Nel's New Day

February 19, 2019

DDT Wants Oil, War in Venezuela

Former acting FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe’s new book, The Threat, has been consuming media this week, in which he writes that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said almost two years ago that he wanted to go to war with Venezuela to get its oil:

“Then the president talked about Venezuela. That’s the country we should be going to war with, he said. They have all that oil and they’re right on our back door.”

Panicked by the news about his involvement in the Russian scandal, DDT is moving forward with his aggressive plans for a coup in Venezuela. Unconcerned about its problem of “humanitarian rights” in the past, DDT now offers to send the people medical supplies and food—but only to his selected lackey, head of the National Assembly Juan Guaidó, who was almost entirely unknown until a few weeks ago. Legally elected Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said that Russia is sending 300 tons of humanitarian aid to the people of Venezuela. No matter what, Venezuelans need the humanitarian aid because U.S. sanctions with no exceptions are crippling the country’s economy.

DDT’s offer of U.S. humanitarian aid might not be necessary without the U.S. sanctions on oil that are killing thousands of people and cost Venezuela over $6 billion since 2015. In November 2018, the U.S. authorized emergency aid for Venezuela after Maduro made a public appeal for help, but the $20 million in aid goes only if Maduro steps down. Former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield said that the “desired outcome” to quickly bring the regime change to an end “justifies this fairly severe punishment” of sanctions.

Socialism is DDT ’s argument against Maduro, yet DDT’s approach is blackmailing the Venezuelan people to subjugate them. subjugating the Venezuelan people against their will. Sanctions also block Maduro from getting money out of banks in other countries for the people. The U.S., which complains about Russian interference with its election, has put at least $100 million to subvert Venezuela’s elected government. Maduro’s opposition boycotted last year’s vote and asked the UN to not send observers. A Canadian coalition of observers by unions, church leaders, and other officials declared the election to be “a transparent, secure, democratic and orderly electoral and voting process.”

Seventy percent of Venezuelan economy is in the private sector, the country is part of the world capitalist system, and its dependence is on a commodity with fluctuating prices on capitalist markets. Capitalists were able to sabotage the economy. The political system comes from democratic councils at the grassroots level for “constituent” power that organize enterprises for local employment and supplies of basic goods. Social programs known as “missions” try to directly provide services. A 2001 law mandates that all members of cooperative enterprises are included in decision-making with an assembly of all members have the final decisions over all topics. Nonprofit, state-owned enterprises are managed democratically by a combination of their workers, local communal councils, and the national government to provide local services, such as transportation and distribution of cooking gas, and the creation of production.

DDT’s national security adviser John Bolton supports DDT’s resource war, like George W. Bush’s takeover of Iraq, and says that U.S. oil companies can benefit from DDT’s actions. Opposition, however, comes from India, the second-largest importer of Venezuelan oil; China, the third largest importer of that oil; and Russia, the owner of 49 percent of Citgo in the U.S. Europe is also buying oil from Iran.

In his Miami speech yesterday, DDT threatened members of the Venezuelan military and their families:

“You cannot hide from the choice that now confronts you. You can choose to accept president Guaidó’s generous offer of amnesty to live your life in peace with your families and your countrymen. Or you can choose the second path: continuing to support Maduro. If you choose this path, you will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything.”

Last month, DDT kept attention about his maneuvering to take over Venezuela from the media with the budget crisis and “wall.” He called Guaidó to see if he would like to depose Maduro. Once Guaidó came on board, DDT began secret talks with Maduro’s military, trying to persuade them to defect, and top U.S. cabinet officials used threats to push for regime change. Guaidó is pushing the United States to use its military to overturn Maduro. Maduro went to Russia to improve relationships and collect money; two Russian aircraft flew to Caracas, to be followed by Russian personnel. Iran’s new Sahand destroyer may soon be in Venezuela.

To make his new project a fait accompli, DDT put Elliott Abrams in charge as his special envoy. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) openly addressed Abrams about his past in a House hearing when she asked him about his dismissing reports about the massacre in El Salvador that the U.S. led in the 1980s. After Omar described the soldiers bragging about raping a 12-year-old girl brutal murders and their brutal murders, Abrams grudgingly admitted that perhaps he was wrong about calling U.S. policy in El Salvador a “fabulous achievement.” He refused to answer questions about his involvement in Guatemalan war crimes.

Abrams has a 30-year history as convicted liar and war criminal in bloody U.S. backed coups, insurrections, and massacres which culminated—until now—in the Venezuelan coup attempt of 2002 against Hugo Chávez. George H.W. Bush pardoned him to save his own skin. The selection of Abrams for special envoy declares the position that the United States will take toward people in Venezuela—get out of our way or we’ll kill you.

In DDT’s attempt to seat Guaidó, he sides with the whiter and wealthier Venezuelans against the Mestizo mixed-race poor who represent the majority. The 1998 election of Hugo Chavez ended four centuries of white supremacist control by European descendants in Venezuela and continued with the election of Maduro. Chavez reduced poverty from 50 percent in 1999 to almost half of that, 27 percent in 2011. He used the country’s oil production to increase school enrollment, decrease infant and child mortality, and improve access to clean water and sanitation. In 2002, George W. Bush supported the coup led by an oil industry leader that kidnapped Chavez, holding him hostage until a million mostly Mestizo indigenous, and black Venezuelans came to the capital and forced Chavez’s release.

The huge drop in oil prices caused inflation, and an economic slide worsened by DDT’s cutting off oil sales contributed to many of Maduro’s problems. As in the U.S., the white rulers discovered that they could not win an election if ethnic minorities voted, so DDT and Guaidó disregarded the need for an election to install a new president. DDT’s supporters follow the process of coups in Venezuela and other places that the U.S. has established a new regime with chants to take back the country. In Macon (GA) DDT told his audience to fear Stacey Abrams, a black candidate for governor, because she would “turn Georgia into Venezuela.”

DDT uses the media to spread his myths. The Miami Herald calls Venezuela’s elected president, Maduro, its “leader” and Guaidó, the person who didn’t even run in the election, Venezuela’s “interim president.” Guaidó was even mentioned as one of Maduro’s opposition leaders. Henri Falcon, who ran in the election, was tied for the most popular of Maduro’s opposition, but no one claims that the “fraudulent” election was “stolen” from Falcon—probably because it wasn’t stolen from anyone. DDT avows that Maduro “abandoned” the presidency by solidly defeating Falcon in the election. National security adviser John Bolton, part of master-minding the Iraq War, called for Maduro to be sent to a U.S.-run torture camp in Cuba.

Envoy Abrams used the cover of “humanitarian aid” to provide the U.S.-backed Contra terrorists in Nicaragua during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, and the CIA did the same in Southeast Asia during the early 1950s to the mid-1970s. The United States supplied weapons, ammunition, and other military necessities to Guaidó for months until the media discovered the transports.

In a New York Times op-ed on Saturday, Francisco Rodríguez, chief economist at Torino Economics, and Jeffrey D. Sachs of at Columbia University—both experts on Latin America—called for a compromise on Venezuela, citing the harm of DDT’s “winner take all” policy. For example, an 18-year-old war in Afghanistan is ending with negotiating with the Taliban, and U.S. interventions in Iraq, Syria, and Libya have resulted only in strife. They urge an “alternative approach” instead of DDT’s “game of chicken.”

The United States has militarily invaded Latin American and Caribbean countries 96 times in direct interventions, including 48 times in the 20th century, and that number doesn’t count U.S.-fomented coups such as Guatemala (1954) to obtain land for United Fruit and Chile (1973) to install the murderous Augusto Pinochet as dictator. DDT needs a war, like George W. Bush did, but he doesn’t want the danger of the Middle East. As a bonus, Venezuela has the biggest oil reserves of any country in the world as well as a huge supply of gold. DDT figures Venezuela is his path to re-election.

February 13, 2019

Tax Cuts Go to Wealthiest, Others Angry

Almost 14 months ago, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) promised people would pay $4,000 less on their taxes this year and “have a nice, simple form.” Neither is true. An additional ten percent of tax filers will owe the IRS money since the “tax reform,” and average refunds were 8.4 percent smaller, down to $1,865 because of the same “tax reform.” And that’s from a week ago. In addition, filing taxes is as complicated as in the past. IRS refunds sent out are also down about 24 percent because of the shutdown.

People hoping to pay for their cars will be disappointed. Seven million people are at least 90 days behind on their car loans, a record and a red flag for the economy. Auto loans are the first payment that people make; delinquencies show serious economic problems for low-income and working-class people in the U.S. The nation suffers from more than a million more “troubled borrowers” now than in 2010 when unemployment hit ten percent and the car loan delinquency rate peaked. After George W. Bush’s recession, the government restricted mortgages so that people could make the monthly payments, but car financers could continue predatory practices because they have few restrictions . Subprime borrowers with low credit scores, increasing from 28 percent of the market in 2009 to 39 percent in 2015, may pay interest rates between 14.5 and 20 percent.

Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, wrote about people plan buying big purchases or paying off large debts with their refunds. Some are so desperate that they pay extra to get advance lending on their refunds. Last year, 102 million taxpayers received an average of $2,778 in tax refunds, and most people spent this money, helping the U.S. economy. Lower refunds mean less spending and a shrinking economy. If people use their refunds for necessities, problems are worse than a slowing economy.

Fox & Friends told their watchers to stop whining about owing money to the government because they should have taken out more withholding—for a tax cut. The government’s guidelines did provide for less withdrawals from wages to get people to vote for Republicans in the midterm elections, a ploy that failed for many House members. But the reference to everyone’s “fatter paychecks” by Fox & Friends’ hosts applies primarily to higher income earners: most people didn’t see a significant increase in their paychecks.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), lead author of the tax bill, told taxpayers to be grateful for much smaller or no refunds because they have nothing to do with their overall tax bill. He falsely claimed that 90 percent of the middle class got a $2,100 average tax cut. Another tax cut backer, Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH), tried to convince people that refunds are less because most people “owed less income tax.” The Tax Policy Center estimated that earners in the bottom 20 percent might each see a total of $60 less tax for the year, and the next 20 percent might expect a $380 total cut. The top 0.1 percent of people in the U.S. saved an average of more than $190,000—each.

Meanwhile, the government ran a $14 billion deficit in December—just one month—as we lost revenues because of the “tax reform” law. The U.S. has run into the red by $319 since the beginning of the fiscal year in October, up 41 percent from the $225 deficit of the same time period last fiscal year. Corporate taxes fell 17 percent, and those from individuals dropped by 4 percent. We’re not spending more: we just aren’t collecting money partly because of the tax cuts for the wealthy and big businesses, ending in a larger deficit for the previous fiscal year—almost $900 billion added to the debt. Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said that “nobody cares” about the debt.

DDT’s supporters are learning that the Democratic position on the failure of tax cuts was right and that Republicans lied. Most of the people aren’t getting any extra $4,000, businesses haven’t changed their capital investment and hiring, and tax breaks for the wealthy and big businesses aren’t paying for themselves. In addition, the economic growth is slowing instead of building. The GOP promised that corporate tax breaks wouldn’t go into stock buybacks; they did, which is the only reason that the stock market has not gone much below its level a year ago.

Instead of putting their tax breaks into higher wages for employees, companies in the S&P 500 spent almost $800 billion of their tax windfall on buybacks for the 2018 fiscal year that started nearly three months before the tax “reform” bill passed into law. The Dow Jones spiked until it went back to the same level as the beginning of 2018. The 2019 buyback projection is about $900 billion, almost all one third of all corporate cash spending and up 25 percent from 2017.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) co-authored an op-ed for the New York Times with former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that criticized the tax law and suggested the prohibition of a public company from buy back shares “unless it invests in workers and communities first, including things like paying all workers at least $15 an hour, providing seven days of paid sick leave, and offering decent pensions and more reliable health benefits.” They also suggested other ways to require companies to invest in workers, including a change in tax rates on dividends.

A divided Congress with a Republican president can’t pass these laws, but the ideas have generated discussion. Lloyd Blankfein, former head of Goldman Sachs, tweeted that money doesn’t vanish with stock buybacks, that money “gets reinvested in higher growth businesses that boost the economy and jobs.” Sanders retorted that Blankfein was right in his claim that money “doesn’t vanish” but it Mr. Sanders quickly responded on Twitter that Mr. Blankfein was correct that the money buybacks “doesn’t vanish” but it “increases the wealth of billionaires” like Blankfein.

Republican leaders who financially benefit from the buybacks lambasted the buyback proposals as “socialism.”  The GOP case against “socialism” ignores the difference between pure socialism and “Democratic socialism.” Republicans plan to use the term as a one-word meme slamming Democrats during the 2020 election campaign after they failed with “witch hunt.” Today, the White House blared the headline, “Not one more person should suffer under socialism.” Republicans’ definition for socialism may be anything that doesn’t benefit themselves. [In the chart to the left, you could add flood protection, sports coliseum, “freedom of religion,” a 40-hour work week, child labor laws, Social Security, Medicare–the list is quite long.]

Axios chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon asserts that the tax cuts will never pay for themselves and no one ever believed that they would. The increase in the national debt is faster than pessimists predicted at the time the GOP pushed through the cuts, and the CBO estimates that the annual deficit will top $1 trillion beginning in 2022. It’s almost there now. DDT campaigned with the promise that he would immediately eliminate the deficit, but in two years, he’s increased the national debt from under $20 trillion to $22 trillion. Salmon added that the nation is “awash in debt” with trillions in student loans, credit card debts, and car loans. Asked about the debt, DDT said that he’ll “get rid of” the entire debt “fairly quickly,” “over a period of eight years,” “paying off that debt like water.”

DDT plans to unleash predatory payday lenders on the majority of people receive less in tax refunds by gutting rules from President Obama’s era that shield people from “easy” loans with interests over 400 percent. If people borrow the money for the two weeks between paychecks, they pay $75 for a $500 loan. Over 60 percent of 12 million borrowers took out seven or more consecutive, digging themselves deeper and deeper into debt, and a majority of borrowers paid more in interest than the money borrowed.

In charge of making these changes is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which Budget Director Mick Mulvaney destroyed before he moved on to help DDT spike the national debt and works at failing as acting chief of staff. Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, described the result of the change in rules for payday loans:

“This decision will put already struggling families in a cycle of debt and leave them in an even worse financial position. This administration has moved the CFPB away from protecting consumers to protecting the very companies abusing them.”

Almost 80 percent of people in the U.S. live from one paycheck to the next, and wages remain stagnant when inflation is taken into consideration, even dropping in the second quarter of 2018. Almost all the gains in the country go to the top—chief executives of big companies, financiers, and creators in the digital world. If the average wages go up at all this year, it will be due to the 18 states that raised the minimum wage although the increases in almost half these states were $.20 or lower—about 2 percent.  The GOP system makes the vast majority of people in the United States more and more desperate.

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