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Demos

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Profiteering from Catastrophe: Romney Exploited the Auto Industry Rescue He Opposed

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Only the word "hypocrisy" can characterize Mitt Romney's editorial in the New York Times (18 Nov. 2008) and his attacks in campaign ads and on the stump against President Obama's work helping to rescue America's auto industry. The reason for this word is that-in connection with such hedge fund moguls as Paul Singer (of Elliott Management), John Paulson (of John Paulson & Co.), and Daniel Loeb (of Third Point)-Romney profiteered off the American taxpayer from the rescue (while also condemning it). But just recently the United Auto Workers, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, People for the American Way, Public Citizen, and other groups filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, stating that Romney improperly hid a profit of at least $15.3 million in Ann Romney's "blind" trust-the kind of trust that the former governor called "an age-old ruse . . . . you can always tell a blind trust what it can and cannot do."

The “Grand Bargain” Scam: Part II

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Recently, the Campaign to Fix the Debt, to which Peter G. Peterson is a major donor, sent out an email (with a very revealing picture) to its major supporters. The picture showed a bevy of Wall Street CEOs standing in the NY Stock Exchange, ringing the bell to begin a day's trading and surrounded by "Fix the Debt" signs. Although the Campaign's supporters want to appear moderate, seeking to pair spending cuts with new revenue, they are not.

As shown by Americans for Tax Fairness, thirteen of about 80 CEOs and companies that signed a letter pressing Congress to "Fix the Debt" have drained tens of billions of dollars from the federal tax system and thus placed the main burden on other taxpayers. Six companies signing the letter advocate tax amnesty for corporate profits in offshore tax havens.

Six corporations whose CEOs are signatories of the letter to "Fix the Debt" are members of the WIN America Coalition, lobbying Congress to pass Senate bill 161, which would enable companies to reduce their tax rate on trillions of dollars in foreign profits "repatriated" to the U.S. That law would reduce the on-paper 35% corporate tax rate to 8.75% on repatriated dollars.  

According to Citizens for Tax Justice, five corporations whose CEOs signed the letter to "Fix the Debt" paid NO federal income taxes on $62 billion in total profits, but instead garnered $27 billion in tax subsidies over the last for years. (See also "Big No-Tax Corps Keep on Dodging," Citizens for Tax Justice, 04/09/2012.)

The “Grand Bargain” Scam: Part I

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No stranger to promoting austerity for tens of millions of Americans, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, to which Peterson himself has contributed $458 million, depicts the federal budget as a crisis in desperate need of draconian reactions. But in survey after survey, Americans oppose cutting Medicare and Social Security. Even a recent national tour, titled "America Speaks" and supported largely by Peterson's foundation, met with audiences that rejected its aims, including its claim that Americans favor raising the retirement age to 69-a claim falsely reported by "America Speaks" to the Bowles-Simpson "deficit commission."

Peterson, formerly a hedge fund mogul, gives millions to promote austerity in the social safety net, so that millionaires and especially billionaires like him can pay taxes disproportionately low compared to their wealth. He and fellow plutocrats are pushing for a "grand bargain" in the up-coming lame-duck session of Congress in order to slash Medicare and Social Security in exchange for small increases in federal revenues. The latest iteration of the Campaign to Fix the Debt, to which Peterson is a major donor, is chaired by former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, a corporatist Democrat, and former New Hampshire Republican senator Judd Gregg, another corporatist.

Unfortunately, Peterson and the Campaign's zeal for other people's austerity has helped convert many economic "elites," as well as would-be TV journalists, from fair and responsible budgetary views to sticking the middle-class with the deficit bill by slashing their earned benefits (Social Security and Medicare), ending such middle-class tax breaks as the mortgage deduction, lowering taxes on corporations, and minimizing any tax increase on the wealthy. Proponents of Fix the Debt would re-enforce Bush II's GOP strategy of minimal taxation, especially on the wealthy, in order to drive up deficits and thereby justify future cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and the social safety net overall.

Calculating Responsibility for the National Debt

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(Note: This is a cross-post by me from BlueNC.com)

So much has been said about the national debt in recent years, especially during the current presidential campaign.  With persistent misrepresentation, the Romney campaign likes to assign responsibility for the debt to the Obama administration.  And most of the broadcast media-the single-most failed institution in America along with its greedy and reckless financial system-says little to clarify matters, help citizens sort out the facts, and hold the Romney campaign to account.

If responsibility is to be assigned for the national debt, there is a dishonest method and an honest method of doing so.  This is the message from Barry Ritholtz writing for Economonitor--an economics project of Nouriel Roubini, one of the few economists along with Ritholtz to predict the sub-prime mortgage and derivative investment crises.   Ritholtz published in 2009-10 Bailout Nation, which won the First Amendment Award for Outstanding Journalism, and he authors the highly acclaimed Big Picture-a leading financial weblog.

GOP VIGILANTES UNDERMINE VOTER RIGHTS

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For quite some time, AlterNet's Steven Rosenfeld has been investigating voter-fraud allegations and presumptive actions (mostly and ironically by the GOP) to make U.S. elections honest. According to his recent investigative report "Going Undercover at the GOP's Voter Vigilante Project to Disrupt the Nov. Election" (8/24/2012), a vote suppression project well funded by the extreme right and spurred on, not coincidentally, by John Fund (author of the paranoid and inflammatory book titled Stealing Elections) is seeking to undermine the registration of voters, purge voter rolls, and watch the polls on November 6 in order to contest voters' rightsto cast their ballots and have them counted. This project calls itself "True the Vote"; it grew out of the King Street Patriots, founded by Tea Partier Katherine Englebrecht, who leads the project. (By the way, she and her husband started a company this year called "Plan B Firearms." According to Tea Party websites, "plan B" is code language alluding to steps that "patriots" might take if Obama is re-elected.)

For part of his investigation, Rosenfeld attended "a state summit" in Colorado organized by True the Vote. Members of this group, observes Rosenfeld, "think it's patriotic to be self-appointed judges, juries and, if necessary, citizen police, to stop what they believe is rampant illegal voting.

True the Vote claims to have 300 chapters spread across three-dozen states, with thousands of volunteers using its web-based software to identify "questionable" voter registrations and possibly illegal voters in highly contested states. And on November 6, the project hopes to deploy a million poll watchers to observe how the IDs of voters are checked, how they are given ballots, and whether or not voters actually fill out their own ballots. According to Rosenfeld, John Fund encouraged those at the summit to bully liberals because "`Your opposition are cartoon characters.... They are fun to beat up. They are fun to humiliate. You are on the side of the angels. And these people are just frauds, charlatans and liars'." True the Vote is also arranging for lawyers to take its reports to sympathetic state officials, and it is being encouraged by Republicans in high office: Florida's governor, the secretaries of state in Colorado, Kansas, and Ohio, and attorneys general in Colorado and Texas.

Open Letter to the Super-Committee

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Dear Super-Committee Members:

Because as members of Congress you believe undoubtedly in "justice for all" Americans, because shared sacrifice is inseparable from a just America, and because the wealthiest 2% have not been called upon to sacrifice for their country, whereas the rest of America have already been made to by an unfair tax system and by continual favoritism to the nation's economic elites, a principled super-committee that values justice and fair-play will do the following to HELP PAY DOWN THE DEFICIT:  

1. Support raising taxes on the wealthiest 2% at least to the top rate that existed during the Clinton years when the nation's economy was better than ever.

2. Support a 0.1% tax on all trades of stocks and bonds, and a 0.01% tax on all trades in derivatives.

Open Letter to the Super Committee

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Dear Super-Committee Member:

Because as a member of Congress you believe undoubtedly in "justice for all" Americans, because shared sacrifice is inseparable from a just America, and because the wealthiest 2% have not been called upon to sacrifice for their country, whereas the rest of America have already been made to by an unfair tax system and by continual favoritism to the economic elites, a principled super-committee that values justice and fair-play will do the following to HELP PAY DOWN THE DEFICIT:  

1. Support raising taxes on the wealthiest 2% at least to the top rate that existed during the Clinton years when the nation's economy was better than ever.

2. Support a 0.1% tax on all trades of stocks and bonds, and a 0.01% tax on all trades in derivatives.

3. Support raising the taxes on hedge fund managers to the same rate as payroll taxes for wage and salaried employees throughout America.

Why Doesn’t Obama Invoke 31 USC 3102 to Lift the Debt Ceiling?

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According to the People's E-Mail Network (PEN), President Obama may have another option, perhaps better than the 14th amendment, allowing him to lift the debt ceiling and cut through the current crisis contrived by the GOP.

This option would involve the Public Debt Law of 1941, which appears in 31 USC 3101, codifying national debt limits, and states the following: "The face amount of obligations issued under this chapter and the face amount of obligations whose principal and interest are guaranteed by the United States Government (except guaranteed
obligations held by the Secretary of the Treasury) may not be more than [some particular amount] . . . "

The passage here that may be relevant to the current debt-ceiling debate is the one that reads "except guaranteed obligations held by the Secretary of the Treasury."  According to the Debt Limit Law passed by Congress, such obligations may not be confined to any debt limit.

Democrats Need to Stop Vote Suppression by the GOP

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Justifiably, we can worry all we want about the debt-ceiling crisis contrived by Congressional Republicans to undermine economic recovery and distract us from their scorched-earth policy to strangle job growth, infrastructure renewal, green-energy development, environmental protections, and health as well as financial reform.  But none of these crucial goals can be achieved if the principle of one-person-one-vote is not protected.

Unfortunately, at the bidding of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is constituted by Koch Industries and other major corporations, GOP governors and legislatures throughout the U.S. are seeking to insure the election of Republicans by limiting Democratic votes.  Of course, the GOP's claim is that it wants to protect the integrity of the ballot even though documented evidence of individuals voting illegally is extremely rare.  

Nonetheless, legislatures in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and elsewhere have been trying to set up as many obstacles as they can-such as the requirement of state-issued photo-IDs-in order to minimize Democratic votes.  Perhaps one of the most egregious examples of such legislative abuse of American principle is taking place in Wisconsin, where not only has its GOP legislature passed a photo-ID requirement but its infamous governor (Scott Walker) has also set about to close (or limit the availability of) DMV offices in Democratic districts while keeping such offices fully open in Republican districts.

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