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

Posts Tagged ‘Medicare’

America Held Hostage To Two-Party System Failure: Government Of, By & For The Corporations

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2011 at 10:41 am

Oldspeak:There is no correlation between who drove the economic crisis and who is paying the price. The disparity of wealth is stark, as compensation at publicly traded Wall St. firms hit a record $135 billion in 2010. “Austerity” and “shared sacrifice” are Washington code for preserving tax advantages and privilege for the wealthiest, while transferring private debt and risk to the public, onto the backs of the working/middle class.” -Michelle Swenson.  The Peoples Budget, written by the Congressional Progressive Caucus is not even being considered even though it is the most sensible, would create a surplus in 10 years, eliminate the deficit sooner than the Obama or Ryan budget and reflects the will of most of the American people. “It would end the main budget deficit drivers – the Bush tax cuts and Middle East wars; restore progressive income and estate taxes; add negotiation of bulk drug rates to Medicare and preserve Medicare, Medicaid Social Security; eliminate tax subsidies for oil, gas and coal companies; close loopholes for multinational corporations; and tax speculative financial transactions“- Michelle Swenson. In other words, Oligarchy rules the day in the U.S.A.

By Michelle Swenson @ Truthout:

Washington rhetoric waxes Orwellian in proportion to inside-the-Beltway disconnect around cause and effect of the US economic crisis. Ranging from the Ryan Budget – “kill Medicare to save it” – and some Democrats – “cut Medicare and Social Security to save them” – to claims that deficit reduction (not jobs) is “what the people want,” to the “greed is good” creed that assigns entitlements in the form of taxpayer bailouts to wealthy financial institutions that take for granted the ability to shift risk for their liar’s loans and speculative transactions. “Austerity” and “shared sacrifice” are Washington code for preserving tax advantages and privilege for the wealthiest, while transferring private debt and risk to the public, onto the backs of the working/middle class.

Phil Angelides, chair of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, notes that 24 million Americans lack work and nearly $9 trillion in household wealth has vanished since the 2008 economic crisis. The commission’s January report detailed “the recklessness of the financial industry and the abject failures of policymakers and regulators that brought our economy to its knees in late 2008.”

Writes Angelides, there is “no correlation between who drove the crisis and who is paying the price.” The disparity of wealth is stark, as “compensation at publicly traded Wall St. firms hit a record $135 billion in 2010.” He notes that, in the face of overwhelming evidence of the causes of economic catastrophe, Wall Street and its allies are revising history, e.g., Republicans like Paul Ryan ignore the fact that “our federal budget deficit has ballooned more than $1 trillion annually since the financial collapse.” Instead of confronting the real causes of the deficit, budget shortfalls are conflated with “the long-term challenges of Medicare” as an excuse to shred the social safety net. Rather than rein in widespread lending abuses, Republicans seek to weaken the authority of the new consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Economist Joseph Stiglitz calls out the titans of finance, who continue to make mega bonuses for their companies’ mega losses, even after they set the global economy in a tailspin and shifted all risks for their unregulated credit default swaps onto taxpayers. He describes a nation of, by and for the 1 percent that enjoys 25 percent of economic benefits, largely purchased by Washington lobbyists. The Republican (Ryan) budget plan would cut $5.8 trillion from government spending over the next decade and reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, while increasing next year’s Pentagon budget by $17 billion. The highly touted Bowles-Simpson proposal for deficit reduction is a recipe for a weaker economy, warns Stiglitz, as it will decrease jobs, and in turn, decrease revenues. A primary means to decrease the deficit is to increase jobs, a goal that ultraconservatives wrongly equate with large tax breaks for the wealthy – so-called “job creators” – never mind that the Bush tax cuts failed to provide jobs over a decade.

It is easier to destroy than to build democracy. Concerted assaults on democracy over four decades serve the ends of those who deem it their right to rule and reign: Republican religious ideologues and acolytes of Milton Friedman economics. Disaster capitalists precipitate crises by running up huge deficits (during the Reagan and Bush one and two regimes), followed by demands for balanced budgets and deficit reduction, as a means of drastically cutting domestic spending and gutting public education, government jobs and public pensions and shifting all wealth upward.

The political right has laid waste to democratic principles by sabotaging elections and the economy and auctioning government to the highest bidder. Some rightists deem it a “citizen’s duty” to challenge the legitimacy of the “ruling regime” by refusing to obey the law – i.e., “destroy the nation to save it.” Certain issues should be advanced “for the purpose of prompting a constitutional crisis,” pronounced law professor Russell Hittinger. The 2000 Supreme Court majority selection of George W. Bush reset the bar for challenges to the constitution, as did Citizens United vs. FEC in 2010.

The 1994 Gingrich revolution ushered in the large-scale sell-off of government to corporate interest groups. Corporate lobbyists were invited to write legislation to eradicate regulations for worker safety, labor rights and environmental protections – the so-called “Project Relief” part of the Republican agenda. Simultaneously,Republican House Whip Tom DeLay (“The Hammer”) pressured corporate political action committees (PACs) to contribute solely to the GOP, reasoning, “People that are pro-free enterprise should support people who are pro-free enterprise.”

In 1995, then-GOP Conference Chair John Boehner handed out tobacco PAC money checks to Republicans on the floor of the House, even as Newt Gingrich warned lobbyists, “For anyone who’s not on board now it’s going to be the two coldest years in Washington.” Republican leaders in a private 1997 meeting with 200 top corporate executives of the Business Roundtable demanded that all contributions to Democrats cease, or corporations would forfeit access to the Republican Congressional majority. Grover Norquist, riding herd over the “K Street Project,” demanded that big business hire GOP-credentialed lobbyists and fire those with Democratic connections. By the 108th Congress, it fell to Sen. Rick Santorum to reward party loyalty by vetting the hiring decisions of major lobbyists. “If you want to play in our revolution, you have to live by our rules,” pronounced DeLay.

The “defund-the-left” campaign was abetted by Virginia Lamp Thomas, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, and a key staff member for then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who compiled a hit list of liberal groups and nonprofit groups. More recently, Virginia Thomas reportedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars from groups that had expressed direct interest in the outcome of cases that came before her husband, including Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which struck down any limitations on corporate contributions to elections, sealing the Republican deal to crush democracy.

In the ’90s, Democratic leadership, reinforced by such corporate-backed groups as the Democratic Leadership Council, turned increasingly to corporate money, away from working people. With both major parties in thrall to corporate money and influence, “we the people” has effectively become “the silenced majority,” discounted voices sought out only for votes during election years, an increasingly futile exercise as big money buys candidates and outcomes.

The majority (53 percent) of Americans who opposed the 2010 extension of the Bush tax cuts watched in dismay as President Obama started with compromise and met his Republican hostage-takers more than half way. Neither did majority popular support result in passage of strong financial regulation, importation of lower-cost drugs or government-payer universal health care.

The fatal flaw of Barack Obama’s presidency seems to be the compulsion to compromise with the likes of Norquist, bent on destroying democracy by “drowning government in a bathtub.” The deficit in public investment imperils us more than the budget deficit, observes former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, citing tax revenues that are less than 15 percent of the total economy, the lowest in 60 years. Large reductions in federal taxes affect state and local revenues, placing more locales on the brink of bankruptcy – thus fulfilling Norquist’s fondest wish for state bankruptcies and “bitter nastiness and partisanship” in state capitals.

The president’s failure to lead by using the bully pulpit to educate about the true nature of economic crisis and recovery has resulted in Democrats’ surrender to Republicans of the economic narrative around deficits, spending, taxes, health care etc. More than the Tea Party corporate shills, disingenuous rhetoric around the economy and the lack of any counter-narrative by the president discouraged voters from going to the polls in 2010 and will likely discourage them again in 2012.

In 1995, a highly secretive umbrella group of America’s right-wing leaders, the little known
Council for National Policy Action, circulated a confidential memo urging members to push for a governmental shutdown in order to force President Clinton to cave to their budget demands. Rep. Mark Souder (R-Indiana) was quoted: “This is our maximum point of leverage to insist that parts of the revolution are executed.” The brief government shutdown that followed failed to achieve their goals. Republicans have willingly upped the ante, holding the country hostage to the threat of economic catastrophe in order to achieve their long-time goal of gutting all New Deal and Great Society programs, while codifying tax cuts for the wealthy. Americans are again being held for ransom in a naked high-stakes grab for total wealth and power.

The majority of people are hungry for a truth teller/leader, like Sen. Bernie Sanders. Instead, corporate media reloops the one-note deficit propaganda of the right-wing sound machine, not seeing fit to even mention The People’s Budget, written by the Progressive Caucus. The People’s Budget would eliminate the deficit sooner than either the proposed Obama or Ryan Budgets and raise a $31 billion surplus in ten years. It would end the main budget deficit drivers – the Bush tax cuts and Middle East wars; restore progressive income and estate taxes; add negotiation of bulk drug rates to Medicare and preserve Medicare, Medicaid Social Security; eliminate tax subsidies for oil, gas and coal companies; close loopholes for multinational corporations; and tax speculative financial transactions. All are goals supported by the majority of people.

Likewise, Medicare-for-All would contribute substantially to economic recovery. Reich writes that expanding the Medicare risk pool to include all healthy young and sick elderly would save $58 billion to $400 billion annually and sharply reduce the budget crisis, while also permitting negotiation of lower rates with hospitals, doctors and pharmaceutical companies. Payment reform to reward quality not quantity care would provide additional savings.

Circular talk around the deficit short circuits meaningful action around the creation of jobs and financial and election reforms. Sorely needed to counter the corruption of money in elections are the Fair Campaigns Now Act, free media time for all serious candidates and other remedies such as instant runoff voting and reversing the notion of corporate “personhood.” Humboldt County, California, passed a county ordinance in 2006 to prohibit nonlocal corporate contributions to elections and also asserting that corporations cannot claim the First Amendment right to free speech. Counties nationwide should follow the lead of a number of counties that have drafted ordinances to deny corporate personhood.

The two main political parties are failing to serve the people, both locked in a dance of dysfunctional political posturing in service of power. In a candid moment this spring, speaking to Charlie Rose, some New York Times correspondentsacknowledged the sorry state of our politics: Tom Friedman remarked that we are trapped in a “corrupt duopoly.” Crony capitalism is the norm in Washington, lamented David Brooks. Both expressed the wish for a reputable third party to break the Washington gridlock.

Now is the moment for voices that have been willfully ignored in recent years to come together to form a true grassroots movement to advocate for progressive change. Sponsored by over 100 groups led by MoveOn.org, “Rebuild the American Dream” house meetings across the country convened starting July 16 and 17, providing the opportunity for participants to begin writing a “Contract for the American Dream” to serve the people.

The time is a now or never to restore the promise of democracy stolen by the oligarchs.


U.S. Debt Crisis Being Used To Implement Shock Doctrine To Steal More Money From The American People To Give To The Richest 1%

In Uncategorized on July 26, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Oldspeak: “As a progressive, I am absolutely TERRIFIED that President Obama, quoted RONALD REAGAN last night. That tells you all you need to know about how far to the right this man has moved in his thinking. While he tried to sell his deficit reduction proposal as “balanced” and a “fairly shared burden”, The details he didn’t “want to bore you with” are these: Public assets and lands (some oil and gas rich) would be sold to private entities, and potential government revenue will be lost to the private sector. A ‘tax holiday’ would be provided to corporations to continue to internalize their off-shored profits in the form of bonuses. The corporate tax rate will be reduced from 35% to a range of 23-29%. Loopholes which taxes income on wealth (stock and bond returns) at a lower rate than income on work (salaries and wages) will not be closed. That insures that the richest Americans pay a lower rate of taxes than their chauffeurs.”It will cut retirement deductions, the mortgage deduction and the tax benefits for employer-based health care. This is likely to hurt middle-class homeowners, and workers whose employers provide decent health care. It will add to unemployment in the short term, increase Gilded Age inequality, leave seniors more vulnerable, and shackle any possibility of rebuilding America. It puts the burden of deficit reduction on the elderly, the poor and the vulnerable, endangers jobs and growth.” -Robert Borosage. World Bank/IMF style austerity measures have come home to roost. Bottom line, the rich continue ‘winning’ and you continue to get fucked.”

By Washington’s Blog:

noted in 2008:

The powers-that-be have used the “Shock Doctrine” to pass anti-American, fascist legislation while the public was in a state of shock.

This applies to economic shocks, as well as physical attacks like 9/11.

Indeed, right now, Paulson and Bernanke are using the shock doctrine to try to ram through legislation that would help out the fat cats at the expense of taxpayers, and give the government control over the free market.

But there is some resistance. For example, Senator Leahy and the New York Times are questioning Paulson’s use of shock and awe:

  • Senator Leahy said “If we learned anything from 9/11, the biggest mistake is to pass anything they ask for just because it’s an emergency”
  • The New York Times wrote:

    “The rescue is being sold as a must-have emergency measure by an administration with a controversial record when it comes to asking Congress for special authority in time of duress.”
    ***

    Mr. Paulson has argued that the powers he seeks are necessary to chase away the wolf howling at the door: a potentially swift shredding of the American financial system. That would be catastrophic for everyone, he argues, not only banks, but also ordinary Americans who depend on their finances to buy homes and cars, and to pay for college.

    Some are suspicious of Mr. Paulson’s characterizations, finding in his warnings and demands for extraordinary powers a parallel with the way the Bush administration gained authority for the war in Iraq. Then, the White House suggested that mushroom clouds could accompany Congress’s failure to act. This time, it is financial Armageddon supposedly on the doorstep.

    “This is scare tactics to try to do something that’s in the private but not the public interest,” said Allan Meltzer, a former economic adviser to President Reagan, and an expert on monetary policy at the Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business. “It’s terrible.”

The Tarp bailouts were passed using apocalyptic – and false – threats. For example, as I’ve previously reported

The New York Times wrote last year:

In retrospect, Congress felt bullied by Mr. Paulson last year. Many of them fervently believed they should not prop up the banks that had led us to this crisis — yet they were pushed by Mr. Paulson and Mr. Bernanke into passing the $700 billion TARP, which was then used to bail out those very banks.

Indeed, Congressmen Brad Sherman and Paul Kanjorski and Senator James Inhofe all say that the government warned of martial law if Tarp wasn’t passed. That is especially interesting given that the financial crisis had actually been going on for a long time, but – instead of dealing with it – Paulson and the rest of the crew tried to cover it up and pretend it was “contained”, and that it was obvious to world leaders months earlier that it was not a liquidity crisis, but a solvency crisis (and see this).

Bait And Switch

The Tarp Inspector General has said that Paulson misrepresented the big banks’ health in the run-up to passage of TARP. This is no small matter, as the American public would have not been very excited about giving money to insolvent institutions.

And Paulson himself has said:

During the two weeks that Congress considered the [Tarp] legislation, market conditions worsened considerably. It was clear to me by the time the bill was signed on October 3rd that we needed to act quickly and forcefully, and that purchasing troubled assets—our initial focus—would take time to implement and would not be sufficient given the severity of the problem. In consultation with the Federal Reserve, I determined that the most timely, effective step to improve credit market conditions was to strengthen bank balance sheets quickly through direct purchases of equity in banks.

So Paulson knew “by the time the bill was signed” that it wouldn’t be used for its advertised purpose – disposing of toxic assets – and would instead be used to give money directly to the big banks?Senator McCain also says that Paulson pulled a bait-and-switch:

Sen. John McCain of Arizona … says he was misled by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. McCain said the pair assured him that the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program would focus on what was seen as the cause of the financial crisis, the housing meltdown.

“Obviously, that didn’t happen,” McCain said in a meeting Thursday withThe Republic‘s Editorial Board, recounting his decision-making during the critical initial days of the fiscal crisis. “They decided to stabilize the Wall Street institutions, bail out (insurance giant) AIG, bail out Chrysler, bail out General Motors. . . . What they figured was that if they stabilized Wall Street – I guess it was trickle-down economics – that therefore Main Street would be fine.”

Even the New York Times called Paulson a liar in 2008:

“First [Paulson’s Department of Treasury] says it has to have $700 billion to buy back toxic mortgage-backed securities. Then, as Mr. Paulson divulged to The Times this week, it turns out that even before the bill passed the House, he told his staff to start drawing up a plan for capital injections. Fearing Congress’s reaction, he didn’t tell the Hill about his change of heart.

Now, he’s shifted gears again, and is directing Treasury to use the money to force bank acquisitions. Sneaking in the tax break isn’t exactly confidence-inspiring, either.”

What tax breaks is the Times talking about? The article explains:

A new tax break [pushed by Treasury], worth billions to the banking industry, that has only one purpose: to encourage bank mergers. As a tax expert, Robert Willens, put it: “It couldn’t be clearer if they had taken out an ad.”

Indeed, all of the other “emergency” economic and monetary measures – like quantitative easing – didn’t help the American people, but just helped the richest 1%. And most of the bailout and “easy” money went to foreign banks (and see thisthis and this).

The Same Thing Is Happening With the Debt Ceiling

The same thing is now happening with the debt ceiling debate.

We know that the productive actions which would reduce the debt and fix the economy arenot being discussed. See thisthisthisthisthis and this.

What is being discussed would just steal more money from the American people and give it to the richest 1%. For example, Congress is planning on selling off “unused federal property”. Selling off and privatizing public assets and resources is a core tactic in shock doctrine schemes.

As Matt Taibbi shows, another tax holiday for big corporations is one of the main focuses of discussion in D.C.

MSN Money reports

The plan proposes three [tax brackets] (we now have six) and would lower the top rate — and the corporate tax rate — from 35% to a range of 23% to 29%. That would be great news for rich folks. “That could provide a windfall for wealthy taxpayers because the 35% tax bracket currently applies to taxable income above $379,150,” said The Associated Press.

 There are numerous other giveaways to the biggest fatcats, which will be paid for by slashing social security and otherwise fleecing the elderly.

Robert Borsage notes that the proposed debt agreement:

Would add to unemployment in the short term, increase Gilded Age inequality, leave seniors more vulnerable, and shackle any possibility of rebuilding America. It puts the burden of deficit reduction on the elderly, the poor and the vulnerable, endangers jobs and growth, and lards even more tax breaks on the rich.

The Nation writes:

The [proposed debt ceiling agreement] proposal shafts those who have already borne so much of the burden of the financial crisis and its fallout—lost pensions, lost homes, lost wealth—while the very people who brought the economy to its knees through their recklessness make out like banksters and bandits. In fact, at a time of inequality akin to that of the Gilded Age, the top marginal tax rate would be lowered—lowered!—to 23 to 29 percent, while there would be massive cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR),notes that JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein would save approximately $2 million to $3 million on their tax bills. But in twenty years, a 90-year-old living on a Social Security income of $15,000 would lose more than $1,200 a year in benefits.

How’s that a “bargain” for this nation and who exactly finds it “grand”?

All along, the alternatives that reflect the popular idea of shared sacrifice have been marginalized—by the political establishment (and, tragically, the Democratic leadership) and the corporate media.

***

This is not about left and right. This is about right and wrong. And that’s something the political and media establishment just don’t seem to get. 

And Senator Sanders points out today that there is no shared sacrifice by the top 1%, but that the government may take from the poor and middle class in numerous ways for years to come:

There will be major cuts in Social Security … Medicare … Medicaid and other health care programs … education … nutrition program[s] … environmental protection.
***
There are very, very clear provisions making sure that we are going to make massive cuts in programs for working families, for the elderly, for the children. Those cuts are written in black and white. What about the revenue? Well, it’s kind of vague. The projection is that we would rise over a 10-year period $100 billion in revenue. Where is that going to come? Is it necessarily going to come from the wealthiest people in this economy? Is it going to come from large corporations who are enjoying huge tax breaks? That is not clear at all. I want middle-class families to understand that when we talk about increased revenues, do you know where that comes from? It may come from cutbacks in the home mortgage interest deduction program, which is so very important to millions and millions of families. It may mean that if you have a health care program today, that health care program may be taxed. That’s a way to raise revenue. It may be that there will be increased taxes on your retirement programs, your I.R.A.’s, your 401(k)’s.

 Note: As usual, it’s not liberal-versus-conservative, but the top 1% versus the rest of the country, and you versus the giant corporations. See thisthisthisthisthisthisthisthisthisthis and this.

And – no – the top 1% are not using the money to create more jobs. It’s being used for prostitutes and other hanky panky.

Obama’s Compromising On Democratic Legacy Programs Stirs Talk of Democratic Primary Challenge In 2012

In Uncategorized on July 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Oldspeak:”I think there are millions of Americans who are deeply disappointed in the president, who believe that with regard to Social Security and other things, he said one thing as a candidate and is doing something very much else as a president—who cannot believe how weak he has been for whatever reason in negotiating with Republicans, and there’s deep disappointment. So my suggestion is: I think one of the reasons the president has made the move so far to the right is that there is no primary opposition to him and I think it would do this country a good deal of service if people started thinking about candidates out there to begin contrasting a progressive agenda as opposed to what Obama believes he’s doing.”-Sen. Bernie Sanders “Obama’s approval rating among liberals has dropped to the lowest point in his presidency, and roughly one in four Americans who disapprove of him say they feel that way because he has not been liberal enough, a new high for that measure.”-Keating Holland. Whew. Glad to know I’m not the only one not pleased with Obama’s moonwalk to the right. What remains to be seen is who will step up. Given the fact that most democrats are bought and paid for just like Obama, I’m not holding my breath. Add to that the fact you have to raise be a billion dollars to even mount a credible presidential run. But Alas, should we really be surprised that Obama is more of the same? This is what Democratic presidents do. Campaign on a progressive platform,  govern conservative right. Carter Did it. Clinton did it. And now Obama is doing it. Moral of the story? The Corporatocracy rules.

By John Nichols @ The Nation:

President Obama and his political counselors do not appear to recognize or respect the depth of the disenchantment among Democrats who fear he is preparing to abandon the commitments made by Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and generations of Democratic leaders to not just preserve but expand Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

At a recent gathering with liberal Democrats and progressive independents in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Obama’s home state of Illinois, I have been struck by the extent of the frustration with the president is growing. There has always been a good deal of griping about Obama’s maintenance of the Bush administration’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—and his decision to launch a new fight with Libya—as well as compromises on issues ranging from health-care reform to regulation of Wall Street, but this is different. As Obama has seemed to abandon a commitment to preserve Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, anger with the president has become dramatically more widespread.

A new CNN/ORC International Poll confirms the phenomenon. The number of Americans who say they disapprove of the president’s performance because he is not liberal enough has doubled since May. “Drill down into that number and you’ll see signs of a stirring discontent on the left,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland, who explains that, “Obama’s approval rating among liberals has dropped to the lowest point in his presidency, and roughly one in four Americans who disapprove of him say they feel that way because he has not been liberal enough, a new high for that measure.”

The number of Democrats who say Obama should face a primary challenge in 2012 is growing, with almost a quarter of party backers surveyed by CNN refusing to say they thought the president should be renominated.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats, gave voice to that sentiment Friday during a regular appearance onThom Hartmann’s popular national radio show. When a caller who expressed frustration with Obama’s apparent willingness to accept cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Sanders said: “Discouragement is not an option. I think it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition.”

Sanders explained: “Let me just suggest this: I think there are millions of Americans who are deeply disappointed in the president, who believe that with regard to Social Security and other things, he said one thing as a candidate and is doing something very much else as a president—who cannot believe how weak he has been for whatever reason in negotiating with Republicans, and there’s deep disappointment. So my suggestion is: I think one of the reasons the president has made the move so far to the right is that there is no primary opposition to him and I think it would do this country a good deal of service if people started thinking about candidates out there to begin contrasting a progressive agenda as opposed to what Obama believes he’s doing.”

Sanders says Obama’s weak approach to negotiations with Republicans with regard to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and tax cuts for the rich has caused him to “give thought” to encouraging a progressive Democrat to mount such a challenge.

That led to immediate talk about the prospect that Sanders might mount a primary challenge. That won’t happen. Sanders is not a Democrat. Besides, he is busy running for reelection in Vermont in 2012.

When Sanders said in March that “if a progressive Democrat wants to run, I think it would enliven the debate, raise some issues,” he explained that: “I’ve been asked whether I am going to do that. I’m not. I don’t know who is, but in a democracy, it’s not a bad idea to have different voices out there.”

No other “name” Democrat has, so far, engaged in a public discussion about making a primary run against the president.

There is some organizing on the ground among Democrats who would, at the very least, like to use Democratic caucuses and primaries to send a message to Obama.Antiwar Democrats in Iowa have talked up the prospect of a challenge in the state where the Democratic nominating process begins with caucuses that attract the party’s most activist base. There have also been stirrings in the District of Columbia, where resentment over Obama’s failure to defend the interests of the nation’s capitol is running high.

But those initiatives aim more toward getting the president’s attention and shaking up a complacent national party, perhaps by asking caucus and primary voters to send uncommitted delegates—as opposed to committed Obama backers—to next year’s Democratic National Convention. Uncommitted delegates, at the least, could generate platform fights and pressure the president’s team on particular issues.

Even this project could be a tough one, however, as the nominating process is largely controlled by Obama operatives, who have already been working the schedule and putting in place structural supports for the president’s reelection run. Obama’s team is looking at the caucuses and primaries as tools to build enthusiasm for the president’s fall reelection campaign against the Republican nominee.

But if they are serious about that fall campaign, they are going to need to recognize and respond to the disenchantment among Democratic activists whose enthusiasm level will decide the fate of Obama’s 2012 campaign. Even if there is no primary challenge, Obama must reconnect with liberal Democrats and progressive independents if he hopes to be reelected. And he will not do so by cutting a deal with Republicans to cut Democratic “legacy programs” such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.


“They’re Going To Try To Panic The Population Into Acquiescing In A Democratic Party Sellout By Cutting Back Payments To The People, While Making Sure They Pay The Pentagon, Foreign Aid, And Wall Street”

In Uncategorized on July 16, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Bought and Paid For: Laughing all the way to the Bankers.

 

Oldspeak:”Only a crisis, real or perceived produces real change” -Milton Friedman.The rancorous debate over the debt belies a fundamental truth of our economy — that it is run for the few at the expense of the many, that our entire government has been turned into a machine which takes the wealth of a mass of Americans and accelerates it into the hands of the few.” -Dennis Kusinnich. What you are seeing is textbook disaster capitalism, which is the practice (by a government, regime etc) of taking advantage of a major disaster to adopt neo-liberal economic policies that the population would be less likely to accept under normal circumstances. We’ve seen this movie most recently after 9/11, when the country was gripped with fear of terrorism, the Bush Administration and U.S. Congress passed the U.S.A. Patriot Act, depriving Americans of their rights not to be spied on, searched and seized or  indefinitely detained without charge, and created the Department Of Homeland Security, which has morphed into a gargantuan surveillance and ‘security’ apparatus. Now they’re using fear of financial catastrophe ram through draconian cuts to social programs. All while continuing to enrich the wealthy, finance client states, and the military-industrial complex on the backs of the other 99% If anything, these budget talks make it clear to anyone paying attention, who U.S. Politicians’ most important constituents are, and they sure ain’t the American people. Sadly in Washington money talks, and Change You Can Believe In walks.

Debt Ceiling Charade A Move To The Right

By Washington’s Blog:
pointed out last year that Ronald Reagan’s budget director said that the tax cuts for the wealthy were “the biggest fiscal mistake in history”.

noted yesterday:

Plugging the major holes in our economy is more important than either cutting spending or raising taxes.

And stopping bailouts and giveaways for the top .1% of the richest elite (which weaken rather than strengthen the economy, as shown herehere and here) and slashing spending on unnecessary imperial wars (which reduce rather than increase our national security, as demonstrated here and here) is what the budgetreally needs.

As I wrote last year:

Why aren’t our government “leaders” talking about slashing the military-industrial complex, which is ruining our economy with unnecessary imperial adventures?

And why aren’t any of our leaders talking about stopping the permanent bailouts for the financial giants who got us into this mess? And see this.

And why aren’t they taking away the power to create credit from the private banking giants – which is costing our economy trillions of dollars (and is leading to a decrease in loans to the little guy) – and give it back to the states?

If we did these things, we wouldn’t have to raise taxes or cut core services to the American people.

pointed out the next month:

If there’s any shortfall, all we have to do is claw back the ill-gotten gains from the fraudsters working for the too big to fails whose unlawful actions got us into this mess in the first place. See thisthisthisthis and this.

Dennis Kucinich wrote in a post entitled “Debt Political Theater Diverts Attention While Americans’ Wealth is Stolen”:

The rancorous debate over the debt belies a fundamental truth of our economy — that it is run for the few at the expense of the many, that our entire government has been turned into a machine which takes the wealth of a mass of Americans and accelerates it into the hands of the few.

***

We have to realize what this country’s economy has become. Our monetary policy, through the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, privatized the money supply, gathers the wealth, puts it in the hands of the few while the Federal Reserve can create money out of nothing, give it to banks to park at the Fed while our small businesses are starving for capital.

Mark my words — Wall Street cashes in whether we have a default or not. And the same type of thinking that created billions in bailouts for Wall Street and more than $1 trillion in giveaways by the Federal Reserve today leaves 26 million Americans either underemployed or unemployed. And nine out of ten Americans over the age of 65 are facing cuts in their Social Security in order to pay for a debt which grew from tax cuts for the rich and for endless wars.

There is a massive transfer of wealth from the American people to the hands of a few and it’s going on right now as America’s eyes are misdirected to the political theater of these histrionic debt negotiations, threats to shut down the government, and willingness to make the most Americans pay dearly for debts they did not create.

These are symptoms of a government which has lost its way, and they are a challenge to the legitimacy of the two-party system.

And Michael Hudson – who is as far from a knee-jerk conservative as possible – hits the same theme with both barrels blazing:

[Interviewer]: So, what do you think? Good versus evil. We’re playing out the debt struggle and the debt ceiling issue. And if we don’t raise the debt ceiling, we’ll be in the apocalypse. What do you make of it all?

HUDSON: I think it’s evil working with evil…. If you have to choose between paying Social Security and Wall Street, pay our clients, Wall Street.

***

What’s inefficient? Paying for people on Medicaid. Got to cut it. What’s inefficient? Medicare. Got to cut it. What’s inefficient? Paying Social Security. What is efficient? Giving $13 trillion to Wall Street for a bailout. Now, how on earth can the administration say, in the last three years we have given $13 trillion to Wall Street, but then, in between 2040 and 2075, we may lose $1 trillion, no money for the people?

***

It’s not about the debt ceiling. It’s about making an agreement now under an emergency conditions. You remember what Obama’s staff aide Rahm Emanuel said. He said a crisis is too important to waste. They’re using this crisis as a chance to ram through a financial policy, an anti-Medicare, anti-Medicaid, anti—selling out Social Security that they could never do under the normal course of things.***

They’re not going to cut back the war in Libya.

***

They’re going to have to decide what to cut back. So they’re going to cut back the bone and they’re going to keep the fat, basically. They’re going to say–they’re going to try to panic the population into acquiescing in a Democratic Party sellout by cutting back payments to the people–Social Security, Medicare–while making sure that they pay the Pentagon, they pay the foreign aid, they pay Wall Street.

[Interviewer]: Yeah. But what–I hear you. But what I’m–I’m saying, what could be an alternative policy? For example, don’t raise the debt ceiling. Number two, raise taxes on the wealthy. Number three, cut back military spending. I mean, there are ways to do this without having to borrow more money, aren’t there?

HUDSON: Of course.

***

Of course they could cut back the fat. Of course what they should do is change the tax system. Of course they should get rid of the Bush tax cuts. And the one good thing in President Obama’s speech two days ago was he used the term spending on tax cuts. So that’s not the same thing as raising taxes. He said just cut spending by cutting spending on tax cuts for the financial sector, for the speculators who count all of their income that they get, billions of income, as capital gains, taxed at 15 percent instead of normal income at 35 percent. Let’s get rid of the tax loopholes that favor Wall Street.

***

Mr. Obama has always known who has been contributing primarily to his political campaigns. We know where his loyalties lie now. And, basically, he promised change because that’s what people would vote for, and he delivered the change constituency to the campaign contributors…

The U.S. Will Not Balance It’s Budget On The Backs Of The Poor, Elderly, Disabled, And Working Families

In Uncategorized on July 12, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Oldspeak:“Oh how I wish Sen. Bernie Sanders was U.S President. He’s one of the few U.S. politicians speaking the truth and articulating the concerns of real people.  Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid did not create America’s debt crisis. Decades of wage stagnation, de-industrialization, job outsourcing, wildly irresponsible & illicit financial speculation, subsequent taxpayer bailouts of wall street, tax cuts for millionaires and corporations, multiple unpaid for and misguided wars and ever expanding military and surveillance budgets did. Why should poor, elderly, disabled and disenfranchised people be made to suffer for the folly of reckless, hedonistic, anti-democratic monied interests? #ChangeICan’tBelieveIn.”

By Senator Bernie Sanders @ Bernie Sanders’ Senate Web Site:

Mr. President, this is a pivotal moment in the history of our country.  In the coming days and weeks, decisions will be made about our national budget that will impact the lives of virtually every American in this country for decades to come.

At a time when the richest people and the largest corporations in our country are doing phenomenally well, and, in many cases, have never had it so good, while the middle class is disappearing and poverty is increasing, it is absolutely imperative that a deficit reduction package not include the disastrous cuts in programs for working families, the elderly, the sick, the children and the poor that the Republicans in Congress, dominated by the extreme right wing, are demanding.

In my view, the President of the United States of America needs to stand with the American people and say to the Republican leadership that enough is enough.  No, we will not balance the budget on the backs of working families, the elderly, the sick, the children, and the poor, who have already sacrificed enough in terms of lost jobs, lost wages, lost homes, and lost pensions.  Yes, we will demand that millionaires and billionaires and the largest corporations in America contribute to deficit reduction as a matter of shared sacrifice.  Yes, we will reduce unnecessary and wasteful spending at the Pentagon.  And, no we will not be blackmailed once again by the Republican leadership in Washington, who are threatening to destroy the full faith and credit of the United States government for the first time in our nation’s history unless they get everything they want.

Instead of yielding to the incessant, extreme Republican demands, as the President did during last December’s tax cut agreement and this year’s spending negotiations, the President has got to get out of the beltway and rally the American people who already believe that deficit reduction must be about shared sacrifice.

It is time for the President to stand with the millions who have lost their jobs, homes, and life savings, instead of the millionaires, who in many cases, have never had it so good.

Unless the American people by the millions tell the President not to yield one inch to Republican demands to destroy Medicare and Medicaid, while continuing to provide tax breaks to the wealthy and the powerful, I am afraid that is exactly what will happen.

So, I am asking the American people who may be listening today that if you believe that deficit reduction should be about shared sacrifice, if you believe that it is time for the wealthy and large corporations to pay their fair share, if you believe that we need to reduce unnecessary defense spending, and if you believe that the middle class has already sacrificed enough due to the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, the President needs to hear your voice, and he needs to hear it now.

Go to my website: sanders.senate.gov and send a letter to the President letting him know that enough is enough!  Shared sacrifice means that it’s time for the wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations in America to pay their fair share and contribute to deficit reduction.

Mr. President, as you know, this country faces enormous challenges.

The reality is that the middle class in America today is collapsing and poverty is increasing.

When we talk about the economy, we have got to be aware that the official government statistics are often misleading.  For example, while the official unemployment rate is now 9.1%, that number does not include the large numbers of people who have given up looking for work and people who want to work full-time but are working part time.

And, when you take all of those factors into account, the real unemployment rate is nearly 16%.

Further Mr. President, what we also must understand is that tens of millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages.  The reality is that over the last 10 years, median family income has declined by over $2,500.

As a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, which caused this terrible recession, millions more have lost their homes, their pensions, and their retirement savings.

Unless we reverse our current economic course our children will have, for the first time in modern American history, a lower standard of living than their parents.

Mr. President, we throw out a lot of numbers around here.  But, I think it is important to understand that behind every grim economic statistic are real Americans who cannot find a decent paying job, and are struggling to feed their families, put a roof over their heads or to just stay afloat.

Last year, I asked my constituents in Vermont to share their personal stories with me — explaining how the recession, which started more than three years ago, has impacted their lives.  In a matter of weeks, more than 400 Vermonters responded and I also heard from people throughout the country who are struggling through this terrible recession.

Their messages are clear. People are finding it hard to get jobs or are now working for lower wages than they used to earn.  Older workers have depleted their life savings and are worried about what will happen to them when they retire.  Young adults in their 20s and 30s are not earning enough to pay down college debt. People of all ages, all walks of life, from each corner of Vermont — have shared their stories with my office.

Let me just read a few of these letters:

The first is from a 51 year old woman from West Berlin, Vermont who wrote “Dear Mr. Sanders, Don’t really know what to say, I could cry.  My significant other was out of work for a year, now he works in another state.  I’ve been out of work since April.  Our mortgage company wants the house because we can’t make the payments.  I can’t find a job to save my soul that will pay enough to make a difference.  How bad does it have to get!  My mother went through the Great Depression and here we go again.  I figure that I’m going to lose everything soon!  I’m a well educated person who can’t see through the fog.”

A gentlemen in his mid-50’s from Orange County, Vermont wrote: “After being unemployed three times since 1999 due to global trade agreements, I now find myself managing a hazardous waste transfer facility that pays about 25% less than what I was making in 1999.  My wife’s children have moved back in, unemployed.  And we are saving very little for retirement.  If things don’t improve soon we will likely have to work until we die.  We consider ourselves lucky that we are employed.  Our children’s friends tend to show up around meal time.  They are skinny.  We feed them.  This is no recession, it’s a modern day depression.”

A woman in her late 40s from Westminster, Vermont wrote: “I am a single mom in Vermont, nearly 50.  I patch together a full time job making $12 an hour and various painting jobs and still can’t afford to get myself out of debt, or make necessary repairs on my home.  No other jobs in sight, I apply all the time to no avail.  Food and gas bills go up and up, but not my income.  I have no retirement at all, can’t afford to move, feeling stuck, tired, and hopeless.”

And a 26 year old young man from Barre, Vermont wrote: “In 2002, I received a scholarship to Saint Bonaventure University, the first in my family to attend college.  Upon graduation in 2006, I was admitted to the Dickinson School of Law at Penn State University, and graduated in 2009 with $150,000 of student debt.  In Western New York I could find nothing better than a $10 an hour position stuffing envelopes … I live in a small studio apartment in Barre without cable or internet … I have told my family I don’t want them to visit because I am ashamed of my surroundings … My family always told me that an education was the ticket to success, but all my education seems to have done in this landscape is make it impossible to pull myself out of debt and begin a successful career.”

Mr. President, just over the last two weeks, nearly 500 people from Vermont and throughout the U.S. have written me about their experiences with trying – often in vain – to find affordable dental care.  One wrote: “I can’t afford health insurance so dental work is definitely out. I agree [that] … we are so backward in this country, even though studies have linked bad dental care to heart problems and cancer.”

Mr. President, when the Republicans are talking about trillions of dollars in savage cuts this is what they are talking about.  They’re talking about throwing millions and millions of people off of Medicaid.  Let me tell you what that means.

Earlier this year Arizona passed budget cuts that took patients off its transplant list.  As a result people who were kicked off the list have died.  Not because they couldn’t find a donor but because the state decided it could no longer afford to pay for their transplants.  To make matters worse Arizona’s Governor has gone further, asking the federal government for a waiver to kick off another 250,000 from its Medicaid program.

They’re talking about making it impossible for working class families to send their kids to college.  They’re talking about cuts in nutrition programs which will increase the amount of hunger in America, which is already at an all time high.  According to a 2009 study, there are over 5 million seniors who face the threat of hunger, almost 3 million seniors who are at risk of going hungry, and almost 1 million seniors who do go hungry because they cannot afford to buy food.  The Republicans in Congress would make this situation much, much worse.

Mr. President, this is a lot of pain that the Republicans are tossing out while they want to protect their rich and powerful friends.  In my view, the president has got to stand tall, take the case to the American people, and hold the Republicans responsible if the debt ceiling is not raised and the repercussions of that.

That, Mr. President, is what’s going on in the real world. People fighting to keep their homes from falling into foreclosure; struggling with credit card debt; marriages have been postponed; lives have been derailed; and retirement savings have been raided to pay for college tuition, to keep their businesses afloat, or simply to keep gas in their car and pay their bills.  That is what is going on in the real world.

And, Mr. President, while the middle class disappears and poverty is increasing, there is another reality and that is that the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider and wider.  The United States now has, by far, the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth.

Today, the top one percent earns over 20 percent of all income in this country, which is more than the bottom 50 percent earns.  Over a recent 25 year period, 80 percent of all new income went to the top one percent.  In terms of the distribution of wealth, as hard as it may be to believe, the richest 400 Americans own more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans.

The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class continues to disappear.  That is what is going on in this country in the year 2011, and we have all got to understand that.

Mr. President, everybody knows this country faces a major deficit crisis and we have a national debt of over $14 trillion. What has not been widely discussed, however, is how we got into this situation in the first place. A huge deficit and huge national debt did not happen by accident. It did not happen overnight. It happened, in fact, as a result of a number of policy decisions made over the last decade and votes that were cast right here on the floor of the Senate and in the House.

Let’s never forget, as we talk about the deficit situation, that in January of 2001, when President Clinton left office, this country had an annual federal budget surplus of $236 billion with projected budget surpluses as far as the eye could see. That was when Clinton left office.

What has happened in the ensuing years? How did we go from huge projected surpluses into horrendous debt? The answer, frankly, is not complicated. The CBO has documented it. There was an interesting article on the front page of the Washington Post on April 30, talking about it as well. Here is what happened.

When we spend over $1 trillion on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and choose not to pay for those wars, we run up a deficit. When we provide over $700 billion in tax breaks to the wealthiest people in this country and choose not to pay for those tax breaks, we run up a deficit. When we pass a Medicare Part D prescription drug program written by the drug companies and the insurance companies that does not allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and ends up costing us far more than it should — $400 billion over a 10-year period — and we don’t pay for that, we run up the deficit.  When we double military spending since 1997, not including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we don’t pay for that, we drive up the deficit.

Further, Mr. President, the deficit was also driven up by the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, which caused the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  Millions of Americans lost their jobs and revenue was significantly reduced as a result.

Mr. President, the end result of all of these unpaid-for policies and actions – year after year of the deficits I just described – is a staggering amount of debt.  When President Bush left office, President Obama inherited an annual deficit of $1.3 trillion with deficits as far as the eye could see, and the national debt more than doubled from when President Bush took office.

The reality is Mr. President, if we did not go to war in Iraq, if we did not pass huge tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, who didn’t need them, if we did not pass a prescription drug program with no cost control written by the drug and insurance companies, and if we did not deregulate Wall Street, we would not be in the fiscal mess that we find ourselves in today.  It really is that simple.

In other words, the only reason we have to increase our nation’s debt ceiling today is that we are forced to pay the bills that the Republican leadership in Congress and President Bush racked up.

Now, Mr. President, given the decline in the middle class, given the increase in poverty, and given the fact that the wealthy and large corporations have never had it so good, Americans may find it strange that the Republicans in Washington would use this opportunity to make savage cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, education, nutrition assistance, and other lifesaving programs, while pushing for even more tax breaks for the wealthy and large corporations.

Unfortunately, it is not strange.  It is part of their ideology.  Republicans in Washington have never believed in Medicare, Medicaid, federal assistance in education, or providing any direct government assistance to those in need.  They have always believed that tax breaks for the wealthy and the powerful would somehow miraculously trickle down to every American, despite all history and evidence to the contrary.  So, in that sense, it is not strange at all that they would use the deficit crisis we are now in as an opportunity to balance the budget on the backs of working families, the elderly, the sick, the children and the poor, and work to dismantle every single successful government program that was ever created.

And, that’s exactly what the Ryan Republican budget that was passed in the House of Representatives earlier this year – and supported by the vast majority Republicans here in the Senate just last month – would do.  Here are just a few examples:

The Republican budget passed by the House this year would end Medicare as we know it within 10 years.

The non-partisan CBO estimates that under the Ryan proposal, in 2022, a private health care plan for a 65-year-old equivalent to Medicare coverage would cost about $20,500, yet the Republican budget would provide a voucher for only $8,000 of those premiums.  Seniors would be on their own to pay the remaining $12,500 – a full 61% of the total.  How many of the 20 million near-elderly Americans who are now ages 50-54 will be able to afford that?  This approach would transfer control of Medicare to insurers and there would be no guaranteed benefits, essentially ending Medicare as we know it.

The Republican budget would force 4 million seniors in this country to pay $3,500 more, on average, for their prescription drugs by re-opening the Medicare Part D donut hole.

Under the Republican budget, nearly 2 million children would lose their health insurance over the next 5 years by cuts to the Children’s Health Insurance Program, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

At a time when 50 million Americans have no health insurance, the Republican budget would cut Medicaid by over $770 billion, causing millions of Americans to lose their health insurance and cutting nursing home assistance in half – threatening the long-term care of some 10 million senior citizens.

The Republican budget would completely repeal the Affordable Health Care Act preventing an estimated 34 million uninsured Americans from getting the health insurance they need.

At a time when the cost of a college education is becoming out of reach for millions of Americans, the Republican budget would slash college Pell grants by about 60% next year alone – reducing the maximum award from $5,550 to about $2,100.

At a time when over 40 million Americans don’t have enough money to feed themselves or their families, the Republican budget would kick up to 10 million Americans off Food Stamps, by slashing this program by more than $125 billion over the next decade.

At a time when our nation’s infrastructure is crumbling, the Republican budget passed in the House and supported by all but a handful of Republicans here in the Senate would slash funding for our roads, bridges, rail lines, transit systems, and airports by nearly 40 percent next year alone.

Yet despite the fact that military spending has nearly tripled since 1997, the House Republican budget does nothing to reduce unnecessary defense spending.  In fact, defense spending would go up by $26 billion next year alone under the Republican plan.

Interestingly enough, at a time when the rich are becoming richer, when the effective tax rates for the wealthiest people, at 18 percent, are about the lowest on record, at a time when the wealthiest people have received hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks, at a time when corporate profits are at an all-time high and major corporations making billions of dollars pay nothing in taxes, my Republican colleagues, in their approach toward deficit reduction, do not ask the wealthiest people or the largest corporations to contribute one penny more for deficit reduction.

In fact, the Republican budget would keep the good times rolling for those who are already doing phenomenally well – it provides over $1 trillion in tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires by permanently extending all of the Bush income tax cuts; reducing the estate tax for multi-millionaires and billionaires; and lowering the top individual and corporate income tax rate from 35 to 25 percent.

Mr. President, the Republican idea of moving toward a balanced budget is to go after the middle-class, working families, and low-income people, and to make sure the millionaires and billionaires and largest corporations in this country that are doing phenomenally well do not have to share in the sacrifices being made by everybody else. They will be protected.  The Republican approach to deficit reduction in Washington is the Robin Hood philosophy in reverse: taking from the poor and giving to the rich.

And it’s not as if it’s good for our economy.  Mark Zandi, the former economic advisor to John McCain when he was running for president, has estimated that the Republican budget plan will cost 1.7 million jobs by the year 2014, with 900,000 jobs lost next year alone.

The House Republican budget is breathtaking in its degree of cruelty.

But, don’t take my word for it.

In a letter to Congressional leaders after the House GOP plan was introduced, nearly 200 economists and health care experts wrote, “turning Medicare into a voucher program would undermine essential protections for millions of vulnerable people. It would extinguish the most promising approaches to curb costs and to improve the American medical care system.”

Jeffrey Sachs, an economics professor at Columbia University, who was a key economic adviser to the World Bank, the IMF, and the World Health Organization, told MSNBC last April that the House Republican plan, “goes right out to destroy Medicaid within the next few years, slashing it drastically. And then on Medicare, it delays [cuts] for 10 years, and then [the House Republican plan] goes out to destroy it, to make sure that elderly people will not have a guaranteed access to health care. They will be getting some premium [support] but they`re going to have to put a lot of money out of pocket.”

Robert Greenstein, the President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said last April that the House Republican budget “proposes a dramatic reverse-Robin-Hood approach that gets the lion’s share of its budget cuts from programs for low-income Americans — the politically and economically weakest group in America and the politically safest group for Ryan to target— even as it bestows extremely large tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans. Taken together, its proposals would produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history, while increasing poverty and inequality more than any measure in recent times and possibly in the nation’s history.”

Ezra Klein, a columnist at the Washington Post wrote last April that “the budget Ryan released is not courageous or serious or significant. It’s a joke, and a bad one.  For one thing, Ryan’s savings all come from cuts, and at least two-thirds of them come from programs serving the poor. The wealthy, meanwhile, would see their taxes lowered, and the Defense Department would escape unscathed. It is not courageous to attack the weak while supporting your party’s most inane and damaging fiscal orthodoxies. But the problem isn’t just that Ryan’s budget is morally questionable. It also wouldn’t work.”

Harold Meyerson, a columnist for the Washington Post wrote on April 5th that “If it does nothing else, the budget that the House Republicans unveiled provides the first real Republican program for the 21st century, and it is this: Repeal the 20th century … Ryan achieves the bulk of his savings through sharp reductions in projected spending on Medicare and Medicaid … Ryan’s budget would also reduce projected spending on discretionary domestic programs — education, transportation, food safety and the like — to well below levels of inflation … The cover under which Ryan and other Republicans operate is their concern for the deficit and national debt. But Ryan blows that cover by proposing to reduce the top income tax rate to just 25 percent. He imposes the burden for reducing our debt not on the bankers who forced our government to spend trillions averting a collapse but on seniors and the poor.”

Mr. Meyerson, concludes by saying this: “There’s talk that we have a president who’s a Democrat — the party that created the American social contract of the 20th century.  Initially, he focused on reshaping and extending that contract into the 21st.  Now that the Republicans want to repeal it all, he’s nowhere to be found. Has anybody seen him? Does he still exist?”

Mr. President, the deficit has been caused by unpaid-for wars, tax breaks for the rich, the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, the bailout of Wall Street, a declining economy, and less revenue coming in.  The Republican “solution” in Washington is to balance the budget on the backs of the sick, the elderly, the children and the poor, to cut back on environmental protection, to cut back on transportation, while providing even more tax breaks to the wealthy and well connected.  That is unacceptable and that is what we have got to stop.

Mr. President, it’s not just rich individuals who are making out like bandits.  As hard as it may be to believe, some of the largest, most profitable corporations in this country are not only avoiding paying any federal income taxes whatsoever, but they are actually receiving tax rebates from the IRS.  And, the Republican response to this reality is to provide even more tax breaks to these corporate freeloaders.  That may make sense to someone.  It does not make sense to me.

Earlier this year, my office published a top ten list of the worst corporate tax avoiders in this country.  I would like to take this opportunity to read this list.  These are just a few of the corporations that the Republicans want to protect, while they are trying to deny millions of Americans health insurance, a college education, and nutrition assistance.  Here are the top ten corporate freeloaders in America today:

1)      Exxon Mobil.  In 2009, Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits.  Not only did Exxon avoid paying any federal income taxes that year, it actually received a $156 million rebate from the IRS, according to its SEC filings.

2)      Bank of America.  Last year, Bank of America received a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS, even though it made $4.4 billion in profits and just a couple of years ago received a bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department of nearly $1 trillion.

3)      General Electric.  Over the past five years, while General Electric made $26 billion in profits in the United States, it received a $4.1 billion refund from the IRS.

4)      Chevron.  In 2009, Chevron received a $19 million refund from the IRS after it made $10 billion in profits.

5)      Boeing.  Last year, Boeing, which received a $30 billion contract from the Pentagon to build 179 airborne tankers, got a $124 million refund from the IRS.

6)      Valero Energy.  Last year, Valero Energy, the 25th largest company in America with $68 billion in sales last year received a $157 million tax refund check from the IRS and, over the past three years, it received a $134 million tax break from the oil and gas manufacturing tax deduction.

7)      Goldman Sachs.  In 2008, Goldman Sachs paid only 1.1 percent of its income in taxes even though it earned a profit of $2.3 billion and received an almost $800 billion bailout from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Department.

8)      Citigroup.  Last year, Citigroup made more than $4 billion in profits but paid no federal income taxes, even though it received a $2.5 trillion bailout from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury.

9)      ConocoPhillips.  ConocoPhillips, the fifth largest oil company in the United States, made $16 billion in profits from 2007 through 2009, but received $451 million in tax breaks through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction during those years.

10)    Carnival Cruise Lines.  Over the past five years, Carnival Cruise Lines made more than $11 billion in profits, but its federal income tax rate during those years was just 1.1 percent.

In other words, Mr. President, at a time when major corporations such as General Electric and ExxonMobil make billions of dollars in profit, and pay nothing in federal income taxes, the Republican plan is to provide them with even more tax breaks.

Mr. President, large corporations are sitting on a record-breaking $2 trillion in cash.  The problem is not that corporations are taxed too much.  The problem is that consumers don’t have enough money to buy their products and the Republican agenda would make that far worse.

Corporate tax revenue last year was down by 27% compared to 2000, even though corporate profits are up 60 percent over the last decade.

Large corporations and the wealthy are avoiding $100 billion in taxes every year by setting up offshore tax shelters in places like the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the Bahamas.  Ending that anti-American shell game could raise $1 trillion over 10 years toward deficit reduction.

In 2005, 1 out of 4 large corporations paid no income taxes at all even though they collected $1.1 trillion in revenue.  The simple truth is that if we are going to reduce the deficit in a responsible way, we have got to make sure that profitable corporations pay their fair share.

Now, I understand that my Republican friends, and quite frankly some of my Democratic friends, will do everything they can to protect the wealthy and the powerful, even if it means destroying the lives of millions of Americans in the process.

But, what we need to understand, what the President needs to understand, is that poll after poll after poll shows that the Republican plan to make savage cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and education, while providing even more tax breaks to the wealthy and large corporations, is way out of touch with what the American people want.

Let me just read to you a few of these polls.

According to a recent Boston Globe poll of likely voters in New Hampshire, perhaps the most anti-tax state in this country, 73% support raising taxes on people making over $250,000 a year; 78% oppose cutting Medicare; 71% oppose cutting Medicaid; and 76% oppose cutting Social Security.

Now, Mr. President, you may be saying to yourself well, that was just one poll, and it was only polling one state.  Clearly, that must have been an aberration.

Wrong.  National poll after national poll have almost mirrored what New Hampshire voters are saying.

A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found the following:

  • 81 percent of the American people believe it is totally acceptable or mostly acceptable to impose a surtax on millionaires to reduce the deficit.
  • 74 percent of the American people believe it is totally acceptable or mostly acceptable to eliminate tax credits for the oil and gas industry.
  • 68 percent of the American people believe it is totally acceptable or mostly acceptable to phase out the Bush tax cuts for families earning over $250,000 a year.
  • 76 percent of the American people believe it is totally acceptable or mostly acceptable to eliminate funding for weapons systems the Defense Department says are not necessary.
  • 76 percent believe it is totally unacceptable or mostly unacceptable to cut Medicare to significantly reduce the budget deficit.
  • 77 percent believe it is totally unacceptable or mostly unacceptable to cut Social Security to significantly reduce the deficit.
  • 67 percent believe it is totally unacceptable or mostly unacceptable to cut Medicaid to significantly reduce the deficit.
  • 77 percent believe it is totally unacceptable or mostly unacceptable to cut funding for K-12 education to significantly reduce the deficit.
  • 56 percent believe it is totally unacceptable or mostly unacceptable to cut Head Start.
  • 59 percent believe it is totally unacceptable or mostly unacceptable to cut college student loans.
  • And, 65 percent believe it is totally unacceptable or mostly unacceptable to cut heating assistance to low income families.

And, while the leaders of the Tea Party movement in Washington are fighting to dismantle Medicare and Medicaid and getting the vast majority of Republicans in Congress to follow their marching orders, 70% of those who identify themselves with the Tea Party outside of the beltway oppose cutting Medicare and Medicaid to reduce the deficit, according to a recent McClatchy Poll.

Mr. President, here is the last poll I would like to highlight.  It was done by the Washington Post and ABC News, and here is what it says:

  • 72% of Americans support raising taxes on incomes over $250,000 to reduce the national debt – including 91% of Democrats; 68% of Independents; and 54% of Republicans.

Yet, Mr. President, there does not seem to be one Republican in Washington, DC, who would support raising taxes on the wealthiest two percent of Americans – those earning over $250,000 a year to reduce the deficit.  Only in Washington is it considered a controversial idea to make the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share.

Instead of listening to millionaire and billionaire campaign contributors, it is time for our leaders in Washington to start listening to the overwhelming majority of Americans who want the wealthiest people in this country and the most profitable corporations in this country to contribute to deficit reduction.  It is time for shared sacrifice.  The middle class, the elderly, the sick, the children, and the poor have already sacrificed enough in terms of lost jobs, lost wages, lost pensions, and lost homes.  When are the wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations going to be asked to pay their fair share?  If not now, when?

And, the fact of the matter is, Mr. President, that moving towards deficit reduction in a way that’s fair is not quite as complicated as the American people have been led to believe by the corporate media and right wing think tanks.

In fact, if you are not beholden to Wall Street, large corporations and wealthy campaign contributors, and you are not scared to death of the unlimited number of 30 second ads they may run against you, it is actually quite easy.

I know many people have different ideas about how we might move towards a balanced budget.  I am not saying that I have all of the answers.  But, let me just give a few examples of how we can reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion dollars over the next decade that asks the wealthy and large corporations to pay their fair share and does not unfairly harm ordinary Americans.

First, if we simply repealed the Bush tax breaks for the top two percent, we could raise at least $700 billion over the next decade.  The Republicans claim that repealing these tax breaks would increase unemployment.  They are wrong.  These tax breaks have been in place for over a decade and they have not led to a single net private sector job.  In fact, under the eight years of President Bush, the private sector lost over 600,000 jobs and the deficit exploded.  When President Clinton increased taxes on the top two percent, over 22 million jobs were created, and the revenue generated from this policy led to a $236 billion budget surplus.

Secondly, a 5.4 percent surtax on millionaires and billionaires would raise more than $383 billion over 10 years, according to the Joint Tax Committee.  As I said earlier, a millionaire’s surtax has the support of 81 percent of the American people according to NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.

Third, Mr. President, the U.S. government is actually rewarding companies that move U.S. manufacturing jobs overseas through loopholes in the tax code known as deferral and foreign source income.  This is unacceptable.  During the last decade, the U.S. lost about 30% of its manufacturing jobs and over 50,000 factories have been shut down.

If we ended the absurdity of providing tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas, the Joint Tax Committee has estimated that we could raise more than $582 billion in revenue over the next ten years.  Right now we have a tax policy that says that if you shut down a manufacturing plant in America, and move to China, the IRS will give you a tax break.  That may make sense to corporate CEOs.  It doesn’t make sense to me.

Fourth, Mr. President, if we ended tax breaks and subsidies for big oil and gas companies, we could reduce the deficit by more than $40 billion over the next ten years.  The five largest oil companies in the United States have earned about $1 trillion in profits over the past decade.  Meanwhile, in recent years, some of the very largest oil companies in America like Exxon Mobil and Chevron, as I pointed out earlier, have paid absolutely nothing in Federal income taxes. In fact, some of them have actually gotten a rebate from the IRS.  That has got to stop.

Fifth, Mr. President, if we prohibited abusive and illegal offshore tax shelters, we could reduce the deficit by up to $1 trillion over the next decade.  Each and every year, the United States loses an estimated $100 billion in tax revenues due to offshore tax abuses by the wealthy and large corporations.  The situation has become so absurd that one five-story office building in the Cayman Islands is now the “home” to more than 18,000 corporations.  That is wrong.  The wealthy and large corporations should not be allowed to avoid paying taxes by setting up tax shelters in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, the Bahamas or other tax haven countries.

Sixth, Mr. President, if we established a Wall Street speculation fee of less than one percent on the sale and purchase of credit default swaps, derivatives, stock options and futures, we could reduce the deficit by more than $100 billion over the next decade.  Both the economic crisis and the deficit crisis are a direct result of the greed and recklessness on Wall Street.  Establishing a speculation fee would reduce gambling on Wall Street, encourage the financial sector to invest in the productive economy, and significantly reduce the deficit without harming average Americans.

There are a number of precedents for this. The U.S had a similar Wall Street speculation fee from 1914 to 1966. The Revenue Act of 1914 levied a 0.2% tax on all sales or transfers of stock.  In 1932, Congress more than doubled that tax to help finance the government during the Great Depression. And today, England has a financial transaction tax of 0.25 percent, a penny on every $4 invested.

Number seven, Mr. President, if we taxed capital gains and dividends, the same way that we tax work, we could raise more than $730 billion over the next decade.  Warren Buffet has often said that he pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary.  And, today the effective tax rate of the richest 400 Americans, who earn an average of more than $280 million each year, is just 18 percent, lower than most nurses, teachers, firefighters, and police officers pay.  The reason for this is that the wealthy obtain most of their income from capital gains and dividends, which is taxed at a much lower rate than work.  Right now, the top marginal income tax for working is 35%, but the tax rate on corporate dividends and capital gains is only 15%.  Taxing wealth and work at the same rate could raise more than $730 billion over a ten-year period – and it’s the right thing to do.

Number eight, if we established a progressive estate tax on inherited wealth of more than $3.5 million, we could raise more than $70 billion over 10 years.  Last year, I introduced the Responsible Estate Tax Act that would reduce the deficit in a fair way while ensuring that 99.7 percent of Americans who lose a loved one would never have to pay a dime in federal estate taxes.

Number nine, we have got to reduce unnecessary and wasteful spending at the Pentagon, which now consumes over half of our discretionary budget.  Since 1997, our defense budget has virtually tripled going from $254 billion to $700 billion.

Defense experts such as Lawrence Korb, an Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan, has estimated that we could achieve significant savings of around $100 billion a year at the Pentagon while still ensuring that the United States has the strongest and most powerful military in the world.

For example, as a result of four separate investigations that I requested, the GAO has found that the Pentagon has $36.9 billion in spare parts that it does not need and which are collecting dust in government warehouses.  We have got to do a much better job than that.

And, much of the huge spending at the Pentagon is devoted to spending money on Cold War weapons programs to fight a Soviet Union that no longer exists.  That has got to stop.

Further, we also must end the unnecessary War in Iraq and the War in Afghanistan as soon as possible.  These wars have gone on long enough.  Reducing Pentagon spending by at least $900 billion over 10 years is something that we can and must do.

Number 10, if we required Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry, we could save over $157 billion over 10 years.  As a result of the Medicare Part D prescription drug legislation signed into law under President George W. Bush, Medicare is prohibited from negotiating with the pharmaceutical industry to lower drug prices for seniors.  This is wrong.  Requiring Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices could save the federal government and seniors over $15 billion a year.

Number 11, if we enacted a robust public option or a Medicare-for-all health insurance program, we would be able to save more than $68 billion over the next decade and provide affordable health insurance coverage for millions of Americans.

Number 12, Mr. President, as almost everyone knows, China is manipulating its currency, giving it an unfair trade advantage over the United States and destroying decent paying manufacturing jobs in the process.  If we imposed a currency manipulation fee on China and other low wage countries, the Economic Policy Institute has estimated that we could raise $500 billion over 10 years and create 1 million jobs in the process.

Finally, Mr. President, I think just about everyone agrees that there is waste, fraud, and abuse in every agency of the federal government.  Rooting out this waste, fraud, and abuse could save about $200 billion over the next 10 years.

Mr. President, if we did all of these things we could easily reduce the deficit by well over $4 trillion over the next decade, if not much more.  It would be done in a fair way, and it would not unnecessarily and needlessly ruin the lives of millions of Americans who are struggling desperately just to make ends meet.

Mr. President, the radical right wing agenda of more tax breaks for the wealthy paid for by the dismantling of Medicare, Medicaid, education, nutrition, and the environment may be popular in the country clubs and cocktail parties of the rich and powerful, but it is way out of touch with what the overwhelming majority of Americans want.

Mr. President, as you know, late last week, Congressman Eric Cantor, the Republican Majority Leader in the House and Senator Jon Kyl, the Republican Minority Whip in the House walked out of the budget negotiations being led by Vice President Joe Biden.

And, the reason they walked out was clear.  They were not willing to close one single loophole in the tax code that allows the wealthy and large corporations to avoid paying taxes by stashing their money in the Cayman Islands.  They were unwilling to stop tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, or close tax loopholes that give billionaires like Warren Buffet the ability to pay lower effective tax rates than their secretaries.

There is apparently no end as to how far the Republican leadership will go in Washington to protect their wealthy campaign contributors, even if it means allowing the federal debt limit to expire and causing another depression.

My sincere hope is that the President will use this Republican walkout as an opportunity to rally the American people and make it clear that he will never support Republican demands to move toward a balanced budget solely on the backs of working families, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the poor.

But, I don’t think that the President will do this unless the American people send him a message that enough is enough!  The American people have got to write to the President and tell him not to balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable people in this country.  Do not decimate Medicare, Medicaid, Pell Grants, education, and the environment to pay for more tax breaks for the rich and powerful.  Stand up for the millions, who have seen their homes, jobs, and savings vanish, instead of the millionaires, who have never had it so good.

For those of you who are listening to this speech, if you believe that enough is enough, if you believe in shared sacrifice, if you believe that it is time for the wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations to contribute to deficit reduction, go to my website: sanders.senate.gov.  At this website, you will find a letter to the White House that you can sign – let me read what it says:

“Dear Mr. President,

This is a pivotal moment in the history of our country. Decisions are being made about the national budget that will impact the lives of virtually every American for decades to come. As we address the issue of deficit reduction we must not ignore the painful economic reality of today – which is that the wealthiest people in our country and the largest corporations are doing phenomenally well while the middle class is collapsing and poverty is increasing.  In fact, the United States today has, by far, the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth.

Everyone understands that over the long-term we have got to reduce the deficit – a deficit that was caused mainly by Wall Street greed, tax breaks for the rich, two wars, and a prescription drug program written by the drug and insurance companies. It is absolutely imperative, however, that as we go forward with deficit reduction we completely reject the Republican approach that demands savage cuts in desperately-needed programs for working families, the elderly, the sick, our children and the poor, while not asking the wealthiest among us to contribute one penny.

Mr. President, please listen to the overwhelming majority of the American people who believe that deficit reduction must be about shared sacrifice. The wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations in this country must pay their fair share.  At least 50 percent of any deficit reduction package must come from revenue raised by ending tax breaks for the wealthy and eliminating tax loopholes that benefit large, profitable corporations and Wall Street financial institutions.  A sensible deficit reduction package must also include significant cuts to unnecessary and wasteful Pentagon spending.

Please do not yield to outrageous Republican demands that would greatly increase suffering for the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society.  Now is the time to stand with the tens of millions of Americans who are struggling to survive economically, not with the millionaires and billionaires who have never had it so good.”

If you’re listening out there, and agree with what I am saying, but are wondering what you can do to make a difference, I would urge you to consider signing this letter.  Staying silent and doing nothing is not an option.  Your voice needs to be heard and you can make a difference.

Mr. President, we have seen this movie before.  The Republicans, led by their extreme right wing, have been successful in getting their way because of their refusal to compromise and their willingness to hold the good credit and economic security of the American people hostage.

In December, the Republican leadership was prepared to hold the middle class tax cuts and unemployment benefits hostage in order to extend the Bush tax breaks for the top two percent.  The Republicans won and as a result over $200 billion was added to the deficit over the next two years.

Specifically, the December tax cut agreement extended the Bush income tax rates for those earning more than $250,000; maintained lower tax rates on capital gains and dividends; and lowered the estate tax which only benefits the top 0.3 percent.

Let me remind, my colleagues who the biggest winners were from last December’s tax cut agreement.

According to Citizens for Tax Justice, extending the Bush tax breaks for the top 2 percent has provided Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of News Corporation, with an estimated $1.3 million tax break.

Tom Donohue, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who has urged American corporations to ship jobs overseas, will receive an estimated $215,000 tax break from this deal.

Jamie Dimon, the head of JP Morgan Chase, whose bank received a bailout of over $160 billion from the Federal Reserve, will receive an estimated $1.1 million tax break from this deal.

Vikram Pandit, the CEO of Citigroup, a bank that got more than $2.5 trillion in near zero interest loans from the Fed, will receive an estimated $785,000 tax break by extending the Bush tax cuts.

Ken Lewis, the former CEO of Bank of America, a bank that got nearly a trillion dollars in low interest loans from the Fed, will receive an estimated $713,000 tax break.

The CEO of Wells Fargo (John Stumpf), whose bank got a $25 billion bailout, will receive an $813,000 tax break from this deal.

The CEO of Morgan Stanley (John Mack), whose bank got more than $2 trillion in low interest loans from the Fed, will receive a $926,000 tax break from this agreement.

The CEO of Aetna (Ronald Williams) will receive a tax break worth $875,000.

The CEO of Cigna (David Cordani) will receive a $350,000 tax break.  And, on and on it goes.

The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class disappears.  That is what is going on in this country today.

Then, Mr. President, In April, the Republicans in Congress were prepared to shut down the government, disrupt the economy, and deny paychecks to 800,000 federal workers if they couldn’t get their way in slashing programs for low and moderate income Americans.  As a result, the President and this Congress agreed to virtually everything the Republicans wanted by enacting a budget that slashed $78 billion from the President’s request.

Let me give you just a few examples of what kinds of cuts were included in this year’s spending agreement:

At a time when college education has become unaffordable for many, Pell grants are now being reduced by an estimated $35 billion over 10 years.

At a time when 50 million Americans have no health insurance, at a time when we have a crisis in access to primary care, and at a time when 45,000 Americans die each and every year because they delay seeking care they cannot afford, the 2011 spending agreement cut $600 million from community health centers and $3.5 billion from the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

At a time when we should be putting Americans to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, federal funding for new high-speed rail projects was eliminated.  In other words, the rich get richer, while the needs of ordinary Americans are attacked.

And, today, the Republican Leadership has made it clear that, unless they get their way on implementing a significant part of the Ryan budget in 2012, they are prepared to vote against raising the debt ceiling.  If the debt ceiling is not extended, the United States will, for the first time in history, default on its debt and likely plunge the world’s financial markets into a major crisis.  Yet that is just what the Republican leadership and its members are threatening to do.  Shame on them.

Mr. President, in many ways, the Republicans in Washington have been acting like school yard bullies.  And, as we know, bullying is a serious problem in our schools.  Every educator worth his or her salt will tell you that when you’re dealing with a bully, you must not give into their tactics or tolerate their temper tantrums – you have to deal with them sternly and consistently.  You cannot allow them to win by dictating the rules of the game and trampling over everyone else if they don’t get their way.

Mr. President, we have a serious deficit problem that must be solved, no one would deny it.

But the problem is not that we spend too much on the needs of the elderly and have to slash Social Security; the problem is that we have provided hundreds of billions in tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires who don’t need them and in many cases don’t want them.

The problem is not that we spend too much money on financial aid for college and have to slash Pell Grants.  The average college senior today is graduating with $24,000 in debt.  The problem is that each and every year, large corporations and the wealthiest in our society are avoiding $100 billion in federal taxes through tax shelters in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and other places throughout the world.

The problem is not that we are spending too much on childcare.  Childcare is increasingly becoming out of reach for too many American families.  The problem is that about one out of four large and profitable corporations in this country do not pay any federal income taxes, and in many cases get a tax rebate from the IRS.

The problem is not that we spend too much money to reduce childhood poverty in this country.  We have the highest childhood poverty rate in the industrialized world!  The problem is that when all is said and done we will have spent $3 trillion on the unnecessary and misguided Iraq War.

Mr. President, the problem is that this deficit was caused by actions voted for by nearly all of my Republican friends: the wars, tax breaks for the rich, Medicare Part D, and the Wall Street Bailout.  In the middle of a recession when the middle class and working families are already hurting, when poverty is increasing it is not only immoral, it is bad economics to balance the budget on working families and the most vulnerable people in this country.

When people are hurting, when they have lost their jobs, when their incomes are going down, you do not say to those people: We are throwing you off Medicaid. We are going to end Medicare as we know it, we are going to cut back on Federal aid to education so your kid cannot go to college. That is not what you say in a humane and fair society.

On the other hand, at the same time as the wealthiest people are becoming phenomenally wealthier, and when large corporations are making huge profits, and in many cases not paying any taxes at all, it is entirely appropriate – in fact, it is a moral imperative – to say to those people: Sorry, you are also American. You have got to participate in shared sacrifice. You have also got to help us reduce the deficit.

That is where we are right now. We are at a pivotal moment in the midst of a major debate, but it is not only on financial issues. It is very much a philosophical debate. It is a debate about which side you are on. Do you continue to give tax breaks to the very rich and make savage cuts for working families, for children, the elderly, the poor, the most vulnerable?

Mr. President, another thing that is rarely mentioned on the floor of the Senate is the $3 trillion Federal Reserve bailout, that was only fully made public after I inserted an amendment into the Dodd-Frank Act last year to require that it be made public.

As it turns out, while small business owners in the State of Vermont and throughout this country were being turned down for loans, not only did large financial institutions receive substantial help from the Fed, but also some of the largest corporations in this country also received help in terms of very low interest loans.

And, here is something we also learned: this bailout was not just about American banks and corporations but foreign banks and foreign corporations also received hundreds of billions of dollars from the Fed as well.

Then, on top of that, a number of the wealthiest individuals in this country also received a major bailout from the Fed. The “emergency response,” which is what the Fed described their action as during the Wall Street collapse, appears to any objective observer to have been the clearest case that I can imagine of socialism for the very rich and rugged free market individualism for everybody else.

In other words, if you are a huge financial institution, like Goldman Sachs, whose recklessness and greed caused this great recession, no problem. You get almost $800 bilion in near zero interest rate loans from the Fed.  If you are a major American corporation, such as General Electric or McDonald’s or Caterpillar or Harley-Davidson or Verizon, no problem. You received a major handout from the U.S. Government.

But if you are a senior citizen living in a nursing home paid for by Medicaid, well, guess what, you are on your own.

If you are an elderly person who cannot afford to heat their homes in the winter when the temperature is 20 below zero, tough luck.  We don’t have any money for you.  But, if you happen to be the state-owned Bank of Bavaria — not Pennsylvania, not California, but Bavaria — the Federal Reserve has enough money to loan you over $2.2 billion by purchasing your commercial paper.

The Fed said this bailout was necessary in order to prevent the world economy from going over a cliff.  But over 3 years after the start of the recession, millions of Americans remain unemployed and have lost their homes, their life savings, and their ability to send their kids to college.  Meanwhile, huge banks and large corporations have returned to making incredible profits and paying their executives record-breaking compensation packages, as if the financial crisis they started never occurred.

Mr. President, everyone understands that over the long-term we have got to reduce our record-breaking $14.2 trillion national debt.  But, we must reduce the deficit in a fair way and not balance the budget solely on the backs of the middle class, the sick, the elderly, the children and the poor.

That means we absolutely must tell the wealthy and large corporations that it is high time that they to pay their fair share in taxes.  And, that means that the President has got to stand tall and stand firm and let the American people know that if we do default on our debt obligations, if America and the world economy is plunged into a depression, it was because the Republicans refused to raise the taxes of the wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations in this country by one red cent.

Shared sacrifice isn’t just good public policy, it is also what the American people want.  Overwhelming majorities of the American people believe that the best way to reduce the deficit is to end tax breaks for the wealthy, big oil, Wall Street, and that we must bring our troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq.

It’s about time that Washington listened to the American people.  Let’s reduce the deficit.  But, let’s do it in a fair and responsible way that requires shared sacrifice from the wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations.

I thank the President and I yield the floor.

As Debt Talks Threaten Medicare, Social Security, Study Finds U.S. Spending $4 Trillion On Wars

In Uncategorized on July 8, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Oldspeak:“Why is it that state and local governments are going broke and selling everything not nailed down to stay afloat, public and government workers are being discarded in droves, infrastructure is crumbling, millionaire politricians from “both” parties want to cut social safety nets and entitlement programs for poor, elderly, sick and disenfranchised people, but the U.S. government magically can find 4 TRILLION DOLLARS to kill more innocents than bad guys in illegitimate & illegal wars using borrowed money to pay for? Why is corporate media leading us to believe that “entitlement programs” and unions, and teachers and public workers and their fat pensions are to blame for the monumental U.S. debt crisis? Why is so little attention being paid to the TRILLIONS that have been printed by the U.S. Treasury and given away to Military-Fianacial Industrial Complex to keep it running, to the detriment of many other sectors of the U.S. Economy? Why is war more vital an interest that medical care, care for the elderly, and maintenance of a robust public sector? War is big business. War expands empire. War aquires other nations oil. War promotes scarcity. War is a drug. A drug the U.S. desperately needs to kick.

RELATED LINKS

By Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

As part of ongoing debt negotiations, the White House has proposed slashing more than $4 trillion from annual budget deficits over the next decade — twice what Obama had proposed earlier. While much of the talk in Washington centers on taxes, Social Security and Medicare, far less attention is being paid to the growing cost of the U.S. wars overseas. A new report from Brown University has estimated the true cost of the U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan will end up costing approximately $4 trillion — far more than the Bush or Obama administrations have acknowledged. The authors of the study reveal that because the war has been financed almost entirely by borrowing, $185 billion in interest has already been paid on war spending, and another $1 trillion could accrue in interest alone through 2020. We speak with Neta Crawford, co-director of the Costs of War Project, and a Professor of Political Science at Boston University.

JUAN GONZALEZ: President Obama met with congressional leaders at the White House Thursday and vowed not to sign a short-term extension of U.S. $14.3 trillion debt ceiling beyond the approaching August 2nd deadline. As part of the debt negotiations, the White House has proposed slashing more than $4 trillion from annual deficits over the next decade – twice what Obama had promised earlier.

While much of the talk in Washington centers on taxes, Social Security and Medicare, far less attention is being paid to the growing cost of U.S. wars overseas. The U.S. military and the C.I.A. are currently carrying out operations in at least six countries – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.

AMY GOODMAN: A new report released by Brown University has estimated the true cost of the U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan will end up costing approximately $4 trillion – far more than the Bush or Obama administrations have acknowledged. The authors of the study reveal because the war is being financed almost entirely by borrowing, $185 billion in interest has already been paid on war spending, and another $1 trillion could accrue in interest alone through 2020. It could cost nearly another $1 trillion to pay for the medical care and disability for current and future war veterans.

To discuss the cost of war, we’re going up to Boston University to speak with Professor Neta Crawford. She’s the co-director of the Cost of War Project and a professor of political science at Boston University. The significance of this report, even as they’re debating the deficit in Washington, and talking about agreeing on deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare – Neta Crawford, the cost that the United States is spending right now in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and what you’re pointing out in this report – equally in Pakistan – right now?

NETA CRAWFORD: Yes, the United States has already spent about $3 trillion and it will spend much more than that over the next several decades, including that maybe $1 trillion that was mentioned by your reporter, on veterans and medical.

AMY GOODMAN: Lay out for us what you have found, these massive costs that we, in this country I think, have very little awareness of the media covering actual war less and less.

NETA CRAWFORD: Well, there are two aspects of that. First, the president and many people focus on just the Pentagon’s appropriation for the wars in the last 10 years, and that’s $1.3 trillion in constant dollars. But the costs are deeper than that. They go to veterans medical and disability costs, foreign assistance, homeland security, and then, as you mentioned, interest on the debt. When you add all that up, it is about twice what we tend to talk about if we just focus on Pentagon appropriations.

The other element of the costs is that future cost, which we must pay – the interest on the debt and veterans’ medical and disability. Then there’s another layer of costs which we were not able to fully calculate, which are the social costs to families and also the cost to state and local governments for veterans’ care. Then there are many other pockets of cost if you look all over the U.S. government.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yesterday on the show we talked about the problems of post-traumatic stress with many veterans and the suicide rates. What portion of this cost that is never factored in did you conclude was a result of both the need for current medical treatment for returning veterans as well as future treatment?

NETA CRAWFORD: Well, the U.S. has already spent already about $32 billion in medical and disability for veterans, but that doesn’t include what families are spending privately nor what state and local governments are spending. Of course, all of this is an under-estimate of the toll because as you know, until recently, the U.S. was not including many people who do have traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress because those were under-diagnosed.

AMY GOODMAN: Why aren’t we seeing this reflected in the conversations on the networks, as this whole discussion about deficits takes place? The massive cost that is going into the state of war rather than back into the states of this country, that are in such dire need, Professor Crawford?

NETA CRAWFORD: I think it’s partly that after 9/11, we are in such shock and fear that this lingered, and the tendency not to question what seemed to be defense expenditures, were actually – they could have been questioned. That’s a long-term sort of hangover of the 9/11 attacks, our sort of inability to be questioning these budgets. I think another element here is that, again, the cost is sort of hidden from view and put in these different budgets so it’s hard, unless you take a more comprehensive view, to get a handle on the scale of the cost.

A third factor is perhaps that these wars have been funded mostly through special appropriations or emergency appropriations until recently. Those costs are not scrutinized as much by Congress as they out to be.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Of course, one part of that that has been now structurally put into our budget is Homeland Security. Your assessment of the enormous expenditure? Because it seems that no matter what the budget deficit is, there’s always money available for more efforts at Homeland Security. Can you talk about this impact of actually militarizing the domestic budget of the United States?

NETA CRAWFORD: That is about an additional $400 billion over the last 10 years for Homeland Security. Of course, it is in a way ironic because at the same time U.S. has spent this money to increase preparedness, it took away National Guard troops and equipment and moved them abroad. In a sense, robbing Peter to pay Paul.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Crawford, included in the cost of war – you’ve got the financial costs, far more than has been estimated before here in this country. I mean, Professors Stiglitz and Bilmes at Harvard, the Nobel Prize winning economists, say we’re talking about actually estimates over years of something like $5 trillion, but also the human casualties cost of war.

NETA CRAWFORD: We calculated, estimated about 225,000-250,000 people have died – that’s including soldiers, civilians, contractors. But more than that, we know this is a conservative estimate because in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan, there has been a tendency to under count and not report the direct war dead. In addition, we tend to focus on those were killed by bombs and bullets, but pay less attention to those who died because of lack of safe drinking water or disease or displacement and inability to eat, so that rates of malnourishment are still high in Iraq. Malnutrition is very high in Afghanistan. Millions of people in Pakistan are displaced and don’t have regular access to food and safe drinking water.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Crawford, we’ll leave it there but we’ll link to your report at democracynow.org, called Cost of War. Professor Crawford is professor of political science at Boston University.

Big Brothers: Thought Control at Koch Industries

In Uncategorized on April 21, 2011 at 6:34 pm

David M. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center, New York

Oldspeak:“If work in the U.S. you should know who the Koch Brothers are. Koch Brothers Public Face: Benevolent Billionaires, Patrons of the Arts, Captains Of Industry, Libertarian defenders of “Freedom”. Koch Brothers Private Face: Doing everything in their power to bust unions, intimidate voters, destroy worker rights and protections, enable wanton destruction of the environment, “free market” fundamentalist financiers of over 80 right wing “think tanks” tasked with propagating propaganda for doing away with any government regulation and oversight of anything leaving it the hands of private corporations.  All for the express purpose of  manipulating politicians and the global economic system ‘in such a way as to enrich themselves and their heirs at the expense of most other inhabitants of the planet.’-Adele M. Stan These men are indeed the true face of Vampire. 21st century Oligarchs who care little for anyone not in their tax bracket, seeing them more as revenue streams than human beings.  And they’re pulling many levers of  U.S. Government. The only way to stop them is to organize. ‘”We don’t have any power, except the power of solidarity and the power to strike and organize in unions. Street protests are great, online petitions are great, but only when you can threaten to shut down the factories of the boss, only when you can have that type of leverage are americans ever gonna be able to change the situation. I don’t see the situation changing unless there’s more organizing. I think we’re gonna see more corporate oligarchs taking on workers unless workers organize and take away the power their power to work.” -Mike Elk

By Mark Ames & Mike Elk @ The Nation:

BEHOLD! THE TRUE FACE OF VAMPIRE


On the eve of the November midterm elections, Koch Industries sent an urgent letter to most of its 50,000 employees advising them on whom to vote for and warning them about the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country should they choose to vote otherwise.

The Nation obtained the Koch Industries election packet for Washington State [1]—which included a cover letter from its president and COO, David Robertson; a list of Koch-endorsed state and federal candidates; and an issue of the company newsletter, Discovery, full of alarmist right-wing propaganda.

Legal experts interviewed for this story called the blatant corporate politicking highly unusual, although no longer skirting the edge of legality, thanks to last year’s Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which granted free speech rights to corporations.

“Before Citizens United, federal election law allowed a company like Koch Industries to talk to officers and shareholders about whom to vote for, but not to talk with employees about whom to vote for,” explains Paul M. Secunda, associate professor of law at Marquette University. But according to Secunda, who recently wrote in The Yale Law Journal Online about the effects of Citizens United on political coercion in the workplace, the decision knocked down those regulations. “Now, companies like Koch Industries are free to send out newsletters persuading their employees how to vote. They can even intimidate their employees into voting for their candidates.” Secunda adds, “It’s a very troubling situation.”

The Kochs were major supporters of the Citizens United case; they were also chief sponsors of the Tea Party and major backers of the anti-“Obamacare” campaign. Through their network of libertarian think tanks and policy institutes, they have been major drivers of unionbusting campaigns in Wisconsin, Michigan and elsewhere.

“This sort of election propaganda seems like a new development,” says UCLA law professor Katherine Stone, who specializes in labor law and who reviewed the Koch Industries election packet for The Nation. “Until Citizens United, this sort of political propaganda was probably not permitted. But after the Citizens United decision, I can imagine it’ll be a lot more common, with restrictions on corporations now lifted.”

The election packet starts with a letter from Robertson dated October 4, 2010. It read: “As Koch company employees, we have a lot at stake in the upcoming election. Each of us is likely to be affected by the outcome on Nov. 2. That is why, for the first time ever, we are mailing our newest edition of Discovery and several other helpful items to the home address of every U.S. employee” [emphasis added].

For most Koch employees, the “helpful items” included a list of Koch-approved candidates, which was presented on a separate page labeled “Elect to Prosper.” A brief introduction to the list reads: “The following candidates in your state are supported by Koch companies and KOCHPAC, the political action committee for Koch companies. We believe these candidates will best advance policies supporting economic freedom.”

What the Kochs mean by “economic freedom” is explained on the next page. As the mailer makes clear, Koch Industries tailored its election propaganda to the state level, rather than focusing on national elections. Of the nineteen candidates that Koch Industries recommended in its Washington State list, sixteen were Republicans. The three Democratic candidates approved by the Kochs included two members of the “Roadkill Caucus,” Washington’s version of the conservative Blue Dogs.

Only two of the nineteen races on the list were for national office, and in both cases Koch Industries backed Tea Party–friendly Republicans: Dino Rossi, an antilabor candidate, who lost to incumbent Democratic Senator Patty Murray; and Jaime Herrera-Beutler, who ran in the Republican primary as a moderate, but who came out recently as a Tea Party radical, much to her constituency’s surprise.

After guiding employees on how they should vote, the mailer devoted the rest of the material to the sort of indoctrination one would expect from an old John Birch Society pamphlet (the Koch Brothers’ father, Fred Koch, was a founding member of the JBS). It offers an apocalyptic vision of the company’s free-market struggle for liberty against the totalitarian forces of European Union bureaucrats and deficit-spending statists.

The newsletter begins with an unsigned editorial preaching familiar Tea Party themes, repackaged as Koch Industry corporate philosophy:

For more than 40 years, Koch Industries has openly and consistently supported the principles of economic freedom and market-based policies. Unfortunately, these values and principled point of view are now being strongly opposed by many politicians (and their media allies) who favor ever-increasing government…. Even worse, recent government actions are threatening to bankrupt the country…. And the facts are that the overwhelming majority of the American people will be much worse off if government overspending is allowed to bankrupt the country.

Further into the company newsletter is an article headlined “What’s a Business to Do?” It portrays corporate titans like the Kochs as freedom-fighting underdogs, modern-day Sakharovs and Mandelas targeted for repression by Big Government statists: “Citizens who are openly critical of the European Union bureaucracy in Brussels or the out-of-control government of the United States are being shouted down by politicians, government officials and their media and other allies.”

In this scenario, Big Government wants to muzzle the Kochs before they can spread their message to the people. That message comes down to preaching the benefits of lower wages:

If the government insists that someone should be paid $50 per hour in wages and benefits, but that person only creates $30 worth of value, no one will prosper for long…. Anything that undermines the mobility of labor, such as policies that make it more expensive and difficult to change where people are employed, also increases unemployment…. Similar policies that distort the labor market—such as minimum wage laws and mandated benefits—contribute to unemployment.

Easily the strangest and most disturbing article of all comes from the head of Koch Industries himself, Charles Koch, who offers an election-season history lesson to his employees. Koch’s essay sets out to rank the best and worst US presidents in terms of their economic policies. Charles—who with his brother David is worth $44 billion, putting them fifth on the 2010 Forbes 400 list—warns his readers that his history lesson may surprise them. And to his credit, Koch doesn’t disappoint.

Koch glorifies Warren G. Harding and his successor Calvin Coolidge for producing “one of the most prosperous [eras] in U.S. history.” Koch explains that what made Harding great was his insistence on “cutting taxes, reducing the national debt and cutting the federal budget,” all policies that Congressional Republicans are proposing in today’s budget negotiations. What made Harding so great, in other words, is what made radical Republican candidates so great in November 2010.

Koch’s pick for worst president is Herbert Hoover, whom he accuses of undermining “economic freedom” and thus precipitating the Great Depression. “Under Hoover,” he writes, “federal spending roughly doubled and personal income tax rates jumped from 25 percent to 63 percent. He raised corporate taxes, too, and doubled the estate tax. Hoover also pressured business leaders to keep wages artificially high, contributing to massive unemployment.”

According to most historians, the Harding and Coolidge administrations’ free-market romp was one of the key factors that led to the Great Depression. Their time in office was marked by obscene corruption, racial violence, unionbusting, feudal wealth inequalities and, shortly thereafter, the total collapse of the American economy.

* * *

Legal experts say that this kind of corporate-sponsored propagandizing has been almost unheard-of in America since the passage of New Deal–era laws like the National Labor Relations Act, which codified restrictions on political activism and pressure in the workplace. NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher, director of the Center for Labor and Employment Law, told The Nation in an e-mail interview that such overt politicking to employees is still rare. “I am not aware of it happening with many employers,” he wrote.

According to UCLA’s Stone, although Citizens United frees Koch Industries and other corporations to propagandize their employees with their political preferences, the same doesn’t hold true for unions—at least not in the workplace. “If a union wanted to hand out political materials in the workplace not directly relevant to the workers’ interests—such as providing a list of candidates to support in the elections—the employer has the right to ban that material,” says Stone. “They could even prohibit its distribution on lunch breaks or after shifts, because by law it’s the company’s private property.”

Stone points to a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 1915, Coppage v. Kansas, which protected employers’ right to draw up contracts forbidding employees from joining unions. Justice William Day’s dissent in that case pointed out that if the state was ready to enforce the employers’ contractual bans on union activity, then it was opening the way for the state to enforce employers’ legal right to control their employees’ political and ideological activities:

Would it be beyond a legitimate exercise of the police power to provide that an employee should not be required to agree, as a condition of employment, to forgo affiliation with a particular political party, or the support of a particular candidate for office? It seems to me that these questions answer themselves.

With Citizens United, it seems, the country is heading back to the days of court-enforced corporatocracy. Already, workers at a Koch subsidiary in Portland, Oregon, are complaining about being subjected to political and ideological propaganda. Employees at Georgia-Pacific warehouses in Portland say the company encourages them to read Charles Koch’s The Science of Success: How Market-Based Management Built the World’s Largest Private Company and to attend ideological seminars in which Koch management preaches their bosses’ “market-based management” philosophy.

Travis McKinney, an employee at a Portland Georgia-Pacific distribution center, says, “They drill into your head things like ‘The 10 Guiding Principles of Koch Industries.’ They even stamp the ten principles on your time card.”

McKinney, a fourth-generation employee of Georgia-Pacific, says relations have sharply deteriorated since Koch Industries bought the company in late 2005. He and fellow employees at three Georgia-Pacific distribution centers are locked in a yearlong contract battle with the new Koch Industries management. Workers there, members of the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific (an affiliate of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union) recently voted unanimously to reject management’s contract and voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if management continues to try to impose cuts in benefits and job security in the new contracts.

Political propagandizing is a heated issue in Oregon, which passed SB-519 in the summer of 2009, a bill placing restrictions on corporations’ ability to coerce employees to attend political meetings and vote the way the corporation tells them to vote. In late December 2009—just before SB-519 was to go into effect—the US Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit with Associated Oregon Industries to block the bill from becoming law. A similar bill in Wisconsin was struck down in November in a federal court. However, the Chamber’s lawsuit in Oregon was thrown out in May 2010 by US District Court Judge Michael Mosman on procedural grounds, leaving open the possibility that it could still be struck down.

In the meantime, workers across the country should start preparing for a future workplace environment in which political proselytizing is the new normal.

You Thought the Koch Brothers Were Bad? Turns Out They’re Even Worse Than You Thought

By Adele M. Stan @ Alter Net:

Charles and David Koch’s reach into virtually every aspect of political, economic and physical life on the planet is probably greater than you thought possible.

You knew they were big. You knew they were evil. From the union-busting actions of their minions in Wisconsin and Ohio to their war on health-care reform, to their assault on the environment and their attacks on the science of climatology, Charles and David Koch have earned their place as the focus of progressives’ scrutiny in the age of the Tea Party — the destructive and regressive movement they bankroll. But a new report from the Center for American Progress Action Fund shows that, as bad as you thought the Kochs were, they’re actually worse. And their reach into virtually every aspect of political, economic and physical life on the planet is probably greater than you thought possible.

In The Koch Brothers: What You Need to Know About the Financiers of the Radical Right, author Tony Carrk, policy director of the CAP Action War Room, lays out a case that is breathtaking in its scope, showing how the Koch brothers are using their billions with the aim of reshaping the global economic system in such a way as to enrich themselves and their heirs at the expense of most other inhabitants of the planet.

While much of the report will have a familiar ring (especially to readers of AlterNet, and CAP Action’s own ThinkProgress), The Koch Brothers also addresses elements of the Koch agenda far beyond the well-trodden turf of Americans for Prosperity’sorganizing against health-care reform or the pollution rap against Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held corporation in the United States, which the billionaire brothers command.

The Kochs and the Global Economy

Consider, for instance, the Kochs’ role in the financial business. You thought Koch Industries was just a high-polluting oil-and-gas-based conglomerate? Add in the part played on Wall Street by Koch Supply & Trading, and the depth of the Koch imprint on the economy is revealed. From Carrk’s report:

First, the Koch brothers fought efforts to give the Commodity Futures Trading Commission more oversight over speculative trading, whereby companies can artificially inflate prices on things such as oil, during the Wall Street reform debate. One of the Koch companies—Koch Supply & Trading—takes part in oil and derivatives trading. We should point out that oil speculation has reached an all-time high at the same time gas prices continue to skyrocket.


Then look at a recent position pushed by Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party-allied astroturf group founded and funded by David Koch (and whose sibling organization, the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, he chairs):

Similarly, Americans for Prosperity supports the House continuing resolution that cuts spending by $61 billion. Those cuts would reduce the budget for the CFTC by one-third. Make no mistake: Gutting the CFTC or limiting its authority would be a boon to Wall Street businesses that use complex financial instruments. But while the result is more profits for oil companies, it means everyone else pays more at the pump.


Okay, now have a look at the Kochs’ recent direct contributions to political candidates:

The Kochs donated directly to 62 of the 87 members of the House GOP freshman class…and to 12 of the new members of the U.S. Senate.


No wonder, then, how that continuing resolution — the means for funding the government when a budget has not been passed into law — managed to get through the House. (It was subsequently rejected by the Senate, setting the stage for a possible shutdown of the government at the end of this week.) Those 62 Koch-backed freshmen are essentially driving the agenda of the House Republicans, because together they form a large enough bloc to prevent House Speaker John Boehner from amassing a majority on any piece of legislation, should they choose to, despite the 2010 Republican victories that handed control of the House to the GOP.

It should be noted that such “complex financial instruments” as those mentioned above had much to do with the 2008 Bush crash of Wall Street. The report reminds us that “from September 2007 to May 2009, American 401(k) and individual retirement accounts lost a total of $2.7 trillion.” But if the Kochs had their way, Social Security would no longer be financed by the federal government, and would instead be invested on Wall Street — a boon for financiers such as they. Too bad if your account takes a hit that lands you on the curb.

And while we think of Wall Street as an American institution, when Wall Street sneezes, the world gets a cold. The Bush crash set in motion a global recession. Less oversight of the financial shenanigans known as derivatives (or “complex financial instruments”) all but guarantees further crashes.

The Brothers Koch and the Body Politic

If you read the whole of the CAP Action report, you’ll see how the Koch influence on the nation’s politics is compounded and leveraged through a combination of the brothers’ direct contributions to candidates, their investment in astroturf groups such asAmericans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks (which do political organizing), and their funding of right-wing think tanks, which send policy position papers daily to the in-boxes of senators, representatives and their aides. Carrk identified some 85 right-leaning think tanks that received a collective $85 million from the Kochs over the course of the last 15 years. These include the Cato Institute, of which David Koch was a founder, and other well-known outfits, such as the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation.

But that’s not all:

Charles and David Koch and their company, Koch Industries, do not limit their political donations to right-wing think tanks and advocacy groups. They also donate millions directly to candidates. Since 1990, the Koch network has donated $11 million to federal candidates, $9.8 million, or 89 percent, of which went to Republicans.


In Congress, the donations are well-targeted. Take, for example, the House Commerce and Energy Committee, whose imprint on legislation has a direct effect on Koch Industries’ core businesses. (Koch’s Flint Hill Resources, LLC, according to the report, “has a combined crude oil processing capacity of more than 800,000 barrels of oil per day.”) From the report:

The Kochs have contributed significantly to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In fact, they are the single-largest oil and gas donor to members of the committee, contributing $279,500 to 22 of the committee’s 31 Republicans and $32,000 to five Democrats. Tim Phillips, the head of Americans for Prosperity, even co-authored an op-ed with chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), detailing how Congress could stop the EPA from ensuring a cleaner environment.


At the state level, the Koch influence is every bit as corrosive as it is at the national level, Carrk tells us.

The Koch network donated $1.2 million to help elect conservative Republican governors last year, including Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Ohio’s John Kasich, both of whom are trying to take away collective bargaining rights. During the fight in Wisconsin, Americans for Prosperity ran an ad and orchestrated protests to support Gov. Walker’s union busting and orchestrated pro-Walker demonstrations. Americans for Prosperity also started a Web site urging people to “Stand with Governor Kasich.”


And that’s not even counting the money the brothers donate to candidates for state legislatures, or to support ballot measures designed to enrich them and their heirs. Carrk reports:

Data from the National Institute for Money in State Politics show that from 2003 to 2010, the Koch brothers, as well as their companies, employees, and affiliates, have donated $5.2 million to state candidates and ballot measures in 34 states. $3.4 million of those donations, or 65 percent, went to Republican candidates. Another $1 million, or 20 percent, went to one ballot initiative: the effort to overturn California’s clean energy law, AB 32.


Heck, as AlterNet reported, Americans for Prosperity was celebrating Scott Walker, the union-busting governor of Wisconsin, back when he was a mere county commissioner. In 2008, Walker served as the emcee for a ceremony by the Wisconsin chapter of the AFP Foundation — at which the organization’s “Defender of the American Dream” award was conferred upon Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who now chairs the House Budget Committee. Ryan this week proposed a budget plan for 2012 that would privatize Medicare and slash Medicaid.

Much, Much More

In addition to a narrative on the duo’s activities in the political sphere, The Koch Brothers: What You Need to Know About the Financiers of the Radical Right serves up a bevy of lists and graphics that offer a range of facts and figures in an easy-to-grok form. There’s a list of all the freshman congressional representatives who have received Koch campaign dollars, and the dollar amounts they received. Those 85 Koch-funded think tanks are listed, with total-donations-per-tank noted next to their names. A map of the U.S. shows the states in which Koch Industries has facilities (nearly all 50). Another highlights the 32 states in which Americans for Prosperity has a state chapter.

There’s also a comprehensive listing of all the Koch Industries subsidiaries and what they make or sell, as well as a detailed section on the pollution and environmental infractions for which the conglomerate is responsible.

If you’re one of those people who like to be scared out of your wits, you’ll find the CAP Action report better than Wes Craven’s latest offering. Just consider this:

The significant victories the billionaire Koch brothers chalked up for their ideological and business interests in the 2010 elections is only a precursor of what is to come. The Koch brothers have already pledged to raise $88 million through their considerable network for policy and political projects for the 2012 election cycle.


The report can be downloaded here (PDF), for free.

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet’s Washington bureau chief. Follow her on Twitter: © 2011 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.



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