Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Story of Mouseland

by Nag on the Lake, published August 18, 2015

Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story is a CBC Television miniseries about the founding leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada who brought us national health care and became known as the greatest Canadian of all time. In this excerpt Douglas tells the story of Mouseland, a political fable expressing the view that the Canadian political system was flawed in offering voters a false dilemma: the choice of two parties, neither of which represented their interests.

 

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The Social Cost of Capitalism

by Paul Craig Roberts, published August 11, 2015

Few, if any, corporations absorb the full cost of their operations. Corporations shove many of their costs onto the environment, the public sector, and distant third parties. For example, currently 3 million gallons of toxic waste water from a Colorado mine has escaped and is working its way down two rivers into Utah and Lake Powell. At least seven city water systems dependent on the rivers have been shut down. The waste was left by private enterprise, and the waste was accidentally released by the Environmental Protection Agency, which might be true or might be a coverup for the mine. If the Lake Powell reservoir ends up polluted, it is likely that the cost of the mine imposed on third parties exceeds the total value of the mine’s output over its entire life.

Economists call these costs “external costs” or “social costs.” The mine made its profits by creating pollutants, the cost of which is born by those who had no share in the profits.

As this is the way regulated capitalism works, you can imagine how bad unregulated capitalism would be. Just think about the unregulated financial system, the consequences we are still suffering with more to come.

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Healthcare: CEO pay soars at top not-for-profits

By Michael Sandler  | August 8, 2015 | published at Modern Healthcare

AR-308089988.jpg&q=40&maxw=600&maxh=600Despite mounting public concern about sky-high pay levels for top-ranked corporate officials, the highest-paid executives at not-for-profit healthcare institutions racked up massive pay increases in 2013, a Modern Healthcare review of the most recently available data from Internal Revenue Service filings shows.

The pay for 20 top-paid healthcare executives who earned both a base salary and bonus and incentive income in 2012 and 2013 soared 29.6% year over year.

An executive who saw one of the highest percentage spikes in combined base and bonus pay was Anthony Tersigni, president and CEO of St. Louis-based Ascension. He earned a total of $7.1 million in 2013, more than double the $2.8 million he earned in 2012. His total compensation, which included base, bonus, $1.3 million in other compensation, $59,024 in deferred compensation and $38,639 in nontaxable benefits, totaled $8.5 million.

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The Big Lie: 5.6% Unemployment

by Jim Clifton, published February 3, 2015 at Gallup

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Here’s something that many Americans — including some of the smartest and most educated among us — don’t know: The official unemployment rate, as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor, is extremely misleading.

Right now, we’re hearing much celebrating from the media, the White House and Wall Street about how unemployment is “down” to 5.6%. The cheerleading for this number is deafening. The media loves a comeback story, the White House wants to score political points and Wall Street would like you to stay in the market.

None of them will tell you this: If you, a family member or anyone is unemployed and has subsequently given up on finding a job — if you are so hopelessly out of work that you’ve stopped looking over the past four weeks — the Department of Labor doesn’t count you as unemployed. That’s right. While you are as unemployed as one can possibly be, and tragically may never find work again, you are not counted in the figure we see relentlessly in the news — currently 5.6%. Right now, as many as 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed. Trust me, the vast majority of them aren’t throwing parties to toast “falling” unemployment.

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Game of Groans: How focus on Trump Taunts hides GOP war on Middle Class, Workers

by Juan Cole, published August 10, 2015

The condition of late capitalism produces a press discourse strangely devoid of any mention of class. Last Thursday we had 10 rich white males on a debate stage seeking to represent the billionaire class (some 536 individuals in US, who have more wealth than the bottom half of the US population).

US billionaires are getting richer at a time when wages for working and middle class people have not kept pace with increases in productivity.  Working and middle class Americans, unlike the stock market (80% of which is owned by the top 20% of the population), have never recovered from the bust of 2008. And no, it was not caused by ordinary people trying to live above their means. It was caused by bankers who were venal and corrupt and stole enormous sums from the public.

So what did the would-be representatives of the super-wealthy want? They wanted to take away health care from tens of millions of Americans. Why would you want to do that? Having to contribute to health care for the US public is an inconvenience to the business classes, many of whom don’t want Obamacare.

They want to take away your medicaid and social security. Again, this step is in the interest of the super-wealthy who don’t want the government to run such large entitlement programs for fear that Washington will end up taxing them for the operation. (In fact, social security would be healthier if the wealthy had to pay into it according to full income; at the moment, there is a cut-off for payments, which saves the billionaires a lot of money.)

Continue reading Game of Groans: How focus on Trump Taunts hides GOP war on Middle Class, Workers

5 Ways Congress Disposes of Poor Minorities

by Paul Buchheit, published August 10, 2015 at Common Dreams

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Poverty is killing people in the United States. It always has. (Photo: Alex Barth/flickr/cc)

In a recent discussion of American neoliberalism, Henry Giroux described “the practice of disposability in which more and more individuals and groups are now considered excess—consigned to zones of abandonment, surveillance, and often incarceration.”

This is certainly true of poor Americans, especially those who are black or brown. Many of our well-positioned, mostly Republican Congressional leaders have shown through their actions that they don’t care about such people. The resulting neglect is life-threatening for the most vulnerable among us.

1. Denying Health Care: Tens of Thousands of Deaths Every Year

Numerous studies have shown that lack of health coverage can contribute to sickness and early death. Low-income minorities, of course, are least likely to have coverage.

Just having Medicaid greatly improves one’s chances of prolonging life. Yet Congress lets individual states decide the fortunes of their own poor residents. With 22 states opting out of Medicaid this year, over 5 million Americans are without vital health insurance coverage, and women—especially black women—are dying because of the lack of maternal care.

And now it’s getting worse, with an attack on Planned Parenthood, which saves women’s lives through breast cancer screenings, and reduces abortions by providing contraceptive services.

2. Subsidizing Pollution 

The IMF estimates that global subsidies for fossil fuels have reached about $5 trillion per year, with the greatest cost going to the smog-spewing coal industry.

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The US Economy Continues Its Collapse

by Paul Craig Roberts, published August 10, 2015

Do you remember when real reporters existed? Those were the days before the Clinton regime concentrated the media into a few hands and turned the media into a Ministry of Propaganda, a tool of Big Brother. The false reality in which Americans live extends into economic life. Last Friday’s employment report was a continuation of a long string of bad news spun into good news. The media repeats two numbers as if they mean something—the monthly payroll jobs gains and the unemployment rate—and ignores the numbers that show the continuing multi-year decline in employment opportunities while the economy is allegedly recovering.

The so-called recovery is based on the U.3 measure of the unemployment rate. This measure does not include any unemployed person who has become discouraged from the inability to find a job and has not looked for a job in four weeks. The U.3 measure of unemployment only includes the still hopeful who think they will find a job.

The government has a second official measure of unemployment, U.6. This measure, seldom reported, includes among the unemployed those who have been discouraged for less than one year. This official measure is double the 5.3% U.3 measure. What does it mean that the unemployment rate is over 10% after six years of alleged economic recovery?

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$21 Trillion Hidden in Offshore Accounts

by Bud Meyers, published August 4, 2015

The world’s super-rich have taken advantage of lax tax rules to siphon off at least $21 trillion, and possibly as much as $32 trillion, from their home countries and hide it abroad — a sum larger than the entire American economy. And almost half of the minimum estimate of $21 trillion ($9.8 trillion) is owned by just 92,000 people. John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network. “Inequality is much, much worse than official statistics show, but politicians are still relying on trickle-down to transfer wealth to poorer people.”
http://www.theguardian.com/business/2012/jul/21/offshore-wealth-global-economy-tax-havens

Jesse Ventura, former Minnesota governor (July 21, 2015): “I’d like to see them implement a maximum wage. If you can’t live off of $100,000,000 a year, there’s something wrong with you. There’s not a person on the planet that should make more than that in one year.” Jesse Ventura says “Bernie Sanders is my hero right now,” and praises a $15 an hour minimum wage.
http://www.examiner.com/article/jesse-ventura-says-bernie-sanders-is-my-hero-right-now-praises-15-min-wage\

Senator Bernie Sanders (July 25, 2015): “There is something profoundly wrong when we have a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires at the same time as millions of Americans work longer hours for lower wages and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth.”
http://portside.org/2015-07-27/remarks-senator-sanders-southern-christian-leadership-conference

Nigel Travis, Dunkin’ Donuts CEO, is calling the decision to raise the hourly minimum wage for New York fast food workers from the current $8.75 to $15 statewide in 2021 “absolutely outrageous.” Travis declared in a CNN interview that it will hurt the small-business people who run Dunkin’ franchises. He made $10.2 million last year, over double his take-home the year before. Travis says the minimum wage hike will mean “less hiring” at Dunkin’ Donuts, and adds: “I don’t want to sound threatening.”
https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2015/07/24/dunkin-ceo-decries-hour-minimum-wage-new-york/NXWH69qEhVo0ARfhIndEcP/story.html 

Rich Kids Of Instagram: They have more money than you and this is what they do.
https://instagram.com/richkidsofinstagram/

Huffington Post: When Republicans Nominate a Billionaire, Only Bernie Sanders Will Save Democrats
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/h-a-goodman/when-republicans-nominate-a-billionaire-only-bernie-sanders_b_7923436.html

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Phyllis Schlafly: Still Wrong (and Mean) After All These Years

picture-966by Carole Joffe, University of California, published April 17, 2014 at RH Reality Check

 

“The best way to improve economic prospects for women is to improve job prospects for the men in their lives, even if that means increasing the so-called pay gap.”

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Phyllis Schlafly, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in 2011. (WikiMedia Commons)

The above quote is from a recent column by Phyllis Schlafly, arguably the nation’s, if not the world’s, most famous hater of the feminist movement. I had not seen mention of her in the media for some time, and this column has caused me to reflect both on her long career and her relevance. Her column also sparked thoughts about the larger problem that U.S. conservatism has had in finding credible spokeswomen.

I confess to some grudging admiration for Schlafly, given that at nearly 90 she is still active politically—but that is the only thing about her I can admire. Ever since the 1970s, Schlafly has devoted her considerable energies to vilifying the women’s movement and those who identify with it. Here are some of her positions on various items of the feminist policy agenda:

On marital rape:By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don’t think you can call it rape.”

On sexual harassment:Non-criminal sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for the virtuous woman except in the rarest of cases.”

On domestic violence: “When marriages are broken by false allegations of domestic violence, U.S. taxpayers fork up an estimated $20 billion a year to support the resulting single-parent, welfare-dependent families.”

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Paying taxes your employer keeps

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David Cay Johnston video report

by David Cay Johnston, published July 19, 2011 at Reuters

Painful as it feels to have a lot of hard-earned income taken from your paycheck for taxes, a new Illinois law does something Americans may find surprising. It lets some employers pocket taxes for 10 years.

You read that right — in Illinois the state income taxes withheld from your paycheck may be kept by your employer under a law that took effect in May. Continental Corporation (CONG.DE), the big German tire maker; Motorola Mobility (MMI.N), the cell phone maker; and Navistar (NAV.N), the maker of diesel trucks for industry and the military, are in on the deal. State officials say a fourth company is negotiating a similar arrangement.

Chrysler and Mitsubishi arranged deals with the state in the depths of the Great Recession in 2009; Ford got one in 2007, since revised to let it keep half of its Illinois workers’ state income taxes.

Instead of paying for police, teachers, roads and other state and local services that grease the wheels of commerce, Illinois workers at these companies will subsidize their employers with the state income taxes they pay.

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