As far as I can tell, if corporations and the top 1% paid anything like a fair share of taxes, budget problems would melt away.
I feel a bit like the recent physicists who seemed to find faster-than-light neutrinos in their data. (There’s the big difference that I’m an amateur at taxes, and they’re anything but amateurs at physics.) But, like them, I’m so boggled by the results that I want to throw it out there for people to pick apart.
Let’s begin at the beginning. The current US deficit is around $1.5 trillion per year. Current US GDP is around $14 trillion per year. Current yearly tax revenues are near $1.1 trillion (IRS pdf, 2008 numbers). In better years revenue is higher, deficits are lower.
An aside: Those numbers are smaller than the multiple trillions of cuts the Super Committee throws around. That’s because they say they need to come up with money for ballooning future costs of social insurance. (The powers-that-be didn’t seem to be worried about the future when tax cuts were implemented.) I don’t consider those future costs a real issue. Social Security doesn’t have any real problems. National health care costs could be cut in half with Medicare for All, based on the evidence from all the industrialized countries that do have national health care systems. (Link is to Congressional Research Service, 2004, pdf. See e.e Table 1, Fig. 1, Fig. 2.) So Medicare for All is the place to start for anyone who is actually concerned about future costs, and not some other agenda.
Further, a healthy deficit level is said to be around 2% of yearly GDP. In addition to other considerations, the ability to buy US Treasury bonds and bills is an important factor in global finance. Zero deficit means the end of that whole asset class, which is not a Good Thing. One wants a sustainable and easily carryable deficit, and 2% is a conservative estimate of that level. Two percent of $14 trillion is $280 billion. (I saw this most clearly expressed somewhere in Krugman’s writing, but all I can find right now is a passing reference here.)
So the yearly shortfall, in round numbers, is $1.2 trillion ($1.5T deficit – 0.280T healthy deficit).
If Fortune 500 corporations actually paid tax on their corporate profits, there’d be much less freeloading from that end. When even Marketwatch headlines “Big Profits, Zero Taxes” you know it’s not a small issue. It’s hard (for me) to find unequivocal numbers on how much difference that would make to revenue, but there are fairly clear data on corporate tax payments as a share of GDP. It’s now at a recent all-time low of 1% of GDP. Moving that back to 4%, about where it was in the 1960s would bring in an extra $480 billion (1% of GDP = $160B, 3% = 480B).
That would entail ending all the corporate loopholes, such as income-shifting in transnationals to whichever tax haven suits them that year, as well as ending special tax breaks for wildly profitable industries such as oil and finance. It would involve adding necessary new taxes, such as a financial transaction tax that would have other beneficial social consequences by slowing down market trading velocity. And it would involve raising rates on large corporations. (Update from comments below: 25 CEOs received more in compensation than their companies paid in taxes. Just mindboggling.)
Then, the other task is to raise taxes on the top 1%. According to the IRS (pdf), in 2008 the top 1% was composed of households making an average of $1.2 million per year. Their effective tax rate is 20% ±5% (CBO pdf, Table 3), and at that rate they contributed well over $350 billion in tax revenue. (For instance, in 2009 the top 1% contributed 36.7% of total income taxes. That proportion is typical during the last decade, plus or minus a few percent. Total income tax revenue in 2008, the last year for which I could find complete IRS data, was $1.081 trillion. 36% of 1.081T = $389 billion.) If their tax rates went to 60%, there would be an extra $700 billion revenue.
So, $700 billion plus $480 billion approaches $1.2 trillion, pretty much the entire yearly shortfall of $1.2 trillion.
That doesn’t pay down the debt. Nor does it provide funds for essential projects such as switching to clean, sustainable energy. But those are one-time charges, as it were, not permanent features of fiscal balance, which I gather is what the Super Committee is worrying about.
Raising taxes on the megarich is not the same as taxing the middle class. It’s not even taxing the upper middle class, such as the heart surgeons and mid-size successful business owners. It involves only having the massively wealthy corporations and households pay something vaguely like their fair share. What’s more, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference to their lifestyles. For an income of $1.2 million per year, that tax increase would drop them from living on $80,000 per month to living on $40,000 per month. They could still jet to Paris for the weekend. Anybody who feels deprived living on $40,000 per month needs therapy, not tax breaks.
All this is something to think about while the news covers the new super ways the Super Committee has found to shred the safety net. Nor is this just a classic “Don’t tax him, don’t tax me. Tax the fellow behind the tree.” The fellow behind the tree has been tax cheating for far too long, and it’s time to rebalance. If the megarich paid their fair share, we could have a future that was more than collapsing bridges and work on their plantations.
Crossposted to Acid Test
Wow, these ultra-right-wingers are like zombies. They never stop, they never die. They just keep popping up again and again where you least expect them.
Remember David Addington? He was the secretive, publicity-shy legal counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney from 2001-2005. Later, after Scooter Libby was forced to step down because of his involvement in the Valerie Plame outing, Addington replaced him as Cheney’s Chief of Staff from 2005-2009.
Addington was heavily involved in designing the Bush administration’s torture and NSA wiretapping policies. In addition, his was the legal mind behind Bush’s hundreds of signing statements and generally was a powerful force in the Bush administration’s efforts to expand executive power.
You’d think someone who had been involved in such execrable behavior would have the good grace to slink away and never be heard from again, but that’s not how it works with these psychopathic types. Today, according to The National Journal,
Addington has taken on a new role as enforcer of tea party dogma during the intensifying partisan bickering over the debt ceiling. From his perch as the Heritage Foundation’s vice president for domestic and economic policy, Addington is throwing verbal thunderbolts at House Speaker John Boehner’s current debt-ceiling proposal, which he argues will pave the way to tax increases.
The merits of Addington’s arguments about the need to oppose Boehner’s proposals are in some ways less interesting than the simple fact that Addington is the one publicly making them. Addington kept a low profile during the Bush years, granting no interviews and largely shunning lawmakers from either party. But he wielded enormous power behind the scenes, helping Cheney craft the Bush administration’s warrantless eavesdropping program and most of its detention initiatives.
Critics of those policies say they’re horrified by Addington’s reemergence onto the public stage.
“To see this person who led the country into legal and moral disaster resurface as a respected commentator is somewhat galling,” said Ben Wizner, the litigation director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. “Addington was as responsible as anyone else for the U.S. becoming a torturing nation. He has done damage to the U.S. that will take decades to reverse.”
Indeed. Especially because we’ll have to wait until President Obama leaves office before much reversing takes place–if it ever does. But I digress. Addington’s new role is to help keep the Tea Party Caucus in line while undercutting House Speaker Boehner. How very very interesting. At the New Republic, Jonathan Chait called it “Hot Republican-On-Republican Action.”
The internecine fighting among conservatives over the Boehner plan has much of the same ideological and stylistic feel of a late 1960’s feud pitting left-wing factions that favor immediate violence against those seeking more time to radicalize the masses. The less-extreme faction clearly has the better of the argument, yet the overwhelming impression is the sheer fanaticism of the whole political subculture.
Is it possible this GOP infighting could be helpful to our side? Addington’s greatest concern about the Boehner plan is that it includes the “committee” that we have been calling “Catfood Commission II.” Addington fears that because this group will have the power to write legislation that cannot be amended and must be voted on up or down, they might end up proposing new taxes. Now I never thought of that possibility! Here’s Addington blogging at the Heritage Foundation website on Monday:
The second step in the [Boehner] plan is a set of recommendations from a new dozen-member joint select committee of Congress. The committee’s recommendations to Congress would not be subject to amendments and would get a straight up-or-down vote. The plan directs the committee to propose reductions in the deficit by at least $1.8 trillion over 10 years. The government runs a deficit when it spends more than it takes in from Americans as taxes, and the government has run deficits in most years for decades. As always, there are two ways to reduce a bloated government’s deficit — the right way of cutting spending and the wrong way of hiking taxes. While the second step of the Boehner plan may produce some useful spending cuts, the second step also allows the Committee to propose raising taxes as part of its unamendable, fast-track legislative package. Thus, the second step greases the way for tax hikes.
As you can imagine, taxes are anathema to Addington.
Tax hikes in a weak economy slow economic growth and kill jobs. As students of American history (or the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”) know, enactment of the tax hike known as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act during the Great Depression hurt the already weak economy and made unemployment worse. Job-killing tax hikes in the current weak economy, as millions of Americans go without jobs and the unemployment hovers above 9 percent, will have a similar effect. However good the intentions of the drafters of the Boehner plan may have been, the plan sets up America for higher taxes and fewer jobs. Conservatives should continue to fight plans that either hike taxes now or set America up for tax hikes in the future.
Now wait a minute. I know Dakinikat will have plenty to say about that last paragraph–if she can get away from all the student exams and papers she’s grading. But I’ll take a crack at it even though I am not an economist.
Tarriffs are not equivalent to income taxes. The Smoot-Hawley Tarriff Act was raised tarriffs so high that our trading partners retaliated with their own tarriffs, leading to dramatic decreases in U.S. imports and exports. Now that is a job-killing tax. That is not the same thing as restoring the tax rates on the rich to Clinton administration levels and perhaps making the children of the super-rich pay a little more in estate taxes. As Dakinikat is fond of saying, if cutting taxes led to job creation, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in now. The Bush tax cuts would have taken care of everything.
Addington summed up his insane economic theories in another post, written in response to President Obama’s speech on Monday night.
Americans sent a message in the election of 2010 — cut the size and cost of government. Conservatives must act now to drive down spending on the way to a balanced budget, while protecting America, and without raising taxes. Forget the McConnell, McConnell-Reid, Coburn, Gang-of-Six, Boehner, and Reid plans. Go with the American plan — cut government spending, deeply and right now, for the good of the country.
Man, he’s looney-tunes!
Anyway, I think it’s just fascinating that Addington is leading the charge against the Boehner plan and pushing for an even crazier one. Addington has a history of accomplishing a great deal. What he accomplished was evil, of course, but he showed himself to be highly competent and efficient, unlike President Pushover. This battle could be really entertaining. I’m hoping for a major Republican meltdown.
We have a republic and a lot of people have sacrificed a lot over the last several centuries to keep it. Too bad most of our politicians aren’t in that number. They can’t see past their next elections.
It seems that two senators– McCain and Corynyn–say they’re open to tax increases as a way to solve the budget stand off. Guess there are a few of them left that would prefer not to tank our economy. Let’s hope this starts some real negotiations instead of the usual Republican hostage taking and Democratic cave-in that’s been politics as usual the last dozen years or so.
One of the senators, John Cornyn of Texas, said he would consider eliminating some tax breaks and corporate subsidies in the context of changes in the tax code, provided there was not an overall increase in taxes.
“I think it’s clear that the Republicans are opposed to any tax hikes, particularly during a fragile economic recovery,” Mr. Cornyn said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Now, do we believe tax reform is necessary? I would say absolutely.”
But he insisted that any changes in taxes be “revenue neutral,” meaning that the government would not take in any more money from individuals or businesses than it does now.
The other senator, John McCain of Arizona, said he would be willing to consider some “revenue raisers” as part of a broad deal, but he refused to name specific measures.
Mr. Cornyn, a member of the Senate leadership, also said that Republicans would be open to a short-term deal on the debt ceiling to provide more time for a comprehensive agreement.
Let’s also hope that more reasonable and less ideological heads prevail on the right and that the left stands up for what’s right for a change. Former President Clinton had a words of policy advice over the weekend. His advice to President Obama is “not to blink”.
Former President Bill Clinton Saturday night urged President Obama not to “blink” at Republican demands to exclude revenue increases from any agreement to extend the government’s debt ceiling.
If Republicans maintain their opposition to revenue increases, Clinton said, Obama should pursue a short-term deal to extend the debt ceiling based on spending cuts both sides have already accepted in the negotiations between the administration and Congressional leaders from both parties.
“I hope they will make a mini-deal,” Clinton said in an interview conducted with him at the Aspen Ideas Festival here.
The White House and Congressional negotiators from both parties are attempting to assemble a deficit reduction package that could win support in Congress for legislation to extend the nation’s debt ceiling, which the Treasury says the government will reach on August 2. The talks have foundered amid demands from Congressional Republicans to exclude any revenue increases from that prospective deficit reduction package.
Asked what the administration could do if GOP leaders hold to that posture, Clinton replied: “First the White House could blink. I hope that won’t happen. I don’t think they should blink.”
If Republicans will not accept revenues in a package to lift the debt ceiling by August 2, Clinton said, Obama should pursue a short-term agreement based on the spending reductions both sides have already accepted.
“There are some spending cuts they agree on …and he can take those and [get] an extension of the debt ceiling for six or eight months,” Clinton said.
Clinton also called on a package of reforms to US tax policy that includes a corporate tax cut if special interest tax loops are closed. This is something Obama has also supported.
“It made sense when I did it. It doesn’t make sense anymore – we’ve got an uncompetitive rate. We tax at 35 percent of income, although we only take about 23 percent. So, we SHOULD cut the rate to 25 percent, or whatever’s competitive, and eliminate a lot of the deductions so that we still get a FAIR amount, and there’s not so much variance in what the corporations pay. But how can they do that by Aug. 2?”
Clinton also said Grover Norquist, who as president of Americans for Tax Reform is the GOP’s unofficial enforcer of no-new-taxes pledges, has a “chilling” hold on the nation’s lawmaking.
The former president said it has seemed like Republicans need any revenue concessions need to be “approved in advance by Grover Norquist.”
“You’re laughing,” he told the crowd of 800. “But he was quoted in the paper the other day saying he gave Republican senators PERMISSION … on getting rid of the ethanol subsidies. I thought, ‘My GOD, what has this country come to when one person has to give you permission to do what’s best for the country.’ It was chilling.
There’s an extremely interesting piece at The Atlantic Wire on “What Really Happened at Fukushima”. It includes interviews with workers that have been inside the crippled nuclear plant.
Throughout the months of lies and misinformation, one story has stuck: “The earthquake knocked out the plant’s electric power, halting cooling to its reactors,” as the government spokesman Yukio Edano said at a March 15 press conference in Tokyo. The story, which has been repeated again and again, boils down to this: “after the earthquake, the tsunami – a unique, unforeseeable [the Japanese word is soteigai] event – then washed out the plant’s back-up generators, shutting down all cooling and starting the chain of events that would cause the world’s first triple meltdown to occur.”
But what if recirculation pipes and cooling pipes, burst, snapped, leaked, and broke completely after the earthquake — long before the tidal wave reached the facilities, long before the electricity went out? This would surprise few people familiar with the 40-year-old Unit 1, the grandfather of the nuclear reactors still operating in Japan.
The authors have spoken to several workers at the plant who recite the same story: Serious damage to piping and at least one of the reactors before the tsunami hit. All have requested anonymity because they are still working at the plant or are connected with TEPCO. One worker, a 27-year-old maintenance engineer who was at the Fukushima complex on March 11, recalls hissing and leaking pipes. “I personally saw pipes that came apart and I assume that there were many more that had been broken throughout the plant. There’s no doubt that the earthquake did a lot of damage inside the plant,” he said. “There were definitely leaking pipes, but we don’t know which pipes – that has to be investigated. I also saw that part of the wall of the turbine building for Unit 1 had come away. That crack might have affected the reactor.”
The reactor walls of the reactor are quite fragile, he notes. “If the walls are too rigid, they can crack under the slightest pressure from inside so they have to be breakable because if the pressure is kept inside and there is a buildup of pressure, it can damage the equipment inside the walls so it needs to be allowed to escape. It’s designed to give during a crisis, if not it could be worse – that might be shocking to others, but to us it’s common sense.”
Here’s some frightening news on the disaster in Japan. Radioactive Cesium has been found in Tokyo’s water supply.
Radioactive cesium-137 was found in Tokyo’s tap water for the first time since April as Japan grapples with the worst nuclear disaster in 25 years.
Cesium-137 concentration registered at 0.14 becquerels per kilogram in the city’s Shinjuku ward on July 2, compared with 0.21 becquerels on April 22, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health. No cesium-134 or iodine-131 was detected, the agency said on its website.
The Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan sets a safety limit of 200 becquerels per kilogram for cesium-134 and cesium-137. The limit for iodine-131 consumption is 300 becquerels per kilogram.
Japan is battling radiation leaks into the air, soil and water after an earthquake and tsunami on March 11 knocked out cooling systems at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai- Ichi nuclear station, resulting in the meltdown of three of the six reactors at the plant.
The UK Guardian lists an interesting set of Greek public assets for sale. Many have no buyers. Bobby Jindal is putting up a lot of Louisiana assets for sale too. I wonder if this is going to be the new way to raise money. The Kochs already rent a big chunk of Yellowstone. Let’s hope we don’t have to put our national treasures on the chopping block.
Up for sale are 39 airports, 850 ports, railways, motorways, sewage works, a couple of energy companies, banks, defence groups, thousands of acres of land for development, casinos and Greece’s national lottery. George Christodoulakis, Greece’s special secretary for asset restructuring and privatisations, said the sell-off would raise €50bn (£44bn) to help pay back the country’s €110bn bailout debt.
The private equity bosses gathered in the hotel’s ballroom for the parade of Greece’s national treasures showed little interest in buying anything.
Nikos Stathopoulous, managing partner of BC Partners, which has invested more than €3.5bn in Greece, said investors are put off by bureaucracy, strong unions, corruption and a lack of transparency. “Even in the good times Greece is not a country that attracts investment. Foreign investors don’t want to invest in a country where there is no flexibility in hiring and firing people,” he said. “You don’t want to invest in a country in which you wake up and a new law has been passed which totally undermines and destroys the value of the investment you’ve just made.”
Stathopoulous said investors were finding it very hard to assess the risk of investing into Greece, which means assets “will be priced at lower than they are worth, lower than the Greek government, and even the European Union, expects”.
Here’s a compelling argument for getting the shadow banking sector into a more regulated, transparent, and standardized order. It’s written by Henry Tabe who is a Founding Partner of Sequoia Investment Management Company Ltd. It particularly addresses the use of the Structured Investment Vehicle (SIV). Complex, nonstandard, and unregulated markets make pricing assets difficult and introduce unnecessary risk and volatility.
Risk management requires identification, measurement, aggregation, and effective management of risks. It should help businesses allocate sufficient capital for survival and growth. The SIV’s extinction highlights risk management failures by the vehicles, their sponsors, rating agencies, policymakers, and regulators.
Financial regulators permitted bank, insurance company, pension, and hedge-fund sponsors to establish SIV “mini-banks” without ensuring that they maintain sufficient capital or back-stop liquidity in the event of a run. Policymakers also seemed unaware of the knock-on effects of the SIV’s demise on the securitisation and global credit markets. The Financial Security Authority’s call for regulators to incorporate sectoral analytical capabilities in their micro-prudential policies should help close the knowledge gap and ensure that timely solutions can be implemented to avert collapses that engender significantly more stress on the financial system (FSA 2009).
Lessons learned include the tightening of regulation governing the sponsorship of off-balance-sheet structures and the sizing of their capital and liquidity needs. These require that regulators adopt a more proactive, dampening role in the wild swings from exuberance to despair that are so characteristic of the financial markets. Discussions around contingent capital and similar products suggest regulators have embraced that dampening role and moved away from the prevailing pre-crisis philosophy of minimal regulation.
Lessons learned also include closer supervision of shadow banks, more skin-in-the-game for their sponsors, in-house retention of risk-analytics capabilities by investors, and less reliance on credit-rating agencies. The agencies themselves are more tightly supervised in order to reduce ratings shopping by issuers and inherent conflicts of interest in the business model (CESR 2009). Tighter regulation will also help to ensure that the agencies improve the monitoring of analyst performance, qualifications, and experience (Dodd-Frank 2010).
These measures should help restore confidence in rating agencies and the global financial system, an outcome more urgently required given on-going turmoil in the sovereign debt market.
So, there’s some wonky goodness to keep you entertained if you’re inside today. Be sure to let us know what you’re reading and blogging! Hope your Fourth of July is a happy one!
The Guardian posted a story last night that seems to put the lie to all the supposed arguing about whether the Obama administration had the right to unilaterally enter Pakistan and raid Osama bin Laden’s residence. The two governments had agreed ten years ago that this would be acceptable in the event bin Laden’s location was found.
The US and Pakistan struck a secret deal almost a decade ago permitting a US operation against Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil similar to last week’s raid that killed the al-Qaida leader, the Guardian has learned.
The deal was struck between the military leader General Pervez Musharraf and President George Bush after Bin Laden escaped US forces in the mountains of Tora Bora in late 2001, according to serving and retired Pakistani and US officials.
Under its terms, Pakistan would allow US forces to conduct a unilateral raid inside Pakistan in search of Bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the al-Qaida No3. Afterwards, both sides agreed, Pakistan would vociferously protest the incursion.
“There was an agreement between Bush and Musharraf that if we knew where Osama was, we were going to come and get him,” said a former senior US official with knowledge of counterterrorism operations. “The Pakistanis would put up a hue and cry, but they wouldn’t stop us.”
So Pakistan kept its word. No wonder they are so insulted by all the accusations that they protected bin Laden. The agreement would protect the Pakistan government from public reaction at home. The only problem is that neither side seems to have thought about what the reaction would be here in the U.S.
Anyway, as I mentioned in a comment a couple of days ago, the Pakistan ISI has retaliated by outing the CIA station chief in Islamabad for the second time . Joseph Cannon has been doing a fantastic job of covering the ins and outs of this story, see here and here.
Back in March, I wrote a post about Professor J. Michael Bailey, AKA “Dr. Sex,” who taught a course in Human Sexuality at Northwestern University. In an optional after-class session, Bailey had a allowed a man to bring a woman to orgasm using a sex toy called “the f*cksaw.” Today Northwestern announced that the human sexuality course will not be offered next year.
Northwestern University will not offer a controversial human sexuality class next academic year after its professor came under fire for allowing a live sex-toy demonstration during an after-class lecture.
About 100 of psychology professor J. Michael Bailey’s students observed a naked woman being penetrated by a motorized sex toy on Feb. 21. The university said in March that it would investigate the incident; officials said Monday that the review continues.
“I learned a week or two ago that they had decided to cancel the course for next year,” psychology department chair Dan McAdams said Monday. “The decision was made higher up than me at the central administration level.”
No other Northwestern psychology professor is qualified to teach the subject, McAdams said. Bailey “will have other teaching assignments in the coming year,” according to a university statement.
I’m not particularly surprised. I wonder what “other teaching assignments” Bailey will be getting–Psychology 101, perhaps? There is bound to be some kind of disciplinary action that we won’t be told about.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has admitted that the raucous town hall crowds faced by Republicans over his Medicare Destruction Plan have had an effect (although not on him). John Nichols has a great piece about it at The Nation.
But the outcry over his plan to mess with Medicare, heard in Wisconsin communities from Milton to Kenosha, and at spring recess sessions in the districts of Republican freshmen from Pennsylvania to Florida, obviously influenced other Republicans.
Images from Kenosha – a historic factory town in Ryan’s district, where hundreds of people showed up to criticize his scheming to cut benefits for working Americans while giving billionaires and multinational corporations new tax breaks – were featured nationally on broadcast network news shows.
Cable news programs focused intense attention on the story. MSNBC’s Ed Schultz devoted much of a program last week to the outcry. (In addition to a blistering analysis of the congressman’s proposal by the host, this writer provided some on the ground reporting from Kenosha, including details of a brief interview with Ryan, who was typically dismissive of the popular discomfort with his plan.) But other networks — even Fox — at least touched on the congressman’s troubles.
The reporting was noticed in Washington where, last week, GOP leaders began almost immediately to distance themselves from Ryan’s plan to use Medicare funds to enrich the private insurance firms that have donated so generously to his campaigns.
At Salon, Michael Winship has a good article about the many corporations who don’t pay any taxes–yet the Republicans constantly complain that poor people don’t have to pay any on their paltry incomes.
What’s greasing the wheels for these advantages is, hold on to your hats, cash. Over the last decade, according to the New York City public advocate’s report, those same five companies — GE, Exxon-Mobil, Bank of America, Chevron and Boeing — gave more than $43.1 million to political campaigns. During the 2009-2010 election cycle, the five spent a combined $7.86 million in campaign contributions, a 7 percent jump over their 2007-2008 political spending.
“These tax breaks were put in place to promote growth and create jobs, not bankroll the political causes of corporate executives,” Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said. “… No company that can afford to spend millions of dollars to influence our elections should be pleading poverty come tax time.”
And by the way, those campaign cash figures don’t even include all the money those companies funneled into the 2010 campaigns via trade associations and tax-exempt non-profits. Thanks to the Supreme Court Citizens United decision, we don’t know the numbers because, as per the court, the corporate biggies don’t have to tell us. Imagine them sticking out their tongues and wiggling their fingers in their ears and you have a pretty good idea of their official position on this.
Meanwhile, last week Republicans like Utah’s Orrin Hatch, ranking member of the US Senate Finance Committee, grabbed hold of an analysis by Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation and wrestled it to the ground. The brief memorandum reported that in the 2009 tax year 51 percent of all American taxpayers had zero tax liability or received a refund. So why, the Republicans asked, are Democrats and others so mean, asking corporations and the rich to pay higher taxes when lots of other people – especially the poor and middle class — don’t pay taxes either.
The great Chris Hedges has a new post up at Truthdig: Your Taxes Fund Anti-Muslim Hatred [PDF]
…perhaps most ominously—as pointed out in “Manufacturing the Muslim Menace,” a report by Political Research Associates—a cadre of right-wing institutions that peddle themselves as counterterrorism specialists and experts on the Muslim world has been indoctrinating thousands of police, intelligence and military personnel in nationwide seminars. These seminars, run by organizations such as Security Solutions International, The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies, and International Counter-Terrorism Officers Association, embrace gross and distorted stereotypes and propagate wild conspiracy theories. And much of this indoctrination within the law enforcement community is funded under two grant programs for training—the State Homeland Security Program and Urban Areas Security Initiative—which made $1.67 billion available to states in 2010. The seminars preach that Islam is a terrorist religion, that an Islamic “fifth column” or “stealth jihad” is subverting the United States from within, that mainstream American Muslims have ties to terrorist groups, that Muslims use litigation, free speech and other legal means (something the trainers have nicknamed “Lawfare”) to advance the subversive Muslim agenda and that the goal of Muslims in the United States is to replace the Constitution with Islamic or Shariah law.
“You would not expect a Democratic administration to fund right-wing groups,” Thom Cincotta, a civil liberties attorney and the author of the Political Research Associates report, told me, “and yet we continue to have hard-right, Islamophobic speakers and companies being paid taxpayer dollars to promote racist doctrines that undermine U.S. national security policy concerning Islam and the Muslim world. Policy expert after policy expert point out that framing our counterterrorism efforts as a war against Islam is a recipe for building increased resentment among Muslims, as well as a potent recruiting tool for those who would like to carry out violent attacks against us. This kind of demonizing breaks down communication between law enforcement agents and Muslim communities, which have proven to be strong allies in the rare instances of domestic extremism. Not only does it threaten to erode basic civil liberties, it threatens freedom of expression and freedom of worship.”
Also recommended at Truthdig, an article about the “anti-war orgins” of Mother’s Day.
In 1870, Julia Ward Howe responded to the horrors of the Civil War by issuing her “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” calling on women around the world to rise up and oppose war in all its forms.
It would be decades before Americans officially began celebrating Mother’s Day, and much of the original spirit of the proclamation has since been lost.
Some new (and horrifying) information came out today in the case of the bodies that have been found in Long Island. It turns out there may be as many as three murderers on the loose in New York.
“It is clear that the area in and around Gilgo Beach has been used to discard human remains for some period of time,” Spota said at a Hauppauge news conference with investigators Monday. “As distasteful and disturbing as that is, there is no evidence that all of these remains are the work of a single killer.”
Jeeze, I’m glad I don’t live in Oak Beach, LI. The most interesting (and very horrifying) information is that some of the body parts found belong to a woman named Jessica Taylor whose mutilated body was discovered 30 miles away in Manorville, NY, in 2003.
Authorities Monday made one new identification: Jessica Taylor, 20, who went missing in July 2003 and whose torso was found at that time near Manorville.
Spota said her death appears related to another woman, still unidentified, parts of whose body was found off Ocean Parkway in April and in Manorville in 2000.
Why do so many men murder women? Serial murder is relatively rare, but it sure seems to happen pretty often in this country. And men murder their wives and girlfriends every day in the U.S. Will violence against women ever be treated as seriously as it should be? It should be seen as an epidemic that needs to be vigorously addressed through public policy. I don’t know if that will happen in my lifetime.
Change would have to start with teachers and textbooks that value women’s current and historical contributions to our society, along with public education campaigns for adults. I also wonder if the anti-abortion movement doesn’t contribute to the general attitude that women have no right to protect the integrity of their own bodies.
It would also help if law enforcement personnel could be made to understand that rape is a serious crime even if the victim isn’t killed or beaten within an inch of her life. Rape is still rape even if the victim knows the perpetrator. With that in mind, I’m going to end with a story from Boston: Thousands Attend Boston’s “SlutWalk” March. The march was a response to an ignorant remark made by a policeman in Toronto.
In January, a Toronto police officer told a group of university students that women should avoid dressing like “sluts” to avoid being raped. He later apologized. The officer who made the comments, Constable Michael Sanguinetti, was disciplined but remained on duty, said Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash.
However, advocates in Toronto held a “SlutWalk” to protest the officer’s remarks and to highlight what they saw as problems in blaming sexual assault victims. Since then, SlutWalks, organized mainly through social media, have been held in Dallas, Asheville, N.C., and Ottawa, Ontario. Organizers say the events also were held to bring attention to “slut-shaming,” or shaming women for being sexual, and the treatment of sexual assault victims.
“I had watched the Toronto walk happen from afar,” said Jaclyn Friedman, author of “Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape” and resident of Medford, Mass. “When I heard it was coming to Boston I just emailed the organizers and said, `How can I help?”‘
The Boston march attracted 2,000 people, even though organizers expected only 30.
Chanting “We love sluts!” and holding signs like “Jesus loves sluts,” approximately 2,000 protesters marched Saturday around the Boston Common as the city officially became the latest to join an international series of protests known as “SlutWalks.”
That’s it for me. What are you reading and blogging about today?