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2013.10.7.BF.BuchheitPAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Conservative columnist Thomas Sowell recently declared, "The history of the 20th century is full of examples of countries that set out to redistribute wealth and ended up redistributing poverty."

Ironically for thinkers like him, the last 35 years have redistributed U.S. poverty by redistributing wealth to the rich. The middle class, once the backbone of a strong American society, has been broken, beaten down, pushed further and further toward poverty levels. Here are five well-documented ways that this has happened.

1. Income Redistribution Is Worse Than Usually Reported

We are told that the richest 1% doubled its share of income in the past thirty years. But from 1980 to 2006, according to both IRS and CBO figures, they nearly TRIPLED their share of income -- and that's after-tax income.

After 2006, the recession set everyone back temporarily, but in the first two years of the recovery, the richest 1% captured an incomprehensible 121% of the income gains (others saw debt rise faster than income).

Published in Guest Commentary

2013.10.2.TPPJIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

What if our national leaders told us that communities across America had to eliminate such local programs as Buy Local, Buy American, Buy Green, etc. to allow foreign corporations to have the right to make the sale on any products purchased with our tax dollars? This nullification of our people's right to direct expenditures is just one of the horror stories in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

This is a super-sized NAFTA, the 1994 trade scam rammed through Congress by the entire corporate establishment. NAFTA promised the "glories of globalization": prosperity across our land. Unfortunately, corporations got the gold. We got the shaft — thousands of factories closed, millions of middle-class jobs went south, and the economies of hundreds of towns and cities were shattered.

Twenty years later, the gang that gave us NAFTA is back with the TPP, a "trade deal" that mostly does not deal with trade. Of the 29 chapters in this document, only five cover traditional trade matters! The other chapters amount to a devilish "partnership" for corporate protectionism.

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2013.10.2.BF.GOPSTEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Lyndon Johnson's vision of the "Great Society" Program came to an end in 1967, after he had decided that in order to fend off GOP red-baiting tactics, he had to expand the War on Vietnam. Since that time, our nation has been governed either by Republican Presidents and Republican policies or by Democratic Presidents who pretty much went along with the Republicans on major issues. Funnily enough, Richard Nixon, who some of us grew up learning to hate as one of the epitomes of the McCarthyite terror, was also the last President to implement major forward looking national programs, such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. In fact, it is most ironic that if it had not been for Watergate, under Nixon - assuming that a compromise could have been reached with Ted Kennedy - we would have had a national health insurance program that would have been much more progressive than "Obamacare" at its very best.

Nothing much happened domestically under Jimmy Carter, although I myself heard him pledge, at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in 1976, that by the end of his first term, a comprehensive national health insurance program would be in place. From the time of Ronald Reagan onward there have been no comprehensive progressive domestic policy reforms, although there have been some negative ones, like the "end of welfare as we know it" and "the days of 'big government' are over" under Clinton. All of this time the Republican Party's mantra, whether in the White House or not, has been mainly characterized by "lower taxes" (no matter how much they might have been already lowered) and "smaller government" (except of course for big-government programs that they just love like the keeping military-industrial complex humming along, fighting the so-called "drug war," providing huge subsidies to the petroleum industry and factory farmers, and so on and so forth). But they were never public, or very public, about their true agenda. They always tried to keep the focus on "lower taxes, smaller government," with of course lots of push on the distractive issues of religious determinism, like opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage.

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9.30.BF.CruzANN DAVIDOW FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

After 21 hours of bluster from Senator Cruz it was hard to say what the point of the whole exercise was except to enhance his reputation in the eyes of right-wing supporters. At the very least he established that he had to be taken seriously because he has been featured on every main-stream news outlet and interviewed by every big name in the business.

He held up well whether he was making political points or reading Dr. Seuss; give him credit for staying power even if his cause was less celebrated than he might have hoped. He and pal, Utah’s Senator Lee, kept repeating their mantra that they were listening to the ‘voice of the people’ although people are always claiming they hear voices of one sort or another e.g. NYC’s notorious serial killer, son of Sam, who claimed to have been instructed by a demonic dog in his neighborhood. In this case Cruz and Lee are only talking about killing the affordable health care law or postponing its implementation for a year which is pretty much the same thing. “Not ready for prime time” they say, borrowing one of those over-used sobriquets used by unimaginative blowhards who think they’ve hit the verbal mother-lode.

Published in Guest Commentary

9.30.BF.WalmartPAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

There are more than five ways, of course. There are numerous product ripoffs, as described in a recent article by Lynn Stuart Parramore, who identified textbooks and bottled water and print cartridges as a few of the ways Americans are duped into paying a lot more than reason and regulation would dictate.

And there are many industry-specific ripoffs, most notably in health care. We have the most expensive health care system in the world, and yet we're falling behind other developed countries in numerous health measures.

Here are five more industry-specific ripoffs of the American people:

1. The Retail Industry (Walmart): Building Owner Fortunes With Public Tax Money

A study in Wisconsin by the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce determined that a typical Walmart store costs taxpayers over $1.7 million per year, or about $5,815 per employee. A 2004 study in California put the cost per employee at $2,103.

For the year 2012, Walmart's pre-tax U.S. income was almost $18.7 billion. That's over $14,000 per U.S. Walmart employee.

For the year 2012, the four Walton family members made over $20 billion from their investments. That's over $15,000 per Walmart employee.

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2013.9.25.BF.PopeJIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The bluebirds of happiness are chirping away in our nation's treetops these days, for America is now in the fifth year of economic recovery. Let's all sing "Happy Days Are Here Again," for stock prices are reaching record highs, corporate profits are soaring, and even the unemployment numbers are on the mend.

But wait, what's this? Down below the treetops, way down there at the grassroots, poverty not only persists, but is spreading. Also, America's income disparity is worsening as middle-class workers are pushed into lower-wage jobs and poor people are pushed out entirely. Far from "Happy Days," joblessness among our lowest-income families is now the worst on record, having reached the staggering rate of 21 percent.

The plight of the poor in our Land of Plenty is so dramatic that even the Republican leaders of the U.S. House have noticed them and are reaching out with open hands. Unfortunately, they are not offering a helping hand to the needy, but a cold, hard slap in the face. On Sept. 19, in a gratuitous act of political pettiness and human callousness, the GOP slashed $4 billion-a-year out of the food stamp program. Well, they explained, the food stamp subsidy just keeps expanding, despite the recovery our economy is enjoying, so we have to stop the excess.

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2013.9.25.BF.JointBILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

While Colorado and Washington have de-criminalized recreational use of marijuana and twenty states allow use for medical purposes, a Louisiana man was sentenced to twenty years in prison in New Orleans criminal court for possessing 15 grams, .529 of an ounce, of marijuana.

Corey Ladd, 27, had prior drug convictions and was sentenced September 4, 2013 as a "multiple offender to 20 years hard labor at the Department of Corrections."

Marijuana use still remains a ticket to jail in most of the country and prohibition is enforced in a highly racially discriminatory manner. A recent report of the ACLU, "The War on Marijuana in Black and White," documents millions of arrests for marijuana and shows the "staggeringly disproportionate impact on African Americans."

Nationwide, the latest numbers from the FBI report that over 762,000 arrests per year are for marijuana, almost exactly half of all drug arrests.

Published in Guest Commentary

Colorado National Guard flood response.Colorado National Guard flood response.BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Many have tried, but few have succeeded. Some have made it part of their regular schtick, and make a handsome living by doing it over and over again. But try as they might, the gold standard for blaming a natural disaster -- or tragic event -- on their enemies of choice, is still held by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Now, however, with floodwaters raging in his state, Colorado pastor and radio talk show host Kevin Swanson is aiming to be a contender in the pantheon of blame-game flame-throwers. Swanson recently pointed his finger at the real causers of the floods: abortion, the legalization of marijuana, and "decadent homosexual activity." Climate change? Not so much. (For some time, Swanson resided in the school of global warming denial.)

In trying to make some sense of the cause of natural disasters, some conservative evangelical preachers have gone off the rails. Hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, floods, earthquakes and yes, even the less-than-natural terrorist attack, is blamed on abortion, gays, and yes, even the American Civil Liberties Union.

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HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Image of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant on March 16, 2011 of the four damaged reactor buildings.Image of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant on March 16, 2011 of the four damaged reactor buildings.We are now within two months of what may be humankind's most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

There is no excuse for not acting. All the resources our species can muster must be focused on the fuel pool at Fukushima Unit 4.

Fukushima's owner, Tokyo Electric (Tepco), says that within as few as 60 days it may begin trying to remove more than 1300 spent fuel rods from a badly damaged pool perched 100 feet in the air. The pool rests on a badly damaged building that is tilting, sinking and could easily come down in the next earthquake, if not on its own.

Some 400 tons of fuel in that pool could spew out more than 15,000 times as much radiation as was released at Hiroshima.

The one thing certain about this crisis is that Tepco does not have the scientific, engineering or financial resources to handle it. Nor does the Japanese government. The situation demands a coordinated worldwide effort of the best scientists and engineers our species can muster.

Published in Guest Commentary

2013.9.23.BF.BuchheitPAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

That's over and above our payments to the big companies for energy and food and housing and health care and all our tech devices. It's $6,000 that no family would have to pay if we truly lived in a competitive but well-regulated free-market economy.

The $6,000 figure is an average, which means that low-income families are paying less. But it also means that families (households) making over $72,000 are paying more than $6,000 to the corporations.

1. $870 for Direct Subsidies and Grants to Companies

The Cato Institute estimates that the U.S. federal government spends $100 billion a year on corporate welfare. That's an average of $870 for each one of America's 115 million families. Cato notes that this includes "cash payments to farmers and research funds to high-tech companies, as well as indirect subsidies, such as funding for overseas promotion of specific U.S. products and industries...It does not include tax preferences or trade restrictions."

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