Category Archives: Bud Meyers

Hillary Clinton would give Billions to Billionaires

by Bud Meyers, published November 24, 2015

Compare these two recent posts…

New York Times (November 23, 2015) Giving Billions to the Rich (by Marc Short and Andy Koenig. Excerpts below.)

It’s that time of year again, when Republicans and Democrats put aside their differences to dole out gifts of corporate welfare to a lucky few. Congress will soon take up the so-called tax extenders package, which has more than 50 tax breaks affecting a variety of industries and issues. Lawmakers will undoubtedly spin this as a tax cut that will benefit hardworking Americans and improve our economy; but the reality is, this bill mostly helps the wealthy and the well connected. It’s been this way for nearly three decades. The first tax-extender package in 1988, which was initially supposed to be temporary, opened a door that lobbyists and lawmakers were all too willing to run through. They were drawn by the allure of handing out corporate welfare, with the ability to hide the long-term cost to taxpayers. The Congressional Budget Office doesn’t extrapolate the costs beyond the overall package’s extension, giving the public the false impression that the cost will be both temporary and smaller than a long-term extension. The tax-extender package is now a time-honored tradition, appearing about each year or so since 1988, usually with overwhelming bipartisan support. More than 80 percent of the tax breaks directly benefit businesses, some of which are multinational corporations. The Senate’s two-year extension will cost $95 billion over a decade, but the actual cost to taxpayers in that time frame will likely be closer to half a trillion dollars — if not more. A 2014 analysis by Americans for Tax Fairness found that more than one out of every 10 lobbyists in Washington focused specifically on the extenders package. Given that this bill comes up about every year or two, special interests constantly have the opportunity to demand new handouts. This is exactly the sort of wheeling and dealing that Americans hate. A 2013 Rasmussen poll found that 70 percent of voters “think government and big business often work together in ways that hurt” the rest of us.

Brookings Institute (November 23, 2015) How not to talk about taxes: New York Times promotes misleading language of “loopholes” (by Vanessa Williamson. Excerpts below.)

Reading the New York Times this morning [quotes above], you may have come across an op-ed railing against “corporate welfare” and “crony capitalism” tax breaks that give “billions to the rich.” On first glance, one might think this a leftist critique á la Bernie Sanders. But no. The authors, Marc Short and Andy Koenig, are the president and senior policy advisor at Freedom Partners, the [libertarian/right-wing] political operation worth hundreds of millions of dollars associated with conservative billionaire Charles Koch. The first hint at the authors’ politics comes when they single out particular beneficiaries of the corporate tax break largesse: “Hollywood” and “wind-energy producers,” both business sectors associated with the Democratic Party. Still, a conservative attack on corporate tax loopholes seems like a break from tradition – until you look more closely at what the authors are recommending: across-the-board rate cuts. Several Republican presidential candidates (link, link, link) have been taking a similar policy tack. In each case, the result is vastly lower taxes for corporations and the wealthy, with hand-waving explanations of the budget shortfalls that would likely result. According to Gallup, two thirds of Americans think corporations pay too little in taxes, and about 60% think the wealthy are paying too little. In fact, underpayment by the wealthy and corporations is what bothers Americans most about the tax system — more than the complexity of the system, and even the amount they pay in taxes. Given the overwhelming preference for increasing taxes at the top, it is no wonder that conservative advocates want to cover their policies with a veneer of loophole-closing populism. As I’ve argued elsewhere, this kind of rhetoric is likely to be effective. Most Americans believe in progressive taxation and think the rich should pay more in taxes. But they think “loopholes” are the reason the rich do not pay enough, and they therefore underrate the importance of tax rates. This misperception helps explain why a sizeable minority of Americans support a flat tax – if it closed the loopholes, they mistakenly reason, it might actually raise taxes on the rich. By focusing on loopholes, Short and Koenig manage to advocate for tax cuts for the biggest corporations and the wealthiest Americans. The pseudo-populist approach disguises a wildly unpopular idea.

In other news: Bernie vs. Hillary

Poll: 60% don’t trust Hillary, 62% say she’ll “do anything” to be president. According to a new national survey by Pew Research Center, only 29% of Americans say the term “honest” describes elected officials. The results below are based on more than 6,000 interviews:

74% say their elected officials put their own interests ahead of the nation’s.
72% say elected officials as “selfish” (more so than typical Americans and business leaders).
76% say money has a greater influence on politics and elected officials today than in the past.
56% say large corporations have a negative impact on the country.
65% say the national news media has a negative effect on the country.

Continue reading Hillary Clinton would give Billions to Billionaires

The Origin of ISIS

by Bud Meyers, published November 16, 2015

The U.S. created the current instability in the Middle-East. We deposed the democratically elected president of Iran and replaced him with the Shah, who we strongly supported, leading to their 1979 revolution.

We armed, trained, and funded Al Qaeda (Osama Bin Laden) and the Taliban during the Russian-Afghanistan War, effectively making them what they became. We invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein. There is absolutely no question about our role in creating ISIS.

During the second Democratic debate on November 14, 2015, when the candidates were discussing the troubled Middle-East and the recent attacks by ISIS, Bernie Sanders said: “I am not a great fan of regime change.” (The transcript from that part of the debate is further below.)

Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush should have listened to people like Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley back then. George W. Bush and Co. still claims Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and George W. Bush’s brother won’t admit his brother made a mistake (as Dick Cheney and friends profited from the war while sticking the American taxpayers with trillions in debt.)

Hillary Clinton now says she made a “mistake” by voting to invade Iraq, but she and people like Jeb Bush are also saying that we should trust them now.

Continue reading The Origin of ISIS

Hillary Clinton thinks $250,000 a year is “Middle-Class”

by Bud Meyers, published November 17, 2015

The headline blares: “Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign blasts Bernie Sanders’ policies, says they would raise middle-class taxes”. The article says Bernie Sanders proposal includes a 2.2 percent across the board income tax and a 6.7 percent payroll tax for employers.

The article cites another article at the Washington Post which says Hillary Clinton, for the first time in this campaign, is now committing to the same pledge Obama made: no new taxes on households earning under $250,000 a year.

Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon praised what he called Hillary Clinton’s “bold, aggressive agenda” and contended that the former Secretary of State “believes strongly that middle-class families deserve a raise, not a tax increase.”

A few points I’d like to make:

  1. For one thing, $250,000 a year is not a “middle-class” wage — per Social Security wage data, that’s in the top 1%. Do they deserve a raise too?
  2. A 2.2% across-the-board tax pays for “Medicare for All” — and therefore, eliminates the mandate to purchase an Obamcare healthcare plan.
  3. Upper income earners will pay proportionately higher taxes, so that lower income earners will get the same quality healthcare.
  4. Besides just healthcare, lower income earners will also get paid family and medical leave (which is not automatically included in Obamacare)

Continue reading Hillary Clinton thinks $250,000 a year is “Middle-Class”

Bernie Sanders vs. Hillary Clinton on Social Security

by Bud Meyers, published November 6, 2015

Last year 24% of the federal budget was spent on Social Security, but less that 2% of the last Democratic debate was spent on this subject. The democratic candidates spent a total of 3 minutes during a two hour debate on the subject of Social Security (2 minutes, if you exclude Hillary’s remarks about college tuition when she tried to avoid the moderator’s question.) And only two candidates spoke on the issue — Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Then Anderson Cooper interrupted and changed the subject to immigration. (See the short video below).

Since the dawn of mankind (actually, since FDR’s New Deal) the Republicans have always been against Social Security. And today’s “moderate” Democrats (Third Way Centrists) have shown a willingness to “compromise” with Republicans on cuts to Social Security.

Not too long ago, many “moderate” Democrats (like Obama) were saying we would be able to reduce Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) by using chained-CPI, which rises more slowly than regular CPI. That’s because, it accounts for the way our elderly and poor switches to pet food when the price of “people food” rises — like switching from steak to chicken — until chicken costs too much, and then switching to “people” tuna, before eventually switching to “cat” tuna.

Progressive senators such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were always against using chained-CPI for Social Security. Bernie Sanders said it would be immoral. Elizabeth Warren was shocked that Obama would even consider it. But would a self-proclaimed “moderate” like Hillary Clinton (as President) pass Republican-sponsored legislation to use chained-CPI in the next budget deal?

Continue reading Bernie Sanders vs. Hillary Clinton on Social Security

Our Corrupt Political Duopoly Denies Voters Real Change

by Bud Meyers, published November 2, 2015

When Senator Bernie Sanders said America needs a “political revolution”, it wasn’t dishonest political hyperbole or a slick campaign slogan; it was a genuine call to arms to a real threat that’s challenging our democracy.

Open Secrets:

The presidential public funding program was established in 1976 as a response to the Watergate scandal. It has seen few changes during the 30 years it has been used. And as historic levels of money pour into campaign coffers — and outside groups gain increased freedom to spend unlimited amounts of cash on advertisements of their own — more and more presidential candidates are choosing to fund their campaigns with private contributions. This choice allows them to avoid being bound by spending limits.

During the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama became the first major party candidate reject public financing for the general election. Eight years earlier, Republican George W. Bush became the first major party candidate to opt out of the public financing system during the primaries. In 2004, Bush again rejected public money during the primaries, as did Democratic candidates Howard Dean and John Kerry. And in 2008, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney have opted out of the system as well.

Since what in essence has been the end of publicly financed elections and the recent Supreme Court rulings on campaign finance (in conjunction to States’ voter suppression laws), America has become a corrupted political duopoly — a watered-down version of “democracy” that has been dominated by political insiders who have refused to allow “political insurgents” to succeed in elections — and denying The People their right to vote for the type of government that they would prefer (and the corporate media is complicit).

The electoral college has become corrupt, and is out-dated, and should be abolished. We no longer depend on people on horseback to travel hundreds of miles to cast votes on our behalf. Today we have delegates and super-delegates within the establishment two-party machine who vote, not with the popular vote, but who vote in their ownbest interests — towing the party line and looking for tit-for-tat political favors from leaders within their relevant parties — such as recently, when “progressives” like Ohio’s Senator Sherrod Brown and NYC’s Mayor Bill de Blasio have endorsed Hillary Clinton, who is a “moderate”. The political process is rigged from top to bottom.

Continue reading Our Corrupt Political Duopoly Denies Voters Real Change

New Budget Deal DOES cut Social Security (File and Suspend Rule)

by Bud Meyers, published October 31, 2015

The “File and Suspend” rule for Social Security ends in the new budget deal … and that might be bad news for divorced women heading toward retirement.

Slate: People weren’t just using the “file and suspend” strategy out of greed. They were using it to boost what are often less than adequate income replacement levels in retirement. It came about as part of legislation designed to encourage people in their 60s to remain part of the paid workforce by eliminating caps on what seniors could earn and still claim Social Security. The “file and suspend” strategy allows one member of a married couple to file for his or her Social Security benefits on reaching the full retirement age but then suspend them. This allowed the lower-earning partner—usually the wife—to take her spousal benefits when she turned 66, while the other member of the marital team—usually the husband—continued to work. When the file-and-suspend spouse turned 70, he would once again claim his benefits, this time for good. At that point, the other partner forgoes Social Security’s spousal benefit in favor of her now-larger personal monthly stipend. 

Continue reading New Budget Deal DOES cut Social Security (File and Suspend Rule)

Steve Jobs Didn’t Build That.

by Bud Meyers, published October 27, 2015

Via Naked Capitalism: What the Steve Jobs Movie Won’t Tell You About Apple’s Success (excerpts)

Everything you can do with an iPhone was government-funded. From the Internet that allows you to surf the Web, to GPS that lets you use Google Maps, to touch screen display and even the SIRI voice activated system —all of these things were funded by Uncle Sam through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), NASA, the Navy, and even the CIA!

We see the new Steve Jobs film, which is based on a 600-page book, where not one word mentions any of the public funding behind Apple’s empire. But the real iPhone story — or the story behind biotechnology — reveals a very different narrative in which government-funded research made the most exciting innovations possible.

Economists argue that the government gets that upside through taxes paid by the companies benefiting from the investments; and by economic growth, which should generate higher tax receipts more broadly; and also through the spillovers from the investment into other areas, which helps the economy. But those mechanisms are limited, because of decreased corporate tax rates (and abundant loopholes), as well as the fall in what the top 1 percent pays [its workers, compared to what they pay themselves — not to mention, the offshoring of manufacturing jobs to China]. Continue reading Steve Jobs Didn’t Build That.

New Budget Deal Cuts Social Security, But How?

by Bud Meyers, published October 27 at The Economic Populist

news-black-outMSNBC, CNN, HLN and Fox News have all been reporting non-stop about the Spring Valley school officer caught on video slamming a South Carolina student to the ground during an arrest — but very few details are being reported by the media about the new budget deal, which will soon go to a vote. (BTW, the student wasn’t even hurt, but that has been “breaking news” for hours now.)

So far, limited information provided to the public seems to indicate that, rather than expand Social Security (as Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and many others have advocated), the new budget deal is a “bipartisan compromise” to cut benefits for the disabled and lower the “cap” for high income earners (that, according to other media sources).

And just like the TPP trade agreement, the new budget is also being negotiated behind closed doors (while we’re being distracted by other sensational news).

Continue reading New Budget Deal Cuts Social Security, But How?

U.S. Offshores Jobs to Reduce Poverty Overseas (Really?)

by Bud Meyers, published on October 23, 2015

Just like Bill Gates’ and Bill Clinton’s foundations, CEOs of American-based multi-national corporations are offshoring jobs overseas to low-wage countries, not because it can generate much higher profits at the expense of American workers, but because of humanitarian reasons — to help others in this world of economic globalization.

Last June the New York Times wrote in a post titled “The Democratic Tea Party“:

In Asia, the American-led open trade era has created the greatest reduction in poverty in human history. The Pacific trade deal [the TPP trade agreement] would lift the living standards of the poorest Asians, especially the 90 million people of Vietnam.”

Nike has 345,000 workers in Vietnam working in 67 factories paying young women 60 cents an hour to make shoes selling for $150 in the United States. Meanwhile, the U.S. has 67,161 less factories today than we did in 1997.

On May 12, 1998 Nike’s CEO Phil Knight gave a speech at the National Press Club where he spoke of Nike’s reasons for moving factories out of the United States and into mainly third world countries in Asia.:

“During the 1990s, all our experiences have caused us to really believe in the benefits of international trade. The uplifting of impoverished people, the better values for consumers in industrialized nations, and most of all, the increased understandings between peoples of different cultures.”

Continue reading U.S. Offshores Jobs to Reduce Poverty Overseas (Really?)

Retirees get the Shaft, Federal Workers get a Raise

by Bud Meyers, published on October 17, 2015

Old people, disabled people, veterans and poor people who rely on government benefits won’t get a cost-of-living raise next year — but federal and state government workers do.

Health care costs and prescription drug prices almost always go up. Rents have gone up. Food prices have also gone up, even though the price of oil has gone down. But the federal government is saying those on Social Security do not need a cost-of-living increase in 2016.

Core inflation (CPI) with all food and energy items removed from the index, has increased 1.8% for the last year. But because gasoline is cheaper, the government is saying inflation was near zero — and so therefore, no COLA.

But what about the elderly or disabled that don’t drive a car and benefit from lower gas prices? Tough luck grandma!

There will also be no COLAs for federal retirees, those on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and our veterans. But USA Today reports that federal employees — both civilian and military who are still working — could see a 1.3% raise next year (Why, if there was no inflation?)

Meanwhile, the Service Employees International Union (which represents almost 2 million state government workers) reports their renewed contract will give them a 1.48% cost-of-living raise on December 1, 2015 — and the year after, a 2.75 percent cost-of-living raise on December 1, 2016 (as they should, as everybody else should, to avoid the long decline in incomes since 1979).

How those on Social Security will get the shaft…

The Social Security Act specifies a formula for determining the cost-of-living adjustment based on a broad measure of consumer prices for urban wage earners and clerical workers — called the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W). But older Americans say this measure of inflation does not fully reflect price increases for the goods and services they use. Older Americans typically devote more of their budgets to medical care, so their COLAs should be based on an alternative rate of inflation known as CPI-E (and definitely NOT Chained-CPI).

Continue reading Retirees get the Shaft, Federal Workers get a Raise