Tuesday, March 08, 2016

A Progressive Plan For Moving Forward-- This Is Why We Contribute To Political Campaigns


Wall Street's most dependable-- and best paid-- lackey in Congress is so secure in his Senate seat-- Republicans aren't running anyone against him; there's no primary opponent; I'll bet anyone the WFP endorses him-- that, according to the New York Post's Nicole Gelinas, he's already enabling another Wall Street bailout (instead of having gallows built to line Broad Street from where it becomes Nassau Street down to Exchange Place). "Remember when," she reminiscences," after the 2008 financial meltdown, both parties really wanted to end "too big to fail"-- it’s just that they couldn’t agree on how to do it? It turns out that neither party really wants this-- at least not if that principle interferes with business as usual. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is leading the bipartisan charge to allow banks to take risks they shouldn’t be taking again." Schumer wants to re-label somewhat risky muni-bonds as "easy to sell" so Wall Street banksters can count them to avoid keeping enough actual "easy to sell" assets on hand for a crunch.

House Republicans + Schumercrat Patrick Murphy and a few other Wall Street whores just passed a bill to permit this and now Schumer wants to get it through the Senate. "When the next bailout comes," warns Gelinas, "don’t blame regulators. Blame the establishment pols who don’t want a safer financial system-- because it means a bigger headache for them now."

Yesterday, just as Gelinas' article hit the wires, John Fetterman, one of the Pennsylvania Democrats hoping to replace Wall Street puppet Pat Toomey-- formerly a Wall Street currency and derivatives trader himself-- in the U.S. Senate, called on DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to resign because of her support for Republican legislation backing crooked, predatory payday lenders. "It's ridiculous that the leader of the Democratic Party would turn her back on some of the most vulnerable members of society-- the very people that her candidates are pledging to fight for," said Fetterman in a plea to fellow Democrats and independents. "That's why today, I'm calling on the Chair to resign. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has made it clear that her values are no longer our values... Thanks to presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders, income inequality is now front and center in the Democratic debate, forcing candidates up and down the ballot to come to the table with plans that level the playing field. Sure, it's probably not shocking that Republicans want to keep their deep-pocketed friends in the financial industry happy. But to have the Chair of our Party championing an industry that is preying upon families struggling to get out of poverty is deplorable. Tell Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz: 'You have abandoned the values of the Democratic Party and betrayed the most vulnerable members of society who depend on our party to fight for them. I urge you to resign from your position as DNC Chair immediately.'"

Like Fetterman, Tim Canova, has endorsed Bernie and is running on a collection of issues that could loosely be called Bernie's platform. Except Canova is running for the House, not the Senate and his opponent is Debbie Wasserman Schultz herself. DWT readers and Blue America members have been generously contributing to both campaigns here.

Yesterday, at roughly the time The Post was exposing Schumer's latest Wall Street shenanigans, Tim put out his concrete proposals for reversing income and wealth inequality.
For the past three decades, I have been speaking out against the growing inequality in income and wealth in the United States-- while serving as a legislative aide on Capitol Hill in the 1980s, while practicing law in the 1990s, and as a legal scholar ever since. In fact, the distribution of wealth and income is now more top-heavy than anytime since the Gilded Age of the 1890s and the Roaring 1920s. Incredibly, the top one-tenth of one percent now owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. And almost 60 percent of all new income since the 2008 financial crash has gone to the top 1 percent. We are now in a New Gilded Age.

What are some of the main causes of all this inequality?

Tax Policy

Economists can point to “supply side” tax cuts, which reduced the tax rates for high-income earners. The theory that tax cuts for the wealthy would somehow lead to economic growth to everyone’s benefit was nothing more than “voodoo economics”--  as even George H.W. Bush candidly recognized while running in the presidential primary against Ronald Reagan over 30 years ago. Rather than mysteriously “trickle-down” to ordinary working folks, tax cut savings for the very wealthy are more likely to flow out of the U.S. to off-shore tax havens.

Unfortunately, proponents of ever-more tax cuts for the wealthy never learned the lesson of history. The trickle-down tax cuts of the 1920s culminated in the Great Depression. Likewise, the Bush tax cuts of the early 2000s culminated in our own Great Recession, throwing millions of Americans out of work and out of their homes. The adverse consequences are still with us today.

Presently, the top bracket has a marginal income tax rate of 39.6 percent, far below the marginal tax rates that prevailed from the 1940s to 1980s, a period when the U.S. enjoyed not just a much more equitable distribution of income and wealth, but also far higher economic growth rates, rising real wages, and stronger labor markets. More troubling is that the top tax bracket begins at an income of $413,200, which means that a family with such an income is in the same tax bracket as those with annual incomes that are 10 or 100 times higher or even more. A hedge fund manager can make a billion dollars and actually pay a lower effective marginal tax rate thanks to the “carried interest” exemption.

For more than the past 100 years, since the start of the modern tax code in 1913, our country has implemented what is known as a progressive federal income tax, meaning that tax rates get progressively higher as taxable income increases, with a larger percentage of income being paid by high-income groups, a lower percentage of income paid by middle-income groups, and an even lower percentage of income being paid by low-income groups. Cutting top tax rates for the wealthiest families reduces the progressive nature of our federal tax code, and undermines the concept of “ability to pay” and the goal of inherent fairness upon which our system of taxation is supposed to be based.

I have always opposed the supply-side tax cuts of the Reagan and Bush administrations, and I have always supported increasing the progressivity in our federal income tax system. I was against extending the Bush tax cuts during the first Obama administration, while my opponent, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, supported extension of the Bush tax cuts.

I believe there should be more tax brackets at the high end of the income distribution scale, with higher marginal tax rates imposed on those making millions and billions of dollars a year. Otherwise, the tax burden falls too harshly on working families, the middle class, and small- and medium-sized business owners, even those trying to make their first million. We should also put an end to “corporate inversions” and other loopholes that allow corporations and wealthy individuals to move their money into offshore tax havens, while taking advantage of federal subsidies and access to the largest consumer market in the world.

Monetary Policy

Another source of our growing income and wealth inequality is related to the Federal Reserve and monetary policy. Since the 2008 financial collapse, the central bank has purchased several trillion dollars in assets from the largest Wall Street financial institutions, while making tens of trillions of dollars in near zero-interest loans to these big banks. Meanwhile, millions of ordinary Americans were wiped out by the crash, they lost their homes to foreclosure, they lost their jobs, and they lost their life savings--  and yet the Fed has done virtually nothing to help them. This is totally inexcusable.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the Federal Reserve provided loans directly to “Main Street” small- and medium-sized businesses, and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC)-- essentially a federal infrastructure bank--  provided billions of dollars in grants and loans to rebuild the economy. But since 2008, the Federal Reserve has provided no assistance to Main Street and we’re still waiting for a federal infrastructure bank--  something that’s been promised in presidential election campaigns in 1992 and 2008 and that many economic powerhouses with modern infrastructures, like Germany, Japan, and China, have had for years.

Financial Regulation

Financial deregulation has resulted in more income inequality. Big Wall Street banks have been allowed to impose all sorts of fees on low-income customers. They charge high interest rates on predatory and subprime loans. They pay near zero interest to bank customers on their deposits.

My opponent, after taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks, has voted to prevent the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFTP) from regulating payday loans and addressing racial discrimination in car loans. This reverses the progress made by President Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren in significant parts of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010-- the Obama administration’s main legislative response to the 2008 financial collapse.

In contrast, I have spent my entire career opposing financial deregulation for the big banks, and calling for regulation of lending standards. I warned against watering down and then abolishing the Glass-Steagall Act firewalls that had separated commercial banking from investment banking and risky securities markets for decades. And I support breaking up these huge financial institutions that have become too big to fail, too big to jail, and too big to manage.

Trade Agreements

As the U.S. has entered into trade agreements with far less developed countries, this has also undermined U.S. wage rates and American jobs, further aggravating the economic inequality in our country. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1994 was the first free trade agreement between 1st World and 3rd World countries. American workers quickly saw their jobs outsourced to Mexico. Then a decade later, the U.S. entered into permanent normal trade relations with the People’s Republic of China, a communist dictatorship with no independent trade union movement, no political freedoms, and far lower wage rates, labor standards, and environmental protections.

As a law professor, scholar and activist, I opposed these types of trade policies, including NAFTA, permanent normal trade relations with China, and China’s membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). My opponent, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has been complicit in these bad trade deals. She supported the Korean Trade Agreement that resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs in Florida. She voted to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that will destroy hundreds of thousands of American jobs in the future. And she did this after taking more than $300,000 in campaign contributions in 2012–2014, and no doubt much more since, from corporate interests lobbying for the TPP. I do not take corporate money, period. And I opposed fast-tracking the TPP and I oppose the TPP.

I Won’t Back Down

I have been warning about these trends in income and wealth inequality--  in countless articles, book chapters, and public speeches since the early 1990s--  and for much of that time it certainly did not help my career to attack supply-side tax cuts, free trade agreements, banking deregulation, and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan’s monetary policies.

But I never backed down.

When elected to Congress, I will continue to fight for fairness in the tax system. Wealthy citizens and large corporations must pay their fair share in taxes.

I will support an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020, along with special protections for small businesses.

And I will fight for active fiscal and monetary policies that rebuild our infrastructure, provide jobs in construction and manufacturing, and extend credit to small- and medium-sized businesses that have been neglected by big Wall Street banks. We can do this. Everyone knows that we must make the investments necessary to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, from roads and bridges, to public transit, high-speed rail, water and sewage treatment systems, and a new smart electricity grid.

In addition, we must rebalance our trade relations. I will fight against unfair trade agreements and I will push for trade sanctions against countries that violate the human rights of their own citizens, lack basic minimal labor and environmental standards, and manipulate their currencies to undermine our manufacturing base.

Meanwhile, we should strengthen our own protections for union organizing and collective bargaining. The unionization rate for the U.S. private sector is now down around 7 percent and that’s one of the main reasons for the stagnation in U.S. wages and the decline in the middle class. That’s why I support the Employee Free Choice Act, which would provide an easier system for employees to form or join a labor union to protect their rights and make a decent living wage.

Much of the country, as I do, supports Senator Bernie Sanders’ agenda to help the Main Streets of America. We can create millions of jobs for young men and women by investing in jobs programs. We must demand pay equity for women. We can make tuition free at public colleges and universities, as they were for my dad’s generation after World War II with the G.I. Bill of Rights program. And like Senator Sanders, I support paying for this with a small turnover tax--  the so-called “Robin Hood tax”--  on financial transactions. In fact, I have advocated for just such a tax since the early 1990s--  it was then known as the Tobin Tax, after the late James Tobin, a Nobel laureate in economics and the head of President John F. Kennedy’s Council of Economic Advisers. As Dr. Tobin said at the time, an added benefit of such a turnover tax, would be “throwing sand in the gears of the speculators.” We should be deterring and taxing financial speculation to provide the policy space for governments to pursue full-employment policies.

Rather than cutting benefits to the elderly, I support expanding Social Security by lifting the cap on taxable income above $250,000 so that those earning more--  and in many cases much, much more--  pay a bit more into the system. I have also called on the Florida Congressional delegation to co-sponsor legislation introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren to expand assistance to our poorest seniors and disabled people under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Although more than 124,000 seniors in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties live below the poverty line, my opponent has dragged her feet on this issue and as of February 2016 still had not co-sponsored this effort to strengthen the safety-net for citizens most in need.

I believe we should improve upon the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Obama’s main health care initiative, by moving to a “Medicare for all” single-payer healthcare system that guarantees every citizen health care as a basic right. Many of our trading partners and competitors have single-payer healthcare, as well as paid family and medical leave. We should have at least 2 weeks of paid vacation; 7 days of paid sick days; and 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave--  as is done on even bigger scales in Germany and many other capitalist democracies that are outcompeting us on trade.

As Senator Sanders has said, “Real family values are about making sure that parents have the time they need to bond with their babies and take care of their children and relatives when they get ill.” And we need a universal childcare and prekindergarten program to support the development of our children in their most formative years.

These are just some of the policy prescriptions that we can employ to improve the lives of our neighbors in South Florida and millions of other citizens throughout the United States. We live in the wealthiest country in human history, but the current trend of income and wealth distribution is completely upside down. For the past four decades, the rules have been rigged in favor of Wall Street and the billionaire class. Now it’s time for them to pay their fair share, to make sure that we all can make a decent living.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a sleazy, self-serving schmoozer and yenta, not someone who has spent two moments of her entire miserable career in politics thinking about how to make life better for her constituents. Please consider helping Tim Canova replace her as the congressmember from Florida's 23rd district in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. You'll also find John Fetterman and Bernie Sanders at the page this thermometer takes you:
Goal Thermometer
And a very special bonus especially for DWT readers in the great state of Michigan. Michiganders do you want to see Rick Snyder brought to trial and appropriately punished for his crimes? Keep this little poll in mind when you go to vote today.

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At 11:01 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

These free trade deals don't just harm American workers, they harm workers and industries in the nations America partners with.


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