Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I Paid More Taxes Than Exxon, Boeing, B of A Combined

Lots of data has come out recently about how little America's top corporations are paying in taxes, both federal and state, and that's despite earning huge profits. So where is the outcry from teabaggers? Where are the demands about "paying your fair share"?

What makes this especially contemptible is that corporate America has managed to get Republicans to yelp about our high corporate tax rate, as if any corporation actually paid anything close to the nominal rate. How many times have we seen Republicans and other intellectual prostitutes stand before a camera and say we can create jobs and get the economy going if we would just lower corporate taxes? This does not even include the numerous corporations that not only do not pay taxes, but get $ millions or even $ billions back from the feds.

Senator Bernie Sanders has released a list of corporate giants that pay dramatically lower taxes than their profits would suggest. The list, shown below, is available from various websites. I got it from here. 

1)      Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009.  Exxon not only paid no federal income taxes, it actually received a $156 million rebate from the IRS, according to its SEC filings.
2)      Bank of America received a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS last year, although it made $4.4 billion in profits and received a bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department of nearly $1 trillion.
3)      Over the past five years, while General Electric made $26 billion in profits in the United States, it received a $4.1 billion refund from the IRS.
4)      Chevron received a $19 million refund from the IRS last year after it made $10 billion in profits in 2009.
5)      Boeing, which received a $30 billion contract from the Pentagon to build 179 airborne tankers, got a $124 million refund from the IRS last year.
6)      Valero Energy, the 25th largest company in America with $68 billion in sales last year received a $157 million tax refund check from the IRS and, over the past three years, it received a $134 million tax break from the oil and gas manufacturing tax deduction.
7)      Goldman Sachs in 2008 only paid 1.1 percent of its income in taxes even though it earned a profit of $2.3 billion and received an almost $800 billion from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Department.
8)      Citigroup last year made more than $4 billion in profits but paid no federal income taxes. It received a $2.5 trillion bailout from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury.
9)      ConocoPhillips, the fifth largest oil company in the United States, made $16 billion in profits from 2007 through 2009, but received $451 million in tax breaks through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction.
10)  Over the past five years, Carnival Cruise Lines made more than $11 billion in profits, but its federal income tax rate during those years was just 1.1 percent.

The video below is a compilation of taxpayers wanting to know why they pay their share, and many corporations don't. Some nice suggestions about how we can share the video and make people more aware of what this country has become. If enough people can make these points, maybe we will hear less of this obscene shit about how teachers need to take a pay cut to balance the budget.

Because, sweetheart, if we don't push back, it will only get worse. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Remembering Triangle Shirtwaist

The Triangle Shirtwaist fire was 100 years ago. Dozens of young women and girls died because of managers who didn't give a shit about workers' personal well-being. Seems that not so much has really changed.

The video below offers a heart-wrenching summary of what happened that day in New York, why unions were soon after able to push through some basic improvements for workers, and why the same and simliar tragedies have repeated themselves in outsourced factories overseas.

Too many people are willing to let the gains made in the last two or three generations slip away. Or more accurately, be taken from us by a coalition of an overclass, a large and breathtakingly misinformed swath of the electorate, and the Republican Party they support. An ineffective and ambivalent Democratic Party completes the picture

Watch this video and remember that unions created the middle class. Some Republicans, especially these new shits elected by teabaggers, are determined to strip away what made the middle class possible; minimum wages, pensions, child labor laws, social security, and more.

They want to take us back to the days and the working conditions of Triangle Shirtwaist.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Results of Wage Suppression

Negligible wage growth for most Americans has been an underreported feature of our political economy for an entire generation. This is as corporate America has wanted it, not because they don't want Americans in general to have higher incomes, but because they care first and foremost about their bottom line. That may seem normal to Americans who grew up in a post-Reagan society, but the result is that corporations have come to dominate policy, and economic ideology, as never before. What is best for citizens, families, and communities need not concern the corporation or the investor class.

We are now seeing the results of 30+ years of wage suppression and the gigantic growth in inequality that was inevitable. In a very recent study by The Economic Policy Institute, Lawrence Mishel reveals just how little workers have benefited from decades of substantial productivity growth:

Over the last 30 years there has been very modest wage growth for the typical worker. This is not because the economy was weak and employers were strapped for cash or profits. The economy enjoyed soaring productivity between 1980 and 2009. The Figure compares median wage growth over that period to average gross domestic product growth per worker, a measure of what each individual worker, on average, contributed to the overall economy. This is equivalent to the growth of income per worker as well. While average income per worker grew 59.0%, median wages grew by just 11.2%. Over this same period the amount of wealth (household assets less liabilities) per worker grew by 63.7%. 

What we usually hear and read is the ignorant and asinine contention that unions and public sector workers are to blame for deficits, poor productivity, and slow growth.  This is a nauseatingly stupid position, and it figures that teabaggers would get behind it. In reality, wage growth has never been a policy goal for most politicians. As Mishel writes, "The focus instead has been on policies that claimed to make consumers better off through lower prices: deregulation of industries, privatization of public services, the weakening of labor standards such as the minimum wage, erosion of the social safety net, expanding globalization, and the move toward fewer and weaker unions."

Below is a graph taken from Mishel's paper. It shows as much as any single graph could as to why so Americans are hurting, despite working longer hours even as they fall into debt. The benefits of all that toil, investment, education, and innovation are not accruing to the middle class, but to upper management and the investor class. (Interestingly enough, the graph shows a distinct, recent uptick in both private and public sectors, even as productivity continues to climb. When was that? After Obama took office. No wonder Republicans hate facts).

In a nutshell, the gap in recent decades means that working- and middle-class incomes have not kept up with corporate America's ability to pay them. Workers' incomes would be significantly higher, but our overclass is pocketing the difference. 

Those outsized bonuses gotta come from somewhere. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Party of Distraction

Bill Maher nails 'em again.

When you go down the list of useless distractions that make up the Republican party agenda -- public unions, Sharia law, anchor babies, the mosque at Ground Zero, ACORN, National Public Radio, the war on Christmas, the new Black Panthers, Planned Parenthood, Michelle Obama's war on dessert...you realize that the reason nothing gets done in America is that one of the political parties puts so much [energy] into fantasy problems than real ones...
Distractions indeed; Republicans have nothing to say about Wall Street recklessness, income inequalitiy, homelessness, jobs, our crumbling infrastructure, or any substantive improvement in our deeply dysfunctional health care system.

There's more, so watch the whole segment.

And if you think Repubicans want to get government off your back, have a look at what they want the IRS to do.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Deficits, Health Care, and Willful Ignorance

Paul Krugman recently published an article in the New York Times in which he bemoans the inane level of discourse on the budget deficit as well as our out of control health care system.

Krugman writes,
According to a column in Kaiser Health News, Republican staffers jeered at any and all proposals to use Medicare and Medicaid funds better. Spending money on prevention was no more than a 'slush fund.' Research on innovation was 'an oxymoron.' And there was no reason to pay for "so-called effectiveness research."

Damn; Republicans are no longer even trying. They say nothing, offer nothing, that even pretends to be serious.

But today’s Republicans just aren’t into rationality. They claim to care deeply about deficits — but they’ve spent the past two years putting cynical, demagogic attacks on any attempt to actually deal with long-run deficits at the heart of their campaign strategy.
Here’s a recent example. In his new book, Mike Huckabee — the current leader in polls asking Republicans whom they want to nominate in 2012 — attacks the Obama stimulus because it included funds for, yes, comparative effectiveness research: “The stimulus didn’t just waste your money; it planted the seeds from which the poisonous tree of death panels will grow.” Will others in the G.O.P. stand up and say that Mr. Huckabee is wrong, that Medicare needs to know which medical procedures actually work? Don’t hold your breath.

Note the reference to comparative effectiveness research. That means we spend a little to look closer at what other countries are doing, the ones that offer care that is better, universal, and less expensive. But this is what Mike Huckabee ridicules.

Really, Mike? Do your really want Americans to remain uninformed and not know just how dysfunctional our health care really is? Most analyses of health care that make it to our mainstream media are incredibly vapid. In particular, they almost never explore in any depth why universal health care in other countries works well, contains costs, and is so popular. Ask yourself why the public in Europe, Canada, or Japan does not demand their governments adopt the US system. 

I have embedded a PDF below that offers a comparative analysis of the US health care system and those of several other industrialized nations. This is just one of several. The others I will post in due time.


I hope this link and embedded PDF stuff works OK. I am using docstoc.com for this. Seems to be working, hope it stays working. Readers can let me know if the above PDF does not work. Note the text is a bit small, but you can click to open to full screen.

Alternatively, you can click here to view via Google docs.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Public Pension Idiocy

There is lots of huff and puff about how unfunded public pension obligations will bankrupt us all. Funny how we always have the money for banks, war, and tax cuts for the wealthy, but funding retirement for civil servants? Well, they don't deserve it anyway.

It's all horseshit. Paul Krugman has addressed the "truth about pensions." He references an excellent pdf from Dean Baker:

Dean Baker has a deeply enlightening analysis of state pension shortfalls (pdf), containing a lot of stuff I didn’t know. The basic moral is that the official story these days — of years and years of huge giveaways to unions, resulting in gigantic, unpayable debts — is just wrong: to a very large extent, the pension shortfall has emerged just since 2007, thanks to the financial crisis, and even then it’s not nearly as big relative to future state incomes as widely imagined. Here’s a key figure:


It puts an entirely different light on the situation. Whaddya know, we’re being sold a bill of goods.
Dean Baker's work has also caught the attention of Mike Elk, who also cites the work of Keith Brainard, research director of the National Association of State Retirement Administrators (NASRA). Specifically, Brainard has debunked the meme, shamelessly promoted by teabaggers and other assorted Republicans, that we gotta gut those public unions 'cause America just can't afford a middle class.