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Walmart avoids $1 billion a year in taxes through federal loopholes. The losers are the working-class consumers who think they’re getting a good deal by elbowing through the mob surrounding the Xbox floor display. An even more convenient source of “savings” for Walmart operates on the retail level, through the pockets of consumers and workers who rely on taxpayer-funded federal welfare programs.
A study published in The Lancet sheds light on a little-discussed issue affecting U.S. military veterans – a lack of health insurance coverage. Using numbers from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the authors determined that more than 1.2 million veterans lacked health insurance in 2012, in line with previous studies that came to similar conclusions.
Criticism of Obama’s forthcoming executive order has centered around the idea that Obama plans an unconstitutional power grab, but his action is within the bounds of the law because it focuses on changes to the administration’s enforcement priorities. That doesn’t mean that Obama’s executive order deserves no criticism – it will do nothing for the unaccompanied minors and families whose desperate flight to the United States last summer may have finally pushed the White House to act.
A loose system of individual commitments, in which each country unilaterally sets emissions targets, can help build trust and momentum for a more inclusive successor to the Kyoto Protocol. But if such a system is to work, general agreement would need to exist about what constitutes a fair target for each country. Fortunately, a study of the emissions targets to which countries have already agreed allows us to describe, and even quantify, what has historically been considered fair and reasonable.
Bill Clinton’s economic worldview spells trouble, both for a party that’s still reeling from defeat and for a nation where millions of people struggle just to make ends meet. Hillary Clinton, the heavily-favored contender for the Democratic nomination, has made Bill’s presidency and her role in it an essential part of her resume. But “Clintonism,” the Wall Street-friendly economic ideology of a bygone era, has passed its sell-by date. The former president’s latest remarks confirm that. If Hillary Clinton disagrees with the former president’s views, she hasn’t said so. When Bill Clinton speaks on economic issues, he reveals a deep wellspring of neoliberal belief and a profound detachment from the lived experience of most Americans. It’s true that, for the extremely wealthy, the “trend lines” are positive indeed. For the rest of the nation, not so much.
Fleischmann is the central witness in one of the biggest cases of white-collar crime in American history, possessing secrets that JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon late last year paid $9 billion (not $13 billion as regularly reported) to keep the public from hearing. Back in 2006, as a deal manager at the gigantic bank, Fleischmann first witnessed, then tried to stop, what she describes as “massive criminal securities fraud” in the bank’s mortgage operations. This past year she watched as Holder’s Justice Department struck a series of historic settlement deals with Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America. The root bargain in these deals was cash for secrecy. “I could be sued into bankruptcy,” she says. “I could lose my license to practice law. I could lose everything. But if we don’t start speaking up, then this really is all we’re going to get: the biggest financial cover-up in history.”
We are witnessing profound changes in the way that the world economy works. As a result of the growing pace and intensity of globalization and digitization, more and more economic processes have an international dimension. As a consequence, an increasing number of businesses are adapting their structures to domestic and foreign legal systems and taxation laws. Tax legislation has not kept pace with these developments. The resulting tensions between national fiscal sovereignty and the borderless scope of today’s business activities can be resolved only through international dialogue and uniform global standards.
Federal regulators and members of Congress have been pressing private lenders to adopt flexible payment plans like those available through the federal loan system to no avail, according to an alarming report released last month by the student loan ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Congress may have to step in and require them to do so.
Citizen’s United is back in America’s courtrooms. But, this time, the famous US Supreme Court case isn’t facing scrutiny, it’s deciding who’s sitting on the bench in the first place. States pick their judges in a variety of ways. In states where elections are taking place, they are starting to remind voters more of congressional elections, with the same money and harsh rhetoric.
Six years after the Lehman disaster, the industrialized world is suffering from Japan Syndrome. Growth is minimal, another crash may be brewing and the gulf between rich and poor continues to widen. Can the global economy reinvent itself?
The creditor-debtor relationship embodies no iron law of morality; rather, it is a social relationship that always must be negotiated. When quantitative precision and an unyielding approach to debt obligations are the rule, conflict and penury soon follow. We need to limit the supply of and demand for credit to what the economy is capable of producing.
It is official: US President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama is at war again. Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq was so controversial that it fractured the global consensus to fight terror. After Obama took office, he sought to introduce a gentler, subtler tone. But the rhetorical shift did not translate into a change in strategy. America’s war on terror now risks becoming a permanent war against an expanding list of enemies – often inadvertently created by its own policies. It is time for the US to recognize that since it launched its war on terror, the scourge has only spread.
Of the 13,000-plus days since Jan. 1, 1978, both chambers of Congress have been in session at the same time for about 4,700 of them — about a third of the total time and a little fewer than half of all weekdays. The Senate has worked more than the House, having been in session about 42 percent of the time to the House’s 39 percent. A look at the the past 37 years of Congressional activity reveals that your likely stereotypes about the amount of time Congress spends doing the people’s work is probably about right.
For the past few weeks, as Scotland debated the wisdom of independence, Reuters has been asking Americans how they would feel about declaring independence today, not from the United Kingdom, but from the mother country they left England to create. Almost a quarter of those surveyed said they were strongly or provisionally inclined to leave the United States, and take their states with them. The sense of aggrievement is comprehensive, bipartisan, somewhat incoherent, but deeply felt. This should be more than disconcerting; it’s a situation that could get dangerous.
We have undergone a transformation during the last few decades—what John Ralston Saul calls a corporate coup d’état in slow motion. We are no longer a capitalist democracy endowed with a functioning liberal class that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible. We are governed, rather, by a species of corporate totalitarianism, or what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin describes as “inverted totalitarianism.” By this Wolin means a system where corporate power, while it purports to pay fealty to electoral politics, the Constitution, the three branches of government and a free press, along with the iconography and language of American patriotism, has in fact seized all the important levers of power to render the citizen impotent.
President Barack Obama’s push to raise the minimum wage, which has largely found success in liberal-leaning coastal states to date, could make headway in the conservative heartland in the November elections. Voters in several Republican-controlled states will consider ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage above the national rate of $7.25 per hour.
There have to be rules of the game, and these are established through political processes. If we get the rules of the game right, we might be able to restore the rapid and shared economic growth that characterized the middle-class societies of the mid-twentieth century. The main question confronting us today is not really about capital in the twenty-first century. It is about democracy in the twenty-first century.
It is well known that globalization has put strong downward pressure on wages and benefits of workers in wealthy countries, as companies have offshored and outsourced labor to lower-wage locations and justified wage cuts to try to stay competitive. But politicians and economists have yet to come to terms with the fact that in the rich world the income distribution system itself has broken down irretrievably.
The world has changed considerably since political leaders from the 44 Allied countries met in 1944 in Bretton Woods to create the institutional framework for the post-World War II economic and monetary order. What has not changed in the last 70 years is the need for strong multilateral institutions. Yet national political support for the Bretton Woods institutions seems to have reached an all-time low, undermining the global economy’s ability to meet its potential and contributing to geopolitical insecurity.
A bitter fight erupted when the School Nutrition Association decided to oppose nutrition improvements to federally subsidized school meals. Michelle Obama has made the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 one of her top causes. The result is an unfortunate standoff between the White House and the SNA’s current leadership. Why did the SNA reverse its earlier position supporting healthier school meals?
Late last week, the White House decried Israel’s attack on a UN school in Gaza as “totally unacceptable” and “totally indefensible”, then proceeded to approve $225m in funding for its Iron Dome. On Monday, the US state department went further, calling the airstrikes upon a UN school “disgraceful” – and yet America provides Israel with more than $3.1bn every year, restocking the ability of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) to hit more schools, and to wage total war against an imprisoned people, because of their nationality.
Recent advances in technology have created an increasingly unified global marketplace for labor and capital. Some have argued that the current era of rapid technological progress serves labor, and some have argued that it serves capital. The real winners of the future will not be the providers of cheap labor or the owners of ordinary capital, both of whom will be increasingly squeezed by automation. Fortune will instead favor a third group: those who can innovate and create new products, services, and business models.
A new Pew Research Center poll is the second in the past week to show a huge generational split on the current conflict in Gaza. Just because young Americans are more suspect of what Israel is doing today doesn’t mean they will be as suspect in a decade or two. Young people are paying the least attention to what’s happening in Gaza. And even as young Americans question Israel in this instance, they are still much more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and others have used open sources – media reports, court affidavits, NGO reports and independent field investigations – to piece together a strike-by-strike picture of more than 450 strikes in the US’s covert campaigns, revealing at least 2,681 reported deaths, including 480 people or more who are described as civilians.
Aid group Oxfam has called on other rich nations to follow the example of Germany, which has promised €750m ($1bn) for the UN’s fledgling Green Climate Fund. The announcement by Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin, where some 35 ministers from around the world are meeting to discuss international climate action, is the only large pledge of money for the Green Climate Fund so far.
Populist Sen. Elizabeth Warren got a rock-star reception during a standing-room-only campaign rally in West Virginia, as hundreds of liberal activists cheered her broadsides against corporate interests. It was the latest in a string of recent Warren appearances where Democratic base voters have embraced her fiery message as an envoy to working-class voters frustrated with both Wall Street and the Obama administration.
There are two leading views about the world’s financial system. The first, heard mostly from executives at leading global banks and their allies, is that the system is safer than it has ever been. According to this view, the events that led up to the global financial crisis that erupted in 2008 cannot happen again; the reform process has succeeded. By contrast, a growing group of current and former officials continues to express concern about current and potential future risks in the United States, Europe, and globally.
The OECD has a clear message for the world: for the rich countries, the best of capitalism is over. For the poor ones – now experiencing the glitter and haze of industrialisation – it will be over by 2060. If you want higher growth, says the OECD, you must accept higher inequality. And vice versa.
For all the slick technology, there are grave moral and legal questions going unanswered in the government’s use of armed drones to kill people considered terrorist threats. The problems involving these secretive executions are ably underlined by a bipartisan panel of military and intelligence veterans who warn in a new report that without adequate controls and public accountability, the United States could be on a “slippery slope” into a form of perpetual warfare that invites other nations to follow suit and never explain themselves.
The Obamians seem bewildered that the country is not more thankful to its government for having prevented another Great Depression. They saved the banks, and in doing so, they saved the economy from a once-in-a-hundred-year storm. And they proudly point out that all the money given to the financial sector has been more than repaid. But in making such claims, they ignore some critical realities.
Given their immense wealth and how they got it — politicized kickbacks from the most powerful political forces in Washington, on Wall Street and around the globe — the Clintons would do well to admit that they are unusually wealthy and stop trying to pass themselves off as ordinary folks. If they don’t, their fate may very well resemble Romney’s.
The Obama administration’s embrace of targeted killings using armed drones risks putting the United States on a “slippery slope” into perpetual war and sets a dangerous precedent for lethal operations that other countries might adopt in the future, according to a report by a bipartisan panel that includes several former senior intelligence and military officials.
Piketty is right that our political economy favors the growth of inequality, and that inequality in turn poisons our politics. But while we should aspire to create a society that shares its prosperity, we need to address a much bigger gap than the one between rich and poor. We need to address the gap between what’s demanded by our planet and what’s demanded by our economy.
Two major injustices – inequality and climate change – are threatening to undermine the efforts of millions of people to escape poverty and hunger. By concentrating wealth and power in the hands of a few, inequality robs the poorest people of the support they need to improve their lives. And as climate change devastates crops and livelihoods, it undoes poor people’s efforts to feed their families.
The UK government’s most senior security official, Charles Farr, detailed how searches on Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as emails to or from non-British citizens abroad, can be monitored by the security services because they are deemed to be “external communications”. It is the first time that the government has admitted that UK citizens, talking via supposedly private channels in social media such as Twitter direct messages, are deemed by the British government to be legitimate legal targets that do not require a warrant before intercepting.
While Attorney General Eric Holder recently pledged that under his watch, journalists will not go to jail, the administration has continued to use the judicial system to harass journalists into revealing their sources. Journalists and press freedom advocates say the administration’s war on journalists has chilled national security reporting, with potential sources afraid to speak to reporters for fear of being prosecuted.
The Supreme Court on Monday turned down an appeal from James Risen, a reporter for The New York Times facing jail for refusing to identify a confidential source. The court’s one-line order gave no reasons but effectively sided with the government in a confrontation between what prosecutors said was an imperative to secure evidence in a national security prosecution and what journalists said was an intolerable infringement of press freedom.
“Every now and then, the field of economics produces an important book; this is one of them,” writes Tyler Cowen in his Foreign Affairs review of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-first Century. Justin Vogt, deputy managing editor of Foreign Affairs, recently sat down with Piketty to discuss inequality and his controversial policy proposals.
The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction. While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades.
Humans can survive weeks without food, but only days or hours without water. Water is life. So what happens when private companies control the spigot? Evidence from water privatization projects around the world paints a pretty clear picture: Skyrocketing water prices, unsafe supply, failing infrastructure. These problems fall disproportionately on the most vulnerable among us. This is why public institutions, not private corporations, must lead the development of water systems and delivery.
The root of extreme sentencing is legislative: Eighty-three percent of those serving life without parole for a nonviolent offense as of 2012 received a mandatory minimum sentence prescribed by law. Judges protest the harsh sentences even as they hand them down. President Barack Obama, the inheritor of a war on drugs created by his predecessors, has criticized excessive sentences. But he has done little to undo the damage.
The anti-oligarchy argument claim is that the rich have too much money, which they use to elect politicians who will enact laws that favor their interests. But it seems better to argue about the best policies to improve income distribution efficiently, and to point out which politicians support them. “Yes” to the EITC and pre-school education; “no” to subsidies for oil, agriculture, and mortgage debt.
Report by researchers from Princeton and Northwestern universities suggests that US political system serves special interest organisations, instead of voters. Economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.
The big story in Silicon Valley these days is a class-action lawsuit alleging that several major tech companies, including Google and Apple, agreed not to try to hire away one another’s employees – thereby hindering workers from seeking out better-paying jobs. But do-not-hire agreements are not the only way that corporations are taking control of their employees’ intellectual capital. With more corporations demanding that employees pre-assign their intellectual property, there has been a steady decrease in inventor-owned patents. The effects of giving up future control over one’s own skills and products of the mind are significant. In a world in which economic growth depends on innovation, we cannot afford such limitations on creativity.
Inheritances and gifts have always played a big role in the distribution of wealth, accounting for about a quarter of total household wealth in the U.S. That’s a lot, but it may be nothing compared to what’s coming if we stay on the current path.
Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans, scientists reported on Monday, and they warned that the problem was likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control.
In the golden, post-war years of Western economic growth, the comfortable living standard of the working class and the economy’s overall stability made the best case for the value of capitalism and the fraudulence of Marx’s critical view of it. But in more recent years many of the forces that Marx said would lead to capitalism’s demise have become real, and troubling, once again.
By 2020 there could be over 30 billion devices connected to the Internet. Once dumb, they will have smartened up thanks to sensors and other technologies embedded in them and, thanks to your machines, your life will quite literally have gone online. Techno-evangelists have a nice catchphrase for this future utopia of machines and the never-ending stream of information, known as Big Data, it produces: the Internet of Things. With the rise of the networked device, what people do in their homes, in their cars, in stores, and within their communities will be monitored and analyzed in ever more intrusive ways by corporations. Yes, imagine it. Welcome to a world where everything you do is collected, stored, analyzed, and, more often than not, packaged and sold to strangers — including government agencies.
Without protections for new media and nontraditional journalists, the Freedom Flow of Information Act may very well end up doing little more than anointing a new set of gatekeepers—established traditional media organizations who call the shots about what leaks are published and what aren’t, instead of the relatively open social media and blog spheres.
In short, citizen protests puncture the pretty, patriotic illusion of a focus-grouped, Photoshopped media event, and replace it with the gritty patriotic reality of democracy in action. That’s why the teeny cosmetic changes to Section 1752, which purport to be about new kinds of security, are really all about optics.
State and local governments have awarded $110 billion in taxpayer subsidies to business, with 3 of every 4 dollars going to fewer than 1,000 big corporations. The largest five subsidies went to Boeing, ALCOA, Intel, General Motors and Ford. Dow Chemical received 410 separate subsidies worth $1.4 billion. Federal, state and local governments publish exhaustively detailed statistical reports on welfare to the poor, disabled, sick, elderly and other individuals who cannot support themselves. But corporate welfare is not the subject of any comprehensive reporting at the federal level. Disclosures by state and local governments vary greatly, from substantial to nearly nonexistent. Taxpayers who want to understand their burdens should demand that Congress require and pay for detailed annual reports showing every federal, state and local subsidy received by corporations.
Republicans sputtered with outrage when the Congressional Budget Office said that immigration reform would lower the deficit, strengthen Social Security and speed up economic growth. What Republicans fail to mention is that Tuesday’s report from the budget office, a federal nonpartisan agency, was almost entirely positive about the benefits of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016.
Just about everything Americans need to know about the surge of income inequality is contained in the 43- page indictment last week of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. It’s a simple and base transaction. For a bit of personal wealth, a politician sells out the people who elected him, the people who trusted him to serve their interests.
As politicians and pundits in Washington continue to spar over whether economic inequality is in fact deepening, in corporate America there really is no debate at all. The post-recession reality is that the customer base for businesses that appeal to the middle class is shrinking as the top tier pulls even further away.
Americans will look back and marvel at what became of our old welfare state–that tangle of inequity and dysfunction once known as federal entitlements. Why did the public tolerate a system that wound up distributing most of its benefits to the well-off? And how did the economy survive its costs? With the vaunted post-Cold War Peace dividend evaporating, the United States found itself unable to invest adequately in either its infrastructure or its children. Eventually people began to talk of another Great Depression, before the coming of the next New Deal. This Atlantic magazine article from 1992 almost could have been written today.
Developing countries have reacted angrily to revelations that the United States spied on other governments at the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden show how where world leaders including Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and Angela Merkel failed to agree to a strong deal on climate change.
Obama’s desire for fast-track authority on the TPP and other agreements clashes with reducing income inequality. Data on NAFTA poses a significant challenge for President Obama. He said he wants to battle the plague of income inequality and to expand the NAFTA model with TPP, but he cannot have it both ways.
The world’s wealthiest people aren’t known for travelling by bus, but if they fancied a change of scene then the richest 85 people on the globe – who between them control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population put together – could squeeze onto a single double-decker.
The recent $13 billion settlement between the US Department of Justice and JPMorgan Chase appears significant, but the message is clear: There will be no change to business as usual. JPM has a total balance sheet of around $4 trillion, the penalty is to be paid largely by its shareholders, and $7 billion of the fine is likely to be tax deductible, implying a tax break worth around $2.2 billion.
US President Barack Obama recently declared that growing income inequality and the inequality of opportunity that it creates are the defining challenges now facing America. These problems have risen to the top of the political agenda in the United States, but they are not uniquely American problems.
The primary distribution through the free market economy, whose distributive principle is “to each according to his production,” delivers progressively more market-sourced income to capital owners and progressively less to workers who make their contribution through labor.
The greatest danger is one that will not be faced for decades but that is lurking out there. If we move to a system where half of the country is either stagnant or losing ground while the other half is surging, the social fabric of the United States is at risk, and with it the massive global power the United States has accumulated.
Today’s techniques of finance are designed to make the rich richer. None are designed to make the poor richer. That’s why the poor are poor. The reason they are poor is because they do not have viable capital ownership. Thus, we need to focus on revising today’s techniques of finance to broaden capital ownership.
President Obama’s speech on inequality was important in several respects, but there’s a crucial dimension the president left out: the revival, since the mid-1970s, of the laissez-faire ideology that prevailed in the Gilded Age. It’s no coincidence that this laissez-faire revival has unfolded over the very period in which inequality has soared to levels not seen since the Gilded Age.
UN member States have affirmed that the rights to water and sanitation are legally binding in international law, yet their agreement is marred by the reluctance of the United States to join in a universal agreement on the definition of these rights. The U.S. government’s position works against the interests of the billions of people who lack adequate access to water and sanitation.
Over the course of American history, support for economic redistribution has been the exception, not the rule. The substantial gains of the left on cultural and social issues and recent electoral victories in New York and Boston have created a misleading perception among liberals that the country is moving in the same direction on economic issues. That is not the case: an ethos of self-reliance and individual responsibility continues, as it has for the past 237 years, to grip the American imagination.