Corporate Freeloaders Seize Power

In his State of the Union message, President Obama referred to the fact that the tax-rate for corporations in the United States is one of the highest, which is true. What he did not say is, taxes collected from corporations are way below average for developed nations — of 30 countries, only Turkey and Mexico have lower taxes on business. American corporations have an abundance of loopholes and tax abatements; multi-national and foreign corporations hide their profits in the jurisdiction of governments or countries with lower taxes or in no-tax tax colonies. Lobbying and campaign contributions are an incentive for inserting special exemptions in legislation passed by Congress and much cheaper than paying the corporate income tax.

In 1952 the corporate income tax brought in 32.1% of all federal revenue collected; by 2001 it had dropped to 7.6%; and for 2009 was 6.6%. On the other hand, Social Security/Medicare taxes increased from 5.6% in 1952 (before Medicare) to 42.3% of revenue by 2009.

Social Security/Medicare has paid for itself, but in supplanting the corporate tax as the second most important source of federal revenue, trust fund surpluses have been in effect spent for war and national security as the deficit mounts and large corporations pay very little in taxes.

We have turned massive portions of federal services over to corporations. Three-fifths of the monetary outlays of the Defense Department are now outsourced to private corporations; as is the case for seventy percent of intelligence operations, 56% for the Department of Homeland Security, and similar portions of the national security activities for a half-dozen other federal agencies. Two-thirds of all fulltime federal civilian and military employees are in some aspect national security. Total expenditures for war/national security, including servicing war-incurred debt, amounted to nearly half of all federal expenditures just prior to the economic meltdown of 2008. It’s not Social Security and Medicare that are driving up the national debt — it’s war and the massive outsourcing of public services to private corporations that largely avoid paying the corporate income tax. Government waste, inefficiency, corruption, and war combine to increase corporate profits.

Last year the US Supreme Court gave corporations the right to vote with their money in our elections, without limits or disclosure (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission). A recent study of this “hidden money” gave these funds to the Republicans versus Democrats by a ratio of 21 to one —resulting in a large increase of Republicans in Congress and the States. Because of redistricting and this Court decision, the results of the 2010 election will distort politics for the next decade. I want to know where in the US Constitution and legislation passed by Congress corporations are made legal persons and where legal persons are given the right to vote? Does this case mean American, multi-national, and foreign corporations all have effectively the right to vote in our elections? We should change the Pledge of Allegiance to, “I pledge allegiance to the Corporation and the CEO for which it stands ...”

Ross Stephens
Leawood, Kansas

What is Progressive?

Since becoming a subscriber to The Progressive Populist I’ve been thinking about what it means to identify one’s self as a Progressive. In every issue I find iterations of my thoughts. For instance, P. Anne White, in her letter “Action, Not Servility,” (3/15/11 TPP) lists eight ideas which fall into the Progressive ideology. In the same issue Rev. Don Rollins writes, “When divorced from moral obligation, budgeting becomes little more than the soulless assigning of worth on the basis of utility to the markets.” I’m sharing the ideas I came up with in the hope that other citizens who love what Progressive Populism stands for will also give careful consideration to what sets progressive ideas apart from other modes of thinking about the problems that confront us.

A Progressive:

• operates out of concepts, facts, and principles, not opinion, archaic rules, and dogma;

• has a broad perspective, historically and “to the seventh generation”;

• knows that platitudes and jargon are not useful starting points for intelligent dialogue;

• honors spirituality as a core operating principle;

• appreciates the complexity and interconnectedness of Creation, the environmental web in which we live and to which we owe our existence;

• understands that meaningful change cannot happen at the superficial level;

• knows the power of small deeds of loving kindness;

• is an activist, not an apathetic bystander;

• holds a healthy skepticism toward corporate-dominated media;

• is not an ideologue; uses ideas from a broad spectrum to accomplish her purposes, and

• seeks to know all points of view;

• values communal rights, wealth, and well-being over individual gain;

• knows the value of diversity in all domains;

• thinks globally, acts locally;

• displays courage in resisting fear-and-hate mongering;

• is not intimidated by powerful interests or threatened by power-sharing;

• uses the power of the purse in making economic decisions based on values, not impulse, and

• is not indifferent to the influence of a corporate culture based on greed and exploitation;

• honors the human rights of everyone and stands in solidarity with all oppressed peoples;

• can think paradoxically and outside the box;

• avoids simplistic thinking and quick fixes;

• has the discipline to ask the difficult questions instead of accepting facile answers, and

• can live with ambiguity until all the facts are in;

• understands that peace needs to be built upon the foundation of justice and security for all peoples rather than on military might;

• sees consumerism and a vacuous popular culture as distractions from vital issues;

• appreciates the complementarity of science and religion, and

• values the arts, not as frivolous diversions, but as mediators of the two.

No one person, of course, can perfectly embody all of these ideals, but all of us, by concentrating on putting to use our individual talents, can be an influence for good in our culture.

In his often-quoted and prophetic Farewell Address, President George Washington gave this warning:

“[Political parties] are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

To live in a democracy means that we must actively pursue and protect our rights as citizens. All of us.

In solidarity,

Barbara J. Richardson
Northampton, Pa.

Sticking with the Union

As Galena, Ill., is subdued by its usual late winter blahs, we’ve had the chance to watch a political drama unfold in Madison, Wis., that has caught the attention of the national and international media. We’ve seen crowds of over 75,000 march on the Capitol of Wisconsin , and we’ve seen mass protests dominated by middle class professional and technical people and families. The Republican governor has succeeded in taking away collective bargaining rights from public workers and dues checkoffs from their unions, but the polls show public opinion strongly supports the workers. The Republicans have won the battle, but may yet lose the war. All the principal players in this drama will face recall elections next year. In the meantime, several other states are poised to enact similar legislation and it looks like there’s going to be an NFL players’ strike next fall. I’m an old union man and I may be biased, but the Republicans and their billionaire backers may be overplaying their hand here. As the battle lines form in Michigan, Ohio and other states, the unions are getting support from environmental groups, senior citizens, and the millions of Americans who don’t have a union, but wish they did. It looks like the corporate-funded tea party populism is going to be eclipsed by some real populism.

But, even if the teachers’ unions, AFSCME and SEIU can win back most of their losses through recalls and elections, that would hardly qualify as a big win for the labor movement. You can’t win a war by fighting only defensive battles. If the phrase “the rights of labor” is ever going to mean anything again in this country, the private sector must be reorganized. Now that most of the good factory jobs are gone, that means going into the big box stores and fast food franchises. The way the federal labor laws are stacked now, it would be very hard for a traditional AFL-CIO-type union to get a foothold in those places. And I don’t think the teens and twenty-somethings who work in those stores are going to be attracted to the old-line unions and their sixty-something leadership. The millennial generation has to find a new way to assert their rights. Those big groups of individually helpless workers need to get the pay and benefits and respect that some of their parents and grandparents had. The sit-down strike was the magic bullet in the 1930s, but these times call for new tactics, maybe using information technology to make it more inclusive. Will 2011 be the year the labor movement died, or is there a new Big Bill Haywood out there somewhere, ready to organize the lowest paid of the workers? Whatever happens, I’m with the Union!

Stephen McGuire
Galena, Ill.

Unfair Banking

I was pleased to see in the 3/15/11 TPP a new column by Ellen Brown, covering and encouraging the effort to establish state-owned banks. Ms. Brown has been stalwart in questioning the prevailing banking practices in this country, especially the ceding of money creation by the federal government to the private banks. From what Ms. Brown and others have exposed, it appears that private money creation is at best a mammoth “opportunity cost” compared to the alternatives, such as the “greenback” system wherein the federal government creates debt-free money based on good and services provided to it. At worst, this subsidy is a form of quasi-legal counterfeiting, given that the Constitution reserves for Congress the right “to coin money.”

Certainly, the basic argument is hard to refute: There is a huge difference between creating money to pay for government programs, and borrowing money at interest to do the same. Why do we allow private bankers, who’ve done nothing to earn the privilege and everything to earn our antagonism, create our money supply for their own benefit, to the point where the vast majority of our money is principal on debt (to the private bankers on money they’ve loaned into existence) and the rest (the money the bankers have “invested” into existence) may not be enough to even cover the interest? Why do we let these profiteers, insufficiently constrained by reserve and capital requirements, generally create money faster than the economy grows, producing chronic inflation? Why do we continue to embrace a fractional reserve regime that sometimes causes wild, destabilizing swings in the money supply? Would our crippling national debt even exist, let alone top $14 trillion, had we opted for debt-free, public money creation in 1913?

Why aren’t the professional economists addressing this issue? Why do I have to learn about our banking system from autodidacts such as writer/lawyer Ellen Brown, biologist Bruce Lipton or comedian Steve Bhaerman? If what these people are saying is wrong or grossly exaggerated, why not set the record straight? If it’s right, why not corroborate it? I’m talking to you, Dean Baker and Robert Reich. If you’re reluctant to take on the sacred cow that is the Federal Reserve System, perhaps you can at least lend your considerable prestige to the push for public banks, institutions which would at least reclaim some public money creation, among other benefits.

James D. Shaw
Grand Blanc, Mich.

Happy Cop Out Day

At least two writers in the 3/15/11 TPP took the trouble to remind us that the 50th anniversary of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous “Military Industrial Complex” speech should be noted and appreciated.

But why? It was a cop out then. It’s a cop out today.

What happens when two jumbo jets collide on a runway and 500-plus people are killed? What do we call this? When something so horrific occurs that no human being can possibly be held responsible, we call this an “Act of God.”

What happens when almost identical circumstances which caused a war in the past, are allowed to provoke war again? When human beings make the same stupid mistakes we like to call this “History Repeating Itself.”

Almost like God (who as we all know, acts in strange ways) both Acts of God and History Repeating Itself produce unfortunate events which occur completely beyond mankind’s ability to prevent or mitigate them. Who would ever be so foolish as to attempt to find human culpability in either of these phenomena.

Fifty years ago, at the end of his term, Dwight Eisenhower came to a horrible realization which he felt compelled to share with the American people. For the past eight years he had surrounded himself with intransigent war hawks who managed to convince him that America could outspend the Russians in an arms race which would eventually drive the Soviet Union into bankruptcy, thereby making the world safe for democracy.

But by 1961, despite the fact both sides had hit an all time peak of deliverable megatons, the Soviets seemed no worse off for the race. The plan failed, the world was on the brink of nuclear inhalation, and Eisenhower needed something to blame to help vent his conscience. Some thing, of course, because no one can possibly be blamed for a nuclear war, which can only be an Act of God caused largely by History Repeating Itself.

And so, 50 years ago the world was introduced to one more false deity by none other than the Great General himself — Military Industrial Complex.

Happy cop out day, Ike.

Ron DiGiovanni
Easton, Pa.

From The Progressive Populist, April 15, 2011


News | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2011 The Progressive Populist
PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652