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“A Gift For America’s Future”: To Get America Moving, Tax Financial Transactions

The financial transaction tax is not an idea whose time has just now come; it simply has returned. From 1914 to 1966, our country taxed all sales and transfers of stock. The tax was doubled in the last year of Herbert Hoover’s presidency to help us recover from the Great Depression. Today, 40 countries have FTTs, including the seven with the fastest-growing stock exchanges in the world. Eleven members of the European Union (including Germany and France) voted for a financial transaction tax to curtail poverty, restore services and put people back to work.

This is no soak-the-rich-idea. Rather than asking the Wall Street crowd to join us in paying a 6 to 12 percent sales tax, the major FTT proposal gaining support in the U.S. calls for a 0.5 percent assessment on stock transactions. That’s 50 cents on a $100 stock buy versus the $8.25 I would pay for a $100 bicycle.

Even at this minuscule rate, the huge volume of high-speed trades (nearly 400 billion a year) means an FTT would net about $300 billion to $350 billion a year for our public treasury. Plus, it’s a very progressive tax. Half of our country’s stock is owned by the 1 percenters, and only a small number of them are in the high-frequency trade game. Ordinary folks who have small stakes in the markets, including those in mutual and pension funds, are called “buy and hold” investors: They only do trades every few months or years, not daily or hourly or even by the second, and they’ll not be harmed. Rather it’s the computerized churners of frothy speculation who will pony up the bulk of revenue from such a transaction tax.

An FTT is a straightforward, uncomplicated way for us to get a substantial chunk of our money back from high-finance thieves, and we should make a concerted effort to put the idea on the front burner in 2016 and turn up the heat. Not only do its benefits merit the fight; the fight itself would be politically popular. One clue to its political potential is that the mere mention of FTT to a Wall Street banker will evoke a shriek so shrill that the Mars rover hears it. That’s because they know that this proposal would make them defend the indefensible: themselves.

First, the sheer scope of Wall Street’s self-serving casino business model would be exposed for all to see. Second, they would have to admit that they’re increasingly dependent on (and, therefore, making our economy dependent on) the stark-raving insanity of robotic, high-frequency speculation. Third, it’ll be completely ridiculous for them to argue that protecting the multi-trillion-dollar bets of rich market gamblers from this tax is more important than meeting our people’s growing backlog of real needs.

Unsurprisingly, then, Koch-funded operatives and other defenders of privilege are rushing out articles that amount to Wall Street gibberish: “FTT would hurt poor pensioners, farmers, long-term investors, job creation, liquidity … and blah, blah, blah.” There’s nary a mention of who will really be pinged: Wall Street’s gamblers and thieves. After all, to concede that they’ll be hurt, even a little, would elicit a coast-to-coast shout of, “Yes!”

A major push is being made under the banner of the “Robin Hood Tax.” This campaign offers a remarkable democratic opening. It widens America’s public policy debate from the plutocrats’ tired, narrow-minded mantra of defeat: “We’re broke. Big undertakings are beyond us. Shrink all expectations for yourselves, your children and your country’s future.” Instead, a new conversation can begin: “Look under that rock. There’s the money we need to invest in people. Let’s get America moving again!”

A sales tax on speculators can deliver tangibles that people need but Wall Street says we can’t afford — infrastructure, Social Security, education, good jobs, health care for all, etc. Just as important, it can deliver intangibles that our nation needs but Wall Street tries to ignore — fairness, social cohesion, equal opportunity, etc. It’s a gift for America’s future that literally would keep on giving. For more information and to join the fight, go to http://www.robinhoodtax.org.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, March 2, 2016

March 4, 2016 Posted by | Financial Transaction Tax, Plutocrats, Wall Street | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“That 1992 Clip Of Biden Is Very Misleading”: No, Joe Biden Is Not A Supreme Court Hypocrite

It’s a mighty thin reed that Republican leaders hang onto when they selectively cite then-Sen. Joe Biden’s remarks from 24 years ago as evidence to deny any Obama appointee to the Supreme Court a fair hearing and a vote. President Obama is right in saying, “We all know senators say stuff all the time,” and the excerpt Mitch McConnell and the other Republican leaders cite to support their obstructionism is not what Biden was saying when he spoke at length on the Senate floor in late June 1992.

It was the end of the court’s term, a time when aging justices often hand down their resignations. There were retirement rumors about 83-year-old Justice Harry Blackmun. Biden, in his role as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, wanted to discourage Blackmun from stepping down and the Bush White House from thinking it could confirm a replacement before the election now five months away.

There was no vacancy on the court, and Biden wanted to keep it that way. In just two weeks, the Republicans would hold their party convention with President George H.W. Bush running for re-election in a highly charged three-person race against Democrat Bill Clinton and Independent Ross Perot. In the Senate, hard feelings lingered from the previous October’s Anita Hill hearings, and Biden warned that if the administration tried to get one or the other justices to resign in order to create a vacancy, he wasn’t inclined to go along with that.

And if they did—and here’s the olive branch, which funny enough isn’t getting much air time as the old clip is replayed—he would consider confirmation of a nominee in the Kennedy mode, as in Justice Anthony Kennedy, a solid but conservative-leaning jurist who was confirmed unanimously in February 1988, Ronald Reagan’s last year in office. Biden didn’t in any way say or imply he wouldn’t be holding hearings, or that he would do what McConnell and the other Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are doing, which is sight unseen refusing to hold hearings or to even meet with the nominee.

It is a show of disrespect not only for Obama but also for the Constitution and the executive’s role to propose and the Senate’s to advise and consent. McConnell gleefully cited the cherry-picked Biden excerpt as proof of what would happen “if the shoe were on the other foot.” But if that were true, the GOP would at least go through the motions before regretfully finding the nominee is an extremist they can’t support. That would be rough politics as usual.

The bigger question: Will anyone nominated be out of the running for Hillary Clinton, if she’s the next president? Or will that person move to the front of the queue? Will Republicans feel compelled to go after that person with extra zeal? And given these unknowns, who would say yes to Obama?

Biden chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987 to 1995, presiding over two of the most contentious nominations in history, Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. Bork’s “originalism,” in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, sparked strong opposition and his extensive writings gave critics plenty to work with. The assault was brutal, giving rise to the verb, to be “borked.” Biden won praise for challenging Bork on certain rights to privacy that he rejected because they weren’t enumerated in the Constitution. The full Senate rejected Bork 58-42, with six Republicans joining 52 Democrats to vote against him.

The Anita Hill hearings in October 1991 were not Biden’s finest hour, and his role chairing those hearings will be reprised in the HBO movie Confirmation, airing on April 11 and starring Kerry Washington as Hill, Wendell Pierce as Clarence Thomas, and Greg Kinnear as Biden.

Emotions are still raw even after 25 years, and the scuttlebutt in Washington is that Biden will not be pleased with his depiction in the film as far too deferential to Thomas.

That may surprise viewers today, but criticism then of Biden, as one disaffected liberal put it, was not that he was a partisan in-fighter, but that “he bent over backwards to grease the skids for the most unqualified successful Supreme Court nominee we have ever seen.”

People involved in the fight then and interviewed for this article did not want to be quoted by name. The hearings were brutal, with Thomas calling them “a high-tech lynching.” Women’s groups siding with Hill were convinced Thomas was lying and demanded Biden order lie-detector tests and subpoena records of X-rated films Bork had allegedly rented. They blamed Biden for not putting more pressure on Hill to come forward earlier.

The coziness of an all-male and all-white Judiciary panel grilling Hill, a prim college professor who had reluctantly come forward alleging sexual harassment by Thomas, set the stage for a political revolution. The following year, 1992, a record number of women sought political office and a record number won, dubbing it the “Year of the Woman.”

The HBO film will portray at least one witness against Thomas that Biden never called and that critics believe could have ended Thomas’s confirmation. Biden in his role as chairman told the woman the Republicans had dug up more stuff on her, and he described what she would face on national television if she came forward. She chose not to testify, and her statement is in the hearing record.

Confirmation will air at a potentially critical time in the current court fight, but whatever conclusions viewers draw, it should be underscored that Biden let the nominations of Bork and Thomas go forward even if he and his political party disagreed. They each got a vote, and Thomas is now in his 24th year on the court after being confirmed with a mere 52 votes in the Senate.

 

By: Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast, March 3, 2016

March 4, 2016 Posted by | Joe Biden, Mitch Mc Connell, Senate Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Done With Quiet Protest”: Republican ‘Takers’ Take Down The Establishment

Just as Donald Trump did a Super Tuesday stomp on the Republican establishment, the establishment showed why it deserved the rough treatment. The Republican Senate leadership yet again announced its refusal to consider anyone President Obama nominates for the Supreme Court until after the presidential election.

It is the job of the U.S. Senate to hold hearings on, and then accept or reject, the president’s choice. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said they will not take on the work — while showing no inclination to forgo their paychecks.

Talk about “takers.”

Yes, talk about “takers.” That’s how Mitt Romney described Americans benefiting from Medicare, Social Security, Obamacare and other government social programs during his failed 2012 run for president. Never mind that most of the “takers” have also paid for some of what they have received.

Working-class Republicans have finally rebelled against the notion that everything they get is beneficence from the superrich — and that making the superrich super-duper-rich would drop some tinsel on their grateful heads. They were done with quiet protest and ready to take down the Republican bastille, stone by stone. And the angrier Trump made the establishment the happier they were.

The Bastille was the symbol of France’s Old Regime. The storming of the prison in 1789 kicked off the French Revolution.

Republican disrupters from Newt Gingrich on down liked to talk about a conservative revolution. They didn’t know the first thing about revolutions. This is a revolution.

Back at the chateau, Republican luminaries were calmly planning favors for their financiers. They assumed their party’s working folk would fall in line — out of both hostility to Democrats and through hypnosis.

So you had Jeb Bush amassing an armory of campaign cash over bubbly and hors d’oeuvres at the family estate in Maine. You had Marco Rubio devising a plan to do away with all capital gains taxes — the source of half the earnings for people making $10 million or more. You had Ted Cruz concocting a plan to abolish the IRS. (Without the IRS, only the working stiffs would be paying taxes, the money automatically deducted from their paychecks.)

Not much here for the alleged takers, who actually see themselves as “taken from.” Unlike the others, Trump wasn’t going after their benefits. He even praised Planned Parenthood, noting it provides a variety of health services to ordinary women.

Trump would be a disastrous president, of course. But he knows how to inspire the “enraged ones.” In the French Revolution, the enraged ones were extremists who sent many of the moderate revolutionaries to the guillotine. (The enraged ones also ended badly.)

As the embers of Super Tuesday still glowed, The Wall Street Journal published the following commentary by one of its Old Regime’s scribes:

“To be honest and impolitic, the Trump voter smacks of a child who unleashes recriminations against mommy and daddy because the world is imperfect,” Holman Jenkins wrote. Take that.

No responsible American — not the other Republicans and certainly not Democrats expecting strong Latino support — would endorse Trump’s nasty attacks on our hardworking immigrants. But large-scale immigration of unskilled labor has, to some extent, hurt America’s blue-collar workers, and not just white ones.

Democrats need to continue pressing reform that is humane both to immigrants already rooted in the society and to the country’s low-skilled workforce. Do that and the air comes whooshing out of Trump’s balloon.

Back in Washington, the Republican leaders will probably continue to avoid work on this issue or a Supreme Court nominee or anything else Obama wants. They should enjoy their leisure. After Election Day, many may have to look for real jobs.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, March 3, 2016

March 4, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Presidential Candidates, Senate Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Sanders Must Level With His Young Voters”: The Fickleness Of The Youth Vote Has Been The Bane Of Progressive Politics

What happened in the South Carolina primary? Bernie Sanders was asked. “We got decimated, that’s what happened,” he responded.

Here was Sanders at his best. Brutally honest. Averse to spin. Though the independent from Vermont vows to fight on, his lopsided loss in pivotal South Carolina makes his prospects for winning the Democratic nomination increasingly slim.

The question for progressives is: What happens to his passionate followers in the event he leaves the race? Or more to the point: Is there a way to keep his ardent fans ardent about participating in the electoral politics? Will they keep voting when the candidates are less charismatic, when the election’s not in a big-deal presidential year, when the solutions are muddied in the reality of two-party politics?

Sanders’ feat in electrifying younger voters has been extraordinary. And that extends to his success with many young Latinos and African-Americans, whose elders went overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton.

But the fickleness of the youth vote has been the bane of progressive politics. It is why the right wing controls Congress.

In 2008, a political rock star named Barack Obama energized the young electorate with talk of radical transformation. The voters’ idealistic fervor helped sweep him into office and expanded the Democratic majority in Congress.

The economy was in free fall. But in the first two years of his presidency, Obama helped steer America from the precipice of another Great Depression — plus he pushed the passage of the Affordable Care Act, bringing health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. It was hard work, not magic, that accomplished these remarkable things.

Many of his younger voters, led to believe in Technicolor miracles, were unimpressed. The 2010 midterms came around, and they stayed home. Not so the older tea party Republicans, who despised much of what Obama stood for.

Here’s the thing about these right-leaning activists: Sometimes they have a candidate they adore. Sometimes they don’t. But they vote. They vote in presidential years and in non-presidential years, when the public isn’t paying much attention. They vote for the state legislators who usually end up creating districts that favor their party’s candidates.

So as older conservatives marched to the polls, many young liberals did a vanishing act. Having represented 18 percent of the electorate in 2008, voters under the age of 30 accounted for only 11 percent in 2010, their poorest performance in two decades.

Democrats suffered devastating losses, and progressive priorities went into the deep freeze.

It’s true that younger Americans tend to move more often, and that complicates the process of registering to vote and finding the polling place. But still. The youth turnout in the 2014 midterm was even more dismal than in 2010 — actually, the lowest in 40 years.

It is the nature of liberal politics to be cerebral, and with that comes the “critique.” Rather than marvel that near-universal coverage happened at all, prominent voices on the left attacked the reforms as a surrender to business interests. They bashed Obama for not slapping more cuffs on the Wall Street operators.

These complaints were not without merit, but politics is always a work in progress. One keeps plugging away.

Sanders is a no-excuses type of guy. He’s in an especially strong position to do some truth-telling to the young electorate that has rallied to his cause. If they think that the economy is rigged against them, they have to vote out the politicians who have done the rigging. They must play the long game.

One politician’s magnetism isn’t going to do it. Just ask President Obama.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, March 1, 2016

March 4, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Midterm Elections, Millennnials | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Weakness Of President Trump”: Trump Would Be Beyond Embarrassing For The United States On The World Stage

This is happening, America.

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald J. Trump—a man who has never held elected office—swept the Super Tuesday primaries last night, dominating seven of eleven contests. His authoritarian-enamored supporters remain inexorably drawn more than anything else to the candidate’s presumed strength.

That strength is supposedly a massive correction to the perceived weakness and fecklessness of President Obama on the world stage. The globe may be on fire, but it will fall in line—if only the American president would be more pugnacious and demanding towards allies and adversaries alike. In this view, Trump’s force of personality is a panacea; his self-fulfilling assurances about his own intelligence, likability, and winning record cease to be a means to policy and become the policies in and of themselves.

But what if Trump’s supporters aren’t just wrong (they are), but catastrophically so? What if that so-called strength—the forwardness, unapologetic aggression, and of course the distaste for “political correctness”—that they so love about candidate Trump turns out to be a debilitating weakness for President Trump and, by extension, our country?

Imagine, for a moment, how President Trump would actually function on the world stage.

Imagine President Trump listening to speeches at the United Nations General Assembly. Say another foreign leader bruises his ego, perhaps with a well-intentioned joke or a purposefully mocking barb. President Trump will not be able to sue, so where will he turn next? From denouncing the leader with juvenile insults to espousing racist sentiments on the world stage, the consequences are sure to be embarrassing.

Imagine President Trump’s childish demands falling on deaf ears in the international community. Suppose Mexico refuses to pay for his luxurious wall, or that allies like Japan and Germany decline to pay tribute for hosting U.S. military bases on their soil. President Trump will not be able to bend them to his will through endless bloviating, so what will become of American credibility? From the alienation of longtime U.S. allies to a full-scale evaporation of U.S. soft power, the consequences are sure to be crippling.

Imagine President Trump in top national security briefings, surrounded by patriotic men and women trying desperately to educate and advise him on the nuances of U.S. foreign policy. If he makes good on his campaign promises, he’ll be ordering them to pursue catastrophic escalations with rival states or execute war crimes against civilians and combatants alike. President Trump will not be able to force them to abide by his un-American dictates, so what will happen to our nation’s civil workforce? Whether we see mass resignations or a full-scale revolt by the people who spend their professional lives working to keep us safe, the consequences are sure to be disastrous.

There are plenty of policy-oriented reasons to decry the prospect of Trump as commander-in-chief—he has a childlike understanding of the world around him, including an astounding ignorance of the details about our enemies, the value of our allies, and the capabilities of our own country. There are obviously moral arguments against him too, among them his unabashed support of torture and his coziness towards any dictator that bats his eyes in Trump’s direction. But perhaps more than anything else, it is Trump’s temperament that disqualifies him from leadership: The “strength” he loves to flex to raucous applause would leave the United States weaker, isolated, and sapped of all credibility.

Trump would be beyond embarrassing for the United States on the world stage. His gaffes, infantilism, and self-assured ignorance would, intentionally or not, systematically destroy our reputation as a world leader, taking down the international order that the greatest generation raised from the ashes of World War II along the way. Trump’s unpredictable and fragile ego — the ego of a man who sends rebuttals to his “losers and haters” signed, literally, in gold sharpie—would become the proxy for how the United States is perceived in the world.

Since 1990, Trump has bemoaned that America is “laughed at” around the world. It is an emotional sentiment that resonates well with his base, but the joke is on them. Should President Trump make his way to the Oval Office, there is little doubt the world will be laughing even harder.

 

By: Graham F. West, The National Memo, March 3, 2016

March 4, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, National Security | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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