Guest Commentary (4608)
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
While candidates bicker and Congress stagnates, the super-rich enjoy the absence of attention paid to one of our nation's most destructive issues.
The richest Americans are takers of social benefits. Yet they complain about paying 12% to 20% in taxes, even as respected researchers estimate an optimal revenue-producing rate of 80% to 90%, and even with the near-certainty that higher marginal tax rates will have no adverse effects on GDP growth.
The super-rich pay little in taxes because, as Senator Lindsey Graham said, "It's really American to avoid paying taxes, legally...It's a game we play...I see nothing wrong with playing the game because we set it up to be a game." In reality, it's a game of theft from the essential needs of education, infrastructure, and jobs.
The Richest Individuals Cheat the Most
According to a recent IRS report, an incredible $406 billion annual gap exists between owed and paid taxes, with individuals accounting for over three-quarters of the total, and with the most egregious misreporting coming from the highest income-takers.
That's about $3,000 per U.S. household in annual lost revenue. Yet even though the IRS retrieves well over $100 for every dollar in salaries paid to their agents, the agency has been rapidly losing staff, making the tax avoidance game a lot easier for the biggest cheaters.
Corporations Cheat Most Creatively
Relative to a dollar of payroll tax, corporations used to pay $3 in income tax. Now they pay 30 cents.
Exxon uses a theoretical tax to 'pay' its bill, and grandfatherly old Warren Buffett's company Berkshire Hathaway uses hypothetical amounts to avoid paying taxes.
Despite having billions in profits and nearly half of its sales in the U.S., Pfizer claimed enormous losses in the United States.
Each year the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) sells contracts worth about a quadrillion dollars, four times more than all the wealth in the world. Yet ZERO sales tax is paid on the purchases.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Will Donald Trump be joining some of his fellow billionaires in establishing his own cable network? Can he monetize his popularity with the segment of the population that turns out at his rallies and buys Trump paraphernalia? Is there an audience for All Trump/All The Time?
Billionaires’ ownership of newspapers and other media outlets is nothing new. Earlier this month, Forbes’ Kate Vinton reported that “billionaires have long exerted influence on the news simply by owning U.S. media outlets.” Rupert Murdoch and Michael Bloomberg “are longtime media moguls who made their fortunes in the news business,” while Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who bought The Washington Post, “bought publications as a side investment after building a substantial fortune in another industry. “
According to Vinton, “Billionaires own part or all of several of America’s influential national newspapers, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, in addition to magazines, local papers and online publications.”
Sheldon Adelson, the multibillionaire casino magnate, a major funder of right-wing causes and candidates and a Donald Trump endorser, owns a daily newspaper in Israel called Israel Hayom; bought after being unhappy with how he was being covered in Israel. Here at home, Adelson bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal for a reported $140 million.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTLORRAINE CHOW OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
Major kudos to Hannah Rousey. The college-bound student from Lovell, Maine has turned down a $1,000 scholarship money from Nestlé subsidiary Poland Spring due to her objections to bottled water and the company's environmentally destructive practices.
"I am grateful for the scholarship I have been awarded, but I cannot in good faith accept money from a company that does not exhibit sustainable and ethical practices," she wrote a letter to the bottling company on June 2, according to the Conway Daily Sun.
The 17 year old has been accepted to Sterling College in Vermont where she will pursue a degree in sustainable agriculture and environmental protection law and policy. She was one of five students who received a $1,000 Poland Spring Good Science scholarship at her high school graduation ceremony from Fryeburg Academy in Fryeburg, Maine, the Bridgton News reported.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
This won't be the last.
Half a week into the Orlando tragedy, this reality remains pretty much unacknowledged, as cause-seekers focus on security and ISIS and the specific mental instability of Omar Mateen, who, as the world knows, took 49 precious lives and injured 53 others at the nightclub Pulse in the early hours of June 12.
Was it terrorism? Was it a hate crime? Apparently there's a media obsession with categorizing murder. No, this was faux-war, as all our mass killings are, waged by an army of one or two or a few. And it won't be the last. Mass killings are part of the social fabric -- still shocking, still horrifying, but becoming more and more . . . "normal."
Tighter security won't stop them. Destroying ISIS won't stop them. Banning immigrants won't stop them. Maybe nothing will -- though I don't believe that. I do believe in karma, which is to say, the idea that what goes around comes around. If we act with violence, violence will come back to haunt us.
LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
plastic pollution is an increasingly devastating crisis, and this new infographic shows exactly where the plastic trash is coming from, where it ends up and why it’s important to start our fight against this environmental scourge at the beach.Ocean
The graph, provided by UK-based Eunomia Research & Consulting, shows that more than 80 percent of the annual input of plastic litter, such as drink bottles and plastic packaging, comes from land-based sources. The remainder comes from plastics released at sea, such as lost and discarded fishing gear.
Significantly, Eunomia was able to come up with a new estimate of annual global emissions of “primary” microplastics, such as microbeads, fibers or pellets. (“Secondary” microplastics are the result of larger pieces of plastic breaking down into smaller pieces.)
The firm calculated that emissions of microplastics range from 0.5 to 1.4 million tonnes per year, with a mid-point estimate of 0.95 million tonnes. Vehicle tires are the biggest culprits, releasing 270 thousand tonnes of debris into our waterways annually.
These tiny non-biodegradable pieces of plastic are a cause for worry, as they are being gobbled up by plankton and baby fish like junk food, and works its way up the food chain. Microplastics have been found in in ice cores, across the seafloor, vertically throughout the ocean and on every beach worldwide. As EcoWatch mentioned previously, microplastics are also very absorbent, meaning they pick up the chemicals it floats in.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Hey, can we all just stop complaining that our government coddles Wall Street's big money-grubbing banks?
Sure, they went belly-up and crashed our economy with their frauds, rigged casino games, and raw greed. And, yes, the Bush and Obama regimes rushed to bail them out with trillions of dollars in our public funds, while ignoring the plight of workaday people who lost jobs, homes, businesses, wealth, and hope. But come on, Buckos, have you not noticed that the feds are now socking the bankers with huuuuuge penalties for their wrongdoings?
Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs, for example, was recently punched in its corporate gut with a jaw-dropping $5 billion for its illegal schemes.
Wow, $5 billion! That's a stunning amount that Goldman Sachs has agreed to pay to settle federal criminal charges over its shameful financial scams that helped wreck America's economy in 2008. That's a lot of gold, even for Goldman Sachs. It's hard to comprehend that much money, so think of it like this: If you paid out $100,000 a day, every day for 28 years, you'd pay off just one billion dollars. So, wow, imagine having to pull Five Big B's out of your wallet! That's enough to make even the most arrogant and avaricious high-finance flim-flammer think twice before risking such scams, right? Thus, these negotiated settlements between the Justice Department and the big banks will effectively deter repeats of the 2008 Wall Street debacle... right?
LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Bramble Cay melomys—a rodent found only on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef—has been declared extinct, according to a new study from researchers at the Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and the University of Queensland.
Alarmingly, this could be the first mammal species wiped out due to human-induced climate change.
The researchers came to the conclusion after failing to find a single specimen of the melomys, also called the mosaic-tailed rat, from its only known habitat.
“A thorough survey effort involving 900 small mammal trap-nights, 60 camera trap-nights and two hours of active daytime searches produced no records of the species, confirming that the only known population of this rodent is now extinct,” the study states.
Sea-level rise and weather events in the Torres Strait region, which lies between Australia and the Melanesian island of New Guinea, was determined as the root cause of the loss. The scientists said that the events destroyed the animals’ sole habitat on Bramble Cay, a small vegetated coral cay in northern Australia. Research showed that Bramble Cay had reduced dramatically in size from approximately 2.2 ha in 2004 to only 0.065 ha, equivalent to a 97 percent loss in the span of 10 years.
“The key factor responsible for the extirpation of this population was almost certainly ocean inundation of the low-lying cay, very likely on multiple occasions, during the last decade, causing dramatic habitat loss and perhaps also direct mortality of individuals,” the study states.
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
No matter what you may think of President Obama, it’s easy to admire him when he makes an appearance on one of the nightly talk shows. (watch this clip from the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon). He’s charming, intelligent, a natural at quips, and serious when discussing important problems plaguing Americans.
By contrast, however, there’s a thing called “the reality check” on his track record, which has driven many a liberal Democrat up the wall by feeling the burn of betrayal at times.
True, in many cases, Obama’s hands have been tied by an obstinate and racist Republican congress, but how do you explain his own executive actions that benefit the corporate elites at the expense of public health safety issues? How do you explain his lack of action when Americans need to be rescued from corporate abuses that could easily be fixed by enforcing environmental regulations?
The word that comes to mind is “disillusionment.” There’s the impressive picture of President Obama, and then there’s Obama’s record of decisions that even his predecessors, Bush-Cheney, couldn’t come close to passing: offshore oil drilling in the Arctic, and military operations off the Alaska coast, as Truthout journalist, Dahr Jamail, explained, this is a toxic threat to the entire pristine region. Or consider the fracking boom that was unleashed across the country under the Obama administration with the full knowledge and proof that it’s contaminating our public drinking water, coupled with the fact that fracking causes earthquakes.
Whether it’s perpetual wars, right-wing coups in Latin America, oil and gas drilling, or selling slave labor and anti-environmental trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, (check the 35,000 Germans protesting Obama-TPIP), as the negatives outweigh the positives, you can understand why presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, became immensely popular. Senator Sanders has a long, established record of action that supports his agenda.
Take, for example, Obama’s lack of action regarding the toxic lead water contamination problem at over 350 public schools.
SUE DIBB AND DAVIN HUTCHINS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Globally, livestock production is responsible for around 14 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—that’s more than the emissions from all road vehicles in the world.
Animal agriculture is the largest source of the most powerful greenhouse gasses: methane and nitrous oxide. On top of that, growing crops for animal feed, especially soy, results in the deforestation of rainforests, releasing yet more CO2.
There is now overwhelming evidence, that we can’t possibly avoid catastrophic climate change if we don’t address the impact of high levels of meat consumption. We are already living beyond our planetary means. Feeding a growing and more affluent global population of at least nine billion by 2050 simply isn’t possible unless we make some changes.
We need a “less is better” approach to meat eating. That’s where World Meat Free Day can make a difference; by raising awareness of how simple, small changes can start to have a positive global influence. The World Meat Free Day website has a sustainability calculator that shows how meat-free meals can have an immediate impact on carbon emissions and water usage.
LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
genetically modified (GMO) foods seem to proliferate across the U.S., many other nations do not allow such products to enter or grow within their borders.While
A Bloomberg article illustrated how the world’s vast patchwork of GMO regulations can deter international trade.
Case in point, even though the Brazilian chicken industry is suffering from a domestic corn shortage this year, companies refuse to buy corn from the U.S. because of Brazil’s stringent regulations on GMOs.
“In recent years, some of the largest commodity trading companies have refused to take certain GMO crops from farmers because the seeds used hadn’t received a full array of global approvals, something that can lead to holdups at ports or even the rejection of entire cargoes,” the article stated.
Brazil happens to be the second largest producer of GMO crops in the world after the U.S., and grows 29 varieties of GMO corn. However, the South American country has had a contentious history over GMOs and does not allow certain varieties to enter the country—the U.S. cultivates 43 types of GMO corn. Brazil also mandates that all products containing GMO ingredients carry a label and, earlier this year, the Brazilian Ministry of Justice fined major food manufacturers including Nestle, PepsiCo and a Mexican baking company for concealing the presence of GMOs in their products.
WILL DURST SATIRE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
REVEREND BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
We hold hands around a truck that sprays Monsanto's "RoundUp" with its glyphosate toxin. The old parks-green pickup carries a white plastic 500 gallon barrel. The red triangle on the side signals "Poison." The Stop Shopping Choir quietly sings "Monsanto is the Devil" as we pray to the regenerative storms of Earthalujah!
We do more than pray. We also file the Freedom of Information Act request (FOIL), and the results of our New York FOIL are now re-created as an interactive map on our website at Revbilly.com/maps. When we discovered that New York was not transparent with its spraying, we checked other cities… and found many do not clearly inform the exposed public. And, we were alarmed to find that many cities are not reducing their spraying, even after all the science linking glyphosate to birth defects, autism, endocrine disruption and many cancers.
We began to file FOILs in city after city. We have 16 of them currently pending. We have posted the spraying for five urban areas on the website: Portland, Seattle-Tacoma, Philadelphia, San Francisco and New York. The Stop Shopping Choir is inputting the data from Los Angeles now. We also have posted the spraying data from the entire California school system.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Come on, they aren't tanks, they're armored rescue vehicles. And the, uh, grenade launchers would only be used to launch teargas canisters. When necessary. And the M-16s? Standard police issue.
What a journey these Los Angeles teenagers, and the civil rights group Fight for the Soul of the Cities, had, to get from there -- the ho-hum justification by (good Lord) the city's school district police force, for the accumulation of surplus Defense Department weaponry -- to here:
"Our recent meeting and dialogue has led me to review my actions as Board President during this difficult period. Upon reflection, I failed to understand the amount of pain and frustration our participation in the 1033 program could cause in the community and especially with our partners from the Dignity in Schools Campaign and the Fight for the Soul of the Cities. . . ."
KATIE POHLMAN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Any product that contributes to deforestation will not be used in the Scandinavian country. The pledge was recommended by Norwegian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Energy and Environment as part of the Action Plan on Nature Diversity. Rainforest Foundation Norway was the main lobbying power behind this recommendation and has worked for years to bring the pledge to existence.
“This is an important victory in the fight to protect the rainforest,” Nils Hermann Ranum, head of policy and campaign at Rainforest Foundation Norway said in a statement. “Over the last few years, a number of companies have committed to cease the procurement of goods that can be linked to destruction of the rainforest. Until now, this has not been matched by similar commitments from governments. Thus, it is highly positive that the Norwegian state is now following suit and making the same demands when it comes to public procurements.”
Norway’s action plan also includes a request from parliament that the government exercise due care for the protection of biodiversity in its investments through Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global.
“Other countries should follow Norway’s leadership, and adopt similar zero deforestation commitments,” Ranum said. “In particular, Germany and the UK must act, following their joint statement at the UN Climate Summit.”