You are browsing the archive for Lee Saunders.

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.
Read the rest of this entry →

Romney and Ryan and Respect for Workers

1:50 pm in Uncategorized by Lee Saunders

I Am A Man mural on T St.

Photo: Tracy Woodward, Washington Post

A bold and innovative street artist with the simple name “JR” has transformed an unoccupied building at 14th and T Streets in Northwest Washington, DC. JR has given the nation’s capital a new and inspiring mural, an enormous version of the iconic “I Am A Man” photograph of AFSCME sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn., during their 1968 strike. This project could not be more timely, as it provides a powerful reminder that the struggle for respect the workers in Memphis undertook nearly 50 years ago is an ongoing battle.

The struggle continues, and not just in states such as Wisconsin where Gov. Scott Walker was able to strip public employees of their rights to collective bargaining. No, the struggle is nationwide, especially in this election season as Gov. Mitt Romney and his allies work to spread the attacks on public service workers to every state in the nation. Romney speaks out regularly against the right of sanitation workers and other public service workers to have a voice on the job. He opposes their right to organize or to have collective bargaining rights. Paul Ryan shares his view. In their America, the men and women who collect trash, plow streets, guard prisoners, care for children and heal the sick should simply do as they’re told.

Their contempt for workers and the right to have a voice in the workplace is not limited to public service workers. Romney and Ryan want to eliminate the ability of unions in both the private and public sector to effectively raise funds, recruit members and have the freedom to negotiate for better wages, working conditions and benefits.

They support transforming every state – including places like Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania, where unions have a long history – into new versions of Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and other so-called “right to work” states where wages are low, benefits are few and workers are given little or no respect on the job. They want governments to be run for and by businesses, with little attention paid to the vulnerable, seniors, the poor and the unemployed. In their brave new world, workers are a cost center on a balance sheet, not partners in building profitable businesses, strong communities and an economy that benefits everyone.

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Eugene Robinson made this point in a column he wrote on Romney and Ryan’s disdain for the working class. “Workers are not mere cogs in a machine designed to service those who make more money,” he wrote. “They are part of a community. The same is true of teachers, police officers, firefighters and others whom Romney and Ryan dismiss as minions of ‘big government’ rather than public servants.”

This mindless rush to belittle the worth of workers pervades the elitists who fund and support the Romney-Ryan ticket.

Consider a CEO like David Siegel of Westgate Resorts, who sends his employees a whining, self-serving email telling them that they will lose their jobs if President Obama raises taxes on the wealthiest Americans:

“If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company,” he wrote to employees. “Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.”

Siegel also notes that he has suffered in the Great Recession: He’s had to stop construction on his 90,000 square foot home. He’s a billionaire who thinks it’s perfectly alright to blackmail his employees into voting against their economic interest and for his.

The billionaire Koch brothers are also doing their part. In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars they are using to corrupt our democracy, now they are sending letters to employees at Koch-owned companies urging them to support Mitt Romney and other right-wing candidates.

We see it in the attitudes expressed earlier this month by FOX News performers Geraldo Rivera and Bill O’Reilly as they belittled working men and women like Richard Hayes, Temo Fuentes and Joan Raymond. These three AFSCME members in San Diego appear in videos describing the work they do that benefits Mitt Romney at his vacation home in La Jolla, Calif.

Rivera says the sanitation workers represent all “the people whose pensions are bankrupting cities and have been, you know, in the crosshairs of Mitt Romney and the Republicans for this entire election cycle.” He ignores the fact that the average pension for an AFSCME retiree is less than $20,000 and is funded largely by investments made by the retirees themselves during their working careers.

O’Reilly says Richard Hayes’ video is “bogus” and shares Rivera’s view that it is “a low blow” for working men and women to speak up about Mitt Romney. “They are appealing to just ignorant voters,” said the millionaire O’Reilly, as millionaire Rivera smiled in agreement.

This kind of condescending attitude is much too pervasive among the well-heeled in America. It’s repulsive and ugly. Mitt Romney and his crass remarks about the 47 percent of Americans who feel “entitled” only makes it worse.

How much worse? Well, Rivera and O’Reilly’s parent company, announced plans earlier this month to begin production of a degrading and dehumanizing entertainment to rival the extremes of “The Hunger Games” and “Lord of the Flies.” According to the latest issues of Entertainment Weekly, Fox is finalizing a deal for a new show called Does Someone Have To Go? The repulsive “hook” of the new show: Real employees at real companies will decide which other real employee will be fired at the end of the hour.

Fox executives think stripping workers of their livelihoods is a creative and entertaining idea. In reality it is another sign that workers need their voices heard in the struggle to maintain their dignity. It’s a reminder that the struggle for respect that the Memphis sanitation workers fought to win continues to this day. Workers must raise their voices and cast their votes against corporate-backed politicians and policies that would deny them the respect and rights that each of us deserve.

Meet Richard Hayes: He Collects Mitt Romney’s Trash

1:29 pm in Uncategorized by Lee Saunders

Mitt Romney needs to meet Richard Hayes. Mr. Hayes is a city of San Diego sanitation worker. His route includes the street in La Jolla, where Mitt Romney owns a $12 million oceanfront mansion. This is the house where he’s putting in an elevator for his cars.

Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” videotape revealed his contempt for tens of millions of Americans. He insulted seniors receiving financial and medical support through the Social Security and Medicare programs they paid for during their working lives, veterans accepting medical care at Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics, and students getting a start on a promising future through the help of Pell Grants and government backed student loans. “I’ll never convince them,” Romney said. “They should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

No one forced Romney to trash these Americans. He was simply stating, to a privileged audience behind closed doors, what he really believes. He never expected that his remarks would be heard by the wider public.

But we should not be surprised that Romney holds these views about half of the American population. Throughout his career, he has regularly attacked the aspirations of working Americans. From his days as a vulture capitalist outsourcing jobs to China to his campaigns for higher office in Massachusetts and nationally, he has always focused his attention on the top 1 percent, Wall Street and the wealthy corporations whose taxes he wants to cut.

As he made hundreds of millions of dollars, he sent American jobs overseas, ended the retirement security of workers at the companies he “harvested,” and destroyed the chance of countless families to realize the American Dream. Now, he rails against the unions that working men and women join to give them a voice on the job and a chance at a better life. He wants to privatize public services that middle-class and working Americans rely upon in every community in this country. He wants to turn those services over to his corporate cronies who can turn them into profit centers where workers will be left with low-paying jobs, no benefits and no hope for entry into the middle class.

Richard Hayes gets to work at 6 a.m. each morning to keep that neighborhood beautiful. He works a second job late in the day. He is just one of the many workers who Mitt Romney doesn’t see and doesn’t respect who are toiling long and hard in his community to provide vital public services.

Mr. Hayes is featured in a new video AFSCME has produced to spotlight public service workers. The video – one of three being released – underscores Romney’s arrogant dismissal of nearly half of all Americans and his agenda to cut and privatize public services. It’s an agenda that would be a disaster for America’s seniors, veterans, students and those out of work or struggling, like Richard Hayes, to get by in today’s economy.

Romney seems only to be relaxed and at ease when he is surrounded by other millionaires and people willing to pay $50,000 to share a meal with him. And it is only those wealthy donors who get to know what is really on his mind. They spend more money than most Americans make in a year to ask Mitt Romney questions and listen to his reckless banter about Americans like Richard Hayes.

Now, as his poll numbers crater, Romney says he cares about working men and women. He says he has plans to help the long-term unemployed, our nation’s heroic veterans and the poor, the sick and the frail. We should not be fooled by his late-in-the-game change of heart.

Romney’s made clear what he really believes:

“I like to be able to fire people who provide services.”

“Corporations are people, my friend.”

“I wish we weren’t unionized so we could go a lot deeper [laying off public employees] than you’re actually allowed to go.”

Consistently, he puts corporate interests over human interests and the accumulation of wealth over respect for working men and women.

It’s the exact opposite of the attitude expressed so eloquently by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the night before he was felled by an assassin’s bullet in Memphis.

“So often we overlook the work and the significance of those who are not in professional jobs, of those who are not in the so-called big jobs,” Dr. King told the striking sanitation workers who were members of AFSCME Local 1733. “But let me say to you tonight that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity and it has worth. All labor has dignity.”

November’s elections provide us with a choice. Will we be an America that shares the all-embracing values of Martin Luther King, Jr.? Or will we be a nation that rewards the greed and indifference of Mitt Romney? If you care about workers like Richard Hayes, the choice will be clear.

The Referees Are Fighting for All of Us

5:19 pm in Uncategorized by Lee Saunders

The Referees Are Fighting for All of Us

 By Lee Saunders

Mike Pereira knows how to make a call.  He’s the former head of officiating at the National Football League, who now provides analysis for Fox TV.  Here’s what he told the New York Times about the on-going lockout of experienced unionized referees by the National Football League:  “Week one went smooth.  Week two was a disaster.  Week three is the Titanic.”

And that was before Monday night, when millions of football fans saw the Seattle Seahawks beat the Green Bay Packers, solely because of poor officiating by the temporary referees put on the playing field by the NFL.  By Tuesday morning, even Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and GOP Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan, no friends of unions, echoed his call.  They want the professionals back.

Who is to blame for this mess?  Why are amateur referees officiating at games?

The owners of the NFL are responsible.  Their trained professional referees are not on strike.  They are ready to do their jobs.  But they’ve been “locked out” by the owners, told that they are not needed for games to be judged fairly. 

And why are the owners locking out the professional referees?

That’s simple too.  The referees want what they bargained for in contract negotiations going back to the 1970s, primarily the right to a pension when they retire.  Now, the billionaires who own the football teams want to take those pensions away.  It is that simple.

Every American should be interested in this battle, whether they care about football or care about unions, because what is happening on the football field has been occurring to workers all across the country for years.  Now, however, we’re seeing it played out on television. 

The NFL’s referees are the lowest paid officials in all of professional sports, and as we’ve seen, they are important to the game.  The NFL is not poor.  The teams bring in more than $9 billion a year.  But the 18 billionaires and 12 millionaires who own the NFL teams don’t want to provide pensions and benefits that would cost them less than $3.3 million a year. 

This greed of the NFL owners is more important to them than the reputation of the game or the safety of the players.  That was made clear in a letter sent earlier this week to the owners by the players union.  “Your decision to lock out officials with more than 1,500 years of collective NFL experience has led to a deterioration of order, safety and integrity,” the letter said.

But the owners really don’t care about the integrity of the game.  They only care about money.  It’s as simple as that.  And if it means destroying the retirement security of 120 officials, they could care less.  Workers across the country know what that is like. 

For a generation now, Wall Street and corporate CEOs have engaged in a wholesale theft of the pensions of working Americans.  In her remarkable book “Retirement Heist,” Wall Street Journal reporter Ellen E. Schultz outlined how the elimination of pensions as a part of retirement security wasn’t an economic necessity – it was a choice made by CEOs to line their pockets at the expense of their middle-class employees.  Companies large and small abandoned their responsibility for pensions and forced workers into risky 401 (k) accounts that place their retirement savings into Wall Street’s pocket. 

As more workers lost their pensions, the wealthy targeted those who still possessed them.  “Look at that guy with a pension,” they’d say.  “You don’t have one, why should he have one?”  That divide and conquer mentality was on display this week when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell noted that he doesn’t have a pension.  Well, he makes $10 million a year.  That’s more than triple the cost of the pensions the referees are fighting to keep.

What the referees are fighting for is a benefit that has been stolen from millions of American workers.  Let’s hope the referees keep their pensions.  And let’s get to work creating real security for the many millions of American workers who had their retirement destroyed by the greed of Wall Street and this nation’s corrupt CEOs.

“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.

Taxes, Offshore Accounts and Corruption

12:44 pm in Uncategorized by Lee Saunders

Tax

(Photo: 401(K) 2012/flickr)

This week, the U.S. Senate passed legislation backed by President Obama extending tax cuts for the 98 percent of Americans who need it, while allowing the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire on schedule at the end of this year. These cuts benefit the working men and women who are struggling during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Yet, Mitt Romney and the right-wing politicians who control the U.S. House of Representatives stand in the way of enacting these cuts. They are holding hostage middle-class tax cuts in their pursuit of additional cuts in taxes for the wealthiest people in America. In fact, the tax plan released by Romney in March of this year would cut taxes for the top 1 percent by nearly $150,000 per year, while the bottom 20 percent of working Americans would have their taxes increased. That makes no sense, but it is the plan pushed by Romney and his backers.

Romney is among the right-winger ideologues who claim that the wealthy need tax cuts to invest in jobs. They ignore the historic fact that tax cuts for the top 1 percent have never produced jobs. We tried that experiment in the Bush years and got the worst job creation record in the history of the American presidency. While it has never worked in the past and won’t work now, it would also greatly increase the deficit, unlike the legislation supported by President Obama and the Senate. According to the Tax Policy Center, Romney’s plan would add $900 billion to the deficit in 2015, when the changes would go into full effect.

But Romney has other problems on taxes. Romney has only released one year of his tax returns. His father, George Romney, released 12 years of tax returns when he ran for president in 1968. President Obama has released every tax return of his since 2000. Romney’s determination to hide his returns suggests that there is something in them that he does not want the American people to see. We know from the one year return that he has released that Romney may have sheltered millions of dollars from taxes in places like Switzerland, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. He claims that he didn’t save a dollar in taxes, which seems absurd. Equally troubling, however, is Mitt Romney’s response to the demands that he release his tax returns to give the American public a clearer picture of his financial holdings and obligations. He says he’s given us enough, most recently in an interview on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams which aired on Wednesday night.

Why is this important? Who cares that a man we know is wealthy put money in overseas accounts and created shell companies overseas with hidden assets? All of us should care. A study released earlier this week by the Tax Justice Network calls the fight against tax havens “one of the great challenges of our age.” The Tax Justice Network is an independent organization launched in the British Houses of Parliament in March 2003. Their report estimates “the amount of funds held offshore by individuals is about $11.5 trillion – with a resulting annual loss of tax revenue on the income from these assets of about 250 billion dollars.” Mitt Romney and Bain Capital have helped to create and sustain this international system where the rich can hide their wealth, while everyone else plays by a different set of rules. Needless to say, at a time when federal, state and local budgets are squeezed here at home, Romney’s off-shore financing may be hiding assets that are not taxed, thereby increasing the taxes of everyone else who pays for vital public services.

According to the Tax Justice Network, companies and individuals like Bain and Romney who benefit from off-shore accounts avoid paying their fair share for things like infrastructure, education and the rule of law here at home. “The rest of us shoulder the burden,” they report. “As a result, tax havens are heightening inequality and poverty, corroding democracy, distorting markets, undermining financial and other regulation and curbing economic growth, accelerating capital flight from poor countries, and promoting corruption and crime around the world.” We need to see Mitt Romney’s tax returns to get a clear picture of the extent he has been involved in these corrupt practices.

Questions also need to be answered about Romney’s extraordinary IRA account, which grew to more than $100 million in value even though contributions are limited by law. How did he amass such wealth in his IRA? Steve Rattner, another hedge fund manager, has spoken with other financiers to see if they had IRAs with similar growth. “None of us had even known this was a possible trick,” Rattner says, although he doesn’t know exactly what Romney did. “He has pushed the envelope all the way to the edge, to his benefit, and I think Americans would find that pretty distasteful.”

Romney says he has abided by the letter of the law. But his tax return for 2010 revealed – for the first time – that he has participated in a corrupt international investment and banking system where the rich are able to hide their wealth while nurses, corrections officers, school workers and others pay their fair share of taxes. We will only know the extent of Mitt Romney’s involvement in these activities when he releases his tax returns for the past 10 years. He needs to do so before the American people can make an informed decision about is candidacy. More than 100 years ago, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. noted that “taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.” We need to see Mitt Romney’s returns to determine if he has met his responsibilities. Until he provides us with these records, questions will remain unanswered and concerns will remain strong that there is something serious being hidden from the people of the United States.

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.

Read the rest of this entry →