STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Hobby Lobby decision. For it is as least as significant for the future of our nation as is Dick Cheney, what he stands for, and who he represents (the subject to which we shall return next week). The Hobby Lobby decision has many implications. First, one must agree with Justice Ginsburg that regardless of Justices Alito's caveats, the tide unleashed by the decision of the Right-wing Five is not going to stop at the shoreline of the separation of church and state any time soon. And for the long-range future of the United States, that is the most significant element of the decision.We interrupt the two-part series on "The Significance of Dick Cheney" to deal with the breaking news of the
That is not to say that it also has horrible outcomes for women and their sexual behavior, their private lives, and their private decision-making. As Andy Borowitz so cogently put it, "Supreme Court Majority Calls Case a Dispute between Women and People." Chiming in was everyone's favorite very-far-right GOP Senator Mike Lee of Utah who said that most women who use contraceptives do so for "recreational purposes." Like that's supposed to make a difference on whether or not a public corporation can discriminate against women on their choice of FDA approved contraceptives, on religious grounds. By the way, most folks label Lee as a "Tea Partier," as if such types really differ from "regular Republicans." Well, they do, but not on policy (except perhaps around the edges on immigration policy, which Eric Cantor found to his regret, at least among the 13% of eligible voters in his district who bothered to vote). If you look closely, it is almost always just a matter of style and wording.
There are a variety of other important negative aspects of this decision that are being widely and well dealt with from the Left. In my view, the most important one is how this decision ushers our one further, very big, step down the road to theocracy. For the Supreme Court has held that in matters of legislation, law, and public programs, the religious positions of one person (and of course they have recently reaffirmed the original 1880s railroad-lawyers-Court decision that corporations are people (see "Citizens United"), can outweigh the religious position, or non-religious but ethical/moral position, of another.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Visions of apocalyptic battles are not only taking place at conferences of far-right organizations, in End Times novels, and on theater and television screens these days. Some in what might be considered mainstream right-wing circles also seem to be cranking up the rhetoric and spoiling for such battles.
In a new piece published by Political Research Associates (PRA), Frederick Clarkson quotes Republican campaign and conservative movement strategist David Lane, who last year wrote on a conservative website: "If the American experiment with freedom is to end after 237 years, let each of us commit to brawl all the way to the end."
More recently, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal told the crowd at the annual conference of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, that he could "sense right now a rebellion brewing amongst these United States, where people are ready for a hostile takeover of Washington, D.C., to preserve the American Dream for our children and grandchildren."
In his PRA piece titled "Rumblings of Theocratic Violence," Clarkson pointed out that while "such rhetoric" has been "common on the farther reaches of the Right" for many years and could be easily dismissed, "[b]ut something has changed in recent years" as these "disturbing claims are appearing more frequently, more prominently, and in ways that suggest that they are expressions of deeply held beliefs more than provocative political hyperbole."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Okay, I will concede that the issue in the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Hobby Lobby decision was the not the payment of taxes per se. Yes, SCOTUS granted the owners of Hobby Lobby the right to deny federally mandated coverage of some types of contraception. However, even the so-called "narrow" ruling broadened just the next day, according to Mother Jones:
Less than a day after the United States Supreme Court issued its divisive ruling on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, it has already begun to toss aside the supposedly narrow interpretation of the decision. On Tuesday, the Supremes ordered lower courts to rehear any cases where companies had sought to deny coverage for any type of contraception, not just the specific types Hobby Lobby was opposed to.
Again, the issue was not technically a ruling on taxes, but it was a decision in favor of bestowing personhood on a corporation (a corporation must be considered "human" if it is to have religious beliefs) and allowing the "corporate person" to avoid paying for mandated federal health services.
That sets the precedent, it seems (with a grateful acknowledgement to Jon Oliver for the idea), that the Supreme Court should allow real persons to withhold a percentage of their income taxes that go toward wars and prisons, if they so wish. Of course, the federal courts have repeatedly rejected the right of individual taxpayers to withhold a portion of their taxes in objection to how the money would be spent. On the other hand, it just ruled that a business, which is not a person, doesn't have to spend money on a specific type of federally mandated health care.
PUBLIC CITIZEN STATEMENT ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Note: On June 30, BNP Paribas pleaded guilty to criminal charges for violation of sanctions related to trade with Sudan, Iran and Cuba. Below are comments from Public Citizen experts.
“Today BNP Paribas has agreed to plead guilty to processing billions of dollars of illegal transactions on behalf of entities subject to economic sanctions and will pay more than $8.9 billion in penalties. Extensive negotiations regarding the actual punishment BNP Paribas suffers from its guilty plea demonstrate that a separate justice system may continue to prevail at large financial institutions. The public deserves to know details concerning this deal. How did BNP’s size figure in the DOJ’s ultimate decision, and what did American bank regulators advise? Did the DOJ consult with independent experts about systemic risk? A smaller bank that provided illegal transfers to oppressive governments might be shuttered. Many questions remain unanswered, including, how the DOJ concluded that this was inappropriate at BNP but not at other entities.” – Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Salon recently posted an article entitled, "Conspiracy of the Plutocrats: Secrets of the Wealth-Inequality Explosion Revealed - Piketty Protégé Gabriel Zucman Explains How the World's Wealthiest Are Scamming Governments for Trillions."
Economist Gabriel Zucman contends that an estimated $7.6 trillion is illegally held by the 1% in illegal offshore amounts that are not subject to US taxes. This is because the IRS doesn't officially know about the existence of this stash of money, which far exceeds the US debt.
However, as BuzzFlash at Truthout detailed in one example yesterday, there are plenty of legal ways for the wealthy and corporations to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. The BuzzFlash commentary focused on the growing trend of US corporations moving their headquarters overseas to countries with lower tax rates, thus officially no longer being US companies.
Indeed, it is important to remember that the great redistribution of money from the middle class to the wealthy accelerated with Ronald Reagan's "trickle up" economics. As has been well documented, the oligarchical plan to transfer earnings and cash from the 99% to the 1% has been a success beyond the dreams of even those who devised it.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Koch boys, Charles and David, live in their own little world. It's a special world, enshrouded in a rarefied atmosphere created by the fumes emanating from their family's enormous stockpiles of wealth.
Thus, the two brothers have always felt very special, and they also expect those of us in the down-to-Earth world to treat them special, even heroic. The boys were born rich and right-wing, and they parlayed Daddy Fred Koch's millions into a huge industrial conglomerate that has made each of them uberbillionaires. This has further bloated their sense of self-importance, while also giving them the financial muscle to try transforming our democratic world of egalitarian ideals into their fantasy world of laissez-fairy, social Darwinism, ruled by supermen like ... well, like them, of course.
So, twice a year, the Kochs convene a secret summit of superrich supermen to plot strategy and pledge millions of dollars to their political transformation of America. In June, about 300 of the billionaire brotherhood gathered with Charlie and Dave at the St. Regis Monarch Bay Resort on the Southern California coast. As investigative reporter Lauren Windsor wrote in The Nation, the Koch confab, which bore the heroic title of "American Courage," took over the entire luxury resort, including its golf course and restaurants, for three days, at the cost of nearly a million bucks — not counting charges for guest rooms.
BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776. They are about twenty percent of our US population. This July 4 can be an opportunity to remember them and rededicate ourselves and our country to making these promises real for all people in the US.Over sixty five million people in the US, perhaps a fifth of our sisters and brothers, are not enjoying the "unalienable rights" of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" promised when
More than two million people are in our jails and prisons making the US the world leader in incarceration, according to the Sentencing Project, a 500% increase in the last 30 years.
Four million more people are on probation and parole, reports the US Bureau of Justice Statistics.
On the night of July 4 and on any given night, over 600,000 people are homeless, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, a quarter of which, over 130,000, are children.
Over 4 million people live in homes where each person lives on less than $2 per day (2.8 million are children) according to the National Poverty Center of the University of Michigan. Over 20 million people are living in deep poverty with incomes of less than 50 percent of the already low US poverty lines.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Could Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairwoman Mary Jo White require the disclosure of big political contributions by corporations, particularly in the wake of the Citizens United decision?
Apparently the answer is "yes," according to a June 30 "Comment Is Free" column in The Guardian, by journalist Alexis Goldstein:
The disclosure of corporate political donations doesn't require Congress: the administration could simply propose new regulations under its existing authority. Unfortunately, despite having a Democratic chair – Mary Jo White – the Securities and Exchange Commission, which could mandate such disclosures, is either too intimidated (or too captured) to act.
Despite congressional shenanigans, blame for regulatory inaction on the issue sits squarely on the shoulders of the Democrat-led SEC. After adding a political disclosure rule to its 2013 agenda, the agency quietly dropped the rule for this year.
Goldstein writes that there are probably two primary reasons that the SEC is not forcing disclosure of anonymous corporate political campaign funds: 1) the Republicans are putting budgetary pressure on the SEC; and 2) it is more than possible that former top-tier corporate attorney Mary Jo White doesn't want to force accountability.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Free-market capitalists view education in terms of products and profits. The products, to them, are our children. The profits go to savvy businesspeople who use a "freedom to choose" rallying cry to convince parents that they're somehow being cheated by an equal-opportunity public school system.
Education reformers focus on privatization, public program cutbacks, and plenty of revenue-producing testing. There are at least five truths about education reform that suggest ignorance or delusion among its adherents.
1. Privatized Education Steals from the Poor, Gives to the Rich
Eva Moskowitz makes $72 per student as CEO of the private Success Academy in New York City.
Carmen Farina makes 19 cents per student as Chancellor of New York City Public Schools.
More salary shock: The salaries of eight executives of the K12 chain, which gets over 86 percent of its profits from the taxpayers, went from $10 million to over $21 million in one year.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As July 4 nears, you'll see the unusual onslaught of corporations trying to improve their brand image by associating themselves with patriotic advertising. It is important, however, to remember this June 29 Chicago Tribune headline when you see corporations go all red, white and blue: "Walgreen [Company] considers headquarters move: Is tax loophole unpatriotic?":
The nation's largest drugstore chain is considering a move that would allow it to significantly cut its tax bill and increase profits. But it's being painted by critics as un-American for looking to make money for shareholders through financial engineering at the expense of the communities that it grew up in. Walgreen is considering a so-called corporate tax inversion, in which an American company is able to incorporate abroad by acquiring a foreign company. The buyer, in effect, becomes a subsidiary of a foreign parent.
Walgreen would accomplish an inversion by completing its purchase, which is expected to happen in early 2015, of Switzerland-based Alliance Boots and moving its corporate home to Europe's largest pharmacy chain.
The Deerfield-based company faces a tough choice, one in which it must balance profits with corporate social responsibility. By going ahead with an inversion, Walgreen would give ammunition to critics who claim the company is essentially renouncing its U.S. citizenship.
As the Tribune article makes clear, the hit to US taxpayers from the Walgreen Company alone would be significant:
In an inversion, Walgreen would still pay U.S. income taxes but much less than the approximately 37 percent effective tax rate (including state and local taxes) it now pays for its U.S.-based business, corporate tax experts said. One stock analyst estimated that a Walgreen inversion would cost U.S. taxpayers $2.35 billion in the first three years after the transaction.