There’s No ‘Free Market’ Solution To Health Care

(Photo: Shutterstock)

By Geoff Coventry for Other Words – The Republicans have big plans for health care in this country: to eliminate coverage for millions of Americans while delivering a big tax cut to the rich. As someone who stands to benefit from that tax cut, let me just say: I don’t need it, and I don’t want it. No tax cut is worth excluding millions of Americans from the health services they need. Any new health care legislation should be focused on providing the best available health services for all Americans, not deliberately putting them out of reach. And yet, this is exactly what the twin monstrosities that came out of the House and Senate would have done. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the House bill would’ve left 23 million Americans uncovered by 2026. The Senate version was only a shade better, leaving 22 million people out. Those bills were nonstarters with the public — the party was forced to pull them, along with any immediate plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). This Republican-majority Congress has shown their cards: They favor less coverage for workers and the elderly and lower taxes for the wealthy. Republicans in both chambers claim they’re doing this to support “freedom” and “choice” for the American people. They say the “free market” is the only way to provide Americans with access to affordable health care.

Stunning Truths About The Bloated Safety Net For The Wealthy

A shredded net. (Photo: Sandstein)

By Paul Buchheit for Buzz Flash – Housing: Start with the homes, the expensive homes, the estates. For the mortgage interest deduction alone, households earning over $100,000 in 2012 claimed 77.3 percent of the total tax savings. For many of these well-positioned Americans, there are second homes with another mortgage deduction. Then, piling on, those with expensive homes can take a tax break of UP TO A HALF-MILLION DOLLARS when they sell their homes. Relatively few tax breaks go to low-income Americans. The total of mortgage and property tax subsidies is nearly DOUBLE the amount spent on public housing programs. Social Security: As noted, wealthy people are cashing in because of their longer lives. But there are more reasons for their late-life benefits. Lower-income earners are subsidizing the 10% of Americans who stop paying for Social Security when they reach the $127,200 income limit. Also subsidizing the rich are the unauthorized immigrants who pay for Social Security but are ineligible for benefits. Savings: A wealthy household can make millions in capital gains and pay NO TAX as long as investments are held, and then bequeath the estate to heirs with LITTLE OR NO TAX. Less fortunate Americans who have to rely on bank accounts get virtually no interest — and the majority of overdraft fees.

Seattle Makes History – Passes ‘Tax The Rich’ Income Tax

Kshama Sawant addresses a crowd of "tax the rich" supporters outside at a rally before the vote.

By Andre Roberge for Progressive Army – Even though this may seem like cut-and-dry common sense legislation, this ordinance still has an uphill battle ahead of itself. Former Washington State Attorney Rob McKenna laid bare the main issues as follows: 1.[The city] would also have to persuade the Supreme Court to ignore an existing state statute that prohibits counties, cities … from imposing a tax on net income. 2.[What they] would have to do is persuade the Supreme Court to overlook its own precedent. The precedent alluded to above deals with a 1930s Washington Supreme Court decision that states “income is property, and the state’s constitution declares that all property must be taxed uniformly.” Since Seattle’s proposed income tax is a progressive tax and not “uniformly” distributed onto all tax brackets, the Supreme Court would have to redefine property. Some critics have gone even further.

G20 Is Desperately Trying To Save A Failed World Order

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By Nick Dearden for Aljazeera – The Hamburg G20 might go down in history as the moment the international elite just couldn’t hold it together any longer. For years, leaders of the most powerful countries have come together to cooperate on how to run the world: the G6, G7, G8, G20. Their watchword was stability. Holding it together was far preferable to allowing an international free for all. Agreeing among themselves was preferable to cooperating with small, poor and troublesome nations at the United Nations. That’s why they invented this system of global policymaking. But the global elite has fractured. In the run-up to the Hamburg G20, the talk was of the global strongmen who had taken centre stage, for whom diplomacy was simply war by other means. The power of Trump, Putin, Erdogan and their ilk derives from a form of nationalism that believes global rules are for the weak. The G20 came to prominence in 2008 after the financial crash meant the richest G8 countries needed the wealth of emerging nations to stabilise the world economy. The likes of Saudi Arabia and Turkey were granted a seat at the table. In London in 2009, they patted themselves on the back on a jobwell done. But their reforms were too timid, too beholden to the free-market ideology that caused the crash in the first place. Today that crash haunts this G20 like a ghost that won’t be exorcised.

What Happened To America’s Wealth? The Rich Hid It

Jeff Smallwood/Flickr

By Chuck Collins for Other WOrds – There’s actually trillions that could be used to fix our roads and schools. The wealthy just don’t want you to know where it is. If you find yourself traveling this summer, take a closer look at America’s deteriorating infrastructure — our crumbling roads, sidewalks, public parks, and train and bus stations. Government officials will tell us “there’s no money” to repair or properly maintain our tired infrastructure. Nor do we want to raise taxes, they say. But what if billions of dollars in tax revenue have gone missing? New research suggests that the super-rich are hiding their money at alarming rates. A study by economists Annette Alstadsaeter, Niels Johannesen, and Gabriel Zucman reports that households with wealth over $40 million evade 25 to 30 percent of personal income and wealth taxes. These stunning numbers have two troubling implications. First, we’re missing billions in taxes each year. That’s partly why our roads and transit systems are falling apart. Second, wealth inequality may be even worse than we thought. Economic surveys estimate that roughly 85 percent of income and wealth gains in the last decade have gone to the wealthiest one-tenth of the top 1 percent.

Urban Shield: A Federal Protection Racket

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By Ann Garrison for Black Agenda Report – In 2015, Berkeley, California City Councilor Max Anderson voiced this eloquent opposition to militarization of the police during the annual Bay Area Urban Shield war games and weapons expo: “The culture that’s cultivated by the type of training that you receive becomes the way you conduct yourselves . . . “When I was in the Marines in the early ‘60s, all our pop-up targets that we practiced on were Asians. You know now they’re Middle Easterners, so it kinda shifts, and so the rationale and the justification for targeting people on these bases shifts along with it. “And when military weapons follow military thinking into our police ranks, you know we have a problem. You know it’s a problem of association because when you’re in a combat situation, you’re thinking about survival, and you’re thinking about enemies and friendlies. And when you inculcate that into our environment here, and we start thinking about the citizenry as either being friendly or enemies, and react accordingly based on what designation we lay on people, then we’re sliding down that track.” What could better describe the prevailing mindset of U.S. police? And we all know who’s on the enemies list that they feel compelled to kill to survive: Black and Brown people, Muslims, and poor people.

This Is What Democratic Party Propaganda Looks Like

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By Sheila Norton for The Washington Journal – It began with two Democratic legislators, both deeply concerned about the threat from the Republicans’ Trumpcare bill, sitting on the steps of the Capitol — Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representative John Lewis (D-GA), the Civil Rights legend himself. What began as a conversation shared on Facebook grew organically into a powerful moment of truth. Ben Winkler of MoveOn.org happened to be walking by in the early moments and chronicled the evening as the crowd and emotion swelled. I’ll let Ben’s words speak for themselves, but this should serve as a reminder that despite everything there are genuinely good people working passionately to make Americans’ lives better, and magic can happen when a concerned citizenry gets involved. After your read and share this thread, call your Senators at 202.224.3121 and let them know exactly how you feel about the effort to repeal Obamacare.

US 1% Will Control 70% Of Wealth By 2021

America’s oligarchs are set to maintain their grip on the majority of the country’s wealth, with a new study claiming that they will control 70 percent of national wealth by 2021. (AP/Vadim Ghirda)

By Whitney Webb for Mint Press News – America’s rich just won’t quit getting richer, according to a new study released in mid-June by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a global management consulting firm. The study, which seeks to analyze the global wealth management industry, as well as the evolution of private wealth, uncovered some startling statistics that suggest that global financial inequality will grow significantly by the year 2021. The firm found that the already massive gap between the world’s wealthy elite – the approximately 18 million households that hold at least than $1 million in assets – and everyone else is continuing to widen at a remarkable rate. The estimated 70 million people who make up these households were found to control 45 percent of the world’s $166.5 trillion in wealth. And in just four more years, it is estimated that they will control more than half of the world’s wealth, despite representing less than 1 percent of the world’s current population. However, while rising inequality is a global phenomenon, it is especially pronounced in the United States. While wealth inequality in the U.S. is by no means an unknown phenomenon, the U.S. is significantly more unequal than most other countries, with the nation’s elite currently holding 63 percent of the private wealth.

Ditch Both War Parties: Anti-War Coalition Maps Independent Course To Peace

We say No to War sign seen at a 2007 anti-war protest. (Photo by Thiago Santos on flickr)

By Glen Ford for Black Agenda Report – On June 16 through 18, the United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC) will hold its annual conference, under the theme: “Stop the Wars at Home and Abroad: Building a Movement Against War, Injustice and Repression.” For three days, the convention center in Richmond, Virginia, will likely be the sanest building in the nation, the one place where you won’t be subjected to a barrage of warmongering fantasies about Russian threats to a non-existent American democracy. Instead, hundreds of activists from a broad range of organizations will be hard at work building alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans who have plunged the world into endless war and condemned most people in the United States to a dismal future of economic insecurity, the worst health care system in the developed world –- and if you’re Black, the ever-present threat of sudden death at the hands of police. The all-seeing, eternally-listening, omnivorous data-crunching mechanisms of the national security state that was once justified by manufactured fears of Soviet Russians, then exponentially expanded to cage, kill and contain Black revolutionaries, and then vastly reinforced again to criminalize Black people as a group, creating the world’s biggest mass incarceration police state…

Emmanuel Clinton And The Revolt Of The Elites

Flickr/ Nicolas Raymond

By Pepe Escobar for Information Clearing House – May 08, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – So in the end the West was saved by the election of Emmanuel Macron as President of France: relief in Brussels, a buoyant eurozone, rallies in Asian markets. That was always a no-brainer. After all, Macron was endorsed by the EU, Goddess of the Market, and Barack Obama. And he was fully backed by the French ruling class. This was a referendum on the EU – and the EU, in its current set-up, won. Cyberwar had to be part of the picture. No one knows where the MacronLeaks came from – a last minute, massive online dump of Macron campaign hacked emails. WikiLeaks certified the documents it had time to review as legitimate. That did not stop the Macron galaxy from immediately blaming it on Russia. Le Monde, a once-great paper now owned by three influential Macron backers, faithfully mirrored his campaign’s denunciation of RT and Sputnik, information technology attacks and, in general, the interference of Russia in the elections.

Reign Of Idiots

Mr. Fish / Truthdig

By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig – The idiots take over in the final days of crumbling civilizations. Idiot generals wage endless, unwinnable wars that bankrupt the nation. Idiot economists call for reducing taxes for the rich and cutting social service programs for the poor, and project economic growth on the basis of myth. Idiot industrialists poison the water, the soil and the air, slash jobs and depress wages. Idiot bankers gamble on self-created financial bubbles and impose crippling debt peonage on the citizens. Idiot journalists and public intellectuals pretend despotism is democracy. Idiot intelligence operatives orchestrate the overthrow of foreign governments to create lawless enclaves that give rise to enraged fanatics. Idiot professors, “experts” and “specialists” busy themselves with unintelligible jargon and arcane theory that buttresses the policies of the rulers. Idiot entertainers and producers create lurid spectacles of sex, gore and fantasy. There is a familiar checklist for extinction. We are ticking off every item on it. The idiots know only one word—“more.” They are unencumbered by common sense. They hoard wealth and resources until workers cannot make a living and the infrastructure collapses.

It’s “Deep State” Time Again

Jake Waage; Edited: LW / TO

By Fred Nagel for Counter Punch – Whenever there are obvious conflicts within the ruling class, the concept of a Deep State is brought out to explain why our government seems to be coming apart at the seams. When the tired rhetoric of our two party system can’t bring us to a satisfying catharsis, there is always the deus ex machina of grand conspiracies and hidden rulers. The actual nature of our oppression, however, has been in plain sight for decades, although assiduously avoided by much of our media. The criminality of the CIA and the FBI is a case in point. Both agencies have long been well beyond Congressional oversight. The dirty tricks, political harassment, and illegal spying carried out by the FBI, as well as the foreign assassinations, political coups, and massive surveillance of the CIA have only been thoroughly investigated once, and that was during the Church Committee hearings of 1975. The hearings exposed the lawlessness of FBI and CIA, but made little difference in either agencies’ long term accountability, despite the creation of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Thirty-two years later, Senator Jay Rockefeller, then Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee…

Why Society’s Biggest Freeloaders Are At The Top

Flickr/ Alan Cleaver

By Rutger Bregman for Evonomics – This piece is about one of the biggest taboos of our times. About a truth that is seldom acknowledged, and yet – on reflection – cannot be denied. The truth that we are living in an inverse welfare state. These days, politicians from the left to the right assume that most wealth is created at the top. By the visionaries, by the job creators, and by the people who have “made it”. By the go-getters oozing talent and entrepreneurialism that are helping to advance the whole world. Now, we may disagree about the extent to which success deserves to be rewarded – the philosophy of the left is that the strongest shoulders should bear the heaviest burden, while the right fears high taxes will blunt enterprise – but across the spectrum virtually all agree that wealth is created primarily at the top. So entrenched is this assumption that it’s even embedded in our language. When economists talk about “productivity”, what they really mean is the size of your paycheck. And when we use terms like “welfare state”, “redistribution” and “solidarity”, we’re implicitly subscribing to the view that there are two strata: the makers and the takers, the producers and the couch potatoes, the hardworking citizens – and everybody else.

How Tax Policy Created The 1%

As chair of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and then of the NYSE, Emil Schram (pictured at right, 1939) helped shape tax policy to serve his peers (Library of Congress)

By Julia Ott for Dissent – Last Saturday, tens of thousands of protesters across the country joined the Tax March, although most realized Trump won’t divulge anything about his taxes unless Congress or the courts take action. So we may never know the truth about Trump’s income and charitable contributions, about the conflicts of interest and the “emoluments” from foreign powers. Trump’s already said a lot about his taxes. In the first presidential debate, he famously boasted that his ostensibly legal tax avoidance strategies prove he’s “smart“—and by extension, so are the rest of the rich who do likewise. With Republicans controlling both the White House and Congress, the stage is set for massive tax cuts to reward those brilliant members of the 1 percent—unless popular ire over Trump’s tax filings can be translated into demands for tax justice. Polls suggest that Americans won’t stomach a tax plan that will enrich the rich at the expense of the rest. In 2016 Gallup found that 61 percent of Americans agreed that “upper income people” paid “too little” in taxes. And a majority (52 percent) concurred that “our government should redistribute wealth by heavy taxes on the rich.”

A Tax Plan Only A One Percenter Could Love

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By Josh Hoxie for Other Words – After the failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), the Trump administration has set its sights on its next big project: so-called “tax reform.” And the “reform” they seek appears guaranteed to elicit disdain from all sides — with the notable exception of the ultra-wealthy. Let’s first acknowledge that tax reform is hard. The system is held in place by entrenched interests who don’t want to see their favorite loopholes taken away. That’s a big reason why it’s been over 30 years since the last major tax overhaul, championed by Ronald Reagan in 1986. Adding to the complexity of tax reform is the fact that all of the White House people working on it are resplendently wealthy