tax

RT Forced to Register as Foreign Agent, But AIPAC and John Podesta Go Free

This is another very interesting piece from RT America’s Lee Camp. Camp is a comedian and the presenter of Redacted Tonight, a satirical show that uses comedy to take a deep, critical look at American politics and current affairs. In this piece, Camp shows the double standards behind the recent decision to force RT America to register as a foreign agent under FARA, while the real foreign lobbying groups of the type the Act was set up to regulate, AIPAC and John Podesta’s lobbying organisation, are allowed to get away free.

FARA was set up in the 1930s to force lobbyists working for Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and imperial Japan to register with the American treasury, so they could have their government sponsors identified, and would have to reveal their sources of incomes.

Camp then states that AIPAC is Israel’s foreign lobby arm in the US. This shouldn’t be controversial: it’s exactly how AIPAC describes itself, as Camp shows with the masthead from their webpage. It says ‘America’s Pro-Israel lobby’. He then produces a quote about how AIPAC is the most powerful lobbying organisation in America, or at least, more powerful than other very well-organised and funded groups like the gun lobby.

He also plays a piece from former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, describing how, before she had even taken up her seat in Congress, AIPAC sent her a document they wanted her to sign pledging her support. She replied that before she would, she’d have to read about the issues first. She then states that she learned that the operatives for the Israel lobby control women’s organisations, environmental organisations, peace organisations. Every aspect of the political process is controlled by people associated with the Israel lobby.

Camp then goes on to describe how $705 million was given to Israel by America in the latest military budget. And AIPAC has solidly been behind, and indeed urging America on in its wars in the Middle East. AIPAC pushed for the Iraq invasion. They pushed for the war in Syria. They also met with a Democrat party thinktank, the Centre for American Progress, to suppress rumours by their own journalists that AIPAC is pushing for war with Iran.

AIPAC also flexes its clout at the UN. Here there’s a clip of US ambassador Nicky Haley, speaking at an AIPAC gathering, talking about how they got the UN to withdraw a report that made the ‘outrageous’ – but entirely correct claim – that Israel is an apartheid state. And then the UN Secretary General resigned. She also shows how she’s absolutely fine with people wanting to impose sanctions on North Korea and Syria, but really doesn’t see why they should be imposed on Israel.

Camp then points out that AIPAC are actively trying to make it illegal to promote the boycott of Israel, a move that is supported by around 50 senators.

He then goes on to describe the origins of AIPAC. It was set up by a former member of the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs, who then worked for the American Zionist Council. In 1962 the AZC was ordered by Robert Kennedy to register under FARA and open up their financial records. In December the AZC’s president, Rabbi Irving Miller, asked for a delay. In January the following year, 1963, AIPAC was founded. Then in March the AZC’s lawyers claimed that the Council should not have to register. They then continued to delay and stonewall sending in the required paperwork. The efforts to force AIPAC to register seem to have ended with the deaths of JFK and Robert Kennedy. Basically, AIPAC never got round to registering. In 1967 AIPAC applied for federal tax exemption. This was granted and backdated to 1953. In 1986 the lobbyist then began creating political action groups, in direct contravention of its tax-exempt status.

Camp explains that AIPAC’s purpose is pro-Israeli propaganda, termed ‘hasbara’, a word which literally means ‘explanation’. This is to get America to ignore Israel’s war crimes. Which, as Camp points out, doesn’t mean that all Israelis are terrible people. America commits war crimes, and he likes some Americans. AIPAC is responsible for trying smear those who criticise and protest against Israel as anti-Semites. But despite their best efforts, a growing number of young and older people around the world are standing up for the Palestinians. For the first time a bill for Palestinian human rights has been introduced into Congress. It was introduced by Representative Betty McCollum, and seeks to prevent the US from funding the detention and prosecution of children in Israel’s military courts. And of course, AIPAC are trying to crush it.

Camp makes the obvious point that if FARA was set up to control and regulate foreign lobbyists, then AIPAC is precisely the type of foreign lobbyist it is set up to regulate.

He then moves on to talk about John Podesta and the lobbying organisation he set up with his brother, Tony. John Podesta was one of Hillary Clinton’s aides. It should have registered with FARA, but didn’t, when it was lobbying on behalf of the Russian-owned company, Uranium One, from whom it collected $180,000 in fees in 2012, 2014, and 2015.

Camp then goes on to point out that this all shows that the decision to force RT to register as a foreign agent is entirely political. It’s a way to further suppress and marginalise dissenting voices like Chris Hedges and Jesse Ventura, and reinforce the stories about Russian interference. This is a story concocted by the Democratic National Convention so that it doesn’t have to look at its own corruption. The oligarchy running the country know that they don’t have the solutions to working peoples’ problems, and so are forced to resort to trying to push dissent further to the margins, and force people into an even smaller space of acceptable opinion.

Camp then points out that RT has not broadcast Russian propaganda. It has covered the Dakota pipeline, police brutality and Camp himself covered electoral fraud last year. It has even won an Emmy award for its coverage of the Occupy movement. He ends by stating that it looks like propaganda only if you buy into the corporate bullsh*t coming from CNN.

I’m not sure, but I wonder if Cynthia McKinnon was the Black, Green party politico, who lost her seat because she wouldn’t kowtow to AIPAC. When she refused to follow their line, they smeared her as an anti-Semite, and poured their funding into her political rivals, so that she would lose the election.

AIPAC are a nasty, bullying organisation that is utterly ruthless in trying to shut down any criticism or dissent about Israel. But it certainly does not speak for the majority of Jewish Americans. According to polls, American Jews tend to be politically liberal, and traditionally have been utterly indifferent to Israel. They were always far more keen to build lives for themselves as equal and respected citizens of the US. Just as they have been in Britain and very many other countries. Hence the determination of Zionist groups like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism to give the false impression that hatred of Jews in Europe is at the same level as Germany just before the Nazi seizure of power. And that all Muslims, or nearly all Muslims, are also bitter anti-Semites and a threat to western democracy.

However, as Camp points out, an increasing number of people are becoming more critical of Israel, including young Jewish Americans. Many of them have become even more hostile to the country after going there on the ‘heritage’ tours that the country sponsors amongst American Jews to gain their allegiance and goodwill. The Jews, who have been so alienated from Israel, include those, who have been victims of anti-Semitism. Clearly the experience of being a victim of prejudice and abuse is not leading Jewish American young people to wish to support the abusive Israeli state.

Jimmy Dore and Abby Martin Discuss Whether Rachel Maddow Is A Danger to Journalism: Part 1

It’s isn’t just Rachel Maddow. They go on to talk about how the whole of the American mainstream media, including MSNBC, has been corrupted by corporate power, and now reflects nothing but establishment propaganda. Just like the corporatist, Clintonite wing of the Democrats. They also talk about the terror Black and Latino neighbourhoods are living in, thanks to Trump, ICE and the anti-immigrant rhetoric. They conclude by discussing how whole neighbourhoods in Houston and elsewhere in Texas have been gutted by Hurricane Harvey, but aren’t receiving any help, because they’re working class areas and only the business and affluent centres are prioritised. And the immense environmental damage that has been caused by Big Oil, but which goes unchallenged and undocumented, because Big Oil owns everything in those areas, right down to schools and hospitals.

Abby Martin is the courageous and fiercely intelligent host of The Empire Files on TeleSur English and previously, RT. This series unflinchingly exposes what the American military-industrial complex is doing across the world through coups, ‘regime change’ and foreign wars and military interventions. Including the real situation in Israel, where the Israelis have subjected the indigenous Palestinians to nearly 70 years of massacres, brutality and ethnic cleansing.

She also shows how ordinary Americans are being exploited at home, as big business seeks to strip them of welfare, workers’ rights and shift the tax burden on to them, while further destroying any affordable healthcare provision and privatising the public schools. She was so much a threat to the American establishment, that half the report concocted to show that RT was just a propaganda operation being used by Putin to destabilise America was about Martin personally.

I’ve already put up a three-part blog post about a previous 30-minute long segment from the Jimmy Dore Show, in which he and Martin discuss her work and the crimes of American imperialism. I think this segment may have been part of the same interview, but the two have been edited and split into separate parts.

The two begin by discussing how MSNBC, the formerly liberal network, is now just the mirror image of the right-wing Fox Network. Martin is particularly unimpressed by the way MSNBC tried to discredit Bill Binney by calling him a ‘conspiracy theorist’. Bill Binney was the NSA official, who constructed the ‘Thin Spread’ mass surveillance software keeping tabs on people’s electronic information and communications. He’s been praised by Edward Snowden, one of the other whistleblowers on the use of mass surveillance software by the intelligence agencies. They then talk about the lies and propaganda about RT, and how the government is trying to shut it down by having it register as a foreign agent. Martin states that MSNBC is now just the other arm of Fox News, but just parrots Democrat propaganda.

As for Rachel Maddow, one of the lead presenters on MSNBC, and a staunch supporter of Killary and the corporatist Democrats, Martin states that she’s a careerist hack. However, she and the other hacks with her realised that they have to double down and try to explain away why Killary lost to Trump. But they’re so trapped in the elitist bubble, that they have absolutely no idea. One of the reasons Clinton lost was because she didn’t bother going to certain states, like Wisconsin. Martin and Dore joke about whether it was Putin, who stopped her going there. Did he steal her map, hack into her computer and wipe the entry for it?

They then move on to the question of the future of journalism. Martin states that journalism has always been antithetical to business, this is why it’s been corrupted by government and folded into big business conglomerates through mergers. It’s why Martin herself joined RT. She talks about how it was a long time before she realised how compromised journalism actually was, however. She talks about how she went on tour with John Kerry. But journalism hasn’t just been corrupted by the Democrats, nor the Republicans. She states that the future of journalism lies with us, referring to alternative media and the power of the internet. She states that now we don’t need to get a press handout from Monsanto to talk about what they’re doing, or get a statement from the government: they can just talk to the government’s victims.

She then goes on to talk about ‘fake news’, and how this is being hijacked by the establishment to close down alternative media. Bill Kristol, one of the founders of the Neocons and the head of the Project for the New American Century, has said that he’s going to set up a thinktank to combat ‘fake news’. She and Dore also talk about how the alternative media are being forced to brand themselves to survive, so they have to set up Patreon accounts so people can fund them. But she has a lot of hope for citizen journalism. There is just a need to invest in it, and to follow those journalists we admire. We have to create our own networks. The Intercept, which has done some good work, was forced to rely on a billionaire, and now they have to go begging for money.

Martin then turns to Project Censored, which she praises as a very good, worthwhile alternative to mainstream journalist training. She advises aspiring journos not to go to journalism school, as they will just get into debt up to their behinds, and will be hit over the head with how to be journalists. Only to get a job as an unpaid intern at the end of it. Project Censored, on the other hand, takes in anyone, and you can go in at different levels – as a researcher, or writer, for example. Every year they published the five most censored stories. One of these is that there are 3,000 towns in America, whose water has a higher lead content than that of Flint in Michigan. She and Dore then discuss the alternative, drinking bottled water. Martin refuses to drink most of these brands, because they’re all owned by Nestle. Nestle owns the majority of water bottling plants. They just suck out the aquifers of local towns, which get nothing in return, except for a councillor, who’s on their payroll. And this is apart from the slave labour involved in their chocolate. She states that there is now only one party, and that she has always advised against voting for the lesser of two evils.

Continued in Part 2.

Robot tax

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 18/11/2017 - 8:52pm in

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Uncategorized, tax

This short note by Xavier Oberson suggests how we might tax robots; I think it raises a number of difficult issues about the idea. You can see him expound the same ideas in a video interview here.

It’s not made altogether clear here why we should apply special taxes to robots at all. Broadly I’d say there are two distinct reasons why governments tax things. The first is the Money reason; tax is simply about revenue. If that were really all, then we should design our taxes to be simple, easy to collect, hard to avoid, and neutral in effect. We wouldn’t single out particular goods or activities for special treatment. However, there is a second and very different reason for taxing things, namely to discourage them; we could call it the ‘Moral’ reason. There are things we don’t want to criminalise or forbid, but whose excessive use we should like to discourage – alcohol and tobacco, for example, which most countries apply special excise duties to.

Usually both reasons apply to some degree. Income tax is mainly about raising money, for example (we don’t think there should be less income about); but generally tax regimes are bit harder on income which is considered unearned or undeserved.

Which is the main reason for taxing robots? I don’t think they’re going to be an easy way of raising money. If they make companies more profitable, then there should be a bit more money to target, so there’s that; but as I’ll explain below, I think there are big difficulties over definitions and avoidance. It seems clear that the main motivation is moral, to discourage too much use of robots. Oberson’s heading suggests robot tax might offset revenue shortfall, a Money matter, but in his piece he sets the proposal squarely in the context of robots taking jobs from humans. I don’t know whether that is something we should really worry about – some say not – but he’s surely right that that Moral fear is where the impetus for tax is mainly coming from.

In fact, it seems to me that Oberson is thinking mainly in terms of mechanical men. He sees robots replacing humans on more or less a like-for-like basis. Initially the business might be charged tax on the basis of the wages it would have had to pay humans to get the same production; in the long run, as robots gain full agency, this arrangement could segue into the robots themselves gaining legal personhood and responsibility for paying a sort of robot income tax

Alas, we are nowhere near robots having that level of agency, and in fact I’d say progress towards it is negligible to date. Oberson is right when he says that if robots did gain personhood such arrangements could be quite straightforward. After all, when robots do achieve human levels of agency you’ll presumably have to pay them to work instead of just switching them on and issuing commands, so at that point, their liability to conventional taxes should be uncontroversial! But that is too distant a prospect to require new tax arrangements just yet. If we did persist in trying to apply a regime based on robots themselves paying, it could only become an elaborate way of making the robot owner pay. It would be unnecessarily complicated and the pretence that the robots were like us might tend to devalue the genuine agency of human beings, something we should do well to steer clear of.

In general I think Oberson is pretty optimistic about robot capacity. He says

Today robots become lawyers, doctors, bankers, social workers, nurses and even entertainers.

To which one can only say, no they don’t. What is he thinking of? I can only suppose he has in mind expert systems or similar programs that can perhaps offer some legal advice, help with medical diagnosis, and provide online banking. These things may indeed have some impact on employment – most clearly in the case of counter staff in banks (though it’s debatable how far robots are involved with that – banks were moving towards call centres even before they got into online stuff). But it’s a massive overstatement to say robots right now become lawyers, etc. On social work and entertainment I can’t really come up with any good examples of robots replacing humans – any ideas?

So, what if we just want to tax human businesses for the ownership or use of robots? One thing Oberson suggests is a value added tax on robots. This is strange because the purchase of robots or the supply of robot services is surely subject to VAT already in those countries that have VAT, like most things. In principle we could apply a higher rate to robots, and that would indeed be one of the most practical approaches, though in Europe we would run up against the EU’s strong preference that the system should move towards having a single rate applied to everything (the people who designed VAT for the EU were strong believers in the Money reason for taxation rather than the Moral one).

What’s a robot, though?  It’s pretty unlikely in fact that we are going to be dealing with mechanical men very much. Most factory robots at present are very unhumanoid machines. Is each automatic painting/assembly arm a single robot? What if they are all run from a single central computer? Does that mean the whole factory is a single robot, so I pay much less than the fellow down the road who put separate processors in hundreds of his machines? What if my robots are controlled by software run off the Internet? Is the Internet itself one big robot – and if so, who pays its taxes?

Surely, also, to qualify as a robot my machines must have a certain level of complexity? Now perhaps the fellow up the road wins after all. He split his processes into very small elements. Nearly every machine in his factory has a chip in it, but individually they only carry out very simple operations, far too simple for any of them to be considered robots. Why, the chips in his machines are far less complex than the ones in your dishwasher! Yet together they mean no humans are needed.

What if we take up the idea, floated by Oberson, that the tax can be based on the salaries I would have had to pay if I had continued to use humans? Let’s suppose I lay off ten humans and install ten robots; I achieve a productivity gain of 20% and pay tax equal to say, 10% of ten salaries. A year later the tax inspector notices that a hundred further humans have gone and productivity is now up 500%. He notices that the robots all have a dial which used to be set to ‘snail’ and is now turned to ‘leopard’.

Oh, I say, but the productivity gains were due to other factors. We re-engineered our processes and bought new non-robot tools which enabled the speed improvements. We would have got the same gains with humans. The human lay-offs are due to a reduction in activity in an area that happened not to be automated. Anyway, come on, am I expected to pay tax on notional salaries that don’t relate in any way to my current business? Forever?

These are just examples from my own limited imagination, but once you start taxing something a lot of very clever accountants are going to be working hard on devising highly sophisticated schemes.

Overall I’m inclined to accept the argument that applying special taxes to robots is just a bad idea altogether. If we succeed in discouraging the use of robots, our businesses will lose out on productivity gains and suffer from the competition of businesses in countries where robots get off scot-free. We could protect our human workers from those foreign robots with tariffs and quotas, but in the long run we would fall behind those others economically and get into a bad place. It can fairly be argued that we might use tax, not as a permanent discouragement to automation, but as a means of slowing things to a manageable transitional pace, but it seems to me that in practice there might be more of a case for subsidising research and implementation in order to get maximum productivity gains as soon as possible! In practice I wouldn’t bet against governments convincing themselves it’s a good idea to both subsidise and tax robots at the same time – but I know nothing about economics, of course, something you may feel has been made sufficiently clear already.

Expect tax cuts, soon, says Access Economics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 13/11/2017 - 4:30pm in

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tax

The federal budget is built on the back of impossibly large tax increases that won't survive the coming election, a new report has warned.

The Deloitte Access budget monitor, released four weeks ahead of the official budget update, finds that on the government's own forecasts by 2021 the typical Australian income will have climbed $6100, but the typical tax take will have climbed $2500.

The tax take of 41 per cent of each extra dollar is way in excess of the typical average rate of 14.9 per cent and the typical marginal rate of 32.5 per cent.

It would push up the average rate from 14.9 to 18.2 per cent.

"I don't think the average Australian - or the average Australian business - has yet realised that the return to surplus is built on the assumption that 2 out of every 5 dollars of extra income will line the government's pockets," said Deloitte Access director Chris Richardson.

"Politically, in the context of elections and byelections, it isn't tenable, which means the forecasted return to surplus isn't tenable."

Known as the 'treasury in exile' Deloitte Access is run by former Treasury forecasters who are able to say what the Treasury cannot. It's findings echo those of the Parliamentary Budget Office, released last month.

"As it happens, we don't think the increase in incomes will be as strong at the Treasury projects, and we don't think the economy will as efficient at turning it into revenue, but that just makes the deficit problem worse."

Deloitte Access is forecasting a wafer-thin surplus of just $2.3 billion in 2020-21 rather than the $7.4 billion projected in the budget. But that forecast allows for no further tax cuts for four years, a scenario Mr Richardson regards as implausible.

A ready reckoner created by Mr Richardson finds it would cost $6.5 billion per year to cut each tax rate by one percentage point, a cost that would climb to $7.3 billion per year by 2020-21. The cost of returning all bracket creep would amount to $12.2 billion per year by 2020-21.

"The official view is one in which the economy does fine and the tax system does superbly," Mr Richardson said.

"The problems are that we think the economy and wages and profits will underperform, although they are doing alright at the moment, and we think the tax system will underperform at turning that extra income into tax.

"Add to that the awful politics of a rising tax take, and we think the government will decide to cut taxes, using what is most likely a temporary over-performance in revenue as cover."

Mr Richardson said he expected the tax cuts to be promised in the lead-up to next year's election, or possibly when the mid-year budget update is released in December.

In The Age and Sydney Morning HeraldPeter Martin is economics correspondent for The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.

He blogs at petermartin.com.au and tweets at @1petermartin.

The GOP Tax Plan Tells Us Everything About Who Matters In American Democracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/11/2017 - 6:43am in

This post originally appeared at HuffPost.

The United States is the richest country in the history of the world. Last year, the genius and muscle of the American people generated more than $18.6 trillion in wealth. This year, our brains and brawn will combine to create well over $19 trillion. Despite all the debt theatrics of the Republican Party during the Obama presidency, we owe just $6.2 trillion to other countries — less than four months of our collective labors at their present value.


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 Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Republican Tax Cut Plan Will Drive Up Deficit and Debt

BY Simon Johnson | November 1, 2017

Under these circumstances, the question of what the American government can afford is functionally meaningless. If any nation has ever been able to afford quality housing, education, health care, parks, museums — anything — the United States can.

And we don’t need to tax anyone, rich or poor, in order to afford these fine things. The wealth — the fruits of our labor — already exists. Taxes are a way of managing the bookkeeping system, of setting national priorities for the distribution of wealth created by good ideas and hard work.

That’s key: Our country’s wealth is created by everybody. It’s not created by rich people. Rich people are what happen when the bookkeeping units we use to keep track of that wealth — the dollars — get stuck on particular individuals. Sometimes these people fall into the world possessing such accounting anomalies in the form of inheritances. Sometimes they siphon them from other people through the daily operations of commerce. Sometimes Washington decides to hand them more.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and congressional Republicans proposed a multitrillion-dollar tax cut for a particular slice of very wealthy citizens. There is much more than math at stake: These are matters of justice, social prestige and political power. There is no economic law that governs how the $19 trillion we produce each year must be distributed. Figuring out who should get how much of that $19 trillion is a political choice — and the Republicans’ choice is to give much of that money to a few hundred financial dynasties.

The GOP says its plan is an effort to “fix our broken tax code,” and there can be no doubt that the code is broken. Our fabulously wealthy nation is mysteriously plagued by poverty. More than 40 million Americans currently live in poverty, including 11.5 million children. Over 41 million people live in what the US Department of Agriculture defines as “food insecure households.” Millions of Americans literally could not afford to eat at some point during 2016. Families living a little higher up the economic ladder generally have a tenuous hold on their middle-class status: 78 percent of US households report living paycheck to paycheck.


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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a news conference to express their opposition to the GOP tax reform plan in Washington, DC, on Oct. 25, 2017. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

GOP Tax Cuts Won’t Pass This Year — Or Maybe Even Next

BY Michael Winship | October 31, 2017

These economic troubles persist as Wall Street and Silicon Valley are increasingly dividing the spoils of the broader economy among themselves. The financial sector is supposed to function as a sort of utility for manufacturing, agriculture and other elements of what economists call the “real” economy. But today it accounts for nearly 30 percent of corporate profits — about triple its share from three decades ago. Since 2000, compensation in the financial sector has increased at nearly three times the overall rate in the economy. Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook now mimic financial giants by acquiring tech startup after tech startup and then using their merged muscle to consume the profitable activity of others. Google and Facebook together take in 60 percent of the digital advertising market and collected 99 percent of all online ad revenue growth in the past year.

The GOP tax plan won’t resolve any of those problems. Republicans have assembled a host of tax changes that will ensure that more and more of the nation’s wealth goes to the people who already have most of it. It’s a strategy to inflate existing fortunes, increase profits on Wall Street and enhance the social dominance of people who make their living from investments over people who make their living earning wages and salaries.

The heart of the Republican plan is a permanent cut to the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. The benefits of that will accrue to people who own corporations. If you hold stock in a corporation and the tax rate on that corporation’s profits falls, the value of your stock will rise. You become wealthier without doing anything. It doesn’t matter if the company you own pays its workers a living wage, develops state-of-the-art technology or names violent felons to its board of directors. However prudently or recklessly that company had been earning a profit, it will suddenly become more valuable to its owners.

That’s just great if you own tons of stock. But according to Gallup polling, only about half of Americans own any stock at all — through a retirement account or otherwise. Most households that do own stock don’t own very much. Only 22 percent of households own at least $25,000 worth of stock, research from New York University economist Edward Wolff shows.

At the top of the distribution, however, stock ownership accounts for a tremendous share of new wealth. On average, households in the top 1 percent receive about 36 percent of their income from financial assets, while the 400 wealthiest American households receive almost 75 percent of their income from capital gains and dividends. It’s not hard to figure out the target market here.

Not so long ago, President George W. Bush took a lot of heat for slashing the tax on capital gains — the tax you pay when you sell stocks, bonds or real estate investments. It was, critics said, a shameless giveaway to the idle rich. The current GOP tax plan offers a similar benefit without the hassle of having to actually sell any investments: When stock prices go up due to a drop in corporate taxes, the people who own the stock get richer. And because the GOP bill will also ultimately eliminate the estate tax, owners of financial assets could pass their holdings to their heirs tax-free in perpetuity, allowing financial dynasties to grow and grow independently of the intelligence or enterprise of those stewarding any particular generation of family wealth.

No trained economist seriously believes that shoveling unearned benefits to people who just happen to own or inherit financial assets is good for growth, productivity or anything else. And Republicans aren’t really trying to hide what they’re up to. In addition to the corporate rate cut, the GOP would allow companies to immediately write off the full value of new capital investments — when, say, a company purchases new equipment or technology. This tax perk would actually encourage some worthwhile activity: If businesses invest in improving their longer-term operations, they will realize an immediate economic benefit from the tax code. Cutting the corporate tax rate down to 20 percent doesn’t encourage anything except a one-time jolt to asset prices.

When Republicans dole out big tax cuts, they typically offer something for low- and middle-income families to make the process a little less unseemly. It’s not clear if they’ll be able to include those perks this time around, and the slapdash, piecemeal approach to helping everyone outside the capital class makes their priorities perfectly clear. When the tax framework was released Thursday morning, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) talked up a slightly more generous child tax credit and some additional deductions for middle-class families. The bill itself shows many of the additional deductions are countered by the elimination of other popular deductions. The expanded child tax credit expires after five years, to be replaced by an increase in taxes on families with children, while the corporate rate drops to 20 percent forever. Republicans on Thursday couldn’t promise that their bill wouldn’t ultimately raise taxes on middle-class families. It’s even conceivable that bona fide rich people could end up worse off under the plan if they draw their incomes from a high garden-variety salary, rather than stock or interest.

So never mind the budget deficits and growth projections. The GOP tax plan is a simple political statement about who matters more in American democracy: the heirs to hedge-fund fortunes or everyone else in the country. Trump and the Republicans have chosen the dynasts. This is not a necessity; we could easily afford a different set of priorities. Social domination by the financial sector is a choice.

The post The GOP Tax Plan Tells Us Everything About Who Matters In American Democracy appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Democratic Socialist on Liberalism, Classical Liberalism and Fascism

I’ve blogged several times about the connections between the Libertarianism of Von Mises and Von Hayek and Fascism, and the 1970s Fascist coup in Chile led by General Pinochet, which overthrew the democratically elected Communist president, Salvador Allende. I reblogged a video the other day by Democratic Socialist, in which he showed that Pinochet, contrary to the claims made by the Von Mises Institute, was indeed a brutal dictator, and that his rescue of Chilean capitalism, threatened by Allende’s entirely democratic regime, was very similar to Hitler’s seizure of power in Nazi Germany.

In the video below, Democratic Socialist explains the difference between the Liberalism of the Enlightenment, and the ‘Classical Liberalism’ of Von Mises and Von Hayek, both of whom supported Fascist regimes against Socialism and Democracy. In Von Mises case, he served in Dollfuss’ ‘Austro-Fascist’ government, while his pupil, Von Hayek, bitterly denounced democracy, supporting the regimes of the Portuguese Fascist dictator Salazar and then Pinochet’s grotty dictatorship in Chile. Von Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, published in 1944, claimed that a planned socialist economy was also a threat to freedom, and influenced both Winston Churchill and Maggie Thatcher. And the latter was a good friend and admirer of Pinochet.

The video begins with Democratic Socialist drawing a distinction between Enlightenment Liberalism, and ‘Classical Liberalism’. Enlightenment Liberalism was a revolutionary force which challenged the power of the feudal aristocracy and the clergy. It championed freedom of belief, the right to free speech and assembly, freedom of the press and the right to a fair trial. It also stated that people had a right to private property.

Von Mises, the founder of ‘Austrian economics’ and ‘Classical Liberalism’, declared that the essence of his political and economic system was private property, and was hostile towards both democracy and socialism because both appeared to him to challenge the rights of the owners of the means of production. Thus he supported Dollfuss during the Austrian Civil War, when Dollfuss suppressed the socialists and Communists with army. The video includes a clip from a British newsreel showing Austrian soldiers shooting at the houses in the working class suburb of Vienna, into which the Schutzbund – the ‘Protection League’ formed by the Socialists and Communists – had retreated following Dollfuss’ attempt to suppress them by force. The voiceover describes Dollfuss as ‘diminutive’, and a still from the footage shows an extremely short man in uniform surrounded by various uniformed officers. Which seems to add him to the list of other dictators of shorter than average height – Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Franco. The Nazis themselves were profoundly hostile to the Enlightenment. After the 1933 seizure of power, Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazis’ chief ideologist, declared that the legacy of 1789 – the year of the French Revolution – had been ended by the Nazi coup.

After the War, Von Hayek’s attacks on socialist planning in The Road to Serfdom led Churchill to make a scaremongering speech about Labour in the 1945 election. Socialist planning, the great war leader declared, was abhorrent to the British people, and could only be imposed through a ‘Gestapo’, which he had no doubt, would be very humanely carried out. The video shows two senior members of the Labour party, one of which was the former Chancellor of the Exchequer under Callaghan, Denis Healey, describing how horrified they were by this slur against people Churchill had worked so closely with during the War.

In fact, Churchill’s lurid rhetoric had the opposite effect, and encouraged more people to vote for the Labour party so that they won with a landslide.

The video goes on to cite the texts, which document how Von Hayek declared his support for Salazar in Portugal, stating that he would preserve private property against the abuses of democracy, and how he claimed that the only totalitarian state in Latin America was that of Salvador Allende. Who was elected entirely democratically, and did not close any opposition newspapers or radio stations. Democratic Socialist also shows that Thatcher herself was a profound admirer of Pinochet, putting up a quote from her raving about his dictatorship. He also states that Thatcher, like Pinochet, also used the power of the state to suppress working class opposition. In this case, it was using the police to break up the miner’s strike.

Democratic Socialist is right in general about Enlightenment Liberalism being a revolutionary force, but many of its leaders were by no means democrats. The French Revolutionary was also keen to preserve private property, and the suffrage was based on property qualifications. Citizens were divided into ‘active’ and ‘passive’ – that is, those who possessed enough money to qualify for voting, and those who did not. This was also true of the American Founding Fathers, who were also keen to preserve the wealth and privileges of the moneyed elite against the poor masses. The fight to extend the franchise so that everyone had the vote, including women, was a long one. Britain only became a truly democratic country in the 1920s, after women had gained the vote and the property qualification for the franchise had been repealed. This last meant that all working class men had the vote, whereas previously only the wealthiest section of the working class – the aristocracy of labour – had enjoyed the franchise following Disraeli’s reforms of 1872.

The British historian of Fascism, Martin Pugh, in his book on British Fascism Between the Wars makes this point to show that, rather than having a long tradition of democracy, it was in fact only a recent political innovation, against which sections of the traditional social hierarchy were strongly opposed. This was the aristocracy and the business elites. He states that in Britain the right to vote was connected to how much tax a man paid, and that the principle that everyone had an innate right to vote was rejected as too abstract and French. This distrust of democracy, and hatred of the forces of organised labour, that now possessed it, was shown most clearly in the upper classes’ reaction to the General Strike.

As for the other constitutional liberties, such as a free press, right to a fair trial and freedom of assembly, Pugh also states that the 19th and early 20th century British ‘Liberal’ state was quite prepared to suppress these when it suited them, and could be extremely ruthless, such as when it dealt with the Suffragettes. Hence he argues that the Fascists’ own claim to represent the true nature of traditional British government and values needs to be taken seriously by historians when explaining the rise of Mosley and similar Fascist movements in the ’20s and ’30s.

Democratic Socialist is right when he states that the Classical Liberalism of Von Mises and Von Hayek is Conservative, and supports the traditional feudal hierarchy of the aristocracy and church as opposed to the revolutionary Liberalism of the new middle classes as they arose in the late 18th and 19th centuries. But I don’t think there was a clear division between the two. British political historians have pointed out that during the 19th century, the Liberal middle classes slowly joined forces with the aristocracy as the working class emerged to challenge them in turn. The modern Conservative party, with its ideology of free trade, has also been influenced by one aspect of 19th century Liberalism, just as the Labour party has been influenced by other aspects, such as popular working class activism and a concern for democracy. Von Mises’ and Von Hayek’s ‘Classical Liberalism’ can be seen as an extreme form of this process, whereby the free enterprise component of Enlightenment Liberalism is emphasised to the exclusion of any concern with personal freedom and democracy.

Democratic Party Leader Donna Brasile Reveals Party Controlled by Hillary Before Her Nomination

This is another piece of political dynamite. In this clip from the Jimmy Dore show, the comedian and his two co-hosts, Ron Placone and Steffi Zamorano, discuss the latest revelation about the corruption within the Democrat party.

And it’s a doozy.

Donna Brasile, who took over as head of the Democratic Party after Debbie Wasserman Schultz was caught corruptly acting for Clinton, has a new book coming out about the state of the Democrat Party during the presidential elections. Well, Killary has, so she may as well put her oar in as well. A passage from the book was published in Politico magazine. It was entitled ‘Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Takeover of the DNC’. It reveals how the DNC made a secret deal with Clinton in which they signed over nearly all the fundraising money and gave her control of the political campaign, including strategy and staffing.

Brasile is also corrupt like her predecessor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. During the Democratic presidential nominations, she was leaking debate questions to Hillary, so she would have the advantage over Bernie.

And I know this is just ad hominem, or rather, ad feminam, but to me Brasile looks like the Afro-American cousin of Mrs Slocombe from the classic BBC comedy series, Are You Being Served?

Are You Being Served’s Mrs. Slocombe

The Democrat National Convention’s Donna Brasile

Brasile starts by slagging off her predecessor, dismissing Schultz as ‘not a good manager’. She then goes on to reveal the details of the deal. Under the laws set down by the Federal Election Commission, an individual can only give a maximum of $2,700 directly to an individual in the presidential elections. The limits are, however, much higher for the parties in the individual states. The donors, who had already contributed this amount to Killary’s campaign, could contribute another $353,400 to the Hillary Victory Fund. This represented $10,000 to the parties of the 32 states, who were part of the agreement, which made up $320,000, and $33,400 to the DNC.

She also mentions that the party usually shrinks the number of staff in the period between presidential elections. But Wasserman Schultz had decided not to do that. She had placed a great number of consultants on the payroll, and Obama’s consultants were also being paid by the party as well. Here Dore points out that this shows the contempt the party has for anyone except their donors. The party was already in serious financial trouble, but Wasserman Schultz was serving the consultants and donors from whom the party was taking money, not its grassroots supporters.

Brasile goes on to say that about the time of the Convention, leaked emails revealed how Clinton was keeping most of the money, and very little was going to the state parties. A Politico story published on May 2 2016, quoted Hillary as saying that they would concentrate on building the party up from the bottom. That’s how they were going to win. Instead the states kept less than half of one per cent of the $82 million they had raised.

Then Brasile found the document that would prove to be the smoking gun in the shape of the Joint Fundraising Agreement itself between the Democratic National Convention, the Hillary Victory Fund, and Hillary for America. The Agreement was signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, amongst others, and a copy sent to Marc Elias, Killary’s lawyer. It specified that Killary would control the party’s finances, strategy and all the money raised in return for raising money and investing in the party.

Killary’s campaign would have the right of refusal over who was the party’s communications director, and the final decision on other staff. It also bound the DNC to consult Killary over all other staffing, budget decisions, data and mailings.

This explains why Tulsi Gabbard got removed from the DNC when she suggested that there should be more debates, because Bernie did well in them.

The agreement was signed in August 2015, four months after Killary had announced her candidacy, and nearly a year before she got the nomination.

Brasile also goes on to say that she tried to find other incriminating documents or evidence of corruption within the DNC, but did not find any. Dore pours scorn on this, pointing out that Brasile herself was involved in a series of shady moves to give the nomination to Killary over Bernie Sanders. She also states that the agreement was not illegal, but it was certainly unethical. It wasn’t a criminal act, but it compromised the party’s integrity. This comment again draws very heavy sarcasm from Dore, as it’s just about the worse act of corruption that could possibly be done. It sweeps away any kind of democracy or popular accountability within the party and places it very much under the personal, dictatorial control of a single individual. She also states that she didn’t trust the polls. Touring the country slocombe – er, I mean Brasile, had found there was little enthusiasm for Hillary. And she was particularly worried about Obama supporters and millennials.

Dore, Placone and Zamorano also take the point to reproach the show’s critics for defending Hillary from these charges of corruption, and the smears and accusations they had made against Killary’s left-wing rivals. Dore reminds his audience how he and the other left-wingers were told they were ‘misogynists’, because they backed Bernie against Killary. And because a group of lads had thrown dollars bills after her in protest at her taking money from the corporations and Wall Street. This was despite the fact that Dore himself had voted for the Green New Deal, and its presidential nominee, Jill Stein. Who was very definitely a woman. And throwing money at Hillary and calling her a corporate whore is just fair comment. She is a corporate whore, just like all the corporate whores, male and female, in politics around her.

As for all the accusations she made about Donald Trump conspiring with Russia to steal the election from her, this was exactly what Killary tried to do. She had made a deal with the Russian intelligence services to get dirt on Trump. Whatever the Clinton campaign claims is happening, he says, you can bet that the opposite is true. He also responds to Killary’s comments attributing her failure to having the election stolen from her by stating that Killary had also tried to steal the election through rigged primaries and superdelegates. And then there’s the highly undemocratic electoral college. With an exasperated sigh he asks the rhetorical question of how she could lose to someone like Trump.

He names all the various politicos and celebrities, who attacked him for not backing Hillary, including the producer of the Family Guy. He makes the point that the Democratic Party was lying to its supporters. It wasn’t the Russians, it wasn’t Trump, it was the Democrats, lying to their own grassroots supporters about the corruption within it. He is also angry about how people are turning their anger over their cavalier treatment by the Democrats and Killary on the Jimmy Dore Show. These are people who are poorly raised and have no power. If they really want to show how brave they are, instead of attacking a jag-off YouTube show, as Dore describes it, they should take those who are really powerful. Like Killary and her backers in the DNC.

But the Democratic left and ordinary people are sick of it. Various groups, including progressives and the unions, and in fact 80 per cent of the party, are talking about breaking with the Democrats and forming their own. He urges Bernie Sanders to join them and form a third party, rather than urging people to join the Democrats.There’s no point in anyone joining the Democrat party, as in the view of Dore and his co-hosts, the Democratic Party is dead.

These revelations should have repercussions over here in Britain. The Blairites in the Labour party are joined at the hip to the Clinton Democrats. Blair modelled his New Labour on the Clintons’ New Democrats, copying their policy of adopting the policies of their right-wing opponents in order to win them over at the expense of ignoring their own working class grassroots.

And just as the Clintonites started screaming and libelling anyone who dared to think that Bernie and his policies of strong unions, protectionism and single-payer healthcare were better for America as ‘misogynists’, so the Blairites over here did the same to anyone and everyone who supported Jeremy Corbyn. Because obviously wishing to return to strong unions, higher wages, better workplace rights for employees, proper welfare provision and the renationalisation of the railways and electricity, and an end to the privatisation of the NHS, are real threats to women’s welfare.

Of course they aren’t. The only women they threaten are the Blairite shills in the Labour party and the media, including the Groaniad, who regard the real horny-handed sons and daughters of toil with a mixture of horror and condescension, and confidently expected that, as upper middle class gels from public schools, they were entitled to a place in government along with their brothers from the same class and educational background.

This applies to the various media hackettes, who were raving about Killary’s tour promoting her book What Happened in Britain and the rest of the world the week before last. One of them raved about how, when Killary spoke at the South Bank Centre, women brought their daughters to hear her. She was inspirational! Well, she is to women, who also have an absolute lack of any real morals and admire a corrupt, corporate shill and ravening warmonger. A woman without absolutely any qualms about backing right-wing Fascist coups in small Latin American states. And then, when she loses the election, throws a colossal tantrum and blames everyone else except her, and particularly the Russians.

A woman, who falsely claims that she’s an outsider, simply because she’s female, while being just as much an insider as the men with whom she works and against whom she competes. While also consistently voting against those measures which would improve the lot of ordinary women. Like Medicare For All, stronger welfare provision, better wages and regulation of the banks, so that ordinary folks would not have to pay higher taxes to bail out greedy financiers after they destroyed the economy. Policies that would allow poor women, and this means just about everyone in America and Britain who aren’t rich, to eat, rather than starve in order to feed their children and pay the utility bills.

And, you know, ending foreign wars so that women don’t have to watch and fear for their daughters, sons, husbands and friends coming back from the Middle East with broken or missing limbs and shattered minds, or in body bags.

You know. Those kind of misogynistic policies.

With these revelations, I think everyone in the Labour party, who were smeared as anti-female for supporting Corbyn, is owed an apology by Rachel Reed and their friends in the media.

But I ain’t holding my breath.

Ian Blackmore: Universal Credit Is Fast Becoming Theresa May’s Poll Tax

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/11/2017 - 3:33am in

This is another short video from RT covering Prime Minister’s Questions the other day. Labour’s Ian Blackmore stated that research has shown that families on Universal Credit will lose £1350 of benefits. This will make them worse off. Universal Credit is fast becoming May’s Poll Tax. This is a reference to Margaret Thatcher, whose administration fell in 1989 due to the protests against her attempts to replace the rates with a universal poll tax. And, he asks rhetorically, isn’t it about time she stopped talking about its implementation and did something to fix it.

May responds by talking a lot of nonsense and lies about how Universal Credit isn’t just about Universal Credit, but about supporting people into work, giving them the skills they need to work, and then, once they are in work, allowing them to keep more of the money they earn.

Bilge. All of it. The government doesn’t support people into work. It just hits them with sanctions, which they claim are to provide them with the motivation to find work, but which are simply a rationale for throwing claimants off benefits on the most flimsy of pretexts. Or phoning them up to harangue them for being on the dole, which they then claim is also motivating them. This is another lie. It’s just abuse and harassment. As providing people with skills to get into work, this presumably means the workfare, in which people are expected to work for supermarkets and other big corporations simply for the benefit money, rather than be paid a proper wage and the corporations actually having to employee real workers and pay them proper salaries. It does not provide people with the skills they need. In fact, it actively prevents them from acquiring them, as has happened with the graduates, who had voluntary work lined up in museums, but were told that this was not part of the scheme and they had to fill shelves for Tesco instead. As for allowing people to retain more of their earnings, that’s another whopper. The tax breaks implemented by the Tories are designed to benefit the rich 25 per cent, and the tax burden has been shifted lower down the scale to the poor, who are now subsidizing them. Which is just how the Tories think it all should be, as they still have the feudal attitude that the poor should be bound to supporting their rich masters for as little as possible.

Rather than making people richer, Universal Credit, and the rest of the Tories’ welfare policies, are designed to make ordinary people poorer for the benefit of the rich. And May has told so many half-truths and lies in her reply to Blackmore that I’m amazed she could keep a straight face.

Thoughts and Prayers with the People of New York after the Terror Attack

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/11/2017 - 5:19am in

This is just to say that my thoughts and prayers of with the good folks of New York, and particularly the family and friends left bereaved by the terrorist attack this morning. I have no doubt that the perp will be caught and brought to justice for this appalling crime.

And my prayers and thoughts are also with the other victims of terrorism, unjust war and the butchery and enslavement of innocents around the world, whether in New York, London, Paris, Madrid, or Moscow, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

This isn’t about the West versus Islam or the peoples of the Middle East. ISIS has committed more terrorist acts, and maimed, butchered and enslaved the peoples of that region, whether Muslim, Christian, Yezidi or whatever, than it has killed westerners. It’s about ordinary men and women the world over standing together against hate, bigotry, cruelty and genocide.

And in my view, this also means standing against those politicians, arms manufacturers and defence contractors, who use these vile and despicable acts as a means of promoting further war and exploitation of the Middle East, and of the western taxpayer back home, simply for the big bucks this will bring their management and shareholders.

My very best wishes for the people of this greatest of American cities in this hour. And for everyone else, who wants peace, love and justice, wherever they are in this world.

RT on House of Lord’s Opposition to £200 million Going to Syrian Opposition

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 22/10/2017 - 5:24am in

This clip from RT covers the opposition in the House of Lord’s debate over the British government spending £200 million of taxpayer’s money on the Syrian opposition groups. Only £14 million of this money was for ‘political purposes’. One member of the Lords asks the obvious question about what the rest of the money is for. A government spokesman replies that it is to help the Syrian people stand on their own feet, and that £39 million has gone towards roads and such. Another peer states that the British people would be outraged if they knew how much money was being spent in this way, and feels it would be better spent against fuel poverty in the UK.

Baroness Caroline Cox argued that we should not be sending this money to the Syrian opposition groups, as they are not moderate and will use the money to purchase arms that will be used against us. Interviewed by RT afterwards, she states that she has gone to Syria to see what the situation was really like there, where she met President Assad. She states that there was much opposition to her when she came back, as the government really didn’t want to go, arguing it was unsafe. But she felt she had to go after working with women and children, who had fled the war. She states that she certainly does not condone many of the things Assad has done, but she went to see what the Syrian people wanted.

Cox is quite right to object to this money being spent supporting the opposition groups. They are by no means moderate. They include al-Nusra, which used to be the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, and ISIS. They aim to set up another hardline Islamist state. Syria at the moment, while not a democracy, is a secular state. If the opposition groups take over, they will begin exterminating Christians, Shi’a and moderate Sunni Muslims, and any other religious or secular group that they considered the enemies of Islam, just as they have done elsewhere in Iraq. The weapons they use will be passed on to other Islamist militants, who will use it against us.

The claim that this is to promote a genuinely democratic regime in Syria is a lie. The Likudniks and neocons have been pressing for regime change in Syria for a long time, not least because Assad is supported by Russia and Iran. They, and an alliance of various Arab countries, also want to topple Assad because he is blocking the construction of an oil pipeline which they would like to run from Qatar to Turkey. Assad has refused on the grounds that it would damage the oil interests of his Iranian and Russian allies.

We should not be funding the Syrian opposition. They represent only more sectarian violence and butchery. If they win, the country will destroyed, just like Iraq and Libya. But it will allow the oil multinationals to loot the country, just as they did in Iraq.

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