Here’s What ’60 Minutes’ Should Have Reported About Infrastructure

“60 Minutes” ran a report Sunday, “Falling apart: America’s neglected infrastructure,” describing the seriousness and damage to the economy caused by our country’s crumbling infrastructure.

Here are a few choice quotes, but really you should click through and watch the whole thing (and then come back here):

  • “Except for the stimulus nothing much has happened. It is ‘just another example of political paralysis in Washington.’ “
  • “1 of every 9 bridges (70,000) is structurally deficient.”
  • “It all comes down to funding.”
  • “These all are tragedies waiting to happen.”
  • “32% of major roads in America are in poor condition.”
  • “It’s falling apart because we haven’t made the investment.”
  • “Public spending on infrastructure has fallen to its lowest level since 1947.”

How bad is the problem? The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issues a regular “report card” on “the condition and performance of the nation’s infrastructure.” The 2013 grade is D+ and the cost to get us back to normal is now at $3.6 trillion. (The longer we wait the more the cost increases.) Because of this, The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report ranks the U.S. as 16th in the quality of its infrastructure.

How Can We Fix The Problem?

How do we fix this? Well, it’s simple: Congress can just invest in maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure! That’s all it takes. (OK, you’re either laughing hysterically or crying. Sorry.)

This used to be a no-brainer, a bipartisan approach, undisputed. Everyone understood that maintaining and modernizing the infrastructure created good-paying jobs with benefits. It made our economy more competitive. In times of downturn, Congress would of course vote to borrow at low interest rates (because interest rates are very low during recessions) and use the money for infrastructure investment, which would hire people who needed work and make the economy more competitive.

A popular proposal in Washington right now was mentioned in the “60 Minutes” piece: “Fund infrastructure through corporate tax reform.” Unfortunately, this is Washington/Corporate-speak for letting companies off the hook for most of the up-to $700 billion they owe on corporate profits they are hoarding “offshore” if they let us use a little bit of it for infrastructure. The obvious answer to the infrastructure problem is to just make these companies pay the taxes owed on profits already made, and use the money – up to $700 billion – for infrastructure.

“60 Minutes” leans heavily toward raising the gas tax to raise money, which is an obvious and necessary component of a long-term funding solution. The gas tax hasn’t been increased for over 20 years. However, today’s Republican Party – also known as the National Association of Petroleum and Coal Companies (NAPCC) – is strongly opposed to anything that would potentially have an impact on the profits of their clients. Since increasing the gas tax could potentially reduce the sale of gasoline and encourage the development of alternatives, the oil and coal companies are solidly opposed, which means the NAPCC (Republican Party) is solidly opposed.

The best solution is to borrow the money while interest rates are near zero. Investing in infrastructure at a time of high unemployment and low economic growth accomplishes the following:

  • Hires people.
  • Purchases of supplies (Buy America) boosts American businesses and leads to a secondary wave of hiring.
  • These employed people spend money, causing a wave of hiring at local stores, etc.
  • You end up with modern infrastructure, which makes the economy more competitive.

Waiting until the economy is already growing and interest rates are higher means the costs are higher.

So What Is Really Going On?

“60 Minutes” said the lack of work on our infrastructure is “just another example of political paralysis in Washington.” That is not what is happening. Every Democrat in Washington and, as Isaiah J. Poole pointed out Monday, 75 percent of Americans favor “increasing spending on infrastructure projects for our roads and highways.”

The “60 Minutes” segment mentioned that the only time the country has invested in infrastructure in recent years was the 2009 “stimulus.” Here is what that investment did:

In other words, it worked. The stimulus reversed the death spiral of 850,000 jobs a month we were losing, and by the time the stimulus wore off we were creating more than 100,000 jobs per month.

Here’s the thing. This is the reason that the Republican Party – also known as the National Association of Low-Wage Employers (NALWE) – opposes investing in our infrastructure. They oppose it because it (obviously) creates jobs. They oppose it because it demonstrates government doing good for We the People.

There is a reason Congress is being obstructed from doing what it always did and taking this opportunity of low interest rates, high unemployment and low GDP growth to do the infrastructure work that needs doing. For the last few decades the Republican Party – also known as the National Association of Plutocrats and Billionaires (NAPAB) – has been in an anti-government frame of mind. In a democracy government (We the People) is the force that empowers regular people, giving them the ability to fight back against great wealth and build broad prosperity. The NAPAB (Republican Party) has opposed and obstructed democratic government’s efforts to empower the public, to strengthen unions, to fight monopoly, to hold people in power accountable.

Here is what “60 Minutes” missed: The NAPAB (Republican Party) blocked infrastructure because it employs people. They oppose it because it would be government helping people. Their clients, the billionaires and plutocrats, benefit from low wages and disempowerment of regular people. Government programs that employ enough people and increase wages would cause people to have increased faith in government instead of losing faith in government.

Beginning in the 1980s, the country has seen the ascendance of the finance sector of the economy, commonly called “Wall Street.” Their mottos is, “From the many to the few.” Wall Street, represented in Washington by the NAPAB, NALWE and NAPCC has been busy harvesting our country’s public wealth for private profit, a.k.a. eating the seed corn. Taxes on the wealthy have been cut, maintenance of infrastructure has been deferred, programs that benefit regular people have been cut and gutted, public wealth has been privatized, factories closed and moved out of the country, pensions raided, wages reduced, jobs exported. Strengthening public infrastructure is not on the agenda. This is not an accident. This is not “just another example of political paralysis in Washington,” it is the reason for it.

Please click through:

60 Minutes, “Falling apart: America’s neglected infrastructure.”

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Infrastructure Report Card.

—-

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.

With Election Over, First Order Of Business Is $450B In Corporate Tax Breaks

The election is over. Congress is back in Washington. The first order of business after the election is to give big tax breaks to the corporations – $450 billion worth. Fortunately, President Obama is trying to do something about this.

Tax Extenders

Every year Congress renews a package of “temporary” corporate tax breaks. The renewal process is called “tax extenders” because they extend the term of these temporary breaks. So now the Congress is working on this year’s extenders package, except this time it wants to just make many of them (the ones that mostly give handouts to giant corporations and campaign donors) permanent. The Washington Post calls this process “a periodic bonanza for lobbyists.”

A few of the special tax breaks in the extenders package are really good and serve an important purpose. For example, part of the package is tax credits that provide incentives to invest in renewable energy. But most others are just giveaways and handouts to the already-wealthy, like depreciation tax breaks for people who own racehorses. (Yes, really.) Even worse, some of these are loopholes that actually encourage corporations to shift U.S. profits offshore into tax havens. (Yes, really.)

The good breaks are used to grease the wheels to slip these special favors through – as in “if you want to get those wind tax credits you’re going to have to pass a tax break for Mitt Romney’s racehorses.”

The media is reporting that Congress is near a deal on these extenders. The deal kills several “good” tax breaks that help working people and the middle class, like an expanded child tax credit for the working poor and expanded earned-income credit. The deal phases out the wind power tax credit after 2017.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) pointed out that companies that renounce their U.S. citizenship would even get special breaks from this deal:

“The package would provide a permanent boon to large corporations, even those that renounce their U.S. citizenship and invert,” he said. “And adding insult to injury, the proposed deal chooses to leave behind working families and would make things harder for millions of Americans. …The overall package is simply unacceptable and adds more than $400 billion to the debt. We need to grow the middle class, not punish those working hard to get by while always giving preferences and priority treatment to big corporations who can hire high-priced, well-funded lobbyists.”

Not Paid For

These tax breaks are not “paid for” – they just add to the deficit. Remember how Congress rejected providing benefits for the long-term unemployed because they were not “paid for?” Congress won’t fix the country’s infrastructure because doing so is not “paid for.” Even disaster relief had to be “paid for!”

But none of these corporate tax breaks and loopholes being considered are “paid for” – but for some reason this isn’t a problem – this time. Because racehorses. Anyway, we’re only talking about $450 billion.

President Says He Will Veto

The President says he will veto this deal if it reaches his desk. Roll Call has the story, in, “Obama Would Veto Corporate Tax Cut Bill“:

President Barack Obama would veto an emerging $450 billion tax cut deal coming together in the Senate because it doesn’t do enough for the middle class, according to the White House.

“The President would veto the proposed deal because it would provide permanent tax breaks to help well-connected corporations while neglecting working families,” said Jen Friedman, deputy White House press secretary.

—-

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.

Give Americans A $2000 Check From “Deferred” Corporate Taxes

U.S. multinational corporations are hoarding an estimated $2 trillion “offshore” to take advantage of a loophole in our tax laws. At our 35 percent top federal corporate tax rate, that represents up to $700 billion in taxes owed but “deferred” because they are “offshore.” This is not imaginary or future money; it is taxes owed on $2 trillion of profits these companies have already made. Who should get this money?

A loophole in the corporate tax code allows companies to “defer” paying taxes on profits made outside of the U.S. until they “repatriate” it – bring the money back to the U.S.. Because of this loophole corporations are holding an estimated $2 trillion of profits “offshore.” Companies are increasingly moving jobs, production and profit centers out of the country to take advantage of this scheme – or are engaging in schemes to make it look like they are. (The amount is increasing 11.8 percent a year and the rate of increase is increasing as well.)

That $700 billion is serious money. Washington lobbyists are working with Congress to come up with various corporate tax “reform” schemes designed to let the corporations off the hook for much of this tax bill – and to lower their future tax bills as well.

The most popular “centrist” idea is to let the corporations just keep much or most of the tax money they owe, if only they would just let us use some of it to maintain our country’s infrastructure. Going along with this would reward these companies for engaging in schemes to “offshore” jobs, production and profit centers, thereby moving (or making it appear that they moved) these profits out of the country – and certainly would encourage doing even more of this from now on.

Send A $2,000 Check To Every Adult – AND Fix Our Infrastructure

Instead of letting these companies off the hook for this tax bill, here is an alternative idea: Let’s collect the taxes that are due on these profits that have already been made, send every adult in the U.S. a check for $2,000, and use what’s left over to fix up our infrastructure.

This is real money, and a lot of it. Instead of making a “deal” on deferment and letting the corporations just keep this money they owe us, let’s fix this loophole and give most of this tax money to the 242 million U.S. residents over 18 as a $2,000 check. What’s left over (and there might be a lot – as much as $215 billion) can be used to fix our infrastructure and other priorities like research and development, fighting Ebola and other diseases, forgiving student debt – you name it.

This is about who gets the money. Do we give the tax money that is already owed to We the People, or do we let the giant corporations just keep it? By making this about a $2,000 check directly to every adult, it becomes personal. It becomes an issue of real money in people’s pockets, not some distant sum that “government” uses for their own good but that people never really feel or touch. Sending people a $2,000 check turns this battle over this money into a personal fight, not just some nebulous, distant, complicated government policy issue.

Who Should Get The Money?

By the way, when we talk about “corporate” money and corporate tax cuts, this is what – more accurately “who” – we are really talking about:

The top 1 percent own 50.9 percent of all stocks, bonds, and mutual fund assets. The top 10 percent own 90.3 percent. The bottom half of all of us own 0.5 percent – one half of one percent. That was 2007 – the top few have only increased their ownership percentages since.

This is about who gets the money. There is up to $700 billion in taxes due and someone is going to get that money. By making this about a $2,000 check to each adult American vs. billions to the owners of the giant corporations, we’re making the “who gets the money” argument personal instead of abstract.

Effect On Economy

What happens to our economy if every adult gets a $2000 check? How much hiring happens in local stores, etc?

What happens to our economy with up to $215 billion going into infrastructure work, with the related hiring and purchases of supplies?

What happens to our economy if companies lose the incentive to move jobs, production and profit centers offshore to take advantage of this loophole?

But wait, there’s more. There’s also that other $1.3 trillion – the “after tax” part that is offshore, too. If we do something about this deferment scam companies would lose the incentive to move jobs, production and profit centers out of the country to make it look like their profits are made elsewhere, and would “bring that money back.” The money would either be invested in the corporation or distributed to shareholders. This would be a big stimulus to the economy either way.

The Numbers

There’s as much as $2 trillion (maybe more) sitting offshore representing up to $700 billion in taxes owed at the top tax rate of 35 percent. (Taxes already paid to other countries are subtracted from what is owed here. This is why the tax bill is “up to” $700 billion. State taxes are also due on these profits, this article concerns itself with the federal share.)

According to the Census Bureau’s QuickFacts there were 316,128,839 Americans in 2013, 23.3 percent of them under 18, leaving 242,470,819 adults.

Sending a $2,000 check to 242.5 million adults costs about $485 billion. Up to $700 billion owed minus $485 billion leaves up to $215 billion for infrastructure and other priorities.

Summary

It’s a great way to accomplish several things that are good for the country:

1) Get cash to people right now. Helicoptered in, $700 billion would make a very big difference that people would feel now and the economy would feel for a while.

2) A $2,000 check shows people how corporate tax breaks are seriously costing them.

3) This puts pressure on “corporate tax reform” deals that reward the corporations by letting them keep any of it.

5) The best part is these companies already owe the money. This is about who gets the money that is owed to We the People. It makes the “We the People” part personal.

The awareness “making this personal” would bring to the issue would lend public support to other efforts to get companies to 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 and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Starting Saturday: A Week Of Action Against Fast Track, TPP

A “week of action” starts Saturday against “fast-track” trade promotion authority legislation, which would be used to usher in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “trade” (i.e. corporate rights) agreement.

The #StopFastTrack Week of Action is timed to coincide with international mobilizations and runs through next Friday, November 14. Sign up for the Thunderclap, attend one of the upcoming Fast Track protests, write a letter to the editor and get your own organizations to schedule an email blast directing supporters to StopFastTrack.com or your own action tools.

This weekend President Obama flies to Asia for a week of meetings. Part of the agenda is to get TPP finalized. In response, a broad coalition of labor, environmental, consumer and other “stakeholder” groups has delivered to congressional leaders a petition signed by more than 500,000 people opposing “fast-track” authority for the pact. It is these groups that are launching a week of action to drive up awareness of the dangers of Fast Track and TPP.

TPP is a twelve-nation pact that setting up new rules for approximately 40 percent of the global economy. While part of TPP is about relaxing tariffs and quotas, more of the agreement gives corporations new rights under financial regulations, limits the ability of governments to require that public procurement be done with in-country suppliers, gives the big pharmaceutical companies new powers over medicine patents and limits the ability of governments to set their own environmental policies. A section of the agreement called “investor-state dispute settlement” lets companies sue governments for doing things that limit corporate profits – even limiting a country’s ability to launch anti-smoking campaigns.

The giant, multinational corporations are going to try to sneak fast-track authority through the Congress because it greases the skids, making TPP almost inevitable, no matter how many people and organizations oppose it. We have to try to stop this.

Resources

Join the #StopFastTrack Thunderclap

Twitter hashtag: #StopFastTrack

For more information please visit:

Stop Fast Track

CWA: “Stop the Sneak Attack on Democracy!”

#StopFastTrack Week of Action – Citizens Trade Campaign

Flush the TPP: Nov. 8 to 14: Week of Action to Stop Fast Track and Unjust Trade

AFL-CIO: No Fast Track and sign their petition: Tell Congress to Stop Fast Track

Events

Here’s an initial list of events taking place throughout the country:

California
Sacramento Community Forum on the TPP & Fast Track – Stop the Sneak Attack on Democracy!
Wednesday, November 12 * 5:30pm
SEIU Local 1000
1325 S St * Sacramento, CA
RSVP Online: https://www.facebook.com/events/730070970381918/
Contact: Xiomara Castro, xiomara@citizenstrade.org

#StopFastTrack Overhead Light Brigade
Monday, November 10 * 5:00pm
Taylor Street Overpass over I-8
RSVP Online: https://www.facebook.com/events/858778814167627/
Contact: Kali Gochmanosky, kali@citizenstrade.org

San Diego #StopFastTrack Rally
Wednesday, November 12 * 4:00pm
Outside Congresswoman Susan Davis’ Office
2700 Adams Ave * San Diego, CA
RSVP Online: https://www.facebook.com/events/783089711732353
Contact: Kali Gochmanosky, kali@citizenstrade.org

Colorado
Rally: Stop the Sneak Attack on Democracy
Friday, November 7, 2014 *12:00pm
Outside Rep. Jared Polis’ Office
4770 Baseline Rd. * Boulder, CO
RSVP Online: bit.ly/FastTrackRallyCO
Contact: Carolyn Bninski, Carolyn.Bninski@gmail.com

Veterans’ Day Fast Track Protest (MoveOn Metro Denver Council)
Tuesday, November 11 * 5:00pm
Veterans Park at the Capitol
200 E. Colfax Ave * Denver, CO
Contact: Laura Avant, lavant04@comcast.net

Florida
Fast Track Opposition Commitment Appreciation Presentation
Date and Time TBA * Contact Event Organizer
South Florida AFL-CIO
4349 NW 36th St * Miami, FL
Contact: Fred Frost, frost180@bellsouth.net

Reminding Rep. Castor to Help #StopFastTrack (Tampa MoveOn.org)
Thursday, November 13 * 12:00pm
Outside Rep. Castor’s Office
4144 N Armenia Ave * Tampa, FL
RSVP Online: https://www.facebook.com/events/677294822367924/
Contact: Chris Radulich, cradulich@yahoo.com
Contact: Harriet Heywood, harrietheywood@gmail.com

Illinois
Mike Quigley Has Mail (#StopFastTrack Literature Drop)
Saturday, November 8 * 2:00 – 4:00pm
Lakeview/Wrigleyville Neighborhood * Chicago, IL
Contact: Carson Starkey, iltrade@citizenstrade.org

Rally Against Fast Track in Elgin
Sunday, November 9 * 1:00pm
Eligin Public Library
270 North Grove Avenue * Elgin, IL
Contact: Carson Starkey, iltrade@citizenstrade.org

#StopFastTrack Accountability Phone Bank
Monday, November 10 * 5:00 – 7:00pm
Workers United Office
333 South Ashland Ave * Chicago, IL
Contact: Carson Starkey, iltrade@citizenstrade.org

Massachusetts
Protest: Stop the Sneak Attack on Democracy, Rep. Neal!
Wednesday, November 12 * 8:00am
Outside the Boston Harbor Hotel
70 Rowes Warf * Boston, MA
Contact: Pat Fiero, patfiero@yahoo.com

Oregon
Fast Track Protest at Sen. Wyden & Rep. Blumenauer’s Offices
Friday, November 14 * 12:00pm
Gather Outside Rep. Blumenauer’s Office
729 NE Oregon St * Portland, OR
Contact: Elizabeth Swager, elizabeth@oregonfairtrade.org

Pennsylvania

#StopFastTrack Rally
Thursday, November 13 * 12:00pm
Outside Rep. Dent’s Office
3900 Hamilton Blvd * Allentown, PA
Contact: Amy Conahan, amy@citizenstrade.org

Washington
Stop Fast Track Rally (Occupy Bellingham)
Saturday, November 8 * 2:00 – 6:00pm
Holly and Railroad * Bellingham, WA
Contact: Dianne Foster, diannefoster234@gmail.com

Stop the Sneak Attack on Democracy! Light Brigade Action
Tuesday, November 11 * 5:00 – 6:30pm
Federal Building
915 2nd Ave (btw Marion St & Madison St)* Seattle, WA
RSVP Online: https://www.facebook.com/events/297265820474582/
Contact: Gillian Locascio, gillian@washingtonfairtrade.org

—-

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.

2014 Election Lesson: Politics Is About Delivering For Your Constituents

Politics is about delivering for your constituents. Underneath it all, this election was a statement by people against an economy that is not working for them.

We’ve heard the story but here it is again.

  • Most people say the country is still in a recession as far as their own life is concerned.
  • All the gains of the recovery went to the top 10 percent.
  • Middle-class incomes are down.
  • The new jobs in the economy pay less than the jobs people lost.
  • People are not able to find good jobs. Lots of people have given up looking for work.
  • Student debt is at crushing levels.
  • Etc. Etc. Etc.

The Republican strategy since 2009 was to obstruct any and all efforts to make things better for people, and then campaign on people’s dissatisfaction with things not being better for them. It worked. You can blame Republicans all you want, but the fact is they kept Democrats from delivering, and Democrats paid the price for not delivering. Democrats failed to deliver a better economy and a better life for most people, and voters held them accountable. Staying home and not voting is just as much a form of accountability as voting against Democrats.

However, the core of this is about more than just passing some bills, raising the minimum wage, providing some relief to the long-term unemployed. This is about the need for much bigger, transformational changes in the who-gets-what of our economy. The bigger picture is about deciding who is our economy for, anyway? Republicans say it is for the already-wealthy few. If Democrats are going to deliver for the people they are supposed to deliver for, they are going to have to face up to the core of the problem and do something about it. Until then … well, we saw what happens.

Harold Meyerson brilliantly lays it out in “The Democrats’ Catastrophe and the Need For a New Agenda” over at The American Prospect,

… [T]he Democrats’ failure isn’t just the result of Republican negativity. It’s also intellectual and ideological. What, besides raising the minimum wage, do the Democrats propose to do about the shift in income from wages to profits, from labor to capital, from the 99 percent to the 1 percent? How do they deliver for an embattled middle class in a globalized, de-unionized, far-from-full-employment economy, where workers have lost the power they once wielded to ensure a more equitable distribution of income and wealth? What Democrat, besides Elizabeth Warren, campaigned this year to diminish the sway of the banks? Who proposed policies that would give workers the power to win more stable employment and higher incomes, not just at the level of the minimum wage but across the economic spectrum?

The economy is not going to get better for most Americans until some fundamental changes are made. It’s a structural problem. The system is rigged for the benefit of a very few and their giant corporations. This is what has to be fixed before a better life can be delivered to most people.

It’s the economic paradigm, stupid.

—-

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.

If They Take The Senate Republicans Will Pass Trade Deals That Clinch Plutocracy

Trade deals like NAFTA have helped create terrible inequality by outsourcing jobs to low-wage countries so “investors” can pocket the wage difference. These corporate trade deals also create “corporate courts” that bypass the borders of democracy and place billionaires and their corporations beyond the reach of governments when it comes to deciding on laws and regulations that protect citizens.

There are more of these “NAFTA-style” being negotiated right now. These are much bigger than the trade deals that have already created such inequality and corporate hegemony. If Republicans take the Senate and keep the House they will pass these new trade deals and clinch this deal worldwide – and President Obama has already indicated he will sign them. This is serious so try to talk a few non-voting friends into showing up this time.

Trade Deals Being Negotiated Now

The big corporations are pushing our government to finalize three very big trade agreements: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). These are not really trade deals but cover all kinds of issues, including the ability to place corporate rights alongside or above the rights of countries to make their own laws.

These “trade” deals will, if passed by Congress and signed by the president, cement a corporate right to profits above the rights of citizens to pass laws to protect our health, environment, wages, working conditions and anything else we might decide to do to make our lives better. That’s right, these trade agreements place corporate rights above national sovereignty, and they do this behind a veil of secrecy.

These deals, like NAFTA and other “NAFTA-style” agreements, have “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) provisions that let giant corporations sue governments for passing laws that might cause investors to make lower profits. For example, these (and current) agreements allow tobacco companies to stop governments from engaging in anti-smoking initiatives to protect the health of their citizens. These suits do not come up in front of government courts. These are adjudicated by corporate-controlled tribunals of private arbitrators — “corporate courts” set up by these trade agreements. The “judges” are often corporate lawyers who just happen to also represent global investors and whose livelihood depends on the very corporations they are judging.

These deals are being negotiated with only the interests of the giant corporations at the table. Citizens groups, labor groups, consumer groups, environmental groups, health groups and other representatives of stakeholders in the world’s economy are excluded from the process.

Why is our own government negotiating a deal that gives so much to the big corporations and the billionaires behind them, and takes so much away from regular people? Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) sums it up, saying there are three kinds of people negotiating these agreements on behalf of our government:

  • People who used to work for the giant corporations that benefit from these agreements.
  • People who want to work for the giant corporations that benefit from these agreements.
  • People who used to work for the giant corporations that benefit from these agreements and want to work for the giant corporations that benefit from these agreements again.

Why would the giant corporations and the billionaires want these agreements? Because they clinch the deal and get them around the borders of democracy.

Wow, That Sounds Extreme

Trade deals are placing corporate rights above national sovereignty? They are intentionally undermining democracy? This sounds extreme. What kind of person would make such extreme accusations?

Yes, it sounds extreme. This is a dilemma progressives continually face when describing the agenda and actions of the corporate/conservative right. Because so much of what they are accomplishing is hidden behind a veil of secrecy, obfuscation and long-term step-by-step strategy (think frog in a pot with the water being heated slowly), and because people pay very little attention to the news and current events until something smacks them in the face (or wallet) you sound like a crazy extremist when you simply describe to people what is going on.

  • They’re trying to privatize Medicare? What an extreme accusation to make.
  • They are trying to make it hard for legitimate citizens to vote? Wow, what an extreme statement.
  • They’re trying to get rid of public schools? What an extreme thing to say.
  • They’re trying to engineer a cut in everyone’s pay and benefits? What an extreme … oh, wait, we all can see now that they did that.

The corporate right depends on this one-two punch of secrecy and a poorly informed public to get their way.

Tea-Party Republicans vs. Chamber Of Commerce Republicans

So far enough Democrats have opposed these trade deals to keep the Congress from passing the “fast-track” trade promotion authority that is used to push them through. Fast track requires Congress to rush to a vote immediately after the treaty is made public, prevents Congress from amending the agreements and prevents filibusters from blocking them in the Senate. But if Republicans take the Senate and keep the House, there may no longer be enough non-corporate-controlled members of Congress to keep this from happening.

However, there would still be one hope for blocking these trade deals, even if Republicans take the Senate, and that’s the party’s tea party wing.

These trade agreements undermine the sovereignty of our country. They allow others to override our own ability as a country to make our own laws. This is one place where the tea party gets it squarely right. And this is one place where the tea party wing of the Republican Party is at war with the Chamber of Commerce (corporate-controlled) wing of the Republicans. National sovereignty is important to tea party Republicans, so they oppose these agreements. Also they oppose them because they are favored by President Obama. “Don’t let Obama negotiate away our national sovereignty” is a tea party rallying cry.

If Republicans take the Senate, let’s hope this appreciation of national sovereignty overrides their appreciation of corporate cash.

—-

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.

Why You Shouldn’t Be “Optimistic” About Corporate “Tax Reform”

Washington elites are “optimistic” about another “reform.” That’s never good.

According to an article in The Hill this week, “WH adviser ‘optimistic’ for corporate tax reform“:

A top economic official in the White House on Tuesday expressed confidence that the next Congress can pass corporate tax reform.

… Obama has proposed lowering the corporate statutory rate from 35 percent to the high-20s while eliminating many deductions. Camp also proposed to lower the rate, but down to the mid-20s.

Camp has proposed shielding most of the profits corporations make offshore from U.S. taxation, while Obama has called for a minimum tax on global earnings.

Why is it that any time you hear the word “reform” coming out of Washington, it always ends badly for about 99 percent of us? They talk about entitlement “reform” – meaning cutting Social Security and Medicare. They talk about regulation “reform” – meaning our food and workplaces are going to be less safe. They talk about spending “reform” – meaning doing less of the things that make We the People’s lives better. (They never “reform” the military budget. It is more than double what it was when ‘W’ Bush took office. Because we have to defend against the Soviet Union.)

“Reform” is lobbyist-speak for opening up the floodgates, hanging the flags out, lighting the savings accounts on fire, letting dozens of blackbirds fly out of the pie, letting the horses out of the barn and generally fleecing the citizenry.

Continue reading

Oil Cos. Trying To Use Trade Treaty To Bypass Congress And Raise Prices

m4s0n501

You may have heard that there is an oil and gas “boom” happening in the US. You might not know that there is a ban on exporting our own oil. This ban is good for the country but bad for oil companies. And the oil industry is attempting an end run around Congress to do something about it.

There is an ongoing “boom” in oil and natural gas production. Production of natural gas is way up. Imports are down about half since 2007. Texas oil production alone has more than doubled since 2011. This increase in domestic oil production has various consequences. We use much of our rail capacity transporting oil to refineries. The increase in natural gas production is pushing coal use down, and lowering carbon emissions as we fight for a transition away from using fossil fuel at all.

Continue reading

Reagan Set Up The Death Of The Middle Class, But China Was The Clincher

Campaign for America’s Future’s 2010 Reagan Revolution Home To Roost series, especially the post Reagan Revolution Home To Roost — In Charts described the beginning of the great decoupling of the American economy from the middle class.

The summary:

Conservative policies transformed the United States from the largest creditor nation to the largest debtor nation in just a few years, and it has only gotten worse since then.

Continue reading

Who Gets Rich Harvesting Burger King and the American Economy?

As fast-food workers across the country strike for decent pay, Burger King is still preparing to abandon the U.S. as its home country. How does a burger company get flipped like this and who gets rich when it happens?

Burger King is a company whose products encourage obesity, heart disease and diabetes in its customers and pays its employees so little that they require food stamps and other government assistance just to be able to sustain themselves. Now Burger King is asking us to swallow something even unhealthier than their food and lower than their pay. They are asking us to let them off from paying many of the taxes that sustain the very infrastructure, courts, education system and food safety system that enables them to stay in business – even the trademark system that keeps others from using the name “Burger King” or calling their product a “Whopper®.”

The company has been stripped, financialized and any remaining value is ultimately being moved across the border. The story of what is happening with Burger King is the story of what American capitalism and its financial speculation has been and is doing to the American economy. It is being done to the company and to us by the financiers. In this case it is names like Goldman Sachs, TGP Capital, Bain Capital, 3G Capital – all playing games with Burger King, other companies the American economy and our lives. And the latest plunderer, Bill Ackman and his Pershing Square Capital Management, is a financial manipulator who when he sees a company’s carcass worth plundering, goes after it – even if it involves betting on a company’s stock going down and then working to drive the company into the ground.

Continue reading