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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aminwage(Photo: Spike55151)

Chicago Tribune poll published on September 16 indicates "Illinois voters strongly support the idea of increasing the minimum wage and raising the state income tax on millionaires."

With less than two months before the November mid-term elections, the poll demonstrates that the electorate in Illinois backs two referenda that modestly address the growing income inequality gap in the United States. Based on a survey of 800 registered voters, 69 percent would back a minimum wage increase in the state to $10 by January 1 of 2015; 56 percent would support an additional 3 percent tax on annual incomes of more than $1 million dollars.

The current minimum wage in President Obama's home state is $8.25 (one dollar more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25). In regards to the state income tax, Illinois has a regressive flat state rate of 5 percent; in short, the wealthiest people in Illinois pay no more - as a percentage - than those with lesser incomes.

Monday, 15 September 2014 07:10

The Economist Has a Slavery Problem

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aneconomistslavery(Photo: Internet Archive Book)

The Economist - the famed international magazine that is an inveterate cheerleader for global capitalism and the concept of neoliberal "free markets" - was recently forced by public pressure to remove a book review that posited that slavery was not all bad. Ironically, it ended up apologizing for the unsigned piece (review columns are normally not attributed in The Economist), yet paradoxically including a copy of the original repugnant review in its explanation of why it was no longer posting it.

The target of the review was the book, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, by Edward E. Baptist, an associate professor at Cornell University.

The Economist asserted:

Mr. Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains. This is not history; it is advocacy.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

apalin3(Photo: Wikipedia)

The Palin clan, headed by Momma Grizzly and Papa Todd, were reportedly involved in a drunken brawl a few days ago. Apparently, the family was at a party related to Alaska's famous Tesoro Iron Dog snowmobile race (which Todd has won four times) when fists began to fly.

According to ABC News

Sarah Palin and her family were at the center of a lively party last weekend that erupted into a fight, with daughter Bristol Palin allegedly throwing a right hook, a man who says he was a guest at the party told ABC News.

“She was punching him [another man] in the face like six times; it was an assault if I’ve ever seen one,” Eric Thompson said, adding that he was among 70 guests at the birthday party in Anchorage Saturday.

“It wasn’t a light punch either. She was really hitting him. I’m surprised he just sat there and took it.”

Political blogger Amanda Coyne reported that Sarah Palin, along with husband Todd and kids Bristol, Willow and Track, arrived in a stretch Hummer and that the fighting started as the beer started flowing.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

americanexcept(Photo: Occupy Posters)

The headline for this commentary came from, of all places, a Chris Cillizza Washington Post column analyzing President Obama's Wednesday night speech on his war plans against ISIS:

The closing moments of Obama's speech, which were noticeably free - or close to it - of the sort of soaring oration his allies love and his detractors loathe, was essentially a paean to American exceptionalism. "America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth," Obama said as he began his close. He went on to note the exceptional role the U.S. had played in beating back an ever-aggressive Russia, our country's work to contain Ebola and the U.S.'s key contribution to ridding Syria of chemical weapons. "America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden," Obama insisted, a line - and a sentiment - that Ronald Reagan would have loved.

Cillizza wasn't necessarily being critical in his tone; he simply was stating the reality that Obama was continuing policies marked by the US asserting itself as the military superpower of the world. As with Bush and Reagan and everyone in between, Obama invokes the notion that the US is obligated to enter into war because it has a uniquely moral mission.

Yes, it is true that Obama did not make the decision to begin the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that led to the blowback of ISIS, but much of his White House speech could have easily been delivered by George W. Bush.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

greeda(Photo: See-ming Lee)

Who knows, maybe journalists at CNNMoney are reading BuzzFlash?

On August 8, we posted a commentary, "As the Rich Get Richer, 75 Percent of the Nation Expects Stagnant or Lower Incomes." On September 8, Emily Jane Fox of CNN Money wrote, "Super rich are getting super richer."

However, Fox did not need to read BuzzFlash to arrive at the conclusion of her article. The facts speak for themselves. As the CNNMoney article reports:

The super rich got super richer as the gap between them and the rest of Americans continued to widen over the last few years, according to a new Federal Reserve report.

In its Study of Consumer Finances, released every three years, the Fed found that the wealthiest 3% of American households controlled 54.4% of the nation's wealth in 2013, a slight increase from its last survey in 2010. It's also substantially higher from the 44.8% they held in 1989, showing how quickly the income divide has been growing over the past decade or so.

At the same time, the share of wealth held by the bottom 90% fell to 24.7% in 2013. That's compared to 33.2% in 1989.

By the metrics of the Federal Reserve, 10 percent of the US population controls 75 percent of the wealth in this country. Other analyses of the continued redistribution of wealth upward speculate that the nation's financial assets are being increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few individuals and families.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

armstrade(Photo: fotdmike)According to a new report by the Conflict Armament Research (CAR), which is a project funded by the European Union, a large number of the guns - including high-capacity rifles - used by ISIS were originally supplied to other forces by the US military. "Islamic State forces have captured significant quantities of US-manufactured small arms and have employed them on the battlefield," the report states.

The Conflict Armament Research report and an article in The Independent include a large number of photos indicating the US origin of the weapons. The Independent article states:

James Bevan, CAR director, told [The Independent] that around 30 to 40 per cent of arms his team were able to document were US-made, reflecting the fact that Isis captured most of its weaponry from the Iraqi army when it made stunning territorial gains earlier this year.

Other nations - including Russia and China - were the source of some ISIS weapons, captured as the self-proclaimed caliphate swept across a wide swath of territory in Syria and Iraq and seized arsenals from defeated forces.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

healthhumanright(Photo: United Workers)

Yes, of course single-payer universal health care coverage would be the preferable health coverage program for people in the United States. After all, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) - a.k.a. Obamacare - is a jerry-rigged system that relies on a private insurance market (except for the important Medicaid expansion component) and still leaves many in the US uninsured.

Nevertheless, the Affordable Care Act has, now that it has gone through its growing pains, enabled millions more people to be covered by health insurance. In April of this year, the White House announced that 7.5 million people had signed up on the state exchanges. In addition, another three million people were enrolled in Medicaid in states that accepted federal government funds. It is a demonstrable gain for the health and economic wellbeing of millions of individuals and families in the US, helping many people avert crushing medical debt.

On September 8, Talking Points Memo offered the analysis that the Republican Party had pinned its key electoral strategy on launching a years-long fusillade against Obamacare, including repeated attempts in the House of Representatives to repeal it. However, despite the rocky rollout of the program, it is now viewed fairly favorably, perceived as a vital link to medical and health insurance by the millions of people who are benefitting from it. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

citizensucorrupts(Photo: Light Brigading)

On September 4, Public Citizen held a news conference to urge the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to consider a rule that would prohibit corporate campaign contributions from being cloaked in secrecy.

The organization announced that one million people in the United States had either sent formal comments to the SEC or signed a petition to bring transparency to corporations contributing shareholder-owned funds to elections without full disclosure. Public Citizen is urging the SEC

to require all publicly traded companies to disclose political spending information to their shareholders.

The rule was placed on the agency’s agenda by departing SEC Chair Mary Shapiro in 2013 but was removed by Chair Mary Jo White earlier this year. The rulemaking petition has garnered historic support from investors and the general public. Its removal sparked outrage among its advocates, who contend that White is not taking into account the changing needs of investors since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That ruling gave corporations and the wealthy the green light to spend unlimited sums to influence elections and led to a flood of “dark money” groups that don’t disclose their donors. In addition, White is ignoring the material nature of political spending information (with its inherent risks) to shareholders.

In short, SEC Chair Mary Jo White - who many thought would bring sunlight to bear upon corporate involvement in politics - is actually enabling them to keep their contributions in the dark.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

kochconclave2Masks of the Koch brothers (Photo: peoplesworld)Early this summer, the Koch brothers held another one of their 1% planning sessions to keep the other 99% of people in the United States under the permanent rule of the oligarchy. Some BuzzFlash and Truthout readers learned a bit about the gathering through a leaked recording of the plutocratic remarks and political obstruction plans of Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell.

It was a noteworthy audiotape of McConnell because it is difficult to imagine him saying anything more shocking privately than he has said publicly.

The Koch summit McConnell spoke at in June, however, was apparently filled with speakers who advocated strategies to elect a longterm government to increase the wealth of the richest people in the US and protect their interests. To this end, the gathering was filled with slanderous statements and self-serving political theory that demonized and dismissed the poor as a cargo of leeches that is dragging down the ship of state.

In The Huffington Post, Lauren Windsor recently reported on more audiotape from the Koch brothers' billionaires retreat in an article entitled, "Top Koch Strategist Argues the Minimum Wage Leads Directly to Fascism":

“Psychology shows that it is the main recruiting ground for totalitarianism, for fascism, for conformism, when people feel like they’re victims,” said Richard Fink, described by Windsor as the top political strategist for the Koch brothers. “So the big danger of minimum wage isn’t the fact that some people are being paid more than their value-added -- that’s not great. It’s not that it’s hard to stay in business -- that’s not great, either. But it’s the 500,000 people that will not have a job because of minimum wage.”

The assertion that a sense of "victimhood" is what keeps people from a just wage - when it is an issue of paying the lowest possible wages in order for the 1% to achieve the highest possible profit - is a self-serving defamation of exploited laborers.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

cantor2Eric Cantor (Photo: Wikipedia)Maybe his theme song should be, "Don't Cry for Me, John Boehner." After all, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his congressional seat earlier this year after being defeated in the GOP primary earlier this year by a Tea Party zealot. It was, in the mainstream media narrative, an embarrassment of immeasurable proportion for the man who was next in line to the Speaker of the House.

Last month, Cantor unexpectedly resigned before his term was over in January. Now we know why.

Cantor is making his way through the perennial revolving door, in which a primary loss can lead to a treasure chest of Wall Street riches. The Los Angeles Times reports that Cantor will join the investment bank Moelis & Co. Notice, according to The LA Times, how his pay escalates after the first year, perhaps so as to make it appear that he is not immediately cashing in on his high-ranking congressional and government access: 

Cantor is the latest government official to cash in on Wall Street after working in Washington. His pay will jump from the $193,400 a year he earned as majority leader to a base salary of $400,000 a year to start.

He also will receive a $400,000 cash payment and $1 million in restricted stock that will vest in phases after his third, fourth and fifth anniversaries with the company, according to a filing Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Next year, he will receive a minimum incentive payment of $1.2 million in cash and $400,000 in restricted stock.

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