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The Road to Jobs and Economic Growth

2:03 pm in Uncategorized by Lee Saunders

Road

Road

One of the great lies of our time is that raising taxes on the wealthy hurts job creation and undermines economic growth. There is absolutely no evidence anywhere in the world that this claim is true. In fact, all the evidence points to the exact opposite being true: When the wealthy are taxed fairly, jobs are created and economic growth is encouraged. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, for example, when the economy boomed and the middle-class expanded, the top bracket for high-income earners was 90 percent. Today, the top bracket is at 35 percent, but the top 1 percent are paying an effective tax rate of less than 30 percent.

In 1993, when President Clinton proposed raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, he was roundly criticized by the corporate-controlled politicians on Capitol Hill and the Wall Street barons who always oppose higher taxes on the rich. They claimed the economy would suffer and jobs would be lost. Yet, when President Clinton won that tax increase, just the opposite happened. The nay-sayers were wrong. Job creation skyrocketed and we ushered in nearly a decade of strong economic growth.

A dozen years ago, however, that growth came to a halt with Pres. George W. Bush’s program of tax cuts for the rich and the deregulation of Wall Street. Instead, we were left with the lowest job creation of any Presidency in modern times. There is a reason for this result: When the wealthy get massive tax cuts, they don’t spend the money. Neither do corporations. In fact, corporations are now sitting on more than $1 trillion in cash.

On the other hand, when working families get a tax break, they spend it – creating more demand for products and giving corporations an incentive to produce more and hire more people. That is why President Obama makes such a strong case for keeping taxes low on the working middle class while allowing the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy to expire. Yet the same, age-old arguments are made by the wealthy to keep their taxes low.

They’ve even got a corporate CEO-funded front group, called Fix the Debt, arguing that we need to cut programs that help the poor, seniors and the sick in order to finance more tax cuts for the richest people in the country. That kind of thinking won’t put America back to work. And it won’t finance the important investments in infrastructure and education that we need to remain competitive in the future. All it will do is give the rich a tax break that they don’t need.

That is one reason why the 2012 election was the most important one of our lifetime. Big issues were debated, including whether we would return to Bush-era policies or enact the kind of Clinton-era tax policies supported by President Obama. The voters sent a clear signal that they supported President Obama’s plan to move the country forward by raising taxes on the wealthy and protecting vitally important programs that the poor and middle-class rely upon, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Some on Capitol Hill – such as Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina – say they will only accept a revenue increase if the President will agree to major cuts in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. But Congress and President Obama have already cut more than $1.5 trillion in government spending. Now, the focus must be on revenue.

More than 40 members of the House have indicated their opposition to any cuts in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Tom Harkin underscored the opposition to unnecessary cuts in a letter they circulated earlier this week. They urged President Obama to “reject changes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that would cut benefits, shift costs to states, alter the structure of these critical programs, or force vulnerable populations to bear the burden of deficit reduction.”

The taxes on the richest people in America have been too low for too long. Our economic recovery is being damaged by this fundamentally flawed policy. Just this week, billionaire Warren Buffet made this clear in an op-ed published in The New York Times. In his column, Buffet called on Congress to immediately “enact a minimum tax on high incomes.”

Buffet also suggests a 30 percent rate for income between $1 million and $10 million, and a 35 percent on amounts above that. “A plain and simple rule like that will block the efforts of lobbyists, lawyers and contribution-hungry legislators to keep the ultra-rich paying rates well below those incurred by people with income just a tiny fraction of ours,” Buffet wrote.

We need to mobilize and demand that the Congress raise taxes on the wealthy and protect vital programs. It is the only way to avoid a fiscal disaster while encouraging job creation and greater economic growth.
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Mitt Romney’s Say Anything Strategy

5:17 pm in Uncategorized by Lee Saunders

As we enter the final days of the 2012 presidential campaign, let’s take a moment to consider a quality that Americans have valued in our leaders since the birth of our great nation: Integrity.

President George Washington summed up the importance of integrity when he wrote that “the character of an honest man” is “the most enviable of all titles.”

Our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, likewise drew strength from his honest character. “I have never tried to conceal my opinions, nor tried to deceive anyone in reference to them,” the Great Emancipator wrote. “I am glad of all the support I can get anywhere, if I can get it without practicing any deception to obtain it.”

Sadly, we have come a long way from the high standards of Washington and Lincoln.

In Mitt Romney, Americans have a candidate who refuses to tell the truth because it might get in the way of his ambition. Many politicians modify their views in the course of their careers. But what Mitt Romney does is far different.

In the course of the last month, for example, he changed his public stance on so many issues that attentive voters are right to question whether he is motivated by anything other than his relentless desire to sit in the Oval Office:

  • He once opposed “moving heaven and earth” to find Osama bin Laden. Now, he claims he always backed that goal.
  • He ran for the GOP nomination calling for tax cuts, even for the top 1 percent. Now, he says the rich won’t see a tax cut.
  • He claimed to support the Blount Amendment which eased women’s access to contraception. Now he says he opposes the whole idea.

Romney says he worked in a bipartisan way when he was governor of Massachusetts, but fails to mention that he vetoed more than 800 bills. He says he loves teachers, but just a month ago claimed that hiring more teachers was a mistake. He also claims he turned around the Salt Lake Olympics, but never mentions the $2.7 billion taxpayers paid to cover the deficit he left behind. He said he supported government help for the automobile industry while they went through the bankruptcy process, but at the time of the rescue, he said if President Obama’s plan went through “you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.”

And then there is the now-infamous tape in which, behind closed doors, he disparages 47 percent of the country, including senior citizens, veterans and college students. Onstage now, in front of the network cameras, he says he is deeply concerned about all Americans.

Here’s the logical conclusion one draws from watching Mitt Romney run for President: He changes positions repeatedly and without shame. When confronted with past positions, he simply denies them. He seems constitutionally incapable of being honest about himself, his record and the proposals he supports.

That’s why voters should not be asked to take it on faith that he hasn’t cheated on his taxes or that he’s come up with a way to pay for his budget plan without slashing indispensable programs such as Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. For Romney, this is the Big Con.

By contrast, America now has a President who believes we need to pull together to find real solutions for the challenges we face. President Obama took bold action to keep America from descending into a second Great Depression. He saved millions of jobs, enacted historic health care reform to protect America’s families from predatory insurance companies and won approval for the toughest Wall Street regulation since the 1930s. He ended the Iraq War and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Even now, he is working to end our involvement in Afghanistan and use the savings to cut the deficit and create new jobs. He strongly supports rebuilding our infrastructure, investing in education and training, and protecting the middle class. He believes in America and trusts our people.

When asked earlier this year if he thought Romney was a liar, Newt Gingrich replied point blank: “Yes.” Gingrich said Romney was running for office as “a poll-driven, consultant-guided” candidate. Gingrich joins a long line of Republicans – from John McCain and Rudolph Giuliani, to Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee – who have gone on record questioning Romney’s character.

At this stage of the campaign, with mere days before Election Day, it no longer even makes sense to try judging Romney’s candidacy by his views. He has too many irreconcilable differences with the truth for that – and it’s those differences that disqualify him from holding the highest elected office in the land.

“It Takes a Lot of Brass: Romney and America’s Veterans”

2:47 pm in Uncategorized by Lee Saunders

Veterans Day 2010

(Photo: xalamay/flickr)

It takes a lot of brass, to paraphrase Pres. Bill Clinton, to tell a room full of fat cats paying $50,000 for a meal, that nearly half of the American people are freeloaders sponging off the government. Yet, as everyone now knows, that’s exactly what Mitt Romney did. He told his wealthy backers that 47 percent of the electorate – who he falsely claimed pay no income taxes - will support President Obama “no matter what.”

Romney ignores the fact that just about every working American pays taxes of one kind or another, including payroll taxes that finance Social Security and Medicare, for example. It is seniors, the disabled and the poor who make up the majority of citizens who don’t pay income taxes. Romney said these people see themselves as “victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them.” His job, he continued, “is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” It’s not everyday that voters can see a candidate express such unbridled contempt.

There is another group of Americans who don’t pay federal taxes, a group that Romney has insulted before: the 80,000 young men and women fighting for our nation on the frontlines in Afghanistan. Romney thinks so little of the contribution these brave Americans make that he gave his acceptance speech in Tampa without even once mentioning them. He never even uttered the name of the country in which they were deployed and where more than 1,200 American lives have been lost during the past decade of war.

Romney later told Fox News that he didn’t mention Afghanistan and our troops because they were not important. Then he laughed about it. Hard to believe. Yet, when Fox News personality Brent Baier asked him if he regretted leaving the war and our troops out of his remarks, here’s how Romney replied: “When you – when you give a speech, you don’t go through a laundry list. You talk about the things you think are important.” Romney said his support for a strong military budget should be interpreted as support for our troops, as though a budget is the same as the men and women in uniform. Well, that’s the kind of nonsense you get from a candidate who thinks corporations are people.

This omission wasn’t the mistake of a Romney speechwriter. As the Washington, DC, newspaper Politico noted earlier this week, the campaign brought in veteran speechwriter Peter Wehner to craft Romney’s address. His speech included remarks on Afghanistan, but the campaign rejected his work. Romney and his campaign manager crafted the speech as given, and scrapped the references to our men and women in the military.

The reaction to this insult was immediate. Bill Kristol, the neo-conservative editor of The Weekly Standard, blasted Romney’s failure to say even “a word about the war in Afghanistan. Nor did he utter a word of appreciation to the troops fighting there, or to those who have fought there. Nor for that matter were there thanks for those who fought in Iraq, another conflict that went unmentioned.” Kristol expressed real shock at “the civic propriety of a presidential nominee failing even to mention, in his acceptance speech, a war we’re fighting and our young men and women who are fighting it.”

Romney, who avoided the Vietnam draft while living in Paris, France, has a history of ignoring our troops and veterans. According to the American Presidency Project, which keeps transcripts of campaign speeches, Romney has mentioned Afghanistan only 10 times during the two-year course of his current race for the presidency. When he travelled overseas this summer, he found no time to visit a military base. Unlike candidate Obama in 2008, who visited troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Mitt Romney made no time to see any active duty personnel or visit wounded warriors in a hospital. That shows you where his priorities are.

His record in Massachusetts was just as disgraceful. He sought to cut state hiring preferences for veterans and tried to cut funding for veterans outreach programs. He tried to increase user fees for long-term care for veterans and even sought to cut funding for the care of veterans’ graves. And he tried to combine veterans’ services with the state’s Office of Elder Affairs. The move was “incomprehensible,” said Walt Sanders, president of the Massachusetts AARP. “Not all veterans are elders and not all elders are veterans,” he noted.

With his eye on the bottom line, Romney ignored the real hardships faced by many of his state’s neediest veterans. While wasting tens of thousands of dollars for new television sets for his staff, Romney forced blind citizens – including many veterans – to pay a tax. Under Romney, Massachusetts began a policy of requiring the blind to carry “a certificate of blindness.” The blind were required to pay $10 annually for the certificate and $15 every four years for a blind identification card. “It’s just another form of taxation,” said Stephen Matthews of the Blinded Veterans Association. John Ray, an 85-year-old blind veteran of three wars called the Romney blindness fees “an amateurish act” to bleed residents. “I just don’t understand this foolishness,” he told the Boston Herald.

We can expect the same kind of “foolishness” to spread across the nation if Romney and his allies have their way. He has endorsed a budget that would force Draconian cuts in veterans’ programs, turn Medicare into a voucher program and eliminate hundreds of millions of funding from long-term care for seniors. Romney has made no secret of his contempt for the men and women who sacrifice for all Americans. It is the same contempt he feels for every American who relies on government to help when there is a need for a helping hand. With fewer than 50 days until the election, there is still time to avoid his cruel – and foolish – agenda.

Labor Day and the Future of America

11:41 am in Uncategorized by Lee Saunders

Labor Day '08

(Photo: aflcio/flickr)

Labor Day 2012 comes at a turning point in American history. At a time when the wealthiest have prospered beyond the wildest of dreams, the vast majority of working Americans struggle to make ends meet. Millions have seen their incomes flatten, their jobs outsourced, and their hopes for retirement security put on hold, if not quashed completely. At the same time, Wall Street and the politicians who conspire with them have worked overtime to destroy the ability of American workers to join unions and bargain collectively for better wages and benefits.

Across the country today, union members and our allies are pulling together to create a different future for our country. We are playing an active role in campaigns at every level of government that will determine whether America will continue on the perilous, amoral road of inequality or get back on track to expand the middle class and opportunity for all.

This is not a new role for the American labor movement. For more than a century, our members have stood up against tremendous odds to fight for values that all Americans cherish. We ended child labor and promoted the minimum wage. We closed sweatshops and struggled for unemployment insurance. We fought for sick leave and retirement security. We have built programs to expand the American Dream for all.

We have helped create insurance programs that benefit all Americans, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare. We have pushed legislation promoting civil and human rights at home, including the Voting Rights Act, the Fair Housing Law and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Union members have fought for education programs, from pre-school to college, because we knew that a broadly educated workforce is necessary to create a thriving middle class and a healthy democracy.

During the Republican National Convention this week, the cause of working people has been subjected to numerous attacks designed to undermine public support for unions and the role unions play in promoting an economy that works for all. On the opening night of the convention, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley accused President Obama of sacrificing American workers “to pacify the bullying union bosses he counts as political allies,” when he stood up for union members in the manufacturing sector. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie denounced teacher unions while falsely claiming that unions oppose high standards and accountability.

The New York Times reports that the GOP platform “calls for numerous steps that could significantly weaken America’s labor unions — public-sector and private-sector ones — and help speed organized labor’s overall decline.” The platform calls for a nationwide Right to Work for Less law and encourages all states to eliminate the right of public employees to engage in collective bargaining. The platform opposes the right of unions in the private sector to organize through majority sign-up, even though that has been the law of the land since the 1930s.
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Romney: “I believe in America,” but bank in Switzerland

5:45 pm in Uncategorized by Lee Saunders

“I believe in America” has become one of Mitt Romney’s favorite catch-phrases. “I believe in America,” he says in speeches, interviews and debates. In a recent four page fundraising letter, Romney writes “I don’t apologize for America because I believe in America,” and mentions at least six other times that, yes, he “believes in America.”

When I hear that Romney line I’m reminded of the opening scene in “The Godfather.” The camera is focused on the face of the undertaker Bonasera, who has come to ask Don Corleone’s help in revenging an attack upon his daughter. Bonasera begins his speech with these words: “I believe in America. America has made my fortune.”

Romney’s fortune was made buying companies, building up their debt, bankrupting them and walking away with millions of dollars in personal profit. He was a corporate raider, a Wall Street vulture. As the head of Bain Capital, he implemented the so-called “destructive power of capitalism.” In other words, he spent his career destroying companies and communities – not to mention the lives of workers – in order to make massive amounts of money for himself and his cronies.

Mike Earnest certainly knows it. He worked for Ampad, a paper company in Marion, Ind. After Romney’s firm acquired the company, Earnest was asked to build a 30 foot stage in the company’s warehouse. Days later, Romney’s colleagues from Bain came out and used the stage to announce that everyone was fired. “Mitt Romney made over a hundred million dollars by shutting down our plant, and devastated our lives,” Earnest says. “Turns out that when we built that stage, it was like building my own coffin.”

Romney fired people to build something different: a monumental personal fortune. His worth is estimated to be $250 million, and he’s created a trust fund for his five sons that is said to be worth at least $100 million. A mystery company he controls in Bermuda is among several that Romney has never fully disclosed. The company recently posted $1.9 million in earnings, although previously Romney’s campaign had said the value of the asset was less than $1,000. How many assets of less than $1,000 produce nearly $2 million in earnings? Something is very fishy. The Associated Press reports that Romney has failed to report at least 20 investment holdings on federal reports. At least seven were foreign investments. Why has Romney been hiding these holdings? What is he hiding now?

Earlier this year, Romney told an audience in Maine: “I have not saved one dollar by having an investment somewhere outside this country.” Only the release of several years of tax returns would let us know if he is telling the truth, or if, as usual, he is distorting reality.

The American people deserve to see Mitt Romney’s tax returns. Not because we’re jealous of his wealth or because we have a problem with success. No, we need to see his tax returns because he needs to be accountable and transparent. The voters have a right to know how he’s made hundreds of millions and what he has done with them. We know from the limited amount of information he released under pressure earlier this year that serious questions have been raised about Romney’s remarkable high income and his ridiculously low tax rate.

We learned that Romney had investments in off-shore tax havens like the Cayman Islands, along with a Swiss bank account. Why would a man who says he believes in America need a Swiss bank account? How many millions did he stash there before closing it down two years ago? What were the tax implications? While educators, nurses, correction officers and home care workers paid taxes on every dime they earned, was Romney hiding money in tax havens to shelter his income from taxes? These are serious questions that require honest answers. Only his tax returns can provide them.

His tax rate averaging 14 percent is lower than the rate paid by the average American, thanks to tax laws that are written to help the wealthy while socking it to the middle class. Romney doesn’t want to fix those laws, in fact he wants even more tax breaks for the wealthy, and he doesn’t mind if those tax cuts rip open a bigger deficit. All he cares about is making sure that the folks at the top of the pyramid aren’t required to pay their fair share.

And what about Romney’s IRA? Like all Americans, Romney’s contributions to his IRA were limited by law. In the 15 years he worked at Bain, he was able to contribute $2,000 a year into the IRA and up to $30,000 per year in a different kind of plan that the company may have used. How then did the value of his IRA grow to $102 million? That’s right, he has an IRA valued at $102 million. Something more than compound interest must be at work here, because it is difficult to see how the account could have grown to $1 million, yet alone $102 million. How it grew to such a size is a Romney secret. He’s not saying. I think we all deserve an answer. We need to see his tax returns.

When you open to the first page of Mario Puzo’s novel “The Godfather,” the first words you read are by the French writer Balzac: “Behind every great fortune there is a crime.” Maybe Mitt Romney really does have a reason to keep his tax returns secret. We’ll never know until we see them.

Mitt Romney’s “Fake-Facts”

11:32 am in Uncategorized by Lee Saunders

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once famously told an opponent in a debate: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” I was reminded of that last Thursday when former corporate raider Mitt Romney, who made millions out-sourcing American jobs to foreign countries, expressed his opinion on the Supreme Court’s decision upholding Obamacare. In just one paragraph of his speech, Romney made six claims that bear no relation to the real world. He created “fake-facts” about health care reform and totally distorted the law’s real impact. This is an old Karl Rove campaign tactic – make things up – on steroids. It needs to be exposed.

Mitt Romney (Photo: Austen Hufford / Flickr)

1. Romney said Obamacare “cuts Medicare, by approximately $500 billion.” This claim is meant to scare seniors, but it is simply false. PolitiFact.com has this to say about this bogus claim: “The bill doesn’t take money out of the current Medicare budget but, rather, attempts to slow the program’s future growth, curtailing just over $500 billion in anticipated spending increases over the next 10 years.” Those savings come from a variety of administrative changes and things like requiring Medicare Advantage plans to reduce their inflated costs. The law makes no cuts to guaranteed Medicare benefits. In fact, it increases Medicare benefits by improving the prescription drug benefit and by making cancer screenings and other preventive services available without a co-pay.

2. Romney said Obamacare “raises taxes on the American people by approximately $500 billion.” False. In fact, families across the nation will save money as a result of the Obamacare reforms, such as state-based exchanges that come online in 2014. Families who purchase private health insurance through these exchanges will save up to $2,300 each year on their health care spending. Millions of Americans already see real savings as their out-of-pocket costs go down to zero for preventive care like flu shots or cancer screenings.

3. Romney says Obamacare “adds trillions to our deficits and to our national debt.” False. In fact, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that Obamacare will reduce the national deficit by $210 billion over the next 10 years.

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