Government for the Common Good

“You can have the wealth concentrated in the hands of the few or you can have democracy but you can’t have both" William Brandeis


Marian Wright Edelman - Improving the Odds for America's Children

Excerpts from: Improving the Odds for America's Children


Reuters - $2 Trillion In Untaxed Corporate Profits Overseas

Excerpts from:

U.S. Corporations Now Hold Over $2 Trillion In Untaxed Profits Overseas: Study

Posted: 04/08/2014

Reuters - from Huffington Post

By Kevin Drawbaugh and Patrick Temple-West

"WASHINGTON, April 8 (Reuters) - Foreign profits held overseas by U.S. corporations to avoid taxes at home nearly doubled from 2008 to 2013 to top $2.1 trillion, said a private research firm's report, prompting a call for reform by the Senate's top tax law writer."

"Under U.S. law, corporations do not have to pay income tax on most of their overseas profits until they are brought into the United States. These earnings can be held offshore for years if they are classified as indefinitely invested abroad."

"Research firm Audit Analytics said in a report issued last week that the total of such earnings was up 93 percent from 2008 to 2013, citing federal financial filings for companies listed in the Russell 1000 index of U.S. corporations."

"Conglomerate General Electric Co had the biggest pile of earnings stored abroad, at $110 billion, the firm said."

"Next were software maker Microsoft Corp, with $76.4 billion; drugmakers Pfizer Inc, with $69 billion, and Merck & Co Inc, with $57.1 billion; and high-tech group Apple Inc, with $54.4 billion, it said."

"Congress has quarreled for years over the law that lets multinationals stash profits abroad tax-free. Some favor killing the law, known as offshore corporate income tax deferral, and some back a one-time tax holiday that would let companies bring foreign profits home, or "repatriate" them, at a low tax rate."

"Debate over offshore deferral flared again in November when Wyden's predecessor as finance committee chairman, former Democratic Senator Max Baucus, proposed doing both. Baucus resigned weeks later to become U.S. ambassador to China."

"Wyden in the past has called for repeal of offshore deferral, along with a repatriation holiday, among other changes to the tax code, which he last month called "a rotten carcass that the special interests feast on."'

"No decisive action is likely for now, however, with Congress deadlocked over fiscal issues at least until after the November mid-term congressional elections, according to policy analysts."

"The top U.S. corporate income tax rate is 35 percent, though few multinationals pay anywhere near that thanks to tax-reducing loopholes written into the code in the past 28 years, including some that have enabled wider use of offshore deferral"

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Gail Collins - Surprise! The Rich Won One

Excerpts from:

Surprise! The Rich Won One

Gail Collins

April 2, 2014

Today, we are going to discuss the Supreme Court decision on political donations. Already, we have run into a terrible problem, which is the difficulty in having a fun conversation about campaign finance laws.

Let me try for a second: On Wednesday, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., who once played Peppermint Patty in a school production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, told the nation it was unconstitutional to say that a rich person could only give a total of $123,200 to congressional campaigns each election cycle. This would have been called the majority decision, except that Clarence Thomas, who never talks in court and had that pubic hair controversy back in the day, wrote a little memo of his own.

Roberts was joined by Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy is the famous swing vote, and also a person who once, as a young student, traveled around Europe for a summer with a bottle of whiskey his father had given him, which he used only to gargle.

Their bottom line was that the founding fathers intended America to be a country in which every citizen had the inalienable right to donate, say, $3.6 million every two years.

How do you feel about that, people? On the one hand, this cannot possibly be a helpful step forward. On the other hand, we already live in a country where billionaires can spend endless amounts of cash trying to influence elections with their own private groups. The Koch brothers’ group has spent more than $7 million on ads in North Carolina against Senator Kay Hagan, and there isn’t even a Republican candidate yet. How much farther could we sink?

Potential upside of opening the door to bigger campaign contributions from rich people:

1) Perhaps Justice Roberts was trying to pile up some right-wing cred so that he can swing left on the Obamacare contraception rule. O.K., I’m totally making that one up.

2) The federal government will no longer be “eliminating a person’s right to choose.” This is the spin from Lincoln Brown, a talk radio host who interviewed Shaun McCutcheon, the plaintiff in the suit that the Supreme Court just decided. This would refer to a right to give several million dollars directly to people running for federal office, not a woman’s right to control her reproductive system. But maybe there could be a trend.

3) More talk about oligarchs!

Watching events in Russia and Ukraine, you can’t help noticing all the stupendously rich oligarchs with their fingers in every political development. It’s a useful word, connoting both awesome power and a group you don’t really want to have around.

In the former Soviet Union, the money elite generally get their power from the politicians. Here, it seems to be the other way around. But the next time casino zillionaire Sheldon Adelson invites the Republican presidential hopefuls to go to Las Vegas and bow before his throne, feel free to say they were just off honoring an oligarch. Apparently, the founding fathers would have wanted it that way.

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New York Times - Mr. Ryan’s Faith-Based Budget

Excerpts from:

Mr. Ryan’s Faith-Based Budget The Republican budget for 2015, released Tuesday by Representative Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, will never come close to being law, so it doesn’t have to pretend to be serious. This is a document designed solely to be reduced to a few bullet points so House Republicans can have something to show their most antigovernment voters.

That might work in their most carefully gerrymandered districts, but does the Republican Party really want to coalesce around a budget this destructive to the country’s future: harming the middle class and the poor; undercutting popular safety-net programs, including Medicare and Pell grants; and heaping tax benefits on the rich? Apparently it does, and the full House will probably support it in a few days. Voters should look closely at the details to see if they would choose the same course.

■ Medicare would become a voucher program by 2024 for those now 55 and younger, allowing them to choose between a fixed payment for private insurance and the traditional plan. The problem with this idea, revived from past Ryan budgets, is that traditional Medicare wouldn’t stay unchanged for long because it will attract the sickest patients and become so expensive that most people would be driven to the private plan. The spending cuts in that plan would quickly make it inadequate.

■ Mr. Ryan would make exactly the same $700 billion in cuts to Medicare that Republicans have ridiculed Democrats for making to pay for health care reform. But, of course, he would repeal the health law and has no particular concern about the 13 million people who would no longer be covered under the law’s Medicaid expansion. In fact, he would turn Medicaid and food stamps into block grants, knowing full well that that would permit Republican states to trim benefits to the bone.

■ He cuts nondefense discretionary spending by $791 billion over 10 years below the inadequate levels already agreed on with the Senate. That will mean vast cuts to education, public works, job training, medical research, housing and nutrition aid. But he would raise military spending by $483 billion over the current 10-year caps.

■ The budget lowers the top tax rate to 25 percent for the wealthiest taxpayers, down from the current 39.6 percent, while raising taxes on middle-class families with children by an average of $2,000. When Republican tax writers in the House tried to do something similar recently, they discovered it could not be done without huge increases in the deficit. But there’s a reason that isn’t a problem for Mr. Ryan, and it’s a bad one.

■ It’s because he assumes that all his plans for cuts will magically drive growth and tax revenues to unimaginable levels, producing a $5 billion surplus. It doesn’t matter how many times this has been discredited; Republicans believe it as an article of faith, and their 2015 budget is a more faith-based blueprint than any that have gone before.

Mr. Ryan hopes to be promoted to the helm of the Ways and Means Committee now that its chairman, Dave Camp, has announced his retirement. That would put a man with very dangerous ideas in a position to do serious damage to the tax code and the safety net, which Ways and Means controls. His budget is mostly an exercise in grandstanding right now, but, in a short time, it could become a pathway to something far worse.

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Justin Gillis - Panel’s Warning on Climate Risk: Worst Is Yet to Come

Excerpts from this compelling article:

Panel’s Warning on Climate Risk: Worst Is Yet to Come

Greenland'­s immense ice sheet is melting as a result of climate change. Credit Kadir van Lohuizen for The New York Times

"YOKOHAMA, Japan — Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans, scientists reported on Monday, and they warned that the problem was likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control.

The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that periodically summarizes climate science, concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.

The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants, which is killing some creatures or stunting their growth, the report found.

Organic matter frozen in Arctic soils since before civilization began is now melting, allowing it to decay into greenhouse gases that will cause further warming, the scientists said. And the worst is yet to come, the scientists said in the second of three reports that are expected to carry considerable weight next year as nations try to agree on a new global climate treaty."

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Michael Hiltzik - Private charity can't replace government social programs

Excerpts from:,0,1556558.column#axzz2xSvLljuG

Private charity can't replace government social programs

"To suggest that community or faith-based charities can effectively supplant government social programs is a fantasy that serves only as a talking point to cut those programs."

March 30, 2014, 5:00 a.m.

"As often happens when the financial demands on government social programs rise, there's been a lot of talk lately about the need to return to the traditional American system of community and faith-based help for the needy: charity, not government handouts."

"One hears this most often from fiscal conservatives such as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who spoke on the radio not long ago about how suburbanites shouldn't drive past blighted neighborhoods and say, "I'm paying my taxes, government's going to fix that." Instead, he advised, "You need to get involved yourself, whether it's through a mentor program or some religious charity … to make a difference."'

"It's a common theme. Compared with government relief, private charity is supposed to be more responsive to individual need and less bureaucratic; more of a helping hand and less of an initiative-suppressing "hammock," the term Ryan uses to deride the effects of government programs."

"It's supposed to be more humane, too. Listen to California's own Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) telling his colleagues on the House Agriculture Committee that it's far better to help poor people "through the church ... because it comes from the heart, not from a badge or a mandate."'

"The truth is that private, communal and religious giving simply can't meet the needs that government programs handle. Let's examine why."

"To begin with, charitable organizations typically fall prey to the same economic pressures as the rest of society. "Giving falls when it's needed the most," observes Christopher Wimer, an expert on poverty and the social safety net at Columbia University."

"In economic terminology, charitable giving is pro-cyclical, not counter-cyclical, unlike programs such as unemployment insurance and food stamps, which expand to meet rising needs."

"The trend from the Great Recession is evident in data from Giving USA, a clearinghouse for information on philanthropy. U.S. philanthropic giving fell from $344.5 billion in 2007 to $293.7 billion in 2009; then rose back to $316.2 billion in 2012 (the figures are adjusted for inflation)."

"But the total still hasn't returned to inflation-adjusted levels seen in 2004. Reductions were seen in all categories of donors — corporations, foundations, bequests and individuals — and also fell as percentages of personal income and gross domestic product."

"Another issue is that philanthropic giving is not synonymous — at all — with helping the needy. Quite the contrary."

"As charitable giving is structured in the United States today, it too often plays out not as the rich helping out the poor, but as the rich increasing the gap between themselves and the poor."

"The smallest allocation of philanthropic giving to basic needs of the poor was made by the wealthiest donors, those with income of $1 million of more, who directed 3.8% of their giving directly to the poor. For the $100,000-$200,000 income group, that allocation was 12.4%."

"The largest single recipient of philanthropy is religion — 32% of the total, according to Giving USA. But only a small portion of that goes to outreach to the needy; more than three-quarters of donations to religious organizations is spent on "congregational operations," including facilities upkeep, the Indiana University study found."

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Ralph Nader - What a Destructive Wall Street Owes Young Americans

Ralph Nader - Consumer advocate, lawyer and author

Excerpts from - What a Destructive Wall Street Owes Young Americans


“Wall Street's big banks and their financial networks that collapsed the U.S. economy in 2008-2009 were saved with huge bailouts by the taxpayers, but these Wall Street gamblers are still paid huge money, and are again creeping toward reckless misbehavior. Their corporate crime wave strip-mined the economy for young workers, threw them on the unemployment rolls and helped make possible a low-wage economy that is draining away their ability to afford basic housing, goods and services. Meanwhile, Wall Street is declaring huge bonuses for their executive plutocrats, none of whom have been prosecuted and sent to jail for these systemic devastations of other peoples' money, the looting of pensions and destruction of jobs.”

“Just what did they do? Peter Eavis of the New York Times provided a partial summary:

“Money laundering, market rigging, tax dodging, selling faulty financial products, trampling homeowner rights and rampant risk-taking -- these are some of the sins that big banks have committed in recent years.”’

“Mr. Eavis then reported that "regulators are starting to ask: Is there something rotten in bank culture?"

“The "rot" had extended long ago to the regulators whose weak laws were worsened by weak enforcement. Veteran observer of corporate criminality, former Texas Secretary of Agriculture and editor of the Hightower Lowdown newsletter, Jim Hightower writes:

Assume that you ran a business that was found guilty of bribery, forgery, perjury, defrauding homeowners, fleecing investors, swindling consumers, cheating credit card holders, violating U.S. trade laws, and bilking American soldiers. Can you even imagine the punishment you'd get? How about zero? Nada. Nothing. Zilch. No jail time. Not even a fine. Plus, you get to stay on as boss, you get to keep all the loot you gained from the crime spree, and you even get an $8.5 million pay raise!”’

“Young America, you have nothing to lose but your incessant text messages that go nowhere.”

“Start empowering yourselves, one by one, and then connect by visiting Robin Hood Tax.”

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Bill Gates: Edward Snowden Is No Hero

Excerpts from:

Bill Gates: Edward Snowden Is No Hero

 | by  Drew Guarini


“Among computer types, you'll find many admirers of National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. But Bill Gates is not one of them.”

In an interview with Rolling Stone's Jeff Goodell, the Microsoft co-founder and richest man in the world did not mince words when asked if he considered whether Snowden is a hero or a traitor.”

"I think he broke the law, so I certainly wouldn't characterize him as a hero," Gates said. "If he wanted to raise the issues and stay in the country and engage in civil disobedience or something of that kind, or if he had been careful in terms of what he had released, then it would fit more of the model of 'OK, I'm really trying to improve things.' You won't find much admiration from me."

“Gates said that there "has to be a debate" about government snooping, but indicated that some aspects of government surveillance are best left a secret.”.

“Microsoft has perhaps received more flak than other tech companies for cooperating with the NSA, forcing the company has pushed back hard in public.”

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Ralph Nader - Boehner Unmasked: Profits Over People

Excerpts from: Boehner Unmasked: Profits Over People

Boehner Unmasked: Profits Over People

Ralph Nader

Posted: 03/11/2014

‘"Nobody working full time should have to live in poverty." This firm statement of equality comes -- surprisingly -- from a July 2006 letter from 26 House Republicans to then Majority Leader John Boehner. The letter goes on to say: "We believe it is time for Congress to take responsible action to raise the minimum wage and ensure our hard working constituents can provide for their families."’

“This sentiment doesn't sound much like the 2014 rhetoric of the craven, corporatist Republican Party, yet six of those original signers are still in Congress today. “

“Boehner himself has repeatedly called raising the minimum wage "bad policy" and "a job killer." This is in direct conflict with the opinions of numerous economists who argue that a higher minimum wage would have little negative effect on employers. According to a report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), two-thirds of low-wage workers are employed by large, highly profitable multinational corporations. Low wages at these profit-rich giants such as Walmart and McDonalds result in the government paying billions of dollars in government assistance for their struggling employees. This cost is ultimately transferred to taxpayers -- an issue that many fiscally-minded conservatives are starting to recognize. After all, why should taxpayers shell out $1.2 billion a year to help McDonald's pay its workers while the fast-food giant rakes in $5.5 billion in profit?”’

“So where is the leadership of John Boehner? What will it take for Speaker Boehner to schedule a vote in the House of Representatives on raising the minimum wage?”

“Consider that Boehner told The Weekly Standard back in 1996 that he'd "commit suicide" before voting on "a clean minimum wage bill." Perhaps it should come as no surprise -- after all, Boehner is so firmly on the side of corporate profits over the interest of the people that I have suggested in the past that he wear a suit comprised of the logos of his many corporate sponsors, much like a NASCAR driver.”

“Public opinion is clearly not on Mr. Boehner's side. A recent poll shows that 80 percent of Americans, including 62 percent of Republicans, support raising the minimum wage. “

“Simply put, John Boehner is actively working against the interests of his own constituency. He is firmly and unabashedly in the pockets of big money interests and has turned his back on the needs of the American people and their children.”

“Is it the job of members of Congress to serve the interests of their corporate pay masters or to support the working class of 30 million Americans whose wages have failed to keep up with inflation as corporate profits and bosses pay have soared?”

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Charles Blow - The Self(ie) Generation

Excerpts from: The Self(ie) Generation by Charles M. Blow - New York Times

MARCH 7, 2014

Charles M. Blow

A fascinating new survey by the Pew Research Center finds that millennials (defined by Pew as Americans ages 18 to 33) are drifting away from traditional institutions — political, religious and cultural.

According to the survey and to Pew’s analysis of it:

■ “Half of millennials now describe themselves as political independents and 29 percent are not affiliated with any religion — numbers that are at or near the highest levels of political and religious disaffiliation recorded for any generation in the last quarter-century.”

■ “Millennials are the first in the modern era to have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than their two immediate predecessor generations had at the same age.”

■ “Just 26 percent of millennials are married. When they were the age that millennials are now, 36 percent of Gen Xers, 48 percent of baby boomers and 65 percent of the members of the silent generation were married.”

■ “Asked a longstanding social science survey question, ‘Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you can’t be too careful in dealing with people,’ just 19 percent of millennials say most people can be trusted, compared with 31 percent of Gen Xers, 37 percent of silents and 40 percent of boomers.”

■ Millennials “are ‘digital natives’ — the only generation for which” the Internet, mobile technology and social media “are not something they’ve had to adapt to.”

Younger people in general are less likely to say that they are patriotic or religious, but the gap between millennials and Generation Xers is greater than the gap between most other generations.

Millennials also are far more likely than other generations to say they are supporters of gay rights.

Ten years ago, 24 percent of millennials identified as Republicans, but that number has steadily dropped and now stands at a paltry 17 percent. By contrast, the percent identifying as Democrats over the period fell only from 30 percent to 27 percent.

Furthermore, millennials were the sole generation in which a majority supported bigger government with more services as opposed to smaller government with fewer services. And although most millennials, like most people in older generations, disapproved of the new health care law, millennials were the only generation in which a majority said it was the government’s responsibility to ensure universal health care coverage.

All in all, we seem to be experiencing a wave of liberal-minded detach-ees, a generation in which institutions are subordinate to the individual and social networks are digitally generated rather than interpersonally accrued.

This is not only the generation of the self; it’s the generation of the selfie.

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"I write in order to attain that feeling of tension relieved and function achieved which a cow enjoys on giving milk." H.L. Mencken



April 2014
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