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7/27/16

Inequality: 10 US corporate welfare programs that will make your blood boil - by Tom Cahill

The next time you hear someone complain about how the poor get “all this free stuff,” show them this.

A small number of incredibly wealthy Americans are ridiculing Bernie Sanders’ base for wanting “free stuff” when the costliest programs are, by far, corporate welfare and entitlements for the top 1 percent. Fox News has been working hard to tear down Sanders’ proposals to provide Medicare for all, institute tuition-free public college, boost infrastructure spending, and expand Social Security.

“That’s not fiscally possible unless the federal government starts seizing private assets,” said Bill O’Reilly.

But O’Reilly is wrong. The money for Sanders’ platform can easily come from eliminating the costliest entitlement programs for the top 1 percent and multinational corporations. Here’s a breakdown of the most superfluous giveaways to the rich and how much they cost the rest of us:

1. Tax Breaks for obscene CEO bonuses ($7 billion/year)
Currently, the biggest corporations are exploiting a 20-year-old loophole that allows them to write off inflated compensation packages for CEOs, billing stock options, and performance-based bonuses to taxpayers. In 2010, the Economic Policy Institute found out that the biggest corporations cost Americans $7 billion by writing off inflated executive pay. Between 2007 and 2010, this loophole accounted for more than $30 billion in corporate welfare. According to The Guardian, fast food industry CEOs cost taxpayers $64 million through this loophole.

That $7 billion could singlehandedly fund the annual budget for the National Science Foundation — which, as I recently reported for US Uncut, funds 11,000 scientific research projects each year and has funded 26 Nobel laureates in the last 5 years.

2. Tax cuts for luxury corporate jets ($300 million/year)
Currently, corporations can claim a huge tax deduction every year by writing off purchases of corporate jets, lavish cars, and chauffeurs as “security” for their top executives. A Bloomberg analysis from 2011 showed that these tax breaks for some of the wealthiest Americans cost the rest of us $300 million each year. While that may not sound like much, that’s approximately 50 percent of the annual budget for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the brainchild of Elizabeth Warren that protects Americans from the financial sector’s most predatory schemes.

3. Big oil subsidies ($37.5 billion/year)
According to Oil Change International (OCI), the U.S. government spends anywhere between $10 billion and $52 billion per year on corporate welfare for the fossil fuel industry — one of the wealthiest industries in the world. OCI estimated that total combined subsidies to big oil approached $37.5 billion in 2014, which includes $21 billion on production and exploration subsidies.

These subsidies alone cost more than what we currently spend on providing rental assistance for low-income families. In 2013, the department of Housing and Urban Development allocated a total of $34.3 billion toward tenant-based rental assistance ($19 billion), project-based rental assistance ($8.7 billion), and general public housing programs ($6.6 billion). These programs helped 4.5 million families — half of whom are elderly — keep a roof over their head.

4. Pharmaceutical subsidies ($270 billion/year)
As US Uncut has previously reported, the pharmaceutical industry costs taxpayers roughly $270 billion a year when accounting for the cost we pay for life-saving drugs whose patents have been bought up by Big Pharma. This is over $1,914 per household in corporate welfare. This is partly due to the Medicare Part D bill that George W. Bush signed into law in 2003, which prevents Medicare from negotiating drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. But the biggest drug companies also make a pretty penny (a combined $711 billion in profits between 2003 and 2012) by buying patents for drugs that were largely developed with taxpayer-funded research, then jacking up the price by absurd amounts after cornering the market.

This $270 billion annual subsidy could be virtually eliminated by passing Bernie Sanders’ bill to establish a government fund that buys up drug patents as soon as they become available for purchase. Then, the government would sell drugs at-cost to save money for those who need them. The money saved could pay for the annual $270 billion in insurance costs from Obamacare that would help more Americans get access to healthcare.

5. Capital gains tax breaks ($51 billion/year)
When anyone makes money from selling off investments, the IRS classifies that as capital gains, which are taxed at a lower rate (20 percent as of 2012) than real, actual work (35 percent). Pew Research found that 53 percent of Americans own no stock at all, and out of the 47 percent who do, the richest 5 percent own two-thirds of that stock. And only 10 percent of Americans have pensions, so stock market gains or losses don’t affect the incomes of most retirees. The Century Foundation found that the total amount of lost revenue by taxing capital gains at a lower rate than wages cost $256 billion between fiscal years 2012 and 2016, or $51 billion a year over the last 5 years. According to the Tax Policy Center, if investment income was taxed at the same rate as wages, 75 percent of that new revenue would come from the richest 0.3 percent of Americans; 92 percent of that revenue would come from those making $200,000 or more per year. The chart below shows what percentage of income each tax bracket makes from capital gains — not surprisingly, the wealthiest Americans get most of the benefit from capital gains.

If we taxed wealth like work, the extra $51 billion per year in savings could fund two-thirds of the annual budget for food stamps.

6. Corporate tax subsidies from state and local governments ($80.4 billion/year)
In 2012, the New York Times did an analysis of every existing tax break in each of the 50 states and learned that 1,874 programs cost taxpayers $80.4 billion every year for corporate welfare in their state. Compare that cost with the cost of providing tuition-free public college to every student, which The Atlantic estimated would be a mere $62.6 billion. As the chart below shows, this is actually way cheaper than what we currently spend on federal student aid.

7. Handouts to Big Ag ($18 billion/year)
Crop insurance — a program originally intended to help farmers recover from the dust bowls of the 1930s — has become a slush fund for wealthy corporate farmers who have become experts at manipulating the system for their own means. As Bloomberg reported, the median income of commercial farm households (in which farming makes up more than 50 percent of a household’s income) was $84,649 in 2011 — 70 percent more than the average American household. Farmers have learned to exploit the program by growing crops on land they know will be unproductive, then making money from insurance claims rather than crops. In 2011, 26 farmers each got an annual subsidy of $1 million, including one tomato farmer in Florida who got a $1.9 million subsidy.

This $18 billion in corporate welfare is more than NASA’s annual budget, which has hovered around the $17 billion mark since 2009.

8. Welfare for Wall Street ($83 billion/year)
The biggest banks have grown even bigger than they were just before the 2008 financial meltdown. And due to their size, these banks are perceived as “too big to fail,” as their demise would spell doom for the US financial sector as a whole. So as these big banks grow bigger, the Federal Reserve allows them to borrow at lower interest rates than other big banks — essentially subsidizing the continued growth of the big banks. In 2013, Bloomberg estimated the ten biggest TBTF banks suck up $83 billion per year in corporate welfare.

If we were to force the big banks to borrow at the same interest rates as every other bank at a rate of $83 billion per year, that would be enough to double the current federal budgets for highway spending ($48.6 billion), Head Start ($10.1 billion), the Environmental Protection Agency ($7.89 billion), nutrition assistance for women, infants, and children ($6.2 billion), the National Parks Service ($3 billion), and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation ($2.39 billion), with $5 billion left over.

9. Export-Import bank subsidies ($112 billion)
This week, the House of Representatives voted to revive the Export-Import (Ex-Im) bank, which has been maligned as a slush fund for large, multinational corporations. In its most recent year, the Ex-Im bank had a $112 billion portfolio, of which $90 billion went to multinationals. If that wasn’t bad enough, a huge portion of that money went to just 10 wealthy corporations.

According to the New York Times, the federal government spends roughly $105 billion on public K-12 schools. If we allow the Ex-Im bank to fade away, the money formerly set aside for corporate subsidies could instead double that investment in public education.

10. Federal contracts for the top 200 biggest companies ($880 billion/year)
The biggest 200 corporations have an excessively unfair advantage over their competitors due to their influence in Washington. According to the Sunlight Foundation, the top 200 companies spent a combined $5.8 billion on lobbying Congress between 2007 and 2012. And in those same years, those companies received $4.4 trillion in federal contracts. That $4.4 trillion is $100 billion more than what the U.S. government spent on providing a basic income to the nation’s 50 million Social Security recipients.

The combined cost of these 10 corporate welfare programs is $1.539 trillion per year. The three main programs needy families depend upon — Temporary Assistance for Needy Families ($17.3 billion), food stamps ($74 billion), and the Earned Income Tax Credit ($67.2 billion) — cost just $158.5 billion in total. This means we spend ten times as much on corporate welfare and handouts to the top 1 percent than we do on welfare for working families struggling to make ends meet.

Read more: 10 corporate welfare programs that will make your blood boil

Peace: Pray for Peace - August 15 - Editorial EU-Digest


OWNERSHIP OF PRAYER IS SPIRITUAL
IF YOU WONDER WHY AUGUST 15 WAS CHOSEN AS A DAY OF PRAYER, DON'T WORRY,. IT HAS NO SIGNIFICANCE AT ALL IF YOU RELATE IT TO THE  CONCEPT OF PEACE.

PRAYING FOR PEACE IS NOT ONLY ENCOURAGED, YOU CAN ALSO DO  IT ANYWHERE AND ANYTIME YOU GET M0VED TO DO SO.

THE AUGUST 15 DATE WAS CHOSEN SPIRITUALLY TO HAVE AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE FOCUSING ON THE ISSUE OF PEACE, SECURITY AND PROSPERITY,, WHICH IS AFFECTING MILLIONS OF PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD TODAY..

IT IS ALSO GOOD TO KEEP IN MIND THAT PEACE OFTEN MEANS DIFFERENT THINGS TO PEOPLE. IT CAN RELATE TO WAR, ILLNESS, DEATH, GOVERNMENT, SECURITY, CORPORATE GREED, FINANCES, JOB SECURITY, RELATIONSHIPS, MARRIAGE,  POVERTY, ILLNESS, FAMILY, PRIVACY, DISCRIMINATION, POLICE BRUTALITY, OPPRESSION, CHILD ABUSE, YOU NAME IT.

OWNERSHIP ON THE CONCEPT OF PRAYER CAN ALSO NOT BE CLAIMED BY ANY SPECIFIC "EARTH BASED RELIGIOUS GROUPING". THE ONLY REQUISITE FOR PRAYER IS THAT SPIRITUALLY YOU ARE AWARE OF THE FACT THAT  THERE IS A HIGHER BEING THAN YOURSELF WHO LISTENS TO YOU AND WILL ANSWER YOUR PRAYERS WITHOUT ANY PRECONDITIONS.

SINCERE AND SPIRITUALLY FILLED PRAYERS ARE A MORE POWERFUL FORCE THAN ANY FORCE, TO OVERCOME, WHAT YOU MIGHT CONSIDER TO BE A THREAT TO YOUR SECURITY AND PEACE.

SO ON AUGUST 15,  LET US JOIN IN SPIRITUAL UNITY AND PRAYER TO DEFEAT THE THREATS TO OUR SECURITY AND PEACE AND "WATCH HOW OUR WALLS OF JERICHO WILL COME TUMBLING DOWN".

EU-Digest

7/26/16

US Republican Convention Geert Wilders tells US he’s set to become next Dutch prime minister–by Cynthia Kroet

Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch far-right Freedom Party (PVV), said on Tuesday that he could become the next prime minister of the Netherlands.

Wilders, speaking at an event during the U.S. Republican Party Convention in Cleveland, said that his party has been gaining ground and has been “the number one party in the opinion polls” for the past year.

“If this becomes reality in the elections in March next year, I could become the next prime minister,” said Wilders, whose party is currently in the opposition in national parliament.

Read more: Geert Wilders tells US he’s set to become next Dutch prime minister – POLITICO

NATO: Anti-Trump Hysteria on NATO - by Paul J. Saunders

Donald Trump’s formal nomination as the Republican Party’s presidential candidate appears to have induced mass hysteria among neoconservative Republicans and their liberal-interventionist allies in the Democratic Party. Some, like Robert Kagan and Max Boot, publicly declared their intent to vote for Hillary Clinton were the GOP to select Trump—something it has now done. Others, like Jamie Kirchick, have called for a military coup to oust him if the American people elect him president. Most recently, Jeffrey Goldberg has declared Trump to be a “de facto agent” of Russian President Vladimir Putin. As is often the case, writing like Goldberg’s says more about the author than the target of his or her attacks.

Indeed, attentive readers may already know enough about Goldberg; in 2009, Glenn Greenwald detailed his “rank guilt by association technique” after Goldberg wrote that “the Buchananites have even recruited Jews to do their Israel-bashing for them” to condemn a Greenwald article in the American Conservative. Goldberg is attempting the same strategy with Trump, arguing that “Trump’s understanding of America’s role in the world aligns with Russia’s geostrategic interests” and that Trump’s victory would thus somehow advance Putin’s aims. This is both pathetic and offensive.

It is pathetic because Goldberg’s argument makes no sense. Trump has called for a strong U.S. military and for greater defense spending by NATO allies who are not meeting the alliance’s two-percent guideline. The combination of those two things would be worse for Russia, not better—NATO could more effectively deter Moscow. Likewise, since when has Washington been an international opposite-land, where U.S. officials determine key policies by selecting the reverse of whatever we think Russia might want? Should we avoid attacking ISIS and al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra because it might help Moscow? Or perhaps we should withdraw from all bilateral U.S.-Russian agreements because Russia gets something out of them? Maybe Goldberg would rather try to drive oil prices down to $10 or $15 per barrel—the Kremlin surely wouldn’t like that—and wreck America’s unconventional oil producers in the process? For someone who is trying to attack Trump as reckless on foreign policy, Goldberg is stunningly incoherent.

Goldberg is offensive because his return to guilt by association goes well beyond McCarthyism. After all, when Senator Joe McCarthy launched his anti-Communist witch-hunt in the 1950s, there were at least a few actual Communists trying to undermine the United States. Does Goldberg really think that Trump or his campaign manager Paul Manafort—who worked for an elected president of Ukraine who attempted to bring Ukraine into an association agreement with the European Union, not for Putin or the Russian government—are Russian agents? His cute use of “de facto” may keep lawyers at bay but should not shield Goldberg from the public opprobrium he deserves.

Read more: Anti-Trump Hysteria on NATO | The National Interest

Turkey: Putin May Be Turkey's New Buddy after the Failed Coup - by Nikolas K. Gvosdev

As we continue to sort through the aftermath of the failed attempt at a military coup against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, one unexpected (and potentially unwelcome, from a U.S. standpoint) development is that this botched attempt to remove Erdogan will further the reconciliation process between the Turkish leader and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

For years, the two men had enjoyed not only a strong personal relationship (cemented by shared views opposing the idea that Western values represent a universal template for all societies), but had presided over the transformation of Russia-Turkey relations, from a highly adversarial position at the end of the Cold War to a full-fledged strategic and economic partnership between NATO’s easternmost member and the Kremlin. After the start of the Ukraine crisis, Turkey not only eschewed joining Western sanctions against Russia, but even offered an alternative to the now-stillborn South Stream project, the “Turkish Stream” line, which, if built, would give the Kremlin the ability to end its dependence on Ukraine as a transit state for Russian energy heading for central and southern Europe.

These warm and friendly ties—reaffirmed for the world to see in fall 2015 at the G-20 summit in Antalya—came to a sudden and screeching halt when a Turkish warplane shot down a Russian fighter jet conducting operations in support of Syria’s embattled leader Bashar al-Assad after briefly straying into Turkish airspace.

Putin’s response was sudden and immediate. Sanctions were imposed on Turkey, the Russians proceeded to massively build up their outpost in Syria and Putin made it abundantly clear that he regarded Erdogan’s actions as a personal betrayal of the highest order. For Western strategists concerned about the implications of a closer Russia-Turkey entente, the shootdown pushed Turkey back into the Western embrace, as Erdogan, in turn, demanded assurances from his NATO allies that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization had Turkey’s back. The subsequent agreement negotiated with European Union leaders for Turkey to control migration into Europe in return for new concessions (including putting Turkey’s membership in the EU back on the agenda) further seemed to signal that Turkey was returning to its traditional role as the West’s bulwark in the Eastern Mediterranean, both against the chaos emanating from the Middle East but also to check and contain Russian expansionism.

Read more: Putin May Be Turkey's New Buddy after the Failed Coup | The National Interest

7/25/16

USA: Destiny Lost? Trump and a US Off Its Moorings - by Michael J. Brenner

Americans are struggling to draw into focus their exalted image of themselves and reality. They are not doing a very good job of it. The gap is wide and growing — and it is this very gap that Donald Trump seeks to exploit for his personal political gain.

Trump understands that Americans feel powerless in good measure because of what has been happening beyond the country’s shores, and over which the United States lacks the means to exercise decisive influence.

Our collective response has been one of avoidance and evasion. Why? Because We Americans seem to fear that if we stare at reality squarely, we will find reality staring back at us in a most discomforting way.

To a considerable extent, that is a consequence of our country’s foreign policy elites’ inclination to over-promise and under-deliver. Trump pinpoints that weakness most skillfully. The true irony of his act, however, is that he is bound to be the biggest over-promiser and under-deliverer ever.

Fading prowess is one of the most difficult things for humans to cope with – whether it be an individual or a nation. By nature, we prize our strength and competence. We dread decline and its intimations of extinction.

This is especially so in the United States where for many the individual and the collective are inseparable. Today, events are occurring that contradict the national narrative of a nation with a unique destiny. That creates cognitive dissonance.

Our thoughts and actions in response to that deeply unsettling reality conform to the classic behavioral pattern of those suffering from acute cognitive dissonance.

Denial is its cardinal feature. That is to say, denial of those things that cause stress and anxiety. Sublimation methods of various kinds are deployed to keep them below the threshold of conscious awareness.

We all do that, to some degree, on a personal level. Groups, even very large ones, can do it as well.

In the latter case, we are speaking of troublesome military actions, abusive state behavior like the conduct of torture, diplomatic deals that are permissive of unsavory actions by others, or studied misrepresentations by government and media which hide unpleasant truths from the populace.

At a more abstract level, we repress or minimize perceptions of us by other peoples, our relative well-being compared to other societies (medical care, maternity leave, pensions), or national competence as demonstrated by accomplishment in comparison with other societies (constructing mass transportation systems).

The crudest denial mechanism is literal avoidance. If you don’t travel abroad, you don’t see. You don’t inform yourself about any of the above mentioned matters by:

    abstaining from following the news,
    reading only reassuring reports,
    excluding all contradictory sources as “alien” or “subversive;”
    declaring the world as too complex to decipher;
    appraising serious issues of national policy as “above my pay grade,” while ignoring the core democratic precept that as the citizen of a republic, nothing is above your pay grade

Another avoidance mechanism is to stress systematically those features of other nations or situations that conform to the requirements of the American national narrative while neglecting or downplaying opposite features. 

Read more: Destiny Lost? Trump and a US Off Its Moorings - The Globalist

Poland: The New European Fascists - by Chris Hedges:

Is Fascism raising its head in Poland and Europe again?
Jaroslaw Kurski and Piotr Stasinski embody the hope that once was Poland. They struggled against the Communist regime for years in the underground press and as Solidarity members. They built Gazeta Wyborcza, now one of the most influential newspapers in the country, after the 1989 fall of communism.

They helped usher in a period of democracy and open debate, one that included cultural space for historians such as Jan Gross, a Polish-born American who courageously confronted the taboo topic of Polish complicity in the Nazi extermination of nearly all of Poland’s 3 million Jews.

And then neoliberalism, imposed by global capitalism and international banks, began to spread its poison. Legions of unemployed or underemployed were cast adrift. Two million Poles, many of them young people desperate for jobs, have left to work abroad. Governmental austerity programs devastated cultural institutions, including public schools, the arts and public broadcasting. And finally,

following a familiar death spiral, the October 2015 elections brought to power the nationalists and demagogues of the right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS). There is no left-wing party represented in the parliament.

Not much of Poland’s promise remains. PiS is rapidly rolling back constitutional rights. It blocks state media coverage of the fading political opposition, especially the Committee for the Defense of Democracy (KOD), which has held a series of protest demonstrations. PiS shamelessly uses the airwaves and the schools for rabid nationalist propaganda. The public broadcasting system—in which the party purged more than 100 staff members—twisted President Barack Obama’s recent criticism of the Polish government’s assault on the judiciary into praise for Polish democracy. And the ruling party has forced state institutions to cancel subscriptions to Gazeta Wyborcza and pressured distributors throughout the country not to display or sell copies of the newspaper.

“There is no longer genuine parliamentary debate,” Stasinski said when I met with him and Kurski at the Gazeta Wyborcza offices in Warsaw. “There are no longer checks and balances of power. The parliamentary system is dysfunctional. The Constitutional Court and judiciary are paralyzed. New laws passed by the parliament cannot be challenged or changed. The government is supposed to publish sentences of the Constitutional Court in The Journal of Laws [Dziennik Ustaw] for them to become legally effective. This is required by the Constitution. But the government, by not printing them, paralyzes the Constitutional Court, which has been reduced to announcing its sentences on the internet without any legal effect. It is a very dangerous time.”

“We operate under two systems of law,” said Kurski. “One is constitutional and legal. The other is unconstitutional and illegal. The problem is that the illegal and unconstitutional system runs the country.”

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the founder and head of the ruling party, governs Poland like a private fiefdom. Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and President Andrzej Duda are political puppets. Kaczynski, reclusive and morbid, is referred to with fear or reverence as “the Chairman.” His words, and his obsessions, are law.

And it is not only Poland that is in trouble. Europe, especially EU countries on the fringes of the union, is devolving into proto-fascism. The Hungarian strongman Prime Minister Viktor Orban has destroyed his country’s democracy. Neofascist groups are gaining strength in France, the United Kingdom, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Greece.

These movements are rabidly xenophobic, racist, Islamophobic and homophobic, and they demonize immigrants and brand internal dissent as treason. When they take control they rely on ruthless internal security and surveillance systems—Poland has established 11 intelligence agencies—to crush dissent. They seek their identity in a terrifying new nationalism, often, as in Poland, coupled with a right-wing Catholicism. They preach hatred of the outsider and glorification of obedient and “true” patriots. This lurch to the right will be augmented in Poland later this year with the establishment of an armed militia of more than 30,000 whose loyalty, it seems certain, will be to the ruling party.

“If you are a Pole, you should be Catholic,” said Stasinski. “I’m not. So for some, I’m not a Pole.”

Poland, like Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, has rejected the European Union’s call for its nations to accept refugees fleeing the chaos in the Middle East. The ruling party in Poland employs rhetoric to describe Muslim immigrants that echoes prewar Polish anti-Semitism. Immigrants are condemned as diseased, painted as rapists and excoriated for supposedly having barbaric religious practices. When Gross, who teaches at Princeton University, decried the hate campaign against immigrants and made the links with anti-Semitism, reminding Poles that they killed more Jews than they killed Germans during the war, PiS began legal proceedings to challenge Gross’ assertions and called for his Polish Order of Merit to be revoked.

“It’s the same right-wing populist melody as in the United States,” said Stasinski. “Isolationism becomes appealing. Maybe there is something rotten in human nature. Maybe we are selfish people who don’t care about the other. Maybe this story about how we are Christian and altruistic is rubbish.

“There is a fear that grows from ignorance,” he said. “These parties manufacture and strengthen this resentment against those they allege are privileged and the powerful, as well as the European Union.

They say these forces can’t tell us what to do. They say the nation-state should organize societal living, not global institutions. They say things are out of control. They say there is no real democracy. This leads to the mental and physical militarization of the society. The demagogues promise security. You are safe with us. We care about you.

We care about your family. Chauvinism defines public discourse. We are a proud people. We are a proud nation. We don’t accept that other nations can humiliate us. The government devoted a hundred million zlotys to create a special foundation to defend Poland’s good name.” 

To read the complete report click here: : Chris Hedges: The New European Fascists - Truthdig