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Friday, November 21, 2008

The American Worker

I am an American worker, and you are damn right I want the wealth to be shared and spread. I am talking about the wealth my hard work helped to create, but was taken from me by George Bush's base, the very rich, or as I know them, my corporate bosses. For the past eight years I have watched W.'s and McCain's (Country Club First) base grab the largest share of our country's wealth. Where did they take it from? They took it from my family's pocketbook, and my co-workers' families' pocketbooks. They stole the wealth that I was trying to build for me and my family when they stripped my pension plan from me and told me to invest in a 401k. Then they stole most of that 401k and other workers' 401k savings with this economic meltdown. This was a massive transfer of wealth from the workers' pockets into the already stuffed pockets of the rich. My retirement savings and my coworkers' savings all across America have been looted by the corporate bosses, who just got bailed out while we got left out. Again!

    The American worker, whether black, brown, white, red, yellow, or rainbow color, has been fleeced over these past eight years. We are the ones who go to work every day. We don't own our places of work, nor do we help manage them. We just go in and do the job. And we must be doing one hell of a good job because we are told that we are the most productive workers in the world. We are working longer and harder, but our paychecks keep shrinking! Where are those productivity gains going then? Not into our pockets. Our standard of living has been going down these past eight years ($2,000 less in family income since W. took office) This is another damn transfer of wealth into the hands of the extremely rich.

    Their greed is insatiable. Take our family's health care. They do. They keep passing on their increased costs to us, or they just drop coverage for the worker completely. That means we either join the 50,000,000 who have no health care, or we end up having to buy it privately, thus eating up a huge portion of our family's income. If we manage to hang onto our health care plans, our deductibles, co-pays, and out-of-pay contributions keep skyrocketing. This amounts to another massive transfer of wealth from our pockets into the overflowing pockets of our corporate bosses.

    The list goes on for the American worker. We saw overtime pay stripped from millions of workers during this past nightmare eight years. The worker was still working overtime, but due to a new "boss law" passed by W. and McCain's party that assists these thieves, the workers didn't receive overtime pay because they were declared exempt. They also weakened the workers' health and safety standards or just plain didn't enforce the laws already on the books. As a result, the American worker pays the price in lost days due to accidents from unsafe conditions or from lingering, expensive illnesses suffered from unhealthy working conditions. This too is a massive transfer of wealth from our pockets into our corporate bosses' bulging pockets.

    To further sweeten their own pots, they took full-time jobs and converted them to part-time with no benefits, or they just made their employees line up and reapply for their exact same jobs at half the pay. Are we beginning to see what a true transfer of wealth looks like? So, do I want to see a spreading of the wealth? You bet your sweet hind-end I do. But all I ask of Obama is to give me and my co-workers the ability to retrieve some of the wealth that has been stolen from us.

    Strengthen the laws that give workers the right to organize and bargain for a contract with our bosses. The current laws on the books have been torn to shreds by W. and McCain on behalf of their base. This is just part of their attack on American workers. Under globalization, the bosses seek a much cheaper workforce, which always means non-union, which means "can't fight back." That is why they have gutted the laws that protect workers. The laws that once gave us a level playing field with our bosses have been rendered useless, including our legal right to strike. That law said I had a right to strike, and could.

    The American worker doesn't want a handout. Never did. We do want a hand up from our government. We still believe and have hope that this is a government of, by and for the people. We do want to know that our government will finally stand with us against this onslaught, this Robin Hood in reverse, being conducted by the bosses against the workers. The bosses know that W. and McCain have been on their side for the past eight years - and so do we workers. We just want our government to now stand on our side as we stand up against this corporate attempt to create third world working conditions right here in America. Restore our right to fight for a better living for ourselves and our families, and let the power of pissed-off workers, united in struggle, spread corporate America's stolen wealth back into the pockets of those whose pockets got picked these last eight years - the American worker.


t r u t h o u t | The American Worker

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Project Censored's Top 25 Stories You Won't Hear From The Media

It's been out for a while, but still cannot be mentioned enough. Project Censored, a media research and analysis group based at California's Sonoma State University has released the 25 Most Important Stories that are completely ignored by the mainstream media. They are:

#1. Over One Million Iraqi Deaths Caused by US Occupation
# 2 Security and Prosperity Partnership: Militarized NAFTA
# 3 InfraGard: The FBI Deputizes Business
# 4 ILEA: Is the US Restarting Dirty Wars in Latin America?
# 5 Seizing War Protesters’ Assets
# 6 The Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act
# 7 Guest Workers Inc.: Fraud and Human Trafficking
# 8 Executive Orders Can Be Changed Secretly
# 9 Iraq and Afghanistan Vets Testify
# 10 APA Complicit in CIA Torture
# 11 El Salvador’s Water Privatization and the Global War on Terror
# 12 Bush Profiteers Collect Billions From No Child Left Behind
# 13 Tracking Billions of Dollars Lost in Iraq
# 14 Mainstreaming Nuclear Waste
# 15 Worldwide Slavery
# 16 Annual Survey on Trade Union Rights
# 17 UN’s Empty Declaration of Indigenous Rights
# 18 Cruelty and Death in Juvenile Detention Centers
# 19 Indigenous Herders and Small Farmers Fight Livestock Extinction
# 20 Marijuana Arrests Set New Record
# 21 NATO Considers “First Strike” Nuclear Option
# 22 CARE Rejects US Food Aid
# 23 FDA Complicit in Pushing Pharmaceutical Drugs
# 24 Japan Questions 9/11 and the Global War on Terror
# 25 Bush’s Real Problem with Eliot Spitzer


Project Censored's Top 25 Stories You Won't Hear From The Media

t r u t h o u t | America's Wars of Self-Destruction

War is a poison. It is a poison that nations and groups must at times ingest to ensure their survival. But, like any poison, it can kill you just as surely as the disease it is meant to eradicate. The poison of war courses unchecked through the body politic of the United States. We believe that because we have the capacity to wage war we have the right to wage war. We embrace the dangerous self-delusion that we are on a providential mission to save the rest of the world from itself, to implant our virtues-which we see as superior to all other virtues-on others, and that we have a right to do this by force. This belief has corrupted Republicans and Democrats alike. And if Barack Obama drinks, as it appears he will, the dark elixir of war and imperial power offered to him by the national security state, he will accelerate the downward spiral of the American empire.

    Obama and those around him embrace the folly of the "war on terror." They may want to shift the emphasis of this war to Afghanistan rather than Iraq, but this is a difference in strategy, not policy. By clinging to Iraq and expanding the war in Afghanistan, the poison will continue in deadly doses. These wars of occupation are doomed to failure. We cannot afford them. The rash of home foreclosures, the mounting job losses, the collapse of banks and the financial services industry, the poverty that is ripping apart the working class, our crumbling infrastructure and the killing of hapless Afghans in wedding parties and Iraqis by our iron fragmentation bombs are neatly interwoven. These events form a perfect circle. The costly forms of death we dispense on one side of the globe are hollowing us out from the inside at home.

    The "war on terror" is an absurd war against a tactic. It posits the idea of perpetual, or what is now called "generational," war. It has no discernable end. There is no way to define victory. It is, in metaphysical terms, a war against evil, and evil, as any good seminarian can tell you, will always be with us. The most destructive evils, however, are not those that are externalized. The most destructive are those that are internal. These hidden evils, often defined as virtues, are unleashed by our hubris, self-delusion and ignorance. Evil masquerading as good is evil in its deadliest form.

    The decline of American empire began long before the current economic meltdown or the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It began before the first Gulf War or Ronald Reagan. It began when we shifted, in the words of the historian Charles Maier, from an "empire of production" to an "empire of consumption." By the end of the Vietnam War, when the costs of the war ate away at Lyndon Johnson's Great Society and domestic oil production began its steady, inexorable decline, we saw our country transformed from one that primarily produced to one that primarily consumed. We started borrowing to maintain a lifestyle we could no longer afford. We began to use force, especially in the Middle East, to feed our insatiable demand for cheap oil. The years after World War II, when the United States accounted for one-third of world exports and half of the world's manufacturing, gave way to huge trade imbalances, outsourced jobs, rusting hulks of abandoned factories, stagnant wages and personal and public debts that most of us cannot repay.

    The bill is now due. America's most dangerous enemies are not Islamic radicals, but those who promote the perverted ideology of national security that, as Andrew Bacevich writes, is "our surrogate religion." If we continue to believe that we can expand our wars and go deeper into debt to maintain an unsustainable level of consumption, we will dynamite the foundations of our society.

    "The Big Lies are not the pledge of tax cuts, universal health care, family values restored, or a world rendered peaceful through forceful demonstrations of American leadership," Bacevich writes in "The Limits of Power." "The Big Lies are the truths that remain unspoken: that freedom has an underside; that nations, like households, must ultimately live within their means; that history's purpose, the subject of so many confident pronouncements, remains inscrutable. Above all, there is this: Power is finite. Politicians pass over matters such as these in silence. As a consequence, the absence of self-awareness that forms such an enduring element of the American character persists."

    Those clustered around Barack Obama, from Madeline Albright to Hillary Clinton to Dennis Ross to Colin Powell, have no interest in dismantling the structure of the imperial presidency or the vast national security state. They will keep these institutions intact and seek to increase their power. We have a childish belief that Obama will magically save us from economic free fall, restore our profligate levels of consumption and resurrect our imperial power. This na├»ve belief is part of our disconnection with reality. The problems we face are structural. The old America is not coming back.

    The corporate forces that control the state will never permit real reform. This is the Faustian bargain made between these corporate forces and the Republican and Democratic parties. We will never, under the current system, achieve energy independence. Energy independence would devastate the profits of the oil and gas industry. It would wipe out tens of billions of dollars in weapons contracts, spoil the financial health of a host of private contractors from Halliburton to Blackwater and render obsolete the existence of U.S. Central Command.

    There are groups and people who seek to do us harm. The attacks of Sept. 11 will not be the last acts of terrorism on American soil. But the only way to defeat terrorism is to isolate terrorists within their own societies, to mount cultural and propaganda wars, to discredit their ideas, to seek concurrence even with those defined as our enemies. Force, while a part of this battle, is rarely necessary. The 2001 attacks that roused our fury and unleashed the "war on terror" also unleashed a worldwide revulsion against al-Qaida and Islamic terrorism, including throughout the Muslim world, where I was working as a reporter at the time. If we had had the courage to be vulnerable, to build on this empathy rather than drop explosive ordinance all over the Middle East, we would be far safer and more secure today. If we had reached out for allies and partners instead of arrogantly assuming that American military power would restore our sense of invulnerability and mitigate our collective humiliation, we would have done much to defeat al-Qaida. But we did not. We demanded that all kneel before us. And in our ruthless and indiscriminate use of violence and illegal wars of occupation, we resurrected the very forces that we could, under astute leadership, have marginalized. We forgot that fighting terrorism is a war of shadows, an intelligence war, not a conventional war. We forgot that, as strong as we may be militarily, no nation, including us, can survive isolated and alone.

    The American empire, along with our wanton self-indulgence and gluttonous consumption, has come to an end. We are undergoing a period of profound economic, political and military decline. We can continue to dance to the tunes of self-delusion, circling the fire as we chant ridiculous mantras about our greatness, virtue and power, or we can face the painful reality that has engulfed us. We cannot reverse this decline. It will happen no matter what we do. But we can, if we break free from our self-delusion, dismantle our crumbling empire and the national security state with a minimum of damage to ourselves and others. If we refuse to accept our limitations, if do not face the changes forced upon us by a bankrupt elite that has grossly mismanaged our economy, our military and our government, we will barrel forward toward internal and external collapse. Our self-delusion constitutes our greatest danger. We will either confront reality or plunge headlong into the minefields that lie before us.


t r u t h o u t | America's Wars of Self-Destruction

Why the Economy Grows Like Crazy Amid High Taxes

The real-world effects of tax policy are counterintuitive.

They run exactly opposite the conventional wisdom. They defy what the Heritage Foundation calls common sense and what the American Enterprise Institute calls logic.

Reality laughs at the Laffer curve, calls Ronald Reagan wrong and says George W. Bush is a loon.

High marginal tax rates correlate with economic growth.

Examples include World War II and the Truman-Eisenhower years, when it was around 90 percent, and the Clinton years, when it was high relative to the preceding and following administrations.

Tax rate increases are followed by real economic growth.

Examples include Hoover in 1932, Roosevelt in 1936 and 1940, Bush the Elder in 1991 and Clinton in1993.

Moderate tax cuts are followed by a flat economy.

This is a generalization from one example: Johnson in 1964.

Large tax cuts are followed by a boom, a bubble and a crash.

1929, 1987 and 2008 are examples.

These are covered in more detail in the first part of the article "Tax Cuts: The B.S. and the Facts."

Why do high taxes create a stronger economy?

I used to run a small business -- a commercial film production company.

Every time we took a dollar out as personal income, it instantly turned into 50 cents.

If we didn't really need the money, that was an incentive to keep it in the company and to find ways to spend it that took it out of the taxable profit column but increased the value of the company.

High taxes create an incentive to reinvest profits into long-term growth.

With high taxes, the only way to retain the bulk of the wealth created by a business is by reinvesting it in the business -- in plants, equipment, staff, research and development, new products and all the rest.

The higher taxes are (and from 1940 to 1964 the top rates were around 90 percent), the more this is true.

This creates a bias toward long-term planning.

If a business is planning for the long term, it wants a happy, stable work force. It becomes worthwhile to pay good wages and offer decent benefits.

Low taxes create an incentive for profit taking.

It is easy to confuse profitability with wealth creation.

They are not the same.

President Eisenhower built the interstate highway system. There is no doubt that this gave the country an asset of great value, one that was very productive. It created great "wealth." But, aside from the construction companies that contracted the work, it was not profitable.

Selling subprime mortgages, trading in derivatives, packaging mortgage-backed securities and "flipping" condos were all very profitable but did not create wealth.

The theory is that if the rich can keep their money, they will invest in businesses that create jobs, more businesses, more tax revenue and greater "wealth" for the nation.

That sounds like logic and common sense. But is it, in practice, what happened?

Once tax cutting began, the culture of business changed.

It was no longer enough for a business to be a reasonably good business, making steady, reliable profits.

Indeed, that became a very bad condition for a business to be in. It made it a target for takeovers by people who were willing to milk them of their profits.

Among the ways you can get more profit out of a going business are:

  • Cutting the workforce -- possibly sacrificing long-term productivity
  • Cutting salaries -- who cares if the employees are unhappy? The balance sheet improves.
  • Selling off assets -- who cares what happens in 10 years? We can take the money now.
  • Outsourcing -- which sends the "wealth" somewhere else.

A whole host of devices were developed to do all of the above: junk bonds, leveraged buyouts, hostile takeovers, greenmail and the like.

Lots of money could be made that way -- for a small number of individuals. But it doesn't produce "wealth."

An environment in which profit-taking is cheap creates the conditions for a bubble.

Once you've taken your profit, and you have the cash in hand, you look for a place where you can get profits quickly, then again and again. Instead of examining how sound a company is, how well it's run, its debt load and its long-term prospects, other things become important -- such as the speed at which you can profit and the ease of entry.

Instead of investing in business -- which is difficult, slow and complicated -- investors go into markets.

They look for sectors that are hot. When investors find such an area, they flock to it. It heats up even more. People are seen making money, quickly and easily, simply by buying and selling, and they don't want to miss out.

Then there's a bubble -- which is followed by a crash.

Proponents of tax cuts take the position that taxes take money out of the economy.

That's flat out not true.

Governments don't keep the money they collect; they spend it. It goes right back in. It just takes a different route. It goes to different places.

The places that government puts money are important. More to the point, they are important for business.

All infrastructure is an invisible subsidy for all business.

It's easy to understand this when we're talking about roads.

It doesn't matter if your business doesn't ship anything by truck or even by bicycle. The fact that you can get to your office quickly and easily, that your mailperson can get to you without traveling on the back of a mule, is a subsidy of your business.

It's a little harder to see that when we're talking about soft infrastructure.

Laws, regulations and their enforcement. Social Security, unemployment insurance, public health and welfare. Education, research, support of sports, arts and culture. Parks and playgrounds. All of them create a society that is safer, more stable, and more able to produce and consume. They produce a better place in which to do business.

Tax cutters also claim -- and I paraphrase the essence of the argument -- that the money government gets disappears in wasteful stupidities.

There's some truth in that.

They might point out all sorts of cultural and scientific projects, like a museum for the Woodstock Festival, counting the fish in Waldon Pond or studying the sex life of prairie dogs. I would point to the Star Wars missile defense shield, farm subsidies, the ethanol program, the privatized non-reconstruction of Iraq and all of Halliburton's contracts.

But it is also true that businesses spend money on all sorts of wasteful stupidities.

I am sitting here wondering how anyone -- in fact, a succession of people -- could run a company with the power and resources of General Motors into the ground.

In the mythological marketplace, they should fail and suffer for their faults. In the real world, the arrogant fools who ran the place will walk away with millions, and the hundreds of thousands of people who worked for them and their suppliers, who offered services and goods to those in turn, will be the ones who suffer.

The point is that relying on the magic of the marketplace is like relying on any other kind of magic.

There are things that are necessarily done for the common good.

Clean water, sewer systems, garbage collection and public health initiatives create a healthy population, able to work and consume. Take those away, and we return to the plague years. Imagine what that does to business.

Polluted air, toxins in the groundwater, viruses and bacteria jump the borders of even the wealthiest communities.

Bad health created by lack of care for the common good becomes an economic drain on society.

This is not to say that a full-out, state-run economy is better than capitalism. It's not.

That produces different problems that are even worse.

It is not even meant to imply that all "sound" investments in "real" businesses stopped with tax cuts. They didn't. Start-up money and venture capital were relatively easy to come by. Lots of new and good businesses were built in low-tax environments.

But low taxes produced great excesses of negative activity as well. There is a propensity in business, and as a nation, to hollow out our businesses, and mortgage and sell off our assets, in order to grab short-term profits.

A sound economy is based on a mix of market and government actions -- and a host of other factors as well.

These explanations are speculative, a search to explain what is observed in nature, if you will.

What is certain is that tax cuts on the top brackets, and in particular on unearned income, do not produce healthy economic growth. Contrary to all expectations, tax hikes seem to produce the desired growth. All the explanations in the world, funded by all the right-wing anti-tax think tanks in the world, won't change that reality. If these explanations don't suit you, then supply a better one that will.


Why the Economy Grows Like Crazy Amid High Taxes | Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace | AlterNet