Guest Commentary (3618)
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It was shown in a recent report that the richest Americans have made millions from their stock holdings since the recession.
It's getting worse. The facts are summarized here, and presented in greater detail at Us Against Greed.
1. Just 13 Americans Made More from Their Investments in 2013 than the Entire SNAP Budget
Some wealthy Americans like to refer to themselves as "makers," and food stamp recipients as "takers," even though most of the latter are children, the elderly, or low-wage workers. Many of the top 13 on the Forbes list did not make anything of significance in 2013. Yet by being heavily invested in the stock market they were able to take $80 billion among them, more than a year of food stamps for almost 50 million people.
2. The Richest 400 Took $300 Billion in 2013, Approximately the Entire Safety Net
The total budget for SNAP, WIC (Women, Infants, children), Child Nutrition, Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Housing is less than the $300 billion 'earned' by the Forbes 400.
WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT SATIRE
Avast me mateys. Off the starboard bow. Thar she blows. Looks like the Chris Christie juggernaut hit its first iceberg. And harpoons are flying in from multiple quarters. Back on the Jersey Shore, Hillary Clinton’s people and Rand Paul’s people are partying so loud and hard, Snooki and JWoww’s people are banging on doors demanding they keep it down
Rumors that Governor Juggernaut was a petty and vindictive bully have rattled across the borders of the Garden State for quite some time. So when it was revealed that aides shut down 2/3rds of the lanes on the George Washington Bridge to punish Fort Lee’s mayor for not endorsing him, it sounded as in character as the bolts on Baron von Frankenstein’s little buddy. Funny thing is, when you think of the porcine politico and major arteries being clogged, traffic patterns are not what springs to mind.
Christie, however, claims to have had nothing to do with the allegations. And attempted to prove it by getting rid of the guilty staffers quicker than a shower shank thrust to a snitch. If throwing people under a bus were an Olympic event, Chris Christie would be waving from the top of the podium wearing a double XL tracksuit in Russia next month. Fortunately, the bus was stuck in traffic and never moved.
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Christie Affair goes galloping along. By the time this column appears in print there may be more major developments/revelations-of-information. What will not change is the use by the GOP of one of its standard responses to such events, when the involved Republicans: "Two Wrongs Make a Right." (For the Numero Uno practitioners of this tactic see O'Reilly, Bill, and Hannity, S.) And this is one of their standard responses whether the described "wrongs" are comparable or not. But first, let's review a few of the relevant facts as we know them so far (as of January 16, 2014), concerning apparently purposely caused traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge, which connects Fort Lee, New Jersey with the island of Manhattan, New York City.
The George Washington Bridge is reputedly the world's busiest (and there are some really busy bridges elsewhere). It was completed in 1931 and at that time was the world's longest suspension bridge. It ceded that title to San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge in 1936. It has never ceded the title of "One of the World's Most Beautiful Bridges." I, born in 1936, was lucky enough to have grown up within everyday sight of it. When I was first driven over it by my Dad it had six lanes and toll booths on both sides. Double-decked, it now has 14 lanes and toll booths just on the Jersey side. Last September, right around opening-of-school time, several of the toll lanes were closed, causing severe traffic jams, especially in the community that sits at the Jersey end, Fort Lee.
As almost every sentient person in the United States now knows, those lane closings were ordered and implemented by one or more officials of the administration of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and appointees of his to a body known as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge and collects the tolls. The Governors of the two states share appointment powers for several of its executives and operating officers. This is one reason why things are so murky, and why a whole host of investigations of who ordered the toll gate closings and why are underway.
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The bipartisan report on Benghazi released Wednesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee should finally convince conspiracy theorists of the obvious: There is no there there.
Administration officials did not orchestrate any kind of attempt, politically motivated or otherwise, to deceive the American people. In their public statements, including the infamous talking points, they relied on what intelligence analysts told them.
In other words, if Susan Rice was wrong when she went on the Sunday talk shows and said the attacks were the violent outgrowth of a spontaneous anti-American demonstration rather than a long-planned terrorist assault, it was only because the intelligence community was wrong.
That said, the initial assessment given by Rice -- then serving as ambassador to the United Nations, now as President Obama's national security adviser -- may turn out to have been correct. We don't yet know. Says the report: "The IC [Intelligence Community] continues to review the amount and nature of any preplanning that went into the attacks."
Other preposterous claims about the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, in which U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed, are also debunked in the Senate report. Most spurious is the claim that the administration failed to launch a rescue attempt that might have saved lives.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"(Chris) Christie is the caricature of a Third World despot," writes Chris Hedges of the reeling New Jersey governor. "He has a vicious temper, a propensity to bully and belittle those weaker than himself, an insatiable thirst for revenge against real or perceived enemies, and little respect for the law and, as recent events have made clear, for the truth."
And he still might wind up becoming our next president.
This is our kind of guy — media spectacle, bully, errand boy for the moneyed interests. His presidential aspirations may not survive "bridge-gate," but in his national prominence he sure defines the abject state of American democracy. We give power to would-be despots, "caricatures" only in the sense that they lack life-and-death control over their subjects and are forced to express their wrath through lane closures and the infliction of mere inconvenience on their political foes.
How come our system rewards rather than weeds out ruthless jerks with huge egos and superficial values? Indeed, how come politics and "values" seem to be as self-repellant as oil and water? How come linking them in a sentence is mainly a good way to make cynics snort?
"It's because these days Americans have as much familiarity with democracy as they do with homesteading on the frontier," Arun Gupta wrote last week at Alternet. I think he's on to something.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Have you had your daily minimum requirement of triclosan today? How about your dosage of triclocarban?
Chances are you have, but don't know it. These two are antimicrobial chemicals, which might sound like a good thing — except that they disrupt the human body's normal regulatory processes. Animal studies show, for example, that these triclos can be linked to the scrambling of hormones in children, disruption of puberty and of the reproductive system, decreases in thyroid hormone levels that affect brain development and other serious health problems.
Yet, corporations have slipped them into all sorts of consumer products, pushing them with a blitz of advertising that claims the antibacterial ingredients prevent the spread of infections. The two chemicals were originally meant for use by surgeons to cleanse their hands before operations, but that tiny application has now proliferated like a plague, constantly exposing practically everyone to small amounts here, there and everywhere, adding up to dangerous mega-doses.
BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Here are the top ten examples of corporate welfare and welfare for the rich. There are actually thousands of tax breaks and subsidies for the rich and corporations provided by federal, state and local governments but these ten will give a taste.
One: State and Local Subsidies to Corporations. An excellent New York Times study by Louise Story calculated that state and local government provide at least $80 billion in subsidies to corporations. Over 48 big corporations received over $100 million each. GM was the biggest at a total of $1.7 billion extracted from 16 different states but Shell, Ford and Chrysler all received over a billion dollars each. Amazon, Microsoft, Prudential, Boeing and casino companies in Colorado and New Jersey received well over $200 million each.
Two: Direct Federal Subsidies to Corporations. The Cato Institute estimates that federal subsidies to corporations costs taxpayers almost $100 billion every year.
Three: Federal Tax Breaks for Corporations. The tax code gives corporations special tax breaks which reduced what is supposed to be a 35 percent tax rate to an actual tax rate of 13 percent, saving these corporations an additional $200 billion annually, according to the US Government Accountability Office.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The seemingly never-ending battle for the soul of the Republican Party took another interesting turn in the past few days. And that turn revolves around New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's involvement in, and/or his handling of, the George Washington Bridge Lane-Closure Scandal. GOP lifers – some call them moderate right-wingers -- hope that Christie can save the Party from the clutches of the Tea Party and head-up the GOP's presidential ticket in 2012, while the Tea Party and the Religious Right do not whole-heartedly embrace the governor.
Did Christie's two-hour performance at last week's press conference, help or hurt his chances of securing the nomination?
From Stage Far Right, enter Karl Rove and Dick Morris.
Rove, the man who, among other things, embarrassed himself during Fox News' election night coverage in 2012 by insisting that Ohio was still up for grabs long after it had been determined to be trending toward President Barack Obama, is praising Christie for his handling of the scandal.
Morris, the man who, among other things, embarrassed himself during the 2012 presidential race by insisting up to the very last minute that Mitt Romney was going to handily defeat Obama, thinks Christie has left a whole bunch of unanswered questions on the table.
DAVID SIROTA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Seven years before legal marijuana went on sale this month in my home state of Colorado, the drug warriors in President George W. Bush's administration released an advertisement that is now worth revisiting.
"I smoked weed and nobody died," intoned the teenage narrator. "I didn't get into a car accident. I didn't O.D. on heroin the next day. Nothing happened."
The television spot from the White House drug czar was intended to discourage marijuana use by depicting it as boring. But in the process, the government suggested that smoking a little pot is literally, in the words of the narrator, "the safest thing in the world."
Why is this spot worth revisiting? Because in light of what's happening here in Colorado, the ad looks less like a scary warning than a reassuringly accurate prophecy. Indeed, to paraphrase the ad, for all the sky-will-fall rhetoric about legalization, there haven't been piles of dead bodies and overdoses. Nothing like that has happened since we started regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol.
Instead, as I saw during a trip to 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, it has been the opposite. There, I didn't find the mayhem predicted by so many drug warriors.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
A recent New York Times article by economist Laurence J. Kotlikoff suggested that we "Abolish the Corporate Income Tax." His case for doing so, he explains, "requires constructing a large-scale computer simulation model of the United States economy as it interacts over time with other nations' economies." The computer determined that the tax cut would be "self-financing to a significant extent."
Big business hints at serious consequences if we don't comply with this lower tax demand. But abolishing the corporate income tax is not likely to reverse the long history of harmful corporate behavior. There are several good reasons why.