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:

m4s0n501

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.

—–

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

Close The Loophole That Lets Companies Avoid Paying Taxes

Big companies have discovered a loophole that lets them avoid paying their taxes. These tax-dodgers are holding $2 trillion-plus of taxable profits outside of the US, on which they could owe as much as $700 billion in taxes. What could our country do with this $700 billion it is owed? Why won’t Congress just make them pay what they owe?

These companies discovered that they can move jobs, factories, labs, call centers and profit centers out of the country and by doing that they can avoid paying U.S. corporate taxes. Instead of figuring out how to get these companies to pay the taxes they owe, Congress is considering proposals to reward them and encourage more companies to do this.

The Loophole That Lets Companies Avoid Paying Taxes

Current tax laws let companies defer paying the taxes they owe on profits made outside the country until they “bring the money back.” The reason for this is that some companies want to use this money to expand, leading to increased future profits. This is good for these companies and our country because they expand profits and the country gets additional tax revenue later.

But more and more companies have been cheating, using this “deferral” to avoid paying taxes at all. They are holding profits outside of the country simply to avoid taxes and not to invest and expand, even though this is not the intent of this tax rule. Some companies are even inventing ways to make it look like their US profits were made outside of the US so they can take advantage of this mistake in the tax laws. Other companies actually move jobs, factories, call centers and profit centers out of the country to take advantage of this loophole.

$2 Trillion!

It has gotten so bad that U.S. companies are holding as much as $2 trillion or more outside of the country. If this were taxed at the top tax rate of 35 percent, that would mean $700 billion in taxes is already owed, but is being kept away from being used to fix bridges, improve schools, pay judges and the other things We the People (government) do to make our lives better. Also those profits are being kept away from use investing in the US, as well as from shareholders.

Meanwhile companies that keep jobs and production inside the U.S. and don’t cheat on their taxes are at a clear disadvantage. They have to compete with companies that lay off U.S. workers and close U.S. factories, and get to not pay their taxes because they did that. And, of course, they have less money to use for bribes lobbying to get what they want.

Here are the proposals currently being discussed in Congress to address this:

  1. Make these companies just pay the taxes they owe and stop moving jobs and factories, etc. out of the country. (No one is actually suggesting this, these companies are very powerful and spread a lot of bribe lobbying and campaign money around.)
  2. Let them just keep doing what they have been doing, which encourages more companies to move jobs, factories, etc. out of the country. This is the current status quo.
  3. Let them off the hook and have a “tax holiday” that lets off the hook for some or all of the taxes they owe. There are proposals before the Congress to do this. (Too bad for those companies that actually paid their taxes.)
  4. Change the tax laws so companies that move jobs, factories, call centers and profit centers out of the country don’t have to pay taxes. This is called a “Territorial Tax System” and there are proposals before Congress to do this. (Too bad for companies that don’t want to move jobs, factories etc out of the country, they won’t be able to compete.)

Two of the proposal in front of the Congress include,

  • Republican Rep. Dave Camp’s House Ways & Means proposal gives a tax holiday to companies that owe taxes (#3), and then cuts taxes on profits made from moving jobs and production out of the U.S. by 90 percent (#4). Finally it would cut top U.S. corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 25 percent.
  • The Partnership to Build America Act (sponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.)) would let companies that owe taxes bring home offshore profits tax-free (#3) if they use some of the money to buy bonds in an “infrastructure bank.” This would be a loan, so the companies get even this money back, with interest.

Call your member of Congress and ask them to just make these companies bring those profits home and pay their taxes, period. Tell them no “tax holidays” and no “territorial tax.” Just make them pay their taxes.

—–

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

Just Listen To The First 5 Minutes

Before I tell you what the subject is, just click this to listen to the first five minutes of Sunday night’s Virtually Speaking: (Actually skip in about 1:35 and then listen to five minutes.)

Listen To Politics Progressive Internet Radio Stations with Jay Ackroyd on BlogTalkRadio

If you are like me (and who isn’t?) you’ll be hooked. Now that you’re into it, how about the first five minutes of this press call yesterday:

OK, now that the cat is out of the bag, these audio tracks are about one of the most interesting, exciting subjects there is: trade agreements and trade deficits.

Here’s the thing. We have a trade deficit of up to $500 billion each year. That’s upwards of $500 billion worth of orders that should be going to businesses that make or do things inside the U.S. That’s up to $500 billion worth of hiring and businesses and factories (re)opening, and all their suppliers booming, and the stores around those businesses and factories and suppliers booming, too.

So call and ask your member of Congress and your senators what they are going to do about this enormous, humongous trade deficit. This is the deficit that people should be worried about, not the budget deficit. And especially ask candidates this fall. Get this on the agenda, because getting it on the agenda will bring back jobs and businesses and factories and higher wages and all the things that go with that.

Now, for something totally unrelated, “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis: President Barack Obama.”

—–

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

FL-13 – Did Dems Have A Reason To Show Up And Vote?

Republicans won in Florida’s 13th district special congressional election on Tuesday. What does this mean?

Here is the key point about why the Republican candidate: More Republican voters went to the polls and voted than Democrat voters. The Republican won by about 3,400 votes out of about 183,000 votes cast. Turnout was 58 percent in precincts Romney won in 2012, and 48.5 percent in precincts Obama won in 2012. There were 49,000 fewer people who voted in this election than in the 2010 general mid-term election (down 21 percent), and 158,500 fewer than in the 2012 Presidential (down 46 percent). So it was the failure to get Democratic voters to show up that lost them the election.

The obvious conclusion is that the Democratic candidate did not give Democratic voters sufficient reason and motivation to show up and vote. If just a few more Democrats – 3,400 – had decided to show up and vote the election would have gone the other way.

Factors and Non-Factors

Obamacare? Maybe not. According to David Weigel at Slate, “both rejected the national “narrative” that the race was a clear referendum on Obamacare.”

It wasn’t spending. Outside groups showed up and helped the Democrat, balancing out the usually enormous Republican spending advantage.

Medicare counted. Republicans accused Democrats of “$716 in Medicare Cuts.” This was the same theme that shifted the 2010 election to Republicans, and it helped again.

)

The Democrats fell short in getting their absentee voters to mail in their ballots. According to Sean Sullivan at The Washington Post, the Democratic candidate “did not build a big enough lead in absentee voting to prevail on election day.”

It’s The Base

Republican strategy is to feed red meat to “the base” to whip them up and get them to show up, (and do what they can to suppress Democratic turnout). In this race the Republican candidate ran to the right. Kartik Krishnaiyer of The Florida Squeeze, in a great analysis of the election, wrote that “this is the furthest right a GOP candidate had run in the area” in 60 years.

The Republican appeared on and was promoted by FOX News.

Apparently the Democratic candidate tried to “appeal to the middle,” thinking this would bring in “moderate” and “independent” voters who are thought to be “between” the left and the right. Her website emphasized “breaking the gridlock in Congress,” and offers, “I’ve proven again and again that Republicans and Democrats can work together to get things done.”

The website also emphasizes “cutting wasteful government spending” and “introducing performance metrics to hold government accountable for waste and abuse and creating the right fiscal environment for businesses to create jobs.”

So the Democratic candidate decided not to appeal to base Democratic voters, instead hoping to “reach across the aisle” to bring in “centrist” and “moderate” voters instead. One way or another this “appeal to the middle” failed to bring enough “moderate” voters to the polls to overcome the left-leaning voters it repelled.

Democrats Let It Happen

Thomas Frank summed up the problem in “The matter with Kansas now: The Tea Party, the 1 percent and delusional Democrats” at Salon. The subhead is “Democrats believe demographics alone will defeat the Tea Party. It’s a smug fantasy: Economic populism’s the answer.”

Even more alarming for Democrats were the stark implications of “Kansas” for their grand strategy of “centrism.” As I tried to make plain back in 2004, the big political change of the last 40 years didn’t happen solely because conservatives invented catchy conspiracy theories, but also because Democrats let it happen. Democrats essentially did nothing while their pals in organized labor were clubbed to the ground; they leaped enthusiastically into action, however, when it was time to pass NAFTA and repeal Glass-Steagall. Working-class voters had nowhere else to go, they seem to have calculated, and — whoops! — they were wrong. The Kansas story represented all their decades of moderating and capitulating and triangulating coming back to haunt them.

If Democrats don’t give regular, working people – the Democratic base – a reason to vote, then they won’t. In Florida’s 13th District, 3,400 of them decided there was not enough reason to bother.

—–

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

Jobs Proposals In The President’s Sure-To-Be-Obstructed Budget

The President’s 2015 budget proposal “pivots” away from the 2010 “pivot” to austerity, pushes modestly for jobs and prioritizes infrastructure repair. Republicans will obstruct this – just like they have obstructed every jobs plan since the stimulus. But the public fully supports what the President is trying to do.

Away From Austerity

This budget finally moves us away from the constant job-killing and economy-cutting “austerity” idea that taking money out of the economy will grow the economy. It proposes a whopping (that’s a joke, son) $56 billion in new spending, split between military and actual job-boosting programs.

This Huffington Post headline summarizes the President’s new budget: “Obama Sends Congress $3.9 Trillion Budget Focused On Economy, Job Creation“. Other headlines tell a similar story:

“Stimulus” In President Obama’s Budget

In summary the budget proposal contains the following proposals that will help boost jobs:

  • $56 billion in new, added spending. This is above the discretionary spending cap that is in place for next year. This is split between added military spending and added funding for basic research, elementary education, manufacturing initiatives, jobs training, climate change preparation and restoring cuts to the Internal Revenue Service.
  • $302 billion in infrastructure spending over four years to maintain our highways, rail projects and mass transit (prioritizing those most in need of repair). This is a request for reauthorization of existing (underfunded) transportation programs. Note that the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) “Infrastructure Report Card” says we need to spend $3.6 trillion on infrastructure by 2020 just to get things to where they should be.
  • A series of tax breaks for lower-income workers, such as an expansion of the earned-income tax credit (EITC) by adding 5.8 million people and increasing it for 7.7 million people who currently qualify.

The budget proposal says these are “paid for” by closing tax loopholes on corporations and wealthy individuals. This includes proposals to reign in the way companies are moving jobs, factories, production and profit centers out of the country to take advantage of the “deferral” loophole that lets them avoid paying their taxes until profits are “repatriated.”

Ongoing Obstruction

Again and again President Obama has proposed similar programs to help the economy and create jobs. Again and again these proposals have been obstructed by Republican filibusters in the Senate and/or Republican House refusing to allow members to vote.

Look at what happened to previous job and infrastructure proposals (note this is just a sample):

And on and on…

What The Public Wants

Poll after poll shows that public is solidly behind the President, except wanting more government help to boost the economy and less focus on “deficit reduction.”

Here are a few examples, which you can find at the website Populist Majority:

  • Alliance for American Manufacturing/The Mellman Group (01/09/2014): 71% support increasing government investment to build and repair roads, bridges, high-speed rail, smart electric grid technology and other infrastructure needs. 65% say job creation should be a top priority, not deficit reduction. 82% support federal and state worker training programs.
  • Gallup (02/09/2014): 23% say the most important problem facing the country is jobs and unemployment. The economy ranks No. 2, with 20% saying it’s the biggest problem. Only 8% say the federal deficit.
  • Americans for Tax Fairness/Hart Research (10/30/2013): Nine out of 10 believe that any revenue generated by closing corporate loopholes or limiting tax deductions for the wealthy should be used for public investment and deficit reduction (82%), not to lower tax rates on corporations or the wealthy (9).
  • Washington Post-Miller Center (09/12/2013): 58% believe government investment in roads, water systems, the energy grid and other services is most/very important to help America compete with other countries economically.
  • Bloomberg News/Selzer & Co. (02/18/2013): 49% prefer proposals to invest in infrastructure, education and alternative energy to create jobs, compared to 44% who believe tax cuts will generate business.

These are just a few of the polls you can find at PopulistMajority.org.

The National Priorities Project (NPP) issued a statement on the President’s budget:

“The new budget contains initiatives that would be widely popular with the American people based on opinion polling. With an emphasis on job training and job creation, new funding for education, and a reduction in corporate tax loopholes, the president has released a budget that reflects many of the people’s priorities.”

Economic Truths

Here is a simple economic truth: Austerity – cuts that take money out of the economy – generally hurts economies and has held our economy back, government spending generally helps economies (and is what Reagan and Bush used to fight downturns).

Here is another simple economic truth: Our enormous, humongous trade deficit hurts our economy, our budget deficit doesn’t. (Click that link!) Why isn’t Washington talking about that? (Disclaimer: huge, bloated, astronomical military spending hurts economies. Budget deficits should be brought into line during economic good times.)

The following chart is from the post, “It’s the Fifth Anniversary Of The Stimulus. See What It Did“:

P.S. Please visit Populist Majority, “Exposing the gulf between American opinion and conventional wisdom.”

—–

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