Elites Discover So-Called “Free-Trade” Is Killing Economy, Middle Class

The New York Times editorial board finally gets it right about trade in its Sunday editorial, “This Time, Get Global Trade Right.” Some excerpts:

Many Americans have watched their neighbors lose good-paying jobs as their employers sent their livelihoods to China. Over the last 20 years, the United States has lost nearly five million manufacturing jobs.

People in the Midwest, the “rust belt” and elsewhere noticed this a long time ago as people were laid off, “the plant” closed, the downtowns slowly boarded up and the rest of us felt pressure on wages and working hours. How many towns — entire regions of the country — are like this now? Have you even seen Detroit?

“This page has long argued that removing barriers to trade benefits the economy and consumers, and some of those gains can be used to help the minority of people who lose their jobs because of increased imports,” the editors write. “But those gains have not been as widespread as we hoped, and they have not been adequate to assist those who were harmed.”

So acknowledging that our trade deals have hurt the country, they say maybe we could try to do it right with coming agreements. They write:

If done right, these agreements could improve the ground rules of global trade, as even critics of Nafta like Representative Sander Levin, Democrat of Michigan, have argued. They could reduce abuses like sweatshop labor, currency manipulation and the senseless destruction of forests. They could weaken protectionism against American goods and services in countries like Japan, which have sheltered such industries as agriculture and automobiles.

They write that one problem is that these agreements are negotiated of, by and for the giant corporations:

One of the biggest fears of lawmakers and public interest groups is that only a few insiders know what is in these trade agreements, particularly the Pacific pact.

The Obama administration has revealed so few details about the negotiations, even to members of Congress and their staffs, that it is impossible to fully analyze the Pacific partnership. Negotiators have argued that it’s impossible to conduct trade talks in public because opponents to the deal would try to derail them.

But the administration’s rationale for secrecy seems to apply only to the public. Big corporations are playing an active role in shaping the American position because they are on industry advisory committees to the United States trade representative, Michael Froman. By contrast, public interest groups have seats on only a handful of committees that negotiators do not consult closely.

The current trade-negotiation process is a system designed to rig the game for the giant multinationals against everyone else:

That lopsided influence is dangerous, because companies are using trade agreements to get special benefits that they would find much more difficult to get through the standard legislative process. For example, draft chapters from the Pacific agreement that have been leaked in recent months reveal that most countries involved in the talks, except the United States, do not want the agreement to include enforceable environmental standards. Business interests in the United States, which would benefit from weaker rules by placing their operations in countries with lower protections, have aligned themselves with the position of foreign governments. Another chapter, on intellectual property, is said to contain language favorable to the pharmaceutical industry that could make it harder for poor people in countries like Peru to get generic medicines.

These trade agreements place corporate rights over national sovereignty:

Another big issue is whether these trade agreements will give investors unnecessary power to sue foreign governments over policies they dislike, including health and environmental regulations. Philip Morris, for example, is trying to overturn Australian rules that require cigarette packs to be sold only in plain packaging. If these treaties are written too loosely, big banks could use them to challenge new financial regulations or, perhaps, block European lawmakers from enacting a financial-transaction tax.

And they’re asking, like the rest of us are asking, why in the world won’t they do something about currency?

It’s easy to point the finger at Nafta and other trade agreements for job losses, but there is a far bigger culprit: currency manipulation. A 2012 paper from the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that the American trade deficit has increased by up to $500 billion a year and the country has lost up to five million jobs because China, South Korea, Malaysia and other countries have boosted their exports by suppressing the value of their currency.

What So-Called “Free Trade” Agreements Did To The Economy

A trade deficit means that we buy more from the rest of the world than we sell to it. This means that jobs making and doing things here migrate to there. Before the mid-70s the United States ran generally balanced trade, with a bias toward surplus. Look at this chart to see what happened, beginning in the ’80s, and then … wham.

Now we have an enormous, humongous, ongoing trade deficit that over the years has added up to trillions and trillions of dollars drained from our economy. We have lost millions and millions of jobs as tens of thousands of factories closed. We have lost entire industries. We are losing our entire middle class to the resulting wage stagnation and inequality.

Here is what happened when the trade deficit took off. First, look at this chart of the “decoupling” of wages with productivity. In other words, as productivity goes up, what happens to the share of those gains that go to labor:

In case you don’t see the correlation, this chart shows both the trade deficit and labor’s share of the benefits of our economy:

Most people understand the damage that so-called “free trade” has done to the economy, much of our country and the middle class. Millions of people have outright lost their jobs because of corporate CEOs who conclude, “It’s cheaper to manufacture where they pay 50 cents an hour and let us pollute all we want.”

Many others have felt the resulting job fear: “If I so much as hint that I want a raise or weekends off they’ll move my job to China, too.” Entire regions have lost their economic base as factories and entire industries closed and moved.

But We Globalized And Expanded Trade

The basic pro-free-trade argument is that all trade is good and these agreements increase trade. NAFTA negotiator Carla Hills, defending NAFTA, says, “our trade with Mexico and Canada has soared 400 percent, and our investment is up fivefold.”

Of course, this is like proudly telling people that the Broncos scored 8 points in the 2014 Super Bowl*. (Hint: the Seahawks scored 43 points.)

Yes, trade is up and exports are up, but imports are up even more, which costs us jobs, factories and industries. What happened was NAFTA “expanded” trade against American workers and our economy, costing about a million jobs and increasing our trade deficit 480 percent. And don’t even ask what happened with our China trade. (Hint: our 2013 trade deficit with China was 318.4 billion dollars.)

How Would The N.Y. Times Fix Trade?

The Times editorial says we should “press countries to stop manipulating their currencies” and “the president also needs to make clear to America’s trading partners that they need to adhere to enforceable labor and environmental regulations.”

OK, but why would the giant multinationals participate? The point of the free-trade regime up to now has been to accomplish the opposite: to free the giants from the pesky laws and regulations imposed by governments, especially from labor and environmental regulations. The negotiations have been a rigged game designed to transfer the wealth of entire nations to a few billionaires (including Chinese billionaires) and giant, multinational corporations. It worked.

Meanwhile … In The L.A. Times

Meanwhile in the Los Angeles Times, representatives George Miller (D-Calif.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) have written an op-ed, “Free trade on steroids: The threat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” talk about NAFTA as a “model for additional agreements, and its deeply flawed approach has resulted in the outsourcing of jobs, downward pressure on wages and a meteoric rise in income inequality,” and ask us not to “blindly endorse any more unfair NAFTA-style trade agreements, negotiated behind closed doors, that threaten to sell out American workers, offshore our manufacturing sector and accelerate the downward spiral of wages and benefits.”

In 1993, before NAFTA, the U.S. had a $2.5-billion trade surplus with Mexico and a $29-billion deficit with Canada. By 2012, that had exploded into a combined NAFTA trade deficit of $181 billion. Since NAFTA, more than 845,000 U.S. workers in the manufacturing sector — and this is likely an undercount — have been certified under just one narrow program for trade adjustment assistance. They qualified because they lost their jobs due to increased imports from Canada and Mexico, or the relocation of factories to those nations.

The recent Korea free trade agreement followed the NAFTA model and the results have already proven terrible for American workers:

Obama said it would support “70,000 American jobs from increased goods exports alone.” In reality, U.S. monthly exports to South Korea fell 11% in the pact’s first two years, imports rose and the U.S. trade deficit exploded by 47%. This led to a net loss of tens of thousands of U.S. jobs in this pact’s first two years.

They conclude:

There are many things we can do to enhance our competitiveness with China and in the global economy.

We can invest in our own infrastructure, manufacturing and job training. We can work harder to address issues like currency manipulation, unfair subsidies for state-owned enterprises in other nations and global labor protections. We can enter deals that increase U.S. exports while doing right by our workers and our priorities, and we can address the real foreign policy challenges in Asia with appropriate policies instead of through a commercial agreement that could weaken the United States and its allies.

What we should not do is blindly endorse any more unfair NAFTA-style trade agreements, negotiated behind closed doors, that threaten to sell out American workers, offshore our manufacturing sector and accelerate the downward spiral of wages and benefits.

No New Trade Agreements, Instead Fix The Ones We Have

Of course, as we reach consensus that we got trade wrong, and realize how these “NAFTA-style” agreements have done so much damage to our economy and middle class, doesn’t this mean it is time to back up and renegotiate NAFTA and others?

*P.S. The 2014 Super Bowl started at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 2, 2014.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

Nullification, The Bundy Ranch And Right-Wing Lawlessness

Does the right get a free pass to ignore laws? Is armed intimidation the way we decide which laws should be followed? Is conservative media whipping up the conditions for another Oklahoma City bombing? These questions are popping up with more and more frequency in light of recent events.

Armed Militia At Bundy Ranch

Flag-waving Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy refuses to pay cattle-grazing fees like other ranchers do, or even get a grazing permit, because he “doesn’t recognize the federal government.” The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), following years of federal court rulings, finally starts removing Bundy’s cattle from public land. The state’s Republican governor and Republican senator accuse the government of “intimidation” for enforcing the court’s rulings.

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5 of the Worst Cities to Be a Renter Unless You’re Fabulously Wealthy

I have this up over at AlterNet: 5 of the Worst Cities to Be a Renter Unless You’re Fabulously Wealthy,

The housing market is supposedly recovering, yet the homeownership rate is dropping. Meanwhile rents in urban areas were already high but now are absolutely skyrocketing. What’s going on? As millions lost their homes many of the houses were and are being bought up by large investors. And what do these investors want? They want rent and lots of it. According to a NY Times report, In Many Cities, Rent Is Rising Out of Reach of Middle Class, “In December, Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan declared ‘the worst rental affordability crisis that this country has ever known.’ ”

Click through to read the rest.

More Yahoo Trouble

Recently in the post Avoid Yahoo I wrote about how Yahoo treats their customers. (Hint: terribly.)

I’m just trying to gain access to a control panel for a domain registered at Yahoo years ago. Yahoo “lost” the info about how to access it. This is done through Yahoo Small Business.

Emails get nowhere, and they ask you to call. But a call involves a promised wait of at least half an hour. I tried and gave up several times, including at 1am on a Saturday morning and again Sunday at that time.

So I gave up because of time, and am trying again. I have been holding 45 minutes so far.

Here’s the thing. THEY don’t know why I am calling, they just know that one of their “Small Business” customers needs help. 45 minute wait time SO FAR with no end in sight.

I’ll keep you posted, but obviously never, ever, ever do any kind of business with this company.

Update – been on hold for an hour now…

Update – 1 hour 7 min, reached a support rep. I ended up having to PAY YAHOO to get access to the control panel for this already-owned domain.

CEO Pay Soars As Worker Pay Stagnates

How’s your job going – if you even have one? The odds are very, very high that you haven’t seen a raise in a long time. Or maybe you were laid off and found a new job at half your old pay. They say this is the “new normal.”

Meanwhile, CEO pay just keeps climbing and climbing and climbing (and climbing and climbing and climbing and climbing and climbing and climbing). This inequality is destabilizing our economy.

Soaring CEO Pay

The AFL-CIO has released this year’s 2014 Executive PayWatch at www.PayWatch.org, a “comprehensive searchable online database tracking the excessive pay of CEOs of the nation’s largest companies.”

PayWatch.org offers workers the unique ability to compare their own pay to the pay of top executives. According to Executive PayWatch data, U.S. CEOs pocketed, on average, $11.7 million in 2013, compared to the average worker who earned $35,293. That means CEOs were paid 331 times that of the average worker. (CEO pay was 774 times the minimum wage.)

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Avoid Yahoo

Avoid Yahoo. I just have to say it. I’m helping someone try to get access to a domain they registered at Yahoo a few years ago, still registered there but they “lost” the info about how to access it to change things…

Yahoo is “saving money.” Like so many tech companies they pretty much offer no custmer support. It’s terrible. They have automated everything and you just can’t get anything done.

Called, I get “your estimated wait time is over 30 minutes.”

Right.

So people, avoid Yahoo. Don’t do anything with that company. Seriously.

Tell Your Member of Congress To Vote For The ‘Better Off Budget’

Tell your member of Congress (MOC) to vote for the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) “Better Off Budget’ (BOB). Click to call.

This week the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the “Ryan”/Republican corporate/conservative budget and the CPC “Better Off Budget.” This is a chance to offer the country a real and visible contrast that clearly shows off the advantages of a progressive approach to our economy over a conservative/corporate approach to our economy.

Please call and write your member of Congress and ask him or her to vote for the “Better Off Budget” from the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

CLICK TO CALL

The “Ryan” Republican Corporate/Conservative Budget

Rep. Paul Ryan’s Republican corporate/conservative budget favors the interests of the wealthiest few Americans and their giant multinational corporations at the expense of American-based manufacturers and other companies, America’s middle class working people and the poor. It actually takes heath care and protections away from millions of people, transforms Medicare towards a complicated voucher system for the profit of insurance companies and drastically cuts the “safety net” that now enables millions of poor and unemployed Americans to get by, (even as Republicans obstruct increases in the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits for millions.)

  • The Republican budget cuts taxes on the wealthy and corporations. (Millionaires get an average tax cut of $200,000)
  • The Republican budget cuts $5.1 trillion from things government does to make our lives better.
  • The Republican budget keeps and expands loopholes in corporate taxes that encourage companies to move jobs and factories out of the country.
  • The Republican budget repeals the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), leaving millions with no insurance or possibility of getting insurance.
  • The Republican budget cuts Pell Grants for attending college by more than $125 billion over the next decade.
  • The Republican budget makes deep cuts to Medicaid, converts the program to a block grant administered at the state level, and repeals the Medicaid expansion.
  • The Republican budget cuts Food Stamps (SNAP) by at least $135 billion and converts the program to a block grant.
  • The Republican budget cuts domestic programs substantially – nearing 20 percent in some cases – for total cuts of $791 billion over a decade.
  • The Republican budget increases military spending by $483 billion.

According to Joshua Smith at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) the Republican budget “would decrease GDP by 0.9 percent and decrease nonfarm payrolls by 1.1 million jobs in fiscal year 2015… The following fiscal year, when Ryan’s cuts to discretionary spending kick in … [it] would decrease GDP by 2.5 percent and cost 3.0 million jobs.”

The Congressional Progressive Caucus “Better Off Budget”

The CPC “Better Off Budget” translates progressive values into a national budget that puts people to work, invests in our infrastructure and economy to drive our future prosperity, assists and provides greater opportunity for the less fortunate, protects our environment, drives down future budget deficits and demonstrates how a progressive approach actually addresses and fixes a number of our pressing national problems.

Here are some of the things this budget would do for the country if passed:

  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” increases employment by 4.6 million jobs in 2015 – 9 million by 2017 – and boosts gross domestic product (GDP) by 3.8 percent.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” increases taxes on the wealthiest by restoring Clinton tax rates for households making over $250,000 and implements new brackets for those making over $1 million.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” cuts out corporate tax loopholes that encourage companies to move jobs out of the country.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” ends subsidies provided to oil, gas and coal companies.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” enacts a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) on various financial market transactions to protect markets from excessive speculation and rigged high-speed trading.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” adds a public option and expanding payment reforms to Obamacare, and allows states to transition to single-payer health care systems.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” addresses the climate change crisis by enacting a price on carbon pollution while “holding low-income families harmless” – meaning paying back what they are taxed.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” restores food stamp – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – benefits and restores unemployment insurance.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” creates jobs in our building and construction industries with funds to repair and modernize roads, bridges, water and other infrastructure.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” includes a direct-hire Public Works and Education program that will hire physicians, students, construction and community workers, and an education program boost to hire more teachers and improve schools.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” enhances federal programs targeted at creating equity and improving outcomes for women, people of color, and their families.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” provides assistance to states to allow them to hire and rehire public employees such as police, firefighters and health care workers.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” invests in clean and renewable energy, which creates middle-class jobs, boosts the economy, and cuts pollution.

But wait, there’s more!

  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” implements comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” funds public financing of campaigns to curb special interest influence in politics.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” endorses “Scrapping the Cap” – it would require high-income individuals to contribute payroll taxes at the same rate as people earning less than $100,000 a year – and expanding Social Security benefits separately from the federal budget process.

What The Public Wants

Here’s the thing: The CPC “Better Off Budget” respects what the American people want Washington to do. Take a look at the website Populist Majority to see what the polls show. It also fixes a number of America’s serious problems, like jobs and infrastructure, addresses climate change, and gets to work on helping people out of poverty. At the same time the public really does not like the things that are in this Republican budget.

If enough Democrats support the CPC “Better Off Budget,” the public will have the opportunity to see that we have real and different choices in the Fall elections.

Please call and write your member of Congress and ask him or her to vote for the “Better Off Budget” from the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

CLICK TO CALL

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

Good Lord, Republicans STILL Pretending There Is An “IRS Scandal”

It has become a “truth” on the right that the IRS “targets” conservative “political” groups. Here is what is going on.

Sea Of Smear Ads From Anonymous Donors

Who is providing the sea of anonymous money behind the nasty smear-campaign ads in local, state and national elections? You might (not) be surprised to find out that these ads are from “social welfare” organizations! These organizations don’t have to disclose their donors because they are tax-exempt nonprofits that, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), “must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare.”

That’s right, your community, state and nation elections are being flooded with nasty, political, smear-campaign ads from organizations that claim to “further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community” and have no involvement with political campaigns.

Social Welfare Organizations

Here are the technical details. A 501(c)(4) charity is a group that does not have to disclose its donors to the public. The law says these groups must operate “exclusively” as “social welfare” organizations and not political organizations. They “must operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community.” (Disclosure: The Campaign for America’s Future operates as a 501(c)(4) organization; its sister organization, the Institute for America’s Future, is a 501(c)(3) organization.)

But government agencies have to “interpret” laws when it comes to their own day-to-day operating rules, and there are grey areas between activities that could be seen as “social welfare” and activities that could be seen as electoral politics. Is voter-registration a general social welfare activity or a political activity? Is issuing a well-researched policy paper on the effect of a higher minimum wage on poverty a social welfare activity or a political lobbying activity?

So years ago the IRS decided that these social welfare groups could spend “up to 49%” of their efforts in politically related activity.

“Congressman Bob Bobson Eats Babies” Is Not A Political Ad?

Obviously these groups are not supposed to be running campaign ads. But a smear ad appearing a week before an election that says “your member of Congress Bob Bobson eats babies” but not “vote against Bob Bobson for eating babies” has been “interpreted” to be a social welfare activity and not a political ad.

Because of this huge, vast, gaping loophole a number of (mostly Republican) political election campaign-related organizations that wanted to hide their donors figured out they could become “social welfare” organizations to run these campaign ads. Then “the Republican majority” on the Supreme Court as E.J. Dionne calls them, allowed billionaires and corporations (even foreign-owned corporations) to put unlimited sums of money into politics. This opened the floodgates of influence-buying – the more money you put into politics, the more tax breaks, contracts, subsidies, monopoly protection, etc. you get back – and a race was on.

Keeping Campaign Donors Secret

Corporations and billionaires that wanted to keep their influence-buying secret could put money into these “social welfare” organizations (and the people running these organizations could make themselves a fortune), so there was a flood of applications to the IRS to start conservative, tax-exempt, “social welfare” nonprofit organizations.

At the same time, Senate Republicans also filibustered the DISCLOSE Act that would let the public know who was funding all of these smear ads.

The Phony IRS “Scandal”

Republicans charge that the IRS is “targeting” conservative “political” groups when they look to see if “social welfare” groups are actually illegally engaging in election-related politics. It has become a “truth” on the right that “the government” is “harassing” conservatives for their politics. They say the IRS is “intimidating” them by looking into “their political activities.”

This all feeds into the Republican/Fox News/Wall Street Journal/talk radio/blog “scandal machine.” For example, the Wall Street Journal today has this “story” today, “GOP Report on IRS: Only Tea Party Groups Received ‘Systematic Scrutiny’.” The party issues a “report” and the conservative media machine blasts the “findings” around the wingnutosphere, and the “outrage” ensues.

Republicans in the House of Representatives have been holding hearings intended to drive this idea of IRS “harassment” out to their followers. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has his Oversight and Government Reform Committee holding televised (FOX) “hearings” that haul people before them to be yelled at by various Republicans. One person, threatened by Republicans with prosecution and jail, was advised by her attorney to assert her Fifth Amendment rights, so Republicans made her appear for hours, repeating again and again that she was “pleading the Fifth.” Now Republicans plan to vote to hold her in “contempt” for asserting her constitutional rights, and have even created a logo advertising the contempt vote:

Here’s The Thing

The IRS is required by law to look at all applicants to see if they are engaged in impermissible political activity. If they are engaged primarily in political activity, they are neither “charities” nor “social welfare” organizations and, by law, are not supposed to receive special tax status allowing them to keep their donors secret. That alone should tell you that something is fishy with the corporate/conservative accusation that the IRS is “targeting” conservative “political” groups. The IRS is required by law to see if groups are “political.”

This is really about Republicans trying to stop the IRS from policing the big right-wing political groups that are using special tax status to mask their donors. This is an intimidation tactic; it’s an attempt to keep the IRS from seeing if these groups are engaged in political campaign activity and shut down the ones that are, all in an effort to mask their billionaire/corporate and foreign corporate donors.

See also:

The Latest Lie: IRS Targeted Conservatives

The Latest Lie: “IRS Targeting Was Broader Than Thought”

The IRS “Scandal” Was A Set-Up

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

Why Did We Invade Iraq?

With the Russian takeover of Crimea we are seeing just a bit of the damage done to the world by the invastion of Iraq. We used to be able to say, with some authority, “This is wrong, you shouldn’t do it.” But now everyone can say, “What are you talking about? You invaded Iraq based on a bunch of obvious lies.”

We the People have a right to know why this all happened, don’t we? We need a Truth Commission that investigates how the Bush administration led us to war, how the media was complicit, who made money from it, who tortured people, who allowed “contractors” to act with impunity, etc.

Also, there’s this: Why We Did It, a Rachel Maddow documentary:

Beware of the “Sneak Laws”

One way the corporate/plutocrat/conservative agenda gets foisted on us is through what I call “sneak laws.” These are laws that sneak through state legislatures and the Congress before We the People get a chance to learn about them and organize opposition. (Read to the end to learn about a monster of a sneak law sneaking through the Congress that could cost our government as much as $700 billion now and tens to hundreds of billions a year from now on.)

There are tons of federal, state and local sneak laws written to benefit a few key corporations or billionaires. These sneak laws limit competition, grant monopolies, provide subsidies, give (sometimes huge) tax breaks, grant special waivers from laws and regulations, prohibit consumers from fighting back when harmed … you name it. But they never, ever help regular We the People.

Sneak laws can be stopped if people find out about them and get the word out in time. One recent notable sneak law was exposed just in time – not long before it was going to be signed into law by the governor. The Arizona “anti-gay” law would have legalized bigotry under the disguise of “religious freedom.” But people found out about this law and got the word out. Organizations and citizens were able to rally opposition in time and Governor Brewer vetoed the law – even after her own staff had helped write it.

Tennessee’s Sneaky Whiskey Label Law

This Monday’s TPM writes about one of these sneak laws. Tennessee legislators managed to sneak through a state law last year to help the company that makes Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey. According to TPM, the law specified that, “If it isn’t fermented in Tennessee from mash of at least 51 percent corn, aged in new charred oak barrels, filtered through maple charcoal and bottled at a minimum of 80 proof, it isn’t Tennessee whiskey.”

The thing is, this law “resembles almost to the letter the process used to make Jack Daniel’s.”

The result of this sneak law? Many of Jack Daniels’ competitors aren’t allowed to call their product “Tennessee Whiskey.” Sneaky.

A Sneaky Law To Block Tesla

Another example of sneak laws written to help established special interests is in the news. Most (all?) states do not allow automobile manufacturers to sell cars themselves, instead requiring them to go through independent dealers. Electric-car maker Tesla wants to sell their own cars themselves. So to get around requirements that they sell their cars through dealerships, Tesla sets up local showroom galleries, but customers have to purchase Tesla’s cars online.

Auto dealers in New Jersey just got the Christie administration to come up with a new regulation that New Jersey customers cannot purchase a car without the help of a middleman, and Tesla now has to close two showrooms. (Texas and Virginia have similar rules and Ohio and New York are working on blocking Tesla, too.)

So what’s next? Will Best Buy cough up the cash needed to purchase laws or regulations to ban Apple stores?

Sneaking Guns Into Georgia Airports

The gun manufacturers’ lobby (NRA) is trying to sneak a bill through the Georgia legislature to allow people to bring guns into elementary schools, churches and even airports. Yes, guns in elementary schools and airports.

The bill would also expand Georgia’s “Stand Your Ground” law to allow felons immunity from prosecution if they claim they stood their ground after shooting someone, even though felons aren’t allowed to carry guns. Yes, you read that right, someone already convicted of murder in the past could now claim immunity from prosecution because they were just “standing their ground.” (Of course one part of this that is not written into the law but it is clearly understood by all involved: as long as the victim is black and the shooter is not.)

Teacher Sneak Law

A sneaky sneak law snuck through Congress in the bill that ended the government shutdown. This one lets states use low-cost trainees instead of teachers who are highly qualified. The Washington Post covered this last October, writing:

In language that does not give a hint about its real meaning, the deal extends by two years legislation that allows the phrase “highly qualified teachers” to include students still in teacher training programs — and Teach For America’s recruits who get five weeks of summer training shortly after they have graduated from college, and are then placed in some of America’s neediest schools.

Here is the actual language in the bill that snuck this through:

SEC. 145. Subsection (b) of section 163 of Public 5 Law 111-242, as amended, is further amended by striking 6 ”2013-2014” and inserting ”2015-2016”.

Wow, extra sneaky! And now it is the law.

A Plutocrat-Enriching, Inequality-Driving, Job-killing, Corporate-Takeover Trade Sneak

The NAFTA-Style Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an example of an attempt to sneak in laws bypassing Congress‘ ability to regulate what corporations do. And an obscure Congressional procedure called “fast track” was planned to help sneak it through. But bloggers and others caught on to this one ahead of time and rallied enough people to start a response. So far fast track has been delayed but not killed. And TPP is still in the works. Keep your eye out for fast track and TPP!

Hide And Sneak: A Monster Of A Sneak Law Is Sneaking Through Congress Now

The mother of all sneak laws is quietly making its way through Congress disguised as corporate tax “reform.” Corporations have been avoiding taxes by moving production and profit centers out of the U.S. because of a loophole that lets them “defer” paying the taxes they owe until they “bring the money home.” Now they are hiding around $2 trillion or more outside of the country, which means they owe up to $700 billion in taxes!

So they are pushing “corporate tax reform” proposals and almost all of these would let them bring the money back without paying the $700 billion they owe. Not only that, these “reform” ideas would dramatically cut taxes they pay in the future. Some of the proposals would even let them pay little or no taxes on money made outside the U.S., meaning companies would move all the rest of the jobs, factories, labs, call centers, profit centers, intellectual property patents and copyrights, and so on out of the country to take advantage of this.

This is the big one, the monster sneak attack, and it’s worth $700 billion now and tens or hundreds of billions a year from now on – plus the rest of the jobs, factories and all the rest – if they are able to sneak this one through.

We can expose this if we act in time. Keep an eye out for “tax reform” because they are going to reform the taxes they owe like a lumberjack reforms a redwood tree with an axe.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary