Bernie Sanders Explains Why “Socialist” Isn’t a Dirty Word – Late Night with Seth Meyers
The House is expected to vote on fast track trade promotion authority as soon as next week. If it passes, the corporate-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a done deal — even though it is still secret. Why is presidential candidate Hillary Clinton still silent on this?
The Money Wants TPP — The People Do Not
TPP is the most important economic issue facing the Congress between now and the election — because it could happen, and because if it does the results will be terrible for working people. The game will be further rigged in favor of the 1 percent and against the rest of us. It will increase corporate power over governments — and us.
The Money wants TPP, because it will be very, very good for them. The people do not want fast track/TPP because it means increased corporate power, fewer jobs, more pressure, and lower pay.
A corporate/plutocrat-bought Congress is being told by The Money — Wall Street, the giant corporations and the plutocrats — to pass it, and for some incomprehensible reason President Obama will sign it. Street-level activists are fighting tooth and nail to get the word out and rally opposition. This is now. This is urgent. This is the focus.
This is an either/or. There is one side, and there is the other side. This is us vs. them. This is The Money vs. We the People. There is no in-between on this one, no waiting it out, no holding back, and no fence-sitting. It is one or the other. Not choosing a side on this is really just choosing the wrong side.
Clinton Still Silent On Fast Track
Here’s the thing: Fast track essentially pre-approves TPP. Fast track comes up for a vote as soon as next week. If fast track passes, TPP is a done deal. Where is Clinton on this?
Hillary Clinton is the leading Democratic candidate for president. A lot of activists are looking for reasons to enthusiastically support Clinton’s candidacy. She has taken great, progressive positions on immigration and other issues. But it is still early; opinions are not yet hardened. Things can change.
So far Clinton is trying to stay on the fence about fast track and TPP:
“There are questions being raised by the current agreement. I don’t know what the final provisions are yet,” she said. “I want to judge the final agreement. I have been for trade agreements, I have been against trade agreements.”
But fast track preapproves that “final agreement.” The vote on fast track in the House could be as soon as next week. After next week, TPP could be a done deal. Clinton owes it to the public to show up and lead on this. She especially owes it to the activists. They are fighting in the streets over this. They would appreciate some help. They will remember who was there with them — and who wasn’t.
Political Calculation vs. The Right Thing
Clinton’s advisors are calculating that this whole controversy will fade away after fast track’s passage makes TPP a done deal. They are trying to get her past this without taking a stand that risks putting off either side. They are betting that with time people will forget and get over it.
But to the activists on the street, this is the big one — just like the Iraq War vote was. People will remember, because people who know about it are fighting in the streets today, doing everything they can to stop this. And those people will say that taking no position is the same as being for it, because it is allowing it to happen, without laying down in front of the moving fast-track train.
Some people care about the issues, not the horse race. They care about substance, not image. Not everyone cares, to be sure, or is even paying attention yet. But in the long run the positions are what will matter, not the day’s calculated image. This is because the results of this will not fade away; they will matter to people’s lives.
For example, Nike wants TPP because it lowers the tariff on shoes imported from Vietnam and Malaysia. But when this forces New Balance to shut down their U.S. manufacturing, that will be in the news, people will feel it, and they will look back and say “Where was Clinton?”
The Iraq War vote looked like the pragmatic political position to take, but that political calculation came with a cost in the long run because the consequences of that vote mattered to people’s lives. Doing the right thing comes with a reward in the end.
Sitting back and hoping important issues just go away won’t cut it this time. You can’t make it just go away. Better yet, the way to make it just go away is to grab it by the horns and move it in the right direction.
Looking For A Champion Who Pushes For Transformative Change
People are impatient for a real champion. This is not a time to be safe, sit back, read polls, and wait out controversy. The economy simply is not working for most of us, and people know it. People see that the game is rigged and want proposals for transformative change.
There is no question that TPP is on the wrong side of this, and will result in even more hardship for the very people Clinton says she is campaigning to help. Fast Track preapproves TPP and the vote is coming up very, very soon.
Staying on the fence on this one is a mistake. By staying on the fence she risks being remembered as “No-Position Clinton” on the issue that matters most.
President Obama is scheduled to visit Nike’s Oregon headquarters on Friday to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Yes, Nike – a company that grew to billions by outsourcing jobs to overseas sweatshops, a company that sets up P.O.-box subsidiaries in tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes, a company that uses threats to extort tax breaks from its “home” state.
Phil Knight, head of Nike, is now worth $23 billion because America’s trade policies encourage companies like Nike to create and move jobs outside of the U.S. The 23rd-richest American is one more symbol of the kind of inequality that results from outsourcing enabled and encouraged by these trade policies. Workers here lose (or never get) jobs; workers there are paid squat; a few people become vastly, unimaginably wealthy.
Meanwhile Massachusetts-based New Balance struggles to manufacture its athletic footwear in the U.S. TPP will remove tariffs on imported Vietnamese and Malaysian shoes, benefiting Nike and wiping out New Balance’s efforts to maintain its manufacturing here.
ENRON BILLIONAIRE ARNOLD HAS A PROBLEM WITH LIBRARIANS’ PENSIONS
Former Enron trader and hedge fund billionaire John Arnold is launching a multimillion dollar national PR campaign attacking the hard-earned pensions of public sector workers. Arnold has already quietly poured tens of millions of dollars into his efforts to persuade politicians to reduce middle class retirement security and now it looks like he may really just be getting started.
The “fast track” trade promotion authority bill has been introduced in the Senate. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution says, “The Congress shall have power to … regulate commerce with foreign nations.” But under fast track, Congress relinquishes that power and agrees to pass trade bills brought to them by the executive branch in a very short time frame with little debate and without making any changes should any problems present themselves.
Though it was announced that this year’s fast track bill was the result of a “deal” between Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) the 2015 bill is nearly identical to the 2014 bill that died in Congress without support for a vote. See this side-by-side comparison from Rep. Sander Levin of the House Ways and Means Committee. It is unclear from this comparison why the “negotiations” between Hatch and Wyden took so long, and what Wyden got that enabled him to put his name on it, enabling the bill to be sold as “bipartisan.”
Fast Track Sets Aside Normal Procedure
Congress does not set aside normal procedure, debate, the ability to fix problems that turn up and agree to vote within 90 days except for trade agreements – even though trade agreements have now proven to have such a tremendous and often detrimental effect on our economy, jobs, wages and inequality. Where did the idea to do this come from? According to Public Citizen, this unusual procedure was “initially created by President Richard Nixon to get around public debate and congressional oversight.”
Silicon Valley is an area of contrasts. When you stop at a traffic light in Silicon Valley you will often find a Maserati or Tesla on one side of you and a beaten up, 15-year-old Accord on the other. It seems there are more high-end Mercedes, Jaguars, Bentleys or the occasional Maybach than in other areas.
Silicon Valley companies, many run by stock-billionaires, pay a lot at the top, and squat at the bottom. There are the lucky employees, and a huge number of “contractors” – employees who are not called employees. The employees that reach over a certain age are discarded.
There are not a lot of people in the space between Silicon Valley’s top and its bottom. One in three Silicon Valley workers cannot even afford to live anywhere within a one-hour drive. The regular three-bedroom house costs a million dollars and don’t even ask about the rents (starting at more than $2,000 a month for a one bedroom apartment), but on the streets in working-class neighborhoods there are so many cars parked that you can barely pass – because there are so many people and families crammed into the housing. And, of course, the traffic is terrible, but you have to use a car because public transportation is cut back due to tax-dodging by giant companies like those in Silicon Valley.
Alongside Friday’s good employment data, there is a brouhaha on the Internets over claims that the government’s employment numbers are a “big lie.” Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of the Gallup polling company penned “The Big Lie: 5.6% Unemployment,” claiming that “the media” is “cheer-leading” and the White House is “scor[ing] political points” over phony numbers that the government makes up to make things look better than they are.
In fact, the “top line” unemployment number – now 5.7 percent, representing 9 million people, does not factor in people who have given up looking, 6.8 million part-time workers who want to work full-time, 2.2 million “marginally attached” people, people who are grossly underpaid, etc. But everyone knows that, and the government reports that. The “official” number has a specific definition, the “U-6 “alternative measure of labor under-utilization” reports the more accurate 13.5 percent number. So somewhere between 15 and 20 million Americans count as un- or underemployed. But even that doesn’t count those who have given up. It’s still bad out there, but the government’s figures are not being manipulated.
Intentionally High Unemployment
I want to suggest that this high un- and underemployment is intentional. Here is why. Two things that the government could easily do right now would pretty much get rid of unemployment. But our government is blocked from doing those things by extremely wealthy people, who benefit from the low wages, and a desperate and “cowering” reserve army of unemployed status quo.
First, balancing the trade deficit would by itself bring back more than 5 million jobs. This is based only on the 3.1 million lost to the China trade deficit, 1 million lost to NAFTA and 900,000 lost to the Japan trade deficit. We also have trade deficits with Germany, South Korea, and others.
A way to visualize this is to imagine the effect on our economy of $500 billion of new orders coming in to businesses that make and do things inside the U.S. Then another $500 billion next year and every year after that. Our annual trade deficit is $500 billion. Fixing that means $500 billion of new business here, now, and continuing every year from now on. What you are visualizing is the damage this trade regime has done to us since Wall Street and the right’s “free trade” ideology took over.
Second, we have deferred maintaining our infrastructure since the Reagan era started the cycle of tax cuts and spending cutbacks. To bring the country’s infrastructure up to standards (never mind modernizing) we would need to spend $360 billion each year for 10 years, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Infrastructure Report Card. If you conservatively estimate that each $1 billion spent on infrastructure creates 30,000 jobs, $350 billion translates to 350×30,000 = 10.5 million jobs.
So that’s conservatively 15.5 million jobs if we just go back to doing what the country did before the Reagan era. (This gives you a hint at the damage Reagan’s “trickle down” economics, and “free trade” market ideology have done. Look around. The extreme inequality that resulted tells you why it was done.)
Balance trade and fix up our aging infrastructure means at least 15.5 million jobs. (Think about what that would mean for wages, too.)
But That’s Just Catch-Up
But those things are just playing catch-up. It comes close to giving jobs to the unemployed, part-time for economic reasons and “marginally attached” workers. It doesn’t even start to dig into the people who have given up and left the labor market.
We got here by cutting taxes for the rich, gutting government, deferring maintenance, a and letting a few billionaires harvest our public wealth through privatization, etc. We’ll get out of it by fixing the trade deficit, repairing our infrastructure, undoing policy mistakes that have continued since the Reagan era, and ending “trickle down” tax cuts.
How do we take this a step further? The following things would employ tons of people and bring a long-term economic return far above any “cost.”
First, retrofit buildings and homes to be energy-efficient. Start with the basics: plug leaks and drafts, paint roofs white. These simple things could employ tons of people who we call “low skilled.” Take it a step further, and install energy-efficient windows, insulation, modern heating and cooling systems, solar on the roofs, etc. — all made in America, of course — and we will employ millions more. The energy payoff would be enormous, and we would go into the future with a much more efficient economy.
Next, engage in 21st century infrastructure projects like high-speed rail across the country and into Canada and Mexico — just like China is already doing. (See: “New Silk Road.“) We’ll create jobs, and end up with a massively more efficient, competitive economy. Then, modernize our power grid and install wind turbines across the plains states. Again, we end up with a massively more efficient, competitive economy. Requiring American-made supplies boosts the return to our economy.
What about building out national, high-speed, fiber internet? Imagine the innovation that would result.
There is so much we could do to first bring about full employment, and then move our economy into the 21st century. But we are held back by this weird Reagan/Wall Street/conservative ideology that tells us not to believe that We the People deserve a government that spends to make our lives better. That spending boosts us up now, makes our lives better, and more than pays for itself later. But we are kept from dreaming and doing because that return on our investment would go to us, instead of into the pockets of a few billionaires.
The budget bill called the “Cromnibus” (for Continuing Resolution and OMNIBUS budget bill) contains a provision that undoes an important part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulation bill. It would allow banks to gamble on derivatives using money from taxpayer-protected accounts. Citibank literally wrote the provision and paid someone to put it in the bill.
No one in the House or Senate will say who was paid to put it in the bill. No one will admit to putting it in the bill. No one will say that support this provision. But it will not be taken out of the bill.
OK this is not a rhetorical question, it is a question to broadcast. This was written word-for-word by Citibank, to benefit Citibank, putting the taxpayers at great risk. How can something like this be in a bill if no one put it in the bill and no one indicates support for it? How can we not get it taken out if no one will say they put it in and no one will say they support it?
Someone was obviously paid to put it in the bill. People are obviously being paid to keep it in the bill.
How FAR from the principles of democracy, transparency, accountability and everything the country, the Constitution and the Congress are supposed to stand for can we go here?
Many Democrats examining what happened in the 2014 midterms are asking “what did the voters want?” But the right question is why did only 36.4 percent of potential voters bother to register and vote? Obviously Democrats did not give those voters a good enough reason to take the trouble. Is the Democratic Party relevant anymore?
“New Coke” Democrats
In 1985 Coca-Cola was the market leader, but Pepsi was gaining market share. Coca-Cola’s executives panicked and reformulated its flavor to taste like the more-sugary Pepsi. But Pepsi drinkers already drank Pepsi and Coca-Cola drinkers were left with no brand that they liked. If this sounds like an analogy to the Democratic Party consultants who keep urging Democratic candidates and politicians to be more like Republicans, that’s because it is.
Democrats were considered the majority party from the time of Roosevelt’s New Deal until the 1980s. All they had to do to win was to get a high enough voter turnout. Democratic operations were more about Get Out The Vote (GOTV) than giving people reasons to vote for Democrats instead of Republicans. They just assumed most people agreed with them – because most people agreed with them. But that time has passed.
“60 Minutes” ran a report Sunday, “Falling apart: America’s neglected infrastructure,” describing the seriousness and damage to the economy caused by our country’s crumbling infrastructure.
Here are a few choice quotes, but really you should click through and watch the whole thing (and then come back here):
- “Except for the stimulus nothing much has happened. It is ‘just another example of political paralysis in Washington.’ “
- “1 of every 9 bridges (70,000) is structurally deficient.”
- “It all comes down to funding.”
- “These all are tragedies waiting to happen.”
- “32% of major roads in America are in poor condition.”
- “It’s falling apart because we haven’t made the investment.”
- “Public spending on infrastructure has fallen to its lowest level since 1947.”
How bad is the problem? The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issues a regular “report card” on “the condition and performance of the nation’s infrastructure.” The 2013 grade is D+ and the cost to get us back to normal is now at $3.6 trillion. (The longer we wait the more the cost increases.) Because of this, The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report ranks the U.S. as 16th in the quality of its infrastructure.
U.S. multinational corporations are hoarding an estimated $2 trillion “offshore” to take advantage of a loophole in our tax laws. At our 35 percent top federal corporate tax rate, that represents up to $700 billion in taxes owed but “deferred” because they are “offshore.” This is not imaginary or future money; it is taxes owed on $2 trillion of profits these companies have already made. Who should get this money?
A loophole in the corporate tax code allows companies to “defer” paying taxes on profits made outside of the U.S. until they “repatriate” it – bring the money back to the U.S.. Because of this loophole corporations are holding an estimated $2 trillion of profits “offshore.” Companies are increasingly moving jobs, production and profit centers out of the country to take advantage of this scheme – or are engaging in schemes to make it look like they are. (The amount is increasing 11.8 percent a year and the rate of increase is increasing as well.)
That $700 billion is serious money. Washington lobbyists are working with Congress to come up with various corporate tax “reform” schemes designed to let the corporations off the hook for much of this tax bill – and to lower their future tax bills as well.
The most popular “centrist” idea is to let the corporations just keep much or most of the tax money they owe, if only they would just let us use some of it to maintain our country’s infrastructure. Going along with this would reward these companies for engaging in schemes to “offshore” jobs, production and profit centers, thereby moving (or making it appear that they moved) these profits out of the country – and certainly would encourage doing even more of this from now on.
Send A $2,000 Check To Every Adult – AND Fix Our Infrastructure
Instead of letting these companies off the hook for this tax bill, here is an alternative idea: Let’s collect the taxes that are due on these profits that have already been made, send every adult in the U.S. a check for $2,000, and use what’s left over to fix up our infrastructure.
This is real money, and a lot of it. Instead of making a “deal” on deferment and letting the corporations just keep this money they owe us, let’s fix this loophole and give most of this tax money to the 242 million U.S. residents over 18 as a $2,000 check. What’s left over (and there might be a lot – as much as $215 billion) can be used to fix our infrastructure and other priorities like research and development, fighting Ebola and other diseases, forgiving student debt – you name it.
This is about who gets the money. Do we give the tax money that is already owed to We the People, or do we let the giant corporations just keep it? By making this about a $2,000 check directly to every adult, it becomes personal. It becomes an issue of real money in people’s pockets, not some distant sum that “government” uses for their own good but that people never really feel or touch. Sending people a $2,000 check turns this battle over this money into a personal fight, not just some nebulous, distant, complicated government policy issue.
Who Should Get The Money?
By the way, when we talk about “corporate” money and corporate tax cuts, this is what – more accurately “who” – we are really talking about:
The top 1 percent own 50.9 percent of all stocks, bonds, and mutual fund assets. The top 10 percent own 90.3 percent. The bottom half of all of us own 0.5 percent – one half of one percent. That was 2007 – the top few have only increased their ownership percentages since.
This is about who gets the money. There is up to $700 billion in taxes due and someone is going to get that money. By making this about a $2,000 check to each adult American vs. billions to the owners of the giant corporations, we’re making the “who gets the money” argument personal instead of abstract.
Effect On Economy
What happens to our economy if every adult gets a $2000 check? How much hiring happens in local stores, etc?
What happens to our economy with up to $215 billion going into infrastructure work, with the related hiring and purchases of supplies?
What happens to our economy if companies lose the incentive to move jobs, production and profit centers offshore to take advantage of this loophole?
But wait, there’s more. There’s also that other $1.3 trillion – the “after tax” part that is offshore, too. If we do something about this deferment scam companies would lose the incentive to move jobs, production and profit centers out of the country to make it look like their profits are made elsewhere, and would “bring that money back.” The money would either be invested in the corporation or distributed to shareholders. This would be a big stimulus to the economy either way.
There’s as much as $2 trillion (maybe more) sitting offshore representing up to $700 billion in taxes owed at the top tax rate of 35 percent. (Taxes already paid to other countries are subtracted from what is owed here. This is why the tax bill is “up to” $700 billion. State taxes are also due on these profits, this article concerns itself with the federal share.)
According to the Census Bureau’s QuickFacts there were 316,128,839 Americans in 2013, 23.3 percent of them under 18, leaving 242,470,819 adults.
Sending a $2,000 check to 242.5 million adults costs about $485 billion. Up to $700 billion owed minus $485 billion leaves up to $215 billion for infrastructure and other priorities.
It’s a great way to accomplish several things that are good for the country:
1) Get cash to people right now. Helicoptered in, $700 billion would make a very big difference that people would feel now and the economy would feel for a while.
2) A $2,000 check shows people how corporate tax breaks are seriously costing them.
3) This puts pressure on “corporate tax reform” deals that reward the corporations by letting them keep any of it.
5) The best part is these companies already owe the money. This is about who gets the money that is owed to We the People. It makes the “We the People” part personal.
The awareness “making this personal” would bring to the issue would lend public support to other efforts to get companies to pay their taxes.
Trade deals like NAFTA have helped create terrible inequality by outsourcing jobs to low-wage countries so “investors” can pocket the wage difference. These corporate trade deals also create “corporate courts” that bypass the borders of democracy and place billionaires and their corporations beyond the reach of governments when it comes to deciding on laws and regulations that protect citizens.
There are more of these “NAFTA-style” being negotiated right now. These are much bigger than the trade deals that have already created such inequality and corporate hegemony. If Republicans take the Senate and keep the House they will pass these new trade deals and clinch this deal worldwide – and President Obama has already indicated he will sign them. This is serious so try to talk a few non-voting friends into showing up this time.
Trade Deals Being Negotiated Now
The big corporations are pushing our government to finalize three very big trade agreements: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). These are not really trade deals but cover all kinds of issues, including the ability to place corporate rights alongside or above the rights of countries to make their own laws.
These “trade” deals will, if passed by Congress and signed by the president, cement a corporate right to profits above the rights of citizens to pass laws to protect our health, environment, wages, working conditions and anything else we might decide to do to make our lives better. That’s right, these trade agreements place corporate rights above national sovereignty, and they do this behind a veil of secrecy.
These deals, like NAFTA and other “NAFTA-style” agreements, have “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) provisions that let giant corporations sue governments for passing laws that might cause investors to make lower profits. For example, these (and current) agreements allow tobacco companies to stop governments from engaging in anti-smoking initiatives to protect the health of their citizens. These suits do not come up in front of government courts. These are adjudicated by corporate-controlled tribunals of private arbitrators — “corporate courts” set up by these trade agreements. The “judges” are often corporate lawyers who just happen to also represent global investors and whose livelihood depends on the very corporations they are judging.
These deals are being negotiated with only the interests of the giant corporations at the table. Citizens groups, labor groups, consumer groups, environmental groups, health groups and other representatives of stakeholders in the world’s economy are excluded from the process.
Why is our own government negotiating a deal that gives so much to the big corporations and the billionaires behind them, and takes so much away from regular people? Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) sums it up, saying there are three kinds of people negotiating these agreements on behalf of our government:
- People who used to work for the giant corporations that benefit from these agreements.
- People who want to work for the giant corporations that benefit from these agreements.
- People who used to work for the giant corporations that benefit from these agreements and want to work for the giant corporations that benefit from these agreements again.
Why would the giant corporations and the billionaires want these agreements? Because they clinch the deal and get them around the borders of democracy.
Wow, That Sounds Extreme
Trade deals are placing corporate rights above national sovereignty? They are intentionally undermining democracy? This sounds extreme. What kind of person would make such extreme accusations?
Yes, it sounds extreme. This is a dilemma progressives continually face when describing the agenda and actions of the corporate/conservative right. Because so much of what they are accomplishing is hidden behind a veil of secrecy, obfuscation and long-term step-by-step strategy (think frog in a pot with the water being heated slowly), and because people pay very little attention to the news and current events until something smacks them in the face (or wallet) you sound like a crazy extremist when you simply describe to people what is going on.
- They’re trying to privatize Medicare? What an extreme accusation to make.
- They are trying to make it hard for legitimate citizens to vote? Wow, what an extreme statement.
- They’re trying to get rid of public schools? What an extreme thing to say.
- They’re trying to engineer a cut in everyone’s pay and benefits? What an extreme … oh, wait, we all can see now that they did that.
The corporate right depends on this one-two punch of secrecy and a poorly informed public to get their way.
Tea-Party Republicans vs. Chamber Of Commerce Republicans
So far enough Democrats have opposed these trade deals to keep the Congress from passing the “fast-track” trade promotion authority that is used to push them through. Fast track requires Congress to rush to a vote immediately after the treaty is made public, prevents Congress from amending the agreements and prevents filibusters from blocking them in the Senate. But if Republicans take the Senate and keep the House, there may no longer be enough non-corporate-controlled members of Congress to keep this from happening.
However, there would still be one hope for blocking these trade deals, even if Republicans take the Senate, and that’s the party’s tea party wing.
These trade agreements undermine the sovereignty of our country. They allow others to override our own ability as a country to make our own laws. This is one place where the tea party gets it squarely right. And this is one place where the tea party wing of the Republican Party is at war with the Chamber of Commerce (corporate-controlled) wing of the Republicans. National sovereignty is important to tea party Republicans, so they oppose these agreements. Also they oppose them because they are favored by President Obama. “Don’t let Obama negotiate away our national sovereignty” is a tea party rallying cry.
If Republicans take the Senate, let’s hope this appreciation of national sovereignty overrides their appreciation of corporate cash.