Here’s What ’60 Minutes’ Should Have Reported About Infrastructure

“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.

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With Election Over, First Order Of Business Is $450B In Corporate Tax Breaks

The election is over. Congress is back in Washington. The first order of business after the election is to give big tax breaks to the corporations – $450 billion worth. Fortunately, President Obama is trying to do something about this.

Tax Extenders

Every year Congress renews a package of “temporary” corporate tax breaks. The renewal process is called “tax extenders” because they extend the term of these temporary breaks. So now the Congress is working on this year’s extenders package, except this time it wants to just make many of them (the ones that mostly give handouts to giant corporations and campaign donors) permanent. The Washington Post calls this process “a periodic bonanza for lobbyists.”

A few of the special tax breaks in the extenders package are really good and serve an important purpose. For example, part of the package is tax credits that provide incentives to invest in renewable energy. But most others are just giveaways and handouts to the already-wealthy, like depreciation tax breaks for people who own racehorses. (Yes, really.) Even worse, some of these are loopholes that actually encourage corporations to shift U.S. profits offshore into tax havens. (Yes, really.)

The good breaks are used to grease the wheels to slip these special favors through – as in “if you want to get those wind tax credits you’re going to have to pass a tax break for Mitt Romney’s racehorses.”

The media is reporting that Congress is near a deal on these extenders. The deal kills several “good” tax breaks that help working people and the middle class, like an expanded child tax credit for the working poor and expanded earned-income credit. The deal phases out the wind power tax credit after 2017.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) pointed out that companies that renounce their U.S. citizenship would even get special breaks from this deal:

“The package would provide a permanent boon to large corporations, even those that renounce their U.S. citizenship and invert,” he said. “And adding insult to injury, the proposed deal chooses to leave behind working families and would make things harder for millions of Americans. …The overall package is simply unacceptable and adds more than $400 billion to the debt. We need to grow the middle class, not punish those working hard to get by while always giving preferences and priority treatment to big corporations who can hire high-priced, well-funded lobbyists.”

Not Paid For

These tax breaks are not “paid for” – they just add to the deficit. Remember how Congress rejected providing benefits for the long-term unemployed because they were not “paid for?” Congress won’t fix the country’s infrastructure because doing so is not “paid for.” Even disaster relief had to be “paid for!”

But none of these corporate tax breaks and loopholes being considered are “paid for” – but for some reason this isn’t a problem – this time. Because racehorses. Anyway, we’re only talking about $450 billion.

President Says He Will Veto

The President says he will veto this deal if it reaches his desk. Roll Call has the story, in, “Obama Would Veto Corporate Tax Cut Bill“:

President Barack Obama would veto an emerging $450 billion tax cut deal coming together in the Senate because it doesn’t do enough for the middle class, according to the White House.

“The President would veto the proposed deal because it would provide permanent tax breaks to help well-connected corporations while neglecting working families,” said Jen Friedman, deputy White House press secretary.

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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 Progress Breakfast.

Give Americans A $2000 Check From “Deferred” Corporate Taxes

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.

The Numbers

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.

Summary

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.

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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 Progress Breakfast.

Warning: Insurance Companies Scamming Obamacare Policyholders

Warning: If you have an insurance policy purchased at an Obamacare “exchange” last year and the price is going up you should shop around for a new one. If you just let the plan renew your insurance company might be screwing with you.

Don’t be fooled, prices are not going up much under Obamacare. If you go to the exchanges and shop around you’ll see that.

But if you just let your insurance company renew your existing policy they will scam you with a price increase as much as 20% — even more.

See How To Avoid Paying More For Obamacare Next Year.

Consumer advocates and Obamacare officials are urging the more than 7 million people who enrolled into health insurance for this year using one of the health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act to come back and look for a better deal.

… Why bother if you like your health plan? Because there’s a pretty good chance keeping your current policy will squeeze your budget, even though premiums nationwide are rising by a small amount on average.

[. . .] In 48 cities, the cost of the benchmark plan is actually going down next year by 0.2 percent before subsidies, according to data analyzed by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Also see Cost of Coverage Under Affordable Care Act to Increase in 2015,

“Consumers should shop around,” said Marilyn B. Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the federal insurance exchange serving three dozen states. “With new options available this year, they’re likely to find a better deal.” She asserted that the data showed that “the Affordable Care Act is working.”

Of course, if they had included a “public option” where you can just buy into Medicare, none of this would be happening. But We the People are not allowed to do that, because capitalism.

DC Strike Drives Home The Point: More Than The Minimum For Federal Workers

Should our government be for good jobs with good wages and benefits – the things most of We the People want in our lives? Or should it be for bad jobs, low wages, no benefits – the very things that a wealthy few (who like to call themselves “job creators”) have become known for, just so they can pocket that pay difference for themselves?

In other words, who is our government for? The broad masses of regular, working people or a very few already-wealthy people?

President Obama has used executive orders to boost the minimum wage and raise workplace standards for employees of federal contractors.

Campaign for America’s Future, Progressive Congress, Good Jobs Nations, and a coalition of progressive organizations have released a “More Than The Minimum” plan calling on President Obama to use Executive Actions to make the federal government a “model employer” by further raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour with decent benefits, and giving federal contract workers the right to collectively bargain.

Please sign this Good Jobs Nation Petition:

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National Day of Action to Stop US Mail Delays

Starting next year, Republicans will be forcing big cutbacks in mail service so they can say government doesn’t work, and make the case for privatizing our U.S. Postal Service. Friday is a day of action to tell Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe and the USPS Board of Governors: Stop Delaying America’s Mail!

Republicans have been trying to force the Post Office – USPS – out of business.

  • They passed a law required the USPS to pre-fund all pensions for the next 75 years – for potential employees who are not born yet.
  • Unlike other government agencies (like the military) since 1970 the Postal Service is required to “break even” – in other words, to make money from providing a service to We the People. (Note: The Department of Defense is certainly not required to break even.)
  • While requiring them to break even, they said the USPS can’t do a number of things to help them compete with FedEx, UPS and others. The Postal Service can’t raise rates at will but has to deliver mail to areas that are unprofitable for private companies to operate in. For the price of a 49-cent stamp, you can send a letter from a small town in Alaska across the country to a farm in Maine. (And in a democracy, this is a good thing!)
  • Republicans have blocked the Postal Service from entering new lines of business. They forced them to remove copying machines. They blocked them from setting up a secure online system that allowed Americans to make monthly bill payments. This is because the Postal Service would have advantages over companies like FedEx and UPS. In other words, they are being hamstrung, while required to break even.
  • And then after hamstringing the Postal Service – requiring them to pre-fund pensions for 75 years and deliver a first-class letter across the country for less than half a dollar – Republicans say this is an example of how government doesn’t work.

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Virtually Speaking Tonite – Get Yourself Some Dave

9pm Eastern, 6pm Pacific http://www.blogtalkradio.com/virtuallyspeaking/2014/11/10/dave-johnson-dave-waldman-vs-sundays. Click for live or to listen later.

Election post-mortem, did candidates “distancing” themselves from Obama and core Democratic policies help them get votes or drive away base Dems? Disarray in the GOP?

Robert Reich’s statement – on Facebook! – that Dems must get their act together and appeal to regular people’s economic needs — or else we need a new party.

And, if there is time … “pointergate” to insane to be ignored.

Dave Johnson, David Waldmanprovide the commentary, with Jay Ackroyd. Satire from Culture of Truth.

The 2014 Virtually Speaking Media Panel: Andrew Jerrell Jones, Avedon Carol, Cliff Schecter, David Dayen, Dave Johnson, David Waldman, digby, Gaius Publius, Joan McCarter, Marcy Wheeler, RJ Eskow, Stuart Zechman

m4s0n501

Starting Saturday: A Week Of Action Against Fast Track, TPP

A “week of action” starts Saturday against “fast-track” trade promotion authority legislation, which would be used to usher in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “trade” (i.e. corporate rights) agreement.

The #StopFastTrack Week of Action is timed to coincide with international mobilizations and runs through next Friday, November 14. Sign up for the Thunderclap, attend one of the upcoming Fast Track protests, write a letter to the editor and get your own organizations to schedule an email blast directing supporters to StopFastTrack.com or your own action tools.

This weekend President Obama flies to Asia for a week of meetings. Part of the agenda is to get TPP finalized. In response, a broad coalition of labor, environmental, consumer and other “stakeholder” groups has delivered to congressional leaders a petition signed by more than 500,000 people opposing “fast-track” authority for the pact. It is these groups that are launching a week of action to drive up awareness of the dangers of Fast Track and TPP.

TPP is a twelve-nation pact that setting up new rules for approximately 40 percent of the global economy. While part of TPP is about relaxing tariffs and quotas, more of the agreement gives corporations new rights under financial regulations, limits the ability of governments to require that public procurement be done with in-country suppliers, gives the big pharmaceutical companies new powers over medicine patents and limits the ability of governments to set their own environmental policies. A section of the agreement called “investor-state dispute settlement” lets companies sue governments for doing things that limit corporate profits – even limiting a country’s ability to launch anti-smoking campaigns.

The giant, multinational corporations are going to try to sneak fast-track authority through the Congress because it greases the skids, making TPP almost inevitable, no matter how many people and organizations oppose it. We have to try to stop this.

Resources

Join the #StopFastTrack Thunderclap

Twitter hashtag: #StopFastTrack

For more information please visit:

Stop Fast Track

CWA: “Stop the Sneak Attack on Democracy!”

#StopFastTrack Week of Action – Citizens Trade Campaign

Flush the TPP: Nov. 8 to 14: Week of Action to Stop Fast Track and Unjust Trade

AFL-CIO: No Fast Track and sign their petition: Tell Congress to Stop Fast Track

Events

Here’s an initial list of events taking place throughout the country:

California
Sacramento Community Forum on the TPP & Fast Track – Stop the Sneak Attack on Democracy!
Wednesday, November 12 * 5:30pm
SEIU Local 1000
1325 S St * Sacramento, CA
RSVP Online: https://www.facebook.com/events/730070970381918/
Contact: Xiomara Castro, xiomara@citizenstrade.org

#StopFastTrack Overhead Light Brigade
Monday, November 10 * 5:00pm
Taylor Street Overpass over I-8
RSVP Online: https://www.facebook.com/events/858778814167627/
Contact: Kali Gochmanosky, kali@citizenstrade.org

San Diego #StopFastTrack Rally
Wednesday, November 12 * 4:00pm
Outside Congresswoman Susan Davis’ Office
2700 Adams Ave * San Diego, CA
RSVP Online: https://www.facebook.com/events/783089711732353
Contact: Kali Gochmanosky, kali@citizenstrade.org

Colorado
Rally: Stop the Sneak Attack on Democracy
Friday, November 7, 2014 *12:00pm
Outside Rep. Jared Polis’ Office
4770 Baseline Rd. * Boulder, CO
RSVP Online: bit.ly/FastTrackRallyCO
Contact: Carolyn Bninski, Carolyn.Bninski@gmail.com

Veterans’ Day Fast Track Protest (MoveOn Metro Denver Council)
Tuesday, November 11 * 5:00pm
Veterans Park at the Capitol
200 E. Colfax Ave * Denver, CO
Contact: Laura Avant, lavant04@comcast.net

Florida
Fast Track Opposition Commitment Appreciation Presentation
Date and Time TBA * Contact Event Organizer
South Florida AFL-CIO
4349 NW 36th St * Miami, FL
Contact: Fred Frost, frost180@bellsouth.net

Reminding Rep. Castor to Help #StopFastTrack (Tampa MoveOn.org)
Thursday, November 13 * 12:00pm
Outside Rep. Castor’s Office
4144 N Armenia Ave * Tampa, FL
RSVP Online: https://www.facebook.com/events/677294822367924/
Contact: Chris Radulich, cradulich@yahoo.com
Contact: Harriet Heywood, harrietheywood@gmail.com

Illinois
Mike Quigley Has Mail (#StopFastTrack Literature Drop)
Saturday, November 8 * 2:00 – 4:00pm
Lakeview/Wrigleyville Neighborhood * Chicago, IL
Contact: Carson Starkey, iltrade@citizenstrade.org

Rally Against Fast Track in Elgin
Sunday, November 9 * 1:00pm
Eligin Public Library
270 North Grove Avenue * Elgin, IL
Contact: Carson Starkey, iltrade@citizenstrade.org

#StopFastTrack Accountability Phone Bank
Monday, November 10 * 5:00 – 7:00pm
Workers United Office
333 South Ashland Ave * Chicago, IL
Contact: Carson Starkey, iltrade@citizenstrade.org

Massachusetts
Protest: Stop the Sneak Attack on Democracy, Rep. Neal!
Wednesday, November 12 * 8:00am
Outside the Boston Harbor Hotel
70 Rowes Warf * Boston, MA
Contact: Pat Fiero, patfiero@yahoo.com

Oregon
Fast Track Protest at Sen. Wyden & Rep. Blumenauer’s Offices
Friday, November 14 * 12:00pm
Gather Outside Rep. Blumenauer’s Office
729 NE Oregon St * Portland, OR
Contact: Elizabeth Swager, elizabeth@oregonfairtrade.org

Pennsylvania

#StopFastTrack Rally
Thursday, November 13 * 12:00pm
Outside Rep. Dent’s Office
3900 Hamilton Blvd * Allentown, PA
Contact: Amy Conahan, amy@citizenstrade.org

Washington
Stop Fast Track Rally (Occupy Bellingham)
Saturday, November 8 * 2:00 – 6:00pm
Holly and Railroad * Bellingham, WA
Contact: Dianne Foster, diannefoster234@gmail.com

Stop the Sneak Attack on Democracy! Light Brigade Action
Tuesday, November 11 * 5:00 – 6:30pm
Federal Building
915 2nd Ave (btw Marion St & Madison St)* Seattle, WA
RSVP Online: https://www.facebook.com/events/297265820474582/
Contact: Gillian Locascio, gillian@washingtonfairtrade.org

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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 Progress Breakfast.