Thursday, January 3, 2013

And the Winner Is . . . . (Is This Really a Police State (Already) ?)

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My thoughts since the last decade's stealing of the Presidential elections have been that there must have been sooooooo much wealth generated by our (U.S.) underpaid workforce that they have to almost make up new names for ways to steal it and conceal it more effectively.

Keep your gaze focused on those shiny baubles, folks! Keep blinking!

From our friends at Naked Capitalism (and they really are friends we can depend on now):

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Eight Corporate Subsidies in the Fiscal Cliff Bill, From Goldman Sachs to Disney to NASCAR

Matt Stoller is a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. You can follow him here.

Throughout the months of November and December, a steady stream of corporate CEOs flowed in and out of the White House to discuss the impending fiscal cliff. Many of them, such as Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, would then publicly come out and talk about how modest increases of tax rates on the wealthy were reasonable in order to deal with the deficit problem. What wasn’t mentioned is what these leaders wanted, which is what’s known as “tax extenders”, or roughly $205B of tax breaks for corporations. With such a banal name, and boring and difficult to read line items in the bill, few political operatives have bothered to pay attention to this part of the bill. But it is critical to understanding what is going on.

The negotiations over the fiscal cliff involve more than the Democrats, Republicans, the middle class and the wealthy. The corporate sector is here in force as well. One of the core shifts in the Reagan era was the convergence of wealthy individuals who wanted to pay less in taxes – many from the growing South – with corporations that wanted tax breaks. Previously, these groups fought over the pie, because the idea of endless deficits did not make sense. Once Reagan figured out how to finance yawning deficits, the GOP was able to wield the corporate sector and the new sun state wealthy into one force, epitomized today by Grover Norquist. What Obama is (sort of) trying to do is split this coalition, and the extenders are the carrot he’s dangling in front of the corporate sector to do it.

Most tax credits drop straight to the bottom line – it’s why companies like Enron considered its tax compliance section a “profit center”. A few hundred billion dollars of tax expenditures is a major carrot to offer. Surely, a modest hike in income taxes for people who make more than $400k in income and stupid enough not to take that money in capital gain would be worth trading off for the few hundred billion dollars in corporate pork. This is what the fiscal cliff is about – who gets the money. And by leaving out the corporate sector, nearly anyone who talks about this debate is leaving out a key negotiating partner.

So without further ado, here are eight corporate subsidies in the fiscal cliff bill that you haven’t heard of.

1) Help out NASCAR - Sec 312 extends the “seven year recovery period for motorsports entertainment complex property”, which is to say it allows anyone who builds a racetrack and associated facilities to get tax breaks on it. This one was projected to cost $43 million over two years.

2) A hundred million or so for Railroads - Sec. 306 provides tax credits to certain railroads for maintaining their tracks. It’s unclear why private businesses should be compensated for their costs of doing business. This is worth roughly $165 million a year.

3) Disney’s Gotta Eat - Sec. 317 is “Extension of special expensing rules for certain film and television productions”. It’s a relatively straightforward subsidy to Hollywood studios, and according to the Joint Tax Committee, was projected to cost $150m for 2010 and 2011.

4) Help a brother mining company out – Sec. 307 and Sec. 316 offer tax incentives for miners to buy safety equipment and train their employees on mine safety. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to bribe mining companies to not kill their workers.

5) Subsidies for Goldman Sachs Headquarters – Sec. 328 extends “tax exempt financing for York Liberty Zone,” which was a program to provide post-9/11 recovery funds. Rather than going to small businesses affected, however, this was, according to Bloomberg, “little more than a subsidy for fancy Manhattan apartments and office towers for Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Corp.”

Michael Bloomberg himself actually thought the program was excessive, so that’s saying something. According to David Cay Johnston’s The Fine Print, Goldman got $1.6 billion in tax free financing for its new massive headquarters through Liberty Bonds.

6) $9B Off-shore financing loophole for banks – Sec. 322 is an “Extension of the Active Financing Exception to Subpart F.” Very few tax loopholes have a trade association, but this one does. This strangely worded provision basically allows American corporations such as banks and manufactures to engage in certain lending practices and not pay taxes on income earned from it. According to this Washington Post piece, supporters of the bill include GE, Caterpillar, and JP Morgan. Steve Elmendorf, super-lobbyist, has been paid $80,000 in 2012 alone to lobby on the “Active Financing Working Group.”

7) Tax credits for foreign subsidiaries – Sec. 323 is an extension of the “Look-through treatment of payments between related CFCs under foreign personal holding company income rules.” This gibberish sounding provision cost $1.5 billion from 2010 and 2011, and the US Chamber loves it. It’s a provision that allows US multinationals to not pay taxes on income earned by companies they own abroad.

8) Bonus Depreciation, R&D Tax Credit – These are well-known corporate boondoggles. The research tax credit was projected to cost $8B for 2010 and 2011, and the depreciation provisions were projected to cost about $110B for those two years, with some of that made up in later years.

Conveniently, the Joint Committee on Taxation in 2010 did an analysis of what many of these extenders cost. You can find that report here.


Read more here.

G R A T E F U L   D E A D !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Is This Really a Police State?

Posted on by WashingtonsBlog

Guest post by investigative historian Eric Zuesse, author – most recently – of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

When the corporate-organized FreedomWorks/Koch “Tea Party” group within the Republican Party bused its adherents to riots they organized in August 2009 against Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives, who were trying to hold informational town hall events in order to discuss with constituents emerging healthcare legislation, there was no FBI surveillance of those corporate-organized disruptions of legitimate democratic processes. There also were no subsequent FreedomWorks applications for Freedom of Information Act releases of FBI files regarding such surveillance being used against them – because there was no such FBI campaign against them.

However, when the grassroots Occupy Wall Street movement organized their peaceful demonstrations against banksters in September 2011, there was massive FBI surveillance used against them. On 22 August 2011 – over a month prior to the first such demonstration on September 17th – the FBI sent to its NYC field office a memo marked “Routine,” which summarized a “meeting” that had been held with “New York Stock Exchange/Euronext (NYSE),” which had “Discussed … the planned anarchist protest titled ‘Occupy Wall Street’, scheduled for September 17.” Get that word “anarchist.” It’s not friendly. And the FBI had already organized for these Wall Street executives; this meeting had itself been organized even prior to this 22 August 2011 memo, not just prior to September 17th.

This interesting information was reluctantly extracted from Obama’s “Justice” Department, when its FBI finally mailed, on 20 December 2012, to the nonprofit Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, a requested file of massively redacted information regarding the FBI’s extensive snooping against the nationwide Occupy Wall Street movement.

The FBI was organizing against the OWS movement even before it was known to the general public, and they kept on their campaign against it, until it was dead. Meanwhile, the Tea Party Republicans eliminated the public option from Obamacare, and continued to hold hostage the entire nation in order to extend George W. Bush’s tax-cuts for the top 1% – and also in order to cut government benefits to everybody else: to slash Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. The public must suffer, while banksters continue to boom – that’s government, under Barack Obama and his “Justice” Department. This is our “democracy.” This is today’s America.

OWS ended just a few months after it began, on 14 November 2011. That was when Robert Johnson and Linette Lopez of headlined “This Weekend’s Occupy Crackdowns May Be The Beginning Of The End For Protest Groups.”

The very next day, the same reporters bannered “This Week’s Occupy Evictions Were Systematically Plotted By The Nation’s Mayors,” and they quoted Oakland Mayor Jean Quan admitting to a reporter from the BBC, “I was recently on a conference call with 18 cities across the country who had the same situation where what started as a political movement and a political encampment ended up being an encampment that was no longer in control of the people who started them,” and she said there that the 18 mayors simply wanted to help “peaceful demonstrators” to “separate themselves from anarchists” – as if this nationwide crackdown against OWS had been done in order to help “peaceful demonstrators,” instead of to help the banksters whose still-unprosecuted frauds against unqualified mortgagees and against trusting mortgage-investors had brought down the American (and largely the world’s) economy, in late 2008.

The BBC did not post online, nor otherwise publish, Mayor Quan’s startling admission to them. Instead, they simply handed off their audio of it, to “The Takeaway” program of WNYC – a radio station that’s controlled by NYC’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg of Wall Street – which promptly buried it, in passing, during their show that day. (As Johnson and Lopez noted, “they [WNYC] have a partnership with the BBC.”) This is how one aristocracy deals with another.

The only comprehensive news report on the systematic nationwide crushing of OWS ended up being posted on the World Socialist Web Site, which headlined on 17 November 2011, “Mayors Conspired to Close Occupy Wall Street Encampments,” and which quoted from (but unfortunately did not link to) numerous reports from around the country, which, taken all together, exhibited the effectiveness of the FBI’s police-state snooping and tracking of Occupy Wall Street, which had begun even before most Americans knew that there was any such movement for the FBI to snoop against.

In other words, the reason why Barack Obama’s “Justice” Department refuses to prosecute even a single one of the mega-bank executives who profited so enormously from having defrauded both mortgagees and the investors in mortgage-backed securities, and who were bailed out by future U.S. taxpayers whose government purchased those remaining “toxic assets” at 100 cents on the dollar, is clear: we live in a police state, and these elite crooks control it. This is not real democracy.

Voters were given a choice in November between a President like that but whose liberal rhetoric is condemnatory of “Wall Street,” versus a professional stripper of corporations, whose rhetoric was overtly supportive of Wall Street. And voters chose the former. But this nonetheless is a police state, not an authentic democracy.

I can only cross my fingers and hope that this will be published. After all, there are opposing factions, even within the aristocracy that collectively control this country.

Update: So far not a single mainstream publication is willing to publish Zeusse’s essay … even as an editorial.

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