Archive for the ‘The Class War’ Category
In 2013, the cost of tax breaks was equal to the entire U.S. discretionary budget . However, the discretionary budget is subject to an annual appropriations process, where Congress debates the proposed spending. Tax breaks, on the other hand, remain on the books until lawmakers modify them. As a result, over a trillion dollars a year in lost revenue – more than 1.6 times the 2013 budget deficit – goes largely unnoticed.
The cost of corporate tax breaks has trended upward in recent decades, totaling nearly $176 billion in fiscal 2013. In other words, the overall U.S. corporate tax bill was $176 billion lower than it would have been without the special deductions, credits, and exclusions written into our tax code. To put that in perspective, that’s about $1,328 per U.S. household. 
Which is bad news, right? Wrong! Look at that other box. That’s the deficit and it’s only 2/3 what the tax breaks are worth. So, when you get all frantic anxious about how the deficit is ruining the economy like FauxNews keeps telling you, just know that we can fix it in a single year by canceling some – not all, just some – of the tax breaks corporations that don’t actually need them have blackmailed the Congress into. See, easy!
Oh, who am I kidding? This will never happen. Case in point, a Republican named David Camp, Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Paul Ryan at the House Budget Committee have both submitted Tax Reform bills intended to “reform” the tax code to varying degrees. What? Republicans reforming the tax code to eliminate corporate tax breaks? Has the world turned upside down?
All of them claim to “reform” a discredited cesspool of a tax code, of course, but they have also been submitted in an election year. The GOP, if it knows nothing else (and it doesn’t), knows how to get credit for proposing popular legislation they don’t actually want at a time when there is no chance whatever for it to pass.
It doesn’t matter how easy the fix is if the fix is anathema to the Congress’ owners.
The Corporate States of America just got itself a new jolt of freedom thanks to Chief Justice John Roberts and his Happy Conservative Warrior Quartet.
[T]he Supreme Court continued chipping away at federal campaign finance reforms with a 5-4 ruling striking down the federal cap on the total amount of money an individual donor can spend supporting candidates and political parties during a two-year election cycle.
The ruling, which split the high court along ideological lines, eliminates the aggregate the cap on the total amount of money an individual can donate to candidates and party fundraising committees during an election season, which was set at $123,200 for 2013 and 2014. That cap was so high that only…several hundred mega-rich donors reached it during the last election cycle.
Meaning that this ruling effects, at most, a mere few hundred people. Fortunately, those few hundred are the richest few hundred people in the country and who deserves a self-serving law that crews democracy more than them?
The ruling also could inflate the power of joint fundraising committees, which take large donations from donors and funnel the cash to candidates and party committees with full knowledge of who signed the original check.
“Eliminating these limits will now allow a single politician to solicit, and a single donor to give, up to $3.6 million through the use of joint fundraising committees,” said Michael Walden, president of the Brennan Center for Justice. “Following the Citizens United decision, this will further inundate a political system already flush with cash, marginalize average voters, and elevate those who can afford to buy political access.”
I don’t think Mr Walden gets it. See, money is free speech and in the CSA you only get as much FS as you can afford to buy and those few hundred have made sure you don’t get paid enough to buy hardly any so they get more than you or me and that’s the way it should be.
Get used to it. If you can’t afford to pay for an election, you don’t deserve to have one.
Step right up, folks, and take your chances in the Amazing New American Workplace. Constantly high unemployment! Low wages always! No employee bargaining power! A corporate paradise!
Indeed. They’ve got what they wanted: a paucity of jobs against a glut of workers making for a terrified workforce and a terminally insecure society, the destruction of the unions that were all that offered hope to laborers that they wouldn’t forever be trapped on the bony rack of the minimum wage, and a populace trained to think of corporate managers as heroes and Masters of the Universe even if the populace doesn’t particularly like to think of them that way. Read the rest of this entry »
A few years ago a sugar refinery owned by Imperial Sugar of Savannah, Georgia, exploded. Fifteen people were killed and dozens were injured, some severely. The explosion was the direct result of a corporate refusal to obey safety rules designed to avoid just this kind of event. OSHA, over a single 2-year period, hit Imperial Sugar with over 200 Notices of Violation. Corporate management ignored them. After all, we all know OSHA is just a busybody nitpicker that gives corporations a hard time for no reason. They know what they’re doing. They don’t have to listen to some liberal government pinhead whine about how they should have done this irrelevant action instead of that one.
That’s how – and why – 15 people died. Read the rest of this entry »
OK, so you probably think that at least if you’re a dedicated cheerleader they won’t throw you under the bus even if you’re not their first priority. But you’re being naive.
Regardless of who wins the presidential election in November or what compromises Congress strikes in the lame-duck session to keep the economy from automatic tax increases and spending cuts, 160 million American wage earners will probably see their tax bills jump after Jan. 1.
That is when the temporary payroll tax holiday ends. Its expiration means less income in families’ pocketbooks — the tax increase would be about $95 billion in 2013 alone — at a time when the economy is little better than it was when the White House reached a deal on the tax break last year.
You don’t matter. The “deficit” they created matters. It’s your job to pay it off. This was never a priority, it was just a temporary gimme for show.
Independent analysts say that the expiration of the tax cut could shave as much as a percentage point off economic output in 2013, and cost the economy as many as one million jobs. That is because the typical American family had $1,000 in additional income from the lower tax.
But there is still little desire to make an extension part of the negotiations that are under way to avert the huge tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts, known as the fiscal cliff, that will start in January without a deal.
Nope. Nobody on either side gives a shit.
Many Republicans vehemently opposed its passage last year, as it would divert money from the Social Security program. Many Democrats fervently supported it last year but show no such enthusiasm now. Nancy Pelosi of California, the top House Democrat, has told reporters she thinks it should expire.
So don’t ever get your hopes up. No matter what happens, you’re never gonna be on anybody’s gift list.
Two hundred-plus years of dangerously liberal thinking have created a good deal of confusion in some weak minds. One of the most damaging of these confusions, one that you may still be harboring without realizing its deep and divisive nature, is the idea that there are such things as “public” facilities. Or, indeed, a “public good”. In fact, the very word “public” arises from a severe misunderstanding of what forms a “society”. Read the rest of this entry »
Of course survival isn’t the only goal, just the first one, and I guess we ought from time to time to be more positive and look at ways of making the New American Oligarchy work for you. It’s not impossible. In fact it’s relatively easy once you can wrap your head around what the New Rules mean. That meaning can be put very simply:
Money is all that matters.
Oh, dear. Well, we knew it was going to take a while for people to start recognizing that the transfer of wealth to the top by the political class was neither an accident nor mere incompetence but a deliberate sell-out masquerading as one, the other, or both. A couple of examples provided by Mark at Norwegianity should suffice to make the point.
Bob Woodward’s Maestro, a history of Alan Greenspan’s regime at the Fed through the turbulent 90’s, was written 10 full years ago, yet reading it today, it is startlingly familiar territory. All the issues, arguments, and solutions which we think are new to the financial market since the collapse were actually rehearsed – over and over again – during various Financial crises while Greenspan was the Fed’s Chair. It’s all there – bailouts, “too big to fail”, threats to the vulnerable global economy, taxpayer rescues – everything except any mention of derivatives.
From the morning in August 1987 when Greenspan chaired his first FOMC meeting (the Fed board’s actual name is, significantly, the Federal Open Market Committee) he seemed to be dealing with one crisis after another. When he took over the economy was in the dumper brought about by the first Bush; when he was finally replaced by Ben Bernanke 3 years ago, he left having watched over the second Bush while he flushed the vibrant Clinton economy down the toilet, an economy that Greenspan – according to himself as reported by Woodward, at least – did a great deal to help create. And in each of those instances – from the savings & loan crisis to the currency crises of Mexico, Asia, and Russia to the LTCM crisis – there was a single cause: exceedingly dangerous financial speculation, not by fly-by-night hucksters and shady traders but by the biggest financial instutions in the world.
Once upon a time a Russian expatriot who hated the Soviets because they destroyed her father’s pharmaceutical business emigrated to the United States and wrote a few books about how wonderful money and the people who make it and spend it are. She postulated a “philosophy” called “Objectivism” that 15 yr-olds with untreatable acne and rich people who fancied themselves Masters of the Universe found fascinating and rewarding. This “philosophy”, by her own definition, was one that was built around the concept of man as a heroic figure as long as he was making a lot of money and a useless wimp who was a boil on the ass of the universe if he wasn’t. Perhaps that explains its appeal to the two groups mentioned above.
Glenn Greenwald takes a shot at one of Rob’s and my personal bugaboos – the cry from Obama and the DLC/BD Caucus of conservative Dems that there’s been too much hyperpartisanship in Washington. Glenn wants to know “What partisanship?”
Where is the evidence of the supposed partisan wrangling that we hear so much about? Just examine the question dispassionately. Look at every major Bush initiative, every controversial signature Bush policy over the last eight years, and one finds virtually nothing but massive bipartisan support for them — the Patriot Act (original enactment and its renewal); the invasion of Afghanistan; the attack on, and ongoing occupation of, Iraq; the Military Commissions Act (authorizing enhanced interrogation techniques, abolishing habeas corpus, and immunizing war criminals); expansions of warrantless eavesdropping and telecom immunity; declaring part of Iran’s government to be “terrorists”; our one-sided policy toward Israel; the $700 billion bailout; The No Child Left Behind Act, “bankruptcy reform,” and on and on.
Most of those were all enacted with virtually unanimous GOP support and substantial, sometimes overwhelming, Democratic support: the very definition of “bipartisanship.” That’s just a fact.
As The Washington Post‘s Dan Froomkin observed at the end of last year: “Historians looking back on the Bush presidency may well wonder if Congress actually existed.” How much more harmonious — “bipartisan” — can the two parties get?
He’s right, of course, and regular readers will know how worried we’ve been around here about BO’s naive insistence on what he calls “bipartisanship”, which almost always turns out to mean “doing what the the GOP/DLC/BD Conservative Cabal wants done because they refuse to compromise.” There has been hyperpartisanship, alright, but not on a Pub-Dem split. It’s been coming almost exclusively from the Right along a Conservative-Liberal split – the conservatives in both parties scream about how ANYBODY who doesn’t go along is hyperpartisan. Mention a liberal policy like SCHIP or note how the Medicare Advantage program is little more than a give-away to Big Pharma and suddenly you’re a hysterical partisan who refuses to face reality and compromise [translation: surrender].
Over at Suburban Guerrilla Susie is asking if maybe the netroots‘ priorities are all backwards.
For a while now, I’ve had the very strong sense that things have been exactly ass-backwards, upside down in the blogosphere – that the peak of Maslow’s triangle is nowhere near roomy enough to carry the weight of a meaningful movement. And yes, of course telecom immunity is an important issue – but where would you place it on the triangle? Fight first to make sure people are fed, take care of their most basic needs and build the netroots coalition from that.
…See, to me, progressive values have always been about economic and social justice…
I get her point. I even thank her for it. But there’s something she’s not considering.
Yes, the online netroots is to a degree elitist, no question. In order to take part, you need either the money or the time, preferably both. And yes, there are real-world needs (as opposed to virtual world desires) that have actual consequences attached to not meeting them, like starvation or poverty or no education. But beyond all that there is a deadly political situation to be considered – deadly for us, down here in the trenches – which, if it isn’t turned around, will almost certainly wind up killing us and the nation, and the netroots may be (I said may be) our only way to affect that kind of change.
You see, we’re not much for politics down here even though it is politics that determines the economy that feeds and houses us (or not, like the Bush Economy). We’re kinds too busy making ends meet to get organized in our spare time, which we don’t have much of in the first place because either we don’t work at all and have to hustle 24/7 or we work 16 hours a day and take care of the kids at night and spend our weekends (if we don’t have to work overtime for straight pay) cleaning the house, food shopping, cooking, and so on (and on and on and on….).
So we need the netroots. They got the time, energy and money we don’t have to fight the people who are making us miserable, and they’re trying to figure out how to do that. We’ll help when we can but first we have to ensure our own day-to-day survival – you know, those things you were talking about earlier. Besides, the PTB don’t listen to us anyway. We know that. But they do listen to the activists, to the media, and, of course, to that virtual combination of the two, the netroots. Oh, not about everything. But some things, and that’s already more than we could make them do.
See, that’s kinda how it works. The establishment learned a long time ago that if you keep slaves busy and worn out, they’ll be too tired to revolt. And so we are. We have been pushed so far down that we have no energy left for anything but mere sheer survival. We struggle with everyday matters trying to keep our heads above water, which leaves no room for giving the Boss a hard time about – well, about much of anything.
And it’s important to us that we eventually have access to the net. If they shut us off from that, too, we will have lost one of the last tools of non-violent protest available to us. They’ve closed or cut back the libraries, or attached fees to library use that we can’t afford to pay on the meager salaries they give us; they’re taking away analog (over-the-air) tv so we have to buy cable; they’re even trying very hard to make radio a pay service. Short of the local papers, which are as big a joke as local news shows, the best way to find out what’s going on, respond to it, and even organize around it, is the internet. We need it, and right now we need somebody to save it for us.
I didn’t watch the GOP debate last night because there’s no point to it. They’ve established a pattern and it’s always the same: 2 or 3 of them get into a vicious fight over who’s most like a dictator, who’d violate the Constitution the most often, who’d break more laws, who’d give the oligarchs the most tax breaks, who’d torture more innocent people, who’d invade the most Muslim countries, and/or who’d make sure a maximum number of the poor would starve, freeze to death, and end up homeless, roaming the streets.
And just to be sure we’re clear, those aren’t attacks against their opponents. They’re boasting.
For almost 100 years, from the moment the income tax was instituted, conservatives have insisted with increasing hysteria that taxes are what kill the economy. Not taxes on you or me, of course. They’re not much concerned with those, as they’ve proved time and again. No, they’re talking about the taxes on Bidness and the Rich. You know, the “trickle-down” theory, wherein there seems to be a hard-core, faith-based belief that if the rich get richer because they don’t have to pay taxes like the rest of us, why, they’ll “invest” that “extra” money to create more low-paying jobs, and thus a tiny portion of their wealth will “trickle down” to the lower economic strata.
There is zero evidence to suggest, let alone prove, that economies work this way, but that doesn’t stop Grover “The Toad” Norquist’s Bathtub Battalion from claiming otherwise at the tops of their lungs. Our so-called “president”, acting in his capacity as chief mouthpiece and corporate rip-off enabler, was out on the hustings yesterday saying the same old shit, decorated by his usual smirk.
“The message is unmistakable: America’s economy keeps growing, government revenues keep going up, the budget deficit keeps going down — and we’ve done it all without raising your taxes,” Bush said during a speech at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where he introduced two small-business owners, a member of the National Guard and the parents of eight children. He said they all racked up big savings thanks to the tax cuts.
“When you’ve got more money in your pockets to save, spend or invest, this causes the economy to grow,” Bush said, adding that “a growing economy has led to growing tax revenues. Because people are making more money, they’re also paying more taxes.”
Like everything else Bush says (“How do you know when Bush is lying? His lips are moving”), it isn’t true. In point of fact, the economy has been growing at pretty much the same 2-3%/yr pace that it did during the 90’s. There are a couple of big differences, alright, but they’re not in the rate of economic expansion, a fact that even faux-economists at the conservative propaganda unit, The American Enterprise Institute, have been forced to admit.