Trump Declares TPP Still Dead. So Now What?

President Trump formally withdrew the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Though TPP was killed by a long progressive fight that resulted in it not having the votes to pass Congress, of course, he took credit for killing it himself.

TPP was another “trade” deal written in secret using a process dominated by corporate interests. As David Dayen, writing in The Nation Tuesday, put it,

The public recognized that free-trade deals aren’t about free trade anymore—tariffs are currently so low it would be hard to get them meaningfully lower—but about guaranteeing corporate profits through eliminating regulations and enforcing patents. Another deal written in secret, with lobbyists whispering in negotiators’ ears, gave nobody confidence that this would change. Secret enforcement tribunals were a prime target for criticism, because they protect corporate and investor profits and enable financial speculation. No such platform exists for workers if their rights are violated.

This rigged trade process and its results brought us Trump, and here we are.

So now that that’s over, how should our country trade with the world?

Do We Even Need “Trade Deals”?

“Trade” used to be about countries that grow bananas and “developed” countries exchanging bananas for cars and toasters. The banana regions had a “comparative advantage” because the climate favored banana-growing, the developed countries’ advantage was a completed manufacturing ecosystem. Unfortunately “comparative advantage” today means companies moving their production to places that allow them to pollute and exploit workers to “lower their costs.” (The costs of pollution and exploitation are then instead borne by working people and the planet.)

It is a common misconception that we need to have a trade deal with a country before American companies can export to that country. This is partly due to misleading arguments used to sell corporate-favoring trade agreements, like saying, “Ninety-five percent of America’s potential customers live overseas, so closing ourselves off to trade is not a solution.”

Not having a trade agreement doesn’t “close ourselves off to trade.” American businesses trade with the rest of the world and the rest of the world trades with us regardless of trade deals. But without trade deals countries can set tariffs and barriers according to their own country’s needs and goals.

“Protectionism”

In places where people have a say, people say they want good wages and environmental protections (and public education and health care and infrastructure and parks and science and other things people vote for in democracies). These protections mean that working people and the environment receive a larger share of the economic pie. The economic pie is also larger as a result of that investment in public education and infrastructure and the rest, so the “investor” class does better, too. To pay for these investment those who do better are taxed more.

In non-democracies and other places where people don’t have a say people aren’t paid well, the environment is not protected and a few people at the top end up with a larger share of the smaller economic pie.

So a democracy might want a tariff to remove the price advantage of goods made at “less cost” in countries without those protections. With a balancing tariff those goods won’t undermine democray’s good wages and protections, and undermine the tax base along with them. These tariffs and barriers might be called a “democracy tax,” with the revenues used for investment to make the goods made in the democracy more competitive worldwide.

Business and “investor” interests want to pay lower wages and environmental protection costs, so they encourage countries to pass “free trade” deals that prevent governments from imposing tariffs and barriers in the future. They call the idea of democracy taxes and other decision-making by governments to protect national interests “protectionism.”

“Free trade” deals set aside each country’s political decision-making in favor of “more trade” — thereby placing business interests above national sovereignty. Governments are prevented from acting to “protect” a country’s interests and businesses are free to seek the lowest costs, regardless of what happens to countries and the people in them and the environment.

“Opening New Markets” – To Monopolization

When corporate interests advocate for free trade deals they also claim the deals will “establish new markets.” Again, this falsely implies they can’t already export without establishing a trade deal. This language also makes it seem as though those countries don’t already have companies and industries in those markets. What they really want is a deal that blocks governments from using tariffs and barriers “protecting” their developing or strategic industries from being overtaken and knocked out by established or subsidized competitors from other countries. This “opens markets” to outside competition from giant corporations.

With open trade the largest multinational corporations are able to sweep into other countries — “new markets” — and buy up or knock out existing, smaller businesses. The larger companies use economies of scale, established supply chains, superior access to credit, and other advantages of bigness to become even bigger. The resulting “efficiencies” mean that people are laid off wages and benefits are cut and systems are set up to push profits to the “investors” in the corporation.

People Caught On

So American voters finally caught on to the gimmicks used to sell “free trade.” Or, better put, the damage from from free trade finally caught up to most of us. People rose up and demanded a change, and change is upon us. With TPP out of the way, and “free trade” on hold for the time being it is time to re-evaluate what We the People want from our trade deals and economy.

Stan Sorcher writes, in Restoring Trust After Our “Free Trade” Charade Ends,

Our failed “neoliberal” approach has been to manage globalization through trade deals, written by and for the interests of global companies. The neoliberal vision is a fully integrated global economy, where national identities are blurred, shareholder interests have top priority, public interests are devalued, and gains go almost entirely to investors.

… In this neoliberal vision, markets will solve all our problems, government is bad, and power and influence should favor those who already have plenty of both.

It’s time for a change. But what will the new trade regime look like?

Proposals For A New Trade Regime

Trade doesn’t have to mean a race to the economic bottom resulting in massive worldwide inequality. The benefits of a modern, globalized world are clear. Jared Bernstein, wrote last year that trade deals,

… provide necessary rules of the road by which countries deal with trade logistics, barriers, cross-border investments and conflicts, and, in this sense, they can smooth the path of globalization in useful ways. But they can also be captured by partisan or corporate interests and thereby used to channel the benefits of trade to a favored group. This has certainly been the case in the United States, and it is why many of us who are committed globalists opposed the TPP.

A new approach is needed. The question is how do we manage globalization and trade for the benefit of all of us instead of using it to set all of us against each other?

Plenty of groups and interests are already weighing in. Lori Wallach and Jared Bernstein, writing in The American Prospect last year, in The New Rules of the Road: A Progressive Approach to Globalization, (click through for specifics),

The new rules must prioritize the economic needs of low- and middle-income families while preserving the democratic, accountable policymaking processes that are essential to creating and maintaining the environmental, consumer, labor, and human-rights policies on which we all rely.
[. . .] A more transparent process with opportunities for meaningful engagement, accountability, and oversight by the public and Congress—rather than the current regime that privileges the commercial interests that have long captured these negotiations—is needed.

The AFL-CIO recently posted, 6 Ways We Could Improve NAFTA for Working People, which can be applied more generally to new trade negotiations, (click through for details),

1. Eliminate the private justice system for foreign investors.

2. Strengthen the labor and environment obligations (the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation and the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation), include them in the agreement, and ensure they are enforced.

3. Address currency manipulation by creating binding rules subject to enforcement and possible sanctions.

4. Upgrade NAFTA’s rules of origin, particularly on autos and auto parts, to reinforce auto sector jobs in North America.

5. Delete the procurement chapter that undermines “Buy American” laws (Chapter 10).

6. Upgrade the trade enforcement chapter (Chapter 19).

The Sierra Club has issued a discussion paper, A New Climate-Friendly Approach To Trade, with ideas that

“start from a simple premise that marks a fundamental departure from the status quo: Trade and investment should be treated as tools for advancing public interest objectives—not ends in and of themselves.1 Agreements between countries should encourage trade and investment that support a more stable climate, healthy communities, and good jobs, while discouraging trade and investment that undermine these goals. This means, for example, incentivizing investments in renewable energy but not in fossil fuels,2 lowering barriers to the spread of green technology, and using taxes on highemissions trade to support increased climate protection and climate-friendly job growth.”

The Coalition for a Prosperous America offers 13 21st Century Trade Agreement Principles. Among these: Balanced Trade, reciprocity, stop currency manipulation, allow “Buy America” procurement, enforceable provisions, and more.

Many ideas being discussed seem to involve a “small-ball” approach, reacting to the existing trade regime instead of reimagining the possibilities. Current discussions revolve around things like getting rid of rules favoring investors over governments, or including enforceable labor and environmental standards. And, of course that is all needed. But so is a reimagining.

Obviously the first goal of a new trade policy should be to lift prosperity and improve people’s lives on all sides of trade borders — not just for a few at the expense of the many, but generally. This means the interest of all economic and trade “stakeholders” — labor, consumers, human rights, LGBTQ+, environmental, health, etc. and their governments, along with investors and businesses — need to be involved in the process.

It can be done. For example, imagine a “trade deal” that prohibits companies from threatening workers with having their jobs moved to another country. Hmm… By imagining the unimaginable all kinds of new possibilities begin to open up.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their OurFuture site. I am a Fellow with CAF, a project of People’s Action. Sign up here for the OurFuture daily summary and/or for People’s Action’s Progressive Breakfast.

Oxfam: Ten Multinational Corporations Control Most Food Brands

Take a look at Oxfam’s report, “Behind the Brands: Food justice and the ‘Big 10’ food and beverage companies.”

A Food System In Crisis

The Behind the Brands report explains, “For more than 100 years, the world’s most powerful food and beverage companies have relied on cheap land and labor to produce inexpensive products and huge profits. But these profits have often come at the cost of the environment and local communities around the world, and have contributed to a food system in crisis.”

Explaining the campaign, the report says, “Oxfam’s campaign focuses on 10 of the world’s most powerful food and beverage companies – Associated British Foods (ABF), Coca-Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg, Mars, Mondelez International (previously Kraft Foods), Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever – and aims to increase the transparency and accountability of the ‘Big 10’ throughout the food supply chain.”

“Big Ten” Infographic

The report includes a great infographic showing how just ten multinational conglomerates control almost all of the food and beverage “brands” we all recognize. These ten companies “collectively generate revenues of more than $1.1bn a day.”

These ten companies are:
● Associated British Foods (ABF)
● Coca-Cola
● Danone
● General Mills
● Kellogg
● Mars
● Mondelez International (previously known as Kraft)
● Nestle
● PepsiCo
● Unilever

The Campaign

Oxfam’s Behind the Brands website explains the campaign:

Behind the Brands is part of Oxfam’s GROW campaign to help create a world where everyone has enough to eat. Right now, nearly one in eight people on earth go to bed hungry. Sadly, the majority of these people are farmers or farm workers supplying the very food system that is failing them. Yet there is enough food for everyone. That’s an outrage – but we can be the generation that ends this crazy situation.

While the food system is complex and its problems multi-faceted, we know that the world’s largest food and beverage companies have enormous influence. Their policies drive how food is produced, the way resources are used and the extent to which the benefits trickle down to the marginalised millions at the bottom of their supply chains.

Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign aims to provide people who buy and enjoy these products with the information they need to hold the Big 10 to account for what happens in their supply chains. In putting together a scorecard based entirely on publicly available information on company policies, we posed the question “what are they doing to clean up their supply chains”?

Visit Oxfam’s Behind the Brands website for more.
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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their OurFuture site. I am a Fellow with CAF, a project of People’s Action. Sign up here for the OurFuture daily summary and/or for People’s Action’s Progressive Breakfast.

Trump Punch Down Strategy Endangers Local Union Leader

“You better keep your eye on your kids. We know what car you drive.” That’s the kind of threats a local union official is getting after President-presumed-Elect Donald Trump tweeted something bad about him.

“You gonna die. Death is coming to you real soon.” A Florida woman is arrested for threatening the parents of a child killed at Sandy Hook. Trump-tied “fake news” sites claim the shootings there were a “hoax” intended to push gun control.

A guy shows up at a Pizza shop based on conspiracy theories — some pushed out by Trump insiders, others by the same Trump-related websites and radio shows that pushed the Sandy Hook hoax — claiming Hillary Clinton runs a child sex trafficking ring from its basement. He brings an assault rifle,

… terrifying customers and workers with his ­assault-style rifle as he searched Comet Ping Pong, police said. He found no hidden children, no secret chambers, no evidence of a child sex ring run by the failed Democratic candidate for president of the United States…

Is this the “new normal” for our country?

Trump Attacks Local Union Leader

The latest example of this top-down attacking involves Chuck Jones, the president of United Steelworkers (USW) local 1999. Local 1999 represents workers at Indiana’s Carrier furnace and air conditioner manufacturer.

After Trump falsely announced that he had made a deal to “save” 1,100 Carrier jobs Jones said Trump had, “… for whatever reason, lied his a– off.” (See LA Times, Trump’s Carrier jobs triumph looks more like a sham every day.)

Trump publicly responded to Jones on Twitter,

and

This is the next President of the United States publicly attacking a guy who is president of a local union in Indiana, singling him out for national attention. And this national humiliation and endangerment by the next President of the United States is because the guy told the truth after Trump did not.

According to the Washington Post report, Donald Trump insulted a union leader on Twitter. Then the phone started to ring., “My first thought was, ‘Well, that’s not very nice,’ ” he told The Washington Post on Wednesday night. “Then, ‘Well, I might not sleep much tonight.’ ”

Then things started to get bad,

Half an hour after Trump tweeted about Jones on Wednesday, the union leader’s phone began to ring and kept ringing, he said. One voice asked: What kind of car do you drive? Another said: We’re coming for you.

He wasn’t sure how these people found his number.

“Nothing that says they’re gonna kill me, but, you know, you better keep your eye on your kids,” Jones said later on MSNBC. “We know what car you drive. Things along those lines.”

But there’s more to it. Attacking a union’s leadership, saying “no wonder companies are fleeing the country,” the union should have “kept those jobs in Indiana” and saying the union should “spend more time working-less time talking. Reduce dues.” is classic management anti-union propaganda. Saying the union is costing jobs is a union busting tactic intended to drive a edge between the union and rank-and-file workers.

This anti-union action shows the mindset of Trump toward working people. It sends a signal. If unions try to help their membership, and challenge Trump’s tactics and facts, Trump will attack them and threaten their leadership.

Support For Jones: #ImWithChuck

Not everyone is intimidated by these attacks on individuals by the next President.

In response to Trump’s attack on Jones, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued this statement,

Chuck Jones is a man of passion, conviction and integrity who would do anything for his union brothers and sisters. President Gerard is exactly right – Chuck is a hero. An attack on him is an attack on all working people.

Chuck is right to call out the president-elect for inflating the number of jobs that will be saved at Carrier. He understands better than anyone that these are more than numbers—they are people with families to support and bills to pay.

Instead of attacking those who have been working hard to save jobs, the president-elect needs to engage with local union leaders at Carrier and at his hotel in Las Vegas. Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas is breaking the law by not bargaining with its newly unionized employees. Mr. Trump will soon occupy the White House. His words and actions need to befit that office.

Scott Paul, President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing tweeted this about Jones,

Also on Twitter, the hashtag #ImWithChuck has messages of support of Jones.

This Is The Next President?

Trump, believe it or not, is President-elect on the United States. That is a position of great power, commanding great influence over what people think and do. When Trump or those around him “punch down” and publicly attack individuals or advance bizarre conspiracy theories, it puts people in danger. Trump and those around him don’t seem to care. And by publicly not caring and continuing to do it, it starts to look like intent.

Trump and the people around him are, in essence, sending these nuts after people. Provoking. Inciting. But with the tweets attacking Chuck Jones using classic union-busting propaganda Trump is also strategically attacking the interests of all working people.

Trump’s Absurd Plan To Dismantle Government’s Protections

Donald Trump released a video announcing his agenda for his “first day in office.” One of the things he said is, “I will formulate a rule which says that for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated.” Can we count the number of ways this is absurd and dangerous?

Under Trump’s 2-for-1 idea, if we want to have a regulation that a company can’t store explosives next to an elementary school, we have to eliminate a regulation that protects us from food poisoning AND a regulation that stops companies from taking money out of your bank account for no reason? (Or how about creating fake accounts and charging them fees?)

Or how about we eliminate the regulations requiring seat belts in cars? Or requiring cars to have headlights? There’s two more! And think of all the money this would save the car companies! (Ignore the pain and suffering and loss this would cause regular Americans — that’s not money.)

Here’s one that can go: eliminate the regulations against defrauding students using high-pressure sales techniques to get them to enroll at scam universities. Or against “financial elder abuse“.

Government Is We The People

In the United States government was once supposed to be about We the People organizing to accomplish things that make our lives better. We vote, our representatives impose taxes and spend and make laws and regulations toward that end.

The ongoing corporate/conservative attack on the legitimacy of government and democracy have eroded public understanding of these concepts. Education. Firefighting. Scientific research. Health care. Parks. Transportation. All are core things a government of, by and FOR the people does to make our lives better — and all are under attack, “privatized” or “eliminated” by representatives who have been “captured” by corporate/conservative money.

Government of, by and for the people by definition stops some people from doing things that hurt others. In particular for this discussion, it stops people who have businesses from defrauding others, harming others, polluting our air and water, selling dangerous products, and other destructive practices. But this means that these people make less money, so they complain, and sometimes they use their money to influence those who would regulate to stop them.

“Burdensome government regulations” all cost companies money: food inspection, clean water, fire codes, zoning rules and drug safety rules. They all “get in the way” of a company scamming, hurting, polluting or whatever makes them more money.

Regulations too often come about as a reaction to something terrible happening. Fire codes came from times when entire towns burned down. Drug-safety rules came from “snake oil” scammers selling poison and leaving town before the damage is done. Seat belt regulations came from terrible traffic injuries and deaths.

Regulations are about “how can We the People do this better?”

The Underlying Assumptions Behind Trump’s Absurd Plan

Underlying Trump’s plan to “eliminate” government regulations is the premise that “government regulation” is itself a bad thing. And underlying that is the premise that government of by and for the people itself is illegitimate. It gets in the way of business. We the People making decisions interferes with efficient decision-making done for the narrow purpose of making money.

Corporate-financed conservatives will always tell you that government and its regulations are always bad. Government just “interferes” in things it knows nothing about. They will say that government regulations hold back businesses from expanding and hiring and generally getting things done that make money. But these are self-interested complaints from people who make their money scamming or hurting or polluting. People like Donald Trump.

We should see Trump’s proposal for what it is. This is not an approach to governing, it is about dismantling what government is for so that an already-wealthy few are free to fleece, scam, harm and and pollute in the name of greed.

“Underbanked” Report Shows Need For Postal Banking

Millions of Americans can’t get bank accounts, so they can’t even cash a check. Many millions more might have an account but can’t get even a small loan. The numbers (below) are just outrageous.

These millions are forced to turn to predators like the payday loan and check cashing industry. Even those who can get full-service accounts are scammed by the likes of Wells Fargo.

Meanwhile We the people are prevented by our captured-by-Wall-Street Congress from setting up the obvious solution that would solve so many problems: Postal Banking.

Continue reading

Watch Out For The Coming Corporate Tax-Break Trickery

One of the biggest fights coming up in the newly elected Congress next year will be “corporate tax reform.”

If you follow policy news you’ve been hearing that Congress wants to “reform” corporate taxes (again). When you hear talk of “reform” from our corporate-captured Congress it means you need to run as fast as you can — and organize. The way they use the word, it always means give them more and We, the People get less.

Senator Schumer Talking About Massive Break On Taxes Corporations Already Owe

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-Wall Street) might be Senate Majority Leader after the election. In a Tuesday CNBC interview he said he is hoping to work with Republican House Speaker Paul “Gut the Government” Ryan on “some kind of international tax reform tied to a large infrastructure program.” In the interview Schumer said:

If you can get overseas money to come back here, even if it’s at a lower rate than the 35 it now comes back at, and you can use that money for a major constructive purpose such as infrastructure, if you did an infrastructure bank, for instance, you could get $100 billion in equity in the bank and get a trillion dollars of infrastructure.

When Schumer says “at a lower rate” he is talking about a “tax holiday” allowing corporations to pay less than the 35% tax rate they owe (minus deductions for taxes already paid overseas) on some $2.5 trillion of profits they have stashed in “overseas” tax havens. These corporations owe around $720 billion or so on those profits. So rewarding them for tax dodging with a lower tax rate means handing them up to hundreds of billions of dollars that the country needs for schools, health care and yes, infrastructure repair.

These tax-dodging, multinational corporations used schemes and tax havens to dodge paying taxes they owe. Meanwhile other corporations — usually smaller, domestic companies — paid their taxes. This gave the multinational corporations that used schemes and tax havens to dodge paying their taxes an advantage over the honest, domestic companies that did pay their taxes.

So why should Congress reward tax-dodging, multinational corporations by letting them keep some of the taxes they dodged, thereby punishing the domestic corporations that did the right thing for the country? See if you can guess why. (Hint: the tax-dodging corporations have “captured” Congress using a portion of that money.)

Revenue Neutral?

The corporations are also trying to sell “tax reform.” This “reform” is really just another huge corporate tax cut that is explained as a “revenue neutral” deal to “cut corporate tax loopholes” and use the resulting revenue to cut the corporate tax rate. The term “revenue neutral” means the tax revenue coming to the government stays the same. “Revenue neutral” sounds like a good deal but in reality it’s just a trick. It means taxes go up for some companies but way, way down for others. Guess which companies lose out. (Hint: it won’t be the giant multinational corporations that have captured Congress.)

The top corporate tax rate used to be 52 percent. Under Reagan it was 46 percent. Then Congress “reformed” taxes and dropped the rate to just 35 percent. Corporations used to shoulder 32 percent of the total tax burden. It has fallen to only 10 percent of the burden. That is a drop of two-thirds. See if you can guess who pays that two-thirds difference. (Hint: it isn’t corporations or their wealthy owners. It is cuts to schools, infrastructure, health care and all the things that used to make our lives better. This is one part of the economic squeeze everyone feels.)

On top of that they are also trying to sell a scheme that lets them off the hook for profits made outside of the country. See if you can guess how fast every corporation moves its profit centers and production out of the country if that passes. (Hint: every single corporation will move every job, factory, profit center etc out of the country if that passes.)

What Budget Deficit And Debt?

Our country has a budget deficit and a large debt caused by tax cuts and wars. The current hysteria over deficits is driven by corporate-and-billionaire-funded PR “think tanks” that pump out propaganda and hysteria 24/7/4/12. Can you guess what 24/7/4/12 means? (Hint: 24 hours, 7 days, 4 weeks, 12 months of the year.)

With a budget deficit and a large debt the fact is that a “revenue neutral” tax reform for corporations who have already had their tax rates cut and cut and cut is the very last thing the country needs to do. What we need to do instead is close that loophole that lets giant, multinational corporations hide $2.5 trillion in profits in “overseas” tax shelters, and make them pay the $720 billion or so of taxes they owe now, plus the $90-100 billion or so of taxes they will dodge every year after. Period.

Revenue neutral, Schumerutral. Just make these giant, tax-dodging, multinational corporations pay what they owe. Don’t reward them for tax-dodging. And restore the 52% corporate tax rate instead of cutting it even further.

PS Take a look at this Fact Sheet: Corporate Tax Rates from Americans for Tax Fairness.

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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 and/or for the Progressive Breakfast.

Small Businesses Say Trump Is Wrong

One (more) of the way this country is split is a sharp divide between what small businesses need and what the giant, multinational corporations want (and usually get.) According to a coalition representing small businesses, Donald Trump’s policies would widen this divide, hitting small businesses hard.

Small businesses around the country are squeezed by the giant WalMarts and other national billionaire-owned chains that put local businesses out of business, pay low wages and few if any benefits, and then drain local and national resources by exporting their profits from the communities and states to offshore tax havens to dodge taxes.

The Main Street Alliance is a national network of state-based small business coalitions working with “real small business owners, on the ground, in their shops and restaurants.” They issued a statement warning that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s prescription for America is wrong for the small businesses that speak for. Representatives of small businesses provided statements making their point.

On Taxes

Trump “brags of his massive and phenomenal wealth while skipping out on his taxes.” Billionaires using corporate fronts and various schemes to dodge their taxes are starving communities and states of the resources needed to provide good schools, infrastructure and the rest of the things government does to provide a foundation for local prosperity and business growth.

“Trump has exploited the tax system for decades and threatens the safety nets in place to help struggling business and families. Taxes are a cost of doing business and are essential in funding the infrastructure my business depends on”, said Doron Petersan, the owner of Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats and Fare Well Diner Bakery Bar, in D.C. “Skipping out on your taxes year after year doesn’t make you qualified to rewrite our tax code, it qualifies you for an extended visit from the I.R.S.”

“Trump’s recently released tax plan would only worsen the unfair U.S. tax system by disproportionately benefitting the highest-income earners and putting a strain on the rest of us. We need to move away from a system that has been manipulated by greed and self-indulgence to create a tax code that levels the playing field, said Matt Birong, the owner of 3 Squares Café in Vergennes, Vermont.

On Immigration

Trump insults immigrants, during the Wednesday debate calling them “bad hombres.” He demands a giant wall that would “keep our customers, future business owners, and innovators out.”

“As an immigrant and the owner of an architecture firm, the walls I build are on homes, designed to keep families safe. We don’t build walls designed to keep good people out. It’s not how our country or our economy works. Trump’s idea of an immigration policy would be a disaster for our country,” said Francisco Garcia, the owner of The Building Workshop in San Diego.

“This country depends on a strong immigrant community. Any ‘business’ person who uses these hard-working employees to make millions, but turns on them for political gain, is no leader to fit to hold our nation’s highest office,” said Alma Rodriguez, the owner of Queen Bee’s Art and Cultural Center.

To see the Clinton campaign’s positions on small businesses, click here.

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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 and/or for the Progressive Breakfast.

Oregon Locals Take On Corporate Power With ‘Tax Corporations’ Measure 97

Much of Congress is captured by corporate money. So literally nothing gets through Congress if it interferes with the corporate/1% -boosting agenda. Many in the federal regulatory agencies are captured by promises of corporate payoffs after leaving government, so these agencies do almost nothing to crack down on corporate abuses of We the People.

At the state level, the corrupting power of corporate and billionaire money can have an even greater effect. For example, after the Republican-dominated Supreme Court opened up the floodgates of corporate money with the Citizens United decision, that money helped Republicans take over statehouse after statehouse.

In these states, taxes on corporations and the wealthy were cut, and schools, roads, healthcare and the rest of the things government does to make the lives of We the People better were gutted. In other states, corporate money blocks needed taxation and essential government programs.

With corporate and billionaire money determining the outcome of policy decisions at the national and state levels, people in the cities and states are using ballot initiatives to try locally to take back power. Around the country we’ve seen successful efforts to pass measures such as minimum wage increases, fracking bans and anti-tobacco initiatives.

Oregon’s Measure 97

Oregon’s Measure 97 ballot initiative is one example of We the People trying to take back control of government from the 1% and their powerful corporations.

Oregonians will vote soon on taxing larger corporations to protect programs that help Oregon’s people instead of just the wealthy and their corporations. Specifically, Measure 97 would increase the minimum tax for large and out-of-state corporations with more than $25 million in annual Oregon sales.

This is not a tax increase, this is requiring corporations that might otherwise dodge taxes to pay a minimum tax to generate money to cover the state’s budget needs.

The NY Times summed up the effect Measure 97 would have in September’s report, Measure 97, Seeking to Raise Corporate Taxes, Splits Oregon Voters,

If approved by the voters here in November, Measure 97 would create the biggest tide of new tax revenue in any state in the nation this year as a percentage of the budget, economists said — and one of the biggest anywhere in recent history. Oregon’s general fund would grow by almost a third, or about $3 billion a year, through a 2.5 percent tax on corporate gross receipts. The initiative language says the money would augment state spending on education, health care and senior services, but does not bind the Legislature to a specific plan.

Summary:

Make large corporations — many of which take the profits out of the state — pay at least minimal taxes.

With that money Oregon gets to maintain or increase programs like:

● special education,
● hire 7,500 teachers,
● provide PE & Arts classes and make sure there is a nurse at every school,
● add 2 weeks to the school year,
● fund a statewide, modern public health system
● maintain Oregon’s Cover All Kids, a Basic Health Program,
● expand health insurance subsidies for working families
● provide mental health and substance abuse care,
● providing in-home assistance to 15,180 more seniors, and
● fully fund Adult Abuse Prevention to investigate every case of possible abuse or neglect.

Supporters

That’s good trade-off, which brings out lots of supporters. The Vote Yes On 97 website says that, “6,000 volunteers, over 1,250 endorsements from community organizations, economists, parents and teachers, local leaders, and over 435 Oregon businesses.” Click here to see the list of businesses, educators, community groups, labor unions, elected officials, and community leaders

Supporters include People’s Action affiliates Unite Oregon and The Main Street Alliance of Oregon. OurRevolution also supports Measure 97.

Darlene Huntress, associate director of Unite Oregon, says of Measure 97,

“This is about corporations investing in communities. With the budget shortfall that we have this is about taxing corporations, many of which aren’t paying taxes now. what this could do for education, health care and senior services is a real gamechanger.

On top of that Unite Oregon works with communities of color, immigrants and refugees. Many of these corporations are the same corporations that have invested in private prisons and detention centers. We’d prefer this money was invested in our communities instead of invested in separating families.”

Opponents

The Times’ report also lays out who is for and against Measure 97, (hint: the usual suspects)

Labor unions, led by teachers, are leading the fight for passage, arguing that decades of erosion in education funding are the cause of the state’s dismal high school graduation rate, among the lowest in the nation. Opponents have raised about $8 million — four times as much as supporters — through contributions from large companies like Amazon, General Motors and the grocery chain Kroger/Fred Meyer.

Corporations are doing what they always do: pouring millions into the campaign, and extorting citizens by threatening to raise prices, cut jobs, or just leave the state.

CAN Corporation Raise Prices To Cover Taxes?

A short examination of just one of these arguments — can corporations really raise prices to “pass on taxes to customers?” — shows that the corporate arguments against taxation have little credibility.

● Companies try to price ‘optimally,” meaning they already charge as much as they can. If they could raise prices, they already would have.

● Taxes are determined long after a sale takes place and are not a cost to be added into the pricing of a product. There is no way to know what the taxes might be later.

● Companies have competitors. If “Company A” raised prices, competing “Company B” would get more business, which would mean that “Company A” loses sales, which would mean they have lower profits and therefore lower taxes, which would mean they would have to lower prices…

● Suppose a company could raise its prices regardless of competition. That would mean the profits would be even greater, which means the taxes on profits would be greater, which would mean they have to raise prices even more. But that would mean profits would be even greater, which means the taxes on profits would be greater, which would mean they have to raise prices even more. But that would mean profits would be even greater …

People in corporations know they can’t raise prices to “pass on taxes to customers,” yet they are making the argument anyway. Other corporate arguments against raising taxes have similarly low credibility.

If you live in Oregon, take a look at Measure 97. If you don’t live in Oregon, learn from Oregon’s amazing activists and organizers and organizations like the coalition behind Measure 97. You can how power in your state to take on corporate power and restore government of, by and FOR the people.

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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 and/or for the Progressive Breakfast.

Small Businesses Speak Out Against Donald Trump’s Tax Plan

“Tax cuts skewed towards the wealthy elite starve our communities of much-needed resources while further tilting the scales towards large corporations and the rich.”
– Stephen Rouzer at Main Street Alliance

If you cut taxes for the rich and giant corporations, what happens to the rest of us? Tax cuts mean budget cuts, so what suffers is education, infrastructure and all kinds of things government does to make our lives better and our local businesses stronger.

Republicans argue that pushing wealth and income to the top few has a “trickle down” effect. They say wealthy people (like Paris Hilton) are “makers” who “create jobs” and therefore deserve to have heaps of money pushed their way for their benefit. They say that government spending on things that make the lives of We the People better really just makes us into “takers.”

But in reality, policies that push more and more of our country’s resources into the largest hands put our smaller hands at even more of a disadvantage. The giant corporations have huge advantages over small, local businesses just due to their size; huge tax breaks on top of their size-given advantages just make it that much harder for smaller businesses to compete. So the “WalMart business model” of undercutting and bankrupting a community’s small businesses and draining entire regions of wealth gains even more power. After decades of these “trickle down” policies, this is also known as “look around you.”

Trump’s Tax Plan Means Fewer Customers With Money To Spend At Local Businesses

The Main Street Alliance is a “is a national network of small business coalitions” that “works to provide small businesses a voice on the most pressing public policy issues across the nation.” (Donate here.)

A Main Street Alliance blog post by Stephen Rouzer, “Donald Trump’s Revised Tax Plan Won’t Work for Main Street,” begins,

The latest version of Donald Trump’s ever-changing tax plan is facing scrutiny from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Main Street Alliance leaders. The plan, one that features across the board tax cuts, disproportionately benefits the highest-income earners, those grossing more than $1 million annually.

This description of Trump’s plans as a huge benefit to the wealthiest is based on a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) post explaining a Tax Policy Center (TPC) analysis of Donald Trump’s tax proposals. The CBPP post, “Revised Trump Tax Plan Heavily Tilted Toward Wealthiest, Tax Policy Center Analysis Shows” explains how the analysis shows that Trump’s tax cut raise the after-tax income of the already-wealthy by another 14% or more, while hardly benefiting the rest of us – or even cutting the take-home incomes of the poorest.

This would seriously affect small, local businesses. Rouzer explains how passing so much to the top few while starving the rest of us means local businesses have fewer customers with money to spend:

A 2015 report released by the Main Street Alliance, “Voices of Main Street,” surveyed over 1000 small business owners and found that 52 percent of respondents cited “more customers” as the most important key to increasing small business success. Doubling the number of respondents that said “lower taxes” and more than quadrupling the number that responded “fewer regulations.”

Tax cuts skewed towards the wealthy elite starve our communities of much-needed resources while further tilting the scales towards large corporations and the rich.

Rouzer concludes with some great comments from business owners:

“To level the playing field for Main Street businesses our tax code must no longer skew in favor of large corporations and their shareholders,” said Deborah Field, the owner of Paperjam Press in Portland, Oregon, and a former corporate tax accountant. “Without holding multinational corporations accountable to pay what they owe and first providing relief to low and middle-income earners we shouldn’t begin to consider tax cuts for the rich.”

[…]

“The vast majority of small business owners don’t support a tax system that augments their piece of the pie by cheating their fellow citizens out of theirs. When we contribute our fair share of taxes, those dollars get reinvested in our local communities,” said David Borris, the owner of Hel’s Kitchen Catering in Chicago and Main Street Alliance Executive Committee member. “Local communities that support tens of millions of small businesses nationally.”

Amanda Ballantyne, national director of the Main Street Alliance, says that “Mr. Trump’s tax breaks would deprive the government of badly needed funds for investments in infrastructure, transportation, education, and social services. The resulting budget cuts hinder the types of investments that drive local economies and put small businesses in a better position to succeed.”

The kind of tax policy that small businesses need is one that supports their customer base and their communities. “In that regard, Trump’s plan falls flat,” says Ballantyne.

Donald Trump wants to dramatically cut taxes for the already-wealthy and their giant corporations. This would starve local communities of resources like teachers and infrastructure, while stacking the deck further against smaller, local businesses.

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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 and/or for the Progressive Breakfast.

New Corporate Tax “Shell Game” Report: $718 Billion Of Corporate Tax-Dodging

“Multinational corporations’ use of tax havens allows them to avoid an estimated $100 billion in federal income taxes each year,” says a new report just released by Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund (U.S. PIRG).

That report, “Offshore Shell Games 2016,” explains how “U.S.-based multinational corporations are allowed to play by a different set of rules” when it comes to paying taxes.

Congress – for obviou$ rea$on$ – refuses to stop this “deferral” loophole. And then these same companies fund “think tanks” and other propaganda mills that tell us we have a huge budget “deficit” and “debt” problem and therefore need to cut spending on things that make people’s lives better.

From the report’s executive summary:

Most of America’s largest corporations maintain subsidiaries in offshore tax havens. At least 358 companies, nearly 72 percent of the Fortune 500, operate subsidiaries in tax haven jurisdictions as of the end of 2014.

-All told, these 358 companies maintain at least 7,622 tax haven subsidiaries.

-The 30 companies with the most money officially booked offshore for tax purposes collectively operate 1,225 tax haven subsidiaries.

Some of the key findings from the report:

● Fortune 500 companies now hold nearly $2.5 trillion in earnings offshore and we estimate that they are avoiding $718 billion in taxes on these earnings.

● More than 73 percent of Fortune 500 companies maintain at least one subsidiary in a tax haven.

● Apple has booked $215 billion offshore on which it owes $65.4 billion in taxes.

The solution is for Congress to end the “deferral” loophole and make these companies just pay the taxes they owe.

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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 and/or for the Progressive Breakfast.

Must Must Must Listen Podcast: Robert Reich On This Election

I listened to this on a walk, and it is a must, must, must listen podcast.

Robert Reich, speaking Tuesday at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco: “The Oddest Presidential Election in Living Memory

From the website:

Tue, Sep 27 2016 – 6:30pm
Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley; Former Secretary of Labor; Author, Saving Capitalism

Holly Kernan, Executive Editor for News, KQED—Moderator

In the midst of an unpredictable presidential election, get insight from a veteran political figure who knows Washington inside and out. Time magazine named Reich one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He is a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. Come hear his provocative thoughts on the presidential election and the future of America.