OtherWords – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Sun, 05 Dec 2021 05:41:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.4 Blame Corporate Greed for Inflation https://www.juancole.com/2021/12/blame-corporate-inflation.html https://www.juancole.com/2021/12/blame-corporate-inflation.html#respond Sun, 05 Dec 2021 05:06:04 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=201621 By Sarah Baron | –

( Otherwords.org) – CEOs are taking every opportunity to further pad their own pockets. Here’s how to hold them accountable. By | December 1, 2021

With vaccination rates on the rise, Americans are hoping for a return to some semblance of normalcy this holiday season. Unfortunately, as people start traveling more and buying holiday gifts, we’re facing supply chain disruptions and rising costs, from gas to groceries.

Recent polling shows that 92 percent of Americans across party lines are concerned about rising inflation, especially when it comes to groceries and gas prices. The top concern for 89 percent of those surveyed is the rising cost of groceries, where it’s harder for families to cut costs.

It would be easy to blame President Biden, but that’s just not the case. In fact, wages have increased more in the last three months than they have in the past 20 years, and millions of Americans are back to work due to his administration’s successes.

The truth is big corporations and their ultra-rich CEOs are exploiting consumers.

Big corporations have been making record profits during the pandemic. And in a year when the majority of people struggled to get by, CEOs have only gotten richer. They’ve taken every opportunity to further pad their own pockets.

The chief executives of major grocers like Kroger claim that inflation “is always good in our business.” But good for whom?

Last year, Kroger raked in $132 billion in revenue, and the average salaries for their top executives increased — while pay for the median employee fell by 8 percent.

In February 2021, Kroger announced it would close two stores in California rather than temporarily pay some employees $4 more an hour in “hazard pay.” When greedy corporations are able to take advantage of economic hardship, it’s workers and families who pay the price.

Conservative media and politicians are clinging to the narrative that inflation is the fault of President Biden and the American Rescue Plan as they try to take advantage of this situation to persuade voters.

But it’s clear that corporate profiteering is forcing workers and families to make unnecessary sacrifices so that wealthy executives can make themselves richer. It’s up to our lawmakers to hold these wealthy CEOs accountable.

President Biden is already moving in this direction by instructing the Federal Trade Commission to investigate anti-consumer behavior by oil companies. And Democrats are trying to get the Build Back Better Act passed to lower health care costs, prescription drugs costs, child care costs, and more by finally making big corporations pay their fair share of taxes and play by the rules.

But Republicans are unanimously opposed to holding big corporations accountable — and are even cheering on inflation. Inflation “is a gold mine for us,” said Florida Republican Senator Rick Scott.

Leading economists have affirmed that the investments in the Build Back Better Act will ease inflation. But that won’t stop Republicans from continuing to lay the blame of inflation on Democrats while simultaneously fighting tooth and nail to kill the bill — and let big corporations continue to take advantage of us.

Democrats must make two things clear to the American people. First, despite record profits, it’s corporate greed that’s to blame for the rising costs we’re currently experiencing. Second, the Build Back Better Act will make many of these same corporations pay their fair share and play by the rules.

Sarah Baron is the Campaign Director at Tax March. This op-ed was developed by Inequality.org and distributed for syndication by OtherWords.org.

Via Otherwords.org

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

The Ring of Fire: “Corporations Are Using Inflation As An Excuse To Jack Up Prices For Consumers”

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Wealthy Americans Get Paid Leave. Shouldn’t the Rest? https://www.juancole.com/2021/11/wealthy-americans-shouldnt.html Sun, 14 Nov 2021 05:04:45 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=201218 By Sarah Anderson | –

( Otherwords.org) – The fight to guarantee paid sick time and family leave faces an uphill battle, but advocates aren’t giving up. By | November 10, 2021

For Ruth Martin, the fight for paid leave is both professional and personal.

As Senior Vice President of MomsRising, she’s helped mobilize more than 870,000 calls and emails to lawmakers advocating for paid leave and other pro-family benefits in the Build Back Better legislation.

As the daughter of a cancer patient, she’s seen up close how the lack of paid leave benefits ravages families.

“I lost my mom to lung cancer in June,” Martin said at a recent Capitol Hill rally. “Losing a parent is devastating. Losing a parent during a pandemic is worse. And losing a parent without paid leave is absolutely horrendous.”

During her mother’s illness, Martin had paid leave benefits through her employer, but her three siblings who live near her mother’s home did not.

“Lung cancer spreads quickly,” Martin said. “My brother who lived with my mother would still have to go to work because he didn’t have paid leave. And it was so terrifying to have to wonder what was going to happen while he was gone.”

President Biden had proposed 12 weeks of paid leave to allow workers to care for newborn babies, other loved ones, or for personal illness. Then conservative Democrats stripped the benefits entirely from the Build Back Better Act, claiming that the world’s richest country cannot afford a benefit that nearly every other country offers its workforce.

But an outcry from MomsRising, Family Values at Work, and many other advocacy organizations succeeded in shoehorning four weeks of paid leave back into the legislation.

Now even this modest proposal is in jeopardy.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin continues to insist that paid leave be addressed through bipartisan legislation, rather than through the Democrats-only budget reconciliation process. He aims to strip these benefits before the legislation is finalized.

The absence of a national paid leave system is one of many drivers of our country’s skyrocketing inequality. The larger your paycheck, the more likely you are to have these benefits.

Among the highest-earning tenth of private sector workers, 95 percent have some form of paid sick leave, according to federal data. Among the lowest-earning tenth, just 33 percent do. In the highest-wage group, 43 percent have paid family leave, compared to just 6 percent in the bottom group.

The lack of paid leave creates a vicious cycle for families struggling to get by. In the event of pregnancy, illness, or family medical emergency, people who are already earning less than a living wage may have no choice but to drop out of the workforce entirely.

Under the House legislation, a worker whose employer doesn’t provide paid medical or family leave can apply for up to four weeks a year of wage replacement for time off.

Workers making $15,000 or less a year would receive the highest wage replacement rate — 90 percent — but have to have earned at least $2,000 in the two years prior.

The plan cuts off wage replacement for those earning more than $62,000 a year. People with higher incomes can submit requests for paid leave, but their earnings would be replaced only up to that level.

Since every Democrat’s vote will be needed for passage in the Senate, Manchin’s opposition means the paid leave provision faces an uphill battle.

Whatever happens with this round, the fight will continue.

“We need paid leave in this country for the moments that break our hearts and the moments that fill us with joy,” said Martin of MomsRising. “And no one should risk losing their last moments with their parents because they have to clock in and clock out for work.”

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project and co-edits Inequality.org at the Institute for Policy Studies. This op-ed was adapted from Inequality.org and distributed by OtherWords.org.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

The Hill: “Kamala Harris Voices Frustration Over Paid Leave Being Left Out Of Spending Package”

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Why is Social Spending Controversial but Congress lavishes $7 trillion a Decade on Pentagon? https://www.juancole.com/2021/10/spending-controversial-congress.html Sun, 24 Oct 2021 04:24:55 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200800 By Sister Karen M. Donahue |

( Otherwords.org) – Right now, the United States is locked in a contentious debate over the Build Back Better plan, which will make a significant difference in the lives of millions of individuals and families.

Even though the provisions included in the plan — including universal child care, home care for seniors, better Medicare benefits, green jobs, fairer taxes on the wealthy, and more — are supported by majorities across the political spectrum, certain interests are determined to derail this historic legislation.

What I find particularly discouraging and disheartening is the disingenuousness and hypocrisy that surrounds this opposition. The primary objection seems to be the price tag. The full Build Back Better would cost $3.5 trillion over 10 years, though this amount looks likely to be reduced significantly in congressional negotiations.

While this seems like an enormous sum, it is less than half of what our lawmakers are willing to appropriate for weapons and military operations.

Both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees approved an additional $25 billion over what the Biden administration requested for next year’s Pentagon budget, bringing the total to a whopping $770 billion! Projected out for 10 years, military spending comes to $7.7 trillion, more than twice the cost of Build Back Better.

If history is any guide, it’s unlikely that Pentagon spending will decrease in the coming years. We did not see meaningful decreases when the Cold War ended in 1991, and even now tensions with China threaten to unleash a new cold war that will assure massive military budgets far into the future. The military-industrial complex that President Dwight Eisenhower warned about in 1961 has only increased its influence during the ensuing decades.

A second argument put forth by interests opposed to Build Back Better is that it will make people dependent on government handouts and create so-called “entitlements.” These critics fail to acknowledge that military contractors receive billions of dollars from the federal government, often with little or no oversight or accountability.

For example, Lockheed Martin receives almost 70 percent of its revenue from government contracts despite the poor quality of its work. The company’s F-35 jet fighter (cost: $100 million per plane) has been plagued by massive cost overruns and dismal performance. Earlier this year, the Air Force Chief of Staff declared that the F-35 was a failure. But Congress keeps ordering more.

Profitable industries also receive large government subsidies. The International Monetary Fund reported recently that fossil fuel industries (like coal, oil, and gas) benefited from subsidies that came to $5.9 trillion in 2020 — that’s $11 million per minute. These subsidies persist even as dire scientific reports call for a faster phase-out of fossil fuels if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.

It is difficult to contain my feelings of anger and outrage when I hear lawmakers denigrate low and middle income individuals and families as “moochers” on the take when they are willing to allocate billions to wealthy corporations with literally no strings attached.

Programs that address health care, education, housing, childcare, racial equity, and environmental protection are investments in our future. We must not let our lawmakers get away with this charade of fiscal responsibility to defeat Build Back Better.

Sister Karen M. Donahue is a member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and serves on the community’s Justice Team. She lives in Detroit, Michigan.

Via Otherwords.org

Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

MSNBC: “Chris Hayes Scales Math Of Biden Plan Compared To Defense Budget, Tax Cuts”

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Immigration Cruelty Goes Beyond the Border https://www.juancole.com/2021/10/immigration-cruelty-beyond.html Sat, 09 Oct 2021 04:04:54 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200500

Migrants are hit long before they migrate, before they reach the border, and often long after they cross it.

By Josue De Luna Navarro |

( Otherwords.org ) – Images of Border Patrol officers on horseback whipping Black migrants shocked many Americans. President Biden called them “outrageous” and “wrong” and promised an investigation. Many members of Congress also spoke out.

Given this reaction, you could be forgiven for thinking that abuse like this isn’t normal for Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). But those of us who live in border states can tell you: It is.

The CBP agents who were chasing down Haitian migrants were “following routine protocol,” explained the migrant rights group No More Deaths. “Border Patrol attacks migrants (on horseback and otherwise) every day in the remote desert, away from the cameras.”

The dramatic images from Texas have opened up a national conversation about how our country treats migrants. But we need to expand that conversation beyond the border. In truth, migrants experience cruel U.S. policies long before they migrate, long before they reach the U.S.-Mexico border, and often long after they cross it.

For years now, Hatian migrants have been forced to move out of Haiti due to political, economic, and now climate destabilization — all worsened, to various degrees, by U.S. interventions and emissions. The same is true of countless Central American migrants who’ve been forced to leave countries grappling with poverty, political repression, droughts, and other disasters.

Those who take the risk of moving away from their home countries to find safety don’t just endure the harsh journey itself. They also run headlong into an expanded border infrastructure stretching deep into Mexico and Central America, as the U.S. funds often abusive security services throughout the Americas to keep migrants from ever getting to the U.S.-Mexico border.

If they reach the border itself, they face abuse from ICE and CBP, or else years living in the shadows.

If they apply for asylum, they may be forced back to wait in dangerous conditions in Mexico, or else risk imprisonment in for-profit detention facilities in the United States. Or they may simply be turned back under Title 42, the Trump-era rule that shut down most migration under the guise of pandemic security. The Biden administration has continued that policy.

Even as Biden condemns the treatment of Haitians, his administration is still expelling them. In response, Biden’s own envoy to Haiti resigned in protest. “I will not be associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees” and migrants, wrote outgoing special envoy Daniel Foote.

As the planet gets more unstable, Global North countries like the United States are deliberately barring the door to immigrants and refugees of color. There’s a simple explanation for this: racism. In the same week that Haitian migrants were violently turned away from the United States under pandemic rules, the White House lifted pandemic travel restrictions on visitors from Europe.

Patrick Gaspard, the Haitian American head of the Center for American Progress, recently returned from the border making four demands of the administration: to immediately halt deportations back to Haiti, ensure all people at the border are treated humanely, hold the Border Patrol accountable for abusive behavior, and commit to a firm timeline to end Title 42.

Those would be welcome steps. But as our planetary climate crisis worsens, we will need to rethink our approach to borders, and the agencies that enforce them, to ensure the freedom to move with dignity.

Whatever we do, we can no longer allow our taxpayer money to fund the abuse of people fleeing crises our own policies helped cause.

Josue De Luna Navarro is cofounder of the New Mexico Dream Team and an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.

Via Otherwords.org

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Big Money’s War on Biden’s Popular Build Back Better Plan https://www.juancole.com/2021/10/moneys-bidens-popular.html Sat, 02 Oct 2021 04:06:23 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200379

The administration’s jobs and infrastructure package is very popular, but corporate lobbyists are fighting it tooth and nail.

By Sondra Youdelman | –

( Otherwords.org ) – Right now, corporations and the ultra-rich are spending millions to derail President Biden’s Build Back Better plan. Behind the scenes, they’re hard at work to keep our elected officials from helping our country recover from the pandemic.

Poll after poll tells us that Biden’s plan is full of things people want: lower drug costs, greater access to health care, a green economy, and restorative investments in our communities. Three out of four voters support this infrastructure bill and budget, yet corporations are fighting tooth and nail to stop it. Why?

It’s because the wealthy few, after trillions in tax cuts and giveaways during the last administration, want inequality to be a permanent part of American life. They want the gap between them and us to seem normal — along with dirty water and air, rising temperatures, and unaffordable homes, education, and health.

People’s Action, my organization, refuses to accept this vision. We believe we can do better, together.

As the nation’s largest grassroots member organization, with more than a million members in 32 states, we see a future with room for all, where every one of us can thrive. But none of this will happen unless we make the long-delayed investments our communities need. The Build Back Better plan is a down payment on our brighter future.

In our new report, Behind The Curtain: The Corporate Plot to Upend Democracy, we zero in on who’s spending big to stop key parts of the Biden plan: including fairer taxes, drug pricing, health care, housing, and immigration, as well as big investments in green jobs and our environment.

We name the bad actors and show how they undermine our democracy and our economy. All across the country, our members are taking this message to the doorsteps of corporations to tell them we’ve had enough.

Twenty corporations and their associations — led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the National Association of Realtors — have spent over $201 million on lobbying so far this year.

The pharmaceutical and health care industries alone — which oppose the Biden administration’s efforts to lower drug prices and expand health coverage — have spent $171 million in 2021 on lobbying, more than any other industry. They employ 1,500 lobbyists in Washington — three for every member of Congress.

Meanwhile, people in the United States pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs and health care. That ain’t right!

A lot of attention has gone to the price tag of the Build Back Better plan: $3.5 trillion over 10 years. But that’s not deficit spending — it’s funded by reversing tax cuts for the very rich. And experts agree the package will pay for itself.

It will spur economic activity, unlike Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts, which add $2.3 trillion to the national debt. As a direct result of Trump’s giveaways, 82 ultra-rich families have been able to avoid paying over $1 billion in taxes, and many large corporations pay no taxes at all.

The Build Back Better plan will reverse Trump’s giveaways to raise money for expanded health benefits and a permanent Child Tax Credit. More savings come by allowing Medicare and the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices, which will save $450 billion and reduce prices for branded drugs by 55 percent.

The United States is more unequal than ever. If we’re going to heal the wounds in our economy and our society, we need Congress and the president to deliver what the people want and need: assistance and investments so we can survive and thrive. That is exactly what the Biden Build Back Better plan does.

Our economy, our democracy, and our lives all hang in the balance. Make no mistake: the time is now. It’s corporations versus the people in this Build Back Battle, and it’s time for the people to win.

Sondra Youdelman is the campaigns director for People’s Action. She partnered with Dani Zessoules of Dēmos to create the report Behind the Curtain: The Corporate Plot to Upend Democracy and a national day of action against corporate influence over our democracy. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org

Via Otherwords.org

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

MSNBC: “Rep. Jayapal: We Are Not Going To Leave Behind Women And Families”

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Fund the Jobs bill by taxing the Billionaires who have made the $1.8 trillion during the Pandemic https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/billionaires-trillion-pandemic.html Sun, 26 Sep 2021 04:04:23 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200275 By Chuck Collins | –

Even Trump voters like the idea of a modest extra tax on multimillionaires.

( Otherwords.org) – As lawmakers scramble to finalize a historic jobs and infrastructure package, huge fights are underway to figure out how to fund it.

The simplest, most effective, and most popular way is to tax the extremely wealthy, like the billionaires who’ve seen their collective wealth grow by $1.8 trillion during the pandemic. Unfortunately, lawmakers have missed several opportunities to do this.

For example, the House Ways and Means Committee has failed to take obvious steps like taxing income from stocks at the same rate as income from work, or closing the loopholes billionaires use to avoid the federal estate tax.

On the other hand, the Committee has also suggested some powerful inequality-fighting reforms that should be in the final legislation. One of these promising proposals is a “Millionaires Surtax.”

The idea is simple: Any income that multimillionaires earn over a certain amount would face a modest additional tax.

The Millionaires Surtax was originally introduced in 2019 and reintroduced in 2021 by Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen and Virginia Representative Don Beyer. That bill would institute a 10 percent surtax on the incomes of couples making $2 million or more (the top 0.2 percent). The Tax Policy Center estimated this would raise $635 billion over 10 years.

The Americans for Tax Fairness coalition has coordinated a national campaign that has now put the concept at the center of the federal budget negotiations.

The recently released House Ways and Means plan differs slightly from that original proposal. It would impose a 3 percent surtax on the incomes of ultra-wealthy households making $5 million or more per year, raising an estimated $127 billion over 10 years. It also applies to incomes from investments, including trusts.

That’s a smaller haul to be sure, but worth building on.

Of course, the Holy Grail of tax reform would be a total elimination of the preferential treatment of capital gains, taxing income from wealth at the same rates as income from wages. Short of that, a surtax on the incomes of ultra-millionaires is an important foot in the door toward equalizing the treatment of capital and wage income.

The Millionaires Surtax is easy to understand, simple to apply, and effective — because it covers all kinds of income, making it difficult for the wealthy to avoid. It’s laser-focused on the super-rich. If you’re not a multi-millionaire, you won’t pay one extra dime.

The surtax is overwhelmingly popular.

According to a poll by Hart Research Associates, 73 percent of voters support the idea, including 76 percent of independents and moderates. Even a majority of Trump voters (57 percent) and Republicans (53 percent) favor the policy. The Millionaires Surtax legislation has been endorsed by a diverse range of 72 national organizations.

In the coming weeks, Congress will debate the size of the Build Back Better plan and how to pay for it. The Millionaires Surtax should remain part of that mix and could even be expanded by raising the rate from 3 percent to 10 percent — and lowering the income threshold to $2 million.

While the Millionaires Surtax does not address the colossal inequalities of wealth, it focuses on taxing income that largely flows from wealth. See more about the Millionaires Surtax at the campaign website created by the Americans for Tax Fairness: www.surtax.org.

Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies. This op-ed was adapted from Inequality.org and distributed by OtherWords.org.

Via Otherwords.org

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Forbes: “Sanders: ‘Yeah, We Are Going To Be Raising Taxes — On Billionaires’ To Pay For Human Infrastructure”

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A Chill Wind: Texas Unleashes Bounty Hunters on Women https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/unleashes-bounty-hunters.html Wed, 22 Sep 2021 04:14:37 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200207 ( Otherwords.org) – For now, the Supreme Court has allowed Texas to sic bounty hunters on women seeking constitutionally protected abortions. By | September 8, 2021

Back in the 19th century, Texas was awash in vigilante groups. In those dark years, various self-appointed “law enforcers” modeled after the Texas Rangers embarked on a decades-long campaign of ethnic cleansing of Indigenous peoples in the western territory.

Thanks to the Supreme Court, the state is now unleashing another wave of newly minted bounty hunters — this time on women.

The Supreme Court has let stand the Lone Star State’s latest attack on women — a law that criminalizes abortion after six weeks, before most women realize they are pregnant, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

But it goes further than that. It also deputizes ordinary citizens to hunt down and sue anyone who helps a woman defy the ban (e.g. clinic staff, taxi drivers, someone who provided money for the procedure) with a minimum payoff of $10,000 if they’re successful.

Since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, abortion has been legal in the U.S. up to the time of viability, meaning when the fetus can survive on its own outside of the womb (approximately six months into the pregnancy). After that, the ruling allows states to prohibit abortions.

To gin up public sentiment, the “Texas Heartbeat Act” was so named to evoke the image of a beating heart in a fully formed human. According to medical experts, that terminology is inaccurate. At six weeks, there is neither a fully developed heart nor a so-called “heartbeat.” There is merely a collection of embryonic cells that will develop into a heart months later (still well short of viability) if the pregnancy continues.

The Texas statute is a clear violation of Roe and would probably be declared unconstitutional if the state were the entity hunting down women and preventing them from getting abortions. But the law skirts the problem by delegating that job to the new vigilantes, who will be the enforcers.

Citizens are authorized to bring frivolous lawsuits and the threat of $10,000 fines to those caught “aiding and abetting” abortions for women past the six week mark. The bounty hunters don’t even have to be Texans — anybody in the U.S. can bring such a suit.

To be clear, the Court’s action in letting the Texas statute stand for now was not a final ruling. What the justices did was refuse to stop enforcement because abortion providers trying to block the law didn’t properly address “complex and novel antecedent procedural questions.” The Supremes said they could try again with “procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law.”

There is a slim chance that it could be found unconstitutional in a future ruling, but a timetable is unknown. If and until that happens, the de facto overturning of Roe v.Wade remains in place, and anti-choice zealots in states like Florida and South Carolina are already working on ways to copy the Texas strategy.

In 1989, when the Supreme Court first opened the way for state restrictions on abortion in the Webster v. Reproductive Health Services case, Justice Harry Blackmun warned: “For today, the women of the Nation still retain the liberty to control their destinies. But the signs are evident and very ominous, and a chill wind blows.”

In its next term, which starts in October, the Supreme Court is set to decide whether Roe should be overruled in a Mississippi case — a law banning most abortions after 15 weeks currently blocked by lower courts.

Back in Texas, a bill defining all abortions as murder punishable by death has already been debated once in the legislature. It didn’t pass, but there’s no reason to think it’s off the table. And for now, vigilantes appear eager to start their work.

A chill wind indeed.

Martha Burk (@MarthaBurk) is the director of the Corporate Accountability Project for the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO). This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.

Via Otherwords.org

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

CBS DFW: “Texas Doctor Dr. Alan Braid Sued After Defying State’s Abortion Ban”

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Unemployment Insurance Isn’t Holding Back the Economy. Inequality Is. https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/unemployment-insurance-inequality.html Sun, 19 Sep 2021 04:04:02 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200141

Ending enhanced unemployment benefits didn’t get people back to work. It just made them poorer.

By Rebekah Entralgo | –

An estimated 9 million Americans got the rug pulled out from under them over Labor Day weekend as enhanced pandemic federal unemployment benefits expired, leaving millions of families in the lurch during a record-breaking season for COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Some 35 million people — nearly 1 in 10 Americans — live in households that will be impacted by the cut. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted a response to those families: “Um, get a job?”

If only it were that simple.

Workers in this country aren’t lacking work ethic. They simply don’t have reliable child care, health care, or economic infrastructures to support them in times of crisis.

As much as lawmakers like Cruz would like to believe that the pandemic is behind us, the number of daily COVID-19 cases is three times higher than a year ago, with children now representing more than a quarter of weekly COVID-19 cases. And there are still 5.7 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic.

Vaccination rates are still lagging in much of the country, yet many state governments are

undermining masking rules and other basic precautions. That makes returning to work more dangerous for frontline workers, many of whom also continue to lack paid leave or reliable child care.

Additionally, in a pandemic that’s sent billionaire and CEO wealth soaring, many workers are asking if their labor is worth the risk if their bosses are the ones reaping the benefits.

For instance, Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta rigged the company’s pay rules to inflate his 2020 compensation to $56 million — 1,953 times more than the company’s median employee. Frontline Hilton workers, meanwhile, face a 39 percent reduction in staffing as the company moves to cut costs.

How could we expect an abrupt and mass return to work under these conditions?

Republicans thought they could force it by simply cutting the added $300 a week in federal unemployment insurance. It didn’t work.

Over the summer, governors in 25 states prematurely ended the enhanced unemployment benefits to pressure people back to work. The results? Unimpressive. Payrolls grew by a meager 1.33 percent in the states that chose to end the benefits — compared to 1.37 percent in states that maintained them.

Unemployment insurance wasn’t keeping people out of work, it turns out. It was keeping them out of poverty.

After Congress expanded government assistance programs in spring 2020, including unemployment insurance, the number of people in poverty actually fell. All told, pandemic government aid programs kept 53 million people above the poverty line in 2020.

Had enhanced programs not been in place, the number of people in poverty would have increased by 2.5 percent, new data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities suggests.

The pandemic unemployment benefits also, for the first time, reached workers previously left out of our already-faltering unemployment system — including part-time workers, gig workers, and the self-employed.

Ending enhanced federal unemployment benefits during a global pandemic isn’t just cruel — it’s ineffective. Taking away $300 a week — equivalent to $15,200 a year — from a single parent won’t make that parent return to work during a global pandemic. It will force them deeper into poverty.

Fortunately, Congress has an opportunity to build a just economy that advances equity in the pandemic recovery and beyond.

The $3.5 trillion reconciliation package Congress is debating would provide paid leave, universal pre-K, affordable childcare, an expanded Child Tax Credit, and better health care programs. These badly needed investments would provide families and individuals with the social safety net needed to recover from the pandemic before the next crisis hits.

If policy makers want to get people back to work, they need to make our economy work for people.

Rebekah Entralgo is the managing editor of Inequality.org at the Institute for Policy Studies. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

The Young Turks: “U.S. Axes Millions Off Unemployment On Labor Day”

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Tax the ‘Trillion-Dollar Seven’ https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/trillion-dollar-seven.html Mon, 06 Sep 2021 04:06:24 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=199899 By Bob Lord | –

( Otherwords.org ) – Democrats want to spend $3.5 trillion on jobs and infrastructure. A third of that could be covered by just seven billionaires. By | September 1, 2021

The collective wealth of the seven wealthiest Americans has now reached nearly $1 trillion. And these seven pay virtually nothing in income tax.

According to Forbes, the collective wealth of these seven men — Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Larry Ellison — stood at $996 billion at the end of the day on August 25.

That’s a group small enough to fit an SUV.

Think about that. Just seven guys now control about $1 trillion in wealth — that’s about one-third the $3.5-trillion package now before Congress for desperately needed programs that range from dental and vision care for seniors to child tax credits for rescuing millions of families from poverty and measures that can save our burning planet from climate change.

Some vilify that social spending as “unaffordable.” But it turns out that one third of the tab could be covered by the wealth of just 0.0000022 percent of the U.S. population — seven guys in one SUV.

The still deeper connection between the wealth of our “trillion-dollar seven” and that $3.5-trillion in social spending: Whether that spending becomes reality likely will hinge on the votes of so-called political moderates who insist the programs must be “paid for.”

Those same moderates will hold the deciding votes on the “pay fors” advocates for the social spending are proposing: increased taxes on the country’s enormously rich, including the trillion-dollar seven.

And that gets us back to how we got into this mess in the first place.

ProPublica recently exposed what many of us already suspected: Our trillion-dollar seven — and their fellow billionaires — barely pay any tax as a percentage of their true income. Between 2014 and 2018, America’s 25 top billionaires paid federal income tax during that five-year period equal to just 3.4 percent of the increase in their collective wealth over that same period.

Can we change this dynamic?

Yes, but to do so, those political moderates will need to agree to end the tax-avoidance strategy — “Buy-Borrow-Die” — that allows billionaires and the merely super-rich to escape tax on the enormous gains they realize on their investments.

This scam works really quite simply. The wealthy buy an investment or — in the case of the trillion-dollar seven — found a company. Then, as their asset soars in value, they never sell. Instead, they borrow against the increased value of their asset whenever they need cash.

Finally, they die, and each death wipes off the tax liability on all the gain that’s gone untaxed, sometimes for an entire adult lifetime.

What makes the Buy-Borrow-Die strategy possible? The gaping loophole in our tax law known as “stepped-up basis.” Under this loophole, those who sell inherited assets get treated as if they had purchased the assets at their fair market value on the date of the deceased owner’s death.

The end result: If Jeff Bezos’ children inherit his Amazon stock, about $200 billion in gains will face no tax at all.

Our political leaders have been aware of the stepped-up basis loophole for decades, yet have done nothing while the super-rich have been using Buy-Borrow-Die to accumulate obscene piles of untaxed wealth.

But the Biden administration is now calling on Congress to end stepped-up basis to fund the programs we need to move our country forward. Will our lawmakers now summon the courage to tax the trillion-dollar seven?

Bob Lord, a veteran tax attorney and Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow, currently serves as tax counsel to Americans for Tax Fairness. This op-ed was adapted from Inequality.org and distributed by OtherWords.org.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Vox: “How the rich avoid paying taxes”

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