CEO Pay Soars As Worker Pay Stagnates

How’s your job going – if you even have one? The odds are very, very high that you haven’t seen a raise in a long time. Or maybe you were laid off and found a new job at half your old pay. They say this is the “new normal.”

Meanwhile, CEO pay just keeps climbing and climbing and climbing (and climbing and climbing and climbing and climbing and climbing and climbing). This inequality is destabilizing our economy.

Soaring CEO Pay

The AFL-CIO has released this year’s 2014 Executive PayWatch at www.PayWatch.org, a “comprehensive searchable online database tracking the excessive pay of CEOs of the nation’s largest companies.”

PayWatch.org offers workers the unique ability to compare their own pay to the pay of top executives. According to Executive PayWatch data, U.S. CEOs pocketed, on average, $11.7 million in 2013, compared to the average worker who earned $35,293. That means CEOs were paid 331 times that of the average worker. (CEO pay was 774 times the minimum wage.)

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Good Lord, Republicans STILL Pretending There Is An “IRS Scandal”

It has become a “truth” on the right that the IRS “targets” conservative “political” groups. Here is what is going on.

Sea Of Smear Ads From Anonymous Donors

Who is providing the sea of anonymous money behind the nasty smear-campaign ads in local, state and national elections? You might (not) be surprised to find out that these ads are from “social welfare” organizations! These organizations don’t have to disclose their donors because they are tax-exempt nonprofits that, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), “must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare.”

That’s right, your community, state and nation elections are being flooded with nasty, political, smear-campaign ads from organizations that claim to “further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community” and have no involvement with political campaigns.

Social Welfare Organizations

Here are the technical details. A 501(c)(4) charity is a group that does not have to disclose its donors to the public. The law says these groups must operate “exclusively” as “social welfare” organizations and not political organizations. They “must operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community.” (Disclosure: The Campaign for America’s Future operates as a 501(c)(4) organization; its sister organization, the Institute for America’s Future, is a 501(c)(3) organization.)

But government agencies have to “interpret” laws when it comes to their own day-to-day operating rules, and there are grey areas between activities that could be seen as “social welfare” and activities that could be seen as electoral politics. Is voter-registration a general social welfare activity or a political activity? Is issuing a well-researched policy paper on the effect of a higher minimum wage on poverty a social welfare activity or a political lobbying activity?

So years ago the IRS decided that these social welfare groups could spend “up to 49%” of their efforts in politically related activity.

“Congressman Bob Bobson Eats Babies” Is Not A Political Ad?

Obviously these groups are not supposed to be running campaign ads. But a smear ad appearing a week before an election that says “your member of Congress Bob Bobson eats babies” but not “vote against Bob Bobson for eating babies” has been “interpreted” to be a social welfare activity and not a political ad.

Because of this huge, vast, gaping loophole a number of (mostly Republican) political election campaign-related organizations that wanted to hide their donors figured out they could become “social welfare” organizations to run these campaign ads. Then “the Republican majority” on the Supreme Court as E.J. Dionne calls them, allowed billionaires and corporations (even foreign-owned corporations) to put unlimited sums of money into politics. This opened the floodgates of influence-buying – the more money you put into politics, the more tax breaks, contracts, subsidies, monopoly protection, etc. you get back – and a race was on.

Keeping Campaign Donors Secret

Corporations and billionaires that wanted to keep their influence-buying secret could put money into these “social welfare” organizations (and the people running these organizations could make themselves a fortune), so there was a flood of applications to the IRS to start conservative, tax-exempt, “social welfare” nonprofit organizations.

At the same time, Senate Republicans also filibustered the DISCLOSE Act that would let the public know who was funding all of these smear ads.

The Phony IRS “Scandal”

Republicans charge that the IRS is “targeting” conservative “political” groups when they look to see if “social welfare” groups are actually illegally engaging in election-related politics. It has become a “truth” on the right that “the government” is “harassing” conservatives for their politics. They say the IRS is “intimidating” them by looking into “their political activities.”

This all feeds into the Republican/Fox News/Wall Street Journal/talk radio/blog “scandal machine.” For example, the Wall Street Journal today has this “story” today, “GOP Report on IRS: Only Tea Party Groups Received ‘Systematic Scrutiny’.” The party issues a “report” and the conservative media machine blasts the “findings” around the wingnutosphere, and the “outrage” ensues.

Republicans in the House of Representatives have been holding hearings intended to drive this idea of IRS “harassment” out to their followers. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has his Oversight and Government Reform Committee holding televised (FOX) “hearings” that haul people before them to be yelled at by various Republicans. One person, threatened by Republicans with prosecution and jail, was advised by her attorney to assert her Fifth Amendment rights, so Republicans made her appear for hours, repeating again and again that she was “pleading the Fifth.” Now Republicans plan to vote to hold her in “contempt” for asserting her constitutional rights, and have even created a logo advertising the contempt vote:

Here’s The Thing

The IRS is required by law to look at all applicants to see if they are engaged in impermissible political activity. If they are engaged primarily in political activity, they are neither “charities” nor “social welfare” organizations and, by law, are not supposed to receive special tax status allowing them to keep their donors secret. That alone should tell you that something is fishy with the corporate/conservative accusation that the IRS is “targeting” conservative “political” groups. The IRS is required by law to see if groups are “political.”

This is really about Republicans trying to stop the IRS from policing the big right-wing political groups that are using special tax status to mask their donors. This is an intimidation tactic; it’s an attempt to keep the IRS from seeing if these groups are engaged in political campaign activity and shut down the ones that are, all in an effort to mask their billionaire/corporate and foreign corporate donors.

See also:

The Latest Lie: IRS Targeted Conservatives

The Latest Lie: “IRS Targeting Was Broader Than Thought”

The IRS “Scandal” Was A Set-Up

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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

Beware of the “Sneak Laws”

One way the corporate/plutocrat/conservative agenda gets foisted on us is through what I call “sneak laws.” These are laws that sneak through state legislatures and the Congress before We the People get a chance to learn about them and organize opposition. (Read to the end to learn about a monster of a sneak law sneaking through the Congress that could cost our government as much as $700 billion now and tens to hundreds of billions a year from now on.)

There are tons of federal, state and local sneak laws written to benefit a few key corporations or billionaires. These sneak laws limit competition, grant monopolies, provide subsidies, give (sometimes huge) tax breaks, grant special waivers from laws and regulations, prohibit consumers from fighting back when harmed … you name it. But they never, ever help regular We the People.

Sneak laws can be stopped if people find out about them and get the word out in time. One recent notable sneak law was exposed just in time – not long before it was going to be signed into law by the governor. The Arizona “anti-gay” law would have legalized bigotry under the disguise of “religious freedom.” But people found out about this law and got the word out. Organizations and citizens were able to rally opposition in time and Governor Brewer vetoed the law – even after her own staff had helped write it.

Tennessee’s Sneaky Whiskey Label Law

This Monday’s TPM writes about one of these sneak laws. Tennessee legislators managed to sneak through a state law last year to help the company that makes Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey. According to TPM, the law specified that, “If it isn’t fermented in Tennessee from mash of at least 51 percent corn, aged in new charred oak barrels, filtered through maple charcoal and bottled at a minimum of 80 proof, it isn’t Tennessee whiskey.”

The thing is, this law “resembles almost to the letter the process used to make Jack Daniel’s.”

The result of this sneak law? Many of Jack Daniels’ competitors aren’t allowed to call their product “Tennessee Whiskey.” Sneaky.

A Sneaky Law To Block Tesla

Another example of sneak laws written to help established special interests is in the news. Most (all?) states do not allow automobile manufacturers to sell cars themselves, instead requiring them to go through independent dealers. Electric-car maker Tesla wants to sell their own cars themselves. So to get around requirements that they sell their cars through dealerships, Tesla sets up local showroom galleries, but customers have to purchase Tesla’s cars online.

Auto dealers in New Jersey just got the Christie administration to come up with a new regulation that New Jersey customers cannot purchase a car without the help of a middleman, and Tesla now has to close two showrooms. (Texas and Virginia have similar rules and Ohio and New York are working on blocking Tesla, too.)

So what’s next? Will Best Buy cough up the cash needed to purchase laws or regulations to ban Apple stores?

Sneaking Guns Into Georgia Airports

The gun manufacturers’ lobby (NRA) is trying to sneak a bill through the Georgia legislature to allow people to bring guns into elementary schools, churches and even airports. Yes, guns in elementary schools and airports.

The bill would also expand Georgia’s “Stand Your Ground” law to allow felons immunity from prosecution if they claim they stood their ground after shooting someone, even though felons aren’t allowed to carry guns. Yes, you read that right, someone already convicted of murder in the past could now claim immunity from prosecution because they were just “standing their ground.” (Of course one part of this that is not written into the law but it is clearly understood by all involved: as long as the victim is black and the shooter is not.)

Teacher Sneak Law

A sneaky sneak law snuck through Congress in the bill that ended the government shutdown. This one lets states use low-cost trainees instead of teachers who are highly qualified. The Washington Post covered this last October, writing:

In language that does not give a hint about its real meaning, the deal extends by two years legislation that allows the phrase “highly qualified teachers” to include students still in teacher training programs — and Teach For America’s recruits who get five weeks of summer training shortly after they have graduated from college, and are then placed in some of America’s neediest schools.

Here is the actual language in the bill that snuck this through:

SEC. 145. Subsection (b) of section 163 of Public 5 Law 111-242, as amended, is further amended by striking 6 ”2013-2014” and inserting ”2015-2016”.

Wow, extra sneaky! And now it is the law.

A Plutocrat-Enriching, Inequality-Driving, Job-killing, Corporate-Takeover Trade Sneak

The NAFTA-Style Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an example of an attempt to sneak in laws bypassing Congress‘ ability to regulate what corporations do. And an obscure Congressional procedure called “fast track” was planned to help sneak it through. But bloggers and others caught on to this one ahead of time and rallied enough people to start a response. So far fast track has been delayed but not killed. And TPP is still in the works. Keep your eye out for fast track and TPP!

Hide And Sneak: A Monster Of A Sneak Law Is Sneaking Through Congress Now

The mother of all sneak laws is quietly making its way through Congress disguised as corporate tax “reform.” Corporations have been avoiding taxes by moving production and profit centers out of the U.S. because of a loophole that lets them “defer” paying the taxes they owe until they “bring the money home.” Now they are hiding around $2 trillion or more outside of the country, which means they owe up to $700 billion in taxes!

So they are pushing “corporate tax reform” proposals and almost all of these would let them bring the money back without paying the $700 billion they owe. Not only that, these “reform” ideas would dramatically cut taxes they pay in the future. Some of the proposals would even let them pay little or no taxes on money made outside the U.S., meaning companies would move all the rest of the jobs, factories, labs, call centers, profit centers, intellectual property patents and copyrights, and so on out of the country to take advantage of this.

This is the big one, the monster sneak attack, and it’s worth $700 billion now and tens or hundreds of billions a year from now on – plus the rest of the jobs, factories and all the rest – if they are able to sneak this one through.

We can expose this if we act in time. Keep an eye out for “tax reform” because they are going to reform the taxes they owe like a lumberjack reforms a redwood tree with an axe.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

Close The Loophole That Lets Companies Avoid Paying Taxes

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

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

The Loophole That Lets Companies Avoid Paying Taxes

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

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

$2 Trillion!

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

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

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

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

Two of the proposal in front of the Congress include,

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

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

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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

Today’s Housing Bubble Post: Who Could Have Known?

People are writing about the just-released transcripts for Federal Reserve deliberations during the 2008 financial crash, and who knew what and when. No one at the Fed knew, didn’t get it even after it started, and still say no one could have known.

The first “Today’s Housing Bubble Post” on this blog appeared on April 5, 2005. Yes, I was already writing about the housing bubble and its dangers so often that I started giving the post a “Here we go, again” title…

I was not alone. Bloggers all across the country were screaming that a crash had to come from this.

Reading this one dated April, 2005 today was heartbreaking because it links to this post,

The warning signs are everywhere that a mortgage/housing fiasco is unfolding and the silence is deafening. Except for newcomers like Cramer, the media isn’t covering this debacle or the Doral matter. The home builders having their head handed to them after record existing and new sales, plus record earnings, should put the media on notice that we have a problem.

Perhaps asking the media to quit cheerleading and look at the housing crisis objectively is too much. What of our representatives in Washington? The congress had better be meeting to figure out what the heck they are going to do instead of debating who is more responsible for Fannie.

It was heartbreaking because I happened to see this comment today, which is dated 2005 – 9 years ago:

Our economy is awash with problems right now:
- inflation
- lack of jobs
- manufacturing moved offshore
- pending health care crisis
- pending social security crisis
- housing bubble
- foreign investors fleeing the dollar.

Do you hear the media or government discussing any of this in great detail ? Instead they focus the publics attention on trivia personal interest stories.

… If the media started focussing on the real above mentioned issues, maybe the general public would start making better life decisions…

The post I linked to is titled, “Media, Congress Need To Wake Up.” Inflation is not a problem today, potential deflation is. (In fact inflation hurts bankers but helps working people…) The health care crisis will be helped a lot by Obamacare. There is and was no “pending social security crisis.” Foreign investors are fleein to the dollar. But “lack of jobs” and “manufacturing moved offshore” are worse, and the housing bubble is back in some areas.

Yeah, well, fat chance with that, it’s much worse 9 years later. The media and Congress have their heads even further up their asses.

No Fast Track To TPP: Fix NAFTA First

The big corporations and the Obama administration are trying to push through a giant new trade treaty that gives corporations even more power, and which will send even more jobs, factories, industries and money out of the country. This is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and they are pushing something called “fast track” in Congress to help push it through.

We have to stop this, and we should take the momentum we have generated in our push-back on this to demand Congress and President Obama instead fix NAFTA first. Then fix all of our trade relationships to help working people on all sides of our borders.

TPP, Fast Track And NAFTA

There has been a lot of news about the upcoming TPP trade agreement. The agreement is being negotiated in extreme secrecy in a corporate-dominated process that appears to be leading to an agreement that would give corporations even more power than they already have. Now there is a push to pass a process called fast track through Congress in order to enable the large corporations to strong-arm TPP into law mobilized organizations around the country to sound the alarm.

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Today’s False-Equivalence Award

Today’s false-equivalence award goes to the New York Times for Fight Over Minimum Wage Illustrates Web of Industry Ties.

After exposing how a supposed “think tank” set up by a PR firm working for the restaurant industry puts out dishonest “reports” claiming that raising the minimum wage is bad policy, the Times writes this:

The campaign illustrates how groups — conservative and liberal — are again working in opaque ways to shape hot-button political debates, like the one surrounding minimum wage, through organizations with benign-sounding names that can mask the intentions of their deep-pocketed patrons.

Because “liberal” groups take in millions of corporate cash and set up phony “think tanks” to spread propaganda about how we should pay people less to enrich the billionaires and their giant corporations, too. Right?

New Budget CUTS Tax Collection

You’ve heard about that new budget Congress passed that cuts Food Stamps another $8 billion? Here’s another brilliant cut Democrats agreed to: cutting funding for tax collection.

Citizens for Tax Justice: The Dumbest Spending Cut in the New Budget Deal,

The newly passed $1.1 trillion bipartisan budget appropriations bill includes myriad spending cuts, but the $526 million cut to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has to be the most foolish. Under the new budget, the IRS’s 2014 budget will be $11.3 billion, which is $1.7 billion less than the administration requested and about $2.5 billion higher than the radical 25 percent cut proposed by some House Republicans earlier this year.

… The newly passed $1.1 trillion bipartisan budget appropriations bill includes myriad spending cuts, but the $526 million cut to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has to be the most foolish. Under the new budget, the IRS’s 2014 budget will be $11.3 billion, which is $1.7 billion less than the administration requested and about $2.5 billion higher than the radical 25 percent cut proposed by some House Republicans earlier this year.

Thaysay they are worried about “deficits?” Bullshit. That’s not what the austerity is about at all.

A Good Read – With A Video

Go read How Mainstream Media Comforts the Comforted, about how the media is no longer about providing us with information.

“Looks like no matter how well we do as a nation, the fruits of our labor benefit a few, while the vast majority of us continue to barely hang on.”

Be sure to watch the video. You will not believe it.

“It’s bad enough that you can’t rely on local news to arm you with information that is useful to you. But now, large portions of the local news isn’t even local. It’s clearly coming from a central source. A source that wants to encourage you to consume more. Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand”.”

Sleight Of Hand On Retirement vs Military

In a Washington Post piece complaining that democracy is “pandering” to voters, Charles Lane writes it is wrong to talk about increasing Social Security because of the country’s “limited resources.” (Note, the country was running a huge budget surplus before Bush’s tax cuts for the rich and doubling the military budget.) He writes,

The issue, however, is how to spend the federal government’s limited resources. After national defense, the next two largest items in the fiscal 2013 federal budget were Social Security and Medicare, programs mostly for retirees.

Lane writes that “the rich can be tapped only so many times” so there is no point trying to increases taxes on the wealthy. Huh? The top tax rate was 90%, and then 70% before Reagan, and the corporate tax rate was 50%. We would at least return to this and see what happens.

But look at what is missing in the discussion. We spend more on military than all other countries combined. But cutting that down to a reasonable size isn’t even part of this discussion. Why not?