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What Would FDR Do?

2:17 pm in Uncategorized by Donald Goldmacher

Written by HEIST co-director/co-producer Frances Causey.

History has proven time and time again that the United States has prospered the most when capital and labor work hand in hand with each other. When they don’t, you get the likes of Michigan, Wisconsin, Hostess and Wal-Mart. Henry Ford understood that he needed to pay his workers well or who else would buy his automobiles? Pretty logical, huh?

Today, the balance of power between workers and capital has been obliterated with a tiny few elites making off like bandits as we have illustrated in Heist. The 1 percent has captured 93 percent of income growth since the alleged recovery of the economy. (This page asks, how can this truly be a recovery when only 1 percent of the population benefits?)

The tragedy is that our own lawmakers have allowed American corporations and the super rich to makeover government to suit their own whims. Don’t be deceived. American corporations have abandoned America for emerging markets, dispensing with loyalty as easily as they would an unprofitable manufacturing sector. Corporate media consolidation has sold this bill of goods (free market mysticism) to the American people as patriotic.

There is a fascinating yet depressing book entitled At Any Cost: Jack Welch, General Electric, and the Pursuit of Profit that illustrates just what has gone wrong with corporate America. Jack Welch maximized shareholder value by turning one of America’s most enterprising companies, GE, into a mercenary financial monolith that was eventually bailed out to the tune of $140 billion dollars by U.S. taxpayers.

Tens of thousands of GE jobs were (are) being outsourced at the exact moment the American people were bailing the company out! Then in the cruelest irony of all, President Obama appointed GE’s CEO Jeffrey Immelt to run his Presidential Council on Jobs and Competitiveness!

When an American corporation benefits greatly from being American (favorable tax law, use of U.S. infrastructure, protection of U.S. embassies abroad, favorable trade deals et al), it is the duty of our lawmakers who allegedly represent us to hold these companies accountable to America and her workers. We are not naïve as we understand that capital flows to the highest return but everything must have rules. The 1 percent has made their own rules and 99 percent of us are paying the price.

If FDR were president today, my guess is he would not meet in secret with the House speaker to cut a backroom deal that would further hammer the 99 percent by reducing Medicare and Social Security benefits that we have already paid for. Instead, FDR would call it like he saw it — as he did in a 1936 speech while accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. FDR addressed what he saw as a grave threat to the United States from within:

“These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power.”

The economic royalists of today are the financial and corporate elite that lobbies for their own set of rules. Both U.S. parties are beholden to their outrageous cash flows. We as a united people can’t change things until we have accepted this reality. Under FDR, workers had a seat at the table but who speaks for us now? The Progressives won with FDR and we can do it again if President Obama stands with us. If not now, when? It’s time for President Obama to channel his inner FDR — if he has it in him.

This entry is also available at The Huffington Post and Daily Kos.

‘Fix the Debt’ CEO Dream Team Wants You to Be as Scared as They Are of the Fiscal Cliff

2:26 pm in Uncategorized by Donald Goldmacher

Note: This entry was co-written by policymaven1 and JeffreeB

Sharp cliffs over water

Is our economy going over the brink?

Many readers of our last post about Pete Peterson’s attack on Social Security commented on a very accurate point: Social Security contributes nothing to our national debt. It is a system into which we pay; and then, eventually, it pays us. And, as we previously pointed out, the Social Security Trust Fund is in surplus. And if the Social Security Trust Fund does begin to run dry, by law, it automatically reduces benefits payments to compensate. Which raises the question: Why do Peterson and pals so badly want us to believe that in order to reduce our national deficit, we have to reduce benefits and increase eligibility age for Social Security?

Well, let’s take a look at just who exactly wants to “help” us “fix the debt.” Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the budget hawks who co-chaired the Simpson-Bowles Commission at President Obama’s behest, founded the Fix the Debt campaign with a nice chunk of change from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation (which is run by Pete’s son, Michael). Fix the Debt is co-chaired and co-”steered” by an array of politicians from both sides of the aisle. At last, bipartisanship!

But there are others on the steering committee. One of these is Dave Cote, CEO of Honeywell. Cote ranked 11th on a list compiled in a recent study conducted by the Institute for Policy Studies of executives who have saved the most from the Bush tax cuts. According to the IPS, Cote’s taxable compensation for 2011 was a bit over $55 million, and he got out of paying about $2.5 million thanks to the Bush tax cuts.

Another member of the steering committee is Robert Zoellick, former Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs. Citizens for Tax Justice reported in 2011 that Goldman Sachs claimed a $352 million Excess stock compensation deduction in 2010 and received a $123 million tax subsidy. Goldman along with 170 other companies avoided paying $2 billion in taxes from this loophole alone. And one of Goldman’s former ringleaders is now going to help us fix the debt!

Pete Peterson’s aforementioned son Michael is also on the steering committee, along with James B. Lee, Jr., vice chairman of JPMorgan Chase. And there is a sizable, ever-growing list full of other nefarious CEOs who have signed on to Fix the Debt’s CEO Fiscal Leadership Council.

This is the dream team Peterson has assembled to pull us out of this whole mess. Oddly enough, you may have noticed, the lineup looks strikingly similar to that of the team that put us in this mess in the first place.

But let’s take a moment to look at how we got here in the first place. The reality is that the current system of taxation created by Ronald Reagan and put on steroids by George W. Bush is working quite well for Peterson and his fellow oligarchs. Economist Robert Kuttner outlines the beginnings of this historic wealth transfer in our film Heist: Who Stole the American Dream?:

You had massive lobbying beginning in seventy-six, seventy-seven, seventy-eight, for cutting taxes on rich people — trickle down economics. Cut capital gains taxes, cut dividend taxes, cut income taxes, and the economy will flourish. Some of the Democrats started drinking the Kool-Aid along with the Republicans.

So in 1981 Ronald Reagan convinced Congress to pass his Economic Recovery Tax Act, which cut the top tax brackets by nearly a third but raised taxes on the middle class. What was the practical effect of this new taxation? David Cay Johnston explains in Heist:

The Washington press corps went along with the White House, calling these “revenue enhancements.” By dramatically increasing the social security tax, as recommended by Alan Greenspan to Ronald Reagan, we shifted the burden of government, so that today, seventy some percent of Americans pay a heavier share of their income in Social Security and Medicare taxes than they do in income taxes, and we pushed the burden down. At the same time at the very, very top we radically cut taxes so that the 1,000 richest men, women, and children in America face an effective total federal tax rate — social security and income taxes — of about 17 cents on the dollar, and their average income is 263 million dollars.

Let’s be very clear, Peterson and his gang are fixated on the debt because they don’t want to pay their fair share of taxes! And now, we supposedly sit on the edge of the cliff, below which yet another financial mess awaits. And Peterson and pals claim to have the solution. Sound familiar? Maintaining the Reagan-Bush tax cuts is the number one goal of today’s ultra-conservative movement that has been in control of these United States since the late 1970s.

The way to peddle it to the American people? Beat the drum of debt reduction through the mainstream media megaphone. All of this is to obscure the real truth, which is that our debt is the direct result of the severe economic downturn, the continued failure of big corporations to pay their taxes on profits sitting offshore, the huge bank bailouts (paid for by you and me), and two wars fought on credit.

Up next on the Peter G. Peterson chopping block? Your Social Security and Medicare!

Note: JeffreeB will be available for comment after publication.

This entry is also available at Huffington Post and Daily Kos.

Photo: m.prinke on Flickr under a Creative Commons Share-Alike license