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Elmer in Dairyland

 

By Charles M. Young

Between college and graduate school, I worked for a year in a factory in Verona, Wisconsin, which is a few miles and a paradigm shift outside of Madison. It wasn’t the worst place to work. We had a union. We had benefits. We chopped, folded and riveted large sheets of metal and turned them into the air diffusers that you can see in the ceilings of theaters and other large buildings.

'Our imperative is to promote growth and jobs,' G-8 Leaders

By Michael Collins
So, now it's an imperative to "promote growth."

The joint statement (full text after the jump) from the G-8 meeting in Chicago documents the utter failure of the very leaders who issued it.  Were they capable leaders with the least knowledge of economic downturns, the statement would not be necessary.  Nevertheless, they deserve some credit for admitting their deficiencies.  Unfortunately, they have no serious solutions.  (Image Banksy)

The joint statement has some weasel words like "We commit to fiscal responsibility" to balance the urgent words about growth and jobs".  That reflects the atavistic positions of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron.  Merkel suffered a huge set back in the Westphalia  state elections with her Christian Democratic Party losing 25% to 50%.  Corporate media maintains that her popularity as a leader is higher than ever.

Her Scrooge faction comrade, PM Cameron is also pushing austerity.  Nobody can pretend that his polling is any better than his party.  The Conservatives were wiped out in local elections and Cameron is going down without a life jacket.

Texas and the World Say NO to a "NAFTA of the Pacific"



The TPP Opening Bash
Global Activist Reception & Teach-in on the Trans-Pacific Partnership
 
     Thursday, May 10, 2012
     Reception at 6:00pm  *  Teach-in at 7:00pm
 
     Community Center for Cooperation
2900 Live Oak St  *  Dallas, TX
 
     Free and open to the public

 

As trade negotiators from throughout the Pacific Rim continue to meet in Addison to hammer out final details on the secretive new Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement, it is worth exploring what trade policy has meant and could mean for the economy, the environment and democracy itself.
 

The TPP is poised to become the largest trade deal of its kind ever.  It is likely to influence the types of jobs available in our communities; the wages and benefits that many jobs pay; tax revenues available for public services; greenhouse gas emissions and the environment; access to affordable, generic medications; consumer safety standards; financial regulations; the health of family farms; global migration patterns; and more. 

 

Corporate lobbyists are advocating for a business-as-usual vision for international trade - but veteran "trade justice" campaigners from around the country and around the world are offering alternative visions on what trade policy could mean to communities at home and abroad.   

 

Rub elbows, ask questions and scheme with long-time trade justice champions from the U.S. and beyond during a free, public reception from 6:00 to 7:00pm, followed immediately by a panel discussion featuring:

  • Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, on the significance of the Dallas Round of TPP negotiations
  • Celeste Drake, trade policy specialist at the national AFL-CIO, on the potential economic impacts of the TPP
  • Ilana Solomon, trade representative for the national Sierra Club, on the TPP's threats to the environment
  • Sanya Reid Smith, an attorney with the Third World Network, on the TPP's rollback of access to medicine and the global movement around it
  • Kelli Seals-Obazee, executive director of the Dallas Peace Center will moderate

NEW:  Please help us spread the word by promoting the new Facebook event page http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/429902193705698/.

 

Sponsored by the Dallas Peace Center, Texas Fair Trade Coalition and Citizens Trade Campaign.  This is one of several events taking place will the TPP negotiations occur at the Intercontinental Dallas Hotel from May 8 to 16.  Learn more at TPPDallas.org.  For more info, please contact the Texas Fair Trade Coalition at (512) 912-6630.

First-of-its-kind "Refrain From Political Spending" Resolution to Be Voted on Today at Bank of America Shareholder Meeting

Resolution would ask the corporation to opt out of the unlimited, often secret spending ability afforded to it by the Supreme Court in Citizens United
 
*UPDATE:* On Tuesday, May 8, at 3M Corp.’s shareholder meeting, investors urged the board to adopt the resolution to refrain from spending the company’s general treasury funds on influencing elections. Despite evidence that political spending can lower stock performance, the board voted down the measure.
 

The ‘Subsidized’ Loan Charade: The US Government is Profiteering on Struggling Students

By Dave Lindorff

The Senate is currently deadlocked on taking action to prevent the interest on new Stafford guaranteed student loans from rising on July 1 from 3.4% to 6.8%, with Democrats saying they want to “pay for” keeping the current “lower” 3.4% rate by closing a loophole that allows some wealthy people to avoid paying Social Security and Medicare taxes, while Republicans want to “pay for” keeping the lower rate by eliminating a fund for preventative health care in the 2010 health care reform law.


But what is all this nonsense about “paying for” a supposedly “lower” interest rate of 3.4%?

Bank of America Prepares for Shareholders Meeting as if Under Assault

Bank of America has hired G4S for its shareholder meeting.  According to Wikipedia:

"G4S plc (formerly Group 4 Securicor) (LSEGFS, OMXG4S) is a global security services company headquartered in Crawley, United Kingdom. It is the world's largest security company measured by revenues and has operations in more than 125 countries.[2][3] With over 630,000 employees, it is the world's second-largest private sector employer (after Wal-Mart Stores).[2][4]"

G4S and its subsidiary Wackenhut have a lengthy criminal record:

"In March of 2006, whistle-blowers employed at Wackenhut released information to the press revealing that the company cheated on an anti-terrorism drill at a US nuclear site.

"... In 2009, an Aboriginal man from Western Australia died of heat stroke after being transported in a G4S (then GSL) van without air conditioning or water.[26]

"... On June 13, 2010, a video posted on YouTube by documentary filmmaker James Fox showed Wackenhut guards preventing reporters from covering the BP oil spill.[30]

"... In October 2010, three G4S-guards heavily restrained and held down 46-year old Angolan deportee Jimmy Mubenga on departing British Airways flight 77, at Heathrow Airport. Security guards kept him restrained in his seat as he began shouting and seeking to resist his deportation. Police and paramedics were called when Mubenga lost consciousness. The aircraft, which had been due to lift off, then returned to the terminal.[31] Mubenga was pronounced dead later that evening at Hillingdon hospital.[32]"

The kind souls from G4S, being housed in two downtown hotels by B of A, will be joined by off-duty police hired by B of A, wearing their police uniforms, and empowered to arrest on B of A's behalf and at the order of B of A security.

What is this militarized, privatized emergency preparation for? 

Are foreign armies descending upon the shareholders meeting of the Bank of America?

Nope.

Actually citizens of the Country of America.  Newspaper headlines explain:

Bank of America braces for protesters onslaught

"In Charlotte, protesters are expected to demand a complete halt to foreclosures, forgiveness of student loan debt, a stop to financing coal projects, an end to political spending and an end to seven-figure compensation packages."

Uh oh. More cops! More guns! Quick! What would Bloomberg do?

The protesters' plans, of course, are for a nonviolent march and rally.

B of A billionaires aren't afraid for their physical safety.  They're afraid their shareholders may side with their victims.

'Human Rights Won’t Get in the Way': The Selling Out of a Chinese Dissident

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

There are two truths about the US that come clearly to the fore in the current diplomatic blow-up between the US and China over the case of people’s lawyer Chen Guangcheng, though neither is really getting stated in the corporate media coverage of the story.

 

The first is that the US does not, and has not really ever, cared about the issue of human rights abuses in China, and the second is that the Obama administration, including the supposedly “tough” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, doesn’t know squat about how to negotiate -- not when it comes to dealing with Republicans in Congress, and certainly not when it comes to China.

 

May Day and the Ass Bomber of Ray Kelly’s Dreams

 

By Charles M. Young

I got home at 10:00 pm on the nose, and the first thing I did was take off my shoes after 14 hours of May Day marching with 30-40,000 other conscientious objectors to capitalism. My feet hurt, okay? My second priority was turning on the local news, which happened to be Fox Five New York. According to my watch, it was 10:02. I didn’t see the first few seconds of the story, but it must have have been the lead. There was Ray Kelly, the chief of police, talking about...not Occupy Wall Street?...no, it was a video of him on some talk show, warning of the apparently imminent threat of Arab terrorists “implanting” bombs in their bodies and blowing up airplanes and buildings.

Shaky Economies

  Shaky Economies

 

by Stephen Lendman

 

Since 2009, an ocean of easy money saved American, EU, and Japanese economies from collapse.

 

Daddy, Where Do Taxes Come From?

I'll tell you when you get a little older.

But I want to know.

Well, I'll tell you where taxes come from in other countries, OK? They come from the idea that if we all pool our resources we can better acquire things like schools, hospitals, parks, trains, you know, things that belong to everybody.

But what about our country?

Well, in our country we pay for private schools if we want good schools, and we all buy something called health insurance to take care of us if we get sick, and a teeny bit of our taxes goes to parks and trains, but we don't have very many of those, and we pay for some of them with local taxes. We pay local taxes, state taxes, and national taxes, and lots of other fees. We pay as much in taxes as people in those other countries, but our taxes are different. They come from a different place, and we'll talk about it when you're a little bit bigger.

Why? Why can't I know now?

America's Fiscal Cliff

  America's Fiscal Cliff

 

by Stephen Lendman

 

America's weak economy shows further deterioration. According to former Fed Governor Kevin Warsh, "(t)he fiscal cliff in early 2013 - when the government stimulus spending and tax relief are set to fall - is not misfortune. It is the inevitable result of policies that kick the can down the road."

Extorting Alums: Colleges Withhold Transcripts from Grads in Loan Default

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

(This article originally appeared in The Nation online, where it can be read in full)

 

Student leaders arrested at D.C. protest on student debt

From the Badger Herald:

Washington, D.C. police arrested three University of Wisconsin students who serve or have been elected to serve in student government positions during a protest against rising student debt outside a prominent student loan lender.

Associated Students of Madison Chair Allie Gardner, Student Services Finance Committee Rep. Tia Nowack and newly-elected Maxwell Love were arrested outside of Sallie Mae’s offices in the city’s Northwest section.

Lawyers Guild Expects More Documents: Evidence Homeland Security Coordinated Occupy Crackdown

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

If you want to know where the real government of the United States is located, just check out one of the documents received by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund in response to their Freedom of Information Act request to the Dept. of Homeland Security relating to surveillance of the Occupy Movement. That document, from the Secret Service, dated September 17, 2011, the day the Occupy movement began on Wall Street, from the US Secret Service Intelligence Division, titled Prism Demonstrations Abstract, list the location as “Wall Street Bull” -- a reference to the bronze statue of a bull on Wall Street in front of the

 New York Stock Exchange, and the “protectee” as “The United States Government.”

Rep. Introduces Legislation to Forgive Student Loan Debt

Rep. Hansen Clarke says student debt crisis has 'destroyed countless dreams'

- Common Dreams staff -

Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-Michigan) introduced legislation to the House that would enable students to be forgiven from student loans. The bill, The Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012, would forgive the debt of student borrowers who make 10 years of payments (no more than 10 percent of one's discresionary income). The bill would also cap interest rates and protect borrowers who suffer financial hardship, such as unemployment.

Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-Michigan) recently introduced a bill into the House that would forgive student loans for millions of Americans. Student loan debt, both private and public, has become an increasingly severe problem in recent years.  In 2010, student loans, which now total more than $1 trillionsurpassed credit card debt in the United States.  Since the economic downturn hit in 2008, unemployment has gone up considerably among recent college graduates and more and more students have been unable to pay back their student loans. Unlike most forms of credit, student loans are not dischargable in bankruptcy court.

President Obama did reform some aspects of federal education lending policy, but limited his reforms to public loans, leaving current debtors without any resolution. "These are steps in the right direction. Yet we need more decisive action to get America's 'underwater' students and graduates back on dry land," Clarke wrote in a recent op-ed for the Detroit Free Press.

Student debt and the lack of jobs for recent graduates has been a major focus of the Occupy movement.

Obama, Pelosi, and Reid Have an Offer on the Table That Cuts Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid

From the Washington Post:

That night, Obama prepared his party’s congressional leaders. He warned Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that he might return to the position under discussion the previous Sunday — that is, cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in exchange for just $800 billion in tax increases.

Would they support him?

The Democratic leaders “kind of gulped” when they heard the details, Daley recalled.

By this time, Obama had become the face of the bitter debt-ceiling talks and his poll numbers were dropping. His allies on Capitol Hill cringed at his predicament but also at what he was asking them to do.

Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, recalled that the president and his team felt the weight of the global economy “on our shoulders.”

“Is there political benefit to coming to a big budget deal with John Boehner? Sure,” Pfeiffer said. “But every other political and message imperative was thrown out the door to prevent a disaster and do the right thing for the country. That’s why we were willing to do things we wouldn’t normally do.”

Reluctantly, Reid and Pelosi agreed to do their best to support the plan.

Boehner, meanwhile, had gone dark. . . .

. . . White House officials said this week that the offer is still on the table.

How Weapons Sales Caused the 2008 Financial Crisis

I just read an interesting new book called "The Economics of Killing: How the West Fuels War and Poverty in the Developing World" by Vijay Mehta.  I especially recommend the first chapter, which argues that the U.S. economy has become very heavily dependent on weapons sales (to the U.S. government and foreign governments) but refuses to sell weapons or "duel use" high-tech products to China, even as U.S. consumers buy everything they consume from China.  This trade balance results in China buying up U.S. Treasury bonds, which results in low interest rates and lots of personal debt and eventually financial crisis.  Mehta's conclusion: either we sell China our weapons (which would be a short-term fix, as China would quickly shift to manufacturing the same products itself) or we shift our economy toward production of non-military products.  A similar argument is found in this article:

Unemployment Mumbo-Jumbo and Rank Propaganda

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

The US stock market jumped up today on word that the number of new unemployment applications fell to the lowest level in four years.

Sounds good, right? It's meant to sound good, but if you look at the number, and if you think about what it really means, it's not good news at all.

What the US Labor Department reported was that new unemployment claims filed for the week ended Feb. 24 totaled 351,000, which was slightly lower than the 353,000 new claims filed the prior week. "Slightly indeed! a better term for this 0.57% decline is "statistically insignificant!

The idea that such a "drop" in new claims would spark a jump in the Dow or the S&P shows how completely divorced from reality investors really are.

Readying the Greek Corpse for Burial

  Readying the Greek Corpse for Burial

 

by Stephen Lendman

 

Greece is being systematically raped, pillaged and destroyed. Bankers demand it. What they want, they get, no matter the human toll and economic ruin.

 

Standing armies pale by comparison. Financial oligarchs wage war by other means and take no prisoners. Greece is Exhibit A. More on it below.

Occupy’s amazing Volcker Rule letter

By Felix Salmon, Reuters

One of the saddest aspects of the financialization of the US economy is the way in which America’s best and brightest found themselves working on Wall Street, rather than in jobs which improved the state of the world. Proof of this comes from the absolutely astonishing 325-page comment letter on the Volcker Rule which has been put together by Occupy the SEC; it’s pretty clear, from reading the letter, that the people who wrote it are whip-smart and extremely talented.

Occupy the SEC is the wonky finreg arm of Occupy Wall Street, and its main authors are worth naming and celebrating: Akshat Tewary, Alexis Goldstein, Corley Miller, George Bailey, Caitlin Kline, Elizabeth Friedrich, and Eric Taylor. If you can’t read the whole thing, at least read the introductory comments, on pages 3-6, both for their substance and for the panache of their delivery. A taster:

READ THE REST.

The Rick Berman Problem

10 years ago I debated Berman's "Chief Economist" on C-Span:

Exactly How Cheap the University of Virginia Is

Let's approximate (and let's go high) that the University of Virginia in Charlottesville has 2,000 direct and contracted (it won't say how many contracted, so we have to guess) employees working for under $13 per hour as demanded by the Living Wage campaign.  And let's imagine they work on average 40 hours per week and 50 weeks a year, and let's imagine they earn the bare legal mimimum of $7.25 per hour.  That would mean that it would take $23 million to make things right, to allow fulltime workers to pay their bills, quit their second jobs, see their families, and take care of their health.

Who has $23 million?

It turns out that UVA has got $4.76 BILLION.

I hate to have to point this out, but $23 million is less than a half a percent of $4.76 billion.  (If my math is off that's UVA's fault too! :-)

If you earn $50,000 a year, do you ever give $200 or so to good causes?  UVA isn't being asked to do that.  It's being asked to pay people a decent humane wage for their hard work.

There's little less honorable than greed.  Doesn't UVA have an honor code?

So You Want Demands, Eh? IPS Puts The Demands of the 99% into Congressional Testimony

Excerpted from Sarah Anderson at IPS:

Key elements of tax reform to reverse extreme inequality

This section draws heavily from the forthcoming book by my Institute for Policy Studies colleague Chuck Collins, 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It (Berrett-Koehler, March 2012).

New income tax brackets for the 1 percent. Under our current tax rate structure, households with incomes over $350,000 pay the same top income tax rate as households with incomes over $10 million. In the 1950s, there were 16 additional tax rates over the highest rate (35 percent) that we have today.

A tax on financial speculation. The richest 1 percent of Americans contributed to the 2008 economic meltdown by moving vast amounts of wealth into the speculative shadow banking system. Our society is still paying the mammoth social costs of this meltdown — through home foreclosures, unemployment, and the destruction of personal savings. A modest federal tax on every transaction that involves the buying and selling of stocks and other financial products would both generate substantial revenue and dampen short-term speculation. For ordinary investors, the cost would be negligible. A financial speculation tax would amount to a tiny insurance fee to protect against financial instability.

A higher tax rate on income from wealth. Giving tax advantages to income from wealth also encourages short-term speculation. With carefully structured rate reform, we can end this preferential treatment for capital gains and dividends and, as Warren Buffett and other analysts have noted, encourage long-term investing.

A progressive estate tax on the fortunes of the 1 percent. The wealthiest Americans have all benefited from generations of investments in pubic goods that have left the United States with an infrastructure — in everything from education and roads to dispute resolution — that enables wealth creation. Our wealthy have a responsibility to give back to the society that has given them so much. The current estate tax on inherited wealth stands at 35 percent and only applies to estates over $5 million ($10 million for a couple). Congress could raise additional revenue from those with the greatest capacity to pay by establishing a progressive estate tax with graduated rates and a 10 percent surtax on the value of an estate above $500 million, or $1 billion for a couple.

An end to tax haven abuse. By one estimate, the use of tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals costs the federal treasury $100 billion a year.23 These havens are transferring wealth out of local communities into the foreign bank accounts of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful.24 Tax havens, or more accurately “secrecy jurisdictions,” can also facilitate criminal activity, from drug money laundering to the financing of terrorist networks.

A wealth tax on the top 1 percent. A “net worth tax” could be levied on household assets, including real estate, cash, investment funds, savings in insurance and pension plans, and personal trusts. Such a tax could be calibrated to tax wealth only above a certain threshold. For example, France’s solidarity tax on wealth only kicks in on asset value in excess of $1.1 million.

The elimination on the cap on social security withholding taxes. Extending the payroll tax to cover all wages, not just wage income up to $110,100, would be an important step. Some of our richest Americans are done paying withholding taxes in January, while ordinary working people pay all year.

Conclusion

Our current levels of extreme inequality did not suddenly appear. They have grown steadily over the past 30 years. Reversing this inequality trend will be a long-term challenge. But we have transformed a highly divided nation into a more stable and equitable society before. We can certainly do it again.

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