January 10, 2013

Why DC Ignores Real Problems And What You Can Do About It

How many real and serious national problems can you list? And how many obvious solutions can you come up with literally off the top of your head? Now an experiment: list how many of them are being worked on by our DC elites or even discussed my our elite media? The answer is none. Why is this? And what can you do about it?

Real And Serious Problems

Start with climate change, clearly the most serious problem facing the world. If you think this is something that won't do serious damage until way off in the future, consider what could happen this year if our country's terrible drought continues, and then other climate-related disasters hit other agricultural regions around the world. Oh, right, mass starvation. Never mind the storms and storm surges, huge wildfires, heat waves, etc. that we are already experiencing.

Jobs. We have an absolute and continuing jobs emergency and people are suffering. And it is the reason we have a big budget deficit. Is there an economic problem that is more serious than jobs? Imagine if we had full employment, and companies had to actually pay well to get the employees they need, and provide training, etc. Imagine how LOW the budget deficit would be. The high budget deficit is a flip side of all the benefits businesses are getting from the low wages, long hours, etc. that come from high unemployment. The budget deficit is literally the government subsidizing WalMart's low wages.

Our huge, huge trade deficit - the actual deficit that is actually draining our economy and killing jobs and factories and industries and our ability to make a living in the future. The budget deficit is money spent on each other, things that make our lives better. The trade deficit is money that just bleeds out, making us all poorer and less able to take care of each other.

Infrastructure - our country's infrastructure is seriously in disrepair. Never mind that we don't have modern things that could be seriously boosting our economy, like high-speed rail and fiber-internet to every business and home -- things are falling apart.

Education, the cost of universities and resulting student-loan debt, the need for more community colleges, etc. They are pretending to talk about this but all the solutions being discussed take money away from our schools and universities and only benefit the Wall Street types...

You can name dozens of other serious, major national problems that are not even on the DC-elite agenda!

OK, they appear to be talking about guns. That's good. But not if they are talking about even more guns.

Many Problems Have Obvious Solutions

We can start attacking the climate problem with a big carbon tax. People will start using alternatives, which will cost less than using carbon-based energy sources. (PS the revenue also helps fix the budget problem.) Refund some of the money collected to those who are hit hardest by the tax, like low-income people who have to drive to work.

Infrastructure and jobs are two of our most serious problems. But obviously if we start fixing the infrastructure problem we are also fixing a lot of the jobs problem. (Especially if we have strict "Buy American" requirements for the materials, steel,etc.) (PS this also helps fix the budget problem because people with jobs are paying taxes, not using the safety net, and the economy becomes more competitive in the long run.)

Etc, with the obvious solutions. I don't have to put them here, they're obvious.

So why do they ignore the real problems and the obvious solutions that help We, the People?

Why Do They Ignore The Real Problems?

So WHY do our DC-elite geniuses ignore our real problems? We all know the answer: the influence of big money. Big money dominates. Big money steers the discussion. Big money buys the politicians. Big money lobbies the rule-makers. Big money uses the "revolving door" to reward the officeholders and staffers and regulators with high-paying jobs after they leave government -- if they play ball while in government.

And big money rigs the game so only the really big money -- those who already have it -- can win.

But the problem extends so far past the direct bribery, especially in the way it dominates the country's information channels. This means the major media (all of it dominated by only 6 companies), and all of the ways that our national discussion gets shaped.

Using the climate problem as an example, we all understand that big money from the fossil-fuel industry is being used to keep us from attacking this problem. But how?

Looking at how the information channels are influenced illustrates how far big money reaches. They don't just bribe politicians, and hire them and staffers later, etc. They also use their big money to influence how we talk and even think about this. Aside from the huge money spent on lobbyists, there are the dozens and dozens of so-called "think tanks" and "institutes" and other organizations that get money from these companies to pay people to go on TV and radio and write articles and op-eds, etc, to influence the nation's discussion of this. They also have their "studies" and "reports" etc. that get in the news. If you want a major-media career you had best not get on the wrong side of these companies. They totally dominate and intimidate and do what it takes to get their way.

(A few - just a few - resources on this: Frontline: Climate of Doubt, Meet The Climate Denial Machine, Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine, Climate Skeptic's Debunked Report Exposes How the Denial Industry Works, How climate change denial lets the fuel industry run politics, in one handy chart)

The information sources of our democracy are controlled by the big money. Another example (of so many) of how the corporate money machine influences what we as a country talk and even what we think about: How often do you see a labor leader on your TV talking about the benefits of unions?

Then there are the other information channels. Did you hear about FreedomWorks paying Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh huge money to promote the Tea Party? Or the other stories about how they get and use their money? (FreedomWorks is one of the organizations that bused in thugs to disrupt Congressional town hall meetings a few years back.) This is just one of the dozens and dozens of well-funded outfits that is getting huge money to influence our national political climate.

How about that huge fight over taxes on billionaires? Do you know about the huge influence of Grover Norquist and his organization? Look at this: Grover Norquist's Budget Is Largely Financed by Just Two Billionaire-Backed Nonprofits.

This flood of corporate and billionaire money goes well beyond just paying politicians. And it is the reason it seems like we are helpless to do anything about the real and serious problems our country faces.

What You Can And MUST Do

We have to counter this money, and that takes money. We have to get money to use to fight back. We can't just all be doing what we can in our spare times, and signing online petitions, or quitting our jobs and living in poverty so we can work on these problems.

There are millions of us and if we all give even a small amount of money to help out, we can get things done!

The most important and effective thing you can do, even before you get active online and then on the streets is to contribute money to progressive organizations, and make it a habit. Seriously, they have corporate funding and all We, the People have is We, the People. There are a lot of us and if everyone who agrees with progressive values started to actually put some money where our values are, we could make up for that corporate money.

If you have to start small, that is fine. 20 million people starting small can make a huge difference.

Try it, click here and give $3 to the organization I work for, Campaign for America's Future.

Click these links and give $3 to Progressive Congress, or Media Matters.

How about giving $3 to help Netroots Nation or Crooks and Liars or Daily Kos, or Blue America or Firedoglake, or AMERICAblog.

You can also give a donation to Center for American Progress here, or to the National Council of La Raza here, or to Demos here, or to the Economic Policy Institute here, to the Center for Community Change here, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights here, to People For the American Way here, and there are so many other organizations that are working in their own way to help. (I'll add them as they read this and write to yell at me for leaving them out.)

Go through the ActBlue directory, and give $3 here and $3 there.

We really need for progressives to understand this need, and the difference between this and election campaign contributions. Think about it, and help spread the word. Help fund it, and help others understand this need. We can beat back the conservative machine by building a machine of our own that is strong enough to do the job. This takes money.

And to keep that machine answerable to US, we have to fund it democratically, with each of us stepping up and contributing what we can. It has to be lots of people giving small and medium amounts, not depending on a few large donors. ANY organization or candidate is going to dance with the ones that brung ‘em, so WE have to bring them to the dance together. Go give $3 or $10 or $100 to any of those organizations now, and keep doing it, and get others to do it.

If you want to help be part of the SOLUTION this is a great way to start. This is the most important thing you can do. AND you should be online and on the streets. But the most important thing is to give some money to help counter the huge flood of corporate money.

PS See also Republicans Again Use Race, And It’s OUR Fault That It Still Works

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:21 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 4, 2013

Don't Feed The Debt Ceiling Trolls

Bloggers have learned some hard lessons about engaging with right-wing nutcases who leave nasty comments: "Don't feed the trolls." Starve them of the attention they seek. Ignore them and move on. This advice also applies to the right-wing nutcases threatening to bring down our economy by refusing to raise the debt-ceiling limit. They won't get any traction on this unless Democrats engage with them. So ignore them, isolate them and scorn them but do not engage with them. Their billionaire & Wall Street funders will stop them and the pubic will see them for what they are, but only if we all just leave them alone. They aren't really going to hold their breath until we all die.

And if they actually did take down the economy (they won't), the country will be better off in the long run because it means the end of the radical right as a force in our politics.

So let them hold their breath until the country turns blue.

Crisis To Crisis, Destruction As A Tactic

Our country is now governed by crisis. We go from crisis to crisis because causing a crisis and making everyone panic works. But it only works if we let it work.

Look at the obstruction and destruction of the last few years. Obstruction has kept us from hiring millions to modernize our infrastructure, making our buildings and homes more energy efficient, helping people with things like the Dream Act and Medicare-for-All, sufficiently stimulating new industries like wind and solar energy production, and SO MUCH more.

And the accelerating, destructive hostage-taking has cost us so much! Giving in to hostage-taking in the first place has only meant more and more of it, with bigger and bigger costs. We gave in when they held back from authorizing unemployment benefits for millions. We gave in when they threatened to shut down the government, including denying elderly people their Social Security checks. The fiscal cliff "crisis" was just more hostage-taking.

Now they are actually threatening again to take the entire economy hostage, if we don't give in and hurt our people even more.

Crisis to crisis. Hostage to hostage. Destruction to destruction. And always obstruction and destruction of the things We, the People to do make our lives better.

Again and again. They hold their breath and threaten to do damage, and we give in and let them hurt us a little so they don't hurt use a lot. And so they do it more.

Crisis to crisis. As long as we engage, it works for them. Each time a bigger hostage, demanding that we hurt ourselves even more before they will take the gun away from the hostage's head.

Now the biggest hostage, the debt ceiling.

What The Debt Limit Is

The process of raising the debt ceiling is basically a mistake in the law. Raising the debt ceiling authorizes Congress to pay the bills that Congress has already committed to paying. But since the Reagan tax cuts and then the 'W' Bush tax cuts the country has not had sufficient revenue to meet the needs of our people without borrowing, so the debt keeps increasing.

What the Republicans are threatening to do is refuse to honor our debts and pay the bills that the United States has already promised to pay. They would default on our bonds - most of which are held by Americans. This would ruin the credit of the country, dramatically increase all future borrowing costs, and forever end America's status as a "safe haven" place to keep money. It would end our status as the "reserve currency." It would be a vote to tell the world that the US dollar is not worth the paper it is printed on.

This would crash our economy and take the world's economy down with it.

That is what they are threatening to do. They are literally threatening to hold their breath until they die because we are afraid we will die, too.

What Is Their Real Power?

The Republican Party is threatening to take us all down with them unless we hurt ourselves even more. But they only have power on this IF we engage. If we don’t engage on this they have no power. If we don't engage they are just a bunch of crazy people threatening to kill themselves if we don't kill ourselves, and that's crazy.

They can’t be serious, so don’t take them seriously. Ignore them. Don't feed the trolls. They have no power this time if we just ignore them.

And ignore the corporate media that feeds on crisis and feeds panic, and the "Fix the Debt" corporate-funded propaganda that tries to convince us to engage.

The debt ceiling is not a crisis unless we help them make it into a crisis. If we ignore them they have to go away.

Not A Crisis Unless We Make It One

This is not a crisis unless we make it a crisis.

Are we really afraid the 2-year-old will actually hold its breath until it dies? Seriously?

And haven't we learned yet what happens later, after we give them what they want when they hold their breath?

Do we really believe the Republicans would take down the whole economy? Really? Do we really believe Wall Street and their billionaire funders will let them do this?

They only have power if we engage with them on this. Their only power is making us afraid.

What To Do This Time

Ignore them. No negotiations, not even any conversations. Don’t fall for it this time. If someone even says the words "debt ceiling" just tell them to go away, you have things that need doing, that deserve attention. Just let them spout their nonsense and don’t respond. Like the crazy guy who stands up at the city council meeting and talks about how UFOs are shooting energy waves into his brain, when he gets done say “Thank you” and just move on to the next item.

Seriously, they threaten to destroy the economy if they don't get what they want? And what they want is things that make our lives harder and less healthy? Really? Then just let them shout it, and let the voters see it, and hold them accountable.

They won't really do that. And if you think they will actually vote to do that -– and the people who fund the Republican Party won’t stop them at the last minute -– then just let them this time. And let them own the reaction. Because if they do that, our country’s minority-party obstruction/destruction/hostage-taking/extortion/intimidation problem will be over.

If debt-ceiling day comes and they are still threatening to do it, just sit back and watch their Wall Street and billionaire funders panic.

Do not engage. Let them hold their breath until the country turns blue.

--

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:08 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 11, 2012

Michigan Races To Bottom With Anti-Union Law

Pay attention to what is happening in Michigan, because it will add downward even more pressure to your wages and benefits, wherever you live and work. Republicans in the Michigan legislature have rammed through anti-union "right-to-work" laws making union dues voluntary even as unions a required by law to provide services to members and non-members. They say this will make Michigan more "business-friendly" by driving down wages and benefits, thereby stealing jobs from states where working people have rights. The actual intent is to get rid of the unions altogether, and their ability to fight for the 99% in the ongoing class war with the 1%.

What Are So-Called "Right-To-Work" Laws?

"Right-to-work" means the right to work in a unionized business thqt has a negotiated contract without paying dues to the union.

The 1947 Taft-Hartley Act allows states to prohibit unions from collecting fees from non-members or making union membership mandatory, and states that do this are called "right-to-work" states. So-called "right-to-work" laws prohibit labor contracts from requiring employees who are covered by the contract to pay dues to the union that won the contract. But the unions are still required to represent every worker who is covered by a contract -- even workers who are not members of the union and do not pay union dues. This costs money, so the union is drained of funds and power, thereby weakening their ability and incentive to fight for better wages and benefits.

Stealing From Other States, Lowering Wages And Tax Revenue

The appeal of these so-called "right-to-work" laws is that by weakening the ability of workers to band together and fight for better wages and conditions, they result in lower wages, benefits and safety standards. This is supposed to make these states more attractive to employers, which then brings jobs to the lower-wages states as employers leave states where worker have rights.

This affects wages across the larger economy. Any jobs that do move to these states come from other states. So in the larger economy of the country the effect of these laws is to shift wages, benefits and safety standards downward. This brings pressure that forces all wages for all employees down, which further lowers the country's tax base, reducing the entire country's ability to educate, maintain and modernize infrastructure, etc.

As jobs shift to lower-wage states, pressure to lower all wages increases, and the collection of income tax revenue decreases. The ability of consumers to make purchases decreases as well. Infrastructure investment declines. Education declines. Over time the country falls behind the rest of the world and it become more expensive and more difficult to catch up.

Or, in other words, exactly what we are seeing all around us now.

Studies Of The Effects

A May, 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics study found that "right-to-work" states have lower wages (examples: 9.4% lower for all occupations, 11.4% lower for teachers) than states with union rights.

A January, 2012 study by American Rights at Work, New Research Counters Arguments for “Right-To-Work” Laws, examined a number of studies and found that "recent studies rebut claims of economic growth and instead find that laws suppress wages."

In Nonunion Wage Rates and the Threat of Unionization Henry Farber, Professor of Economics at Princeton University found that after Idaho passed a RTW law in 1985, there was a statistically-significant drop in nonunion wages relative to other states.

Feb, 2011, Economic Policy Institute (EPI), Does ‘right-to-work’ create jobs? Answers from Oklahoma,

Despite ambitious claims by proponents, the evidence is overwhelming that:
• Right-to-work laws have not succeeded in boosting employment growth in the states that have adopted them.
• The case of Oklahoma – closest in time to the conditions facing those states now considering such legislation – is particularly discouraging regarding the law’s ability to spur job growth. Since the law passed in 2001, manufacturing employment and relocations into the state reversed their climb and began to fall, precisely the opposite of what right-to-work advocates promised.
• For those states looking beyond traditional or low wage manufacturing jobs – whether to higher-tech manufacturing, to “knowledge” sector jobs, or to service industries dependent on consumer spending in the local economy – there is reason to believe that right-to-work laws may actually harm a state’s economic prospects.

Sept, 2011, EPI, ‘Right to work,’ The wrong answer for Michigan’s economy, findings included,

• Right-to-work laws lower wages—for both union and nonunion workers alike—by an average of $1,500 per year, after accounting for the cost of living in each state.
• Right-to-work laws also decrease the likelihood that employees get either health insurance or pensions through their jobs—again, for both union and nonunion workers.
• By cutting wages, right-to-work laws threaten to undermine job growth by reducing the discretionary income people have to spend in the local retail, real estate, construction, and service industries. Every $1 million in wage cuts translates into an additional six jobs lost in the economy. With 85 percent of Michigan’s economy concentrated in health care, retail, education, and other non-manufacturing industries, widespread wage and benefit cuts could translate into significant negative spillover effects for the state’s economy.

Labor's Reaction

On CNN this morning UAW President Bob King explained that this bill threatens worker rights. "It demonstrates to workers and really a broad spectrum of the populous that we have to work hard, we have to fight hard to protect our rights." Explaining that workers already have the choice to join a union, King said,

"You don't have to be a union member. But you have to pay your fair share. Just like if you live in a community, you pay for your fair share of the road cleaning, of the police, of the fire," King argued. People who benefit by [the union's] collective bargaining benefit by this procedure. They pay a fair share of the cost of representation."

Steelworkers leader Leo Gerard called on Michigan governor Snyder to veto the law, (click through for the entire statement)

“The USW active and retired members join other unions and allies in Michigan and across the nation to call on Gov. Snyder to support the proposal of the state’s Democratic congressional delegation. We ask the Governor to use his veto power to stop this unnecessary and divisive right-to-work bill.
“If the Governor feels this bill will move Michigan forward, he should delay the final legislative votes and allow an amendment that would put this issue before the public as a state ballot initiative. We urge Governor Snyder to delay his signing of the bill. Let the people of Michigan debate and vote on a consequential matter that will affect all working families.
“We know the newly-elected Michigan state legislature convening early next year has added Democrats that would reject a right-to-work-for-less bill. Right-to-work is only supported by millionaires and billionaires who profit by taking more money out of the workers’ pockets.

Demonstrations and Disruptions

In a sign of things to come, 12-15,000 people demonstrated today at Michigan's capitol building. There were confrontations, including mounted police charging into the crowd. Former Congressman Mark Schauer was pepper-sprayed.

Ned Resnikoff, writing in, Michigan passes ‘Right-to-Work’ but fight isn’t over at the Ed Schultz website,

Shortly after noon on Tuesday, Michigan’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives gave its final approval to the state’s hotly contested “right-to-work” legislation, as thousands of the bill’s opponents rallied outside. But labor activists and their allies say that the fight isn’t over yet, and they’re already plotting their strategy for keeping Michigan a union stronghold.
“This fight is not over by a long shot, regardless of what happens today,” said Zack Pohl, the executive director of Progress Michigan.

See Also

Mary Bottari at PRWat: Michigan Passes "Right to Work" Containing Verbatim Language from ALEC Model Bill

AFL-CIO 'Right to Work' for Less fact sheet.

Economic Policy Institute, Unions and Labor Standards, a collection of articles, posts and studies of the effects labor and anti-labor policies.

Nicole Pasulka at Mother Jones, Right-to-Work Laws, Explained

Josh Eidelson at Salon, Koch brothers, Tea Party cash drives Michigan right-to-work bill

Amanda Terkel at Huffington Post, Big 3 Automakers Reportedly Worried About Michigan Right To Work Legislation

Teamster Nation: RTW passes in #MI as thousands try to enter Capitol

OurFuture post on being "business-friendly, China Is Very “Business-Friendly”,

China is very, very “business-friendly.” Corporate conservatives lecture us that we should be more “business-friendly,” in order to “compete” with China. They say we need to cut wages and benefits, work longer hours, get rid of overtime and sick pay — even lunch breaks. They say we should shed unions, get rid of environmental and safety regulations, gut government services, and especially, especially, especially we should cut taxes. But America can never be “business-friendly” enough to compete with China, and here is why.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 5, 2012

Jobs First Because Jobs Fix Deficits


What happened to jobs? The pubic wants government to do something about jobs and getting the economy moving, and in DC the only thing is this weird argument about ... anything but jobs and getting the economy moving! "Fiscal cliff?" What about jobs? Fixing the economy will fix the debt, not the other way around.

Economic Storm Clouds

The economy is slowing, with signs of trouble on the horizon. Recent economic indicators are not so good. Trade deficits are huge, a bad manufacturing number this week, Europe still stagnant and slipping (because of austerity), China slowing. NY Times says, "Recent economic data "surprisingly weak," and "recovery sputtering." From Republicans Balk at Short-Term Stimulus in Obama Plan,

“As the debate rages in Washington, data has shown the recovery once again sputtering, with the underlying rate of growth too slow to bring down the unemployment rate by much and some of the economic momentum gained in the fall dissipating in the winter.”

It's Demand Stupid

This slowing is not happening because people are "worried about the fiscal cliff." It is because there are not enough jobs, and the wages of the people who do have jobs are stagnant with all the gains in the economy going to a very few at the very top of the economic ladder. Europe is slowing because they attacked deficits instead of hiring people to do jobs. We are slowing because the government stopped stimulus and started cutting.

The slowdown is because the jobs are not coming back fast enough, wages are stagnant and falling, and the government is not doing anything about it. And that means that there is not enough "demand" in the economy to cause investment and hiring.

Businesses want customers, not tax cuts -- and certainly not cutbacks. In fact most of what DC is focused on -- austerity -- will make the situation worse, possibly even much worse, as it has done in Europe.

Small Stimulus In President's Proposal

To his credit the President's "fiscal cliff" proposal does contain a limited stimulus to help keep the economy moving, at least at its current slow pace. But we really need a massive investment in jobs. The President's offer of $50 billion in stimulus for one year is insufficient, but at least it is something. The Republicans offer less than nothing, they want government efforts cut.

Jobs Fix Problems: The DC elite, major media and lobbying apparatus is focused like a laser beam on how much to cut, so the wealthy can have even more. But the public isn't stupid, they get that there is a disconnect because they know that jobs fix problems, jobs fix deficits and lots of jobs fixes wage stagnation. Strong employment = wage growth. Strong wages = strong economic growth.

The People Spoke -- The Election Was Supposed To Have Decided This

The election made it obvious, the public wants jobs, wants government services like Medicare and Social Security protected and even expanded, and more than anything wants taxes raised on the ultra-wealthy.

The election made the public’s wishes clear. But Washington continues to simply ignore what the public wants, and is focused like a laser beam on what a few billionaires want.

It was like there was an intense focus on the election, the public spoke, and then the very next day all attention shifted back away from what the public wanted and onto this austerity agenda that helps the billionaires at the expense of the rest of us.

A Government Of, By and For We, the People

I recently watched the PBS series The Dust Bowl. One thing that stood out was how the government actually cared about what was going on with the people, was trying to solve the problems, and how the people got it that the government was on their side.

Today it is a very different story, with the government isolated and largely under the control of wealthy and powerful interests. The current "fiscal cliff" absorption being only the most recent example.

The public doesn't get what is going on in DC. They want JOBS first, they want the meager government services they do get preserved and even expanded. And they want a fix to the problem of the last few decades of wage stagnation, corporate domination, outsourcing manufacturing, deferring infrastructure maintenance, unionbusting, age discrimination, and cancelling TV shows everyone likes. (Just seeing if you are still reading.)

Economy Has Lots Of Jobs That Need Doing

Jobs solve problems. Right now the country has lots of problems, so the country needs lots of jobs, which solve problems. And by great coincidence right now the country needs lots of things done. The country needs to repair and modernize its infrastructure. The country needs to update its electrical grid. The country needs to make its buildings and homes more energy efficient. All of these are things that improve the economy in the long run. And the remarkable thing is that all of these are things that will have to get done sooner or later.

So the country could just hire people to do those jobs that need doing -- like FDR did. How hard is it to understand that?

1) Hire people to modernize the infrastructure and make buildings and homes energy efficient.
2) All those people are participating in the economy again: paying taxes, buying things, not getting food stamps and unemployment.
3) The economy is much more efficient because of the work that got done on the infrastructure and energy efficiency.
4) The newly efficient economy is more than able to pay off the cost of all the work that was done -- that had to be done eventually.

Republicans Obstructing Everything

The current Republican view is that government itself hurts the economy, is "in the way," and that taxes and government spending "take money out of the economy." So they continue to block all efforts to revive the economy through jobs programs, investment in infrastructure, even helping the unemployed.

They say that providing unemployment benefits keeps people from being forced to take the lowest-paying, nastiest, most demeaning job that comes along. But progressives believe in democracy and say that's the point of helping each other -- that we are a country where we are in this together to build mutual prosperity -- unemployment benefits prevent a death spiral of continually falling demand.

Republicans talk about “pro-growth” policies, always meaning tax cuts for the rich. They say that only rich people "create jobs" so giving more and more money to these "job creators" will eventually trickle down to the rest of us. But all actual evidence shows that this policy does nothing to promote growth, only inequality. In fact the times of highest taxes on the wealthy have been the times of more jobs and more economic growth shared by more of us.

Business Gets It

I recently came across this Comstock Partners, Market Commentary: The Deficit Did Not Cause The Recession; The Recession Caused The Deficit,

Both Wall Street and Washington have lost sight of the major cause of the deep recession and exceedingly slow economic recovery. To hear all the talk, the major concern is about the impending fiscal cliff and the federal budget deficit. Fix the fiscal cliff and make major reductions in the deficit, they say, and all will be ok. We think they've got it wrong.

Go read why...

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:14 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

How the Territorial Tax Cut Destroys Jobs

There is a little-discussed proposal that was introduced into the "fiscal cliff" discussions by the CEOs of the "Fix the Debt" campaign. This is for a “Territorial Tax System" idea that lets multinational companies off the hook for taxes on offshore profits. This plan is particularly dangerous to American wages and jobs -- YOUR wages and job -- as well as any American companies that don't export their profit centers. This threat is not limited to the blue-collar jobs that have been disappearing, it also threatens the professionals, "knowledge workers," designers, innovators and others who contribute to corporate profits here in the US.

The Territorial Tax proposal asks for no taxes on foreign profits of American corporations. This system would encourage and practically force companies to move profit generation (innovation, intellectual property, etc.) out of the US. This gives corporations an incentive to move everything that makes them money out of the country — every profit center, every job, every factory, every designer, inventor, etc.

This plan only benefits the giant multinational corporations — and helps them kill off even more American jobs and smaller businesses. And without those wages and taxes our infrastructure, schools, police and fire protections, and everything else here will decline even more.

If executives brought these American-company profits back to America now, disbursed it to shareholders or reinvested it in their companies -- and paid the taxes due -- this would be at least a $1.2 trillion boost to our economy. The taxes owed to We, the People wold help pay for our schools, etc., or help pay down our debt. But instead of just doing the right thing, this Territorial Tax Dodge System will add another layer of corporate game-playing, encouraging them to report even more of their profits as being made out of the US. It also lets the ones who have dodged taxes by holding cash offshore -- and away from their own shareholders -- get away with it. See this Citizens for Tax Justice report on companies that have been holding cash offshore -- away from our ability to tax them as well as from their own shareholders, Which Fortune 500 Companies Are Sheltering Income in Overseas Tax Havens?

A new CTJ analysis of the financial reports of the Fortune 500 companies shows that 285 of these corporations had accumulated more than $1.5 trillion in overseas profits by the end of 2011, and there is evidence that a significant portion of these profits are located in tax havens.
In particular, our analysis shows that ten corporations, representing over a sixth of the $1.5 trillion in unrepatriated profits, reveal sufficient information to show that they have paid little or no tax on their offshore profit hoards to any government. That implies that these profits have been artificially shifted out of the United States and other countries where the companies actually do business, and into foreign tax havens.

A March Bloomberg report, Cash Hoard Grows by $187 Billion in Untaxed Overseas Profits also looked into specific companies that hide profits offshore (and away from shareholders) to avoid their corporate taxes.

The Institute for Policy Studies warns about the Territorial Tax in a report, The CEO Campaign to ‘Fix’ the Debt, A Trojan Horse for Massive Corporate Tax Breaks,

The 63 Fix the Debt companies that are publicly held stand to gain as much as $134 billion in windfalls if Congress approves one of their main proposals — a “territorial tax system.” Under this system, companies would not have to pay U.S. federal income taxes on foreign earnings when they bring the profits back to the United States.

The full report continues,

A territorial system would give companies additional incentives to disguise U.S. profits as income earned in tax havens in order to avoid paying U.S. income taxes.
[. . .] S&P 500 companies as a whole have nearly $1.5 trillion parked offshore, according to Citizens for Tax Justice. While some of these profits are offshore because a U.S. multinational corporation produced a product offshore and sold it to a foreign consumer, a significant share is there for the purpose of avoiding taxes.
Here’s how it works. The U.S. corporate tax code requires U.S.-headquartered corporations to pay a tax rate of 35 percent on their profits regardless of where in the world those profits are earned. But there are two important exceptions. First, U.S. corporations are granted credits for any taxes paid to foreign governments. Second, any profits deemed permanently reinvested offshore are exempted from U.S. taxes until and unless they are returned to the United States.

The report details ways that corporations shift profits out of the country.

David Cay Johnston talked about this idea on the Ed Show in May,

Well, what it would encourage companies to do is to take all their intellectual property that they haven`t moved and anything else they can out of country, so that they earn a dollar here in the U.S. and they show it to their shareholders, and then they may magically send it to the Cayman Islands and it disappears to the IRS.
So even if they are making things here in the U.S., they`ll be able to move profits out of the country by having their intellectual property out of the country. Secondly, if they find a place that has similar rules, then you move the jobs offshore and you can still earn tax free profits.

2004 - Been There, Done That, CUT Jobs

In 2004 corporate lobbyists got the American Jobs Creation Act passed, letting multinationals bring their foreign cash back at a special low rate. We allowed corporations to bring profits back to the U.S. at a tax rate of 5.25 percent, instead of the top corporate rate of 35 percent.

After bringing the profits back from the tax havens where they had been parked, the companies involved actually cut jobs. Alain Sherter, in Sure, a “Tax Holiday” on Overseas Profits Is a Great Idea — If You Hate America, looked into what happened and wrote,

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found that the companies that got the biggest tax breaks following the 2004 rate cut went on to eliminate jobs over the next two years. Instead of hiring, they mostly used the repatriated funds to repurchase stock or pay dividends — and to expand outside the U.S. But it did provide a huge incentive to do even more offshoring of profits and jobs, because this scheme worked and the money came back in a tax holiday. So of course they are proposing to do it all over again.

Sherter points out this really does benefit a very few at the expense of the rest of us, including other companies,

Repatriation holidays also favor a handful of huge corporations at the expense of other companies, especially businesses without operations around the globe. In 2004, a total of five companies reaped more than one-quarter of the benefits from the tax holiday, while 15 firms got more than 50 percent. To pay for such a cut without raising the deficit, meanwhile, the U.S. would have to increase taxes on other U.S. businesses or make even deeper cuts in already tight federal spending.

Be aware of this Territorial Tax proposal. It is offered by the Fix the Debt CEOs, and it is entirely about reaping even more billions for the billionaires, at the expense of all of the rest of us and the country.


---

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:34 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Shorter Fiscal Cliff (Video)

Give rich people more money or they'll kill the economy:

"Think of the economy of a car, and a rich man as the driver. If you don’t give the driver all the money, he’ll drive you over the cliff. It is just common sense."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:29 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

November 30, 2012

Tax the rich: An animated fairy tale

This is REALLY good!

Take Action!

Tax the rich: An animated fairy tale, is narrated by Ed Asner, with animation by Mike Konopacki. Written and directed by Fred Glass for the California Federation of Teachers. An 8 minute video about how we arrived at this moment of poorly funded public services and widening economic inequality. Things go downhill in a happy and prosperous land after the rich decide they don't want to pay taxes anymore. They tell the people that there is no alternative, but the people aren't so sure. This land bears a startling resemblance to our land. For more info, www.cft.org.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:30 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

October 27, 2012

How Romney Will Do Business As President

Remember how the Bush administration made cronies rich? Here is how Romney will run things. Mitt Romney spends big on firms tied to aides,

Mitt Romney's campaign has directed $134.2 million to political firms with business ties to his senior staff, spotlighting the tightknit nature of his second presidential bid and the staggering sums being spent in this election.

Nine firms that are run by, or recently employed, top Romney aides have received almost a third of the $435.8 million that Romney's campaign and a related fundraising committee have spent on operating expenses through Oct. 17, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of federal election finance reports.

$134.2 million steered to cronies. Contrast this with Obama:

President Obama's reelection campaign and a joint fundraising committee have paid about $5.8 million in consulting fees to companies with business ties to senior strategists, according to the finance reports.

A Romney administration will be entirely a pay-to-play corruption racket run for insider profit. They will start where Bush left off.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:43 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

October 23, 2012

Change.org Turns Right

Here is a pretty big story: Change.org Changing: Site To Work With Corporate, Anti-Abortion, GOP Campaigns, Say Internal Documents. Yep, another "progressive" org is selling out to the corporates for money.

And please sign SignOn.org petition: Change.org: Reinstate the person you fired for letting your users know that you're going to work with corporations and the far-right

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:36 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

October 16, 2012

Romney, Tobacco and Kids

Somehow no surprise: Mitt Romney's Bain Helped Philip Morris Get U.S. High Schoolers Hooked On Cigarettes,

When Mitt Romney served as CEO of Bain & Co., his consulting firm helped tobacco giant Philip Morris develop a groundbreaking sales strategy that researchers say has been linked to an unprecedented spike in youth smoking.

... Philip Morris stunned Wall Street and tobacco experts by the slashing price on its flagship Marlboro brand by 40 cents a pack, to $1.80. It was a landmark day for the tobacco industry, one that became known as "Marlboro Friday" to public health experts.

... A year later, Philip Morris stock had fully recovered, and continued to make steady gains over the coming four years. Marlboro Friday ultimately proved to be the tobacco industry's most successful effort to increase domestic profit in the face of heavier regulations.

The profit was the result of soaring sales that coincided with an unprecedented jump in smoking among high school- aged youth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Youth Risk Behavior Survey, found that the portion of young people who had smoked at least one cigarette in the previous month rose nearly 20 percent from 1993 to 1997. Youth smoking increased in all categories from that occasional user to the regular user.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:08 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

October 15, 2012

Here Is What Is Happening With #Sensata

If you are hearing about a company names Sensata, here is the story. Right now this company is moving equipment out of a factory in Freeport, Il. and shipping it to China. They are making the workers there train their Chinese replacements. And the end of the year they are laying off the American workers. The workers have set up a camp across from the factory and have named it Bainport. (please click!) Supporters are trying to block the trucks, and some have been arrested. This is all happening right now, even as Mitt Romney says he wants to "get tough on China." So the workers have asked Romney to come to Freeport and help them.

"The week before they came they took the American flag down outside the plant. The week after they left they put it back up."

See Wendi Kent's moving photos of the Bainport camp, where workers are asking Romney to hep them:

Bainport, Illinois Pt.1

Bainport, Illinois Pt.2- Profits Over People

What's Going On?

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney started the "private equity" firm Bain Capital. Bain Capital makes its money by purchasing companies using "leveraged buyouts" that borrow huge sums using the purchased company's own assets as collateral. They often use part of the borrowed money to immediately pay itself. Bain then cuts costs by doing things like sending jobs to China, cutting wages and manipulating tax rules to cut taxes owed, along with standard big-business practices like consolidating business units, taking advantage of economies of scale not available to smaller competitors, squeezing distribution channels for price cuts, and other practices that bring competitive advantages. (Please see So DID Mitt Romney Really "Create Jobs" At Staples? for a look at how this works.) Then, after reorganizing the purchased companies Bain "harvests" them for profit. ("Harvest" is Romney's word, watch the linked video.)

Bain Capital purchased a sensor manufacturer that makes key components for our automobile supply chain, and named it Sensata. They immediately announced they closing a factory in Freeport, Ill., and sending the manufacturing and jobs to China to save money. (This is significant because China is engaged in efforts to dominate American auto supplies. See China Cheating Costs 400K Auto Parts Jobs and Why The Latest Trade Complaint Against China Matters. )

Bain/Sensata brought in Chinese workers and made the Freeport workers train them. Bain/Sensata is moving the equipment out of the Freeport factory and shipping it to China right now. The Freeport employees have set up a camp outside the factory that they call Bainport and are trying to stop the Bain trucks that are moving the equipment out for shipment to China. Supporters were arrested this week, trying to stop those trucks.

The Sensata employees have asked Romney to come to Freeport/Bainport and help them. Read on to learn about Romney's response to the Sensata workers, and how Romney is actually making big money right now from shipping their jobs to China.

Romney's Opportunity

Mitt Romney is not running Bain Capital anymore. While he still makes millions from the company, and gets checks from the profits made when they ship jobs to China), this is a tremendous opportunity for him. Can you imagine a better spokesman for the Bainport employees than the former head of Bain Capital, who now says he opposes the kinds of things that Bain Capital is doing here?

This is an opportunity for Romney to show the public that he actually means it when he says he wants to do something about companies sending jobs to China! Here is his former company, people who know him, sending jobs to China right now and there is no one in a better position to put pressure on them to stop this than the former head of the company, and on top of that a presidential candidate!

What an opportunity for Romney to show that he means what he says!

Will Romney Help?

Mitt Romney wants to be President, and polls show that the public overwhelmingly wants something done about jobs and factories moving to China and the resulting was pressure that puts on the rest of us and on our economy. So Romney says he will do something about it.

But Romney's current actions are opposite his current words. He complains about China currency manipulation, but refuses to ask the Republican House leadership to bring the China currency bill up for a vote, and refuses to ask more than 60 Republican co-sponsors of that bill to sign a "discharge petition" that would force a vote.

And Romney refuses to even meet with Sensata workers. When asked if Romney would help these workers the Romney campaign says Romney will not do it:

"Governor Romney has not worked at Bain Capital for over a decade, but for four years President Obama has been presiding over an economy that is creating too few jobs and sending more jobs overseas. Despite the President being invested in Sensata through his personal pension fund, and the government owning a major Sensata customer in GM, President Obama has not used his powers to help this situation in any way."— Curt Cashour, Romney Campaign Spokesman.

PS - SNL

Here is SNL addressing the disparity between how Chinese workers are treated (because they don't have a say) and American expectations:

For More On Sensata

Is This Why Romney Won't Talk To Sensata Workers Whose Jobs Are Being Shipped To China?

You Should Know About Sensata - It's What The Election Is About

Election Or Not, What Happens To Sensata-Style Workers?

Blocking Bain Trucks To Save Jobs In Freeport – This Is An IMPORTANT Story

Breaking – Arrests At Sensata "Bainport" Camp

Paul Harris at The Guardian: 'I'm sick to my stomach': anger grows in Illinois at Bain's latest outsourcing plan

Also, see:

Bain Of Our Existence - Go To place for stories and info about Bain Capital.

Laura Clawson at Daily Kos: Mitt Romney profits as Bain sends American jobs to China PLUS a Daily Kos campaign:
Send a message of support to the Sensata workers as they fight to keep their jobs and shine a light on what a Romney economy would look like.

Unraveling The Romney/Bain Tax Story,

Romney, Jobs And China – Let's Connect Dots

Rights Report Describes Romney-Owned "Brutal Chinese Sweatshop"

Romney, Republicans Again Side With China Over US Companies

Ohio And China – One Side Promises While The Other Delivers

China Is Very "Business-Friendly"

Will Conservatives Support American Companies ... Or Chinese?

Ohio And China -- One Side Promises While The Other Delivers

Here is a Democracy Now! report:

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:42 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

October 12, 2012

New Video - CEOs or Kids?

From Americans for Tax Fairness

A new web video unveiled today by the National Education Association and Americans for Tax Fairness vividly shows how extending the Bush tax cuts for CEOs and the richest 2 percent of Americans would be paid for by cutting education funding for kids.
Click through to take action.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:30 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

October 10, 2012

Is This Why Romney Won't Talk To Sensata Workers Whose Jobs Are Being Shipped To China?

On the campaign trail Romney says we shouldn't ship jobs to China and should "crack down" on China trade problems. But he refuses to help or even meet with the Sensata workers whose jobs are being shipped to China right now.

Why the refusal to line up his actions with his promises? A must-read, must-read, must-read news report explains how part of Romney's $400,000/week income comes from ... get this ... shipping jobs to China!

First, the background...

Sensata - Happening Today

Mitt Romney started the "private equity" firm Bain Capital. Bain purchases companies using "leveraged buyouts" that borrow huge sums using the purchased company's own assets as collateral, uses the borrowed money to immediately pay itself, then cuts costs by doing things like sending jobs to China, cutting wages and manipulating tax rules to cut taxes owed, along with standard big-business practices like consolidating business units, taking advantage of economies of scale not available to smaller competitors, squeezing distribution channels for price cuts, and other practices that bring competitive advantages. (See So DID Mitt Romney Really "Create Jobs" At Staples?) After reorganizing the purchased companies Bain then "harvests" them for profit.

One company Bain Capital purchased is Sensata, a sensor manufacturer that makes key components for our automobile supply chain. Sensata then announced it is closing a factory in Freeport, Ill., and sending the manufacturing and jobs to China. (China is engaged in efforts to dominate American auto supplies. See China Cheating Costs 400K Auto Parts Jobs and Why The Latest Trade Complaint Against China Matters.)

Bain/Sensata brought in Chinese workers and made the Freeport workers train them. Bain/Sensata is moving the equipment out of the Freeport factory and shipping it to China right now. The Freeport employees have set up a camp outside the factory that they call Bainport and are trying to stop the Bain trucks that are moving the equipment out for shipment to China. Supporters were arrested this week, trying to stop those trucks.

The Sensata employees heard Romney on the campaign trail, and somehow got the idea that he opposes sending our jobs to China. So they asked him to come to Freeport/Bainport and help them. Read on to learn about Romney's response to the Sensata workers, and how Romney is actually making big money right now from shipping their jobs to China.

"The week before they came they took the American flag down outside the plant. The week after they left they put it back up."

The China Problem – The Public Gets It

During the George W. Bush administration we lost more than 50,000 factories and at least 6 million manufacturing jobs directly to China. (Never mind the effect on the supply chains, the grocery and clothing stores where those people shopped, etc... The foreclosures, the bankruptcies, the misery...) Thanks, George!

This chart from Think Progress shows what happened to our manufacturing base immediately after Bush took office. Seriously, look at this chart and see if you can just guess why we have such a terrible economy today:

The public gets it – the problem is China. Polls show that the public overwhelmingly – by percentages in the 80s and 90s for Democrats and Republicans alike – understands that a huge part of our economic troubles come from the was we have been shipping jobs, factories and industries to China.

ABC News, from July: ‘Made In America’ Policies Hugely Popular, Survey Shows

Nearly 9 out of 10 Republicans and Independents and 91 percent of Democrats said they support “Buy America” preferences, according to the survey, which was conducted by the Democratic-leaning Mellman Group.

Another poll,

When it comes to trade with China, the poll found that voters emphatically support tough action on Beijing’s cheating on currency and other trade obligations.

Another, from a key state: New Zogby Poll: Ohio Voters Favor Boycott of China Over Unfair Trade.

Romney Can Read Polls

One thing the Romney campaign can do is read polls. So Mitt Romney sees the polls and says he wants to do something about China.

The Hill: Romney, campaigning in Ohio, vows to stop China's 'cheating' trade practices

Bloomberg: Romney Ad Says He Will `Stand Up to China': Video

The Hill: New Romney ad says Obama won’t ‘stand up to China’ on trade, jobs

So, on the campaign trail Romney says he will stand up to China's cheating, and opposes companies that send jobs and factories to China.

Romney Refuses To Help – Even Talk With – Sensata Workers

Romney wants to be President, and polls show that the public overwhelmingly wants something done about the problem of jobs and factories moving to China, and the resulting was pressure that puts on the rest of us and on our economy. So Romney says he will do something about it.

But Romney's current actions are opposite his current words. He complains about China currency manipulation, but refuses to ask the Republican House leadership to bring the China currency bill up for a vote, and refuses to ask more than 60 Republican co-sponsors of that bill to sign a "discharge petition" that would force a vote.

And Romney refuses to even meet with Sensata workers. When asked if Romney would help these workers the Romney campaign says Romney will not do it:

"Governor Romney has not worked at Bain Capital for over a decade, but for four years President Obama has been presiding over an economy that is creating too few jobs and sending more jobs overseas. Despite the President being invested in Sensata through his personal pension fund, and the government owning a major Sensata customer in GM, President Obama has not used his powers to help this situation in any way."— Curt Cashour, Romney Campaign Spokesman.

Why is Romney saying he wants to do something about the trade problem with China, but refusing to actually do anything about the trade problem with China? Here is one possible reason why.

Romney Making Big Money From Bain Sending Sensata Jobs To China

A must-read news report today by Sharon LaFraniere and Mike McIntire in The New York Times explains. As Romney Repeats Trade Message, Bain Maintains China Ties (emphasis added, for emphasis),

Mr. Romney also has millions invested in a series of Bain funds that have a controlling stake in Sensata Technologies, a manufacturer of sensors and controls for vehicles, aircraft and electric motors that employs 4,000 workers in China. Since Bain took over the operation in 2006, its investment has quadrupled in value. Bain continues to own $2.6 billion worth of Sensata’s shares.

Two years ago, Sensata bought an operation that made automobile sensors in Freeport, Ill. At the first meeting with the plant’s 170 workers, Sensata managers announced that by the end of 2012 all the equipment and jobs would be relocated, mostly to Jiangsu Province. Workers have staged demonstrations, pleading for Mr. Romney to intervene on their behalf.

Chinese engineers, flown to Freeport for training on the equipment, described their salaries as a pittance compared with Freeport wages. Tom Gaulrapp, who has operated machines at the factory for 33 years, said he fears he will go bankrupt after he loses his job on Nov. 5.

“This goes to show the unbelievable hypocrisy of this man,” he said of Mr. Romney. “He talks about how we need to get tough on China and stop China from taking our jobs, and then he is making money off shipping our jobs there.”

So there you have it. Mitt Romney says he opposes sending jobs to China, and says he will "crack down" on China. But he refuses to do things that he could do right now that would make an actual difference right now. And it turns out that right now he is making big money from Sensata and other companies that are sending people's jobs to China right now.

Laying off American workers – usually shipping the jobs to China – and pocketing their wages for themselves is the story of the rise of the wealth of the 1%, and the decline of the American middle class. It is the Romney/Bain/Sensata business model. And the remaining workers have to do the jobs of the laid-off workers, often for lower pay, and are threatened with losing their jobs, too, if they don't like it.


Please read the entire New York Times report, As Romney Repeats Trade Message, Bain Maintains China Ties. There is much more there about Romney, China, Bain and the huge gap between what Romney says on the campaign trail, and how Romney made his current $400,000/week income and how Bain Capital still makes its money.

Visit the Bainport blog for pictures and details about the Sensata workers who are trying to stop the Bain trucks from shipping the equipment from the factory to China.

More on Sensata:

You Should Know About Sensata - It's What The Election Is About

Election Or Not, What Happens To Sensata-Style Workers?

Blocking Bain Trucks To Save Jobs In Freeport – This Is An IMPORTANT Story

Breaking – Arrests At Sensata "Bainport" Camp

Also, see:

Unraveling The Romney/Bain Tax Story,

Romney, Jobs And China – Let's Connect Dots

Rights Report Describes Romney-Owned "Brutal Chinese Sweatshop"

Romney, Republicans Again Side With China Over US Companies

Ohio And China – One Side Promises While The Other Delivers

Update: Here is a Democracy Now! report:

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:51 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

October 8, 2012

Breaking -- Arrests At Sensata "Bainport" Camp

Sensata is a Bain-owned company that is closing a factory in in Freeport, Il to move the jobs to China. The workers have set up a camp they call "Bainport" and workers and supporters are trying to block the Bain trucks that are moving equipment out to ship to China right now. In breaking news there were arrests made today.

Last week in the post Blocking Bain Trucks To Save Jobs In Freeport -- This Is An IMPORTANT Story I wrote about the Sensata workers in Freeport who have set up a camp they call Bainport, and are asking Mitt Romney to show that he means what he is saying about cracking down on China by coming to Freeport and asking his former company not to send these jobs to China.

The Sensata workers camping at Bainport as asking Mitt Romney to come help them keep their jobs. Romney insists that he has nothing to do with Bain Capital anymore (his tax returns showed that he gets more than $400,000 a week from Bain investments).

Helping the Sensata workers would show that he means it when he says he has nothing to do with the things Bain does now, and that he will do something about the jobs being sent to China. What better opportunity to prove both than to show up and confront Bain for sending these jobs to China!

Romney, Bain And The Outsourcing Strategy

Mitt Romney and Bain "pioneered" outsourcing strategies. They invested in companies set up to help other companies send jobs to China, and they especially used offshoring in their strategies to avoid paying the taxes that enable We, the People to have good schools, roads, courts etc. The NY Times story, Offshore Tactics Helped Increase Romneys’ Wealth explained,

Some of the offshore entities enabled Bain-owned companies to sidestep certain taxes, increasing returns for Mr. Romney and other investors. Others helped Bain attract foreign investors and nonprofit institutions by insulating them from taxes, again augmenting Mr. Romney’s bottom line, since he shared in management fees based on the size of each Bain fund.

In Unraveling The Romney/Bain Tax Story I explained how it works,

The complicated story of how the 1%ers and their corporations evade democracy's taxes is the story of our crumbling schools and infrastructure and the flow of all the gains of our economy to a very few at the top. This tax evasion is also part of the story of our deficits and debt. The tax evasion is "legal" -- because the tax evaders pay the people who write the tax laws. And even as their tax evasion adds to our budget deficits and debt, the 1%ers are insisting we close the deficit by cutting Social Security, Medicare and "safety-net" programs!

[. . .] The American-based entities can buy American companies without incurring "foreign-based" obligations. Then the foreign-based entities can avoid the taxes that the American-based buyers of companies would have to pay. And the foreign-based investors can be in the foreign-based parts of the company, avoiding US tax obligations. Also American entities like pension funds can avoid US taxes they would otherwise have to pay.

To put it another way, the same company can pretend it is US-based when that is what it needs to be, and foreign-based when that is what it needs to be.

Mitt Romney is wealthy because he engaged in strategies to lay people off, sending their jobs to China and pocketing the wage differential for himself. Then his companies would force people to take wage cuts or risk losing their jobs, too, and pocking the wage difference for himself. The profits from these "enterprises" were manipulated in ways that enabled him to pay very little in taxes, so the rest of us end up not only with layoffs and lower wages, but bad schools, crumbling infrastructure and government debt.

Then later, Mitt Romney can claim that We the People are the cause of the resulting government debt and that we need "austerity" -- less for We, the People in order to keep taxes low.

Arrests

Today community members supporting the Sensata workers were arrested for trying to block Bain trucks from sending the factory's equipment to China.

Visit the Bainport blog for pictures and details.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:10 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

October 1, 2012

Warning - Deceptive Anti-Labor Ballot Initiative In California (Prop 32)

In California there is a dangerous, deceptive proposition on the ballot that promises to get "special interest" money out of our elections, and is being sold as a way to stop the flood of corporate money. But actually this proposition doesn't stop corporate money at all -- it only stops political activity by unions. If it passes this means that from now on only corporate money will fund California's elections.

Here is how Prop 32 is being sold to the public: "Politicians take millions in campaign contributions from corporations and government unions and then vote the way those special interests tell them."

Here is the trick: it bans use of money collected from the paychecks of union members. This pretty much means all union money is banned. But corporations do not use paycheck deductions to get the money they use! Only unions do! Then Prop 32 specifies that corporations can't put money into elections, so here are the types of businesses that are exempted:

  • Business Super PACs set up by corporations to put money into elections
  • Independent expenditure committees set up by corporations to put money into elections
  • Companies that are not "corporations" including Limited Liability companies
  • Partnerships
  • Real estate trusts
  • Other businesses not specifically designated as "corporations" under the law's definition.

And, to make matters even worse, Prop 32 prohibits "government contractors" from political activity. But it is worded to prohibit any government employee unions from political activity, because these unions have employment contracts with state or local governments.

While it very loosely defines corporations in a way that keeps business interests open to funding campaigns, here is how it defines unions:

"Labor union"” means any organization of any kind, or any agency or employee representation committee or plan, in which employees participate and which exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of dealing with employers concerning grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates of pay, hours of employment, or conditions of work.

ANY organization that represents the interests of working people is banned from politics if this law passes. Think about that.

Guess Who Is Funding Prop 32

Guess who is funding this proposition? (Hint, as if you needed one: it's the Koch Brothers, Karl Rove's corporate front group, big corporations, and others.)

AFL-CIO: Kochs Send Millions to Silence California Workers with Prop. 32

Resources

AFL-CIO: California’s Prop. 32: How Does It Affect Union Members?

California Labor Federation page with information about Prop 32.

Stop the Special Exemptions Act

Rick Jacobs: Mitt + Koch = Prop 32 Ways to Buy CA,

The Kochs and Rove understand that if they can keep union money out of politics, they win hands down. If Prop32 passes in California, one-third of SEIUs political budget is gone, with sizeable chunks taken from the AFL-CIO and just about any other big national union you can think of.

Full text of Prop 32 here. Also at Ballotpedia.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:09 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 27, 2012

The Clincher

Here is Romney explaining how Bain would "harvest" companies. (See also So DID Mitt Romney Really "Create Jobs" At Staples?)

NEW ROMNEY VIDEO: In 1985, He Said Bain Would "Harvest" Companies for Profits | Mother Jones

BAIN%20HARVEST.jpg
(Poster created by Richard Eskow, Super-Genius)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:46 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 20, 2012

Apple Wants YOU To Fix Their Maps

The new Maps app in iOS6 is just terrible. Embarrassing. It is just corporate greed -- they dropped Google so they could get ad dollars for themselves -- while making the customer experience worse for us. (Another example, the smaller connector. Yes, they needed a new connector, no they do not need to charge us $30 for a little adapter -- $40 for one with a little wire! That is just squeezing the customer, nothing else, just corporate greed.)

Here is how YOU are supposed to help Apple fix their maps, so they can make ad dollars instead of Google: How to add a location or report a problem in iOS 6 Maps.

They call this "crowdsourcing" but really it is having the crowd work for free and then harvesting the returns for themselves.

Hey, here's an idea: give the people who help fix the maps some of the hundreds of millions that will be made selling $30-$40 adapters!

This has really turned me off from Apple products. Coming on the heels of the stories about how the slaves in China are treated, this really does undo the positive feelings I had about the brand.

Looking seriously at Android phones, tablets, maybe even Windows 8. (Well - talk about negative brands and corporate greed, though... Microsoft?)

P.S. Apple Maps uses Yelp for info about businesses. That's the company that allegedly shakes down business owners along the lines of: you pay us, people see good reviews but if you don't pay us, people see bad reviews. Talk about negative brand associations, wow.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:26 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 12, 2012

Austerity Suicide -- Literally

You might be hearing about the "Fiscal Cliff." And you might be hearing about a "Grand Bargain." You certainly have heard about "Simpson Bowles." You will be hearing more and more about these strangely-named things because the usual suspects are cranking up the usual propaganda machine again, getting the usual DC elite ready to play out another of the usual take-from-the-people-to-give-to-the-rich games right after the election. This time it's a push for austerity.

Why Deficits?

I always start any discussion of deficits and debt by reminding people that the country had a big budget surplus before Bush cut taxes for the rich, and doubled the military budget.

Deficit history: Reagan dramatically cut taxes on the wealthy and corporations. He doubled the military budget. Huge deficit resulted and the country began accumulating massive debt. They called it "strategic deficits," a plan to "starve the beast" by bankrupting the country and forcing cuts to government, to the things government does for We, the People, and the ways government protects us from exploitation by the wealthy and powerful.

After 12 years of Reaganomics people were fed up, and elected Clinton. Clinton raised taxes on the rich. Those increases combined with the stock market bubble created a surplus and we were paying off the debt, and then something changed. 'W' Bush again cut taxes for the wealthy and again doubled the military budget and now the deficits are enormous. So here we are.

But fixing what caused the deficits is not on the table. It never is, because that doesn't fit the plan.

Fiscal Cliff

They say the country faces a "Fiscal Cliff" at the end of the year. After the election the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire. And – this is a bit complicated – something called “sequestration” also kicks in. This is a series of budget cuts that happen because of the “debt ceiling” deal, when Republicans held the debt ceiling hostage and threatened to put the country into default, demanding that we immediately take trillions out of the economy. The sequestration deal was a compromise that was intended to force the Congress to agree to a bipartisan solution, which failed.

The sequestration includes military cuts, which our billionaire-backed DC elite believe would ruin the economy when combined with expiration of the Bush tax cuts -- because in their minds tax cuts do not cause deficits and unlike other government spending military spending creates jobs. So to avoid the "Fiscal Cliff" after the election Congress is supposed to meet to keep the military budget intact, keep taxes on the rich from rising and cut the things our government does for We, the People.

Why After The Election?

That pesky democracy thing keeps on getting in the way of Wall Street’s plans for our economy. But after the election comes what's called a "lame duck" session of the Congress. The legislators who have been chosen by the people aren't in office yet, the ones who have been defeated are still there and the ones who were re-elected know that anything they do will be long forgotten by the next election. Democracy and the will of the people will not be a factor. Every poll says the public wants immediate action on jobs and no cuts in the things government does for We, the People.

If Obama is re-elected the post-election debate will be between the Obama deficit plan, a "Grand Bargain" based on the "Simpson-Bowles" plan vs the Ryan plan -- the budget the House Republicans passed that privatizes Medicare and reduces spending on most things government does for our people. If Romney is elected all bets are off.

Simpson-Bowles

Simpson-Bowles is a budget plan put together by a Republican Senator and a Director of the Wall Street bank Morgan Stanley. After the President's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform ("Deficit Commission") failed to make recommendations, the two came up with a plan that cuts Social Security, cuts a number of other things government does for our people, cuts a bit from military and cuts tax rates on the rich and corporations, calling it "reform." (The plan also eliminates the home mortgage interest deduction, for example.)

Important point: At least Simpson-Bowles is not a "cuts cause growth" plan. It is sold as a deficit plan, even though it cuts taxes at the top and for big corporations. It clearly asks that any cuts not take place until the economy has improved because cuts slow growth.

Grand Bargain

The "Grand Bargain" is the idea that Democrats and Republicans can reach a compromise involving Republicans "allowing" tax "reform" that eliminates some tax deductions like the home mortgage interest deduction and reducing tax rates on the wealthy and corporations, in "exchange" for cuts in things government does for us, including Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. (These cuts do not eliminate the need, they just shift the cost away from the government onto the larger economy.) (If this sounds like a "bargain" that entirely benefits the wealthy and large corporations, that's just how Washington works these days.) ("Reform" always means cutting out things government does for We, the People and reducing taxes on the wealthy.)

Austerity

Austerity is the word used to describe attempts to lower budget deficits by cutting government spending on the things that government does for its citizens.

The theory is that cutting way back on government will cause the economy to grow because government is "in the way" and helping citizens "takes money out of the economy." Also, when government provides fewer safety-net services unemployed people are forced to take any work they can get, which drives wages down and increases corporate profits. Government cutbacks also mean they can't enforce regulations, which unleashes businesses to pollute, commit fraud, cut safety procedures and other things government polices that restrict corporate profits.

But austerity literally "takes money out of the economy." Public-employee wages and pensions are cut. Government services and safety net programs are cut. Public assets are sold off for immediate cash (reducing the government's income in later years). So the demand side of the economy is reduced as people are not able to spend.

The Results Of Austerity

In practice the theory that removing government makes the economy grow has not worked out. Several European countries have been severely cutting budgets, and the result has been that the economies in the "austerity" countries have suffered. These economies appear to have fallen into a downward cycle where the "reforms" reduce demand, growth stalls, this reduces tax revenue, which means the deficit-cutting is not effective. (And meanwhile the economies are ruined and people are in misery.)

The austerity cycle happening in Europe works something like this:

Bankers demand "austerity" which drives up unemployment, cuts demand and slows economic growth. The reduction in economic growth causes tax revenue to shrink and increases use of whatever "safety net" programs remain, thereby increasing budget shortfalls.

So bankers demand more "austerity" which drives up unemployment, cuts demand and slows economic growth. The reduction in economic growth causes tax revenue to shrink and increases use of whatever "safety net" programs remain, thereby increasing budget shortfalls. .

So bankers demand more "austerity" which drives up unemployment, cuts demand and slows economic growth. The reduction in economic growth causes tax revenue to shrink and increases use of whatever "safety net" programs remain, thereby increasing budget shortfalls.

So bankers demand more "austerity" ... well you might be starting to get the picture.

Recession Resulting From Austerity

These are the GDP growth rates in European "austerity" countries:

Spain expects -1.7% from 0.4% 2011
Greece -10% to 11%
Portugal -1.2%
Italy -0.7%
Ireland -1.1%
UK -.7%

Chart from Think Progress, CHART: HOW AUSTERITY IS SQUASHING EUROPE’S ECONOMIC GROWTH.

Unemployment Resulting From Austerity

These are the official unemployment rates in European "austerity" countries:

Spain 24.6%
Greece 24.4%
Portugal 15%
Italy 10.7%
Ireland 14.9%
UK 8%

Austerity NOT Lowering Debt

Here is a chart of the debt-to-GDP ration as these countries shrink their GDP - and tax revenue - through austerity (click for larger):

Decline Resulting From Austerity

CNBC: Europe Facing Mental Health "Catastrophe" as Crisis Worsens,

Europe is approaching a crisis as the region’s debt crisis and austerity measures increase the rates of depression, suicide and psychological problems – just as governments cut healthcare spending by up to 50 percent, according to campaigners, policy makers and health organizations.

NY Times: ‘Shocking’ Dip in Britain’s Output Reflects European Stress

Guardian: Portuguese death rate rise linked to pain of austerity programme,

Portugal's health service is being forced into sweeping cuts as last May's EU/IMF bailout terms begin to bite

Catholic Online: European economic crisis takes emotional toll

Suicides Resulting From Austerity

Alternet, April: Crisis to Suicide: How Many Have to Die Before We Kill the False Religion of Austerity?

Telegraph, April: Italian businessman becomes country's 25th 'austerity suicide' of the year

CNN, April: Austerity drives up suicide rate in debt-ridden Greece

Digital Post, July: Austerity takes its toll with suicides increasing in Greece

Tampa Bay Times, August: Suicide rates rise in Europe amid job losses and severe cutbacks

Digital Post, August: Italian dies after setting himself alight in austerity protest

Reuters, August: Study links British recession to 1000 suicides,

A painful economic recession, rising unemployment and biting austerity measures may have already driven more than 1,000 people in Britain to commit suicide, according to a scientific study published on Wednesday.

CNN, September: Death and taxes in Italy

Watch the following news reports if you can stomach it:

What You Can Do

So the experiment in austerity that is playing out in Europe is coming to the US after the election - when democracy can't intervene.

But the way to reduce deficits is to grow the economy. When people have jobs they pay taxes and use fewer social services. Jobs programs that come out of fixing our infrastructure and making us less dependent on oil also make our economy more competitive in the future so they pay for themselves.

Contact your member of Congress and let them know that you do not think this is the time to cut the budget. Let them know that you want to see jobs programs, infrastructure maintenance and improvements, increase the safety net so people are not forced to take any work, cut the age when people can get Medicare and Social Security and increase the benefits so people can retire and open up jobs and renegotiate trade deals that are sucking us dry.

Tell them jobs fix deficits -- you want to grow us out of deficits, not pretend that cuts will work. Cuts make deficits worse.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:08 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

August 25, 2012

What Did Mitt Learn At Bain?

Mitt Romney (or someone) writes (or writes for him) in Murdoch/Al-Waleed's Wall Street Journal, that lessons he learned at Bain Capital will help him turn the country around if he is elected President. Is he right?

In WSJ: Mitt Romney: What I Learned at Bain Capital, Romney writes about "job creators" who are "burdened by regulations." He writes about "today's anti-business environment."

In the piece, Romney uses a lot of "code words." For example, he writes that he will "give every family access to great schools and quality teachers." This is code for privatization, meaning he will help dismantle public schools and give people vouchers for private schools instead, just like his Medicare plan. He writes that he will, "make it easier for entrepreneurs and small businesses to get the investment dollars they need to grow, by reducing and simplifying taxes" meaning give even more tax cuts for the wealthy few, and "stemming the flood of new regulations" meaning getting democracy's pesky protections for people's health and safety and the environment out of the way.

Much of what Romney writes is, of course, great and impossible to argue with. Millions upon millions in corporate campaign cash give him access to the best persuasion messaging that focus groups and polling can come up with. He will tell you exactly what you want to hear. But what happens when you look deeper?

Finally, being Romney, he just lies, writing, "President Obama has piled on excessive regulations, proposed massive tax increases, added more than $5 trillion in federal debt, and failed to address the coming fiscal cliff—all of which is miring our nation in sluggish growth and high unemployment." It was the very Bush policies that Romney advocates returning to, that caused the financial collapse, recession, high unemployment and debt. Before Bush we had a great economy and we were paying off the debt.

Staples, For Example

In So DID Mitt Romney Really "Create Jobs" At Staples? I looked into the claim that Romney "created" 100,000 jobs by starting the company. What really happened was that Romney's company followed the Wal-Martization model, using the advantages that come with having large, national chains, putting a number of local, smaller businesses out of business, while shifting a lot of people into lower-paying jobs. From that post,

Staples grew into a major chain because they consolidated what different kinds of stores sold, offering a one-stop-shop for stationery products, office supplies, office-furniture, computers, etc. They also were able to be competitive because of the advantages of scale as they grew into a national chain, centralizing functions like accounting, purchasing, legal, marketing, etc. And never underestimate the power of having a ton of cash at your disposal. This is all just smart business, well executed.

As Staples grew it overtook competing chains like Businessland and others. In other words, Staples took business from other, existing stores -- often local retailers. Staples did not “create” jobs, it shifted office-supply jobs from local stores, etc., probably to lower-paying jobs. (The former owners of local businesses certainly were worse off from this.) They likely even lowered overall office-supply, stationery, etc. employment in the larger economy.

This is in many ways just smart business. But it is so important to understand that this is not in any way about creating wealth in ways that help all of us, building up industries and helping communities and the country and the larger economy. It is about taking advantage of various loopholes and innovations that allow a few to shift wealth from the many to themselves. "Shift" is the key word, there is a difference between creating wealth and shifting wealth.

"Good Business"

So what are the "good business" practices that Romney promises to extend to the entire country?

If you can manufacture at a lower cost in another country, closing the factory here, laying the people off, devestating the surrounding community, that is "good business."

If you can find ways to reduce staff and reduce the pay of the rest, that is "good business."

How do these"Romney job creator" jobs stack up against other jobs? Average Staples salaries for job postings nationwide are 51% lower than average salaries for all job postings. The pay at Staples appears to be around $8-10 an hour. That's $16-20,000 a year, certainly not enough to support a family, or even pay rent in many areas, never mind buying food. (The 2012 poverty guideline for family of four is $23,050.)

If you can find ways to scam the tax system to increase your own return on investment, that is "good business." Private-equity companies like Bain Capital borrow tremendous amounts using the assets of the acquired company as collateral, immediately passing much of the borrowed money to themselves. The interest payments are tax deductible. Also,

These giant companies even have the power to squeeze communities and even states, demanding tax concessions with the threat of relocation. This has put our tax base in a downward spiral along with our wages.

If you can find ways to put smaller, local businesses out of business, that is "good business."

As Staples grew it overtook competing chains like Businessland and others. In other words, Staples took business from other, existing stores -- often local retailers. Staples did not “create” jobs, it shifted office-supply jobs from local stores, etc., probably to lower-paying jobs. (The former owners of local businesses certainly were worse off from this.) They likely even lowered overall office-supply, stationery, etc. employment in the larger economy.


Please read the entire post, So DID Mitt Romney Really "Create Jobs" At Staples? to understand what Mitt Romney is promising to do to our economy.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:51 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

August 18, 2012

Early Bain-Ization - How A Few Got Rich Illegally Suppressing Unions

A look at one of Bain Capital's first deals shows a get-rich-quick-at-everyone-else's-expense pattern forming: borrow heavily, gut assets, cut wages, cut safety, crush unions, restructure for tax avoidance and sell with a sweetheart, insider deal. That pattern foreshadowed what happened to our jobs, communities, industries, economy and country since the early 1980s. An already-wealthy few got fantastically rich(er) and the rest of us paid the price.

A Financial Times Investigation

In FT investigation: Romney’s take-off the Financial Times (FT) investigated the $5 million buyout of Key Airlines, a "formative" deal from Mitt Romney's company Bain Capital's early years.

At the time Mitt Romney was at the consultant firm Bain & Company, and heard that Key Airlines was looking to be bought. Key Airlines had a $10 million per year government contract to shuttle pilots and support workers between Las Vegas and "Area 52," where they were working on the then-secret F-117A stealth fighter. Romney formed Bain Capital in part to buy the airline. T. Coleman Andrews III, a former White House official recruited to Bain by Romney led the buyout for Bain and chaired its board of directors.

The Financial Times investigation showed how the purchase of Key Airlines helped establish the company's method of doing business. They bought the company by borrowing all the money needed, 100% debt-financed, meaning Romney and Bain put up no money -- and very little risk -- of their own. They "restructured" the company; according to FT, "Bain also reshaped Key Airlines, turning it from a profitable, taxpaying company with a $13m balance sheet and its own aircraft, into an operating company with a $2m balance sheet and a holding company from which it sold assets separately."

When the pilots tried to start a union, the company unlawfully suppressed the effort with what a federal judge called "blatant, grievous, wilful, deliberate and repeated violations."

No-Risk Leveraged Purchase

One of the ways private-equity companies make money is by borrowing using the purchased company's assets as collateral, and passing some or all of the borrowed money to themselves. Romney and Bain purchased Key Airlines by securing a $5 million loan with $2.5 million worth of aircraft owned by the company, and a $2 million guarantee of their own. In other words, they borrowed money to buy the company by promising the lender they would put up the company's assets as collateral. (The company had a $10 million per year government contract.)

The bank lent the money with part of it personally guaranteed after satisfying themselves that the investors were worth enough money. In other words, they could finance a debt-only deal because they were already rich.

Restructuring To Avoid Taxes

When purchased, Key Airlines was making money and paying taxes. By borrowing, the company incurred debt servicing costs, which are deductible against taxes. The company also restructured in ways that cut taxes. According to FT, "Bain also reshaped Key Airlines, turning it from a profitable, taxpaying company with a $13m balance sheet and its own aircraft, into an operating company with a $2m balance sheet and a holding company from which it sold assets separately."

Crushing The Union

Private equity companies cut costs. If you are not rich and have to work for a living, you are one of those "costs" that has to be cut. Your pay or your job are in the way of someone making a whole lot of money. Another "cost" to cut is the work environment. Worker safety can cost money, so it is one more thing that is in the way of someone making a whole lot of money. Providing a good, reliable product is another "cost" that is in the way of someone making a whole lot of money, and in an airline that "cost" is safe, well-maintained airplanes.

In 1985 a majority of Key's pilots tried to form a union. According to FT, "the pilots cited safety concerns; management said that the pilots were unhappy because of their low pay."

Bain was getting ready to sell the airline, and the worst thing that could happen to them would be a union, which could demand fair pay, worker safety and better maintenance and air safety procedures. Crushing the union -- keeping pay low, and being able to ignore pleas for safer conditions for workers and passengers -- would mean the Bain investors would make a lot of money. So they crushed the union.

According to FT,

There followed an unlawful attempt by Mr Andrews and Key management, in the words of District Court judge Roger Foley, “to stamp out any cockpit crew members’ union before it could come into being”.

In January 1986, Mr Andrews and Olen Rae Goodwin, interim president of the union, met in the Key Airlines trailer at Nellis. The court ruled that Mr Andrews had then “threatened [Mr] Goodwin’s job and he threatened to leave Key, and that the management team would also leave. He threatened to sell Key”.

A court later found that Key's management had illegally suppressed the union, and awarded $500,000 in punitive damages.

Labor bosses: When asked about this recently Romney had this to say,

“President Obama continues to put the interests of labour bosses ahead of the interests of Americans looking for work. By contrast, Governor Romney has grown companies and created jobs, in the private sector and as governor of Massachusetts, and will get America working again,” said Michele Davis, a spokeswoman.

Please click through to the original Financial Times story for more.

"Blatant, grievous, wilful, deliberate and repeated violations": Another FT story, Romney link to union suppression ruling explains further,

“The anti-union activities in this case are not merely unfair labour practices as Key argues, but blatant, grievous, wilful, deliberate and repeated violations of the Railway Labour Act,” Roger Foley, federal judge for the District of Nevada, wrote in 1992, in a case brought by two Key pilots.

That's how a federal judge worded it. (Note how a case that started in 85 takes till 92 to get a ruling.) This is what the airline had done:

According to the court ruling, Key held coercive meetings with pilots; said management would leave and the company lose contracts; and told pilots that salaries, bonuses and benefits could be frozen. Federal labour law forbids an airline “to interfere in any way with the organisation of its employees”.

Sold For A Lot

The once-profitable company was struggling, losing money, had only $2 million in assets -- down from $13 million when Bain bought it -- and had just avoided (illegally suppressed) unionization. But Bain was able to sell part of it to Presidential Airways-- a company in which Bain was also an investor, with Andrews on its Board -- for $18 million. They sold other parts of the company for further profit. The Bain partners got rich(er).

According to FT

In the final analysis, it is hard to say whether Bain Capital was good or bad for Key Airlines.

The operating company had higher sales, was more focused, more efficient and employed more people by the time that Bain sold out.

On the other hand, it was also more fragile, with only one line of business, net losses and a weak balance sheet.

So a look at Bain Capital's early, "formative" years tell us a lot about what has happened to our country, and our jobs, and our economy. This was the beginning of a pattern of Bain-ization that swept through the economy. Good jobs were replaced with low-wage, insecure jobs. They used various schemes to avoid taxes. They suppressed unions. They gutted the assets of good companies. They cut costs (us) and cut costs (safety) and cut costs (product quality) and cut costs (customer support) and cut corners and cut We, the People out of the equation.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:20 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

July 25, 2012

Today's Must-See Video! ALEC-Style

Mark Fiore on How a Bill Becomes a Law -- ALEC-Style | Center for Media and Democracy

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:26 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

July 20, 2012

Today's Episode Of 'Guess Who's Paying For This One'

Heritage Foundation: Dodd-Frank Regulations Strangling Economy at Two Year Anniversary

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:44 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

July 18, 2012

More On Romney & Bain's SEC Filing -- Was It Fraud?

In Bain's SEC Filings I wrote, "Key point: those SEC forms reassure Bain partners that Romney WAS running things after 1999. Tons of $$ involved. If he wasn't that's fraud." On Sunday's Up With Chris Hayes a former Bain partner seems to have confirmed my theory.

In 1999 Mitt Romney left Bain Capital to run the Olympics. But SEC filings and many other documents have turned up that claim Romney was still running Bain. This matters because after stories started to circulate that Bain was heavily involved in offshoring jobs to China, Romney has been insisting that he wasn't there when Bain was doing the offshoring. (Never mind that he never asked them to stop doing that...)

My thinking is that the partners at Bain Capital insisted on maintaining the appearance that Romney at the helm to reassure their partners -- investors, banks and buyout targets -- that they were stable after Romney left when really they were not. They trusted Mitt and maybe there was a big danger of them pulling out of deals if they thought Mitt was not coming back. If Romney wasn't there and they were assuring these companies that he was (and Romney insists he wasn't there), that's fraud (and conspiracy, with Romney signing the forms), never mind false signing of SEC forms. Fraud by Bain and fraud by Romney. And big money was on the line, so there was a lot of motive there.

As I wrote the other day, I interviewed Bain partner Ed Conard on the Fairness Radio program on May 16. I was pinning him down on how much risk Bain was taking to justify the huge returns they received, and he started talking about how their reputation is what holds all their partners to Bain. I wrote about this here, including links to the audio.

Then on Chris Hayes' show this last Sunday Conard was on, and said quite a few things that I think might confirm what I was thinking. If you look at this as Romney suddenly leaving the firm to take on the Olympics job, which Conard talks about, and the firm scrambling to figure out what to do about this sudden departure which has left all the bankers, investors and buyout targets hanging, and the firm trying to reassure them things were stable, you see what I am talking about. Conard talked a few times on Hayes' show about Romney's "franchise value." In other words, he means those partner companies wanted to see the name Romney at the helm of the firm.

So you see the motive for the double answers here -- that he was and he wasn't. The firm's partners had a huge financial motive at the time to tell people Romney was there, and Romney went along with that ruse by signing things, and now Romney has a big motive to explain that he wasn't really there. He's calculating that public anger over offshoring (see Bain "Offshoring" Is A Big Deal Because Voters Want American Manufacturing) is a greater risk to him than people figuring out that he and Bain were committing fraud ten years ago.

Also by the way the fact that the firm didn't put someone else at the helm, and as they say were running it with some kind of council of the firm partners, also tends to confirm what I suspect. If they officially put someone else in charge the people they were doing business with would learn that Romney (with all his "franchise value") was not there running things. So the big question "so who was running Bain after Romney left?" really is the question, and they were hiding the fact that Romney had left, because various people they were doing business with might have pulled out.

Once again, if I am correct this was a fraud on those investors, banks and buyout targets. The statute of limitations has run out on this, but there is conspiracy, and there is Romney's campaign still.

Here is Ed Conard on Up With Chris Hayes. With the above in mind, watch Ed Conard explain things, and tell me this doesn't appear to confirm what I think is/was going on.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:03 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

July 14, 2012

Bain's SEC Filings

Key point: those SEC forms reassure Bain partners that Romney WAS running things after 1999. Tons of $$ involved. If he wasn't that's fraud.

Mitt Romney says he left Bain in 1999, and had nothing further to do with managing the company. The reason this is important is that soon after 1999 Bain was doing all kinds of things to send jobs to China. They were not just sending jobs to China, they were investing in companies that "pioneered" all kinds of ways to make money helping other companies move jobs out off the county.

The Obama campaign ran ads about this, so "fact checking organizations" tried to help out the Romney campaign by saying that Romney departed Bain in 1999. Romney is demanding an apology from Obama. (Never mind that Romney, running the firm or not, did nothing to STOP Bain from sending our jobs to China...)

BUT they didn't get away with that. Talking Points Memo turned up SEC documents filed by Bain that claimed Romney was "Chief Executive Officer, President and Managing Director" at the time Romney claims he was not there.

Fraud?

Romney still claims he wasn't there, that this filing was just a technicality. But this really matters, because the firm had reason to assure business partners that Romney was still running the company. On May 16 I was co-hosting the Fairness Radio radio show. We interviewed a former Bain partner, Ed Conard, who said that Bain's competitive advantage was the reputation of its management. This is why partners came to them and invested, why companies let them take over, etc. So the people at Bain were very conscious of this.

Bain partnered with investors who were putting tens of millions into deals. They wanted reassurance that the Bain management they were comfortable with was in operation. If Bain was claiming Romney was still there in SEC documents, I think this was fraud, it was about reassuring partners and co-investors and businesses they were buying that their management was in place, stable, and had the reputation that was so important to them.

This is a big deal.

Click to hear Fairness Radio show interview with Ed Conard. Starting at 21:15 minutes Conard talks about the value of Bain's business reputation.

It's at 103:00 in the following, (but the slider is easier to use in the above link) (PS host introduces me as Huffington Post -- I'm not an employee there.):

Listen to
internet radio with The Fairness Doctrine on Blog Talk Radio

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:31 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

We, the People

We, the People are supposed to be in charge. Why would we allow an economic system that don't serve We, the People? Why allow businesses that don't pay well, make things that last, provide service and pay back taxes to cover the infrastructure that supports our businesses?

Why would we allow corporations whose only purpose is "to make money for shareholders"? What kind of We, the People system would ever allow that?

Who is our economy for?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:23 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

July 4, 2012

Private Companies

City privatizes its beach lifeguarding. The company does what companies do.

Lifeguard fired for helping in beach rescue in Hallandale Beach - South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com

As lifeguards are paid and trained to do, Tomas Lopez rushed down the beach to rescue a drowning man — and then got fired for it.

The problem: Lopez stepped out of the beach zone his company is paid to patrol, a supervisor said Tuesday.

... Lifeguards in Hallandale Beach work for Orlando-based company Jeff Ellis and Associates, which has been providing lifeguard services for the city's beaches and pools since 2003.

Company officials on Tuesday said Lopez broke a rule that could've put beachgoers in his designated area in jeopardy. The firm could ultimately have been sued, officials said.

"We have liability issues and can't go out of the protected area," said supervisor Susan Ellis. "What he did was his own decision. He knew the company rules and did what he thought he needed to do."

... After the incident, Lopez said his boss asked him to fill out an incident report. His boss then fired him for leaving his assigned area.

... City administrators declined to comment Tuesday, indicating that the firing was a personnel decision made by a private company.

...Hallandale Beach began outsourcing its lifeguards in 2003 as a money-saving measure. The city pays the company about $334,000 annually to provide four lifeguards and one supervisor at the beach year-round, said Dobens.

Do you know how privatizing saves money? By paying minimum wages with no benefits. A few people at the top (usually friends of the official who pushed through to privatizing) get the rest.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:48 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

June 28, 2012

Pension Gimmicks Blamed On Workers

The student loan deal is badly needed. It should have just been extended - duh! But the 1 percenters took it hostage and demanded their pound of flesh before We, the People can preserve even this little bit of what we do for ourselves. So as part of the "sweetener" for those 1 percenters there is a corporate pension giveaway in the deal that has nothing to do with student loans. It appears they are going to let companies underfund pensions -- money that should be set aside for worker pensions tomorrow will instead go into 1 percenter pockets today -- and are setting up for a taxpayer bailout (or just stiffing retirees) later.

Pension Calculations Are Tricky But Regulated

This is kind of tricky, so bear with me. When companies (and governments) put money into pension funds they have to calculate how much will be needed to pay the promised pensions. This involves estimating things like how long (and how many) people will live, and how much "return" (interest, stock price increases,dividends...) to expect as the money is set aside. Key point: If you expect a too-high rate of return you can set less aside now (and put it in your pocket,) but when the time comes to pay the pensions you won't have enough.

This is supervised by government standards and regulations. They say how much of a rate of return is allowed to be used in these calculations. A higher expected-rate-of-return allowance means less has to be set aside, so more money can go into 1 percenter pockets. So there is a lot of pressure from corporations to let them get away with overestimating, and therefore putting more in their pockets today. Since this is complex, it is easier to get away with diverting promised-worker-retirement money into 1 percenter pockets.

This student loan deal apparently lets corporations claim a higher expected rate of return, thereby diverting more money today into 1 percenter pockets.

Money Into Worker Pensions Or 1 Percenter Pockets?

For a long time the government has been allowing pension funds to use a too-high estimated rate of return, with the result that many pensions are now underfunded. Money that should have gone into savings to pay worker pensions was diverted into 1 percenter pockets, either through improved corporate bottom lines in the case of companies, or through lower taxes in the case of state & local governments. (Of course, many companies shifted worker-pension promises into 1 percenter pockets using the 401K scam -- you fund your own retirement, on your own, with little help, and have to know how long you'll live, and it turns out badly every time -- but that's for another post.)

In fact, this worker-set-asides-for-later vs 1 percenter-pockets-today issue is similar to what happened with the Social Security Trust Fund. Money from workers was set aside into the fund but was used to pay for tax cuts (and massive military increases). Now 1 percenters are demanding austerity -- cutbacks in the things We, the People do for each other -- instead of workers getting the money back from where the money went, namely the 1 percenters.

And since this is about money for worker retirees, and retired workers don't have big, influential PR firms while 1 percenters do, it is convenient and easy to blame workers when the promised money isn't there for their retirement.

The Much-Hyped Public-Employee Pension Crisis

The supposed public-employee pensions crisis is partly the result of state and local governments not setting aside enough money to pay up on pension promises (because of tax cuts). It is also partly caused by Wall Street scamming on those same governments as they got into riskier investments trying to get a high enough rate of return to make good on their pension promises. But the blame is being placed on the workers themselves.

The post Discover The Network Out To Crush Our Public Workers traced just a few of the corporate-conservative think tanks (really just PR firms) promoting the idea that public-employee unions are responsible for pension shortfalls. Almost all of these organizations traced back to Wall Street firms and individuals for their governance or funding. They are engaged in a campaign to divert attention and blame the workers themselves for pension shortfalls,

These corporate/conservative organizations are very good at manipulating the media and public opinion -- it is their purpose. Their "experts" are well paid and always available to talk to reporters, appear on TV and radio shows and write articles and opinion pieces for newspapers, blogs and for their network of similar organizations. Their "reports' and "studies" reach the conclusions that fit the strategy, and are crafted to sound just right. And there are so many of them! The result is development of "conventional wisdom" about what is going on in our society. This is why that conventional wisdom more and more reflects the corporate/conservative line. And right now the corporate conservative line is that we should think that public employees and their unions are responsible for state and local budget shortfalls.

See also Understanding The Attacks On Public Employees, Ten Holiday Attacks On Public Employees and Are Public Employee Unions Strangling Us? Also, Rick Smith And Dave Johnson Counter The Attack On Public Employees.

Others See It, Too

NY Times Editorial, The Deal on Student Loans,

The pension provision is not ideal. It could mean that more companies will underfinance their pension liabilities, shortchanging employees down the road. Lawmakers have tried to address that potential shortfall by strengthening the agency that insures private pensions with more money from higher premiums.

Thus from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, usually a most unreliable source. (The check from the big corps who want to underfund pensions must have been late.) In this case it is the same gimmick but added the the highway bill...: Threat of Pension Fund Bailouts Lurks in Senate Highway Bill, "Pension Smoothing" a License to Make Up Numbers,

The bill ... would amend the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to allow for an accounting gimmick known as “pension smoothing,” whereby pension managers spread losses out over several years, while overestimating projected investment returns.

Specifically, this provision would expand the range of allowable projection figures, starting this year at a 20 percentage point range, to 60 percentage points after 2015. This is essentially a license to make up numbers for income projections four years out from now. ...

"This accounting trick will likely expose taxpayers to potential pension fund bailouts in the future. " ...

"It would further remove pension investment return projections even further from reality, by expanding the range of allowable projections so broadly as to render them meaningless."


Making Things Worse

To get a deal that keeps student-loan interest rates low enough for more people to afford to go to college, we had to pay off the 1 percenters with this "pension-smoothing" deal. Such is the way of Washington since we shifted from a democracy (rule by the people, for the people) to a plutocracy (rule by the rich, for the rich). Or, in this case a 1 percenter kleptocracy (rule by the rich, stealing from everyone).

But make no mistake, this deal makes the country's future pension problems even worse. It diverts even more money from promised pensions into 1 percenter pockets. The result will be clear in 10, 20 or 30 years when people are retiring and the money isn't there. Taxpayers will be asked for ever more "austerity" to cover money that was diverted to the 1%.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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June 22, 2012

Romney, Jobs And China -- Let's Connect Dots

Will Mitt Romney create jobs and help our economy, or will he just take us back to the Bush-era, send-jobs-to-China destruction that made him rich? With Romney there is no way to connect what he says with what he means or might do. So we are forced to read tea leaves and look for signs. Should be reading Chinese tea leaves?

The Fire Sale Of Our Economy

Mitt Romney made his huge fortune partly by taking over companies, sending the good-paying American jobs to places like China -- or using the threat to do that to force wage and benefit cuts -- and keeping that money for himself and his business partners. A Washington Post story says that Romney's company not only took advantage of this technique, but actually helped pioneer the technique!

While Romney and those like him became enormously wealthy from this since-Reagan fire-sale of American factories, companies, industries and technologies, our economy suffered terribly. Working people's wages stagnated and people turned to credit cards and borrowing on their homes just to get by. Evenually the economy collapsed.

The Romneys and Wall Street 1%er types did very well from this destruction of our economy and our capacity to earn a living, as they have been doing since the collapse. China has also done very well by this. And they are all trying to keep things that way.

Connecting Dots

Dot: Under Bush we lost 50,000+ factories and 1/3 of our manufacturing jobs. Non-manufacturing was also hit hard with outsourcing of jobs to other countries. Companies then used the threat to move other jobs to force wage and benefit cuts here. "If you don't agree to this we'll just move your job, too."

Dot: Since the "recovery" began the richest 1% received 93% of the economic gains. It's all going to the top -- to the Romneys among us.

Dot: Washington Post: Romney’s Bain Capital invested in companies that moved jobs overseas. Note that Romney's company "pioneered" the practice. They didn't just do it, they "pioneered" it,

Mitt Romney’s financial company, Bain Capital, invested in a series of firms that specialized in relocating jobs done by American workers to new facilities in low-wage countries like China and India.

During the nearly 15 years that Romney was actively involved in running Bain, a private equity firm that he founded, it owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas call centers and factories making computer components...

Dot: The Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision allows unlimited secret money to influence our elections. Secret, as in we don't even know what country the money comes from, never mind what companies or billionaires.

Dot: Huge amounts, from the 1%ers, all coordinated: Romney plans posh weekend donor retreat featuring Rove and VP hopefuls,

The presumptive Republican nominee and his senior advisers and aides are hosting two days of policy sessions and campaign strategy discussions at the Deer Valley resort for more than 100 top fundraisers and their spouses. Those who raised more than $100,000 are expected to attend. ... Rove’s appearance could raise questions because of laws barring any coordination between super PACs and campaigns. ...

Dot: One source (of many) of this flood of money has been disclosed. Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, has already given $10 million to Romney's campaign, promises a "limitless" amount -- $100 million or more. (He has $25 billion, largely thanks to China.) There are also allegations of corruption, bribery and violations of US law in the operation of these Chinese-licensed casinos.

Dot: Adelson's exclusive Chinese-granted casino license is worth billions, and he has used his influence with Republicans in Congress to help China. Adelson influenced Republicans to help China get the Beijing Olympics and then received the license to build casinos in Chinese territory. From the New Yorker, The Brass Ring: A multibillionaire’s relentless quest for global influence,

In July, 2001, Adelson met with a Vice-Premier of China, Qian Qichen ... [and] met with the mayor of Beijing, who asked Adelson for help with a matter pending in the U.S. House of Representatives, which he believed was threatening China’s chance to host the Olympics.

Adelson ... immediately made calls on his cell phone to Republican friends in Congress—including Tom DeLay, then the majority whip—who had received generous support from Adelson. DeLay told him that there was indeed a resolution pending ...opposing China’s Olympic bid, saying, “China’s abominable human rights record violates the spirit of the games and should disqualify Beijing from consideration.” ... Three days later, the International Olympics Committee voted in China’s favor. [Adelson received the casino license soon after, in early 2002 - dj]

[...] In May, 2004, the first gamblers entered the Sands Macao. Its construction costs were two hundred and sixty-five million dollars, and Adelson made back his initial investment in a year. In December, 2004, Adelson took Las Vegas Sands public (according to Forbes, he owns sixty-nine per cent of the stock) and became a multibillionaire, overnight.

Adelson used his influence with the Republicans in Congress to help China get the Olympics, and then got a casino license worth billions to him. What else has he helped or will he help China get?

Dot: McCain: Adelson funding Romney Super PAC with 'foreign money'.

Senator and Romney presidential campaign surrogate John McCain (R-AZ) said Thursday that casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is indirectly injecting millions of dollars in Chinese "foreign money" into Mitt Romney's presidential election effort.

Owing China

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!" - Upton Sinclair.

When China offers you a path to make a huge fortune, you start to have a hard time understanding how this can hurt your own country. As I said last week in Why Can't Apple Make Your IPhone In America?,

China offers our business leaders an amazing deal – a deal that they can’t refuse. The owners and managers of our companies get really, really rich if they play along with China. Nerver mind if the companies go away later, they’re rich.

... In fact, China has essentially recruited our own business leaders to fight against our own government.

Romney's Bain Capital, and so many others, have made fortunes from offshoring our jobs, factories, industries, technologies and our economy. Fortunes. And now they are applying those China-made fortunes to our election process.

How Much Of Romney's Campaign Money Comes From Or Depends On China?

So we know about one source of secret money funding Romney's campaign, and this source is directly obliged to China for much of his multi-billion fortune, and has influenced our government on China's behalf in the past. But we don't know anything about much of the rest of the money that is being spent on the flood of negative ads and other persuasion and election efforts.

How many of Romney's other funding sources are dependent on China for their fortunes, directly or indirectly? And how much will this lead them to have trouble understanding how shipping jobs and factories and industries to China hurts our country?

The question is out there, and really should be answered before the election. How much of Romney's huge, secret, campaign war chest comes directly or indirectly from China? And beyond China, where else is Romney's campaign money coming from?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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June 3, 2012

Crucial That You Watch This

Murdoch’s Scandal | FRONTLINE | PBS shows how FOX corrupted UK government. This is a criminal organization, and the response here shows they are intimidating and corrupting media and government. MUST SEE.

They have obviously broken US laws against a US company bribing officials, why will Obama Justice Dept not prosecute for this? Why won't Dems in Senate launch investigations?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:33 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

May 31, 2012

Watch Reporter Manhandled For Trying To Ask Question Of Powerful CEO At Public Event

Mike Elk, of In These Times, attempted to ask Honeywell CEO David Cote a question, at a Capitol Hill event. Watch what happens.

More from Republic Report: Video: On Capitol Hill, Reporter Attacked For Daring To Ask A Question To A Powerful CEO,


Republic Report attended a conference for “entrepreneurs” and small businesses today on Capitol Hill hosted by Congressman Tim Scott (R-SC). Although it was advertised as a lively discussion about economic policy, we witnessed the only staffers violently grabbing the mic from the only reporter who asked a critical question during the forum.
Mike Elk, a journalist for In These Times magazine, was called on during the question and answer portion of a morning panel to ask David Cote, the CEO of Honeywell, about his efforts to bust labor unions at a Honeywell-owned uranium plant. Elk asked Cote, who earlier in the event boasted about his company’s profit margins, about his labor practices and the recent news that a poorly trained worker used to replaced Honeywell’s organized workforce had allowed a release of radioactive gas. But before he could finish his question, a man in a suit working for the event repeatedly grabbed the microphone away from Elk.

Please read the rest at Republic Report. This is what happens when the wealthy plutocrats come to believe they are in charge, and are not answerable to We, the People or our press.

Note - Mike Elk has written for Campaign for America's Future.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 29, 2012

Why Do We Have Corporations?

This spring the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street movement arrived at corporate shareholder meetings, with the 99% Power coalition demanding decent corporate governance that serves the interests of We, the People rather than just a few people. There are results inside and outside of the big corporations. Most visibly, last week Amazon dropped ALEC and earlier, Citigroup shareholders said stop the executive gravy train. Even bigger: the public is learning that We, the People actually can make a difference when we stand up and demand change.

Leo Gerard, Workers Of The World Unite — With Shareholders

At Citigroup, shareholders had their say on CEO pay -- and they yelled, "No damn way!" Concerted action by shareholders, workers and public interest groups compelled corporate change in several other cases this spring as well.

At least three CEOs resigned. Executives truncated one shareholder meeting to 12 minutes. And across America and Europe, CEOs lamented the end of automatic approval for excessive executive compensation.

A wave of corporate change is rising because the rabble and the stockholders share an interest: decent corporate governance. To shareholders, decent means more long-term corporate vision providing reasonable returns and fewer risky, quick-profit schemes benefiting only executives. To workers, the unemployed, community and environmental groups, decent means operating corporations in the best interest of the nation, including treating workers with dignity and refraining from polluting. Together, the rabble and the shareholders wield power.

99% Power Coalition

The 99% Power coalition includes citizens groups, workers, retirees, job seekers, families fighting foreclosure, students burdened by debt, immigrants and environmentalists.

Organizations invloved include The New Bottom Line, The Unity Alliance, Jobs with Justice, Rainforest Action Network, 350.org, Alliance for a Just Society, National People’s Action, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Pushback Network, Right to the City, Public Campaign Action Fund, MoveOn.org, Service Employees International Union, Public Citizen, Enlace, UNITEHERE, Common Cause, Rebuild the Dream, Restaurant Opportunities Centers, Health Global Access Project, United Steelworkers, International Labor Rights Forum, Food Chain Workers’ Alliance and The Other 98%.

These are organizations of We, the People.

ExxonMobil Meeting Wednesday

This Wednesday's ExxonMobil shareholder meeting is a big one because ExxonMobil is a really, really bad one. Leo Gerard again,

Steelworkers and Occupy Dallas activists worked with the 99% Power coalition to organize the protest outside the ExxonMobil meeting. USW-represented refinery and clerical workers will protest ExxonMobil's greedy and dangerous corporate behavior. This corporation, which last year gave its CEO a 20 percent pay increase, has refused for two years to approve much smaller raises for its all-female clerical staff at Baytown.

In addition, ExxonMobil, among the most profitable corporations in the world, is denying safety measures to workers the Baton Rouge refinery -- measures that it has agreed to implement at four other facilities. This refusal comes just two years after an explosion at a Tesoro refinery killed seven workers and seven years after a massive blast at BP's Texas City refinery killed 15 and injured 170.



Why Do We Have Corporations?

A very dangerous question: why do we have corporations? Where did they come from? Do they serve us?

We, the People are the reason corporations exist at all. They are legal structures enabled by our legislatures and enforced by our courts to serve our purposes. We, the People decided to allow this form of legal structure to serve us by aggregating the needed resources to accomplish large-scale projects that serve us. They are supposed to provide us with benefits in the form of goods and services and good jobs and taxes.

Why else would we have allowed these things to exist if not to serve and benefit us?

Let's reflect and think about that for a while. Let's remember that We, the People are supposed to be in charge here and we do things like enable corporations to serve us. Why else would we have allowed corporations to exist in the first place? We, the People are the only reason these things exist. We, the People enabled them. We, the people did it to serve us. We, the people did it for our benefit.

Corporations are just legal structures, created by us and under our control as all legal structures are supposed to be. They are supposed to accomplish projects that we want done, for our benefit. They are supposed to provide good-paying jobs, pensions, and other benefits to the people who work in them. They are supposed to be for the good of society -- all of us, not just a few of us, and certainly not at the expense of so many of us. They are supposed to provide us with taxes that (literally) pave the way for our continued prosperity.

Why else would we have allowed these things to exist if not to serve and benefit us?

And if these things we created are not serving We, the People -- all of us not just a few of us at the expense of the rest of us -- then isn't it time for We, the People to change things and bring them back under our control?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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May 24, 2012

At Shareholder Meeting Amazon Drops ALEC, Dodges Tax Questions

At today's Amazon shareholder meeting in Seattle the company announced that it is dropping support for ALEC, while fudging questions about its taxes and voting down proposals to report its efforts to address climate change and to disclose its political spending.

The Meeting

Amazon's annual shareholder meeting took place in Seattle this morning. It was a brief, pro-forma event that took place in a small auditorium in an art museum and lasted only about 45 minutes. The general meeting was run by two corporate communications staffers, with CEO Jeff Bezos appearing (in jeans) for a brief presentation. There was a brief "mic check" disruption at the close of the meeting and a crowd outside protesting the company's practices.

These shareholder meetings are often displays of corporate arrogance and near-defiance of government requirements to hold public meetings. Amazon's meeting today was notable, with the company announcing the results of shareholder balloting even as the ballots were being collected from attendees. The real voting had already taken place; the shareholders who count -- the 1% owns 50.9% of all stocks, bonds and mutual funds, the next 9% own another 39.4% -- had already spoken.

Dropping ALEC

At one point in the meeting attendees at the meeting were able to ask questions, and a question about Amazon's funding of the shadowy right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was answered with the announcement that Amazon is dropping their support of the organization "for this year." The company's corporate-speak wording was approximately thus: "We regularly evaluate our memberships in different organizations and we have determined that we will not renew our support of ALEC for this year." At the end of the meeting a shareholder said he was disappointed that the company "bowed to political pressure" and dropped their support of this wonderful organization that did so much good. But he was happy that Amazon has provided such good returns.

Tax Dodging

Amazon dodged a question about dodging its taxes. During the presentation, Amazon CEO Bezos said that in the last two years the company has paid $1.3 billion in taxes, including withholding and property taxes. Withholding means money collected from employees that includes Social Security and personal income taxes. Called on this later, a company spokesman hedged and obfuscated, without providing information on just how much the company pays in actual corporate taxes.

Shareholder Proposals

There were two shareholder proposals presented at the meeting, with Amazon's board recommending that shareholders vote against both.

The first was a proposal that Amazon assess the impact of climate change on the company -- specifically risks related to greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, and logistics -- and announce the corporation’s plans to publicly disclose this assessment. The board recommended that shareholders vote against this proposal. It was announced during the collection of ballots that this proposal was rejected by the shareholders.

The second was a proposal that Amazon disclose its political spending. This proposal asked Amazon to join with best practices of corporate governance and recognize the need to participate in their community in positive ways. The Board recommended that shareholders vote against this proposal. It was announced during the collection of ballots that this proposal was rejected by the shareholders.

Working Conditions

Another criticism of Amazon has been its working conditions, particularly in it warehouses. Amazon said at the meeting that they are installing air conditioners in older warehouses, and newer ones have air conditioning. A spokesperson also said that the company matches the "metrics compared to industry benchmarks." Attendees who still have souls were left speechless.

Disruption At End

As the meeting drew to a close there was a "mic check" with several attendees joining in, linking arms, and being led out of the meeting by police. There were no arrests.

Crowd Outside

As the meeting took place there was a large crowd -- maybe 200 people -- outside the building, holding signs and repeating chants led by people with megaphones.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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May 13, 2012

Speaking Fees And Big-Time Career Journalism

Meet The Press moderator David Gregory is the "Keynote Address" speaker at the upcoming National Federation of Independent Business "Small Business Summit" conference. This is a conservative advocacy group that solidly aligns with Republicans.

Here is a speakers bureau page promoting Gregory for speaking engagements for "$40,001 & up" per appearance.

I have not verified if he is getting paid, but he is doing the "speaking" circuit. A very brief look around finds him at the 2007 American Resort Development Association. The 2006 United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) symposium, at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando. At the 2010 Milken Institute Shaping the Future conference. 2010 Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. The Risk Management Association 2011 annual conference.

A few years ago I looked into Chris Matthews' speaking engagements with Republican-aligned lobbying groups. Matthews was doing this regularly, and there was an NBC policy against accepting speaking fees.

NBC's President said Matthews' fees were going to a charity. So assuming this is true and he really was donating the money to a charity, that is still receiving a thing of value. He was speaking before Republican-aligned groups again and again, and spouting Republican positions on the air.

Back to Gregory. Is it still NBC's policy to prohibit speaking engagements for pay?

There is a certain tedium involved with speaking at trade association meetings, so one does it for a reason. I assume the reason he does this is not that he really, really loves speaking to trade associations. Why would someone do it continually, if not for compensation - which I would say includes being given money to donate to favored charities? And if someone is getting compensation of "$40,001 & up" for an hour's work, shouldn't we assume this just might affect what they are willing to say or not say on the air?

Updates on Gregory speaking engagements:

2011 Palm Beach Civic Association

2007 American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) and the Sales Association of the Paper Industry

2011 Nantucket Atheneum Geschke Lecture Series

2011 Food Safety Summit

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May 11, 2012

Have You Actually Watched Carter's "Malaise" Speech?

Here it is, well worth watching! STILL profound, important, prescient. And startling in the context of what we know today about the corporate right's assault on democracy.

The first part is about the mistrust of government and each other that had started taking hold, the rest is about energy, conservation, and the effect on our economy.

As you watch it, keep in mind that the right's "noise machine" (partly funded by oil companies) had already been operating behind the scenes for several years, already spending tens of millions a year on the effort. Back then nothing like that had been encountered from inside the country (at least since the lead-up to the civil war) - the smear machine, the propaganda, the mass repetition of carefully crafted anti-government and in-it-for-yourself messaging, etc. - so people were just blindsided by it. But it was clear something was happening, and Carter called it a a "fundamental threat to American democracy".

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May 9, 2012

This Is What Corporate Rule Means

In Texas, for example, if you don't agree to lease your land to an oil company on their terms, they can just condemn the land and force you. Old Texas Tale Retold - Farmer vs. TransCanada,

So she and her brother spent hours bent over the kitchen table going over the lease agreement, creating a version they could live with. She presented their version to TransCanada.

“I fully expected them to counter,” she said. “There were about five or six things we wanted, and we would have been happy to take one or two.”

Then, she said, TransCanada “went full radio silence.” The Crawfords never heard back from them — until October, when they got a letter saying their land had been condemned and a lease awarded to TransCanada.

You don't even get to go to the legal proceeding:

The Crawfords’ condemnation hearing happened in front of a district judge. They were not invited to that hearing — landowners in Texas do not get to go to the actual condemnation hearing.

FYI It's a CANADIAN oil company building this pipeline, from Canada to the Gulf Coast, so they can sell oil to China.

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May 8, 2012

Trade Alert! Another Job-Killing Trade Agreement Heading Our Way

The trade agreements we have entered into over the last few decades have greatly enriched the already-wealthy 1% but not worked for the benefit of most of us. They have created massive trade deficits that drain our economy. They have cost millions of manufacturing, textile and other jobs. They have empowered huge, multi-national corporations to break unions and force pay and benefit cuts. Now the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is coming up, and once again things don't look so good for most of us. Maybe "look" is the wrong word to use, since We, the People are not even allowed to know what "our" government is proposing!

The TPP Trade Agreement

The Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement is a major trade deal for Pacific Rim countries -- Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. Japan, Mexico and Canada have said they plan to sign on later. Other Pacific Rim countries including Indonesia, Russia, the Philippines and possibly China are also expected to join. So this is a big deal.

So far there have been eleven rounds of negotiations. Reports say that the United States has introduced proposals for the rest of the agreement. The 12th round of negotiations for the TPP start today in Dallas.

Another NAFTA-style Trade Agreement?

The NAFTA-style trade agreements we are familiar with have been used as weapons by the already-wealthy and their huge corporations to break unions and force working people to accept pay and benefit cuts, resulting in the "hollowing out" of our middle class. They have turned democracy -- with its good wages & benefits and environmental protections -- into a competitive disadvantage in world markets.

These agreements are sold as "opening up trade" into new markets. This supposedly helps us by increasing exports, which supposedly should open up lots of jobs in the exporting industries. But now we see how these agreements have really been used. While increasing some exports like agricultural products and raw materials they have increased imports more, costing us jobs, factories and entire industries. The resulting trade deficits have literally drained our economy. The resulting movement of good-paying jobs has hollowed out our middle class.

These trade agreements have empowered companies to break unions. Companies cut pay and benefits, telling workers their jobs can be offshored. This forces other companies to do the same whether they want to or not.

The Citizens Trade Campaign, in What Corporations Want with the Trans-Pacific FTA, worries about TPP, saying,

If it continues on its current course, the Trans-Pacific FTA will serve two primary purposes: 1. Making it easier for corporations to shift jobs throughout the world to wherever labor is the most exploited and regulations are the weakest; and 2. Putting checks on democracy at home and abroad by constraining governments’ ability to regulate in the public interest.

... Here, specifically, are examples of what corporations want with the Trans-Pacific FTA:

* Cheaper Labor Costs. ... (click through to read)
* New Tools for Dismantling Environmental Laws. ...
* Longer Drug Patents. ...
* Further Financial Deregulation. ...
* Caps on Food Safety Protections. ...
* Concentration of Global Food Supplies. ...
* Greater Access to Government Contracts. ...
* Lower Taxes. ...

Why The Big Secret?

We, the People are not allowed to know what our own government is proposing in these trade negotiations! But corporate lobbyists are working with the negotiators and are able to review drafts of the agreement.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, -- formerly Mayor of Dallas, candidate for US Senate, lobbyist for Energy Future Holdings Corporation, which was created by KKR, TPG Capital and Goldman Sachs in a $45 billion 2007 leveraged buyout -- has refused to release any of its negotiating proposals for public scrutiny. At the same time approx. 600 corporate lobbyists have been given "cleared advisor" status.

Why are our own country's proposals kept secret from We, the People? They are not a secret to the other governments involved in these negotiations, nor to the corporate lobbyists who have "cleared advisor" status.

TPP Concerns

Several chapters of the proposed agreement have leaked, raising questions about who this agreement will benefit. The Citizens Trade Campaign, "a broad and diverse national coalition of environmental, labor, consumer, family farm, religious, and other civil society groups" has a list of questions about the TPP:

Buy America Banned?

"Buy America" procurement preferences for federal procurement contracts are one of the few tools we have left to make sure that We, the People benefit when our own tax dollars are spent. Currently and since the 1930s, American-produced goods have received preferential "buy America" treatment in federal procurement contracts.

It has been leaked that the TPP agreement grants the TPP countries the same privilege. In other words, Buy American in federal procurement will give these countries -- Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam -- the same preferences as American-made goods. The idea is that these countries will then have to give American producers equal access to their own government contracts. Of particular concern is that Chinese-based firms in these countries will be able to bid against American companies for these government contracts.

This would force American producers to compete with countries that do not have minimum wage laws or environmental protections, undermining our own such protections.

A group of 68 House Democrats and one Republican sent a letter to President Obama last week, urging him to reconsider any potential ban on Buy America preferences.

Actions You Can Take

Occupy Wall Street: Occupy TPP: Dallas, TX – May 8-19,

via Texas Fair Trade Coalition:

International trade ministers and corporate lobbyists will be descending on Texas from May 8 to 18 for a critical trade summit aimed at rushing the secretive new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement toward completion. The Texas Fair Trade Coalition and our allies are planning to welcome them — and we need you to join us.

Occupy Dallas: Take Action for Fair Trade!

Public Citizen petition: Derail the Trans-Pacific Partnership - No backroom deals for the 1%

Friends of the Earth: Demand transparency in the Trans-Pacific free trade agreement!

Citizens Trade Campaign: REPORTERS’ MEMO: Former Mayor Brings Controversial Trans-Pacific Trade Negotiations to Dallas, USTR Ron Kirk Urged to Publicly Release What His Office Has Proposed in Americans’ Names

Leo Hindery, Jr.Chairman, U.S. Economy/Smart Globalization Initiative at the New America Foundation: Free Trade Run Amok: The 'TPP', (this is a must-read!)

I believe that TPP could very likely dwarf the negative impacts from all prior FTAs combined, including the still notorious multilateral NAFTA (which went into effect in 1994) and the multilateral CAFTA (signed in 2003).

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch: A Stealth Attack on Democratic Governance

Tim Robertson, California Fair Trade Coalition: Why Is the TPP Such a Big Secret?

Michael Brune, The Sierra Club: What Are They Trying to Hide?

Public Citizen's Tradewatch

Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

Eyes On Trade, Public Citizen's Blog on Globalization and Trade.

Public Knowledge: TPP Info


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:53 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 24, 2012

1% Vs 99% Battle Comes To GE Detroit Shareholder Meeting Tomorrow

I'm in Michigan to cover the GE shareholder meeting tomorrow. I grew up in Michigan and have to say that Mitt Romney was exactly right that the trees here really are the right size. The look of the houses, the layout of the roads, the birds, everything feels right. Of course, my wife grew up in England, and she says that the trees in England are the right size. (She also says the beer there is better -- and she's right.)

I grew up in Michigan. My family was in Michigan because my grandfather worked in what is now called "Carriage Town" in Flint in the days of Dort and Durant and Nash and the rest of the early auto company industrialists. (No he didn't get stock.) He fought in the first world war, and considered himself an American. Later he was an executive at different companies, living outside of Detroit. In WWII he and a number of other auto company executives went to work in Washington for $1 a year, because they felt it was their patriotic duty. Later, when Eisenhower was President he went to work in the government, and considered it public service.

My grandfather was a proud Republican, and even spoke at Rotary Club events. He worked under and was a friend of Mitt's dad George, another auto executive. I found a speech online where he said he felt that big corporations should be taxed more to incentivize formation and competition of smaller, innovative companies and said they they create more jobs. I know he agreed that we need a high top tax rate (it was over 90% when he was in the Eisenhower administration), that the revenue should be used to invest in infrastructure because it is the soil in which businesses grow and prosper. He believed in his country and in investing in this country and in the importance of making things in America.

"Bean-Counters" Take Over, Sacrifice Long-Term

Later on the auto companies went in a different direction. Bob Lutz, former vice-Chair of GM is a "car guy" and a conservative. In his recent book Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business Lutz wrote about how the MBA and finance types took over management from the "gar guys" and didn't care about design, product quality, customer satisfaction -- only about money, and really only short-term money even if it meant sacrificing the company in the long term.

The "bean counters" took over more than just the car companies, they took over company after company, industry after industry. And they sacrificed more than just their companies to short-term profits. When they closed factories, as documented in Michael Moore's Roger & Me, the community of Flint, Michigan was devastated when GM closed car factories there. This was back 1989 and presaged the tsunami that was coming. As I wrote about in 2010, the movement of more and more manufacturing out of the country wiped out the midwest and other regions, and the resulting loss of jobs and wages combined with the huge trade deficit helped lead to the financial crisis and current "jobless recovery."

On My Way To Detroit

I stayed in Flint last night and am writing this from a coffee ship in downtown Pontiac on the way to Detroit. I mentioned "carriage town" in Flint - the little area which incubated much of our automotive industry and with it the Midwest's manufacturing prosperity. Today the area is neglected. The original buildings at least have historical markers, but the area is relatively deserted, several houses in the area are boarded up, with vacant lots where the city has cleared derelicts. The roads are not in good shape, there are many empty storefronts, roadside businesses, offices and manufacturing facilities. The city has lost and is losing population, and has been taken over by Michigan's anti-democracy "emergency manager" law. ("If you people won't sell off your assets to private interests, cut public employee pay and pensions, cut back on the things democracy does for citizens, etc., and other "reforms" that enrich the 1%, then we'll just take over and make it happen and you don't get a say.)

Downtown Pontiac is one more of so many examples of the devastation of our country's communities by the short-term-profit, long-term-collapse mentality of America's ruling elites. We drove by closed factories, boarded-up stores and houses, and sit in a little coffee shop - one of the few remaining businesses in the "downtown."

GE Shareholder Meeting Tomorrow -- 1% vs 99%

The 1% vs 99% clash comes to Detroit tomorrow. The GE shareholder meeting takes place in that city tomorrow, and while it is going on inside, outside people will be making their voices heard with nonviolent protests. GE brings to light the the battle between short-term-gain-for-a-few vs long-term health of the communities and economy of the rest of us.

GE has made billions in profits, but paid zero federal income taxes from 2008 to 2010. Over the last ten years, GE’s effective tax rate has been 2.3%. In 2010 alone, the top five GE executives received $75.9 million. Just five people. Over the last three years, GE's executives collected $234 million.

Since 2008, GE has spent more on DC lobbyists than it paid in taxes. GE spent $84.35 million on lobbyists from 2008-2010.

The cause of our terrible economic inequality is clear: the 1% have too much power, and use that power to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of us -- the 99%. Since 2008, at least thirty big American corporations reported big profits and paid their CEOs excessively while laying off workers and spending more on Washington lobbyists than they paid in taxes. In fact, 100 of the Fortune 500’s most profitable companies received average tax refunds of 2%.

Tomorrow in Detroit, people are taking it straight to the top of GE.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:21 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 21, 2012

European Austerity – What's Actually Happening?

Are we "going the way of Greece?" Should we cut spending to head off a "debt crisis" here?

Conservatives in Europe and America say cutting back on what democracies do for their citizens is the solution to our economic troubles because it will bring economic growth that helps everyone. But this is not what's happening where it is tried. These are not stupid people. Maybe economic growth wasn't the goal of austerity.

What They Said Would Happen

Greece and others have been confronted by lenders demanding very high rates before they will make loans. This increases their debt payments to even more dangerous levels, so lenders demand even higher rates. Financial elites are forcing "austerity," with Greece cutting government employees, pensions, etc. and privatizing public assets, saying this will free up more money for debt payments. Meanwhile European leaders say that austerity is needed everywhere, that cutting government spending will restore "confidence" which will get businesses investing and hiring again, which will boost economic growth.

Economists and anyone with a brain warned that the austerity approach would only make things worse. Now that many European countries have implemented austerity measures the actual results these efforts can be measured.

What Actually Happened

What the financial elites predicted is not what is happening, the cuts are making the economic situation much worse. Taking money out of the economy didn't grow the economy! Instead of increased “business confidence” bringing about a round of investment and hiring, these countries are instead experiencing further economic slowdown. As public employees are laid off and citizens’ benefits reduced the resulting reduction in demand slows economic growth further. This reduces tax revenues. Unemployment is soaring. And the threat is that deflation will only further inflate the debt burden.

In The cruel stupidity that is economic austerity at Daily Kos this weekend, Lawrence Lewis outlined just how bad things are as a result of austerity policies,

How bad is it? The economies of Europe are imploding, as conservative governments continue to pursue exactly the wrong policies at exactly the wrong time. ...

But this is not really a surprise. It is exactly what was predicted. And now that it is clear that austerity is making things worse they are demanding more austerity as a cure.

Financial Elites Are Not Stupid

So here is the thing. Everyone can see that this is the result—the expected result—of austerity policies. And Europe's financial elites are not stupid people—not by a long shot! Perhaps they can see the obvious, because it’s obvious, and therefore we might conclude that their campaign pushing austerity isn’t about growing the economy – it’s about something else -- they have a different agenda.

When smart people are forcing something to happen we need to look at what is happening, and realize perhaps this is what they wanted to happen. Maybe economic growth wasn't austerity's goal at all. Maybe the results we see— the results we all knew would come from austerity—are the results they wanted.

What Else Happened?

The above-listed effect of austerity are not the only results. Forced privatization is also occurring. Here are a few examples from recent news:

European railway companies eye Greek network sale,

Three European railway companies are interested in buying all or part of Greece's railway business, as the debt-laden country sells assets to satisfy its lenders, people familiar with the discussions told Reuters.

Greece: 14 firms formally express interest in privatization of DEPA state gas company,

Greece says 14 companies, including a subsidiary of Russian gas company Gazprom, have formally expressed initial interest in buying Greek state gas firm DEPA under the debt-crippled country’s mammoth privatization program.

Greece seeks Israeli buyers for ports, companies, roads,

As part of austerity measures, Greek government looking to sell stakes in major companies, development projects; head of privatization agency says Israeli investors already expressed interest...

In Greek Debt Crisis, Government Puts its Policemen Up For Rent,

With the economic crisis plaguing the country, drastic means have been taken to replenish the public coffers. It is in this context that the Greek government has adopted a measure allowing the use, for a fee, of the National Police and its equipment for private needs.

While the Ministry of Citizen Protection (in charge of the country's security services) said the move will help to "pay for the cost of using police material and infrastructure, and allow modernizing them,” the average citizen’s security is being seriously compromised and it raises the question of how far Greece is ready to go to cut state funding.

Greece Opens Bidding For Rhodes Property,

ATHENS -- Greece invited bids for property in the popular tourist destination of Afantou in Rhodes Tuesday, as part of a long-awaited privatization program to raise EUR19 billion by 2015 in aid of its huge debt crisis. This is the fourth international real estate tender launched by the Greek government-established Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF).

Strong Investor Interest In Planned Sale Of Former Athens Airport Area

The country's privatization agency said Tuesday there was strong investor interest in the planned sale of the former Athens airport area, marking the latest step in the country's efforts to raise some EUR19 billion from the sale of state assets by 2015.

Privatization is happening. Greece is being forced to sell off public assets as a condition of getting help with its debt.

Question: If these assets are contributing to Greece's debt problem, why would investors want to buy them? If these assets are bringing revenue that could help cover the debt, why would the financial elites want Greece to sell them? Unless forcing Greece to sell them was the point.

Shock Doctrine

Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine makes the case that financial elites have been following a strategy where they take advantage of crises and the resulting panic (and sometimes they make the crisis happen and whip up panic.) Crisis and panic set up chaotic environments in which it is easy to swoop in with pre-packaged "solutions" and take all the stuff. We see this shock-doctrine cycle over and over again: crisis, panic, panic accelerates, financial elites swoop in and take all the stuff. (America had its own experience recently of a crisis that generated terrible panic, with financial elites then swooping in and taking all the stuff. )

Debt often leads to such a a crisis. The book Confessions of Economic Hit Man exposed the strategy of convincing the leadership of underdeveloped countries to take on high debt. Then when it becomes difficult to carry the debt, financial elites swoop in and take all the stuff.

America's Debt

In the United States our own financial elite are demanding "spending cuts" and other austerity measures as well -- even though we can see in front of our faces what resulted from European austerity policies. Conservatives try to whip up panic, claiming our national debt will force the country into bankruptcy (and tried to prove it by nearly forcing the country into bankruptcy last year.) After forcing tax cuts for the rich, again and again, they now say we have to "cut spending" (but not spending on oil company subsidies or military -- estimated upwards of $1 trillion this year.) They demand austerity -- cuts in spending on things democracy does for its citizens.

But remember, at the end of the Clinton presidency the United States was paying off its debt. Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan greenlighted the Bush tax cuts, saying that Clinton was paying down the country's debt too fast! When the surplus vanished President George 'W' Bush said that a return to deficits was "incredibly positive news" because it would lead to a debt crisis that would force cutbacks in government.

The cycle repeats, supposed crisis, panic is whipped up, elites offer their "solution", then swoop in and take all the stuff. Will we fall for it again?

See Also

In The Zombie Rises: The Return of Simpson Bowles CAF's Bob Borosage writes,

After experiencing the horrors of this misguided policy, European leaders will eventually turn back to trying to get their economies moving again. What we need this fall is a different grand bargain—a global agreement, like that that was forged in early 2009, for coordinated action by governments to reflate the economy —to borrow and spend to put people back to work.

For this to occur, the bipartisan elite fixation about inflicting austerity now must be challenged. If we are to avoid a lost decade or worse, we need action to support still weak and staggering economies. Global coordination would be the best way to achieve that. That requires putting a stake in Simpson-Bowles, the Boehner-Obama grand bargain and other zombies.

In America will not go the way of Europe at the Washington Post, Ezra Klein says Greece's problem is that lenders believe the government might actually default, which the US can't do.

In Ezra Klein: Barking Up The Wrong Tree Borosage responds that Greece's austerity is the problem—such cuts make economies worse. Jobs are the answer to deficits.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:32 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 8, 2012

Cheaper To Destroy Elected Officals Than To Purchase

I wrote this for AlterNet: New Super-PAC Threatens to Destroy Candidates Who Side With the People Over Wall Street | Election 2012 | AlterNet

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:34 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 5, 2012

Sympathy For The Palin

Since watching HBO's Game Changer I have sympathy for Sarah Palin. She was in way over her head - not really her fault.

The "old" GOP didn't understand that today's GOP could elect someone who really "doesn't know anything." So they assumed a Governor would at least read newspapers and not just right-wing blogs, watch FOX and listen to Rush Limbaugh. The new GOP just reads right-wing blogs, watches FOX and listens to Limbaugh.

A Palin, and now the problem of a government that is destroying the country, its infrastructure, its courts, all the things that businesses rely on, this is the GOP/corporate establishment's fault. This is corporate money and careerist politician/lobbyists, just using "the base" and nurturing this culture, because they use the ignorance.

It's also the corporate short-term thinking thing. Yeah, it was great to get tax cuts and neglect the infrastructure. Great to get people believing there's no climate change. Great to pile up cash for yourself but let the country pile up debt.

And now it's "later." If you aren't one of the very few who piled up enough cash to fly your jet off to your private island, you're fucked along with the rest of us, in a country rules by Sarah Palins.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:39 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 2, 2012

Oil Companies and Banks ...

are following the tobacco business model. Paralyze the victim with propaganda, and then hold tight, sucking the money out of them until they die. Move on to new victim.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:52 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 31, 2012

Senators Filibustered For $23,582,500

This week the Senate filibustered the effort to stop giving huge, huge tax breaks and subsidies to oil companies. Why did they filibuster? FOR MONEY.

See Senators Who Voted To Protect Oil Tax Breaks Received $23,582,500 From Big Oil | ThinkProgress

What more needs to be said? This is filed under corruption & corporate rule.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:55 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 29, 2012

Open Letter From Europe Against American Labor Intimidation Practices

“EMPLOYEES OF U.S. SUBSIDIARIES OF GERMAN COMPANIES, ESPECIALLY T-MOBILE USA, SHOULD BE ABLE TO EXERCISE THEIR UNRESTRICTED RIGHT TO OPT FOR ORGANIZED REPRESENTATION IN THE COMPANY WITHOUT FEAR.”

In an ad in the NY Times yesterday, 11 leading German legal scholars and politicians called on Deutsche Telekom and other German companies to stop using American-style union-hating tactics at their American subsidiaries. In particular they asked these companies to “end all collaboration with U.S. consultants who advise employers how to fight employee representation.”

Remarkable

What is remarkable about this letter is the difference between European and American attitudes toward working people and labor rights. In Europe it's just a given that working people have dignity and respect. To Europeans it is shocking to see a company try to fight against its own workers! In the US working people face an atmosphere of constant intimidation, always pushing for lower wages, cuts in benefits, longer working hours, and subservience.

The letter speaks for itself, please read it: (click for original)

To T-MOBILE USA and Other U.S. Subsidiaries of German Companies

AN OPEN LETTER ON WORKERS’ RIGHTS

Globalization and the current crisis present particular challenges for the economy. Germany’s social market policy faces these challenges with its commitment to stakeholder values including employees and its responsibility towards the community. The respect for the interests of different players has already proven to be beneficial in previous periods of change. Essential elements of this approach are respectful cooperation and a balance of the differing interests of employees and employers. Since employees are in a structurally weaker position compared to employers, the freedom of association and freedom of opinion as human rights are especially vital.

The signatories urge that the employees of U.S. subsidiaries of German companies, especially T-Mobile USA, should be able to exercise their unrestricted right to opt for organized representation in the company without fear. They must not be influenced, pressured, or intimidated by employers if they exercise their basic right for freedom of association. The human right of freedom of speech notably entails this right as well.

Even in the Federal Republic of Germany there are shortsighted employers and lawyers who believe they can get away with a lack of integrity and respect toward unions and work councils and who think they can forgo cooperation. Practical experiences and scientific studies show, however, that employer conduct based on this model will ultimately be harmful to the company.

We encourage T-Mobile USA and the other U.S. subsidiaries of German companies to take these experiences to heart and to abandon all efforts at union avoidance. Likewise, we ask them to end all collaboration with U.S. consultants who advise employers how to fight employee representation.

Däubler-Gmelin, Prof. Dr. Herta, former Federal Minister of Justice, attorney, Berlin

Baum, Gerhart R., former Minister of the Interior, attorney, Düsseldorf

Müntefering, Franz, former Federal Minister for Labor and Social Affairs, German MP, Berlin

Schmoldt, Hubertus, former Chairman of the Labor Union IG Mining, Chemical and Energy

Hensche, Detlef, former Chairman of the Labor Union IG Media, attorney, Berlin

Merzhäuser, Michael, attorney, Berlin

Dieterich, Prof. Dr. Thomas, former President of the Federal Labor Court and former Judge of the Federal Constitutional Court, Kassel

Blüm, Dr. Norbert, former Federal Minister for Labor and Social Affairs, Bonn

Struck, Dr. Peter, former Federal Minister of Defense, President of Friedrich – Ebert – Foundation, Berlin

Däubler, Prof. Dr. jur. Wolfgang, university professor (labor law, business law, international law), Bremen

Schwegler, Dr. Lorenz, former Chairman of the Union for Trade, Banking and Insurance Carriers, attorney, Düsseldorf

Learn more at www.WeWorkBetterTogether.org

Did you see that last line? Learn more at www.WeWorkBetterTogether.org

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:02 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 25, 2012

Restore The Fairness Doctrine

The Outsourced Party - NYTimes.com,

In 1949, drawing on a long history of court decisions; on public hearings; and on legislation mandating “equal time” for political candidates, the F.C.C. ruled that holders of radio and television broadcast licenses must “devote a reasonable percentage of their broadcast time to the presentation of news and programs devoted to the consideration and discussion of public issues of interest in the community,” and that this must include “different attitudes and viewpoints concerning these vital and often controversial issues.”

The Supreme Court repeatedly upheld the F.C.C.’s power to make such a rule — but never gave it the power of law. In 1986, a pair of Ronald Reagan’s judicial appointees on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia, ruled that the Fairness Doctrine was not “a binding statutory obligation.”

Armed with this verdict, Fowler, who insisted on viewing television, in particular, as not a finite and supremely influential broadcast medium but “just another appliance — it’s a toaster with pictures,” persuaded his fellow commissioners to abolish the Fairness Doctrine. Furious Democrats in Congress passed legislation to codify the doctrine into law in 1987 and 1991, but these attempts were vetoed by Reagan and George Bush, respectively; Democrats have gone on trying to make the Fairness Doctrine law to this day, but have always been stymied by adamant Republican opposition.

Also under Clinton Republicans filibustered.

After that Dems turned into the party they are now, and didn't even try.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:27 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Abusing Customers For Profit

Airlines are making flying more uncomfortable on purpose, while charging a fee for comfort. Leg room, being able to choose a seat, etc.

Airlines are just a particularly visible example of this, but it is pervasive.

Why is this allowed? Who is our economy supposed to be FOR? Aren't We, the People supposed to be making the rules? Where is our government?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:16 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 24, 2012

Budget Cuts?

Why the Pentagon’s New Fighter Jet Will Now Cost More Than $1 Trillion - ProPublica,

It has cost the government $400 billion to date, and is estimated to run more than $1 trillion to develop, buy and support nearly 2,500 aircraft through 2050.

Who is getting all this money?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:10 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 20, 2012

Elections And Gas Prices

Two years ago I made a cynical election prediction:

Gasoline prices are about to start climbing, and will continue to climb through the summer, and well into the fall. No one will be able to pin down exactly why.

Take a look at this from Leo Gerard, Refinery Murder Mystery.

Leo is noticing a pattern of refinery closings in time to drive gas prices WAY up for the election...

Huh, go figure.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:53 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

March 19, 2012

There Is Consensus On How To Fix Economy

“There was clearly something wrong with the U.S. economy long before the crash.”

Consensus

Consensus. Again and again, people who examine what went wrong with our economy leading up to the great recession come to the same conclusions! Study after study, book after book, statement after statement, op-ed after op-ed, organization after organization, expert after expert, all weighing in, all coming to the same conclusions. One after another voices speak up (click through for just a sampling), voicing their understanding of what happened to the economy, what caused the crash and what we have to do to fix things. One after another they voice the same conclusions: our economy was damaged by,


All of these betrayals of the social contract were enabled by the influence of big money on our political system, including huge sums spent on an infrastructure of corporate/conservative organizations designed to propagandize the public into accepting these changes - or at least keeping the victims from rebelling.

This Time, The AFL-CIO

This time the AFL-CIO offers their analysis, Fixing What Is Wrong With Our Economy. Here are a few excerpts - but if you have been paying attention you have heard all of this again and again from all directions:

The crash was the end-result of policy changes brought in with the "Reagan Revolution:"

The crash of 2008 and the Great Recession were inevitable consequences of three decades of economic policies designed by and for Wall Street and the wealthiest Americans. At the heart of the problem was the hollowing out of American manufacturing, the growing dysfunction of our financial sector and a rapid increase in economic inequality, all of which crippled the growth engine of the U.S. economy.

Trade deals and policy choices that sent jobs, factories and industries out of the country:

[. . .] The deindustrialization of America and the substitution of speculation for productive investment were not accidents, they were not inevitable, and they were not the outcome of natural forces. They were the predictable results of mistaken policy choices made by politicians of both parties for more than a generation. These policy choices had victims with first and last names: millions of displaced workers, shuttered factories and hollowed-out communities across the country hobbled by shrinking tax bases that no longer could support vital public services.

In The Way

The corporate/conservative propaganda apparatus (and its candidates for office) continue to demand even more tax cuts for the wealthy and cuts in the things our government does for We, the People:

[. . .] The Republican candidates pretend that tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy are the answer to wage stagnation and the economic crisis, but the Bush years taught us that these obscenely wasteful tax cuts only make the problem worse. They are the equivalent of eating our seed corn, because they starve the kind of public investment in education, infrastructure and innovation that is indispensable for long-term economic growth.

The Fix

Again and again experts tell us how to fix the problems we face in our economy and society: restore democracy's (the 99%'s) controls over corporations (the 1%) and especially re-regulate the financial sector, reverse the taxation policies that led to budget deficits and extreme inequality, fix the trade deals and other policies that led to trade deficits and allow the wealthy to pit working people against each other, and invest heavily in our country and people again. That's a start, anyway -- get the influence of big money and big money's propaganda machine out of our politics and maybe after a while We, the People can start addressing the rest of our problems again.

The AFL-CIO's conclusions, from a summary of the analysis:

The statement outlines several significant steps that need to be taken to build an economy that can compete with world economic powers like Germany and China and that works for all, including:

The American people aren’t stupid. Majorities are also coming to the same conclusions. The American Majority in poll after poll show agreement with these conclusions.

We have to reverse the corporate/conservative, anti-government, pro-1% policies that started about 35 years ago. All the charts show the changes, when the changes happened, and how those changes have worn away at our economy and our people -- click through and see for yourself the story that the numbers tell: tax cuts, deregulation and outsourcing our jobs, factories and industries has not helped our economy or our people. Since then all the gains from the efforts of all of us have gone to fewer and fewer of us. Since then our infrastructure has fallen into disrepair. Since then our trade deficit has gotten worse and worse. Since then regular people -- the 99% -- have been falling further and further behind, democracy has eroded to the breaking point, with plutocracy -- rule of, by and for the 1% -- taking its place.

Our wealth is being extracted for the benefit of a few. We, the People must reassert control, or face further decline.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:25 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 16, 2012

The So-Called "JOBS Act:" Crowdfunding Good, Deregulation Bad

The Senate is considering the House-passed, typically-misnamed "JOBS Act." This act dramatically cuts regulations and disclosure requirements for companies that want to sell stock. As written it opens the door to the usual scammers, fleecers and fraudsters that feast on deregulation. But I think with some core limits and protections this concept -- not this bill, but this concept -- could transform our economy in some very good ways.

The So-Called JOBS Act

The word "jobs" in the name of the bill does not mean the kind of jobs that millions of people are currently desperate for, it means "Jumpstart Our Business Startups." The bill makes it easier for companies to "go public" -- sell stock to the public for the first time. It lets these businesses sidestep certain additional auditing procedures for up to five years. It opens up "crowdfunding" -- letting companies raise up to $2 million from investors online, while cutting out much of the usual disclosure process that companies now have to go through.

Gatekeepers - Good And Bad

If you are going to start a business you have to raise capital. This can be money you save up or borrow, but a serious business requires a serious investment. Please don't start a business without a careful process of thinking through the first two years of operation and having way more than enough money available to get you through that period! This means that no matter what the business is, you are probably going to need at least a few hundred thousand dollars. Most people don't have that available, which means you are going to have to go out and raise it.

Currently it is very difficult for small businesses to raise capital. The usual path is to go find a wealthy "angel" investor or a group of wealthy investors like a venture capitalist firm. If you have a bigger business and are ready to "go public" you typically have to partner with a Wall Street-style firm to guide you through the process. Selling stock is heavily regulated -- for very, very, very good reasons -- and the regulations make it very, very expensive to go public.

On the one hand, having to raise money usually means your plans will be tested and challenged, which is a good thing. It is a terrible mistake to start a business without going through the planning process and thinking through what you are getting into. A failing business takes a terrible toll on the wealth and health of the participants. On the other hand, because of the way things are currently structured businesses are largely dependent on the already-wealthy to raise capital, and the already-wealthy can demand a lot in return, because the current regulatory structure means they can. And all of this means that the not-already-wealthy do not have the opportunity to participate in these early-stage investments. The way things are today, it takes a whole lot of money to make money. It doesn't have to be this difficult.

Crowdfunding

"Crowdfunding" is a term used to describe the way the Internet has enabled the raising of large amounts of money quickly from lots and lots of small donors - the crowd. Regular people all across the country can hear from candidates, non-profits, etc., and decide to donate. When lots of people get involved very large amounts can be raised.

Howard Dean's Presidential campaign publicized the concept. The Internet enabled Dean to quickly raise millions of dollars in small amounts from lots and lots of people. During President Obama's campaign he famously raised $1 million in one minute through Internet crowdfunding.

Applying crowdfunding to the process of raising capital for small companies could transform our economy by democratizing the process. It can move the gatekeepers for the already-wealthy out of the way, and open up early-stage investment opportunities to participation by regular people. A small company could raise a million dollars in increments of $100 or even $10, and lots of people can share in the gains if the business is successful.

Online investment pools could examine and rate business plans for small, local businesses, and raise the money they need. Or a tech startup can raise enough "seed money" to get going, and be in a position to negotiate much better deals with venture firms when the time comes to raise much more. The small-amount investors could then be in a position to do quite well as the company grows.

And regular people -- people who don't already have tens of millions in the bank -- can participate in the process and share in the gains -- and, it must always be noted, the losses. But this can only succeed if regular people are protected from the fleecers and fraudsters and scammers.

Opportunities For Fleecing And Fraud

There is a reason for the burdensome regulations that protect investors. Those regulations were proven necessary because fraudsters would set up scam investments and whip up excitement, causing unsophisticated people to lose their life savings. This has happened again and again. Even with the current regulations how many people lost out during the "Tech Bubble" when a company needed only to add "dot com" to its name and its stock would soar?

SEC Chairman Mary L. Schapiro warns,“Too often, investors are the target of fraudulent schemes disguised as investment opportunities."

As written, the JOBS Act only removes protections against fraud, without adding any protections for regular people. The AFL-CIO has issued this statement, The Jobs Act—A Cynical and Dangerous Return to the Politics of Financial Deregulation,

Workers’ retirement savings will be in greater risk of fraud and speculation if securities market deregulation once again is railroaded through Congress. Once again our economy will be at risk from the folly of policymakers promoting financial bubbles and ignoring the needs of the real economy. The AFL-CIO calls on Congress to set aside the politics of the 1%, the old game of special favors for Wall Street, and turn to the business of real job creation. The labor movement strongly opposes the JOBS Act and any other effort to weaken the Dodd-Frank Act.

We support the efforts of Senate Democrats such as Jack Reed, Carl Levin, and Mary Landrieu to amend the “JOBS Act” to lessen the harm it does to investors, pension funds, and the U.S. economy.

Jesse Eisinger, writing at ProPublica in Congress’s Genius Jobs Plan—for Fraudsters, Shills, and Wall St. Analysts, makes the case

John Coffee, a Columbia Law professor, has hailed the bill as "the boiler room legalization act." And rightly so. Boiler room operations were one of the unsung job creators of the 1990s, producing some of America's greatest penny stocks and boom times for yacht makers and coke dealers.

... Taking advantage of the revolutionary possibilities of the Internet, the bill loosens decades-old investor protections so that companies can directly advertise to those who would like to be separated from their money. It does that by giving broad exemptions for start-ups that want to "crowdfund" by raising small amounts of money over the Internet. I.P.O. pitches next to "Lose Your Belly!" ads. Sounds like a great idea!

Nigeria shouldn't be the only country to benefit from the web. Right here in America, the elderly are increasingly attractive to a variety of entrepreneurial spirits. If JOBS becomes the law, such innovators could flourish.

Other provisions in the JOBS Act allow companies to solicit investors, with advertising, etc. This is a mistake.

Fixing The Bill

Crowdfunding is enabled by new technologies, and should be explored for democratizing and expanding investment opportunities. If done right this is an opportunity to enable companies to bypass the gatekeepers-of-wealth, and regular people to participate in a democratic investment economy. But it has to be done right, with adequate protections in place from the start.

The legislation has to limit what people can lose and ensure sufficient transparency, to make sure an investment is real and viable and is not a scam designed to take off with the cash.

There is a Reed-Landrieu-Levin amendment that addresses many of the concerns in the bill. According to the Consumer Federation of America, among other protections it,

...limits the companies that would qualify as “emerging companies” to those with less than $250 million in gross revenue and by eliminating the House bill’s exemptions from accounting rules, say-on-pay and golden parachute vote requirements, and executive compensation disclosures. And it provides somewhat greater protection than the House bill against a resurgence in the kind of abusive securities analyst practices that fueled the tech stock bubble and bust.

... It includes stronger pro-investor provisions from the Senate Reg A bill, including requirements for audited financial statements, SEC authority to require up-front disclosure and periodic reporting, and a negligence-based litigation remedy. Importantly, it improves on that bill by limiting companies to raising $50 million through Regulation A offerings over three years, rather than once every 12 months, thus significantly reducing the risk that this provision will be used to evade public reporting requirements for larger companies.

... takes important steps to minimize the potential for harm, in particular by requiring that crowd-funding be conducted through an appropriately regulated Internet portal and requiring offerings of all sizes to provide financial information to investors subject to regulatory requirements appropriate to the size of the offering.

Also, Senators Scott Brown (R-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Michael Bennet (D-CO), have introduced the bipartisan CROWDFUND Act (S. 2190). The CROWDFUND Act will:



This looks to be right on the money to me. Limit how much can be raised. Limit how much people can invest (lose). Require the online portals to provide information and transparency.

It is important that the House JOBS Act not pass as written. It is a scam-enabling bill that does what you would expect a Republican-written law to do. Namely, it would let the 1%ers fleece the 99% of whatever might remain in our bank accounts.

But internet-enabled crowdfunding of small and local businesses democratizes investment, and could transform our economy. Let's open up the regulations to let this begin, on a very small scale at least for now, and with good protections that keep people from being conned out of their money.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:31 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 12, 2012

You Want To Bring The Old Economy Back? Really?

There are small signs that real recovery might finally be kicking in. (Republicans have been able to obstruct it for only so long.) But we have not rewired the economic paradigm to work for the 99%, so any recovery will only bring back the imbalances that caused the problems in the first place. This means recovery may not have the electoral effects Democrats hope for, because any growth means the beneficiaries of the old economy are the beneficiaries of this recovery.

Green Shoots Taking Root?

The economy is not collapsing - today. There is at least some growth in most sectors, and this certainly beats continuing decline. The layoffs have slowed to a less gut-wrenching level and there is even hiring occurring. The overhanging inventory of unsold houses has pulled back from record levels. Car companies are doing well and you can't turn on the TV without seeing car commercials everywhere. Yes there are signs that "green shoots" might be taking root this time - maybe.

But at the same time, to what end?

Here We Go Again

Right on the tail of any green shoots we see signs of the old ways returning, the old imbalances resurfacing. People are running up credit cards again. Trade deficits with China are rising to extreme levels again. Banks and other giants are finding ways to soak scam fees out of customers again. Unrestrained financial-casino speculators are helping drive the price of gasoline to highest-ever levels. And here we go again: the top 1% captured 93% of the income gains in the first year of recovery.

This all shows an economy wired for the 1% will only benefit the 1% as it recovers. The gains are not trickling down.

THIS is what you call recovery?

Won't Help Election

Democrats and the President are hoping, hoping, hoping that signs of recovery will continue, and people will look more favorably at the President and his party. But any recovery that just goes back to the old economy will not help, because it will not help regular people. An economy wired for the 1% only helps the 1% during any recovery. Today's poll demonstrates this: Washington Post: Gas prices sink Obama's ratings on economy, bring parity to race for White House,

Disapproval of President Obama’s handling of the economy is heading higher — alongside gasoline prices — as a record number of Americans now give the president “strongly” negative reviews on the 2012 presidential campaign’s most important issue, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

"Recovery" only helps the President and Democrats if the recovery actually helps the 99%. Mere words won't do it.

Mere Words Won't Do It -- We Need An Actual Agenda For The 99%

Mere words won't do it. We need an agenda bigger than what we are doing now, otherwise we just "recover" an economy that didn’t work for working people or for the planet. We need actual change that people actually feel. This means a serious, meaningful attack on inequality and its effects. This means changing the wiring of the economy so We, the People again are in control.

Democrats have to be perceived as actually fighting for the interests of the 99%. The way to be perceived as doing this is to actually do it. This means bringing in people to the Treasury Department and economic advisors who don't actually work for the interests of Wall Street and the big banks and the 1%. This means actually fighting to raise taxes on the 1% back up to actually meaningful pre-Reagan levels. This means actually doing something about the trade agreements that pit the 99% against exploited workers who have no say, while creating massive trade deficits that drain our economy. This means actually providing good schools and college education that everyone can afford. This means an actual national industrial policy that helps us actually compete in the world's economy. This means actually fighting climate change. This means actually empowering workers to form unions so they can actually confront concentrated wealth and power with some actual leverage. This means actually hiring millions of people to actually modernize our infrastructure and retrofit our buildings to be energy efficient. This means an actual Medicare-for-All health care plan instead of just reinforcing the 1%er insurance giants. This means actually doing those things that need to be done.

Mere words won't do it. Actually rewriting the economic paradigm is what is actually required here.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:16 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 9, 2012

Cuts and Consequences - How Budget Cuts Hurt The Economy

Is smaller government really better for the economy? Conservatives chant that taxes and government "take money out of the economy" and we need to "cut and grow," meaning if government spending is cut way back the economy will grow as a result. Europe's conservatives are also forcing cuts in the things their governments do for regular people, claiming "austerity" will bring "confidence" that grows their economies. How is this experiment working out? What are we learning about the effect on the larger economy when government is cut?

What Does Government Do?

Almost everything the government does is because it needs to be done. We need roads, bridges, schools & colleges, dams, courts, police & fire departments, water management, etc. (We can discuss the need for military spending another time.)

These are all needed and contribute to the functioning of the economy. So if government is cut back and doesn’t do something that is needed, then how does it get done? Or does it just not get done? Either way, the real question we should be asking is what is the effect on the larger economy when our government cuts back on or stops doing needed things? If you save the “government” a bit of money but cost the economy a lot of money, are you saving money? Or are cuts in government really just shifting and even increasing the costs in the larger economy of doing these things?

Who Is Our Government For?

In the United States, our Constitution says that government is supposed to be of, by and for We, the People. The country was established after the colonists rebelled against the aristocracy of England -- a few people who had all of the wealth and power and would not let the colonists have a say in how things were run and who would benefit. So they fought the Revolutionary War and established a country where "We, the People" all have an equal say, and to "promote the general welfare." In other words, a country that aspires to be of, by and for the good of all of us.

So cutting back on government means cutting back on We, the People doing things for the good of all of us. It means cutting back on the things we have a say over. It means relinquishing the wealth and power that we hold in common to ... well, just where does our common wealth and power go if our government is cut back?

Medicare, For Example

Republicans say we need to cut back on what the government spends on Medicare. But if you cut Medicare the health problems of elderly people and the larger problem of fast-rising health care costs in the larger economy don’t disappear. In fact, both problems just get worse.

The "Ryan Budget" that Congressional Republicans voted to approve actually converts Medicare into a program that gives seniors a voucher that pays for part of a private medical insurance policy that seniors have to shop for. The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in Cost of Medicare Equivalent Insurance Skyrockets under Ryan Plan, took a look at that plan and explains what happens to the cost of health care. Summary: it shifts the costs to us, except each of us ends up paying as much as seven times as much as the same care costs under Medicare. From the CEPR explanation:

[The Republican] plan to revamp Medicare has been described as shifting costs from the government to beneficiaries. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), however, shows that the [Republican] proposal will increase health care costs for seniors by more than seven dollars for every dollar it saves the government, a point missing from much of the debate over the plan.

... In addition to comparing the costs of Medicare to the government under the current system and under the [Republican] plan, the authors also show the effects of raising the age of Medicare eligibility. The paper also demonstrates that while [the Republican plan] shifts $4.9 trillion in health care costs from the government to Medicare beneficiaries, this number is dwarfed by a $34 trillion increase in overall costs to beneficiaries that is projected ...

Repeat, the Republican plan to cut Medicare would cost the larger economy seven times as much as it cuts government spending.

Social Security, For Example

Conservatives have been trying to cut or gut Social Security for decades. While this might mean government has to pay out less of what is owed to seniors, such cuts would have a negative effect on the larger economy.

Social Security allows working people to retire with at least a minimal income. If this is cut many could not retire for many more years (if ever), which would increase the unemployment rate because their jobs would not open up. The same is true as the retirement age is increased - fewer job openings. If it is cut, the spending (on cat food) at local grocery stores and other necessities is reduced by the same amount. And the effect on children of retirees is increased, if they contribute to make up the difference.

This is why cutting Social Security or raising the retirement age only shifts costs onto the larger economy, dragging it down (and cruelly hurting our elderly).

Cutting Disease Control, For Example

One of the clearest examples of the way government helps us all, rich and poor, is the government's Center for Disease Control (CDC). One of the jobs of the CDC is to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. If an epidemic is spreading and killing people it doesn't matter if those people are rich or poor. And if a serious outbreak spreads this can damage the economy as people are too sick to, or decide not to show up for work. So of course cutting back the budget of the CDC could cause damage to the economy in any given year and is certain to cause damage eventually. (The CDC budget was cut back 11% last year.)

Budget Cuts Hurt The Economy

The above are only a few examples.

A government budget cut is like a huge tax increase on regular people because it increases what each of us pays for the things government does -- or forces us to go without. This is because cuts in government spending don’t actually cut the cost or the need for those things, they just shift those costs onto the larger economy. But because these shifts attack the economy-of-scale, transparency, integrity and public-good management that government provides, they almost always increase the costs and harms to the larger economy.


As budgets are cut, the costs are increased and shifted to the larger economy.

Austerity In Europe

Several countries in Europe are severely cutting budgets. The result is that the economies in those countries are slowing. Reuters: Euro zone's slump in late 2011 points to recession.

A collapse in household spending, exports and manufacturing sucked the life out of the euro zone's economy in the final months of 2011, the EU said on Tuesday, showing the scope of the downturn that looks set to become a fully fledged recession.

... The European Commission forecasts a recession of the same magnitude this year. That would be the euro zone's second contraction in just three years as the bloc's debt crisis drags on a region that generates around 16 percent of the world's economic output.

[. . .] The battle between austerity and growth was already evident in the fourth quarter. Euro zone government expenditure fell 0.2 percent, while industry contracted 2 percent and imports were down 1.2 percent, making for some of the worst readings since the world was dragged into the 2008/2009 financial crisis.

The austerity experiment is making the case: cutting government budgets just shifts costs and hurts the larger economy.

Who Benefits From Cuts?

Governments dance with the ones that brung 'em. Whoever controls government is naturally going to direct government to benefit them – and only them. We-the-People democracies do things for We, the People; plutocracies do things for plutocrats. So when, as now, plutocrats are running government, you will get a government that only does things that benefit plutocrats. And when We, the People were running government, we did things that benefit We, the People -- all of us.

The plutocrats now demanding government budget cuts obviously understand that this will result in slowing economies, but don't care -- they are already fabulously wealthy. What they want is reduced taxes and increased power. They say that cuts will bring growth, in order to persuade people to accept cuts. Blocking governments from providing things that don't directly benefit them and only them is a means to that end. And cutting government cuts government's ability to reign them in.

What We, the People Want

When We, the People are running government we insist that government increases overall prosperity. We demand laws and regulations that bring us good wages, benefits and safe working conditions. We demand good public schools & colleges, parks, safety and opportunities for our smaller businesses to fairly compete. We insist on a clean environment, consumer protections, regulations on business behavior, rules against monopolies and (after learning the hard way) rules that keep banks from taking risks that threaten the economy. And we want controls and limits on the use of wealth and power by the 1%ers.

Plutocrats -- the 1%ers -- of course see all of these protections of regular people as hindering their power and ability to make as much for themselves as they can grab. Plutocrats just don’t see how public parks benefit them. They just don’t see why they should have to pay for public schools. What good do public schools do them, today? Plutocrats don’t see why it should be anyone else's problem if old people don’t have health care -- health care for seniors certainly isn't their problem.

They explain that things for anyone other than themselves and their interests just “wastes money.” Things for regular people are not their problem. And when plutocrats run government, it isn't their problem.

The fact is a public park “costs money.” Schools and infrastructure are just more “government spending.” Things like that just "redistribute income" because taxes on the income of plutocrats is used to build that park or school that anyone can use. The basic message of the plutocrat is, "Why should I pay for anything that benefits you?"

You and I might argue that this kind of austerity, cutting schools, Medicare, infrastructure, etc. slows the larger economy, hurting the plutocrats, too. But that doesn’t hurt the ones who are already rich, which is the definition of plutocrat. It puts more in their pockets, today, by lowering their taxes. They want out of taxes and they don't want government (We, the People) interfering with their power.

What We, The People Need

Democracies where We, the People make decisions demand things that are good for regular people and their small businesses: pensions, health care, modernized infrastructure, good schools & colleges, child care, regulations on the behavior of giant corporations... This is why strong democracies have proven to be more prosperous for regular people and for longer than other forms of government that leave people on their own against the wealthy and powerful and drive all of the income and wealth to a few at the top. This is why so many regular working people in our country were so much more prosperous in the decades before the plutocratic 1%-favoring policies of Reagan steered us toward plutocracy.

Understand what is going on here. Demands for budget cuts and austerity are really about shifting from democracy to a system where regular people -- the 99% -- are on their own, up against the wealthy and powerful. This is about shifting from a system where regular people can be prosperous together, to a system where a few -- the 1% -- have all the wealth and power.

We, the People need democracy restored. We need to be in charge again, before the economy can improve.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:51 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 16, 2012

Will American Anti-Labor Policies Infect Europe?

I want to send a warning to working people in Europe: when you let your businesses save money by mistreating workers in other countries, it might teach them to think they can save money by mistreating you, too. Over here in the US we have learned this the hard way. We entered into "free trade" agreements that enabled our businesses to take advantage of exploited labor in countries like China, and the plutocrats used that as a wedge against us here to drive down our wages, get rid of our benefits and break our unions. Now your own business leaders are taking advantage of eroded labor rights here, and if you let them get away with this they will want to bring these working conditions back to you.

Recently in the post Democracy V. Plutocracy, Unions V. Servitude I described how American companies use China as a wedge to drive down wages and labor rights here,

The threat is in the air: "Shut up and take the wage cuts or we will move your job to China."

... Workers in countries like China where people have no say have low wages, terrible working conditions, long hours, and are told to shut up and take it or they won't have any job at all. They are given no choice.

Increasingly workers here have their wages, hours, benefits, dignity cut and are told to shut up and take it or their jobs will be moved to China. Because we are pitted against exploited workers in countries where people have no say, we have no choice.

The unions are weakened, the government doesn't enforce or weakly enforces labor laws and regulations, age, gender or race discrimination laws, worker safety laws, so workers are placed in a terrible squeeze. Workers who try to organize unions are isolated, moved, smeared, fired, humiliated, whatever it takes.

In countries like Germany workers are still paid fairly well and have benefits and rights. Here our pay, benefits and labor rights have eroded terribly. This is the result of American companies using exploited labor in countries like China as a wedge to force concessions at home. Can the same chain of events attack wages, benefits and unions in Europe? Last May, Harold Meyerson’s LA Times op-ed, The U.S.: Where Europe comes to slum, described how European companies come here and behave like American companies,

… slumming in America is fast becoming a business model for some of Europe's leading companies, and they often do things here they would never think of doing at home. These companies — not banks, primarily, but such gold-plated European manufacturers as BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen and Siemens, and retailers such as IKEA — increasingly come to America (the South particularly) because labor is cheap and workers have no rights. In their eyes, we're becoming the new China. Our labor costs may be a little higher, but we offer stronger intellectual property protections and far fewer strikes than our unruly Chinese comrades.

… The auto companies of Europe and Japan have opened factories in the nonunion South over the last couple of decades. Not one of them has agreed to refrain from waging a union-busting campaign should their workers wish to organize. Their stance could not be more different from their attitude toward workers and unions in their home countries.

Meyerson describes the kinds of anti-union, anti-worker things these companies are learning how to do,

As a report released by Human Rights Watch late last year documents, companies that routinely welcome unions, pay middle-class wages and have workers' representatives on their corporate boards in Germany and Scandinavia have threatened their U.S.-based employees with permanent replacement by other workers as the penalty for protesting wage cuts (that was the German manufacturer Robert Bosch), ordered workers to report on fellow workers' pro-union activities (that was T-Mobile, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom) and disciplined workers who couldn't show up for unscheduled weekend shifts announced on Friday night (that was IKEA, according to an L.A. Times story).

T-Mobile’s Anti-Union Efforts

Here is an example. Germany’s Deutsche Telkom is trying to turn their wholly-owned subsidiary US company T-Mobile into a low-wage, low-benefit, union-free dumping ground. Is this an effort to ultimately bring these tactics back home to break Germany’s unions?

This is how T-Mobile is operating now: In May T-Mobile workers in upstate New York filed a petition for a union election. Over the next three months management used anti-union “isolate and pressure” tactics to erode support. Instead of letting the workers decide for themselves if they wanted a union, they contested the effort and brought in a “union avoidance” specialist firm.

The company used excuses to delay the election, and launched a propaganda campaign, making the workers hear a constant barrage of reasons to suspect union motives, suspect the benefits the union promised, and other reasons not to vote for a union. They were repeatedly required to leave their job to attend meetings and conference calls, on company time, where they were lectured, given misinformation, told they would lose benefits they current had, that unions would make them pay $5,000 in dues every year, told again and again that the union was lying, that union organizers were only telling them things to get bonuses, told they must not ever talk to each other about the union on company time and that if they voted for a union the company would have to eliminate their jobs and contract out the work instead. After enough of this the workers withdrew the election petition.

The Sheer Weight Of This Wears You Down

When regular people who are just doing their jobs, who work hard and get up in the morning and go home tired and don’t make a lot have to face constant tactics of daily pressure by management, constantly being told that unions are evil and “unions bosses’ and “union thugs” are trying to trick them, and they are put under tactics that isolate them from being able to discuss what is true or not, finally the sheer weight of all of it together can be too much.

Again and again when workers try to form a union they are up against these tactics. Management repeatedly calls meetings where they give professionally-crafted propaganda speeches about all the terrible things that will happen if workers vote for a union. If a worker has the courage to stand up and talk about the good reasons for a union, they are excluded from future meetings and isolated from the other workers. (This is when a company stays legal and doesn’t just fire people who favor a union – not an uncommon tactic and it takes years for the company to be penalized for illegal firings, if it ever is.) In these situations management completely controls the message and keeps workers from hearing the other side.

Typical Here, Outrageous There

This all sounds normal to American workers, because this is what American companies do. This is what workers regularly face when they try to organize to make their workplace better and safer and get things like sick pay, decent wages and some benefits. We have sort of become used to this kind of treatment here. In America we have gone from 30% to 7% union membership because companies are allowed to fight unions, and routinely do things like this.

But T-Mobile is wholly owned by a German company. Germany respects workers rights and German workers would be absolutely shocked if they understood that a German company was doing this to workers. They would be shocked to even see a company try to stop a union – why would a good company want to?

Will American Anti-Labor Policies Infect Europe?

So here is the question for European working people to ask. Will Europe let the US be their China? American companies learned to use China as a weapon against workers here. Will European companies bring American anti-labor practices home as a weapon to break down European worker rights and living standards?

Will European companies learn to use American anti-labor practices against European workers? Or will European workers stop this in time? If you think this sort of thing can’t happen in Europe, just look at what is happening to Greek workers right now.

US workers are threatened with having to do things like China does them in order to compete. Will German workers be threatened and told things have to be like the US? Will they tell that German public that their policies need to be more “Business friendly?”

So this is a warning to European working people. Pay attention to what your companies are doing in the US. You really don’t want them learning to operate the way a lot of US companies operate, or your own wages, benefits and even your jobs could be on the line – like ours are here.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:43 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 15, 2012

China Is Very "Business-Friendly"

China is very, very "business-friendly." Corporate conservatives lecture us that we should be more "business-friendly," in order to "compete" with China. They say we need to cut wages and benefits, work longer hours, get rid of overtime and sick pay -- even lunch breaks. They say we should shed unions, get rid of environmental and safety regulations, gut government services, and especially, especially, especially we should cut taxes. But America can never be "business-friendly" enough to compete with China, and here is why.

Workers In Dormatories, 12 To A Room, Rousted At Midnight

China is very, very "business friendly." Recent stories about Apple's manufacturing contractors have started to reveal just how "business-friendly" China is. Recently the NY Times' Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher exposed the conditions of workers at Apple's Chinese suppliers, in How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work. They describe how China's massive government subsidies and exploitation of workers mean, as Steve Jobs told President Obama, “Those jobs aren’t coming back.”

One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. ... New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

Right. No American plant can roust workers out of nearby dorms at midnight to force them onto a 12-hour shift. And the corporate conservatives criticize America for this, not China, saying we are not "business-friendly" enough to compete. This is because we are a place where We, the People still have at least some say in how things are done. (Don't we?) Later in the story,

The first truckloads of cut glass arrived at Foxconn City in the dead of night, according to the former Apple executive. That’s when managers woke thousands of workers, who crawled into their uniforms — white and black shirts for men, red for women — and quickly lined up to assemble, by hand, the phones.

“Business-friendly” = living 12 to a room in dorms, rousted out of bed at midnight for 12-hour shifts, working in a plant paid for by the government, using a neurotoxin cleaner that harms people but enables more production for companies like Apple.

Forced Labor Is The Real "Business-Friendly"

Arun Gupta at AlterNet, in iEmpire: Apple's Sordid Business Practices Are Even Worse Than You Think, writes,

Researchers with the Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) say that legions of vocational and university students, some as young as 16, are forced to take months'-long “internships” in Foxconn’s mainland China factories assembling Apple products. The details of the internship program paint a far more disturbing picture than the Times does of how Foxconn, “the Chinese hell factory,” treats its workers, relying on public humiliation, military discipline, forced labor and physical abuse as management tools to hold down costs and extract maximum profits for Apple.

... Foxconn and Apple depend on tax breaks, repression of labor, subsidies and Chinese government aid, including housing, infrastructure, transportation and recruitment, to fatten their corporate treasuries. As the students function as seasonal employees to meet increased demand for new product rollouts, Apple is directly dependent on forced labor.

... The use of hundreds of thousands of students is one way in which China’s state regulates labor in the interests of Foxconn and Apple. Other measures include banning independent unions and enforcing a household registration system that denies migrants social services and many political rights once they leave their home region, ensuring they can be easily exploited. In Shenzhen about 85 percent of the 14 million residents are migrants. Migrants work on average 286 hours a month and earn less than 60 percent of what urban workers make. Half of migrants are owed back wages and only one in 10 has health insurance. They are socially marginalized, live in extremely crowded and unsanitary conditions, perform the most dangerous and deadly jobs, and are more vulnerable to crime.

Please read the entire AlterNet piece, iEmpire: Apple's Sordid Business Practices Are Even Worse Than You Think. These things are not “costs” that we can compete with by lowering our wages, these things are something else.

Not JUST Low Taxes -- Massive Government Subsidies

These stories also describe how the Chinese government massively subsidizes these operations, assists their low-wage labor-recruitment schemes, and looks the other way at violations of labor and trade policies. The Chinese government is very "business-friendly." They hand money to businesses so they are much more able to "compete." They are so friendly to business that they even own many businesses.

Trade Secret Theft

Another area where China has very "business-friendly" policies is when their own businesses steal from non-Chinese businesses. This NY Times story, U.S. to Share Cautionary Tale of Trade Secret Theft With Chinese Official details just one case of the "unbelievably endemic" problem of Chinese theft of "intellectual property" -- the trade secrets that keep businesses competitive. In this case China's Sinovel sole the software that ran an American company's products, and immediately cancelled their orders for those products because they could now make them in China:

Last March, China’s Sinovel, the world’s second largest wind turbine manufacturer, abruptly refused shipments of American Superconductor’s wind turbine electrical systems and control software. The blow was devastating; Sinovel provided more than 70 percent of the firm’s revenues.

... Last summer, evidence emerged that Sinovel had promised $1.5 million to Dejan Karabasevic, a Serbian employee of American Superconductor in Austria.

If you steal the ideas, processes, techniques, expertise, plans, designs, software and the other things that give companies a competitive edge, then you don't have to pay them and you can just make the things yourself. When you get in bed with a very "business-friendly" country, you might find that they are more friendly to their own businesses. Because they consider themselves to be a country with a national strategy, not a self-balancing, self-regulating "market."

Trade Deficit Drains Our Economy

As a result of our ideological blindness, refusing to understand China's game, we have a massive trade deficit with them. This means hundreds of billions of dollars are drained from our economy, year after year. And to make up for this we borrow from them in order to keep buying from them. But this does not cause their currency to strengthen in the "markets" because China loves this game the way it is going, and intervenes against the markets to keep their currency low. And so it continues, year after year. We believe in "markets" they believe in rigging markets so they come out ahead...

Markets Can't "Compete" With This

Corporate conservatives tell us we need to be more "business-friendly" to "compete" with China. But at the same time Steve Jobs was being a realist when he said "the jobs are never coming back" because he understood that the current political climate, controlled by a wealthy few who benefit from China's "business-friendly" policies will not let us fight this. Why should these companies bring jobs back here, when over there they can roust thousands from dorms at midnight and make them use toxic chemicals for 12 hours a day for very low pay to make iPhone screens that he can sell at fantastically high prices? Why should they, unless We, the People tell them they can't do that to people, and that we won't let them profit from it?

As long as we continue to think that this is about "markets" competing, we will lose. China sees itself as a nation, and they have a national strategy to continue to be so "business-friendly" that our businesses can't compete. Our leaders and corporations may have "moved on" past this quaint nation thing but China has not.

We, The People Need To Act To Fix This

As long as we continue to send our companies out there alone against national economic strategies that engage entire national systems utilizing the resources of nations, our companies will lose. But the executives at those companies are currently getting very rich now from these schemes, so what happens in the future is not their problem. Maybe the companies they manage won't be around later, but that is not their problem. Others are concerned, but are forced to play the game because no one can compete with national systems like China's.

When everyone is in a position where something isn't their problem, or where they can't do anything about it on their own, it means this is a larger problem, and this is where government -- We, the People -- needs to get involved. It is our problem but we have been convinced that we -- government -- shouldn't interfere, or "protect" our industries, because "the markets" don't like "government" -- We, the People -- butting in. This is a very convenient viewpoint for few who are geting very, very wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.

We Need A Plan

In U.S. must end China's rulers' free pass at Politico, AAM's Scott Paul writes, Read it, read it, read it!)

We shouldn’t fear China’s citizens. But we should be worried about the actions of its authoritarian — and, yes, still communist — regime that tightly controls the People’s Republic. And we should be downright terrified by some of our own leaders’ attitudes toward China.

... China is not merely the key U.S. supplier of cheap toys, clothing and electronics: Its government is also one of our foreign financiers. China achieved this status by defying the free market and its international obligations toward more open trade and investment.

[. . .] History didn’t do in the Soviet Union. A sustained and aggressive strategy did. China engaged our business and political elites — and seduced them into believing these policies were no longer necessary.

... There has been no strategy, no effort to prevail economically.

... No one is suggesting that China is an enemy and we should just update our Cold War strategies. No one can accurately define what China’s intentions are in terms of foreign policy or defense. But on the economic front, the lessons of the past are instructive: We need a plan.

We need a plan. We need to understand that China is not competing with us in "markets' they are competing with us as a nation. We need a national economic/industrial strategy that understands the urgent need to fight as a country to win the industries of the future.

It’s not just price, it is things a democracy cannot allow. We can’t ever be “business-friendly” ENOUGH. We have to do something else. We have to understand that We, the People -- the 99% -- are in a real fight here to keep our democracy, or we will lose what is left of it.

Democracy Is The Best Economics

When people have a say they demand good wages, benefits, reasonable working conditions, a clean environment, workplace safety and dignity on the job. We need more of that, not less of that. We must demand that goods made in places where people who do not have a say do not have a competitive advantage over goods made in places where people do have a say. And we must demand that those places give their people a say.

As long as we let democracy be a competitive disadvantage, We, the People will lose.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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February 2, 2012

FAA Bill Still Anti-Labor! Call Your Senators!

Not long ago, in A Win For Labor - FAA Bill Drops Anti-Union Language, I wrote that, "negotiators have dropped the anti-union language for votes to start a union. Republicans were insisting that no-shows be counted as "No" votes. Delta's check must have been mailed late."

Well, not so fast. While dropping a blatant anti-labor requirement that any non-voters be counted as 'no' voters, it turns out that the bill remains solidly and sneakily anti-labor. This is supposed to be a bill about airline safety and security, but the fight is over anti-labor provisions... what's up with that? Laura Clawson at Daily Kos writes in, Unions call on Democrats to reject poison pills buried in Republican 'compromise' on FAA,

When Republicans suggested that they would agree to a compromise on Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, dropping their demand to count workers who did not vote in union representation elections as having voted against the union in exchange for raising the threshold of workers asking to get a union representation election from 35 percent to 50 percent, there were two possibilities: Either Republicans were dropping a huge demand in exchange for something relatively minor and it was a bit of a win, or there was something sneaky buried in what Republicans now wanted.

Why This Fight?

The reason there is a fight over labor rules in an FAA bill at all is that Delta Airlines is trying to keep unions out, so the 1% can keep from paying good wages and benefits to the 99%. And, as usually happens, they are offering the Republican Party a share of the take if they can just make it happen for them. Such is our present-day political system. It seems to come down to who is giving the most money to the Republican Party gets priority in legislation. ("Drill, baby, drill!")

Compromise?

If you start with a bill that says, "kill all the unions, kill all the unions, kill all the unions, kill all the unions" and take out one "kill all the unions" is that a compromise? The unions are still killed three times over.

The FAA bill contains a number of provisions that make it nearly impossible to establish a union, including but not limited to:


So Will Dems Cave?

So the question is, will Democrats cave on this? Some are saying that they have "made compromises" but what has happened is they took out one part that makes it almost impossible to form a union while leaving in other parts that make it nearly impossible to form a union. The only "compromise" appears to be from almost impossible to nearly impossible and labor is screwed either way. Or, from above, the unions are killed three times over instead of four times over.

As David Dayen reports at Firedoglake, a number of labor organizations have signed a letter rejecting this "compromise." The unions signing the letter are the United Auto Workers union; Teamsters; Communications Workers of America; Association of Flight Attendants-CWA; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees-IBT; American Federation of Government Employees; International Association of Machinists; National Education Association; Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen-IBT; Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; Service Employees Local 32BJ-National Conference of Fireman and Oilers; Sheet Metal Workers; United Steelworkers; American Train Dispatchers Association; Transportation Communications Union-IAM; Amalgamated Transit Union; United Transportation Union; and UniteHere.

Fight Back Against Attacks By The 1%

Stand with these unions to help protect the middle class from attacks by the 1%. CALL YOUR SENATORS TODAY and tell them you want the FAA bill to be about airline safety and security, not busting unions.

Then, click here to sign a letter, Stop This Radical Threat to Workers' Rights:

Radical anti-union members of Congress are attempting to rewrite the Railway Labor Act and change the role of the National Mediation Board without debate or discussion. They have included drastic changes to the law in the FAA Reauthorization bill.

The changes these radicals are seeking would:

Make it much harder for airline and railroad workers to hold union representation elections.
Threaten airline and railroad workers’ right to a secret ballot during union representation campaigns, allowing for management intimidation and retaliation.
Allow airline and railroad management to decertify unions without an election in a merger.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:17 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 27, 2012

Democracy V. Plutocracy, Unions V. Servitude

Servitude: "a condition in which one lacks liberty especially to determine one's course of action or way of life"

Democracy: "a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections"

Plutocracy: government by the wealthy

Labor union: an organization of workers formed for the purpose of advancing its members' interests in respect to wages, benefits, and working conditions

You may have seen the recent flurry of stories about how hi-tech products are made in China. The stories focus on Apple, but it isn't just Apple. These stories of exploited Chinese workers are also the story of how and why we -- 99% of us, anyway -- are all feeling such a squeeze here, because we are suffering the disappearance of our middle class. Our choice is democracy or servitude.

Working In China

A collection of excerpts from the Charles Duhigg and David Barboza story, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad and the Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher story, How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work both from the NY Times:

Rousted from dorms at midnight, told to work:

Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

“Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow.”

Banners on the walls warned the 120,000 employees: “Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow.”

(How close is that to the very definition of servitude?)

Long shifts, legs swollen from standing:

Shifts ran 24 hours a day, and the factory was always bright. At any moment, there were thousands of workers standing on assembly lines or sitting in backless chairs, crouching next to large machinery, or jogging between loading bays. Some workers’ legs swelled so much they waddled. “It’s hard to stand all day,” said Zhao Sheng, a plant worker.

Write confessions if late:

Mr. Lai was soon spending 12 hours a day, six days a week inside the factory, according to his paychecks. Employees who arrived late were sometimes required to write confession letters and copy quotations. There were “continuous shifts,” when workers were told to work two stretches in a row, according to interviews.

Injuries from speed-up toxics:

Investigations by news organizations revealed that over a hundred employees had been injured by n-hexane, a toxic chemical that can cause nerve damage and paralysis.

Employees said they had been ordered to use n-hexane to clean iPhone screens because it evaporated almost three times as fast as rubbing alcohol. Faster evaporation meant workers could clean more screens each minute.

American companies forcing Asian suppliers to squeeze workers:

“You can set all the rules you want, but they’re meaningless if you don’t give suppliers enough profit to treat workers well,” said one former Apple executive with firsthand knowledge of the supplier responsibility group. “If you squeeze margins, you’re forcing them to cut safety.”

The Results For The 1%

A series of recent newspaper headlines tells the story of how China's working conditions benefit the 1% here.

NYT: Apple's Profit Soars‎

CBS Moneywatch: Apple shares close at record high

SF Chronicle: Apple CEO's Stock Awards Lift Compensation to $378 Million

ZDNet: Apple: made in China, untaxed profits kept offshore. We don't even get to tax the profits from moving our jobs to China, to use for schools, roads, police, etc.

The Results For The 99%

Headlines like these show how things are going better and better for the 1%. But what happened to our middle-class prosperity? We allowed companies to move jobs and factories across the borders of democracy to places where workers are exploited, calling that "trade." This enabled the breaking of unions and the weakening of our democracy.

The threat is in the air: "Shut up and take the wage cuts or we will move your job to China." How is that threat used on us? Here is an example: We have heard the stories of Mitt Romney's company Bain Capital, and how it "earned" its millions. According to the Christian Science Monitor, this is the story of what happened when a Bain-owned company "came to town":

The new owner, American Pad & Paper, owned in turn by Bain Capital, told all 258 union workers they were fired, in a cost-cutting move. Security guards hustled them out of the building. They would be able to reapply for their jobs, at lesser wages and benefits, but not all would be rehired.

Workers in countries like China where people have no say have low wages, terrible working conditions, long hours, and are told to shut up and take it or they won[t have any job at all. They are given no choice.

Increasingly workers here have their wages, hours, benefits, dignity cut and are told to shut up and take it or their jobs will be moved to China. Because we are pitted against exploited workers in countries where people have no say, we have no choice.

The unions are weakened, the government doesn't enforce or weakly enforces labor laws and regulations, age, gender or race discrimination laws, worker safety laws, so workers are placed in a terrible squeeze. Workers who try to organize unions are isolated, moved, smeared, fired, humiliated, whatever it takes.

This quote by Steve Jobs is from How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work,

Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.

Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.

Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.

Democracy Brought Us Prosperity

We used to be a democracy, where everyone used to have a say in things. Because we had a say we built up a country with good schools, good infrastructure, good courts, and we made rules that said workers had to be safe, get a minimum wage, overtime, weekends… we protected the environment, we set up Social Security. We took care of each other. This made us prosperous. A share of the prosperity for the 99% was the fruit of democracy.

China, on the other hand, is not a democracy, and workers in China don't really have a say. So they don't make much money, they don't have good working conditions, the environment isn't protected, etc.

We Used To Protect Democracy

We used to protect our democracy. We used to put a tariff on goods coming in if they were made by people who didn’t have the ability to speak up and better their condition. We’d let the goods in but we would use a tariff to strengthen our country, our infrastructure, our schools – our democracy. This brought us prosperity.

For some reason, we started letting our companies move our factories over there, forcing our workers to compete with workers who have no say. We got tricked, by people who call that "trade," and said it would be good for us. (Like cutting taxes for the wealthy "job creators" is good for us.)

We opened the borders and let the big companies move the jobs, factories and industries over the border of our democracy, to places where workers don't have a say, so they are exploited. And the result was the big corporations were able to come back and cut our pay, and get rid of our pensions, and tell us, "take it, shut up, or we will move your job, too." We made the wages and working and conditions and environmental protections prosperity that democracy brings into a cost. We turned ourselves into a cost. We made democracy a competitive disadvantage.

Plutocrats Say Shed Benefits Of Democracy

Plutocrats say we need to shed the benefits of democracy and become more like China if we want to compete. They say get rid of regulations, employee protections, environmental protections, good wages, benefits like pensions and time off, etc... They say that We, the People (government) "get in the way of doing business." They say the taxes that pay for good infrastructure and schools and police and courts and services like Social Security and care for the disabled and health care for children "take money out of the economy" but they mean these take some of the money that they have been taking from the economy.

Democracy Is The Best Economics

Look at the primary target of the corporate/conservatives: unions. That should tell you something. This is a power confrontation. This is the power of the 1% overcoming the power of the 99%.

Democracy is the power of the 99% to make the decisions, and to build structures that protect us from exploitation by the wealthy and powerful. This confrontation is the story of the origin of our country -- how We, the People confronted the power and corruption of the British aristocracy, overcame that power, and built a country of, by and for the people.

Democracy and the taxes it enabled us to ask from the wealthiest is what enabled us to build the infrastructure and schools and everything that enabled our prosperity. The regulations of democracy are what enable our smaller businesses to compete with the giants. The shared prosperity -- redistribution of wealth -- is what enabled the middle class to grow, and turned us into the most prosperous country and largest market in the world.

Unions

Unions are about building up the power of groups of people, to confront and overcome the advantages of wealth and the power wealth brings to a few. When a union is strong enough to be able to confront the power of big corporations the result is that the 99% get a share of the pie. When unions are strong we all get better wages and better working conditions and a say in how we are treated, whether we are in unions or not. The benefits flow to the rest of the economy.

It would be nice if our system worked well enough that we didn't need to organize unions on top of the structure of laws and regulations, but it is just the fact of life that the wealthy and powerful and their corporations have throughout our history been able to exert tremendous influence over legislative bodies, again and again. So to fight that working people organize and build these organized unions of people, and leverage that power of the group to demand wages and benefits and weekends and a share of the prosperity. The story of the power confrontation between unions of working people (99%) and the large corporations (1%) is the story of how we built a middle class that brought us the prosperity we enjoyed.

It is not just a coincidence that the weakening of the unions coincides with the decline of the middle class. It is not just a coincidence that the current rise of the plutocrats brings in a swarm of anti-union legislation. It is not just a coincidence that the times when our democracy is strongest we all do so much better. And now, when our demcoracy has been weakened by the money and power of the 1% and their corporations, the rest of us are so much worse off.

Not US v. China

This is not about US workers and markets vs China. Working people in all countries are at risk when their countries trade with countries where workers are exploited. China's huge trade imbalance is threatening the world's economy. The loss of manufacturing to countries that exploit workers is threatening workers in many countries.

The US market is still large, and the US can still demand that imported goods be made according to better standards for workers. The rest of the world can also demand that China's workers be brought up to international standards. And we can certainly hold companies like Apple accountable, and demand that they only buy from suppliers that treat and pay workers according to international standards, because allowing companies to cheat, exploit workers and commit fraud drives the good companies out of business.

This is not about taking jobs back from Chinese workers! This is about demanding they be paid fairly and given a say in their workplaces! This is about not exploiting people there or here!

Trade can be an upward spiral, rather than a lever for exploitation of the 99% by the 1%. If Chinese workers are given a say and paid fairly then they can buy things we make and we can keep buying things they make.

Unions = Democracy = Middle Class = Shared Prosperity

Jon Stewart explains:

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,The Daily Show on Facebook


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:42 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 26, 2012

Anti-Union "Right-To-Work" Laws Really A Tax On Unions

Indiana is about to pass what is called a "right-to-work" law. These laws prohibit union contracts from requiring workers to be in the union and paying dues to the union, while forcing the unions to provide full benefits to the non-unions members for free. The idea is to weaken and defund the union's (99%) ability to push back against the big corporations (1%).

CSM: With Indiana 'right to work' vote, a GOP thumb in the eye to unions,

Indiana is poised to become the first state in the upper Midwest to follow the lead of Southern "right to work" states, taking a big step Tuesday to bar unions from requiring nonunion workers to pay membership dues for representation in bargaining.

... Democrats framed the bill's passage as a political maneuver by Republicans to weaken union strength in the state.

“The only places where today’s events will be cheered is in the boardrooms of big businesses and corporations across this state," said the top House Democrat, Patrick Bauer, in a statement Tuesday. "The House Republicans just helped increase the profit margins for these companies at the expense of their workers.”

Union dues have long been a target of Republican lawmakers, who say those dues are often used to further a Democratic agenda and to elect Democrats to office. The right-to-work legislation hits unions right in their pocketbooks, reducing their ability to wield clout in elections and during negotiations over labor contracts.

Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research explains that this is really just a tax on union members, in Indiana Imposes Tax on Workers Who Support Unions,

The NYT reported that Indiana's legislature approved a measure that requires that the workers who support a union at the workplace pay for the representation of the workers who choose not to pay for the union's representation. It would have been helpful to remind readers that a union is legally obligated to represent all the workers in a bargaining unit, regardless of whether a worker has opted to join the union.

This means that non-members not only get the same wages and benefits that the union gets for its members, they also are entitled to the union's protection in the event of disputes with the employer. Most states allow workers to sign contracts that require non-union members to pay for the benefits they receive from the union.

The bill passed by Indiana's legislature prohibits unions and employers from signing this sort of contract. Instead, it requires unions to provide free representation to non-members.

So Indiana and other states say, by law, that unions have to pay for contract negotiations, have to pay for union reps to handle grievance cases, etc., and are not allowed to require those they represent and who benefit from labor contracts to join the union and pay dues.

This is just one more scam by the 1% to keep the 99% from being able to do anything about their condition.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:04 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Sound Familiar?

Apple’s iPad and the Human Costs for Workers in China - NYTimes.com

Banners on the walls warned the 120,000 employees: “Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow.”


Sound familiar? The is the wedge that is used to destroy the middle class here. Over there it makes them accept 12-14 hours, 6-7 days a week, sometimes standing the whole time.

The unions here were weakened... Over there they can't have unions.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:24 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 23, 2012

To Get Our Economy Back Hold Cheaters, Fraudsters And Exploiters Accountable

The spiral-to-the-bottom and inequality we are suffering is not an inevitable result of globalization, it is what happens when we don't hold cheaters and exploiters accountable and stop them. This is not just about Wall Street, it is the story of what has happened to our wages and benefits, jobs, factories, companies, industries, economy and democracy in the last 30-or-so years.

Cheaters, Fraudsters and Exploiters

If cheaters and exploiters are not held accountable and fraudsters are not prosecuted, then the advantages this brings them forces honest players out. We're all waiting to see if there is a deal in the works that lets big banksters off the hook for mortgage fraud and other (uninvestigated) crimes, making their shareholders pay fines for them instead. But that story of the 1%'s fraud and cheating and the consequences to the 99% are not what I am writing about here. This post is about how letting 1%er cheaters, fraudsters and exploiters off the hook has hurt America's manufacturing and trade.

Apple Can't Make It Here

Recent news stories about Apple hilight how we allowed our thriving, high-paying manufacturing sector to erode, with the result that our middle class is in decline. Apple used to proudly make their computers in the United States, but now everything is made in Asia. The NY Times' Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher, in How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work describe how China's massive government subsidies and exploitation of workers mean “Those jobs aren’t coming back.”

The Entire Supply Chain Is Over There

China has done what it needs to do to bring factories, which bring supply chains, which bring industries. The NYT story describes what it means to have an entire supply chain located where the factories are,

When an Apple team visited, the Chinese plant’s owners were already constructing a new wing. “This is in case you give us the contract,” the manager said, according to a former Apple executive. The Chinese government had agreed to underwrite costs for numerous industries, and those subsidies had trickled down to the glass-cutting factory. It had a warehouse filled with glass samples available to Apple, free of charge. The owners made engineers available at almost no cost. They had built on-site dormitories so employees would be available 24 hours a day.

The Chinese plant got the job.

“The entire supply chain is in China now,” said another former high-ranking Apple executive. “You need a thousand rubber gaskets? That’s the factory next door. You need a million screws? That factory is a block away. You need that screw made a little bit different? It will take three hours.”

Subsidies are often a violation of trade rules. Even so, as the article says, "The Chinese government had agreed to underwrite costs for numerous industries, and those subsidies had trickled down to the glass-cutting factory." So, of course, "the Chinese plant got the job." Meanwhile, our own country has resisted having an "industrial policy" to keep our industries and foster new ones. This is finally changing, but good efforts like "Buy American" and President Obama's green energy policies are fought tooth-and-nail.

Exploited Workers

Another key part of China's advantage is the ability to exploit workers and get away with it -- which lets Apple get away with it, too. And when Apple sees violations, it doesn't stop them.

One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

Later in the story,

The first truckloads of cut glass arrived at Foxconn City in the dead of night, according to the former Apple executive. That’s when managers woke thousands of workers, who crawled into their uniforms — white and black shirts for men, red for women — and quickly lined up to assemble, by hand, the phones.

... The company disputed some details of the former Apple executive’s account, and wrote that a midnight shift, such as the one described, was impossible “because we have strict regulations regarding the working hours of our employees based on their designated shifts, and every employee has computerized timecards that would bar them from working at any facility at a time outside of their approved shift.” The company said that all shifts began at either 7 a.m. or 7 p.m., and that employees receive at least 12 hours’ notice of any schedule changes.

Foxconn employees, in interviews, have challenged those assertions.

Apple Audits Its Suppliers, Finds Many Violations

Earlier this month Apple released a report describing the practices of its suppliers. NY Times: Apple Lists Its Suppliers for 1st Time,

Apple said audits revealed that 93 supplier facilities had records indicating that over half of workers exceeded a 60-hour weekly working limit. Apple said 108 facilities did not pay proper overtime as required by law. In 15 facilities, Apple found foreign contract workers who had paid excessive recruitment fees to labor agencies.

And though Apple said it mandated changes at those suppliers, and some showed improvements, in aggregate, many types of lapses remained at general levels that have persisted for years.

William K Black, writing in Apple's Foreign Suppliers Demonstrate Widespread Scamming and Horrific Abuse of Employees at AlterNet, looked at Apple's report. Black writes that the audit of suppliers, "shows that anti-employee control fraud is the norm."

Black says that two things stand out in the report,

First, Apple rarely terminates suppliers for defrauding their employees – even when the frauds endanger the lives and health of the workers and the community – and even where Apple knows that the supplier repeatedly lies to Apple about these fraudulent and lethal practices. Second, it appears unlikely in the extreme that Apple makes criminal referrals on its suppliers even when they commit anti-employee control frauds as a routine practice, even when the frauds endanger the worker’s and the public’s health, and even when the supplier repeatedly lies to Apple about the frauds. Apple’s report, therefore, understates substantially the actual incidence of fraud by the 156 suppliers (accounting for 97% of its payments to suppliers).

As Black wrote, "Apple knows that the supplier repeatedly lies to Apple about these fraudulent and lethal practices" and "...it appears unlikely in the extreme that Apple makes criminal referrals on its suppliers" Apple doesn't stop these violations. They get too much of a competitive advantage out of it.

This Is Fraud

When you buy a product you assume that it is on the shelf at the cost you are asked to pay because laws and regulations were followed and standards were met. So you buy the one that has the right quality at the right price. But what if a product has a low cost as the result of cheating, exploitation and violations of environmental, labor and trade laws? What if there is a lie at the root of the transaction you are engaged in?

China's massive investment in capturing entire industries -- a violation of trade laws -- means that many of the components of the high-tech manufacturing supply chain have migrated out of the US to that country. And China's non-democracy political system means that workers have few, if any rights, and often the rights they have are not enforced. Black says American companies taking advantage of this are engaging in "a form of control fraud (fraud in which the head of a company subverts it for personal gain)."

Anti-employee control frauds most commonly fall into four broad, but not mutually exclusive, categories – illegal work conditions due to violation of safety rules, violation of child labor laws, failure to pay employees’ wages and benefits, and frauds based on goods and loans provided by the employer to the employee that lock the employee into quasi-slavery.

Allowing Fraud Drives Legitimate Businesses Out Of Existence

The key point Black makes is that allowing cheating, fraud and exploitation to continue brings them advantages that drive legitimate businesses out,

George Akerlof, in his famous article on markets for “lemons” (largely describing anti-customer control fraud), explained the perverse “Gresham’s” dynamic in 1970: "[D]ishonest dealings tend to drive honest dealings out of the market. The cost of dishonesty, therefore, lies not only in the amount by which the purchaser is cheated; the cost also must include the loss incurred from driving legitimate business out of existence.”

A Criminogenic Environment

Specifically, what this means to companies that try to compete with companies like Apple,

Anti-employee control fraud creates real economic profits for the firm and can massively increase the controlling officers’ wealth. Honest firm normally cannot compete with anti-employee control frauds, so bad ethics drives good ethics out of the markets. Companies like Apple and its counterparts create this criminogenic environment by selecting least-cost – criminal – suppliers who offer components at prices that honest firms cannot match. Effectively, they hang out a sign – only the fraudulent need apply to be suppliers

When we let companies get away with building products in places that violate trade rules, allow environmental degradation, exploit workers, cut corners on safety, use cheap components and ingredients, these companies get cost advantages that force honest companies out of business. This is the story of our economy. This is why our middle class is engaged in a race to the bottom.

Should Companies Like This Exist In The US?

Robwert Cruickshank puts two and two together, in a must-read post, Thinking Differently About Apple and 21st Century Society. He writes,

In the last year or two, it’s become increasingly clear that the way Apple makes its products is deeply flawed. Working conditions at the factory which makes most of their products – Foxconn in Shenzhen, China – are so appalling that workers engaged in a rash of suicides in 2010 to ameliorate their own suffering. Earlier this year workers threatened mass suicide over pay and working conditions. And of course, there’s the fact that Apple makes these products overseas rather than in the United States, where unemployment remains at some of the highest levels we’ve seen since the Great Depression.

Cruickshank asks if companies with this attitude should be allowed to continue to do business? He writes that Apple has,

...a narrow focus on their products and their profits, and disdain wider concerns for the good of society. When an unnamed Apple executive was asked about their role in addressing America’s economic problems, their response was revealing:
They say Apple’s success has benefited the economy by empowering entrepreneurs and creating jobs at companies like cellular providers and businesses shipping Apple products. And, ultimately, they say curing unemployment is not their job.

“We sell iPhones in over a hundred countries,” a current Apple executive said. “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.”

That quote is perhaps the best encapsulation of the pathologies of the modern American corporation. In fact, Apple does have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Everyone who lives in this country has that obligation. And corporations have that obligation too. If they don’t want to help make things better, then they shouldn’t exist.

Then he gets to the wider point,

The notion that companies exist only to generate profit or build a specific few set of products is corrosive. Those profits and products serve the rest of society. And as a part of that society, companies and their executives exist to make that society a better place. If they are engaged in a set of practices that make society worse off, then those actions are indefensible and need to be changed.

For the last 30 years, American businesses have been devoted to a single-minded pursuit of maximizing short-term profits. Unsurprisingly, this has had profound ripple effects throughout the rest of society. The economy became focused on those profits, and so with it followed politics, culture, and our values as a civilization.

By now it should be clear to everybody that while this works well for the small elite that has hoarded all these profits – the so-called “1%” – it has utterly failed to provide a happy and fulfilled life for everyone else.

Here I quote Cruickshank quoting Black, who is looking at Apple's report of its suppliers, with "overwork and other forms of employment fraud being rampant."

As William K. Black explains at Alternet, this is a good example of what may be a widespread tolerance for fraud in the global economy:
These frauds take place abroad, but they harm employees at home. Mitt Romney explains that Bain had to slash wages and pensions to save firms located in the U.S. who had to meet competition from foreign anti-employee control frauds. The damage from foreign anti-employee control frauds drives the domestic attack on U.S. manufacturing wages. Bad ethics increasingly drive good ethics out of the markets and manufacturing jobs out of the U.S. and into more fraud-friendly nations.

"These Frauds Take Place Abroad But They Harm Employees At Home"

Once again, for emphasis, "these frauds take place abroad, but they harm employees at home."

If we want the downward slide to stop we have to decide to hold the cheaters, exploiters and fraudsters accountable for their actions. At home the efforts by the giant corporations to keep the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) from doing their jobs, enforcing the rules and holding them accountable further show how this is affecting us all. Abroad we have to demand enforcement of labor and trade rules so companies like Apple can not gain advantages that put more ethical and honest companies out of business. We certainly should not be letting products made there have cost advantages here and stiff tariffs can fix that. Letting companies get away with this makes democracy a competitive disadvantage.

We have to get mad and hold the cheaters, fraudsters and exploiters accountable.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:43 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 20, 2012

The Kangaroo Court of Wall Street

A story of systemic corruption, everyone paid off. Instead of an excerpt, just go read: The Kangaroo Court of Wall Street | The Big Picture

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:15 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Keystone Pipeline: Canadian Oil To China

The Keystone pipeline is about helping Canadian companies get rich(er) by exporting tar sands oil to China, with a stop at Koch refineries.

Republican efforts to force it through are being done in exchange for a cut of the take.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:39 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 19, 2012

Why Keep The Capital Gains Tax Break?

Mitt Romney's ultra-low tax rate on his ultra-high income is reviving questions about the breaks and perks that the wealthiest of the 1% receive from the rest of us. One of these is a special low tax rate for investments -- as if anyone needed special tax incentives to induce them to make a bundle.

High Incomes At The Top

How much does Romney make? We won't know until we get a chance to see his tax returns -- if we do -- but Romney described his $374,328 income from speaking fees last year as "not very much." If $374K is "not very much" of his income ... well ... at least we can understand why he feels he can casually make $10,000 bets as if he was just pulling a dime from his pocket.

In his post What Mitt's Taxes Could've Paid For (If Not For Those Cushy Tax Breaks), Richard Eskow writes,

1,470 households made more than a million dollars and yet paid nothing -- zero, zip, nada -- in Federal income tax in 2009.

[. . .] The top 25 hedge fund managers in the US made $22 billion in 2010.

Low Taxes At The Top

Mitt Romney's admission that he probably pays a 15% tax rate shows us what is going on. For you or me, when our taxable income passes about $35,000, we start paying a 25% rate, much higher than Mitt pays on his millions on income. (That doesn't mean we pay 25% on money up to $35K, which is what most people think. It means any additional money we make after the $35K is taxed at that higher rate rate. If we make $35,001 we only pay an increase of ten cents. That's how tax brackets work.)

Lots Of Money To Use To Attack The Deficits

This special low tax rate on capital gains is sucking a lot of money out of We, the People's ability to pay for our schools, military, infrastructure, etc, which is part of why we are borrowing so much. How much? Continuing to steal from Richard Eskow's post,

As we wrote earlier, eliminating these tax breaks would add as much as $44 billion to our bottom line in the next ten years. Or to put it another way:

Ending cushy breaks for these 25 billionaires could also reduce the deficit by as much as $44 billion. Paging all deficit hawks!

In 2008 the taxable income of everyone earning above $100,000 was $3.4 trillion. If we concentrate our tax reform on the upper end of that spectrum -- the Romneys, not the folks in the $100-$400 thousand range -- we know that every percentage point in increased collection comes out to another $34 billion per year. That ain't chicken feed.

Why The Low Capital Gains Tax Rate?

The justification for a special tax rate for gains from investing capital is supposed to be to provide an incentive to invest. But there is already a really good incentive to invest: to make a bundle of cash. Piling a special "incentive" on top of making a bundle of cash creates market distortions - moving investors away from deciding where to put their money based on the value and merits of the investment and toward tax-reduction schemes.

The necessary precondition for investing capital is having capital. So a tax break on the return from investing capital is by definition a break for the well-off. Here is the reality: capital gains are taxed at a lower rate because most of the income of the 1% is from capital gains, and most of the income of the 1% is from capital gains because the tax rate is lower. The "incentive to invest" should be making a good investment, period.

I'll bet you $10,000 that getting rid of this tax break helps fix the deficit, and leads to a saner investment climate. (Of course, I'm kidding, I think that is a lot of money.)


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:35 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Did The President's Jobs Council Go All Corporate?

President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness ("Jobs Council") issued a report calling for fewer regulations and lower corporate tax rates. This doesn't have to be a bad idea.

The Report

The Jobs Council report, Road Map to Renewal makes a number of recommendations. Here are the main points - please click through for the details:

Council Heavily Weighted Toward 1%

The Jobs Council is heavily, heavily, heavily weighted to tilt toward the 1%. The list of members reads "Chair and CEO" with a smattering of ultra-wealthy finance types thrown in, and then a couple of token union leaders.

The Objections

United Food and Commercial Workers president Joseph Hansen abstained from voting. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released a 1635-word dissent. In the dissent Trumka writes, (emphasis added)

I agree with the overall spirit and a number of the specific recommendations in today’s report ... I absolutely agree ... that the United States is falling behind our international counterparts in investing in modern infrastructure, education, and skills; supporting a vibrant manufacturing sector; developing cost-effective and globally responsible energy practices; and supporting innovation. ...

Unfortunately, I believe the report downplays the need for a proactive role for the U.S. government in many of these areas; fails to address the significant additional revenues needed to address the challenges identified on an appropriate scale; and in many cases erroneously identifies the root causes of the underlying structural problems.

... the report addresses regulatory issues as if we were not in the midst of a prolonged economic crisis whose proximate causes clearly included inadequate regulation of business, and in particular financial markets and institutions.

With respect to corporate tax reform, I believe that corporations as a group pay too low a share of taxes to support the kind of infrastructure investment and education/skills upgrades that are so urgently needed at this time... The report places way too much emphasis on statutory tax rates, mentioning only as an aside that the effective rates paid by corporations are much lower, and that overall corporate tax revenues as a percent of GDP are the fourth lowest in the OECD.


Yes, We Can Cut Corporate Taxes ... If

Actually, we can cut corporate taxes, increasing our international competitiveness, while We, the People still fund our democracy and get paid back for our investment that enabled the prosperity of the corporations. Here's how: Cut corporate taxes, but raise taxes on the 1%er owners of the corporations. Stop the nonsense of lower capital gains tax rates, and restore pre-Reagan top tax rates. Also, require corporations to either use their cash or pay it out to shareholders instead of just sitting on it as many do now.

Capital gains are taxes at a lower rate because most of the income of the 1% is from capital gains, and most of the income of the 1% is from capital gains because the tax rate is lower. The "incentive to invest" should be a good investment, period.

What does cutting corporate tax rates accomplish? First, by cutting corporate tax rates the right ways our companies could become more competitive with companies in other countries. This can be an incentive to locate companies here. But we don't have to just sacrifice this revenue by any means. Instead we can tax it when it becomes personal income. But cutting corporate tax rates without increasing personal income tax rates to make up for it -- which happens to be the DC elite consensus as voiced by Simpson-Bowles -- is complete folly, nothing more than another scam by the 1% to rob We, the People. It is essential that a cut in corporate tax rates happen at the same time as taxes on the resulting personal income are increased, along with requirements that corporate money is either used inside the company or paid out to shareholders.

Look at this chart, which tells you everything you need to know about the who what when where and why of corporations. Corporate wealth is also personal wealth. When you hear about corporations doing well, think about this chart:

wealth2

Yes, the top 1% also own 50.9% of all stocks, bonds, and mutual fund assets. The top 10% own 90.3%. And it's most likely only gotten worse since these figures were gathered.

Cut The Right Regulations

When the elite DC consensus calls for cutting regulations, they mean regulations that hamper the 1%'s ability to fleece us even more. But there are regulations that actually do impede competitiveness.

Here is what usually happens in DC. After Congress passes laws the regulatory bodies translate the laws into a regulatory framework. This is where the giant companies and their lobbyists get to work. The work they do is influencing these agencies to write regulations that help them, the 1%er corporations that can afford to swarm the agencies with lobbyists -- and that obstruct their competition. So we end up with a situation where small businesses and startups don't have a chance making it through the regulatory maze. They either have to hire specialized, $1000-an-hour DC law firms to help them out, or give up. This is by 1%er design, not because of "big government."

So yes, there are regulatory impediments to competition, but I don't think this form of "cutting regulations" means what the 1%ers on the Jobs Council and the big corporate-elites think it means.

Education

On education, the Jobs Council recommends,

In order to stay competitive in a global age, we must invest in our future by ensuring Americans have the right education and skills to realize their full potential and drive our nation’s economic success. ... These measures will create a purposeful educational system that produces work-ready graduates, satisfied employers with access to a talented labor pool, and a vibrant economy poised for growth and success.

Trumka writes,

With respect to the education section of the report, I believe that the Jobs Council’s education recommendations begin and end in the wrong place: focusing on providing businesses with an endless supply of workers -- as opposed to supporting, improving and sustaining a strong public education system.

So the report calls on government to reconfigure our education system to provide companies with trained worker-bees, which means companies don't have to cough up the dough themselves to train their own workers. The report actually goes even further, basically calling for government to replace think-for-yourself education with do-what-we-say job training. There's a difference. And they ask for this after already asking for tax cuts, too. Sheesh.

The Rest

On energy the 1%ers of course mean "drill, baby, drill." But the council is correct, we do need to go "all-in" on energy, with massive Green Energy investment, freeing us from the damage Big Oil and King Coal do to our environment, our economy, our politics and our democracy.

On manufacturing the council notes that since 1980 manufacturing has slipped from 20% to only 9% of total employment,. The report calls for adding "three to four percentage points of global value added market share—an ambitious but achievable goal." They say we should :take share from our global competitors." There are wonky but great suggestions like "cluster development" and important ideas like going after in promising new manufacturing sectors. The President has formed an Office of Manufacturing Policy that is taking up many of the kinds of recommendations in this report.

In fact, we also need to rewrite our trade agreements so they provide a win-win for the working people here and across our borders, and incentives to manufacture here rather than move jobs, factories, companies and industries out of the country.

And So In Conclusion

Trumka sums things up nicely at the end of his dissent:

Perhaps most profoundly, the report does not ask the critical question: why is our country suffering a manufacturing crisis, complete with massive job loss and a structural trade deficit, when countries with higher overall taxes, higher wages, and more robust health, safety and environmental regulations are enjoying trade surpluses?

The answer lies in the view that we share with so many of our fellow Americans: that our country has become dominated by the interests of the wealthiest 1% at the expense of the remaining 99%. It turns out that a country run in the interests of the wealthiest 1% systematically underinvests in public goods;systematically silences, disempowers, and underinvests in its workers; and in the end is less competitive and creates fewer jobs than a country that focuses on the interests of the 99%.

Echo and amplify what Trumka said: Perhaps most profoundly, the report does not ask the critical question: why is our country suffering a manufacturing crisis, complete with massive job loss and a structural trade deficit, when countries with higher overall taxes, higher wages, and more robust health, safety and environmental regulations are enjoying trade surpluses?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:33 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 16, 2012

The People At The Top Who Can't Lose

Daily Kos: When Mitt Romney came to KansasCity

Mitt Romney represents the economy of the people who can't lose. We read about these people all the time. They get hired as CEOs of major corporations, drive those corporations into the ground, and still they walk away with multi-million dollar golden parachutes. They run scams and schemes that bring the American economy to the precipice of total collapse, and not only is nobody prosecuted, but they are bailed out with taxpayer's money dollar for dollar. The workers get cuts in salary and benefits, if not layoffs, while the CEOs simultaneously get huge bonuses. Wall Street firms like Bain can launch a hostile takeover of a steel mill, load the company up with debt, cash out, and leave the wreckage for a bankruptcy court to deal with. When you can't lose, you don't have free market capitalism. You have a rigged casino. We have a class of people running the economy in this country who, no matter what they do, can't lose.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:09 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 14, 2012

NY Times Gives Romney The Cain Defense

In which the NY Times avoids being a "truth vigilante" -- goes to the town of one of the companies in the Romney video, talkes to people who were not affected by what Romney's company did.

This is the Cain defense: there were actually women he didn't harass.


Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:11 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 13, 2012

1% vs 99% In The News

Apple CEO Cook pay could lead in 2011 with $378 million pay package due to restricted stock - The Washington Post

vs

'Mass suicide' protest at Apple manufacturer Foxconn factory

Around 150 Chinese workers at Foxconn, the world's largest electronics manufacturer, threatened to commit suicide by leaping from their factory roof in protest at their working conditions.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:38 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 12, 2012

When Mitt Romney Came To Town -- Who Benefits?

The MUST WATCH video from the post below:

Another aspect of this, you have to have a heck of a lot of money in the first place to participate in private equity, hedge funds, etc. Even in stocks, actually: 50.9% of all stocks, bonds, mutual funds are owned by the 1% and 39.4% owned by the next 9%. The bottom 50% of us own 0.5% of all stocks, bonds and mutual funds.

So if this does somehow benefit "the economy" it is not an economy that most of us participate in at all. All most people get out of this intense capitalism is the wage cuts, job cuts, loss of benefits, etc.

THIS is who benefits from the layoffs, job cuts, wage cuts, loss of benefits, environmental degradation, worker deaths/injuries, and the rest:

wealth2

This chart says it all. The 1% benefit, almost no one else. And we are ALL -- 99% of us, anyway -- feeling it now.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:00 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

MUST Watch: When Mitt Romney Came To Town

This is the story of what has happened to America since the 80s:

Outsourcing jobs to places where people don't have a say so they can't demand good wages, firing people and making them reapply for their jobs but at half the pay, gutting people's benefits, stripping companies, treating employees like throwaway Kleenex, closing factories, stealing pensions, borrowing and pocketing... Locust capitalism. Chop shops.

MUST WATCH!!

And keep this in mind if people try to tell you that doing what it take to increase the stock price helps everyone:

wealth2

Also see post above, When Mitt Romney Came To Town -- Who Benefits?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:26 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 10, 2012

Work Hard, It Pays Off -- But Not For You

Please read the whole thing, it just nails what today's economy is about: All Of Area Man's Hard Work Finally Pays Off For Employer | The Onion,

Following seven straight years of long hours at the office and sacrificed weekends and holidays, all of account manager Sam Hemstead's hard work and single-minded devotion to Pinnacle Automotive Insurance has finally paid off for CEO Charles Pardahee, Pardahee said Friday.

... The stress-related physical and psychological tolls for Hemstead, 34, have been high, but the hypertension, weight-gain, and crippling migraine headaches he has suffered due to his rigorous work schedule have been worth the rewards he has reaped for his employer, Pardahee confirmed.


Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:17 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 9, 2012

My Local Paper - A Typical Day

Reading my local morning paper, I see that it is a typical day...

Front page story about the exponential growth in the crow population since a 1981 measurement, Counting crows: Number of black birds on the rise in Bay Area ('Eden For Crows' in the print edition), can't find an explanation, but doesn't bring up that the climate here is changing. 


An article about the anniversary of the Gabby Giffords shooting, A year after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, doesn't mention that conservatives put on a gun show to mark the anniversary, doesn't even mention the word 'gun.'
 

The anniversary was marked not only by the traditional rituals of speechmaking and prayers, but also by organized sessions and designated spots for yoga, meditation, hugging, dancing and steel drum playing. There were campaigns promoting civility and community -- people gathered at a park Saturday to sign a "Tucsonans Commit to Kindness" contract -- that were notable in how they avoided any explicit mention of the events of a year ago.

An editorial cartoon blasting "Government Motors" for having a "Fire Sale" of Chevy Volts, showing the entire dealership burnt out from a car fire, doesn't mention that there has not been a single car fire in a Volt, except after a special-circumstances crash test, and the cars are being recalled to fix the potential problem. Compare this with the following numbers for cars that run on ... gasoline:

 

In 2002-2005, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 306,800 vehicle fires per year. These fires caused an average of 520 civilian deaths, 1,640 civilian injuries, and $1.3 billion in direct property damage.

What's not in the paper? Anything that informs people of the benefits of belonging to a union. Anything that talks about how our government helps us. Anything that goes up against Big Oil and King Coal and informs the public of just how serious the problems of global warming are and the need for immediate solutions, or that informs the public of the need to move away from oil and coal as our energy source.

To sum it up: anything that informs the public of the harm caused by plutocratic, corporatist-captured government and the benefits of democracy and good government.

In other words, you find very little in today's corporate-owned media that runs up against the agenda of the 1% and helps the 99%.

This is a fully-captured newspaper.

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:37 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 3, 2012

Remember When?

Something I got in the mail:

rememberwhen.png

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:37 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Republicans Have Shut Down The NLRB. The President Must Act!

As of now an agency of our government, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), is effectively shut down, unable to do its job. This is a "nullification" by Republicans, of laws that protect workers and companies, in exchange for campaign help from the 1%. They are simply obstructing, blocking appointments in order to keep the agency from functioning. The President has a responsibility to keep the government operating and must use his power to make recess appointments to get the NLRB up and running.

The NLRB

The mission of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), by law, is "to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy."

Once again, the reason we have the NLRB is:

"...to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy."

For readers who missed that, here it is in bold:

"to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy."

It's The Law

That's right, it is the policy of the U.S. government, and the law, to "encourage" unionization because higher wages and benefits helps Americans and our economy overall. By law.

It's the law.

Influence Of The 1%

Yes, it's the law. But so what? Paying good wages and providing benefits means that the 1% and their corporations might have to wait a bit longer to stash away a few billion more, so they are furious at such government "interference." Yes, it is better for everyone in the long run when working people do better, but it isn't better for the 1% right now, this quarter, so they fight every effort to help the middle class.

The 1% and their big corporations have a lot of influence. They dole out generous campaign contributions to those politicians who do their bidding. And they set up "outside groups" that are allowed to spend unlimited amounts to help those they favor and fight those they do not. And they hire lobbyists -- and let current members of Congress and their staff know they can hire them, too, later, for extremely generous salaries, if they just play ball now.

Agency Shut Down

In 2010 the Republican majority on the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the NLRB must have a quorum of board members or it cannot decide cases. Ongoing Republican efforts to keep the Board from operating succeeded. Over 600 decided cases were thrown out. Big companies could continue to get away with firing people for trying to exercise their legal rights to organize unions so they could get better pay and benefits, regardless of what the laws said.

So Republicans are doing the bidding of the 1%. Today the NLRB is effectively shut down because it does not have enough Board members to function. Republicans in the Senate have blocked appointments to the Board, to keep it from operating, to prevent it from deciding cases, so that big companies can operate with impunity and continue to shovel all the gains from our economy up to the top 1%.

Nullification

"Nullification" was the pre-Civil War "states rights" practice of Southern states simply ignoring federal laws. The Republicans are again engaging in nullification, on behalf of the 1%.

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, in Nullification Makes a Comeback, explains,

Republicans are refusing to allow votes on President Obama's nominee to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and on his nominees to fill vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board. In both cases, the Republican refusal is explicity aimed at shutting down these agencies.

... Republicans make no bones about why they're doing this. They opposed the CFPB from the start, and they're now using the filibuster as a way of unilaterally preventing it from operating even though it was lawfully created by a vote of Congress and signed into law by the president. Likewise, they're afraid the NLRB is about to make some rulings they dislike, so they're using the filibuster as a way of shutting it down by denying it a quorum.

The 1% are only 1%, and we are technically still supposed to be operating as a country where the majority rules. So when they can't get their way the 1% engage in various schemes to get their way. We have seen an unprecedented use of filibusters to block the ability of the Congress to function. We have seen hostage-taking and shutdown attempts. In the case of the NLRB (and the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency) we are seeing another "nullification" effort -- preventing the agency from operating by preventing appointments.

This is not politics, this is not bipartisanship, this is intentional obstruction to keep the government from operating.

Where Is Our President?

The President of the United States has a lot of power -- if he chooses to exercise that power. One of his powers is to make appointments himself at times when the Senate is unable to make appointments. This is in the Constitution because the Founders understood how important it is to keep the government operating.

The Constitution is clear about the President's power, and his implied responsibility to use that power to keep the government operating:

Article II Section 2: The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

Article II Section 3: ...he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper;

If the House and Senate disagree on adjournment, the President can adjourn them. And when they are adjourned he can make recess appointments. The Congress is engaging in a charade of "pro-forma" sessions to give the technical appearance of being in session when they are not in session as part of this obstruction/nullification strategy by the agents of the 1% to keep our government from functioning for the 99%.

The 15-Second Option

The President had the power to make recess appointments at noon today, when the Senate was officially in recess between the first and second sessions of the 58th Senate. This would have kept this important agency in operation, doing its legally mandated job of protecting workers and companies. The president didn't.

President Teddy Roosevelt used this power in 1903 to appoint 160 officials. The country survived.

Adjourn And Appoint

We can't wait. We have an extraordinary situation here, where one of the parties, as a political strategy, in exchange for campaign assistance from the 1%, is obstructing for the purpose of preventing the government from operating. It is the duty of the President to keep the government operating.

Mr. President, this is outrageous. Working people need you to use your power to get the NLRB up and functioning. Please, adjourn and appoint -- WE CAN'T WAIT!


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:35 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 30, 2011

Verizon's Fee And Attacks On Workers Are Cut From Same Cloth Of Corporate Greed

You may have heard that Verizon is going to charge customers a $2 "convenience fee" to pay their bills online. You may not have heard that Verizon is asking its workers to take cuts in their pensions, sick pay, health insurance, even disability for employees injured on the job. These examples of corporate greed are cut from the same cloth. This is about big corporations using their power to drain and ultimately destroy the middle class so the 1% can have even more.

NY Times, An Uproar on the Web Over $2 Fee by Verizon,

The $2 monthly fee, which takes effect Jan. 15, will apply to people who make one-time credit or debit card payments on the phone or online. ...

The outsize reaction in many ways reflects the year that is now concluding. The economy has not improved much, consumers are fresh off their victory in getting Bank of America to rescind its own move to levy a small new monthly fee and airlines and other companies continue to ask customers to pay à la carte for goods and services that were once part of the standard price.

Then there was Verizon, making the announcement in the dead week between Christmas and New Year’s and calling its new charge a “convenience” fee.

Not Just Squeezing Customers -- Squeezing Workers, Too!

In August I posted, Verizon's Workers Strike Back At Corporate Greed -- You Can Join Them!

The giant telecom company Verizon, currently raking in the billions ($6 billion in profits and a $10 billion dividend on $108 billion in revenue last year), while paying no taxes, is putting the squeeze on its workers, and they are fighting back. With all those profits, the company has been consumed by greed: Now Verizon is asking for $1 billion in concessions from its workers.

This giant company is extremely profitable, yet manages to pay not taxes: (click through for full story)

Paying No Taxes?

Verizon, with $108 billion in revenue and huge profits, is not paying taxes. Citizens for Tax Justice, in Verizon Pushes for $1 Billion in Concessions from Workers, While Receiving Nearly $1 Billion in Subsidies from Uncle Sam, explains, (emphasis added below because I got mad when I read it.)

When you hear about Verizon putting the squeeze on its customers, keep the company's workers in mind.

Click here to sign CWA's petition: Stop Verizon Greed

Click here to learn about leafleting at a Verizon Wireless store

Click here for the latest information on the Verizon workers' efforts.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:50 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 29, 2011

My Silicon Valley Experience

Dave Winer, in Scripting News: So you want to be an entrepreneur describes my own Silicon Valley experience, too,

I used to be a Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

Back in the day, you made a product, put it in a box, put the box through distribution, helped retailers sell it, got back a little money, paid your employees, and hoped there would be enough to make some more product, boxes, etc.

If you weren't one of the BigCo's the distributors would play games with your money. Eventually the games got so sophisticated, they had it worked out so you owed them more money than you made, so there was no way to get ahead. Unless you were one of the Big Ones. But even they hit the wall, and the software-in-a-box business went by the wayside.

A few people got rich from that. Yes, it was a bubble. What you got paid for was not your ability to make money. But, rather the ability of the VCs to sell Wall Street on whatever it is they sold them on back then. We were part of the whole system that eventually hit the wall with Credit Default Swaps and huge bailouts and unrepentant bankers. There was a trickle-down. The closer you were to someone who actually made something, the less you got paid. You read that right, the less you got paid. I'll repeat it. If you made something you got paid less.

Please go read the rest.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:16 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 21, 2011

For 2012 Let's Restore Our "Industrial Commons"

David Brancaccio's Marketplace story Tuesday, Decline of Kodak offers lessons for U.S. business traced the decline of Kodak and the loss of Rochester, NY's good, middle-class jobs to Kodak's failure to tend its "industrial commons." This is a national problem. For 2012 let's resolve to restore our industrial commons and bring manufacturing back to the U.S.

Kodak on Marketplace

Listen to Tuesday's Marketplace story, Decline of Kodak offers lessons for U.S. business.

Click to listen.

Story summary: Kodak didn't tend its "industrial commons," the local concentration of expertise in making the things that go into a camera.

You make your money by selling cameras. And you now needed to make components. You needed to make lenses; you needed to make shutters -- all kinds of things that the skills for which no longer existed in Rochester.

This is what we have done in our country, too. We have been dismantling our "industrial commons." By sending manufacturing out of the country we have been taking apart the supply chains and abandoning the expertise and skills and culture that go with it.

Other Warnings

Last year former Intel CEO Andy Grove sounded a warning about this problem. In How to Make an American Job Before It's Too Late. Grove wrote that we are not just losing jobs to China, we are losing the "chain of experience" that enables new companies and industries to form and to create new jobs and argues for a national economic strategy to preserve our manufacturing and technology base. He lays out a plan: "rebuild our industrial commons,"

The first task is to rebuild our industrial commons. We should develop a system of financial incentives: Levy an extra tax on the product of offshored labor. (If the result is a trade war, treat it like other wars—fight to win.) Keep that money separate. Deposit it in the coffers of what we might call the Scaling Bank of the U.S. and make these sums available to companies that will scale their American operations. Such a system would be a daily reminder that while pursuing our company goals, all of us in business have a responsibility to maintain the industrial base on which we depend and the society whose adaptability—and stability—we may have taken for granted.

We Gave It Away

Many American manufacturers made a deal with China to lower their manufacturing costs. Here is how it worked: Americans (used to) have a say in how this country was run, and said they want good wages, benefits, job safety, clean air, etc. These are the fruits of democracy, but to some they are an impediment to quick profits. So executives at the big multinational companies wanted a way around the borders of democracy and its demands, and pushed for "trade" deals that would let them move manufacturing to places where people had no say, in order to force American unions to make concessions. They got their deals and packed up our factories, moved them to places like China and then brought the manufactured goods back here to sell.

We lost 50,000 factories to China just in the 'W' Bush years, and our trade deficit soared, and now we as a country are paying the price. Making (and growing) things is how a country earns its living. It is how we bring in the income with which to buy things others make and grow. Leo Gerard of the United Steelworkers said it clearly,

"You don’t create real wealth by flipping coupons or hamburgers, you create it by taking real things and turning them into things of value. And those things of value are turned into other things of value and all of a sudden you have a wind turbine with thousands of parts made here. You can’t have a clean economy without good jobs and can’t have good jobs without a clean economy."

We just gave it away, and justified the loss by saying that better things will replace it. The result has been ever-increasing trade deficits that brought us a huge debt that makes us poorer. Our debt is not because of government spending, it is because we have given away our ability to make a loving!

An Ideology To Justify

In the process the 1%'ers who did this to us developed an ideology around hating America and democracy. To justify outsourcing our jobs and factories they said Americans had grown lazy and wanted handouts. They said that the huge profits reaped by a few from selling off our manufacturing infrastructure meant they were "producers" and that democracy was "statism" and "collectivism" that enabled the "parasites" to "steal" from them. They declared that "taxes are theft" that "punish" the "successful" and the "job creators." They stopped funding infrastructure and education and law enforcement, denegrating these as "government spending," and declared that the wealthy few have a "right to rise" and saying the rest of us are "imbeciles."

They moved our "industrial commons" out of the country, closing the factories and thereby dismantling the supply chains and the "chain of experience" that enable us to innovate and compete. They let China capture the lead in emerging green manufacturing technologies that will bring millions of jobs and trillions of dollars. They even let China extort proprietary technologies, in exchange for short-term profits.

They rode the tiger and now the tiger is coming back to bite us.

Riding The Tiger

Richard Eskow reminded me of an old Chinese saying, "He who rides the tiger cannot dismount." American manufacturers rode the Chinese tiger to short-term profits, and now they cannot dismount. They "partnered" with China to get around the borders of democracy and the good wages and benefits democracy demands. But now the tiger wants more. The tiger wants to eat them up.

Riding the tiger: Forbes: Currency Manipulation is NOT the Biggest Chinese Threat,

China’s hidden threats are a multi-headed info-tech “Hydra,” the parts of which are interrelated:

Riding the tiger: NYT: Chinese Rules Said to Threaten Proprietary Information,

China is expected to issue regulations on Saturday requiring technology companies to disclose proprietary information like data-encryption keys and underlying software code to sell a range of security-related digital technology products to government agencies, American industry officials said on Friday.

Riding the tiger: Fiscal Times: Stealing America: China’s Busy Cyber-Spies,

Economic and industrial spying by China appears to be more pervasive and egregious than ever, costing America billions of dollars each year, according to a new report by a U.S. government agency. And the report raises an important question: If stolen trade and technology secrets help fuel China’s breakneck growth, then is more espionage required to feed the growing beast?

The Chamber of Commerce rides the tiger: WSJ today: China Hackers Hit U.S. Chamber: Attacks Breached Computer System of Business-Lobbying Group; Emails Stolen,

A group of hackers in China breached the computer defenses of America's top business-lobbying group and gained access to everything stored on its systems, including information about its three million members, according to several people familiar with the matter.

The break-in at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of the boldest known infiltrations in what has become a regular confrontation between U.S. companies and Chinese hackers.

They rode the tiger. But now the tiger wants more. The tiger wants to eat them up.

Let's Resolve To Rebuild American Manufacturing

Let's resolve to rebuild American manufacturing, starting in 2012. Manufacturing is the backbone of a prosperous economy. Let's resolve to bring back good jobs that pay good wages and unpin a middle-class lifestyle. Let's resolve to balance trade with the rest of the world so we can fight our debt problems. Let's resolve to start fighting to win the lead in the Green manufacturing revolution.

Don't let the "free traders" exploit workers in countries where they do not have a say to force concessions from Americans in unions. Don't let the oil and coal companies create false "scandals" like Solyndra to block government from investing in green alternatives. Don't let the 1% make democracy a competitive disadvantage -- democracy is the only economics that works!

Last week President Obama appointed Commerce Secretary John Bryson and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling to co-chair a new White House Office of Manufacturing Policy. The new Office of Manufacturing Policy will have cabinet-level status, reflecting the importance of the manufacturing sector to our economy. It will coordinate the efforts of different government agencies, such as the Small Business Administration, the Department of Commerce and the Transportation Department.

This is a positive step if there ever was one. Let's resolve to develop and execute a national manufacturing strategy. (please click through)

It is time to restore our national "industrial commons."

Frank Sobatka explains:


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:37 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 19, 2011

Media Consolidation In One Chart

When was the last time you saw someone from organized labor in the news explaining why unions benefit the middle class? This chart explains why our "new" is the way it is: Media Consolidation: The Illusion of Choice | The Big Picture

Want to know why Occupy is mocked as "dirty hippies?" See this chart.

Want to know why CEOs are presented as heroes, like sports stars? See this chart.

Want to know why the wealthiest are presented as "job creators?" See this chart.

Want to know why there still has been no explanation or demand for answers for why we went to war in Iraq? See this chart.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:40 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 16, 2011

Who Protects Info You Give To Offshored Call Centers?

Companies are always looking for ways to reduce the number of people they employ, and for ways to reduce the pay and benefits for the ones they keep. One way they have been doing this is to send jobs out of the country to places where the people don't have the protections of democracy. Then they come back here and threaten the rest of us with losing our jobs, too, if we don't give in. We have to find ways to restore the protections of democracy.

We are all familiar with "offshoring." This is the process of packing up a factory or office, and moving what it does outside of the US to places where people are paid less -- usually because they don't have any say in how their country is run (a.k.a. democracy). Then the company brings the same products or services back to the US and calls that "trade." Allowing this to happen makes democracy a competitive disadvantage.

One (more) job that has been offshored is call centers. We call to place an order or to get customer service, etc., and the person we talk to is in another country and we can't understand them. This is frustrating, but it is even more frustrating when you think that this is one more job that someone here used to do.

Earlier this week I wrote about a new bill called The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act that would help bring call-center jobs back to the US. In Call-Center Bill Would Let Customers Ask To Talk To Americans, I explained,

Today many call-center jobs are being moved out of the country to India and the Philippines. This costs American jobs, and can be very frustrating to consumers who have to speak to people who they cannot understand because of language problems or cultural differences. The The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act gives consumers the right to ask where the person they are speaking with is based, and ask for an American-based representative instead.

Not JUST Jobs Lost -- Data Privacy Is Lost, Too

A new study by the Communication Workers of America backs up the need for that bill. The report is called, Why Shipping Call Center Jobs Overseas Hurts Us Back Home. The study found that offshoring call-centers undoes protection of Americans’ private information. Personal data can be available to people who could use it for criminal purposes. Also, once information is sent across borders governments do not need warrants to collect this info.

From the press release, CWA Study Exposes Overseas Call Center Issues That Threaten American Consumers’ Personal Information,

The Communications Workers of America today released a sobering report detailing the linkage between the off-shoring of call center jobs and a range of serious negative effects on U.S. consumers and job seekers, including placing consumers’ personal information at risk.

… Key findings of the report include:

  • When a U.S. customer’s financial information is sent overseas, it loses the protections of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution. As long as an individual’s data is not specifically “targeted,” the data can be collected and analyzed by U.S. federal agencies without a warrant.
  • The documented security hazards are in addition to the damage caused to individuals and communities in the United States by the movement of local call center jobs overseas, off-shoring that often comes after taxpayer-funded dollars and other incentives are heaped upon the corporation.
  • As of this year, the Philippines surpassed India as the top destination for U.S. companies off-shoring call center jobs. American companies also have opened call centers in countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, China and Mexico.
  • Americans’ personal data also is at risk in foreign call centers in the relative difficulty in providing background checks on employees. Many foreign nations do not maintain central criminal databases and do not have standard identifiers such as the U.S. Social Security number. As a result, proper background checks are expensive, with one estimate putting the cost at up to $1,000 per employee.
  • This is one more way that offshoring is hurting us. By sending call-center jobs out of the country we are sending the data we give to those call centers out of the country and outside of the protection of our laws. So this call-center bill, named The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act (H.R.3596) is important to us. It is bipartisan, introduced by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) and Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.). Call your own member of Congress and let them know that you support this.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:41 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 14, 2011

    Republican Hostage-Taking Threat Again! Guess Who Benefits?

    Once again, Republicans are holding government hostage, trying to force through unpopular cuts to the things We, the People -- "the 99%" -- do for each other and our economy, while giving handouts to the 1% who pay for their campaign ads and smears. Once again they are threatening to just shut down the whole government if they don't get their way This time the hostage is unemployment benefits for 2 million people and the payroll tax cut that is the only stimulus left to keep the economy going. Here's the thing, they say they want "cuts" but what they are really doing is shifting costs from the 1% on to the rest of us.

    The current 112th Congress is the first Congress elected under the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates of corporate money in elections. Remember the flood of ads accusing Democrats of "half a trillion in cuts from Medicare" that got them elected -- paid for with corporate money? Those ads swung the electorate toward Republican candidates, and now we are seeing the results -- including cuts in Medicare and even plans to privatize it entirely.

    How Many Times?

    To get their way Republicans have already nearly shut down our government or just shut down parts of it several times. Shutdown. Hostage. Shutdown. Hostage. Shutdown. Shutdown and hostage. Shutdown. Shutdown. Shutdown. Hostage. Shutdown. Shutdown. Hostage. Hostage. And on and on...

    This Time

    Here are just some of the Republican demands this time if we want the hostage released:

    Even Worse Than That

    The National Women's Law Center writes, in, House Bill Cuts Unemployment and Health Benefits, Domestic Programs, Child Tax Credit and More that there are many other reasons to be concerned:

    The European Lesson

    Republicans claim that cutting back government is good for the economy and creates jobs. (Note -- they always claim that anything for the 1% is good for the economy and creates jobs, whether or not it really is good for the economy and creates jobs or not.)

    But is it really good for the economy to cut back on the things government does for the people and the economy? Let's look to Europe, where they have been cutting back on government in a grand experiment to see if that helps the economy. (Hint: it has really, really, really hurt the economy.) Reuters: Analysis: Europe's austerity zeal risks killing the patient,

    Europe's "no pain no gain" attitude to solving its sovereign crisis risks exacerbating the bloc's problems, choking off the very growth needed to raise the money to pay down the debt.

    ... The austerity zeal risks tipping the continent back into recession and a downward spiral of austerity as pitiful growth prospects undermine budgetary targets and ramp up debt burdens, meaning further austerity is required.

    "The expansionary fiscal contraction story says that you cut, you show you are serious about cutting and then the confidence fairy will come along and she will start pulling in private investment," said Stephen Kinsella, professor of economics at the University of Limerick.

    "The expansionary fiscal contraction story is a lie. You don't cut your way to growth."

    Shifting Not Cutting

    Do cuts in government spending actually cut spending? Consider what happens when you cut health care spending. The need for the health care certainly doesn't go away, but the cost of it is shifted away from government and on to individuals. Since iIndividuals do not have the economy-of-scale bargaining power and ability to protect themselves from scams and schemes that government does, their own individual cost is often much higher. So when these costs are shifted from government the cost to the larger economy is actually increased dramatically.

    The things government does are done because they need to be done. So if government doesn’t pay for them, does the need go away? No, when you cut government the need is still there. The costs are still there. But the power to bargain and to protect is gone. By cutting the 99%'s ability to protect themselves from scams and schemes, the 1% are better able to prey on them.

    So, no, cutting government does not cut the costs of the things government does, it just shifts those costs from government onto the larger economy -- the 99% -- and even increases them, to the benefit of the 1%.

    Who They Are Protecting And Who They Are Hurting

    Why else do the 1% push so hard for government budget cuts, even though they really just shift the same costs onto the larger economy? Because this cost-shifting takes the tax pressure off of the 1%. Government collects taxes to cover the things regular people need, the cost of maintaining and modernizing infrastructure, etc. Of course, these are all good for the economy, the country, and the people. But since the 1% make most of the money and hold almost all of the wealth these prime beneficiaries of the economy are the obvious people to collect taxes from. So by cutting back on government they cut back on government's need for taxes -- from them.

    And they get the added benefit of cutting back on government interference in their schemes and control.

    In the long game of cuts and consequences, a society cannot win. In the 1980s we cut taxes and started cutting government. As a result we now have crumbling infrastructure, bad schools, unaffordable universities, etc. This is because government cuts do not cut the need out of the larger economy, they shift the costs of needed things away from causing tax pressure on the wealthy.

    They don't care if the larger economy suffers as a result, they're already the 1%.

    What To Do

    Tell Republican leaders to stop sabotaging the economy. Renew the payroll tax cut and long-term aid for the jobless.
    Sign the petition.


    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 30, 2011

    More Bank Bailouts, Stocks Up Almost 500

    Still no bailouts for regular people, just cuts to pay for the too-big-to-fail 1%. Move by central banks exhilarates Wall Street - Yahoo! News

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:59 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 29, 2011

    ANOTHER Corporate Crime "Settlement"

    At the top there is impunity. There is no accountability, no prosecution, no law, just big money.

    The latest: Facebook Settles With FTC, Gets Stern Privacy Warning | TPM Idea Lab,

    Facebook has settled a lengthy privacy complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission after the agency’s two year investigation found wrongdoing on the part of the company, according to a release from the FTC on Tuesday morning.

    The settlement tentatively requires Facebook to stop sharing user information with advertisers without consent and to undergo two decades of privacy audits every two years, among other drastic measures designed to reign-in the world’s largest social netwo

    rk’s treatment of user information and communication with users.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 28, 2011

    One Unbought Judge

    Very rare these days - an unbought public official: NYC judge rejects $285M SEC-Citigroup agreement - Yahoo! News

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:28 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 17, 2011

    How Wealthy Companies Like Verizon Avoid Taxes

    Verizon needs to open a call center, which means a few new low-paying jobs. They get local governments bidding against each other, offering all kinds of tax breaks if only they'll bring those jobs there. Before the bidding war these jobs will be in the economy somewhere, but local schools, police, etc. will be funded. After the bidding war the same number of jobs open up but schools, police, etc. are not funded -- and the 1% are that much richer. Company after company does this. Community after community, desperate for jobs, loses. Schools, police, infrastructure go unfunded. Just who does this help? The 1%.

    Earlier this month, the organization Citizens for Tax Justice joined with the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy to release a report, "Corporate Taxpayers and Corporate Tax Dodgers, 2008-2010." The report looked at 280 corporations, finding that 78 did not pay federal taxes in at least one of the past three years and 30 averaged a less-than-zero tax bill in the last three years. Yes, less-than-zero, meaning they got money from the government instead of paying taxes to the government.

    Verizon In Focus

    Now a report by Citizens for Tax Justice and Good Jobs First, “"Unpaid Bills: How Verizon Shortchanges Government Through Tax Dodging and Subsidies,” looks at one company in particular. I've been writing about how Verizon is very, very profitable, but is trying to force its workers to give up ever more pay, benefits, job security and dignity. The company's workers are engaged in an effort to preserve a middle-class existence.

    Yesterday I joined a press call that hilited this Verizon report. The company aggressively manipulated state tax rules, demanded subsidies, and used other methods to end up with a negative federal income tax rate, and receiving state and local tax subsidies in at least 13 states. When setting up call centers, for example, they offer localities the prospect of jobs that that will be created somewhere in US, where the company would have paid taxes to fund schools and infrastructure, but get the localities bidding against each other until they end up making a profit instead of paying taxes.

    From the report,

    With more than $100 billion in annual revenues and nearly $15 billion in operating profits, Verizon Communications is a large and prosperous company that should pay a substantial amount in taxes to federal, state and local governments.


    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:56 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 15, 2011

    Government Shutdowns Get The 1% What They Want

    A while back I was writing about the Republican threat of a government-wide shutdown, and the two-week Federal Aviation Administration shutdown (and Delta Airlines' anti-union role in that). The shutdown threat was used to force the government to give even more favors and bucks to the 1% and even less to We, the People.

    Guess what? The shutdown threats are back.

    Last Time

    Earlier this year, and then again in September, the Republicans threatened to block the budget from passing and to just let the government shut down. In exchange for allowing the government to continue to operate they wanted favors for the 1% and their corporations, including gutting environmental regulations, gutting healthcare (especially women's healthcare), and generally gutting the things We, the People do for each other.

    They largely got their way. They even shut down the FAA, stopping construction projects in an attempt to gut union organizing. Four thousand FAA workers and about 90,000 construction workers were laid off, and the shutdown cost the government about $30 million a day.

    Which Was Which?

    The Republican threat of shutting down the government is not to be confused with the debt-ceiling hostage-taking debacle that was engineered by Republicans.

    The debt-ceiling hostage-taking involved Republicans threatening to let the government default on its obligations, sending the world's economy into a tailspin, unless We, the People dramatically roll back the things we do for each other. They got their way, resulting in big cuts plus the "super committee" of the 1% that is currently working on cutting things for the 99%. (The secretive committee is actually talking about cutting Medicare and cutting top tax rates, and calling it "pro-growth.")

    FAA And Labor

    In August Republicans shut down the FAA for two weeks, with Republicans trying to get in an anti-union rule. A temporary FAA reauthorization is currently funded only until the end of January. Last week Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, predicted that the FAA “reauthorization” bill would be done, passed and signed by Christmas.

    But the anti-labor provision is still in the bill.

    Former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said the fights over funding bills like this could "make a grown man cry." According to The Hill, "We're working on the 20th-plus extension" of the FAA bill, Mineta said during an interview with The Hill. "That's something we really have to get resolved, and [with] a long-term bill."

    The Game Is Squeeze-The-Rubes

    Here is how the squeeze-the-rubes game is played.

    First, cut taxes for the rich. To accomplish this, call it "pro-growth," make the claim that these cuts will "boost the economy" for the rubes, "bring them jobs," or basically whatever they need to hear that week to get them to go along. Then borrow a ton of money to make up for the lost revenue, because when the debt comes due you have serious leverage.

    Meanwhile, cut government, cut back on education for the rubes, health care for the rubes -- they don't need it, what are they going to do with educations and health, anyway? Cut regulation. Cut enforcement. And, most of all, do what you can to hamstring labor because organized labor is the one remaining force in the country that has some power, and is working to maintain the middle class. because with a strong middle class, government is able to pay down the debt, so there is no cover for all the cuts.

    Then, to speed things up, boost the government's spending on the things that increase your wealth and power. The big one is military. Find something to scare the rubes, watch them run and hide and squeal and let you crank up the military budget, give yourselves no-bid contracts, lucrative consulting contracts, even send pallets of cash to be disbursed to you and your friends.

    And, by the way, tax subsidies for your oil and finance companies will drain the treasury pretty fast, too.

    Then, when the bill comes due, that's when the hammer comes down. That's when you spring the trap. That's when you can have real fun. You've got them where you want them, and you can go to work. Scare the bejeezus out of them with stories of insolvency, poverty, whatever it takes to make them fear the debt. And then crank up the demands.

    Congress Plays Along

    Members of Congress see this game of squeeze-the-rubes for what it is, and get what they can for themselves, too. Rep. Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, led the two-week FAA shutdown over that anti-union rule. (See The Hostage-Taking Just Keeps Coming - This Time The FAA Shuts Down, Think Default Threat Is A Yawn? The FAA Is Still Shut Down and Delta's Greed Helps Shut Down The FAA)

    Well, according to the Florida Independent, Mica, just months after being involved in the temporary shutdown over “spending” on the FAA was bragging about an FAA grant awarded to his district. Mica said he worked for a provision in that bill to keep unions from being able to organize “said he had used his vote as a ‘bargaining tool’ to gain the support of Senate Democrats” for the grant to his own district.

    P.S. Take a look at where Rep. Mica gets the money to run his campaigns.

    How The Game Is Played

    Watch Jack Abramoff explain in a 60 Minutes segment how it works Once the member of Congress or staffer thinks they might get a lobbying job from you,

    ABRAMOFF: When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, “You know, when you’re done working on the Hill, we’d very much like you to consider coming to work for us.” Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to ‘em, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they’re gonna do. And not only that, they’re gonna think of things we can’t think of to do.

    Perks, Too

    Are airlines giving perks to members of Congress and staffers, as they prepare to vote on more favors for the 1%, possible shutdowns of government for the rest of us, even the FAA reauthorization? From Roll Call, Being in Congress Has Perks,

    Most major airlines have phones lines dedicated to customers on Capitol Hill, aides and lobbyists told Roll Call. To accommodate their unpredictable travel schedules, Members are allowed to reserve seats on multiple flights but pay only for the one they board.

    A spokesman for Delta confirmed the airline has a Congressional call desk and allows members to double-book flights. United Continental Holdings Inc., US Airways and American Airlines, all of which are rumored to have similar practices, did not return Roll Call’s request for comment.

    “We get on every single flight,” said one Capitol Hill aide familiar with process. “Every offices uses it. ... The scheduler uses it for Members and chiefs of staff who fly.”

    The perks have long raised the ire of consumer advocates. “They are treated completely differently from the time they book their ticket until the time they land at the airport,” said Kate Hanni, director of Flyers Rights, an airline passenger advocacy organization.

    Short Run Good For 1%, Long Run Bad For 99%

    In the short run this game yields great riches to a few. In the long run, of course, getting rid of government defunds infrastructure and education so the economy eventually slows to a crawl. Pitting the parts of the citizenry against each other breeds social chaos, maybe even violence.

    What do they care, when they can just hop in their own jots and fly to their own private islands?

    Government is us: We, the People. Our government of the people, by the people and for the people exists to reign in the1% and act as a counterweight to the power of their wealth and their huge corporations. That is why We, the People formed our government, to counter the corrupt controlling power of the British King and his aristocracy. That is why we enabled organized labor. That is why we have regulations. That is why we have access to courts to sue giant corporations. It is about one-person-one-vote democracy, not one-dollar-one-vote plutocracy.

    What You Can Do

    Tell Delta: Stop The Union Busting,

    Delta Air Lines is holding billions of dollars in funding for crucial FAA projects hostage by insisting that Congress pass new, undemocratic rules for airline workers trying to organize a union. Delta wants union elections to count workers who don't take part as voting "No"--an absurd demand that would undermine the entire system of majority-rule voting.

    The rules are under debate now, Delta's powerful allies in Congress are holding up a long-term solution by continuing to insist on the new election rule.

    Without a long-term reauthorization bill, job-creating airport infrastructure projects and critical security improvements are on hold. And we run the risk of another FAA shutdown at the end of the year.

    Thursday National Day Of Action

    Many organizations are calling for a national day of action Thursday Nov. 17, with various events around the country.

    Follow the Twitter hashtag #N17 for info.

    Occupy Wall Street, on Thursday's Day Of Action

    Interfaith Worker Justice: National Days of Action Against Wage Theft

    Check out this We Are The 99% event Thursday,

    We're starting to get the 1% to pay attention. But this system's still rigged against us: Wall Street is still making billions and taking our homes, and Congress can't pass a jobs bill. To amplify the economic emergency, we're making Thursday, November 17, a massive day of action to show "We Are The 99%.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:01 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 8, 2011

    Occupy Movement Is Spreading And Growing

    Our captured government won’t do its job. It doesn't keep Wall Street and banks and giant corporations from ripping us off and doesn't prosecute them after they do. It doesn't stop polluters - even as the effects of climate change increase. It doesn't enforce employment and labor laws, so all of us who work fall further and further behind. It doesn't take care of those in need even as more and more of us are in greater and greater need. It just helps the connected rich get richer. So people finally got fed up, and started "occupying." Now the occupy movement is spreading to more and more cities, growing with more and more people, and expanding people's understanding of the power that comes from speaking out.

    It started with Occupy Wall Street, people rising up over the greed and inequality, the1% vs 99%. Labor joined, adding their voice and grievances. Veterans, teachers and others are showing up in greater and greater numbers now. Others are joining. Now it's everywhere: Hundreds of towns like Occupy Orlando and Chicago and Portland and Nashville and Asheville and Oakland and even little towns like Redwood City.

    People are getting arrested as the powers-that-be react to the spreading and growing crowds. According to Chris Bowers at Daily Kos,

    Arrests in Chicago, New York City, Fresno, Eureka, Denver, Portland, Boston, Seattle, Oakland, Ashville, Riverside and more cities over the weekend has brought the total number of arrests of Occupy protesters over 3,350.

    Globalization Of Protest

    The world feels the effect of their common wealth draining to shock-doctrine attacks from the 1%. Economist Joseph Stiglitz writes at Al Jazeera that in reaction to this we are seeing The globalisation of protest,

    The protest movement that began in Tunisia in January, subsequently spreading to Egypt and then to Spain, has now become global - with the protests engulfing Wall Street and cities across America. Globalisation and modern technology now enables social movements to transcend borders as rapidly as ideas can.

    And social protest has found fertile ground everywhere: A sense that the "system" has failed, and the conviction that even in a democracy, the electoral process will not set things right - at least not without strong pressure from the street.

    Stiglitz writes that arond the world these protesters are sounding an alarm:

    They are right that something is wrong about our "system". Around the world, we have underutilised resources - people who want to work, machines that lie idle, buildings that are empty - and huge unmet needs: Fighting poverty, promoting development, and retrofitting the economy for global warming, to name just a few. In America, after more than seven million home foreclosures in recent years, we have empty homes and homeless people.

    The protesters have been criticised for not having an agenda. But this misses the point of protest movements. They are an expression of frustration with the electoral process. They are an alarm.

    ... On one level, today's protesters are asking for little: A chance to use their skills, the right to decent work at decent pay, a fairer economy and society. Their hope is evolutionary, not revolutionary. But, on another level, they are asking for a great deal: A democracy where people, not dollars, matter, and a market economy that delivers on what it is supposed to do.

    Seniors Occupying Over Social Security & Medicare Cuts

    More groups are expressing their own dissatisfaction with the captured government cutting back in order to preserve the tax cuts and other benefits of the top 1%. At The Huffington Post, Lizzie Schiffman reports in, Seniors Join Occupy Chicago, Protest Cuts To Medicare, Social Security

    More than 1,000 senior citizens and their supporters marched from Chicago's Federal Plaza to the intersection of Jackson and Clark Street Monday morning to protest proposed cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

    … Amid chants demanding that the cuts be forestalled -- with suggestions for alternatives, including tax hikes -- 43 demonstrators were escorted from the intersection (see video, above) by police and issued citations for pedestrian failure to "exercise due care," or for blocking traffic. Those cited included four protesters using assisted mobility devices and at least one centenarian.

    Moving Money From Banks

    In conjunction with the Occupy Movement, people have started to move money from the too-big banks to non-profit credit unions that exist to actually serve the customers instead of the few at the top. 650,000 pedople moved from banks to credit unions just in October -- more than all of the prior year -- and early estimates of the recent November 5 action calculate that perhaps $60 billion was moved.

    Occupy The Super Committee

    Congress' supercommittee of the 1% is discussing how much money to take out of the economy of the 99% by cutting back on the things our government does for We, the People. They want to cut the deficits that resulted from tax cuts for the rich and huge increases in military spending -- without undoing those. So now a group is setting up to occupy the supercommittee. The Occupied Super Committee Hearing of the 99%

    OccupyWashingtonDC to hold Occupied Super Committee Hearing for the 99%
    Wednesday, November 9th at 11:00 AM

    OccupyWashingtonDC.org will hold a hearing on the economy for the 99% that will examine how to create a fair economy for all Americans.

    The Occupied Hearing will contrast with hearings on Capitol Hill which are destined to enrich the 1% and protect major donors.

    The Occupied Super Committee Hearing for the 99% will examine critical issues facing the economy and the federal budget. The hearing will include testimony from people with great understanding of the issues facing the country as well as comments from the 99% who are directly affected by the economy.

    Hundreds Of Thousands Of Views Of A Congressman's Occupy Video

    How often does a member of Congress put a video on YouTube and quickly get hundreds of thousands of views? Keith Ellison (D-MN), Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, made a video for the "CongressionalYoutube Town Hall" series, talking about the Occupy Wall Street movement. The video has received 340,000 views as of Tuesday morning.


    Occupy Everywhere And Everything

    Possible new Occupy actions include places that the government is ignoring its responsibilities, and people are sick of just taking it. Some ideas:

  • Occupying polluting companies, until they stop polluting.

  • Occupying privatized public functions -- jobs that have been handed to private contractors in order to pay people poverty wages, while making a few at the top very, very rich.

  • Occupying companies that refuse to hire the unemployed.

  • Occupying companies that refuse to hire people over 40.

    Encouraged by the Occupy Movement, more and more people are finding their voice and speaking out.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:30 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 4, 2011

    People Want Jobs - Congress Focused On Taking Money Out Of Economy

    This situation of crony government protecting the connected rich while people are in the streets demanding change is more and more reminiscent of Egypt under Mubarak. In the real world tens of thousands are in the streets around the country demanding taxes on the rich and an end to corporate rule, as a new report lists profitable companies that pay no taxes at all. Today's jobs report is not enough to even keep up. But in the Congress Senate Republicans filibuster another jobs bill and the "super committee" is looking at how much to take out of the economy and out of the things We the People do for each other -- in order to keep taxes low for the rich and their giant corporations.

    Filibustering Jobs

    Yesterday Senate Republicans again filibustered a jobs bill - a plan to hire people to repair our country's infrastructure. This is work that has to be done, and right now millions of people need work. But Republicans filibustered this bill. The corporate-owned mainstream media, however, largely refused to tell the public what is happening, instead blaming "the Senate." The Washington Post headlined, Senate blocks $60 billion infrastructure plan, another part of Obama jobs bill. Politico blamed "both parties," with Both parties block jobs bills. MSNBC: Senate blocks $60B part of Obama jobs plan. CNN: Competing infrastructure spending measures fail in Senate.

    So the big-corporate media leads the public to blame "the Senate" and government, providing few clues that tell people where to apply the pressure that makes representative democracy function.

    Big Corps Paying No Taxes, Not Just Low Taxes

    From Citizens for Tax Justice report: Corporate Taxpayers & Corporate Tax Dodgers, 2008-2010,

    280 Most Profitable U.S. Corporations Shelter Half Their Profits from Taxes.

    “These 280 corporations received a total of nearly $224 billion in tax subsidies,” said Robert McIntyre, Director at Citizens for Tax Justice and the report’s lead author. “This is wasted money that could have gone to protect Medicare, create jobs and cut the deficit.”

  • 30 Companies average less than zero tax bill in the last three Years, 78 had at least one no-tax year.

  • Financial services received the largest share of all federal tax subsidies over the last three years. More than half the tax subsidies for companies in the study went to four industries: financial services, utilities, telecommunications, and oil, gas & pipelines.

  • U.S. corporations with significant foreign profits paid tax rates to foreign countries that were almost a third higher than they paid to the IRS on their domestic profits.
  • Who Are "The Markets?"

    Who are we talking about, when we talk about "corporate taxes?" Just who do we mean when we talk about "the markets?" See for yourself why the #occupy movement talks about the 1% vs the 99%.

    When you hear about corporations and "the markets," think about how that connects to this chart:

    wealth2

    People In The Streets

    Yesterday, in the post, Oakland Occupied -- Will Washington Listen At Last?, I wrote about the large demonstrations that are spreading and growing: spreading to more and more cities, and growing with larger numbers in each city. I warned that this is starting to look like Egypt with the people in the streets protesting Mubarak's cronyism:

    A Warning Shot At Washington's Increasing Irrelevance

    As I said, this public protest is spreading and growing. People have had enough and are taking to the streets in increasing numbers. But Washington continues to ignore the public, debating a national motto, as Repubicans block jobs and an elitist "super committee" debates cutting the things government does for the 99%.

    Poll after poll shows the public overwhelmingly supports increasing taxes on the wealthy, bringing corporations under control, and reigning in trade agreements that suck our jobs, factories, companies and industries out of the country. People do not want Medicare, Social Security and other essential government programs cut, they want the rich and corporations and Wall Street to start paying their share.

    The public wants something done about these problems. They want jobs, they want something done about the increasing

    If Congress continues to ignore the people of the country it will not be long before the situation is like Mubarak pretending he is still in charge of Egypt, while the people of the country are in the streets planning how they will run the country without him and his cronies.

    Super Committee To Take Money Out Of The Economy

    A representative democracy serves the 99%, a plutocracy serves the 1%. Currently in Washington Congress' elite "super committee" represents the 1%, looking at ways to take more money out of the economy, discussing cutting Social Security at a time when many people have lost their pensions and savings. They are discussing cutting Medicare and other health services at a time when more and more people are in need. They are discussing cuts and cuts and cuts, when working people are falling behind and behind and behind.

    But the actual causes of the deficits that have Congress so concerned are ignored. Reagan and the Bushes cut taxes on the rich and increased military spending, and the deficits and resulting debt soared. It is right there in front of our faces. But even with such "concern" about deficits the tax cuts for the rich continue and the huge increases in military spending are left alone. Instead Congress discusses austerity - making the 99% pay for the benefits and bailouts for the 1%.

    People are fed up, and rightly so. Poll after poll shows that the public wants taxes on the rich increased to pay for the deficit, infrastructure, education, health care, retirement and the rest of the things We, the People need. But our captured government is only serving the top few when they talk about cutting these things in order to keep taxes low at the top. The 1% would be well-advised to pay attention to what has happened in other countries where government ignores the people and takes care only of the connected rich.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:58 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 31, 2011

    Why You Should Attend An Occupy Meeting

    Please forward this to friends, relatives, "centrists" and conservatives you know. You may have heard about the "Occupy" protests that are occurring in cities around the country. They aren't what you are hearing. Please come to one and see for yourself. If you are young, old, white, black, brown, poor, rich, left, right, centrist, even Tea Party you will find people just like you. You might agree, you might disagree, you might love it, you might hate it, but you owe it to yourself to come and see for yourself.

    A lot of people feel frustration with the huge and increasing gap between the rich and the poor and the effect this is having on our country, culture, politics and the way we relate to each other as Americans. It seems like everything in the country is now geared toward the top 1%, and the rest of us are divided and supposed to keep quiet and accept this. Somehow the Occupy movement started at just the right time, when just the right number of people were fed up with the way things are going and the lack of solutions coming from our political leaders. It grew quickly, because people were tired of keeping quiet while our government seems to operate only for the benefit of the top few and expects the rest of us to sacrifice to pay for that.

    This all brings us a chance to restore democracy not just in our communities, but within ourselves. By attending and participating, we are exercising the "muscles" of democracy, of speaking up and being part of something. The thing is, you won’t just see it, you’ll feel it. You'll feel what it is like to have so many people around you who agree with you. You'll feel what it is like to be part of something important.

    How To Find One Near You

    The "Occupy" movement has now been going on for just over six weeks, and has spread to hundreds of towns across the country. You can probably find one near you. Start at Occupy Together which is at http://www.occupytogether.org/. Take a look at the page where they show you what is happening in your area, using a map. Also, try typing 'Occupy' and the name of your town into Google just to see what pops up.

    Also see them on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/occupyeverywhere, and http://www.facebook.com/Gilded.Age . Also visit the Rebuild the Dream movement, and, of course, MoveOn.org.

    So now that you know where one is, come on down, and see for yourself. If you need a ride ask your niece or your aunt. If your aunt needs a ride, give her a ride.

    What To Expect

    Warning, there might be some people with beards, and God forbid, drum circles.

    People are out there speaking for themselves, and learning how to be citizens again, instead of just consumers. This will have a lot of interesting outcomes, most of them good, some of them won't work out. But it will be people who want to be involved again.

    Depending on your community, there will likely be a turnout of some people with signs and leaflets, maybe some people set up with tables to do things like register people to vote, organizations with literature, groups that know each other, people who don't know each other standing around, etc. There will be a diversity people people.

    These events are self-organizing, no one is "running" these events, but volunteers will be helping to organize them. The character of the event completely depends on who shows up, who volunteers to help run it, and how much the people speak up. So it's up to you to do your part.

    See the website How To Occupy and the Field Manual wiki.

    Occupy events have a "General Assembly" meeting once or twice every day. In New York the meeting is at 7pm. At the recent Redwood City, CA Occupy event it was at about 6pm. As I said above, volunteers run things, which means that after you get to know the ropes you might want to volunteer.

    From the Occupy Wall Street website:

    The occupations around the world are being organized using a non-binding consensus based collective decision making tool known as a "people's assembly". To learn more about how to use this process to organize your local community to fight back against social injustice, please read this quick guide on group dynamics in people's assemblies.

    These meetings are the heart of the movement. Please come attend one, even if it is just to watch. You'll feel what it is like to be say what is on your mind. (And you'll feel what it is like to sit there while so many other people say what is on their minds. ;-) Don't worry, it works, and people keep comments short.) This is what democracy looks like.

    Occupy Redwood City

    Friday I attended Occupy Redwood City (California), and took some pictures. It was the first Redwood City event, maybe 50 people showed up, and the General Assembly lasted a couple of hours. They'll meet again next Friday, and probably should expect a lot more people now that it is up and in operation and people are telling each other about it. If 50 people doesn't seem like a lot, this is not a huge city, and there are more than a hundred events like it going on, some with thousands of people turning out.

    Scary, no? Especially the guy (me) with the little white dog. Was that a beard? Of, that first one is a short video, click here in case it doesn't work in this post.

    Don't Let Them Scare You Away

    Speaking of being scary: There will not be violence. This is a non-violent movement. The media outlets, talk show hosts, columnists, etc. that tell you there is violence are trying to keep you from showing up. They are trying to scare you. When they send large numbers of police to shoot tear gas into these events, it is an attempt to intimidate people, not just there but people who are thinking of showing up.

    Another way they are trying to keep people from showing up is with humiliation. This is a remarkably effective technique. Make people ashamed to show up, tell them they will be laughed at, or shunned, and people will stay away. They tell you the "protesters" are "dirty," even "urine-soaked." They tell you they are "hippies" and thinkthis will make you ashamed to show up and speak your mind.

    This is about what speech is "permissible" and what is not. The corporate-conservatives on the Supreme Court say that corporations are people who “speak” and can use all of their money to swamp our elections. But when people show up to complain about the 1% running everything, they are met with force. The big banks can crash the economy and commit crimes and are offered modest “settlements,” but when people show up to complain they are beaten, maced, tear-gassed and arrested.

    Don’t let them make you feel scared or ashamed to stand up for your rights.

    Show Up & See For Yourself

    If you want democracy you have to fight for democracy. You have to stand up for your rights or they will go away. Please visit at least on Occupy event in your area, and see for yourself.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:54 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 28, 2011

    What Occupy and Tea Party have In Common

    [PIC] What #OWS and #TeaParty Have In Common #TCOT #OccupyWallST #1U #Labor http://fb.me/1604XrtvC

    It's this: http://i.imgur.com/hHtDY.jpg

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:31 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    October 26, 2011

    People Distrust Government -- Conservative Mission Accomplished

    The corporate/conservative plan for decades has been to turn people against government and democracy. Because when people stop accepting the idea of We, the People making decisions, guess who gets to make the decisions instead? Last month a retiring GOP staffer explained how it works, this month a new poll show how well it works.

    Distrust

    NY Times today: New Poll Finds a Deep Distrust of Government,

    Not only do 89 percent of Americans say they distrust government to do the right thing, but 74 percent say the country is on the wrong track and 84 percent disapprove of Congress — warnings for Democrats and Republicans alike.

    ... A remarkable sense of pessimism and skepticism was apparent in question after question in the survey, which found that Congressional approval has reached a new low at 9 percent.

    The Gameplan

    At the beginning of September a Republican Senate staffer retired, and wrote a widely-read "confession" that laid bare the conservative gameplan: turn people against government and democracy. In Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult, retiring Republican Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren wrote,

    Far from being a rarity, virtually every bill, every nominee for Senate confirmation and every routine procedural motion is now subject to a Republican filibuster. Under the circumstances, it is no wonder that Washington is gridlocked: legislating has now become war minus the shooting, something one could have observed 80 years ago in the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic. As Hannah Arendt observed, a disciplined minority of totalitarians can use the instruments of democratic government to undermine democracy itself.

    [. . .] A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress's generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.

    A deeply cynical tactic, to be sure, but a psychologically insightful one that plays on the weaknesses both of the voting public and the news media. There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters' confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that "they are all crooks," and that "government is no good," further leading them to think, "a plague on both your houses" and "the parties are like two kids in a school yard." This ill-informed public cynicism, in its turn, further intensifies the long-term decline in public trust in government that has been taking place since the early 1960s - a distrust that has been stoked by Republican rhetoric at every turn ("Government is the problem," declared Ronald Reagan in 1980).

    Please read the whole piece. This Republican, writing from the inside, explains that they are doing it on purpose. They are making the government dysfunctional on purpose. They are making people hate government on purpose. They are working to turn people against democracy and put themselves and their corporate sponsors in power in its place.

    #occupy Brings Signs Of Hope

    There are signs of hope in the poll. Even with a dearth of media coverage (compare to the well-funded, billionaire-backed Tea Party!!!) the #occupywallstreet movement has changed the national conversation. From the NYTimes article,

    Almost half of the public thinks the sentiment at the root of the Occupy movement generally reflects the views of most Americans.

    With nearly all Americans remaining fearful that the economy is stagnating or deteriorating further, two-thirds of the public said that wealth should be distributed more evenly in the country. Seven in 10 Americans think the policies of Congressional Republicans favor the rich. Two-thirds object to tax cuts for corporations and a similar number prefer increasing income taxes on millionaires.

    [. . .] With the nation’s unemployment rate at 9.1 percent, income inequality remains a palpable issue for Americans. Nearly 9 in 10 Democrats, two-thirds of independents and just over one-third of all Republicans say that the distribution of wealth in the country should be more equitable, even as a majority of Republicans said they think it is fair.

    There is hope. The public is not stupid, and can at least sense what is going on.


    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:08 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 25, 2011

    Tax Holiday Generates Holiday Gifts For Big Multinationals

    Have you heard about the "tax holiday" idea? The idea is to let corporations bring overseas profits back to the United States at a very low tax rate. These overseas profits were made in various ways, including schemes to move factories and jobs out of the country in order to avoid paying taxes here. With a "tax holiday" they would ... well ... get to bring that money back and pay even less in taxes, rewarding them for the offshoring and tax dodging. We did this in 2004 and it cost the country a lot of jobs but made the rich even richer. So of course they want to do it again.

    This is a test of our Congress. Will they continue to do the bidding of the top 1% and reward offshoring and tax dodging, even as more and more people are in the streets demanding they instead start doing the bidding of the 99%.

    What Is A Tax Holiday?

    Companies that report profits outside of the US don't have to pay taxes on that money unless they bring it into the US. This encourages some companies to engage in various schemes that close factories and lay off workers here in order to report profits outside of the country. They use shell companies, foreign subsidiaries, post office boxes in tax havens as "headquarters," etc. Other companies make a lot of money by making great stuff and selling it or providing great services. This money builds up and naturally owners want to bring it back here so they can live it up even more than they do. They could just bring it back and pay taxes (some do) but some are asking Congress to give them a "repatriation tax holiday," letting them bring the money back ("repatriate" it) at a much, much lower tax rate than they would usually have to pay.

    Of course, we are in a jobs emergency so they claim that giving even more money to those top 1% "job creators" is a good thing because it will "create jobs." If we were in a green cheese emergency they, of course, would call them selves the "green cheese creators" and say that giving them this huge holiday gift would "create green cheese."

    They Tried It Before -- FAIL

    In 2004 Congress passed a tax holiday bill named the "American Job Creation Act of 2004." The big multinationals promised that they wiould use the money to "create jobs." (Have we heard that somewhere before?)

    The Institute for Policy Studies looked at the results of the 2004 tax holiday and found that "their holiday didn't just fail to create the promised jobs. Their holiday enriched corporations that actually destroyed jobs in the months right after they received their tax windfall." IPS found that 58 multinationals who used the "American Job Creation Act of 2004" tax holiday not only immediately laid off tens of thousands, they continued laying off, and laid off close to 600,000 workers between 2004 and now. From the IPS summary of the study,

    One government study looking at the first two years after the repatriation windfall found that 12 of the top recipients laid off more than 67,000 American workers. These firms collectively brought back home more than $100 billion ...

    The companies that gained the most from the tax holiday actually cut jobs, on top of that they used the tax gift money to buy back their own stock, increasing its value, and pay out dividends, both thereby enriching executives and shareholders.

    Why Is This Even Being Discussed?

    Why is such a bad idea even being discussed today, not to mention in a bill entertained by Congress? Well, why else? Nation of Change reprints iWatch's definitive tax-holiday post by Aaron Mehta and John Aloysius Farrell, Wealthy Corporations With a Trillion Dollars Stashed Offshore Lobby For a 'Holiday' From U.S. Taxes, and in it we find the (usual) answer,

    A number of trade groups and corporations that would benefit have joined in a coalition called WIN America . New lobbying disclosure reports show that the group and its member firms have spent millions of dollars, and employed dozens of lobbyists, to press for the tax break, according to an analysis.

    [. . .] WIN spent the first 9 months of this year actively lobbying for a repatriation bill in Congress. It spent $380,000 to hire two firms (Cauthen Forbes & Williams and Capitol Counsel LLC) and target lawmakers with a total of eight lobbyists. Among the lobbyists hired directly by WIN are several people with strong ties to Congress:

  • Jim McCrery, a former Congressman who represented Louisiana’s 4 th district until 2009.
  • Drew Goesl, who served as chief of staff for Rep. Mike Ross and communications director for Sen. Blanche Lincoln; Ross is a co-sponsor of the House bill.
  • Tucker Shumack, a former legislative assistant for Sen. John Isakson, a co-sponsor of the Senate bill.
  • Dena Battle, a former legislative director for Rep. Dave Camp, who as head of the powerful Ways and Means Committee has sway over tax policy in the U.S.
  • Jeff Forbes, a former staff director on the Senate Finance Committee.
  • Libby Greer, a former chief of staff for former Rep. Allen Boyd.
  • Millions of dollars lobbying... says it all.

    Where Are We Now?

    There is plenty of opposition being voiced. A strong New York Times editorial, No Holiday, make the case against this holiday gift,

    Big business has clearly decided that the economic crisis is too important to waste. While Washington debates how to create jobs and cut the budget deficit, major corporations — read major campaign contributors — are pushing Congress for an enormous tax cut on corporate profits. Lawmakers seem all too eager to grant their wish.

    [. . .] These days, corporations are flush with $2 trillion in cash that is not being used for hiring. As long as the economy is weak and consumers aren’t spending, tax cuts will add to the cash pile, not create jobs. A tax holiday also would add to the deficit, in part because companies rush to bring money home, rather than repatriating the earnings over time at the usual rate.

    At the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities blog, Chuck Marr writes in, Corporate Tax Holiday Would Be a Costly Mistake,

    A well-funded corporate lobbying campaign is pushing Congress to allow multinational corporations to bring profits held overseas back to the United States at a temporary, bargain-basement tax rate.

    ...Congress tried this in 2004 and it proved an embarrassing failure. Firms not only failed to use the “repatriated” funds to boost their U.S. investment and hiring, many of them actually laid off thousands of U.S. workers.

    Marr also writes that this tax holiday, following the 2004 holiday, would make tax holidays an expectation, and that,

    ... large revenue losses in later years would more than wipe out those gains as corporations shift more investments, profits, and jobs overseas in anticipation of yet another temporary holiday.

    Yes, anticipation of the next tax holiday. And the one after that.

    Even .. Heritage???

    In a shocker of shockers, Heritage Foundation agrees. (The check from the multinationals mush have gotten lost in the mail!) WSJ: Heritage: Repatriation Tax Holiday Wouldn’t Create Jobs,

    Giving U.S. companies a tax break for bringing home profits held overseas likely won’t create more jobs or spur domestic investment, an influential conservative think tank will argue in a report to be released Tuesday.

    In a break from many Republican lawmakers and a host of major U.S. companies including Google Inc., Apple Inc., Pfizer Inc. and Microsoft Corp., the Heritage Foundation said in a new study that a repatriation tax holiday would not motivate companies to hire new workers.

    Here are Jared Bernstein and Chuck Marr discussing whether Congress should give this holiday gift to the top 1% and their giant multinationals:


    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:28 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 24, 2011

    E-Book Scam

    I got a Kindle because I read a lot, and the books were less expensive than books in a bookstore.

    Now that companies like Borders are gone, Kindle books are $13. Thar's more than 50% over the cost of a paperback.

    The Children of the Sky (Zones of Thought) [Kindle Edition]
    Vernor Vinge

    Amazon Price
    Kindle Edition $12.99
    Hardcover $15.22
    Mass Market Paperback $7.99

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:54 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    October 22, 2011

    Citibank Knew Where Toxic Assets Were Because They Put Them There

    The financial system collapsed because it was full of "toxic assets." That collapse took millions of jobs, homes, businesses, retirements down with it. Years later we are nowhere near recovering.

    But even when markets are collapsing there is a lot of money that can be made. You can place bets against assets that are overvalued, and when their price drops those bets pay off. If they drop a lot, the bets pay off really big. (Oh - and when they do pay off the billionaires get special, lower tax rates.)

    And if you know where the toxic assets are, in advance, you can make a ton of money. And you can know that if you put them there, on purpose, in order for them to collapse, so you can make a killing when they do collapse.

    Here is a story in ProPublica about an SEC settlement with CitiBank for creating toxic assets on purpose in order to make bets that they would fail, Did Citi Get a Sweet Deal? Bank Claims SEC Settlement on One CDO Clears It on All Others,

    In the run-up to the global financial collapse, Citigroup’s bankers worked feverishly to create complex securities. In just one year, 2007, Citi marketed more than $20 billion worth of deals backed by home mortgages to investors around the world, most of which failed spectacularly. Subsequent lawsuits and investigations turned up evidence that the bank knew that some of the products were low quality and, in some instances, had even bet they would fail.

    In this case Citibank made a lot of money from these bets because they knew where the toxic assets were, because they put them there, on purpose, in order to bet against them. CitiBank created these CDO toxic assets in a way that was designed to fail, and sold them to customers as solid investments, and then made bets that these assets were worthless. When the designed-to-fail assets failed, CitiBank made money, the customers were wiped out.

    As I pointed out in the previous post, the corrupt SEC is "settling" a case with corrupt Citibank, and the corrupt Justice Department isn't doing anything about it. Everyone knows that the people in the SEC who are doing the settling will get lucrative jobs on Wall Street in a year or two. That is the quid pro quo. Everyone knows this.

    This sort of thing was widespread - and probably still is. Wall Street firms created toxic assets on purpose in order to make money betting against them as they imploded on the customers. Goldman Sachs, for example, also did this. In one case they worked with - and were paid millions by - a big hedge fund to create toxic CDOs that were sold to customers, while the hedge fund made bets that the CDOs would fail. When the CDOs failed as planned the hedge fund made billions, the customers lost. The SEC settled with Goldman - no one was prosecuted.

    And , of course, after the collapse these very firms were bailed out by taxpayers because they were so big. And now, with all the money that taxpayers have had to spent on the effects of the disaster that these firms created the Wall Street-backed Tea Partiers are demanding that taxpayers take "cuts" in pensions, health care, education, infrastructure.

    With this in mind, watch this video of Wall Street types on a balcony mocking the #OccupyWallStreet people as they march past.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:35 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 20, 2011

    NYTimes On Climate

    Here is how the corporate/conservative movement succeeds in keeping the public misinformed: No reporter will get fired for promoting big corporate interests, no reporter will have career advancement from taking them on.

    OK I just got around to reading this. A whole "how come?" story on how the US is an outlier on climate change, why isn't it in the national discussion anymore, and not mentioning Koch Brothers or oil company funding of the conservative movement even once. Sheesh. Whatever Happened to Global Warming? - NYTimes.com

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:12 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 13, 2011

    Help Verizon's Workers Try To Save The Middle Class

    Here is a practical application of the ideas and energy of #Occupy Wall Street. Verizon's workers are in a struggle against a giant corporation. They need your help leafleting at Verizon stores, reaching people to explain what is going on.

    Verizon is a huge, very profitable company. But Verizon is trying to make its workers take pay and benefit cuts, so that a few at the top can make even more money. If this sounds familiar it is because this is what is happening to our economy across the board. Big companies are using the fear caused by the unemployment crisis to take away more and more benefits, cut back wages, make people work longer hours, and basically shred the middle class. 99% of us are finding it harder and harder to get by while a few at the top are getting more and more.

    Fighting Back

    Verizon's workers are fighting back. In August they went on strike, and with the help of volunteers joining the picket lines they were able to get the company to back off some of their outrageous demands, and back to the bargaining table. But they are still at that table and are asking for people to help out again. One thing they are doinbg is asking iPhone users not to upgrade to the new iPhone on Verizon until this is settled. They are calling this action the iWon't Campaign.

    Companies that take away middle-class jobs should not be rewarded. Verizon's workers are asking people to buy or upgrade Verizon iPhones only when Verizon gives workers a fair deal and stops downgrading the middle class.

    The iWon't Campaign:

    The Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, joined by allies including MoveOn.org, the AFL-CIO, US Action, Jobs with Justice, and the National People’s Alliance announced today the next stage in the fight for middle-class jobs at Verizon and Verizon Wireless.

    The groups are launching the nationwide iWon't Campaign, asking Americans to delay upgrading to the new iPhone on Verizon Wireless until the company agrees to a fair contract with its workers. The campaign, which includes online outreach by MoveOn.org and other groups, advertising, grassroots outreach and leafleting at hundreds of Verizon Wireless stores, is timed around the launch of Apple’s new iPhone expected on Tuesday, October 4th.

    Click here to find a local store where you can join Verizon's workers, and help fight to save the middle class.

    Leaflet at a Verizon Wireless store:

    45,000 Verizon workers are fighting for a fair contract and to preserve the middle class and the American Dream in the Northeast.

    If wealthy corporations like Verizon continue to outsource jobs and hold down worker wages, there is no hope for an economic recovery. This is why our fight is your fight and why your support is so important.

    Join us as we leaflet at Verizon Wireless stores to get our message out: Stand with Workers, Not Rich CEOs.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:53 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 11, 2011

    5 Conservative Economic Myths Occupy Wall St. Is Helping Bust

    A post I did for AlterNet: 5 Conservative Economic Myths Occupy Wall St. Is Helping Bust | Occupy Wall Street | AlterNet.

    Go read.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:26 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 1, 2011

    Nobody Can Predict The Moment Of Revolution

    A video about Occupy Wall Street

    (The reason people repeat what the spokesperson is saying is to relay what they say back into the crowd.)

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:46 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    September 30, 2011

    Tobacco Companies Covered Up Radiation Risk

    A recurring question in today's economy that rewards con artists and psycopaths: " Why aren't they in jail?" Torturers, banksters, fraudsters (ratings agencies), bribers, professional climate deniers, and of course tobacco executives. Tobacco is still killing over 400,000 Americans every single year. Remind me, HOW many were killed by al Queda?

    Today's news, tobacco companies knew since 1959 that there was concentrated radiation in the smoke, increasing the liklihood of cancer, could have taken it out but the process would have made it less addictive.

    See Tobacco Companies Hid Evidence of Radiation in Cigarettes for Decades - ABC News.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:21 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    September 27, 2011

    Solyndra 'Scandal' About Big Oil, King Coal Power And Intimidation

    Last week big oil/big coal sent a not-subtle message to the country's investment community: if you back companies or technologies that compete with us we will crush you. Our media/political machine will accuse you of every crime in the book. Your picture will be plastered on the front page of every newspaper in the country looking like you are on the FBI's "Most Wanted List." We will haul you before Congress and grill you like a tri-tip on national television. The evening news will speculate that you should be in prison.

    Here is the other message that is being sent out loud and clear to the rest of us: America is for oil and coal. If you want alternatives let China do it.

    Extending To Everything

    Here is what the conservative propaganda machine does. It sets a narrative, pounds out a drumbeat on that narrative, and then every news event is twisted to leach the lesson of the narrative. The oil-backed right had been on an anti-green kick for some time. In The Phony Solyndra Solar Scandal I gave some examples -- just a taste -- of this narrative development:

    Attacking Green Manufacturing

    The Solyndra accusations are really just one part of an ongoing conservative and oil-interests-funded anti-green-manufacturing campaign drumbeat. Long before Solyndra's bankruptcy the Heritage Foundation was running stories like 2008's Green Jobs Are Con Jobs, 2009's The Green Job Myth Exposed, and this year's Obama’s “Green Jobs” Pipe Dream, The Green Jobs Story Obama Doesn’t Want You to Hear, Are “Green Jobs” the Answer?, Are Green Jobs ‘Gone with the Wind’?...

    Media Matters had previously exposed the nature of this ongoing effort, in Heritage Foundation Green Jobs Panel - Bought and Paid For By ExxonMobil,

    Instead of showcasing the views of unbiased academics and economists, the Heritage Foundation put forth a panel of individuals financially connected to ExxonMobil.

    ... The ENTIRE PANEL Received Money From ExxonMobil.

    More conservative-outlet examples include the ever-malignant Fox News: Solyndra Investigation Begins Critical Look at Federally Funded Green Ventures.

    Other conservative outlets continue the drumbeat, Obama’s green dream hurting U.S. taxpayers by Linda Chavez.

    Another: Obama Green Jobs Con Job and the Ill Wind That Blows from Spain,

    ...

    Another: Reason: Obama's Green Jobs Failures and Obama's Green-Jobs Fantasy and The Green Jobs Delusion and The Unseen Consequences of "Green Jobs": Will investing in clean energy harm the economy?...

    NewsMax: Green Jobs Spending Is a Waste of Greenbacks, "If the congressional “supercommittee” wants to cut wasteful spending, the green-jobs agenda is a great place to start."

    And more and more and more and more...

    That is what they do. They develop the narrative -- in this case, anti-green, and when there is a story in the news they twist it to teach the lesson.

    The Solyndra Lesson

    So now Solyndra is in the news. On FOX news -- 2nd-largest shareholder is an oil billionaire -- the story is played 100 ways hour after hour. On talk radio it is repeated endlessly. In right-wing blogs it echoes everywhere. In right-wing newspapers, echoed in "mainstream" outlets by right-wing supported columnists, and driven into the mainstream. Lie after lie after lie, repeated until it becomes "truth."

    Charles Krauthammer On Solyndra: A “Toxic Combination Of Lenin Socialism and Crony Capitalism”

    So the narrative was that efforts to push for green-energy alternatives jobs was bad, Solyndra came along and was used to teach the lesson. Now that Solyndra is the narrative, it is being used to teach the larger lesson - anything government does is bad, anything opposing oil and coal and big multinationals is bad. Dana Milbank in the Washington Post, The birthing of Solyndra,

    Since the solar-energy company went belly-up a few weeks ago — leaving taxpayers on the hook for $535 million in loan guarantees — a business that was once the poster child for President Obama’s green-jobs initiative has instead become a tool for Republicans to discredit most everything the administration seeks to do.

    Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah used Solyndra to argue against worker-training benefits. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina used it to argue that the federal government should stay out of autism research. Disaster relief, cancer treatments, you name it: Solyndra has been an argument against them.

    And this week, the government faced the prospect of a shutdown because House Republicans added a provision to the spending bill to draw more attention to — what else? — Solyndra.

    The Serious People

    One side intimidates, and means it. So they are seen as the "serious" people -- deadly serious. If you cross them, you will have trouble. Serious trouble. The other side plays along, caves, accommodates, appeases, refuses to exercise power when they have it, does little even to enforce obvious lawbreaking by the big -- serious -- players.

    Which side do you think people are going to take seriously?

    The media won’t call out the intimidators because they are intimidated. One part of this intimidation is the organized, funded “liberal media” accusation. But that is just part of a larger strategy: neutralize those who might call you out on what you are doing. Yet another part of media intimidation is the effect on people’s careers. If you call out the right, you are a "leftist" and you career is in danger. If you are known as a liberal your career is not going to advance in most outlets. If you go after corporations you are "anti-business" and your career is not going far.

    But you can say any silly thing, be as wrong or stupid as you can be, as long as it supports corporate/right positions. Nothing bad will happen to you. In fact you are more likely to do well careerwise – be promoted, make more money, get access, speaking fees, etc. And if you actually work for the right's machine, the sky is the limit. You will always, always have a job at an "institute" or in an "association" or even on the government payroll as a staffer. Seriously.

    Seriously Using Power

    Oh, and for those concerned about government subsidies, deals, etc.:


    And is that pesky government trying to regulate you?

    And not just big coal and oil:

    As for getting goodies from the government?

    This list could go on all day.

    This is how power is used, and big oil/big coal/Wall Street/Big Multinationals have that power.

    Solyndra - Government Doing The Right Thing

    The first thing that needs to be emphasized here: the government -- under Bush first, then under Obama -- was right to assist Solyndra and other solar companies. Our government wants to help us capture some of the new green-energy industrial revolution for our country. It is millions of jobs and trillions of dollars coming down the road. To accomplish this the government stepped in to help explore promising new technologies, just like they do with cancer research. Solyndra had a promising new technology and that is why the Dept. of Energy started considering them for a loan guarantee - under the bush administration - that would encourage private investors to take the plunge.

    That is all that happened here. Period. One company went under but the technology was promising and still is. Jobs were created - here. Research was funded - here. Facilities were built and will be used - here.

    But China stepped in and put $30 billion into winning this bet - there - and this drove the prices down, so one company here went out of business. That is what happened.

    Did it cost the government some money? Yes and no - the jobs, research, facilities, supply chain is all still here. And the money was nothing compared to the money the government puts into big oil, big coal, big ag, big financial, etc.

    Silicon Valley's San Jose Mercury News Silicon Valley observers say fears of 'more Solyndras' are overblown,

    ...the scandal has already created an unexpected roadblock for another area solar firm, San Mateo's SolarCity. Earlier this month, the company heralded conditional Department of Energy approval for a $275 million loan guarantee that would help put solar panels on dozens of U.S. military bases. On Friday, the company's CEO sent an urgent letter to Congressional leaders, saying new federal concerns in the wake of the Solyndra scandal could scuttle the SolarCity deal.

    ... "In the past 48 hours, the DOE has informed us that while they remain strongly supportive of Project SolarStrong, they will be unable to finalize their approval of the loan guarantee" prior to next week's expiration of the loan program.

    Adding that the high-flying company ultimately may have been undone by the rise of lower-cost competitors, he said: "Solyndra isn't a sign of the failure of solar. It's a sign that this market is booming."

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:29 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    September 22, 2011

    Republican Committee Report Exposes Shocking Union/Environmentalist Conspiracy

    Oil-backed Republicans are doing everything they can to turn the public against ... alternatives to oil. Today a Republican Congressional committee held a hearing, named the hearing "How Obama's Green Energy Agenda is Killing Jobs," and released a "report" with the same name. The report calls the push for green-energy jobs "a propaganda tool designed to provide legitimacy to a pre-determined outcome that benefits a political ideology." Here's the thing: the report itself actually is "a propaganda tool designed to provide legitimacy to a pre-determined outcome that benefits a political ideology." Heh.

    The Report

    The Republican House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has release a 33-page report, How Obama’s Green Energy Agenda is Killing Jobs. This "report" is a stunning document that reads like an oil-company promotional piece raised to he level of Glenn-Beckian, conspiratorial hysteria. From the Executive Summary,

    The Obama Administration’s green energy campaign has been pursued while it simultaneously implemented a regulatory agenda that is choking American businesses and restricting access to abundant domestic natural resources which have traditionally provided cheap energy that supports economic growth.

    ... By sacrificing domestic carbon-based resources upon the altar of an ill-fated “green energy” experiment, the President has put U.S. economic security in jeopardy and wasted billions in taxpayer money at a time when our fiscal health is in peril.

    One "finding" of the report is that green jobs might help people who are members of labor unions, and that "payment of union-level wages" might be mandated! Along with this, a press release promoting the report warns:

    It also points out that the guise of "green jobs" has become a rallying cry for a political coalition comprised of environmentalists and union leadership to consolidate an ideologically-based agenda, and notes that many federal green jobs programs have strings attached that require union workers, union-level wages and other mandates.

    Shocking, Americans might want a clean environment and good pay. We must warn our constituents about this terrible possibility before communists take over!

    Key Findings

    Among the report's "key findings:"

    • Labeling an occupation as a green job does not mean it has any special economic worth;
    • The guise of “green jobs” has become a political rallying cry aimed to unite environmentalists and union leaders in a deliberate effort to consolidate an ideologicallybased agenda;
    • Labor unions are profiting from the many so-called “green” programs because there are often “strings attached” that require hiring union workers, the payment of union-level wages and other mandates;
    • The metric of a “green job” is nothing more than a propaganda tool designed to provide legitimacy to a pre-determined outcome that benefits a political ideology rather than the economy or the environment...

    The Conspiracy

    The report lays out in detail a grand, Glenn-Beckian conspiracy theory, claiming that environmentalists and labor unions are working together to promote a grand, "green jobs" conspiracy. The section titled, PART I: OBAMA’S GREEN AGENDA DECONSTRUCTED lays out this conspiracy,

    ...union leaders support “green jobs” because much of the subsidized work is designated to be awarded to unionized workers. For their part, environmentalists benefit from having a broader base of support for policies that seek to “green” the economy. The outcome is a political alliance with incredible power.

    The genesis of promoting so-called “green jobs” can be traced to a group known as the Apollo Alliance, which has been the center of gravity for the green jobs movement since 2001. ... Accordingly, the Apollo Alliance and other coalition efforts like the Blue-Green Alliance bring together two major components of the Democratic political base – environmentalists and labor unions. ...

    Labor Unions are Profiting under the Pretense of Green Energy

    While the green jobs movement clearly advances the interests of environmental special interest groups in the green jobs movement, the interests of labor unions may not be as readily apparent. However, a careful look at statutes passed in the Democrat controlled 110th and 111th Congresses reveal that unions stand to benefit from many of the so-called green programs because these programs have “strings attached … that require paying union-level wages, hampering lower cost, nonunion firms from competing for the jobs produced by the grants.” The left-wing magazine, The American Prospect, noted in September of 2007 that Leo Gerard, the President of the United Steelworkers, has played a major role in the development of the Apollo Alliance and its political influence...

    The report goes on to make the case that one goal of this conspiracy is to promote American steel, and require other parts of this effort to be American-made, which would benefit members of the Steelworkers union.

    Another reason why Gerard and the United Steelworkers, in particular, are drawn to this coalition is the amount of steel required to manufacturer green energy products, such as wind turbines. To the extent that manufacturers use American steel, the assumption is that the government subsidies and regulations would benefit their membership as well. As Gerard has stated, arguing for steel protections, “If we are not going to do solar panels and fluorescent bulbs and wind turbines here, the next generation of R and D will not be here."

    Oil Good, Green Bad: Promoting Oil Companies

    Another section of the report, Fossil Fuel Use Has Been a Major Driver of American Prosperity, explains the benefits to America of promoting oil companies and getting rid of any green jobs effort to promote alternatives to fossil fuel use. You can almost hear the patriotic music welling up as you read this section.

    The positive relationship between access to affordable energy sources and economic growth is undeniable; fossil fuels have been the backbone of American prosperity.

    ... The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) credits carbon-based energy with spawning “one of the most profound social transformations in history.” Fossil fuels currently meet more than 80% of U.S. energy demand, with petroleum satisfying half of that demand.

    The expanded use of fossil fuels throughout history has facilitated the development of some of our nation’s most productive industries. ...

    Oil is credited with “the rise and development of capitalism and modern business” itself. Today, coal, oil and natural gas form the backbone that supports the American economy. [emphasis added]

    Misstatements Of Fact

    The report also contains what can politely be called "misstatements of fact." The report talks about "a private investor—one who happened to be a prominent Obama fundraiser." This is just flat-out false, In my post, Five Biggest Right-Wing Lies About Solyndra I pointed out the way this lie is used to create an appearance of impropriety:

    5. The biggest investor in Solyndra was an Obama donor.
    Conservatives (and now picked up by corporate "mainstream" outlets) make the accusation that there was corruption in the process by which Solyndra received its loan because a major Obama donor named George Kaiser is a major investor in Solyndra. The charge is that Solyndra only received the loan guarantee as a result of campaign contributions by people "connected to" Solyndra. The problem with this is that George Kaiser was not an investor in Solyndra. According to Tulsa World,
    In an emailed statement to the Tulsa World, a representative of the George Kaiser Family Foundation said the organization made the investment through Argonaut.

    "George Kaiser is not an investor in Solyndra and did not participate in any discussions with the U.S. government regarding the loan," the statement said. "GKFF invests in a globally diversified portfolio across many different asset classes."

    The Kaiser Family Foundation is a philanthropic organization, which means Kaiser (or anyone else) could not personally profit from a successful investment by the foundation.

    Please take the time to skim through this astonishing report. A copy of the Committee report is available by clicking here.

    At Politico Darren Sameulsohn explains what Republicans are up to, in President Obama's green losing streak writing, "Now, with Solyndra's collapse, Republicans are promising to make the green jobs concept politically toxic for years to come."

    This Mark Fiore animation sums it up.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:25 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    September 16, 2011

    Ford Running Ads For Republican Party

    For is running ads that are flat-out supporting the Republican Party in the coming elections. See for yourself. And here I was thinking of buying an electric Ford Focus soon. Forget that.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:48 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    August 25, 2011

    Your Chance To Take A Stand Against Corporate Greed

    Do you think that corporate greed has gotten out of control? Here is your chance to take a stand against corporate greed in a way that can make a difference. There is a greedy corporation that right now is trying to take away its workers' benefits and job security. Let's all back up the workers and stop this, and show people how it's done.

    Verizon is a $100 billion-plus company, paying billions in dividends, paying some top executives as much as $50,000 a day, and now in the kind of corporate greed-grab we are so familiar with is asking its workers to take a big hit. Just because they can. Sound familiar? Want to do something about it?

    Last week Verizon's workers scored a big victory for the economy and the middle class. 45,000 Verizon workers went on strike against the company's corporate greed and forced the giant company to back off. Now they are at the bargaining table not just for themselves but to set an example for all of us, for our wages and benefits. We can help them by showing our support, and showing up to back them up. This is about us as much as it is about them and you can help support them.

    If this sounds familiar it is because this is what all of us are facing now. This is a chance for all of us to take a stand against this destructive and unsustainable corporate greed that Verizon and other giant corporations -- and corporate funded politicians like Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin -- think is the way of the future.

    How You Can Help

    Join with Verizon's workers and with Jobs With Justice to help fight back:

    Read this too: We Need To Get Active To Recover The Economy And Middle Class

    Tell them what democracy looks like:



    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:01 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    August 9, 2011

    Ten Years Ago We Were Paying Off The Nation's Debt. But Then We Elected Obama.

    Just ten years ago this country was running huge surpluses and paying off its debt. But then we elected Obama and all hell broke loose. Oh, wait...

    Something Happened

    Between the time ten years ago when we had big surpluses and were paying off the debt and now when we are told the "Obama spending and deficit" mean we have to cut back on the things We, the People do for each other, something happened. Something changed. The things that happened, the things that changed, are being ignored in the current DC discussion about what we need to do to fix things.

    Separation From Reality

    This DC/Tea Party argument over deficits and the Reagan/Bush debt is completely separated from facts and history. And it is completely separated from what the public wants. There are things that we are supposed to just not remember and which seem to be taboo in the national media. There are things that are "off the table" for discussion, and certainly for solving our problems.

    But here is some reality anyway, even if we're not supposed to see it. Just ten years ago we were paying off debt at a rate that would have completely paid it all off by now. But under George W. Bush we cut taxes for the rich and more than doubled military spending. We deregulated and stopped enforcing laws. We let the big corporations run rampant. Our federal budget turned from huge surpluses to massive deficits, and Bush said it was "incredibly positive news" because it would lead to a debt crisis they could use to shock people into letting the corporate right privatize and thereby profit.

    And then, under and because of Bush, our economy collapsed.

    Deficits From Tax Cuts And Military Spending

    Once again: the deficits are the direct result of tax cuts for the rich, and huge increases in military spending. Then that huge jump in already-large deficits up past the trillion-dollar level that occurred in Bush's last budget was the result of the Bush-caused financial collapse. The economy collapsed and the government stepped in with hundreds of billions, even trillions, to rescue the wealthy, with "bailouts," while doing little, even cutting back, on what our government does for We, the People. That all happened in Bush's last budget year, not Obama's first.

    To Fix The Damage, Undo The Cause

    The way to fix deficits is to undo the damage Bush did, by raising taxes on the rich, and cutting back the huge, bloated, extreme, massive, astonishing, incredible, stratospheric military budget. And we have to boost the economy by investing in rebuilding our infrastructure to get people employed. We have millions of jobs that need doing, while millions are looking for jobs. Then those people will be paying taxes instead of collecting unemployment and food stamps. And the infrastructure improvements will bosst our economy's competitiveness. This is all so simple and obvious that only DC insider types could miss it.

    Taxes And Spending = Democracy

    Cutting spending doesn't cut the need, it shifts the burden. Cutting government spending does not cut the costs to society and the overall economy of meeting those needs. Cutting government spending just shifts -- or privatizes -- those costs onto the backs of people who can't afford to spend that money. That need and cost is still there in the economy, except without government -- democracy -- handling it, doing it for all of us, less expensively. Cutting government's role opens those functions up to private profit, instead of We, the People taking care of and watching out for each other -- and making the decisions.

    Do you really think that if you phase out Medicare, that old people won't still need the medical care? Of course they will still need it, but the government won't be negotiating cost-savings for them, they'll be on their own, up against the giant insurance monopolies.

    In the 1950s the top tax rate was 90%, and the country's economy worked a lot better for a lot more of us. We didn't have big deficits. We certainly weren't piling up huge debt. With high tax rates at the top, predatory, sell-the-farm business models didn't make sense. We were investing in infrastructure, and that infrastructure made us competitive in world markets. We as a people were doing better every year, paying our bills, getting educated and becoming more civilized. This empowerment led to demands for equal rights for all of us.

    Ignored By Media

    The "both sides do it" major media is simply ignoring the majority of the public. But people aren't fooled. Poll after poll (did I already say that?) shows that the public "gets it." Poll after poll shows that the public wants our government to address jobs, not deficits, to restore top tax rates, to invest in America's infrastructure, to leave Social Security and Medicare alone (or increase them,) and to put more money into education. Poll after poll.

    The Public Wants Jobs

    The public gets it. Poll after poll shows that Americans want their government focused on jobs, not deficits. The latest, from CNN, taken August 5-7, shows 49% of Americans think unemployment is the biggest issue facing the country, while only 27% say deficits. Only 16% say the deficit is the country's biggest problem.

    Rebuild The Dream

    The The American Dream Movement is rolling out their Contract for the American Dream. The Tea-Party-fascinated press is largely ignoring this, but this movement represents the majority of the public, and can't be ignored for long. I'll be writing more about it later.

    Also the Take Back the American Dream conference is coming up on Oct. 3. Click through and learn more.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:00 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 30, 2011

    Golden Oldie: Did Bush Leave Us Bankrupt, Corrupt, Ungovernable?

    Feb. 2010: Did Bush Leave Us Bankrupt, Corrupt, Ungovernable?

    When you sell the farm, the farm's gone.

    Is it already too late for America? I’m starting to think that the anti-tax, anti-government conservative movement that started in the mid-70s, elected Reagan and led to the terrible Bush Presidency may have effectively destroyed the country, leaving it bankrupt, corrupt,ungovernable, ruled by a wealthy elite -- and we're only now just starting to realize it. To cover tax cuts we stopped maintaining the infrastructure and started borrowing. To satisfy their hatred of government we increasingly stripped away rule of law, regulation, and belief in one-person-one-vote. We are seeing the consequences of all of that coming back to roost now.

    Reagan left us with massive debt and ever-increasing interest payments. Bush left us with $1.3 trillion deficits and a destroyed economy that would force further increases in the borrowing for years - to be blamed on Obama. The "free marketers" gave away our manufacturing base that will take decades and massive capital investment to recover. Obama can try, but it may just be too late to do anything about the borrowing. We need massive investment in jobs and infrastructure, and a national economic/industrial plan. But, with their own Reagan/Bush debt as ammunition, conservative ideologues continue to block every effort at investment to get out of the mess we are in.

    And with the country on the very edge of defaulting on the Reagan/Bush debt, Senate Republicans are FILIBUSTERING the very debt-ceiling deal they were for just a few weeks ago...

    There is much more at that old post, go read.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:15 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 23, 2011

    Google Ads

    I am really, really sorry I ever looked up "Hickey Freeman"on Google once, because now I can't go to almost ANY websites without having to look at Hickey Freeman ads. It's like they are chasing me around. I've been branded on the web as "The Hickey Freeman Guy" I guess.

    It's terrible. I watch a YouTube video and up on the screen pops "Hickey Freeman Sale" or something like that.

    Technology gone mad.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:55 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 18, 2011

    Can US Hold Corporations Accountable Anymore?

    In the UK the News-Of-The-World/News Corp/Murdoch scandal seems to be reawakening democracy. A big, powerful corporation has been found to be engaged in criminal activity, manipulating news, paying off police and politicians, and generally getting its way. The people, press and politicians are rising up, holding the company and its executives legally accountable and are taking back control of their system. Could this happen in the US?

    This is my last full day in the UK. The top story in the media for the two weeks I have been here has been the News-Of-The-World "phone-hacking" story that I explained in some detail last week. This newspaper was engaged in criminal activity, was caught a few years ago, but used American-style damage-control techniques to manipulate the government, police and public opinion into accepting that the criminality was limited to the sacrificial lamb they threw to them. So the damage to Murdoch's News Corp. was limited at the time, and News Corp appeared to have impunity. But, unlike how things are now done in the US, investigative reporters (particularly at the Guardian) continued to dig into the story and continued to reveal to the public that News Corp. was engaging in criminal activity until the story could no longer be ignored by the powerful.

    The latest big news is that the head of Scotland Yard has resigned, in part because earlier investigations into Murdoch-corporation activities "didn't get to the bottom of this." The press is full of questions about how this criminal company was able to operate for in this manner so long, and who in the government looked the other way. This is now as big a story as the original and ongoing criminal activities of Murdoch's companies.

    Another story is the way executives left Murdoch's companies and entered government into positions where they could protect the interests of Murdoch's company, including influencing the phone-hacking investigations. And finally, the story here is about politicians who are "cozy" with Murdoch's media empire, who were propelled into government by the power of that empire.

    Not yet part of the story: the manipulation of government policy to serve the interests of the owners of the criminal company. In fact, just as the media was beginning to touch on this aspect of the story the company took extraordinary steps to build a firewall and attempt to contain the scandal. Top executives in the UK and in England were removed from their posts, an "apology" was printed in all the papers here, and Murdoch himself made public apologies and News Corp started a major counterattack. So far News Corp's second-largest shareholder, Saudi Prince Al Waleed bin Talal has been kept in the background. Prince Al Waleed was interviewed by the BBC Thursday on his yacht in Cannes. Immediately the firewall began to be constructed.

    (These are questions, not accusation. While being part-owner of the conservative News Corp., Al Waleed also speaks out for democratic reform and women's rights in Saudi Arabia.)

    But questions about News Corp. pushing policies that benefit its owners have yet to be pursued. Does News Corp. push climate-change denial to benefit the interests of oil-producing Saudi Arabit? Did News Corp push the invasion of Iraq to benefit Saudi Arabia?

    What About In The US?

    Does all of this sound familiar to any of you reading this in America?

    And so the parallels to American standard-operating-procedure stand out. Criminal corporations manipulating government, police and public opinion. A revolving door through which corporate executives pass into government and protect the interests of their companies. A conservative media empire manipulating news and propelling politicians to benefit their financial interests. Politicians cozy with corporate executives who never seem to be held accountable.

    As Richard Eskow wrote the other day, Want to Solve All your Problems, Rupert Murdoch? Become A Banker.,

    But there's an easy way for Mr. Murdoch to protect himself from these inquiries and save his company at the same time: Turn the News Corporation into a Wall Street bank. There won't be any prosecutions, and the government will even sweeten the deal with billions of dollars in easy money. And if Murdoch follows the trail blazed by bankers like Jamie Dimon at JPMorgan Chase, soon they'll be begging him to acquire more companies.

    ... By contrast, despite its long list of proven crimes nobody at [JPMorgan Chase CEO] Dimon's bank has been arrested. Apparently arrests, like the financial consequences of one's actions, are for borrowers only. And Dimon only appears before our elected representative for cozy private get-togethers, not public enquiries.

    Seriously, there was just enough democracy left in the institutions of the UK to enable a media giant like News Corp to be held accountable. Just how accountable is yet to be seen, but with the press in full investigative mode, parliamentary investigations, resignations and arrests at the tops of big, powerful corporations that are way-to-cozy with politicians we are seeing a reaction to this story that is simply not imaginable in our own country today.

    Some Tests

    Here is one test that will tell us if accountability is still possible here. What follow-up will we see from the Justice Department in response to the revelation that members of the Financial Crisis panel illegally leaked inside information, including plans to investigate foreign banks, to lobbyists? See Financial Crisis Panel Commissioners Leaked Confidential Information To Lobbyists, Report Alleges,

    Republican commissioners on the panel created by Congress to probe the roots of the financial crisis leaked documents to partisan allies and shared confidential information with influence peddlers, according to a Wednesday report by Democrats on a Congressional oversight committee.

    Another area for investigation is the revolving door through which lobbyists or top people of the criminal corporation became government officials and government officials become executives or lobbyists. Are they using their influence in government to protect the interests of the companines that paid or will pay them? That sure looks like bribery, whatever other words one might use.

    Another area of investigations is companies that fund or otherwise infleunce public opinion and politics and campaigns or reward politicians or fund their campaigns. That is bribery, because companies have to act in the financial interest of shareholders and rewarding a politician in the interest of shareholders is bribery by definition.

    Please, add some more tests in the comments. What stories have you seen revealing illegal activity and collusion between elected representatives, government officials and big corporations with no one held accountable? Obviously there is Wall Street, mortgage fraud and securities manipulations. There are all the crimes from the Bush era that went uninvestigated. (Who ended up with all that money that went missing in Iraq?) But there are so many instances of crimes reported but not investigated and certainly not prosecuted. There are so many clear cases of big corporations using media to manipulate public opinion. And there are so many cases of our election laws violated with impunity.

    Are we going to be able to take back democracy and accountability here? Or not? Will our own Department of Justice start to hold law-violators accountable? Or not.


    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:57 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    June 24, 2011

    How Free Trade Made Democracy A Disadvantage

    This is my presentation from last week's Netroots Nation panel session: Revitalizing Manufacturing: The Road to Renewed Job Growth. Click through for panel details and other panelists, here for a pdf of slides, including Jared Bernstein's. See below for video -- and be sure to watch Beri Fox!!!

    Four Stories

    I want to share four quick stories:

    1. Democracy

    The story of America

    We fought a wealthy powerful few who had all the say and didn’t let us have a say, and made a country where We, the People made the decisions and share the benefits.

    So because we had a say we built up a country with good schools, good infrastructure, good courts, and we made rules that said workers had to be safe, get a minimum wage… we protect the environment, we give out social security. We take care of each other.

    And we used to protect that. We used to put a tariff on goods coming in if they were made by people who didn’t have the ability to speak up and better their condition. It was called the American System. Look it up. We’d let the goods in but we would use a tariff to strengthen our country, our infrastructure, our schools – our democracy.

    But that changed. Superman left and we stopped protecting the American Way. We started letting goods in made by people who had no say, so the goods were cheap and they undercut us.

    We have made democracy a disadvantage. We made it a disadvantage instead of an advantage.

    Make no mistake, people who say they want things more “business friendly” they mean they want America to be less of a democracy, with fewer of the protections we fought to build for ourselves.

    2. Trade

    Once upon a time some areas made some things well, and other areas made other things well, and they would trade, and both areas could have the things they made AND the things made somewhere else, and everyone benefitted. And both areas increased the customers they had.

    And so to most people “trade” means we buy things made somewhere else, and they buy things we make. In what world does “trade” mean closing a factory that is located here, moving it there where they don’t already make something, laying off all the people, and then bringing back here the same things that used to be made here and selling them in the same stores?

    And the result is a lot of people have lost jobs, devastating our communities.

    And then they tell workers who still have jobs that the same can happen to them, we can just close this factory, so shut up and don’t expect raises or benefits or safety or dignity.

    What we see happening when a company moves production out of the country is not trade, it is getting around the borders of the democracy we built, and the things we fought and sacrificed to build.

    Letting companies move factories away was giving up our ability to make a living. Sure a few people might get really rich from it, but look around you the rest of us, and our communities, and our economy have been sent sliding down a hill into the sewer.

    3. The Deal

    There once was a company. The company made a deal with a company in the next county, they make something you don’t, and you make something they don’t. So the deal is you’ll buy things from them if they buy from you. And you start buying from them, but they aren’t buying from you. And this goes on, and they still aren’t buying from you, but you are starting to owe them a lot of money. And they you’re borrowing from them to buy from them, and they still aren’t buying. And then they show up in your county selling the things you already made and sold, buy they used the money they got selling to you to set up to make what you made.

    And by the way they say you have to pay them what you owe them.

    That is how our deal with China is working out. We bought from them, they didn’t buy form us, and now they have accumulated $1.5 trillion which they were supposed to have been buying American-made goods with.

    And they cheated. Or I would say they were smart and watched out for their own interests excessively, and we didn’t at all.

    $1.5 trillion! So imagine what would happen if we said we're going to default on the debt but these bonds are redeemable in the next 3 months for American made good. Can you imagine what $1.5 trillion of orders would do for our economy right now? $1.5 trillion in orders? Factories humming...

    Well the picture of what that would do FOR our economy is a way of understanding what that has done TO our economy.

    4. The Cost

    I like to tell you a story about the cost of our free-trade deals and tax policies.

    I took a road trip last fall, through four industrial states, MI, OH, WV, PA to visit some of the Manufacturing Town Hall meetings that Scott’s group put on. [Note - see posts about this tour here.]

    They call it the "rust belt" because so many factories are closed and rusting.

    From town to town you see downtowns devastated, because the way you make a living is gone and the cheap imported goods at wal mart competing with local businesses. Michael Moore wrote about Flint after the auto plants closed. That kept happening, town after town, year after year, and got worse.

    You have to see to first hand. [Note - there are pics in this post.]

    But I’ll tell you, we’re even seeing it now in Silicon Valley, seeing downtowns with lots of empty storefronts. Empty office and manufacturing buildings everywhere. That wave that hit the Midwest has reached the tech areas now.

    So the moral of the four stories is that We the People have to protect the things we fought for and won. And we have to remember that We, the People have to take care of and watch out for each other because the wealthy and powerful won’t do that for us. And markets aren’t about that, either.

    When we relax our eternal vigilance they will come back with a vengeance.

    Progressive Solutions


    We can do these things. Because of the strong prosperity that democracy brought us others really want to sell into our markets.

    And my own favorite:

    Video Of The Panel

    Scott Paul opens
    Jared Bernstein at 6:02
    Rep. Jim McGovern at 17:00
    Beri Fox at 31:29
    Dave Johnson at 48:13

    IF the video below doesn't show up, click to see it here.

    Sobotka

    As always, Frank Sobotka explains what's wrong:


    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:16 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    June 9, 2011

    Businesses Hire When Customers Are Coming In The Door

    Another bad jobless claims report... and this time Washington seems to have finally noticed that there are some unemployed people out here in the sticks. But instead of jobs programs the geniuses are proposing ... what else? ... even more tax cuts. (And after a few hours they'll go back to complaining about deficits but blame "spending.") And of course, they are once again trying to "appeal to Republican lawmakers" without getting it that Republican lawmakers are doing everything they can to slow job growth so they can win the next election.

    Bloomberg: Payroll-Tax Break Said to Be Discussed by Obama Aides Amid Slowing Economy,

    President Barack Obama’s advisers have discussed seeking a temporary cut in the payroll taxes businesses pay on wages as they debate ways to spur hiring amid signs that the recovery is slowing, according to people familiar with the matter.

    . . . The talks reflect the political constraints the White House is operating under with the Republican majority in the U.S. House pushing to cut federal spending. A hiring stimulus based on a tax break for employers may appeal to Republican lawmakers, many of whom have called for measures to help businesses.

    Companies Only Hire When Customers Are Coming In The Door

    Here is something the geniuses haven't noticed, in all their geniosity: It doesn’t matter how much more money you give to business owners, businesses are not going to hire any more employees until they have a REASON to – and that reason is customers coming in the door.

    OK, That was bold and italicized. Maybe if I make it ALL CAPS the geniuses will see it? Let's see: BUSINESSES ARE NOT GOING TO HIRE ANY MORE EMPLOYEES UNTIL THEY HAVE A REASON TO AND THAT REASON IS CUSTOMERS COMING IN THE DOOR.

    Businesses are not going to hire people just to sit around and listen to iPods or read the paper, waiting for a customer.

    Terrance Heath, in America's Unhappy Anniversary: Ten Years Of The Bush Tax Cuts For The Wealthy,

    Republicans claim that preserving the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy is in the interest of small businesses, but small business owners are starting to demand a repeal of the Bush tax cuts.
    "We are fed by our consumers, not by our tax breaks," says Rick Poore, owner of Designwear, Inc., a screen-printing business based in Lincoln, Neb. "If you drive more people to my business, I will hire more people. It's as simple as that. If you give me a tax break, I'll just take the wife to the Bahamas."

    Businesses are fed by their customers, not by tax cuts. Tax cuts only feed deficits. Customers coming in the door is what causes businesses to hire. In case you missed that: Customers coming in the door is what causes businesses to hire.

    Direct Job Creation Is Needed

    Until there are more customers businesses are not going to hire. Why should they? So it is up to us (government: We, the People...) to create some customers. The way to do that is to hire people to do some of the things that it is government's job to do anyway, but government has been putting off because of so many tax cuts.

    Fix the infrastructure: Our infrastructure is crumbling. In Obama Should Call Chamber’s Infrastructure Bluff I linked to an Urban Land Institute report on the country's infrastructure, showing how we are falling behind countries like Brazil, China and India, and to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Infrastructure Report Card, that says a $2.2 trillion investment is needed just to bring the country's infrastructure back up to current standards.

    This infrastructure work has to be done no matter what. The longer we delay it the more our country falls behind. It is millions of jobs that need doing at a time when millions need jobs! (And by the way the government can borrow at nearly zero interest rates right now -- one more reason to do it now.)

    Green jobs: And then there are the green jobs you should be creating. You should be hiring people to retrofit every home and building in the country to be more energy efficient. This pays for itself because we stop sending so much money to the oil-producing countries, stop putting so much carbon in the air, and our economy becomes more efficient. And put more money into alternative energy, too. I mean, jeeze, geniuses, what part of this is hard to get?

    Jobs fix deficits: Hiring people to fix up the infrastructure takes them off the unemployment rolls and off the other assistance programs, lowering government spending on those programs. Having those jobs means they are paying taxes again, raising government revenue. And fixing up the infrastructure makes our businesses more competitive again, growing the economy. It's a no-brainer which should mean even the DC geniuses can figure it out.

    Fix Trade

    Because of bad trade deals, much of any revival of our economy just means that we send more money out of the country. The trade deficits, especially with China, are also economy deficits. We are not just sending jobs and money out of the country, we are sending our chances of coming out of this economic slump out of the country as well.

    And these trade deals pit exploited, underpaid workers in non- or weak democracies against our workers who had been benefiting from the good wages, workers protections and other non-"business friendly" things that democracy brings along with it.

    Our trade deals have made our democracy and the resulting high standard of living into a disadvantage. Who were the geniuses that let that happen?

    Restore Long-Term Incentives

    Tax cuts have cut the incentive for long-term business models. It used to take time to build a fortune, so businesses had to place themselves within healthy communities with good schools, well-maintained infrastructure and solid, well-funded public structures like the court system. Cutting top tax rates changed business models to make more sense "harvesting" those things in a hurry and moving on to the next community with resources to plunder. Low top tax rates encourage quick-buck schemes.

    Propose The Right Thing

    Propose the right thing and do it publicly, instead of trying to appease a political ideology bent on destroying government. Doing the right thing is also the right thing politically. If the job situation doesn't get better you're going to be thrown out of office. So come one, geniuses, get smart and start hiring people to fix up the infrastructure and make the economy more energy efficient.

    10 years of Bush tax cuts is enough! Click here to demand your representative supports the Fairness in Taxation Act so the rich contribute their fair share.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:17 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    June 1, 2011

    Lee Camp Is Saying Very Important Things

    Please spread this far and wide:

    YouTube - "You Are Not Alone OR Fighting Back Is Bad For Ratings" - MOC #43 by comedian Lee Camp

    Also go see Political Carnival's post on this.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 31, 2011

    Dems Should Vote For Clean Debt Limit Bill

    The House is voting on a “clean” debt ceiling bill today -- a bill to raise the debt ceiling without any "hostage-taking" conditions. This is the right thing to do for the country and every Democrat should vote for this. Voting for a clean bill will draw the contrast for the public between those who are doing the right thing, and those willing to hold the world's economy hostage to a make-the-rich-richer plutocracy agenda. Democrats who do not vote for a clean bill should lose committee assignments, parking places, even bathroom keys.

    The Debt Ceiling

    The country's "debt ceiling" has been reached. This means that the government's authority to borrow money has reached its limit. The Treasury Department is engaging in gimmicks and schemes to keep the country going but time is running out. The Congress must extend this limit, or the government will default on its bonds.

    If our government defaults on its bonds it would initiate a worldwide financial crisis that dwarfs the Wall Street meltdown of a few years ago.

    WHY We Have This Debt

    In 1981 the Reagan administration dramatically changed the course of the country. They defunded government by passing huge tax cuts for the rich and massively increasing military spending, and began cutting back on the things We, the People (government) do for each other. The country cut back on maintaining -- never mind modernizing -- our infrastructure, our schools, colleges and universities, scientific research and other things that make us competitive in world markets. We began cashing in our factories and moving the jobs out of the country. As a result of Reagan-era changes our trade deficits soared, wages stagnated, pensions disappeared, and a few extremely wealthy started getting much, much richer.

    One major result of these changes, of course, was the huge budget deficits that accumulated into today's massive debt. This was the plan from the start, to "starve the beast" by defunding government and forcing the debt to reach a level where there was no choice but to cut back on democratic government's protections for the people, unleashing plutocracy.

    Hostage-Taking Enabled: The Tax Cut Extension

    This debate over the debt ceiling and hostage-taking follows the recent extension of the Bush tax cuts -- another product of hostage-taking. At the end of the last Congress unemployment benefits for the millions of unemployed were running out. Republicans -- having filibustered much of the legislation of the prior two years -- held the extension of benefits "hostage" saying they would not let it pass unless the deficit-creating Bush tax cuts were extended.

    Enough Democrats caved and passed an extension of the Bush tax cuts. This validated hostage-taking as a successful tactic while making the deficit much worse, setting the stage for today's debt-ceiling fight.

    The Vote Is A Trick

    Today's vote has been scheduled by the Republican leadership as a trap, trying to get some Democrats to vote with Republicans to support their hostage-taking agenda and create the appearance of bipartisan support for plutocracy. If the Republican position gets the support of enough Democratic members, Republicans can then demand deep cuts in Medicare and other programs that help people and hold corporate power in check, in exchange for their votes to allow the world's economy to continue to operate.

    From TPM: First Debt Limit Vote Today As GOP Looks To Divide Dems,

    The vote is intended to expose fault lines within the Democratic caucus, with Republicans counting on sizable number of Democrats to side with them and bolster their case that Democrats need to agree to deep spending cuts as a condition to raising the debt limit.

    Vote For A Clean Debt-Ceiling Bill

    Voting for a clean bill stops government-by-hostage-in its tracks. Voting for a clean bill saves the world's economy. Voting for a clean bill fights the plutocracy agenda. Voting for a clean bill saves Medicare, Social Security and the things We, the People do for each other. Voting for a clean bill is the right thing to do and doing the right thing is the right thing politically.

    Call your member of Congress NOW and demand a vote for a clean debt-ceiling bill.


    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:27 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 26, 2011

    Republicans Announce Jobs Plan -- This Time It's Different

    Republicans announced something they called a "jobs plan" today. This time it's different. It really is. This time it really will create jobs instead of just handing even more money to a few at the top at the expense of the rest of us. You might not believe this because Republicans sell everything by calling it a jobs plan. And what they sell is always tax cuts for the wealthy while cutting the things We, the People do for each other. And it always ends up messing everything up for most of us. But this time it's different.

    But This Time It's Different

    Republicans always offer something called a "jobs plan" and the plan is always tax cuts for the rich while gutting the things We, the People -- a.k.a. government -- do for each other. Their "jobs plans" always end up enriching the already-wealthy while messing things up really bad for us.

    But this time is different because this time they actually offered something that is called a "jobs plan." So there you go! And this time the plan is different because this time the plan is to cut taxes for the wealthy and giant corporations, cut government protections for working people and the environment, but also opening our borders to let in goods made in countries unhampered by democracy's protections while cutting taxes on companies that offshore jobs. So Bob's your uncle.

    It will work. Republicans always promise their plan will work, and then it messes things up for most of us, but this time it's different because this time they say the plan will work. So this time it is different.

    The "Plan"

    You can look over the official Republican job plan here (PDF): The Republican Plan for America’s Job Creators. Here is a summary of the points: (summary: cut taxes for the rich, cut the things We, the People do for each other, send factories out of the country.)

    (Note, regarding the phrase "job creators," see Actually, "The Rich" Don't "Create Jobs," We Do.)

    What's New In This Plan?

    Nothing.

    But this time the plan is to cut taxes for the rich, cut the things We, the People do for each other and send more factories out of the country. This time it's different from those other plans to cut taxes for the rich, cut the things We, the People do for each other and send more factories out of the country.

    The Name Is The Game

    It's all in the name. Republicans think giving a plan a name is what matters, no matter what the plan actually does. Say whatever you need to say, but do what you wanted to do all along. They believe that people will be fooled into thinking something does a certain thing because the name says that is what it does, regardless of the actual details and results. For example, their budget plan cuts government "costs" by eliminating Medicare and replacing it with something entirely different, but since it is still named "Medicare" it still is Medicare.

    So today they are recycling the usual stuff and naming it a "jobs plan," are we are supposed to think therefore it means it is a plan that will create jobs. But really, it means sending even more money to a few at the top at the expense of the rest of us and of our country’s future.

    Been There Done That -- Made A Real Mess

    Everything they are proposing has been tried, and tried again, and has not worked. After Reagan took office they cut taxes, deregulated & gutted government, etc. terrible debt, trade deficits, the S&L crisis, wage decline, etc. resulted. After George W Bush took office they again cut taxes, deregulated, stopped enforcing the remaining laws and regulations, privatized government and contracted the functions to cronies, expanded oil drilling and opened the borders to trade with countries that pay very little and have no environmental protections, and we saw what happened.

    We are living through the nightmare that resulted. Worldwide financial collapse. Tens of thousands of American factories closed. Millions of jobs lost. Millions of lost homes. Wars. Climate change unaddressed and worse. Terrible concentration of income and wealth. Terrible trade deficits. Terrible debt. Pensions gone, savings gone, heath care benefits gone, government rampantly corrupt, unprosecuted corporate fraud common, oil spills, mountaintops removed, miners killed ... a terrible, terrible list of bad results that just goes on and on and on and on and on...

    Some Republicans fervently believe that doing these things will help, but the rest of them understand exactly what they are doing. These are not stupid people, and all you have to do is look around to see what actually happens in the real world when you do these things. They do them precisely because these are the results.

    The Party Of Wall Street And Billionaires

    Here is a fact: today when you hear from Republicans you are hearing from Wall Street, giant oil companies, huge multinational firms and a few billionaires, period. OK, maybe you also get a dose of religious right with your tax cuts, but really they just say that stuff to get those votes, too, but what they actually do is tax cuts and policies that enrich the already-wealthy at the expense of the rest of us. And the things they do always mess everything up.

    But this time it's different. It really is.


    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:26 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    May 24, 2011

    NLRB V Boeing – Corporations Fear Law Itself

    The National Labor Relations Board is attempting to enforce our country's laws and the corporate conservatives are going nuts - literally. They are challenging the concept of law itself, while making wild claims of conspiracies by government against business itself. Yikes!

    The National Labor Relations Board has filed a complaint against Boeing for retaliating against employees for legitimate union activities. Boeing opened a 787 assembly line in "right-to-work" South Carolina that they had previously stated would go to Washington State, after repeatedly having to grant concessions to union workers in Washington State. Opening an assembly line is not illegal, of course, but doing so in retaliation for union activities or for the purpose of threatening a union is illegal.

    The key to the NLRB action is that Boeing executives said repeatedly they were opening the South Carolina plant because of union activities. They boasted they were breaking the law, and finally someone has dared to enforce the law.

    The International Associaltion of Machinists and Aerospace Workers complaint states that a Boeing executive stated Boeing was "diversifying Boeing's labor pool" to South Carolina due to "strikes happening every three to four years." The complaint cites several other instances of Boeing officials stating the reason for opening the South Carolina assembly line was because of union activities, as well as threatening the union with losing work in Washington state because of union activities.

    The idea of the NLRB enforcing the nation's laws again, after decades of Reagan/Bush/Bush non-enforcement, has caused corporate heads to explode. The corporate right says the NLRB complaint is an example of "the federal government dictating private business decisions."

    Yes, exactly. That is what law is: government dictating private business decisions.

    What Is Law?

    Law is "government dictating private business decisions." That's pretty much the definition of what law is. Telling a company they can't dump toxic waste into rivers, can't steal from customers, etc. are all examples of "government dictating private business decisions."

    Law is government -- We, the People -- telling people and companies what they can and cannot do. So by complaining about "government dictating private business decisions" it appears the Boeing and the corporate right have a problem with law and government itself. "Being told what they can and cannot do" is what government and law enforcement are for.

    The right to form a union and engage in legitimate union activities without fear of retaliation or intimidation is the law in the US, and in every state.

    This is now about integrity of the law enforcement process. Boeing and the corporate right are attacking law enforcement itself. And so we are treated with the spectacle of the lawbreakers getting headlines attacking the law-enforcement agency.

    This crowd has gotten used to telling government what to do, and now here comes government actually daring to try to enforce a law -- telling them what to do instead of the other way around -- and they just can't f&%king believe it! They clearly do not accept it.

    What The Law Is

    Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) in 1935. It’s the law.

    Take a look at Section 1 of the NLRA. In summary, it says that lack of bargaining power by workers against corporations leads to Depressions (we call them recessions now) because of depressed purchasing power. And it leads to strikes, which disrupt commerce. Therefore, it is the policy of the United States to encourage collective bargaining.

    According to NLRB :

    The NLRA protects the rights of employees to:
  • Form or join a union
  • Bargain collectively for a contract that sets wages, benefits, hours, and other working conditions
  • Discuss wages, working conditions or union organizing with co-workers or a union
  • Act with co-workers to improve working conditions by raising complaints with an employer or a government agency
  • Strike and picket their employer, depending on the purpose or means of the action
  • Choose not to join a union or engage in union activities
  • Organize coworkers to decertify a union
    If employees choose a union as their bargaining representative, the union and employer must bargain in good faith in a genuine effort to reach a binding agreement setting out terms and conditions of employment. The union is required to fairly represent employees in bargaining and enforcing the agreement.
  • Employers may not:

  • Prohibit employees from discussing a union during non-work time, or from distributing union literature during non-work time in non-work areas, such as parking lots or break rooms
  • Question employees about their union support or activities in a manner that discourages them from engaging in that activity
  • Fire, demote, transfer, reduce hours or take other adverse action against employees who join or support a union or act with co-workers for mutual aid and protection, or who refuse to engage in such activity
  • Threaten to close their workplace if employees form or join a union
  • Promise or grant promotions, pay raises, or other benefits to discourage or encourage union support
  • Prohibit employees from wearing union hats, buttons, t-shirts, and pins in the workplace except under special circumstances
  • Spy on or videotape peaceful union activities and gatherings
  • Companies can not threated employees for trying to form a union, and companies cannot retaliate against employees for having a union. That. Is. The. Law.

    Corporate Right Going Nuts

    The big corporations have gotten used to having things their way. In response to having their unquestioned authority over government and law itself challenged by this NLRB action the corporate right is apoplectic.

    Not only is the corporate right challenging the very idea of law itself, complaining about "government dictating private business decisions," but they are doubling down on the nutty stuff. The Heritage Foundation, in NLRB Comes to Big Labor’s Defense, for example, goes off the deep end, into Glenn Beck territory, claiming that the NLRB is engaged in a conspiracy to make companies "even harder to manage."

    The Washington Examiner reports that a leaked NLRB memo “makes clear that President Obama and the radical labor advocates he put on it are embarked on a calculated campaign to make unionized firms even harder to manage.” The memo, which was obtained by the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky and James Sherk, “shows that the board seeks to elevate union officials to equal partners with executives in corporate boardrooms of all unionized firms.” The Examiner continues:
    The memo instructs NLRB regional operatives to flag all cases in which unionized firms made relocation decisions without submitting detailed economic justifications to their unions. The board plans “case-by-case” reviews, followed by prosecutions of selected cases. The intended consequence is that all major business decisions will become subject to approval by unions.

    Nutty, indeed, claiming that there is a conspiracy by government that has "embarked on a calculated campaign to make unionized firms even harder to manage.” That's Glenn Beck territory.

    Who Is In Charge?

    This comes down to a simple question: who is in charge here? Is it We, the People, or the giant corporations who consider themselves above the law, and in control of the government?

    See also:

    Palin and Boeing CEO Tell Government Who The Boss Is

    Actual Enforcement Of Actual Laws? Is It Possible?

    Corporate/Conservative Heads Explode As NLRB Actually Enforces Law

    Does Government Know Who The Boss Is?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:37 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    May 21, 2011

    Koch Corporatocracy Just Go Away

    Video from Koch-Blocked:

    "Tired of the Koch Brothers buying our political system?

    Then join our campaign to push Koch money out and bring democracy back in - sign up below to join The Other 98% as we fight Koch money wherever it shows up - and maybe take part in some more awesome creative agitation."

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:39 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    One More Wall Street Scam!

    LinkedIn went public this week and the price per share immediately doubled and more. This means LinkedIn was scammed by the Wall Street firms they hired to take them public. These firms scammed them by intentionally underpricing the stock, so instead of all the money going to the company, a ton of money went to the people that Wall Street firms had let in on the early lower-priced shares.

    The stock more than doubled, which means that these firms got more for themselves and insiders they set up than for the company.

    The fact that the stock immediately doubled in price means the Wall Street firms were either grossly incompetent (and they aren't), costing the company something like $350 million, or they are corrupt thieves.

    This is corruption, plain and simple. It's what our country is becoming known for.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:21 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 18, 2011

    Privatization

    In 2001 Defense Sec Rumsfeld launched a campaign to shift Defense Dept, government functions to private contractors, because the private sector is more efficient.

    Here is a chart of US spending on "defense:"


    <Military_spending_chart

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:44 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 17, 2011

    Debt Crisis? Really?

    You think we have a debt crisis now? You should have seen the one Canada had in 1993!!! And just like this one, it was phony, designed to scare people into cutting and privatizing government so the rich can get even richer.

    The following is from The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein, Picador, Pages 324-326. This book was published before the financial collapse, and subsequent "debt crisis." (All emphasis added.)

    -----

    In February 1993, Canada was in the midst of financial catastrophe, or so one would have concluded by reading the newspapers and watching TV. “Debt Crisis Looms,” screamed a banner front-page headline in the national newspaper, the Globe and Mail. A major national television special reported that “economists are predicting that sometime in the next year, maybe two years, the deputy minister of finance is going to walk into cabinet and announce that Canada’s credit has run out…. Our lives will change dramatically.

    The phrase “debt wall” suddenly entered the vocabulary. What it meant was that, although life seemed comfortable and peaceful now, Canada was spending so far beyond its means that, very soon, powerful Wall Street firms like Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s would downgrade our national credit rating from its perfect Triple A status to something much lower. When that happened, hypermobile investors, liberated by the new rules of globalisation and free trade, would simply pull their money from Canada and take it somewhere safer. The only solution, we were told, was to radically cut spending on such programs as unemployment insurance and health care. Sure enough, the governing Liberal Party did just that, despite having just been elected on a platform of job creation.

    Two years after the deficit hysteria peaked, the investigative journalist Linda McQuaig definitively exposed that a sense of crisis had been carefully stoked and manipulated by a handful of think tanks funded by the largest banks and corporations in Canada, particularly the C. D. Howe Institute and the Fraser Institute (which Milton Friedman had always actively and strongly supported). Canada did have a deficit problem, but it wasn’t caused by spending on unemployment insurance and other social programs. According to Statistics Canada, it was caused by high interest rates, which exploded the worth of the debt much as the Volcker Shock had ballooned the developing world’s debt in the eighties. McQuaig went to Moody’s Wall Street head office and spoke with Vincent Truglia, the senior analyst in charge of issuing Canada’s credit rating. He told her something remarkable: that he had come under constant pressure from Canadian corporate executives and bankers to issue damning reports about the country’s finances, something he refused to do because he considered Canada an excellent, stable investment. “It’s the only country that I handle where, usually, nationals from that country want the country downgraded even more – on a regular basis. They think it’s rated too highly.” He said he was used to getting calls from country representatives telling him he had issued too low a rating. “But Canadians usually, if anything, disparage their country far more than foreigners do.”

    That’s because, for the Canadian financial community, the “deficit crisis” was a critical weapon in a pitched political battle. At the time Truglia was getting those strange calls, a major campaign was afoot to push the government to lower taxes by cutting spending on social programs such as health and education. Since these programs are supported by an overwhelming majority of Canadians, the only way the cuts could be justified was if the alternative was national economic collapse – a full blown crisis. The fact that Moody’s kept giving Canada the highest possible bond rating – the equivalent of an A++ – was making it extremely difficult to maintain the apocalyptic mood.

    Investors, meanwhile, were getting confused by the mixed messages. Moody’s was upbeat about Canada, but the Canadian press constantly presented the national finances as catastrophic. Truglia got so fed up with the politicised statistics coming out of Canada, which he felt were calling his own research into question, that he took the extraordinary step of issuing a “special commentary” clarifying that Canada’s spending was “not out of control,” and he even aimed some veiled shots at the dodgy math practiced by right-wing think tanks. “Several recently published reports have grossly exaggerated Canada’s fiscal debt position. Some of them have double counted numbers, while others have made inappropriate international comparisons… These inaccurate measurements may have played a role in exaggerated evaluations of the severity of Canada’s debt problems.” With Moody’s special report, word was out that there was no looming “debt wall” – and Canada’s business community was not pleased. Truglia says that when he put out the commentary, “one Canadian… from a very large financial institution in Canada called me up on the telephone screaming at me, literally screaming at me. That was unique.”

    By the time Canadians learned that the “deficit crisis” had been grossly manipulated by the corporate-funded think tanks, it hardly mattered – the budget cuts had already been made and locked in. As a direct result, social programs for the country’s unemployed were radically eroded and have never recovered, despite many subsequent surplus budgets. The crisis strategy was used again and again in this period. In September 1995, a video was leaked to the Canadian press of John Snobelen, Ontario’s minister of education, telling a closed-door meeting of civil servants that before cuts to education and other unpopular reforms could be announced, a climate of panic needed to be created by leaking information that painted a more dire picture than he “would be inclined to talk about”. He called it “creating a useful crisis.”

    -----

    This story of financial interests creating a phony crisis to scare people into cutting and privatizing government is from the book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. If you want to understand what is happening to us today, you must read this book. (read more here)

    "The best way to stay oriented, to resist shock, is to know what is happening to you and why."

    "Nothing is more important in the face of war than cutting taxes" - Tom DeLay, 2003


    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:07 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 12, 2011

    Palin And Boeing CEO Tell Government Who The Boss Is

    What can a democracy like ours do when giant companies say, "Rules? We don’t need no stinkin’ rules! We don’t got to pay you no taxes!" and "We will just move out of your puny country if you try to tell us what to do."

    Government is beginning to enforce labor laws again, with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filing a complaint against Boeing for retaliating against employees for legitimate union activities. In response Boeing's CEO questions government's "authority" to tell big businesses like Boeing what to do, saying companies like his can just move "overseas." Sarah Palin echoes the complaint, saying businesses can just move to "more business-friendly countries." These are direct challenges to the democracy we fought to build.

    Boeing Threatens "Overseas Flight"

    Boeing chairman, president and CEO Jim McNerney has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he challenges the “authority” of our democracy to regulate giant multinational corporations.

    “The NLRB is wrong and has far overreached its authority. Its action is a fundamental assault on the capitalist principles that have sustained America's competitiveness since it became the world's largest economy nearly 140 years ago. We've made a rational, legal business decision about the allocation of our capital and the placement of new work within the U.S.”

    McNerney essentialy confirms that it was union activity that led Boeing to decide to open a plant in anti-union South Carolina,

    “Among the considerations we sought were a long-term "no-strike clause" that would ensure production stability for our customers, and a wage and benefit growth trajectory that would help in our cost battle against Airbus and other state-sponsored competitors. … Union leaders couldn't meet expectations on our key issues, and we couldn't accept their demands that we remain neutral in all union-organizing campaigns…”

    Like the movie stereotype, poking his finger in your chest, "You got a problem with that?"

    McNerney goes on to call the NLRB enforcement “brazen regulatory activism” that “could accelerate the overseas flight of good, middle-class American jobs.”

    There it is, the threat, basically, "We will just move out of your puny country if you try to tell us what to do, and we will take your jobs with us."

    Boots On Necks

    Sarah Palin, in her Facebook post, Removing the Boot from the Throat of American Businesses, blasts President Obama's "appointees at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) who have their boots on The Boeing Company’s neck."

    Palin explains that business is the boss now, not We-the-People democracy, writing,

    Does the President realize the real concern here is not that businesses will choose to locate in one state over another? It’s that businesses will choose to locate in other countries because thanks to the Obama administration’s job killing policies and over-reaching regulatory boards the business climate in the United States is growing toxic.

    Basically, she says government ought to just get out of the way of the plutocrats, because big, multinational businesses have so much power over democracy that,

    ... eventually every state will suffer when businesses declare “enough is enough” with these tactics and decide to relocate in more business-friendly countries.

    Once again, the threat: Mess with us and we will leave and take your jobs with us.

    Whose Boot Is On Whose Neck?

    To be clear, Palin does not mean this as a call to strengthen democracy and get these companies and their threats under control. She is not complaining that these companies do not want to follow our rules and pay decent wages, offer benefits, protect worker safety and protect the environment. She is saying the United States should change and become more "business-friendly" -- like the non-democracies that suppress labor rights, pay low wages, and lock you up if you complain.

    "Free Trade" has allowed businesses to cross borders to "business friendly" non-democracies to escape the protections democracy offers us. It pits exploited workers in these "business-friendly" countries against our own democracy-protected workers, forcing a race to the bottom in wages, working standards and living standards. And it lets them avoid taxation, defunding our democracy's ability to enforce regulations and laws

    If we don't do what these giant, powerful companies tell us to do, and abandon the protections of democracy that we fought so hard to achieve, they will just pack up and leave and take our jobs with them. Just whose boot is on whose neck?

    The question is why do we let them do this, and what can we do about it?

    The following is adapted from April's post on the NLRB actions, Does Government Know Who The Boss Is?

    Who Is Boss?

    Do We, the People have the ability to enforce our laws? Do we have the power to tax corporations and the wealthy?

    Do we have the power to keep the protections and opportunities our democracy had provided?

    Democracy provides us with safety protections and fair wages. We fought so hard to build and maintain this democratic society so that We, the People could share the benefits. We passed laws allowing union organizing, as a balance to the immense power of corporations and wealth. We passed laws prohibiting companies from telling workers, "Work for what we give you or don't eat."

    And for a time this built our prosperity. But we let the protections slip, and allowed companies to cross borders to escape the protections democracy offers -- to non-democratic countries like China where workers have few rights, where pay is low, environmental protections practically non-existent. Companies locating manufacturing in places like have huge cost advantages over companies located in democracies that respect and protect the rights of citizens.

    The Threat Against Us

    Won't companies just move out of the state/country if we try to enforce labor laws or tax them? Won't China just stop selling to us or dump our bonds if we apply a tariff to protect democracy, or try to enforce trade laws? Won't the rich just pack up and move or stop working if we don't just give them everything they want? Won't they move even more factories out of the city/state/country if We, the People try to demand our rights?

    We Still Have The Power

    Here's the thing. We, the People still have some power left in our hands. For one thing we still offer a huge, prosperous market to sell into. We still have the power to make demands on those who would like to sell things to us. We can apply a "democracy tariff" to goods made by exploited workers so these goods do not have a price advantage over goods made here. And we can choose to enforce tax laws, and wage laws, and tariffs, and labor laws, and trade laws to protect and strengthen what remains of our democracy.

    But we can only do this if we decide to stand up for ourselves and do something about what is happening. We have to put our foot down, and demand that our politicians listen to We, the People and do what we say. It is time to get organized, to talk to neighbors and relatives, to show up at town hall meetings and protests. We can demand that news media begin to cover more than just the corporate/conservative viewpoint. We can go out and register others to vote, and get them to the polls, and demand that votes be counted accurately. We can take back our democracy and put We, the People back in charge.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:51 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

    May 10, 2011

    Understanding What Is Happening To Us

    You have to read The Shock Doctrine to understand what is happening to us. I've said it before but want to say it again. It's really important to read that book.

    It explains why we have this phony "crisis" over debt, or public employee pensions, why it is being pushed so hard and being used to scare people so much. It is called "disaster capitalism" and they need people to think there is a disaster before they will except radical changes like getting rid of Medicare, cutting Social Security, getting rid of public-employee unions, etc...

    You have to read the book, the whole book.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:24 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 7, 2011

    Require Corp Political Disclosure

    Go sign this petition: President Obama, Stand Up to the U.S. Chamber and Fight for Disclosure

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:50 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Election Money From China?

    Unlimited Secret Money Is Drowning Democratic Elections.

    How much of this money is coming from China? The conservatives don't want us to ever know.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:42 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 1, 2011

    Top 400 People Get More Than 10% Of All Cap Cains Income!

    Krugman dug it out of the IRS reports,

    ... in several years during the last decade the top 400 accounted for more than 10 percent of all capital gains income in America. Just 400 people!

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 29, 2011

    The Corporate Takeover Explained

    I'd like to bring this to everyone's attention: New Economic Perspectives: My Class, right or wrong: the Powell Memorandum’s 40th Anniversary By William K. Black

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:27 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 27, 2011

    Corporate Propaganda Response To Town Hall Medicare Anger

    The Republican plan for Medicare "cuts government spending" by shifting the cost of old-age health care directly to the middle class and poor. (I’ll explain below.) Here’s the thing: someone is going to get that $34 trillion. (I’ll explain below.) And that someone (the Supreme Court thinks corporations are "someone") is fighting hard for it. They'll say whatever it takes. It is up to you and me to get the word out about this. (I'll explain below.)

    Say Whatever It Takes

    Here is an example of what I mean by "say whatever it takes." Click through and listen to this commercial. Cheerful, uplifting music. Positive voice tones. Flat-out lies.

    - TRANSCRIPT -

    ANNOUNCER:

    Something unusual happened last week…in Washington, DC of all places.

    Elected officials actually did what they said they would.

    The House passed a budget that protects and preserves Medicare for years to come.

    And our Congressman, Allen West, voted to protect Medicare and keep it secure for future retirees.

    Our national debt is $14 trillion…America is literally spending money we don’t have and future generations won’t be able to afford.

    With 10,000 Baby Boomers reaching retirement age every day, important programs like Medicare are being crushed – and could collapse if we don’t act to strengthen and improve them.

    No changes for seniors on Medicare now or those who will soon go on it.

    Control costs by targeting waste, fraud and abuse – so current and future seniors receive the quality care they have earned.

    Call Allen West at (954) 202-6211. Thank him for voting to protect Medicare and tell him to continue keeping his promise to seniors.

    Paid for by the 60 Plus Association.

    What's This About?

    Last week all of the Republicans in the House except a few voted to approve a plan to phase out Medicare and replace it with “premium support” – vouchers – for private insurance, that only cover part of the cost of the private insurance. (As if any company would insure a 75-year-old with health problems. And as if an 80-year-old with cognitive disabilities can pick and choose which insurance scam policy is best.)

    Yes, that's right, it phases out Medicare and replaces it with private insurance, as in, "What do you mean you won't cover that procedure, test, drug, operation? My doctor says I need it!" Right, that private insurance.

    Medicare Costs Shifted To Middle Class

    This plan shifts costs away from the government and on to We, the People. But it ends up adding trillions in total costs because private insurance costs so much more, and because of co-pays, and because of so many other reasons that are the cause of our country paying so much more per capita than other for health care. It actually makes the cost problem much worse. But it cuts “government spending” by shifting those costs to us individually.

    Economist Dean Baker writes that the Republican Medicare phase-out costs us more than $30 trillion (over 75 years) above what we would pay without this phase-out,

    [The Republican plan] to replace the current Medicare system with a system of vouchers or premium supports has been widely described as shifting costs from the government to beneficiaries. However, the size of this shift is actually small relative to the projected increase in costs that would result from having Medicare provided by private insurers instead of the government-run Medicare system.

    The Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) projections imply that the Ryan plan would add more than $30 trillion to the cost of providing Medicare equivalent policies over the program’s 75-year planning period. This increase in costs – from waste associated with using a less efficient health care delivery system – has not received the attention that it deserves in the public debate.

    And economist Mark Thoma writes that the phase-out leaves many seniors without the means to get health care at all,

    The [Republican] plan would reduce Medicare payments far below what is currently available, and this would leave many without the means to obtain the care they need. But even if the vouchers were adequate, I would still not be in favor of a voucher system for health insurance.

    The public will have to shell out trillions of dollars more because of the phase-out shifts seniors to private insurance. It saves the government money by shifting the cost to you and me, but adds $34 trillion more in total costs this way. So high-end taxpayers and corporations will pay lower taxes, the rest of us make it up.

    Town Hall Anger

    People are starting to hear about what the Republicans did and have been turning out at local "town hall" meetings where members of Congress talk to constituents. And, not surprisingly, they are angry.

    Here is Republican Congressman Ryan being boo'ed by constituents:

    Who Gets That Money?

    They always say, when you are trying to figure out who is behind some scheme or scam, to "follow the money." Sure, in this case wealthy and corporate interests are pushing for even more huge tax cuts by "cutting government spending" with this scheme to phase out Medicare. But wait, there's more. The scheme goes beyond that because when you privatize government functions someone gets the money. That is the point of privatization -- to shift public wealth to private profit. They always claim privatization cuts costs, but in reality it actually costs more with what was formerly something We, the People held in common now going to a few for their own gain. So this costs us more because government doesn't pay CEOs huge salaries, and doesn't give million-dollar bonuses to the rest of the executives. Government doesn't pay out a profit. And government's job is to work in the interest of the public. Not so with private companies. Not so at all.

    Privatizing means taking something away from us, so a few can benefit from it instead. And that is what is happening to Medicare under the Republican plan.

    Enter The Corporate Front Group

    In response to the town hall anger, a corporate front-group named 60 Plus is blanketing the radiowaves in Republican districts with these soothing ads thanking them for “preserving and protecting” Medicare. This is part of a campaign they named Seniors Thank Congress for Protecting Medicare.

    60 Plus is one of the groups that spent millions and millions of dollars running campaign ads for Republicans last year, telling people Democrats "cut $500 billion from Medicare."

    Thanks to the wisdom of our elected officials and Supreme Court, we don't get to find out just who is behind 60 Plus. Is it corporations? Billionaires? Foreign Governments? SourceWatch has some clues.

    Muddy The Waters

    This ad is part of a strategy to "muddy the waters,"

    The GOP official added that the party “can fight the Medicare issue to a tie” by “muddying the waters” and painting Democrats as choosing status-quo options that would have Medicare “die a slow death.”

    Go back and read the transcript of the 60 Plus ad again, see how closely it follows this strategy.

    Regular people have jobs, drive to work (and listen to the radio where these ads are playing), work hard, come home, maybe take care of kids... They are busy. They are not experts on the issues. If they tune into the news they are told that "both sides" are "squabbling" and maybe that there is a plan to "reform" Medicare. So as much as Republicans can "muddy the waters" and keep the reporting on a "both sides" and horse race focus, this plan can succeed.

    This organization is not put together by people who care if you and me get Medicare. This is put together as a front for the corporations that will get the money from privatizing Medicare, and the wealthy few who get the money from tax cuts. They count on regular people being busy and not well-informed.

    The GOP official added that the party “can fight the Medicare issue to a tie” by “muddying the waters” and painting Democrats as choosing status-quo options that would have Medicare “die a slow death.”

    It's up to you and me to get the word out about this.

    We Can Fight This

    So, will we be able to get the word out, or will the corporate money allow this and other front groups to saturate the airwaves?

    I think we can fight this. We have the facts on our side, and the numbers, but not the money. They always have the advantage when it comes to money. So it is up to us to turn out the facts and the numbers.

    Will YOU help? Will YOU get involved?

    Will YOU tell people, talk to friends, neighbors and relatives? Will YOU show up at town hall meetings and demand answers? Will you call your member of Congress and your Senators? Will YOU join with "Don't Make Us Work Till We Die?" for their actions tomorrow, and join up with US Uncut or On May 12?

    If you do, we can win.


    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:16 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    April 26, 2011

    Does Government Know Who The Boss Is?

    In Washington state workers are allowed to organize and form unions so they can win good wages and benefits. In "right-to-work" states like South Carolina, though, the government sides with big companies against their workers. (They used to have even harsher anti-worker laws there but the North stopped rounding up the escapees…)

    Boeing workers in Washington go on strike, so Boeing sets up an assembly line in anti-union South Carolina and tells the Washington workers to take what they offer and like it. This is a standard move from companies these days, telling workers, “Take the cuts or we’ll close the plant and move your jobs somewhere where workers can’t do anything about it.”

    Illegal, But So What?

    You probably didn’t know this but retaliating against workers like that is against the law. It is even illegal to threaten workers in order to avoid a strike. It is illegal to fire or intimidate employees for organizing.

    But companies go ahead and do these things anyway, and other illegal things, because no one does anything about it. And it has been so long since anyone did anything about it – just like with banking fraud or age discrimination – that it is now standard operating procedure. No one even remembers that it is illegal. No one cares.

    Like age discrimination. Look at the faces of the employees behind President Obama when he visited Facebook and tell me if Facebook is the least bit worried about age discrimination enforcement.


    Or this picture of the President visiting Google:

    viers_mill_PS-0253

    Workers' Rights A Thing Of The Past

    With labor-law enforcement -- or even a sense that workers should have rights -- seemingly a thing of the past, these anti-worker sentiments are spreading. Recently, for example Arizona and South Dakota passed anti-worker laws, forbidding the formation of a union after a majority workers sign cards asking for one. Wisconsin and other states have passed laws restricting the labor rights of public-employees and restricting the ability to collect union-membership dues.

    But THIS Time!

    But THIS time something unusual happened. The government has actually threatened to enforce the law! The National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Boeing and is suing Arizona and South Dakota for violating labor laws!

    Boardrooms across the land are rising up in indignation. How dare the government threaten giant corporations that they might enforce the law? Don’t they know who's the boss? The Wall Street Journal explains, "Boeing management did what it judged to be best for its shareholders and customers and looked elsewhere. ... As Boeing chief Jim McNerney noted on a conference call at the time, the company couldn't have "strikes happening every three to four years." and calls Boeing's threats against unions a "reasonable business decision."

    Conservative columnists and bloggers are earning their pay, writing indignant column after column about "union bosses," some even praising Ayn Rand. Conservative astroturfers (also) and politicians are not far behind them.

    How dare We, the People (government) tell a business that it has to respect its workers and our laws!!!

    Who Is Boss?

    Do We, the People have the ability to enforce our laws? Do we have the power to tax corporations and the wealthy?

    Do we have the power to protect the protections of democracy?

    Democracy provides workers with safety protections and fair wages. We fought so hard to build and maintain this democratic society so that We, the People could share the benefits. We passed laws allowing union organizing, as a balance to the immense power of corporations and wealth. We passed laws prohibiting companies from telling workers, "Work for what we give you or don't eat."

    And for a time this built our prosperity. But we let the protections slip, and allowed companies to cross borders to escape the protections democracy offers -- to non-democratic countries like China where workers have few rights, where pay is low, environmental protections practically non-existent. Companies locating manufacturing in places like have huge cost advantages over companies located in democracies that respect and protect the rights of citizens.

    The Threat Against Us

    Won't companies just move out of the state/country if we try to enforce labor laws or tax them? Won't China just stop selling to us if we apply a tariff to protect democracy, or try to enforce trade laws? Won't the rich just pack up and move or stop working if we don't just give them everything they want? Won't they move even more factories out of the city/state/country if We, the People try to demand our rights?

    We Still Have The Power

    Here's the thing. We, the People still have some power left in our hands. For one thing we still have a huge market. We still have the power to make demands on those who would like to sell into that market. And we can still choose to enforce tax laws, and wage laws, and tariffs, and labor laws, and trade laws to protect and strengthen what remains of our democracy.

    But we can only do this if we decide to stand up for ourselves and do something about what is happening. We have to put our foot down, and demand that our politicians listen to We, the People and do what we say. It is time to get organized, to talk to neighbors and relatives, to show up at town hall meetings and protests. We can demand that news media begin to cover more than just the corporate/conservative viewpoint. We can go out and register others to vote, and get them to the polls, and demand that votes be counted accurately. We can take back our democracy and put We, the People back in charge.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:44 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 12, 2011

    Something So Simple No One Sees It

    If they cared about the deficit they would cut military spending.

    It isn't about the deficit.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:54 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

    Did Koch Industries Write The Budget Deal?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Did Koch Industries write the budget deal? Or is it just a coincidence that so many of the the things Republicans demanded -- and got -- just happen to line up with the financial interests of the billionaires who fund the Tea Party and much of the “conservative movement?” Cutting money for the EPA, alternative energy efficiency, high-speed rail, efforts to fight climate change -- even prohibiting NOAA from creating a Climate Service ... it reads like an oil tycoon's wish list.

    Before you read this, remember that they just finishing pushing through another huge tax cut for the rich. Always remember that tax cut deal any time you hear about "deficits" -- which were caused by tax cuts for the rich and increases in military spending. And before reading about the cuts below you should know that this buget “cut” deal increased the military budget by another $5 billion. From Talking Points Memo,

    One of the hardest hit institutions is the Environmental Protection Agency, whose power Republicans have sought to curtail in recent years through a variety of legislative means. The agency will receive $1.6 billion less in funding than current levels, a 16 percent drop, including a $49 million reduction in climate change programs ...

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also saw a $142 million reduction in funding and is prohibited from creating a Climate Service.

    In addition … programs aimed at boosting energy efficiency for power plants and transportation also were major targets. Energy efficiency and renewable energy were cut by $438 million while fossil energy R&D was reduced by $226 ... Funding for high speed rail, all $2.9 billion of it, was zeroed out entirely. …

    Get it? What we just went through was "You stop that energy efficiency and climate change stuff, or we will shut down the whole government." The EPA is cut 16%. And just who benefits from these cuts, which do serious damage to the country? I'll let you guess (hint -- read the title of this post.)

    I wonder what this budget will do to real estate prices in coastal areas - the areas that are threatened by rising seas?

    WHOSE Priorities?

    And what about our country’s priorities? Actually, really just the priorities of the parties in the budget talks ... just as with the "deficit commission" there weren't any low-income people, teachers, construction workers, unemployed, police officers, etc. in that room. I mean, cutting AIDS prevention, childrens' health programs, science research, education, flu prevention, safe drinking water, police?

    Did I mention the tax cuts for the wealthy and another $5 billion increase in military?

    … just over $1 billion in cuts to programs preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, $600 million cuts to community health care centers, and $78 million to research on health care costs. Funding for health co-ops created under the Democrats' health care law was zeroed out.

    … National Science Foundation saw a $43 million cut in its research funding from its current levels but a major $444 million cut from the President's initial request. …

    Defense was not cut from current levels, instead increasing by $5 billion. FEMA first responder funding was cut by $786 million. Contributions to the U.N. and international organizations were cut by $377 million.


    In addition, from AP,

  • $468 million from several education programs ...
  • $276 million from pandemic flu prevention programs, as requested by Obama.
  • $1 billion from Environmental Protection Agency clean and safe drinking water projects.
  • $1 billion from an account for prevention of AIDS, tuberculosis and other diseases.
  • $600 million from community health centers.
  • $578 million from the Army Corps of Engineers.
  • $504 million from food aid to poor mothers and their infants.
  • $414 million from grants to state and local police departments.
  • $3.5 billion in unused Children's Health Insurance Program funds.
  • $500 million from eliminating summer school Pell Grants for college students from low-income families.

  • How about these for killing JOBS and the economy?

    Did I mention the tax cuts for the wealthy and another $5 billion increase in military?

  • $946 million from construction and repair of federal buildings.
  • $350 million from Labor Department programs, including grants for community service jobs for senior citizens.
  • $2.5 billion in leftover highway money unavailable under current budget caps.
  • Did I mention the tax cuts for the wealthy and another $5 billion increase in military? In case I didn't mention it, they just passed another huge tax cuts for the rich, and this budget "cut" includes another $5 billion in spending on military.

    Update: See the full list here.


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:00 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    Whoa - Why Are eBooks MORE Expensive???

    So I got a Kindle because books cost so much less. At least the used to. I'm starting to find that books are costing MORE on the Kindle than paperbacks!

    For example, Amazon.com: Three Stations: An Arkady Renko Novel (9780743276740): Martin Cruz Smith: Books is $9.91 in paperback and $12.99 on the Kindle!

    So maybe you should think twice about switching to eBooks?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:22 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

    April 7, 2011

    They Created The Deficits. It Isn't ABOUT Deficits.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    "Watch what we do, not what we say" -- famous quote from a Nixon official, explaining that they make up the stuff they say to distract and divert people from understanding what they are doing.

    They say they are trying to cut deficits. They are doing something else entirely. Remember, they created the deficits, on purpose, so they could use them now to get what they want. Remember, Bush said his deficits were "incredibly positive news." Remember, Reagan said it was about "cutting the government's allowance." They created the deficits, on purpose.

    Now, with their "strategic deficits" ruining us, corporate conservatives have whipped the public into a deficit-fear hysteria. They are using that hysteria to push through dramatic changes to our country that have nothing whatsoever to do with deficits, and even in many cases make the deficits worse. It isn't about deficits.

    In Wisconsin they claimed they were outlawing public-employee unions as a deficit-fighting measure -- after the unions had given in on every demand to cut pay and benefits. The plan was to defund the unions, not to cut deficits. They only said it was about deficits, as cover. It wasn't about deficits. They used the deficits as a smokescreen to get what they really want.

    In Washington they are using a supposed deficit fight to defund the EPA and Planned Parenthood and public broadcasting and so many other things that We, the People (government) do for each other. They are proposing to abolish Medicare! They want to privatize or at least cripple Social Security. They are gutting Medicaid, Food Stamps and regulatory enforcement. They say it is to cut the deficit. It isn't about deficits. They created the deficits to get them to this point.

    And as we go through these fights over "deficits" do not ever forget that they just finished passing even more huge tax cuts for the rich. It isn't about deficits.

    They say it is about deficits, they do something else entirely. They always say it is about whatever the public is stirred up about, and then push for their agenda. Always. It's what they do.

    "Nothing is more important in the face of war than cutting taxes" - Tom DeLay, 2003

    If the public was all worried about green cheese on the moon they would be saying that the way to fight green cheese on the moon is to defund unions, abolish Medicare, get rid of regulations, cut taxes on the rich, etc. Don't be distracted, don't be diverted. It isn't about deficits. They created the deficits


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:25 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

    April 5, 2011

    Social Justice: AT&T Plows Over Tenants’ Rights to save their iPhone Business in Silicon Valley

    Silicon Valley’s crown jewel, Palo Alto just got mowed down last evening by AT&T. To be specific AT&T effectively tied the hands of many of the City policymakers, and then plowed through the City Council and over 35 residents leaving their bodies scattered on the sidewalks in their wake. Using the big stick approach, they bullied and threatened action in the Federal court system if their addendum to their existing site permit was not approved; and the Council caved to the mighty sword sacrificing many of their downtown rental residents. Most troubling is that with these actions of passing this addendum for the mounting of two AT&T antennas on this residential building, this City Council may have set a precedent to severely limit tenants’ rights going forward in this particular city and longer term in the state. Commercial building owners may now have enlarged rights that grant them the ability to railroad their tenants with whatever side businesses they choose. If this decision by Palo Alto holds, California may be able to rewrite the Civil Codes that govern the rights granted to landlords by allowiing them to enter the premises far beyond the scope of maintenance and/or emergency. You see the only way to get to this balcony is by gaining access through the bedrooms of the residents.

    Effectively this City Council has opened a hornet’s nest that may continue to sting them as this decision raises questions of social justice for over 40% of the City’s residents, of which over 70% are management or other professionals in the tech industry. We all know that we live in a society that is fraught with corporate collusion, fraud and bad behavior. Yet it is troubling to see this kind of reprehensible behavior in our own backyard without tacit consideration for the privacy, health and/or safety of the rental residents. Palo Alto is a city that is full of bright entrepreneurs willing to risk it all to create technologies that can change the world. Sadly, none of them signed up to give away their rights. Who would have thought that liberal Palo Alto, the place of big dreams, would sink to this level! Most importantly, what is to prevent other such activities that suggest some degree of collusion between the private and public sectors? Not much with this precedent setting action, huh? Will Palo Alto become a city that only protects their landed gentry? With this decision, they are certainly well on their way to solely protecting property owners over the serfs that rent.

    Taking this further, can building owners throughout the City now run either brothels or daycare centers while residents are working during the day or evening? After all given this recently enacted City precedent – building owners now have the right to discount the objections of their tenants to cut whatever side deal that want. This means that building owners can engage in mixed use and side deals regardless of the vocal protests of their tenants. As outrageous as this may seem, this is the box that has been pried open with last evening’s decision and it may prove to a gift that keeps on giving. The young, the bright and the able may now choose to take their start-ups elsewhere and be treated far better in the short and longer term. Maybe there were bigger reasons that Facebook, the symbol of all that is good in Palo Alto, has chosen to jump ship and move to a neighboring city.

    Note: This post will appear in other blogs.

    Posted by Michelle at 1:50 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    March 31, 2011

    Did American Workers "Get What They Deserved?"

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    What did people expect would happen when they voted for Reagan, Bush and other conservatives, or supported their policies? In the Holland (Michigan) Sentinel community columnist Ray Buursma writes, American workers got what they deserved. Some of the things he says might resonate with many of us,

    Remember the Reagan standard? Are you better off today than you were a decade ago? Two decades? Three? Unless you make more than $380,000 a year, the answer is no. In fact, your standard of living over the last quarter century has actually decreased while millionaires have added 30 percent to their net wealth. Why? Two reasons.

    First, hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs went overseas while the politicians you elected did nothing to stop them. Yet you continue to elect leaders who offer nothing but tax cuts, as if that would stem the flow of disappearing jobs.

    Did you demand your leaders address America’s trade imbalance or continuous outsourcing of jobs? Did you demand your leaders require foreign countries to buy a dollar’s worth of American goods for every dollar of goods they sell here?

    No and no. You didn’t bother.

    Buursma writes that instead of resenting people who make more because they are in a union, people should join a union and fight for your job, wages and benefits. He continues,

    Maybe you’re thinking, “I’m not a union worker, so this doesn’t affect me.”

    Stop being stupid. Union benefits provide a standard other companies have to match, or at least come close to. When those benefits are cut, yours are, too. Or do you think you operate in your own little employment vacuum?

    Agree or disagree, please click through and read his entire piece.

    Whose Fault?

    There is no question that things are not going the way they should be going. We see decline all around us -- all pointing back to the changes made after the election of Ronald Reagan. Tax cuts led to massive debt. Deregulation led to mine, oil and financial disasters that cost us more than deregulation ever saved. The infrastructure is crumbling. It seems like we are entering third-world status.

    So is it the fault of American workers that their wages and benefits have declined as jobs are shipped overseas?

    I don't blame working people. After all, they're working! So they're busy, and stressed, and focused on work. They can't be expected to keep up with the little details and facts and nuances -- especially when they are attacked daily with a barrage of well-funded and professionally crafted corporate/conservative propaganda!

    This assault on information and truth has been going on for decades. Under Reagan there was a dramatic shift toward "market" -- one-dollar-one-vote -- sources of information and away from objective, citizen-oriented democratic -- one-person-one-vote -- sources. This market-sourced information necessarily reflects a conservative/corporate view because it is driven by money and profit instead of humanity and humanity's needs.

    Information for Democracy!

    How do we counter the corporate/conservative assault on truth? One answer to the problem of getting accurate, objective information is to use (and support) alternative sources that are not offered by the conservative/corporate machine. Here is a list of a few links to alternative news sources. Please send these to relatives, friends, and even post them to conservative forums.

    PLEASE suggest more progressive information and news sources in the comments! And forward this to others.

    Added suggestions, not necessarily just news:
    AFL-CIO Now Blog
    Manufacture This
    Scholars & Rogues
    Crooks And Liars
    Firedoglake
    Black Agenda Report
    Washington Monthly
    Eschaton
    AMERICAblog
    The Raw Story
    Agonist
    Today's Workplace
    Republic of T
    Democrats.com
    Hullabaloo
    Jack and Jill Politics
    Liberal Oasis

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:47 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    March 29, 2011

    Budget Fight: Why Are Republicans Forcing A Shutdown?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Why are Republicans forcing a government shutdown and doing other things aimed at blowing up the economy? The question isn’t “are they,” it is why are they? Their election strategy for 2010 was to obstruct everything and keep the economy from creating jobs, and then blame Democrats. It worked. So now they're doing it even more. But is that the whole plan?

    In every instance Republicans are obstructing the very things that can help the economy recover and provide the jobs people need. Everything they do is aimed at making things worse. It is hard to understand their actions except as a systematic attempt to blow up the economy.

    When confronted they offer ridiculous explanations which are really only cover for the actions, so they can claim to have a reason beyond destruction. But this is only to provide cover and keep the press and public from calling them out for what they are.

    Cutting Jobs Creates Jobs?

    Speaking of ridiculous explanations, they say they are cutting jobs in order to create jobs. Seriously. Digby today, in Flooding The Market, caught this about the Republican plan,

    For example, the [Republican economic report] paper predicts that cutting the number of public employees would send highly skilled workers job hunting in the private sector, which in turn would lead to lower labor costs and increased employment. But “lowering labor costs” is economist-speak for lowering wages — does the GOP want to be in the position of advocating for lower wages for voters who work in the private sector?

    Got that? Throw enough people out of work and wages go down, which they say leads to more employment. That's their plan?

    One advantage of throwing so many people out of work is that they will work for very little just to eat and feed their families. This is great if you own a business (and don't care about people) -- not so great if you depend on American consumers to purchase what you sell. But that's a problem for later, after you've broken the unions and cut your labor costs. We know this is one part of their strategy because they said so.

    A Grander Strategy Than Killing The Economy To Win In 2012?

    Are they killing the economy in order to win the next election? Or is this part of an even grander strategy?

    So is there a bigger plan at work here? Step back from the day-to-day for a minute, and away from the fog of propaganda and smoke and sand thrown in our eyes to keep us from seeing what is really happening. For decades conservatives have said government is bad, in the way, intrusive holding business back, bureaucratic, inefficient, etc. You have heard the litany, over and over and over.

    So What IS Their Plan?

    It seems conservatives are always running one strategy or another, always working on a plan. Speaking of grand strategies and plans, watch this from Lee Camp:

    They Hate Government

    If you read their websites and magazines you know that they hate government and talk about ways to get rid of it. They have said they just want government to go away and have been running strategies to get it small enough that they can drown it in a bathtub. If you are a Republican who doesn't think destroying government is the best approach you are called a RINO and shunned.

    They don’t talk about governing, they talk about killing government, and when they get power they don't govern they destroy government. They appoint industry lobbyists to agencies that are supposed to oversee their own industries. They appoint polluters to the agencies that are supposed to protect us from pollution. And they appoint people who have called for getting government out of areas like education, medical care, etc. to head up and dismantle those departments.

    They talk about destroying government, not governing. So what makes the DC opinion elite think they want to govern now?

    Destroy Government Then Blame Government For The Consequences?

    Trickling up from conservative underground lately are more and more arguments that government itself is responsible for the crumbling infrastructure, loss of economic competitiveness. The unspoken answer - so far - is that we need to get rid of government itself to get rid of these problems.

    Last Week in Detroit’s Liberal Nightmare, the Heritage Foundation paves the way for what I think we will see coming from conservatives,

    Detroit, once known as “the great arsenal of democracy,” has made headlines of late for its notorious fall from grace. ... And while the Motor City suffers unemployment from a decimated automotive industry, it suffers crime, high taxes, poor city services, plummeting home values, and a public education system in shambles with a $327 million budget deficit and a 19 percent dropout rate. Is it any wonder people are leaving in droves?

    Just today, in Voting With Their Feet, Thomas Sowell blames government for other areas where the census shows are are losing population,

    Both whites and blacks are leaving California, the poster state for the liberal, welfare-state and nanny-state philosophy.

    Whites are also fleeing the big northeastern liberal, welfare states like Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as well as the same kinds of states in the midwest, such as Michigan, Ohio and Illinois.

    And unspoken in all of their anti-government arguments is just what will replace government, namely the big, powerful corporations and the wealthy few behind them.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:57 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    March 25, 2011

    Today's Plutocracy Post: GE Doesn't Pay Taxes -- Taxpayers Pay GE

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    In 1983 NY hotel-chain-owning billionaire Leona Helmsley said, "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes..." As our country migrates from democracy to plutocracy, this more and more appears to be official policy. Again and again we see tax cuts for the wealthy few, tax breaks and subsidies for the big corporations that operate as fronts for those wealthy few, and budget cuts for the things We, the People (government) do to empower and protect each other. Just a few weeks ago we watched as an extension of the Bush tax cuts and a huge cut in the estate tax rate was pushed through. Now we watch as the discussion turns to cuts in Social Security and the rest of the so-called "safety net."

    Another indicator of plutocracy (government of, by and for the wealthy) is impunity for those at the top. Leona Helmsley actually went to jail for tax evasion. Even as recently as the early-90s Savings and Loan Crisis our government investigated, prosecuted and jailed more than a thousand bad actors for fraud and other crimes. This time, well, ... not so much. Well ... actually not at all. Times have changed. Don't look back. Deal with it. Suck it up. Let's all get on the same team and keep this ball moving forward down the field at the end of the day. Whatever. Hey, look over there!

    Today's Plutocracy Indicator

    From the NY Times, G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether

    The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States.

    Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.

    So not only did GE, the highly-profitable recipient of federal contracts and bailout money, not pay taxes, we paid them $3.2 billion!

    Revolving Door Writes The Loopholes

    How does GE accomplish this? By taking advantage of the "revolving door" where people move back-and-forth from government agencies to the corporations those agencies are supposed to oversee. From the NY Times story,

    Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. G.E.’s giant tax department, led by a bow-tied former Treasury official named John Samuels, is often referred to as the world’s best tax law firm. Indeed, the company’s slogan “Imagination at Work” fits this department well. The team includes former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress.

    While Congressional staffers they write the loopholes into the laws. Then they go to their reward at corporate headquarters for very high pay. Then they go work in the agencies to make sure the rulings go their way. They then go collect again. It is a lucrative game. They're the winners -- they call themselves "producers." We're the losers -- they call us ... "losers."

    Who Really Benefits?

    The use of the general term "corporations" to describe the beneficiaries of these policies is really a smokescreen that masks the fact that really a very few people are benefiting. Yesterday's post, Lobbyists Admit Corporate Tax "Holiday" Didn't Work, But Demand It Again, pointed out that it is a very few actual people that we are really talking about here,

    Corporate wealth is really just personal wealth, held at arms length from the person to mask what is going on. The wealthiest 1% own 50.9% of all stocks, bonds, and mutual fund assets. The wealthiest 10 percent own more than 90 percent. The bulk of us own less than 1 percent. When you hear about "corporate" holdings, think about this chart from the Working Group on Extreme Inequality:

    At The Expense Of The Rest Of Us

    These benefits accrue to the wealthy few at the expense of the rest of us. What many people don't understand is that it is also at the expense of other companies. Our infrastructure and public structures - roads, education, courts, customers - are the soil in which good companies can grow. When tax dodgers are able to avoid contributing to our communities and country, the overall environment for the rest of our businesses deteriorates and our worldwide competitiveness declines. We see it all around us every day.

    Ungrateful Bastards

    For all the benefits huge multinational companies like GE get from We, the People -- subsidies, contracts, bailouts, tax breaks and customers, they aren't very rateful and certainly are not about to give anything back. Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture writes,

    Yet another reason why you don’t bailout companies whose inability to manage risk allowed themselves to become destroyed: They not only do not deserve to continue with the same management/shareholders/creditors who all created the insolvency in the first place, but they are ungrateful bastards as well.

    Even Reagan

    Even tax-cutter Ronald Reagan balked when he learned that GE (for which he had been spokesman) didn't pay its taxes. From the NY Times story,

    In the mid-1980s, President Ronald Reagan overhauled the tax system after learning that G.E. — a company for which he had once worked as a commercial pitchman — was among dozens of corporations that had used accounting gamesmanship to avoid paying any taxes.

    “I didn’t realize things had gotten that far out of line,” Mr. Reagan told the Treasury secretary, Donald T. Regan, according to Mr. Regan’s 1988 memoir. The president supported a change that closed loopholes and required G.E. to pay a far higher effective rate, up to 32.5 percent.


    Isaiah Poole, in Rewriting Eric Cantor's Cant On Jobs,

    "So let's stop the demagoguery about overtaxed corporations and have a dialogue instead about a tax code that taxes all people fairly. A tax system in which a billionaire like Warren Buffett pays taxes at a lower rate than his secretary is not fair, and an unfair tax code, one that's riddled with loopholes, perverse incentives and ways to game the system, keeps us limping and unproductive."

    Terrance Heath has been writing a series on The Truth About Tax & Spend Conservatism,

    ... the truth about "Tax & Spend Conservatism" is that it isn't about raising or cutting taxes, but about whose taxes are raised and whose taxes are cut. It's about, as Robert Borsage put it, who gets hit with the tab for the great recession.

    Resources

    Public Campaign fact sheet titled, GE's Corporate Tax Dodging that begins,

    General Electric spent $235.2 million in political money since 2000--paid no federal income taxes in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

    and points out:

    G.E. cut American jobs and exported them overseas.

    The New York Times reports “[since] 2002, the company has eliminated a fifth of its work force in the United States while increasing overseas employment.”

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:29 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Lobbyists Admit Corporate Tax "Holiday" Didn't Work, But Demand It Again

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    The usual suspects are trying to sell us on yet another scheme to keep from paying their taxes. This one is called a repatriation tax holiday—a huge cut in the tax rate on money companies are holding outside of the country. We did this before and it didn't work out so well for us, so of course they want to do it again.

    Multinational corporations hide profits in offshore shell companies to avoid taxes. Here is how the scheme works:

    One shell company manufactures in China or another low-cost country, sells the products to a shell company "based" in a tax-haven like the Cayman Islands at a low price so the manufacturer doesn't show much profit. The tax-haven company immediately sells it to their U.S. company at a very high price, so the tax-haven shell company gets most of the profits.

    Then the products are sold here for not much above what was paid, so very little profit is made by the U.S. company. The tax-haven shell company reports all the profits as a result of selling TO but not IN the United States. Low profits here equals low taxes here.

    As long as the actual money isn't brought into the U.S., they don't pay U.S. taxes on it. So after years of this scheme a ton of cash is sitting in these tax-haven countries, and the wealthy few want to be able to use it to buy even more jets, houses, Maybachs, etc. And, of course, they don't want to pay their taxes.

    So of course, the inevitable "business groups" are trying to get Congress to pass a "repatriation tax holiday" on the profits they are holding outside of the country.

    From The Hill, Business groups press Treasury to shift on corporate tax holiday:

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the WIN America Campaign, the business coalition ... flatly state that U.S. multinationals have little incentive now to bring what they say is roughly $1 trillion in revenues back home and that allowing them to do so at a reduced rate would help stimulate the American economy.

    They Always Say It Creates Jobs

    The "business groups" argue that bringing the money back would "stimulate the economy" and create jobs. They say everything that helps the rich get richer creates jobs. But then it doesn’t create jobs. Then they say the next thing will create jobs so we go fo it, and then that doesn’t either. Meanwhile they get richer and richer, and we get poorer and poorer and need even more jobs.

    Been There, Done That

    Here's the thing, we tried this in 2004. "Business groups" argued that bringing the money back would cause them to invest in the United States—and they got what they wanted. We allowed corporations to bring profits back to the U.S. at a tax rate of 5.25 percent, instead of the top corporate rate of 35 percent.

    How did that work out for the economy and jobs? Not so well. Alain Sherter, in Sure, a “Tax Holiday” on Overseas Profits Is a Great Idea — If You Hate America, looked into this and writes,

    The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found that the companies that got the biggest tax breaks following the 2004 rate cut went on to eliminate jobs over the next two years. Instead of hiring, they mostly used the repatriated funds to repurchase stock or pay dividends — and to expand outside the U.S.

    But it did provide a huge incentive to do even more offshoring of profits and jobs, because this scheme worked and the money came back in a tax holiday. So of course they are proposing to do it all over again. Bring the profits back untaxed, and then start the cycle again.

    Sherter points out this really does benefit a very few at the expense of the rest of us, including other companies,

    Repatriation holidays also favor a handful of huge corporations at the expense of other companies, especially businesses without operations around the globe. In 2004, a total of five companies reaped more than one-quarter of the benefits from the tax holiday, while 15 firms got more than 50 percent. To pay for such a cut without raising the deficit, meanwhile, the U.S. would have to increase taxes on other U.S. businesses or make even deeper cuts in already tight federal spending.

    Tom Sullivan posted his own review of repatriation on OurFuture.org in 2009:

    Washington Post business columnist Allan Sloan reacted to the [American Jobs Creation Act] in 2006, saying, “Companies don't add jobs based on one-time chances to repatriate money from overseas.”

    And they didn’t, according to Finance Committee Chairman, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), who argued against renewing the tax holiday. “The data shows that the last time we enacted something like this there were virtually no new jobs created in the United States. None.” Baucus continued, “Companies used this money for other purposes.”

    North Dakota Democrat, Sen. Byron Dorgan rebranded the proposal: “There’s another phrase for repatriation; it’s called rewarding the outsourcing of jobs.”

    The Cost

    U.S. PIRG, in Tax Shell Game: The Taxpayer Cost of Offshore Corporate Havens says,

    Key Findings

    • The cost to taxpayers due to the use of offshore tax havens is as high as $100 billion per year - $1 trillion over 10 years. U.S.-based individuals and corporations who pay taxes on their revenues must shoulder this burden for those who do not.

    • Taxpayers must shoulder the burden – U.S. PIRG Education Fund calculated each state’s taxpayer contribution proportional to their yearly federal contribution to make up for the $100 billion lost. [For California taxpayers, that figure was $11,679,735,788; for Texas, $8,653,820,2590; for New York, $8,432,456,612; for Florida, $4,932,770,661.]

    • Our allies in other nations are also calling for decisive action to reign in these abusive tax havens. The Group of 20 (G-20), which provides a forum for world financial leaders to promote global economic stability, recently issued a communique providing for sanctions against tax haven countries.

    Business Groups - Or People?

    Corporate wealth is really just personal wealth, held at arms length from the person to mask what is going on. The wealthiest 1% own 50.9% of all stocks, bonds, and mutual fund assets. The wealthiest 10 percent own more than 90 percent. The bulk of us own less than 1 percent. When you hear about "corporate" holdings, think about this chart from the Working Group on Extreme Inequality:

    wealth2

    So with this tax holiday proposal we're once again talking about benefits that go to the top few percent, at the expense of the rest of us. At the expense of schools, roads, police, firefighters, nurses, roads, rail, health care and all the things We, the People try to do for each other.

    These days we seem to always be talking about benefit to the top few percent, at the expense of the rest of us. Funny how that works.

    • Cut back on the things We, the People (government) do for each other, so the top few can have even more.
    • Cut Social Security -- the money employees have set aside all their lives -- to preserve the tax cuts that went to the top few.
    • Get rid of the retirement plans of state government employees so the top few don't have to pay state taxes.
    • Get rid of unions so the top few don't have to pay good salaries or provide benefits.
    • Cut back on etc. so the top few get more ...
    • Cut back on etc. so the top few get more ...
    • Cut back on etc. so the top few get more ...
    • Cut back on etc. so the top few get more ...

    Solutions

    Citizens For Tax Justice has a report on this problem, Congress Should End "Deferral" Rather than Adopt a "Territorial" Tax System, and they offer a simple solution: tax it.

    Some corporate leaders are pushing Congress to adopt a "territorial" tax system, which would exempt the offshore profits of U.S. corporations. Congress should move in the opposite direction and adopt a "pure worldwide" tax system, which taxes all profits of U.S. corporations the same while providing a credit to avoid double-taxation.

    Believe Them

    The other day I had a conversation with Bill Parks, who has written here about The Buffett Balanced-Trade Idea. He offered a practical modification of this idea. He proposed that we should just believe companies when they file their accounting reports that list where the sales are, then taxing the percentage of their profits according to that ratio of percentage of sales.

    Here is how that would work in the tax -avoidance scheme described above. Remember, they are reporting that the tax-haven country pays a low price and the U.S. pays a high price. The result is high profit sales TO the U.S. but not IN the U.S. So fine, sales to the tax-haven country is a low-percentage of their profits, to the US a high percentage so the US then collects the same dollar ratio of taxes.

    Tax-avoidance case: 90% of profits are reported to be made by selling from Cayman Islands shell company TO the U.S.

    Tax-collection result: Therefore 90% of taxes on profits have to be paid to the U.S.

    Putting American companies to work for us is a better solution than giving them a holiday.

    Other resources:

    Bloomberg: Tax Holiday for $1 Trillion May Lure Back Profits Without Growth

    Center for American Progress: Tax Expenditure of the Week: Offshore Tax Deferral

    Chuck Collins, Senior scholar, Institute for Policy Studies, Pay Up, Corporate Tax Dodgers

    Phineas Baxandall and Nicole Tichon, PIRG & Tax Justice Network USA, In The Public Interest: A (Non)Taxing Issue

    Nicholas Shaxson: Treasure Islands: Uncovering the Damage of Offshore Banking and Tax Havens

    US PIRG: Who Slows the Pace of Tax Reforms?

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:56 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Koch And Native-American Reservation Oil Theft

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Just what is this Koch Industries? Should it be called a "company?" If so we need to re-think the idea of what a company and a business is supposed to be. Even the brother of Koch Industries owners David and Charles Koch called the company an "organized crime" operation.

    Koch money is a key driver of the conservative movement. Almost every conservative-movement rock you turn over has Koch money crawling around under it. As the movement becomes more and more of a pay-to-play operation, conservatives of every stripe do more and more to protect and enrich the Koch operation. This has included blocking, disrupting and avoiding official investigations of accusations. It also includes funding front groups to advance the political and financial interests of the company and its owners.

    Theft Of Oil From Reservations

    Oppose The Future has the story of how Koch Oil was caught stealing oil from an Indian Reservation, reducing or removing the incomes of so many poor residents.

    At some point in 1987, Thurmon Parton’s royalty checks for the three oil wells he inherited from his mother suddenly dropped from $3,000 a month to a little over $1,000. He and his sister, Arnita Gonzalez, members of the Caddo tribe, lived near Gracemont, Oklahoma, a town of a few hundred people on a small grid on the prairie.

    Those modest royalties were the only source of income each of them had.

    . . . What happened to Mr. Parton, Ms. Gonzales and Ms. Limpy had nothing to do with the wells or how they were producing. Their oil was being stolen. And all of the evidence pointed to the same culprit: Koch Oil, a division of Koch Industries.

    This is an important story today because it helps us understand the nature of the Koch operation, which has so much influence over our politics and even livelihoods today. It also helps us understand why our government not only appears to be influenced, but often to be outright corrupted. From the story,

    In the spring of 1989, a Special Committee on Investigations of the United States Senate’s Select Committee on Indian Affairs was formed to look into concerns that the path to tribal self-rule was impeded by fraud, corruption and mismanagement from all sides.

    ... Within a span of months, the Special Committee determined that “Koch [Oil] was engaged in systematic theft, stealing millions in Oklahoma alone.” BLM, even with a tip that Koch was behaving improperly, hadn’t done a thing.

    Oppose The Future lays out the story and details of the oil theft. There is also story of the years following.

    "A Broad Pattern Of Criminal Behavior"

    Back in 1996 Business Week looked into the relationship between then-Senator and Presidential Candidate Bob Dole and Koch Industries and an apparent pattern of influence by the company, in BOB DOLE'S OIL-PATCH PALS. Here are some excerpts from their investigation, [emphasis added]

    Koch has had a history of run-ins with the Justice Dept. and other federal agencies. In 1989, a special congressional committee looked into charges that Koch had routinely removed more oil from storage tanks on Indian tribal lands ... Dole tried to influence the Senate committee to soft-pedal the probe. Nevertheless, after a yearlong investigation, the committee said in its final report, "Koch Oil, the largest purchaser of Indian oil in the country, is the most dramatic example of an oil company stealing by deliberate mismeasurement and fraudulent reporting." The report triggered a grand jury probe. The inquiry was dropped in March, 1992, which provoked outrage by congressional investigators.

    Then in April, 1995, the Justice Dept. filed a $55 million civil suit against Koch for causing more than 300 oil spills over a five-year period. Dole and other Senators, however, sponsored a bill ... that critics charge would help Koch defend itself ... legal sources say the government's ultimate goal is to use evidence in the two actions to establish that Koch has engaged in a broad pattern of criminal behavior.

    ... From Apr. 19, 1991, through Nov. 2, 1992, David Koch and the Koch Industries political action committee together contributed $7,000 to Nickles' campaign war chest. Around the same time, [Oklahoma Republican Senator Don] Nickles sponsored Timothy D. Leonard, an old friend of Nickles, for the post of U.S. Attorney in Oklahoma City. ... initially, questions were raised in the U.S. attorney's office about whether Leonard should recuse himself because Koch Industries purchased oil from wells in which Leonard and his family had royalty interests ... Then-Deputy Attorney General William P. Barr granted him a waiver to participate in the case ... In March, 1992, after an 18-month investigation, the U.S. Attorney's office terminated the grand jury probe and informed Koch it anticipated no indictments. ... As the grand jury investigation was winding down, Nickles sponsored Leonard for a federal judgeship. He was nominated by President Bush in November, 1991, and confirmed by the Senate the following August.

    Business Week lays out the evidence in detail. The timing, with Republican administration/committee/agency/department after administration/committee/agency/department impeding and/or dropping investigations into Koch activities is also clear.

    In 2000, CBS' 60 Minutes ran a segment, Blood And Oil And Environmental Negligence looking at the activities of the Koch brothers and their private company Koch Industries,

    As we told you when we first reported this story last November, the Koch family of Wichita, Kansas is among the richest in the United States, worth billions of dollars. Their oil company, Koch Industries, is bigger than Intel, Dupont or Prudential Insurance, and they own it lock stock and barrel.

    William Koch, brother of company owners David and Charles, called the company an "organized crime" operation:

    Koch says that Koch Industries engaged in "(o)rganized crime. And management driven from the top down."

    "It was – was my family company. I was out of it," he says. "But that’s what appalled me so much... I did not want my family, my legacy, my father’s legacy to be based upon organized crime."

    In March, 2001 the incoming Bush administration repealed the "responsible contractor rule" that barred companies that chronically defraud the government and/or violate federal pollution, wage and other rules from receiving federal contracts.

    Then, in 2002 the Bush II administration awarded Koch the contract to supply oil to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. (There were accusations that the government bought oil when prices were high, and sold it when prices were low.) The contract was renewed in 2004. Koch received tens of millions in other government contracts during the Bush years.

    The story and timeline of the Koch operation (and its front-groups) go on and on, organizing and funding climate-denial front groups, front-groups run and funded by the Koch Brothers organizing and funding the Tea Party. (Please click the links.)

    Think Progress in particular has been following the activities of this "company" and its front groups, and it is certainly worth taking a look. See REPORT: How Koch Industries Makes Billions By Demanding Bailouts And Taxpayer Subsidies (Part 1),

    Koch funds both socially conservative groups and socially liberal groups. However, Koch’s financing of front groups and political organizations all have one thing in common: every single Koch group attacks workers’ rights, promotes deregulation, and argues for radical supply side economics.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:52 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    March 20, 2011

    Fed Now Paying Bank Dividends

    The Fed is now handing cash to wealthy people who own bank stocks. They have authorized banks to pay dividends, while giving banks money at zero percent for them to loan back to the US govt at higher rates. That is free money. If you have money in the bank, you are paying for that by receiving almost no interest.

    See If Banks Can Resume Dividends, Can the Fed Resume Normalized Rates? | The Big Picture

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:39 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    March 18, 2011

    Evil People Have Plans

    Evil People Have Plans! by comedian Lee Camp

    And then this:

    Devilz-Speciez - "Paradox" ft. Lee Camp

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:10 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    March 3, 2011

    How Koch Front Groups Influence Laws

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Tuesday the House of Representatives voted to continue tax breaks and subsidies for oil companies. Every Republican voted to support the tax breaks and subsidies.

    Thursday House Republicans are expected to introduce legislation to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating the CO2 put into the air by burning oil and coal.

    Why does the oil industry have so much influence over our government?

    Think Progress examines the influence just one oil company has over our government in a series:

    From the report series, Part 1:

    As ThinkProgress has carefully documented over the last three years, Koch groups have spent tens of millions to influence government policy — from financing the Tea Parties, to funding junk academic studies, to undisclosed attack ads against Democrats, to groups promoting climate change denial, to a large network of state-based and national think tanks.

    [. . .] Koch funds both socially conservative groups and socially liberal groups. However, Koch’s financing of front groups and political organizations all have one thing in common: every single Koch group attacks workers’ rights, promotes deregulation, and argues for radical supply side economics. Not only do the Koch’s front groups pad Koch Industries’ bottom line, they supply the Koch brother’s talking points.

    From the series Part 2:

    Koch Industries has cornered the market in monetizing some of the most dirty industrial businesses. Koch imports oil from the Middle East, refines high-carbon Canadian crude, maintains coal-burning plants, owns one of the largest oil pipeline networks in America, runs environmentally hazardous lumber mills, produces toxic chemicals, and manufacturers fertilizer. The University of Masschusetts Amherst has scored Koch as among the top ten worst air polluters for its carcinogenic chemicals.

    Much of the entire Koch political machine is geared towards ensuring that Koch Industries never has to compensate the people and ecosystems damaged by Koch Industries pollution. Koch front groups — from Tea Party groups to think tanks — have diligently promoted Koch Industries’ bottom line by denying global warming, fighting regulations on Koch’s cancer-causing chemicals, and snuffing out investigations into Koch’s environmental crimes:

    The report shows how a series of Koch-funded organizations -- some even tax-deductible supposed "charities" -- are presented to the public as "independent" and are used in a campaign to persuade the public that climate change is a "hoax" or that different ways that Koch Industries pollutes are actually not harmful and should not be regulated.

    Not Just Pollution Laws

    While the Think Progress series examines how Koch Industries uses front groups to influence the government's efforts to enforce pollution laws, Politico examines an entirely different way that Koch Industies is using front groups to influence government. In For right, Wisconsin battle was years in making, Politico examines how Koch and others wages a campaign to convince voters that public employees, their pensions and their unions are responsible for state budget deficit, leading up to efforts like the ones in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and other states to get rid of public employee unions.

    From the Politico story,

    The conservative assault on public sector unions that seemed to explode out of nowhere in Wisconsin and spread across the Midwest was in fact months – if not years – in the making, the result of methodical polling, lobbying, messaging, grassroots organizing and policy crafting by a coterie of well-funded conservative groups.

    The Politico story provides an important piece of the puzzle in understanding what has happened to us, our wages, our jobs and our democracy in recent years. But the story is hardly limited to influence over pollution laws or the fight over public-employee unions. Other investigations have looked into other uses of these front groups, astroturf, think tanks and other influencers. For example, looking just at Koch influence see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here,and so many more.

    See also Think Progress' related posts:

    March 10 Summit on Jobs and America's Future

    On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.

    Free. $15 with lunch. Register here.


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:11 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    March 2, 2011

    Fight Corporate Takeover

    EVERYone should go see CITIZEN UNITED v. FEC


    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:53 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    February 25, 2011

    Story of Citizens United Coming March 1

    The Story of Citizens United v. FEC -- Coming March 1!

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:21 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Ideology Over All

    What strikes me about this interview, "Koch Execs Respond To Prank Call: We Will Not 'Back Off' | TPMMuckraker, is that an executive of a company would see his opposition as "the left" and the right as "we."

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:46 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    February 23, 2011

    What Is The Real Agenda Of The Budget-Cutters?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    What is the real agenda of the budget-cutters? Are they really trying to bring the country back from the edge of financial ruin? Or did they bring about the appearance of a borrowing crisis to create a public panic that enables them to impose "solutions" that change the very nature of our country -- while doing little about the borrowing?

    In the news this week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker "ginned up" a budget crisis, then introduced legislation that removes collective bargaining rights from public employees, and over time effectively destroys their unions. Similar measures have been introduced by Republican governors or legislatures in several other states.

    This legislative attack on public employees follows more than a year of "preparing the ground" with a coordinated campaign from conservative organizations to convince the public that public employees are overpaid and that their pensions are "bankrupting" state governments -- not the effects of the recession.

    In the news soon, the coming strategic "shutdown" of the federal government by Republicans. After decades of forcing through tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, again and again -- most recently just a few weeks ago -- Republicans and corporate conservatives are engaged in a national campaign promoting the belief that there is a "deficit crisis." Their solutions involve gutting the things government does for We, the People like consumer, health, safety, labor and financial, retirement and income protections, while keeping things the government does for corporations and the wealthy "off the table."

    We see variations of the same formula over and over. Here is how it works:

    1) Cut taxes for the rich and corporations (corporate stock is mostly owned by the top 1%); big deficits result.
    2) Claim a deficit emergency and use their domination of corporate-owned media to whip the public into a panic, creating the appearance of demand for corporate-approved "solutions." Manipulate the appearance of consensus.
    3) With taxes and military “off the table” push through cuts in the things government does for We, the People.

    Repeat as often as needed to create a plutocracy.

    Today's "debt crisis" is the culmination of the long-term "starve the beast" strategy from an organized corporate-conservative movement. By cutting taxes for the wealthy they have starved the government, created massive debt (guess where the interest payments go) gutted the infrastructure, and put our country on the road to third-world status. This conservative movement has an agenda, and is not interested in working out "bipartisan" compromised.

    In an example in the news this week, a hoax call, purported to be from David Koch, one of the billionaire-industrialists helping fund the conservative movement and major funder of efforts to make it appear that Wisconsin is having a budget crisis. In the hoax call, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker clearly understands that he and Koch are in engaged a joint effort, describing a Democratic Senator who could work with him as "not one of us."

    Koch: Now you’re not talking to any of these Democrat bastards, are you?

    Walker: Ah, I—there’s one guy that’s actually voted with me on a bunch of things I called on Saturday for about 45 minutes, mainly to tell him that while I appreciate his friendship and he’s worked with us on other things, to tell him I wasn’t going to budge.

    Koch: Goddamn right!

    Walker: …his name is Tim Cullen—

    Koch: All right, I’ll have to give that man a call.

    Walker: Well, actually, in his case I wouldn’t call him and I’ll tell you why: he’s pretty reasonable but he’s not one of us…

    Elsewhere in the call Walker and faux-Koch talk about whether "planting troublemakers" would "work" or not.

    In another example of the self-awareness of this strategy: On public radio's Marketplace, February 22 Vincent Vernuccio of the Koch/conservative movement/corporate front-group Competitive Enterprise Institute discusses how the real agenda of the state actions is to destroy unions and their ability to fight corporate power politically, not to solve budget problems. (Note, he was not identified on the show as funded by conservative/corporate interests and Koch.)

    VINCENT VERNUCCIO: Union bosses want to inflate these budgets so they can get more members, so they can get more dues. And in turn, they take that dues money they have and give it to politicians who are going to give them more favors in the future.

    Several states are considering bills that would allow workers to opt-out of a union. Again, Vincent Vernuccio.

    VERNUCCIO: The main focus of this isn't just the budget cuts. It's actually giving workers the right to say no to the union if they so choose.

    Professor Bruno also sees broader implications for the debate. Since union money helps support the Democratic party, he argues changes in collective bargaining could shake up the political landscape far beyond the Midwest.

    These are just two small examples, in the news on the same day, showing the difference between the public pronouncements of concern for the country and a private agenda to fool the country. It is one thing when responsible leaders disagree on the best way to solve the country's real problems. It is quite another thing when organized wealth pursues a strategy to scare the country into handing over our remaining wealth and power.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:58 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    February 19, 2011

    Simple and Obvious

    1) Cut taxes for the rich; deficits result.
    2) Claim deficit emergency.
    3) Cut the things government does for We, the People.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:33 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    February 16, 2011

    It's A Really Bad Time to Be Middle Class

    It’s a really bad time to even be middle class in this country, and forget about being poor. The only way to be protected is to be very wealthy: then you are guaranteed that your house is safe, your medical care is covered, and your children will have a future. It’s that bad, and not one bit of this is subtle.

    There is a class war underway in this country. The rich, or those that represent their interests, and corporations want control. Dave Johnson, blogger for the Campaign for America’s Future, nailed it when he wrote that: “This budget fight is about a stark choice: jobs and growth for We, the People, or going down the road of plutocracy -- rule by the super-rich and big corporations -- with little or nothing left over for the rest of us.”

    This is the power grab of our generation playing out in Obama’s budget. It reflects true entitlement for the super wealthy. The government revitalization of the “too big to fail” banks was only the tipping point. Of course, the bankers deserved their bonuses. Remember that you heard it here. The battleground is not about the so-called entitlement programs espoused by the Democrats. Social Security, and other such programs are not the culprits; they are the scapegoat for the real agenda.

    Obama is being forced to rip open the social fabric of this country to reduce the Bush generated debts. In the President’s proposed budget, most social programs will be ravaged left and right (no pun intended). Yes admittedly, this budget is a massive jobs creation machine. But watch out – don’t get sick folks or have an on-the-job accident because there will little if any safety net. Certainly, we all know about health care reform, yet if Speaker Boehner and his boys have their way -- that too will be reduced to a hill of beans and severely compromised. The fight for survival of the middle class and the poor has been ratcheted up a notch. Strap in folks, this is class warfare.

    Note, this will also appear in the Huffington Post.

    Posted by Michelle at 12:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    February 7, 2011

    Obama To Chamber: Be Patriotic And Move Jobs Back To America

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    President Obama today appealed to the patriotism of the members of the Chamber of Commerce to begin investing in America again, to begin bringing factories and jobs back and to begin sharing the gains of our economy with the American people.

    Saying that we cannot go back to the economy and culture we saw before the recession, the President reminded business leaders that the pre-recession period was a time when growth and gains and productivity did not translate into rising incomes for working people. He asked business leaders to take responsibility for thinking about how we make sure everyone has a stake in trade, increasing exports and rising productivity, "So ordinary folks see their standard of living and income rise as well."

    We can’t go back to the kind of economy and culture that we saw in the years leading up to the recession, where growth and gains in productivity just didn’t translate into rising incomes and opportunity for the middle class. That’s not something necessarily we can legislate, but it’s something that all of us have to take responsibility for thinking about. How do we make sure that everybody’s got a stake in trade, everybody’s got a stake in increasing exports, everybody’s got a stake in rising productivity? Because ordinary folks end up seeing their standards of living rise as well. That’s always been the American promise. That’s what JFK meant when he said, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Too many boats have been left behind, stuck in the mud.

    Speaking of a "virtuous circle" the President asked companies to invest in hiring American workers,

    ...[make] ... investments made now that will pay off as the economy rebounds. And as you hire, you know that more Americans working will mean more sales for your companies. It will mean more demand for your products and services. It will mean higher profits for your companies. We can create a virtuous circle.
    .

    The President said that as a government we will help lay the foundation for businesses to grow, innovate and succeed. We will update the infrastructure, transportation, education system and remove barriers to business growth. But he said he wanted to be clear that even as we remake the foundations, businesses have a responsibility to America.

    We invest in the infrastructure, so innovation should lead to companies and jobs here, and manufactinrg here. Doing otherwise breaks the social compact and makes people feel the game is fixed and they are not benefiting.

    We also have a responsibility as a nation to provide our people with -- and our businesses -- with the fastest, most reliable way to move goods and information. The costs to business from outdated and inadequate infrastructure is enormous. And that’s what we have right now -- outdated, inadequate infrastructure. And any of you that have been traveling to other countries, you know it, you see it, and it affects your bottom lines. That’s why I want to put more people to work rebuilding crumbling roads, rebuilding our bridges. That’s why I’ve proposed connecting 80 percent of the country with high-speed -- to high-speed rail, and making it possible for companies to put high-speed Internet coverage in the reach of virtually all Americans.

    The idea is supposed to be that we gain from the investment we make in laying down those foundations for businesses: Intel pioneers the microchip and puts thousands to work here. Henry Ford put people to work here. And then those folks buy here, and the economy works for everyone. A virtuous circle.

    The President said that America can compete. Caterpillar is building a new plant in Texas. In Tennessee Whirlpool opening its first US plant in more than a decade. Companies are bringing jobs back to our shores. Now is the time to invest in America


    Appeal To Patriotism

    The President appealed to the patriotism of the Chamber. "I know you love this country and want America to succeed just as badly as I do, we are all Americans. It is that sense of patriotism that has carried us through harder times than this."

    The President pointed to past partnerships between big business and government. At the end of 1930s, FDR formed a new partnership with business to build the "Arsenal of Democracy." Roosevelt reached out to businesses, and business leaders answered the call to serve their country.

    After years of working at cross purposes, the result was one of the most productive collaborations between the public and private sectors in American history. Some, like the head of GM, hadn’t previously known the President, and if anything had seen him as an adversary. But he gathered his family and he explained that he was going to head up what would become the War Production Board. And he said to his family, “This country has been good to me, and I want to pay it back.” I want to pay it back.

    He said we have faced tumultuous moments of change and we know what to do: Rise to this occasion, come together, adapt.

    Perhaps this will be a turning point, and the huge multinationals and financial giants that make up the Chamber's primary backers will begin to support America and Americans again.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:48 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

    The Chamber Of Commerce Is Anti-Business

    President Obama is speaking today to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The press is reporting this as an effort to be "pro-business," to "patch up" relations with business, to "reach out" to business, to "court" business and to begin a "thaw" or "truce"with "business leaders."

    If the President really wants to be pro-business he should stay away from this partisan lobbying group. The Chamber of Commerce pushes policies that hurt most businesses and most Americans. The president should side with the 99% of American businesses that are not giant multi-nationals or Wall Street con artists.

    Chamber Is Anti-Business

    The Chamber of Commerce is not "pro-business" it is anti-business. The Chamber represents Wall Street and the giant multinationals that have used their vast sums of money to corrupt our politics to pass legislation that favors these giants over other businesses. They have pushed policies that block small and medium businesses from competing with these giants.

    The Chamber pushes policies that hurt businesses,


    A Partisan Lobbying Group

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a Republican-affiliated lobbying group, not an organization representing the breadth of large and small American businesses. It only calls itself a "business" group to provide a mask for its partisan activities, but it is a hard-core partisan, political organization. For example, Fox News recently donated $1million to the Chamber's efforts to elect Republicans, and only Republicans,

    The News Corporation, whose holdings include The Wall Street Journal and the Fox News Channel, has donated $1 million to the United States Chamber of Commerce, the business advocacy group that is among the heaviest anti-Democratic advertisers in this year’s elections.

    The Chamber took in $86 million from the insurance industry to oppose his health care reform and is now pushing repeal.

    Not Small, Not Local

    Politico recently reported that local Chambers of Commerce are being alienated by the US Chamber's tactics and policies. In Angry member groups shun Chamber reported,

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is under fire from some local chambers over its hard-hitting $75 million ad campaign to elect a Republican House, with dozens of groups distancing themselves from the effort and a handful even quitting the national group in protest.

    . . . The U.S. Chamber prides itself on a take-no-prisoners approach to power in Washington. Community-based chambers generally operate in a manner that encourages bipartisanship and consensus while shunning the edgy partisanship that became the hallmark of the national office’s 2010 political strategy.

    The Chamber doesn't even represent that many businesses. According to the Chamber's website tries to make it appear as if the organization represents a large number of businesses "of all sizes":

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations. More than 96% of U.S. Chamber members are small businesses with 100 employees or fewer.

    Actually the Chamber has about 300,000 members. This is a clue indicating how this organization operates. They mask. They misrepresent their membership to mask their partisan, anti-American-business agenda.

    Not Even American Businesses?

    There are even questions about whether the Chamber represents American businesses or businesses from other countries. During the election the Chamber was reported to be accepting money from non-American companies and using that money to run campaign ads against candidates who wanted the US government to better represent American companies in the world marketplace.

    The Chamber’s spending has dwarfed every other issue group and most political party candidate committee spending. A ThinkProgress investigation has found that the Chamber funds its political attack campaign out of its general account, which solicits foreign funding.

    The President should remember that the Chamber is not a friend of most American businesses, not a friend of working people and certainly not a friend of him or his party. It is not going to be our frond or his friend, no matter how much he reaches out to them. He would do better to support American businesses that believe in America and the American people.

    March 10 Summit on Jobs and America's Future

    On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.

    Free. $15 with lunch. Register here.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:47 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    February 3, 2011

    Jobs Crisis In Real World ... Just Not In DC

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Who is our economy for? Who is our government for? For 30 years we have been undergoing a transition from "We, the People" democratic government to a plutocracy run by and for the wealthy. One indicator of this transition is the way the DC Elite respond to unemployment. 9-10% unemployment used to be a national emergency. Now it's a yawn.

    What The Washington Paper Says

    The Washington Post has a front-page story, Why does Fresno have thousands of job openings - and high unemployment? that says the problem is really "structural," a skills gap, and there is little we can do. This is significant because so many people who make policy read the Washington Post while sitting in their nice, expensive restaurants. Stories like this risk that they will think that there really are plenty of jobs out there, but the serfs just aren’t up to taking them, or are too spoiled, but in any event there is no problem that needs solving, and call the lobbyist because this month’s check is late.

    Meanwhile, anyone in the real world outside of Washington or Wall Street, reading about “thousands” of job openings going unfilled immediately knows something is fishy. In fact, if this story ran on the front page outside of DC or Wall Street we might even need to worry about Egypt-style riots. Anyone on the same side of the continent as Fresno knows that there are not “thousands’ of unfilled job openings. There might be thousands of foreclosures, or thousands of people in food lines, or thousands of people whose unemployment has run out but there are not thousands of unfilled job openings.

    What The Local Paper Says

    The Fresno Bee has a different story to tell, EDITORIAL: President should come see impact of joblessness in Valley:

    The economy may be improving, but it would be difficult to persuade the thousands of out-of-work Valley residents that things are looking up.

    The six Valley communities cited in a U.S. Labor Department report have unemployment rates that run from 16.4% in Hanford-Corcoran to 18.6% in Merced. The other Valley cities on the list are Fresno (16.9%), Visalia-Porterville (16.8%), Modesto (17.2%) and Stockton (17.5%).

    . . . The nation's economic recovery will not be complete until Americans go back to work. At every level of government, the goal should be to implement policies that improve consumer confidence and encourage businesses to hire workers.

    The Fresno Want Ads

    The Fresno Bee help-wanted ads tell the story.

    There are 963 “Sales” jobs listed, but the first 519 of those are at the same "company," called “Work At Home Jobs, Inc.” and are mostly the same "job," if you can call it that. The next 136 are a different "company" and the "jobs" are calling people from home to sell them wireless cell service – on commission. The next 52 are the same deal but a different "company," selling internet from home, on commission. The next 46, same story. Etc.

    The next category after Sales is “Business development”, with 691 jobs, 466 are “work at home” and many of the rest are the same jobs at the same companies as the “sales” jobs. The next two categories are "General Business" and "Other" and, again, list the same "jobs" at the same "companies." The next category is "Business Opportunity." I challenge you to guess what "companies" and "jobs" are listed. (Hint: it's the same ones again.)

    Supply And Demand

    Among the few specifics in the story is the example of "Jain Irrigation, which cannot find all the workers it wants for $15-an-hour jobs running expensive machinery that spins out precision irrigation tubing at 600 feet a minute, 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

    $15-an-hour is just above the poverty level for a family of four, at about 130%.

    Dean Baker, writing in, The Problem of Structrual Unemployment: Really Incompetent Managers, makes the point that a company complaining they can’t find skilled workers at $15 an hour needs to think about raising their offer. Baker writes,

    It presents comments from one employer who complains that he can't find workers for jobs that pay $15 an hour. This is not a very good wage. It would be difficult for someone to support themselves and their children on a job paying $15 an hour ($30,000 a year). If the company president understand economics, then he would raise wages enough so that the jobs were attractive to workers who have the necessary skills.

    If they can't get workers, they should know that they need to bump up the wage offered until they can. That is about as basic as it gets in the supply/demand equation.

    Can't Sell The House And Move

    Part of this problem is the housing market. If Fresno really doesn’t have the skilled workers businesses need, Silicon Valley and Las Vegas certainly do, and have very high unemployment rates, but the people there can’t sell their houses and move! And even if they could sell they are "underwater," will come out of the sale owing a ton of money that they can't make up by taking a $15-per-hour job!

    Externalizing Training Costs

    Companies expect workers to already be trained, “externalizing” one more cost onto local communities, while shopping for the lowest tax areas to locate.

    California has a budget crisis and is cutting back on funding for the community colleges and other programs where people are trained for jobs. One reason for the budget crisis is businesses demanding ever-lower taxes, or playing communities and states against each other for tax incentives to relocate, using property tax avoidance schemes and so many other ways to get out of paying something back to the public for the public investment that enabled them to prosper.

    The Real Problem

    Out here in the real world the real problem is not "structural," it is that there just are not enough jobs, they don't pay enough, "free trade" deals have lowered wages and undermined our manufacturing base, there is not enough demand in the economy and the government is not doing its job of picking up the slack and after 30 years of tax-cutting the infrastructure is crumbling and not supporting competitiveness for our businesses.

    There are millions of unemployed and millions of infrastructure jobs that need doing. There is a new green energy and manufacturing revolution going on in the world and we do not have an economic/industrial policy to capture our share. There is problem after problem that is not being addressed by a government captured by interests.

    DC Avoids Dealing With The Problem

    It seems that the DC Elite will do anything to avoid just seeing what is in front of their faces.

    Clearly we have lost jobs from trade deals, Wall Street financialization and domination, lack of investment in infrastructure and education, etc. But the DC Elite come up with a thousand reasons not to fix these because the interests that benefit from those deals have influence over them. Our budget deficit is obviously from tax cuts and military spending – but you will never, ever, ever, ever hear that. Instead we hear job-killing "austerity" solutions that avoid asking the wealthy few to pitch in.

    On one issue after another, the DC Elite provide cover for the wealthy elite interests who now control DC. The transition from We, the People democracy to a plutocracy of, by and for the wealthy few is nearly complete.

    The real problem is not a breakdown of the structure of the job market and is not a mismatch between the jobs and the skills, it is a lack of jobs because of lack of demand, and a mismatch between who our government and economy are supposed to work for, and the interests that have brought this about.

    March 10 Summit on Jobs and America's Future

    On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.

    It's free, $15 if you want lunch. Beat that.


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:33 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    January 4, 2011

    The Next Speaker Of The House

    The next Speaker of the House talks about how he handed out checks from tobacco companies, on the House floor, just before a vote on tobacco subsidies:

    And here is a story about a lobbying firm that can arrange a Republican filibuster for money.

    This is what the next two years will be about -- big corporate interests paying cash for legislation. This is what the Tea Party voted for?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 26, 2010

    OK, Tax Cuts For The Rich Out Of The Way...

    Now for the rest of us...

    Republican Sen. Tom Coburn says confidence in the country's economy and currency will be "undermined significantly" in the next several years if the government doesn't find a way to cut federal spending.

    ... Coburn says all Americans must make sacrifices to secure the country's fiscal future. He says he could find more than $300 billion a year in spending that could be cut without objection from the American people.

    Suckers.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:59 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 24, 2010

    Education For We, The People Or For Private Profit?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    In his press conference this week President Obama said the economic focus is no longer saving the economy from crisis, but "jumpstarting" it to make a dent in unemployment. He listed education as one of the pillars of that effort. Later in the press conference he talked about making colleges and universities being open not just to people who are well-to-do, but to all of us.

    Progressives For A We, The People Economy

    Progressives believe that a We, the People economy works best when we act as a community where "we are all in this together," and watch out and take care of each other. We mutually benefit from this approach: the better off we all are, the better off we all are. Conservatives, on the other hand, believe we should all be on our own, looking out for only ourselves and our families, and it is up to each of us, alone, to take "personal responsibility" for our own success.

    Our differing approaches to education reflect these different philosophies. Progressives believe that education is good for all of us, and should be available to all of us. We believe that the economy does better when more of us can receive a good education, whether this brings a vocational or advanced degree, in a community college or a university. We try to enact policies that make this education affordable for everyone.

    Conservatives, on the other hand, believe that "the government" (We, the People) has no business helping people. So they resist providing free public or university education. They call this "socialism."

    And so America's conflict continues, one side asking for public investment in all of us for the long-term benefit of We, the People while the other side tries to harvest the public good for the short-term benefit of a few.

    Compromise With Conservatives

    A compromise of sorts has existed in recent decades in which the government helps students get loans, enabling them to go to more expensive schools. But these loans increasingly leave students with a very high debt to pay off after they graduate. In recent years students are graduating with more student loan debt than they can reasonably be expected to pay off.

    Result: Increasing Debt

    CNBC reports: Student loans leave crushing debt burden

    The cost of a college education is rising faster than the cost of medical care and as much as three times as fast as consumer prices in general. But that's just the beginning of the price of admission. This is the story of a debt crisis few are talking about.

    Americans now owe more on their student loans than they do on their credit cards — a debt fast approaching $1 trillion with no end in sight.

    Please read the entire CNBC report on the crushing debt load that students are taking on, just to get an education that will help our economy. Here is a clip of the video available at the link:

    USA Today reports: Student loan debt exceeds credit card debt in USA,

    Total student loan debt exceeds total credit card debt in this country, with $850 billion outstanding, according to Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org and FastWeb.com, websites that provide information about student aid and scholarships.

    Consumers owe about $828 billion in revolving credit, including credit card debt, according to seasonally adjusted numbers in a report on July credit from the Federal Reserve.

    Result: Increasing Defaults

    With the increasing debt load and the resulting crushing monthly payments come increasing defaults. From the Dept. of Education, Student Loan Default Rates Increase,

    "This data confirms what we already know: that many students are struggling to pay back their student loans during very difficult economic times. That's why the Administration has expanded programs like income based repayment and Pell grants to help students in financial need," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

    And, of course, along with the for-profit privatization of what should be a public function, and the compromise of federal help for loans comes the companies profiting from federal dollars.

    "The data also tells us that students attending for-profit schools are the most likely to default," Duncan continued. "While for-profit schools have profited and prospered thanks to federal dollars, some of their students have not. Far too many for-profit schools are saddling students with debt they cannot afford in exchange for degrees and certificates they cannot use. This is a disservice to students and taxpayers, and undermines the valuable work being done by the for-profit education industry as a whole," Duncan continued.

    Result: Increasing Quick-Buck For-Profit Scams

    Along with increasing and crushing debt and defaults another problem has cropped up. Just like with the housing bubble, the private predators have arrived to prey on the public. Private schools like Kaplan University are increasingly scamming their students with schemes reminiscent of the worst of the housing bubble, running up loan debt greater than any job they would ever get could pay, even hitting them with excessive fees and outright fraudulent charges. A Huffington Post report of their investigation of Kaplan University, At Kaplan University, 'Guerilla Registration' Leaves Students Deep In Debt, exposes Kaplan's practice of "guerilla registration" in which they register students and charge them tuition for classes they don't want or take, even in some cases after they have withdrawn from the school. And then they send the debt collectors after them for the money.

    Despite having attended only two online sessions, Castillo had remained officially enrolled at Kaplan for nearly a year after her withdrawal.

    Far from an aberration, Castillo's experience typifies the results of a practice known informally inside Kaplan as "guerilla registration": academic advisors have long enrolled students in classes they never take, without their consent and sometimes even after they have sought to withdraw from the university, in order to maximize the company's revenues, according to interviews with former employees.

    Please read the whole Huffington Post report, there is much, much more there. Kaplan University, by the way, is owned by The Washington Post company.

    Speaking of Kaplan, this is also in the news: NY Times, E.E.O.C. Sues Kaplan Over Hiring,

    Sending a sharp warning to employers nationwide, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the Kaplan Higher Education Corporation on Tuesday, accusing it of discriminating against black job applicants through the way it uses credit histories in its hiring process.

    . . . In the E.E.O.C.’s suit, which was filed in federal district court in Cleveland, the agency said that since at least January 2008, Kaplan had rejected job applicants based on their credit history, with a “significant disparate impact” on blacks.

    . . . The E.E.O.C. typically brings discrimination cases only when it is convinced that serious abuse has occurred.

    Resources:

    Demos: Student Loans and Student Loan Debt, links to Demos resources and research on this issue.

    The Project On Student Debt

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:33 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 22, 2010

    Corporations Don't Do Bad Things, People Do!

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Are there "good" companies and "bad" companies? No, there are just companies, and companies don't have moral characteristics any more than a chair does. Here is something to understand about the things companies "do." If we LET a company "do" something, all companies HAVE TO do it. The misunderstanding of deregulation is that anything that CAN be done WILL be done. Anything.

    E. J. Dionne Jr., in Even progressives need CEOs writes that it is,

    ... important to recognize that there is no single business class or corporate model. Obama doesn't need to coddle CEOs so they will say warm things about him at parties in the Hamptons. He should figure out which parts of the private sector share an interest in reducing the dreadful inequalities that have metastasized over nearly four decades and in creating an economy that produces well-paying jobs.

    [. . .] Government policies, no matter how often we use the words "free enterprise," through design or inadvertence, inevitably affect the private economy. Why not choose policies that specifically encourage sectors that create good jobs for Americans?

    The piece is well-worth reading because it points out that there are plenty of great business leaders who want to help the country address our problems and do better for our people. Mostly we hear today about the worst kind of self-interested, greed-driven business leaders because those seem to be the ones calling the shots for our economy and our political system. This is because we let the them get away with being the worst, so they rise to the top.

    We need strong regulations and tough laws so the good CEOs can do the right thing, and still remain competitive.

    Corporations Are A Good Idea

    Last year in Why I Am Pro-Corporate, I wrote about why corporations are a good thing

    The things that the corporate legal structure enables people to do are good for society. This is why We, the People decided to enact the laws that created corporations. If we want to be able to accomplish things on a large scale, like build a railroad or airports and airplanes or skyscrapers – or solar power plants to replace coal power plants – we want to enable people to more easily raise the necessary capital and amass the resources needed to get the job done. The legal structure of the corporate form of a business accomplishes this.

    Corporations are just an idea. They are just a bundle of contracts. They don't do things, people do.

    Do Companies "Do"? Do They "Want"?

    It is the business leaders, not the companies, who make decisions and want things and do things. Companies are just things that don't "want" any more than they "do." They don't "think." They don't "decide." They don't "respond." Sentient entities want and do. It is the people who make decisions want and do things. Companies are not sentient entities any more than chairs are. And how we think about this affects the conclusions we reach.

    One reason we apply these characteristics to companies is because they want us to. ("They want." There I go do it, too.) When the people who do marketing for companies (is that better?) try to make us think about companies this way, it is called "branding." They try to make us believe that a company is somehow a sentient entity because then we can think they "are good or bad" and therefore form emotional attachments that cause us to be influenced into buying their products. This is really just a manipulation and a distraction but it affects our brains. It is so important to realize that we are dealing with individual people who run companies because then we can think clearly about how to deal with the problems that they cause.

    We have to understand the system, and what we are dealing with. We are dealing with people who run companies, not with companies. You can't be "pro-business" or "anti-business" because business just is. But you can require that people do the right thing.

    We Need Very Strong Regulations And Tough Laws

    When we complain about Wal-Mart "doing" something we are misunderstanding the system. The people who run Wal-Mart will do what we don’t stop them from doing. They have to. They don't necessarily want to. (Though some do.) That is what the system is. We set down rules, and they follow the rules. If something is not against a rule, then they don't just do whatever it is, they have to. And if they do something that is against the rules but we let them get away with it, then they will continue and others will start doing that, too.

    Here is why: If Wal-Mart doesn’t then (the executives who run) Target or KMart or another company will, and then Target or KMart will have a competitive advantage, and after a while we’ll all be complaining about Target or KMart instead because Wal-Mart won’t be in the picture. They have to do everything we let them do. That is how the system works, and that is why we have to have strong regulations and tough law.

    Instead of complaining about the things the business leaders do, we have to make strong regulations and tough laws to stop them and we have to enforce them. Period. We, the People have to use government “interference” and use force and that is our job and our responsibility to each other and to all of the business leaders who want to do the right thing.

    It Is Not Fair To The Good, Responsible Leaders Not To

    Let's say you are running Wal-Mart and you want to pay people more and want to provide good benefits. But the law does not require you to. If you do these things anyway, and your competitor doesn't, you are putting your company at a disadvantage, and you are risking the livelihood of everyone in the company. Think about the conflict and pressure that creates in good people who want to do good things. They can't do good things unless we make all the businesses do good things.

    Companies are forced by competitive pressure to do the things other companies do, whether they "want" to or not. There isn’t really a middle ground. Our system of competition forces companies to do everything they can get away with, and they will do that, and the only thing that will stop them is We, the People actually stopping them.

    So don't complain about things companies are doing, and certainly don't blame the companies. What do you have to do is change the rules. It just isn't fair to good people who want to do good things to do anything else. We have been letting good people down by listening to and doing the bidding of the likes of the Chamber of Commerce and the others who are fronts for the worst among the business community, who are working to corrupt our business environment and our politics.

    Most Business Leaders Are Good People

    Almost all corporate leaders are good, responsible and well-intentioned. For this reason they want and need clear rules that let them operate their companies responsibly. This is why listening to the greedheads who are always complaining about government and regulations is such a mistake. Most business leaders want to do the right thing and good, strong regulations and laws that are enforced let them do that. The deregulation and lack of enforcement that we see all around us today forces them to do wrong things in the name of staying competitive.

    When you initially deregulate, good corporate leaders will try to be responsible and they will have every intent of doing so. They will live up to their promises. But along will come other corporate leaders who just want to make money for their companies,and more to the point, for themselves. They will do whatever we let them do to accomplish that. They will push up to and a bit beyond the exact wording of what they think they can get away with. The “good” CEOs will be at a disadvantage and will be forced to do the same.

    Clear And Strong Regulations

    When I ran a company I had a rule for agreements – get everything on paper and signed because the people talking about things today on both sides might get in a car wreck, or move to another company or forget or whatever and all that is left is the agreement and not the intent of the agreement. Similarly, we need to clearly lay out every little part of what can and cannot be done because that is what people will do in the end.

    Business leaders want and need a clear playing field with rules that are strong enough to enable them to do the right thing and remain competitive. Let's help them out.


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:34 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 26, 2010

    Tax The Rich: A Deficit Plan That Doesn't Hit We, The People

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Here is MY deficit-reduction plan. This plan does not reflect the views of anyone but myself -- and maybe half the population. Unlike deficit plans from the "serious people" in DC, this one doesn't annihilate the poor and gut Social Security and the middle class while passing even more of the benefits of our society up to a few at the top.

    1) Restore pre-Reagan top tax rates. We didn't have massive deficits until we reduced the top tax rates.

    2) Income is income. No more reduced capital gains tax rate. The incentive to invest should be to make a bunch of money from a good investment. The reason there is a low capital gains tax rate is that the wealthy get most of their income from capital gains. And the reason they get most of their income from capital gains is there is a low capital gains rate. The resulting income shifting schemes are a drag on the rest of us. (Also applies to dividends.)

    3) Income is income. Inheritance income should be taxed as income, except there should be a "democracy cap" on how much someone can inherit. We decided not to have an aristocracy when we founded this country so we shouldn't have one.

    4) Businesses should be taxed or not taxed, but not taxed AND not taxed. They shouldn't be able to use "double Irish" or "Dutch sandwich" or operate out of PO boxes in Bermuda or the Cayman Islands. (Bonus, this also helps reduce incentives to send our jobs and factories out of the country.)

    5) If you don't pay your taxes We, the People won't pay to provide you with services. We can start by not allowing you to have a driveway that connects to public streets, or water/sewer hookups or mail. Also we won't enforce any contracts for you, including the one that says you "own" your house(s). And no government-developed Internet for you.

    If companies like Google want to "double Irish" and "Dutch Sandwich" us or operate out of PO boxes in tax havens, we shouldn't let them use government services like courts, or the government-developed Internet. See how well they operate without access to roads (that includes for employees to get to go to work.) How about withdrawing the limited liability protection that investors in corporations receive? And of course no protection for "intellectual property" or trademarks. Oh, yeah, no access to anyone who went to a school that used tax dollars. And no government services means no sea-lane protection for your products shipping from Chinese factories, by the way.

    6) Speaking of sea-lane protection, why do we have a military budget comparable to when we faced nuclear annihilation by the Soviet empire? Bases in Germany and Japan? And why can I go to this website, pick a DC-area zip code, say 22314, and learn that "Dollar Amount of Defense Contracts Awarded to Contractors in this Zip Code from 2000 to 2009: $7,086,397,848." Seriously, scroll down the page and look at some of the contracts and amounts awarded. I suspect there's some serious deficit reduction to be found in the military budget. A comprehensive and very public audit of where all that money has been going since, say, 1981 might take a chunk out of the debt problem all by itself

    7) I could start listing all the corporate subsidies, tax breaks, monopoly grants, schemes, contracts, etc. that we pay for, but I think you get the idea. How about calling bribery by its name: bribery, and doing something about it?

    8) To the extent that implementing this plan does not clear up the deficit and start paying off the debt, how about a yearly national property tax on all individual holdings above, say, $5 million, with the tax rate progressively increasing as total wealth increases, and keep doing this each year until the debt is paid off. Perhaps start at 1% on $5 million, 2.5% at $10 million, 5% at $50 million, etc. (Hedge fund managers and investment bankers start at 50% and go up, just for the heck of it. We can call this the "get the money from where the money went tax.")

    So there is MY deficit-reduction plan. Or, instead, we could do what the "serious people" deficit-reduction plans do: cut services for We, the People, cut Social Security, cut health care, cut education, cut infrastructure, cut the things that make life better for people, and give all the money to a few at the top. Take your pick.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:39 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

    November 19, 2010

    Boehner Pre-Caves On Debt Limit

    Looks like Big Daddy Wall Street gave Little Boy Boehner a good talking to about messing with their money faucet.

    Boehner Warns GOP on Debt Ceiling - Washington Wire - WSJ

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:21 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 17, 2010

    "Free Trade" By Any Other Name...

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    "Free trade" by any other name ... is still just a scam to pit workers against each other and evade the protections of democracy.

    We, the People fought to build this democracy with its laws and institutions and protections. This fight brought us a middle class with weekends off, good wages, worker protections and some degree of protection of our environment. "Free trade" deals let companies move factories across a border to escape those protections and pit exploited workers with few rights and no means of improving their condition against us and the protections we fought for. This scam enriches a few while putting the rest of us in a race to the bottom.

    Americans have come to realize just how much this scam is hurting us. Pollsters have found that the public hates what "free trade" treaties like NAFTA and letting China into the World Trade Organization have done to our economy and our jobs. So business and administration bigwigs are "re-branding" the hated words "free trade" into "rules-based trade." So expect to be hearing less and less about "free trade" and more and more about "rules-based trade." Don't be fooled.

    This morning's Progressive Breakfast has the story, (by the way, you can get Progressive Breakfast sent to you every morning. Click the link and sign up at the bottom. It's free.)

    Free Trade R.I.P.

    "Corporate leaders bury "free trade" label," The Wall Street Journal: "They declared support for free trade—rebranded 'rules-based trade' after pollsters Peter Hart and Bill McInturff warned that the phrase 'free trade' had become toxic with voters."

    As I said, don't be fooled. If trade agreements do not protect the rights that We, the People fought for, and allow companies to evade the protections brought by democracy -- good jobs, good wages, safe and fair working conditions, the right to organize workers, environmental protections and other "costly" things -- then our government has no businesses agreeing to them. We can negotiate treaties that open up trade without shooting ourselves in the foot, and giving up our good jobs and wages, in order to enrich an already-wealthy few.

    Here is what has been going on. In a classic "playing the ref" move, the Chamber of Commerce has been pitching the idea that the Obama administration is "anti-business" because they don't give the big, monopolist, multi-national corporations everything they want. "Playing the ref" is a sports term, the idea being that if you complain enough about the calls a referee makes the referee will feel the need to give your team a few breaks in order to appear to be making fair calls.

    So the Chamber, by complaining that Obama is "anti-business," is really trying to get Obama to be even more pro-business. (The same strategy is at work when you hear complaints about the "liberal media." After so may years of this accusation by right-wingers, newsroom editors are terrified of appearing to be left-leaning, resulting in so many right-leaning news stories.)

    The WSJ story, Obama's Overture to Business Gets Wary Reception From CEOs, shows how well the Chamber is doing at getting the desired results from playing the administration like a fiddle,

    A parade of administration officials—including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, National Economic Council head Larry Summers, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee—sought to reassure about 100 corporate leaders gathered at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council in Washington that they were eager for business leaders' ideas to revive the economy.

    The administration officials continued, in various ways, the overture to business leaders that President Barack Obama launched himself after the bruising midterm election, in which Democrats criticized U.S. multinationals for failing to hire more Americans. They said business tax rates should be lowered. They declared support for free trade—rebranded "rules-based trade" after pollsters Peter Hart and Bill McInturff warned that the phrase "free trade" had become toxic with voters.

    The CEOs, in a vote, said the government's top priority should be to foster global trade and create a more business-friendly environment. But CEOs also said uncertainty about government policy on taxes and regulation remained a barrier to unlocking $2 trillion in capital sitting in the treasuries of U.S. non-financial businesses.


    The best part of the story is that even though the administration is going all out to be more and more and more and more and more "business-friendly," the CEO crowd wasn't satisfied at all, and wanted more (and more and more and more).

    Let's see if this sounds familiar. A conservative-aligned group complains that the Obama administration isn't being fair to them, is asking for too much, is being too partisan, whatever. The Obama administration responds by giving them more of what they want. The conservative-aligned group complains that it isn't enough. The Obama administration gives more, saying, "No, you're wrong about me!" The complaints continue, even increase, and eventually the conservatives all blame Obama for the resulting failures of policy.

    Hey, they're going to call you names. Get used to it. It's what they do.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:36 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 12, 2010

    Today's MUST-Read

    This post by Sara Robinson is an important read. Please take the time: Starving the Beast: Ten Things You Can Do To Take America Back | OurFuture.org

    Get your life back from the corporations. Ten things you can do.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:50 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 10, 2010

    Tea Party Betrayed: Earmarks

    I have been writing about the Tea Party, and asking what they will do if/when the DC Republicans betray them. CAF has set up a page for the Tea Party Getting Played series. This is the latest in the series.

    The Tea Party candidates vowed they would be different, would stick to basic principles and not waver, and not back down.

    It is safe to say that Kentucky Senator-elect Rand Paul is one of the leaders of the Tea Party movement. Here is what was on his campaign website, and I want tp put the whole thing here so there is no mistaking what voters were led to believe:

    Rand Paul has made a ban on wasteful earmark spending in Washington D.C. one of the key points of his campaign. He has supported Sen. Jim DeMint’s vocal support for an earmark ban and he supports news that House Democrats are even coming around on the idea of a partial ban.

    “The Tea Party movement is an effort to get government under control,” Rand said. “I’m running to represent Kentuckians and to dismantle the culture of professional politicians in Washington. Leadership isn’t photo-ops with oversized fake cardboard checks. That kind of thinking is bankrupting our nation. Senator DeMint understands that and has taken action to stop it.”

    Rand’s emphasis on reform has ruffled a lot of establishment feathers, but it is clear that the more regular citizens are getting the message every day as his campaign continues to grow.

    That's a pretty solid, unequivocal statement, isn't it? That was what Tea Party supports and voters were told. Unequivocal.

    Now he is elected. And how is this for equivocating? Rand Paul Suggests He'll Fight For Earmarks He Earlier Promised To Ban:

    Less than a week after his election, Kentucky's Senator-elect Rand Paul already appears to be making a rapid departure away from one of his campaign promises: an earmark ban that stood as a conservative cornerstone, a position Paul touted to indicate he was serious about tackling the reckless spending practices of Washington.

    Here's what Paul told the Wall Street Journal over the weekend:

    In a bigger shift from his campaign pledge to end earmarks, he tells me that they are a bad "symbol" of easy spending but that he will fight for Kentucky's share of earmarks and federal pork, as long as it's doled out transparently at the committee level and not parachuted in in the dead of night. "I will advocate for Kentucky's interests," he says.

    So, here's the record. While campaigning the new Senator from Kentucky took the Tea Party position against earmarks. But one week after the election he says he will fight for Kentucky's share of earmarks and federal pork. From Tea Party hero to DC Insider in a week! What are the Tea Party supports going to do about it?

    And that is the question I have been asking: What will Tea Party members do when their politicians betray them? For decades the game on the conservative side was to campaign against abortion, gays and other "culture war" issues, or appeal to raw fear, but then once in office to ignore those issues and always, always reward the big corporations -- and, oh, yeah, more tax cuts for the rich. Now it looks like the same thing is happening to the Tea Party supporters as well. So what are they going to do about it?

    And on the "liberal" side we've seen campaign after campaign promising to do things for the middle class and for labor and for the elderly and for the poor but then once in office reward the big corporations instead. This is a serious question for democracy: what are we going to do about it?

    Take a look at the growing list of posts here in the Tea Party Getting Played series.


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:21 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 7, 2010

    Tea Party Betrayed Already?

    I have been writing about the Tea Party, and asking what they will do if/when the DC Republicans betray them. CAF has set up a page for the Tea Party Getting Played series. Read the latest in the series: Tea Party Betrayed: Earmarks.


    So, how's that new Tea Party Congress working out for Tea Party supporters who expected that the lobbyists were going to be cleared out, the "too-big-to-fail" Wall Street banks brought under control and laws enforced?

    The election was Tuesday, and on Thursday the expected new Chair of the House financial services committee warned regulators to lay of Wall Street, particularly Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, and not enforce the "Volker Rule" in the new Wall Street reform law. That's right, told them not to enforce the law.

    In Financial Times, US regulators warned on new bank legislation, (Matthew Yglesias c/o Brad DeLong)

    Spencer Bachus, a potential Republican chairman of the House financial services committee, has fired the first salvo in a battle with regulators – warning them against harming US banks by curbing their trading activity.

    . . . Mr Bachus says that a ban on proprietary trading – known as the Volcker rule – ... in the new Dodd-Frank financial reform law will “impose substantial costs on the American economy and market participants” with “doubtful” benefits.

    . . . The proprietary trading ban, named after Paul Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chairman who proposed it, was opposed by most Republicans when it was passed by Congress in June. It also restricts banks’ investments in hedge funds and private equity firms.


    Last week, in Tea Party Members VS Tea Party Wall Street Funders, I pointed out that Tea Party supporters expect their politicians to do something about Wall Street bailouts, lawbreaking and "too-big-to-fail" domination of the economy, but Tea Party candidates were receiving a great deal of funding from that very same Wall Street. This set up a potential conflict between Tea Party supporters and Tea Party politicians.

    Now that the election is over, we're all just waiting for what we think is coming, and asking: What will Tea Party members do when their politicians betray them?

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:42 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

    October 30, 2010

    Word

    Does Sanity Matter?

    The reality that the Tea Party's phony “grassroots” obscures is that the hated federal government is the only force potentially powerful enough – if it were energized on behalf of the people – to counter the overwhelming might of multinational corporations. By hobbling the government, the Tea Partiers are simply empowering the corporations to run everything.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 27, 2010

    99 Movement

    The Road to Revolution: 99% Uprising (Video) | Amped Status

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:56 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 26, 2010

    What Will Tea Party Members Do When Their Politicians Betray Them?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Tea Party members hate Wall Street bailouts, trade deals like NAFTA, job outsourcing, giant corporations buying laws, government spending, and elites telling the rest of us what to do. But there is no question that their candidates - many of them wealthy corporatists themselves - are funded by big corporations (even foreign oil companies) and Wall Street. So the question is, once in Congress will they vote with their base or their owners? And when they vote with the people who bought them, what will Tea Party members do about it?

    Trade

    Tea Party members want to be able to buy things that are "Made In America" in stores again. I have yet to meet a Tea Party supporter who doesn't absolutely hate NAFTA, WTO and other one-sided “free trade” agreements. They say these treaties "violate our sovereignty." But Tea Party candidates are funded by groups like the Chamber of Commerce and others who are the drivers of these "free trade" policies that close American factories and send jobs out of the country. This does not bode well for these candidates voting the way Tea Party members expect them to if they are elected.

    Outsourcing

    Tea Party members are astonished when they learn that the government gives companies tax breaks that encourage companies to send jobs away. But just a month ago a bill to do something about this was filibustered in the Senate by a unanimous Republican caucus. One thing about Tea Party candidates - they're also unanimously Republicans. Does anyone other than Tea Party members really think the Tea Part candidates are going to go against the now-unanimous Republican support for these outsourcing incentives if elected? Tea Party candidate Scott Brown didn't after he was elected.

    Bailouts

    If there is one thing that unites all Tea Party members, it is hatred of the Bush Bank Bailouts (except they think these passed under Obama.) But this is an area where their leaders will almost certainly stand with the banks, because that's where the money is -- their campaign money to be precise. The other day I wrote about In Oregon one Wall Street hedge fund manager is spending up to $1 million (pocket change) on a front group to elect a Tea Party candidate and unseat a Congressman who sponsored a couple of Wall Street reform bills.

    Government Spending

    Will Tea Party politicians vote to balance the budget? Really? Their members certainly expect them to. But like so many misinformed Americans, Tea Party members think the government spends most of its money on welfare and foreign aid. This is why Tea Party candidates refuse to specify just what spending they will cut to balance the budget. (Also see here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, etc.)

    So when they get into office will they really cut spending -- where the spending really is? There are plenty of reasons to think they won't. The first and foremost reason is they are funded by people like the Chamber of Commerce who really, really want that spending to keep flowing. This is why Republicans increased government spending and deficits so much the last time they were in charge. In fact, there are reasons to think they'll incresase spending. For example, they hate health care reform, but if they really vote to repeal it they will increase the deficit, because the reform cuts the projected deficits by at least $138 billion.

    But the bloated, huge, vast, overwhelming military budget might be worth a look. We spend more on military than every other country combined. (Total military-related spending actually pretty closely matched the deficit this year.) What do you think the odds are that the Tea Party politicians will cut the military budget?

    Foreign Oil

    Tea Party members understand that our addiction to foreign oil is harmful. We spend more than $300 billion a year on foreign oil -- much of it sent to the Middle East (MUSLIMS!) -- and need to find alternative sources of energy. But Koch Oil is the primary organizer, supporter, funder, and everything of the Tea Party, as well as much of the so-called "conservative movement." But Koch Oil is mostly about oil, not representative government. This is why they directly fund or set up front groups to support climate denial or oppose transit projects, alternative energy, even energy conservation. So don't expect Tea Party leaders to do anything -- anything -- that Koch Oil doesn't want them to do.

    What Happens When Tea Party Members Are Betrayed?

    It's pretty clear that the Tea Party members are being set up for a big disappointment. There is little chance that the politicians they are supporting are going to do what the members think they're going to do once in office. The members might supply the votes, but the big corporations behind so many of the things that the Tea Party members hate are the ones supplying the money and organization. These politicians, once in office, will understand that the big money can go after them just as well is it went for them this time, if they don't do what they're told by their big corporate funders. But on the other hand, there will be lucrative lobbying jobs waiting for them if they play along. They are going to disappoint the Tea Party members, no question. What will Tea Party members do then?

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:50 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 12, 2010

    So Tired Of Corporations Ripping Me Off!

    So I'm traveling, in Detroit I have a car reserved from Dollar rental car. I get there, they have an SUV for me, which I don't want, I requested a small, economy car, so half an hour at the counter to get everything changed, and then there is a big fee if my wife drives, too.

    I chose Dollar because it cost less and I have an "Express" membership. I finally drive drive out long after everyone else, paying a price much higher than anyone else would have charged. And no recourse.

    The usual.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:26 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    October 10, 2010

    How Tax Cuts For The Rich Made Corporations Predatory

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    America used to have a top tax rate of around 90%. This meant that after a person earned a lot of money in a year, additional income beyond that amount was taxed at the higher rate. Back then government worked a lot better. We didn't have deficits, the schools and public universities were better, there were enough police and firefighters, the courts were not overwhelmed, even the IRS was better. Most important, our country's infrastructure -- the soil in which business thrives -- was kept in good shape so the country was more competitive and livable. And all of this meant that the very people who were paying those top rates benefited because their businesses did better.

    Government and the services it provides aren't all that has changed for the worse since we cut tax rates for the very, very rich. It caused the relationship between big businesses and the rest of us to deteriorate, too. Here is why.

    When top tax rates were high it took time to build up a fortune. So businesses had to depend on the health of the communities around them to help keep them growing over a long period. They had to plan and act long-term. Businesspeople had to carefully build up solid businesses that served their customers and kept them coming back. And they had to train and hold on to employees because their experience was needed.

    After the top tax rates were lowered people could reap huge fortunes in a hurry. This changed everything. It created incentives for people to do things that we can now see have harmed our country. Quick-buck schemes for short-term profit became the business model. It made more sense to run up high debt, cut for very high short-term profit or just sell off businesses rather than invest and build build carefully for the long term. Cost-cutting was the name of the game. So cutting R&D and training and quality and support, closing factories and outsourcing jobs made more sense than investing in new equipment and training & retaining a good workforce. Managers who held to the old-fashioned serve-the-customer and support-the-community model faced the private equity buyout -- where companies become buy-and-sell commodities with workers, customers and the country as costs.

    So big corporations became predatory, caring little for customers, communities and country because executives planned to get rich quick and leave soon. Businesses’ interdependence with the community went out the window. It made more sense to fleece the community with quick-buck schemes than to rely on its well-being over a long period of time. Short-thinking business models that cut employees to the bone and took advantage of customers began to make sense. Then, as communities fell apart, those few who benefited from such business practices could just fly away in their private jets or sail away in their yachts. The greater community was no longer of any use to them except as a crop to be harvested.

    Bring Back The 90% Top Tax Rate

    So it is time to change the formula. It's time to bring back the 90% top tax rates. We can use the money to start paying off our debt. It is time to rein in our businesses and make them part of our communities again. The way to do this is to continue to help people become wealthy – just a bit more slowly, please, and bring us all along. Bring back the top tax rates of America's golden years so we can all enjoy the benefits of our economy again.

    A top rate of 90%, phased in as income gets higher and higher, wouldn't raise taxes at all for most of the people in the country but it would mean that the top 15 hedge fund managers would only take home an average of about $100 million a year. While bringing in only $100 million a year might be a terrible hardship for them, it brings up an important question for the rest of us: how much is enough? Especially when a few having so much means that the rest of us have much, much less and live in communities that are much, much worse off than they used to be.

    See also Tax Cuts Are Theft.
    And see Tax Cuts Are Theft: An Amplification by Sara Robinson.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:39 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 9, 2010

    Only 1/3 of Campaign Ads Disclose Donors Now

    I think the flood of corporate money into this election will turn to be the big story of what happened. Millions upon millions is showing up to run smear ads against Democrats, and no one can account for where it is coming from. For all we know plenty of it is coming from China.

    The Secret Big-Money Takeover of America

    According to FEC data, only 32 percent of groups paying for election ads are disclosing the names of their donors.

    After this election no politician will dare vote against a big corporate interest. Any who do will face millions in smear ads and soon be gone, anyway.

    If you think this will lead to a "pro-business" Congress, think again. Small and medium businesses are also squashed by these huge multi-national corporate giants. This is not about "business" this is about entrenched wealth keeping anyone else from getting a slice of the pie. If you think oil companies are "pro-business" ask anyone from an industry that competes with them, including high-speed rail, electric cars, wind farms, etc. If you think Wal-Mart is "pro-business" ask any businessperson from a regional chain or local retailer. If you think Wall Street is "pro-business" ask any local or regional banker or manufacturer.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:34 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    September 28, 2010

    Republicans Filibustered Bill To Ease Job Outsourcing

    Republicans today filibustered a bill to fight the outsourcing of our jobs!

    Bill to End Tax Provision on U.S. Jobs Is Blocked

    They clearly feel they have impunity.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:04 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    September 24, 2010

    How Tax Brackets Work -- $250,001 Will Pay Five Cents More Tax

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    This discussion of whether to get rid of the Bush tax cuts for the rich has been a learning experience. I have been listening on the radio and reading the comments at blogs. The main thing I am concluding is that people just do not understand how tax brackets work.

    When people talk about raising taxes on people "who make more than" a certain income they really mean that they are going to raise it ONLY on the income that comes in after a certain income is received, not on the person't entire income.

    Here is what I mean. Suppose they say they are going to raise taxes on incomes above $250K. People seem to think that this means if you earn $250K plus a dollar, that you owe an additional tax on the entire $250K. This is not correct. I actually hear stories about people who give away money, and do other things to avoid going "into a higher bracket" because they think they have to pay additional taxes on their entire earnings.

    Here is how it really works. What happens is that the first $250K is taxed just like it has been, but anything that is made over $250K -- and only the amount over $250K -- is then taxed at the higher rate. The tax on the amount below $250K is not changed.

    Example: Suppose the tax increase is 5% on income over $250K. This means that a person who reports income of $250K plus one dollar will be taxed an additional 5 cents. FIVE CENTS!

    Yes, that's right, if it is 5% they are talking about then it means a 5 cent tax increase on people who make $250,001.

    Let me repeat that. If you make $250,001, and they raise taxes 5% on people who make over $250K, then you will have to pay 5 cents more. Five cents. F.I.V.E. C.E.N.T.S. That is what people are so upset about. 5 cents.

    If it is 5% a person making $260K might pay an additional $500. That's right, the proposed tax increase is approx. $42 a month on people making $260K, about $21,600 a month. Forty-four dollars out of twenty-one thousand. THIS is what all the right-wingers are screaming about. THIS is what all the Ayn Rand cultists are threatening to stop working over. THAT is how tax brackets work.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:41 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

    September 23, 2010

    China Currency Bill Moves -- Why Some Corporate Interests Oppose

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    As President Obama meets with Chinese Premier Wen, the House Ways and Means Committee announces it will vote tomorrow on a bill to take action if China does not bring its currency to market rates. This sends a loud and clear signal to China that action is coming, one way or another, and they are going to have to make adjustments. This has every appearance of a smart, coordinated strategy between the administration and the leadership of the Congress.

    WaPo: Bill combating China currency to advance,

    House leaders are moving forward with legislation to combat China's currency policies, adding to pressure from the Obama administration and giving lawmakers an election-year chance to vote on a sensitive trade matter.

    The House Ways and Means Committee plans to vote Friday on a bill that would expand the Commerce Department's power to impose duties on Chinese imports in response to that country's currency being undervalued on world markets.

    But there is opposition from inside our own country.

    Some business groups oppose the bill, arguing that it could backfire if it raises trade tensions with China and prompts the Chinese government to use the many tools at its disposal to interfere with American companies. China is a major destination for U.S. exports - about $70 billion a year - although the United States runs a trade deficit of about $200 billion a year with that country. Duties on Chinese imports might also raise prices for U.S. consumers.

    There are competing interests at work. Robert Reich wrote about this a week ago in The Two Categories of American Corporation — And Their Politics and Harold Meyerson picks up the theme today in The real un-Americans.

    Reich points out that some giant companies sell to Americans, and therefore want us strong and prosperous, and want policies that stimulate our economy, provide jobs with good pay and generally boost the middle class. Others, not so much.

    The first group includes national telecoms like Verizon and AT&T that need a prosperous America because most of their sales are here. Same with finance companies like Bank of America and Travelers Insurance whose business strategy has been built around U.S. consumers. Ditto certain giant chains like Home Depot. Naturally, all these companies were especially hard hit by the Great Depression and its devastating impact on American consumers.

    The second group includes companies like Coca Cola, Exxon-Mobil, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and McDonalds, that get substantial revenues from their overseas operations. Increasingly this means China, India, and Brazil. Ford and GM are still largely dependent on US sales but becoming less so. ...

    What does this mean for Main Street? Reich says,

    Large American corporations are going global as fast as they can. That’s good for their shareholders. But in a Washington ever more susceptible to their money and influence, that’s not necessarily good for most Americans.

    Meyerson picks up on this today,

    Consider the debate in Congress about whether to impose tariffs on Chinese imports if China continues to depress the value of its currency. ... Unions and some domestic manufacturers support the bill. But a large number of American businesses, in a campaign coordinated by the U.S.-China Business Council, oppose it.

    ... The question here is whether the 220 corporations that belong to the council ... are already so deeply invested in China as manufacturers, marketers or retailers that buy goods there to sell them here that their interests are more closely aligned with China's than with America's. [emphasis added]

    It is important to understand that some of the country's most powerful entrenched, wealthy interests no longer depend on the success of America's economy and the prosperity of our people. They have a lot of power and money, and use it to influence our country's politics to increase their own wealth and power. But their interests are not our interests. They want low taxes and don't care whether we have good jobs, good schools, modern infrastructure and an economy that works for We, the People. They just don't care about that. And they are willing to say and spend what it takes to set us against each other, poison our politics, and anything else they need to do to get us to act in their interests not ours. "Globalization" and "free trade' policies work for them, because they enable them to evade the protections that our democracy gives us. But allowing them to just move factories and jobs out of the country and then bring the goods back here with no penalty does not work for the rest of us.

    Keep this in mind when you hear the different arguments over taxes, infrastructure, education and government in general.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:15 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    September 9, 2010

    To Fix The Economy Raise Wages

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    To fix the economy we have to fix wages. Increased wages will restore demand. The changes that will increase wages will help restore democracy.

    The social contract used to be that citizens in our democracy share the benefits of our economy through increased wages that come from increases in productivity. This broke down and working people's incomes have been stagnant since the Reagan Revolution. (Yes, I'm telling the same story again. It needs to be told, over and over so people can understand what is happening to us. We are feeling the effects of the Reagan Revolution coming home to roost.)

    Reagan and the conservatives weakened the government and broke the unions. Government and organized labor were the forces in our society that had stood up for the interests of regular people against the "moneyed interests" and weakening them fundamentally changed the fairness equation of our economy. After the Reagan Revolution working people's share of the benefits from increased productivity turned down:

    All of the benefits of improvements in our economy now flow to a few at the top. This results in intense concentration of wealth:

    With more and more of the income and wealth going to a top few, We, the People are thought of less and less as citizens and more and more as "the help." But who is our economy for, anyway? Our economy can operate for the benefit of We, the People, or it can operate for the benefit of a wealthy few at the expense of the rest of us. This is the ongoing battle. And history has shown over and over that when economies operate for the few, they don't work.

    This is not just about sharing the economy, it is about sharing the decision-making power. In our form of government We, the People are supposed to make the decisions. When Reagan said, "Government is the problem" he was really saying that decision-making by We, the People is a bad thing. When conservatives complain about "big government" they are complaining about We, the People having a big share in decision-making. When they call for "less government" they are calling for less of a share of the decisions-making by us. This means the wealthy and powerful have more of a share -- of everything.

    With the income, wealth and benefits of the economy increasingly flowing to a top few, working families tried to compensate for the loss in various ways. Women entered the workforce. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich explains, "By the late 1990s, more than 60 percent of mothers with young children worked outside the home (in 1966, only 24 percent did)." (Please read his whole post if you have time.)

    Then, still not getting by on stagnant wages with rising prices, people worked more hours or added second jobs. Then they started using up their savings.

    Finally they resorted to adding debt.

    This all finally broke down, demand slowed, and the economy has slowed to a crawl. The 90s financialization and "dot com" bubbles obscured the way things were headed, and then the housing bubble of the 2000s continued the illusion. But debt just kept rising people kept working longer and harder to get by, while the richest few kept getting richer. Finally it all crashed and current attempts to prop it up by helping the wealthy and big businesses are not succeeding. Bailing out big banks and their executives and shareholders and not holding anyone accountable, while letting predatory corporations continue their economy-draining practices has not only kept the worst parts of the "share of the wealth" problem in place, it has undermined people's faith in government and demcoracy. Changes need to be made.

    Most people pay for things with income from jobs. If we want demand to rise, then we need to raise incomes. But things are still going in the wrong direction. As CAF's Robert Borosage writes today,

    "Over the last decade, we lost one in three manufacturing jobs. Inequality reached Gilded Age extremes. CEOs and bankers pocketed million dollar bonuses while cooking the books and gambling on exotic securities, inflating the housing bubble until it burst. Health insurance companies kept a strangle hold on a health care system that costs twice as much as those in other industrial countries, leaves millions uninsured and provides worse health care."

    Who Gets What For What?

    This bad economy situation is going to drag on until we make real changes in the structure of who gets what for what in this country. Every incentive in the economy is to try to reduce wages, cut benefits and eliminate jobs. Think about that. People get bonuses and raises and owners get richer if they eliminate YOUR job or at least cut back your pay and benefits. For example, by replacing a worker with a machine, the owner of the machine gets more money, the worker gets nothing. But in the larger economy each time this happens it means there are fewer people in a position to buy whatever goods or services the same companies that eliminated the jobs are in business to provide. And it means that a few wealthy people become more wealthy and powerful.

    This is where government comes in. Government is supposed to be the force that speaks for and protects the interests of the people, empowers people through education and rules, set conditions to keep wages high, lay down the infrastructure in which businesses thrive, and coordinates the international competition for industries and jobs. But the Reagan Revolution broke that. We need to restore it.

    There are so many things that government could be doing to get the economy working again for working people, small and medium businesses and big corporations that want to make an honest living. Boost the minimum wage, modernize the infrastructure, provide health care, provide free education through graduate level, increase Social Security, help unions organize, impose a democracy tariff so imports don't get around the protections provided by our democracy, and return to taxing the rich who reap the dividends and payout of all the past investment that We, the People made to make business thrive.

    And there are larger structural changes we can make. Just brainstorming but what if workers replaced by machines directly got some of the income generated by the machine. Workers laid off this way several times might then have enough income to get by without working! Or what if we cut the workweek from 40 hours to, say, 35 before overtime kicks in. Maybe that would increase hiring, while giving regular people more leisure time. (And keep cutting the workweek as machines and computers do more of the work.)

    And, of course, to have wages at all people have to have jobs. One would think this would go without saying but these days it seems there is a need to point out that people are hurting for jobs, because the DC elite seem to have moved on from that. We badly need government programs to directly hire people to do things that help the people of the country. We would have all of this if the Reagan Revolution hadn't weakened government of, by and for We, the People.

    Other posts in the Reagan Revolution Home To Roost series:

    Tax Cuts Are Theft
    Reagan Revolution Home To Roost -- In Charts
    Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Drowning In Debt
    Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Is Crumbling
    Finance, Mine, Oil & Debt Disasters: THIS Is Deregulation

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:52 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    September 3, 2010

    Labor Day: Labor Got It Right -- Who Could Have Known?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    "Who could have known?" That's the cry from the big-corporate and DC elite as the economy and the environment and so many imporant things crash around us. (Around us, not them, they're doing just fine and taking good care of each other.)

    Who could have known that 25%-per-year house price increases was a bubble?
    Who could have known that a housing bubble could burst?
    Who could have known that deregulating the financial industry could lead to a financial meltdown?
    Who could have known that concentration of wealth could cause consumer demand to dry up?
    Who could have known that huge tax cuts for the rich combined with huge military spending increases could cause massive budget deficits?
    Who could have known that the Social Security trust fund needed a "lockbox" so it wouldn't be given away as tax cuts?
    Who could have known a deregulated deep-water well could cause a massive, destructive, uncontrolled underwater gusher?
    Who could have known that continuing to put carbon into the air would cause problems for the climate?
    Who could have known that moving our factories out of the country would lead to high unemployment and structural trade deficits?
    Who could have known that invading Iraq was wrong and a deadly, disastrous, costly, long-term mistake?
    Who could have known that a too-small stimulus that focused on tax cuts wouldn't turn the economy completely around and then conservatives would claim that the stimulus "killed the recovery?"

    (List continues into infinity...)

    Add organized labor to the list of those who got it right, time after time.

    Organized labor was right about the 40-hour workweek.
    They were right about the middle class.
    They were right about the weekend.
    They were right about paid vacations.
    They were right about paid holidays.
    They were right about paid sick leave.
    They were right about providing good, secure retirement plans for everyone.
    They were right about providing unemployment benefits to tide people over.
    They were right about providing maternity leave, child care and family leave for families.
    They were right that trade agreements like NAFTA and letting China into the WTO would lead to massive trade deficits and job losses.
    They were right about workplace and consumer safety.
    They were right about keeping manufacturing in America.
    They were right about fighting discrimination in the workplace.
    They were right about raising the minimum wage and the effect that low-wage policies would have on the economy.
    They were right about the effect of excessive CEO pay on the economy.
    They were right about the devastating effect of the Bush tax cuts.
    They were right about the need to maintain and modernize our country's infrastructure.
    They were right about going green.
    They were right ab out the dangers of Wall Street's financialization of the economy.
    They were right about providing good health care to everyone.
    They were right about strengthening, not cutting Social Security.
    They were right about democratizing corporate governance.
    They were right about fighting privatization.
    They were right about fighting deregulation.
    They were right about providing good education opportunities to everyone.
    They were and are right that we need a national jobs agenda
    Labor was right about people joining together instead of being on our own.

    (List continues into infinity...) They were right and they continue to be right.

    And unions have been fighting for these things for all of us, not just for their members.

    Please add to these lists in the comments! What other things could nobody have known, and what other things did labor get right?

    Enjoy Labor Day. In fact, for those of you that still have jobs after the decades of conservative policies, enjoy having weekends off, the 40-hour week, paid vacations, sick pay, health care, etc. And if you have a job but don't have those things ... JOIN A UNION!

    P.S. Here's an example of being right:


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:12 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    August 28, 2010

    Corporate Power

    We went into health care reform looking to free ourselves from a predatory industry that was harming us and the country, and get ourselves Medicare-For-All.

    We came out the other side with all of us ordered to buy health insurance from the predatory health insurers.

    This has been another chapter in democracy v.s. predatory corporatist plutocracy.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:52 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    August 9, 2010

    UK Shock Doctrine

    Have you read The Shock Doctrine? It is a very important book for understanding how the conservatives operate to shift everything to the wealthy few. It explains what is happening in England now: British Towns and Institutions Reel From First Austerity Cuts

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:35 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    August 3, 2010

    Do We Need A Democracy Tariff?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    We need a Democracy Tariff, imposed at the border on goods that are brought in from countries where the people have not been able to build a strong democracy that protects their workers, wages and environment.

    Yesterday in Exporting Jobs Is Not “Trade.” It Evades Democracy's Protections I wrote that ... well ... exporting jobs is not "trade." Packing up a factory here to send the jobs there, and then bringing the same goods that factory was making back here to sell is done for one and only one reason. It is done to get around the wage, safety and environmental protections that We, the People fought to build.

    We formed this country and we fought to build protections that brought us a reasonably good life, and a middle class, and some security - social security - so we don't always have to be struggling and living on the edge of a cliff, surviving only at the whim of a wealthy few with all the power. We fought a revolution against government by a wealthy and powerful few, and we fought again and again to keep and protect government of the people, by the people and for the people.

    Our wage, safety and environmental protections are the result of our democracy. We, the People fought and built a government to empower and protect us, to provide good wages and provide some security and that involves rules that limit what the owners of companies can do -- regulations. We build up a system of public structures like courts, laws, schools, roads, bridges -- spending -- that enable commerce to prosper. And we ask those who benefit from that commerce we enabled to share the return on our investment with us -- taxes and wages.

    Democracy, government, regulations, spending, taxes. The stronger each of these are, the better We, the People do. The weaker they are, the worse off we are.

    Lately wealthy corporate owners -- who benefit from the commerce that our democracy, government, regulations, spending and taxes enabled -- have found another way to get around these protections that We, the People built for ourselves. They move manufacturing and jobs to countries where the people have not been able to build strong democracies to protect their interests, and then bring the goods made by the exploited workers there back here to sell. They call that "trade" when really it is just a way to get around the borders that we are able to protect. As I wrote yesterday,

    These workers make the same products that had been made here, sell them in the same stores here, but make them outside of the boundaries of our democratically-won protections. And to make things worse, the companies then demand wage and benefit cuts from the workers who are still here, claiming that "globalization" means they now have to compete with workers with no rights, so they must accept less.

    There is a solution to this problem. These protections that we built brought us prosperity. And that means we have a strong market. Everyone in the world wants to be able to sell to us, and we can use that power to set the rules for access to our markets.

    A Democracy Tariff

    We should not let exploitation of workers and the environment be a competitive advantage that is used against the democratic protections we have built for ourselves. We can and should set a "Democracy Tariff" on goods that come from countries that do not protect their workers and/or environment. This tariff should be enough to offset the competitive advantage that comes from exploiting workers and the environment. If those countries do not change we can use the revenue from the tariff to build our infrastructure and strengthen our competitive position. If those countries do change, all the better, because as democracy strengthens there, the people will prosper and can trade fairly with us to buy things we make here. Everyone is better off when trade is free and fair.

    There are degrees of democracy and there can be degrees of Democracy Tariff. For example, some countries might protect workers but not the environment. The tariff on goods from those countries should be enough to offset the advantage gained from exploiting the environment but not as high as for countries that exploit both workers and the environment. Other countries might have some degree of protections but not allow unionization. The tariff should be enough to offset whatever degree of exploitation is at work.

    If a Democracy Tariff is called "protectionism" so be it. We have learned the hard way that democracy is fragile and must be protected.

    We must not allow exploitation of workers and the environment to be a "comparative advantage" used against our democracy -- government of the people, by the people and for the people -- and the protections and prosperity it has brought us.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:19 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    July 13, 2010

    Wait, Who Said We Want Less Government Protecting And Empowering Us?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Cut spending? Wait - where did that terrible idea come from? Government is We, the People and its job is to protect and empower us. Why in the world would we want to cut back on that?

    WSJ today, The Bush Tax Cuts and the Deficit Myth, "Runaway government spending, not declining tax revenues, is the reason the U.S. faces dramatic budget shortfalls for years to come."

    Wait a minute. Back up. Where did this come from? Who, anywhere, any time agreed to cut government? Why do We, the People allow these anti-government zealots to pre-frame the budget deficit as a problem of government doing too much for us? Which government function is the "too much" part? Reigning in runaway corporations? Consumer protection? Worker safety inspections? Food safety inspections? Maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure? Educating people? The courts? Keeping the water and air clean? There is a long list of things our government does for us. Why would we want less of that?

    Imagine if Democrats voted to just put $500 billion a year in rockets and shot the rockets at the moon, and spent the next 30 years demanding that conservatives do their part and raise taxes to pay for that. Do you think the top 1% would just say, "OH, OK, let's do that." Of course they wouldn't.

    But under anti-government conservatives all of these things that our government does to protect and empower us were cut to the bone or just ended, resulting in mine disasters, bank meltdowns, predatory corporations scamming all of us, and the BP oil spill. We, the people got poorer and less secure while the rich got really, really richer.

    Why would anyone in their right mind think that was a good idea?

    Conservatives cut taxes on the rich, resulting in the greatest concentration of wealth ever. The entire economy turned into an everything-to-the-top vacuum cleaner scheme, filled with scams shaking down and fleecing We, the People of everything we have and delivering it to a few wealthy corporation-owners. And then we get this bamboozlement that "the deficit" is out of control, so we have to cut back on anything that remains of government working for We, the People? I don't think so.

    Think about the level of bamboozlement that is going on here. Conservatives cut taxes on the rich, and then spend the next 30 years saying, "OK, now you have to do your part and cut the things government does for the people." The whole thing was a scheme to deliver power to a few at the top. In Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Drowning In Debt you can see the step-by-step outline of the plan, in their own words. The deficit plan was right there for everyone to see:

    So when did We, the People agree to this one-way bargain, cut taxes for the rich and cut what government does for us? We didn't, and we should stop acting like we did.

    Every single one of us knows that the deficits are the result of tax cuts for the rich and huge military spending increases. If we want to fix the deficit problem we know exactly what to do.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:01 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 5, 2010

    They Own This Place

    George Carlin on the American Dream:

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:27 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 4, 2010

    Independence

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    July 4, 1776, Independence Day celebrates our fight to cast off colonial rule by a wealthy elite who were keeping the benefits of our labors for themselves. We fought this system and we won our independence.

    In the years since We, the People have built up solid public structures like our system of laws and courts, schools and universities, roads and transit systems, police and fire departments, food and drug regulations, worker protections, minimum wages and maximum hours -- all of which have enabled us to prosper together.

    In 1776 democracy and government by the people were literally revolutionary concepts but even now they continue to face constant attack from the interests of concentrated wealth. Today we face a new form of this attack on our shared prosperity. Where we have fought and built protections and rule by the people, companies evade our rules by moving factories and jobs to places that have not, and remain exploited. They hold us hostage, saying “give in or we’ll just move your job, too.” They create conditions where we are forced to fight each other for lower and lower wages just to keep a roof over our heads. They corrupt our democracy with floods of cash, and our politicians with promises of jobs as highly-paid lobbyists. They buy our news sources and pollute our information. Their propaganda poisons our people against their own leaders.

    When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to cast off the chains of corporate rule and great concentration of wealth and power, we must do so. We can fight this now, just as we fought it in 1776, and fought it again and again in our history. We built this country and its government and democracy, and we ought to keep it.


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    June 29, 2010

    The Real Deficit Is Jobs!

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    The real deficit is jobs. That is one more of those things that everyone can see in front of their faces, but we're told it isn't what it is. There aren't enough jobs, and we're being told this is our fault because we wanted pensions and good wages and vacations and respect and dignity and please, sir, just a little slice of the pie.

    In case you haven't noticed, the world's economy is suddenly undergoing a classic "Shock Doctrine"-style, coordinated propaganda attack. The wealthy and powerful, having insisted that countries cut their taxes and run up debt, now insist that the middle class and poor must work harder, have their pensions reduced, sell off (to them) their publicly-held resources, and take other "austerity" steps to pay off the debt that these lazy, parasitic peasants dared to run up.

    The excuse is that "the markets" will “lose confidence” in us. Apparently we aren't working the salt mines hard enough. "The markets" -- that's the crowd who got in trouble and insisted that the world would end unless we immediately handed over to them all the rest of the money in the world -- will "lose confidence" in our ability to work the mines hard enough, and will cut us off, unless we cut our pensions, sell off (to them) our resources, and promise never to be lazy and make demands for better wages, pensions, workplace safety, and do it now.

    The real deficit is jobs.

    History teaches that the way out of an economic slowdown is to invest in infrastructure, education and modernizing manufacturing.

    Slactivist said it best the other day,

    This calls to mind an old story:
    But knowing their hypocrisy, he said unto them, "Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a dime and let me see it."

    And they brought one. Then he said to them, "Whose head is this -- FDR's or Herbert Hoover's?"

    They answered, "Roosevelt's."

    And he said unto them, "Right. So shut up. Have you morons already forgotten the 20th Century? When the choice is between imitating what worked and what really, really didn't work, why are you pretending it's terribly complicated?"

    And after that, no one dared to ask him any question.

    I'm not an economist, but we've got five applicants for every single job opening. If you tell me that the best response to that situation is to lay off hundreds of thousands of teachers, I will not accept that this means that you're smarter and more expert than I am. I will instead conclude -- regardless of your prestige or position or years of study -- that you're a moral imbecile.


    According to the Labor Department,
    By the end of 2009, the jobless rate stood at 10.0 percent and the number of unemployed persons at 15.3 million. Among the unemployed, 4 in 10 (6.1 million) had been jobless for 27 weeks or more, by far the highest proportion of long-term unemployment on record, with data back to 1948.

    That's right, it was the policies of austerity that created a depression, and the policies of job-creation, infrastructure investment and taxing the wealthy to pay for it that got us out. But that was back when We, the People were still in charge.

    In other news:

    Number Of Millionaires Grew Amid Recession.

    The rich grew richer last year, even as the world endured the worst recession in decades.

    Top 1 Percent of Americans Reaped Two-Thirds of Income Gains in Last Economic Expansion, Income Concentration in 2007 Was at Highest Level Since 1928, New Analysis Shows,

    Two-thirds of the nation’s total income gains from 2002 to 2007 flowed to the top 1 percent of U.S. households, and that top 1 percent held a larger share of income in 2007 than at any time since 1928, according to an analysis of newly released IRS data by economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez.

    During those years, the Piketty-Saez data also show, the inflation-adjusted income of the top 1 percent of households grew more than ten times faster than the income of the bottom 90 percent of households.

    Top 1% Increased Their Share of Wealth in Financial Crisis,

    According to his analysis, the top 1% held 34.6% of all national wealth in 2007. By Dec. 31, 2009, they held 35.6%.

    Meanwhile, share of national wealth held by the bottom 90% fell to 25% from 27%.

    Corporate Wealth Share Rises for Top-Income Americans

    In 2003 the top 1 percent of households owned 57.5 percent of corporate wealth, up from 53.4 percent the year before, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the latest income tax data.

    . . . For every group below the top 1 percent, shares of corporate wealth have declined since 1991.

    . . . Long-term capital gains were taxed at 28 percent until 1997, and at 20 percent until 2003, when rates were cut to 15 percent. The top rate on dividends was cut to 15 percent from 35 percent that year.

    See if you can make the connection. They want us to cut back our pensions, cut our wages, sell off our resources and work harder, to pay back the money that was borrowed and handed to them.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:14 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    June 15, 2010

    Obama's Speech - The Carter Context

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    "The moral equivalent of war."

    Tonight President Obama will talk about the Gulf oil catastrophe, and, hopefully, overall energy and climate policy. A look back at President Carter's fight over energy brings some context to this situation.

    On April 18, 1977, 33 years ago, President Jimmy Carter gave a White House speech on energy and asked the country to change direction.

    "Tonight I want to have an unpleasant talk with you about a problem unprecedented in our history. With the exception of preventing war, this is the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetimes. The energy crisis has not yet overwhelmed us, but it will if we do not act quickly."

    Carter said solving this energy problem would be "The moral equivalent of war." Please, please read the speech, and its ten principles. It will help set the stage for understanding where we are today.

    If we fail to act soon, we will face an economic, social and political crisis that will threaten our free institutions.

    But we still have another choice. We can begin to prepare right now. We can decide to act while there is time.

    That is the concept of the energy policy we will present on Wednesday. Our national energy plan is based on ten fundamental principles.

    The first principle is that we can have an effective and comprehensive energy policy only if the government takes responsibility for it and if the people understand the seriousness of the challenge and are willing to make sacrifices.


    We failed to act soon. And we face an economic, social and political crisis that threatens our free institutions.

    It turned out to be a very, very hard fight. The right's new network of corporate-funded "think tanks" was setting up shop and beginning to spread their poisonous, divisive, anti-government propaganda. They didn't like the idea of government trying to solve problems. The big oil giants certainly didn't want government researching alternatives to their gravy train. We understand the right's operation today, but people did not yet understand what was going on because the country had never been subjected to a destabilization campaign of this magnitude -- from the inside.

    You can really feel the effect of the right's campaign when you read a speech Carter gave two years later. On July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter gave what is called the "Crisis of Confidence" speech. It's also known as the "Malaise" speech. I consider it to be one of the great speeches by a President. Carter again talked to the country about energy policy, pleading with people to take this seriously. He said, "The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our Nation. These are facts and we simply must face them."

    Well, we didn't face them. Instead the country elected Reagan who immediately took the solar panels off of the White House, killed mass transit and alternative energy programs and steered the country on a path of toward dominance by the wealthy and big corporations - especially oil companies.

    Now it is 2010, we have been at war in the Middle East for years, carbon in the air is raising the planet's temperature and melting the Arctic ice cap, and ... the oil in the Gulf. President Obama is giving his first Oval Office speech this evening and all of this is the broader context. Will he take on the entrenched interests that defeated Carter and brought us Reagan and later the two oil-company executives who invaded Iraq, encouraged buying Hummers and left us with a $1.4 trillion deficit?

    As Carter said, "It is a clear and present danger to our Nation. These are facts and we simply must face them."

    Energy speech:

    Crisis of confidence speech:

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:47 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    June 2, 2010

    BP, The Gulf and Carter's 'Malaise Speech'

    I came across Carter's "Malaise" Speech today. Republicans mocked him for this speech and the oil companies went all out for Reagan. (Reagan took the solar panels off of the White House the first week he was there.) What Carter said is as relevant and important today as ever, probably even more so. Please read.

    Ten days ago I had planned to speak to you again about a very important subject -- energy. For the fifth time I would have described the urgency of the problem and laid out a series of legislative recommendations to the Congress. But as I was preparing to speak, I began to ask myself the same question that I now know has been troubling many of you. Why have we not been able to get together as a nation to resolve our serious energy problem?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:24 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 29, 2010

    Bob Herbert Should Be A Blogger

    Because he tells it like it is, not like the DC insiders think it is!

    Please go read!

    With all due respect to the president, who is a very smart man, how is it possible for anyone with any reasonable awareness of the nonstop carnage that has accompanied the entire history of giant corporations to believe that the oil companies, which are among the most rapacious players on the planet, somehow “had their act together” with regard to worst-case scenarios.

    These are not Little Lord Fauntleroys who can be trusted to abide by some fanciful honor system. These are greedy merchant armies drilling blindly at depths a mile and more beneath the seas while at the same time doing all they can to stifle the government oversight that is necessary to protect human lives and preserve the integrity of the environment.


    If he was a blogger he could receive a coveted Seeing the Forest Blog Hero Award. Maybe I'll come up with an honorary award...

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:25 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 27, 2010

    "Government Doesn’t Have The Resources To Stop It"

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    People want the President to exert leadership to turn things around.

    The oil leak. Unemployment. Credit card scams. Foreclosures. Predatory corporations. Environmental destruction. Global warming. Roads and bridges crumbling. Incomes stagnant. Schools getting worse. Companies moving overseas. Problem after problem.

    People want to know, "Why doesn't the government push BP aside and take over?" The answer is, "Government doesn't have the resources to stop it."

    People want to know why the government can't do more to help unemployed people, help with health care, help provide good educations, help with college, maintain the infrastructure, and all the other things that government does.

    The answer, these days, is always, "Government doesn't have the resources." And that, in a nutshell, was exactly the plan.

    We, the People no longer have the resources to solve our problems. We now must depend on and defer to the corporations and the wealthy few to make the important decisions and get things done instead of being able to decide and do on our own.

    This is the legacy of 30 years of conservatism. They called it "starving the beast." Reagan called it “cutting their allowance.” President Bush, told that his policies had turned the country back to massive deficits, said this was, "Incredibly positive news'' because it will create "a fiscal straitjacket for Congress." He came into office with a $236 billion surplus. His last budget left us with a $1.4 trillion deficit. "Incredibly positive news."

    They disemboweled the regulatory agencies. They "privatized" government functions and resources, letting a well-connected few profit at the expense of the rest of us.

    The Reagan deficit plan was right there for everyone to see:

    And here we are. Every time you hear someone say that we have to fight the deficit instead of getting things done that We, the People need done you are witnessing The Plan in action.

    And now, government doesn't have the resources to stop it.


    NOTE: Part of the America's Future Now conference in Washington D.C. from June 7-9 will be devoted to strategy on how the progressive movement can fight the deficit cutters. Speakers such as Van Jones, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, AFL CIO President Richard Trumka, Arianna Huffington will offer a build vision for how the progressive movement can rebuild America's economy and put people back to work. Click here to attend.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:40 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 22, 2010

    Oil Spill: Why Were Bush's People Still There?

    The Minerals Management Service of the Interior Department was supposed to be regulating and inspecting the oil rig that exploded. They weren't. They were a "captured" regulator. This was entirely due to the conservative deregulation ideology.

    President Obama took office in January 2009. This is May, 2010. Why were those Bush people still there?

    Where else in our government are Bush holdovers, and why hasn't President Obama gotten rid of them? We want a return to Rule of Law not Rule of Big Corporations. We voted for that. Where is the President We, the People voted for?


    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:51 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

    The American Present

    Bob Herbert - More Than Just an Oil Spill

    This is the bitter reality of the American present, a period in which big business has cemented an unholy alliance with big government against the interests of ordinary Americans, who, of course, are the great majority of Americans. The great majority of Americans no longer matter.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:21 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 6, 2010

    Executive Entitlement Vs We The People Democracy

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    There have so been many examples lately of the wealthy and the executive class having a sense that they are superior and entitled to fleece and feed off of the rest of us. Here is one more.

    BP CEO Tony Hayward on who will be responsible for paying oil spill damages,

    Mr Hayward reiterated a promise that BP “will honour all legitimate claims for business interruption”. Asked for examples of illegitimate claims, he said: “I could give you lots of examples. This is America — come on. We’re going to have lots of illegitimate claims. We all know that.”

    So with this terrible oil tragedy ruining the ecology of a whole region, killing off the livelihoods of the people who depend on that ecology, he starts right out by mocking Americans who might go to court to collect for the damage that BP has caused them. "We all know" that there are going to be illegitimate claims. Frivolous lawsuits. Moochers and parasites, just waiting for a chance to get their hands on BP's big pile of loot—the pile that Hayward and other executives and producers worked so hard to accumulate. (BP's first quarter profit in 2010 was over $6 billion.)

    Mind you, this was after BP got caught making fishermen sign waivers agreeing not to ask for more than $5,000 in damages from the company if they wanted work in the company's cleanup effort. Got that? The fishermen are thrown out of work by BP's huge Gulf oil catastrophe. So, desperate for any work they can get they ask for work doing the dangerous job of helping with the cleanup effort, and before "letting" them work BP makes them sign a form saying that they won't ask for more than $5,000 for ruining their livelihood. Or else they won't get any work helping with the cleanup.

    Look how far down the road we have gone.

    The entitled executives demand deregulation, because regulation is "government interference" and "meddling" in the affairs of businesspeople.

    Then, with the protections removed, they call for "tort reform," which means citizens can't sue for compensation for damages after the fact.

    Of course, they are trying to prevent the meddling government from setting up a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which would prevent scamming, cheating, fleecing and bamboozling of consumers - at least in financial products. (Other scamming, fleecing and bamboozling would still be OK.)

    And most important, keep the government from taxing the wealthy or businesses -- and this keeps the interfering government from having the funds for meddlesome inspections and enforcing laws and regulations that keep them from doing anything they want to do.

    But government is We, the People, and we are supposed to be in charge here, and making the decisions. Not a few executives who feel entitled to anything they want. They think We, the People are meddling and interfering, because they are so much smarter, and know so much better than us, the herd. So they demand deregulation. They demand that government keep its nose out of their business. This is how we have ended up with catastrophe after catastrophe, finance, mining, oil and debt disasters.

    We, the People have to restore our own understanding of our own power and responsibility. These things happened because WE stopped being eternally vigilant. We are the ones who have let them get their noses under the tent, and it is up to us to take back control of our own democracy.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:58 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    May 4, 2010

    Wall Street Plays Hardball

    Wall street plays hardball - just ask Eliot Spitzer about that.

    And now you can ask certain members of Congress, too. You mess with (threaten to apply sensible financial reforms on) the power, the power messes with you back: Members of Congress Bet Against Stocks in Year of Financial Crisis - WSJ.com.

    This isn't just a news story, this is Wall Street sounding a warning shot at members of Congress. If you try to pass reforms that limit our bonuses, you are going to be in the fight of your life.

    That's what happened to Eliot Spitzer. Here he is in 2002. Here he is in 2003. Then, Wall Street salivating over Eliot Spitzer's downfall. How many private detectives do you think it took?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:03 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 3, 2010

    Airlines Just One More Corporate Scam

    Why does it seem that every single corporation is all about tricking you and squeezing you?

    Go price the cost of flying from San Francisco to Chicago on Delta. It's $240 round-trip, but you have to go through Detroit.

    But if you just want to fly to Detroit it is $616 round-trip. Because there is less competition and they can squeeze you.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:47 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    May 2, 2010

    Plutocracy and Anti-Government Front Groups

    It is entirely about maintaining a plutocracy, and it uses the model developed by the tobacco companies to keep the government away - keep us from protecting ourselves. When you look into it, ALL the anti-government, anti-tax, anti-regulation ideology out there is funded by a few ultra-wealthy people and/or the corporate resources they have access to. It isn't corporate rule, it's rule be a few with access to the vast corporate resources. (Look into the history of the movement and its orgs like Federalist Society that got the people onto the Supreme Court who rules that corporate resources can flood our elections.)

    Along these lines go read Secretive Right-Wing Plutocrats Use Front Groups To Attack New Campaign Finance Disclosure Bill

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:14 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 29, 2010

    The Revolving Door

    This post originally appeared at Open Left.

    If you are not familiar with the term "revolving door" it describes people who move from lobbying firms to government and back.

    The Sunlight Foundation has just come out with Revolving Door From Capitol Hill to Big Banks,

    Concerned about seeing their huge profits cut, six big banks are leading the charge to weaken or block new financial regulations being considered in the United States Senate. To push their cause these banks have hired 145 former government officials–congressmen, staffers and executive branch officials–to lobby on Capitol Hill and in the executive branch.

    And they are spending a ton of money,
    The top six bank holding companies engaged in lobbying on financial regulation include Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, these banks spent a combined total of $23.8 million lobbying Washington in 2009.

    Please go over to Sunlight and take a look at this.

    The level of influence that the largest corporations have over our government is not a surprise to anyone. The way it works is we are supposed to have a marketplace that is a level playing field and our government officials make the rules of that playing field from a distance, uninfluenced. Companies then compete on that playing field, and the ones who best serve the public are rewarded.

    But what happened is that the rulemaking was not kept apart from the players on the field. Imagine a player in a football game approaching the rulemakers in the middle of a game and offering $150K to change a rule. And obviously that player then gains from the change and the gain enables more resource for more and larger bribes. How fast does the playing field tilt completely to that player?

    So what we have is the largest companies setting the rules of the playing field so that the game comes out in favor of ... the largest companies. Oil, tobacco, health insurance, we see it everywhere.

    The solution? Prohibit company resources from leaking out of the company in any way that can influence the public or legislators. Company funds should be used to run the company only. Of course, the Supreme Court just did the opposite...

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:57 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 19, 2010

    Here Comes The Corporate Money

    Here comes the corporate money and it is as bad as you can imagine. Lies, smears... Money is flooding in from Wall Street, smearing members of Congress who want to regulate Wall Street, accusing them of ... being on Wall Street's side.

    The Bankers’ Latest Scam,

    In January and February she began tracking deceptive ads targeting Democrats in ten states that tie bank reform legislation to “Wall Street bailouts.”

    One such television ad in Montana urges voters to contact Senator Jon Tester and tell him to oppose a “$4 trillion bailout” for Wall Street.

    The ad, paid for by a group called the Committee for Truth in Politics, begins with ominous music as words appear on a black screen:

    “Fat cat lobbyists. Special interests. Lining their pockets at our expense. HR 4173 already passed in the U.S. House.” Photos of House Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank flash past. More words appear: “Soon to be considered in the Senate.” Photos of Harry Reid and Chris Dodd standing beside Frank and Pelosi pop up, followed by pictures that move almost too fast to follow: Wall Street, wads of cash, a man smoking a cigar and two men in suits shaking hands in front of the White House, scenes of people out of work, the word “foreclosure” and the figure $4,000,000,000,000. Then more words appear: “The Big Bank Bailout Bill. Lobbyists and Bureaucrats. They play. We pay.” (Photos of ordinary Americans.) “More taxes. Spending. Debt.” (A beleaguered-looking citizen in reading glasses, apparently doing his taxes.) “Call Your Senators” (phone numbers for Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester). “We won’t be fooled again. EVER.”


    HOW do we fight this?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:36 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Distrusting The Government

    Hey, that could be a good blog name, like Seeing the Forest, Smelling the Coffee and Growing the Garden.

    A Pew Poll says Distrust in Government Skyrockets.

    If you look at the poll you find that trust in government tends to drop through Republican administrations, and then rises through Democratic ones.

    Also, there is a huge, well-funded anti-government effort out there with dozens of corporate-funded think tanks, an entire TV network, and all of talk radio. All the time, 20 hours a day, telling the public that government and democracy are bad, and corporations should run things. Marketing works, so I'm not surprised by these results.

    One last point. Reading the poll - 142 pages - one thing runs through it. People don't see what government does for them anymore, and thinks that interests - especially the banks right now - are who the government is representing. I think some of that is people taking much of what the government does for granted, like roads, bridges, police, etc. I think some of it is that a huge amount of the spending is on things like military -- currently more than a $trillion for everything related to the military budget -- and interest on the Reagan/Bush debt.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:30 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 17, 2010

    Tax Tricks - Do Corporations Pass Taxes On To Customers?

    Here is a tax trick you hear all the time: we shouldn't tax corporations because they just "pass the taxes along to customers." Go to any of the usual anti-tax, anti-government sites and you'll see them trying to trick people with this.

    First of all, if companies really did "pass taxes along to consumers," so what? Is that a reason not to pay for the roads, bridges, schools, courts etc., that enable the company to be profitable enough to pay taxes? But actually they don't -- because they can't.

    This tax trick is based on a popular assumption that businesses can just raise prices whenever they want to. But a well-run business is already charging what they should charge for their product or service. If they have room to raise prices they should already have done so. But of course doing so this will cause them to lose sales to competitors.

    Taxes are on profits, and profits are calculated at the end of a tax year by adding up all the revenue and subtracting all the costs. When a product or service is sold the company doesn't really know yet how much profit, if any, it will have at the end of the year, so it doesn't know what the tax will be, so how can it adjust prices? But if a company was able to just raise prices based on anticipation of profits, then the result would be that profits would be higher because of the higher price charged, which means taxes would be even higher, so the company should have raised prices even more, but that means the profit would be even higher, so they have to go back and charge more, but then ... I think you are starting to see how silly this idea of raising prices to cover taxes can get.

    About those competitors - if one company is doing well and therefore making a profit, and another company is not doing so well, and therefore not making as much profit, and the first company raises prices to cover the taxes on the profit, then the second company has a price advantage so the first company loses sales and isn't going to have a profit after all so they really should put the prices back down, but then the other company's price advantage goes away and they are making a profit again so they should raise prices but ... Hey, this just gets silly, too!

    Companies do not pass on taxes to their customers. So don't fall for this tax trick, it's just silly.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:05 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    No Matter What They Propose

    Matthew Yglesias - The Battle Lines

    Back in January, Frank Luntz wrote a memo saying that the best way to defend Wall Street from any new regulation was to spuriously characterize efforts at regulatory reform as leading to “endless bailouts.”

    [. . .] [now] They claim that the bill “allows for endless taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street and establishes new and unlimited regulatory powers that will stifle small businesses and community banks.”


    This doesn't quite capture the sense of that is happening.

    Luntz said the way to kill financial reform was to characterize it as "endless bailouts" no matter what they propose.

    This is how it works. You do a series of focus groups. You ask "if I told you so-and-so would that make you be against it?" If they say that if they were told that Democrats were stealing green cheese from the moon and forcing ducks to swim in it they would be against it - whatever "it" it - then you would start hearing from everywhere that Democrats were stealing green cheese from the moon and forcing ducks to swim in it. No. Matter. What. The. Truth. Was.

    So yes, Republicans are going to say that the financial reform bill will lead to endless bailouts. It is what they were going to say -- all of them -- no matter what the bill has in it.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:13 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 14, 2010

    A Wealthy Few Pick Up The Cash, We Pay The Costs

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    A few weeks back I wrote about Whirlpool closing their Evansville, Indiana plant and moving the work to Mexico. I wrote about the lunacy of an economic system that encourages companies to destroy lives, communities and the very economy that the Whirlpools depend on. This company was taking stimulus dollars with one hand and laying people off with the other.

    Whirlpool did this because they could do it, making a wealthy few a bit more wealthy, and because you and I - not Whirlpool - have to pick up all the costs. This is called externalizing costs. It means you and I pick up the costs and an already-wealthy, connected few pick up the cash. It's the way our system currently is designed.

    A step toward a solution to this problem would be to require companies to start estimating the externalized effects of their actions. What is the cost of cleaning up all the discarded cigarette butts? What is the cost of cleaning up the trash near a McDonald's? What are the costs from the health effects of added salt or sugar? So how about requiring companies to just estimate externalized costs so that We, the People can start getting a handle on this problem. Just start Is that too much to ask?

    Now there is a study of the ripple effects of the Evansville plant closing. The full study, Layoff at Whirlpool: Costs to the Evansville Metro Area and Indiana Taxpayers, written by Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, concludes that direct costs to the community (us) will include:

    - An additional 1,536 “ripple effect” jobs, for a total loss of 2,502 jobs;
    - The loss of $138 million in income, including about 90 cents in additional income lost for every dollar lost by a Whirlpool employee; and
    - A decline in tax revenues of $17.7 million, especially property, sales and both personal and corporate income taxes.

    But that's not all.

    This taxpayer-cost estimate... does not include substantial lost federal revenues... Nor does it include social safety-net programs to assist the dislocated workers. However, for one such program alone we conservatively estimate that: - Unemployment Insurance Benefits for the dislocated Indiana Whirlpool workers will cost more than $4.15 million....

    Combining tax losses with Unemployment Insurance costs generates a conservative taxpayer-cost estimate of more than $21.8 million—or $22,588 per worker dislocated in Indiana.

    WE pick up those costs. A wealthy few get a bit wealthier. Welcome to the system.

    But that's not all.

    The surrounding retail stores, gas stations, and all other places these workers spend will see a drop in sales. Teachers, police, etc. will be under pressure as the local economy dries up. Homes will be foreclosed and property values for all will drop. The costs of those foreclosures will fall on others. Etc. All so a few already-wealthy will get a bit wealthier.

    At least skim through the study to see all the ways the rest of us will be affected.

    WE pick up those costs. A wealthy few get a bit wealthier. WE CAN CHANGE THE SYSTEM.

    Past posts on Whirlpool's Evansville plant closing:

    Whirlpool: Mexican Workers Paid $70/Week Can't Buy Refrigerators
    Whirlpool Tells Callers: Call Congress. They're Right!
    Whirlpool Exec Responds: The System Made Us Do It
    Whirlpool Bites Hands Of American Taxpayers That Feed It

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:51 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    April 3, 2010

    How Do We Counter Republican Propaganda?

    The speech below by Rep. Paul Ryan lays out how the Republicans will campaign this fall. It is well-crafted propaganda, designed to get people to vote for what is really a corporate-run, privatized society replacing our democracy and distributing the benefits of everything that We, the People built over to a select few wealthy elites.

    Lots and lots of people are buying it. There are a few reasons for this. I think the most important reason is that most people are not hearing anything else. There is nothing in any of the places where most people get information to counter this stuff.

    Another reason people are buying it is that it draws on a few decades of trial-and-error narrative-building that has become a conventional wisdom. Many, many people actually believe now that cutting taxes increases revenue, taxes hurt and "take money out of" the economy, businesses always do things more efficiently and effectively than government, and the rest of the pro-corporate litany. Even our own Democratic leaders like President Obama frequently repeat this right-wing stuff, thereby destroying the credibility of progressive arguments.

    The propaganda is backed by a rewriting of history that is taking place. Many people now think that Roosevelt's policies made the depression worse, etc. This is because the right is out there saying it over and over and no one is reaching the general public with anything to counter the lies. Today you can barely turn on a radio, open a newspaper, turn on the TV, go to most churches or go to many kinds of organized group activities like hunting groups, veterans groups, etc. without being blasted with this stuff.

    Oh, and one more thing, you can't listen to any Republican, anywhere, talk without hearing the same points as you hear on the talk radio shows or read in the ubiquitous op-eds repeated almost word-for-word, driving the point home to people over and over from every direction. Imagine Democrats trying to drive a coherent, coordinated and repeated narrative. HA!

    Those of us who believe in democracy need to come up with a public campaign to counter this stuff before it is too late. This requires a change in the way we think. Each of us must understand that our efforts have to start reaching out to the broad, general public, not just blog-readers, and make the case. The public out there beyond the blogosphere needs to hear reasons why one-person-one-vote democracy is better for them than one-dollar-one-vote "free market" corporatocracy or else they are naturally going to choose the latter. You can't blame people for making this choice if the only thing they are hearing out there in Kansas and Texas and Alabama is one side of the argument, and the other side isn't even engaging.

    I'm saying we should start thinking about things like DailyKos and Firedoglake ads on the sides of buses. We should be thinking about putting up billboards that say "Government is We, the People making the decisions instead of big corporations making the decisions." We should be thinking about hosting public speaking engagements and getting our Fox-watching relatives to come.

    So please read the following with the idea of how to counter it in mind. Instead of arguing with all the lies and distortions you are about to read, think about how to talk to regular people in ways that help them understand why democracy, taking care of each other, and our all-of-us-in-it-together progressive values benefit them.

    For example, counter-arguments include informing people of the fact that government is "We, the People" making decisions for ourselves -- so "big government" really just means more control by the people over how our resources are used, and over our own lives. The tax burden rests on fewer people at the top because wealth is so greatly concentrated that a few people now get most of the income and control almost all of the wealth. And of course, much of what is complained about in the following was actually forced on us by Republicans, like the massive debt!

    So here it is: Should America Bid Farewell to Exceptional Freedom? By Rep. Paul Ryan

    Last week, on March 21st, Congress enacted a new Intolerable Act. Congress passed the Health Care bill - or I should say, one political party passed it - over a swelling revolt by the American people. The reform is an atrocity. It mandates that every American must buy health insurance, under IRS scrutiny. It sets up an army of federal bureaucrats who ultimately decide for you how you should receive Health Care, what kind, and how much...or whether you don't qualify at all. Never has our government claimed the power to decide when each of us has lived well enough or long enough to be refused life-saving medical assistance.

    This presumptuous reform has put this nation ... once dedicated to the life and freedom of every person ... on a long decline toward the same mediocrity that the social welfare states of Europe have become.


    Americans are preparing to fight another American Revolution, this time, a peaceful one with election ballots...but the "causes" of both are the same:

    Should unchecked centralized government be allowed to grow and grow in power ... or should its powers be limited and returned to the people?

    Should irresponsible leaders in a distant capital be encouraged to run up scandalous debts without limit that crush jobs and stall prosperity ... or should the reckless be turned out of office and a new government elected to live within its means?

    Should America bid farewell to exceptional freedom and follow the retreat to European social welfare paternalism ... or should we make a new start, in the faith that boundless opportunities belong to the workers, the builders, the industrious, and the free?

    We are at the beginning of an election campaign like you've never seen before!

    We are challenged to answer again the momentous questions our Founders raised when they launched mankind's noblest experiment in human freedom. They made a fundamental choice and changed history for the better. Now it's our high calling to make that choice: between managed scarcity, or solid growth ... between living in dependency on government handouts, or taking responsibility for our lives ... between confiscating the earnings of some and spreading them around, or securing everyone's right to the rewards of their work ... between bureaucratic central government, or self-government ... between the European social welfare state or the American idea of free market democracy.

    What kind of nation do we wish to be? What kind of society will we hand down to our children and future generations? In the coming watershed election, the nature of this unique and exceptional land is at stake. We will choose one of two different paths. And once we make that choice, there's no going back.

    This is not the kind of election I would prefer. But it was forced on us by the leaders of our government.

    These leaders are walking America down a new path ... creating entitlements and promising benefits that model the United States after the European Union: a welfare state society where most people pay little or no taxes but become dependent on government benefits ... where tax reduction is impossible because more people have a stake in the welfare state than in free enterprise ... where high unemployment is accepted as a way of life, and the spirit of risk-taking is smothered by a tangle of red tape from an all-providing centralized government.

    True, the United States has been moving slowly toward this path a long time. And Democrats and Republicans share the blame. Now we are approaching a "tipping point." Once we pass it, we will become a different people. Before the "tipping point," Americans remain independent and take responsibility for their own well-being. Once we have gone beyond the "tipping point," that self-sufficient outlook will be gradually transformed into a soft despotism a lot like Europe's social welfare states. Soft despotism isn't cruel or mean, it's kindly and sympathetic. It doesn't help anyone take charge of life, but it does keep everyone in a happy state of childhood. A growing centralized bureaucracy will provide for everyone's needs, care for everyone's heath, direct everyone's career, arrange everyone's important private affairs, and work for everyone's pleasure.

    The only hitch is, government must be the sole supplier of everyone's happiness ... the shepherd over this flock of sheep.

    Am I exaggerating? Are we really reaching this "tipping point"? Exact and precise measures cannot be made, but an eye-opening study by the Tax Foundation, a reliable and non-partisan research group, tells us that in 2004, 20 percent of US households were getting about 75 percent of their income from the federal government. In other words, one out of five families in America is already government dependent. Another 20 percent were receiving almost 40 percent of their income from federal programs, so another one in five has become government reliant for their livelihood.

    All told, 60 percent - three out of five households in America - were receiving more government benefits and services (in dollar value) than they were paying back in taxes. The Tax Foundation estimates that President Obama's budget last year will raise this "net government inflow" from 60 to 70 percent. Look at it this way: three out of ten American families are supporting themselves plus - through government - supplying or supplementing the incomes of seven other households. As a permanent arrangement, this is individually unfair, politically inequitable, and economically dangerous.

    It raises a subtle but real threat to self-government when the few are paying more and more of the bill for government services and subsidies to the majority: "He who pays the piper calls the tune." The next chapter is the rule of "crony capitalism," where those who pay most taxes get the privileges, and government by and for the people is replaced by government by and for the few. The end of this story is soft despotism.

    We already see enough of "crony capitalism." When government sends bailout money to Wall Street firms they label "too big to fail," that's "crony capitalism." When government buys shares in General Motors, names their management, and dictates their salaries, that's "crony capitalism." When big health insurance companies, instead of competing for market, team up with Congressional Health Care writers to order every individual to buy their products, that's "crony capitalism." When thousands of small businesses have to meet bottom lines with no government bailout, well, you're too small to succeed...good luck!

    The Democratic leaders of Congress and in the White House hold a view they call "Progressivism." Progressivism began in Wisconsin, where I come from. It came into our schools from European universities under the spell of intellectuals such as Hegel and Weber, and the German leader Bismarck. The best known Wisconsin Progressive was actually a Republican, Robert LaFollette.

    Progressivism was a powerful strain in both political parties for many years. Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, and Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, both brought the Progressive movement to Washington.

    Early Progressives wanted to empower and engage the people. They fought for populist reforms like initiative and referendum, recalls, judicial elections, the breakup of monopoly corporations, and the elimination of vote buying and urban patronage. But Progressivism turned away from popular control toward central government planning. It lost most Americans and consumed itself in paternalism, arrogance, and snobbish condescension. "Fighting Bob" LaFollette, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson would have scorned the self-proclaimed "Progressives" of our day for handing out bailout checks to giant corporations, corrupting the Congress to purchase votes for government controlled health care, and funneling billions in Jobs Stimulus money to local politicians to pay for make-work patronage. That's not "Progressivism," that's what real Progressives fought against!

    Since America began, the timid have feared the Founding Fathers' ideas of individual freedom, so they yearn for Old World class models. Our Progressivists are the latest iteration of that same fear of the people. In unprecedented numbers, Americans are speaking out against the intolerable Health Care bill and irresponsible debt-ridden spending.

    Does anyone recall Norman Rockwell's famous "Freedom of Speech" painting of an average working Joe standing and speaking his mind at a town hall meeting? Today's Progressivists ridicule average Americans speaking out at tea parties across the nation and denounce their criticisms as "un-American." Millions of average Americans reject their big government solutions, and that scares them.

    Last January President Obama said: "There are simply philosophical differences that will always cause us to part ways. These disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security, have been taking place for over two hundred years."

    He was right. So let's examine these "philosophical differences" of government. Progressivists say there are no enduring ideas of right or wrong. Everything is "relative" to history, so our ideas need to change. Progressivists say the Founders' Constitution including its amendments, with its principles of equal natural rights, limited government, and popular consent is outdated. We should have a "living constitution" that keeps up with the times. Progressivists invent new rights and enforce them with a more powerful central government and more federal agencies to direct society through the changes of history. And don't worry, they say. Bureaucrats can be controlled by Congressional oversight.

    Would you like an example of how successful Congressional oversight is? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Government-Sponsored Enterprises (or GSEs), underwrote trillions of dollars in junk mortgages. Year after year their officials and others from HUD, Treasury, and other agencies who supervise them marched up to Congress for hearings. Red flags were raised. The oversight committees had other priorities and dismissed them out of hand. With the housing market already tanking, Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank said: "This ability to provide stability to the market is what, in my mind, makes the GSEs a congressional success story." Less than 18 months later, the ‘market-stabilizing' GSEs went belly-up due to their shoddy business practices, collapsing the mortgage credit industry and sparking the worldwide financial meltdown. No one knows the ultimate cost to the taxpayers but it will be gigantic.

    If Congress can't control what a few mortgage finance bureaucrats do with your dollars, why would anyone trust Congress to control what tens of thousands of bureaucrats will do with your health?

    The Progressivist ideology embraced by today's leaders is very different from everything rank-and-file Democrats, independents, and Republicans stand for. America stands for nothing if not for the fixed truth that unalienable rights were granted to every human being not by government but by "nature and nature's God." The truths of the American founding can't become obsolete because they are not timebound. They are eternal. The practical consequence of these truths is free market democracy, the American idea of free labor and free enterprise under government by popular consent. The deepest case for free market democracy is moral, rooted in human equality and the natural right to be free.

    A government that expands beyond its high but limited mission of securing our natural rights is not progressive, it's regressive. It privileges the powerful at the expense of the people. It establishes the rule of class over class. The American Revolution and the Constitution replaced class rule with a better idea: equal opportunity for all. The promise of keeping the earnings of your work is central to justice, freedom, and the hope to improve your life.

    In their hearts Americans know this, but people were alarmed in 2008 by rising unemployment, falling home values, a credit crunch, and a financial meltdown.

    They voted for a change of parties in the White House, and elected the largest Democratic Congressional majority in more than three decades. So overwhelming was their majority that the opposition is unable to do anything to stop them from running roughshod over our foundations. Harry Reid had a supermajority in the Senate that could not be filibustered. Still, the people's mandate for Congress and the new President was clear, simple, and unmistakable: get employment back on track ... get our economy growing again.

    Americans have lost jobs nearly every month since these leaders took over the federal government in January 2009, more than 4 million at last count. The official unemployment rate hovers near 10 percent, but if we add in folks who have stopped looking for work due to lack of job prospects, the rate is a lot higher.

    They began by passing the first Stimulus, a taxpayer giveaway to their favorite special interests. The price tag was $862 billion. They pushed through a second stimulus bill that cost you another $18 billion. Let's see: since 4 million Americans have been unemployed since they passed these "stimuli," that averages $220,000 per job lost. Think about that. Democrats can't even put people out of work without spending near a trillion dollars!

    Just to return to where we were at the end of 2007, 8.4 million jobs have to be created. To reduce unemployment to its pre-crisis level of 5 per cent by the end of President Obama's term, our economy needs to create 247,000 new jobs per month. But we are headed in the wrong direction ... except in one field: the government is growing at breakneck pace in expanding federal payrolls.

    Although millions of private sector jobs have been lost since the recession began, Washington is on track to add about 275,000 more people to the public payrolls - a whopping 15 percent increase. And we aren't talking minimum wages here. More federal workers make over $100,000 than those earning $40,000 or less. The average government worker's salary in 2009 was 21 percent higher than private sector salaries. The average federal worker's compensation package, including benefits, was nearly $120,000 in 2008, twice the private sector at $60,000. One study shows the private sector benefit package averages $9,900 while the federal package averages almost $41,000. Now the Administration wants Congress to privilege federal workers by writing off their unpaid student loans after ten years. People in productive private sector jobs would keep paying for twenty years. Progressivists would really like everyone to work for the government.

    Has any Congress in history enacted, or tried to enact, so many foolish, squalid, and counterproductive programs?

    It isn't good news when anyone losses his job. But I'll make an exception when the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader lose theirs in November!

    As their first major item of business last year, these leaders pushed through a budget so bloated that it will double the federal debt in five years, and triple it in ten.

    Now the Administration has sent Congress a budget that's far worse. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office [CBO] reports that 10 years from now, this budget will drive the federal debt burden up to 90 percent of the nation's entire economic production. It propels spending to a new record of $3.8 trillion next year [FY 2011]. It widens the annual deficit to a new record of $1.5 trillion this year [FY 2010], and raises $1.8 trillion in new taxes through 2020.

    Two and a half years after this recession started, and no new private jobs? Think what these mind-boggling tax increases and mountain of debt are signaling to people who want to open or expand job-creating businesses. Congress keeps raising the barriers against work and production - that's your answer.

    At a time when economic and job expansion should be Washington's highest priority ... and as if the multi-trillion dollar Health Care debacle were not enough, the Progressivist leadership in Congress are adding insult to injury by promoting their energy and climate agenda through their Cap and Trade plan. Put aside the fact that there is growing disagreement among scientists about climate change and its causes. This bill is a big mistake for other reasons.

    CBO estimates that Cap and Trade's total cost is another near-trillion dollars. By one CBO estimate, the tax and energy cost bills for the average American household may grow by $1,600 a year. Other studies put this cost a lot higher.

    If you don't believe me, let me quote a key Democratic Senator:

    Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. Coal-powered plants...natural gas...whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was...would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers...So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it's just that it will bankrupt them because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted.

    That was Senator Barack Obama in January 2008, talking about what he would do as President. Don't say the man doesn't work to keep his p