Pfizer Buying Allergan So It Can Pretend To Be Irish In Tax Scam

The pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer will acquire pharmaceutical corporation Allergan in a deal valued at $160 billion. My colleague Richard Eskow called this combination of Pfizer (the maker of Viagra) and Allergan (the maker of Botox) “a merger of false desire and false beauty.”

More to the point, this deal is structured as an “inversion” designed to dodge U.S. taxes. Allergan (itself the product of a similar inversion) is headquartered in New Jersey but for tax reasons is incorporated in Ireland – a tax haven. After the acquisition, Pfizer will keep its headquarters in New York but change its corporate address to Ireland.

In other words, the resulting merged company will make and sell products in the same places it makes and sells them now. The same executives will occupy the same buildings. It will receive the same taxpayer-funded U.S. services, infrastructure, courts and military protection that it receives now. But the company will now claim it is “based” in tax-haven Ireland and thereby dodge U.S. taxation.

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Must Watch – Warren’s Warning About The Coming Corporate Tax Giveaway

“It’s not that taxes are far too high for giant corporations, as the lobbyists claim. No, the problem is that the revenue generated from corporate taxes is far too low.”
– Senator Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren gave a “Change Is In The Air” speech Wednesday, talking about corporate tax reform. If there was ever an Elizabeth Warren speech to see, it is this one.

Warren began by describing how lobbyists and corporate CEOs are swarming Congress and saturating the media with a pitch that says corporations are paying too much in taxes, that this is forcing corporations to flee abroad and the solution is to slash corporate tax rates. This story of overtaxation is told and retold.

Warren says there is just one problem with this: “It’s not true.”

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Clinton vs Sanders vs O’Malley On Fixing Banking

How do we fix Wall Street, a.k.a. “the banks”? How do the candidates compare? This question came up in the first Democratic debate and there has been lots of online commentary on this since.

The first place to look, of course, is CAF’s Candidate Scorecard. “The Candidate Scorecard measures the positions of Democratic candidates for president against the Populism 2015 platform endorsed by organizations representing 2 million Americans.” On Wall Street – specifically, making “Wall Street serve the real economy” – the Candidate Scorecard rates the candidates as follows:
● Bernie Sanders: 100%
● Martin O’Malley: 100%
● Hillary Clinton: 63%

Note that Clinton’s 63 percent rating is primarily based on not having a position on a financial transaction tax – “Has yet to take a position, though has used rhetoric against high frequency traders who game the system” – as well as opposing reinstating some form of a Glass-Steagall Act and a lack of specific proposals related to the categories “Break Up Big Banks” and “Affordable Banking.”

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Exxon’s Funding Of Climate Denial Turned Americans Against Their Own Government For Profit

Exxon and other fossil fuel companies may have committed a crime of enormous proportions, and more and more elected officials and others are demanding an investigation.

The charge is that Exxon scientists and management knew since the late 1970s that the company’s product was helping cause our planet to warm “catastrophically,” but management responded by covering this up and disseminating disinformation – joining with other companies to commit an enormous fraud on the public for profit.

For some time, environmentalists have been warning that oil and coal companies were behind a broad campaign to deceive the public and block the government from regulating or taxing carbon pollution. Sites like ExxonSecrets, the Union of Concerned Scientists, SourceWatch and their Coal Issues portal, CoalSwarm and many others have been exposing, warning, documenting and working to get the word out.

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Corporations Demand Budget Cuts, Owe Government $660 Billion

How MANY times have we heard corporate-funded conservatives and “centrists” whine about “deficits” and demand cuts in the things government does to make people’s lives better? How many times?

“We’re broke.” “Taxpayers can’t afford these … (pensions, health programs, infrastructure repair, food stamps, high-speed rail systems, scientific studies, you name it).” Over and over we are subjected to demands that our own government cut back on the things it does — teachers and schools, roads, food programs, dams, bridges, scientific research, health care (but never, ever on military corporate contracts).

This “deficits” drumbeat is incessant because it is so well funded with corporate cash.

Fortune 500 Corporations Owe $620 Billion In Taxes

What would you say if you learned that the same corporations funding this corporate-conservative anti-government “deficit” propaganda actually owed the government more than $600 billion (billion with a ‘B’), and another $90 billion each year?

Last week Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund released an important report showing how Fortune 500 companies use tax-haven subsidiaries to keep $2.1 trillion out of the country to dodge up to $620 billion in U.S. taxes. These are profits already on the books, so the taxes are due – except for a “deferral” loophole that was quietly inserted into the tax code in the 1986 tax “reform” law.

The CTJ/PIRG report is titled, “Offshore Shell Games.” (Read the whole thing if you can, skim it if you can’t.) From the Executive Summary:

U.S.-based multinational corporations are allowed to play by a different set of rules than small and domestic businesses or individuals when it comes to the tax code. Rather than paying their fair share, many multinational corporations use accounting tricks to pretend for tax purposes that a substantial portion of their profits are generated in offshore tax havens, countries with minimal or no taxes where a company’s presence may be as little as a mailbox. Multinational corporations’ use of tax havens allows them to avoid an estimated $90 billion in federal income taxes each year.

Congress, by failing to take action to end this tax avoidance, forces ordinary Americans to make up the difference. Every dollar in taxes that corporations avoid by using tax havens must be balanced by higher taxes on individuals, cuts to public investments and public services, or increased federal debt.

This tax dodging also costs about $90 billion every year in lost federal tax revenue.

Again, the corporations that are funding this anti-government, conservative propaganda machine that is demanding cutbacks in everything that makes our lives better (but never, ever on military corporate contracts) are dodging $620 billion in taxes and another $90 billion every year.

Tax Repatriation Holiday

But wait, there’s more. (They have almost everything but they always want more.)

The giant corporations are engaged in a campaign to get out of paying those taxes they owe – now and in the future. They are demanding that the government cut the tax rate, not only on those taxes they already owe, but on future taxes as well.

This is a bit tricky, but just remember the word “repatriation.” If you hear someone in Congress talk about “repatriation” they are almost always talking about letting these corporations off the hook on this tax bill.

For example, when you hear that the “highway bill” can be “paid for” using “repatriation” (click the link to get a sense of this) they are saying they’ll let these corporations pay significantly less then they owe, and then use what’s left over (if any) to pay for the highway bill.

When you hear a politician say they will “raise money” using “corporate tax reform,” what they are saying is let these corporations off the hook for a chunk of their taxes now and in the future. (When you hear the word “reform” in Washington these days it means get ready to get hit upside the head with a hammer.) In this usage, “How Tax Reform Could Help Save U.S. Infrastructure” actually means let these corporations pay significantly less than the $620 billion they owe, and use the rest for … whatever.

Apologies in advance for the cliché here, but hearing corporate-conservative complaints about deficits when the corporations funding them are dodging hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes is like the child who shoots his parents and then asks for leniency because he’s an orphan. Enough about deficits and cuts already; make them pay their taxes.


CAF petition: Tell your Senators: No tax breaks for corporations that shift profits and jobs offshore.

Americans for Tax Fairness petition: Tell Congress it’s time that corporations pay what they owe – their fair share! And when they do, we can invest in America’s future.

Progressive Congress: Tell Congress to make corporations pay what they owe on the $2.1 trillion in profits stashed offshore.


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.

What You Should Know About That Completed TPP “Trade” Deal

Countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) say they have reached a deal. So here it comes.

Monday morning it was announced that a “Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal Is Reached,” presented as much as a foreign policy success as a “trade” deal.

“The United States, Japan and 10 other Pacific basin nations on Monday agreed after years of negotiations to the largest regional trade accord in history, an economic pact envisioned as a bulwark against China’s power and a standard-setter for global commerce, worker rights and environmental protection.

… The trade initiative, dating to the start of his administration, is a centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s economic program to expand exports. It also stands as a capstone for his foreign policy “pivot” toward closer relations with fast-growing eastern Asia, after years of American preoccupation with the Middle East and North Africa.

The effect the deal will have on actual “trade” is unclear, since the U.S. already has trade agreements with many of the participating countries. Also much of the deal appears to be about things people would not usually consider “trade”, like investor rights and limits on the ability of countries to regulate.

Though the deal remains secret, here is some of what is known about the agreement deal.

● Currency manipulation is not addressed in TPP, even though Congress’ “fast track” legislation said it must be. To get around this, a “side agreement” supposedly sets up a “forum” on currency. Past side agreements have proven unenforceable. For this reason Ford Motor Company has already publicly announced opposition to TPP.

● A “tobacco carve-out” is in the deal, in some form. This was added because the agreement contains investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions that will allow corporations to sue governments that use laws or regulations to try to restrict what the companies do. These provisions restrict the ability of governments to protect their citizens so thoroughly that tobacco companies have used ISDS provisions in similar agreements to sue governments that try to help smokers quit or prevent children from starting smoking. TPP proponents felt that this carve-out will help TPP to pass, while the ability to limit other laws and regulations remains.

● President Obama has said TPP includes the “strongest labor provisions of any free trade agreement in history.” Previous “trade” agreements do not even stop labor organizers from being murdered, so even if TPP has “stronger” labor provisions, that is an extremely low bar.

● TPP reduces or eliminates many tariffs, further encouraging companies to move factories out of the U.S. to low-wage countries like Vietnam. An example of the effect TPP will have on U.S. manufacturing is Nike vs. New Balance. Nike already outsources its manufacturing to take advantage of low wages, while New Balance is trying to continue to manufacture in the U.S. When tariffs on imported shoes are eliminated Nike will gain an even greater advantage over New Balance. New Balance has said that the tariff reductions in TPP will force it to stop manufacturing inside the US.

● The reduction and elimination of tariffs reduces revenues for the governments involved.

What Next?

Here is a brief rundown on what to expect as TPP begins to make its way toward a Congressional vote:

● The TPP is still secret and according to the terms in this year’s fast-track legislation it will remain secret for 30 days after the president formally notifies Congress that he will sign it. That could be a while still, as the agreement’s details need to be “ironed out.” After that 30-day wait the full text has to be public for 60 days before Congress can vote. The full timeline is yet to unfold and will be reported here as it does.

● Expect a massive and massively funded corporate PR push. The biggest corporations very much want TPP. It massively benefits the interests of giant corporations and the “investor” class, even as it incentivizes moving jobs and production out of the U.S.

● While only a small portion of TPP is about what people would normally consider to be “trade,” TPP will be heavily pushed as a “trade” deal. Many people believe that “expanding trade” increases jobs. Note that closing a U.S. factory and importing the same goods “expands trade” because those goods cross a border.

Also see the American Prospect, “What’s Next for the TPP: Clyde Prestowitz in Conversation with David Dayen.”

Questions To Ask About TPP

When the still-secret TPP becomes public, these are some of the questions the public will want answered:

● What do regular, non-wealthy people in the U.S. get from TPP? Will it increase American wages? Will it have provisions that force wage increases in countries that currently pay very little, thereby helping those workers (and helping them buy American-made products, too) and reducing downward pressure on American wages? Or will there be NAFTA-style provisions encouraging outsourcing to low-wage countries like Vietnam, creating further downward pressure on wages and increasing inequality?

● What do people in the U.S. lose? For example, the Los Angeles Times explains, “U.S. industries such as auto, textiles and dairy, however, could experience some losses as they are likely to face greater competitive pressures from Vietnam, Japan and New Zealand.”

● Does the TPP contain badly needed provisions to require member countries to jointly fight global climate change?

● Will provisions on state-owned enterprises force further privatization of publicly owned and publicly operated infrastructure like the U.S. Postal Service, highways, water systems and other public utilities – even services like municipal parking operations?

● Will TPP enable the U.S. to continue using tax dollars to help American companies, like our “Buy America” procurement policies?

● Will TPP expand imports from countries where food is often found to contain banned toxic chemicals? If so, will TPP require increases in food and product safety standards and inspections?

● Does the TPP increase oversight of financial companies like banks, insurance companies and hedge funds?

TPP Pits Obama, Republicans, Wall Street And Big Corporations Against Democrats, Labor, Progressives

While still secret, the agreement is likely to have many of the same proponents and opponents as the fast-track trade promotion authority battle had. As the Los Angeles Times words it today, it “pits the White House, many Republicans and supporters of free trade against organized labor, civic groups and many lawmakers from Obama’s own party, who fear the deal will hurt workers and the environment.”

In a Monday morning call Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said the TPP text Congress is allowed to see has not been updated for some time, so even they don’t know what is in it. Saying Congress has had to rely on leaks and hasn’t seen the supposed “side agreements” at all, DeLauro asked the administration to “have the courage” to show Congress and the public the text now.

DeLauro complained that leaked drafts show U.S. negotiators negotiating hard for pharmaceutical companies, but not for the interests of American workers. “The administration has put big corporations first, workers last.”

She said rules-of-origin requirements allow less than half to be made in U.S. and TPP countries, the rest can come from countries like China. “None of us can think of a clearer mechanism for taking American jobs”

Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) said, “we’ve seen the nightmare NAFTA brought to our manufacturing sector and hard-working American families; this deal is NAFTA on steroids” because this is much broader. Multinational corporations will benefit from increased drug prices and access to cheaper labor.

Rep. Dan “Rock Star” Kildee (D-Mich.) said “what’s not there is there is a lack of any enforceable currency provision. This ties American manufacturer’s hands behind their back as they try to compete. Worse, new rules of origin allow the Chinese to provide more than half the content of a car and it will be treated as domestic. Combined with no currency rules, this will have a devastating effect.”

He added, “I would ask members who voted for fast track to look at the details. When they see specific details and impact on their businesses I think they will vote no.”

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) said, “I’m a car girl … we are only operating on early reports but already Ford and Chrysler are opposed, joining the UAW, and those companies have strongly supported previous deals.”

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) called TPP a “huge win for China because of currency, rules of origin; we get zero access to the Chinese market.”

On the ability to ensure even these ow rules of origin, Sherman said, “What about de facto rules? How does anyone police it? Are Chinese going to report companies that are mislabeling?”


The Teamsters are asking people to sign this petition:” Tell Congress: Show Me the Text on Reported TPP Deal.”

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has released this petition and is asking people for signatures: “Sign my petition to join our fight against the disastrous Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal. We cannot afford to let this trade deal hurt consumers and cost America jobs.”

The U.S. Trade Representative office has released this summary


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.

Don’t Put Privatizer And Payday Lender Lobbyist On The USPS Board

With corporate-conservative calls for full or partial privatization of the United States Postal Service (USPS) escalating, groups are sounding the alarm about new nominees to the USPS Board of Governors.

The Senate is scheduled soon to consider the nominations of Mickey D. Barnett, James C. Miller III and two other nominees. Miller is a notorious privatization advocate and Barnett is a payday lender lobbyist. The Leadership Conference, a civil & human rights coalition, has sent a public letter to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Reid asking them to oppose the nominees. (Since all four nominees are to be voted on as a package, the Leadership Conference is asking that the entire slate be voted down. At Naked Capitalism, in Epic Fail for the Postal Service: The Wrong Model and the Wrong Board, the other two nominees are described as not particularly bad for the USPS, but are “… a reflection of a system that treats public service as a revolving door for political and economic elites. This leaves a permanent imprint of the one percent on government and may be one of the primary reasons for cynicism in the electorate.”)

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Wait. Back Up. Sanders Only Has 650,000 Donors?

The other day it was announced with great fanfare that Bernie Sanders has received more than 1 million contributions from around 650,000 people. (Some have contributed more than once.)

But wait a minute, that really is not a large number in a country of almost 320 million people.

Let’s Do Some Math

Sanders is polling at somewhere around 26% among Democrats nationally. Barack Obama received 65.9 million votes in 2012. 26% of this is around 17 million. So there should be around 17 million current Bernie supporters. 650,000 is only 3.8% of that 17 million. This means that only about 3.8% of (according to current polls) possible current Bernie supporters have donated to his campaign.

Repeat: only 3.8% of what the polls tell us are current Bernie Sanders supporters have donated to his campaign.

Since Hillary Clinton has fewer donors but polls show support from 43.5% of Democrats, obviously the percentage of supporters donating to her campaign is going to be astronomically lower than Bernie’s 3.8%. I don’t want to do the math.

Get With It, People

Get with it, people. How do you think Democrats are going to win against the corporate-billionaire conservative machine, if only a few of us are donating to candidates? Seriously, if our advantage in numbers is going to override the Republican corporate-billionaire-financed financial advantage, we all have to pitch in.

If you support Bernie, send $20 today. Or more.

If you support Hillary Clinton, send $20 today. Or more.

if you support Martin O’Malley, send $20 today. Or more.

You really do have a responsibility to do this.

Not Just Candidates

And it isn’t just candidates you should be donating to. Republicans have a huge infrastructure of conservative support organizations, largely funded by corporations and billionaires. These are the outfits that spew out right-wing propaganda 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 400 days a year. How MANY times have you had to listen to things like, “Taxes take money out of the economy,” “Corporations always do things better than government,” and the rest of their anti-government, anti-democracy crap? How often do you hear a response? Hardly ever — and the reason is that YOU are not donating money to progressive organizations.

(I’m a Sr. Fellow at Campaign for America’s Future. But really, there are a number of great progressive organizations you should be supporting and I am sure that people can name several in the commerts.)

Democracy doesn’t have an advertising budget — it’s up to you. Donate, donate, donate.

Another Attack On Our Postal Service

Should we run our country for the benefit of We the People, or so that a few people can profit off of We the People? This is a question that is rising to the surface in a battle between those who want the United States Postal Service (USPS) maintained and expanded, and those who want it privatized.

There are some conservative ideologues who just can’t stand that the USPS demonstrates government doing its job of helping make our lives better. As with Social Security, they attack it relentlessly and endlessly.

The latest push to privatize the USPS came from the Elaine Kamarck at the Brookings Institution, in “Delaying the Inevitable: Political Stalemate and the U.S. Postal Service.” Kamarck writes:

The USPS exists right now in never-never land. It is not fully public and it is not fully private. It is supposed to compete and innovate but it is stifled by law and saddled with a governance structure that impedes innovation. It is time to decide its future.

Using the old “buggy-whip” analogy, Kamarck claims that much of what the USPS does is obsolete. Paper mail is “fading away” because of the Internet (“only” 23 billion pieces of first-class mail were sent last year). UPS and FedEx compete in parcel delivery.

Kamarck’s defines USPS’ dilemma as a “stalemate” in Congress that prevents lawmakers from passing legislation that would address the postal service’s challenges. (This stalemate is really between anti-government privatizers who want FedEx and UPS to take over all mail and package delivery, and the public who rely on the USPS and want it maintained and even expanded into new services like public banking.)

The “solution” Kamarck recommends is splitting the USPS in two. One part would be a public institution that delivers mail, and only mail, to everyone nationally. (This part is a reluctant nod to the pesky fact that a Post Office is mandated in our Constitution and popular with the public.) The other would be a privatized organization for parcel delivery, a business that would compete with (or, more likely, immediately dismantled and sold to) FedEx and UPS.

Of course, for the resulting public mail-delivery institution to “make money” off of the public, mail delivery would have to be cut way back. Saturday delivery would have to end. It would have to get rid of several mail-processing facilities, even though this would slow delivery. Other steps – layoffs, along with pay and benefit cuts for the workers who remain – would make the service more “efficient.” Over time, service would degrade and eventually this would all end badly for the public and the employees. (But, of course, that’s the point.)

The paper has been promoted in various media outlets as offering partial privatization as a sensible solution to a congressional impasse. In “Should the Postal Service be sold to save it?” at The Washington Post, Lisa Rein summarizes the Brookings paper:

“… with three Congresses in a row failing to pass legislation to help stabilize its finances, some lawmakers and policy experts have reached the consensus that it’s time for the government to sell the post office.

This group was limited for a few years to conservatives and Republicans in Congress. But now a Democrat at the centrist Brookings Institution, Washington’s premier academic think tank, is joining the privatization side, arguing in a new paper that Congress’s inaction requires that something be done.

Rein gives a nod to that pesky “We the People” part of this, writing,

The idea of selling off any part of the government agency for which Benjamin Franklin first served as postmaster general has drawn fierce opposition from Democrats in Congress and the still-powerful postal unions. Others say it would be politically untenable.

That’s another way of saying:
1) The postal service is mandated in the Constitution (“Ben Franklin”) because of its importance to democracy and commerce.
2) A lot of people who work there (“still-powerful unions”) would be forced into low-wage jobs if it is privatized, damaging communities and the economy.
3) The public wants it and they can still vote (“politically untenable”) – for now.

(Mentioning that Kamarck is “a Democrat” imbues bipartisan “credibility” on the privatization argument.)

Competes With Private Sector

The meat of Kamarck’s argument is not really “stalemate.” The real argument arrives on page 8: The USPS competes with “the private sector.” In our current economic system We the People providing things that make all of our lives better is not desirable because this competes with the ability of a few already wealthy people to profit by providing those same things (but only to those who can afford it). So in our system We the People are prevented from providing for ourselves, saying this “unfairly competes” with the private sector.

Here is what Kamarck writes about this competition:

Some argue that the Post Office should get into more new lines of business – from delivering groceries to teaming up with retailers to deliver packages on the same day they are ordered. But this raises the thorny question of subsidies. To what extent do the U.S. government subsidies for the USPS create an unfair playing field for all those who are already in the private market place delivering everything from groceries to clothing?

The monopoly the USPS enjoys in the areas of mail delivery and mailboxes, as well as a host of other advantages, including tax subsidies, preferential interest rates on borrowing, and extensive real estate, means that when the USPS competes with the private sector, it enjoys an unfair subsidy. According to a recent study, these monopoly rights and privileges add up to an estimated $18 billion dollars in special annual savings and subsidies for the postal system.

Why yes, We the People could do a great job of providing these things for ourselves, if we were allowed to. But that would “unfairly compete” with those who want to profit of off doing those things, while only doing them for people who have enough money to pay for them.

USPS Hobbled

The USPS is financially hobbled. It is essential public infrastructure, but does not receive appropriations from Congress and is required to “make money” off of serving the public. But it also has to pre-fund the benefits of employees so far into the future that it is setting aside money for possible employees who are not even born yet.

The USPS is also hobbled by preventing it from doing things it could be doing to serve the public. With offices in almost every community in the country the USPS could offer public banking to serve the millions of Americans who do not have bank accounts and cannot cash and write checks or use ATMs. (Here’s an idea for serving the public: This bank could even offer insured retirement savings accounts, perhaps up to $250,000, and with some money from Congress could pay maybe 3% above market interest rates.)

The USPS could also serve the public by providing low-priced, super-fast fiber internet — and even cell service. It could even provide low-price cable TV services. But currently it is prevented from doing these things because it would “unfairly compete” with the private Internet and cell and cable providers who as we all can see are serving the public so well by delivering super-fast and low-cost (and fee-free) internet and cell and cable — all with absolutely first-class customer service! (HA!)

USPS A Major Employer, Providing Benefits

Here is an important part of this whole equation: The USPS is a major, major employer – the second largest employer in the United States after Walmart. The USPS should serve as a model employer, pay great wages, provide great benefits and be a great place to work. This is what We the People of the United States would want everyone to have at their job and what We the People should provide when it is up to us.

But corporate-funded, anti-government politicians again and again “save money” by forcing “efficiency” in the number, pay and benefits of public employees, or by just outsourcing their jobs. The outsourced companies hire at near-or-minimum wage with few-or-no benefits (so they can pay a few at the top astonishing amounts). This loss of good-paying jobs combined with the low wages of the replacements creates a strain on local communities that often have to provide assistance. Then, of course, the anti-government ideologues complain that government is providing “handouts.”

Never mind the subsidies private employers like Walmart get from us because they pay so little that the public has to provide public assistance to make up the difference so their employees can even eat. (Meanwhile the Walton family has more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans combined.)

If the USPS is partially or completely privatized, employees will be moved into low-wage positions with little or no benefits, working longer hours. Their communities would suffer as they cut back from spending and paying taxes, homes are foreclosed, public assistance is needed and problems of poverty start to appear. This is not what We the People want for our society, but this is what would occur.

Privatizer’s Playbook

Here is the privatizer’s playbook: Create a crisis and then offer “solutions” that fit their agenda. Make government not work and then say that because government doesn’t work we should get rid of it. In USPS’ case, engineer a requirement that the USPS “make money” instead of receiving government appropriations. Then hobble its ability to do that. When service is cut back, complain that it isn’t doing a very good job and complain that it should be privatized because it is “going broke.” (You may have also heard that Social Security is “going broke.” However you may not have heard that the military is not “making money” and is “going broke.”)

When a full-on frontal assault fails, offer incremental steps that lead to eventual total privatization or dismantlement. Break it into pieces, leaving guaranteed failure behind.

Of course, never, never mention that Congress could just appropriate money as needed for the USPS, and that the USPS could take advantage of its impressive national infrastructure to expand into new areas that serve public needs.

These obvious and simple solutions do not fit the privatization agenda. Instead, define the problem in other ways that lead to the desired solution. This is what they do, and this is what we are seeing here.

Note that FedEx is in the “Honor Roll of Contributors” to the Brookings Institution. Meanwhile another Brookings item calls the USPS “a hopelessly retrograde enterprise.” Writes Kevin R. Kosar, “To be clear, the Postal Service cannot be abolished; at least, not immediately. … But a day of reckoning must come.”

When that so-called “day of reckoning” comes, will We the People who benefit from all of the services that the USPS does provide and could provide end up being delivered a bill of goods?


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.

Final (?) TPP Talks Underway Now In Atlanta

A new round of negotiations is underway in Atlanta this week between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries. They are trying to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Some groups are asking people to come to Atlanta to protest. There are also calls for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to make her views known on TPP.

A major reason for the push to get TPP completed now is the upcoming presidential election. The negotiators want Congress to vote before TPP becomes an issue in the campaign, which would mean the public will begin learning of the pact’s provisions and hearing arguments against them.

Negotiators are pushing TPP because it helps get government out of the way of big corporations. A provision in TPP called investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) lets corporations bring cases against governments in corporate-arbitrated courts that are outside of national legal system, if those government pass laws or regulations that interfere with corporate profits. For example, tobacco corporations will be able to sue governments for engaging in efforts to help citizens stop – or prevent children from – smoking. (See “Tobacco ‘Smoking Gun’ Shows Real TPP Agenda” and “Tobacco “Carve-Out” Dispute Tells Us What We Need To Know About TPP.”)

TPP will also help defund governments by reducing revenue from tariffs. The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman recently boasted in Politico that TPP will lower government revenues, saying, “TPP will deliver billions of dollars of tax cuts every year going forward” in the form of cuts in tariffs that U.S. manufacturers and farmers face in the TPP countries.

While the agreement – the largest “trade” agreement in history – supposedly is a broad agreement defining the rules of doing business in the 21st century, the negotiations are actually about horse-trading immediate concerns and deals and markets between different corporations. Following is a summary of a few of the remaining issues in the way of completing the agreement: currency manipulation, autos and auto parts, and Donald Trump.

Currency Manipulation

Some countries manipulate their currencies, which makes goods made there cost less in world markets. Meanwhile the U.S. currency is “strong,” which means American manufacturers lose business and are forced to shed workers. Many in Congress want TPP to contain clauses regulating this manipulation.

Last week 158 members of Congress sent a letter to the White House, which, according to the Detroit Free Press, urged “that strong, enforceable provisions against currency manipulation be made part of a Pacific Rim trade deal.”

From the Free Press report,

Legislators from industrial states, including Michigan, have argued that strong, enforceable currency standards must be part of any trade deal with Pacific Rim nations to ensure the U.S. is not put at a disadvantage to countries which may manipulate their currency to help their own industries.

“In just the last month, three of our trading partners — China, Korea, and Vietnam — have each taken steps that have caused their currencies to weaken, disadvantaging American businesses,” the letter said. “These steps have raised significant concerns and highlighted the importance of enacting strong, enforceable protections.”

“U.S. workers and businesses are the best in the world, and it is critical to our country’s economic future that they are able to compete in a fair global marketplace,” the letter continued. “For that reason, it is critical the TPP include strong, enforceable protections against currency manipulation.”

Autos And Auto Parts

Canada and Mexico are opposing a Japanese proposal to lower the requirement for how much of a car and auto parts have to be made in TPP countries to avoid tariffs. U.S. auto companies and parts manufactures, of course, side with Canada and Mexico, but Japan wants to be able to have cars and parts made in China, yet still avoid tariffs.

Unbelievably, our own country’s trade negotiators – desperately wanting this deal to conclude this week – appear to be siding with Japan and China against American, Canadian and Mexican manufacturers. For details, see: “Under Pressure To Finish TPP, Are They Giving Away More Jobs?” and “TPP Terms Are Even Worse For U.S. Than NAFTA?


Part of Donald Trump’s popularity comes from his opposition to the way that previous trade agreements like NAFTA have hurt American workers and industries. For example, Trump has stated that he will end that NAFTA trade agreement that cost so many jobs and moved so many factories out of the U.S. The Hill reports, in “Trump threatens to ‘break’ trade pact with Mexico, Canada“:

Donald Trump is calling the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) a “disaster” and vowing to renegotiate or break the deal if elected president.

“It’s a disaster,” Trump told CBS’s Scott Pelley in an interview airing Sunday on “60 Minutes.” “We will either renegotiate it or we will break it because you know every agreement has an end.

“Every agreement has to be fair. Every agreement has a defraud claim. We’re being defrauded by all these countries,” Trump continued.
Pressed on whether he supports free trade, Trump responded, “We need fair trade, not free trade. We need fair trade it’s got to be fair.”

Trump has blasted trade policies, accusing leaders of allowing China and Mexico to steal U.S. jobs and hurt American workers.


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.

VW Case Shows Need For More And Bigger Government

Again and again we hear about corporations doing bad things so they can make more money: polluting, selling contaminated food or otherwise harming people’s health, selling products that injure people or just don’t do what they advertise, tricking and scamming people out of their money, selling banned goods or providing financial services for terrorists or drug cartels, and so many other things that are not good for people or society.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were some entity that was more powerful than these corporations, whose purpose is to protect us, reign these corporations in, make and enforce rules, prosecute offenders and put a stop to this stuff?

This Week: VW

This week we are hearing about Volkswagen (VW). For years the company claimed they were selling “clean diesel” engines, but they were tricking their customers, the public and governments around the world. Their cars are really a public health threat, putting out up to 40 times the legal limit of pollutants that cause asthma and other disease.

VW built a “defeat mechanism” into as many as 11 million cars. This mechanism let the cars pass government tests, even though they were polluting like crazy when driven in the real world. The mechanism made the engine run clean during government tests, then when it detected that the tests were finished it set the engine to start polluting again.

For years these cars have been harming people and until now VW was getting away with (and making big profits from) this. They were finally caught, and we will see whether executives are prosecuted, or if this will be one more case of weak (or corrupted) government issuing a fine that lets a company make its shareholders pay the cost instead of holding the executives that did it accountable.

The Fix For The VW Cars

This is huge. Up to 11 million cars have these “defeat” mechanisms in them. These cars have to be fixed because their emissions can cause people to develop asthma and other respiratory diseases. But fixing this is a big problem.

According to Wired, in “VW Owners Aren’t Going to Like the Fixes for Their Diesels,” there are two choices for fixing these cars – and either choice means the car owners end up losing a lot of what they thought they had paid for.

The first is to update the software so the cars always run in the “test mode” that defeated the emissions tests. But the changes the software made to the engines to get them to operate within the legal emissions limits while being tested will cause the car to either have poor acceleration or poor gas mileage.

The second is to actually fix the problem that causes the engines to pollute. According to Wired, VW would have to add a “urea” tank and the means to inject this into the catalytic converter:

The standard way of making a diesel run cleanly is to use selective catalytic reduction, a chemical process that breaks NOx [mono-nitrogen oxides] down into nitrogen and water. Part of that process includes adding urea to the mix. The super effective system can eliminate 70 to 90 percent of NOx emissions, and is used by other diesel manufacturers like Mercedes and BMW. The downside is that it adds complication to the system, and cost — $5,000 to $8,000 per car. And you need to periodically add the urea-based solution to your car to keep it working.

… So it seems the logical way to get those cars to perform like their diesel cousins is to add a urea. VW’s unlikely to embrace that option, because adding hardware to half a million cars would be far more expensive than a computer update. It wouldn’t be any fun for the TDI owner, either. Not only do you have to spend an afternoon with your local dealer, you have to make room for the tank. That could mean sacrificing cargo space or giving up the spare tire.

The cost to VW will be huge, and the customers lose either way. Never mind all the people suffering asthma and lung disease resulting from the pollution these cars were emitting.

VW Not An Isolated Case

The New York Times reports, in “Volkswagen Test Rigging Follows a Long Auto Industry Pattern,” that,

For decades, car companies found ways to rig mileage and emissions testing data. In Europe, some automakers have taped up test cars’ doors and grilles to bolster their aerodynamics. Others have used “superlubricants” to reduce friction in the car’s engine to a degree that would be impossible in real-world driving conditions.

Automakers have even been known to make test vehicles lighter by removing the back seats.
… [In 1973 the EPA] fined Volkswagen $120,000 after finding that the company had installed devices intended specifically to shut down a vehicle’s pollution control systems. In 1974, Chrysler had to recall more than 800,000 cars because similar devices were found in the radiators of its cars.

[. . .] Beyond emissions, the industry has long been contemptuous of regulation. Henry Ford II called airbags “a lot of baloney,” and executives have bristled at rules requiring higher mileage per gallon.

VW might not even be the only company that is scamming government testing labs with “defeat mechanisms’ right now. From the report,

“We call it the tip of the iceberg,” said Jos Dings, the director of Transport and Environment. “We don’t think this will be limited to Volkswagen. If you look at the testing numbers for the other manufacturers, they are just as bad.”

The Times report lists several examples of the auto industry engaging in profit-making by endangering their customers. There was the “unexploded Pinto” problem of gas tanks blowing up. There were 271 deaths from the Ford-Firestone tire scandal. There were the Takata airbags that either don’t work or injure people. There was Chrysler selling as new cars that had been driven for 60,000 miles with the odometers disconnected. Click through, there’s plenty… But no one has been put in jail.

So what VW was caught doing is “not an isolated incident” and, in fact, VW had already been caught doing the same thing in the 1970s.

Not Just Auto Industry

VW is hardly the only company in the auto industry engaged in these practices, and the auto industry is hardly the only industry engaging in this kind of activity.

● Of course, tobacco still kills over 480,000 Americans each year and no one even talks about doing anything about it. Everyone understands this is because of the great wealth and power of the tobacco companies as well as their influence over a certain political party. More than 480,000 terrible, painful deaths each year!

● The “Obamacare” health reform was written the way it was because it was understood from the start that the insurance and pharmaceutical companies had enough power to block anything they didn’t like. So we didn’t get Medicare for All or even a “public option.” These industries had already blocked the administration of President Bill Clinton from reforming the health care system, leading to more decades of deaths, untreated illness and bankruptcies.

● In 2000, The Nation reported, in “The Secret History of Lead,” that the lead industry knew and kept secret for decades that they were poisoning people with lead in gasoline, paint and other products, and instead of doing something about it they protected their profits by covering this up and attacking government efforts to do something.

The leaded gas adventurers have profitably polluted the world on a grand scale and, in the process, have provided a model for the asbestos, tobacco, pesticide and nuclear power industries, and other twentieth-century corporate bad actors, for evading clear evidence that their products are harmful by hiding behind the mantle of scientific uncertainty.

Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum reported on just one of the societal consequences of this decades-long crime, in “America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead.” His investigative report concluded that lead may be “the hidden villain behind violent crime, lower IQs, and even the ADHD epidemic.” That whole put-millions-in-prison thing that has ruined so many lives? Oops, it might have been the lead industry’s doing. Are any lead industry executives in jail for that?

● The fossil-fuel industry is notorious for polluting and for causing climate change. The industry has captured an entire political party and has them fight the development of alternative energy sources, taxes on carbon, fuel-saving public transportation initiatives, other energy-saving efforts, etc. The industry funds a climate denial cult that threatens the entire planet.

These are just a few of so many examples.

Big Government Prosecutions Can Make A Difference

Corporations save money by cutting corners. Dumping carbon into the air. Putting lead in gasoline. You name it. They price the potential fines into the product as a cost of doing business. And company shareholders pay those fines. The executives who commit the actual wrongdoing are rarely if ever held accountable themselves.

Many companies can safely assume that the government isn’t even going to catch them or do anything if they do. Government cowed by intense anti-government propaganda. We hear that “government can’t do anything as well as business can,” that “big government threatens us,” and “government takes money out of the economy.” We hear about “burdensome government regulations” that “kill jobs” on a 24/7/365 basis. Government and democracy do not have an advertising budget to counter this relentless propaganda.

Government is underfunded because the propaganda elects corporate-backed anti-government politicians who convince people to allow tax cuts (on the corporations and their owners) paid for by cutting back on government. And especially cutting back on government regulation and enforcement. The result is government enforcement is backing down all the time.

Industry executives revolve through the door into government and then back into plush corporate offices where they collect rewards for protecting their industries. Our “captured” government notoriously refuses to bring corporate criminals to justice. Not one banker, for example, was prosecuted for obvious crimes leading to the 2008 financial crash.

However last week we saw one rare instance of a prosecution of individuals for corporate crime. The people running Peanut Corporation of America, a Georgia peanut company, were prosecuted after a salmonella outbreak that sickened and hospitalized hundreds of people and killed 9 of them. Company executives knew for years their product was made in unsafe ways that were causing contamination — but instead of spending what was needed to fix the problem they covered this up. So the owner was sentenced to 28 years in prison and other executives were sentenced to 20 years.

Thanks to an actual prosecution resulting in prison terms for company executives it is likely that the public will suffer fewer food-safety problems, at least for a while.

Our government supposedly exists to protect We the People from wealthy and powerful interests, including other countries. Our revolution against the wealthy British aristocracy and the King’s corporations testify to this. A government that is “of the people, by the people and for the people” should be big enough, strong enough and funded enough to reign in companies and billionaires, and protect We the People from the kind of corporate misbehavior we saw from Volkswagen — long, long, long before it involves 11 million cars all spewing out serious threats to public health.


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.