Monthly Archives: July 2015

How Big Corporations Cheat Public Education

by Paul Buchheit, published July 27, 2015 at Common Dreams

But big business apparently views its tax responsibility as a burden to be avoided at the expense of the rest of us. (Photo: Basheer Tome/flickr/cc)

Corporations have reaped trillion-dollar benefits from 60 years of public education in the U.S., but they’re skipping out on the taxes meant to sustain the educational system. Children suffer from repeated school cutbacks. And parents subsidize the deadbeat corporations through increases in property taxes and sales taxes.

Big Companies Pay about a Third of their Required State Taxes

An earlier report noted that 25 of our nation’s largest corporations paid combined 2013 state taxes at a rate of 2.4%, a little over a third of the average required tax. Many of these companies play one state against another, holding their home states hostage for tax breaks under the threat of bolting to other states.

Without Corporate Taxes, K-12 Public Education Keeps Getting Cut

Overall spending on K-12 public school students fell in 2011 for the first time since the Census Bureau began keeping records over three decades ago. The cuts have continued to the present day, with the majority of states spending less per student than before the 2008 recession.

It’s Getting Worse

Total corporate profits were about $1.8 trillion in 2013 (with other estimates somewhat higher or lower). The $46 billion in total corporate state income tax in 2013, as reported by both Ernst & Young (Table 3-A) and the Census Bureau, amounts to just 2.55% of the $1.8 trillion in corporate profits, a drop from the 3% paid in the five years ending in 2012.

The Worst Offenders

Continue reading How Big Corporations Cheat Public Education

Using Social Security to Pave Roads?

by Bud Meyers, published July 18, 2015

Yesterday the Alliance for Retired Americans wrote a letter to Congress strongly opposing using the Social Security trust fund as a way to help pay for the highway funding bill, saying, “It should not be used as a piggy bank when Congress is looking for funding.”

Earlier last week the House passed a short-term highway bill; but Senate Republicans are trying to come up an $80 billion highway bill that would provide funds for several years. The Senate bill is also expected to include a provision to renew the Export-Import Bank, despite the objection of conservative lawmakers and activists. The bank has significant support in both houses, but many leading conservatives [and progressives] oppose it as “crony capitalism”.

One such way Congress plans to cut Social Security is the CUFF Act (a bill introduced by Sam Johnson R-TX), which purports to go after fugitive felons — but according to the Alliance, could actually penalize many individuals for minor offenses such as bounced checks, unpaid fines or fees, or a failure to pay a debt. Many warrants are very old for offenses that may have happened when someone was very young (even a child) — or in many cases, the individual may know nothing about it.

Continue reading Using Social Security to Pave Roads?

On Pay Equity: The Case of Gravity Payments

from Gravity Payments blog, published July 20th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 5.02.17 PM

As much as religion and politics are taboo topics to talk about, so is the conversation on money. Compensation is an uncomfortable issue for anyone to discuss, but even with that said, income inequality, the pay gap, gender inequity, and the disparity between top level executives and the average worker are dominating headlines everywhere and trickling into HR inboxes. Wayne Guay, a professor of accounting at Wharton said, “Companies are dealing with two key issues: One, pay inequity, and two, the big gap between what senior executives earn versus average workers.”

Continue reading On Pay Equity: The Case of Gravity Payments

Bribes Work: How Peterson, the Enemy of Social Security, Bought the Roosevelt Name

by Naked Capitalism, published June 3, 2011

Bribes work. AT&T gave money to GLAAD, and now the gay rights organization is supporting the AT&T-T-Mobile merger. La Raza is mouthing the talking points of the Mortgage Bankers Association on down payments. The NAACP is fighting on debit card rules. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute supported the extension of the Bush tax cuts back in December. While it seems counter-intuitive that a left-leaning organization would support illiberal extensions of corporate power, in fact, that is the role of the DC pet liberal. This dynamic of rent-a-reputation is greased with corporate cash and/or political access. As the entitlement fight comes to a head, it’s worth looking under the hood of the DC think tank scene to see how the Obama administration and the GOP are working to lock down their cuts to social programs.

And so it is that the arch-enemy of Social Security, Pete Peterson, rented out the good name of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the reputation of the Center for American Progress, and EPI. All three groups submitted budget proposals to close the deficit and had their teams share the stage with Republican con artist du jour Paul Ryan. The goal of Peterson’s conference was to legitimize the fiscal crisis narrative, and to make sure that “all sides” were represented.

Now this tidy fact is not obvious if you check the Peterson Foundation publicity for its “Fiscal Summit”:

On Wednesday, May 25, 2011, senior Administration officials, policy experts and Democratic and Republican elected leaders will come together in Washington to discuss solutions to the nation’s fiscal challenges at the 2011 Fiscal Summit: Solutions for America’s Future, convened by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation…..The American Enterprise Institute, Bipartisan Policy Center, Center for American Progress, Economic Policy Institute, Heritage Foundation and Roosevelt Institute Campus Network will present and discuss their own proposed packages of solutions for achieving long-term fiscal sustainability at the Summit. These leading policy organizations, representing diverse perspectives, received grants from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation to develop comprehensive plans to address the nation’s projected long-term debt and deficits.

Why, after spending considerable resources, such as a website called New Deal 2.0, with virtually daily posts by Roosevelt fellows debunking deficit terrorism, and more formal work, such as a well-researched and argued paper by Tom Ferguson and Rob Johnson debunking deficit cutting in general and assaults on entitlements in particular, has the Roosevelt Institute cast its lot with a sworn enemy? Make no mistake, not only did the Institute undermine itsraison d’etre by attaching its name to the Peterson anti-entitlements campaign, but as we’ll discuss later, the end product, as would be expected, bolstered particular initiatives that are contrary to FDR’s legacy, the Institute’s more general “progressive” objectives, and sound economics.

As the sorry history of drug funded research shows and this example confirms, sponsored research has this funny way of delivering findings flattering to its funders. At best, whoever championed this unholy alliance at Roosevelt is guilty of a spectacular lapse of judgment. At worst, this is naked careerism, selling out one’s sponsor to curry favor with more powerful backers. One way to assure one’s influence and job security in the foundation realm is access to big donors. Who better to cultivate than one of the freest spenders in the economics policy space?

Continue reading Bribes Work: How Peterson, the Enemy of Social Security, Bought the Roosevelt Name

Private Health Care as an Act of Terrorism

by Paul Buchheit, published July 20, 2015 at Common Dreams

Americans are being cheated by a medical system that favors profits over health and wellbeing. But things are even worse than that. (Photo: MilitaryHealth/flickr/cc)

The FBI defines terrorism as “Acts dangerous to human life…intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population.” Much of the behavior of our current health care system meets that definition. The facts show intention on the part of corporations to intimidate the population by using market strategies to charge whatever they like for their medical products and services, and an effort to coerce the public into accepting the current system as the only option.

The Average American Family Pays $4,000 for Medical Fraud and Subsidies

Medical billing fraud is estimated at 10 percent of all health care, or about $270 billion, while patent monopolies raise the price of prescription drugs by another $270 billion a year. Combined, this represents an astonishing annual cost of over $4,000 to an average American household. As The Atlantic puts it, “The people most likely to bilk the system are doctors and medical providers, not ‘welfare queens.'”

Intimidation by Outrageous Markups

In a recent analysis of 50 hospitals (49 for-profit) with the highest charge-to-cost ratios in 2012, the average markup was 1,000 percent, which means that a procedure costing a hospital $100 is marked up to $1,000 for us.

Continue reading Private Health Care as an Act of Terrorism

Jeb Bush: “People Need to Work Longer Hours.” Media Soften It.

by Eric Zuesse,  Washington’s Blog, published July 9, 2015

Jeb Bush, on July 8th:

“My aspiration for the country, and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours, and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this rut that we’re in.”

Here is his statement in a youtube video of just that 30-second passage (+ 8 seconds):

Republican U.S. Presidential candidate Jeb Bush was interviewed in a grainy video on 8 July 2015, by New Hampshire’s far-right (i.e., authoritarian) newspaper, Manchester Union-Leader, which interview they buried on their website, but the newsworthy comment in it (cited just above) is at 16:11-16:40 on their buried and muddy-sounding 54-minute-long boring interview video here, where Bush had been asked about his plan for the U.S. economy.

Continue reading Jeb Bush: “People Need to Work Longer Hours.” Media Soften It.

Why Don’t Democrats Vote? I’ll Tell You Why.

Alan_Grayson_Updated_Headshotby Alan Grayson, U.S. Congressman for Florida’s 9th District, published July 9, 2015

As you may have heard, Democratic turnout dropped off a cliff again last year, just like it did in 2010. I was wondering why, so I asked. I polled Florida non-voters. I found that the main reason why they didn’t vote last year was simple: They couldn’t see any difference between the candidates. When there is no difference between the candidates, Democrats don’t vote, and Democrats lose.

By way of background, the top race in Florida last year was the race for Governor. The Republican incumbent was Rick Scott, whose hospital chain perpetrated the largest Medicare fraud in history. (That is not a misprint.) Nevertheless, because he had an (R) next to his name on the 2010 ballot, he won. He has been a horrible governor, easily one of the worst in the country. Everyone knew that the Democrats had a chance to bring him down last year, especially since our Democratic President had carried Florida twice in a row. There are 500,000 more registered Democrats than registered Republicans in Florida.

The Democratic nominee was Charlie Crist, a REPUBLICAN former governor. Crist was so far to the right that he was known as “Chain-Gang Charlie.” In 2010, when Scott was first elected, Crist killed the Democrat’s chances for a US Senate seat from Florida by dropping out of his own Republican primary, where he was 25 points down, and running as an “independent.” That “stinking maneuver” (as Yitzhak Rabin would have put it) made Marco Rubio the junior senator from Florida.

Continue reading Why Don’t Democrats Vote? I’ll Tell You Why.

What Happens When Schools Stop Providing Buses?

BY CHRIS KARDISH, published July, 2015

Indiana is the latest state to find out what happens when districts aren’t required to offer students free transportation to and from school.

A recent court ruling allows Indiana school districts to stop providing school bus services. (FlickrCC/Simon Schoeters)

Kids in Indiana will head back to school as usual this fall, but the sight of classic yellow school buses could soon become less common, thanks to a recent ruling by the state Supreme Court. Yes, school districts must offer free education that’s open to all, but as the court wrote in a decision this spring, “the [state] framers did not intend for every aspect of public education to be free.” In other words, districts don’t have to provide transportation.

The case dates back to 2011, when Franklin Township, Ind., an Indianapolis suburb facing a $16 million deficit, opted to terminate its school bus services. The move prompted a lawsuit from parents that would eventually make its way to the state Supreme Court, but it also led the Indiana General Assembly to pass a law allowing districts to end busing after issuing three years’ notice.

Additionally, schools that could prove extreme financial hardship could also petition the state Department of Education for an immediate closure; so far, only one district applied for immediate closure, and it was denied.

Continue reading What Happens When Schools Stop Providing Buses?

Growing Evidence that Charter Schools Are Failing

by Paul Buchheit, published July 6, 2015 at Common Dreams

‘While there’s little difference in the overall performance of charter schools and public schools,’ explains Buchheit, ‘charters are riddled with fraud and identified with a lack of transparency that leads to more fraud.’ (Photo: Dean Hochman/flickr/cc)

In early 2015 Stanford University’s updated CREDO Report concluded that “urban charter schools in the aggregate provide significantly higher levels of annual growth in both math and reading compared to their TPS peers.”

This single claim of success has a lot of people believing that charter schools really work. But there are good reasons to be skeptical. First of all, CREDO is funded and managed by reform advocates. It’s part of the Hoover Institution, a conservative and pro-business think tank funded in part by the Walton Foundation, and in partnership with Pearson, a leading developer of standardized testing materials. CREDO director Margaret Raymond is pro-charter and a free-market advocate.

The 2015 CREDO study received much of its input, according to a Louisiana source, from the New Orleans Recovery School District and charter promoter New Schools for New Orleans, who together had “embarked on a bold, five-year journey to standardize, validate and export the New Orleans charter restart model…addressing the problem of failing schools by restarting them with schools operated by charter operators.”

Regarding national findings, a review of the CREDO study by the National Education Policy Center questioned CREDO’s statistical methods: for example, the study excluded public schools that do NOT send students to charters, thus “introducing a bias against the best urban public schools.”

Charters Are Underperforming

The inadequacies of charter schools have been confirmed by other recent studies, one of them by CREDO itself, which found that in comparison to traditional public schools “students in Ohio charter schools perform worse in both reading and mathematics.” Another recent CREDO study of California schools reached mixed results, with charters showing higher scores in reading but lower scores in math.

Continue reading Growing Evidence that Charter Schools Are Failing

Out of Whack

by David Swanson, published at Washington’s Blog on July 5, 2015

Obamacare is the name given a law that says you must buy overpriced private health insurance from companies that fund election campaigns. Yes, it’s got some lipstick on it, but compared to a civilized healthcare system like other wealthy nations use it’s awful. But how awful? Surely not as awful as . . .

Obamatrade, which is the name not given to a potential treaty, a.k.a. the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which says that . . .

You must let foreign corporations overturn national laws.

You must throw millions of people out of work.

You must pay more for medicine.

You must allow banks to gamble on and crash the economy.

You must not know what’s in your food.

You must be censored online.

You must destroy family farming.

You must wreck the environment.

You must get paid less.

ALL OF THIS doesn’t bother anybody?

Continue reading Out of Whack