5 Companies Ripping Off America and the Simple Tax Change That Could Make Them Pay Up

I have this over at AlterNet: 5 Companies Ripping Off America and the Simple Tax Change That Could Make Them Pay Up,

Believe it or not, all four of the statements below are currently being made in Congress and in the hallowed halls of elite opinion:

  • “We’re broke” and we have to cut the budget. – House Speaker John Boehner.
  • America just can’t afford more government spending like hiring teachers or repairing bridges.
  • We have to cut entitlements like Social Security and Medicare or the country will go bankrupt.
  • Corporations and multinational giants don’t have to pay up to $700 billion in overdue taxes.

We’re broke. We have to cut back on all the things government does to make our lives better. Yet let’s let the giant corporations off the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars of taxes they already owe.

Read the rest at AlterNet.

Republican Strategy: Obstruct, Blame Democrats For Obstruction’s Damage

Republicans are beginning to harvest the fruits of their obstruction.

The strategy is to set the stage for the election by obstructing everything that could help the economy get better, as well as anything that might make our lives better. They understand that they just will not be held accountable for their obstruction. Then they campaign against Democrats because things are not getting better.

The current example is the Veterans Administration “scandal.” Republicans obstructed every bill to improve the situation for veterans. Then they drummed up a “scandal” based on things not getting better for veterans. Republicans are already running this ad telling Alaskans to vote against Senator Mark Begich because of problems at the VA.

Strategy Phase 1: Obstruct Everything

In February Senate Republicans filibustered a bill that would have increased the VA budget by $21 billion, improved veterans’ health and dental care, authorized 27 new veterans’ clinics and medical facilities, added to veteran education programs and repealed a provision of the Murray-Ryan budget deal that slashed military pensions.

Filibustered. Obstructed. Killed off.

Reuters in February posted “U.S. Senate Republicans block veterans’ health bill on budget worry“:

U.S. Senate Republicans blocked legislation on Thursday that would have expanded federal healthcare and education programs for veterans, saying the $24 billion bill would bust the budget.

Even though the legislation cleared a procedural vote on Tuesday by a 99-0 vote, the measure quickly got bogged down in partisan fighting.

Supporters said the measure would have brought the most significant changes in decades to U.S. veterans’ programs. For example, it called for 27 new medical facilities to help a healthcare system that is strained by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. […]

Referring to recent budget deals that aim to bring down federal deficits, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama said: “This bill would spend more than we agreed to spend. The ink is hardly dry and here we have another bill to raise that spending again.”

Watch this video from Senator Bernie Sanders’ office:

Every VA Bill Obstructed

Thom Hartmann, writing in his post “The Mitch McConnell VA Scandal,” said:

And it wasn’t like this anti-veteran Republican filibuster was some radical break from the past either. Time and time again during the Obama presidency Republicans have either blocked or opposed bills that would have helped out the veterans they’re now claiming to care so much about.

Back in 2012, for example, GOP senators blocked a $1 billion jobs bill would have helped millions of unemployed veterans find work. And in that same year, Republican opposition also blocked a bill – the so-called Veterans’ Compensation Cost of Living Adjustment Act – that would have kept veterans’ benefits on par with rising expenses.

The list goes on. Before that, GOP lawmakers killed the Wounded Veteran Job Security Act, the Veterans Retraining Act of 2009, the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program Reauthorization Act of 2009, the Disabled Veterans Home Improvement and Structural Alteration Grant Increase Act of 2009, the Veterans Business Center Act of 2009, and the Job Creation Through Entrepreneurship Act of 2009.

Every single one of these bills would have helped veterans and every single one was killed exclusively by Republican opposition.

Here is an October, 2013 Daily Kos diary that lists several more instances of Republican obstruction of help for veterans, “GOP’s actual track record on supporting veterans.”

Killed With A Media Assist

If the public is told someone is obstructing the things they want, they can hold them accountable.

If the public is told things like “both sides do it” or “the Senate failed” they will decide not to bother to vote.

Republicans are certain they will not be held accountable for their obstruction, and they have good reason to be. Our news media and even many Democrats refuse to tell the public who did and who didn’t obstruct these bills.

Does the public get information that enables them to make informed decisions about who to hold accountable from headlines and news reports like these?

The Washington Post reported that “Senate rejects far-reaching Veterans Affairs bill“:

A broad Department of Veterans Affairs bill that would have expanded benefits for former service members and repealed a military pension cut for future troops was rejected in the Senate on Thursday.

CBS: Veterans’ benefits bill blocked in Senate

CNN: Vets bill fails in Senate, victim of election-year gridlock

AP: Senate blocks Dems’ bill boosting vets’ benefits,

A divided Senate on Thursday derailed Democratic legislation that would have provided $21 billion for medical, education and job-training benefits for the nation’s veterans.

USA Today: Senate rejects bill on veterans benefits

The largest piece of veterans legislation in decades — aimed at expanding health care, education and other benefits — was rejected Thursday by the Senate on a procedural issue after proponents failed to obtain 60 votes to keep the bill alive.

Military Times: Senate blocks huge vets benefits bill

Here is a personal favorite – outrage with no accountability from the American Legion: Legion: Senate vote on veterans bill ‘inexcusable’ ,

American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger expressed frustration and disappointment with Thursday’s Senate debate that effectively killed S. 1982, the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014.

The Senate voted 56-41 to waive an extra budget point of order made against the bill – four votes short of what was needed to move the legislation onto a full Senate vote – ending floor consideration of the measure.

“Today, the Senate had a chance to put aside partisan politics and do what was right for the men and women who have sacrificed so much while wearing our nation’s uniform,” Dellinger said. “Instead, we saw the same political gamesmanship that led our federal government to a shutdown last fall. There was a right way to vote and a wrong way to vote today, and 41 senators chose the wrong way. That’s inexcusable.”

Who Did It?

—–

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 and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Does Inequality Just Happen? Or Is It The Result Of Choices?

A recent AP “big story” tries to explain why CEO pay soaring and everyone else’s is stagnant or falling. It says more than it intends about the state of our economy and our governing system.

AP’s “The CEO Got A Huge Raise. You Didn’t. Here’s Why,” by Josh Boak boils down to this:

[P]ay for the typical CEO … surged 8.8 percent last year to $10.5 million, it rose a scant 1.3 percent for [the rest of us].

Here are five reasons why CEOs are enjoying lavish pay increases and five reasons many people are stuck with stagnant incomes.

WHY CEOs ARE GETTING HUGE RAISES

1. They’re paid heavily in stock.

2. Peer pressure. Corporate boards often set CEO pay based on what the leaders of other companies make. …

3. The superstar effect.

4. Friendly boards of directors.

5. Stricter scrutiny. … companies often raise pay to compensate for the risk of job loss.”

WHY MANY OF US AREN’T GETTING A RAISE

1. Blame the robots. Millions of factory workers have lost their spots on assembly lines to machines. Offices need fewer secretaries and bookkeepers in the digital era.

2. High unemployment. … Businesses face less pressure to give meaningful raises when a ready supply of job seekers is available.

3. Globalization. Companies can cap wages by offshoring jobs to poorer countries.

4. Weaker unions.

5. Low inflation.

These Didn’t Just Happen, These Are Choices

These ten reasons are framed as “just the way it is.” CEOs get compensated with stock as well as cash, and stocks are way up. That’s just the way it is. China sucks jobs out of the U.S., and robots are doing more of the work, so people are left without jobs or any way to make a living. That’s just the way it is.

Too bad, so sad.

Here’s the thing. Not one of these 10 points “just happened.” They are the result of choices that our country’s leaders made. All of those choices drive the national income and wealth to a few at the top, and away from We the People.

We Are Not Helpless

It comes down to choices, not inevitability. Inevitability implies helplessness. But understanding that these were choices leads to understanding that we have the opportunity to make different choices.

These are things that conservatives and neo-liberals convinced our Congress to DO (or, in the case of needed changes, to NOT do), and we are living with the results. These things are not inevitable. They are not things we just have to accept. They are things that we can change.

What Happened To We The People?

In a country where We the People make decisions, we would choose to do things that make our lives better. But when CEO and corporate types are in charge of the political system, what we’ve got is exactly what you would expect. Look at how things are set up and ask yourself if We the People are benefiting from that, or if only a few already-wealthy people are benefiting at the expense of the rest of us, and decide to do something about it.

Think about some of the things we have come to take for granted. For example – and just one of many, many examples – we are told that corporations are only supposed to be about making money for the shareholders. But would a country run by We the People to do things to make our lives better have set up these things called corporations to be like that? What do We the People get from a system like that? Would corporations have been created for the purpose of doing things that benefit We the People and our country and our economy, not only a few already-wealthy people at the expense of our country and economy?

Think that through. Think about how it would be set up if We the People wanted to make our lives better, and then start working to make it that way.

This is a moment to think about how we got here, and why we let things happen this way. This is a moment to realize that things do not have to be the way they are, and that we can change what is happening to us for the better. Even if we indeed have become a country that only does what CEO types want done, We the People can change that, too.

—–

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 and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Let’s Stop Searching For A ‘Messiah’ And Build A Movement

After Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) gave her rousing speech at the New Populism Conference Thursday, she, of course, was asked if she was going to run for President. (The crowd was chanting “Run, Elizabeth, Run!”)

Warren replied, “I am not running for president,” which prompted one hopeful progressive to tweet, “Interesting choice of tense.”

This reminded me of this scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian:

In the scene, imagine that progressives chase Sen. Warren through the desert. Finally, she says, “I am not running for President, do you understand? Honestly!” A woman cries out, “Only the true candidate denies her candidacy.”

After lunch, the Communication Workers of America’s President Larry Cohen talked about the Democracy Initiative, “creating a common narrative setting the state for common collective action,” a new approach that comes out of labor and other progressive causes continually losing.

Cohen discussed the massive increase in the amount of corporate and billionaire money going into politics since Citizens United, and said “we have to be insane” if we are only going to be involved in electoral politics as a way to try to move forward on obtaining economic justice. Instead of politics, we have to build movements and the organizations that work with movements.

Speaking of how different progressive-aligned groups currently tend to compete for scarce resources and to move their own issues, often over and above working together to advance general goals, Cohen asked, “Can we put a little more into common ideas?”

Today’s situation necessitates common movement-building, Cohen said. (And, in fact, the promotion of a general progressive agenda would do more to advance the issues of all of the “silo” groups than what they are achieving on their own as conservatives dominate our politics.)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also talked about the enormous amount of money the billionaire Koch brothers and others have put into right-wing politics and other efforts to push right-wing ideas.

Finally, Rev. William Barber II gave a moral vision, talking about a “fusion” movement of black, white and all types of people coming together to fight for the things regular people need. “The movement is about the moral fabric of our society,” he said, and “I don’t want people to go left or right, I want them to go deeper into who we are called to be.”

The Answer Is Movement-Building

The Koch brothers, other billionaires and corporate groups have been remarkably successful in pushing Congress to pass legislation that helps their interests while hurting the rest of us. How did they do it?

Last weekend the New York Times ran a story, “Quixotic ’80 Campaign Gave Birth to Kochs’ Powerful Network,” that looked at the origins of the Koch brothers’ shadowy network of front groups, think tanks and other organizations.

The key lies in a 1974 Charles Koch speech in which he said, “The most effective response was not political action, but investment in pro-capitalist research and educational programs” – in other words, institutions they built that reached the public to tell them about libertarian, anti-government philosophy. The Times quoted Koch as saying, “The development of a well-financed cadre of sound proponents of the free enterprise philosophy is the most critical need facing us today.”

The Kochs, other billionaires and the corporations put their money into think tanks, communication outlets, publishers, various media, etc. with a long-term plan to change the way people see things. This “apparatus” has pounded out corporate/conservative propaganda 24/7 for decades.

You can’t get away from it. The conservative movement rewards its friends and punishes, smears, intimidates, bullies, discredits and otherwise “neutralizes” its opponents. That is how they were able to get Congress to lower taxes on the rich and corporations, break unions, defund schools and the rest of the things that have made them so much money and wreaked havoc on the rest of us. The money was not for politicians who run for office today (not all of it, anyway); it was to build organizations to execute long-term strategies to get what they want tomorrow.

The moral of the story: the right put its resources into long-term movement building, setting up think tanks, radio shows, even an entire TV network to reach the public to persuade them that conservative ideas would make their lives better. They infiltrated and took over organizations like the National Rifle Association and set up rapid-response organizations to pressure politicians. They deliver for their constituents – the billionaires and their giant corporations – and keep “our side” from delivering for ours, the American people.

On our side the money, resources and effort tend to go into candidates, with so many people looking for a “messiah” candidate to lead them out of the wilderness and somehow convince the public of the rightness of our cause. Then after the campaigns are over, the infrastructure dissolves, the expertise disperses, needing to be rebuilt from scratch two or four years later. It is a remarkably ineffective approach.

Some might say the right’s success came about because there is so much more money on the corporate/conservative side. But we have the numbers. Imagine if 100 million left-of-center Americans gave an average of $100 (27.4 cents a day) each year to build progressive organizations… (Hint: That adds up to $10 billion a year.)

Imagine dozens of fully funded, fully staffed progressive organizations reaching out to all corners of America, employing people to write op-eds, appear on the radio, speak to audiences, knock on doors. Imagine TV commercials telling and showing people how progressive values and a progressive approach to issues would do good things for regular people. Imagine our elections after a few years pushing back against the kind of propaganda we constantly have to hear from the right, usually unanswered.

Money put today into efforts to build an ongoing information infrastructure is money put into every single progressive initiative and candidate in every single future election.

Full Employment: First Principle Of New Populism

Word is there’s an economic recovery going on. The New Populism ConferenceBut approximately 99 percent of us have no reason to believe that.

The public sees that the government bailed out the biggest banks and that the “recovery” is going really well for a very few people. But most Americans are actually falling behind, and know it. Wages are still stagnant at best and the minimum wage has fallen so far behind that people working full time remain in poverty. Unemployment is down largely because of people “leaving the workforce.” And all along government services are being cut and cut and cut.

People see the government working for a wealthy few at the top, and against the rest of us. People see the rigged game at work against them. This is not just an economic and human catastrophe. With an election coming, key Democratic constituencies have simply been left behind during the Obama administration. “Are you better off now than you were 4 or 8 years ago? HELL NO!”

So this could become a political catastrophe as well, potentially bringing the return of the very people and conditions that got the country into this mess.

An Ongoing Catastrophe For Regular People

What Washington has done since the “Reagan Revolution” and especially since the 2008 crash has benefited the few, usually at the expense of the general public. Washington rescued the big banks, and left homeowners and the rest of us to fend for ourselves.

Anti-inflation monetary policy has been a catastrophe for regular people. (Protecting Wall Street at the expense of Main Street? Really?)

Washington’s austerity, budget-cutting fixation has been a catastrophe for regular people. (Laying off hundreds of thousands of public employees, cutting public investment and cutting back on the safety net during an unemployment crisis? Really?)

Washington’s “free trade” policies have been great for giant, multinational corporations but have been a catastrophe for regular people, sending millions upon millions of jobs out of the country. (Not even confronting blatant currency manipulation that is costing 5.8 million jobs? Really?)

Washington’s corporate tax policies have been a catastrophe for regular people. (Giving companies huge tax breaks for moving jobs, factories and profit centers out of the country? Really?)

One catastrophe after another hitting regular people. And people see it coming from a system that is rigged against them, working just fine for a wealthy few.

We did get the “stimulus.” The stimulus reversed the terrible plunge in jobs and showed that our government could fix the jobs emergency.

But that was all it did, and that was it. It worked but it was just not enough to get things going again. And now it’s five years later. As most people can see, after the stimulus the Obama administration capitulated to Republican/Wall Street demands for austerity – and outright budget blackmail. The President even at times reinforced the right’s ideological position by boasting about government progress in balancing its books rather than emphasizing the human cost of not boosting government resources to drive job creation. Democrats even voted to cut food stamp spending and the president signed the bill! (Cutting Food Stamps in the middle of a national jobs and poverty emergency? Really?)

We Demand Full Employment

The New Populism Conference on Thursday will demand full employment as the first principle of the new populism.

We demand full employment! Full employment means there is a job for everyone who wants a job. There is simply no reason whatsoever that we can’t have full employment – except for policies that are intentionally keeping us from having full employment.

We demand full employment! Why isn’t our government stepping up and just hiring all of the people who need jobs? It’s not as if there are not enough things that need to be done. Our infrastructure is in serious need of repair. We need to retrofit millions of buildings and homes in the country to be energy efficient. We need to build a modern energy grid to bring energy from wind farms that we need to build in the plains states (where the wind is) to the cities and industrial centers (where the need is). We need to cut the number of children per classroom in half. We need to do … so many things. Why isn’t our government the employer of last resort, just hiring people to do those things we need done – in the middle of an employment emergency?

We demand full employment! Unemployment is a human and economic catastrophe. There are so many things our government could do besides direct hiring (which they should be doing). Our government could fix our job-sucking trade deals and balance the trade budget. Our government could demand that corporations return the trillions of dollars they are holding outside of the country to avoid paying the taxes due on that money. That’s a double whammy; take away the huge incentive to move jobs out of the country because of the tax break – and use the money they already owe to just hire millions of people!

The New Populism Conference

Two speakers at this week’s New Populism Conference, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and economist Jared Bernstein will talk about the importance of growth and jobs in order to bring about a rapid change in inequality.

Rep. Ellison will talk about the Progressive Caucus investment strategy for full employment. Bernstein will talk about full employment and his recent book, “Getting Back to Full Employment: A Better Bargain for Working People,” co-written with economist Dean Baker.


The New Populism Conference on May 22 in Washington (featuring Sen. Elizabeth Warren) will discuss ways to fight for an agenda for economic change that strong majorities of Americans already support. (See the Populist Majority website containing polling numbers showing that Americans support this New Populist agenda.) Click here to register or to watch the conference live online.

—–

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 and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

m4s0n501

The Privatization Scam: 5 Horror Stories of Gov’t Outsourcing to Greedy Private Companies

I have this up at AlterNet: The Privatization Scam: 5 Horror Stories of Gov’t Outsourcing to Greedy Private Companies,

For decades we’ve been subjected to constant propaganda that government is inefficient, bureaucratic and expensive. We’re told that the answer is to “privatize,” or “outsource” government functions to private businesses and they will do things more efficiently and everyone comes out ahead. As a result we have experienced decades of privatization of government functions.

So how has wave of privatization this worked out? Has privatization saved taxpayers money and improved services to citizens? Simple answer: of course not. If a company can make a profit doing something the government had been doing, it means that we’re losing out one way or another. It’s simple math. And the result of falling for the privatization scam is that taxpayers have been fleeced, services to citizens have been cut way back and communities have been made poorer. But the companies that convinced governments to hand over public functions have gotten rich off of the deal. How is this a surprise?

Here are 5 privatization horror stories, where government outsourcing has gone terribly wrong. (Or maybe you’d say it has gone terribly right if you are one of the companies getting the taxpayer dollars.)

Read the rest at AlterNet.

Democrats Should Be For Jobs, Against Corporate Tax Giveaways

The country needs jobs. The country needs to start fixing up its crumbling infrastructure. The country doesn’t need more corporate tax breaks. Guess which of these three is in legislation the House is passing – unfortunately with help from many Democrats. If this keeps up, how will voters be able to decide who to vote for this fall?

Last week the House passed a huge – $156 billion worth of huge – Research and Experimentation Credit tax break for corporations. This is one part of a package of “tax extender” corporate tax breaks that is sneaking through the House. Sixty-Two Democrats joined the Republicans in approving this huge corporate tax break.

This $156 billion corporate tax break was passed by the same House of Representatives that won’t even bring up a vote on restoring unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.

While the R&E tax credit is worthwhile, it was wrong for some Democrats to join with Republicans in voting for that research tax credit. Such credits should have been awarded as part of a package that included a full employment program, infrastructure funding, restored long-term unemployment benefits, restoring food stamps and many other things the public needs. Instead of using the corporate desire for this break as leverage – and making a political statement going into the midterm election – 62 Democrats just went ahead and voted for it.

The Country’s Jobs And Infrastructure Needs Go Hand In Hand

The main reason the economy is just sort-of slogging along is “austerity” – all of the cutbacks in government spending. Never mind that the country is not hiring for new construction, etc., in the middle of this jobs emergency we have instead laid off construction workers, teachers, police, Social Security workers, and other public servants. At the very time the economy needed a boost, government cutbacks have cost businesses and suppliers. Cutbacks have meant foreclosures, bankruptcies, people spending less in stores – all acting as dampers on economic growth.

America desperately needs public investment to create jobs and grow the economy. But the country has been deferring spending on maintaining – never mind modernizing – our infrastructure since the Reagan tax-cut years – especially when it comes to transportation. When Reagan came in (with huge oil company backing), the solar panels were removed from the White House roof and many public transit projects were removed from the national agenda.

We need to fix our infrastructure and people need jobs – can our elected officials connect the dots? But instead of voting to help Americans by maintaining (never mind modernizing) our infrastructure the House – with 62 Democrats joining in – voted for a huge, $156 billion corporate tax break. So now there is even less money to use to hire people to fix up the infrastructure.

Example: Congress Needs To Act On The Highway Trust Fund

Next up before Congress, the Highway Trust Fund is running out of money and the current surface transportation bill expires in September – just before the election. This threatens 6,000 projects and 700,000 jobs. (Yes, “government spending” really does bring a lot of jobs.) Congress has to either raise the gas tax against oil company opposition – and Congress doesn’t do anything against the interests of oil companies – or find other sources of funding.

The Senate Finance Committee recently reported, “According to the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, just maintaining the existing conditions and performance of U.S. roads and transit infrastructure would require a 50 percent increase in current funding levels.”

Again: just maintaining the infrastructure at current miserable levels (never mind modernizing) requires a 50 percent increase in funding. Democrats and progressives should be for that. This is public investment that pays for itself over time. There is no reason to “offset” this with cutbacks elsewhere.

The Republican Strategy Is Obstruction Coupled With Unprecedented Election Spending

This is happening because the Republican strategy for the fall elections is to do everything they can to deny people jobs and keep wages, benefits and the economy down – and then campaign blaming Obama and Democrats for the bad economy, lack of jobs and low wages. Republicans are obstructing everything that might help working people, while handing the treasury over to the billionaires and their giant corporations – especially oil companies. (The Koch Brothers are rich because they inherited one of those oil companies.)

This strategy could work unless Democrats expose it and offer sharp contrasts – all in ways that will reach the public. And reaching the public will be difficult. The Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity have stated they will be putting up at least another $125 million to elect Republicans – on top of the more than $35 million they have already spent to defeat Democrats in this year’s elections. This is just the one Republican organization, along with all the other spending coming this year by billionaires and corporations to elect Republicans.

Elite Frustration With Obstruction

The country’s elites understand that nothing is getting through the Congress, even as they do not tell voters who to blame. A recent Bloomberg news editorial, Creative Ways to Fill the Nation’s Potholes, expresses the national frustration with the gridlock. They say we need “creative thinking” to get important things funded and offer up with a scheme to bribe giant corporations. They write, “In a perfect world, the money for this essential work would be appropriated in a straightforward and transparent way. You’re right to laugh: That won’t happen.”

After not explaining to readers why “that won’t happen” – it is Republican obstruction – they offer some “creative thinking,” namely a huge bribe to corporations. They cite New York Democratic Rep. Steve Israel’s proposal “allowing companies holding large cash stockpiles abroad for tax reasons to bring their profits home at a preferential rate – on the condition that they spend about 10 percent of the repatriated income on a new kind of infrastructure bond.” (Because just telling these companies to pay their taxes is off the table.) Even Bloomberg admits, “A repatriation tax break worsens the convolution of a corporate tax code that is already far too tangled.”

Similarly, Norm Ornstein writes at the Atlantic:

Among the most embarrassing and unconscionable failures of the 113th Congress has been the inability to act in any way to help the economy through an infrastructure initiative, including but not limited to energy. The country’s infrastructure is crumbling, and the energy infrastructure is outmoded. Among the long-term unemployed, there are huge numbers of construction workers and skilled tradespeople who could be given a new lease on life, while energizing a continuing sluggish economy. And the money to pay for a major infrastructure initiative can be borrowed now at the lowest rates imaginable.

Ornstein also understands that nothing is going to get through Congress without bribing the giant multinationals. He also suggests letting companies off the hook for taxes on offshore profits if they use some of their cash to invest in infrastructure. He refers to bills before Congress that would “create a fund that would be capitalized with $50 billion in infrastructure bonds with 50-year terms paying a fixed interest rate of 1 percent. Corporations could repatriate a substantial amount of the profits they have accumulated overseas tax-free if they buy the bonds.”

Later, on another proposal, “The Green Bank would use a model that would incentivize companies to repatriate some of their profits abroad in return for investing in the bank as well.”

Again, this is just a bribe to the people Ornstein understands now control the Congress. Instead of Congress just making these companies pay their taxes and using that money to fund infrastructure, these are bribes to let them off the hook on their taxes if they would please let us fix the infrastructure a bit and thereby hire a few unemployed workers.

Draw A Contrast For The Election

The Republican strategy is simple and effective: Block everything, make everything feel worse for regular people, and then spend unprecedented amounts campaigning that nothing is getting done and everything feels worse under Obama and the Democrats. This will work, as long as the public feels everything getting worse without understanding that Democrats are trying to make things better but are being obstructed.

The only way to fight this obstructionist strategy is expose it and draw sharp contrasts between where conservatives want to take us and where a progressive populist economic agenda would take us. And these contrasts have to be sharp and clear enough to reach the public in ways that sink in.

Democrats should draw that contrast for voters in the coming elections and not confuse voters about what they are for and not for. Democrats should resolve to support only bills and deals that fix our infrastructure and create jobs. At the same time Democrats should say no to these tax giveaways to corporations. Democrats have to be seen fighting for jobs and being blocked. They have to be seen as trying to stop the corporate giveaways, not voting for huge corporate tax cuts.


Note – See the President’s transportation plan. Also see the National Priorities Project’s Report: “The Big Money in Tax Breaks Continues“:

In 2013, the cost of tax breaks was equal to the entire U.S. discretionary budget. However, the discretionary budget is subject to an annual appropriations process, where Congress debates the proposed spending. Tax breaks, on the other hand, remain on the books until lawmakers modify them. As a result, over a trillion dollars a year in lost revenue – more than 1.6 times the 2013 budget deficit – goes largely unnoticed.

—–

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 and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Benghazi WTF?

Republicans aren’t for things. Instead they run from one hysterical anti-something scream to the next. They have shifted from the “noun-verb-911″ of the Bush years to “Obama said you didn’t build this” road and bridge, then to “Obamacare failed” and after Obamacare succeeded it was “Bundy” then it was “Oops” and now it’s “Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi” all the time. So what is Benghazi about?

First, you have to sift through all the wild conspiracy theories. Many Republicans say that Obama ordered the military to “stand down” and allow the attack to take place. Some Republicans say the attack was a “hit job” ordered by Obama to kill our ambassador. Others say Obama is having Benghazi witnesses and even investigators killed.

Now Speaker Boehner is setting up a Spanish inquisition special committee to “investigate” and deliver anti-Obama conclusions just in time for the election. Boehner said the committee will look into why the administration is “obstructing the truth about Benghazi.”

Continue reading

Balancing Trade – Remember The “Buffett Plan”

The enormous, humongous trade deficit is doing incredible damage to our economy. Our country’s elites used to care about that.

In 2003 Warren Buffett wrote a highly-influerntial article, America’s Growing Trade Deficit Is Selling The Nation Out From Under Us. Here’s A Way To Fix The Problem–And We Need To Do It Now. Buffett began, “I’m about to deliver a warning regarding the U.S. trade deficit and also suggest a remedy for the problem.” Then he added, “… our country’s ‘net worth,’ so to speak, is now being transferred abroad at an alarming rate.”

To make his point, Buffett used a hypothetical example of “two isolated, side-by-side islands of equal size, Squanderville and Thriftville.” Thriftville lived off the food they grew, and worked extra time so they could export food. The people in Squanderville stopped working and issued IOUs so they could just buy food from Thriftville, thinking “they can now live their lives free from toil but eat as well as ever.”

Of course, Squanderville couldn’t issue IOUs forever to buy Thriftville’s food. Eventually Thriftville owned all of Squanderville and the people there had to start working 16 hours a day to make up for the work they hadn’t done. And because Thriftville now owned Squanderville, the long hours would continue forever, generation after generation.

Continue reading