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Switzerland Shows U.S. How to Handle CEOs

In Switzerland a petition from 100,000 people, or about 1.25% of the population, creates a public referendum.  By this means, last March, Swiss voters created strict limits on executive pay.

On November 24, the Swiss will vote on whether to take a further step -- limiting executive pay to no more than 12 times the lowest salary in the company. Such a maximum wage policy allows the CEO pay increases, but only if workers get at least a twelfth as much.

A movement in the U.S. is asking: If Switzerland can do it, why can't we?

The Swiss are also set to vote, on a date yet to be set, to create a guaranteed basic income of $2,800 (2,500 Swiss francs) per month for every adult. That's about $16 per hour for a full-time worker, but it's guaranteed even for those who can't find work.

You know what country can afford such a measure even more easily, given its vast supplies of wealth? The United States of America.

Here in the United States, had the minimum wage kept pace with productivity since the 1960s it would now be $21.72 an hour, or $3,722 a month. The Congressional proposal of $10.10 an hour, which President Obama now says he supports, equals $1,751 a month for a fulltime job. The actual U.S. minimum wage of $7.25, which does not apply to all workers, makes $1,242 a month. But only if you can find work.

That's less than half what the Swiss are voting on, and Swiss workers also have their healthcare paid for, public transportation widely available, quality education and higher education free or affordable, 14 weeks paid parental leave, and a nearly endless list of other advantages provided by the government.

A basic income guarantee, currently practiced in Alaska and once supported by President Richard Nixon and the U.S. House of Representatives, would be far more efficient than targeted support programs, because every individual would receive the exact same check, with no stigma attached to it; and, yes -- believe it or not -- people who could find work would still work.

Switzerland has a greater percentage of its population made up by immigrants than the United States does. Switzerland has four national languages.  What allows Switzerland to practice democracy so much more effectively?

Two major parts of the answer are obvious. Switzerland doesn't fight wars, and it doesn't redistribute its wealth upward creating an overclass of multibillionaires.

Perhaps its time to begin moving our own country in a peaceful, prosperous direction. A growing number of people have decided to try.
 

Shifting from Defense to Offense: Americans Want Improved Social Security and Medicare and less Military Spending

By Dave Lindorff


A tectonic shift is occurring in the US body politic. Ignore the media-driven sideshow about the 2014 contest for control of the House or about the screwed-up Obamacare insurance-market website. The real political battle is over Social Security and Medicare, and there the story is a historic turn from fighting against Washington efforts to cut those programs to demanding that both be expanded.


Fracking Lobby’s Tax Forms: Big Bucks to Media, “Other ALECs,” Democratic PR Firms

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) - the public relations arm of the oil and gas fracking industry - has released its 2012 Internal Revenue Services (IRS) 990 form, and it's rich with eye-opening revelations, some of which we report here for the first time. 

In the US Social Security’s ‘just a floor’: In Finland Saunas are Hot, Retirement is Cool

By Dave Lindorff


Helsinki—Mikko Kautto, impeccable in a blue suit and open-collared shirt, was sitting at a table in the cafeteria of the modern Centre for Pensions building on the outskirts of Finland’s capital city, answering questions about the operation of his Nordic country’s retirement system.


Talk Nation Radio: Manuel Perez-Rocha: 20 Years of NAFTA Is Enough

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-manuel-perez

Manuel Perez-Rocha is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and the coordinator of the Network for Justice in Global Investment. He discusses the damage done by NAFTA and DR-CAFTA, and what we should be doing instead.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

Raise the Minimum Wage

Some 47 million Americans live in poverty, and a key reason is the decline of the minimum wage.

MSNBC "Leans Forward" Into Running "Native Ads" Promoting Fracking

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Three years into its "Lean Forward" re-branding campaign, MSNBC has given new meaning to the catchphrase, leaning forward into running branded content promoting hydraulic fracturing ("fracking)

Coal Baron and Major Ken Cuccinelli Campaign Donor Sues Blogger for Defamation, Invasion of Privacy

Robert Murray, owner of the Ohio-based coal giant, Murray Energy Corporationfiled a defamation lawsuit against a prominent liberal blogger and The Huffington Post

Everyone Else Gets Priced Out of the Game

  “Excuse me for interrupting, Congressman, but I thought you might like to know that Theresa has been in the waiting room for almost two hours now, hoping to see you.”

 

“Theresa?”

 

“She’s the new aide in our Scottsville office.”

 

Over 865K Gallons of Fracked Oil Spill in ND, Public In Dark For Days Due to Government Shutdown

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

 Photo Credit: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Wikimedia Commons

Congress should stop blowing smoke: Weed to the Rescue in Budget Crisis?

By Linn Washington, Jr.


Imagine U.S. House Speaker John Boehner blasted on weed.

Given Boehner’s teary-eyed trait, he’d probably cry uncontrollably when high on pot alternating his crocodile tears with hysterical laughter…perhaps even laughing at some of that dumb shi-tuff he and his GOP colleagues constantly do on Capitol Hill.

Frackademia: The People & Money Behind the EDF Methane Emissions Study

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The long-awaited Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)-sponsored hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") fugitive methane emissions study is finally out. Unfortunately, it's another case of "frackademia" or industry-funded 'science' dressed up to look like objective academic analysis.

Interview: Students, Faculty Protest Presence of David Petraeus at CUNY Honors College

Cross-Posted from FireDogLake

On September 9, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director David Petraeus -- who also formerly headed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) International Security Assistance Force for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and co-wrote the Counterinsurgency Field Manual -- began a new job as an adjunct professor at City University of New York (CUNY) Macaulay Honors College.

Obama’s Keystone XL Trade-Off: Executive Order Expediting Everything Else

Cross-Posted from Mint Press News

Large segments of the environmental movement declared a win on Jan. 18, 2012, the dawn of an election year in which partisan fervor reigned supreme.

On that day President Barack Obama kicked the can down the road for permitting TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline’s northern half until after the then-forthcoming November 2012 presidential election.

"Frackademia" By Law: Section 999 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 Exposed

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

With the school year starting for many this week, it's another year of academia for professors across the United States - and another year of "frackademia" for an increasingly large swath of "frackademics" under federal law. 

"Frackademia" is best defined as flawed but seemingly legitimate science and economic studies on the controversial oil and gas horizontal drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), but done with industry funding and/or industry-tied academics ("frackademics"). 

Do We Want School or Education?

As our world continues to unravel in response to the impact of our uneconomic activities on ecological systems, it is obviously worth asking searching questions about the nature of modern society. By doing this we can make intelligent decisions about the direction in which we should move as we thoughtfully respond to the interrelated crises we face.

For many people, the central question is this: Will tinkering with human society be enough to get us out of this mess? Many people think not and I am one of them. For the moment, however, rather than focus on the nature of the economy, political systems or other aspects of modern societies, I would like to discuss the issue of education.

Spinning a Popular American Image: John Wayne, the New Economy and the American Male Worker

By John Grant


The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.
-- D.H. Lawrence

 

TPP: The Terrible Plutocratic Plan

By David Swanson

Remarks July 21, 2013 at an Occupy Harrisonburg (Va.) Event. 
Make your voice heard here.

Thanks to Michael Feikema and Doug Hendren for inviting me.  Like most of you I do not spend my life studying trade agreements, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is disturbing enough to make me devote a little time to it, and I hope you will do the same and get your neighbors to do the same and get them to get their friends to do the same -- as soon as possible.

I spend most of my time reading and writing about war and peace.  I'm in the middle of writing a book about the possibility and need to abolish war and militarism.  I hate to take a break from that.  But if we think trade and militarism are separate topics we're fooling ourselves.

Talk Nation Radio: Gar Alperovitz Points to Worker Ownership as Fix for Broken Democracy

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-gar

Gar Alperovitz discusses his new book, What Then Must We Do: Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution.  Alperovitz points to long-term trends in wealth and income inequality, environmental destruction, civil liberties loss, incarceration rates, and others, to argue that ordinary political change is not enough, that systemic changes in the distribution of power are badly needed.  See http://www.garalperovitz.com

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

The Fourth of July

On this, the anniversary of the  U.S.’s independence from Great Britain, some observations:

Subjugation Theology

  “...the church ought to be a community of liberated people, committed to the liberation of all..

                                                     -   Fr. Bernard Haring

 

Biden/Obama full-court press on Snowden is a bad joke: The Real Traitors to America are in Washington and New York

By Dave Lindorff


It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry as the US goes all out to get its hands on National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Banking on Education

Click to Enlarge Image

Democracy for America Infographic

Banking on Education infographic via Democracy for America



It's the Ownership

If you're like me you've read several books that list inspiring examples of worker owned businesses and co-ops, suggesting that expanding on such models might begin to right the wrongs of an incredibly unequal society that is growing even more unequal by the day.

The best such collection I've found is in a new book by Gar Alperovitz called What Then Must We Do?  This book also offers a powerful argument that radical change is needed, albeit an argument with some possible flaws.  First the inspiring examples:

Workers own and run factories in Cleveland, Atlanta, Washington DC, Amarillo, and many other cities.  Labor unions that once opposed worker ownership, including the Steelworkers and several others, now create worker-owned companies.  Forty percent of Americans are members of cooperatives, including credit unions.  People moved hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, from large banks to credit unions and small banks in 2011 and 2012.  (That should continue!)  Then there are community development corporations and land trusts, alive and thriving.  There are even corporations redesigned, and labeled B Corps, chartered under new laws in 12 states to allow them to legally pursue the social good as well as profits. 

Employee stock ownership plans make U.S. workers owners of their businesses in great numbers -- three million more than are members of unions in the private sector.  Federal tax incentives (don't tell Congress!) encourage business owners to sell to their employees.  Worker-owned firms are becoming more common.  They are also more profitable than other similar companies. 

It occurs to me that we need a Union-Label type operation to label and catalog the products of worker-owned companies so that we can put our support there. 

Local governments are investing in local businesses and land development.  A quarter of U.S. electricity comes from publicly owned co-ops.  These power companies are more efficient and tend to be greener.  The model is being followed by public broadband service.  Proposals that meet the textbook definition of socialism are alive and growing in red and blue states alike, and at the local and state levels.

This matters because the national government in the United States is so thoroughly corrupted.  I'm not sure Alperovitz ever directly answers the question of how a national plutocracy will be prevented from halting local and state progress on the ownership question, as it has halted local and state progress on other matters.  If the trend toward democratizing ownership is happening under the radar, how can it possibly be kept there while succeeding on the necessary scale?  If this approach to economic justice is somehow more inherently "American" than other more foreign ideas, how exactly does that protect it?  Weren't family farms and free elections and the Fourth Amendment deemed very American at one point too?  Alperovitz recommends a state-by-state approach to single-payer healthcare, but the refusal of California legislators to enact it has come at the bidding of those in Washington.  None of which is to suggest that Alperovitz is wrong to promote this strategy -- just that it may be very difficult, and some other strategies may help too.

Alperovitz frames his discussion within an understanding of serious systemic failure.  Persistent long-term trends toward income and wealth inequality, monopolized corporate power, mass incarceration, and environmental devastation churn ahead in the face of elections, activism, lobbying, and reform legislation, not to mention flip-flopping between Republican and Democratic so-called "leadership."  Alperovitz paints these as even longer term trends than we often suppose by dismissing the gains of the middle of the 20th century as an aberration produced by the Great Depression and World War II, and as gains that could not have come without a large labor movement -- something he now deems virtually impossible. 

Most activist groups, Alperovitz points out, react to cuts in public services by demanding no cuts.  This is purely defensive.  Alperovitz acknowledges that some also advocate for progressive taxation, but deems this "obviously inadequate" although the obviousness of its inadequacy is not apparent to me, except in the sense that (just like the worker-ownership model) it hasn't succeeded yet on a major scale. Yes, the plutocrats buy the elections.  The system is rigged against tax reform.  But the goal of advancing the taxation (and elimination) of billionaires as power is gradually obtained seems critical.

Alperovitz seems at times to buy into the notion that there just isn't enough money around, even if the billionaires were to be taxed at 90 percent.  But this is wrong, of course.  The nation is rolling in money, and the money is piled up in the hands of several hundred people. 

It's somewhere else as well, somewhere Alperovitz doesn't propose to look for it.  President Obama's proposed budget for 2014 devotes 57% of discretionary spending to an illegal, immoral, counterproductive, and economically destructive operation known as war and preparation for war.  While Alperovitz suggests that World War III could save the U.S. economy (were a new world war possible, which he says it isn't), economists say military spending as it exists does less for the economy than other public spending and even less than tax cuts for working people; that is to say, it is worse than nothing. 

Alperovitz seems unaware that roughly half of military spending is outside the Pentagon, in Homeland Security, in the CIA, in the State Department, in the Energy Department, etc.  So he uses the Pentagon budget alone to argue that military spending is low as a percentage of GDP.  This does not of course make it low in terms of actual dollars or as a percentage of global military spending or as a percentage of public spending in the United States.  Alperovitz believes there's little money for spending on human needs, but seems not to notice where 57% of discretionary spending is going. 

While Alperovitz raises the topic of healthcare because it takes up, he says, 20 percent of GDP, the war machine that swallows 8 or 9 percent of GDP from U.S. government purchases alone (U.S. companies also dominating international weapons sales) gets no consideration.  Leo Tolstoy, from whom the book's title is borrowed, would have noticed the existence of the military industrial complex.  He would have considered the possibility of economic conversion.  Connecticut created a commission this month to pursue conversion from war to peace manufacturing.  I suspect Alperovitz would like that model if he took a look at it. 

So, here's where I come down.  We should be pursuing everything Alperovitz recommends, and then some.  We should create worker ownership, tax the rich, cut the military, invest in our society, and act strategically at the local, state, and national levels.  We should take very seriously long-term structural failures and stop imagining that another election will fix anything by itself.  And we should, as Alperovitz wisely recommends, be preparing the ground for the best possible activism when a moment of greater possibilities arrives, or when we have succeeded in creating it.

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