“Thank you all, our struggle continues.”
Head on over to Our Revolution
“We only go around once, we may as well make history as we go around.”
“Thank you all, our struggle continues.”
Head on over to Our Revolution
“We only go around once, we may as well make history as we go around.”
Episode 666 of the “I Love Lucifer” show, starring Ben Carson (Because Desi Arnaz was Cuban-American which is the same as Mexican if you’re judging it.).
Tuesday was “Make America Work Again” day at the Republican National Convention. But this day wasn’t about making America work again for working people. This was, as always with conservatives, all about tax cuts for the rich and corporations, deregulation of oil and coal companies (and other paying corporate clients) and austerity cuts in the things government does to make people’s lives better.
There was nothing about how to actually make America “work again.”
Truth is, the economy has added 14.8 million private-sector jobs since the big Bush/Republican downturn of 2008.
Nonetheless, “Make America Work Again” day is described this way in the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) convention schedule announcement:
The Obama years have delivered anemic economic growth, the lowest labor-force participation rate in 38 years, and job-killing regulations and legislation like Obamacare. These policies are crushing middle-class families, and a Hillary Clinton presidency would merely be an Obama third term that would deliver the same poor results. Donald Trump is a successful businessman with a solid record of creating jobs and the experience we need to get America’s economy up and running … and get Americans working again.
Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White, describing himself as a “fight promoter” (which is an appropriate description for the speakers at this Republican convention) began with an endorsement of Trump, saying, “He’s that guy, he shows up,” because Trump helped him promote fights as a business. “I’ve been in the fight business my whole life and Donald Trump is a fighter.” Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson gave a negative speech about Hillary Clinton and “Benghazi,” not about how to make America “work again.”
Former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey also gave a negative speech about Clinton’s email server and “Benghazi.” Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Businessman Andy Wist from Brooklyn, who has a waterproofing company, said that after eight years of President Obama he doesn’t see the American Dream. Donald Trump “is a leader … He will make America work again.” He didn’t say how.
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson said, “Benghazi.” Also, “ISIS.” And “We shouldn’t have to live in fear” while stoking the fear… Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Chris Cox of the National Rifle Association (NRA) spoke about how “you have to be able to protect yourself and your family.” Fear. “Imagine a young mother at home with her baby when a violent predator kicks the door in.” Fear. Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Golfer Natalie Gulbis said that Trump helped her open a Boy’s and Girl’s club and told her to be fearless. Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, known as the master of obstruction, said the cost of living has been rising out of people’s reach. “Emails.” “Benghazi.” “Hillary lies.” “Repeal Obamacare.” “Keystone pipeline.” “Defund Planned Parenthood.” He also pledged to continue to obstruct by not allowing a vote on Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court. Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is best known for his austerity budgets, the practice of literally taking money out of the economy to kill jobs and growth. His budgets demand cuts in Social Security, even privatizing Medicare. Ryan’s budgets make it impossible to invest in America. Ryan and Republican worldview, government spending bad, austerity.
Ryan said that Democrats are offering “a third Obama term brought to you by another Clinton.” He said the Democratic Party convention will be a “four-day infomercial of politically correct moralizing,” and then “from now to November we will hear how many ways progressive elitists can find to talk down to the rest of America.” He offered “a reformed tax code that rewards entrepreneurs.” He offered the poor “the dignity of having a job” but not how to accomplish that. Ryan said very little else about how to make America “work again.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said “enough of feeling less safe and less secure.” “Iran.” “ISIS.” “Chaos spreading across America and across the globe.” He said that “in a Republican agenda our enemies will fear us.” He called up the ghost of Ronald Reagan. Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, known for blocking bridges and killing badly-needed infrastructure projects like the Hudson rail tunnel, launched into a harsh, negative attack of Clinton’s record and character. “Emails.” “Dismal record as Secretary of State.” “Violence and danger in every region that has been infected by her flawed judgement.” “ISIS.” “She never fights for us.” Christie said nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Tiffany Trump said her father’s “desire for excellence is contagious” and that he has always helped her be the best version of herself. Her father takes pride in all that she has done. He wrote “sweet notes” on her report cards. “Small loving acts help an enormous amount in times of grief.” Her father “is someone who will never tell you to lower your sights or give up your dreams.” “A man I am so proud to call my father.” Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Dr. Ben Carson said we are one nation under God. He said Hillary Clinton has as a role model someone who acknowledges Lucifer. “Think about that.” He also said nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Sajid Tarar of American Muslims for Trump? What? No, he didn’t say anything about how to make America “work again.”
How We Got Here: Obstruction And Sabotage
When President Obama took office the country was losing 850,000 jobs a month. Democrats controlled the House and Senate at the beginning of 2009 and with three Republicans votes — Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania — broke a Republican filibuster to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, known as the “stimulus.” This chart shows what the stimulus accomplished:
But after the stimulus passed the Republican strategy since 2009 has been to vote as a unified block to obstruct and sabotage anything that might make the economy better, and then campaign for office on themes of government not working, and the economy not getting better. And here they are, using “Make America work again” as a theme at the convention. Calculated. Cynical.
May, 2014: Obama: GOP has filibustered 500 bills.
Here are just a few of the things they obstructed: (Note that the corporate media likes to say “the Senate” when Republicans filibuster bills.)
September, 2010: Bill on outsourced jobs fails Senate test, (“a Senate bill designed to end tax breaks for U.S. companies that move jobs and manufacturing plants overseas.”)
October, 2011: Republicans Vote to Keep Teachers, First Responders Off the Job (rehire 400,000 teachers, firefighters, paramedics and police officers.)
August, 2013: Bipartisan Transportation and Housing Bill Filibustered
October, 2013: Government shutdown over funding ObamaCare. This had a direct cost of $24 billion, reduced fourth-quarter GDP growth from 3 percent to 2.4 percent.
April, 2014: GOP Filibusters Minimum Wage Hike
July, 2014: Republicans Again Filibuster Bring Jobs Home Act (stop tax breaks for moving jobs and production facilities out of the country.)
January, 2015: Sanders’ Solar Bill Blocked by Senate Republicans, (10 million solar home power systems.)
March, 2015: $478B Infrastructure Bill Blocked by Senate GOP
July, 2015: Senate blocks progress on highway bill
And for a finishing touch, just this month the Congress left for the summer, having done nothing to fight the Zika Virus or help with mosquito control.
Republican Platform Blames Obama For Results Of Obstruction
With the economy right where Republicans wanted it, their 2016 (draft) platform proposes “solutions.” The section “Rebuilding the Economy and Creating Jobs” begins with an anti-government screed: “Government cannot create prosperity, though government can limit or destroy it.”
It calls for a “pro-growth tax code.” This is codespeak for “tax cuts for the rich,” also known as “trickle-down economics.” The idea is that you redistribute society’s money to a few at the top, and they will use the money to give jobs to the peasants. But after Bill Clinton raised taxes the economy boomed, and after ‘W’ Bush cut taxes the economy tanked. Really tanked. Now Republicans want to do more of that. Go figure.
A 2012 study by the Congressional Research Service, titled “Taxes and the Economy: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945,” looked at the history of tax cuts and economic growth and concluded, “Analysis of such data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.”
Repeat: Cutting top tax rates does not increase growth, but does increase inequality. Also known as “look around you at what has happened since Reagan.”
Then the platform calls for “A Competitive America.” By “competitive” they do not mean reducing the power of monopolies or breaking up the big banks. No, it calls for reducing high corporate tax rates and “regulatory burdens and uncertainty.” On top of that, it calls for a territorial” corporate tax system so corporations that move jobs, production and profit centers out of the country won’t have to pay any taxes at all. On top of that, Trump has called for letting corporations off the hook with an extremely low tax rate on “deferred” taxes on profits held in offshore subsidiaries. Corporations owe more than $620 billion in taxes on these profits, but would get to keep most of that. What about honest corporations that didn’t dodge their taxes using offshore subsidiary schemes? Too bad for them. And the government? It might be owed $620 billion-plus. But too bad, the Wall Street shareholders get to keep it.
Next up, “A Winning Trade Policy.” It’s hard to argue with this entire section that begins, “International trade is crucial for all sectors of America’s economy. Massive trade deficits are not.” The platform calls for trade agreements that protect U.S. interests and U.S. sovereignty and tough enforcement of violations of existing agreements, saying, “we cannot allow foreign governments to limit American access to their markets while stealing our designs, patents, brands, know-how, and technology. We cannot allow China to continue its currency manipulation, exclusion of U.S. products from government purchases, and subsidization of Chinese companies to thwart American imports.” It calls for transparently negotiated agreements in the interests of American workers.
Then a section sponsored by Wall Street, “Freeing Financial Markets.” It blames the 2008 crash on “the government’s own housing policies.” It demands repeal of the Dodd-Frank law regulating Wall Street, and abolishing the “dictatorial” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which protects consumers from financial fraud. (Trump has said he would “absolutely” repeal Dodd-Frank. Of course, he said that last year at the same time he said the economy was going to “burst”… which didn’t happen.)
What passes for housing policy calls for “a comprehensive review of federal regulations, especially those dealing with the environment, that make it harder and more costly for Americans to rent, buy, or sell homes.”
In “America on the Move” the platform calls for an end to mass transit programs and “repeal of the Davis-Bacon law, which limits employment and drives up construction and maintenance costs for the benefit of unions.” It calls for public-private partnerships (privatization) as a means to fix roads and bridges. It calls for privatization of Amtrak and ending federal support for high-speed rail. It calls for getting rid of unions in the Transportation Security Administration.
The platform calls for a return to “a metallic basis for U.S. currency.”
It calls for getting rid of laws that protect workers’ right to join unions, saying unions “limit workers’ freedom and lock them into the workplace rules of their great grandfathers.” It calls on states to enact Right-to-Work laws. It calls for eliminating the federal minimum wage.
Finally the platform elsewhere calls for just abolishing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Note – the only mention of manufacturing in the entire Republican platform is part of its complaint that unions are “designed to fit a manufacturing workplace” which is representative of a “1930s economy” of the past. (Unless you count an NRA-sponsored line condemning lawsuits against gun manufacturers.)
If You Want To Really Make America Work Again
Americans for Tax Fairness says:
“Congress should make U.S. corporations pay the $700 billion they owe in taxes on their $2.4 trillion in profits stashed offshore.
That kind of revenue would help us invest in our country’s future – creating economic opportunity for all of us and millions of good-paying jobs by improving schools, making college affordable, rebuilding crumbling roads and bridges, building a green energy economy, researching new medical cures and so much more!”
House Speaker Paul Ryan in an NPR interview Monday acknowledged that the poor are victims of our economic system. The interview sounds reasonable, almost soothing, until you examine what Ryan is really saying.
After acknowledging that poverty is systemic, he turns around and blames the poor themselves as being personally – even morally – responsible for being poor. He implies the poor are just lazy. He cited addiction, lack of skills, and, of course, government handouts as the real causes of poverty. He said raising the minimum wage would not help. His soothing-sounding words are actually quite radical and extreme.
Ryan was interviewed on Monday’s NPR’s Morning Edition by Steve Inskeep about his ideas on helping people get out of poverty.
When asked about people born into poverty who can’t get out of poverty, Ryan responds “That’s right … you go look at the country and the conditions, you’re just as likely to stay poor today as you were if you were born into poverty 50 years ago. … There are people out there fighting poverty … that do well, succeed but for government I think in many cases they could do more.”
Q: You’ve argued that welfare “is keeping people away from work, it disincentives work.”
Ryan: “Right. Yeah.”
Q: Do you want to cut welfare?
Ryan: “The smarter thing to do is to customize a benefit to a person’s particular needs. … Maybe this person needs addiction counseling, or maybe she needs a GED or transportation or something. You customize the benefits for her particular needs with the proper accountability.”
Asked about low minimum wages keeping people in poverty, Ryan rejects raising the minimum wage as a “one-size-fits-all solution.” Inskeep asks, “Why not do something that raises wages?”
Ryan: “Well, skills. I think when you raise the minimum wage … you’ll lose over a million jobs … So you don’t want to take away those entry-level jobs that give people hard and soft skills they need just to learn how to do work. Every person has a different problem, sometimes a person has an even deeper problem like addiction or something like that.”
What Ryan Is Saying
Ryan begins by acknowledging that the “country and the conditions” are what is keeping people poor. He says if you “look at the country and the conditions, you’re just as likely to stay poor today as you were if you were born into poverty 50 years ago.” But then he says there are people who are fighting poverty whose efforts would succeed “but for the government”
Ryan then contradicts what he said about “the country and the conditions,” and blames the poor themselves for being poor. They don’t have skills, they don’t have an education, they are addicted, and they are so lazy that a little bit of “welfare” keeps them from looking for work. He says they need to “learn how to do work.”
Several states have bought in to this “blame-the-poor” mentality to the point where they require drug testing before a person can get assistance. Earlier this year Think Progress surveyed these programs and found that despite the cost of this drug testing, several states did not find even one person testing positive. The national total was 321 positive tests, out of the millions in circumstances where they need help.
So why does Ryan bring up “addiction” when talking about poverty? For the same reason he talks about government and “welfare” causing people to not bother to look for work or even “learn how to do work.” These kinds of words point the finger at people for personal, moral failings, and contribute to a story that the poor are really just bad people who do not deserve our assistance.
Ryan also implies that people in poverty are lazy, saying “welfare” is “keeping people away from work.” But because of the decrease in the purchasing power of the minimum wage, many working people, even those working in full-time jobs, make so little that they qualify for “food stamps” and other government aid.
This chart, “Share of workers receiving public assistance for the poor, by industry” from The Washington Post Wonkblog report, “When work isn’t enough to keep you off welfare and food stamps,” tells the story:
“Share of workers in each field who rely on at least one program among Medicaid/CHIP, TANF, the EITC or food stamps. UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education”
According to the Wonkblog report, “The problem, according to this picture, isn’t that poor people won’t work — it’s that the work they do can’t sustain them.”
Ryan also says “when you raise the minimum wage … you’ll lose over a million jobs.” But a National Employment Law Project (NELP) report from May, titled “Raise Wages, Kill Jobs? Seven Decades of Historical Data Find No Correlation Between Minimum Wage Increases and Employment Levels,” found that,
The results were clear: these basic economic indicators show no correlation between federal minimum-wage increases and lower employment levels, even in the industries that are most impacted by higher minimum wages. To the contrary, in the substantial majority of instances (68 percent) overall employment increased after a federal minimum-wage increase.
So raising the minimum wage, giving working people more money to spend in local stores, not only doesn’t kill jobs but increases demand in the economy enough that it might actually cause those stores to hire people. Who could have predicted?
Plus, never mind that increasing the minimum wage to a “living wage” level would end the need for public assistance for millions of people.
Note that “welfare” as Ryan and Republicans describe it – giving cash to people who don’t work – ended with the 1996 “welfare reform”. Today people – overwhelmingly single mothers with children – can get minimal temporary cash assistance, minimal food assistance and health care. Some can get housing subsidies and a few other forms of aid.
The results of the 1996 experiment of ending “welfare” have not been good. Studies show it has “failed,” had a “negative impact,” has “shortened lives,” led to “less education,” and “created a system rife with racial biases.”
Ryan is repeating the old “personal responsibility” language conservatives have developed to shift people’s thinking about government and democracy away from the idea that We the People are in this together, toward a selfish idea that we should all be on our own. Of course, this leaves individuals defenseless against the powerful forces of aggregated wealth and power.
Paul Ryan, like many Republicans, is an admirer of Ayn Rand, who taught that society consists of a few “producers” and lots of “looters” and “parasites.” Rand taught that democracy is a “statist” “collectivism” of those parasitic looters, that it is wrong for people to help other people, altruism is evil and government is “monstrously evil,” “the political expression of altruism.”
Ryan’s words on “welfare” fit right into this radical, extreme framework, but in a more soothing-sounding way.
“Comparative advantage.” It used to mean that one region can grow bananas, another region can grow cotton. So they trade, and both regions can have cotton AND bananas. That is not what the term means today. Now it means low wages and lack of environmental protection.
In the US we (used to) have democracy. When people get to say what they want, they say they want good wages, good schools, good infrastructure, protect the environment, good courts, things like that. These of course cost money, but they money comes from the advanced business environment supported by good schools and infrastructure… So the prosperity from businesses growing due to good infrastructure and schools and courts etc is the fruit of democracy.
In places without democracy people are told they can’t have those things so wages are low and there is no cost to protect the environment.
If we let companies just close factories here and open them there and bring the same goods back to sell in the same stores, what we have done is made democracy a “comparative disadvantage.” “Free trade” lets those companies escape the costs of good wages and protecting the environment while still enjoying open access to the good market that democracy had created.
“Free trade” turns democracy into a comparative and competitive disadvantage. Over time it erodes the tax base that gave us good schools and infrastructure — the fertile soil in which businesses can grow. Also known as “look around you.”
Is that really what we want?
Some people say that the Democratic Party doesn’t really stand for anything. Sen. Bernie Sanders pushed and pushed as a Democratic presidential candidate, and has achieved results that could change that.
The 2016 Democratic Party platform is a very progressive policy outline. It isn’t everything a Sanders supporter would want, but it does have a lot, and it offers an outline for a lot more progress than the country has seen in a very long time.
But a lot of critics are saying things like “So what?” “It’s just a piece of paper.” “No one reads it after the convention.” Meanwhile, much of the public believes that politicians only say what they need to say just to get elected and will betray them as soon as they take office.
There is a path to fixing this.
A Strong Progressive Platform
The draft of the 2016 Democratic Party Platform is surprisingly progressive. Robert Borosage wrote Monday, in “The Democratic Party Platform: Progress and Resistance“:
The platform incorporates Sanders’ language and push on a range of issues – electoral reform (where Clinton’s platform was also strong); criminal justice reform, including prohibition of the death penalty and an end to private prisons; shackling Wall Street, including a financial transaction tax and a pledge to break up too-big-to-fail banks and pass a 21st-century Glass-Steagall Act.
This weekend, the platform committee adopted a commitment to a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage. Clinton’s new pledge to make in-state public colleges and universities tuition-free for those earning less than $125,000 and her concessions on health care – doubling spending on community health centers, allowing those over 55 to buy into Medicare, an expanded public option in Obamacare – will be written into the platform. The platform also endorsed expanding Social Security, even though it voted down a pledge to lift the cap on Social Security taxes.
These and other pledges led Clinton and Democratic National Committee spokespeople to spin the platform as the most progressive document in the party’s history.
Katrina vanden Heuvel lists the progressive accomplishments in the platform at The Washington Post:
Candidates are not bound to the party platform. Yet the platform is important as a measure of where the party assembled stands. For citizen movements in motion, the platform can provide an important measure to challenge Democratic Party candidates and state and local officials.
Concluding, she writes, “The ‘political revolution’ hasn’t been won yet, but there has been real progress.”
But you hear people say the platform is meaningless.
Enforce The Platform
Look at what we have here:
● A political party that people say doesn’t “stand for” anything.
● A cynical public that believes candidates make promises to get elected and then go back on those promises.
● A progressive movement that has organized and activated millions of people, building some real clout.
● A party platform that attacks many of the problems of the country in ways that will make all of us and the economy and the country and the political system better off if it is implemented.
What if … what if our progressive movement ties those elements together? What if progressives keep this platform from being just another meaningless piece of paper? What if progressives work to make the platform actually mean something after the election?
Make Them Do It
What if progressives work to enforce the platform after the election? What if progressive organizations and activists organize and rally people to support Democrats who honor the platform and to make political life unpleasant and untenable for those who go against the platform?
Progressives should make politicians actually stick to the platform. This would make the platform actually stand for something that the party could present the public and say “this is what we stand for and what we will do if you elect us.” This would fight public cynicism about politicians and parties. This would turn this platform into an organizing tool that merges our outside movement with elections and policy.
All of us suffer consequences when corporations cheat. Silicon Valley’s tech companies make a lot of money, but many of them dodge paying taxes. San Francisco is going to try to do something about it. Three supervisors are proposing that the city tax tech companies to help pay the costs these companies impose on the city.
Silicon Valley housing costs have skyrocketed thanks to the high salaries and stock options tech companies pay to attract skilled workers. In San Francisco and much of the area, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is over $3,500. The median home sells for over $1 million. This has pushed many long-term residents to the edge of or even into, homelessness.
San Francisco is a mecca for young, affluent tech workers. In some areas of San Francisco the streets are lines with sidewalk restaurants, brewpubs, great shops, all the things that make an urban environment a fun place to be. In other parts of the city the streets are literally lined with homeless people, many pushed out by the lack of housing that people making only double or triple the national median income can afford.
Three supervisors have proposed a ballot proposal to approve a 1.5 percent payroll tax on “tech companies” with more than one million dollars in gross revenue. This would raise around $115 million annually for the city, which would go to homelessness programs and affordable housing projects. Also in the proposal as many as 75,000 small businesses would have their business registration fee cut in half.
Thomas Fuller Reports in The New York Times, in “San Francisco Considers Tax on Tech Companies to Pay for Boom’s Downside“:
Eric Mar, a member of the city’s Board of Supervisors, announced the proposal last week for a 1.5 percent payroll tax that would serve as a form of indemnification for what he described as the downside of the technology boom.
Tech companies have been “a tremendous benefit to the city in many ways,” Mr. Mar said. “But I don’t think they’ve been paying their fair share.”
The proposal for what has become known as the tech tax comes as officials struggle to fill growing gaps in the city budget. Money from the tech tax would go toward paying for programs for the homeless and the housing “affordability crisis,” Mr. Mar said.
Opponents say it is hard to define what a “tech company” is. But according to SFGate’s Emily Green:
The measure identifies tech companies by the type of tax code they use under the Internal Revenue Service’s North American Industry Classification System. Companies classify themselves. They may face penalties if a government audit finds they are misidentifying themselves.
Community Groups Back Tax
The community groups backing the tax include:
Causa Justa/Just Cause, “a multiracial, grassroots organization building community leadership to achieve justice for low-income San Francisco and Oakland residents. … [W]e are a force for justice and unity among Black and Brown communities. … We provide tenant rights advocacy and information to tenants through our Housing Committee/Tenants’ Rights Clinic. We build our membership through recruitment in the tenants’ rights clinics and through neighborhood door knocking and outreach. We fight grassroots campaigns to win immigrant rights and housing rights and work toward building a larger movement for social transformation.
San Francisco Rising, which organizes “in African-American, Latino and Asian/Pacific Islander communities in San Francisco. … [T]he members of SFR seek to build a new, community-based political infrastructure and to make lasting change on a broad set of issues impacting their communities.”
Jobs with Justice, which “believes that all workers should have collective bargaining rights, employment security and a decent standard of living within an economy that works for everyone. We bring together labor, community, student, and faith voices at the national and local levels to win improvements in people’s lives and shape the public discourse on workers’ rights and the economy.”
The Coalition on Homelessness “brings together homeless folks, front-line service providers, and their allies to build a San Francisco that everyone can call home. We are working every day to expand access to housing in one of the richest cities in the country, protect the rights of the poorest people on our streets, and to address the root causes of homelessness and poverty.”
Tax-Dodging And Extortion
Many of the giant tech companies use various schemes to dodge paying their taxes. Apple, for example, pretends that an Irish subsidiary owns the “intellectual property” behind the company’s products, and this subsidiary charges high fees, so Apple’s profits are in Ireland. This enables Apple to dodge paying U.S. taxes. Apple also pretends that it is based in a mailbox in Nevada to avoid paying corporate taxes in California. Google, for example, notoriously makes billions of dollars of profits in low-population Bermuda.
On top of tax dodging, tech (and other) companies often extort local tax breaks. Twitter, for example, extorted millions in tax breaks from San Francisco by threatening to leave the city. SFGate explains Twitter’s tax break, in “Companies avoid $34M in city taxes thanks to ‘Twitter tax break’,”
Businesses in San Francisco’s Mid-Market district skirted nearly $34 million in city payroll taxes last year thanks to a controversial incentive program known as the “Twitter tax break” intended to keep tech firms from fleeing for Silicon Valley.
That sum, published in a report released Monday by the San Francisco Controller’s Office, increased by about $30 million from 2013 and is five times greater than the amount of taxes companies avoided in the two previous years combined.
The aforementioned New York Times report explained what Twitter did to get this: “Twitter received the tax breaks after threatening to leave the city, creating resentment among tech companies in other parts of the city that did not get such incentives.”
Opponents are also using extortion to fight the proposed “tech tax,” calling it a “job-killer.” They say the small payroll tax will cause companies to pack up and leave the city so the city has to give in (a.k.a extortion). But the reality is these companies are desperate to bring in tech-skilled employees. So tech companies offer many perks to attract tech-trained employees. Aside from very high pay, employees get free lunches, snacks and beverages. At many companies even dinner is free. They get child care. They get stock options and generous benefit packages. Some even offer backrubs and yoga classes.
One of the biggest perks a tech company can offer is being located in San Francisco itself, instead of having to use their private bus network to bring employees from San Francisco.
Private bus networks? What? The February 2015 post, “Tax Scams, Google Buses Mean Silicon Valley Is #StuckInTraffic” explained:
The traffic in Silicon Valley is absolutely terrible. We the People sit in traffic, with few alternatives. The Caltrain line that runs between San Jose and San Francisco is standing room only during the hours people are trying to get to work. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) rail system doesn’t go where it needs to go, and its parking lots are full where there are stations further north. Light rail is limited. The bus system is a few buses on a few of the main roads.
… But companies like Google, Facebook, Apple and others have built their own private bus lines. These are mostly shiny, white luxury buses that bring employees to work and take them home. Locally, we call them all “Google Buses.” There have even been protests because these buses bring affluent tech employees up to San Francisco neighborhoods, causing rents to soar.
There’s a relationship between those “Google Buses” and the rest of us sitting still, stuck in traffic.
Why can’t we afford to maintain our 1970s-level public transportation system? (Never mind bringing it into the 21st century.) Where did the money go? You’ve heard about companies like Apple using schemes and scams like the “Double-Irish With a Dutch Sandwich” to dodge paying taxes. Remember when an Apple executive said to The New York Times that these tax scams are just fine, because giant multinationals “don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems.”
Commuters sit in traffic jams because tax-dodging corporations are not helping pay for transportation options. Meanwhile those companies use their tax-dodger money for beautiful, modern private transportation “Google bus” systems for themselves. They extort tax breaks. They externalize problems onto communities and offer little help – because giant multinationals “don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems.”
This proposal needs six of the eleven members of the Board of Supervisors to get on the November ballot, which is unlikely. The measure singles out “tech” companies and not others, and only those based in San Francisco. Giant companies like Facebook, Google, Apple and others are not based in San Francisco, but they deliver their high-paid employees to San Francisco’s housing market in their private bus networks.
This modest, local tax is not likely to pass, but should serve as a warning shot to giant companies – whether defined as tech companies or not – that people and communities are more than fed up with their tax dodging and their ducking responsibility for their practices.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is likely to come up for a vote in the “lame-duck” session of Congress that follows the November presidential election. Will the Democratic Party vote to put the platform on record against this, or will corporate interests win out yet again? This is an either-or, whose-side-are-you-on moment that will define the election campaign.
If the Democratic National Committee does not put TPP opposition into the platform it will lead to a public, televised convention floor fight.
Will The Democratic Party Platform Oppose A Lame Duck TPP Vote?
This weekend the full Democratic platform drafting committee meets in Orlando. Delegates will be debating an amendment offered by columnist and progressive activist Jim Hightower, a Sanders delegate, putting the party on record opposing a vote on the TPP during the “lame-duck” session of Congress that follows the election.
The amendment calls for striking platform language that effectively blesses Democrats who “have expressed support for the agreement” and replaces it with this: “It is the policy of the Democratic Party that the Trans-Pacific Partnership must not get a vote in this Congress or in future sessions of Congress.”
Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have all announced opposition to a TPP vote in the lame-duck session, but Wall Street interests, corporate groups like the Chamber of Commerce, many Republicans – and, unfortunately, President Obama – are pushing for this anyway.
Despite statements of opposition to the TPP from both Clinton and Sanders, a subset of the committee recently voted down the proposal to oppose the TPP. A majority of delegates (all Clinton backers) expressed concern that this would bring the party in opposition to President Obama.
If the committee does not put this into the platform this weekend, there will be enough convention delegates opposing the TPP to guarantee a “floor fight” – a televised debate and a vote – over this at the convention. The outcome is fairly certain because all Sanders delegates support this amendment, and it is almost unthinkable that Clinton delegates will vote against Clinton’s own stated opposition to the TPP.
Progressive Coalitions Deliver Petitions To Pelosi, Platform Committee
A coalition of progressive organizations on Thursday delivered hundreds of thousands of petition signatures asking House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to declare her opposition to a lame-duck TPP vote. The coalition includes organizations ranging from Campaign for America’s Future to People’s Action to MoveOn to CREDO to Daily Kos and Demand Progress.
On Friday, another coalition will deliver more than a million signatures to the platform committee itself, demanding that it add an amendment opposing a lame-duck TPP vote.
The coalition hosted a Thursday press call featuring radio and TV personality Ed Schultz. Shultz began the call, saying this is about support of middle-class families in this country. He said there has never been a more damaging trade agreement than the TPP. Speaking to the platform committee, he said, “If you are for American families and want to correct course of inequality you have to oppose this deal. … This is not about Obama’s legacy, this is about American families that are struggling.”
Also on the call, Murshed Zaheed, vice president and political director of CREDO said that its members have signed over 1 million petitions to stop the TPP, and have made over 50,000 calls. “There’s a reason every major presidential candidate opposes TPP,” he said. “TPP is an undemocratic corporate power grab.”
“This also a political battle,” said Campaign for America’s Future co-founder Roger Hickey. “Tomorrow we are hoping that members of the Democratic platform committee will amend the platform and put the Democratic Party clearly on record against a lame-duck vote. … Without this, it allows Donald Trump to continue to say Democrats are not serious.”
A Lame Duck TPP Vote Insults Democracy
The “lame duck” is a term used for the Congressional session between the election and the next Congress. People who follow politics understand that political accountability to constituents is at its absolute lowest at this time. Senators and representatives who have been voted out (many for supporting the TPP) and are looking for lobbying jobs, and those who were re-elected with corporate money and need to repay their donors, will be voting. Members who were elected because of their opposition to the TPP will not yet be sworn in and voting. This all happens two years before there is any chance for the public to hold members of Congress accountable.
With the TPP enormously unpopular, with candidates Clinton, Trump and Sanders all opposed, with 83 percent of Democrats in Congress voting against fast-tracking the trade agreement last year, the lame-duck Congressional session is the best chance for corporate interests to push TPP around the interests of democracy. So they are going to try to do exactly that.
The recent post, The TPP “Lame Duck” Push Insults Democracy, pleaded:
Leaders should care deeply about the will of the public, not scheme to subvert it. This push for a vote on TPP after the election is an insult to democracy. It is an insult to our economy. It is an insult to the candidates. It is an insult to voters. Don’t do it.
Whose Side Are They On?
It is clearly time for Democrats to decide and declare whether they are on the side of working people and the American middle class, or on the side of Wall Street, giant multinational corporations, the Chamber of Commerce and other corporate lobbying interests. They have to decide if they are on the side of the 99 percent 1 percent. They have to decide if they are on the side of protecting the environment or protecting corporate profits.
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have said they oppose the TPP. The Democratic Party platform should reflect this and go on the record that Democrats oppose a rigged “lame-duck” vote.
Donald Trump is selling himself as the champion of working-class voters. He says Democrats and their presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, are selling them out with trade deals. But Trump is just a fraud.
Unfortunately, President Obama is pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and Clinton is not confronting him for doing so.
That has to change – fast. Clinton must publicly, directly and loudly challenge President Obama and demand that he withdraw TPP from consideration by Congress.
Trump’s Trade Speech
Trump’s speech on trade and “globalization” issues attempted to frame Clinton and Democrats as being on the side of the “Wall Street” forces that have pushed low-wage policies on working-class Americans. He is using the upcoming and hated TPP being pushed by President Obama as an example of this, saying Clinton is only “pretending” to oppose TPP in order to get votes.
From the speech:
The legacy of Pennsylvania steelworkers lives in the bridges, railways and skyscrapers that make up our great American landscape.
But our workers’ loyalty was repaid with betrayal.
Our politicians have aggressively pursued a policy of globalization — moving our jobs, our wealth and our factories to Mexico and overseas.
Globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very wealthy. But it has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache.
[. . .] The people who rigged the system are supporting Hillary Clinton because they know as long as she is in charge nothing will ever change.
In Trump’s usage, the words “trade” and “globalization” mean one and only one thing: moving American jobs and factories to low-wage countries. This movement of jobs in recent decades, pitting American workers against exploited workers who are paid squat and can’t do anything about it, has been used as one lever to intentionally create unemployment, break the unions and force down wages. (Inflation panic leading to Federal Reserve interest rate increases, deficit scares leading to austerity — especially the refusal to spend on infrastructure – and obstruction leading to minimum wage stagnation are others.)
Trump is appealing to disaffected working class workers who used to vote Democratic, but have seen their jobs shipped out of the country and/or their wages cut or stagnate. These workers see Democrats as complicit in adopting free-trade deindustrialization policies. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), pushed and signed by President Clinton, has become a catchall symbol of this disaffection with free-trade policies, but Democrats are generally seen as having done little to fight such policies.
President Obama contributed to the problem by campaigning with a promise to renegotiate NAFTA, then reneging on this promise once elected.
Trump also went after the Chamber of Commerce for their TPP support, implying they back Clinton. The New York Times reports:
Pressing his staunch opposition to trade deals, Donald J. Trump escalated his attacks on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, saying it was “totally controlled by the special interest groups.”
“They’re a special interest that wants to have the deals that they want to have,” he told a packed arena at a rally here, to whoops and cheers. “They want to have T.P.P., the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the worst deals, and it’ll be the worst deal since NAFTA.”
[. . .] saying the Chamber was “controlled totally by various groups of people that don’t care about you whatsoever.”
Obama Pushing TPP As Election Nears
Clinton has said she is opposed to TPP, and opposed to letting TPP come up for a vote in the “lame duck” session of Congress that follows the election. But as Trump makes trade a centerpiece of his campaign, her opposition and trade focus has not been particularly vocal. She has not asked Democrats in Congress to oppose the TPP, and thanks to past Democratic betrayals many in the public just do not believe her.
Unfortunately, as the election nears, President Obama is pushing and pushing hard to get the TPP passed. Doing this directly conflicts with Clinton’s need to show that Democrats are on the side of working people and provides Trump with powerful ammunition.
Making matters worse, efforts to write TPP opposition into the Democratic Party platform were voted down – by Clinton delegates. Unlike Trump, Democrats do not appear to understand how much this matters to voters.
The recent “Brexit” vote should serve as a warning to Democrats to take issues like this more seriously. Working-class voters in the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU) for reasons similar to the appeal Trump is making to working-class voters here.
Analyzing the “Leave” vote in “A Working-Class Brexit,” University of Kent Professor Tim Strangleman writes the following. As you read it, substitute “Democrats” for “Labour”, “Bill Clinton” for “Blair”, “elites supporting free trade agreements” for “remain”, “anti-TPP” for “leave” and “Trump” for “UKIP”:
Resignation, despair, and political apathy have been present in many former industrial regions since the wholesale deindustrialisation of the … economy in the 1980s and 1990s. The election of the Blair-led Labour administration … masked the anger felt in these areas as traditional labour supporters and their needs were often ignored, while traditional Labour supporters were used as voting fodder. Over the … years of Labour power, that support ebbed away, first as a simple decline in votes, but gradually turning into active hostility to the Labour party. Many embraced the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
…for unskilled workers with only a secondary school education, three decades or more of neo-liberalism has left deep scars socially, politically, and culturally, with little hope or expectation that anything would change for the better.
This opposition, so skillfully drawn on by the leave campaign, is in part a working class reaction not only to six years of austerity but also to a long and deep-seated sense of injustice and marginalisation. Most of the remain side, which was a cross party grouping, didn’t seem to understand this before the referendum and, even more depressingly, doesn’t seem to understand it fully now. A stock characterisation of working-class people who intended to vote leave was to label them as unable understanding the issues, easily manipulated, or worse, racist ‘little Englanders’.
Doesn’t this sound just like the working-class voters in places like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania and other “deindustrialized” parts of the country? These voters used to reliably vote for Democrats, the party that watched out for working people. Donald Trump is appealing directly to these voters. Democrats should not dismiss these voters as “ignorant” or “racist.”
Trump Is A Fraud On Trade
The Economic Policy Institute’s (EPI) Robert Scott, speaking to VICE, summed up why Trump only appears to have the correct analysis on trade:
“Like a drive-by shooting, he fires enough bullets, he’s going to hit some things that might look like a policy that works,” Scott told VICE. “But it doesn’t have a coherence.”
“The problem with NAFTA is that we failed to effectively help Mexico develop as part of the agreement,” Scott continued. A good model, he said, was what wealthier European nations did for their neighbors like Greece and Spain decades ago, pumping money into their economies to create new markets for goods, thus making a Pan-European economy possible.
“We could create such a vision and implement a truly united North American economy that worked for everybody but nobody’s put that on the table,” he said. “Certainly Trump is not talking about that—he’s talking about building walls.”
EPI’s president Lawrence Mishel goes further, pointing out who got us into this mess:
It’s true that the way we have undertaken globalization has hurt the vast majority of working people in this country—a view that EPI has been articulating for years, and that we will continue to articulate well after November. However, Trump’s speech makes it seem as if globalization is solely responsible for wage suppression, and that elite Democrats are solely responsible for globalization. Missing from his tale is the role of corporations and their allies have played in pushing this agenda, and the role the party he leads has played in implementing it. After all, NAFTA never would have passed without GOP votes, as two-thirds of the House Democrats opposed it.
Republican efforts to drive wages down are the real culprit here:
Furthermore, Trump has heretofore ignored the many other intentional policies that businesses and the top 1 percent have pushed to suppress wages over the last four decades. Start with excessive unemployment due to Federal Reserve Board policies which were antagonistic to wage growth and friendly to the finance sector and bondholders. Excessive unemployment leads to less wage growth, especially for low- and middle-wage workers. Add in government austerity at the federal and state levels—which has mostly been pushed by GOP governors and legislatures—that has impeded the recovery and stunted wage growth. There’s also the decimation of collective bargaining, which is the single largest reason that middle class wages have faltered. Meanwhile, the minimum wage is now more than 25 percent below its 1968 level, even though productivity since then has more than doubled. Phasing in a $15 minimum wage would lift wages for at least a third of the workforce. The most recent example is the effort to overturn the recent raising of the overtime threshold that would help more than 12 million middle-wage salaried workers obtain overtime protections.
Trump in his “trade” speech also called for getting rid of corporate taxes and getting rid of regulations on corporations. He also opposes having any minimum wage at all. Trump and the Republicans are hardly friends of working people.
Opposing TPP Must Be In The Democratic Platform
British elites were surprised when working-class voters decided to “Brexit” and “Leave” the EU. They had been more-or-less complacent about the anger that working people are feeling out there as jobs leave the country, wages are stagnant or falling, work hours get longer for those who have jobs, and the rich just get richer.
Voting against opposition to TPP in the Democratic platform shows that Democrats appear to have the same complacency on trade.
Democrats must get this right. They have to stand up for working people and demand that our trade policies start helping people instead of hurting them. That starts with Clinton demanding that the president withdraw TPP from consideration by Congress.
Clinton must pledge to renegotiate all of our trade agreements, this time with labor, environmental, consumer, human rights and other “stakeholder” groups at the table. This is the best way to show the public that she is on their side.
Here are ways to help Democrats get to the right place on this, and put TPP opposition in the platform:
● Keith Ellison via Democracy for America: Will you sign my petition to the DNC’s Platform Committee and join me and DFA in asking them to adopt an anti-TPP amendment when the full committee meets in Orlando on July 8-9?
Also see Bill Scher, “Trump is a William McKinley Protectionist, Not a Bernie Sanders Populist.”
From The Democracy Initiative:
During the weekend of June 17-18th, the Democracy Initiative attended the Platform Drafting Committee for the Democratic Party and spoke on the subject of protecting and expanding our democracy. Members of the DI went to Phoenix, Arizona to provide testimony on the importance of voting rights and money in politics.
This just in from Nicole Sandler:
As you may or may not know, I’ve partnered up with Randi Rhodes to get her back on the air and build a new media empire! We’ve been in the process of building out new studios in Delray Beach, and we’re not shooting for a 6/13 launch day.
With the move to the new studios comes a new website (in production) – I’ll be at nicolesandler.com, Randi will be based at randirhodes.com – though we’ll be linked and will soon have more exciting distribution news to share.
I’ll also be moving the time of my show. I know those of you on the west coast will be disappointed to hear that I’m moving to a more reasonable 2-4pm Eastern/ 11am-1pm Pacific.