Corporate Ownership of News Sources

Here’s an interesting and very rare story about the problems workers have when trying to organize a union. This story covered a June 20 Senate heading on obstacles workers encounter when trying to organize unions. Rather than get into the specifics of the story, I want to get into why this is a story that you just don’t see on TV, hear about on the radio or read about in your newspaper. (Did you know that the Senate was holding hearings on union organizing? Did you hear even a mention of this anywhere? Did you know that in 1998 24,000 workers were fired for trying to organize unions, even though it is illegal to fire someone for trying to form a union?)

I propose a simple test of how much of what we see and hear as “news” has shifted toward the pro-corporate perspective: How many stories about unions and working people do you see, hear and read in the news media?

We need to recognize just how pervasive corporate control of news issues has become. When discussing the idea that corporations are controlling what you see and hear in the news, ask how many stories cover unions, union organizing, workers rights or other similar topics? Anyone would have to admit that these are very rare stories. Compare the amount of coverage of worker issues with the coverage of business issues in the news, stories about what different companies are doing, their products, etc. Certainly most of the people watching the news are working people, as are most of the people in the country. There are between 16 and 17 million union members in the U.S. That is 14% of all wage and salary workers. How does this compare to the Christian Coalition (2.8M)? The NRA (4M)? U.S. Chamber of Commerce (3M)? But which do you see represented on news shows? Whose spokespeople do you see talking?

The media used to cover these stories. Radio and TV stations used to be required to cover stories of concern to working people in exchange for getting their licenses. Reagan managed to get this requirement pulled, and the Democrats have not worked to restore public control over the public airwaves. As a result there has been a major change in what is discussed. The change has happened gradually so it hasn’t jumped out at us, but if you think back there used to be quite a bit of coverage of stories important to regular working people, and stories about workers and their issues.

It would seem that restoring the Fairness Doctrine would be the #1 issue for Democrats for their own career interests as well as the interest of the working people they say they represent!

Today’s Google Experiment

Today’s Google experiment reminds members of the media how right-wingers feel about them.

Go to Google and look up, “Bill Stewart ABC Nicaragua” or click here. Executed in front of the camera by Samoza’s National Guard, later to become Reagan & Bush’s friends the Contras. (I haven’t seen the video since that day. Is it on the web anywhere? I can’t find it.)

The history of right-wing treatment of the press is not good. Media people – do you really think it’s a good idea to be shilling for right-wingers?

“My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building.” – Ann Coulter, author of New York Times #1 Best Seller, Slander

The Retirement Plan of the Unemployed Man

I took a trip down to the local liquor store to put a couple of dollars into the retirement plan. It’s up to $86 million this week. So I was thinking about what I’ll do with the money, and I started thinking about the taxes.

Then I realized that rich people get rich by inheriting money, while working people (or unemployed people) get rich by winning the lottery. The Republicans say that people who get their money from inheritance shouldn’t have to pay any taxes. But I’m going to have to pay a huge amount of taxes when I win tomorrow night.

It’s just one more way The Man beats you down.

(update – “The Man” website is gone. But the wayback machine has “the man” archived)

WOW

The coming populist revolution? By Arianna Huffington. Everybody, read this twice. “This time we have a story to organize around, a story that has it all: narrative power, colorful crooks, sympathetic victims, juicy details (who can forget Kozlowski’s $6,000 shower curtain?), political intrigue, global fallout. A story so compelling that even our part-of-the-problem media giants can’t ignore it.”

Fixing Demand

While I’m fixing everything (see below), how about this:

I keep reading that the economy is being saved by consumer spending. The stock market is up 17% in the last few weeks because consumers are still spending.

It’s good to see the Wall Street types praising the economic value of consumer demand. Maybe this is a good time to push for policies that put more money into the hands of average Americans and increase consumer demand, like raising the minimum wage, increasing and extending unemployment benefits, job training programs, income redistribution programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit and other DEMAND SIDE government programs!

Fixing the Energy Problem

In the 1992 campaign Jerry Brown made a suggestion that I haven’t forgotten. He suggested putting the unemployed to work retrofitting buildings and homes to be energy efficient. It requires an up-front investment but it returns a more efficient economy (everyone paying less for energy) and national energy independence as a foreign policy bonus. Meanwhile all those unemployed people are getting and spending paychecks, boosting the economy. It helps everyone but the oil companies. Oh. I guess not, then.

Fixing Taxes

I wrote below that we paid $359 billion debt interest last year. The numbers are here – warning, this is a spreadsheet to download. Look at row 1038.

$359 billion is a huge number. And that’s $359 billion every year. Imagine what we could do with that money. We could cut taxes, fix every social problem, and still have money left over to clean up pollution, feed the world, maybe even colonize mars. OK I’m exaggerating but it’s a lot of money

It seems to me that this level of debt interest proves cutting taxes means higher taxes later if it involves borrowing or not paying off debt. We got in this mess by cutting taxes for the rich. We’re digging the hole deeper with the Bush tax cuts. (Just wait until the resulting Social Security bomb goes off, and we have to raise taxes to pay for that.)

It also seems to me that imposing a big fat “pay off the debt tax” now would mean everyone would pay much lower taxes later. Of course, we don’t want to hurt consumer demand so the tax would have to be on the higher brackets. And not on income – as I wrote below we’ll need to be raising the cap on income for Social Security. So it would have to be a tax on wealth, like Ken Lay’s 18 homes, or the other billions that CEOs took while their companies went down in flames. (Get the money FROM where the money WENT.)

Cut taxes now, higher taxes later. Raise taxes now, world prosperity later. I think that paying down this massive debt would help, not hurt the economy.

Maybe an economist will explain why this isn’t a good idea – or at least offer an alternative that pays off this debt. Please don’t write if your income is above $85,000 – I’ll just chalk it up to cognitive dissonance.

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Fixing Social Security

This letter in the Washington Post today points out that raising the cap on earnings that are subject to Social Security taxes would cover any anticipated shortfall. We keep hearing that Social Security is “in crisis” and might not be able to pay our retirement benefits, when raising this cap would fix everything.

That sounds complicated, but it is significant, so let’s look at what it means. Everyone who gets a paycheck pays a Social Security tax. This is the largest tax that most Americans pay. But most people don’t know that you don’t even pay this tax on money you make after you make $85,000. And you only pay it on money you earn by working. You don’t pay it on income from an inheritance, or from stock gains, or the other ways that the very rich get their money. Only on money you get in a paycheck from working.

Got that? If you make MORE than $85,000 you stop paying this tax. If you inherit or make your money from stocks or real estate or other ways money is made if you already have a lot of money you don’t pay this tax. Only working people pay this tax. The largest tax that average working Americans pay, and it isn’t even paid on working incomes above $85,000.

But it gets worse. Keep reading.

Where does this Social Security tax money go? We’re told that Social Security is a “ponzi scheme” and people paying in now are paying the retirement of people who are retired now. But actually much more is being paid in than is being paid out. This surplus, (the largest amount taken from most of our paychecks and which is not paid when you make more than $85,000), is loaned to the government, used to pay for general budget items, and the government owes that money to the Social Security fund. The government is borrowing this because huge tax cuts for the rich, starting under Reagan and continuing under Bush, leave the government without enough money to pay its bills.

Got that? The largest tax paid by average working people goes back out to cover tax CUTS for the rich.

But it gets even worse. Keep reading.

When we get to the point where there is no more Social Security surplus Social Security will need to start collecting the money that the government borrowed. It has to collect this in order to meet its payments to retired people. If the government can’t pay back these loans, retired people won’t get their Social Security checks.

Where will the government get this money? The only way the government is meeting its obligations NOW is by borrowing money FROM Social Security. What happens when Social Security needs to start getting money BACK instead? The money that is supposed to be there will have been spent on tax cuts for the rich. But who depends on this Social Security money? The very working people who are getting soaked now to cover these tax cuts for the rich.

So if we raise the cap on income that is taxed for Social Security, making high-income working people pay THE SAME amount as people who make less, it covers any anticipated Social Security shortfall. Yet if this money just goes back out as tax cuts for the rich we still won’t get our Social Security when we retire.

But wait, I have to throw this in.

Last year the government paid out $359 billion for debt interest. That’s money paid to cover the interest on the “Reagan debt,” which accumulated because of tax cuts for the rich. This is the largest item in our budget. We pay tax money, and $359 billion of it is paid out to people who had the means to loan trillions to the government. (Guess who.)

I’m just trotting out some of that there (forbidden) populism to see how it sounds.

Populists

Eschaton has a good one today, pointing to a TAP piece. He says the Republicans became the Populists, calling the Democrats the “elitists”.

A friend of mine says, “Republicans know how to fight a class war. And then they say you’re the class warrior, and usually you even don’t know what’s happening to you.”