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Increased taxes on billionaires don't put a damper on investment, and a billionaire should know.

That's what Warren Buffet lays out in a blockbuster August 14 op-ed in The New York Times, in which he begs Congress to stop tossing money at the wealthiest Americans.

Buffet makes the case that the decades-long decrease in taxes on the wealthy, including IRS provisions like low long-term capital gains taxes, are fundamentally unfair - and provide no boost to the economy. They just make the rich richer.

The facts and anecdotes Buffet refers to are so compelling that they most certainly will be dismissed by the Grover Norquist "anti-tax on the affluent cheerleading squad." Compare Buffet's cogent plea to be taxed more with Michele Bachmann's fatuous gobbledygook answer to a small businessman in Iowa who asked why big corporations don't pay a greater share of the nation's taxes. By the time you finish listening to her jabberwocky, you'll have a headache - which is something Congresswoman Bachmann can relate to.

Buffet doesn't mince words when he states: "My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It's time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice."

In an extraordinarily compelling fashion, Buffet reveals how the super rich get financial gifts from the government, while workers pick up the bill:

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It's nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill - the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf - was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income - and that's actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

Indeed, it's the declining middle class that is paying for the lavish, gluttonous lifestyles of the rich and famous.

Published in EditorBlog

How radical and cultish are the declared Republican candidates for president?

The answer is clear from a question that came 48 minutes into the FOX sponsored Iowa "debate" on Thursday.

According to a TIME magazine blog of the event, the moderator, FOX's Bret Baier, asked "everyone to raise their hand if they would oppose a debt deal that offered $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases. Everyone raises their hand, though Pawlenty's hand bobs up and down a bit."

In one infamous moment of ignorant and cowardly group-think the radical and destructive financially anarchistic outlook of the GOP was revealed.

"No new taxes (or really no taxes)" has been the lynch mob call to arms (and votes) for national Republican candidates for years, but it has reached a feverish and pernicious pitch.

Think about it, all the GOP candidates for the presidency (and Rick Perry and Sarah Palin would have held their hands up too, you can be sure), would turn down, let's say, a trillion in cuts in federal spending if they had to also vote for just 1/10th of that amount in tax increases on millionaires and billionaires.

The rational responses to this craven tomfoolery are too numerous to detail in a short commentary. Suffice it to say, the anti-tax mantra has become a political/religious symbol that defies logic or common sense. In a time when the nation is beset by enormous financial problems, it is a placebo pill that removes the challenge of finding multi-faceted and inventive solutions to an immensely complex problem.

By raising their hands in unison in opposition to a modest increase in taxes on the most wealthy, big oil, and hedge funds (because that is whom a $1 in tax increases for $10 in revenue would likely affect), the GOP candidates affirmed themselves as snake oil salesmen. And snake oil doesn't' cure anything; it only enriches the person selling it (or in this case, might help them attain the power to run America).

As the TIME blog noted at 121 minutes into the exchange in Iowa, "Baier mercifully ends it all."

But unfortunately, it was only the debate that concluded. The long delusional nightmare for America continues.


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Published in EditorBlog


So, what was Mitt Romney thinking when he responded to hecklers at the Iowa State Fair with the declaration that "corporations are people"?

He was proudly reconfirming the Citizens United decision and the Supreme Court view that corporations indeed share the rights of citizens.

Who will Romney call when he is in need of a friend's advice if he were president, GE?

Carol King many years ago wrote the popular song, "You've Got a Friend":

When you're down and troubled
And you need some loving care
And nothing, nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I'll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I'll be there
You've got a friend

How could large corporations that purposefully abandon Americans in need of work - in the pursuit of profit - be a friend?

Romney made his fortune, in part, by downsizing companies and putting US workers on unemployment.

Corporations aren't people; they are private institutions that are created for the financial benefit of owners and stockholders. They are large institutions that value money over people.

Maybe Romney has a shot of bourbon at night and socializes with his stock certificates. He must get a thrill out of cuddling up to his shares in - let's say - Wal-Mart or Goldman Sachs.

Because that's what friends are for: greed.


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Why did the right wing react with such ferocity to the Newsweek cover that featured a photographic portrait of Michelle Bachmann with "crazy eyes"?

The Republicans have packaged candidates for TV for decades and know the importance that appearance has over substance. Progressives tend to laugh at Bachmann's outrageous inaccuracies (watch this video compilation for examples).

However, in the television age, how a candidate appears on TV in terms of confidence, presence and reassuring personal image is of extreme importance, whatever their factual errors and even ignorance. No television image packaging represented this more than the Reagan campaign and presidencies. Like Bachmann, off script Reagan was often laughably factually inaccurate.

Bachmann, in general, has a positive television presence, even when she is spouting whoppers such as stating that the Revolutionary War began in New Hampshire or mistaking John Wayne Gacy for John Wayne. To the reptilian lizard mind, she is generally emotionally appealing and upbeat in her packaged TV appearances. In fact, she has a much stronger TV presence than Sarah Palin, who makes even some of her followers a little bit nervous with her edgy twang and often fumbling interviews.

So, it's worthy of note that a recent MIT study reaffirmed the importance of appearance and personal chemistry on television:

Frequent TV viewers who don't get any kinds of other political news are the voters most likely to be influenced by a candidate's physical appearance, a new Massachusetts Institute of Technology study shows.

"Voters who watch a lot of television but don't really know much about the candidates besides how they look are particularly susceptible," Chappell Lawson, coauthor of the study, told MIT News.

In fact, among uninformed viewers, the study estimates that "there was a 5 percent increase in support for that [high television chemistry] candidate from uninformed voters who said they watch a lot of television." That's a significant advantage in any election.

That is why the radical supporters of Bachmann were upset that the Newsweek cover, which she posed for, took a chip out of her visual brand image. The MIT study "suggests that the effect of television remains present but diminishes as voter-information levels rise."

In short, ignorance is bliss for a Republican candidate when it comes to modern-day television campaigns. And Michele Bachmann is counting on a lot of that know-nothingness in Republican primary voters.






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Published in EditorBlog


BuzzFlash at Truthout proposed the other day that corporations should have their taxes increased to the highest possible level. But they could reduce those taxes dramatically: by proving that they have created jobs in any tax year and getting a tax credit for each new position.

There's only one very significant catch: the jobs must be created in the US, not overseas. If employers maintain their current workforce in America, they would also receive a tax credit. If businesses move jobs overseas, their taxes get raised higher depending upon the percentage of their workforce that is offshored.

Sounds like a sensible proposal. Create jobs in America and pay fewer taxes; move jobs overseas and pay higher taxes. Now this is where the rubber meets the road in determining who is really a domestic "job creator."

There is ample evidence that increased tax breaks for large corporations lead to two primary things: 1) expanding their workforce overseas, and 2) reducing their employees in the US and sitting on the profits. The stagnating unemployment crisis in the US is a testament to that.

An article in the Atlantic magazine from earlier this year provided ample evidence of this. Entitled "The Rise of the New Global Elite," it included the real "job creator" outlooks of the American global corporations. It noted the perspective of a US-based CEO:

The U.S.-based CEO of one of the world's largest hedge funds told me that his firm's investment committee often discusses the question of who wins and who loses in today's economy. In a recent internal debate, he said, one of his senior colleagues had argued that the hollowing-out of the American middle class didn't really matter. "His point was that if the transformation of the world economy lifts four people in China and India out of poverty and into the middle class, and meanwhile means one American drops out of the middle class, that's not such a bad trade," the CEO recalled.

Similar sentiments abound in the article. Thomas Wilson, the CEO of Allstate put it bluntly: "I can get [workers] anywhere in the world. It is a problem for America, but it is not necessarily a problem for American business ... American businesses will adapt."

No, large American corporations are not creating jobs in the United States to any great extent, nor will they in the future.

They should be taxed to the fullest extent possible until they start producing employment here in the USA.

Published in EditorBlog


He’s trying to ease the tensions now

Eager to get Parliament’s backing

(And secretly thrilled this new crisis

Is unrelated to any phone hacking.)

Published in EditorBlog


The demand economy has collapsed for the vast majority of Americans. Jobs have been lost, wages have stagnated and the buying power of all but the wealthy dramatically reduced.

But if you are super-rich, according to an August 4 New York Times article, you "are (almost) spending like it's 2006: luxury goods are flying off the shelves, even with the economy staggering."

If you want to walk in the shoes of the ultra-wealthy, it will cost you a few weeks' wages (if you are lucky enough to have a job). According to The Times, "In 2008, for example, the most expensive Louboutin item that Saks sold was a $1,575 pair of suede boots. Now, it is a $2,495 pair of suede boots that are thigh-high."

While most of America struggles with the basic costs of living, even delaying medical care because of high health insurance deductibles (for those who have medical insurance), the rich are on a luxury item buying rampage. According to the Times:

Luxury goods stores, which fared much worse than other retailers in the recession, are more than recovering - they are zooming. Many high-end businesses are even able to mark up, rather than discount, items to attract customers who equate quality with price....

The luxury category has posted 10 consecutive months of sales increases compared with the year earlier, even as overall consumer spending on categories like furniture and electronics has been tepid, according to the research service MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse. In July, the luxury segment had an 11.6 percent increase, the biggest monthly gain in more than a year.

With the ongoing DC subsidies of the most affluent Americans through tax cuts, America has moved closer to the class and income gaps that characterize third-world nations.

To paraphrase an old Nancy Sinatra song, "These $2,495 boots are made for walking, and one of these days these boots are going to walk all over you."

They already are.


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Published in EditorBlog



Why don't corporations pay much higher taxes until they produce jobs in America?

After all, workers don't get paid until after they complete their jobs every couple of weeks or so. That's the way companies compensate employees.

So, why not wait to tax corporations at a lower rate until they prove that they are "job creators" in the United States - not overseas?

And every year, the businesses would have to prove that they haven't moved jobs to lower-wage nations, otherwise their taxes will zoom up again.

What Ronald Reagan said about the Soviet Union - "Trust but verify" - should be applied to American business, because they have gotten rock-bottom tax breaks and loopholes - but they mostly use them to increase their profit by employing sweat-shop labor in other nations. As trickle-down economics has played itself out over the last few decades, it has shown that lower taxes for the rich and corporations lead to a very large net loss of jobs in the United States, not an increase.

So, a BuzzFlash at Truthout reader suggested a simple solution. Raise corporate taxes high up, and apply a descending adjustment downward if a business creates jobs in America or doesn't fire employees and move jobs overseas.

Like workers, corporations should only be compensated when they get the job done, which is the job of creating work here in America, not in some far-away lands.



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Published in EditorBlog

They set the standard & we get poor.

That's the takeaway from the recent Standard & Poor's downgrading of America's credit rating.

After all, despite the ongoing collapse of the Wall Street/global corporation trickle-down theory, we are facing a job crisis which almost every well-known player in DC - except Jeremiahs and Cassandras such as Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi - virtually ignores. Even the White House gives only lip service to job creation, while accepting the basic frame of the Republican obsession with debt reduction.

How extreme a threat are we facing to the continued coring out of our economy except for paper financial wealth and the expansion of global companies overseas? Well, Eric Cantor - the majority leader and the most prominent Tea Party voice in Congress - is opposed to extending federal unemployment insurance because it would be "pumping up" the unemployed. That is his position despite the collapse of a demand economy in the US - and the fact that each dollar paid out in employment "generates two dollars of economic growth."

Yes, there are all sorts of things wrong with this first-time-ever downgrading of the US's ability to repay debts. Firstly, as financial analyst Naomi Prins bluntly points out, "S&P's downgrade carries a large dose of irony, since the extra debt the U.S. has piled on recently came courtesy of S&P's moronic toxic asset ratings."

All the major credit rating companies - and that includes Standard & Poor's - according to the movie "Inside Edition," were complicit in allowing Wall Street to sink the American economy by overvaluing the economic stability of banks "too big to fail."

And then there's the interesting twist that the credit rating decrease was done in part because Congress (i.e. the Republicans) wouldn't agree to additional revenues. As Thom Hartmann asks on Truthout,

Have you seen, anywhere, in any media, or even heard reported or repeated on NPR, the following sentence? "We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act."

It's right there on Page 4 of the official Standard & Poors "Research Update" - the actual report on what they did and why - published on August 5th as the explanation for why they believe Congress - and even the Gang of Twelve - will be unable to actually deal with the US debt crisis.

Ironically, and to the detriment of the nation's fiscal well-being, Standard & Poor's was curiously low-key about warnings when Congress extended Bush's tax cuts for the rich. And it misled investors by giving solid ratings to corporate economic bombs like Enron.

The one thing that the Standard & Poor's downgrade does indicate is that the US economy is in a heap of trouble, which Standard & Poor's and other major analysts helped create.

And what is slip-sliding away beneath the political positioning in DC on the deficit - and the downgrading itself - is that no economy can be strong without an economic engine that creates an infrastructure of jobs for its citizens.

Without consumers able to purchase goods and services, the nation is left with just a shell of an economy - and a small class of citizens who profit off of the nation's economic decline. Standard and Poor's is among that list.

Meanwhile, financial rating agencies set the rating standards for "creditworthiness," and the rest of us get poor.


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If corporations are so great, why do you spend half your life on hold?

O.K., so you try and call your health insurance company to find out if a certain medical procedure is covered under your plan. After being forced to listen to nine options, you press customer service and a recorded voice tells you that due to the company "experiencing excessive call volume," you will need to wait to speak to an "available agent."

When someone finally answers, they have a foreign accent - as you know from past calls, the customer service benefits department has been offshored - and after you ask your question, you are asked if you mind being put on hold while the representative consults his or her manager. After several minutes, the customer service agent - who is paid a subsistence wage - removes the hold and asks if this is a pre-existing condition. You point out that since you've had the policy for two years, the pre-existing condition restriction no longer applies.

The benefits representative in a distant land responds that he or she needs to again consult with the manager and you are put on hold.

When you again hear a voice, you are told that the diagnostic testing is covered, but that you have a $4,500 deductible, so the insurance won't be paying for it. You are then asked if you need any further help.

Then you call your bank that is "too big to fail" about a discrepancy in your monthly statement and are put through a loop of recorded questions and answers that don't resolve your problem, but it doesn't matter much because when you press a number that you thought would lead you to a real person, you are somehow disconnected.

Next, you call the electric utility to tell them that a tree just fell on your house power line and the house is without electricity in 98 degree heat, and after being on hold for 20 minutes, someone comes on the phone and asks if the line is sparking or setting anything on fire. You answer no, not that you can see, and then get told that since it is not an emergency, no one can come out for a few days because there aren't enough line men or women at this time to handle other than live "hot" wire repairs.

And then you call the liquor store to see if they deliver - and they answer right away, and you order a bottle of gin.

Two weeks later, you get a letter from your health insurance company informing you that although you called a benefits consultant you failed to call the department that does prior authorization and, therefore, your claim is denied and it won't even go toward your deductible.

You call the liquor store and order another bottle of gin, and are mystified at how corporations are held up as models of customer service and efficiency while the government is constantly disparaged.

And then you take another sip of gin because the liquor store is about the only business that delivers what you want.

Published in EditorBlog
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