Nel's New Day

May 25, 2019

DDT: More Week 122

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 7:32 PM
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Always a bit more news about Dictator Donald Trump (DDT):

DDT dodged a congressional review to make 22 deals, selling $7 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, etc. by declaring an emergency to protect the countries from Iran. Saudis will be able to use the bombs, missile systems, semiautomatic rifles, drones, and support for manufacturing and production of F-18 combat jets to kill Yemeni civilians. The planes are provided to other countries such as Israel, India, and South Korea. DDT is greatly helping arms companies’ friends to make massive profits in exchange for massive killings throughout the world.

DDT is also profiting his Fox network by boosting its hosts. Media Matters reports that these on-air personalities made at least $500,000 in speaking fees by moonlighting in appearances not only at GOP groups and conservative organizations but also at events with DDT’s officials and on DDT’s properties. Top payments have gone to Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Greg Gutfeld, Jeanine Pirro, Pete Hegseth, and Laura Ingraham.

DDT is sending 1,500 additional military service members and a dozen fighter jets to the Middle East to provoke Iran into war on top of thousands sent earlier this month. The Pentagon claims intelligence about Iran’s escalating plans for attacks, but no other country supports the U.S. in this claim—sort of like 16 years ago with Iraq. There is no proof for the Pentagon’s claims. Acting DOD Secretary Patrick Shanahan has written members of Congress to tell them he will be concealing information from them, resulting in bipartisan protest.

DDT starting his trip to Japan by contradicting his host when he said he isn’t disturbed by North Korea missile tests.  North Korea also said it will not negotiate with the U.S. because of U.S. demands for disarmament.

DDT is pushing the Army Corps of Engineers to select a specific construction firm, Fisher Industries, to receive billions of dollars for building his wall. Fisher’s CEO is a GOP donor and frequent Fox network guest. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders described DDT as “one of the country’s most successful builders.” Fisher has already started building a border fence on private land with private funds within feet of an 1855 international boundary monument. DDT has called for “French doors” on the wall instead of a hydraulic sliding gate and demands that the wall be painted black. A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction limiting additional border fencing in specific areas and blocking the $1 billion transfer from Pentagon funds for the wall.

DDT’s decision to stop the DACA program has been blocked by the majority of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals that called DDT’s actions “not adequately explained” and “arbitrary and capricious.” An activist DDT appointee disagreed with the majority opinion.  The U.S. Supreme Court also permitted a Massachusetts law that bars for-profit corporations from making campaign donations. Neil Gorsuch joined the progressive wing of the Supreme Court to hold that the Apsáalooke Nation, also known as the Crow Tribe, can keep its treaty-guaranteed right to hunt on unoccupied lands outside its reservation. The case bodes well for tribes keeping their rights. A lower court had maintained that tribes lose their rights after statehood on treaty land.

DDT’s new immigration plan has succeeded with GOP lawmakers like a lead balloon. One of the provisions switches visas to a “merit-based” program that would have eliminated DDT’s wife and in-laws from coming into the United States.

DDT’s military budget for 2020 is actually about $1.25 trillion instead of the $700 billion he claims. The uncapped Overseas Contingency Operations account (aka “war”) has skyrocketed to $174 billion that shows DDT plans for military attacks around the globe. Together the nuclear weapons and Veterans Affairs, not part of the official budget, total about $240 billion. The rest of the $1.25 trillion comes from $156 billion in interest payments on the national debt from the military. The GOP Senate Armed Forces Committee gave DDT’s military budget an extral $16 billion, almost the same amount as the $19.1 billion for disaster relief that Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) is holding hostage because it doesn’t cut out other expenditures.

DDT’s Pentagon wants to give the Taliban $30 million for peace negotiations.

DDT has given farmers another $16 billion without anyone objecting about needing matching reductions for other costs. The amount sounds huge, but the average payout to farmers was $7,236—a fraction of what they lost to tariffs. In Iowa, corn farmers got 1 cent per bushel with a decline of 58 cents in corn prices. Soybeans are $2.50 less per bushel, about $150 loss per acre and $60,000 for farms planting 400 acres. Big farms that get much larger checks are using payouts to pick up land from smaller farms at bargain rates. Sharecroppers can’t complain because they will lose their land. At the same time, taxpayers pay twice, giving money to farmers and paying for the tariffs.

DDT may have helped Professional Bank CEO and president Abel Iglesias be appointed to the board of directors of the Miami branch of the Atlanta Federal Reserve after his bank loaned DDT up to $25 million for the purchase of a mansion owned by DDT’s sister. She recently retired as a federal judge to avoid an investigation into tax fraud.

DDT has said he has a literal “hit list.” Told that treason carries a death penalty, he listed these people to be convicted:

“You look at Comey. If you look at McCabe. If you look at people … probably people higher than that. If you look at Strzok. If you look at his lover, Lisa Page, his wonderful lover.”

DDT finished up his statement with “Bob Mueller and his group of 18 killers.”

DDT’s activist Supreme Court has temporarily blocked fixing gerrymandering districts in Michigan and Ohio until it makes a final ruling in June about the constitutionality of Republicans’ drawing districts to favor themselves.

DDT is carrying through his proposal to deny healthcare rights based on gender identity by mandating that sex is determined by genitalia. The new plan allows healthcare professionals and insurers to deny healthcare including gender reassignment needs although three of four courts determined that the Affordable Care Act covers gender identity. DHHS declares that “sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth” and uses sex on a birth certificate as “definitive proof.”

Anti-LGBTQ rights Roger Severino is behind the idea of “genitalia at birth.” Head of Human Rights at DHHS, he wants discrimination in all government agencies against non-traditional gender identity. People questioning the government’s definition of their sex could be forced to submit to genetic testing, causing problems for identification. Men with Klinefelter syndrome possess an extra X chromosome (XXY), two or three extra Xs (XXXY, XXXXY), or an extra Y chromosome (XYY). Women with Turner syndrome have only one X chromosome, and women (XX) with congenital adrenal hyperplasia may have masculinized genitals. Men genetically XY who have complete androgen insensitivity syndrome fail to develop masculine sexual characteristics. Children with Guevedoces appear to be female until their penis and testicles descend when they are about 12 years old. Other people may have XX chromosomes in some cells and XY in others. Intersex people don’t fit typical biological definitions of male or female. Scientists now believe that almost everyone has genetically distinct cells of a sex that fails to match the rest of their body. Sex is a spectrum and lacks a rigid binary system.

A coalition of 23 states is suing DDT’s DHHS for removing healthcare from patients under the guise of “moral” beliefs and terminating hundreds of billions of dollars in federal health care funding from their states or cities. The discrimination is scheduled to go into effect in July.

The NRA is in a world of financial hurt. On top of investigations by New York State and problems with CEO Wayne LaPierre spending $200,000 of members’ money to buy clothing, the PR firm Ackerman McQueen is counter-suing for $100 million for allegedly trying to sever business ties to benefit the expensive NRA legal firm. The NRA started the kerfuffle by suing Ackerman for $40 million, charging that the firm of “fomenting” an attempted coup and leaking confidential documents. LaPierre won the battle in driving out former president Oliver North, but he may lose the money argument and drive the NRA into bankruptcy. An earlier article shows how excessive spending has drained the NRA’s coffers.

Paul Krugman has a perspective of how DDT saved the Democrats when he rejected the infrastructure meeting and how DDT’s actions will put the United States into a world of financial hurt—possibly even a recession.

The man who ridiculed President Obama for golfing and promised he would never golf has spent over $100 million dollars for his personal golf trips with some of this money pouring into his own pockets. This coming month he plans another seven-figure trip to another country where he can play on his own course. During his campaign, DDT promised that he would not play golf at all. The $100 million is over three times the expenditure of Robert Mueller’s investigation, a net neutral cost because Mueller collected about $30 million from guilty subjects. His golf expenditures would fund the Special Olympics program for six years, the program that DDT refused to budget until public backlash.

Almost everyone who reads DDT’s tweets knows that he cannot spell, but his notes for the “impromptu” press conference after his tantrum led him out of the infrastructure meeting is more proof. He also misspells an opponent’s name in tweeting “Joe Bidan.” DDT’s notes about a “hoax” missed “37 total indicted … 26 Russians indicted … 4 people sent to prison … 7 guilty pleas” from the Mueller investigation. Plus the gains from the guilty plea made the investigation cost nothing.

[Note: Those who wish to read more about the news above and/or factcheck the material may wish to use the links.]

February 17, 2018

DDT: Weeks 55/56 – From ‘Treason’ to ‘Trumpgust’

 One year ago yesterday, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) gave his only press conference since inauguration. George W. Bush gave five during his first year, and Barack Obama gave eleven. Almost two years ago, DDT tweeted:

“Crooked Hillary Clinton has not given a press conference in more than seven months. Her record is so bad she is unable to answer tough questions!”

Instead of being accountable for directly lying to the people, he leaves the job to staff like Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. His rally speeches give him the chance to spread falsehoods with no questions from the media. Six days after his mildly “presidential” State of the Union address, DDT released his vitriolic anger in a speech to Ohio workers. At the rally, supposedly about the tax bill and the economy, he launched into a furious attack of Democrats as “treasonous” and “un-American” because they did not clap for him at his address the week before. [Treason, as defined in the Constitution, “shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”] Masha Gessen compared DDT’s fixation on applause to that in the Soviet Union.

“Whether I chose to applaud or not applaud is a First Amendment right that our forefathers wrote down and that generations before me have sacrificed many a life for,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). “And I would just say the president’s out of line with that statement.” Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel and Iraq War veteran who lost both of her legs in battle, tweeted that she didn’t swear an oath “to mindlessly cater to the whims of Cadet Bone Spurs and clap when he demands I clap.” Four of DDT’s draft deferments during the Vietnam War were for college and the fifth for bone spurs in his heels.

As he bragged about the stock market during the speech, the television screen showed the Dow Jones plummeting 1,177 for the day on top of the 666-point loss the Friday before. [Later DDT, who took credit for the stock market growth, said that it is now rigged against him.]

During his speech, DDT became almost incoherent with a reference to the GOP-drafted memo claiming FBI bias:

“Oh, but did we catch them in the act or what? You know what I’m — oh did we catch them in the act. They are very embarrassed. They never thought they were going to get caught. We caught ‘em! We caught ‘em. It’s so much fun. We’re like the great sleuth.”

DDT told the workers that they would get “thousands and thousands of dollars, and you’re getting it every year,” but a few fortunate ones are getting $1,000 bonuses, $.30 a day for the next ten years. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called that “crumbs,” compared to the tens and hundreds of thousands—and even millions—of dollars given to the wealthy and large corporations, but Sheffer CEO Jeff Norris said that “we consider [the bonus] fine dining.”

Unable to let go of his obsession about his former rival Hillary Clinton, DDT ranted about her destroying discarded smartphones with hammers while she was secretary of state five years ago. Guidelines mandate destruction of discarded technology for security reasons.

Earlier that day, DDT enthusiastically—and erroneously—tweeted that UK people were marching because “their [universal healthcare] system is going broke and not working.” The marches were in support of the National Health Service and calling for more funding.

Two days after his speech, DDT said in the midst of a bipartisan congressional near-agreement for a two-year spending bill, “I’d love to see a shutdown.” He got his wish because Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY decided to hold the Senate floor, but it was over in five hours. The bill that ended the shutdown is another “continuing resolution” until March 23, the deadline for Congress determining the specifics of the two-year spending plan.

The little boy in DDT has also demanded a military parade in Washington with costs for heavy tanks damaging streets and movement of equipment to that location while taking the military away from their responsibilities.  The parade will cost taxpayers between $10 million and $30 million. George H.W. Bush’s military parade is a precursor of DDT’s disaster. VP Mike Pence criticized North Korea’s military parade but praised one in the United States.

DDT’s latest infrastructure week was again a disaster, marred by talk about sexual misconduct, missing security clearances, and a horrific school shooting. He waited almost 400 days to announce that he expects states to assume over 80 percent of the costs, a reversal from the past when the federal government provided 80 percent of funding. The $200 billion budgeted for infrastructure for an effort that will cost trillions is offset by his removal of $281 billion from transportation—a loss of $81 billion.

Congress contributed to the disasters of the past week. With a vote of 225-192, the House removed business incentives for improving access for disabled people in the Disabilities “Reform” Act. Twelve Democrats supported the discrimination with 19 Republicans in opposition.

Despite a bipartisan compromise between party leaders, both congressional chambers failed to move forward with an immigration bill. The conservatives want nothing to do with helping DACA recipients, and DDT has refused to sign anything that doesn’t give him $25 for his wall.  Yesterday legislators went home for a week’s vacation, and the State Department closed one-third of its refugee settlement offices across 24 states.

After a year, the disposition of some inaugural funds shows one-fourth of the $107 million went to Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, Melania Trump’s friend, who got almost $26 million entertainment, staffing, and a $1.62 for her consultation and executive production. Another $25 million went to event company Hargrove Inc. of Maryland.

(Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

VP Mike Pence embarrassed the United States at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. The man who claims to be a Christian sat next to Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister, but refused to even acknowledge her. Pence, who spent taxpayer money to fly across the continent twice in one day to walk out of a sports event after athletes protested, refused to stand when the North Korea and South Korea athletes entered the stadium under their flag. Before the opening ceremonies, Pence kept claiming that the North was trying to “hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games” with its “propaganda,” and he stayed at a VIP reception for less than five minutes. DDT accused Democrats of being “treasonous” because they sat at his address like “death.” Pence looked like “death” at the Olympics and missed the chance to represent sportsmanship and unity that DDT says he wants at U.S. sports events.

DDT got a lot of political play for a border wall by claiming last year that a Border Patrol agent was killed by undocumented immigrants, but the FBI determined that Rogelio Martinez died of an accident after the agencies mobilized 37 field offices in an investigation.

FEMA chalked up another loss; the government agency gave Tribute Contracting LLC a $156 million contract to deliver 30 million meals to people in Puerto Rico. The Atlanta company provided 50,000 meals. It has at least five canceled government contracts, and the company, with only one employee, has no experience coordinating large-scale disaster relief. At least 20 percent of Puerto Rican residents still lack power five months after Hurricane Marie.

The Koch-backed organization National Federation of Independent Business is promoting flu across the nation. They are fighting a Maryland law, passed over the governor’s veto, and an ordinance up for vote in Austin (TX) allowing workers to earn paid sick leave. Flu infection rate decrease with sick days, and two-thirds of restaurants and cooks have served or cooked foot while ill. The organization complain about job-killing costs while they push a policy that is people-killing.

ICE has rescued “Amuricans” from another “bad hombre.” Syed Ahmed Jamal, 55, was taken away from his front yard in Lawrence (KS) without permission to say goodbye to his wife and three children.  Over 30 years ago, he came from Bangladesh on a student visa and earned graduate degrees in molecular biosciences and pharmaceutical engineering. He changed to an H-1B visa for highly skilled workers and then back to a student visa when he enrolled in a doctoral program. He was on a temporary work permit, teaching chemistry as an adjunct professor at Park University in Kansas City and conducting research at local hospitals, when he was arrested for deportation. “Amuricans” may think they are a bit safer today because this man is captured.

A 1946 law and its regulations allow ICE agents to search any vehicle within 100 air miles of a land or sea boundary. That covers almost two-thirds of the U.S. population—over 200 million people. Agents can have permanent and temporary checkpoints within that area.

Trumpgust” reveals that DDT’s “combover” is far more extensive than most people know.

The number of states where conservatives outnumber liberals declined in 2017 to the lowest in Gallup’s trend since 2008.

September 29, 2017

Puerto Rico a Disaster, DDT Indifferent

Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico (PR) nine days ago today. With almost no help from the U.S. government, people are without food, drinking out of creeks, and dying in hospitals because of no fuel for generators. Living conditions in Puerto Rico are dire.

The disaster has taught Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) about geography. He’s learned that PR is “an island…an island sitting in the middle of an ocean — and it’s a big ocean. It’s a very big ocean.” DDT likes repetition; he continued, “This isn’t like Florida…This is a thing called the Atlantic Ocean. This is tough stuff.”

Since John Kelly became DDT’s chief of staff over a month ago, Elaine Duke has been acting security of Homeland Security. She called the hurricane as “really a good news story” because of “our ability to reach people.” Duke may think this is true from about 1,600 miles away, but people living on the island have a better perspective. Most of the supplies that came to the island are from private donors because of the archaic Jones Act, and what has arrived is rotting in port because of lack of leadership and infrastructure problems.

Five days after the disaster, Philip Carter wrote about DDT’s “Katrina”:

“So far, the Trump administration has dispatched an anemic Federal Emergency Management Agency mission and sundry military units to assess the situation and provide support. But in some cases it took the federal government days to even contact local leaders in Puerto Rico’s major cities, let alone deploy aid. Only the most rudimentary military support is now on the ground. This is inadequate and calls to mind the lethargic response by the Bush administration to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.”

Carter also reported that 80 percent of the agriculture in PR has been destroyed along with its food source and economy. People cannot call for help, something the federal government told them to do, because 95 percent of the cell-phone towers are out.

Vox added to the catastrophe’s description:

“More than three million U.S. citizens [are] facing the prospect of living up to six months without power. According to some estimates, damage could exceed $30 billion. Our fellow Americans are in crisis. Since the disaster, House Republicans, led by Congressman Michael McCaul (TX-R), have unveiled a $10 billion proposal … for Donald Trump’s racist border wall and immoral mass deportation force.”

After a visit to PR three days ago, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) talked about the possible “humanitarian crisis.” He said that help for PR required “a lot more hands-on federal engagement.” Like Rubio, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) compared the lack of response to that in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and other areas along the Gulf Coast. Five days ago, Hillary Clinton tweeted:

“President Trump, Sec. Mattis, and DOD should send the Navy, including the USNS Comfort, to Puerto Rico now. These are American citizens.”

The administration waited another two days before saying it would deploy the USNS Comfort, an 890-foot-long naval hospital ship, and longer until it sent more personnel and called on truck drivers to go to PR. The ship didn’t leave until today and will take another five days to arrive. A Defense Department official said the ship hadn’t been deployed because of no request from FEMA. Forty-nine of the island’s 69 hospitals are without electricity or fuel to run backup generators. Twenty percent of PR’s 3.5 million population has a disability including half those over the age of 65, and 13 percent of the residents have diabetes, compared to 8.7 percent on the mainland. Insulin requires refrigeration that is at an extreme shortage.

At the same time that a doctor desperately tweeted from San Jorge children’s hospital in downtown San Juan about lack of fuel for generators, U.S. Senate Republicans were trying to eliminate health care for tens of millions of people. DDT tweeted about that rather than PR because it would give money for tax cuts to the wealthy. Then he began arguing for his massive tax cuts for the wealthy.

Within a week after Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston and Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in Florida, DDT had managed a massive relief bill. For PR, he said that he would get a request for aid to Congress within a week or two (his term in the past for never) and complained about PR’s debt, seemingly accusing them of the disaster. Part of that debt comes from the $33 million that DDT kept by declaring his golf course in PR bankrupt immediately after he announced his most recent campaign for president.

Shipping limitations from the Jones Act were immediately waived after Texas and Florida were hit by hurricanes a few weeks ago, but DDT refused to do the same for PR until eight days after the disaster. (Texas and Florida voted for DDT, but Puerto Ricans cannot vote for a U.S. president.) DDT might not have waived the law at all except for his public embarrassment for saying that “a lot of people that work in the shipping industry…don’t want the Jones Act lifted.” The family of Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation and wife of the Senate Majority leader, owns a shipping company. The 1920 law, enacted to protect the U.S. from German U-2 boats, requires that goods going from one place in the United States to another must be on ships owned, build, and crewed by U.S. companies. PR pays an excessive amount for goods coming from the mainland because of this law.

Another serious problem in disseminating goods is that military personnel sent to unload containers and drive trucks across the capital are minimal compared to the people sent to other disasters. Only two ships were deployed to PR in the first six days after Maria. Because the federal government is insisting on centralized distributions, donations sent on charter planes by individuals and charitable groups are not reaching people. U.S officials decided that people should drive to San Juan, despite the severely limited fuel situation, to tell them what was needed.

DDT is also trying to control news coming from PR by restricting congressional members from making official visits to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and evaluating conditions there. The San Juan Airport is functioning at this time, and DDT has said that he plans to visit the island.

The Jones Act permits goods—water, food, fuel, medicine, etc.—can be shipped via foreign registry vessel to PR if the country pays import quotas and many other costs, or by going through Jacksonville (FL) where everything is unloaded, put onto a U.S. ship, and then sent to PR at an increased cost of 15 to 20 percent. For example, cars cost $6,000 more in PR than in Florida. Goods cost about twice as they do on neighboring islands, including the U.S. Virgin Islands which is not subject to the Jones Act. Although the cost of living is 13 percent higher than 325 urban areas in the U.S., the per capita income is about $18,000, half that of Mississippi, the poorest of all 50 states. In 2012, the Jones Act caused a $17 billion loss to the island’s economy from 1990 through 2010. PR’s pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, proving 30 percent of the island’s gross domestic product and 90,000 jobs, is shut down.

Today DDT said he didn’t know if the government would help to repair PR’s public infrastructure. His disaster declaration for Texas promised federal funding of up to 75 percent of costs to repair “damaged public facilities” including roads, bridges and schools. FEMA said it would clear debris and other emergency relief.

Billionaires and celebrities are helping Puerto Rico residents by lending their planes to deliver food, water and critical medical supplies. One billionaire, however, has not stepped up to the plate. DDT’s fleet of a large commercial sized plane, a corporate jet, and two helicopters, sits at La Guardia. DDT hasn’t even asked people to donate to this crisis. All during the crisis, he has bragged how he protects the United States from athletes and how well he’s doing in Puerto Rico. He’s wrong on both counts.

The first federal senior administration officials didn’t go to PR for five days. DDT spent the first four days of the hurricane at his golf resort in Bedminster (NJ) except for a brief rally for his failed senatorial candidate in Alabama. Today, DDT said “We will not rest until the people of Puerto Rico are safe” before he flew back to his golf resort.

July 18, 2015

GOP Competes with Trump in Bigotry

No matter how much Republican politicians want Donald Trump to go away, he continues to suck the energy out of the presidential candidate. HuffPo has so little regard for him that they are leaving him in the entertainment section instead of putting his news in “politics.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) railed against Trump’s “firing up the crazies,” having forgotten that he tried to put one of the finest crazies just a heartbeat away from being President of the United States. McCain may have the last word, however, after Trump insinuated that McCain wasn’t a war hero because he was captured. The question is whether that’s the tipping point of Trump’s outrageous statements.

For what seems forever, Trump has led the growing GOP pack of presidential candidates, now at 18 percent and trailed by Scott Walker and Jeb Bush who flip back and forth between second place. This was after Fox laid out Trump’s position, repeating the accusation that undocumented immigrants are “rapists.” Seven in ten Republicans—70 percent—believe that Trump is right.

Even worse for the Republicans is the increase of President Obama’s approval rating, up three points last month to 47 percent—on a Fox poll. A real poll put the president at 52 percent approval.

Having gotten elected for another six years, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) set out to alienate another GOP constituency—older people. After the House passed a five-month extension of the Highway Trust Fund—meaning no projects because of no funding assurance for next year–McConnell wants a long-term funding law paid by removing money from Social Security for the elderly and disabled, homeowners, and retirement funds for federal employees. McConnell’s proposal would cut the return investment rate on a retirement investment plan and eliminate Social Security payments for an elderly recipient who has an outstanding arrest warrant, no matter the reason or how long ago the warrant was issued. There was no mention of increasing taxes on the wealthy or cutting funding from wars.

The grand idea for the future highway funding from the House is not much better: a small tax on monies that corporations bring back from tax havens in exchange for massive corporate tax breaks in the future. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) supports the idea, why I don’t know.

Technically, highways should be funded by the gas tax, but that hasn’t been increased for 22 years, and the GOP isn’t about to raise it now. President Reagan, for all his lack of progressive attitudes, raised the gas tax by 125 percent because he knew the importance of the nation’s infrastructure. President Eisenhower created the interstate highway system in the name of national security, but current Republicans lack the foresight to consider this while they clamor for war in the Middle East.

The GOP is also back to attacking women’s reproductive rights through a bill limiting abortions to under 20 weeks. At this point, they think they’ve got the goods on Planned Parenthood through a heavily-edited misleading video that insinuates the falsehood that the organization sells fetal tissue from its abortions. Conservatives have gotten a lot of press from an official talking clinically about fetal tissue, but there was no indication of wrong-doing—just a lack of perceiving a fetus as a cuddly creature as anti-abortion activists think of it.

Examining the issue, however, brings up some unpleasant facts for the congressional members who are crying foul: they have known about the video for almost a month and saved it for their own political reasons. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus and chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee looking into the video, said that he’d seen the clip weeks before. When he was asked why he and others waited weeks to take action, Murphy searched for words until he said, “This interview didn’t happen.” He’s been in Congress for 12 years and knows that he can’t tell a journalist that there was no interview. He does know how ridiculous the GOP looks to call the situation potentially criminal but do nothing about it, such as calling authorities.

Obviously, Republicans want to use the video to push their anti-choice issues. The destruction of the low-income housing group ACORN was so successful years ago from edited undercover videos suggesting criminal activity that they hope the strategy will work with Planned Parenthood. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said he keeps an acorn in his pocket that “represents ACORN’s scalp.” He added, “Ask me after the appropriations cycle and see if I have a talisman in my pocket for Planned Parenthood’s.” (I hate to think what it would be.) King, known for his outrageous, virulent anti-immigrant statements, also tweeted yesterday, “What does [Housing and Urban Development Secretary] Julian Castro know? Does he know that I’m as Hispanic and Latino as he?” He hasn’t responded to questions about what he meant by the tweet.

On the video, Planned Parenthood didn’t talk about doing anything illegal, but it may have been illegally made. The organization called Center for Medical Progress (CMP) may also be in hot water. It describes itself as “a group of citizen journalists dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances” and filed with the IRS as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The group actually pushes pro-life, anti-abortion principles, as shown by its website, with its “undercover footage.” Pushing anti-abortion legislation makes the group a “right-to-life” non-profit which must be shown in its filing.

The head of CMP, David Daleiden, is a former anti-abortion Live Action worker and associate of both Lila Rose and James O’Keefe, who creates edited sting videos to attack progressive organizations and politicians. CMP is a recent creation, its blog starting 12 days ago, tweets not coming out until last Tuesday, and its Facebook page only two months old. Deliberately misleading the IRS and donors makes an organization subject to civil and criminal fraud penalties.

While the House is looking for ways to destroy women’s reproductive rights, the Senate voted in favor of LGBTQ discrimination and bullying in K-12 public schools by voting down Sen. Al Franken’s (D-MN) bill to ban these activities. The Student Non-Discrimination Act, would have extended the same protections to LGBTQ students that they receive for race, national origin, sex, and disability. School officials can still ban same-sex couples at proms and stand by while LGBTQ students are bullied. Even Franken’s statements about LGBTQ youth suicides didn’t sway the GOP no vote, led by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). All 45 votes against the bill were Republicans. As usual in the senate, a majority of 52 yes votes didn’t move the bill forward. Two presidential candidates, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) voted against Franken’s bill; two voted for it—Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). Franken said that the Republicans were “grumpy” since same-sex couples now have the legal right to marry.

I gave Jeb Bush a pass over his statement that people “need to work longer hours” because he might have been misquoted or misunderstood. Now, however, he claims that the president’s proposed expansion of overtime pay to millions more “managers” and white-collar workers” to earn below $50,440 a year will result in “less overtime pay” and “less wages earned” because it would “lessen the number of people working.” Experts and studies refute this claim, but Republicans have never been deterred by facts and evidence. At this time, employers can deny overtime pay to “exempt” salaried managers earning more than $23,660 a year, allowing a fast-food assistant manager to work 60 hours a week with no overtime. If employers don’t want to pay the overtime, they can hire more people—creating more jobs. Increasing pay nationwide by $1.5 billion a year also increases the taxes the employees pay. Bush also misrepresents the proposal by claiming that the rules would prohibit bonuses. Ross Eisenbrey, a vice-president of the Economic Policy Institute, said: “Bush should be embarrassed about how misinformed he was.” No pass for Jeb Bush this time.

At the same time the GOP fails to support human rights, a federal agency fills in the void. Over 50 years after the civil Rights Act was passed, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decided that the law protects LGBTQ people in the workplace. The new decision states, “Allegations of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily state a claim of discrimination on the basis of sex.” EEOC rulings aren’t law unless the person is a federal employee; for others, courts consider EEOC rulings as only expert advisories. When EEOC and the Supreme Court disagreed about whether federal law indefinitely prohibits discriminatory pay practices against women, only congressional action—the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act—granted these protections to women. This ruling is a start in the 31 states that don’t prevent job discrimination against LGBTQ people.

The GOP supports bullying and discrimination against LGBT kids, taking money from needy Social Security recipients who paid their SS taxes, destroying the U.S. highways, and discriminating against women–not men–who have sex while single. Pregnant women lose their rights but not the men who impregnated them. Welcome to the GOP US of A.

 

May 11, 2015

GOP: Disregard Infrastructure, Sell off Public Lands

America is the most exceptional country in the world! And the richest! That’s the bragging point from the far right. That’s true if you consider that our “exceptional” infrastructure is 16th in the world. “Crumbling” is the term most often used to describe the bridges and highways over a half century old, an out-moded transit system, etc. For years, the American Society of Civil Engineers has given the nation’s infrastructure a D+ or worse. Every time the issue comes up, the GOP claim that they can’t afford to pay for necessary repairs—sort of like a cheapskate home-owner who won’t replace a leaky roof or disintegrating foundation.

With only 20 days before the Highway Trust Fund is set to expire, no congressional vote has been set up to extend the law and let the DOT distribute what little funds it has left to states. Congress is used to short-term fixes: it has passed 32 extensions within the past six years. That’s an average of over five each year which eliminates planning for any big projects. The sensible approach to raising the requisite $478 billion over ten years would be an increase in the gas tax that has stayed the same for 23 years, but the majority of legislators have signed the “no tax” pledge from Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform.

When Republicans were more pragmatic, they liked infrastructure spending because the economy loved jobs for fixing dams, bridges, and roads. These were jobs that couldn’t be outsourced to another country and brought millions of federal funds to create good-paying jobs with visible results. Now, however, the GOP wants to shrink the economy because a good economy would make President Obama look good. For over six years, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has led the charge to make the president look bad, no matter how his efforts damage the United States.

This week is “Infrastructure Week,” according to a coalition of labor, business and transportation advocacy organizations. Last week, the GOP in both congressional chambers agreed to a budget resolution intended to cut transportation funding by 20 percent. After the GOP voted down a budget of $820 billion over ten years, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a $1-trillion plan that would create 13 million jobs. Even that sum doesn’t take care of the problem: the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated that $1.6 trillion more than what the country currently spends is need to repair the nation’s infrastructure by 2020. Instead of taking the plan out of committee, Sanders offered the $478-billion plan which was voted down by a unanimous veto of Republicans. President Obama is so desperate to six the infrastructure that he supports a plan to let corporations escape paying some taxes by bringing their $2 trillion stashed overseas backed at a highly reduced tax rate.

Comparing the United States to other countries shows how the nation ignores its infrastructure. While the U.S. spends less than 2 percent of its GDP in this area, other countries provide far more—for example Europe, 5 percent; China, 9 percent, and Canada, 10 percent.

There are a variety of reasons that the wealthy—which includes most of congressional legislators—are unwilling to invest in U.S. infrastructure and its job creation.

Narcissism: Paul Piff and his colleagues have several studies showing that the wealthy believe they are entitled to have a position of status over everyone else, a belief that has grown during the past 30 years as “upper-class” people tend to behave more unethically than average citizens. The greater the concentration of wealth, the less a society invests in infrastructure. Between 1968 and 2011, the U.S. investment in infrastructure dropped by 60 percent.

Rejection of Poor: As the wealthy fail to see how their actions affect people, they build up a resentment of the poor and imagine  abuses that these so-called “lazy” people inflict on the rich. Legislators also destroy job development, for example, the $447-billion jobs bill in 2011 that would have added about two million jobs. Congress filibustered Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) “Prevention of Outsourcing Act,” at the same time that one million jobs were being sent offshore, and they temporarily blocked the “Small Business Jobs Act.” While campaigning last fall, McConnell was asked how he would bring jobs to Kentucky. He said, “That is not my job. It is the primary responsibility of the state Commerce Cabinet.” The safety net for the poor costs $370 billion; the tax avoidance of the wealthy costs $2.2 trillion. These are the people who are getting government handouts without working for them.

The Wait for the Free Market: Conservative analyst Michael Barone said, “Markets work. But sometimes they take time.” Thirty-five years later, people are still waiting. Starting in 1984, the Treasury Department decided that most tax cuts lose revenue; more recent studies find no connection between tax rates and economic growth. Evidence shows that cutting taxes on the rich fails to stimulate job creation; the wealthy just stash their money out of the country. Raising taxes on the rich does increase jobs as shown by Kansas and Minnesota. Tax cuts in Kansas destroy the state whereas tax increases on the wealthy in Minnesota have led to higher wages, low unemployment, and rapid business growth.

Instead of increasing taxes on the wealthy or stopping outsourcing and tax havens offshore, GOP members of Congress hope to make money by selling off the country’s resources. During the recent debate about the 2016 federal budget, legislators voted on a number of symbolic (fortunately non-binding) amendments. Amendment 838, introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), would “establish a spending-neutral reserve fund relating to the disposal of certain Federal land.” This translates into funding state efforts to take over, sell, and transfer federal land to private interests. Murkowski said the plan would “improve our conservation systems.”  It passed by 51 to 49 votes with three GOP senators–Lamar Alexander (TN), Kelly Ayotte (NH), and Corey Gardner (CO)—defecting to the Democrat side.

Both conservatives and progressives oppose the plan as conservative groups such as the Montana-based Backcountry Hunters and Anglers joined environmentalists in criticizing the vote.  Although the measure does not apply to “any land that is located within a national park, within a national preserve or a national monument,” the resolution allows the sale of national forests, national memorials, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas. The nonprofit League of Conservation Voters (LCV) explained:

“It would allow states to take control of some of our most cherished places and sell them off to private interests for oil and gas drilling, logging, mining, and other development. Industrial-scale oil and gas development could destroy the pristine nature of the Arctic Refuge’s coastal plain forever, damaging natural habitats and harming the wildlife that calls the area home. An oil spill in this region would not only directly harm polar bears, but would also contaminate their habitat. Even without an oil spill, some level of pollution and habitat fragmentation from oil and gas activities is inevitable with expanded development.”

Last February, Murkowski, with her co-GOP senator, also introduced the Authorizing Alaska Production Act (S. 494) to open up the refuge’s coastal plain to oil and gas development. Four among her top five 2013-14 campaign contributors are in the oil and gas industry: ConocoPhillips; PG&E Corp.; Edison Chouest Offshore, a marine transport firm supporting U.S. Gulf’s deepwater oil and gas industry; and Van Ness Feldman, a leading energy law firm whose clients include American Electric Power, Puget Sound Energy, and Houston natural gas energy company Kinder Morgan. Her 2014 LCV national environmental scorecard is a perfect zero.

The resolution may violate the Property Clause, Article IV, § 3, cl. 2 of the Constitution: “The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States.” States can’t sell federal lands no matter what Congress rules.

Ronald Reagan’s executive order, issued a year after he became president, tried the same move as Murkowski when it established the Property Review Board to review federally managed public lands for potential disposal. Six years later, Reagan said:

“The preservation of parks, wilderness, and wildlife has also aided liberty by keeping alive the 19th century sense of adventure and awe with which our forefathers greeted the American West. Many laws protecting environmental quality have promoted liberty by securing property against the destructive trespass of pollution. In our own time, the nearly universal appreciation of these preserved landscapes, restored waters, and cleaner air through outdoor recreation is a modern expression of our freedom and leisure to enjoy the wonderful life that generations past have built for us.”

rooseveltOver a century ago, Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt, set aside more federal land, national parks, and nature preserves than all of his predecessors combined. He established the U.S. Forest Service and placed 230,000,000 acres under public protection. In 2008, he said:

“The time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have been still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields, and obstructing navigation…. It is time for us now as a nation to exercise the same reasonable foresight in dealing with our great natural resources that would be shown by any prudent man in conserving and widely using the property which contains the assurance of well-being for himself and his children.”

Teddy would be disappointed in the GOP of today.

April 15, 2014

Enjoy Tax Day!

Every year, April 15 brings moaning and groaning amid complaints about taxes. Yet if progressives suggest greater equity in taxes for the wealthy, as billionaire Warren Buffet has, Republicans tell us that we can make a gift to the U.S. Treasury. New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, said, “He should just write a check and shut up.” A letter-writer to our local newspaper sneered at me for claiming that taxes went to help people and gave me the address where I could send my money.

Somehow, conservatives don’t mind sending their money to the wealthy hedge-fund managers from Wall Street or the bankers, but they resent contributing to a badly-needed safety net for the poor. They ignore the facts that people in the United States pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than almost all other wealthy Western nations and that taxes as a share of GDP are at a 50-year low. Wealthy people claim to give money to charities, but these are usually places where they can look important such as museums or other forms of the arts.

When former hedge-fund manager John Arnold and his wife did donate $10 million during last fall’s government shutdown to keep Head Start programs open in six states, the general belief of people is that nonprofits can solve the problems of society. Only 56 percent trust the government to do that. Arnold admitted, “Private dollars cannot in the long term replace government commitments.” Press coverage, however, makes people believe that they don’t need to pay taxes for these programs because wealthy people will.

Scientific research is also moving into private hands, frequently the hands of corporations that will reap the benefits. This practice also puts research into the hands of donors’ personal preferences. Conservatives want lowered government funding of science along with “selective science.” The proposed House bill, The Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology Act, would reduce funding in the sciences by 22 percent while removing a general allocation for the National Science Foundation so that lawmakers can use their personal ideologies to cherry-pick favorite science areas.

People in the United States have been levied a permanent income tax for the past 100 years. The current system came from a tax to pay for World War II. In the mid-20th century, voluntary giving helped support the morality of paying taxes. Tax revolts came with the highly conservative era of President Ronald Reagan who maintained that taxes were not a representation of democracy.

One idea of reviving an understanding of democratic tax-paying is to permit taxpayers to allocate part of their income taxes to a choice within the discretionary federal budget. Another is to educate people about their fantasy that charity can solve the immense problems of the nation.

Sister Simone has TPPSister Simone Campbell, the nun is trouble with the Vatican for her focus in caring for the poor, has another idea. She invites people to show their pride in what their taxes do:

“What do schools, parks, roads, firefighters, clean air and water, and the social safety net all have in common? You helped pay for them with your taxes! Why? Because what makes our country great is our commitment to everyone having enough and no one getting left behind.

“Many of our faith traditions call us to pool our financial resources for the common good. But fiscal extremists have made ‘taxes’ an ugly word.

“So this Tax Day, April 15th, the nuns and friends at NETWORK are celebrating #TaxpayerPride Day by taking selfies with things our taxes pay for that make us proud. Check out the selfies below and submit your own here!

Photos are available here.

Other solutions to the tax-complainers is education in what their taxes provide. When they complain about the safety net for foreign aid, they need to understand that food stamps, TANF, and foreign aid comprise 3 percent of their taxes. For those who pay $20,000 a year, that’s $600. On the other hand, military is at 25 percent–$5,000.

The $3.7 trillion federal budget is divided into mandatory spending required by Congress and discretionary spending that can be cut. Last year, over half of the discretionary spending went to defense. Some of the interest on the debt can also be attributed to defense spending because George W. Bush’s two wars cost at least $1.5 trillion, a sum that was all borrowed and went above the budget.

spending bubbles

No one knows for sure where the money for the defense budget goes because the Pentagon is too big to audit, despite a 1997 mandate that federal agencies have annual audits. We do know that the Pentagon supports 170 golf courses around the world.

Making the wealthy pay their share would even reduce taxes for most of the complainers. A sales tax on Wall Street transactions like those on clothes and food for most of the people in the nation would bring in hundreds of billions of dollars. The London stock exchange has had a tax of 0.5 percent for over 300 years; U.S. proposals are for only 0.025 percent. The wealthy also game the system by making sure that their income is at the 20 percent rate of capital gains rather the 39.6 percent income tax rate. This and other loopholes have made people like Mitt Romney wealthy.

There has been some discussion of limiting mortgage deductions which most people fight. If the amount of deductions were capped at $400,000, it wouldn’t hurt most of the complainers. Switching the deduction to a credit of 15 or 20 percent would level the playing field between the so-called middle class and the wealthy.

Another way to drop taxes for the complainers is to bring military expenditures back to the United States. The U.S. Navy has just spent $4 billion to create a stealthy destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, to patrol the coast of China for a lot more money required from U.S. taxpayers.

At the same time, President Obama’s budget for 2015 spends 55 percent of federal discretionary funds for the military.The Pentagon Overseas Contingency Operations (aka war funding) is a budget with no caps or sequestration caps. This $85 billion in 2014 was for “whatever” use by the Pentagon. The president’s 2014 budget includes $28 billion to enable the Pentagon to “accelerate the schedules for developing and buying new or upgraded systems.”

Justification for paying all this money is jobs. Last month Sen. Angus King (I-ME) wrote that cuts in defense would hurt his state’s industries. His complaint isn’t unique; senators and representatives around the country make the same justification for the ballooning defense budget.

Taxes don’t have to go to the Pentagon to create jobs. People can get jobs in working construction from light rail for public transit to energy-efficient. Reparation of the nation’s crumbling infrastructure would create jobs and bring home war dollars. Infrastructure spending would benefit the economy far more than defense spending would. The GOP reduction on infracture spending by 20 percent under President Obama will cost businesses $1 trillion in sales and lose people 3.5 million jobs.

Complainers about Social Security need to note that most of America’s wealthiest citizens stop paying Social Security taxes two days from now on April 17. Because the payroll contribution cap is $117,000, millionaires and billionaires don’t pay into the system after this date. Most of the people in the nation pay the entire year, with a higher percentage of their salary.

SocialSecurityTaxCaps03152012 The Reagan standard for payroll taxes was that 90 percent of wages are covered by the Social Security tax, bringing up the cap to almost $200,000. Instead the taxes cover less than 83 percent of wages. Four years ago, the New York Times reported that this one change would produce $50 billion in revenue in 2015. Keeping the cap constant at 90 percent would put it at $230,000. That would be an additional cost of $7,000 at the most and help reduce the deficit. That $7,000 doesn’t hurt as much for a person making $230,000 as it does for those making under $100,000.

The poorest 20 percent of families pay almost double the share of their income to state and local taxes as the richest one percent.

shares of taxes

Dreams: increase Social Security, decrease defense, fix the infrastructure, close tax loopholes for the wealthy, and enjoy what your taxes provide. Oh yes, take away subsidies from undeserving corporations and make them pay taxes. You can demand that here.

May 24, 2013

The GOP – Not Even Penny-Wise While Pound Foolish

Yesterday, a part of the I-5 bridge that crosses the Skagit River in northern Washington state collapsed, sending two vehicles down 50 feet into the 46-degree, 15-foot-deep water and three people to the hospital. With no loss of life, the loss of this bridge, which carries 71,000 people each day, may not seem like a big deal. But it is.

People have been well aware that bridges and other infrastructures across the country are crumbling. Almost six years ago, a Minneapolis bridge collapse that killed 13 people drew attention to the expanding disaster caused by Congressional unwillingness to address this problem. Last year, the Federal Highway Administration reported that 67,000 of our 607,000 bridges are structurally deficient. That’s almost 11 percent of all bridges, only one percent less than when the I-35 bridge collapsed in Minneapolis. Motorists take 210 million trips daily across at least one deficient bridge.

Some studies  identified bridges needing the most work, and some states installed sensors to track bridges’ deterioration on a computer. With a lack of funding, however, bridges, with an average age of 42, failed to receive the attention that they need. The nation has a C+ for maintaining bridges, and governments need to add $8 billion annually to their investment to take care of these bridges.

A truck with an excessively tall load striking a steel girder may have caused the collapse over Washington’s Skagit River. Naysayers could claim that the bridge was probably fine. But safe bridges are not classified as “fracture critical,” which means that the entire structure can be brought down if only one major part fails. Inspected twice during the last year, the bridge received a sufficiency rating of 47 out of 100 at its November 2012 inspection. The state average is 80, according to an Associated Press analysis. Built in 1955, the bridge is one of almost 2,000 bridges in classified as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

The real news is that public construction spending is lower than it’s been in over 20 years.

bridge construction

In his most recent State of the Union address, President Obama spoke about addressing “an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair.” As he put it, “Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire–a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and Internet, high-tech schools, self-healing power grids.” He supports the “Fix-It-First” program, but as Matt Yglesias explained:

“[P]oliticians and real-estate developers like to open brand new roads with fun ribbon-cutting ceremonies and new subdivisions. Finding money to actually maintain roads we already have is less appealing. Consequently, we get too many miles of road (and too much sprawl), but the roads suck. The fix-it-first concept is to flip this and make sure we’re maximizing the value of our existing roads before we build new ones.”

The president’s recommended a partnering with the private sector to create jobs through the investment in vitally needed projects. A government investment of $10 billion to create and capitalize an independent National Infrastructure Bank (NIB) could leverage $200 billion of total infrastructure investment from private sector partners and state and local governments.

The GOP is interested only in manufactured scandals that they hope will bring down President Obama and the Democrats, spending and tax cuts, and the elimination of women’s rights. They want to continue hearings on Benghazi, questioning former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; bring Lois Lerner back to question her about the IRS despite her clear intention to invoke the Fifth Amendment; investigate Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about fundraising for Obamacare; press forward on a national anti-abortion law which would be unconstitutional; and otherwise avoid governing the country.

Boehner and the rest of the extremists in Congress don’t consider that the United States is approaching an economy in which goods cannot be easily transported from one city or state to another because the country doesn’t have the bridges and roads and rail to do this.

The collapsed bridge in Washington has cut off the highway into Canada from the western states of California, Oregon, and Washington. This cuts private profits. Failure to invest in roads and bridges would total $3.1 trillion in lost GDP growth in the next eight years, lose 3.5 million jobs, and cost private sector companies over $1 trillion.

Eighteen months ago, Senate Republicans, with the help of Nebraska’s blue dog Ben Nelson and Connecticut’s independent Joe Lieberman, blocked the piece of President Obama’s jobs act, which would have provided for $60 billion in infrastructure spending.

At the same time, House Republicans were determined to pass a bill that would tie new infrastructure funding to federal revenue generated from an expansion of domestic energy production. At that time, 27 percent of the bridges in Ohio, Speaker John Boehner’s home state, were either “structurally deficient or functionally obsolete,” including 171 bridges that are part of the national highway system.

Almost a year ago, Mark Thoma, economist and Fellow at the American Century Foundation, wrote about how he was stunned by Congress’s inability to fund infrastructure investment because it would meet the GOP goal of a boost to the general economy.

“At a time when interest rates are as low as we are likely to see, when labor and other costs are minimal due to lack of demand during the downturn, and when the need is so high, why aren’t we making a massive investment in infrastructure, which is ultimately an investment in our future? There are many, many public investments we could make where the benefits surely exceed the costs–these are things the private sector won’t do on its own even though they are highly valuable to society–so what are we waiting for?

“If there’s any policy Republicans ought to be able to support, it’s infrastructure spending. It’s inherently a supply-side policy, it helps to promote future economic growth, and it’s an investment with large, positive net benefits. But Republicans see a ‘we won’t build that’ approach to infrastructure spending. . .”

For the past five years, interest rates have been at all-time lows, and construction workers have been largely unemployed. Investing in the infrastructure would have been a bargain. Bridges are not the only piece of infrastructure that are approaching crisis. Highways, wastewater treatment facilities, electricity grid, and tunnels are rapidly deteriorating without maintenance.

In a survey of airports last month, not one U.S. airport was rated in the top 25. Only 17 were in the top 100. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport fell to 30th from 24th a year ago.

The sequester will make this even worse because of the need for senators and representatives to fly on time. The $253 million paying for more prompt airplanes comes from airport maintenance and construction. President Obama said:

“We’re using our seed corn short-term. And the only reason we’re doing it is because right now we’ve got folks who are unwilling to make some simple changes to our tax code, for example, to close loopholes that aren’t adding to our competitiveness and aren’t helping middle-class families.”

More scary statistics here—and these are two years old! The GOP is intent to create a country with a non-government, and they are willing to destroy the concept of “general welfare” in order to do this.

August 4, 2012

Why Superrich Need Federal Government

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:17 PM
Tags: , ,

“When we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative but also because we do things together.” That was the point of President Obama’s statements about the importance of the infrastructure to business achievement. Mitt Romney took one sentence out of context and tried to persuade voters that the president told them that people didn’t really build their own businesses. Ironically enough, Romney had told Olympic athletes a decade ago that their success was built on the help from many others. Romney, however, has a very selective–and bad–memory.

Conservatives need to be told time and again that without the federal government support for the infrastructure that the country would have no successful businesses. Because of the publicly supported communications infrastructure, the richest 10% of Americans manipulate their 80% share of the stock market. The FAA, TSA, Coast Guard, and Department of Transportation safeguard the roads, seaports, and airports that ship corporations’ products. A nationwide energy grid powers their factories, and communications towers and satellites conduct their online business. While private jets use 16 percent of air traffic control resources, their owners pay only 3% of the bill.

But the wealthy get federal government support from more than just the physical infrastructure.

Security: In People’s History, Howard Zinn describes the way that mobs destroyed the houses of wealthy people in 1765 as “a war of plunder, of general levelling and taking away the distinction of rich and poor,” according to a report by colonial officials. Now the wealthy live in gated communities with personal surveillance drones. But their security is helped by the $55 billion that the U.S. government will spend on Homeland Security during the next year. There’s also help from another $673 billion for the military. And together, police, emergency services, and the National Guard train to prevent crimes against the wealthy.

Laws and Deregulations: The wealthiest people benefit most from the government’s tax laws, property rights zoning rules, patent and copyright provisions, trade pacts, antitrust legislation, and contract legislations. Added to that are the $1 trillion from tax loopholes permitting them to stash their fortunes out of the country. SBA and SEC guidelines also benefit large corporations that favor business while FDA and USDA quality control measures protect them from many consumer complaints and product recalls. Financial industry executives who scream against deregulation ignore the way they benefit from the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. Allowing the  investment and banking institutions to merge let the wealthy fleece the rest of the people. Trade agreements like NAFTA, with international disputes resolved by the business-friendly World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization, support multinational corporations, and U.S. laws protect them from foreign infringement. Antitrust measures, such as the licensing rules that allow the American Medical Association to restrict the number of doctors in the U.S., keep salaries artificially high.

Research: Corporations focus on short-term profits while they use long-term research conducted largely with government money, especially in the tech industry. Companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Oracle and Cisco profited from the fastest-growing product revolution in American history as the U.S. government provided half the research funds well into the 1980s. Even 60% of university research is currently government-supported. Chemists, physicists, chip designers, programmers, engineers, production line workers, market analysts, and testers for the tech world are largely trained in public schools.

Subsidies: While over 90% of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) goes to the elderly, the disabled, or working households, most of the annual $1.3 trillion in “tax expenditures” (tax subsidies from special deductions, exemptions, exclusions, credits, and loopholes) goes to the top quintile of taxpayers. One estimate is $250 billion a year just to the richest 1%. According to the website of  Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), mortgage interest and rental expense deductions alone return almost $100 billion a year to millionaires. The more profitable the corporation, the bigger the subsidies. Even the conservative Cato Institute admitted that the U.S. government paid $92 billion to corporate welfare during fiscal year 2006 to such companies as Boeing, Xerox, IBM, Motorola, Dow Chemical, and General Electric. The Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in financial assistance to financial institutions and corporations. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, 280 profitable Fortune 500 companies, which together paid only half of the maximum 35 percent corporate tax rate, received $223 billion in tax subsidies. Most of agriculture commodity program funding is provided to such agribusiness corporations as Archer Daniels Midland. Estimates of oil subsidies range from $10 to $50 billion per year.

Disaster Costs: Oil company spokespeople claim that their corporations pay taxes. Exxon paid 2 percent in federal taxes from 2008 to 2010, and Chevron, 4.8 percent. But these paltry taxes don’t even begin to cover the cleanups need because of oil spills. Fines are insignificant in terms of oil companies’ billions of dollars in profits while government costs run into the tens of billions of dollars. Another costly area for the country’s taxpayers is the finance industry. Bailout estimates from the Treasury and the Federal Reserve range from $3 trillion to $5 trillion. That sum would pay off both next year’s deficit and so-called “entitlement” costs. And all while each CEO in the finance world continues to rake in millions and millions of dollars in salaries and bonuses.

Patriotic Millionaires recently said, “Given the dire state of our economy, it is absurd that one-quarter of all millionaires pay a lower tax rate than millions of working, middle-class American families… Please do the right thing for our country. Raise our taxes.” Republicans, stop the whining. You’ve already got almost the entire pie.

Thanks to Paul Buchheit for the above information. Buchheit is on the faculty of DePaul University and the Chicago City Colleges and the founders of Global Initiative Chicago (GIChicago.org), and fightingpoverty.org. He is also the editor and main contributor to American Wars: Illusions and Realities (Clarity Press).

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