|Progressive Calendar 07.23.09||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|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 , 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 : 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  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 Americaï¿½s Original Vision." ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments vote third party for president for congress now and forever Socialism YES Capitalism NO To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8
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