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Will attacks euphemistic race talk

Just in case our regular George has been wearing thin,  this column by another George, George Will, attacks Democrats for talking about race in a euphemistic way. He works for the Washington Post.

Average taxpayers bear burden of low taxes on wealthy

(originally for the Butte Weekly) 4-23-14

                 The week of April 15, with attention focused on taxes, our corporate newspaper carried George Will’s editorial singing the praises of two House Republican plans to slash taxes on the oligarchy. Both would cut the top personal income tax rate from about 40 to 35 percent while slashing the corporate rate from 35 to 25 percent.

                Citizens for Tax Justice’s analysis of Dave Camp’s plan reveals big tax increases for average folks and lower taxes for the wealthy and corporations. CTJ writes: “Two-thirds of single parents would pay an extra $1,100 a year in taxes.” Paul Ryan’s tax reform reward millionaires in 2015 with a savings of $200,000. Robert Reich points out that even before such “reform” the richest 400 taxpayers are already paying at an average rate of 20 percent.

                Last year, Senator Max Baucus was buddy-buddy with Representative Camp during their summer pilgrimage to multinational corporate headquarters from coast to coast.  They publicized the 35 percent tax rate on our corporations as a reason we can’t compete globally. Of course these well-financed liars knew that the real corporate rate averaged 19.4 percent.  In fact, corporations enjoyed lower tax rates than the average “real person.”

                As another April 15th passes, we should remember the honor role of huge corporations, those “legal persons” who managed to avoid paying any federal income tax from 2008 through 2012. Citizens for Tax Justice lists 26 goliaths in all. Such names as General Electric, Boeing, Corning, Verizon, and Priceline.com should be familiar to most of us. Not only did these giants of patriotism and free market ideology pay no taxes, but they actually were granted rebates by our oligarchy’s obedient Congress --- $3 billion to GE, $535 million to Verizon, $202 million to Boeing, $10 million to Corning and Priceline.com. Think how many checks written by average taxpayers were required to ensure the deserving CEOs received their accustomed salaries of tens of millions.

                In the case of Boeing, there is a lesson on how a multinational can shift taxes from itself to a state’s average taxpayers. In 2003, a special session of the Washington legislature met to approve one measure, the Boeing bill. Washington had to outbid 19 other states to ensure that the new Dreamliner would be built in Everett. In a pressure cooker atmosphere, legislators approved a huge taxpayer funded subsidy package that was estimated to be worth $3.2 billion to Boeing through 2023. It included reimbursements for worker training, property tax forgiveness, low-cost loans, grants, tax credits and rebates, gifts of land, and exemptions from the state sales taxes.

                 Until 2003, the aerospace industry had been Washington’s biggest source of business tax revenue. With that vote, much of the industry’s tax liabilities disappeared. To make up for the revenue’s disappearance, gasoline taxes were increased, the state’s unemployment insurance program reduced, and workers’ compensation eligibility cut.

 

                Boeing has major operations in five states. In the period 2008 - 2012, its profits reported to the states were $20.4 billion. Its total state taxes were a rebate of $1,000,000. Its average state tax rate equaled zero percent.

                Lastly, Boeing’s tale has relevance to Baucus-Camp. Boeing’s foreign profits for the period 2008 - 2012 were $1 billion. It paid $323,000,000 in foreign taxes. Its average annual rate was 30 percent. Yes, Baucus-Camp boldly told us that our corporate tax had to be lowered if our firms were to be competitive globally. And there is George Will still passing along the lie.

                Cathy Siegner’s discussion of Caterpillar’s scam last week would make a representative Congress undertake real corporate tax reform. The legacy of the years of Baucus-Hatch Finance Committee tax deferrals for multinationals would be ended. There would be an end to US companies using post office box addresses in the tax haven Cayman Islands.

                Of course, these corporate “legal persons” sacrifice in other ways. They finance the world’s greatest lobbying industry, headquartered in our nation’s capital. And, as we our media constantly reminds us, they are “the job creators.” Just not in the United States.

                Elsewhere, this April saw the release of the Social Progress Index. It’s an academic compilation of studies of 132 nations in terms of 54 social and environmental indicators of livability. The US had the 2nd highest per capita GDP at $45,300. However, it ranked 70th in health, 69th in ecosystem sustainability, 30th in basic education, 34th in access to water and sanitation, 31st in personal safety.

                 There should be one of those roadside signs: “Your tax dollars at work!”

George Waring is a retired Montana Tech history professor.

Speaker Boehner calls 'heat and eat' a cheat

04-02-14 (Butte Weekly)

                What were Montana Governor Steve Bullock and governors of at least 6 other states thinking when they made the decision to use federal low income energy funds to reverse cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) clients in last year’s Farm Bill? 

                Maybe they are traitors who want to scuttle actions by the Republican House of Representatives to starve working poor, elderly and disabled, and children. 

                Maybe they want better outcomes for their citizens, better health, better outcomes for children and families, and a better economy for their states.  Evidence supports this view, even as storm clouds loom for more attacks from those intent on cutting spending—especially on our country’s most needy—to help those most likely to support their political ambitions. 

                Apparently, House Speaker John Boehner-R, does not feel the same way.

                “Since the passage of the farm bill, states have found ways to cheat, once again, on signing up people for food stamps. And so I would hope that the House would act to try to stop this cheating and this fraud from continuing,” Boehner said to reporters on Mar. 13. 

                Leadership in the U.S. House was livid at the actions of Governors Bullock and governors of Oregon, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island to increase payments to low income residents from federal low income energy assistance funds to bypass a provision in the Farm Bill passed last year.  More governors of the 17 states that have been participating in the “Heat and Eat” program, which allows low-income residents to qualify for increased SNAP benefits for participating in the Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), are expected to pass similar measures.

                Why did these governors act? 

                The congressional committee drafting the Farm Bill found a provision allowing the states participating in the “Heat and Eat” program to qualify low income residents for SNAP benefits if the state provided even one dollar per year of LIHEAP funds.  The committee decided that increasing the amount provided by the state (from federal funds, remember?) must be at least $20 for the resident to qualify for the increased SNAP benefit.   This provision was supposed to cut federal SNAP benefits by $8 billion over 10 years.  Thanks to the action of the governors, this full reduction may not be realized. 

                Apparently, these governors did the math.  For instance, Montana, by increasing LIHEAP benefits to $20 for approximately 2,000 residents, will allow them to qualify for $2 million more in SNAP benefits, while costing the state only $24,000. That makes sense in health and the welfare of low income citizens.

                It also makes sense for growing the state economy.  Most economists estimate that the increase in food dollars for the poor will result in $1.70 to the Montana economy for every dollar of SNAP benefits spent.  In a state like Montana, which is agriculturally based, with local people spending their money on products produced in the state, like meat, grain and produce, this figure seems low. 

                Governor Bullock is right to join other states in embracing this measure to fight the petty fighting in Washington, D.C. to preserve the interests of big money at the expense of the mostly working poor, elderly, disabled and children.  It’s not fraud and it’s not trickery.  It’s the right thing to do for the citizens of our state.    

                The next big worry is that the well-heeled and well-endowed political contributors will continue to push the drafting of even more draconian measures to cut funding that helps those struggling with poverty.  Despite evidence that the economy is improving—even in Montana—some interests would love to continue to blame the “laziness” of the poor, rather than to shoulder their own fair share of the public burden.  

Russia’s political and economic authority is limited

By Pat Williams (Butte Weekly)  4-2-14

President Obama seriously rattled at least one cage with his recent reference to Russia as a “regional power.” 

Following the recent Summit on National Security in the Netherlands, the President, responding to a press conference question, said, “Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors, not out of strength but out of weakness.”  Although the boldness of that remarked seemed out of character for the President, he is correct.

Russia’s authority is limited both economically and politically.  Its military presence is obvious but so are its economic and political weaknesses.  This is not the old Soviet Union nor can it ever be so again.  Far from the empire of Peter the Great or Catherine I, today’s Russia is a very large but very poor land-locked country with a failed government and a leader suffering from an inferiority complex.  Obama describes Putin as having “that kind of slouch like a bored kid in the back of the classroom.”  Of course, Russia is a force but it is no longer an empire and we should stop considering them as one.

That word “empire” applies to only one nation, the United States. We reject it, of course, because it smacks of imperialism with which we are entirely uncomfortable.  Our destiny, as Americans see it, is to be a welcoming beacon of freedom. 

The United States has, with far too many obvious and tragic exceptions, tried to avoid unjustified interference in the affairs of other nations although there has always been an assertive minority of saber-rattlers among our citizenry and we have too often elected presidents who have been quick to the trigger.  But in the end we have made our mistakes trying to defend and not dampen freedom.

When President Kennedy announced, “I am a Berliner,” he was expressing the belief that Americans are citizens of the world—just as surely as were the ancient Romans.  Ours is the benevolent voice of benign empire.  Unlike either the Roman or British Empires ours encourages law above power.  We are engaged not in consumption or the adjustment of national borders but rather with civil mission.  “Watchmen on the walls of freedom,” President Kennedy called it.  America accepts the obligation of a powerful and free people to assist others around the world with purity of purpose and without the constant calculation of self-interest.

There are those few occasions when the essential definition of America’s place in the world becomes less shrouded and more understandable.  Russia’s violation of Crimea and President Obama’s description of them as a “regional power” is a teaching moment which has clarified the great difference between Russia and the United States.

A few days ago President Obama noted that we and the world “have an interest in a strong and responsible Russia.”  However, that long-ago superpower must learn the lesson of this young century.  Responsibility is gained not by redrawing national boundaries through intimidation and force but rather it requires cooperation, civility, generosity and wisdom.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the nations of the world will adopt responsibility and respect toward neighbors with the understanding that watchful UN, NATO, and US military forces are ever present just over the horizon.

 

            Pat Williams served nine terms as a U.S. Representative from Montana.  After his

retirement, he returned to Montana and taught at The University of Montana.

‘Reverse’ revolving door now common in D. C.

 By George Waring 3-26-14

                In addition to his “Nation” magazine articles on contemporary lobbying in Washington, D.C., reporter Lee Fang is publishing articles on line in RepublicReport.org. These give us detailed descriptions of the extent to which an unregulated lobbying system now dominates Congress and the Executive Branch. It’s difficult to pick out the most obnoxious examples of this conquest of our government by wealthy lobbyists and their corporate paymasters, but a scan of just the past few weeks surfaces these three examples of the oligarchy’s method of controlling American “Democracy.”

Example One: Stephen Sayle

                During last year Mr. Sayle was the CEO of Dow Lohnes Government Strategies, a lobbying firm retained by Chevron to influence Congress and the White House. For fees that totaled $320,000 a year, Sayle and his team of lawyers lobbied on a range of energy-related issues. These included weakening the enforcement of the Environmental Protection Agency’s rules adopted under the Clean Air Act and the regulation of ozone standards. Sayle and his assistants also lobbied Congress and the EPA to weaken the laws and regulations “related to offshore oil, natural gas development and oil spills.”

                Since the beginning of this year, Mr. Sayle has procured a new occupation. He went from being a lobbyist to being a senior staff member of the House of Representatives Committee on Science. The Committee sports seventeen Republicans who have received $3.5 million of oil industry contributions in their careers. The committee’s mandate is to maintain the United States’ “scientific and technical leadership in the world.” Sayle’s transition from outsider to insider was engineered by Committee Chair, Rep. Lamar Smith.    

                Representing a gerrymandered district in San Antonio, Smith has served 26 years in the House, compiling a perfect voting record for Big Oil in opposing EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases, proposals to give tax credits for renewable energy or energy conservation, and attempts to raise fuel efficiency standards. In December, Smith chaired a subcommittee hearing focused on testimony from climate change skeptics refuting the thesis that climate change is manmade. Smith’s committee also heard oil industry bankrolled scientists refuting government studies on the direct connection between air pollution and disease.

                Shortly before Smith hired Chevron’s chief lobbyist, Sayle was given a $500,000 bonus by his lobbying firm, which cynics considered a “pass-through” from an appreciative oil giant.

Example Two: Stefan Selig

                Mr. Selig has been recently the Executive Vice Chairman of Global Corporate and Investment Banking at Bank of America in New York. As such he received several multimillion dollar Christmas bonuses since the Paulson-Bernanke bailout of 2008 for “too-big-to-fail banks.”

                In November of 2013, last year, President Obama nominated Selig to be the new Under Secretary for International Trade at the Department of Commerce. This position makes him the administration’s leader in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations. Selig received some $9 million in bonus pay from B of A when he was nominated. That bonus came in addition to $5.1 million in incentive pay awarded Selig last year.

Example Three: Michael Froman

                Michael Froman is President Obama’s current U.S. Trade Representative, appointed in June last year. He had been serving as a White House adviser on international trade and national security issues. Before 2009 Froman had been an investment banker at Citigroup in New York. During the 1990s he was an assistant to Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, a former head of Goldman Sachs and then, more recently of Citigroup.

                Mr. Froman’s transition from the world of finance to that of government was oiled this time around by Citigroup’s exit payment of over $4 million plus an additional $2 million for his holdings in investment funds. Since the heyday of Robert Rubin during the Clinton Administration, CitiGroup has had an executive contract that provides additional retirement pay for those fortunate enough to take a “full time high level position with the U.S. government or regulatory body.”

                Mr. Froman has been the lead negotiator for the Commerce Department in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks.

                For reporter Lee Fang, these three gentlemen are examples of a new phenomenon in Washington, the“reverse” revolving door. Instead of the traditional “revolving door” where the chief of staff of Senator Max Baucus’s Finance Committee would leave the government to become an executive in a Wall Street investment bank or in a K Street lobbying firm, now the corporate world is rewarding those loyal executives willing to accept government jobs paying only $200,000 per year. Luckily, as Lee Fang points out, our new government servants have earned quite large corporate bonuses before donning the sackcloth of upper middle class poverty in public service.

George Waring is a retired Montana Tech history professor.

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