"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Class War’

Deserving Neither Liberty Nor Safety: The Patriot Act & The FBI’s Long-Term Assault on Civil Liberties In America

In Uncategorized on June 1, 2011 at 9:34 am

Oldspeak:” In the wake of the Congress and Obama’s reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT ACT (sans Candidate Obama’s promised reviews and reforms, complete with ‘secret’ interpretations of the laws’ provisions) rest assured that violations of your 4th amendment rights will continue unabated.  “This assault on the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from unwarranted search and surveillance, has some startling ramifications. The FBI can not only search your home or business, but also listen to your phone conversations, monitor your computer and Internet use, and search your medical, financial, library, and academic records. All this without ever letting you know…Moreover, the FBI gets to label any group it wants as supporting terrorism. Did you give money to the African National Congress in its fight against apartheid in South Africa? Did you support CISPES, an organization trying to change U.S. policy in El Salvador and Central America? If you did and you are not a citizen, you could join the thousands who have been rounded up, questioned, and held in indefinite detention, without charges and without access to legal representation. Two U.S. citizens have also been imprisoned in this manner, establishing a chilling precedent for the future, no matter what their supposed crimes.” -Fred Nagel.  Yet another disheartening example of President Obama extending and unchanging an unconstitutional, anti-democratic, police state promoting Bush era policy. It’s getting harder and harder to distinguish these tactics, secret police, the spying, the intimidation, the warrantless searches, from those used by the Gestapo in Nazi Germany.   The “War On Americans” is still going strong, and Americans are losing. They’re losing HUGE.”

Related Story: FBI’s Counterterrorism Operations Scrutinizing Political Activists

 

Related Story: Spying on U.S Citizens — Uncle Sam turns his multi-billion dollar espionage network on U.S Citizens

By Fred Nagel @ Z Magazine:

Visiting Budapest in the early nineties, after the fall of the Soviet Union, I had a chance to talk to some Hungarians about their lives during and after the Soviet occupation. I was particularly interested in the secret police. Did they feel safer now that they couldn’t be taken away in the middle of the night for something they had said or written? One woman’s response was typical. “They would never
come for me,” she said. “They came for our writers, our intellectuals, but never for me; I was never scared.”

Perhaps the average American thought the same way about the USA PATRIOT Act, passed within a month after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Certainly members of Congress felt that way. The act was over 300 pages long, and most simply did not have time to read it in the rush for passage.

They should have. It gives our government the right to secretly investigate individuals and groups if they violate criminal laws and their actions “appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population…” Cutting a fence, throwing a stone, or crossing a police barrier in pursuit of civil rights, protecting the environment, or protesting the World Trade Organization would certainly qualify.

And only one member of a group needs to engage in this type of action for the whole group to be investigated. The USA PATRIOT Act does away with the need for a search warrant, the process that requires the government to show a judge some good reason for snooping in your house (reasonable cause that there is evidence relevant to a crime). This assault on the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from unwarranted search and surveillance, has some startling ramifications. The FBI can not only search your home or business, but also listen to your phone conversations, monitor your computer and Internet use, and search your
medical, financial, library, and academic records. All this without ever letting you know.

As an example, librarians were put on notice that it is a violation of law to let any library user know that his/her records have ever been checked. And hundreds of libraries report that records have been checked, although they are forbidden to reveal the specifics. There can be little doubt that homes have also been searched, patient records copied, etc. since passage of this act. Could my house or
computer be searched simply because I wrote this article? In the brave, new world of the USA PATRIOT Act, anything is possible.

Indefinite imprisonment without charges and without evidence used to be unthinkable as well. But the USA PATRIOT Act allows this for non-citizens who are members of a designated “terrorist organization.” Moreover, the FBI gets to label any group it wants as supporting terrorism. Did you give money to the African National Congress in its fight against apartheid in South Africa? Did you support CISPES, an organization trying to change U.S. policy in El Salvador and Central America? If you did and you are not a citizen, you could join the thousands who have been rounded up, questioned, and held in indefinite detention, without charges and without access to legal representation. Two U.S. citizens have also been imprisoned in this manner, establishing a chilling precedent for the future, no matter what their supposed crimes. The line has clearly been crossed, and as a citizen of this country,
you can be locked up and denied your most basic rights, based on evidence you may never even find out about.

Secret military tribunals have been set up to try immigrants and other foreigners for terrorism, with the death penalty a distinct possibility. Even U.S. citizens who are allowed access to a lawyer may have their conversations monitored if the attorney general “suspects” that terrorist activity is involved. Good-bye to another very basic right we have come to expect, that of attorney/client
privilege. The Total Information Awareness database, organized as part of the Bush Era’s Department of Homeland Security, was a omonous step toward a police state. Masterminded by Admiral John Poindexter (criminally convicted in 1990 for lying to Congress, destroying official documents, and obstruction of justice), this database would have collected every bit of information that existed on
every citizen in this country. A massive public outcry stopped that program before it was put into place. But since then, the goverment’s surveillance programs have multiplied dramatically, especially under Obama, who signed the extension of the USA PATRIOT Act without any reforms at all. Currently, the Justice Department is trying to get a federal appeals court to overturn a ruling against planting GPS devices without a warrant.

“Big deal,” you reply. “The FBI has been doing all this stuff for years. Where have you been?” Well, it has been doing this since 1908, when Congress first refused to authorize the FBI (at that time the Bureau of Investigation), explaining that “a system of spying upon and espionage of the people, such as has prevailed in Russia” was unacceptable in a free society. The president then created the FBI
while Congress was not in session.

The clearest and most reliable source of FBI history is the Church Committee Report, a congressional investigation of the Bureau conducted in 1975. According to this report, the FBI was in trouble by the 1920s when agents carried out the “Palmer Raids” that eventually rounded up 10,000 citizens in what was termed “indiscriminate arrests of innocent with the guilty” as well as “unlawful seizures by federal detectives.” The Church Committee also cited reports by legal scholars that “found federal agents guilty of using third-degree tortures, making illegal searches and arrests, using agents provocateurs.” A young man, J. Edgar Hoover, joined
the Bureau in time to take part in these raids .

By the 1950s Hoover, as head of the FBI, was one of the most powerful men in the country. He used his investigators to collect information on a broad range of public figures and had no scruples when it came to using that information to influence congressional votes or presidential decisions. It was under Hoover that COINTELPRO was born, a comprehensive system of surveillance that the Church Committee found “had no conceivable rational relationship to either national security or violent activity. The unexpressed major premise of much of COINTELPRO is that the Bureau has a role in maintaining the existing social order, and that its efforts should be aimed toward combating those who threaten that order.” Combating the civil rights movement, the American Indian Movement, and the anti-Vietnam War movement to be specific. The FBI served as thought police of the 1950s and 1960s.

The mindless destruction caused by COINTELPRO is still coming to light. Martin Luther King Jr. was a particular target. Over several years, the FBI wiretapped King’s home and office phones and put bugs in his hotel rooms. At the same time, it worked to deny him awards and honorary degrees, and even tried to prevent an audience with Pope Paul VI. Hoover was quick to exploit the results of the wiretaps, proof of King’s illicit affairs that he then had his agents mail to King’s supporters and to the media. Finally, the FBI mailed copies of bedroom tapes to King himself, along with an anonymous letter suggesting he commit suicide rather than having his wife, family, and the nation know about his marital infidelity.

The FBI vendetta against other African-American and Indian groups was just as brutal. Leonard Peltier sits in a federal prison today, framed for a murder that most historians doubt he committed. The role of the FBI in his extradition from Canada and the withholding of more than 12,000 FBI documents from his trial is another low point in the violation of civil liberties. Among the documents withheld was a ballistic test that proved that the fatal bullets could not have come from the gun tied to Mr. Peltier at the trial. According to Amnesty International, he is a “political prisoner” who should be “immediately and unconditionally released.”

The Church Committee Report was released in 1976. Senator Frank Church told the nation at that time that the FBI’s COINTELPRO had been “a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association.” He also reassured U.S. citizens “that never again will an agency of the government be permitted to conduct a secret war against those citizens it considers a threat to the established order.”  But by 1980, things were back to normal for the FBI, at least according to Frank Varelli, who infiltrated a CISPES office in Dallas for the Bureau that year. In an in-depth statement to Congress in 1987, he revealed a complicated but all too familiar pattern of surveillance, theft, and dirty tricks directed at this legal and nonviolent organization.

CISPES was founded to promote peace in El Salvador. Specifically, it worked to expose U.S. military aid that funded right-wing death squads operating there. Varelli was hired by the FBI as part of an “international terrorism investigation,” but his tactics included the familiar cameras and sound equipment in bedrooms, this time as part of an attempt to smear and blackmail the Dallas head of CISPES, a nun by the name of Sister Linda Hajak. Varelli also provided the Salvadoran National Guard with lists of U.S. citizens traveling there “who were not friendly to Reagan policies.” Just one year before Varelli supplied these lists, three nuns and one church worker, all U.S. citizens, had been raped and murdered in El Salvador by members of this same National Guard. The FBI has admitted to launching this investigation from 1981 through 1985 but has refused to reveal on what legal authority it did so. More than 50 CISPES offices were broken into during this period. In 1990, it was the turn of the environmental movement. Two activists, Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, were arrested and accused of making and transporting bombs, a charge the FBI knew was false. Historian and writer,Howard Zinn’s testimony in a successful lawsuit against the FBI says it all. “It seems clear that the history of the FBI is consistent with the charges that it sought to discredit and ‘neutralize’ Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, and the environmental cause they were working for, by smearing them publicly with sensational false charges of possession of a bomb,
and that it did not hesitate to violate their constitutional rights to achieve its ends.”

The fact that the average U.S. citizen is unaware of all of this is a testament to the FBI’s skill at public relations. Of course, the FBI has done some excellent crime fighting in its history. But even its campaign against the Mafia has been exaggerated in the media. Anti-crime efforts in places like Boston are now being exposed for what they were. The FBI  allied itself with certain crime families to arrest and take the credit for convicting members of other families. It was a little crime fighting and a lot of PR, a Hoover legacy that extends into the 21st century. How many movies and TV shows were influenced by the Bureau over the last 40 years? That is where you and I learned about the FBI. The FBI, as well as similar federal law enforcement agencies, has done a much better job of protecting us from dissent than of protecting us from crime for all these years. And as for terrorists, in the entire history of the FBI there were precious few of those caught among the tens of thousands detained, bugged, discredited, falsely charged, and publicly humiliated. Looking at the history of the FBI, is it any wonder that 19 men were able to board four domestic airliners and fly them with such deadly accuracy into their targets? They learned to fly at U.S. flight schools while the Bureau was busy tracking down and playing dirty tricks on students protesting free trade and the World Bank. Police forces all across this land have followed the
lead of the FBI in snooping.

The Denver Police Department revealed a 40-year program of gathering and storing information on the usual suspects: Sister Antonia Anthony, a 74-year-old nun who taught destitute Indians, and Shirley Whiteside, who with her husband ran a community soup kitchen. These were the types of people labeled “criminal extremists” in the database developed by Orion, a software company with ties to the Pentagon. When asked how more than 3,000 Denver citizens ended up with this label, the police said that it was up to each officer to “use his own judgment” in characterizing people. The label “criminal extremist” was often used when a person didn’t seem to fit any other category. There just doesn’t seem to be much hesitation when it comes to spying on and labeling this country’s citizens. It is done from the FBI all the way down to the local police.

On Friday, September 24, 2010, the FBI raided seven homes and an antiwar office. Fourteen activist in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan were also handed subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury. The usual groups were targeted: the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, the Palestine Solidarity Group, the Colombia Action Network, Students for a Democratic Society, and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization. All had been involved in the antiwar marches at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.
Tracy Molm was one of the activists targeted in the early morning raid.

“I heard a pounding on my door in my apartment complex; that was pretty bizarre. I opened the door and they shoved their way in saying ‘We are FBI agents and we have a warrant.’ I was in my bathrobe and they told me I had to sit on my couch, and they were going to search my apartment. They pulled my roommate and a friend out of her room and told them to sit on the couch too. They took my phone from me. And they took my computer. They proceeded to go through everything in our apartment. If we wanted to go to the bathroom, a FBI agent had to come with us. We were told we could leave, but couldn’t come back. “I was outraged and stunned. I never thought in my wildest dreams that this could happen. Everything I have ever done has been around peace and justice issues around the world, and particularly U.S. foreign policy. So it was really surprising. I was on a delegation to the West Bank, in the occupied territories in 2004, which is six years ago. And they said this is in regards to that.” I have never much liked Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote about civil liberties: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” It seemed a little elitist, suggesting that some people haven’t earned the right to enjoy freedom of expression. Perhaps they have no need for it, like the woman in Budapest saying that the secret police would never come for her. But maybe Franklin was simply saying he had done his part and the rest was up to us.

In many ways, we have failed Ben Franklin and we have failed ourselves. I like to think that there is still time to win back our basic civil liberties in the land of the free, home of the brave. To get involved, make a donation or find out more go to http://www.stopfbi.net.
Fred Nagel is an activist writer, filmmaker,and radio show host ; his website is classwars.org.

Nowhere Man 2012: Because Everyone Else Is Worse

In Uncategorized on April 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Oldspeak: “The feeble fiction of the Democrats vs. Republicans paradigm has been falling to dust for a long time now, inexorably being replaced by a simple truth. There is but one paradigm in this reality, one core fact to be reckoned with: the struggle in America is between the Have’s and the Have Not’s, between towering wealth , towering greed and everyone else. It is about a class struggle that has been three centuries in the making, and even those who are today moderately comfortable will not be able to escape calamity. When it comes down, it will come down on all of us…all, of course, except the fortunate few who caused it all in the first place.” – William Rivers Pitt

By William Rivers Pitt @ Truthout:

So, yeah, Obama is in. The President of the United States officially threw his hat into the 2012 election ring on Monday morning, and the nation reacted with a resounding, “Oh.”

What a mess.

It wasn’t even two and a half years ago. Can you believe it? Two and a half years ago, there was a detonation of optimism that echoed across the country once the returns were in on that November night. People took to the streets here in Boston, literally banging pots and pans together as they danced and shouted in celebration. The scene was repeated in city after city and town after town, and even the “mainstream” media gushed from election night to Inauguration Day about the spectacular moment in American history we were all witnessing together.

Hindsight, however, tells us today that much of that optimism was wildly misplaced. The long shadow of George W. Bush still hung low and dark over the land, as it does even now. That was part of it, of course, part of the sense of expiation and purgation so many felt once the deal went down; on that November night, the national nightmare of Mr. Bush’s presidency was writing its final pages, and then came January, and he was gone. Despite all the failures and disappointments that have since come, those were two very good days.

And there have been disappointments. A great, great many of them. The words we heard were beautiful back then, soaring and sure, and many believed. How could they not? Here was this new president who could sing the birds down from the trees, who was introduced to the country in 2004 by way of a convention keynote address [4] that blew the roof off the joint. Some years later, along the jagged, wending path of a brutal primary campaign, candidate Obama was carried to the nomination by the power of his words, and yes, many believed, even in spite of themselves.

But then he won it all, and two and a half years later, many of his most ardent supporters now hear his words and taste ashes in their mouths. You campaign in poetry, someone once said, but you govern in prose.  The poetry was magnificent. The prose, in far too many ways, has been dreck, and those who believed now find themselves more demoralized than they can easily describe.

He and his fellow Democrats all but folded on health care, leaving us with less than half a loaf. He backtracked [5] on Guantanamo, and doubled down on Afghanistan. He promised to erase Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, and broke his oath shamelessly, to his party’s great lament in 2010. Wall Street stands unmolested at the center of his counsel, while Main Street withers on the vine. He is flipping missiles into Libya while flipping off the American people by racing to “compromise” with brigands and thieves on the matter of how many billions to cut. He has, to be sure, had his share of victories [6], but in so many critical ways, he has been the Nowhere Man, the absence of what was so seemingly present when he was elevated to his current station.

What galls the most, what infuriates and confounds, is the brazen clarity of the situation at hand. Mr. Obama has not been losing policy arguments to reasonable people. He has been losing policy arguments to people who are, in many instances, absolutely and unabashedly barking mad. He is losing policy arguments to people who sought elected office in government in order to denude and destroy that very government. Listen to them talk and the matter is plain: they got the job to destroy the job, and are so blinded by the fervor of their political catechism that they cannot be reasoned with under any circumstances. They are destroyers and usurpers, but Mr. Obama has time and again bared his neck to them, and we have all suffered with their sundry victories, and his sundry defeats.

They cannot be reasoned with, but can only be defeated, and after two and a half years, it is the President of the United States alone who appears to have not received the memo. Now he’s running for re-election – not that anyone suspected he would do otherwise – and the machinery of campaign war is grinding to life in Chicago and Washington DC. Last time around, Mr. Obama’s vast campaign war chest was filled with donations from millions of regular folks all across the country. The Obama campaign took money from the big boys, too; lots and lots of money. But what ultimately brought him to victory came from average Americans who could not afford to give but did. That, as much as anything else, was part of that sense of optimism felt by so many at the beginning.

Now?

Well, now is a different story. A great many of those who gave willingly the last time are two and a half years older today, two and a half years poorer, and two and a half years wiser. They will not be as quick to reach for their wallets and checkbooks when the piper calls them to campaign charity with his well-worn cadence. The Obama 2012 brain trust seems to know this, and are preparing a financial strategy far more dependent on big money [7] than last time. They aim to raise a billion dollars this time. Thus, the political DNA of campaigner Obama and President Obama will even more closely resemble the CEOs and bankers that tore this nation to shreds and tatters.

The feeble fiction of the Democrats vs. Republicans paradigm has been falling to dust for a long time now, inexorably being replaced by a simple truth. There is but one paradigm in this reality, one core fact to be reckoned with: the struggle in America is between the Have’s and the Have Not’s, between towering wealth , towering greed and everyone else. It is about a class struggle that has been three centuries in the making, and even those who are today moderately comfortable will not be able to escape calamity. When it comes down, it will come down on all of us…all, of course, except the fortunate few who caused it all in the first place.

But who knows? Mr. Obama could choose to steer back into the wind, challenge his demented opposition with a will, and prevail in a way that inspires those who have waited all this time for the man they gave to and voted for to show up. The odds of re-election favor him in any case; it is hard to defeat an incumbent, and when considering the ludicrous carnival of nonsense that is the presumed Republican field, Mr. Obama’s chances only improve. In many battlefield states, demographics favor the president in ways the GOP is not prepared to deal with. The 2012 election campaign promises, above all else and with absolute certainty, to be one of the most deranged political affairs to be seen since time out of mind.

It is tempting to comfort oneself with the notion that there are worse things in the world than a second Obama term, and there is a fat, cynical dollop of truth in that. After all, given the array of challenges this administration has faced since taking office, it is daunting to imagine the sorry condition we would be in under a President McCain. Now imagine watching Vice President Michele Bachmann, tapped by the Republican nominee in two years to shore up the Tea Party vote, taking the oath a heartbeat shy of the biggest chair in the country. Think it can’t happen that way? Want to bet on it?

I don’t.

Two and a half years ago, it was all about hope and change. Remember that? I am, personally, waiting with bated breath for the next battery of slogans to be deployed by the Obama campaign. No, seriously, I am. Nowhere Man 2012: Because Everyone Else Is Worse. That’ll send them racing to the polls.

Yup. Here we go.

Again.


Public Teachers: America’s New “Welfare Queens”

In Uncategorized on March 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Oldspeak:” ‘Everything is a version of something else.’-Patrick Marber in “Closer”. ‘Much like the “welfare queen,” the “bad teacher” and the “public employee” are convenient scapegoats at which we direct our current economic rage… attacks on teachers and other public servants…. is not just trick of mass psychological transference, a means to distract us from the real culprits of this economic devastation – crooked bankers, sneaky lenders and complicit politicians.’-Adam Bessie.”

By Adam Bessie @ Truthout:

In 1976, on a failed campaign to the White House, Ronald Reagan coined one of his enduring linguistic legacies – the “welfare queen,” [4] a mythical, inner-city resident who wastes the public’s hard-earned money on “welfare Cadillacs” and other luxuries she can’t afford, and, thus, doesn’t deserve. When Reagan finally succeeded in becoming president four years later, he waged war on these “welfare queens,” redistributing money from the “least deserving” by cutting social services and public programs that helped the poor, and funneling it to the “most deserving,” by providing generous tax cuts for the extremely rich, who had actually “earned” their money.

Today, as a recent Gallup poll [5] found that Americans were most likely to dub Reagan “the greatest president ever” (just above the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln), Reagan’s battle against the “welfare queen” lives on – though she doesn’t drive a Cadillac, but, perhaps, a fire engine, and has a Cadillac health care plan, as Jonathan Cohn presciently pointed out in “Public Employees Are the New Welfare Queens” [6] last August in The New Republic. In the last few weeks, “public employee” has become a bad word, a symbol of greed and undeserved excess, one that is responsible for our crumbling budgets, and, by logic, our own struggling economy – just like the “welfare queens” of the 70′s.

And yet, many Americans will find a comparison of “public employees” to “welfare queens” hard to swallow, given our patriotic disposition toward firefighters and police officers – especially in the wake of 9/11, when they were elevated to the status of heroes worthy of bumper stickers honoring them across the country. Unlike Reagan’s image of the “welfare queen” ripping off the system, it’s hard to see people who rush into burning buildings or step into the line of fire as undeserving of their benefits.

The perfectly ambiguous term “public employee” was designed in the first place for just this reason: the label sounds more like a faceless, heartless bureaucrat than a public servant risking her or his life for the common good. The term strips away the humanity and the nobility of a public servant’s work, replacing it with an uninspiring, and certainly unrespectable, blandness. It’s far easier to take away a “public employee’s” pension than it is to take away your local firefighter’s, who might someday save your life.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker seems perfectly aware of this potential political trap. As he tries to dismantle collective bargaining [7] and, thus, cut benefits and pay for “public employees,” he is ensuring that firefighters, police and state troopers are all exempt from his attack. He could never sell benefit-busting against American heroes.

Teachers, however, are a much easier sell as the new “welfare queens,” which is why they (and other, less visible public servants) find themselves in the conservatives’ crosshairs. In the last year, public education has undergone a sustained, highly successful character assassination from billionaires and the corporate media [8], transforming educators from dedicated public servants to lazy, self-interested bureaucrats who care more about pensions than their students. “The Myth of the Bad Teacher” [9]has prevailed, popularized by “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” discussed at length on Oprah and repeated ad nauseam on the covers of popular magazines like Time, which proclaim that these “bad teachers” have caused a crisis in education [10]. Wading in this swamp of negative propaganda, teachers are easy prey. After all, “bad teachers” working in a “bad” school system clearly don’t deserve our hard-earned money when they aren’t earning it in the first place. Why not take away their Cadillac benefits?

Much like the “welfare queen,” the “bad teacher” and the “public employee” are convenient scapegoats at which we direct our current economic rage.

Walker’s attack on teachers and other public servants, however, is not just trick of mass psychological transference, a means to distract us from the real culprits of this economic devastation – crooked bankers, sneaky lenders and complicit politicians. Rather, Walker – whose hero is Reagan, according to a recent New York Times profile [11]  – is carrying out another of Reagan’s linguistic and ideological legacies, “starving the beast.” Walker is playing by the Gipper’s handbook, working hard to transfer wealth from the public to the private sector and attempting to cut pay and benefits for public servants, while at the same time cutting taxes for businesses. In fact, Walker’s tax cuts [12] for private business appear to be underwritten by cuts in public sector benefits. If he succeeds, the money will literally be handed from the pockets of public servants to private business owners.

The inspiring protests in Wisconsin [13] are not just about health care benefits, pensions or even unions. No, the Wisconsin uprising [14] is really about defending the public sector, and those that work for the public, against increasing privatization and corporatization [15] that serves to increase wage inequity and decrease benefits for the many for the profit of the few – which is Reagan’s real legacy [16].


You Have More Money In Your Wallet Than GE, ExxonMobil, Citibank, And Bank of America Pay In Taxes… COMBINED.

In Uncategorized on March 1, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Oldspeak:”For the life of me, I will never understand why people blindly and mindlessly support institutions that don’t have their interests at heart(I am surely guilty of this on some level, though I’m trying hard to detox:-D ). BP is still in business after destroying an ecosystem and paying a pittance to restore it. Bank of America, Citibank and their ilk, are enjoying record profits and bonuses after crashing the monetary system at the expense of taxpayers pensions, education, health and labor rights. When will the American People get fed up with the status quo and demand an end to the shadow totalitarian corprocratic government that grows fat on their pain and toil? Instead of standing by while corporatist politricians defund ACORN, Planned Parenthood, the Corporation For Public Broadcasting and other public/social institutions and programs we should use our dollars to defund fraudulent and ruthless megabanks, and other irresponsible corporations.

By Zaid Jilani @ ThinkProgress:

Today, hundreds of thousands of people comprising a Main Street Movement — a coalition of students, the retired, union workers, public employees, and other middle class Americans — are in the streets, demonstrating against brutal cuts to public services and crackdowns on organized labor being pushed by conservative politicians. These lawmakers that are attacking collective bargaining and cutting necessary services like college tuition aid and health benefits for public workers claim that they have no choice but than to take these actions because both state and federal governments are in debt.

But it wasn’t teachers, fire fighters, policemen, and college students that caused the economic recession that has devastated government budgets — it was Wall Street. And as middle class workers are being asked to sacrifice, the rich continue to rig the system, dodging taxes and avoiding paying their fair share.

In an interview with In These Times, Carl Gibson, the founder of US Uncut, which is organizing some of today’s UK-inspired massive demonstrations against tax dodgers, explains that while ordinary Americans are being asked to sacrifice, major corporations continue to use the rigged tax code to avoid paying any federal taxes at all. As he says, if you have “one dollar” in your wallet, you’re paying more than the “combined income tax liability of GE, ExxonMobil, Citibank, and the Bank of America“:

[Gibson] explains, “I have one dollar in my wallet. That’s more than the combined income tax liability of GE, ExxonMobil, Citibank, and the Bank of America. That means somebody is gaming the system.”

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Indeed, as politicians are asking ordinary Americans to sacrifice their education, their health, their labor rights, and their wellbeing to tackle budget deficits, some of the world’s richest multinational corporations are getting away with shirking their responsibility and paying nothing. ThinkProgress has assembled a short but far from comprehensive list of these tax dodgers — corporations which have rigged the tax system to their advantage so they can reap huge profits and avoid paying taxes:

BANK OF AMERICA: In 2009, Bank of America didn’t pay a single penny in federal income taxes, exploiting the tax code so as to avoid paying its fair share. “Oh, yeah, this happens all the time,” said Robert Willens, a tax accounting expert interviewed by McClatchy. “If you go out and try to make money and you don’t do it, why should the government pay you for your losses?” asked Bob McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice. The same year, the mega-bank’s top executives received pay “ranging from $6 million to nearly $30 million.”

BOEING: Despite receiving billions of dollars from the federal government every single year in taxpayer subsidies from the U.S. government, Boeing didn’t “pay a dime of U.S. federal corporate income taxes” between 2008 and 2010.

- CITIGROUP: Citigroup’s deferred income taxes for the third quarter of 2010 amounted to a grand total of $0.00. At the same time, Citigroup has continued to pay its staff lavishly. “John Havens, the head of Citigroup’s investment bank, is expected to be the bank’s highest paid executive for the second year in a rowwith a compensation package worth $9.5 million.”

EXXON-MOBIL: The oil giant uses offshore subsidiaries in the Caribbean to avoid paying taxes in the United States. Although Exxon-Mobil paid $15 billion in taxes in 2009, not a penny of those taxes went to the American Treasury. This was the same year that the companyovertook Wal-Mart in the Fortune 500. Meanwhile the total compensation of Exxon-Mobil’s CEO the same year was over $29,000,000.

GENERAL ELECTRIC: In 2009, General Electric — the world’s largest corporation — filed more than 7,000 tax returns and still paid nothing to U.S. government. They managed to do this by a tax code that essentially subsidizes companies for losing profits and allows them to set up tax havens overseas. That same year GE CEO Jeffery Immelt — who recently scored a spot on a White House economic advisory board — “earned total compensation of $9.89 million.” In 2002, Immelt displayed his lack of economic patriotism, saying, “When I am talking to GE managers, I talk China, China, China, China, China….I am a nut on China. Outsourcing from China is going to grow to 5 billion.”

- WELLS FARGO: Despite being the fourth largest bank in the country, Wells Fargo was able to escape paying federal taxes by writing all of its losses off after its acquisition of Wachovia. Yet in 2009 the chief executive of Wells Fargo also saw his compensation “more than double” as he earned “a salary of $5.6 million paid in cash and stock and stock awards of more than $13 million.”

In the coming months, politicians across the country are going to tell Americans that the only way to stave off huge deficit and balance the budgets is by gutting programs for the poor, eviscerating support for the middle class, eliminating labor rights, and decimating the government’s ability to serve the public interest. This is a lie. The United States is the richest country in the history of the world, and income inequality is higher now than it has been at any timesince the 1920′s, with the top “top 1 percentile of households [taking] home 23.5 percent of income in 2007.”

It is simply unfair for Main Street Americans who’ve already been battered by one of the worst economic crises in our history to have to continue to sacrifice while the rich and well-connected continue to rip off taxpayers and avoid paying their fair share. That’s why a Main Street Movement consisting of Americans who are fed up with the status quo is rocking the nation, and one of its first targets should be tax dodgers like Bank of America and Boeing.


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