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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH FOR TRUTHOUT

"CEO Pay Soars While Workers' Pay Stalls," a March 31 headlines announced in USA Today.

On April 2, BuzzFlash at Truthout took note that the jobs that are coming back for most Americans pay less and have fewer benefits, compared to the economy prior to the recession.

The USA Today article confirms that reality:

At a time most employees can barely remember their last substantial raise, median CEO pay jumped 27% in 2010 as the executives' compensation started working its way back to pre-recession levels, a USA TODAY analysis of data from GovernanceMetrics International found. Workers in private industry, meanwhile, saw their compensation grow just 2.1% in the 12 months ended December 2010, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics....

The big increases in executive compensation are difficult for workers to swallow, given that many Americans are struggling just trying to find a job or make ends meet, says Alan Johnson of executive pay consulting firm Johnson Associates. "The fact this makes us all squirm is true."

Unfortunately, many national and state legislators who follow the siren song of the Koch brothers are not squirming; they are continuing to press for laws that enhance the gluttonous wealth of the richest in the nation, while devaluing the pay and benefits of American workers.

We are headed backwards to the type of European two-class system that existed prior to the American Revolution: the rich and the servant (labor) class. There's nothing "patriotic" about that.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

If you are black or young in America, the economy is not getting better.

According to the April 1st AFL-CIO blog,

Young people and people of color continue to experience the worst jobless rates which have remained high, with 24.5 percent of teenagers out of work and 15.5 percent of black workers and 11.3 percent of Hispanics jobless. Some 7.9 percent of white workers are jobless, as are 7.1 percent of Asian workers.

Dean Baker, who writes regularly for Truthout, noted,"Employment among blacks fell back almost to its low-point for the downturn."

Furthermore, despite the recent official drop of unemployment to 8.8%, the AFL-CIO points out the starker reality of joblessness: "While the official unemployment rate is 8.8 percent, it's 15.7 percent if unemployed, underemployed and those who have given up looking for work are included-more than 24 million people."

And Baker notes the ongoing wage stagnation for workers while CEOs reap record bonuses and shareholders high profits: "One serious negative item is that wages have been essentially flat over the last two months. Nominal wage growth over both the last quarter and year have both been 1.7 percent."

The trending of the "recovering economy" is toward a more divided class structure: the wealthy and the borderline poor, with black America left behind.

That's an economy that has redistributed its income in the job market, redistributed it downward when it comes to the working people of the US.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

General Electric (GE) wanted me to know that the corporation is not a tax-dodger - and allegedly was maligned by a New York Times (NYT) article entitled, "G.E.'s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether."

So, GE paid for a Google email teaser, which I clicked through to a slick public relations web page that claimed the NYT article was "distorting and misleading."

Except as far as I can see, nothing on the GE "crisis management" explanation page refuted the basic NYT fact that the firm "reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States. Its American tax bill? None. In fact, GE claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion."

GE asserts, as its first point of defense, that it "pays what it owes under the law and is scrupulous about its compliance with tax obligations in all jurisdictions."

Technically, it is possible that statement is true, but specious, because GE gets legislation passed that allows it to legally avoid paying its fair share for the maintenance of democracy.

According to the NYT, "A review of company filings and congressional records shows that one of the most striking advantages of General Electric is its ability to lobby for, win and take advantage of tax breaks."

That's what financial journalist David Cay Johnston describes in his book, "Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich - and Cheat Everybody Else."

Just call what GE does "legalized theft."

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Scott Walker isn't just trying to privatize public work; he is also trying to remove accountability for the costs and quality of projects contracted to outside firms by the state of Wisconsin.

A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article reveals that the Walker administration is trying to remove a cost-benefit analysis requirement for "outsourcing" state jobs:

Governor Scott Walker's budget proposal eliminates a state law requiring state agencies to study the costs and benefits of outsourcing work.

Current law says agencies must compare the costs of having private contractors do work costing more than $25,000 against what it would cost to have state workers do the job.

So, first Walker defiantly declares that state union workers are ripping off the state, then he removes a requirement that reveals whether outside contractors would cost more and do a worse job than public employees. A pretty good scam if you are looking to channel taxpayer money to the firms of campaign contributors without disclosing excessive costs and poor workmanship.

One Wisconsin Republican state senator isn't buying Walker's gambit. Sen. Luther Olson complained, "Can you explain why when we're in a time of serious fiscal trouble, why we would not want to do a serious cost-benefit analysis?"

The answer, Senator Olson, is that Walker's intentions are not to save the taxpayer money or fix budget holes; his goal is to privatize state work and assets.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

You would think obeying the law would be a high priority for the flag-waving right-wingers, but obviously not for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

As Talking Points Memo reported, Walker and the Wisconsin GOP went ahead and started implementing their rammed through anti-union law, despite a judicial order not to do so.

In fact, the Walker administration has already stopped collecting dues for the public unions and has increased health care insurance deductions, again in defiance of a legal restraint until the court suits concerning the law proceed further along.

Now we learn, via a nonpartisan Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau report, that contrary to Walker's claims that he is reducing the state budget by 6 percent, it will actually increase spending by 1 percent.

You have to wonder how much Walker could have actually cut the budget by raising fair share taxes on tax-dodging corporations and millionaires, instead of using unions as a scapegoat.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The attack that is being waged on unions in Republican-controlled states across the nation is not just an economic war to lower the working person's standard of living. As the Tea Party governor of Maine has shown, it is an assault on the basic dignity of labor itself.

According to The Associated Press (via Maine Public Broadcasting), Gov. Paul LePage (R-Maine) considers artwork that pays homage to the integrity and struggles of the working person to be "inappropriate" in a state government building:

LePage has ordered the removal of a 36-foot mural depicting the state's labor history from the lobby of the Department of Labor headquarters building in Augusta.

In addition, the LePage administration is renaming several department conference rooms that carry the names of pro-labor icons such as Cesar Chavez.

LePage spokesman Dan Demeritt says the mural and the conference room names are not in keeping with the department's pro-business goals and some business owners complained.

Given that the mural in question was in the Maine executive branch office that represents the workers of the state, the action appears to symbolize more than a "pro-business" tilt: it's an anti-labor attack of the pettiest sort.

Throughout history, governments that have resorted to censorship and banned art based on political outlook have not fared well in the long term.

The human spirit is too strong to endure such restrictions on a basic freedom.

In this case, a mural that pays homage to the working class has a right to hang with dignity on the wall of the Maine Department of Labor.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Many of the older nuclear reactors in the United States have the same flawed General Electric design as the Fukushima, Japan, plant that is facing ongoing radiation leakage.

In fact, just in the last few hours, we have learned that one of the core reactors at Fukushima was apparently breached and that radioactive particles are contaminating sea water outside the containment area:

Speculation surrounding the extent to which the radiation may be leaking into the Pacific Ocean was also mounting after tests last weekend found nearby seawater contaminated 1,850 above legal limits.

More recent tests showed that this figure has dropped, although Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Agency said that he suspects radioactive water from the plant is leaking into the ocean.

Yet, there is little active, visible protest in the US to the threat of nuclear power plants designed and run by private corporations for profit.

Contrast that to the 200,000 protesters against nuclear energy who took to the streets this weekend in Germany.

Despite radioactivity reported in the rain as far away as the East Coast of the US , the nuclear issue hasn't reached a critical point of debate here.

But it should, because the nuclear power lobbying industry is hard at work in Washington to make sure federal loan guarantees and subsidies come their way, along with immunity for damage done by a nuclear catastrophe.

It will be too late to save lives after a nuclear plant disaster in the US.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

How did it happen so quickly that the news moved from the energizing protests in Wisconsin to the nuclear disaster in Japan and then the US military bombing of Libya?

We barely had a chance to be invigorated by the spontaneous massive crowds in Madison before ominous news swept across our TV and computer screens.

Suddenly, the weighty questions of responsibility for a potential nuclear catastrophe and when America goes to war and under what circumstances intruded into an unexpected moment of progressive unity.

Not that the corporate media covered the Wisconsin rallies extensively. The mainstream media pretty much ignored the Madison story.

But on Truthout, you got a chance to cherish the moment.

The promise of the uprising in Wisconsin shouldn't fade, nor should we let it.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Will we one day wake up to a completely Walmartized world?

That's a question that is not out of the realm of possibility, considering Walmart's rapid expansion around the globe, including - of course - as a manufacturer and seller in China.

South Africa has given conditional approval to Walmart buying up the nation's third-largest retailer, but is having some second thoughts, according to WalmartWatch.org.

Apparently, some departments in the South African government are now concerned about Walmart's commitment to buying local produce and the issue of local businesses and unions. According to a South African newspaper:

A key condition sought by the three departments is that the merged entity will "at least maintain or increase the percentage of pre-merger local procurement by product category."

The departments' submission suggests that Walmart and Massmart's initial "willingness to co-operate in an attempt to alleviate those concerns" faded significantly last month after the Competition Commission recommended unconditional approval for the proposed merger....

The departments have requested the postponement [of the final approval of the merger] because they now believe that as a result of "the refusal of the merging parties to make any tangible or enforceable commitments, particularly with regard to procurement and small (especially broad-based BEE) businesses," it is necessary for them to intervene more actively in the merger proceedings.

In short, Walmart is saying - as was the mantra in the Bush administration - trust a large corporation to self-regulate itself.

As Ronald Reagan said about the Soviet Union, however, a more appropriate stance in relation to Walmart would be "trust, but verify."

Or better yet, let them show the world that they can be trusted. They've got a lot of work to do there.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"Utah becomes first in US to have state gun."

In case you are wondering, the winner is a Browning M1911 semiautomatic pistol.

So, right up there with other state symbols of Utah - like the state tree (blue spruce) - is a gun, and a semiautomatic one at that.

As Rosie Gray wrote in The Village Voice:

The timing on this is about as bad as it could get, two months after Gabrielle Giffords' shooting and the debate that provoked about gun control.

Not trying to say that this will spur people to violence, but it's an alarmingly casual way to look at guns. It's almost like people in this country have just forgotten what guns do, as if they're simply fun little playthings and not in fact instruments of death.

What's next, a state nuclear power plant?

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