Government Hands $1 Trillion+ To Wealthy While Deficit Is $642 Billion

While our government is laying off hundreds and hundreds of thousands and cutting services in the name of cutting deficits, a new report exposes that taxpayers are handing more than $1 trillion a year to the wealthiest.

DC Focused On Deficits Not Jobs

Instead of focusing on jobs, Congress and the White House obsess on how to cut the budget -– the things We the People do to make our lives and economy better. While the “sequester” has already cost 900,000 jobs — 1.6 million thru 2014 — Republicans are threatening to shut down the government and force the country to default on its debt as leverage to force even more cuts.

Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner has repeatedly said the country is “broke.” For example, “We’re broke, broke going on bankrupt,” Boehner said Feb. 28, 2011. Here he is saying it on Dec. 11, 2012, “Let’s be honest. We’re broke.”

So we have to cut and cut and cut, even though the cuts are costing millions of jobs and damaging the economy and the prospects for our country and peoples’ future, because supposedly “we’re broke.”

New Report: More Than $1 Trillion Per Year Handed To Wealthiest

But a report out today from the National Priorities Project (NPP) shows that the country is handing more than $1 trillion to the already-wealthy.

That’s right, the government is cutting services and laying off hundreds upon hundreds of thousands in the name of cutting deficits, while handing more than $1 trillion a year to the wealthiest. The rest of us pay taxes and suffer cuts in jobs and services to make up this lost money.

According to the report, lots of 1%ers will pay no taxes at all this year, while the country cuts jobs and services in the name of cutting the deficit.

“Ten major tax breaks that together total more than $750 billion in tax savings in 2013 are tilted heavily in favor of the top income earners; according to the Congressional Budget Office, 17% of the benefits from these major tax breaks go to the top 1% of households. In fact, according to the Tax Policy Center, nearly 1.2 million taxpayers in the top 1% will owe no income tax at all in 2013, thanks in large part to tax breaks that help them reduce their tax liability down to zero.”

Two of the key findings in the report tell the story:

  • Corporate tax breaks will total $108 billion in FY2013 – more than 1.5 times what the U.S. government spends on education funding. Between 2007 and 2013, the revenue lost from U.S. corporations deferring taxes on income earned abroad rose 200%, going from $14 billion to $42 billion.
  • All tax breaks for individuals will exceed $1 trillion this year, with about 17% of the biggest individual tax breaks going to the top 1% of earners. In fact, many individual tax breaks disproportionately benefit wealthy households.

The country’s budget shortfall is not from “entitlements” (things We the People are entitled to as citizens in a prosperous democracy) and “government spending” (the things We the People do to make our lives and economy better). The deficit is down to $640 billion while $1 trillion in tax breaks goes to the 1%. (Actually mostly the 1% of the 1%.)

Click through to read the entire NPP report, and here for a visualization of the impact.

Deficit Talk Is A Rigged Discussion

So why is the country terrified that budget deficits are going to eat us alive? Why don’t people know that the deficit is already down more than 50% from the levels Bush left behind and is falling at the fastest rate since the end of World War II? Why are Republicans able to get away threatening to shut the government and force the country into default in their drive to cut spending on the things that make our lives better?

The reason is that there is a massively-funded PR campaign underway to convince people of these things. Fix The Debt, for example, has pumped at least $60 million into a PR campaign to convince people that we have a deficit emergency and must therefore cut back on the things government does. Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson has pledged $1 billion toward the same end. These are just two sources of the massively-funded campaign to convince people that the government should be cut back, instead of hiring people to fix the infrastructure, instead of having universal health care, etc.

And those are just two examples. How many headlines like these has the public seen? Budget deficit reaching point of no return, 20 Must-See Charts On America’s Disastrous Level Of Government Spending, Budget, Deficit, Debt Disaster, Deficits Must Be Curbed or It’s Disaster For Economy: Study and on and on and on.

And now we learn that the government is handing more than $1 trillion to the 1% and their corporations, while the deficit in only $640 billion and falling.

A Corruption Spiral

We are witnessing here a corruption spiral. This is big money using money to influence the government to give them even more money. And they then use that more money to influence the government even more to give them even more more money. And they then use that more money to influence the government even more more to give them even more more more money. And they then use that more more money to influence the government even more more more to give them even more more more more money. And then …

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What Can We Do About This?

This is about the powerful predatory pigs feeding at the trough and taking it out on the weak. It has to stop.

How do we stop the corruption spiral that is eating our economy, our jobs and the things We the People do to make our lives better? We must get the money out of politics — and out of the national discussion. Money is not “speech.” In a democracy each person having an equal say is “speech.”

Corporate money is supposed to be used to run the corporation, period. Corporations use their money to drive the purposes of the corporation. So corporations by definition cannot use their money without the expectation of getting something in return. Even the use of corporate money to fund a Little League team is for the purpose of advertising and “brand development.” So giving money to a politician is done with the expectation of getting a tax break, a contract, a patent or some other form of advantage over competitors or otherwise increasing its profits. According to the law giving anything of value to any public official with the intent of influencing that official is bribery. It is not speech to give money to a politician, it is bribery. It is corruption.

By the same token, corporations giving their money to lobbying operations is done with the same intent. It is done to influence politicians or use front groups to drive support to politicians (a thing of value) to get them to do something that financially rewards that corporation.

And of course those with the most money are able to have the most influence. Which brings them more money. Which brings them more influence. This increased influence brings them more money, which brings them more influence. This increased influence brings them more money, which brings them more influence. This increased influence brings them more money, which brings them more influence. This increased influence brings them more money, which brings them more influence. This increased influence brings them more money, which brings them more influence. This increased influence brings them more money, which brings them more influence.

Again, a corruption spiral that eats our economy, jobs and democracy.

Corporate money must be banned from politics or otherwise influencing policy. Corporate money should be used to operate the corporation, period.

So how do we stop the influence of the billionaires? We just learned that the Koch brothers ran a group that pumped almost a quarter of a billion dollars into the last election (that we know of). Aside from that, according to the Sunlight Foundation, the 1% of the 1% funded a huge share of the election all by themselves.

The answer here is of course limiting the amounts individuals can put into campaigns and banning efforts to influence elections outside of campaigns themselves. This includes a complete crackdown on the use of special-tax-status organizations in election activities, front groups, etc.

These steps will at least be a start, and will give democracy a bit of breathing room. Then We the People might be able to figure out where to go from there.

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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

Gonna Go Make Some Money

There is a phrase I hear from DC people a lot: He/she is going to “go make some money.”

Usually this means that someone in government is going to take a job for a corporation, likely on Wall Street, “for a while” and then come back. It is, of course, collecting the payoff for playing along with the corporate agenda.

Of course, in progressive circles it means someone is going to find any old NON-progressive-organization job because that means actually making enough to live on…

Conservative Is Not An Ideology – It Is Corruption

I should do a series… Is keeping the minimum wage low really part of an ideology? Or is it really just big companies paying legislators to keep their profits high at the expense of We, the People?

It that ideology, when giant companies pay legislators to boost their profits? Is it ideology when big companies fund conservative “think tanks” that are really just propaganda machines, to tell people that there is an “ideology” that demands that wages be lowered?

Or is this just corruption?

I have been thinking that a lot of the fight going on isn’t about ideology at all, it is about corruption and the influence of money and how money uses its ability to influence society behind a MASK of ideology. You can justify a lot more if what you are doing is seen as an ideological effort, because that is about ideas and the clash of ideas and free speech, where money is just about money and power and force.

When it is ideas, it is ideology, when it is money it is just corruption. But calling it ideology keeps you out of jail.

I am just back from England… Toured a lot of castles, etc. and studied a lot of the history of the monarchy. The royalists used to justify their rule by saying God mandated it, etc.. So there was an “ideology” that kings should rule and royalty was sacred etc., but really it was about thugs who were stronger than other thugs, and then it was about keeping that power in the hands of a chosen few.

Was that really ideology?

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Corruption

Tim Geitherner is getting paid huge “speaking fees” by the big banks he helped while in his government jobs…

Geithner joins top table of public speakers with lucrative appearances,

… receiving about $400,000 for three speaking engagements.

A speech at a Deutsche Bank conference last month netted him about $200,000…

… He spoke in June alongside Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s ex-president, and Mario Monti, Italy’s former prime minister, at Deutsche Bank’s annual conference in the UK.

… Mr Geithner was also the main attraction at Blackstone’s annual meeting in April, and the following month appeared at Warburg Pincus’s annual meeting. He was paid no more than $100,000 by each of the private equity groups, according to people familiar with the matter.

…Within a week of stepping down as Federal Reserve chairman, for example, Alan Greenspan was paid about $250,000 to speak at a dinner for hedge fund clients of the now-defunct Lehman Brothers.

$400K so far, just three “speaking” engagements… His time as Treasury Sec will prove incredibly lucrative.

Not so good for you and me, though.

Old Economy Coming Back

Borosage, in Democrats Must Overcome Clinton Nostalgia,

The sad fact is that the old economy is coming back. Austerity continues to starve public investments vital to our future. The banks emerged from the crisis bigger and more concentrated than ever. Despite the domestic natural gas explosion, the trade deficit is still more than $1 billion a day, with the deficit with China setting records.

Extreme inequality is getting worse. The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans captured a stunning 121 percent of the income growth in the first two years after the economic collapse. Everyone else, on average, lost ground. The jobs being created offer less pay and fewer benefits than those that were lost. More than 20 million people still need full-time work.

I wrote about this in Just Stop It: This Is NOT A Good Economy. We Can Fix It.

PS Borosage makes a key point: “No matter how repellant Republicans may look to these voters, they are unlikely to turn out in large numbers for a party whose policies have failed them.

Keystone Pipeline To Sell Canadian Tar Oil To China

Step back and see what this is.

A Canadian oil company wants to cross our country with a pipeline so they can sell oil to China. A political party and the Tea Party are working, for-hire, as the agents of this company.

This is one revenue-generating project for a company, not a cause.

How MUCH are they paying the Republicans?

And then on top of that Obama might approve it? Here is what Van Jones has to say:

Is IRS “Scandal” Hype An Attempt To Stop Investigations Into Blatantly Illegal Campaign Activity?

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a 501(c)(4) group. This special tax status allows the organization to hide its donors from the public. But this also means it is prohibited by law from engaging in political activites. Founded with the support of the Koch brothers, AFP ran more than $30 million of 2012 election attack ads targeting President Obama.

Just HOW political were these ads? Political enough that the Chair of the Repubican Party released a statement accompanying the announcement of these ads. From Americans For Prosperity Ad Blasts Obama For Hope And Change Failure,

“Four years ago Americans entrusted that President Obama would truly bring ‘Hope and Change’ to Washington,” RNC Chair Reince Priebus said in a statement accompanying the new ads. “It is clear that he has failed to live up to his promises and has left our country with a mountain of debt and a health care bill that has cost the taxpayers trillions.”

A bit more on this from Tobacco giant funded conservative nonprofits, bt the Center for Public Integrity,

These groups, which obtain their nonprofit status because they say their “primary purpose” is not political activity, are generally under no legal obligation to detail their funding sources. Super PACs and other recognized political committees, by contrast, must report the names of their contributors who give more than $200 and the amounts they give.

Yet during the 2012 election cycle, various social welfare nonprofit organizations, emboldened by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision in January 2010, spent more than $250 million to promote or attack federal political candidates, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The source of most of that money remains a mystery.

This is blatant, flat-out, unquestionable illegal campaign spending.

Maybe THIS has something to do with why the right is drumming up a false “scandal” claiming that the IRS “targeted” conservative groups. This is about scaring the IRS away from doing its job.

Why Government Only Does Things For The Wealthy & Big Corporations

One reason is because everyone understands that there is a big check waiting for them later if they “play ball.”

Example: Ex-Obama Aides Attended Oil Industry-Sponsored Azerbaijan Conference,

Jim Messina, the former Obama 2012 campaign manager, Robert Gibbs, the former White House press secretary, and David Plouffe, the former Obama senior adviser, all received five-figure checks to deliver remarks at the event.

5-figure checks to “deliver remarks.” It adds up.

Big names get the biggest checks, of course. Lobbying jobs, “speaking fees,” etc. But members of a legislator’s staff move over to a lobbying firm or big corporation and get good 6-figure jobs.

Next Week’s Opportunity To Get Our Labor Board Operating Again

President Obama has nominated five people to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Two are Republicans. All are waiting for confirmation by the Senate. Let your Senators know these nominees should be confirmed so the NLRB can get back to work.

What Is The NLRB?

The NLRB is the agency that “safeguards employees’ rights to organize and to determine whether to have unions as their bargaining representative. The agency also acts to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions.”

The NLRB supervises elections to form or decertify unions in the workplace. It investigates charges that employees, unions or employers violated rules over labor practices and rules on the charges. It works to get problems resolved rather than taken to court. And finally, when the NLRB has issued a ruling that is ignored it can take the parties to court.

But if the NLRB is prevented from operating there is no one to make sure that the rules for labor practices are being enforced. This hurts workers and companies.

Continue reading

Sequester Closes Cancer Clinic Doors, Congress Does Nothing

Affluent business flyers inconvenienced by delays = national emergency that Congress immediately fixes. Cancer clinics closing = Congress does squat, goes home. This is just one more story of our corrupt times.

Last week the sequester cuts kicked in at airports and caused affluent business fliers to experience some delays, so Congress acted immediately to fix it. The same sequester has been forcing cancer clinics to send away patients so they can’t receive the chemotherapy that they hope will keep them alive. Is Congress rushing to the rescue like they did for affluent business travelers who faced some flight delays? Not so much. They do have their priorities, after all.

Sequester Causes Cancer Clinic Cuts And Closings

NBC: Sequester cuts hitting cancer patients, (click through for video)

Oncologists claim reduced Medicare funding, which took effect on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially.

NewsOn6: Oklahoma Cancer Patients Worry About Cuts To Medicare Caused By Sequester.

Albequerque BusinessFirst: Gov’t cuts might force NM Cancer Center to stop treating some Medicare patients,

The Albuquerque-based New Mexico Cancer Center might have to stop treating up to 300 Medicare patients because of cuts to Medicare brought on by the federal sequestration budget cuts, the Cancer Center’s CEO said Thursday.

HuffPo: Sequestration Forces Cancer Clinic Patients To Travel Thousands Of Miles For Treatment.

ThinkProgress: Cancer Clinics: Congress Should Have Restored Our Sequester Cuts Before Addressing Airport Delays,

After automatic budget cuts slashed their funding, cancer clinics have been forced to delay chemotherapy treatment for their patients. Some clinics may actually have to close their doors altogether if the sequester cuts are not reversed. As several cancer doctors told the Hill, they suspect they may not have been at the top at Congress’ list because reduced access to chemotherapy doesn’t personally inconvenience lawmakers in the same way that airport delays do.

WaPo: Cancer clinics are turning away thousands of Medicare patients. Blame the sequester,

Cancer clinics across the country have begun turning away thousands of Medicare patients, blaming the sequester budget cuts.

Oncologists say the reduced funding, which took effect for Medicare on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially.

It Costs Money, Doesn’t Save Money

The kicker, it doesn’t even save the government money, instead it costs money:

The care will likely be more expensive: One study from actuarial firm Milliman found that chemotherapy delivered in a hospital setting costs the federal government an average of $6,500 more annually than care delivered in a community clinic.

So not only does this sequester kill people, it costs the government much more than it saves.

Deficit Facts

1) The deficit is already falling dramatically. The deficit is already down by 50% as a share of GDP. From See Deficit Falling Even More Dramatically, Few Know It:

2) The intellectual foundation for austerity has been discredited. See anywhere on the web. Especially see The Colbert Report: Austerity’s Spreadsheet Error.

3) Europe’s experiment with austerity has brought nothing but stagnation, recession, unemployment and mass misery and suffering. See ThinkProgress: Austerity Pushes Europe Into Its Second Recession In Four Years, CNBC: Europe Risks ‘Endless Depression’ in Pursuit of Austerity, LA Times: Europe austerity strategy is hurting growth, IMF says, CNN: Austerity drives up suicide rate in debt-ridden Greece and hundreds more such reports…

4) The deficit argument is over. Henry Blodget: The Economic Argument Is Over — Paul Krugman Has Won.

It’s Just Corruption

From March, Surprising Studies Find DC Does What Wealthiest Want, Majority Opposes,

A new study, Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans … sought to gauge the political and policy priorities of the wealthy, and how these concerns contrast with the concerns of the rest of us. Amazingly, the priorities of the 1% match up with the priorities of our political class, while the priorities and needs of the vast majorities of us are ignored.

This is about who has the money, and who gives it to politicians. That is the definition of corruption. It is not “ideology” it is corruption, nothing more.

Very wealthy people are profiting from this austerity push. Dean Baker explains, in Deficits Are Bad and the Sun Goes Around the Earth,

…many people can profit from slow growth and high unemployment. The after-tax profit share of GDP is at its highest level more than 60 years. For those who own lots of stock and are at the top of the income ladder, times are good. These people may see efforts to lower unemployment as posing a risk. With lower unemployment workers may be able to get a larger share of productivity growth. This may be good for most of the country and mean increased economic growth, but it would mean less for the one percent.

Yes, “people can profit from slow growth and high unemployment.” And politicians are being paid to maintain the slow growth and high unemployment and other things that are driving all the income and wealth to a top few. It is just corruption, nothing more.

From January: Call It Corruption Not Ideology,

Getting paid by corporations to block government action from helping We, the People but hurting corporate profits isn’t an ideology, it’s corruption.

Getting paid by corporations to cut taxes and regulations for corporations isn’t an ideology, it’s corruption.

Getting paid by billionaires to cut taxes for billionaires isn’t an ideology, it is corruption

Call it what it is, don’t launder it by calling it ideology. It is corruption.

This is corruption, it is not ideology, it is not “austerity.” Getting paid by wealthy people to block things that help We the People so those wealthy people can profit is corruption, nothing more. Don’t dignify it, don’t let it serve as a mask. It is just corruption.

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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