in one study, price increases  of 2.8 percent occurred, which is remarkably similar to estimates on anticipated cost increases derived using MIT’s living wage models.[2] As an aside, I am confounded that there is not bi-partisan support for living wages at fast food restaurants across the country. Why any fiscal conservative would not want the fast food industry to stand on its own, and stop using federal subsidies to bolster worker’s living standards, is incomprehensible.[3] Every fiscal hawk should be wagging their finger at Ronald McDonald to get off the public dole!

Part 2 covers health care benefits and Part 3 provides execution strategies – including the use of Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs).

Anyone looking at CBA’s for their city should take a close look at the CBA negotiated with Twitter in San Francisco. The hearings on this document are readily available on-line in City archives. Twitter clobbered the City in negotiations. Adding insult to injury, the primary beneficiary of Twitter’s move to the City’s central business district (building owners) did not participate at all in the CBA.

If you are on a budget, review the table of contents and search for the individual journal articles that comprise this book which are relevant to your situation, and download those individually (most libraries provide patrons with access to JSTOR – the primary database for academic journal articles).


[1] Michael Reich, Ken Jacobs, and Miranda Dietz, eds., When Mandates Work: Raising Labor Standards at the Local Level (University of California Press, 2014).

[2] http://livingwage.mit.edu/

[3] McDonald’s has in the past directed employees to federal assistance programs through their employee hotline.

Historical Amnesia: The Humphrey-Hawkins Act, Full Employment and Employment as a Right (Ginsburg, 2011)

President Jimmy Carter signs Humphrey-Hawkins.

From the article abstract:

Economist William A. Darity has proposed a federal job guarantee with decent wages for all job seekers, an idea with deep, but largely forgotten, roots in US history. The article briefly explores some New Deal job-creation efforts and President Franklin Roosevelt’s proposal for an Economic Bill of Rights. It then focuses on two major attempts to secure full employment through legislation. The Full Employment Bill of 1945 was defeated; the compromise, the Employment Act of 1946 did not have full employment as its goal. After years of struggle, a much-weakened Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978 passed, but then was violated and virtually ignored. Full employment shifts power from capital to labor, so major opposition can be expected from efforts to obtain it. Proponents need more power and a strong movement, including at the grassroots level, pushing for jobs for all–not just jobs for me or my group. Publicizing the benefits of past job programs and reintroducing the idea of a decent-paying job as a right are suggested, as well as making decent jobs for all the center of economic policy. This requires a fundamental break with neoliberalism and reallocating political power away from big business and Wall Street toward middle and working-class people and the working- and non-working poor.

Link to full article: http://www.njfac.org/bpe-ginsburg.pdf

The Missed Opportunity for an Economic Budget

JamesEMurrayFullEmployment“There is something wrong with the distribution of income in our economy. Not enough of the income created by production gets into the hands of those that will spend it back into production.

Senator James E. Murray, 1945 [1]

The end of World War II placed employment at the top of the national agenda. Seasoned lawmakers and experienced public officials had lived through the burst of an employment bubble after WWI, twenty-five years early, and the Great Depression that followed.

President Roosevelt, during his annual message to Congress, proposed a “Second Bill of Rights” to guide Congress in establishing “a standard of living, higher than ever know before.”

The rights included:

  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
  • The right of every family to a decent home;
  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
  • The right to a good education.[2]

Senators Harry Truman (D-MO) and Senator James E. Murray (D-MT) presided over a Senate subcommittee focused on the first point, to provide employment opportunities for all Americans. When Truman left the Senate for the Vice Presidency, the responsibility for shaping legislation fell to Murray. In 1945, Murray, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education and Labor, drafted Senate Bill 380, the “Full Employment Act of 1945” and found bi-partisan co-sponsors in Senators Wagner (D-NY), Thomas (D-UT), O’Mahoney (D-WY), Morse (R-OR), Tobey (R-NH), Aiken (R-VT), and Langer (R-ND).

S. 380 sought to go beyond the reactionary work-relief measures crafted after the Great Depression, by taking advance measures to avoid depression and unemployment altogether. A critical element of this proactive approach was for the President to prepare a separate “National Production and Employment Budget” (Economic Budget), apart from the regular budget, that prescribes a “complete and well-rounded program for maintaining full production.” Murray believed that the Economic Budget would focus lawmakers on substantive employment policy matters every year, as opposed to merely limiting the discussion to meaningless campaign rhetoric every presidential election. [3]

During the subsequent debates of S. 380, the bill was watered-down, the Economic Budget was dropped, as was “Full” from the title. The Employment Act of 1946, adopted and signed into law, created policy objectives similar to those outlined in F.D.R.’s Second Bill of Rights, but it fell short in focusing Congressional attention on the economy and unemployment.

An annual Economic Budget is a concept worth revisiting. It could pull the nation’s most important issue off the campaign trail and put it back into halls of Congress where it belongs. It would serve as a central point to discuss living wages, work-visas, public service employment and corporate out-sourcing.

[1] James E. Murray, “A Practical Approach,” The American Political Science Review 39, no. 6 (December 1945): 1119–26.

[2] http://www.ushistory.org/documents/economic_bill_of_rights.htm

[3] Murray, “A Practical Approach.”