Posts Tagged ‘Wall Street’

ATTACK WALL STREET

April 16, 2010

Attack Wall Street, Not Social Security by Dean Baker April 13, 2010 by The Guardian/UK

Suppose our top generals described the growing threat from a hostile Middle East power. The country has tens of billions of oil dollars, a growing army, chemical and biological weapons, and is in the process of developing nuclear weapons. After carefully describing the risks posed by this country, our generals suggested an immediate attack on Canada. They explain that combating this Middle East country would be difficult, but defeating Canada is easy.

This is essentially the story of the latest attack on social security. Everyone who looks at the projections agrees; the scary budget stories being hyped in the media and by the Wall Street crew are driven almost entirely by projections of exploding healthcare costs. But instead of proposing ways to fix the healthcare system, these deficit hawks want to attack social security. They tell us that fixing healthcare is hard. By contrast they think that cutting money from social security will be relatively easy.The facts on this are straightforward and known by everyone involved in the budget debate. The US healthcare system is broken. We pay more than twice as much per person as the average for other wealthy countries.

The long-term problem is not that anything improper has been done with the programme; the reason that social security is projected to eventually face a shortfall is that future generations are projected to live longer than we do. This raises costs since our children and grandchildren are projected to enjoy longer retirements than we do. In short, there is no story of generational inequity here, contrary to what the Wall Street deficit hawks say.

If our deficit hawk generals are too scared to take on the healthcare industry then we also have to also make them too scared to take on social security. If we need to reduce the deficit the best place to start is a financial speculation tax. A modest set of financial transactions taxes, like the 0.5% tax on stock trades in the United Kingdom, can easily raise $150bn a year. This would go a long way toward addressing future budget shortfalls and it would raise money from people who can afford it: the Wall Street crew whose financial shenanigans led to the meltdown. Federal Reserve board chairman Ben Bernanke recently suggested cutting social security because: “that’s where the money is“. That’s not true, the real money is on Wall Street. Let’s go get it. READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/04/13-2

Big Banks Rebel Against Push to Help Struggling Homeowners by James R. Hagerty April 13, 2010 by The Wall Street Journal

Some big U.S. banks are pushing back against the idea that they should slash mortgage balances for millions of troubled borrowers.

In written testimony prepared for a hearing in Washington Tuesday of the House Financial Services Committee, some of the nation’s top mortgage lenders warned of the risks of relying heavily on forgiving principal as a means of averting foreclosures

That may set up a clash with Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the committee, and other lawmakers eager for more aggressive action to prevent foreclosures. In a letter last month to four big banks, Rep. Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, argued that “to save homes on a large scale, we must move past temporary modifications in interest rates or terms and focus on permanent principal reductions that result in truly sustainable mortgages.”and argued for concentrating mainly on other methods, such as reducing interest rates.

The Obama administration recently announced plans to put somewhat more emphasis on reducing principal in its foreclosure-prevention program.

To write down loans enough to bring those debts down to no more than the home values would cost $700 billion to $900 billion, J.P. Morgan Chase estimated in its testimony. That would include costs of $150 billion to the Federal Housing Administration and government-controlled mortgage investors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the bank said.

J.P. Morgan also said broad-based principal reductions could raise costs for borrowers if mortgage investors demand more interest to compensate for that risk. Borrowers probably would have to increase down payments, and credit standards would tighten further, the bank said.

Wells Fargo said principal forgiveness “is not an across-the-board solution” and “needs to be used in a very careful manner.” Bank of America said that it supports principal reductions for some customers whose debts are high in relation to their home values and who face financial hardships but that “solutions must balance the interests of the customer and the (mortgage) investor.”  READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/04/13

Obama’s Efforts to Foster Harmony on Wall St Reform Erupt into Warfare by Giles Whittell April 15, 2010 by TimesOnline/UK

America’s most powerful politicians met at the White House yesterday for the start of a six-week battle in which both main parties will fight for the right to claim that they are taming Wall Street’s wildest excesses and safeguarding a resurgent US economy.

Emboldened by continuing popular disgust over the big banks’ role in the worst US recession since the 1930s, President Obama invited Republican leaders to what was billed as a cordial bipartisan discussion of financial regulatory reform.

It was anything but. In an hour-long meeting that appears to have deepened party divisions over the future of the economy, Mr Obama attacked his Republican guests for their closeness to Wall Street lobbyists, demanded a complete overhaul of the risky derivatives markets that led to the brink of a financial meltdown two years ago and accused Republicans of a “campaign of misinformation” about his reforms.

In open defiance of Mr Obama’s call for cross-party backing for the Senate finance Bill, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate minority leader, denounced the Bill minutes after the White House meeting as a recipe for institutionalising the bank bailouts of 2008. The $85 billion (£50 billion) rescue of the AIG insurance giant in particular has become a reviled symbol of taxpayer-funded indulgence of Wall Street irresponsibility.

This is the first serious test of Mr Obama’s ability to sway Congress since senior Republicans, including Senator John McCain, vowed to block every item on his domestic agenda after their defeat on healthcare.

Democrats still fear that victory may cost them dearly at the midterm elections but they are confident that when it comes to reining in Wall Street they will have the public behind them.

“This ought to be a bipartisan Bill and I think in the end it will be,” Mr Goolsbee said.

The White House is calculating that Republicans who choose to remain opposed to the most sweeping Wall Street reforms in several generations will risk being punished by voters for appearing to support irresponsible bankers at the expense of Main Street. Senator McConnell and others had a private meeting in New York this week with hedge fund managers and their lobbyists. Democrats have since gleefully accused him of parroting Wall Street’s talking points. On yesterday’s evidence, he may have to find some new ones. READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/04/15

Climate Bill Would Curb EPA by Lisa Lerer April 14, 2010 by Politico.com

Efforts to limit the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases has emerged as a major battleground in the climate debate, as three key senators move toward releasing the first draft of their revamped climate bill.

Recent drafts of the legislation would hobble the EPA by limiting the agency’s regulatory powers under the Clean Air Act, according to lawmakers and lobbyists familiar with the bill.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who’s crafting the climate bill with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), says the provision is necessary to win business backing for the bill.

“I wouldn’t support EPA regulation on top of congressional action, and I couldn’t support 50 states coming up with their own standards,” he said. “That’s one thing business legitimately needs.”

In response to concerns voiced by moderate Democrats, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that she expects the agency to weaken its proposed pollution standards and delay implementation of the new rules until 2011.

But Jackson also urged lawmakers to focus on passing a climate bill instead of on stopping the agency.

“We are not going to be regulating this calendar year, and I really think it would be wonderful if the energy of the Senate on this issue would be put to new legislation to do something,” she said. READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/04/14-2

GOLD!

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HARD LABOR II

February 26, 2010
 
 
CORPORATE GIVEAWAYS:

The federal government spends at least $180 billion per year on corporate tax breaks and handouts – an average of $1500 per taxpayer (not including subsidies from counties and cities, hazardous waste cleanup costs, or limits on corporate liability).  By contrast, as of September 2012, 47.7 million Americans were receiving on average $134.29 per month in food assistance, or $6.4 billion total.

Not many politicians talk about this.  A rare exception is former Labor Secretary Robert Reich who said to the Democratic Leadership Council in November 1995 that people are mad because “we are on the way to becoming a two-tiered society composed of a few winners and a larger group left behind.”  Then, he said, “Since we are committed to moving the disadvantaged from welfare to work, why not target corporate welfare as well?”

The White House quickly distanced itself from Reich’s speech, but activists of all kinds picked it up: Perot’s United We Stand-America made it a major target of angry-middle groups; the right-wing Heritage Foundation and libertarian Cato Institute joined Ralph Nader to present a list of corporate pork barrel reforms.  Yet, neither Congress nor the White House makes much of corporate giveaways in budget-balancing plans.

What are the giveaways?  The active variety includes agribusiness, military contractor subsidies, loan guarantees, and the bailout of the S&Ls, and computer databases.  The rights to lumber and minerals on federal lands are routinely granted for $5 per acre, making the United States the only country in the world that virtually gives away its depletable natural resources!  Drugs developed with taxpayer money are routinely given to drug companies for monopoly marketing with no restraint on price, or royalties returned to the people.  The major television networks get free broadcast licenses with minimal public responsibility or obligation.

Passive corporate giveaways come in the form of tax breaks and loopholes.  Private individuals pay taxes at higher rates than corporations.  The investment tax credit designed to increase economic activity is historically taken as a windfall.  Tax breaks granted to be put back into productive equipment, plants and jobs, are commonly used to buy out other companies, creating no new jobs or wealth.  Subsidies actually debilitate innovation and efficiency.

In the debate over budget deficits, many ask, “How can we take food out of poor kids’ mouths and continue to subsidize the rich?”  Scant legislation has been introduced to rid us of tax loopholes for the rich. There’s been no serious move to initiate cost-benefit analysis of corporate giveaways, in the same way they’ve meticulously reviewed health and safety regulation for years, and assaulted affirmative action and the minimum wage.

One problem is that connections are frequently not made between things that people don’t like and what causes them.  Well-funded corporate lobbies and toadies are too adept at directing people’s anger against government in a massive, daily, Rush Limbaugh-/Lars Larsen-esque hate-your-government drumbeat.  They work to keep the focus away from corporations, which are the dominant institution in our society.

Government has been only a minion, a simply willing agent, for transferring tax dollars to corporate coffers. We are the richest nation in the history of the world and our richest (corporate) citizens behave as if divine providence, rather than selfish market decisions doom the poorest (human) citizens.  However, if the corporate greed issue is connected with people’s deprivation – and we brand-name the greediest corporate kings in the United States – we can turn the tide against the self-interested, compassionless and undemocratic aspects of the corporate institution. Corporations should pay their fair share to the citizens and communities, which enable their success.  That can result in real tax reform, without creating unnecessary hardships for the poor and middle class.

WALL STREET LIES BLAME VICTIMS TO AVOID RESPONSIBILITY FOR FINANCIAL MELTDOWN by Nomi Prins, Wiley Press.

To hear it from the big financial companies, the big crash started when poor people bought homes they couldn’t afford. But that was at most 1% of the problem.  Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Nomi Prins’ new book, It Takes a Pillage: Behind the Bailouts, Bonuses, and Backroom Deals from Washington to Wall Street.

The Second Great Bank Depression has spawned so many lies, it’s hard to keep track of which is the biggest. Possibly the most irksome class of lies, usually spouted by Wall Street hacks and conservative pundits, is that we’re all victims to a bunch of poor people who bought McMansions, or at least homes they had no business living in. If that was really what this crisis was all about, we could have solved it much more cheaply in a couple of days in late 2008, by simply providing borrowers with additional capital to reduce their loan principals. It would have cost about 3 percent of what the entire bailout wound up costing, with comparatively similar risk.

http://www.alternet.org/workplace/142944/wall_street_lies_blame_victims_to_avoid_responsibility_for_financial_meltdown

ORGANIZED IRRESPONSIBILITY

The Guardian/UK

US DOLLAR SET TO BE ECLIPSED World Bank President Predicts by Heather Stewart

The United States must brace itself for the dollar to be usurped as the world’s reserve currency as American dominance wanes in the wake of the financial crisis, the World Bank president, Robert Zoellick, warned yesterday. United States would be mistaken to take for granted the dollar’s place as the world’s predominant reserve currency, says Zoellick. Speaking ahead of the World Bank/IMF annual meetings in Istanbul, he said it was time for a “responsible globalisation”, in which decision-making was shared between the old powers and developing countries such as China and India.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/09/28-7

The Real News Network

CLEAN COAL IS FICTION says Jessy Tolkan: Washington saying coal industry can be “clean” is pure fiction.

Paul Jay speaks to Jessy Tolkan at the Tides Foundations’ Momentum conference in San Francisco. They speak about Tolkan’s coalition on climate change fighting Obama to establish a moratorium on all coal mining. Tolkan says that Washington’s push for “clean coal” is not enough because the coal industry’s and President Obama’s argument that the production of coal can be clean is “an absolute, 100% lie.” She also says that “the science is clear that if we don’t address coal head on, it’s almost “game over” for the planet.”

http://www.commondreams.org/video/2009/09/28

The New York Times

CASSANDRAS OF CLIMATE by Paul Krugman

Every once in a while I feel despair over the fate of the planet. If you’ve been following climate science, you know what I mean: the sense that we’re hurtling toward catastrophe but nobody wants to hear about it or do anything to avert it.

And here’s the thing: I’m not engaging in hyperbole. These days, dire warnings aren’t the delusional raving of cranks. They’re what come out of the most widely respected climate models, devised by the leading researchers. The prognosis for the planet has gotten much, much worse in just the last few years.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/09/28-3

ENVIRONMENT-POPULATION JUMBOPAK

POLLUTER BORN EVERY MINUTE

gonefishin'

Donna Edwards’ No Corporate Monopoly of Elections Amendment by John Nichols February 4, 2010 by The Nation

Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards turned to Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis for guidance in framing the Constitutional amendment she proposed Tuesday as the right and necessary response to the decision by Chief Justice John Roberts and a high court majority to abandon law and precedent with the purpose of permitting corporations to dominate the political discourse.

Brandeis knew that giving corporations monopoly power over our economic life or our politics would be deadly to democracy.

“The ruling reached by the Roberts’ Court overturned decades of legal precedent by allowing corporations unfettered spending in our political campaigns. Another law will not rectify this disastrous decision,” Edwards said Tuesday. “A Constitutional Amendment is necessary to undo what this Court has done. Justice Brandeis got it right: ‘We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.’ It is time we remove corporate influence from our policies and our politics. We cannot allow corporations to dominate our elections, to do so would be both undemocratic and unfair to ordinary citizens.”

Edwards explains the amendment in a powerful video

Edwards does not stand alone. In addition to an array of public interest groups including Public Citizen, Voter Action, The Center for Corporate Policy and the American Independent Business Alliance, the congresswoman’s proposed amendment is being backed by House Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who is the dean of civil libertarians in Congress.

Here is the text of the legislation proposed by Edwards and Conyers:

JOINT RESOLUTION:

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification:

‘‘ARTICLE—

‘‘SECTION 1. The sovereign right of the people to govern being essential to a free democracy, Congress and the States may regulate the expenditure of funds for political speech by any corporation, limited liability company, or other corporate entity.

‘‘SECTION 2. Nothing contained in this Article shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.’

Edwards and Conyers may soon have a Senate sponsor for their amendment proposal.

Senator Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat who chairs the Constitution subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee declared: “As legislators, we have a duty to carefully consider the constitutional questions raised by legislation.  I urge you to do your duty but not be dissuaded from acting by fear of the Court. This terrible decision deserves as robust a response as possible. Nothing less than the future of our democracy is at stake.”  READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/04 

“He was the biggest asshole at Goldman Sachs!”

BEAT GOES ON, ROME BURNS

October 22, 2009

While Rome Burns

Take Action on Oct. 24: Join One of the Largest Global Protests in the Fight Against Climate Change by Tim Kingston, AlterNet.

On Oct. 24, tens of thousands of people will be in the streets and on mountains, rivers and glaciers around the world demanding action to reduce CO2 emissions.

What started out a couple of years ago as a idea promoted by author/climate-change activist Bill McKibben and a few students at Vermont’s Middlebury College has morphed into the biggest environmental, and possibly the most extensive worldwide protest, ever.

On Oct. 24, tens of thousands of people will be in the streets and on mountains, rivers and glaciers around the world demanding action to reduce CO2 emissions to 350 parts per million (ppm).

With just five days to go, 3,422 events are planned or under way in 160 nations on every continent, including Antarctica. More are coming online daily at 350.org, a small (seven staffers) organization based in Berkeley, Calif., that is coordinating the international day of action.

Organizers of the event are targeting the United Nations Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December. They hope the international day of action will apply pressure on the assembled heads of state and governments to reduce global greenhouse gas CO2 emissions to below 350 ppm, the number that scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  READ MORE:

http://www.alternet.org/action/143365/take_action_on_oct._24%3A_join_one_of_the_largest_global_protests_in_the_fight_against_climate_change

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) Humbles Hudson Institute Dilettante Over Health Care Bankruptcies AlterNet.

Franken drove home the point that medical bankruptcies are unheard of in countries with viable heath care systems.

http://www.alternet.org/blogs/video/#143452

Dept of Homeland Security Expands Controversial Program Empowering Local Police By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!

The 287(g) program gives local law enforcement authority to enforce federal immigration laws, which has led to accusations of racial profiling.

AMY GOODMAN: The immigration debate is heating up on Capitol Hill, and the Department of Homeland Security said Friday it plans to enter into new agreements with sixty-seven state and local law enforcement agencies. These agreements expand the existing 287(g) program, which delegates some federal immigration enforcement authority to certain state and local agencies. The announcement comes shortly after DHS released a report on immigrant detention noting the vast majority of those detained under the 287(g) agreements were never charged with a criminal offense. The 287(g) program has come under intense criticism in recent months from over 500 organizations, including the ACLU, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, calling on the government to end the program. Many of the agencies involved have been accused of racial profiling, and the Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio in Phoenix, Arizona, is being investigated by the Justice Department.

On Friday the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE, said it would go forward with a new jails agreement with Sheriff Arpaio but remove his field authority to enforce federal immigration laws on the street. Well, that didn’t stop the Sheriff, and he conducted his twelfth so-called immigration sweep Friday, arresting some sixty people. The Sheriff defended his stance on Fox’s Glenn Beck Show earlier last week.  READ MORE:

http://www.alternet.org/immigration/143372/dept_of_homeland_security_expands_controversial_program_empowering_local_police

The Battle Against Letting Wall Street Continue to Make a Killing on Derivatives By Art Levine, AlterNet.

Protections for consumers and Wall Street’s skullduggery are at stake in an obscure series of hearings going on in Congress right now.

Early in the morning, outside the House Financial Services Committee hearing room in the Rayburn office building last week, there were scruffy ex-homeless and other low-income folks, wearing their dreadlocks or sloppy jeans, mixed in with the pinstriped reps for the financial industry.

 They all seemed to be lining up to see what $223 million in financial lobbying in the first six months of this year could buy in thwarting real reform on Capitol Hill. And they were hoping to get the few dozen of the public seats available inside the room, for a critical 10 a.m. hearing marking up a bill that was supposed to regulate the now-private market in complex “derivatives.”

Those derivatives are nominally worth at least $450 trillion worldwide, with $555 billion in credit at risk in the U.S. banking industry. (Derivatives are forms of insurance or bets on underlying assets, such as now-toxic subprime mortgages, supposedly designed to manage risk.) No wonder Warren Buffett called them “financial weapons of mass destruction.”  READ MORE:

http://www.alternet.org/workplace/143407/the_battle_against_letting_wall_street_continue_to_make_a_killing_on_derivative

This Year’s Biggest Hoax Is Tim Geithner’s ‘Solution’ for the Economy, Not the Balloon Boy By Robert Scheer, Truthdig.

If we could get one of the banking lobbyists to float a duct-taped flying saucer balloon, Wolf Blitzer might cover the real hoax.

Who are these people? I am not referring to the pathetic parents of “Balloon Boy,” whose fake drama I have been unable to escape while on the treadmill this week, thanks to my gym’s insistence on tuning its flat-screen TVs to Wolf Blitzer’s nonstop self-parody.

The Colorado incident was significant only in the tawdriness of those who perpetrated the made-for-TV scam and their allies in the mindless media who covered this sham “reality” so relentlessly. But even so, it was enough to push aside most consideration of the true hoax reported last week with far less fervor: the obscene rewards that Wall Street bankers bestowed upon themselves for ripping off our economy.

The people I want to know more about are the superrich who expect to be rewarded for their failures, like the folks at Goldman Sachs who will receive $16.71 billion in bonuses—an average of $530,000 per employee—this year after their company did as much as any to bring the world economy to the brink of disaster.

“The Guys from Government Sachs” is what The New York Times once called them in recognition of their chokehold on the federal government. Their power is marked by the two treasury secretaries who led the fight to legally enable and then reward Wall Street for its obscene excesses. Why wasn’t there a CNN stakeout at the homes of former Goldman-execs-turned-treasury-chiefs Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson aimed at finding out how they feel about the almost $7 billion profit that Goldman Sachs made in the last two quarters in the wake of the government’s bailout of the firm?

http://www.alternet.org/media/143433/this_year%27s_biggest_hoax_is_tim_geithner%27s_%27solution%27_for_the_economy%2C_not_the_balloon_boy

gonefishin'

RICH THIEVES

October 11, 2009
GOLD!

GOLD!

8 Shocking Ways the Billionaires Have Schemed to Rob Us of Every Last $ By Mark Ames, eXiled Online. American billionaires keep cooking up scheme after scheme to shake down Americans and plunder the national wealth, as if the last one was too easy and boring.

Every day and every week we hear another shocking story about how our billionaires have cooked up an even sicker scheme to shake down Americans and plunder the national wealth, as if the last scheme was too easy and boring. They don’t even bother hiding it anymore: take the story about the “Death Bonds” I wrote about last month, first reported (however blandly) in the New York Times: the very same Wall Street bankers who conned $23 trillion out of America’s wealth is now going to use some of that play money to place bets on when we Americans will die—and the sooner we die, the more billions in E-Z profits Wall Street will earn.

It’s as if America is some kind of despised abstraction to our ruling class: a faraway colony to plunder, a mass of humanity to use and exploit as it sees fit. In fact, there’s a pretty clear pattern developing of just how much they despise Americans and how little they value our lives and our humanity.

http://www.alternet.org/workplace/143146/8_shocking_ways_the_billionaires_have_schemed_to_rob_us_of_every_last_%24

Eight Years Is Long Enough: What You Can Do to End the War in Afghanistan By Peter Rothberg, The Nation. Antiwar activists are reallocating their attention from Iraq towards Afghanistan, organizing protests and demonstrations for the coming weeks.

Editor’s Note: Pressure to end the occupation is coming directly from members of the Afghan govt. as well — writing for the Women’s Media Center, CODEPINK Founder Jodie Evans has returned from Afghanistan with a petition signed by Afghan leaders, including two female members of Afghanistan’s parliament and President Hamid Karzai’s sister-in-law. Check out Evans’ article and add your name to the petition here.

Within a matter of months a majority of Americans have shifted from supporting to opposing the Afghanistan war as we approach the eighth anniversary of the start of the conflict. According to recent polls, a solid 57 percent of Americans now object to the military effort.

http://www.alternet.org/world/143132/eight_years_is_long_enough%3A_what_you_can_do_to_end_the_war_in_afghanistan

Who Ran Away with Your 401K? By James Ridgeway, MotherJones.com. What starts with “f,” ends with “k,” and means “screw your workers”? That’s right — 401(k).

Like most people whose quality of life depends upon the fluctuations of an IRA, 401(k), 403(b), or other acronym-soup retirement account, I was born long before such things existed. It’s easy to forget, now that more than half of us have been made shareholders, that until well past the middle of the 20th century, most people had nothing to do with the stock market: Wall Street was for the wealthy and the reckless. It was a world most Americans didn’t understand and, after 1929, didn’t trust. Some lucky people had pensions, but few had the privilege of even thinking about retirement. They were too busy trying to survive the present — which in my childhood meant the Great Depression and then World War II.

http://www.alternet.org/workplace/143145/who_ran_away_with_your_401k

Nezcalacca

HARD LABOR

September 29, 2009
Hard Labor 
 
CORPORATE GIVEAWAYS:

The federal government spent $167 billion in 1994 on corporate tax breaks and handouts – an average of $1400 per taxpayer (not including subsidies from counties and cities, hazardous waste cleanup costs, or limits on corporate liability).  By contrast, the total price tag for Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), food stamps and public housing came to $50 billion, or $400 per taxpayer.

Not many politicians talk about this.  A rare exception is former Labor Secretary Robert Reich who said to the Democratic Leadership Council in November 1995 that people are mad because “we are on the way to becoming a two-tiered society composed of a few winners and a larger group left behind.”  Then, he said, “Since we are committed to moving the disadvantaged from welfare to work, why not target corporate welfare as well?”

The White House quickly distanced itself from Reich’s speech, but activists of all kinds picked it up: Perot’s United We Stand-America made it a major target of angry-middle groups; the right-wing Heritage Foundation and libertarian Cato Institute joined Ralph Nader to present a list of corporate pork barrel reforms.  Yet, neither Congress nor the White House makes much of corporate giveaways in budget-balancing plans.

What are the giveaways?  The active variety includes agribusiness, military contractor subsidies, loan guarantees, and the bailout of the S&Ls, and computer databases.  The rights to lumber and minerals on federal lands are routinely granted for $5 per acre, making the United States the only country in the world that virtually gives away its depletable natural resources!  Drugs developed with taxpayer money are routinely given to drug companies for monopoly marketing with no restraint on price, or royalties returned to the people.  The major television networks get free broadcast licenses with minimal public responsibility or obligation.

Passive corporate giveaways come in the form of tax breaks and loopholes.  Private individuals pay taxes at higher rates than corporations.  The investment tax credit designed to increase economic activity is historically taken as a windfall.  Tax breaks granted to be put back into productive equipment, plants and jobs, are commonly used to buy out other companies, creating no new jobs or wealth.  Subsidies actually debilitate innovation and efficiency.

In the debate over budget deficits, many ask, “How can we take food out of poor kids’ mouths and continue to subsidize the rich?”  Scant legislation has been introduced to rid us of tax loopholes for the rich. There’s been no serious move to initiate cost-benefit analysis of corporate giveaways, in the same way they’ve meticulously reviewed health and safety regulation for years, and assaulted affirmative action and the minimum wage.

One problem is that connections are frequently not made between things that people don’t like and what causes them.  Well-funded corporate lobbies and toadies are too adept at directing people’s anger against government in a massive, daily, Rush Limbaugh-/Lars Larsen-esque hate-your-government drumbeat.  They work to keep the focus away from corporations, which are the dominant institution in our society.

Government has been only a minion, a simply willing agent, for transferring tax dollars to corporate coffers. We are the richest nation in the history of the world and our richest (corporate) citizens behave as if divine providence, rather than selfish market decisions doom the poorest (human) citizens.  However, if the corporate greed issue is connected with people’s deprivation – and we brand-name the greediest corporate kings in the United States – we can turn the tide against the self-interested, compassionless and undemocratic aspects of the corporate institution. Corporations should pay their fair share to the citizens and communities, which enable their success.  That can result in real tax reform, without creating unnecessary hardships for the poor and middle class.

WALL STREET LIES BLAME VICTIMS TO AVOID RESPONSIBILITY FOR FINANCIAL MELTDOWN by Nomi Prins, Wiley Press.

To hear it from the big financial companies, the big crash started when poor people bought homes they couldn’t afford. But that was at most 1% of the problem.  Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Nomi Prins’ new book, It Takes a Pillage: Behind the Bailouts, Bonuses, and Backroom Deals from Washington to Wall Street.

The Second Great Bank Depression has spawned so many lies, it’s hard to keep track of which is the biggest. Possibly the most irksome class of lies, usually spouted by Wall Street hacks and conservative pundits, is that we’re all victims to a bunch of poor people who bought McMansions, or at least homes they had no business living in. If that was really what this crisis was all about, we could have solved it much more cheaply in a couple of days in late 2008, by simply providing borrowers with additional capital to reduce their loan principals. It would have cost about 3 percent of what the entire bailout wound up costing, with comparatively similar risk.

http://www.alternet.org/workplace/142944/wall_street_lies_blame_victims_to_avoid_responsibility_for_financial_meltdown

ORGANIZED IRRESPONSIBILITY

The Guardian/UK

US DOLLAR SET TO BE ECLIPSED World Bank President Predicts by Heather Stewart

The United States must brace itself for the dollar to be usurped as the world’s reserve currency as American dominance wanes in the wake of the financial crisis, the World Bank president, Robert Zoellick, warned yesterday. United States would be mistaken to take for granted the dollar’s place as the world’s predominant reserve currency, says Zoellick. Speaking ahead of the World Bank/IMF annual meetings in Istanbul, he said it was time for a “responsible globalisation”, in which decision-making was shared between the old powers and developing countries such as China and India.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/09/28-7

The Real News Network

CLEAN COAL IS FICTION says Jessy Tolkan: Washington saying coal industry can be “clean” is pure fiction.

Paul Jay speaks to Jessy Tolkan at the Tides Foundations’ Momentum conference in San Francisco. They speak about Tolkan’s coalition on climate change fighting Obama to establish a moratorium on all coal mining. Tolkan says that Washington’s push for “clean coal” is not enough because the coal industry’s and President Obama’s argument that the production of coal can be clean is “an absolute, 100% lie.” She also says that “the science is clear that if we don’t address coal head on, it’s almost “game over” for the planet.”

http://www.commondreams.org/video/2009/09/28

The New York Times

CASSANDRAS OF CLIMATE by Paul Krugman

Every once in a while I feel despair over the fate of the planet. If you’ve been following climate science, you know what I mean: the sense that we’re hurtling toward catastrophe but nobody wants to hear about it or do anything to avert it.

And here’s the thing: I’m not engaging in hyperbole. These days, dire warnings aren’t the delusional raving of cranks. They’re what come out of the most widely respected climate models, devised by the leading researchers. The prognosis for the planet has gotten much, much worse in just the last few years.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/09/28-3

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