America's Real Welfare Queens
By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed
Let's talk about America's real welfare queens.
Republicans are all upset about people getting government benefits, but our nation's real welfare queens are this country's billionaires and biggest corporations.
But first let's look at who the Republicans want us to think about when they use slurs like "welfare queen."
Back in November, the largest cuts in the history of the federal food stamps program, otherwise known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, went into effect.
Thanks to the efforts of Republicans, $5 billion was slashed from the program, directly affecting the lives of 47 million Americans.
But those devastating cuts aren't enough.
Republicans are still convinced that America is filled with people that would rather live off of government assistance than get a job.
And they're still convinced that cutting food stamps will help solve the nation's spending and debt problems.
So, they're trying to cut even more from food stamps.
Right now, Congress is working on a compromise to the farm bill, which thanks to Republicans, will likely cut billions more from food stamps, and leave millions of additional Americans without access to the nutrition they need to survive.
But here's what Republicans aren't telling you.
In 2012, the average American taxpayer making $50,000 per year paid just $36 towards the food stamps program.
That's about ten cents a day.
Now compare that to the fact that an average American family making $50,000 a year pays a whopping $6,000 a year in subsidies to Republican-friendly corporations.
So, who's really causing our nation's economic woes? America's real welfare queens: the corporations.
As Bill Quigley points out over at Common Dreams, the Cato Institute estimates that federal subsidies to corporations cost Americans nearly $100 billion each year.
And on the state and local levels, state and local governments provide at least $80 billion in subsidies to corporations, according to a study by Louise Story at The New York Times.
Some of America's largest corporations, like Shell, Ford and Chrysler, have received more than a billion dollars each from state and local governments.
And then there are indirect subsidies; Taxpayer money that indirectly benefits corporations.
Researchers at the University of Illinois and University of California-Berkeley found that American taxpayers pay a staggering $243 billion per year in indirect subsidies to the fast food industry alone.
That's because the fast food industry pays such low wages that we the people are forced to hand over $243 billion to pay for the healthcare and other public benefits of fast food workers.
Meanwhile, our tax code, which favors billionaires and corporations, saves corporations on average $200 billion each year, while you and I have to pick up the slack.
It's that same tax code that's allowing giant corporations like Apple and GE to hide their money in corporate tax havens to avoid paying their fair share.
And corporate America is getting new handouts from the government on a routine basis.
The Boston Globe looked at tax legislation that was passed by Congress in the first few months of 2013, and found that the legislation contained 43 corporate-friendly tax breaks worth around $67 billion.
Compare all that money that corporations are getting to the $5 billion that has already been pulled out of food stamps and the $40 billion in additional money for food stamps that Republicans want to take out.
They could easily pay for the entire food stamps program just by closing one or two of the smaller loopholes that pass tax expenditures or government checks along to the top 1 percent and the nation's biggest corporations
There's no doubt about it.
Food stamps aren't bankrupting America. The never-ending profit pipeline between Capitol Hill and corporate America is.
When Republicans talk about "welfare queens," they're really talking about their buddies in big banks, Big Oil, and giant transnational corporations.
It's time to cut off the corporate welfare pipeline, and use those billions of dollars to help our economy recover, and to help those Americans who need it the most.
Business, in a self-avowed "capitalist" country is treated gently. Many think it is un-American to do otherwise. But, as the global depression proved (as if we needed proof after Enron and the hundreds of other financial illegalities that have occurred in the last few decades) business must be controlled and prosecutions must occur if there are proven violations of ethics and laws. This article shows how corporations are stealing from us while using the propaganda that has worked so well before: 'leave us alone - we can be trusted to do what is right'.
That has always been a lie. Posts in this thread show that.
We are being fleeced while thinking that their practices are good for the country.
This article has a number of different sources that provide links to their research. Read them.
The Myth of Efficient Markets
By: masaccio Sunday January 26, 2014 10:30 am
One of the unkillable ideas that ricochet around the empty heads of the right wing is that markets are part of the natural order of things. As Bernard Harcourt explains in his book, The Illusion of Free Markets, in this natural order “economic exchange constitutes a system that autonomously can achieve equilibrium without government intervention or outside interference”. That idea evolved into the idea that markets are inherently efficient. That is, of course, stupid. The last couple of weeks provide several examples of the myriad ways actual markets work.
1. Freedom Industries pollutes the drinking water of Charleston, WV. It has no insurance, but it has assets. Its owner, J. Clifford Forrest, owner hires the giant law firm MacGuire Woods to handle a bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Judge, Ronald Pearson, allowed Forrest or someone linked to him to lend the bankrupt firm $5 million to keep it operating, while taking a first lien on its assets. Then when the company collapses into Chapter 7 liquidation under the weight of the damage it has done, the current owner will exercise the lien and put those assets into a new company and keep right on working for himself.
2. Health Management Associates of Naples, Florida runs a bunch of hospitals. It set up a system of rating emergency room doctors by how many of their patients got admitted to the hospital. The goal was to admit half of emergency room patients. The company posted scorecards so every doc could see how they were doing. The New York Times reports:
This month, the Justice Department said it had joined eight separate whistle-blower lawsuits against H.M.A. in six states. The lawsuits describe a wide-ranging strategy that is said to have relied on a mix of sophisticated software systems, financial incentives and threats in an attempt to inflate the company’s payments from Medicare and Medicaid by admitting patients like an infant whose temperature was a normal 98.7 degrees for a “fever.”
3. Hammerman & Gainer was awarded a contract to manage assistance to homeowners in the wake of Hurricane Sandy by the Chris Christie administration. It was terminated recently because of complaints that it didn’t provide help. It’s bid was $68 million, “$127 million less than the only other bidder”, according to the Wall Street Journal. It won despite having been criticized for its handling of a similar contract in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. WNYC, a public radio station, adds this tidbit:
HGI won its contract last May shortly after its New Jersey law firm, Capehart Scatchard, made a $25,000 donation to the Republican Governors Association, which is now headed by Christie. The RGA contributed $1.7 million to Christie’s re-election campaign.
4. United States Investigations Services LLC provided background checks for security clearances. The Department of Justice filed a suit against the company asking for billions in damages because the company didn’t actually do the background checks in at least 665,000 cases. The complaint says the point was to increase revenues and profits. A spokesperson explained: “These allegations relate to a small group of individuals over a specific time period and are inconsistent with the strong service record we have earned since our inception in 1996.” Perhaps the problem was that only a small number of people were hired to handle hundreds of thousands of clearances.
Those are just some big examples from the last couple of weeks. The list could be multiplied without end. The concept “market” may be perfectly efficient and wonderful in every respect, but the practical application of the term in the real world is pretty much like every other human activity: plenty of effort by participants to game the system for their personal benefit and screw everyone else.
It’s bizarre that so many people cling to the myth of market marvelousness despite massive evidence of market corruption and inefficiency. People seem to think that each example of corruption or inefficiency is a bad apple who should be punished. But, of course, we don’t do that any more. The people behind these examples are being sued, not indicted. Their corporations may or may not pay up, but no one is going to jail, and no one is being punished. Every single one of the responsible people will walk away with a pocket full of dirty money, and their reputations, if they care about them, will be restored after the obligatory time away from the media spotlight.
Beyond that, how could anyone think that any human activity wouldn’t be subject to lying, cheating and stealing, including the sacred market? It must be some kind of quasi-religious fervor that deadens people to the reality slapping them in the face, rapt in their ecstatic vision of perfection without cost.
This myth is one of the most destructive ones out there. It's used as an excuse for some of the most egregious behavior business engages in. Those that espouse this concept are trying to put one over on you to be able to get away with something they shouldn't.
Don't let them.
Better Markets Financial Reform Newsletter
March 14, 2014
Department of Justice, like the SEC, knowingly misleads the American public about being tough on financial crimes that victimize Main Street. DOJ's independent inspector general just released a report showing that the DOJ and the Attorney General himself "wildly overstated" the work of their so-called "mortgage fraud task force." For example, the IG reported that, at a press conference in October 2012, the AG overstated the number of criminal defendants charged by a whopping 400% and overstated the estimated losses by an unbelievable 1000%. Proving that this was no accident, but an intentional policy, DOJ continued to use these false and misleading numbers for more than 10 months after knowing they were totally wrong. The IG report is couched in polite language and preposterously frames the matter as a reporting and classification problem, but it can't hide the fact that DOJ has misled the American people about its failure to fight financial crimes. Unfortunately, pretending to be tough on financial crimes and Wall Street has also been common at the SEC, as reported here in February 2013 and again here in October 2013. While DOJ and the SEC fight a PR war to convince the American people that they are doing their job when they are not, the crime spree on Wall Street continues, the number of Main Street victims continues to go up, and the confidence of the American people in their government continues to go down, which is why Better Markets recently sued the DOJ for transparency, accountability, and oversight.
While Main Street continues to suffer from the economic wreckage caused by the financial crash, Wall Street Bonus Pool jumps 15% in 2013. New York Comptroller DiNapoli announced on Wednesday that the average bonus paid to Wall Street employees increased by 15%, bringing the bonus pool close to pre-crisis levels. The announcement comes at the same time that the budget request for the financial cops, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, is being slashed by more than 10%. This is a huge victory for Wall Street and will allow them to return to the high-risk behavior that led to the financial crisis.
The American people are not to blame for the financial crisis. You don't want to miss Dean Starkman's article exposing the corrupt, greedy practices of the financial institutions responsible for the subprime mortgage crisis which triggered the 2008 global economic collapse. Starkman absolves the American people from the pernicious, unsupported charge that they were equally responsible for the worst financial crisis since 1929 and the worst economy since the Great Depression, debunking the myth that attempts to shift blame from the bonus-bloated pockets of the guilty to the victims of a countrywide mugging. Saying "everyone is to blame" distorts reality, shields the guilty from criminal prosecution, and victimizes the American people who already have to pay the cost for the crisis Wall Street caused: $12.8 trillion. The consequences of this subprime shakedown continue to overburden the American people as a rapidly disappearing middle class pays the ultimate price, while the top 1% enjoy a robust economic recovery and top Wall Street executives cash in exorbitant bonuses. The American people deserve a free market without systemic corruption and a justice system which holds the guilty accountable for their crimes.
There are numerous links in the articles providing more information and sourcing.
I strongly recommend this organization for much-needed balance that corrects the myths and lies Wall Street tells us daily, with the help of politicians, especially those that work not for us but for the powerful that actually run the country.
Should GM Get the Death Penalty for 57 Cent Premeditated Murder?
Thursday, 03 April 2014 14:47
By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program
Executives at General Motors have answered the age-old question of how much is a life worth.
A life is worth 57 cents.
Earlier this week, newly installed General Motors CEO Mary Barra was on Capitol Hill, testifying before Congress about GM's recall of nearly 2.6 million vehicles because of a faulty ignition switch, a problem that has caused the deaths of at least 13 people.
But more importantly, Barra was answering questions about why GM knew about the ignition switch problem a full decade ago, but chose not to make fixes that would have saved American lives.
At a news conference after her testimony before a House subcommittee, Barra told reporters that, "I think we in the past had more of a cost culture."
In other words, GM cared more about profit margins than peoples' lives.
And at least with the ignition switch debacle, that appears to be the case.
When General Motors first learned about the ignition switch problem, executives and engineers got together to discuss how the company would respond.
According to GM, company engineers got together in 2005, and proposed solutions to the ignition switch problem, which included installing a small new piece of metal called a "switch indent plunger".
But, statements in 2005 GM internal documents show that the company's executives decided not to fix the ignition switch problem because that small new piece of metal was too expensive and an unacceptable cost.
So, how much did the ignition switch piece that GM executives chose not to fix cost?
That's right, according to testimony from House Democrat Diana DeGette of Colorado, the piece that needed to be installed in the faulty cars, the "switch indent plunger," cost only 57 cents.
When asked about that number, GM spokesman Jim Cain said that, "Presumably it is based on documents in evidence, so I won't dispute it either."
So, rather than go out and spend 57 cents per car, or a little over $1.48 million to fix all of its cars with the ignition switch problem, GM essentially performed a cost-benefit analysis, and found that fixing the vehicles, and saving American lives, wasn't worth losing that $1.48 million.
To put that in perspective, GM's net income in 2013 was $3.8 billion.
So, the ignition switch fix would have only cost .0003 percent of the company's 2013 net income.
As Michael Moore put it, "GM has a legal and fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders to make the biggest profits that it can. And if their top people crunch the numbers and can show that they will save more money by NOT fixing or replacing the part, then that is what they are going to damn well do."
Even Daily Show host Jon Stewart was outraged by GM's actions, saying that, "For God's sake, even if you're strapped for cash, GM, you could have found at least that much in the seats of the cars you're fixing. The thing would have paid for itself."
The GM debacle represents a huge problem with corporate America today - a lack of any real accountability.
As Donna Smith, executive director of Health Care for All Colorado, and an owner of a recalled GM vehicle put it, "The GM recall represents once again how dishonest and greedy many, if not most, US corporations have become."
The whole notion of "corporate responsibility" has been thrown out the window, and been replaced with the mentality that profits are king.
Many corporations are willing to do just about anything to protect their profits and bottom-line, even if that means "accepting" that a few people might die as a result, whether in a car crash, an oil-rig explosion, or a suicide after a home is foreclosed on.
And even worse, they know that nothing will happen in the way of punishment.
Sure, they might face a fine or two, and have to settle a couple lawsuits, but at the end of the day, those are just the costs of doing business and piling on the profits. In many cases, they're even all or partly tax-deductible, so you and I end up paying for it.
Those fines and lawsuit settlements are built into the risks that American corporations are willing to take.
But it's time for that to change, and to put accountability back into the game.
It's time to bring back the corporate death penalty.
As I chronicle in my book "Unequal Protection," throughout most of the 19th century an average of 2000 corporations a year got the corporate death penalty. They were dissolved, their assets sold off at auction, and their stockholders and managers left out in the cold.
We've done this before, and we should do it again. Corporations shouldn't be able to commit massive crimes - from environmental crimes to banking crimes to defective product crimes - and get away with just a slap on the wrist.
And they certainly shouldn't be able to choose making a profit over protecting human lives.
Until there's the real threat of substantial punishment, like losing the right to do business in America, corporations will continue to play fast-and-loose with the lives and livelihoods of the American people, and Americans will continue to suffer.
Let's make sure that no one else ever has to lose a loved one because a car company thought that installing a 57 cent piece of metal was less important than being a good corporate member of the community.
This thread was started because of a realization that any entity that relied solely on making profit would have no real interest in concerning itself about those who merely were consumers of its products - unless it was necessary. Here is another example.
There is overwhelming evidence of corporate indifference to people, animals, and ethics when they don't contribute to profits.
Obligatory comment: yes, there are degrees of concern and there are examples of companies doing things that show concern but...they are dwarfed by what this thread contains, which is an expose of the ugly side of capitalism that will not stop ever.
Greed is good; profits before anything; the "free market" (which doesn't exist) rules. Those are the ideologies that most think are good to believe and support.
All are bullshit!