Jun 12 2012

The Secret of Oz — Winner, Best Docu of 2010

The Secret of Oz

In 1996, in a documentary called The Money Masters, we asked the question why is America going broke. It wasn’t clear then that we were, but it is today. Now the question is how can we get out of this mess. Foreclosures are everywhere, unemployment is skyrocketing – and this is only the beginning. America’s economy is on a long, slippery slope from here on. The bubble ride of debt has come to an end.

What can government do? The sad answer is – under the current monetary system – nothing. It’s not going to get better until the root of the problem is understood and addressed. There isn’t enough stimulus money in the entire world to get us out of this hole. Why? Debt. The national debt is just like our consumer debt – it’s the interest that’s killing us.

Though most people don’t realize it the government can’t just issue it’s own money anymore. It used to be that way. The King could just issue stuff called money. Abraham Lincoln did it to win the Civil War. No, today, in our crazy money system, the government has to borrow our money into existence and then pay interest on it. That’s why they call it the National Debt. All our money is created out of debt. Politicians who focus on reducing the National Debt as an answer probably don’t know what the National Debt really is. To reduce the National Debt would be to reduce our money – and there’s already too little of that.

The economy of the U.S. is in a deflationary spiral. Nothing can stop it — except monetary reform.

  1. No more national debt. Nations should not be allowed to borrow. If they want to spend, they have to take the political heat right away by taxing.
  2. No more fractional reserve lending. Banks can only lend money they actually have.
  3. Gold money is NOT the answer. Historically gold ALWAYS works against a thriving middle class and ALWAYS works to create a plutocracy.
  4. The total quantity of money + credit in a national system must be fixed, varying only with the population.

Watch the full documentary now




Feb 20 2012

Monsanto a Corporation that Should Have Long Since Been Dissolved

This documentary exposes the sordid past, lies and murder committed by the Monsanto corporation. It makes one wonder why this corporation was not dissolved 30 years ago and its board of directors arrested.

Monsanto have an impressive history of committing corporate crimes. Recent Monsanto crimes include:

BST
BST or rBGH marketed by Monsanto as Posilac is a genetically engineered hormone designed to make cows produce more milk. Large amounts of research indicate that BST use has serious implications for the health and welfare of dairy cattle, including making cows more prone to mastitis and sores.
Because of evidence that BST milk may cause breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer in humans, it is banned in Europe. Monsanto is trying to overturn the ban.

Contaminating our food with GM crops
As the market leaders in GM crops it is Monsanto who have been largely responsible for contaminating the global food chain with GM crops. The long term health effects of eating GM crops are as yet unknown.

Contaminating our environment with GM crops
The long term effects of Monsanto’s GM crops on the environment are as yet unknown. In areas where RoundUp Ready crops are being grown commercially, herbicide tolerance is being spread to neighbouring crops and wild plants by cross pollination. Rather than reducing the amount of chemicals used in farming RoundUp Ready crops are locking farmers into a chemical dependant farming system.

Several scientific studies have suggested that the Bt technology utilised by Monsanto in their Bollgard, YieldGard and NewLeaf insect resistant crops may kill ‘non-pest’ insects such as the Monarch butterfly.

Developing world
Having encountered increasing opposition to GM technology in the developed global north, Monsanto have put more energy into pushing their products in the developing global south. An example of this being the attempt by Monsanto/Mahyco to rush their Bt insect resistant cotton through the Indian government’s regulatory process and on to the market. The decision on allowing commercial growing of Bt cotton was postponed for a year in the face massive opposition from Indian farmers and NGOs all over the world.

Terminator Technology
Monsanto holds a patent for ‘terminator’ technology. Terminator technology involves the genetically engineering of plants to produce sterile seeds thus forcing farmers to buy new seed every year, rather than saving their own seed from year to year. Monsanto has said it will not use this technology but still holds the patents and may use it in future.

Corporate Bully Boys
Monsanto don’t like the thought of anyone publicly disagreeing with them or worse still pulling a fast one on them. Where their GM crops are being grown commercially Monsanto have paid a small army of private investigators to check whether farmers are growing their GM crops without permission. Monsanto have successfully sued a Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser for supposedly planting GM oil seed rape without a license agreement. Percy claims that he has never planted GM crops on his land and that any GM crops on his land are a result of cross pollination from GM crops grown on neighbouring farms. He is launching a counter suit against Monsanto.

In 1997 2 TV journalists Steve Wilson and Jane Akre who had been making a documentary on the dangers of Monsanto’s BST were fired by their employers Fox TV. Fox TV had come under pressure from Monsanto to change the content of the documentary, when Wilson and Akre refused to be muzzled they were sacked.

In 1998 Monsanto took out a wide ranging SLAPP (Stategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) against activists from Genetix Snowball. At the time Genetix Snowball were engaged in a campaign of accountable, non-violent direct action against GM crops. The injunction was designed to intimidate members of the public into not taking direct action against Monsanto’s UK GM field trials.

In 1998 the environmental journal the Ecologist was due to publish a special edition attacking Monsanto. However, the Ecologist’s printers – Penwells of Saltash, Cornwall, destroyed the 14,000 print run without notice fearing liable action from Monsanto.

Climate Change Co-option
Monsanto have seen the potential for new markets for their GM products within the mechanisms of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Since 1998 Monsanto has been one of the principle corporations attempting to hijack the UN climate change negotiations for its own ends. Monsanto claims that its products offer high tech solutions in the battle to reduce CO2 emissions. Monsanto hopes to gain carbon credits in two ways.

1. Monsanto claims that wide spread use of RoundUp Ready crops will reduce the need for ploughing thus keeping large quantities of CO2 locked in the soil.

2. Monsanto hopes to be a major provider of GM trees for forestry ‘carbon sinks’ (large areas of forests planted to soak up CO2 emissions). Monsanto are close to commercialising RoundUp Ready trees and are rumoured to be developing carbon absorbing trees and plants.


Feb 14 2012

Payday Monsanto “The Complex” Music Video & Lyrics

Payday Monsanto “The Complex”

The Complex is about the military industrial complex controlling our government wanting to keep it in a perpetual war so they can get rich.

It’s time we ended control of the U.S. government by special interests. Make lobbying illegal, and prosecute politicians for bribery. Additionally campaign donations should only come from individual people who actually vote in the election of that official. Most elected officials get over 80% of their funding from other sates, so how can they represent their district when the people of their district are not funding them?

Payday Monsanto “The Complex” Music Video

Payday Monsanto “The Complex” Lyrics

(I hate your fucking games,
But I love you all so much
Sometimes you got overcome with greed.
It’s your arrogants I need.)

I got higher education for you
Vaccinations for you,
and all kinds of experimental medications for ya.
I got professors and doctors and indoctrinated kids
And media outlets to tell you how great it is.
We concentrated it, now you must depend upon,
Banking institutions integrated with the Pentagon.
It’s been said we spread malice and greed
But the benefits are limitless: We’ve got everything you need!
 

(Chorus)

While you were sleeping
We came and took it all away
You can bet the farm on that
You never saw us creeping
And that’s how it’s going to stay
That’s why they say, that’s why they say, that’s why they say.
I hate your fucking guts
But I love you all so much
You make me overcome with greed
But you’re everything I need.

You’re the only one that can make me leave my home.
It’s like you’ve got a gun pointed at my dome.
 
Who are you going to believe?
Kooky conspiracy theorists whose shits been discredited
Just because we said it is?
I know we’ve been noted to see
But we’ve improved upon our record
Just take our word for it in your sedative.
You’re inevitably headed towards a filthy dirty state
Your name is THX 1138
Whether you like it or not,
I’m George Orwell’s ghost,
Hosting a party and exposing the plot.
And talking about heat; giving you one in the dark.
Ask McDaddy Cain Bang will tell you I warm it up.
Please find this as infamous for givin niggers stitches
Ask I’m on a roll towards delicious riches (by gomez)
My philosophies coincide with Chris”
In so many ways stop the violence and kill the dissers.
He’s been saying that shit for 30 years
Still he got more mothers than ever him crying mercy tears.

(Chorus)

Knowledge is dangerous potentially used in the wrong fashion
The wisdom is safety: Distinguish between knowledge and wisdom.
Please….
Distinguish


Follow Payday Monsanto on Facebook.



Sep 9 2011

Farewell to All That: Reflections of a Republican Operative Who Left the Club

By: MIKE LOFGREN

Barbara Stanwyck: “We’re both rotten!”

Fred MacMurray: “Yeah – only you’re a little more rotten.” -“Double Indemnity” (1944)

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins

Buy the Related Book "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" by John Perkins

Those lines of dialogue from a classic film noir sum up the condition of both political parties in modern America. Both parties are rotten – how could they not be, considering the complete infestation of the political system by corporate money on a scale that now requires a presidential candidate to raise well over a billion dollars to be competitive in the general election? Both parties are captives to corporate funds. The main reason the Democrats’ health care bill will be a budget buster once it fully phases in is the Democrats’ rank capitulation to corporate interests – no single-payer system, in order to mollify the insurers; and no negotiation of drug prices, a craven surrender to Big Pharma.

But both parties are not rotten in quite the same way. The Democrats have their share of machine politicians, careerists, corporate bagmen, egomaniacs and kooks. Nothing, however, quite matches the modern Gop.

To the millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling expansion, it might have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots, like Robert K. Dornan or William E. Dannemeyer. But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King, Michele Bachman (now a leading presidential candidate as well), Paul Broun, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy.

Republican moneyIt was this cast of characters and the pernicious ideas they represent that impelled me to end a nearly 30-year career as a professional staff member on Capitol Hill. A couple of months ago, I retired; but I could see as early as last November that the Republican Party would use the debt limit vote, an otherwise routine legislative procedure that has been used 87 times since the end of World War II, in order to concoct an entirely artificial fiscal crisis. Then, they would use that fiscal crisis to get what they wanted, by literally holding the US and global economies as hostages.

The debt ceiling extension is not the only example of this sort of political terrorism. Republicans were willing to lay off 4,000 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees, 70,000 private construction workers and let FAA safety inspectors work without pay, in fact, forcing them to pay for their own work-related travel – how prudent is that? – in order to strong arm some union-busting provisions into the FAA reauthorization.

Everyone knows that in a hostage situation, the reckless and amoral actor has the negotiating upper hand over the cautious and responsible actor because the latter is actually concerned about the life of the hostage, while the former does not care. This fact, which ought to be obvious, has nevertheless caused confusion among the professional pundit class, which is mostly still stuck in the Bob Dole era in terms of its orientation. For instance, Ezra Klein wrote of his puzzlement over the fact that while House Republicans essentially won the debt ceiling fight, enough of them were sufficiently dissatisfied that they might still scuttle the deal. Of course they might – the attitude of many freshman Republicans to national default was “bring it on!”

It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe. This trend has several implications, none of them pleasant.

In his “Manual of Parliamentary Practice,” Thomas Jefferson wrote that it is less important that every rule and custom of a legislature be absolutely justifiable in a theoretical sense, than that they should be generally acknowledged and honored by all parties. These include unwritten rules, customs and courtesies that lubricate the legislative machinery and keep governance a relatively civilized procedure. The US Senate has more complex procedural rules than any other legislative body in the world; many of these rules are contradictory, and on any given day, the Senate parliamentarian may issue a ruling that contradicts earlier rulings on analogous cases.

The only thing that can keep the Senate functioning is collegiality and good faith. During periods of political consensus, for instance, the World War II and early post-war eras, the Senate was a “high functioning” institution: filibusters were rare and the body was legislatively productive. Now, one can no more picture the current Senate producing the original Medicare Act than the old Supreme Soviet having legislated the Bill of Rights.

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.

John P. Judis sums up the modern GOP this way:


“Over the last four decades, the Republican Party has transformed from a loyal opposition into an insurrectionary party that flouts the law when it is in the majority and threatens disorder when it is the minority. It is the party of Watergate and Iran-Contra, but also of the government shutdown in 1995 and the impeachment trial of 1999. If there is an earlier American precedent for today’s Republican Party, it is the antebellum Southern Democrats of John Calhoun who threatened to nullify, or disregard, federal legislation they objected to and who later led the fight to secede from the union over slavery.”

 

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).

The media are also complicit in this phenomenon. Ever since the bifurcation of electronic media into a more or less respectable “hard news” segment and a rabidly ideological talk radio and cable TV political propaganda arm, the “respectable” media have been terrified of any criticism for perceived bias. Hence, they hew to the practice of false evenhandedness. Paul Krugman has skewered this tactic as being the “centrist cop-out.” “I joked long ago,” he says, “that if one party declared that the earth was flat, the headlines would read ‘Views Differ on Shape of Planet.'”

Inside-the-Beltway wise guy Chris Cillizza merely proves Krugman right in his Washington Post analysis of “winners and losers” in the debt ceiling impasse. He wrote that the institution of Congress was a big loser in the fracas, which is, of course, correct, but then he opined: “Lawmakers – bless their hearts – seem entirely unaware of just how bad they looked during this fight and will almost certainly spend the next few weeks (or months) congratulating themselves on their tremendous magnanimity.” Note how the pundit’s ironic deprecation falls like the rain on the just and unjust alike, on those who precipitated the needless crisis and those who despaired of it. He seems oblivious that one side – or a sizable faction of one side – has deliberately attempted to damage the reputation of Congress to achieve its political objectives.

This constant drizzle of “there the two parties go again!” stories out of the news bureaus, combined with the hazy confusion of low-information voters, means that the long-term Republican strategy of undermining confidence in our democratic institutions has reaped electoral dividends. The United States has nearly the lowest voter participation among Western democracies; this, again, is a consequence of the decline of trust in government institutions – if government is a racket and both parties are the same, why vote? And if the uninvolved middle declines to vote, it increases the electoral clout of a minority that is constantly being whipped into a lather by three hours daily of Rush Limbaugh or Fox News. There were only 44 million Republican voters in the 2010 mid-term elections, but they effectively canceled the political results of the election of President Obama by 69 million voters.

This tactic of inducing public distrust of government is not only cynical, it is schizophrenic. For people who profess to revere the Constitution, it is strange that they so caustically denigrate the very federal government that is the material expression of the principles embodied in that document. This is not to say that there is not some theoretical limit to the size or intrusiveness of government; I would be the first to say there are such limits, both fiscal and Constitutional. But most Republican officeholders seem strangely uninterested in the effective repeal of Fourth Amendment protections by the Patriot Act, the weakening of habeas corpus and self-incrimination protections in the public hysteria following 9/11 or the unpalatable fact that the United States has the largest incarcerated population of any country on earth. If anything, they would probably opt for more incarcerated persons, as imprisonment is a profit center for the prison privatization industry, which is itself a growth center for political contributions to these same politicians.[1] Instead, they prefer to rail against those government programs that actually help people. And when a program is too popular to attack directly, like Medicare or Social Security, they prefer to undermine it by feigning an agonized concern about the deficit. That concern, as we shall see, is largely fictitious.

Undermining Americans’ belief in their own institutions of self-government remains a prime GOP electoral strategy. But if this technique falls short of producing Karl Rove’s dream of 30 years of unchallengeable one-party rule (as all such techniques always fall short of achieving the angry and embittered true believer’s New Jerusalem), there are other even less savory techniques upon which to fall back. Ever since Republicans captured the majority in a number of state legislatures last November, they have systematically attempted to make it more difficult to vote: by onerous voter ID requirements (in Wisconsin, Republicans have legislated photo IDs while simultaneously shutting Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices in Democratic constituencies while at the same time lengthening the hours of operation of DMV offices in GOP constituencies); by narrowing registration periods; and by residency requirements that may disenfranchise university students.

This legislative assault is moving in a diametrically opposed direction to 200 years of American history, when the arrow of progress pointed toward more political participation by more citizens. Republicans are among the most shrill in self-righteously lecturing other countries about the wonders of democracy; exporting democracy (albeit at the barrel of a gun) to the Middle East was a signature policy of the Bush administration. But domestically, they don’t want those people voting.

You can probably guess who those people are. Above all, anyone not likely to vote Republican. As Sarah Palin would imply, the people who are not Real Americans. Racial minorities. Immigrants. Muslims. Gays. Intellectuals. Basically, anyone who doesn’t look, think, or talk like the GOP base. This must account, at least to some degree, for their extraordinarily vitriolic hatred of President Obama. I have joked in the past that the main administration policy that Republicans object to is Obama’s policy of being black.[2] Among the GOP base, there is constant harping about somebody else, some “other,” who is deliberately, assiduously and with malice aforethought subverting the Good, the True and the Beautiful: Subversives. Commies. Socialists. Ragheads. Secular humanists. Blacks. Fags. Feminazis. The list may change with the political needs of the moment, but they always seem to need a scapegoat to hate and fear.

It is not clear to me how many GOP officeholders believe this reactionary and paranoid claptrap. I would bet that most do not. But they cynically feed the worst instincts of their fearful and angry low-information political base with a nod and a wink. During the disgraceful circus of the “birther” issue, Republican politicians subtly stoked the fires of paranoia by being suggestively equivocal – “I take the president at his word” – while never unambiguously slapping down the myth. John Huntsman was the first major GOP figure forthrightly to refute the birther calumny – albeit after release of the birth certificate.

I do not mean to place too much emphasis on racial animus in the GOP. While it surely exists, it is also a fact that Republicans think that no Democratic president could conceivably be legitimate. Republicans also regarded Bill Clinton as somehow, in some manner, twice fraudulently elected (well do I remember the elaborate conspiracy theories that Republicans traded among themselves). Had it been Hillary Clinton, rather than Barack Obama, who had been elected in 2008, I am certain we would now be hearing, in lieu of the birther myths, conspiracy theories about Vince Foster’s alleged murder.

The reader may think that I am attributing Svengali-like powers to GOP operatives able to manipulate a zombie base to do their bidding. It is more complicated than that. Historical circumstances produced the raw material: the deindustrialization and financialization of America since about 1970 has spawned an increasingly downscale white middle class – without job security (or even without jobs), with pensions and health benefits evaporating and with their principal asset deflating in the collapse of the housing bubble. Their fears are not imaginary; their standard of living is shrinking.

What do the Democrats offer these people? Essentially nothing. Democratic Leadership Council-style “centrist” Democrats were among the biggest promoters of disastrous trade deals in the 1990s that outsourced jobs abroad: NAFTA, World Trade Organization, permanent most-favored-nation status for China. At the same time, the identity politics/lifestyle wing of the Democratic Party was seen as a too illegal immigrant-friendly by downscaled and outsourced whites.[3]

While Democrats temporized, or even dismissed the fears of the white working class as racist or nativist, Republicans went to work. To be sure, the business wing of the Republican Party consists of the most energetic outsourcers, wage cutters and hirers of sub-minimum wage immigrant labor to be found anywhere on the globe. But the faux-populist wing of the party, knowing the mental compartmentalization that occurs in most low-information voters, played on the fears of that same white working class to focus their anger on scapegoats that do no damage to corporations’ bottom lines: instead of raising the minimum wage, let’s build a wall on the Southern border (then hire a defense contractor to incompetently manage it). Instead of predatory bankers, it’s evil Muslims. Or evil gays. Or evil abortionists.

How do they manage to do this? Because Democrats ceded the field. Above all, they do not understand language. Their initiatives are posed in impenetrable policy-speak: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The what? – can anyone even remember it? No wonder the pejorative “Obamacare” won out. Contrast that with the Republicans’ Patriot Act. You’re a patriot, aren’t you? Does anyone at the GED level have a clue what a Stimulus Bill is supposed to be? Why didn’t the White House call it the Jobs Bill and keep pounding on that theme?

You know that Social Security and Medicare are in jeopardy when even Democrats refer to them as entitlements. “Entitlement” has a negative sound in colloquial English: somebody who is “entitled” selfishly claims something he doesn’t really deserve. Why not call them “earned benefits,” which is what they are because we all contribute payroll taxes to fund them? That would never occur to the Democrats. Republicans don’t make that mistake; they are relentlessly on message: it is never the “estate tax,” it is the “death tax.” Heaven forbid that the Walton family should give up one penny of its $86-billion fortune. All of that lucre is necessary to ensure that unions be kept out of Wal-Mart, that women employees not be promoted and that politicians be kept on a short leash.

It was not always thus. It would have been hard to find an uneducated farmer during the depression of the 1890s who did not have a very accurate idea about exactly which economic interests were shafting him. An unemployed worker in a breadline in 1932 would have felt little gratitude to the Rockefellers or the Mellons. But that is not the case in the present economic crisis. After a riot of unbridled greed such as the world has not seen since the conquistadors’ looting expeditions and after an unprecedented broad and rapid transfer of wealth upward by Wall Street and its corporate satellites, where is the popular anger directed, at least as depicted in the media? At “Washington spending” – which has increased primarily to provide unemployment compensation, food stamps and Medicaid to those economically damaged by the previous decade’s corporate saturnalia. Or the popular rage is harmlessly diverted against pseudo-issues: death panels, birtherism, gay marriage, abortion, and so on, none of which stands to dent the corporate bottom line in the slightest.

Thus far, I have concentrated on Republican tactics, rather than Republican beliefs, but the tactics themselves are important indicators of an absolutist, authoritarian mindset that is increasingly hostile to the democratic values of reason, compromise and conciliation. Rather, this mindset seeks polarizing division (Karl Rove has been very explicit that this is his principal campaign strategy), conflict and the crushing of opposition.

As for what they really believe, the Republican Party of 2011 believes in three principal tenets I have laid out below. The rest of their platform one may safely dismiss as window dressing:

1. The GOP cares solely and exclusively about its rich contributors. The party has built a whole catechism on the protection and further enrichment of America’s plutocracy. Their caterwauling about deficit and debt is so much eyewash to con the public. Whatever else President Obama has accomplished (and many of his purported accomplishments are highly suspect), his $4-trillion deficit reduction package did perform the useful service of smoking out Republican hypocrisy. The GOP refused, because it could not abide so much as a one-tenth of one percent increase on the tax rates of the Walton family or the Koch brothers, much less a repeal of the carried interest rule that permits billionaire hedge fund managers to pay income tax at a lower effective rate than cops or nurses. Republicans finally settled on a deal that had far less deficit reduction – and even less spending reduction! – than Obama’s offer, because of their iron resolution to protect at all costs our society’s overclass.

Republicans have attempted to camouflage their amorous solicitude for billionaires with a fog of misleading rhetoric. John Boehner is fond of saying, “we won’t raise anyone’s taxes,” as if the take-home pay of an Olive Garden waitress were inextricably bound up with whether Warren Buffett pays his capital gains as ordinary income or at a lower rate. Another chestnut is that millionaires and billionaires are “job creators.” US corporations have just had their most profitable quarters in history; Apple, for one, is sitting on $76 billion in cash, more than the GDP of most countries. So, where are the jobs?

Another smokescreen is the “small business” meme, since standing up for Mom’s and Pop’s corner store is politically more attractive than to be seen shilling for a megacorporation. Raising taxes on the wealthy will kill small business’ ability to hire; that is the GOP dirge every time Bernie Sanders or some Democrat offers an amendment to increase taxes on incomes above $1 million. But the number of small businesses that have a net annual income over a million dollars is de minimis, if not by definition impossible (as they would no longer be small businesses). And as data from the Center for Economic and Policy Research have shown, small businesses account for only 7.2 percent of total US employment, a significantly smaller share of total employment than in most Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

Likewise, Republicans have assiduously spread the myth that Americans are conspicuously overtaxed. But compared to other OECD countries, the effective rates of US taxation are among the lowest. In particular, they point to the top corporate income rate of 35 percent as being confiscatory Bolshevism. But again, the effective rate is much lower. Did GE pay 35 percent on 2010 profits of $14 billion? No, it paid zero.

When pressed, Republicans make up misleading statistics to “prove” that the America’s fiscal burden is being borne by the rich and the rest of us are just freeloaders who don’t appreciate that fact. “Half of Americans don’t pay taxes” is a perennial meme. But what they leave out is that that statement refers to federal income taxes. There are millions of people who don’t pay income taxes, but do contribute payroll taxes – among the most regressive forms of taxation. But according to GOP fiscal theology, payroll taxes don’t count. Somehow, they have convinced themselves that since payroll taxes go into trust funds, they’re not real taxes. Likewise, state and local sales taxes apparently don’t count, although their effect on a poor person buying necessities like foodstuffs is far more regressive than on a millionaire.

All of these half truths and outright lies have seeped into popular culture via the corporate-owned business press. Just listen to CNBC for a few hours and you will hear most of them in one form or another. More important politically, Republicans’ myths about taxation have been internalized by millions of economically downscale “values voters,” who may have been attracted to the GOP for other reasons (which I will explain later), but who now accept this misinformation as dogma.

And when misinformation isn’t enough to sustain popular support for the GOP’s agenda, concealment is needed. One fairly innocuous provision in the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill requires public companies to make a more transparent disclosure of CEO compensation, including bonuses. Note that it would not limit the compensation, only require full disclosure. Republicans are hell-bent on repealing this provision. Of course; it would not serve Wall Street interests if the public took an unhealthy interest in the disparity of their own incomes as against that of a bank CEO. As Spencer Bachus, the Republican chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, says, “In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.”

2. They worship at the altar of Mars. While the me-too Democrats have set a horrible example of keeping up with the Joneses with respect to waging wars, they can never match GOP stalwarts such as John McCain or Lindsey Graham in their sheer, libidinous enthusiasm for invading other countries. McCain wanted to mix it up with Russia – a nuclear-armed state – during the latter’s conflict with Georgia in 2008 (remember? – “we are all Georgians now,” a slogan that did not, fortunately, catch on), while Graham has been persistently agitating for attacks on Iran and intervention in Syria. And these are not fringe elements of the party; they are the leading “defense experts,” who always get tapped for the Sunday talk shows. About a month before Republicans began holding a gun to the head of the credit markets to get trillions of dollars of cuts, these same Republicans passed a defense appropriations bill that increased spending by $17 billion over the prior year’s defense appropriation. To borrow Chris Hedges’ formulation, war is the force that gives meaning to their lives.

A cynic might conclude that this militaristic enthusiasm is no more complicated than the fact that Pentagon contractors spread a lot of bribery money around Capitol Hill. That is true, but there is more to it than that. It is not necessarily even the fact that members of Congress feel they are protecting constituents’ jobs. The wildly uneven concentration of defense contracts and military bases nationally means that some areas, like Washington, DC, and San Diego, are heavily dependent on Department of Defense (DOD) spending. But there are many more areas of the country whose net balance is negative: the citizenry pays more in taxes to support the Pentagon than it receives back in local contracts.

And the economic justification for Pentagon spending is even more fallacious when one considers that the $700 billion annual DOD budget creates comparatively few jobs. The days of Rosie the Riveter are long gone; most weapons projects now require very little touch labor. Instead, a disproportionate share is siphoned off into high-cost research and development (from which the civilian economy benefits little); exorbitant management expenditures, overhead and out-and-out padding; and, of course, the money that flows back into the coffers of political campaigns. A million dollars appropriated for highway construction would create two to three times as many jobs as a million dollars appropriated for Pentagon weapons procurement, so the jobs argument is ultimately specious.

Take away the cash nexus and there still remains a psychological predisposition toward war and militarism on the part of the GOP. This undoubtedly arises from a neurotic need to demonstrate toughness and dovetails perfectly with the belligerent tough-guy pose one constantly hears on right-wing talk radio. Militarism springs from the same psychological deficit that requires an endless series of enemies, both foreign and domestic.

The results of the last decade of unbridled militarism and the Democrats’ cowardly refusal to reverse it[4], have been disastrous both strategically and fiscally. It has made the United States less prosperous, less secure and less free. Unfortunately, the militarism and the promiscuous intervention it gives rise to are only likely to abate when the Treasury is exhausted, just as it happened to the Dutch Republic and the British Empire.

3. Give me that old time religion. Pandering to fundamentalism is a full-time vocation in the GOP. Beginning in the 1970s, religious cranks ceased simply to be a minor public nuisance in this country and grew into the major element of the Republican rank and file. Pat Robertson’s strong showing in the 1988 Iowa Caucus signaled the gradual merger of politics and religion in the party. The results are all around us: if the American people poll more like Iranians or Nigerians than Europeans or Canadians on questions of evolution versus creationism, scriptural inerrancy, the existence of angels and demons, and so forth, that result is due to the rise of the religious right, its insertion into the public sphere by the Republican Party and the consequent normalizing of formerly reactionary or quaint beliefs. Also around us is a prevailing anti-intellectualism and hostility to science; it is this group that defines “low-information voter” – or, perhaps, “misinformation voter.”

The Constitution to the contrary notwithstanding, there is now a de facto religious test for the presidency: major candidates are encouraged (or coerced) to “share their feelings” about their “faith” in a revelatory speech; or, some televangelist like Rick Warren dragoons the candidates (as he did with Obama and McCain in 2008) to debate the finer points of Christology, with Warren himself, of course, as the arbiter. Politicized religion is also the sheet anchor of the culture wars. But how did the whole toxic stew of GOP beliefs – economic royalism, militarism and culture wars cum fundamentalism – come completely to displace an erstwhile civilized Eisenhower Republicanism?

It is my view that the rise of politicized religious fundamentalism (which is a subset of the decline of rational problem solving in America) may have been the key ingredient of the takeover of the Republican Party. For politicized religion provides a substrate of beliefs that rationalizes – at least in the minds of followers – all three of the GOP’s main tenets.

Televangelists have long espoused the health-and-wealth/name-it-and-claim it gospel. If you are wealthy, it is a sign of God’s favor. If not, too bad! But don’t forget to tithe in any case. This rationale may explain why some economically downscale whites defend the prerogatives of billionaires.

The GOP’s fascination with war is also connected with the fundamentalist mindset. The Old Testament abounds in tales of slaughter – God ordering the killing of the Midianite male infants and enslavement of the balance of the population, the divinely-inspired genocide of the Canaanites, the slaying of various miscreants with the jawbone of an ass – and since American religious fundamentalist seem to prefer the Old Testament to the New (particularly that portion of the New Testament known as the Sermon on the Mount), it is but a short step to approving war as a divinely inspired mission. This sort of thinking has led, inexorably, to such phenomena as Jerry Falwell once writing that God is Pro-War.

It is the apocalyptic frame of reference of fundamentalists, their belief in an imminent Armageddon, that psychologically conditions them to steer this country into conflict, not only on foreign fields (some evangelicals thought Saddam was the Antichrist and therefore a suitable target for cruise missiles), but also in the realm of domestic political controversy. It is hardly surprising that the most adamant proponent of the view that there was no debt ceiling problem was Michele Bachmann, the darling of the fundamentalist right. What does it matter, anyway, if the country defaults? – we shall presently abide in the bosom of the Lord.

Some liberal writers have opined that the different socio-economic perspectives separating the “business” wing of the GOP and the religious right make it an unstable coalition that could crack. I am not so sure. There is no fundamental disagreement on which direction the two factions want to take the country, merely how far in that direction they want to take it. The plutocrats would drag us back to the Gilded Age, the theocrats to the Salem witch trials. In any case, those consummate plutocrats, the Koch brothers, are pumping large sums of money into Michele Bachman’s presidential campaign, so one ought not make too much of a potential plutocrat-theocrat split.

Thus, the modern GOP; it hardly seems conceivable that a Republican could have written the following:

“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.” (That was President Eisenhower, writing to his brother Edgar in 1954.)

It is this broad and ever-widening gulf between the traditional Republicanism of an Eisenhower and the quasi-totalitarian cult of a Michele Bachmann that impelled my departure from Capitol Hill. It is not in my pragmatic nature to make a heroic gesture of self-immolation, or to make lurid revelations of personal martyrdom in the manner of David Brock. And I will leave a more detailed dissection of failed Republican economic policies to my fellow apostate Bruce Bartlett.

I left because I was appalled at the headlong rush of Republicans, like Gadarene swine, to embrace policies that are deeply damaging to this country’s future; and contemptuous of the feckless, craven incompetence of Democrats in their half-hearted attempts to stop them. And, in truth, I left as an act of rational self-interest. Having gutted private-sector pensions and health benefits as a result of their embrace of outsourcing, union busting and “shareholder value,” the GOP now thinks it is only fair that public-sector workers give up their pensions and benefits, too. Hence the intensification of the GOP’s decades-long campaign of scorn against government workers. Under the circumstances, it is simply safer to be a current retiree rather than a prospective one.

If you think Paul Ryan and his Ayn Rand-worshipping colleagues aren’t after your Social Security and Medicare, I am here to disabuse you of your naiveté.[5] They will move heaven and earth to force through tax cuts that will so starve the government of revenue that they will be “forced” to make “hard choices” – and that doesn’t mean repealing those very same tax cuts, it means cutting the benefits for which you worked.

During the week that this piece was written, the debt ceiling fiasco reached its conclusion. The economy was already weak, but the GOP’s disgraceful game of chicken roiled the markets even further. Foreigners could hardly believe it: Americans’ own crazy political actions were destabilizing the safe-haven status of the dollar. Accordingly, during that same week, over one trillion dollars worth of assets evaporated on financial markets. Russia and China have stepped up their advocating that the dollar be replaced as the global reserve currency – a move as consequential and disastrous for US interests as any that can be imagined.

If Republicans have perfected a new form of politics that is successful electorally at the same time that it unleashes major policy disasters, it means twilight both for the democratic process and America’s status as the world’s leading power.

Footnotes:

[1] I am not exaggerating for effect. A law passed in 2010 by the Arizona legislature mandating arrest and incarceration of suspected illegal aliens was actually drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative business front group that drafts “model” legislation on behalf of its corporate sponsors. The draft legislation in question was written for the private prison lobby, which sensed a growth opportunity in imprisoning more people.

[2] I am not a supporter of Obama and object to a number of his foreign and domestic policies. But when he took office amid the greatest financial collapse in 80 years, I wanted him to succeed, so that the country I served did not fail. But already in 2009, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, declared that his greatest legislative priority was – jobs for Americans? Rescuing the financial system? Solving the housing collapse? – no, none of those things. His top priority was to ensure that Obama should be a one-term president. Evidently Senator McConnell hates Obama more than he loves his country. Note that the mainstream media have lately been hailing McConnell as “the adult in the room,” presumably because he is less visibly unstable than the Tea Party freshmen

[3] This is not a venue for immigrant bashing. It remains a fact that outsourcing jobs overseas, while insourcing sub-minimum wage immigrant labor, will exert downward pressure on US wages. The consequence will be popular anger, and failure to address that anger will result in a downward wage spiral and a breech of the social compact, not to mention a rise in nativism and other reactionary impulses. It does no good to claim that these economic consequences are an inevitable result of globalization; Germany has somehow managed to maintain a high-wage economy and a vigorous industrial base.

[4] The cowardice is not merely political. During the past ten years, I have observed that Democrats are actually growing afraid of Republicans. In a quirky and flawed, but insightful, little book, “Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred,” John Lukacs concludes that the left fears, the right hates.

[5] The GOP cult of Ayn Rand is both revealing and mystifying. On the one hand, Rand’s tough guy, every-man-for-himself posturing is a natural fit because it puts a philosophical gloss on the latent sociopathy so prevalent among the hard right. On the other, Rand exclaimed at every opportunity that she was a militant atheist who felt nothing but contempt for Christianity. Apparently, the ignorance of most fundamentalist “values voters” means that GOP candidates who enthuse over Rand at the same time they thump their Bibles never have to explain this stark contradiction. And I imagine a Democratic officeholder would have a harder time explaining why he named his offspring “Marx” than a GOP incumbent would in rationalizing naming his kid “Rand.”

This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Mike Lofgren retired on June 17 after 28 years as a Congressional staffer. He served 16 years as a professional staff member on the Republican side of both the House and Senate Budget Committees.

Aug 18 2011

Sage Francis — Conspiracy To Riot, Music Video & Lyrics

Sage Francis — Conspiracy To Riot

Born Paul Francis in Miami, Florida, Sage Francis is a rapper/writer/performer from Providence, Rhode Island. He is the founder and CEO of the independent hip-hop record label Strange Famous Records.

Conspiracy to Riot is produced by Reanimator. It was originally recorded as a way to raise money to help out protestors who were falsely arrested at 2008’s Republican National Convention. Jared Paul (lead vocalist of Prayers for Atheists) can be heard at the beginning and end of this song. He was one of the many people who were unjustly thrown in jail at this protest only to have all charges dropped at a later date.

Enjoy this video.

Sage Francis — Conspiracy To Riot Lyrics

They wanna corrupt me. They tried to corrupt me.
This ain’t no Swan Song. This is for the ugly ducklings of my country.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE HERE!
‘psst psst; conspiracy to riot.’

Peep the game, dummy. You can’t keep the reign from me.
It’s us who put in the over time, they who make the money.
Snickering at trickle down economy.
We got nickled and dimed? It’s more like highway robbery.
Drive in the fast lane. Eyes on the gas gauge.
Listen to neo-cons cry about black rage.
It doesn’t stop there.
They’re the blowhards. They puff out their chest. They’re full of hot air.
Providing entertainment for the status quo.
Then once every 4 years they pander to the black vote.
Oh, religion ain’t a tool of control?
Then why they pull the God card once they’re losing in the polls?
Foolish. I know. We’re victims of circumstance.
It ain’t coincidence we’re children of the worker ants.
While those in power ain’t never owned a pair of dirty pants
But they’re quick to kill your health insurance plans.
The rich cheat death with their cheap survival.
They found more than one way to beat the Bible.
Street disciple… my beats are trifle mega.
Don’t repeat the cycle, just live your life better.
I’m gonna defeat my rival. That’s why I’m writing this letter
to let em know we ain’t givin’ up the fight ever.

‘psst psst; conspiracy to riot’

They wanna corrupt me. They tried to corrupt me.
This ain’t no Swan Song. This is for the ugly ducklings of my country.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE HERE!
‘psst psst; conspiracy to riot.’

Oh yeah; I’ve got a weapon of mass destruction’;
Parked in the back and it’s a vessel of gas consumption.
Rebels of rap production never adapted to nothing.
Imagine my laugh whenever ask me for something.
Like I ain’t gave it my all.
You came fashionably late to the headbanger’s ball.
After the mob scene lost steam,
And after we spilled pig’s blood on the prom queen.
I’ve been told with old age comes wisdom,
But I’ve found with old age comes old age.
We’re stuck in our old ways like everything was done much better
in some forgotten era. Thumb sucking America.
I can’t begin to name the ways I’d pin the blame
on an administration acting inhumane.
If it’s killing season let’s start within.
When the hunter becomes the hunted they outlaw hunting (ain’t that something.)
Confiscate the ammunition!
Cuz there’s a wolf in sheep’s skin. A pit bull with lipstick.
A pig in a blanket. Some lame duck President
privatizing profit and socializing debt.
Collapsed credit. Journalists get arrested.
Watch the Blackwater operatives go domestic.
Oh, that’s a problem? Well don’t agonize.
Smoke ’em if you got ’em. A whole pack of lies.
Summer spring and autumn. Now bring the wintertime.
I don’t protest snow. I shovel it with picket signs.

‘psst psst; conspiracy to riot’

They wanna corrupt me. They tried to corrupt me.
This ain’t no Swan Song. This is for the ugly ducklings of my country.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE HERE!

We have the right to assembly and it’s the duty of the patriot
to protect his country from the government.
But when we try it; but when we try it;
But when we try it;
it’s CONSPIRACY TO RIOT!

Peace rally with my friends. Conspiracy to riot.
When we have no defense. Conspiracy to riot.
Rubber bullets to our heads. Conspiracy to riot.
Conspiracy to riot. Conspiracy to riot.

When we find voter fraud. Conspiracy to riot.
When we defy overlords. Conspiracy to riot.
When we finally pull the cord. Conspiracy to riot.
Conspiracy to riot. Conspiracy to riot.

‘Til the truth is revealed. Conspiracy to riot.
We ain’t choosing to kneel. Conspiracy to riot.
Let me be the human shield. Conspiracy to riot.
Conspiracy to riot. Conspiracy to riot.


Help support Sage Francis by going to his web site.


Aug 8 2011

Corporations Receive More Welfare than the Poor

This report is a collection of other reports and documents on Corporate Subsidies only, although it does include some general information on the Oil & Gas Industry, Farm Subsidies and Tax Expenditures. A more specific report on the latter three can be found in reports linked at the bottom.

NOTE: There are literally hundreds of reports on Corporate Subsidies. Many are undermined by self-serving purposes, but some are not. You may find a mixture of those in this report. In addition, depending on what and who these reports included or excluded, the total dollars for a particular subsidy will vary, sometimes considerably.

“The nation’s largest corporations and richest citizens receive more welfare money than our social welfare programs.”


It is important to note that many reports on Corporate Subsidies include other things such as Tax Expenditures. Thus, one of the reasons for the conflicting dollar amounts between reports. This effort attempts to focus just on Corporate subsidies, but does reference reports that include Tax Expenditures. That said, the most common figure quoted for Corporate Subsidies only is about $100 billion each year.

Surge in Corporate Tax Welfare Drives Corporate Tax Payments Down to Near Record Lowfrom an April 17, 2002 report.

Total Corporate Tax Welfare: Fiscal 2002 = $171.1 billion; Fiscal 2003 = $175.2 billion estimated.

historical corporate income

Corporate Subsidies have risen substantially since 2002.

Myth: The poor receive the most welfare

Fact: Corporations receive the most welfare

“Entitlement spending on households is surprisingly “flat” in the U.S. — the spending is distributed proportionately among the various income groups. However, federal spending tilts in favor of the rich when you add corporate welfare to the mix. And this pro-wealthy favoritism becomes more pronounced when you consider who is paying for it: over the last few decades, the tax rates for the rich have sharply fallen, both in personal income and corporate taxes.”


The Department of Sociology at Virginia Tech produced a study a few years back where, in part, they compared Corporate Subsidies (welfare) to social welfare:

“The nation’s largest corporations and richest citizens receive more welfare money than our social welfare programs. In 1994, the United States spent $104.3 billion on corporate welfare, while spending only $14.4 billion on Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC; now TANF). If we add together recent federal monies spent on AFDC/TANF, food stamps and Medicaid, it comes to about $85 billion annually. The total cost of the corporate tax breaks and subsidies is hundreds of billions of dollars.”


U.S. Companies Get Huge Government Handouts – (from the mid 1990’s)

“While the US establishment is pushing for reduction of welfare for the poor and for developing countries to cut government subsidies, the US government is giving hundreds of billions of dollars of subsidies and tax breaks to its companies and individuals.”

Discounted user fees for public resources

  • Direct grants
  • Corporate tax reductions and loopholes
  • Giveaways of publicly funded research and development (R&D) to private profit-making companies
  • Tax breaks for wealthy individuals

nuclear industries′ $7.1 billion subsidy from 1996:

“Most successful US industries wouldn’t be competitive internationally if the federal government hadn’t developed their basic technology with your tax dollars, then given it away to private companies. Computers, biotech and commercial aviation are examples, and so-preeminently-is nuclear power.”


Corporate Welfare and Foreign Policy – from 1999 by the Foreign Policy In Focus, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies.

The U.S. government doles out more than $167 billion annually in what critics dub “aid for dependent corporations (AFDC).”This corporate welfare includes: (1) cash payments by governments to businesses; (2) government provision of below-cost products and services, such as loans and insurance, to businesses; (3) tax breaks for businesses; (4) laws—and changes in laws—that help business bottom lines; and (5) government purchases of goods and services from businesses at inflated prices (though laws are supposed to prevent this).U.S. aid for international investors, exporters, and importers exceeds $32 billion annually and benefits such “needy” recipients as General Motors, Citibank, Archer Daniels Midland, and Boeing. The Market Access Program (MAP), for example, uses taxpayer money to reimburse corporate foreign advertising costs. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) supplies loans and insurance to companies investing abroad. Federal tax law allows exporters to exempt a portion of revenues from taxation.

(The report includes farm related subsidies.)


(In 1998 TIME Magazine published an investagative report entitled “Corporate Welfare”. It was published in parts over four consecutive issues. The report covered Corporate Subsidies at both the Federal and States’ level and includes “Tax Expenditures”, which is a concession of tax revenue’s, as well as direct payouts of money to corporations. As such, it applies to all four of my reports: Corporate Subsidies, Tax Expenditures, Oil & Gas Industry Subsidies and Farm Subsidies. Hence, references to and excerpts from the TIME report may be included in each of those.)

NOTE: References and excerpts included here from the TIME report are primarily about Corporate Subsidies.

TIME COVER

The investigation leading to TIME Magazine’s report took 18 months. It was published over four consecutive issues of the magazine: November 9, 16, 23, and 30.The first part begins with an attempt to get ones attention:

“How would you like to pay only a quarter of the real estate taxes you owe on your home? And buy everything for the next 10 years without spending a single penny in sales tax? Keep a chunk of your paycheck free of income taxes? Have the city in which you live lend you money at rates cheaper than any bank charges? Then have the same city install free water and sewer lines to your house, offer you a perpetual discount on utility bills–and top it all off by landscaping your front yard at no charge?”

But then they burst your bubble:

“Fat chance. You can’t get any of that, of course. But if you live almost anywhere in America, all around you are taxpayers getting deals like this. These taxpayers are called corporations.”

As for what states and local governments hand over, this is what Time had to say:

“There are no reasonably accurate estimates on the amount of money states shovel out. That’s because few want you to know. Some say they maintain no records. Some say they don’t know where the files are. Some say the information is not public. All that’s certain is that the figure is in the many billions of dollars each year–and it is growing, when measured against the subsidy per job.”

**********

“There is no uniform definition [for this welfare]. By TIME’s definition, it is this: any action by local, state or federal government that gives a corporation or an entire industry a benefit not offered to others. It can be an outright subsidy, a grant, real estate, a low-interest loan or a government service. It can also be a tax break–a credit, exemption, deferral or deduction, or a tax rate lower than the one others pay.

“Two years after Congress reduced welfare for individuals and families, this other kind of welfare continues to expand, penetrating every corner of the American economy. It has turned politicians into bribery specialists, and smart business people into con artists. And most surprising of all, it has rarely created any new jobs.
[bold added]

“The justification for much of this welfare is that the U.S. government is creating jobs. Over the past six years, Congress appropriated $5 billion to run the Export-Import Bank of the United States, which subsidizes companies that sell goods abroad. James A. Harmon, president and chairman, puts it this way: “American workers…have higher-quality, better-paying jobs, thanks to Eximbank’s financing.” But the numbers at the bank’s five biggest beneficiaries–AT&T, Bechtel, Boeing, General Electric and McDonnell Douglas (now a part of Boeing)–tell another story. At these companies, which have accounted for about 40% of all loans, grants and long-term guarantees in this decade, overall employment has fallen 38%, as more than a third of a million jobs have disappeared.

“FORTUNE 500 companies have erased more jobs than they have created this past decade, and yet they are the biggest beneficiaries of corporate welfare.

**********

“From her second-floor offices bordering the sparkling Caribbean at Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Catherine Sittig presides over one of the corporate-welfare system’s most enduring success stories.

“Sittig’s company represents hundreds of U.S. corporations–she won’t say exactly how many–that have offshore affiliates in the islands. This isn’t as demanding as it might sound. It’s largely a matter of filing papers and mailing out invoices.

“After all, the companies she represents are just paper entities. But they have come to represent a drain, created by Congress and perfectly legal, of $1.7 billion annually on the U.S. Treasury.

“It works like this:

“A company sets up what is called a foreign sales corporation. Companies can form FSCs in 32 countries designated by Congress–among them Jamaica and Barbados–or in a U.S. possession like the Virgin Islands. The company then funnels its exports (or, more accurately, the paperwork for its exports) through its offshore FSC. Presto: no federal income taxes on a portion of those export profits.

“Programs such as foreign sales corporations are a product of Congress’s attempts to legislate economic behavior–attempts that generally fail, to the detriment of the Treasury. In 1971 legislators became alarmed at the growing trade deficit–imports that exceeded exports–and the threat to American jobs. So Congress came up with a program, the Domestic International Sales Corporation, that deferred corporate taxes on export income. The idea was to encourage companies to keep jobs here.

“It didn’t work: the new law had no impact on the nation’s trade deficit or manufacturing employment. While collecting billions of dollars in subsidies, corporate America continued to move manufacturing abroad. The merchandise trade deficit spiraled from $2 billion in 1971 to $67 billion by 1984.

**********

“How would you like to get the Federal Government to invest with you in a hot new business in the global market? For every buck you put up, the government, in the form of something called the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), puts up two bucks. Best of all, if the deal goes sour because of a crumbling economy, currency devaluation or some other unforeseen event, you won’t have to pay back the government’s share.

“Sound too good to be true? It is. Unless you have $1 million or more to put in the pot. That’s most often the minimum investment required for one of these deals. As a result, investors fall into three broad groups: wealthy individuals, institutions such as pension funds, and large corporations like GE and Citicorp.

“In the 1990s, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation has established 26 funds, which have invested $3.2 billion in businesses in Europe, Asia and Latin America. The U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) has established 11 other funds with 1.4 billion taxpayer dollars.

“In the case of AID’s so-called enterprise funds, the investment dollars are supplied directly by you, the taxpayer.

“Who gets to sponsor or manage a government-backed or -bankrolled investment fund? People who have the proper political ties or who are major campaign contributors or both.

**********

“A corporate-welfare bureaucracy of an estimated 11,000 organizations and agencies has grown up, with access to city halls, statehouses, the Capitol and the White House. They conduct seminars, conferences and training sessions. They have their own trade associations. They publish their own journals and newsletters. They create attractive websites on the Internet. And they never call it “welfare.” They call it “economic incentives” or “empowerment zones” or “enterprise zones.”

**********

“The Federal Government alone shells out $125 billion a year in corporate welfare, this in the midst of one of the more robust economic periods in the nation’s history. Indeed, thus far in the 1990s, corporate profits have totaled $4.5 trillion–a sum equal to the cumulative paychecks of 50 million working Americans who earned less than $25,000 a year, for those eight years.

“And what are those costs? The equivalent of nearly two weekly paychecks from every working man and woman in America–extra money that would stay in their pockets if it didn’t go to support some business venture or another.

Evidently Time has archived the articles that followed the first one linked above. However, this was pieced together, including the first part, and convert it to a PDF. It reads like the take-over of a third-world country, and SHOULD BE REQUIRED READING FOR EVERY AMERICAN WHO IS VOTING AGE.


Steven Moore with the CATO Institute testified before Congress in 1999 on Corporate Subsidies. He said there was $75 billion in the 1997 budget [for Corporate Subsidies], the same year “Fortune 500 corporations recorded the best-ever earnings of $325 billion”. Moore did point out that most of these were in the form of Tax Expenditures.

Many of these companies are double, triple and quadruple-dippers into the taxpayer pig trough. And there are no time limits to these Corporate Subsidies — they go on forever, unlike most social welfare programs.

Ironically — ironic in that it was coming from the CATO Institute — Moore said:

One perverse, but predictable outcome of a $100 billion-plus corporate welfare state is that industry begins to view Congress, rather than consumers, as their real customers. Moreover, industry has done an all effective job at protecting their subsidies.

However, if you read Moore’s report you will find that he was looking for a way to pay for the elimination of other taxes such as the so-called “death tax” and “capital gains tax” ($95 billion annually at the time), of which only those with more than $2 million of inheritance would benefit, and very wealthy people who have rolling investments where they experience very large capital gains each year.


 Another report from the OMB Watch in 2002 gave us the following information:

  • Spending for corporate welfare programs outweighs spending for low-income programs by more than three to one: $167 billion to $51.7 billion.
  • Total federal spending on a safety net for the poor costs the average taxpayer about $400 a year, while spending on corporate welfare programs costs the same taxpayer about $1400 a year.
  • Over 90% of the budget cuts passed by the last Congress cut spending for the poor — programs that ensure food for the needy, housing for the homeless, job training for the unemployed, community health care for the sick. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
  • Only 3.9% of total federal outlays go to programs that solely benefit poor people.

Welfare programs for corporations do not play by the same rules as welfare for people. Welfare benefits for individuals and families are limited by strict eligibility requirements and time limits, while corporations get Corporate Welfare benefits regardless of wealth or accountability.

  • Individuals and families must demonstrate need to receive benefits, while corporations with billions of dollars in annual income remain on the federal dole.
  • Most social spending is in the form of discretionary spending, which is scrutinized in the annual budget negotiating process in Congress; most Corporate Welfare programs are in the form of tax expenditures, which go on and on since they are not subject to annual review by Congress.

A sort of indirect corporate subsidizing comes in the form of health care cost. Since many corporations are significantly decreasing health care coverage for employees, states are having to pick up the cost. From an updated report early last year: “states are being put in a position of subsidizing the cost-cutting measures of private sector employers”. You can check to see if your state is on the list; if not, go to “Show Us the Subsidies” and look up your state.


More Recent 

The last two links above is web pages of “Good Jobs First” whose objective, in big part, is to be a Corporate Subsidy Watchdog group. GJF does not necessarily segregate Corporate Subsidies, Tax Expenditures or Farm subsidies; in many cases they’re combined.

GJF has case studies on:

  • Boeing – $3.2 billion tax concession (nearly 100% of their tax liability) from the state of Seattle to remain in that state. In addition taxpayers were stuck with an additional gasoline tax to fund transportation improvements, and they overhauled the unemployment insurance system to reduce costs for employers and tightened up on workers compensation claims. Boeing later received $32 million from the state to cover the cost of training and other unnamed “sweeteners”. Boeing got these concessions through an implied blackmail of the state. They “solicited” other states, finally agreeing to state in Washington where they were: “The strategy was successful, though there were lingering suspicions that Boeing never seriously considered leaving the Seattle area.”
  •  Cabela’s and Bass Pro – “The company claims that a substantial share of shoppers come from long distances, creating jobs at hotels and restaurants (including those in the stores), and generating new sales tax revenues. Cabela’s uses this model to justify its extraordinary demands for subsidies from the localities where it sites its stores. It has been so successful in obtaining taxpayer funding that subsidies are an essential part of the company’s business plan. Cabela’s made this plain in the prospectus it issued when it became a publicly traded firm in 2004.” This little ploy netted them $500 million in taxpayer subsidies.
  • Dell – $262 million in tax concession from North Carolina; In Round Rock Texas, 20 years of no taxes, $50 million in tax-exempt industrial revenue bond financing, and 40 percent of sales tax revenues collected by Round Rock on Dell’s sales; In Nashville, Tennessee, free land for the site worth $6.5 million, 40 years of property tax abatements, $20 million in infrastructure improvements at the site funded by the city and state, one-time credits of $2,000 per employee against state franchise and excise taxes, Metro Nashville tax credits of $500 per employee for 40 years, industrial machinery state tax credits and $4,000 per employee to pay for job training costs. The Kicker: Three years after the deal, Dell announced they were eliminating all manufacturing operations at the facility. From a local newspaper: “It doesn’t take a disenfranchised anti-business character to believe that Dell Computer’s reneging on the spirit of its incentive deal with the city amounts to bad corporate citizenship, to put it charitably.”
  • Nordstrom (2005) (a designer apparel, shoe, handbag and beauty chain) – “In 1992 one developer told a reporter: ‘You pretty much have to guarantee that when [Nordstrom] open their doors for businesses, they will not have any money invested in the deal.” Norfolk, Virginia had to take out a $32.8 million loan to pay for the construction of a store for Nordstrom. That loan, along with many more in other states, were HUD loans; a federal agency designed to help low-income families buy homes.
  • Sykes Enterprises (2005) (an outsourcing company) – Tens of millions of dollars in subsidies and direct payments from several states and towns, which, in many cases, resulted in the company pulling up and moving out when customer contracts expired.
  • Target – Several states have paid out a total in excess of $100 million and tens of millions more in tax concessions.

In additions to the individual corporations mentioned above, Good Jobs First has case studies on several industries.

Biotechnology (2005)

Film Production

Foreign Auto Plants

Private Prisons (2005)

Professional Sports

Semiconductors

Server Farms

At state levels, Site Location Consultants grease the skids by going into state’s and local communities to instill fear among government officials and local residence. Once that’s accomplished, high-paid lobbyists’ move in to acquire government welfare for the corporations. It’s a coordinated effort. You don’t have to ask how much these two interest charge corporations; it’s in the tens of millions, ultimately paid for by taxpayers.

You can “Discover Where Corporations are Getting Taxpayer Handouts Across the United States” by tracking subsidies.


A Sense of Entitlement

General Electric’s CEO Jeff Immelt became very upset when a subsidy “entitlement” hadn’t arrived as soon as he wanted it to. The Obama Administration has promised $1.9 billion for a wind farm in Oregon, for which GE was going to supply the turbines. Immelt wrote a “shellacking” editorial in the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal, maybe the only newspaper that would have carried it for him. Here’s the real scary part: Immelt was just awarded the job as head of the Economic Advisory Board to President Obama, replacing Paul Volcker.

During the health care debate of 2009 / 2010 several corporations made headlines by declaring that the new health care law would rob them of hundreds of millions of dollars. But the truth was that the new law would require corporations to only pay taxes on the billions they were getting through Corporate Subsidies to supplement medical care cost to their retirees; which was in fact a double subsidy.


Still doing the same thing they were in 2002 and years before, the Export Import Bank is in the business of providing Corporate Subsidies. They guarantee loans made to foreign governments to purchase “American made” goods, but those loans go sour at times and the ExIm Bank pays off. Proponents of the bank insist that it saves American jobs. However, as the linked report above points out, those same companies are moving American jobs overseas at an astonishing rate.


American taxpayers are also in the business of subsidizing the making of rum in the Virgin Islands to the tune of $6 billion. To make matters worse, Diageo, a British-owned company, has moved in and is taking the lion’s share of these American Corporate Subsidies while greatly reducing the number of workers. This process is know as The Rum Excise Tax Cover-Over, which, in great part, is paying the rum-makers a larger profit for their goods.


More Nuclear Power Plant Subsidies

In February of last year the Obama Administration handed out the second payment of a $54 billion loan to the Southern Company to build two nuclear power plants in Georgia. The commitment for the money was authorized by Congress in 2005. It is tagged as a “loan”; however there is a 50/50 chance of a default by the Southern Company.


$1 Billion: The amount Wal-Mart has received from taxpayers directly or in the form of Tax Expenditures.


Corporate Subsidies

When Corporate Subsidies are extracted from Tax Expenditures, it represents at least $100 billion of the federal budget each year. That is a direct payout to corporations using taxpayer money.


Links to Other Studies and Reports

The CATO Institute has many case studies and papers (linked below) on Corporate Subsidies and other subsidies. However, there have been several cases where the CATO Institute’s reports appear to be self-serving in that they are not necessarily advocating an end to certain Corporate Subsidies in the name of reducing net cost to taxpayers. In some cases they simply want to transfer the savings to wealthy individuals in the form of less taxes for them.

Corporate Welfare and Earmarks

Corporate Welfare

Agricultural Policy – Mostly Farm Subsidies

The Corporate Welfare State: How the Federal Government Subsidizes U.S. Businesses

The Corporate Welfare Budget: Bigger Than Ever

Corporate Welfare Update

Corporate Subsidies in the Federal Budget

Cato Handbook for Congress: Corporate Welfare

Archer Daniels Midland: A Case Study In Corporate Welfare

Ending Corporate Welfare As We Know It

Corporate Welfare Update

How Corporate Welfare Won: Clinton and Congress Retreat from Cutting Business Subsidies

Silicon Valley versus Corporate Welfare

The Bipartisan Scandal of U.S. Corporate Welfare

Market Opening or Corporate Welfare?

Full Disclosure for Corporate Welfare

Cutting Corporate Welfare Could Fund a Bush Social Security Plan

No Corporate Welfare for Nuclear Power

Corporate Welfare for Weapons Makers: The Hidden Costs of Spending on Defense and Foreign Aid(PDF)

The Corporate Welfare Information Center appears to be a very old website with most of their references dating back to the 1990’s. However, they have dozens of links on Corporate Subsidies as well as other kinds of subsidies.

Corporate Welfare Headquarters is another who tracks Corporate Subsidies.

The Progress Report has a page called Corporate Welfare: The Shame Page. They cover an awful lot of information on all fronts of government handouts, not just Corporate Subsidies. Certainly well worth the click.


Jun 17 2011

Is it Cap and Trade or Cap and Betrayed?

As an environmentalist, I feel very frustrated and disappointed with how the current debate has become bogged down in political disagreements over Cap & Trade.

cap-and-trade-imageThe basic idea behind Cap & Trade is to provide a market based solution to the problem of how to reduce industrial pollution, such as CO2 emissions. The government sets a cap on how much CO2 can be emitted in accordance with agreed targets. Companies are then allocated or must purchase credits to emit an amount of CO2 up to the cap. If a company needs to emit more CO2 than the cap, it must purchase credits from other companies that emitted a lower level and can sell their excess credits. In this way, credits can be traded, emissions can be regulated, violators can be fined, and the cap can be lowered over time in line with future targets. This provides a market mechanism by which companies can find “the least cost” solution to the problem of how to reduce pollution.

What’s wrong with it?

CO2 is a global pollutant. Emissions of a global pollutant have global consequences, while each country has different verification and enforcement policies. Corruption and problems with monitoring, reporting, and enforcement can penalise the industries of those countries that meet their targets, to the advantage of those of countries that don’t meet targets and simply lie about having done so.

Even if we overlook these problems, the trading in offsets may well reduce emissions from some sources of CO2 and increase the cost of emitting CO2 from others, but it does not reduce the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. If it does not deal with this problem, we still face the possibility of a runaway Greenhouse Effect, and all of its devastating consequences for life on Earth.

The lowering of the total amount of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere requires international agreements, such as the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, and their ratification by all nations, including the USA. However, industrial countries such as the USA are concerned that they will be unfairly handicapped in economic competition with developing nations such as India and China. While this may well be a means of reducing the gap between developed and developing countries, effectively acting as a mechanism of “redistribution”, it actually will increase the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

The problem with the caps approach is that it only looks at the problem in terms of production, while, given the global nature of markets, this does not address the problem in terms of consumption.

What’s the alternative?

Instead of merely increasing the cost of doing business as usual, we need to change how we live on this planet and learn how to live in a sustainable way. This involves a radical change in the economic paradigm. We need to stop measuring growth and development in terms of easily quantified factors such as GDP, and instead measure growth and development in terms of how people evaluate the QUALITY of their lives in their local communities. We need to put people and the world before profits.

There are straightforward changes we can all make. We can consume less. We can waste less. We can learn how to fix things rather than buy new replacements. If the people of the USA and European Union reduced our level of consumption of imported products, this would indirectly reduce the CO2 emissions of China and India. We need to support our local economies. This would reduce the amount of oil required and CO2 emitted just to transport products around the world. This would also keep wealth and jobs within our communities. We need to put pressure on politicians to implement effective environmental policies. Local governments can fund better public transport and recycling facilities, and provide grants for loft insulation, better building materials, and solar power cells for grid-tied systems. Local governments can reduce the tax burden on local businesses to help them compete. They can reward recycling through tax credits, and penalize consumption through increased sales taxes on targeted products. National government can help by increasing the public funding of research and development into new sustainable energy production technologies. They can impose increased efficiency standards for new power plants, cars, and appliances, while placing tariffs on imported products from countries that fail to reduce their CO2 emissions or fail to meet these standards. There are lots of things that could be done other than Cap & Trade.

Nature has already provided us with a means to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. We call them trees. What are needed are international efforts to reforest the world and to protect the remaining rain forests. But we don’t need to wait for governments to act. Consume less. Save your money. Plant a tree today!

By Karl Rogers

***

Karl Rogers is a Professor of Philosophy, co-founder of the John Dewey Center for Democracy of Education, affiliated with the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Minnesota. He is the author of a number of books including Modern Science and the Capriciousness of Nature; Participatory Democracy, Science and Technology; and, On the Metaphysics of Experimental Physics. His latest book is Debunking Glenn Beck: How to Save America from Media Pundits and Propagandists is available from Praeger, ABC-CLIO


May 23 2011

Banks Create the Means of Payment out of Nothing—Federal Reserve

federal-reserve-creating-money
 

Federal Reseve Quote of the day.

“Banks lend by creating credit. They create the means of payment out of nothing.”

— Ralph M. Hawtrey, Secretary of the British Treasury


May 17 2011

Federal Reserve—We Have One of the Most Dominated Governments in the World

“A great industrial nation is controlled by it’s system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments in the world—no longer a government of free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of small groups of dominant men.”

— President Woodrow Wilson


May 15 2011

Federal Reserve—Our Present Civilization May Collapse Unless Remedied

“We are completely dependant on the commercial banks. Someone has to borrow every dollar we have in circulation, cash or credit. If the banks create ample synthetic money we are prosperous; if not, we starve. We are absolutely without a permanent money system…. It is the most important subject intelligent persons can investigate and reflect upon. It is so important that our present civilization may collapse unless it becomes widely understood and the defects remedied very soon.”

— Robert H. Hamphill, Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank