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EditorBlog (1789)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

theroadtowealth.jpgThe racial wealth gap is widening in the United States. (Image: Inequality.org)

"Just three years from now... White households are projected to own 85 times more wealth than Black households and 68 times more wealth than Latino households," according to a news release summarizing a report released yesterday by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a progressive Washington think tank, and Prosperity Now, a think tank that focuses on research and solutions for a more equal availability of wealth.

The news release notes,

At a time when households of color make up a growing share of the population and are projected to reach majority status by 2043, their declining wealth is already taking a significant toll on the broader economy. The nation's overall median wealth decreased 20% from 1983 to 2013 ($73,000 to $64,000) -- a period when Black and Latino median wealth went down and White wealth slowly went up.

The report, "The Road to Zero Wealth," released on September 11 is filled with startling findings about the wealth gap between people of color and the nation's white population. It focuses on overall family wealth and assets rather than income:

For several years, politicians, researchers, journalists and the public have focused their attention on growing economic inequality in the United States. Most often, this focus is on income (i.e., the wages earned from a job or from capital gains) rather than on wealth (i.e., the sum of one's assets minus their debts). Income inequality, while stark, pales in comparison to the vast economic divide exposed by examining disparities in wealth. For example, a recent study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that while the top 10% of income earners in United States take in almost 30% of the nation's income, the wealthiest 10% own an astounding 76% of the country's wealth. That means less than a quarter of the nation's wealth is left for the bottom 90% of the American population.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

devos20179Betsy DeVos sympathizes with those accused of sexual assault on campus. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

If you just read the headline in the September 7 edition of The New York Times, you might think the secretary of education is merely performing a harmless revision of governmental regulations: "Betsy DeVos Says She Will Rewrite Rules on Campus Sex Assault." However, this header hardly represents the immoral action of DeVos in announcing that she will ease up on requiring colleges to thoroughly and consistently investigate allegations of sexual assault on college campuses.

The Times begins the article with this account of a speech DeVos gave to students who belong to the Federalist Society, composed of conservative lawyers and law school attendees:

Saying that the Obama administration's approach to policing campus sexual assault had "failed too many students," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said on Thursday that her administration would rewrite the rules in an effort to protect both the victims of sexual assault and the accused.

Ms. DeVos did not say what changes she had in mind. But in a strongly worded speech, she made clear she believed that in an effort to protect victims, the previous administration had gone too far and forced colleges to adopt procedures that sometimes deprived accused students of their rights.

"Through intimidation and coercion, the failed system has clearly pushed schools to overreach," she said in an address at George Mason University in suburban Arlington, Va. "With the heavy hand of Washington tipping the balance of her scale, the sad reality is that Lady Justice is not blind on campuses today."

The actual government regulation in question is a 2011 letter clarifying Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

wellsfargo555Wells Fargo execs leave consumers in the dust. (Photo: Mike Mozart)

On September 1, Elizabeth Warren sent out an informational email that nailed the federal government for responding to Wells Fargo's serial fraud with a slap on the wrist. In the communication, she recounted three major illegal acts committed by the bank:

Last year, Wells Fargo got caught creating 2.1 million fake bank accounts and credit card accounts using their customers' names and credit information without permission.

Last month, Wells Fargo got caught charging 800,000 people for auto insurance they did not want or need.  

And just yesterday, we've learned that the fake accounts scandal was even worse than we thought. Wells Fargo just "discovered" an additional 1.4 million fake accounts that they had created since 2009. Unbelievable.

For many years after 2008, the Department of Justice (DOJ) fined banks for illicit practices, but did not require any major systemic or personnel changes. The DOJ left consumers vulnerable to another economic implosion by, for the most part, leaving the key leadership of financial institutions in place. What is more galling about the incidents Warren refers to, in relation to Wells Fargo, is that these infractions of the law occurred years after the 2008 debacle. That means the near implosion of the economy didn't compel the DOJ to hold the senior staff of banks personally responsible for fraudulent behavior nearly 10 years later.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

nravoterThe NRA and Trump are joined at the hip. (Photo: joshlopezphoto)

Earlier this year, the Trump administration ordered the National Park Service (NPS) to temporarily stop tweeting. One can assume that this was done, in part, to ensure that the NPS would get the message to stop tweeting anything "controversial' -- like actual facts that might debunk the White House's "alternative facts."

That action was one of the first hints that the executive branch was going to apply its right-wing ideology in administering the National Park Service. That ideological application has grown more apparent with time. One only need look to the growing influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA), a key Trump supporter, on the NPS and its parent, the Department of the Interior. In one telling example, the wife of Wayne LaPierre, the longtime head and chief firebrand of the NRA, has been appointed to the National Park Service Foundation board. As National Parks Traveler reported on August 28,

Susan LaPierre, co-chair of the National Rifle Association's Women's Leadership Forum and wife of NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre, has landed a seat on the National Park Foundation's board of directors.

Mrs. LaPierre was one of four appointments to the board made earlier this year. None of the appointments was announced in a release by either the Interior Department or Park Foundation.

Mrs. LaPierre's appointment by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke leaked out this past week in connection with a story detailing the National Park Service's opposition to a handful of sections in the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, or SHARE Act, that would impact the Park Service's management of fishing and hunting within the National Park System....

In her bio on NRA Women she called herself "a lifelong outdoorswoman who's always believed in the Second Amendment and the NRA." The Leadership Forum she organized a dozen years ago is a "philanthropic society of women who are dedicated to protecting and defending our Second Amendment."

Secretary Zinke is a lifetime member and zealous advocate of the NRA and its claim of unfettered Second Amendment "gun rights.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

epa33Criminal prosecution of corporate pollution is decreasing. (Photo: mccready)

It has been clear since his days as Oklahoma attorney general -- when he filed lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -- that current EPA Director Scott Pruitt values corporate interests over the protection of the environment. He clearly has continued to do so in his current role. One could argue that Pruitt never met a land, water or air pollution regulation that he liked.

Given that context, a recent Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) analysis confirmed that Pruitt is slowing down the agency's process of holding corporations and individuals responsible for criminal pollution. According to a PEER news release:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has fewer than half of the criminal special agents on the job than it had a dozen years ago, according to EPA statistics released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). These thinning ranks of white collar investigators are opening a shrinking number of anti-pollution cases and obtaining fewer convictions.

EPA figures obtained by PEER through the Freedom of Information Act indicate that –

• The number of special agents inside the EPA Criminal Investigation Division (CID) has dropped by more than half since 2003, with a current total of only 147 agents, well below the minimum of 200 agents required by the U.S. Pollution Prosecution Act of 1990;

• New criminal cases opened by CID have plummeted, falling by nearly two-thirds just since 2012. The current fiscal year is on pace to open just 120 new cases, a modern low; and

• Successful criminal anti-pollution prosecutions are also slumping, down to little more than half of convictions won in 2014.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017 06:18

Corporate Tax Cuts Don't Mean More Jobs

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ceopayCutting corporate tax cuts do not necessarily translate into increased jobs. (Image: IPS)

A just-released report by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) -- a DC think tank providing analysis on peace and economic, racial, and climate justice -- provides evidence that tax cuts for corporations do not necessarily correlate with an increase in jobs. Additionally, increased CEO compensation does not routinely result in increased employment. These are important findings, because the number one rationale that politicians use to justify corporate tax cuts is that the increased business revenue will lead to decreased unemployment.

The IPS report, entitled "Corporate Tax Cuts Boost CEO Pay, Not Jobs," had several key conclusions, including:

  • Tax breaks did not spur job creation

  • Tax-dodging corporations paid their CEOs more than other big firms

  • Job-cutting firms spent tax savings on buybacks, which inflated CEO pay

The August 30 report refutes the claim being made by Trump, who is now formally beginning his "tax reform" campaign, that reducing the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent will result in increased and higher-paying jobs.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

workprogramThe Trump administration just cut a promising local hiring program. (Photo: vonderauvisuals)

Next City, a website focusing on urban issues, revealed in an August 28 article that Trump is ending an encouraging jobs program:

His administration announced last week its withdrawal of a proposed rule change, put forth during President Barack Obama’s tenure, that would have allowed state and local governments receiving federal transportation dollars to apply local hiring preferences to contracts awarded using those dollars. The withdrawal reverts the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration back to rules set during the Reagan administration, which prohibited any geographic-based hiring preferences in contracts using federal transportation dollars....

“Local hire has allowed municipalities to use their own money to help employ people directly from their communities. It has been strategic for our elected leaders to say that they’re not going to raise our tax dollars for investments in capital projects without ensuring that persons facing significant barriers to employment get expanded access to good jobs and training opportunities,” said Erik Miller, executive director of Playa Vista Job Opportunities and Business Services.

Capital & Main, an investigative news site, included more criticism of the move in an article about the cancellation of the program:

“Many of these jobs were finally addressing long-term unemployment — many, for people of color,” said Angela Glover Blackwell, CEO of PolicyLink, an economic and social equity think tank. “This is yet another example of the Trump administration not standing up for jobs for the nation’s most vulnerable.”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

donaldtrump33Donald Trump doesn't do a "pivot." (Gage Skidmore)

Retired US Marine Corps General John Kelly, after a short stint as secretary of homeland security, replaced Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff on July 31. In response, the PBS News Hour sent out an email with the question, "Can Kelly stabilize the White House?" The question reflected the countless mainstream corporate press articles that speculated whether the umpteenth personnel change in the executive branch since Trump took office was a "pivot." Other articles reflected on whether or not Kelly's appointment was a "reset" for the Trump administration.

As an example of the Kelly-replacing-Priebus coverage, consider the August 1 NBC News article entitled, "Is Trump (Finally) Ready for a 'Pivot' to Presidential?" Journalist Ali Vitali wrote, after reflecting on Trump's incorrigible behavior as president,

But now, with the appointment of Ret. Marine Gen. John Kelly as his new chief of staff, is Trump finally on the precipice of change?

He says he could if he wanted — "with the exception of the late great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any President that's ever held this office!" — but chooses not to because he believes the country needs an unconventional governing style.

"Sometimes they say he doesn't act presidential. And I say, 'Hey look, Great schools, smart guy.' It's so easy to act presidential, but that's not gonna to get it done," Trump told thousands of supporters in Youngstown, Ohio, last week for a campaign-style rally.

How can one expect a person who sees himself as an omniscient, omnipotent CEO be reined in by a person whom he considers an employee?

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

epipenThe story of EpiPen pricing reveals why drug costs should be controlled. Greg Friese)

You may remember the EpiPen scandal -- the massive price increases on the life-saving drug delivery system that saves people temporarily from allergic reactions -- from awhile back. In 2016, The Daily Take Team wrote on Truthout,

Dozens of reports are now coming out about how Mylan Pharmaceuticals hiked the price of the very common life-saving EpiPen by over 450 percent since Mylan bought EpiPen in 2007.

You've probably heard of EpiPens, and you probably know someone who needs to carry two around with them at all times, just in case they have a severe allergic reaction as a result of some everyday occurrence -- for example, encountering a food product with peanuts or being stung by a bee....

But it's not the epinephrine that makes EpiPens unique, it's the precision delivery system, the "Pen," that makes the product special. And that delivery system really hasn't changed since 1977 when the EpiPen hit the market. So why has the price more than quadrupled since 2007? Why are patients who need this medicine currently paying $600 for two pens?

Because of the greed at Mylan Pharmaceuticals, plain and simple.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

4709584426 90ed99b6f0 zSurplus Humvees are among the army gear given away to police departments through the Pentagon's 1033 program. (AFPMB)

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Last month, The Marshall Project reported:

When you think of a federal sting operation involving weaponry and military gear, the Government Accountability Office doesn’t immediately jump to mind. The office is tasked with auditing other federal agencies to root out fraud and abuse, usually by asking questions and poring over paperwork.

This year, the agency went a little more cowboy. The GAO created a fictitious law enforcement agency — complete with a fake website and a bogus address that traced back to an empty lot — and applied for military-grade equipment from the Department of Defense.

And in less than a week, they got it.

The equipment was obtained, according to The Marshall Project, from

the obscure 1033 program, which dates back to the Clinton era. Any equipment the U.S. military was not using — including Humvees, grenades, scuba-diving gear and even marching-band instruments — was available to local cops who could demonstrate a need.

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