Why Do Voters Say Hillary Clinton Is Untrustworthy?

Even using objective measures of trustworthiness, like Politifact’s Truth-O-Meter scale, she rates as the most honest compared to every other candidate in the 2016 race.

Photo: Hillary Clinton: Whoever you want her to be? REUTERS/Mike Stone
Photo: Hillary Clinton: Whoever you want her to be? REUTERS/Mike Stone

Source: National Memo

Author: Stephanie Schwartz

Emphasis Mine

Hillary Clinton is not trustworthy.

That’s the belief of many, many Americans – and in this case, let’s exclude the right-wing orthodoxy, who have hated Hillary since she first said she’d rather not stay home baking chocolate-chip cookies in 1992.

Forty percent of Democratic primary voters, according to March CBS/New York Times poll, believe that Mrs. Clinton is politically calculating; somone they don’t trust with the presidency. She’s been asked about it in debates and on the stump, and there’s a whole genre of literature devoted to her “fabrications.”

But even journalists like Jill Abramson, who has covered Clinton for decades as the the New York Times’ Washington bureau chief, managing editor and executive editor, have defended Clinton against mostly-baseless accusations that she is “dishonest.”

Abramson, in an op-ed in The Guardian, writes that while Hillary has shown bad judgment before – she specifically refers to her use of a private email server while Secretary of State, over which Clinton will be speaking to the FBI, and her taking Wall Street money for speeches she’s given – she suffers from a level of scrutiny not given to male candidates, and her long record in politics gives her opponents ample fodder.

This type of criticism, which many use as a feminist defense, might fall on hostile ears. But as Chaz Pazienza argues in The Daily Banter, it’s Clinton’s reputation, for good or for ill, that makes it so impossible for many voters to look at her objectively: The “personality” that’s been sold to the American electorate is largely manufactured, and not by Clinton herself (another facet of the smear: that she’s a phony). The reality is that Clinton was one of the most liberal members of the Senate during her time there, ranking within ten points of progressive messiah Bernie Sanders and her history as a crusader for progressive causes is precisely what so motivated the GOP to destroy her in the first place. As far as the right was concerned, Clinton stepped far over the line when she pushed for healthcare reform way back in 1993 and her activist past informed a future as a “difficult woman.” Even using objective measures of trustworthiness, like Politifact’s Truth-O-Meter scale, she rates as the most honest compared to every other candidate in the 2016 race. (Let’s not even go into the GOP frontrunner, who’s entire candidacy is based upon saying the most outrageous lie he can think of in any given moment.)

But unlike other politicians, the supposed scandals stick. You might be sick of hearing about Hillary’s damn emails, but they’re still getting coverage.

Hillary has learned to become guarded through her decades in public life. When the most intimate details of your life are splayed across front pages for everyone to see – and judge and scold and criticize – it’s natural that she would carefully take pains to draw her private life around her as much as possible. And that’s made blunders about her lack of transparency – like not releasing transcripts of her private speeches to Wall Street – make her look like she’s hiding something, even if it’s just embarrassment or hypocrisy.

As Abramson points out, this doesn’t mean that Hillary is above scrutiny, and she’s not excusing her record. But Abramson isn’t alone in finding Clinton’s “liar” reputation extremely dubious.

After all, America has elected prevaricating politicians before.

See:http://www.nationalmemo.com/why-do-voters-say-hillary-clinton-is-untrustworthy/

Mistakes Were Made: A Talk With the Head of the Communist Party USA

Source: Gawker.com

Author: Hamilton Noland

Emphasis Mine

The United States of America has a Communist Party. John Bachtell is its national chairman. We spoke to him about American politics, the mistakes of the Soviets, and communism’s branding problem.

(N.B.: when one sees the phrase “mistakes were made”, they know this is not the GOP discussing its history.)

Bachtell grew up in Ohio, with parents active in the civil rights and antiwar movement. He became interested in communism in college, and has been a member of the party since 1977. All the while, he’s been involved in political campaigns as well. We met him last week at the Communist Party USA’s headquarters on 23rd street in Manhattan to hear what modern American communism is all about. It’s not your daddy’s communism.

(N.B.: Because of the incredible variety in all aspects – including geography, economy, and culture – in the state of Ohio,  I don’t think there could be a more ambiguous statement than “in Ohio”.)

Gawker: Your involvement in electoral campaigns is mainly organizing for progressive Democrats?

John Bachtell: Yes, mainly progressive Democrats and independents at every level, whether it be city council, state rep, Senate, Presidential. I was really active in both Obama campaigns. Actually I was his precinct captain for his Senate campaign in Illinois.

Gawker: Do people ever reject your help because they don’t want the Communist Party associated with their campaigns?

JB: Not usually. I tend to be more tactical, so it doesn’t really become an issue. I don’t make it an issue—we don’t make it an issue. We’re all about coalition building in the electoral arena… It’s hard for us to run candidates that are not within the framework of either the Democratic Party, or independent politics.

Gawker: How has the party changed in the nearly 30 years you’ve been in it?  

JB: I think we have gone through a lot of different changes. Unfortunately I think we’re a little smaller now than we were back in the 80s. There were huge setbacks that took place back in 1991, and that had a big impact on not only the Communist Parties around the world, socialist parties—it had a big impact on the labor movement. I don’t know that people fully appreciate the extent of that setback to mass movements. But certainly it had an impact on our party, and I’m not sure we’ve fully recovered from it. At the same time, it prompted us to embark on a very deep examination of our politics and organization, and since then we’ve been embarking on a lot of changes. We call them transformative changes that modernize the party, that make us a party of 21st century socialism, that bring us from the political margins into the political mainstream.

Gawker: And by that do you mean focusing more on coalitions with more mainstream movements on the left, or what?

JB: It entails first of all rooting ourselves in the political and economic realities of today. Our main strategic concept that we’ve been working with since 1980 is the rise of the right—the extreme right—its domination of politics in the US. That all rose with Reagan and the right wing takeover of the Republican party. And that’s been with us since then. We’ve seen it as recently as the last election cycle and everything that’s come out of that, and the domination of state governments by extreme right wing Republicans, and what they’ve been able to do on worker rights, women’s rights, voter suppression, and a whole bunch of different things. There’s a real threat to basic democratic rights as we see it. We were one of the very first organizations to sound the alarm and call for a very broad multi-class united front against the extreme right. And I think that’s been validated. Now it’s a very broadly accepted concept. But the extreme right’s not gonna be defeated without a multi-class movement that involves those sections of Wall Street that don’t go along with the Koch brothers; that also involves the labor movement, communities of color, women’s organizations, youth and students, and all the Democratic movements, immigrant rights, gay and lesbian rights, seniors, you name it. All have to be part of this. Otherwise we won’t be able to advance to any other stages of struggle in this country.

Gawker: What’s been your impression of the Obama administration, and Obama’s record?

JB: When he was first elected we thought that perhaps his presidency could be a transformative moment for the country. I think we underestimated the degree of opposition from the Republicans and sections of Wall Street and monopoly capital. They thwarted him at every turn, and there were also divisions within the Democrats as well. So it was really hard for the administration to do some of what they wanted to do. Nevertheless, we felt that he could have gone further than he did, particularly economically, but the fact is that the Republican obstruction has been full court obstruction of everything…

Now you have a shift in mass public opinion that’s gravitating on a lot of key issues in a very good direction: majorities in support of taxing the rich, in support of immigration reform, you name it. I think that is in some ways allowing the administration to bypass Congress and use executive authority to move forward.

Gawker: Is growing the party an important goal for you? Is recruiting younger people into the party important to you?

JB: I think as part of the process of building this broad people’s coalition, we see rebuilding the left—because a broad left is a necessary part of that. I think in a lot of ways the organized left is marginalized. Its voice has not been fully heard, except now through the Sanders campaign you’re seeing signs of it... but in a lot of ways the left has not been able to speak very broadly to the American people. And so I think rebuilding the left as a viable force, and also our party as a mass voice for socialism in the country, is needed to put forward much more advanced solutions.

Gawker: It does seem like in previous generations, big, organized left wing groups like yours were more popular, but they’re not as much now with the younger generation, even thought the left wing sentiment is still there. Why do you think that is?

JB: Obviously the McCarthy period had a huge impact on the left, and really isolated the left in the country in the 50s. The 60s began to bring the left from the margins back into the conversation again. But the rise of the extreme right in the 80s, which was connected in a lot of ways to a whole restructuring of capitalism and the beginning of globalization, there was an ideological component that went with it, that really once again made left ideas not viable, or worthy of public discussion. Shunted them to the side. Mass media was part of that. So there was no way to gain entry in a big way. Having said that, I think the left also did a lot to isolate itself, and in that context spoke to itself and not to broad masses. I think that we fell into that as well, even though we tried to find ways to modify our message. I don’t think we were effective enough in that. And that takes me to today, because I think in a lot of ways that’s still true: the left speaks too narrowly, to too narrow of an audience.

Gawker: Do you feel that the Communist party has a branding problem, for lack of a better term? Is the stigma that goes with being the Communist party still a stumbling block?

JB: I don’t think you can conclude anything other than that. I think we have a branding problem, and even though there’s been a decline in anti-communism in the country, I think we are still in many ways associated with the Soviet Union and with that whole era of global socialism. The early part of the 20th century. Some people may see us a foreign import, even though we’re deeply rooted in the revolutionary democratic traditions of this country. And that’s something we have to grapple with.

Gawker: You’ve written about your commitment to work with Democrats and the Democratic party. Is that just a nod to political reality? And if that’s a transitional strategy for you, what’s the long term strategy?

JB: We see the long term movement towards socialism as necessary, but it’s not inevitable. Because with global climate change and the danger of nuclear weapons humanity may not survive. So it’s really up to the will of humanity to figure out a way forward. But we do see the struggle in the United States as going through a number of stages. The current one, as I said, is to defeat the extreme right. It also overlaps with another more advanced stage of struggle, which is the struggle against monopoly corporations and the capitalist class as a whole. But we do see building a very broad majority people’s coalition—you can’t win any fundamental change big majorities. That’s what history shows us, so that’s what we’re all about.

Gawker: What do you think accounts for the success of the right, which you say you’ve been grappling with since the 80s?

JB: Well, you’re dealing with some extremely powerful forces that have unlimited resources, and they’re not only able to fund movements, but whole institutions, mass media, and so on. So they’re extremely powerful, and you can never underestimate what they’re capable of doing. And I think it’s also related to what we were talking about earlier: during the rise of the right, they were basically able to shut out the alternatives. They were able to shut out the voice of the left. So that’s why they were able to ideologically dominate political discourse in the country, and then were able to influence how people thought at the grassroots.

Now, we’re facing this long term economic stagnation in the country, and this is the new normal. Mass unemployment; huge wealth disparity, and increasingly so; the only means of economic development is through external stimulus, and so on; and declining living standards. So you have a lot of scared people. People are really scared. So a lot of people are open to easy solutions. So you start pouring in racism, and xenophobia, and homophobia, and so on—people buy it, if there’s not a counter to it. Then I think we have a problem where a lot of people, it’s easy for people to think they can get outta this thing on their own. Individualist solutions. They don’t see collective struggle. And I think that’s an important lesson we all have to learn: that any change in this country is going to be collective struggle. Masses in motion...

There’s a lot of great things that are happening. With the labor movement. Just in the last year, we’ve had an incredible conversation around the country about racism, and institutionalized racism. Black Lives Matter has played an important role. We’ve had these incredible developments around marriage equality, and gay and lesbian equality. These are really sea changes in public opinion in a lot of ways. And they harken to possibilities for the future.

Gawker: When it comes to economic inequality, do you feel your party has some special insight on that issue? What would be your (near term) prescription?

JB: There’s a lot of great ideas being put forward that we totally support, and have actually been promoting for many years. Beginning with income redistribution in the country, taxing the wealthy and corporations, eliminating all the corporate welfare subsidies, ending privatization of public services and assets. We support the idea of a financial transactions tax. We’re of course for a massive shifting of the federal budget away from military spending and pouring that money into a massive project to rebuild cities and towns all across the country, a high speed rail system from coast to coast, a transition to a sustainable economy, completely divesting off of coal, and pouring money into healing the environment. Which we feel in the short term will generate millions or tens of millions of new jobs and put people back to work much the way the WPA did. I think one of the missing elements of this campaign—although [Bernie] Sanders talks about it—is a call for a massive public works program that will put literally everybody back to work in one way or another. And I think it’s possible. But it’s only possible with income redistribution in society.

Gawker: The biggest socialist foreign policy story now would be America’s relationship with Cuba. What’s your take on it, and on the Cuban socialist experiment as a whole?

JB: I think this is a really exciting time. The normalization of relations is long overdue. It’s something that supported by the Cuban people and the majority of Americans, so I think it’s a wonderful thing. I also think it’s an exciting time for the Cubans, because of their reinventing socialism and updating their socialist model.

I think that they recognized that the current model they were working under was not doing the job, was not leading to the kind of development that was necessary, and that in fact they were losing ground in a lot of ways. And I think one of the conclusions that they drew was that the model that they had, which was based on the Soviet model—centralized planning—was not and maybe never could have been conducive to the realities that they faced there. So they had to change. The had to. While they are not giving up their objective of building socialism, they realized that they had to find ways to have a number of different forms of social property and private property. They had to find a way to open up the doors to foreign investment, either wholly or in joint form. And they had to find a way to involve a much bigger section of the Cuban people in this process. So I think the whole movement towards cooperatives is a really important development.

But also this idea that you have to have incentives. And that I think was one of the fundamental mistakes—it was a mistake for the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries that collapsed, that they leveled income, and they didn’t see the need for rewarding work. So now you have the institution of wages at different levels, even though it’s within a range. Still, you have to have that. People demanded it, and they’re responding to it. And that’s an important lesson. We see that as part of our socialism as well.

Gawker: Is there an official policy on that for the Communist Party? I think a standard American view is that communism involves both centralized planning and hyper-equality, which strikes fear in people’s hearts.

JB: We see our socialism in the United States as being very unique. At the same time we have to examine the mistakes and errors that happened, including the overcentralization and the totality of the state sector and the leveling of wages and so on. I think most would agree those were big mistakes which compounded and helped to lead to the collapse, or was a factor in the collapse of socialism. We see, at least in the foreseeable future, a market much like we see today, but a much bigger state sector, and one in which the power of corporations and Wall Street is severely limited. And that actually the big corporations and the big banks are brought under public ownership. And that we reverse privatization and expand public assets.. but at the same time, we do see a need for the range of wages depending on a person’s contribution to society or their ability to produce. They should be rewarded for that.

Gawker: Is your vision for America a sort of Scandinavian model? Or is there another model, or precedent?

JB: I don’t think so. Although obviously we see this transition taking place through the electoral arena. We see a socialist coalition being elected, one that can institute these kinds of policies, including expanding public ownership. As I said, our aim is to curb the power of the biggest corporations in the country, and the wealthiest people. I think there will be a big role for small businesses, and farmers, and even middle-sized corporations. We’re not about advocating taking people’s personal property. That’s not anything we believe in. We call it “Bill of Rights Socialism,” by the way. It’s kind of an expansion of the Bill of Rights… making the right to a job part of the Constitution. The right to a free education, free health care, free child care, access to affordable housing and mass transit. All those things should be basic rights that are enshrined in the Constitution.

Gawker: How optimistic are you that some of these things are actually going to get done, whether in the next few years or in your lifetime?

JB: I’m really optimistic for the future. But I’m also obviously very alarmed by the dangers that we face as a country, as a world, and as humanity. We don’t have a lot of time. Especially when you consider global climate change and how rapidly the potential for destabilizing whole ecosystems [is growing], and how fast humanity could be obliterated, or at least large sections of humanity. So we have to work with urgency. We have to help much larger sections of people understand the urgency of the moment. And I think people are. How quickly is another question. But that’s part of the role of movements.

See:http://gawker.com/talking-politics-with-the-head-of-the-communist-party-u-1723918251

Robert Reich: The Wealthy Have Pulled America Back to the 19th Century

Wall Street and enormously rich individuals have gained political power to organize the market in ways that leave most Americans behind.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Robert Reich

N.B.: Marx: correct in the 19th century, and still correct today.

Emphasis Mine

My recent column about the growth of on-demand jobs like Uber making life less predictable and secure for workers unleashed a small barrage of criticism from some who contend that workers get what they’re worth in the market.

A Forbes Magazine contributor, for example, writes that jobs exist only  “when both employer and employee are happy with the deal being made.” So if the new jobs are low-paying and irregular, too bad.

Much the same argument was voiced in the late nineteenth century over alleged “freedom of contract.” Any deal between employees and workers was assumed to be fine if both sides voluntarily agreed to it.

It was an era when many workers were “happy” to toil twelve-hour days in sweat shops for lack of any better alternative.

It was also a time of great wealth for a few and squalor for many. And of corruption, as the lackeys of robber barons deposited sacks of cash on the desks of pliant legislators.

Finally, after decades of labor strife and political tumult, the twentieth century brought an understanding that capitalism requires minimum standards of decency and fairness – workplace safety, a minimum wage, maximum hours (and time-and-a-half for overtime), and a ban on child labor.

We also learned that capitalism needs a fair balance of power between big corporations and workers.

We achieved that through antitrust laws that reduced the capacity of giant corporations to impose their will, and labor laws that allowed workers to organize and bargain collectively.

By the 1950s, when 35 percent of private-sector workers belonged to a labor union, they were able to negotiate higher wages and better working conditions than employers would otherwise have been “happy” to provide.

But now we seem to be heading back to nineteenth century.

Corporations are shifting full-time work onto temps, free-lancers, and contract workers who fall outside the labor protections established decades ago.

The nation’s biggest corporations and Wall Street banks are larger and more potent than ever.

And labor union membership has shrunk to fewer than 7 percent of private-sector workers.

So it’s not surprising we’re once again hearing that workers are worth no more than what they can get in the market.

But as we should have learned a century ago, markets don’t exist in nature. They’re created by human beings. The real question is how they’re organized and for whose benefit.

In the late nineteenth century they were organized for the benefit of a few at the top.

But by the middle of the twentieth century they were organized for the vast majority.

During the thirty years after the end of World War II, as the economy doubled in size, so did the wages of most Americans — along with improved hours and working conditions.

Yet since around 1980, even though the economy has doubled once again (the Great Recession notwithstanding), the wages most Americans have stagnated. And their benefits and working conditions have deteriorated.

This isn’t because most Americans are worth less. In fact, worker productivity is higher than ever.

It’s because big corporations, Wall Street, and some enormously rich individuals have gained political power to organize the market in ways that have enhanced their wealth while leaving most Americans behind.

That includes trade agreements protecting the intellectual property of large corporations and Wall Street’s financial assets, but not American jobs and wages.

Bailouts of big Wall Street banks and their executives and shareholders when they can’t pay what they owe, but not of homeowners who can’t meet their mortgage payments.

Bankruptcy protection for big corporations, allowing them  to shed their debts, including labor contracts. But no bankruptcy protection for college graduates over-burdened with student debts.

Antitrust leniency toward a vast swathe of American industry – including Big Cable (Comcast, AT&T, Time-Warner), Big Tech (Amazon, Google), Big Pharma, the largest Wall Street banks, and giant retailers (Walmart).

But less tolerance toward labor unions — as workers trying to form unions are fired with impunity, and more states adopt so-called “right-to-work” laws that undermine unions.

We seem to be heading full speed back to the late nineteenth century.

So what will be the galvanizing force for change this time?

Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He also served on President Obama’s transition advisory board. His latest book is “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future.” His homepage is www.robertreich.org.

 

See: http://www.alternet.org/robert-reich-wealthy-have-pulled-america-back-19th-century

America’s Greatest Shame: Child Poverty Rises and Food Stamps Cut While Billionaires Boom

Source: Alternet

Author: Les Leopold

There are 16.4 million American children living in poverty. That’s nearly one quarter (22.6%) of all of our children. More alarming is that the percentage of poor children has climbed by 4.5 percent since the start of the Great Recession in 2007. And poor means poor. For a family of three with one child under 18, the poverty line is $18,400.

Meanwhile, the stock market is booming. Banks, hedge funds andprivate equity firms are making tens of billions of dollars again, while the luxury housing and goods markets are skyrocketing.

Most amazing of all is the fact that 95 percent of the so-called “recovery” has gone to the top 1 percent who have seen their incomes rise by 34%. For the 99 percent there’s been an undeclared wage freeze: the average wage has climbed by only 0.4 percent.

To add to the misery, Washington has decided that the best way to tackle childhood poverty is to have poor kids eat less. Both parties already have agreed to cut billions from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps). Starting this November 1, payments are scheduled to drop from $668 a month to $632 for more than 47 million lower-income people — 1 in 7 Americans, most of them children. (Three incredible graphs that visualize the issues in this story are at the bottom of this article.)

And more cuts are coming. The Tea Party House passed a bill to cut food stamps by $4 billion a year, while the Senate calls for $400 million in cuts. How humane! And since it will be part of the omnibus Farm Bill, President Obama will sign it. (I wonder how our former community organizer will explain this to the poor children he once tried to help in Chicago.)

But that’s just the start. More austerity is coming in the form of cuts to Social Security as well as a host of other social programs. When times get tough, you’ve got to suck it up and take more from the poor.

Rewarding Billionaires Who Increase Poverty?

It gets even more revolting when we realize that the financial billionaires who are profiting so handsomely from the recovery are the very same who took down the economy in the first place. They were the ones who created and pedaled the toxic securities that puffed up and then burst the housing bubble. Those financial plutocrats caused 8 million workers to lose their jobs in a matter of months. Those bankers, hedge fund honchos and fund managers are directly responsible for the rise in child poverty rates. Washington bailed out those billionaires and is now asking the poor and the middle class to pay for the ensuing deficits with further cuts in social programs at every level of government.

Why do we put up with such injustices?

Washington Is in Wall Street’s Pocket

Before we entirely succumb to financial amnesia, let’s recall how we got here. Since the late 1970s, the financial sector has been on a crusade to remove any and all financial regulations. The goal was to undo all the controls put in place during the Great Depression that so effectively curtailed financial speculation and outright gambling. Once deregulated Wall Street engineered a Ponzi-like housing bubble that netted it astronomical sums. By the time it burst in 2007, 40% of all corporate profits flowed into the financial sector. Wall Street wages grew by leaps and bounds.

As the crash hit, all the largest Wall Street firms, not just Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, were in serious trouble. Had AIG gone under, so would nearly every major bank and investment house, along with thousands of hedge funds that depended on AIG to ensure its toxic bets. So Wall Street’s Washington cadre engineered a $13 trillion bailout consisting of cash, no interest loans and a program by which the Federal Reserve would buy up Wall Street’s toxic waste at par value. To produce a financial recovery, the Fed also drove down bond interest rates which in turn drove money into the stock market, sending it to new heights.

Here’s the best of all. After getting $480 billion in bailout cash, the top financiers in the country paid themselves more than $150 billion in bonus money for a job well done. Is this a great country or what?

What didn’t happen is this: Mortgages were not written down in mass to assist underwater home owners and those who suffered from predatory loans. No lasting jobs programs were created to put the unemployed back to work. No lasting penalties were paid by the individuals who took down the economy. And there was no serious effort at all to cap financial wages and bonuses in the name of justice.

All in all, you could not have designed a more perfect program to enrich the rich and do absolutely nothing for the 99 percent — and as a result, sink ever more children into poverty.

Waiting for the Recovery That Will Never Come

We are constantly told that the recovery is just around the corner. Liberals say we need more stimulus. Conservatives call for more austerity and cuts in regulations. But all agree that sooner or later more growth will benefit the 99 percent. Unfortunately, it’s not happening and it won’t happen. Here’s why.

First of all, they assume that trickledown actually works, that there is something mechanical within our heavily financialized economy that will bring renewed prosperity to the 99 percent. They look back at previous recessions and recoveries and continue to believe that slumps are followed by renewed growth and income gains for all.

But as financialization has spread throughout the economy, new mechanisms are in place that siphon off wealth into financial gains for the very few. Productive enterprises are turned into financial enterprises that are loaded up with debt and then carved and slaughtered so that wealth can be extracted for hedge funds and private equity firms. In our brave new financialized economy renewed growth turns into renewed incomes primarily for the investment class. The stock market will rise but jobs and incomes won’t. The traditional capitalist slump-recovery process died more than a decade ago. Adam Smith’s invisible hand no longer produces shared prosperity — instead it picks our pockets.

Waiting for the Political Pendulum to Swing

Second, we are told how America is essentially a moderate country — how there’s a kind of invisible political pendulum that swings from the extremes back to the sensible center. When the left or the Tea Party gets too wild, the center supposedly pulls them back and common sense economics prevails. But this consoling media meme obscures the fact that our politics are moving ever more rightward. Moderate Democrats and Republicans today are to the right of Eisenhower, Nixon and even Herbert Hoover. They have already agreed to cut the very entitlements that are needed to help alleviate poverty. In fact, they have agreed it’s quite OK for America to have 442 billionaires and also have 22.6% of its children living in poverty. The sensible center now sees its role as forging a “compromise” on how much to cut food stamps and other supports for the poor.

Obviously, both political parties lose little sleep worrying about economic injustices. Even most Democrats no longer have a serious game plan to eradicate poverty. That’s considered to be 1960s stuff that doesn’t make sense in a world where politicians have to make peace with at least some players in the billionaire class in order to survive. As for the poor, alas, they will always be with us.

America Leads the World

Not a day goes by without hearing about “American exceptionalism.” We are told by our leaders and pundits that we are the best, the greatest, the mightiest and the most democratic of all nations. It is our mission in life to uphold justice and freedom around the world. But as this chart shows, when it comes to child poverty, we are just about dead last.

Why is that? Because in wealthy nations, children live in poverty if and only if that nation allows it. Our nation, the richest in history, has more than enough wealth to go from the bottom of this list to the top, right next to Finland, if only we decided to act justly.

A Simple Proposal to end Child Poverty

America has 442 billionaires with an average net worth of $4.2 billion eachaccording to Forbes. That means collectively these 442 Americans have nearly $1.9 trillion in wealth.

During the current “recovery,” these 442 billions saw their wealth rise on average by over 12 percent per year. What would happened if those billionaires received only 6 percent a year and the other 6 percent were taxed away in order to pull all of our children out of poverty?

That would provide sufficient revenue so that each child now living in poverty would receive an extra $7,000 per year which would pull nearly all of their families above the poverty line. The 442 billionaires would not suffer. No one in their families would go hungry. No luxury goods or services would be out of reach. No cooks, maids, chauffeurs or pilots would have to be let go. The 442 billionaires would feel no pain at all — not even an itch. As a result of this painless tax, America would eradicate childhood poverty overnight.

Dream on?

Of course, our simple proposal sounds insane in a world where austerity reigns supreme and where billionaires are immune from such redistributive proposals. But I wonder who is sane and who isn’t. It seems utterly psychotic to live in a society that chooses to spread poverty to its young. It also seems psychotic to claim that cuts in food stamps are good for the poor while at the same time saying that it’s quite OK for billionaires to pile up unearned, tax-sheltered income. The fact that we’re putting up with all this should be driving us all insane.

Sooner or later, the millions of Americans who still have souls that ache for justice will take democracy into their own hands. I don’t know how it will happen or when, but one day we will eradicate needless poverty and reclaim our nation from those who are robbing it blind.

3 Incredible Charts

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Les Leopold is the executive director of the Labor Institute in New York, and author of How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour: Why Hedge Funds Get Away with Siphoning Off America’s Wealth (J. Wiley and Sons, 2013).

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.alternet.org/hard-times-usa/americas-greatest-shame-child-poverty-rises-and-food-stamps-cut-while-billionaires?akid=11103.123424.W7X-8c&rd=1&src=newsletter918440&t=3

 

The Tea Party Republicans’ Biggest Mistake

Source: Robert Reich’s Blog, via RSN

Author: By Robert Reich

Representative Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama and a fierce critic of the Affordable Care Act, has just changed his tune. He now says: “My primary focus is on minimizing risk of insolvency and bankruptcy. There are many paths you can take to get there. Socialized medicine is just one of the component parts of our debt and deficits that put us at financial risk.”

Translated: House Republicans are under intense pressure. A new Gallup poll shows the Republican Party now viewed favorably by only 28% of Americans, down from 38% in September. That’s the lowest favorable rating measured for either party since Gallup began asking this question in 1992. The Democratic Party is viewed favorably by 43%, down four percentage points from last month.

So Republicans are desperately looking for a way of getting out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves – and the President has given them one. He told them that if they agree to temporarily fund the government and raise the debt ceiling without holding as ransom the Affordable Care Act or anything else, negotiations can begin on reducing the overall budget deficit.

What’s the lesson here? The radicals who tried to hijack America didn’t understand one very basic thing. While most Americans don’t like big government, Americans revere our system of government. That’s why even though a majority disapprove of the Affordable Care Act, a majority also disapprove of Republican tactics for repealing or delaying it.

Government itself has never been popular in America except during palpable crises such as war or deep depression. The nation was founded in a revolution against an abusive government – that was what the original Tea Party was all about – and that distrust is in our genes. The Constitution reflects it. Which is why it’s hard for government to do anything very easily. (I’ve never been as frustrated as when I was secretary of labor – continuously running into the realities of separation of power, checks and balances, and the endless complications of federal, state, and local levels of authority. But frustration goes with the job.)

No one likes big government. If you’re on the left, you worry about the military-industrial-congressional complex that’s spending zillions of dollars creating new weapons of mass destruction, spying on Americans, and killing innocents abroad. And you don’t like government interfering in your sex life, telling you how and when you can have an abortion, whom you can marry. If you’re on the right, you worry about taxes and regulations stifling innovation, out-of-control bureaucrats infringing on your freedom, and government deficits as far as the eye can see.

So when Tea Party Republicans, bankrolled by a handful of billionaires, began calling the Affordable Care Act a “wholesale takeover of American health care,” many Americans were inclined to believe them. Health care is such a huge and complicated system, affecting us and our families so intimately, that our inherent distrust of government makes us instinctively wary. It’s no accident we’re still the only advanced nation not to have universal health care. FDR decided against adding it to his plan for Social Security because he didn’t want to jeopardize the rest of the program; subsequent presidents never got close, at least until Obama.

The best argument for the Affordable Care Act is that our current healthcare system is so dysfunctional – the most expensive in the world with the least healthy outcomes (highest infant mortality, shortest life spans, worst rates of chronic disease) of any advanced nation – that we had no choice but to try to fix it. Even so, it’s a typical American fix: It’s still based on private health providers and private insurers. All government does is subsidize the poor, require insurers to take in people with pre-existing health problems, and pay for it by requiring everyone to be insured.

The Tea Party Republicans’ mistake was to assume that Americans’ distrust of big government, and, by extension, the Affordable Care Act, would allow them to ride roughshod over the process we have for making laws.

Their double-barreled threat to shut down the government and cause the United States to default on its obligations if the Affordable Care Act isn’t repealed or at least delayed is a direct assault on our system of government: If even unpopular laws can be gutted by a majority in one house of Congress holding the rest of government hostage, there’s no end to it. No law on the books will be safe. (Their retort that Congress holds the “purse strings” and can therefore decide to de-fund what it dislikes is bunk; appropriation bills have to be agreed to by both houses and signed into law by the president, like any other legislation.)

While most of us distrust government, we’re indelibly proud of our system of government. We like to think it’s just about the best system in the world. We don’t much like politicians but we canonize the Founding Fathers, the Framers of the Constitution. And we revere the fading parchment on which the Constitution is written. When we pledge allegiance to the United States we bind ourselves to that system of government. Anyone who seeks to overthrow or undermine that system is deemed a traitor.

And that’s exactly what some Tea Partiers have begun sounding like – traitors to the system, radicals for whom the end they seek justifies whatever means they think necessary to achieve it. As such, they began losing support even among Americans who had bought their view of the Affordable Care Act.

So they’ve had to back down, and soon, hopefully, we can move to the next stage – negotiating over the size of government. That should be stronger ground for the Tea Partiers. But the President, Democrats, and any moderate Republican who dares show his face can still gain ground by framing the question properly: The size of government isn’t the real issue. It’s who government is for. The best way to reduce future budget deficits is to ensure it’s for all of us and not just a privileged few.

That means revenues should be raised from the wealthy, who have never been wealthier – limiting their deductions and tax credits, closing loopholes like “carried interest,” and taxing financial transactions. Spending should be cut by ending corporate welfare – terminating tax subsidies to oil and gas, ballooning payments to agribusiness, sweetheart deals for military contractors, and the “too big to fail” subsidy for Wall Street’s biggest banks. Future health-care costs should be contained by using the government’s bargaining leverage over providers (through Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act) to force a shift from fee-for-service to payments-for-healthy-outcomes. And we should spend more on high-quality education and infrastructure for everyone.

Americans distrust big government, and always will. There’s ample reason – especially given the huge sums now bankrolling politicians, coming from a relative handful of billionaires, big corporations, and Wall Street. But we love our system of government. That’s what must be strengthened.

By using tactics perceived to violate that system, the Tea Partiers have overplayed their hand. If they don’t stop their recklessness, they’ll be out of the game.


Robert B. Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock” and “The Work of Nations.” His latest is an e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/19833-focus-the-tea-party-republicans-biggest-mistake

 

What Obama Should Do Now

Source: Reich’s Blog

By: Robert Reich

“What should the President do now?

Push to repeal the sequester (a reconciliation bill in the Senate would allow repeal with 51 votes, thereby putting pressure on House Republicans), and replace it with a “Build America’s Future” Act that would close tax loopholes used by the wealthy, end corporate welfare, impose a small (1/10 of 1%) tax on financial transactions, and reduce the size of the military.

Half the revenues would be used for deficit reduction, the other half for investments in our future through education (from early-childhood through affordable higher ed), infrastructure, and basic R&D.

Also included in that bill – in order to make sure our future isn’t jeopardized by another meltdown of Wall Street – would be a resurrection of Glass-Steagall and a limit on the size of the biggest banks.

I’d make clear to the American people that they made a choice in 2012 but that right-wing House Republicans have been blocking that choice, and the only way to implement that choice is for Congress to pass the Build America’s Future Act.

If House Republicans still block it, I’d make 2014 a referendum on it and them, and do whatever I could to take back the House.

In short, the President must reframe the public debate around the future of the country and the investments we must make together in that future, rather than austerity economics. And focus on good jobs and broad-based prosperity rather than prosperity for a few and declining wages and insecurity for the many.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/279-82/16330-focus-what-obama-should-do-now

 

What If the Greedy Rich Paid Their Share? 8 Things to Know About Wealth and Poverty in the US

We’re far from poor — we just have a wildly lopsided distribution of wealth that makes us seem poor.

From: AlterNet

By:Les Leopold

America is loaded. We are not a struggling nation ready to go under. We are not facing an enormous debt crisis despite what the politicians and pundits proclaim. We are not the next Greece.

Rather, we have an enormous concentration-of-wealth problem — one that must be solved for the good of our commonwealth. We are a very rich nation but it doesn’t seem that way because our wealth is so concentrated in the hands of a few. This is America’s disaster.

But wait. Doesn’t the wealth belong to the super-rich? Didn’t they earn it fair and square? Isn’t that the way it’s always been?

Not by a long shot. The amount of wealth that flows to the super-rich is determined by our public policies. It’s all about how we choose to share our nation’s productivity.

Productivity and the Wealth of Nations

Our country is rich because we are enormously productive as measured by output per hour worked. The greater our collective output per hour, the more our economy produces and the wealthier we are…or should be. It’s not a perfect measure since it doesn’t adequately take into account our environment, our health or our overall well-being. But it is a good gauge of our collective level of effort, skill, knowledge, level of organization, and productive capacity. As the top line on the productivity chart below shows, we’ve been able to produce more and more per hour year after year since WWII. It’s a remarkable achievement.

From 1947 until the mid-1970s, the fruits of our bountiful productivity were shared reasonably fairly with working people. As productivity rose so did workers’ real wages (See the bottom line in the chart below. It represents the average weekly wage of non-supervisory workers who make up about 80 percent of the entire workforce.) This wasn’t socialism. There were still plenty of rich people who earned a significant slice of the productivity harvest. But much of that wealth was plowed back into the economy through taxation rates that between 1947 and 1980 hovered between 70 to 91 percent on incomes over $3 million (in today’s dollars).  Much of that money was used to build our physical and knowledge infrastructures, and to fight the Cold War. Unions were supported by public policy and workers’ real wages rose steadily after accounting for inflation. Wall Street was tightly controlled and the middle-class grew like never before.

Then something happened.

It wasn’t an act of God, or the blind forces of technological change, or the mysterious movements of markets. Nor did the super-rich become enormously smarter than before. Instead, flesh-and-blood policy makers decided that deregulation and tax cuts should become the order of the day starting in the mid-1970s. The idea was that if we cut taxes on the super-rich and deregulated the economy (and especially Wall Street), investment would dramatically increase and all boats would rise. But as we can see from the chart below, the average worker’s wage in real terms stalled and even declined after the mid-’70s. The fruits of productivity no longer were shared equitably. The enormous gap between the two lines (trillions of dollars per year) went almost entirely to the super-rich. The wealth of the wealthy skyrocketed, not by accident, but by policy design. “Greed is good” replaced the middle-class American dream.

What Is Wealth and Who Has It?

Wealth or net worth is the total value of what you own (your assets) minus the total value of your debts (your liabilities.) Our collective net worth is really huge. We’re talking big, big numbers. As of the end of 2011, U.S. households had $30 trillion in private assets and $13.6 trillion in liabilities for a total net worth of $16.4 trillion (PDF). How much is that? It comes to an average of $141,000 per household – free and clear of any debts.

But averages are extremely misleading, because wealth is so highly concentrated at the top. Here are some eye-popping numbers.

1. The number of households with a million dollars or more of net worth grew by 202 percent between 1983 and 2007.

2. The number of households with a net worth of $5 million or more grew by 494 percent.

3. The number of $10 million or more households grew by a whopping 598 percent!

4. There are now more than 464,000 households worth $10 million or more. (PDF)

5. But the bottom 40 percent of American households has a net worth of nearly zero (.2 percent).

6. If you take out the value of our homes, the bottom 40 percent has a negative net worth of minus 1 percent – meaning they owe more than their assets are worth.

7. Meanwhile the top one percent holds 34.6 percent of our total net worth and 42.7 percent of all financial assets (excluding homes).

8. That means that the top one percent has a positive net worth valued at approximately $5,700,000,000,000 (that’s $5.7 trillion).

Why We Need a Financial Transaction Tax

Most Americans live on earned income which is taxed instantly through substantial payroll taxes. You can’t collect a paycheck without paying taxes. The super-rich, however, receive most of their income through financial investments that are taxed at lower capital gains rates and which can be offset through a myriad of deductions and loopholes. In effect, the super-rich live by one tax code and the rest of us use another. This is why the wealthiest Americans pay lower effective tax rates than their servants. It’s also why our government appears to be starved for income. If we want a vibrant economy and good investments in our public infrastructures, the wealthy must pay a great deal more, just like they did during the early post-WWII period.

For starters we need a financial transaction tax which is a small sales tax on each and every financial trade – from stocks and bonds to futures and other derivatives. Since the super-rich hold so many financial assets, this kind of tax would directly target their excessive trading and enormous holdings. Not only would this sales tax produce upwards of $150 billion a year in federal revenue, but also, it may help eliminate much of the financial gambling that took down the economy in 2007. Considerate it a tax on financial toxic waste.

A Wealth Tax to Improve our Commonwealth

Finland, France, Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland have small net wealth taxes, and England has had a financial transaction tax for three centuries. We should join them. A 1 to 3 percent wealth tax with a million-dollar deduction would only hit the top 1 percent and would provide the nation with from $50 to $150 billion per year in income. Spare change for the super-rich.

The beauty of a wealth tax is that there are no loopholes. Your assets (which include both foreign and domestic) and your liabilities are easily calculated. It’s easier to spot the cheaters. It’s easier to press for information from other countries that may be tempted to launder money for our super-rich. There’s nowhere to run unless the super-rich want to give up their citizenship.

Even Ronald McKinnon, a conservative economist writing in the Wall Street Journal (“The Conservative Case for a Wealth Tax”) is advocating a wealth tax on the super-rich:

In order to have a fairer tax system, we should implement a new federal wealth tax in addition to the federal income tax. Unlike the current income tax, the wealth tax would not rely on how income is defined. Rather, it would require that households list all their domestic and foreign assets on, say, Dec. 31 in the relevant tax year. With a large exemption of $3 million that effectively excludes more than 95% of the population, a moderate flat tax—say 3%, on wealth so defined—could then be imposed.

Combined with the financial transaction tax, we would have more than $200 to $300 billion per year which could rebuild our crumbing infrastructure, provide higher education for our children, eliminate much of the student loan burden, and hire millions of laid-off teachers. Unemployment would fall dramatically and deficit hysteria would vanish into its own hot air.

We can cry about the distribution of income all we want. We can moan and groan about the top 1 percent and how they have captured political power. We can proclaim our membership in the 99 percent for all to hear. But none of that matters much unless we build a mass movement that reclaims our fair share of the fruits of productivity.

The 1 percent didn’t get there just because they were great entrepreneurs or because they were smarter than the rest of us. They got there because they pressed for tax cuts for the super-rich and the deregulation of Wall Street. Those twin policies poured the money into their coffers and stalled our middle-class dead in its tracks. Those policies also crashed the economy and destroyed the jobs of millions of Americans.

A financial transaction tax combined with a wealth tax will bring us closer to the time when the middle-class again was growing year by year. It would put Americans back to work and place our foot right back on Wall Street’s neck – where it needs to be for the good of us all.

But you know it won’t come easy. The super-rich feel entitled to all they can grab. Which means we’ll have to organize like never before and fight like hell. Let’s hope the 99 percent are ready, able and willing.

Les Leopold is the executive director of the Labor Institute and Public Health Institute in New York, and author of The Looting of America: How Wall Street’s Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity—and What We Can Do About It (Chelsea Green, 2009).

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/155025/what_if_the_greedy_rich_paid_their_share_8_things_to_know_about_wealth_and_poverty_in_the_us?akid=8614.123424.KaUfyN&rd=1&t=5