By Sam Pizzigati for Other Words – If you work in a corrupt system, you have two basic options. First, you could rationalize away your role in the corruption. If you ever left, you tell yourself, they’d just get someone else to do your job. Might as well shut your mouth and collect your paycheck. But you could also go in an entirely different direction. Graef Crystal certainly did. Crystal once ranked as one of America’s top enablers of a deeply corrupt — and corrupting — corporate CEO pay system. He could have continued down that path. But he chose to push for change instead. And he kept pushing for years after most people step back. Crystal just passed away at age 82. We can learn plenty from his remarkable life. The first lesson: We all have it in us to walk away from corruption. Crystal had it made back in the 1980s. He had won national renown as an astute and reliable expert on CEO pay. America’s top corporations — outfits like American Express and General Electric — regularly hired him to consult on their executive pay packages.
By Dominic Rushe for The Guardian – Disney, the Gap and Pepsi are being pressured to quit the US Chamber of Commerce, America’s largest lobby group, amid criticism of its big-money efforts to fight climate change legislation and promote tobacco products. A coalition of pressure groups including Action on Smoking and Health, Greenpeace, Public Citizen and the Sierra Club have written to the CEOs of the three companies asking them to stop funding the powerful business group. In a letter to Disney’s boss, Bob Iger, the coalition points to the media company’s commitment to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2020, its support of the Paris climate agreement and its ban on depictions of smoking in theme parks and all G, PG and PG-13 movies. “Unfortunately, the US Chamber of Commerce is doing everything it can to block efforts to combat both climate change and anti-smoking laws and regulations. It opposes the Paris Agreement that you publicly support, is suing to block the implementation of the Clean Power Plan, consistently lobbies against legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and spends millions of dollars in money on elections ads urging voters to back candidates who support the fossil fuel industry and oppose efforts to combat climate change,” they write.
By Les Leopold for AlterNet – Most politicians and pundits throw their hands up in despair. They argue there is really nothing we can do about rising inequality because of the powerful impacts of global competition and automation. Those who are falling behind just don’t have the skills needed to prosper in the modern world. Life is unfair. Get used to it. But, these fatalists are dead wrong. There is ample evidence to show that many other nations have far less inequality but are also using the most advanced technologies, and are more open to foreign competition. Furthermore, the mainstream Democrats have convinced themselves, that despite the Sanders surge, most Americans do not support bold policies to reverse runaway inequality. These officials believe that most Americans reject “socialistic” programs. Does a social democratic program appeal to most Americans? We decided to test the mainstream Democratic Party phobias by asking 200 randomly selected 18 to 40 year-olds to evaluate a strong platform aimed at reversing runaway inequality.
By Jordan Riefe for Truth Dig – Maybe Jack wasn’t the fool son when he traded the family cow for a handful of magic beans. Seeds are the givers of life, the minute building blocks of family farms and agri-empires alike. They are powerful and often sacred objects woven into local customs and cultures around the world. America’s own Thomas Jefferson was a famous horticulturist and seed saver who grew 330 varieties of vegetables and 170 varieties of fruit. Among his illustrious titles was that of patent examiner, basing his decisions on laws he himself had written. Items deliberately excluded from patents included plants and animals, placing public interest over private gain. Throughout human existence, seed diversity has been a constant, including drought-resistant strains, or those able to withstand floods or wide temperature swings. For countries plagued by war and poverty, this can mean the difference between life and death. “The Irish potato famine is a clear and elementary example of what happens when you rely on too little diversity—[you get a] mass refugee situation, many of them fleeing to the U.S.,” Jon Betz tells Truthdig. He and co-director Taggart Siegel are the filmmaking team of “Seed: The Untold Story,” a documentary that premieres on PBS’s Independent Lens on April 17, and streams online beginning April 18.
By Julia Pyper for Green Tech Media – The “Green Direct” program, recently approved by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, represents the first subscriber-style of green tariff to be used by retailers and small governments. And it could serve as a model for other utilities to replicate across the country. The program’s first subscribers include the iconic brands REI, Starbucks and Target, as well as local governments and local institutions in the state. “Green Direct exemplifies the power of partnership,” said Kimberly Harris, president & CEO of Puget Sound Energy (PSE), in a statement. “It’s a pioneering model for utilities nationwide,” Kirk Myers, senior manager of sustainability at REI, wrote in an email. “We hope it reshapes how utilities in other regions supply renewable energy to customers and, ultimately, make renewable energy a more viable, accessible option.” There are currently about a dozen green tariff programs in the U.S. These programs have emerged as a popular way for utilities to help Fortune 500 companies meet their climate and clean energy goals, by allowing customers to buy energy from a wind or solar project, as well as the associated Renewable Energy Certificates.
By André Campos for Mongabay – Products derived from timber extracted by workers living in conditions analogous to slave labor in Brazil are connected to a complex business network linked to the U.S. market – possibly reaching the shelves of large retailers and being used in renovation of landmarks – according to a new investigation conducted by Brazilian news outlet Repórter Brasil. After purchasing from suppliers held liable for that crime by the Brazilian government, local traders exported timber to companies like USFloors, which supplies the retail chain Lowe’s, as well as Timber Holdings, which supplied timber for construction projects at Central Park and Brooklyn Bridge in New York.
By Staff of ITEP – “This study is a long-term, unprecedented examination of corporation taxes paid—or not paid—by the nation’s biggest, most profitable firms,” said Matthew Gardner, an ITEP senior fellow and lead author of the report. “It reveals that many of the big corporations that are lobbying for a lower corporate tax rate to be more ‘competitive’ already pay substantially less than the 35 percent statutory rate.” The study examines eight years of data on federal income taxes paid by Fortune 500 firms that provided sufficient, reliable information in their financial reports to allow calculation of their effective U.S. and foreign tax rates.
By Pete Dolack of Systemic Disorder – This being the age of public relations, the genteel term “public-private partnership” is used instead of corporate plunder. A “partnership” such deals may be, but it isn’t the public who gets the benefits. We’ll be hearing more about so-called “public-private partnerships” in coming weeks because the new U.S. president, Donald Trump, is promoting these as the basis for a promised $1 trillion in new infrastructure investments. But the new administration has also promised cuts to public spending. How to square this circle? It’s not difficult to discern when we recall the main policy of the Trump administration is to hand out massive tax cuts to big business and the wealthy, and provide them with subsidies. Public-private partnerships are one of the surest ways of shoveling money into the gaping maws of corporate wallets, used, with varying names, by neoliberal governments around the world, particularly in Europe and North America.
By Staff of Popular Resistance – There’s a reason we ended up with ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and we ALMOST ended up with a Labor Secretary in Andy Puzder who prefers robots to humans. The answer is simple: We, the taxpayer, have always subsidized the costs of corporations to slowly kill us while making the pockets of corporate CEOs fatter. A closer look at fast food production in this country shows exactly that. Animal agriculture industries, such as factory farming, that contribute to us eating those artery clogging cheeseburgers come at the added expense of increased water and air pollution. We are paying the price for this environmental destruction literally and figuratively.
By Emily Johnston for AlterNet – I’ve been thinking a lot about risk lately—what we’re willing to risk, and why. I was one of five activists who turned off the major tar sands pipelines coming into the United States on Oct. 11, 2016. As a result, I’m risking prison time, ostensibly for property damage (we cut a few chains to access the valves), but really for being disobedient to business as usual. It’s also possible they’ll file a restitution suit, for temporarily disrupting a pipeline that’s highly profitable for some, at the expense of all others. I took part in the action in full awareness of these risks—in dread of them, to some degree—because of the risk that Enbridge and the other companies engaged in the extraction…
By Editors of PRWatch – Voters spoke very clearly on November 8 when they elected to raise the minimum wage in Arizona and Maine, along with Colorado and Washington State. But those wins, the democratic process, and the express will of the people are being defied and denied in Arizona and Maine, where corporate lobbyists and their legislative allies are working to block, delay, even rewrite the laws approved on Election Day. These efforts to flout voter-approved laws are part of ongoing conservative and corporate-backed strategies to keep wages low.
By Jessica Floum for Oregon Live. Portland City Council approved the controversial plan 3-1 Wednesday, making a statement about growing income disparity in the United States while giving Commissioner Steve Novick a legacy piece in his final weeks in City Hall. The tax targets publicly traded companies whose chief executives report salaries at least 100 times higher than the salary of a median worker. Officials expect to raise $2.5 million a year starting in January 2018, with Novick hoping the money will help pay for homeless services. “This is as close as I’ve ever (come) to a tax on inequality itself,” said Novick, the first incumbent tossed from city council in 24 years after an upset loss to housing activist Chloe Eudaly last month. Novick said he also hopes the tax might discourage companies — well beyond Portland — from paying disproportionate salaries to their CEOs. He cited French economist Thomas Piketty, who calls escalating pay for top executives a major cause of the consolidation of wealth among the world’s top 1 percent of earners.
By Steve Rendall for FAIR – On CNN (12/2/16), anchor Carol Costello introduced a story about how Donald Trump is convening a panel of prominent CEOs to consult with on a monthly basis on issues including job growth and taxes. CNN reporter Christina Alesci reported excitedly that the panel, assembled by the Blackstone Group’s CEO Stephen Schwartzman, will be made up of a “who’s who” of “bipartisan CEOs,” including GM’s Mary Barra, Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase, Disney‘s Bob Iger, Doug McMillon of Walmart and Jack Welch, former GE CEO.
By Bernie Sanders for Medium – Our infrastructure is collapsing, and the American people know it. Every day, they drive on roads with unforgiving potholes and over bridges that are in disrepair. They wait in traffic jams and ride in overcrowded subways. They see airports bursting at the seams. They see the need for a modern rail system. They worry that a local levee or dam could fail in a storm. During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump correctly talked about rebuilding our country’s infrastructure.
By Ari Paul for FAIR – Liberals had a good laugh this summer when CNN’s Brianna Keilar (8/17/16) insisted to Donald Trump campaign lawyer Michael Cohen that his team was “down” in the race. “Says who?” he asked. Keilar snarked back: “Polls. Most of them. All of them?” At the time, it was the sickest of all burns. As the polls kept forecasting a clear win for Hillary Clinton, Trump fans went back and forth between complaining about a rigged system and accusing the polls of being dishonest.