Bank of America (B of A) is the first corporation to be targeted by US Uncut, the transatlantic offspring of the United Kingdom-based anti-austerity group UK Uncut, which held its first demonstration to protest corporate tax evasion in late 2010.
As a voice at the megaphone of the Portland protest said, “The United States does not have a deficit problem. The United States has a revenue problem.” According to a 2008 report by the Government Accountability Office, 25 percent of the biggest corporations pay no federal income tax. B of A, the recipient of $45 billion in bailout funds, shuttles its would-be tax dollars into 115 offshore tax havens. Meanwhile, budget deficits are cited as justification for pay freezes for public workers and cuts to heating assistance programs, Social Security, and other social safety nets.
“The $3 in my wallet is more than ExxonMobil, GE and Bank of America paid in taxes last year, combined,” said Carl Gibson, founder of the first American Uncut group, US Uncut Mississippi, in a release prior to the February 26 protests.
“There’s a direct connection between corporate tax dodging and what’s happening to real people’s lives,” said Gibson. “Because of overseas tax havens and other tax loopholes, US corporations are making profits in America but barely paying taxes here. If we close those loopholes, we wouldn’t have to be cutting back on firefighters, library hours and student loans.”
The events that have been unfolding in Wisconsin, culminating in this past weekend’s national displays of support and capitol showdown, stand tall among the most remarkable popular uprisings in modern American history. Millions around the country have been energized, especially in states where similar anti-union legislation is pending. In Wisconsin, the people continue to peacefully own the streets, and without a quorum in the senate, Walker can only bluster and bluff.
Big story, right? Huge, in fact. No comparable event has taken place in America for decades, and the outcome of this showdown is likely to determine the fate of worker’s rights all across the country. Unions are working hand in hand with public employees, liberals, progressives and regular folks to fight an egregious wrong, and thanks to social media, bloggers, citizen journalists and organizations like Truthout, the movement is catching fire from sea to shining sea.
So, of course, the so-called liberal “news” media has taken a complete pass on covering these events. The sun came up on Monday morning to find every TV “news” network, as well as every newspaper outside of Madison, covering the Oscars wall to wall with nary a mention of the political action taking place in Wisconsin. The Russian media is covering the story with more alacrity than their American counterparts. Were it not for the alternative/online news media, the protests in Wisconsin would be taking place in a virtual information blackout.
The Dish is moving! In April, we’ll be joining The Daily Beast.
New York Times opinion columnist Frank Rich is leaving the newspaper after 31 years to join New York Magazine.
Rich will join New York as an essayist beginning in June, where he will write monthly on politics and culture and serve as an editor-at-large. Rich will edit a monthly section anchored by his essay as well as deliver weekly commentary on NYMag.com, according to an announcement. His final Times column will run on March 13.
Having gone from despondency in 2008 to euphoria last November, a more sober GOP is wincing in the light of day as they consider just how difficult unseating an incumbent president with a massive warchest is going to be, even with a still-dismal economy.
But aside from the traditional advantages of incumbency, Republicans are also fretting about the strength of Obama’s campaign infrastructure, the potential limitations of their own field and, particularly, the same demographic weaknesses that haunted them in 2008.
“The people that are sitting around saying, ‘He’s definitely going to be a one-term president. It’s going to be easy to take him out,’ they’re obviously political illiterates – political idiots, let me be blunt,” said former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in an interview.
“The electorate will look much different in 2012 than it did in 2010,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who was a political operative for decades before coming to Congress. “It’s going to be younger, browner, and more to the left.”
The problem for Republicans is most acute among Hispanics, a pivotal bloc of the electorate in must-have Florida and the West.
But Ayres and other Republicans pointed out that there were also some numbers on their side – namely sustained joblessness and the sense among voters that the country is on the wrong track.
“He’s going to have to win re-election with historically high unemployment,” said Cole.
Just once since 1896, he noted, has a sitting president lost his re-election after taking over from the opposite party four years earlier: Carter in 1980.
Obama would be foolish to take anything for granted. Circumstances may change; a formidable opponent may emerge. But at this point, one imagines the president is not exactly quaking in his boots.
Leonard, who directs The Story of Stuff Project, was inspired to make the film by the disastrous 2010 US Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC that permitted corporations to spend freely to influence American elections. The eight-minute film, available March 1 at www.storyofcitizensunited.org, places corporate influence – not bad politicians – at the heart of Americans’ low confidence in the political process.
Watch the video HERE .
The nexus of service and advocacy is a powerful place to stand: simultaneously addressing direct needs and advocating for systemic redress of those needs is a winning equation for progressive power. Yet, we have precious few progressive organizations left in that spot at the national level, and the ones we have are under attack precisely because our opposition understands their power.
This elite sentiment goes to the heart of the tremendous opportunities we have lost in the last two years. With ACORN out of the picture, Planned Parenthood on defense and unions fighting for their lives, the decreasing ability of national progressive institutions to help meet people’s real needs in the economic crisis has hurt us badly. Policy prescriptions don’t feed the family dinner tonight, and detailed explanations of who is to blame for the crash don’t put a roof over people’s heads tomorrow—no matter how correct the analysis. Of course, exceptions exist–Van Jones’ Green for All is one attempt to bridge the gap–but these innovations are few and often given short shrift by entrenched interests at the national table.
The progressive vision of a government of, for and by the people is as relevant as ever, but in light of the last few years, we need to re-examine how we get there. Powerful political movements reach deep into culture and society. They compel people to join for work, for play and for mutual aid. Emotional bonds sustain them in times of struggle, and a common vision leads to strategic engagement with the forces shaping their world. Too many progressive elites ask themselves why regular folks don’t support their political fights in Washington (take Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas?).
The last election was supposedly about JOBS. After winning the elections….
John Boehner: “If some of those jobs are lost in this, SO BE IT.”
The Economic Policy Institute said the Republican cuts of this magnitude would likely result in job losses of just over 800,000 jobs.
But a new and prominent assemblage of retailers, clothing manufacturers, environmental groups and academics plans to change that.
Calling itself the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the group intends to announce Tuesday that it is developing a comprehensive database of the environmental impact of every manufacturer, component and process in apparel production, with the aim of using that information to eventually give every garment a sustainability score.
Later, the coalition hopes to produce a label that would share some version of that score with shoppers, giving them a much more detailed view into the supply of fabrics, zippers, dyes, threads, buttons and grommets that come together to form the clothing they buy, as well as what impact the creation of that clothing has on both people and the planet.
Americans spent roughly $340 billion on clothing and shoes last year, which is about 25 percent of the global market, and virtually all of it — 99 percent for footwear and 98 percent for clothes — came from somewhere else, according to the American Apparel and Footwear Association. And the various pieces and parts of any single garment — a jacket, say, or pair of pants — often come from such a diverse multinational chain of fabric mills, dye operations and assembly plants that quantifying the environmental impact of a single item is nearly impossible.
Initially, the coalition wants to help individual companies clean up their supply chains.
The obscure nature of the global supply chain for apparel has long been a concern to many environmental groups, including Greenpeace, which reported on the Xintang textile mills in December. While individual manufacturers and smaller segments of the apparel industry have begun trying to quantify their effects, a robust study of the entire life cycle of the apparel and footwear industries is only now getting under way.
Today was the first day of the (second) annual Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy (ARPA-E) Innovation Summit. And, spending a day with the 1000+ attendees provides reasons for feeling optimism.
ARPA-E has programs underway to greatly improve building energy efficiency (such as targeting a halving of air conditioning power demands through developing new technologies), to develop cost-effective grid electricity storage, etc …
From Scientific American:
How many wars, deaths, recessions and environmental disasters will it take before Americans, and their Congress, finally make a decisive move to reduce the country’s dependence on oil? We are in a decade-long war in Iraq because of oil. We are still reeling from the worst recession in 80 years because of oil. Last summer the worst environmental disaster of our time took place in the Gulf of Mexico because of oil. Now, after two and a half years of trying to dig out of the recession, oil price hikes threaten to knock us right back down into that hole. And I haven’t even mentioned the air pollution and climate change caused by burning oil.
Crude oil prices have jumped to roughly $100 a barrel because of serious political uprisings in northern Africa and the Middle East
To be clear, the goal is to break U.S. addiction to oil, not just foreign oil. Oil prices are global, and as Woolsey points out, the U.S. has no domestic leverage. Greatly increasing our own offshore oil drilling could lower imports a little, but it won’t lower world prices; it is too easy for OPEC to manipulate production to offset the effects of any new U.S. supply.
The payoff of significantly reducing oil consumption would reach far beyond the economy and the environment, by the way. A study by Boyden Gray and Andrew Varcoe noted that oil companies are permitted under a waiver of the Clean Air Act to include known carcinogens such as benzene, toluene and xylene in gasoline, which raise octane (power output). The study showed that the added cost to healthcare and shortened lives in the U.S. comes to more than $100 billion a year.
The U.S. can take a number of steps to reduce oil consumption and to create liquid fuels that can substitute for oil.
Crude oil tax.
End oil subsidies.
Raise fuel efficiency requirements.
Encourage new hybrid vehicles.
Require gasoline vehicles to be “flexible fuel.”
Switch fleet vehicles to natural gas.
Fund more research.
American men and women die in Middle Eastern oil wars. American families lose their homes and lose their jobs due to oil recessions. Americans of all ages and incomes lose their health because of oil additives. American coastlines are ruined by oil spills. The level of human, economic and environmental harm inflicted by our oil dependence is absurd. Our unwillingness to act is even more absurd. How many more wars, deaths, recessions and disasters will it take before we make a move?
When people talk about the risk posed to the economy by oil price spikes it’s worth keeping in mind the fact that there are really two separate threats here.
One is that expensive oil is a negative “real” shock to the American economy. Many of us use a lot of oil to go about our daily business, so expensive oil impairs that. But the other risk—larger in my view—is that higher energy prices could, by generating higher headline inflation, generate political pressure for tight monetary policy. There’s no reason that should happen. Nothing about political upheaval in Libya implies that America’s on the verge of a wage-price spiral with unemployment over 9 percent. But for months now there’s been agitation for tight money that’s seeking any kind of vaguely plausible pretext, and expensive gas might provide that pretext.
The Journal of Peace Research:
Americans are a major target of international terrorism. Yet, terrorists from some countries are much more likely to attack American citizens than terrorists from other countries. Similarly, anti-American terrorism from a specific foreign country is much more prevalent during certain periods than others. This article develops a rational theory of international terrorism, which argues that attacking foreign nationals is of strategic value to terrorists even if they ultimately aim at gaining political influence in their home country. Attacking foreigners is the more attractive to domestic terrorists the more the terrorists’ home government depends on military support from the foreign country.
Applied to the US case, our theory predicts that more anti-American terrorism emanates from countries that receive more US military aid and arms transfers and in which more American military personnel are stationed, all relative to the country’s own military capacity. Estimations from a directed country dyad sample over the period 1978 to 2005 support the predictions of our theory for both terrorist incidents involving Americans and terrorist killings of Americans as dependent variables. These results are robust to a wide range of changes to the empirical research design.
The Ohio Senate is expected on Thursday to consider a revised version of a bill to end collective bargaining for public-sector workers, and union members gathering outside the Statehouse here Tuesday morning said they were bracing for the worst.
“This is going to get passed and people will sit back and say, ‘What happened?’ ” said Mark Horton, a retired firefighter who is treasurer of the Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters. “Once it’s done, there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle.”
The decline in union density has been a bigger deal for wage inequality than most economists realize, largely because there’s been significant action through the channel of norms. The authors claim the effect can be empirically estimated:
From 1973 to 2007, private sector union membership in the United States declined from 34 to less than 10 percent for men and from 16 to 6 percent among women. Inequality in hourly wages increased by over 40 percent in this same period. We study the effect of deunionization on rising inequality with a variance decomposition that assesses the contribution of the shrinking weight of the union wage distribution to overall wage inequality. We also argue that unions helped institutionalize norms of equity reducing the dispersion of nonunion wages in highly unionized regions and industries. Accounting for the effect of unions on union and nonunion wages suggests that the decline of organized labor explains a fifth to a third of the growth in inequality—an effect comparable to the growing stratification of wages by education.
“I don’t think it does anybody any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified or their rights are infringed upon,” Obama said in televised remarks. “We need to attract the best and brightest to public service. These times demand it.”
Paul Krugman and Kevin Drum write up a new Dean Baker paper (PDF) arguing that state pension shortfalls are actually pretty small, and mostly driven by the recent stock market crash.
But that doesn’t mean that all’s well when it comes to public employee retirement. Instead as Ryan McNeely argues, we’ve basically got a version of the Social Security / Medicare thing. The arm of federal retirement security programs dedicated to giving people money has a modest, manageable problem. The arm of state worker retirement programs dedicated to giving people money has a modest, manageable problem. But commitments to cover people’s health care costs are a huge problem in a world where health care costs are growing as a share of GDP.
As the standoff in Wisconsin continues to escalate, a New York Times/CBS poll has found a majority of Americans oppose efforts to weaken public employee unions’ collective bargaining rights by a margin of 60 to 33 percent. Those surveyed also said they oppose (56 to 37 percent) cutting the pay or benefits of public employees to reduce deficits.
Republicans’ efforts to cut billions of dollars from the federal budget between now and October could cost the country as many as 700,000 jobs by the end of next year, a nonpartisan economic analysis released Monday found.
Moody’s chief economist, Mark Zandi, projected that the House proposal would cut real GDP growth by 0.5 percent in 2011 and 0.2 percent in 2012. That, in turn, would lead to 400,000 fewer jobs being created than expected by the end of this year and a total of 700,000 fewer jobs by the end of 2012.
“While long-term government spending restraint is vital, and laying out a credible path toward that restraint very desirable, too much cutting too soon would be counterproductive,” Zandi wrote. The economy is adding from 100,000 to 150,000 jobs each month, he said, but until that number reaches about 200,000 on a monthly basis, “[i]mposing additional government spending cuts before this has happened, as House Republicans want, would be taking an unnecessary chance with the recovery.”
A Goldman Sachs analysis released last Wednesday also concluded that Republicans’ 2011 cuts would be detrimental to the economic recovery. The House GOP’s plan, the analysis found, could cut the nation’s economic growth by 1.5 percent to 2 percent during the second and third quarters of this year. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called that report proof that the House GOP’s budget plan was “a recipe for a double-dip recession” and said it plunged “a dagger through the heart of their ‘cut-and-grow’ fantasy.”
According to a new poll, “Americans are divided over who would be to blame for a potential government shutdown.” While 46 percent said they’d blame congressional Republicans before the impending shutdown in 1995, today 36 percent say Republicans would be at fault and 35 percent would blame the Obama administration.
If there is a government shutdown, the decisive group to watch would be independent voters, who form the bulk of those who said they had not decided who would be to blame. On the question of blame, conducted jointly by The Post and the Pew Research Center, about three-quarters of conservative Republicans fault Obama; a similar proportion of liberal Democrats blame the GOP. Independents tilt marginally toward blaming Obama, 37 to 32 percent.
America’s big international banks may have to restructure and downsize their operations now, unless they can prove they will be easy to dismantle in another financial crisis, said U.S. regulator Sheila Bair.
Bair, the chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, said she wants to spend the rest of her four months on the job getting rid of the notion that some firms are “too big to fail.”
If that means that firms are forced to divest businesses, so be it.
“If they can’t show they can be resolved in a bankruptcy-like process… then they should be downsized now,” said Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
“There is no reason in the world why they should get some special treatment backstop that other businesses in this country don’t have,” Bair said.
She also said investors need to accept that they will get lower returns from banks that hold higher capital and run safer operations.
Bair’s words are a warning shot for the biggest U.S. banks, including Citigroup, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, which are expected to submit their so-called “living wills” to regulators by the end of the year.
MasterCard Inc is putting off implementation of part of the U.S. Dodd-Frank financial reform law in hopes that Washington will delay or repeal the law, a top MasterCard executive said on Tuesday.
In Lewis Powell’s now-famous memo to America’s business community, which felt beleaguered in the political environment of 1971, the future Supreme Court justice stressed the importance of organizing.
“Strength lies in organization,” he wrote, “in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.”
Powell’s memo points to the reason why there is such an effort now not just to extract concessions from public employee unions to help balance state budgets, but to actually crush those unions, to deprive them once and for all of the crucial and fundamental right to bargain collectively.
One of the saddest things I’ve read in The New York Times recently was a comment by Richard Freeman, a Harvard economist, who said that he views the current hostility toward unions by members of the general public as a sign of the erosion of the aspirational nature that has for so long characterized Americans. “It shows a hopelessness,” he said. “It used to be, ‘You have something I don’t have; I’ll go to my employer to get it, too. Now I don’t see any chance of getting it. I don’t want to be the lowest one on the totem pole, so I don’t want you to have it either.’ ”
Lewis Powell’s advice to the corporate community in 1971 is — though he certainly never intended it to be — the best advice I can think of for workers today who are fighting to hold off the tide of lower living standards. It is not a struggle that can possibly be won alone.
Do you treat yourself as well as you treat your friends and family?
That simple question is the basis for a burgeoning new area of psychological research called self-compassion — how kindly people view themselves. People who find it easy to be supportive and understanding to others, it turns out, often score surprisingly low on self-compassion tests, berating themselves for perceived failures like being overweight or not exercising.
The research suggests that giving ourselves a break and accepting our imperfections may be the first step toward better health. People who score high on tests of self-compassion have less depression and anxiety, and tend to be happier and more optimistic. Preliminary data suggest that self-compassion can even influence how much we eat and may help some people lose weight.
If this all sounds a bit too warm and fuzzy, like the Al Franken character Stuart Smalley (“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me”), there is science to back it up. A 2007 study by researchers at Wake Forest University suggested that even a minor self-compassion intervention could influence eating habits.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
What might happen if Americans understood Revolutionary War history? Maybe it would be considerably harder for the Tea Party to convince voters that their anxieties about a President elected with 53% of the popular vote by an electorate that enjoys universal adult suffrage are “just the same” as the concerns of colonists who decried taxation without representation under the rule of an absolute monarch. No sustained engagement with The Federalist Papers could allow the narrow, simplistic assertions about the intent of the founding fathers so often present in Tea Party rhetoric. The Tea Party’s ability to deploy the symbols and language of patriotism requires broad and deep ignorance of American history. The American public is woefully unprepared to fact check their bold assertions that they are the keepers of the authentic national legacy. I do not mean to suggest that Revolutionary War history or The Federalist Papers reveal that America’s founders were actually progressive liberals, likely to have subscribed to The Nation. Rather, American history teaches us that the founders were complex, that the founding was contested, and that any attempt to reduce American history to sound-bite ideology is woefully inadequate. If we shared a deeper and more accurate understanding of our history we would not all be liberals, but perhaps we would be more careful.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
~~Henry David Thoreau
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