Progressive Calendar 07.23.09
From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)
Date: Thu, 23 Jul 2009 03:13:56 -0700 (PDT)
           P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   07.23.09

1. Burner creep       7.23 9:30am
2. Govt corruption    7.23 11am
3. WAMM interviews    7.23 12noon
4. Eagan peace vigil  7.23 4:30pm
5. Northtown vigil    7.23 5pm
6. Afghanistan        7.23 5:30pm
7. StP airport zoning 7.23 5pm/6:30pm...

8. Capitol Hill Blue    - Obama sells out to drug, hospital lobbyists
9. Dan Eggen            - Health industry cash to health "reformers"
10. William Rivers Pitt - Worst case scenario: torture back
11. Thom Hartmann       - The great tax con job

--------1 of 11--------

From: Neighbors Against the Burner
Subject: Burner creep 7.23 9:30am

WE ALL BREATHE THE SAME AIR!

if you are a minneapolis resident, please try to respond to this urgent
action alert from neighbors against the burner (nab) in opposing the
expansion of the toxic hennepin county garbage incinerator, which should
never have been built in the first place!

also, if you are able, please attend the minneapolis planning commssion's
zoning & planning hearing on july 23, at 9:30 am in the council chamber,
room 317, city hall.  if you unable to attend the hearing, please contact
your city council member and express your vehement opposition to the herc
expansion.

Covanta Energy, the firm that runs the Hennepin "Energy Recovery" Center
(HERC), wants to increase its annual load of garbage combusted by 77,000
tons.  However, it is limited by a 1987 city permit.  Because the boilers
could handle more of the Schlock that is fed into them, Covanta is
demanding a 21% increase in its trash incineration.  A recently completed
steam pipe would benefit Downtown businesses by lowering their energy
bills and their bottom lines so it is clearly about profits at the expense
of human and ecological health.  Covanta claims that the increased
emissions would remain within government-mandated allowable levels.
However, EPA standards, which were formulated to allow polluting
industries to get away with murder, are far too generous.  The EPA's idea
of "safe" does by no means correspond with the real health impacts of
exposure to toxic incinerator emissions.  For that reason, the Minneapolis
Planning Commission recently voted down Covanta's request after two-hours
of public testimony.  Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL 60B) criticized the EIS
that was conducted to assess the burner's safety around the Target Field
because it fails to consider the potential impact of increased burning
beyond the North Loop.  Ten percent more garbage deliveries will mean 21%
more diesel exhaust spewing forth into the atmosphere, adding to the
volume of particulate matter.  This would increase microparticles in the
lungs that remain and do damage in for the form of asthma,
cardio-pulmonary diseases and other serious health problems.

Given that, it is downright ludicrous to think that the original
objections to more garbage trucks rolling in was the revolting smell
that might offend the aesthetic sensibilities of baseball fans at the
new playing field!

Burning more trash will increase toxic airborne emissions such as
dioxins from the huge amounts of plastics that will be combusted along
with endocrine disrupting compounds and heavy metals that will add
greatly to the already dangerous chemical body burden of human beings
and wildlife.  Then there are the greenhouse gases that will further
warm the planet and speed it toward complete climate chaos.  Yes, we
all breath the same air, but emissions would be at their most intense
in the Downtown area and immediate surrounds on days of light breeze
when the noxious fumes and particulate matter would hover in the air
instead of being dispersed by the wind.  The concentrations would be
especially high when there is heavy humidity combined with traffic
smog, which can be seen visibly hanging in the air as a brown haze.
Combine the burner emissions with the cumulative exposures to car,
truck and bus exhaust, and we have the makings of a major health crisis
among people who work and live Downtown and in the adjacent
neighborhoods.  There is also the pollution that washes out of the air
when it rains or snows then lands on the soil and runs off into surface
waters affecting gardens, vegetation, animals and aquatic life.
Activists who opposed the construction of the Hennepin County Garbage
Burner in the late 1980s warned of these perils back then, but no one
listened. It is outrageous that only now the authorities are beginning
to pay attention after a decade's worth of damage has been done.

NO MORE WASTE!

The dedicated activists of NAB are absolutely right.  Burning garbage is
nothing but a license to commit unbridled waste.  We must adopt a policy
of ZERO WASTE by reducing, restoring, reusing and recycling at the point
of production.  In addition, composting and mulching organic matter,
including human wastes, will return vital nutrients to the soil, keeping
ecosystems healthy and making food more nutritious.  We must also scale
down our consumption and power down our society by living more simply and
ecologically in harmony with Mother Nature.

NO MORE BURNING!

As 3CTC has stated before, ENOUGH WITH THE BURNING, ALREADY!  Humanity has
abused the gift of fire to a frightening degree and look to where it has
brought us­the brink of climate catastrophe.  There is no need to burn
anything.  The sun does the burning for us and in a most efficient manner.
Our Dear Old Sol delivers to Earth's surface 240 Watts of power per square
meter.  This is averaged over the planet's surface as well as over
time--day and night and throughout the year. All we need do is harness
that great flame in the heavens and reap its benefits with the clean
technologies that are already available in the form of wind turbines and
solar cells.  We must also abandon the ruinous Car/Truck Culture by
building clean mass transit systems powered by the same means and creating
liveable, walkable, bikeable communities.

Dear Concerned Neighbor,

An important story is unfolding in Minneapolis right now.  The Minneapolis
Planning Commission met on June 22, 2009 to decide if the HERC (garbage
incinerator next to new Twins Ballpark, aka Hennepin Energy Recovery
Center) should be allowed to expand the amount of garbage they can burn by
21%.  The Minneapolis Planning Commission voted "No" by 6-2.  The proposed
increase was defeated with the help of State Representatives Karen Clark
and Frank Hornstein and State Senator Patricia Torres Ray testifying
against the expansion.

Then Covanta (owner of HERC) appealed the decision.  On July 23, 2009, the
Minneapolis Council Committee on Zoning & Planning will hear the case
again & decide if HERC will be allowed to burn 77,000 more tons of garbage
a year.  Approval of the proposed increase would have serious adverse
effects on air quality & public health. Please find more information about
the HERC proposal here:
<http://minneapolisneighborsforcleanair.com/>http://
minneapolisneighborsforcleanair.com/

We especially urge all interested Minneapolis constituents to contact
their specific City Council member & all Minnesotans to contact Mayor
Rybak, to let them know why YOU are against this increased garbage
burning: \<mailto:rt [at] minneapolis.org>rt [at] minneapolis.org or 
612-673-2100\

Contacts for specific Minneapolis City Council members-- along with more
background on the proposed expansion of HERC -- are available at:

<http://www.neighborsagainsttheburner.org/node/35>http://
www.neighborsagainsttheburner.org/node/35

You can check back to this link for updates as the process unfolds.  We
are grateful for your active citizen participation in helping to safeguard
the health of our families & communities!

This message sponsored by the anti-HERC Coalition including Minneapolis
Neighbors for Clean Air, Neighbors Against the Burner, and numerous public
leaders.

Please follow Neighbors Against the Burner on Twitter, username NABmn and
Minneapolis Neighbors for Clean Air at MplsCleanAir.


--------2 of 11--------

From: Write On Radio <writeonradio [at] yahoo.com>
Subject: Govt corruption 7.23 11am

This week on Write on Radio, Neil Herrick talks about his novel After
Patrick Henry: A Second American Revolution, a critically-acclaimed
analysis of government corruption.

Bill Watkins, author of Scotland Is Not for the Squeamish and other
books, joins us in remembering Frank McCourt--author (best known for
Angela's Ashes) and incomparable teacher.

Write on radio airs every THURSDAY 11 am - noon central time on 90.3 FM
Minneapolis and 106.7 FM St. Paul and live on the web at www.kfai.org.
Shows are archived for two weeks on line.


--------3 of 11--------

From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at] mtn.org>
Subject: WAMM interviews 7.23 12noon

WAMM Peace Troupe roving interviews
12:00 noon, Thursday, July 23, Peavey Plaza (across from WCC0), 11th
Street and Nicolette Avenue, Nicollet Mall, downtown Minneapolis.

Join WAMM in interviewing passersby on Thursday, July 23, at noon at
Peavey Plaza, across from WCCO.  We've been talking with people about war,
health care, foreign policy and then posting the videos on YouTube.
Check out the most recent video!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUC5omAu-U4


--------4 of 11--------

From: Greg and Sue Skog <family4peace [at] msn.com>
Subject: Eagan peace vigil 7.23 4:30pm

PEACE VIGIL EVERY THURSDAY from 4:30-5:30pm on the Northwest corner of
Pilot Knob Road and Yankee Doodle Road in Eagan. We have signs and
candles. Say "NO to war!" The weekly vigil is sponsored by: Friends south
of the river speaking out against war.


--------5 of 11--------

From: EKalamboki [at] aol.com
Subject: Northtown vigil 7.23 5pm

NORTHTOWN Peace Vigil every Thursday 5-6pm, at the intersection of Co. Hwy
10 and University Ave NE (SE corner across from Denny's), in Blaine.

Communities situated near the Northtown Mall include: Blaine, Mounds View,
New Brighton, Roseville, Shoreview, Arden Hills, Spring Lake Park,
Fridley, and Coon Rapids.  We'll have extra signs.

For more information people can contact Evangelos Kalambokidis by phone or
email: (763)574-9615, ekalamboki [at] aol.com.


--------6 of 11--------

From: Meredith Aby <awcmere [at] gmail.com>
Subject: Afghanistan 7.23 5:30pm

Protest bannering: Hands off Afghanistan!
Thursday, July 23 @ 5:30pm @ "Mayday Plaza," 301 Cedar Ave S, Mpls. *
If we want to get U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, we have to bring our
voices into the streets and demand it. Join us.  Organized by the Anti-War
Committee.


--------7 of 11--------

From: Elizabeth Dickinson <eadickinson [at] mindspring.com>
Subject: StP airport zoning 7.23 5pm/6:30pm...

I just got something in the mail from the Metropolitan Airports
Commission.  There's an open house and public hearing on a proposed
ordinance change 5-9 pm Thursday, July 23, 2009 at the St. Paul downtown
airport terminal building, 644 Bayfield St.  The ordinance change will be
on the MAC website for review July 1st www.metroairports.org

Gist of it looks like height restrictions and vegetation restrictions for
several miles out in all directions, prohibit development of structures in
some directions, prohibit future construction that might attract birds
(including stadiums and residential development!), and prohibit use of
land that might cause interference with radio or electronic communication
for pilots.

I don't know if there are strong opinions out there, but it might be worth
looking into, especially for folks living on the West Side or Dayton's
Bluff neighborhoods.  It might or might not affect the WSCO master plan.

--

From: Jane Prince <jane.prince [at] gmail.com>
Subject: MAC

I'm just writing to find out if you have heard that MAC has issued a
proposed MAC zoning ordinance for parts of Dayton's BLuff, downtown
and the West Side, that is in direct conflict not only with economic
develpoment, but more signiificantly, with habitat restoration along
the river. For example, TREES become "nonconforming uses."

MAC staff were reported to have admitted at a Dayton's Bluff meeting
recently that they have been "relocating" eagles from the fight
path.  We need to learn more, but I'd appreciate your getting the
word to anyone you know in the wildlife community.

The link to the MAC ordinance is:  http://www.metroair ports.org/
relievers/ meetings/ default.aspx

Also, there is a public hearing at Holman Field Thursday night (July 23)
at 6:30 -- these are usually kangaroo courts, but I'm afraid we'll look
complacent if we don't have a crowd - even in midsummer, when no one is
paying attention.  I just learned of this today - but Chris Havens did an
article in the Strib about it May 20.


--------8 of 11--------

Obama sells out to drug, hospital lobbyists
Capitol Hill Blue (http://www.capitolhillblue.com)
07/22/2009

In cutting deals with hospitals and drug makers, President Barack Obama is
giving a private inside track to special interests that's at odds with his
promise to make policy in the open.

Obama promised Americans he would hold special interests at arm's length -
that it would no longer be business as usual in Washington.  He pledged to
open government and let the public and press hold his administration
accountable.

And just over two months before the 2008 election, Obama promised before
an audience in Chester, Va., to hash out a health care overhaul in public.
"We'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see
who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are
making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance
companies," he said then.

That didn't happen.

Instead, the administration's multibillion-dollar deals with hospitals and
pharmaceutical companies have been made in private, and the results were
announced after the fact. Both industries promised Obama cost savings in
return for an expanded base of insured patients; beyond that, the public
is in the dark about details.

In some ways, it resembles what his party criticized President George W.
Bush for doing with oil and gas companies as Vice President Dick Cheney
wrote a national energy plan in the early days of the Bush administration.

As the Bush White House did, the Obama White House is refusing to release
visitor logs that would let people see everyone going in and out during
the thick of discussions over major national policies.

Just as environmentalists complained they were shut out as Cheney drafted
energy policy, employers now complain that the Obama administration isn't
giving them enough say in health care policy.  Like the environmentalists,
employers fear a new policy will come at their expense.

"There's beginning to be a little bit of, 'Where are all these deals
getting us?'" E. Neil Trautwein, chief health care lobbyist for the
National Retail Federation, said recently, referring to business concerns
that the hospital and drug company pacts would force employers to pay more
for workers' medical benefits. "Is this going to add to the process or
subtract from it?"

The White House had no immediate comment.

So what happened to the promises?

When cutting special interests out of his campaign and then his
administration, Obama targeted people currently registered as Washington
lobbyists. He never said he would cut off the companies, unions, trade
associations and others that employ lobbyists - just lobbyists themselves.
And even then, he has made exceptions here and there.

Presidents, regardless of party, prefer to keep their dealmaking private,
obscuring what's being said, what's being taken and given, and by whom.
It's messier and less practical to open the door to a lot of public input,
particularly on a national scale. It's much easier to use polls to gauge
what the public thinks.

That means the interests whose ideas make it into national policy are
usually those with the money and clout to press their case in Washington
and the power to block any idea they haven't helped shape.

Sharon Theimer has been an investigative reporter in the AP's Washington
bureau since 2001.
Source URL: http://www.capitolhillblue.com/node/18876


--------9 of 11--------

Industry Cash Flowed to Drafters of Reform
Key Senator Baucus Is a Leading Recipient
by Dan Eggen
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
The Washington Post

As liberal protesters marched outside, Sen. Max Baucus sat down inside a
San Francisco mansion for a dinner of chicken cordon bleu and a discussion
of landmark health-care legislation under consideration by his Senate
Finance Committee.

At the table on May 26 were about 20 donors willing to fork over $10,000
or more to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, including
executives of major insurance companies, hospitals and other health-care
firms.

"Most people there had an agenda; they wanted the ear of a senator, and
they got it," said Aaron Roland, a San Francisco health-care activist who
paid half price to attend the gathering. "Money gets you in the door. The
only thing the other side can do is march around and protest outside."

As his committee has taken center stage in the battle over health-care
reform, Chairman Baucus (D-Mont.) has emerged as a leading recipient of
Senate campaign contributions from the hospitals, insurers and other
medical interest groups hoping to shape the legislation to their
advantage. Health-related companies and their employees gave Baucus's
political committees nearly $1.5 million in 2007 and 2008, when he began
holding hearings and making preparations for this year's reform debate.

Top health executives and lobbyists have continued to flock to the
senator's often extravagant fundraising events in recent months.  During a
Senate break in late June, for example, Baucus held his 10th annual
fly-fishing and golfing weekend in Big Sky, Mont., for a minimum donation
of $2,500. Later this month comes "Camp Baucus," a "trip for the whole
family" that adds horseback riding and hiking to the list of activities.

To avoid any appearance of favoritism, his aides say, Baucus quietly began
refusing contributions from health-care political action committees after
June 1. But the policy does not apply to lobbyists or corporate
executives, who continued to make donations, disclosure records show.

Baucus declined requests to comment for this article. Spokesman Tyler
Matsdorf said the senator "is only driven by one thing: what is right for
Montana and the country. And he will continue his open process of working
together with the president, his colleagues in Congress, and groups and
individuals from across the nation to get this legislation passed."

Baucus's fundraising prowess underscores the enduring political strength
of the health-care lobby, which led all other sectors in donations to
federal candidates during the last election cycle and has shifted its
giving to Democrats as the party has tightened its control of Congress.

The sector gave nearly $170 million to federal lawmakers in 2007 and 2008,
with 54 percent going to Democrats, according to data compiled by the
Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics.  The shift
in parties was even more pronounced during the first three months of this
year, when Democrats collected 60 percent of the $5.4 million donated by
health-care companies and their employees, the data show.

Many of these contributions have been focused on Baucus, Charles E.
Grassley (R-Iowa) and other senators in the moderate camps of their
respective parties, whose votes could prove crucial in a final health-
care reform deal, as well as the leaders of five key committees leading
the debate. Grassley, the Finance Committee's ranking Republican, received
more than $2 million from the health and insurance sectors since 2003.
House Ways and Means Chairman Charles B.  Rangel (D-N.Y.) took in $1.6
million from the health sector and its employees over the past two years;
ranking Republican Dave Camp (Mich.) received nearly $1 million.

But Baucus, a senator from a sparsely populated and conservative Western
state who is serving his sixth term, stands out for the rising tide of
health-care contributions to his campaign committee, Friends of Max
Baucus, and his political-action committee, Glacier PAC. Baucus collected
$3 million from the health and insurance sectors from 2003 to 2008, about
20 percent of the total, data show. Less than 10 percent of the money came
from Montana.

Top out-of-state corporate contributors included Schering-Plough, New York
Life Insurance, Amgen, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield; individual
executives such as Richard T. Clark, chief executive and president of
drugmaker Merck, have also made regular donations. Most of these
companies, particularly major insurers, strongly oppose a public insurance
option, which is favored by President Obama and top House Democrats but
has not received support from Baucus's committee.

Baucus is a longtime centrist in the Democratic caucus, and his committee
chairmanship has made him a key broker in the health-reform debate. Many
former Baucus staff members, including two chiefs of staff, lobby on
behalf of the pharmaceutical industry and other health- care players and
have been closely involved in negotiations on the legislation.

John Jonas, a Patton Boggs health-care lobbyist who has attended a Baucus
fly-fishing event and other fundraisers, said the Montana senator is "key
to getting anything done" when it comes to health-care legislation.

"This is not an overwhelmingly liberal Congress, and it's certainly not a
liberal Senate," said Jonas, whose clients include Bristol-Myers Squibb,
Pfizer and Northwestern Mutual. "I think Max is uniquely situated to try
to accomplish that, because he's more of a centrist and moderate Democrat
than others are."

But Jerry Flanagan, a health-care analyst with Consumer Watchdog, a
California-based advocacy group, said the tide of campaign contributions
amounts to "a huge down payment" by companies that expect favorable
policies in return. "That is the cold reality of big- money politics," he
said.

Baucus won easy reelection in the fall, but he has continued to hold
fundraisers since then. In addition to the fly-fishing event, he held his
"Eighth Annual Ski and Snowmobile Weekend" in Big Sky in February and
celebrated the start of his sixth term with a $10,000-a-table dinner at
the Washington Court Hotel later that month. Aides say another fundraiser
scheduled for July 7 at Bistro Bis in Capitol Hill was scrapped.

Baucus's office declined to provide attendance and donation details about
his fundraising events, and federal records laws do not require such
disclosures. Starting in June, aides say, Baucus adopted an internal
office policy to refuse contributions from health-care PACs and to
continue doing so until after Congress passes reform legislation.

But new Federal Election Commission documents filed last week show that
individual lobbyists and others with health-care connections continued to
make contributions to Baucus committees throughout June.  Examples from
Baucus's Glacier PAC include $5,000 from the Independent Insurance Agents
and Brokers of America and $2,500 from lobbyists with U.S. Strategies,
which represents numerous health-care firms. Overall, half of the $110,000
in donations to the PAC from April to June came from health-care firms and
lobbyists, including Schering-Plough, Medtronic and New York Life.

Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for the Public Citizen advocacy
group, said the continued fundraising by Baucus during the health-care
debate is "very troubling."

"He's doing all this fundraising right in the middle of this effort to
mark up a bill," Holman said. "When you put these events close to matters
concerning these lobbyists, clearly it's a signal. You are expected to
show up with a check."

Baucus and his aides strongly dispute any assertion that campaign
contributions have an impact on the senator's policy views and proposals.
Aides say he has frequently backed policies opposed by health-care
companies, including support for greater availability of generic drugs,
allowing drug imports from Canada and cutting payments to the Medicare
Advantage plan.

During an interview earlier this year with the Missoulian newspaper,
Baucus said that "no one gets special treatment." He added: "Your word is
your bond back there."

Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company Article printed from
www.CommonDreams.org

URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/07/21-5


--------10 of 11--------

Worst Case Scenario
William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t
Tuesday 21 July 2009

    The coward wretch whose hand and heart
    Can bear to torture aught below,
    Is ever first to quail and start
    From the slightest pain or equal foe.
        - Bertrand Russell

The torture debate in America got real three weeks ago.

Oh, the debate has been around for years now, of course, ever since the
photos of what happened in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq came to light.  Men
covered in feces, bent double and lashed to bedframes, their faith
humiliated by the menstrual blood smeared on their faces, their bodies
savaged by dogs, and worse, reports of the rape of women and children.

Yes, the torture debate has been around for a while now, recently
revisited by President Obama, who condemned and discontinued the practice,
and by enablers of torture like Dick Cheney and John Yoo, who have labored
mightily to defend it. It's been quite the hot topic among the chattering
classes of American political discourse, a dialogue in three parts: one
group condemning the practice, another group championing it, and a third
group - the media professionals - taking no position and trying not to
offend anyone, so they can get the big names back on the set for the
Sunday shows.

Three weeks ago, however, the whole nature of the torture debate changed
irrevocably when an American soldier from Idaho named Bowe Bergdahl
somehow fell into the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan. They have him
now, and God help him, because it was the United States government under
the administration of George W. Bush that set the terms for how anyone
captured can and should be treated.

If the Taliban decide Bergdahl has information they want, they can
waterboard him until he talks. They can compress his body and cover him
with insects, they can rob him of sleep and deny him food, they can beat
him and slather his body with his own waste, they can shove sticks into
his rectum, they can rape him, and they can murder him. They can hand him
over to representatives of another government and have him whisked away to
some far-flung dungeon where "enhanced interrogation" has an even darker
and more savage definition. For sure, they can deny him due process of any
kind and never, ever, ever, ever let him go home again.

They could do this whether or not the United States had engaged in similar
practices, but because we did these things, they can do these things and
still claim the moral high ground. Why not? It was the United States
government under the administration of George W. Bush who plowed that high
ground into the gutter. Everyone stands the same height when they're
face-down in the sewer.

One thing the Taliban apparently cannot do, however, is videotape their
prisoner. Several days ago, a tape of Bergdahl, with his head shaved,
pleading to be sent home to his parents, was released by his captors. "I
am scared," said Bergdahl in the video. "I'm scared I won't be able to go
home. It is very unnerving to be a prisoner. I have my girlfriend who is
hoping to marry. I have my grandma and grandpas. I have a very, very good
family that I love back home in America. And I miss them every day that
I'm gone. I miss them and I'm afraid that I might never see them again and
that I'll never be able to tell them that I love them again. I'll never be
able to hug them."

The US government reacted swiftly to the video of Bergdahl. "We condemn
the use of this video and the public humiliation of prisoners,"  said US
military spokesman Col. Greg Julian. "It is against international law. We
are doing everything we can to return this soldier to safety."

How hard it must have been for the US military to release a statement like
that without feeling sick at heart and scared to death. The terrible irony
and hypocrisy of the statement they released about the Bergdahl video must
have been searing; we have set the table in such a way that torture is a
positive action that saves lives, but videotapes are right out? No, that
doesn't scan, and we know it, and the Taliban know it, and dollars to
donuts Bergdahl knows it, too. Is he waiting in terror for the torture to
begin? Has it already started?

The torture debate in America got real three weeks ago, and every American
so-called Christian who has defended the practice can appreciate the
lesson: we reap what we sow.

Pray Bowe Bergdahl doesn't reap it for us.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling
author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to
Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of
Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation,"
is now available from PoliPointPress.


--------11 of 11--------

The Great Tax Con Job
By Thom Hartmann
Original Content at 
http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Great-Tax-Con-Job-by-Thom-Hartmann-090721-79.html
July 21, 2009

Republicans are using the T-word - taxes - to attack the Obama healthcare
program. It's a strategy based in a lie.

A very small niche of America's uber-wealthy have pulled off what may well
be the biggest con job in the history of our republic, and they did it in
a startlingly brief 30 or so years. True, they spent over three billion
dollars to make it happen, but the reward to them was in the hundreds of
billions - and will continue to be.

As my friend and colleague Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks pointed out in a
Daily Kos blog recently [1], billionaire Rupert Murdoch loses $50 million
a year on the NY Post, billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife loses $2 to $3
million a year on the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, billionaire Philip
Anschutz loses around $5 million a year on The Weekly Standard, and
billionaire Sun Myung Moon has lost $2 to $3 billion on The Washington
Times.

Why are these guys willing to lose so much money funding "conservative"
media? Why do they bulk-buy every right-wing book that comes out to throw
it to the top of the NY Times Bestseller list and then give away the
copies to "subscribers" to their websites and publications? Why do they
fund to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year money-hole
"think tanks" like Heritage and Cato?

The answer is pretty straightforward. They do it because it buys them
respectability, and gets their con job out there. Even though William
Kristol's publication is a money-losing joke (with only 85,000
subscribers!), his association with the Standard was enough to get him on
TV talk shows whenever he wants, and a column with The New York Times. The
Washington Times catapulted Tony Blankley to stardom.

"Fellowships" and other forms of indirect sponsorship of right-wing talk
show hosts have made otherwise-marginal shows and their hosts ubiquitous,
and such sponsorships of groups like Norquist's anti-tax "Americans for
Tax Reform" regularly get people like him front-and-center in any debate
on taxation in the United States.

All so they could run a tax con on the American people, thus keeping Moon
and Murdoch and Scaife and Anschutz (and others) richer than you or I
could ever even imagine.

All of this money was spent - invested, really, since it's been more than
saved back in low income tax rates on millionaires and billionaires - to
convince Americans that up is down and black is white when it comes to
income taxes. Here's how it works:

                       Rich Person's Tax Effect

If a person earns so much money that he doesn't or can't spend it all each
year, then when his taxes go down your income after taxes goes up. This is
largely because there's little to no relationship between what he "needs
to live on" and what he's "earning."

Somebody living on a million dollars a year but earning five million after
taxes, can sock away four million in a Swiss bank. If his taxes go up
enough to drop his after-tax income to only three million a year, he's
still living on a million a year, and only socks away two million in the
Swiss bank. His "disposable" income goes down when his taxes go up, and
vice-versa. (Technically, the word is "discretionary"  income for
after-tax, after-living-expenses income, but "disposable"  income has
become so widely used as a phrase to describe discretionary income I'll
use it here.)

The Rich Person's Tax Effect is the one that virtually all Americans
understand - and, oddly, most working class people think applies to them,
too (this is the truly amazing part of the con job referred to earlier).

But it doesn't.

               Working Person's Tax Effect - version one

Most working people spend pretty much all of what they earn - their
"disposable/discretionary" income is close to zero. Savings rates in the
US among working people typically are small - one to five percent - and
during the last few years of the W. Bush administration actually went
negative. So the take-home pay that people have after taxes - regardless
of what the taxes may be - is pretty much what they live on.

As economist David Ricardo pointed out in 1817 in the "On Wages"  chapter
of his book "On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation," take
home pay is also generally "what a person will work for." Employers know
this: Ricardo's "Iron Law of Wages" is rooted in the notion that there is
a "market" for labor, driven in part by supply and demand. So if a worker
is earning, for example, a gross salary of $75,000, his 2008 federal
income tax would be about $15,000 ($802.50 on first $8,025 of income;
$3,687.75 on income from $8,025 to $32,550;  $10,612.50 on income from
$32,550 to $75,000), leaving him a take-home pay of $60,000.

Both he and his employer know that he'll do the job he's doing for around
$60,000 a year in take-home pay.

So what happens if his taxes go up, cutting his take-home pay to $55,000 a
year (even though his gross is still $75,000)? Over time (typically one to
three years) his wages will rise enough to compensate for the lost income.

Alan Greenspan used to be hysterical about this effect - he called it
"wage inflation" - and The Wall Street Journal and other publications
would often reference it, although the average working person has no idea
that if his taxes go up, his wages will eventually go up.  Similarly, when
working-class people's taxes go down, their gross wages will, over time,
go down so their inflation-adjusted take-home pay remains the same. We've
seen both happen over the past eighty years, over and over again.

When I was in Denmark last year doing my radio show from the Danish Radio
offices for a week and interviewing many of that nation's leading
politicians, economists, energy experts, and newspaper publishers, one of
my guests made a comment that dropped the scales from my own eyes.

We'd been discussing taxes on the air, what the Danes get for their
average 52% tax rate (free college education, free health care, 4 weeks of
vacation, being the world's "happiest" country according to research
reported on CBS's "60 Minutes" TV show, etc.). I asked him why people
didn't revolt at such high tax rates, and he smiled and just pointed out
to me that the average Dane is very well paid with a minimum wage that
equals about $18 US (depending on the exchange rate from day to day).

Off the air, he made the comment to me that was so enlightening. "You
Americans are such suckers," he said, as I recall. "You think that the
rules for taxes that apply to rich people also apply to working people.
But they don't. When working peoples' taxes go up, their pay goes up. When
their taxes go down, their pay goes down. It may take a year or two or
three to all even out, but it always works this way - look at any country
in Europe. And it's the opposite of how it works for rich people!"

            Working Person's Tax Effect - Version Two

The other point about taxes - which Obama leveraged with his "no tax
increases on people earning under $250,000 a year" pledge - has to do with
the fact that our tax structure in the US is progressive.

Here's how it breaks out for a single person from the 2008 federal tax
tables [2]:

10% on income between $0 and $8,025; 15% on the income between $8,025 and
$32,550; 25% on the income between $32,550 and $78,850; 28% on the income
between $78,850 and $164,550; 33% on the income between $164,550 and
$357,700; 35% on the income over $357,700. Note that our $75,000/year
worker has two full tax brackets above him, which, if they go up, will not
affect him at all. (This is also true, of course, for the median-wage and
average-wage American workers who earn in the low to mid-$40,000/year
range.)

The top tax rate that a person pays is referred to as their "marginal tax
rate" (in our worker's case 28%). So what happens if the top marginal tax
rate on people making over $357,700 goes up from its current 35% to, for
example, the Eisenhower-era 91%?

For over 120 million American workers who don't earn over $357,700/ year,
it won't mean a thing. But for the tiny handful of millionaires and
billionaires who have promoted The Great Tax Con, it will bite hard. And
that's why they spend millions to make average working people freak out
about increases in the top tax rates.

               Income taxes as the "Great Stabilizer"

Beyond fairness and holding back the Landed Gentry the Founders worried
about (America had no billionaires in today's money until after the Civil
War, with John D. Rockefeller being our first), there's an important
reason to increase to top marginal tax rate, and to do so now.

Novelist Larry Beinhart was the first to bring this to my attention.  He
looked over the history of tax cuts and economic bubbles, and found a
clear relationship between the two. High top marginal tax rates (generally
well above 60%) on rich people actually stabilize the economy, prevent
economic bubbles from forming, prevent economic crashes, and lead to
steady and sustained economic growth (and steady and sustained wage growth
for working people).

On the other hand, when top marginal rates drop below 50 percent, the
opposite happens. As Beinhart noted in a November 17, 2008 post [3] on the
Huffington Post, the massive Republican tax cuts of the 1920s (from 73% to
25%) led directly to the Roaring '20s stock market bubble, temporary boom,
and then the crash and Republican Great Depression of 1929.

Rates on the very rich went back up into the 70-90% range from the 1930s
to the 1980s. As a result, the economy grew steadily; for the first time
in the history of our nation we went 50 years without a crash or major
bank failure; and working people's wages increased enough to produce the
strongest middle class this nation has ever seen.

Then came Reaganomics.

Reagan cut top marginal rates on millionaires and billionaires from 74%
down to 38% and there was an immediate surge in the markets - followed by
the worst crash since the Great Depression and the failure of virtually
the entire nation's savings and loan banking system.

Bush I cut taxes, and the nation fell into a severe recession while debt
soared and wages for working people fell.

Things stabilized somewhat when Clinton slightly raised taxes on the very
rich, but W. Bush dropped them again - including taking taxes on unearned
income (interest and dividends - the "income" that people like W. born
with a trust fund "earn" as they sit around the pool waiting for the
dividend check to arrive in the mail) down to a top rate of 15%. (That's
right - trust fund babies like Bush and Scaife pay a MAXIMUM 15% federal
income tax on their dividend and interest income, thanks to the second
Bush tax cut.) The result of this surge in easy money for the wealthy,
combined with deregulation in the financial markets, was the "froth"
Greenspan worried about and led us straight into the Second Republican
Great Depression, ongoing today.

The math is really pretty simple. When the uber-rich are heavily taxed,
economies prosper and wages for working people steadily rise.  When taxes
are cut for the rich, working people suffer and economies turn into
casinos.

                    Roll Back The Reagan Tax Cuts

While there's much discussion about letting the Bush tax cuts expire, if
we really want our country to recover its financial footing we must do
something altogether different. We need to roll back the Reagan tax cuts
that took the top marginal rate from above 70% down into the 30% range.

First, though, we have to help Americans realize that "no new taxes"  is a
mantra that is meaningful to the very rich, but largely irrelevant to
average working people.

Only when the current generation re-learns the economic and tax lessons
well known by the generation (now dying off) that came of age in the 30s
through the 60s, will this become politically possible.  Americans need to
learn what Europeans know about taxes - they only matter to the rich.

Thus today the uber-rich are spending hundreds of millions to make sure
words like "burden" are always associated with the word "tax,"  and to
convince average working people that they should throw out of office any
politicians who are willing to raise taxes on the rich.

We have a lot of education to do...and as long as the Right Wing Machine
of the uber-rich continues to "lose" (e.g. "invest") millions of dollars a
year in their ongoing disinformation campaign, it's going to require all
of us reciting the mantra, "Roll back the Reagan tax cuts!"

Author's Website: http://www.thomhartmann.com

Author's Bio: Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York
Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily
progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM
ET. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of
Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance
and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson
Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class," and
"Cracking The Code: How to Win Hearts, Change Minds, and Restore
America�s Original Vision."


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   - David Shove             shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu
   rhymes with clove         Progressive Calendar
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