Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Corporate Debt to Society: $10,000 Per Household, Per Year

by Paul Buchheit, mirrored from Common Dreams

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That estimate is based on facts, not the conservative-style emotion that might deny the responsibility for any debt to the American people. Wealth redistribution to big business has occurred in a variety of ways to be explained below. And there’s some precedent for paying Americans for the use of their commonly-held resources. The Alaska Permanent Fund has been in effect, and widely popular, for over thirty years.

The Main Argument: Corporations Have Used Our Money To Build Their Businesses

Over half (57 percent) of basic research is paid for by our tax dollars. Corporations don’t want to pay for this. It’s easier for them to allow public money to do the startup work, and then, when profit potential is evident, to take over with applied R&D, often with patents that take the rights away from the rest of us.

All the technology in our phones and computers started this way, and continues to the present day. Pharmaceutical companies have depended on the National Institute of Health. The quadrillion-dollar trading capacity of the financial industry was made possible by government-funded Internet technology, and the big banks survived because of a $7 trillion public bailout.

Continue reading The Corporate Debt to Society: $10,000 Per Household, Per Year

“Everything Possible” The New Deal Response to Polio

by Gray Brechin, Ph.D.
Published September 12, 2014 at The Living New Deal

Free Photo of President Franklin Roosevelt In His Wheelchair, 1941
FDR at Hyde Park, New York 1941 – A rare photograph of FDR in his wheelchair

More than fifty years before the passage of the Americans With Disability Act, the WPA and PWA were building special schools to help children crippled by polio. These schools were, to a large extent, the result of FDR’s own paralysis from the disease.

In 1921 Franklin D. Roosevelt became permanently paralyzed from the waist down.  Most Americans knew that their president had contracted “infantile paralysis” in adulthood, but few knew the extent of his disability. The White House carefully orchestrated a vigorous image of the president. Photographs of FDR almost never capture him in his wheelchair or on crutches. FDR could stand with the help of braces and a cane, on the arm of a family or staff member, but it’s said that a bodyguard would carry the president up a rear stairwell slung over his shoulder like a sack of flour.

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Billboard: A campaign in the fight against polio

Roosevelt helped to found the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis in 1938 which later became the March of Dimes. Rather than soliciting large gifts from wealthy philanthropists it sought small donations. Millions of people contributed. Every year, on January 30, the President’s birthday, dances were held to raise funds to help victims of the scourge as well as to defeat it. The organization raised more funds than all of the U.S. charities at the time combined, with the exception of the Red Cross. Its efforts funded research that led to the development of polio vaccines.

Continue reading “Everything Possible” The New Deal Response to Polio

Four Numbers to Make Us Fighting Mad. And One Way to Fight.

by Paul Buchheit, mirrored from Common Dreams

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‘We all deserve to benefit from our nation’s steadily rising productivity.’ (File)

If revolution is to happen, we Americans must be made aware of the destructive failures of the free-market system, and we must be angry enough to act, and, most of all, we must agree on a single demand of the people with money and power who have perversely redistributed our national wealth. First some maddening facts:

1. For Every BILLION DOLLARS of New Stock Market Wealth, Most of Us Averaged ONE DOLLAR in Stock Gains

In the six years since the recession the stock market has risen by $8 trillion, the great majority of it going to the richest 10%. In 2013 alone it rose by $5 trillion. On average, each of us in the bottom 90% earned a dollar every time the market went up another billion. (Details here.)

2. Each Year Since the Recession, the “Upper Class” (Richest 10%) Has Accumulated Enough New Wealth to Pay the Total Cost of Social Security Four Times Over

The upper class is defined here as the top 10%, families with minimum wealth of $660,000 and minimum income somewhere between $114,000 and $140,000.

Continue reading Four Numbers to Make Us Fighting Mad. And One Way to Fight.

Meet the Cla$$ of 2014

Elizabeth Schulte introduces you to the corporate-backed fanatics who make up the freshman class of the new Republican-controlled Senate.

Mirrored from Socialist Worker

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Clockwise from top left: Bill Cassidy, Mike Rounds, Joni Ernst and Dan Sullivan

THE NEW Republican-controlled Congress came in this year like they owned the place, with an agenda to wreck the environment, workers’ rights and women’s access to abortion. And that was just in the first week.

With the biggest majority in both houses of Congress since the Great Depression, the Republicans’ message was clear: We’re here to make some changes in the way things are run in Washington. But with all the Republicans’ talk about being “outsiders,” what distinguishes them isn’t how outside the political establishment they are, but how much they’re a part of the system–and doing the bidding of Corporate America.

In 2010, Tea Party Republicans made their mark by claiming they were working against the crimes of “big government” and insider Beltway politics. Their populist image wasn’t worth the script it was printed on. In reality, billions were funneled from superrich backers like the billionaire Koch Brothers to the so-called “grassroots” Tea Party groups, led by the likes of former Republican honcho Tom DeLay–and the big bucks were used to carefully craft an “outsider” message for Republicans.

The Senate’s 2014 freshman class is less Tea Party and more Cotillion Ball, with at least six millionaires and more deep connections to industry and the Republican political establishment than you could count. In other words, the new face of the Republican Party is pretty much like the old face of the Republican Party–pro-business and anti-worker.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the new Republican senators.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Joni Ernst, Iowa
In the Iowa senator’s rebuttal to Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in January, the former Iraqi war veteran touted her humble roots, where children wore “bread bags” over their shoes when it rained to keep them from getting ruined.

That’s where her commitment to “middle-class America” begins and ends.

Ernst is for lower corporate taxes and less regulation of industry. She has said in interviews that she doesn’t support a federal minimum wage. That is, she doesn’t just oppose raising the federal minimum wage, she opposes having a federal minimum wage. States, she says, should decide.

She also favors eliminating the Department of Education–you know, the one that brings us the public schools–and those pesky clean-water people at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Ernst believes life begins at the point of conception and co-sponsored a fetal “personhood” amendment to the Iowa constitution. Showing her contempt for poor women’s right to health care, she voted twice to defund Planned Parenthood and sponsored two amendments prohibiting state funding for abortion.

The Republican Party is putting Ernst–with her stories about castrating pigs on the farm,packing a gun and riding a Harley Davidson to Sunday school–out in front in the hopes that they can get back some of that scrappy, regular Josephine, Sarah Palin-esque vibe. But nothing can cover up the utterly hateful, anti-worker policies Jodi Ernst supports.

Ben Sasse, Nebraska
The National Review called him “Obamacare’s Cornhusker Nemesis” after Sasse traveled through the state in his campaign RV with a copy of the Affordable Care Act, proclaiming, “Government this big squashes freedom.”

Sasse is for repealing Obamacare and told the Review, “The most likely outcome is a single-payer system, because that’s the easiest thing for a lazy and broken Washington to lie about and let us drift into.”

Continue reading Meet the Cla$$ of 2014

New High-Tech Farm Equipment Is a Nightmare for Farmers

by Kyle Wiens, mirrored from Wired magazine

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A central Illinois corn farmer, on top of his combine, is silhouetted against the setting sun in Pleasant Plains, Illinois on Sept. 27, 2014. Seth Perlman/AP

 

I squatted down in the dirt and took stock of my inadequate tools. Over my left shoulder a massive John Deere tractor loomed. I came here to fix that tractor. So far, things weren’t going as planned.

I’m a computer programmer by training, and a repairman by trade. Ten years ago, I started iFixit, an online, DIY community that teaches people to repair what they own. Repair is what I do, and that I was being rebuffed by a tractor was incredibly frustrating.

I tossed my wrenches and screwdrivers. The conventional tools of my trade had no power here. This job called for something different. Armed with wire, alligator clips, a handful of connectors, and a CANbus reader, I launched myself back into the cab of the tractor. Once more into the breach, dear friends!

The family farmer who owns this tractor is a friend of mine. He just wanted a better way to fix a minor hydraulic sensor. Every time the sensor blew, the onboard computer would shut the tractor down. It takes a technician at least two days to order the part, get out to the farm, and swap out the sensor. So for two days, Dave’s tractor lies fallow. And so do his fields.

Dave asked me if there was some way to bypass a bum sensor while waiting for the repairman to show up. But fixing Dave’s sensor problem required fiddling around in the tractor’s highly proprietary computer system—the tractor’s engine control unit (tECU): the brains behind the agricultural beast.

One hour later, I hopped back out of the cab of the tractor. Defeated. I was unable to breach the wall of proprietary defenses that protected the tECU like a fortress. I couldn’t even connect to the computer. Because John Deere says I can’t.

Dave would like to do more than just change his tractor’s oil.

Farming Goes High Tech
Dave is a DIY kind of guy. But Dave would like to do more than just change his tractor’s oil. He’d like to be able to modify the engine timing. He’d like to harvest the information that his tractor collects to learn more about how his crops grow. He’d like to troubleshoot error codes. Most of all, he’d like to be able to repair his equipment himself—because it’s what he’s been doing all his life.

Continue reading New High-Tech Farm Equipment Is a Nightmare for Farmers

New Evidence that Half of America is Broke

by Paul Buchheit, mirrored from Common Dreams

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Fast-food workers protest outside of a Burger King in Los Angeles last year. (Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

 

“Happy Monday! S&P 500 now up 10% for year” —CNN Money
“Third-quarter U.S. economic growth strongest in 11 years” —Reuters 
“The U.S. economy is on a tear” —Wall Street Journal 

Half of our nation, by all reasonable estimates of human need, is in poverty. The jubilant headlines above speak for people whose view is distorted by growing financial wealth. The argument for a barely surviving half of America has been made before, but important new data is available to strengthen the case.

1. No Money for Unexpected Bills 

A recent Bankrate poll found that almost two-thirds of Americans didn’t have savings available to cover a $500 repair bill or a $1,000 emergency room visit.

A related Pew survey concluded that over half of U.S. households have less than one month’s income in readily available savings, and that ALL their savings — including retirement funds — amounted to only about four months of income.

And young adults? A negative savings rate, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. Before the recession their savings rate was a reasonably healthy 5 percent.

2. 40 Percent Collapse in Household Wealth

Over half of Americans have good reason to feel poor. Between 2007 and 2013 median wealth dropped a shocking 40 percent, leaving the poorest half with negative wealth (because of debt), and a full 60% of households owning, in total, about as much as the nation’s 94 richest individuals.

Continue reading New Evidence that Half of America is Broke

Today’s Employment Report Is The Biggest Lie They’ve Told To Date

 

Mirrored from Investment Research Dynamics, published February 6, 2015

There’s no BS like the brown stuff tossed at us by the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics).  Not only do they want us to believe that the economy produced 257,000 jobs in January, during a time in which the energy sector – the largest source of jobs growth since 2009 – was cutting 10’s of thousands of workers, they revised November’s supposed 353k job gain up to 423k.  It was the second biggest monthly jobs increase this century.    Anyone believe that?

It’s gets better:   the notoriously ridiculous birth-death model modeled in a 257k net loss in jobs.  How is it possible that economy generated any jobs growth if big companies are dumping workers (see IBM + big oil + oil shale + Radio Schack, etc) and the traditional engine of jobs growth – new business start-ups – were unloading jobs?   I’ll tell you how:  pure, unadulterated statistical lies.

Continue reading Today’s Employment Report Is The Biggest Lie They’ve Told To Date

OBAMA’S LEGACY: MORE REPUBLICANS ELECTED SINCE 2008

by Phillip Bump, The Fix blog at the Washington Post

The reddest states in America in 2014 were Utah and Wyoming, according to Gallup surveys. The most Democratic were Massachusetts and Maryland — states that last November elected new, Republican governors.

Every year Gallup provides an assessment of how Democratic and Republican states are, by subtracting the percentage that identifies with one party from the percentage that identifies with the other. In 2014, 51.4 percent of Marylanders were Democratic or leaned Democratic, compared with 29.6 percent that felt that way about Republicans. That’s a net margin of 21.8 percentage points for the Dems.

But clearly this isn’t politically predictive, since the new governor of that state is Larry Hogan (R), not Anthony Brown (D). What the Gallup data is instead particularly good at is showing trends over time.

Continue reading OBAMA’S LEGACY: MORE REPUBLICANS ELECTED SINCE 2008

Democrats Are Safe For Wall Street

Center-left pundits have carried water for the president for six years. Their predictable excuses all ring hollow

by THOMAS FRANK, mirrored from Salon.com

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As the Obama administration enters its seventh year, let us examine one of the era’s greatest peculiarities: That one of the most cherished rallying points of the president’s supporters is the idea of the president’s powerlessness.

Today, of course, the Democrats have completely lost control of Congress and it’s easy to make the case for the weakness of the White House. For example, when Frank Bruni sighed last Wednesday that presidents are merely “buoys on the tides of history,” not “mighty frigates parting the waters,” he scarcely made a ripple.

But the pundit fixation on Obama’s powerlessness goes back many years. Where it has always found its strongest expression is among a satisfied stratum of centrist commentators—people who are well pleased with the president’s record and who are determined to slap down liberals who find fault in Obama’s leadership. The purveyors of this fascinating species of political disgust always depict the dispute in the same way, with hard-headed men of science (i.e., themselves) facing off against dizzy idealists who cluelessly rallied to Obama’s talk of hope and change back in 2008.

It is, in other words, a classic apologetic. The pundit, a clear-thinking, reality-based fellow (and yes, they are almost always fellows), knows that if you paid attention back in 2008 you understood that Obama wasn’t promising anything great. Plus, the president has delivered all kinds of subtle but awesome stuff that his soft-headed fans overlook. Besides, there are those awful racist Republicans. Good Christ! Would we rather have one of them in the Oval Office?

This theme has been so elaborately developed over the last few years that it would be possible to write a decent history of the Obama administration entirely in terms of the various apologetics deployed on its behalf, savoring all the different grades of literary style, noting all the catch phrases and in-jokes the pundits share with one another, enumerating all the clever put-downs they use to deride the unrealistic liberal masses.

As a preface to any such future history, let me outline here the main points of the genre.

Continue reading Democrats Are Safe For Wall Street

Alaska Bolstered Its Economy and Curbed Inequality—By Paying Everyone Thousands in Oil Dividends Every Year

After 30 years, the practice of paying every resident—including children—at least $1,000 has made Alaska one of the least unequal states in America. Here’s what the rest of us can learn.
by Peter Barnes, mirrored from Common Dreams

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A Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) check written from the state of Alaska. This check also includes payment for an energy rebate program for which state residents may be eligible. And yes, that’s Gov. Sarah Palin’s signature. (Photo: travis/flick/cc)

There’s long been a notion that, because money is a prerequisite for survival and security, everyone should be assured some income just for being alive. The notion has been advanced by liberals such as James Tobin, John Kenneth Galbraith, and George McGovern, and by conservatives like Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Richard Nixon. It’s embedded in the board game Monopoly, in which all players get equal payments when they pass Go. And yet, with one exception, Americans have been unable to agree on any plan that guarantees some income to everyone. The reasons lie mostly in the stories that surround such income. Is it welfare? Is it redistribution? Does it require higher taxes and bigger government? Americans think dimly of all these things.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 11.18.39 AMBut then, there’s the exception. Jay Hammond, the Republican governor of Alaska from 1974 to 1982, was an independent thinker who conceived of, and then persuaded Alaska’s legislators to adopt, the world’s first system for paying equal dividends to everyone. In Hammond’s model, the money comes not from taxes but from a common resource: North Slope oil. Using proceeds from that gift of nature, the Alaska Permanent Fund has paid equal yearly dividends to every resident, including children, ranging from about $1,000 to over $3,000. (Bear in mind that a family of four collects four same sized dividends.) While this isn’t enough to live on, it nicely supplements Alaskans’ other earnings. And paying such dividends regularly for more than thirty years has bolstered the state’s economy, reduced poverty, and made Alaska one of the least unequal states in America.

The question Americans in the lower 48 should now ask is: Did Alaska find the right formula? If it can convert part of its common wealth into equal dividends for everyone, can the rest of America do the same?

There are many good reasons to ask this question. One is that America’s middle class is in steady decline. In the heyday of our middle class, jobs at IBM and General Motors were often jobs for life. Employers offered decent wages, health insurance, paid vacations and defined pensions. Nowadays, such jobs are rare.

Continue reading Alaska Bolstered Its Economy and Curbed Inequality—By Paying Everyone Thousands in Oil Dividends Every Year