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“The Cure For The Common Trump”: Take One Cruz And Call Me In The Morning

It is time for Marco Rubio, John Kasich and their supporters to take a bitter pill. It won’t go down easy. But it is the only thing that gives the GOP a chance at curing the nasty infection that is The Trump after Tuesday’s election results.

The medicine is controversial. There are risks involved. There are serious but unavoidable side effects. But it does make a fine pairing with a cup of tea and a serving of delegate math, since the infection is still just a plurality and not a majority.

The pill is called Ted Cruz.

Now, now. Calm down. I see you, friends (establishment types or elites or moderate Republicans) shaking your heads and pursing your lips. May I suggest, before turning your head away, to please look again at your infection, The Trump. It’s looking like it might go gangrenous. It’s started asking good people to lower themselves by raising their hands and taking a pledge, to swear loyalty – the kind of gesture that has traditionally been reserved in this country not for mortals, but for the great symbols of our collective freedom, such as our flag and our Constitution.

What I’m saying to you is that the infection is scary. Like, really scary. If you don’t treat it now, you might die, okay?

The Republican party and the conservative movement – fractured as it is, it’s still important – might die. Take. The. Pill.

I’m not going to sugar coat it. You’re not a child (even if The Trump calls you and others like you “babies”). You are also old enough, and smart enough, to know that your own behavior got you here. You were reckless. You got into bed with people who weren’t good for the party.

Oh, sure, they seemed like a good idea at the time – so rich and powerful, right? Big insurance, big pharmaceutical manufacturers, big Wall Street. Of course you swooned. Of course you let them in. You let them whisper sweet nothings in your ear, and followed their advice, thinking that a little crony capitalism between lovers is only natural. Who would really notice that your promises to cut spending, simplify taxes, reduce regulations and strengthen national security would not be kept?

Meanwhile, you mocked the people who were trying to change the party to be more populist – a move that we now know was the beginning of the wave of the future. But you chose the wrong partners, and now you have The Trump. And it requires what you may consider to be an unpleasant and painful treatment. Bad medicine.

Again, perhaps context will help: Compared to The Trump, the populism of the tea party looks like the sniffles. And you had a chance, let’s not forget, to slow down and deal with the sniffles. Recognize them. Make peace with them. Heal together. But instead you scorned them. You laughed at them. You ignored and tried to delegitimize them. So isn’t it rather poetic justice that the cure to your Trump infection just may be a large, hot cup of tea party?

And besides, there could be some positive side effects that you haven’t even considered! A dose of Cruz may also soothe that tea party headache that you were never able to get rid of. Your conscience might clear up, too, as you get some distance from your crony capitalist exes. So, please. Consider taking one Cruz and calling me in the morning.

 

By: Jean Card, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, March 9, 2016

March 10, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Primary Debates, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Squeezing Out Any Would-Be Competitors”: Building Monopolies, One Merger After Another

Corporate World is experiencing a surge in the urge to merge.

Control of market after market — from cable TV to chickens, banking to washing machines — has been seized by less than a handful of enormous corporations. Rather than compete, they collude to set prices, cut quality, shrink service and squeeze out any would-be competitors.

There was a time, not that long ago, when monopolies, duopolies and oligopolies were not only frowned upon by our public officials and watchdog agencies but also aggressively challenged and busted up. In recent years, however, corporate giants feel free to get ever-gianter by gobbling up their competitors, knowing that the watchdogs will barely bark, much less bite. In fact, now that the Supreme Court has turned corporate campaign donations into legalized bribes, our so-called “public” officials — including congress critters, governors, judges and even presidents — have become tail-wagging accomplices to the amalgamation of corporate power.

The Bush-Cheney regime was infamous for cheerleading this consolidation, including allowing the merger of AT&T and Verizon to capture 70 percent of all wireless phone subscribers. But this is not just a Republican phenomenon. Obama’s Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission and Federal Aviation Administration genially waved through American Airline’s takeover of US Airways and United’s consumption of Continental, effectively leaving air travelers to the brutish mercy of one or two bullies in every major airport — and no service at all in smaller cities.

Now come dominant health-care giants Aetna, Humana, Anthem and Cigna, as well as Walgreens and Rite Aid, demanding to merge into behemoths that would control the availability of health insurance and essential medicines to millions of Americans. Ironically, the very lawmakers, corporate lobbyists and pundits who push and praise each of these mergers are also the noisiest preachers of the virtue of competitive markets, small business and consumer choice.

Oh, they also claim to be champions of the people’s will — even though the clear will of the vast majority of Americans is to stop the merger-mania and anti-consumer monopolization that corporate America and its political servants are hanging around our necks. That’s not just ironic. It’s cynical, hypocritical… and disgusting.

Even our brewskis are falling to monopolists. Belgian conglomerate Anheuser-Busch InBev is set to swallow South American-owned conglomerate SABMiller. The merger, they gloat, will be the first “truly global brewer.” Indeed, it will control a third of all beer sales in the world and a whopping 70 percent of all U.S. sales.

The monopolizers assert there’s no anti-trust problem because hundreds of small breweries are popping up like dandelions all over America and the world, thus creating wide-open competition. The winner, says the Anheuser-Busch behemoth with a wink and a crooked smile, will be the one that gets the most customers.

How free-enterprise-y! And fallacious. The “winner” will be the one with the key to the marketplace gate. To get customers, you first have to be able to get your beers in the bars and on store shelves, which is mostly controlled in the U.S. by beer wholesalers who distribute beers from various breweries to the retailers. These wholesalers can simply refuse to distribute the brews of smaller “competitors.” Now, guess which big honking beer-maker has been aggressively buying up wholesale distributors in recent years in order to fill the shelves with their brands and lock out the new independents?

If Anheuser-Busch InBev is allowed to become the first global brewery, it won’t be because it makes the best beer but because it’s rigging the marketplace to slam the door on its “free enterprise” competitors. The word “free” in “free enterprise” is not an adjective, it’s a verb; i.e., let’s “free up” the enterprise of small business people by stopping giant monopolists from locking them out of the marketplace.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, December 2, 2015

December 2, 2015 Posted by | Corporate Mergers, Monopolies, Small Businesses | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“He’s Mike Huckabee And He Approves A Suspect Message”: The Lasting Damage To Huckabee’s Reputation Is Now Complete

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s latest video has the look and feel of an infomercial, because to a very real degree, that’s exactly what it is.

Those who go to the “Diabetes Reversed” website are greeted with an auto-play video from the Republican presidential hopeful, in which Huckabee tells viewers about an “amazing” treatment option for people with Type 2 diabetes (thanks to reader P.A. for the tip).

“Hello, I’m Mike Huckabee. Let me tell you that diabetes can be reversed. I should know because I did it and today you can too. It’s all about making simple lifestyle changes and healthier food choices. And there is no other way to reverse diabetes.

“Prescription drugs aren’t going to cure you. They’re only going to keep you a loyal, pill-popping, finger-pricking, insulin-shooting customer so Big Pharma and the mainstream medical community can rake in over $100 billion a year annually.

“But that’s not your only option. You can avoid the side effects that could lead to needing more drugs. You don’t have to be a part of this failed system any longer, because today you have an amazing opportunity to stop diabetes in its tracks – and actually reverse it, just as I did, simply and naturally.”

In the video, the former governor proceeds to make a pitch for a “profound” diabetes treatment option, which he claims leads “most” people to be rid of medication “within four weeks.” To “make the plan work,” Huckabee says, customers will need the kind of “structure” provided by the infomercial’s sponsor. “I should know; it works,” he assures viewers about the “natural secrets that are backed by real science.”

Blurring the lines between infomercial and campaign ad, the Republican ends the video by saying, “I’m Mike Huckabee and I approve Barton Publishing’s Diabetes Solution Kit.”

A New York Times report added, “The American Diabetes Association and the Canadian Diabetes Association caution against treatments like the one peddled by the company Mr. Huckabee represents.”

So what in the world is the former Fox News host and likely presidential candidate doing?

Even as he seeks to put the ghosts of 2008 behind by winning over major Republican donors, he has pursued some highly unconventional income streams – not just the diabetes endorsement, but selling ads on email commentaries he sends to thousands of his supporters.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Huckabee declined to say how much he earned from these efforts. But she said he had broken off as a spokesman for the diabetes cure a couple of weeks ago, suggesting concerns that the unusual endorsements may appear un-presidential. […]

One ad arriving in January in the inboxes of Huckabee supporters, who signed up for his political commentaries at MikeHuckabee.com, claims there is a miracle cure for cancer hidden in the Bible. The ad links to a lengthy Internet video, which offers a booklet about the so-called Matthew 4 Protocol. It is “free” with a $72 subscription to a health newsletter.

Another recent pitch sent out to Huckabee’s supporters carried the subject line “Food Shortage Could Devastate Country.” It promoted Food4Patriots survival food kits, described as the “No. 1 item you should be hoarding.”

Huckabee began using his name and mailing list as a lucrative tool for dubious enterprises several years ago, and it appears to be a habit he’s reluctant to break. Even after the former GOP governor gave up his Fox News gig, he continued to send out emails with “really questionable ads.”

Republican primary voters will have to decide for themselves whether they’re comfortable voting for an infomercial spokesperson for national office, and whether they believe someone who believes America’s medical professionals are engaged in a racket should serve in the White House, but the lasting damage to Huckabee’s reputation appears to already be complete.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 16, 2015

March 17, 2015 Posted by | American Diabetes Association, GOP Presidential Candidates, Mike Huckabee | , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Government Problem”: The Central Issue Is Whom The Government Is For

Some believe the central political issue of our era is the size of the government. They’re wrong. The central issue is whom the government is for.

Consider the new spending bill Congress and the President agreed to a few weeks ago.

It’s not especially large by historic standards. Under the $1.1 trillion measure, government spending doesn’t rise as a percent of the total economy. In fact, if the economy grows as expected, government spending will actually shrink over the next year.

The problem with the legislation is who gets the goodies and who’s stuck with the tab.

For example, it repeals part of the Dodd-Frank Act designed to stop Wall Street from using other peoples’ money to support its gambling addiction, as the Street did before the near-meltdown of 2008.

Dodd-Frank had barred banks from using commercial deposits that belong to you and me and other people, and which are insured by the government, to make the kind of risky bets that got the Street into trouble and forced taxpayers to bail it out.

But Dodd-Frank put a crimp on Wall Street’s profits. So the Street’s lobbyists have been pushing to roll it back.

The new legislation, incorporating language drafted by lobbyists for Wall Street’s biggest bank, Citigroup, does just this.

It reopens the casino. This increases the likelihood you and I and other taxpayers will once again be left holding the bag.

Wall Street isn’t the only big winner from the new legislation. Health insurance companies get to keep their special tax breaks. Tourist destinations like Las Vegas get their travel promotion subsidies.

In a victory for food companies, the legislation even makes federally subsidized school lunches less healthy by allowing companies that provide them to include fewer whole grains. This boosts their profits because junkier food is less expensive to make.

Major defense contractors also win big. They get tens of billions of dollars for the new warplanes, missiles, and submarines they’ve been lobbying for.

Conservatives like to portray government as a welfare machine doling out benefits to the poor, some of whom are too lazy to work.

In reality, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, only about 12 percent of federal spending goes to individuals and families, most of whom are in dire need.

An increasing portion goes to corporate welfare.

In addition to the provisions in the recent spending bill that reward Wall Street, health insurers, the travel industry, food companies, and defense contractors, other corporate goodies have been long baked into the federal budget.

Big agribusiness gets price supports. Hedge-fund and private-equity managers get their own special “carried-interest” tax loophole. The oil and gas industry gets its special tax subsidies.

Big Pharma gets a particularly big benefit: a prohibition on government using its vast bargaining power under Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate low drug prices.

Why are politicians doing so much for corporate executives and Wall Street insiders? Follow the money. It’s because they’re flooding Washington with money as never before, financing an increasing portion of politicians’ campaigns.

The Supreme Court’s decision this year in McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission, following in the wake of Citizen’s United, already eliminated the $123,200 cap on the amount an individual could contribute to federal candidates.

The new spending legislation, just enacted, makes it easier for wealthy individuals to write big checks to political parties. Before, individuals could donate up to $32,400 to the Democratic or Republican National Committees.

Starting in 2015, they can donate ten times as much. In a two-year election cycle, a couple will be able to give $1,296,000 to a party’s various accounts.

But the only couples capable of giving that much are those that include corporate executives, Wall Street moguls, and other big-moneyed interests.

Which means Washington will be even more attentive to their needs in the next round of legislation.

That’s been the pattern. As wealth continues to concentrate at the top, individuals and entities with lots of money have greater political power to get favors from government – like the rollback of the Dodd-Frank law and the accumulation of additional corporate welfare. These favors, in turn, further entrench and expand the wealth at the top.

The size of government isn’t the problem. That’s a canard used to hide the far larger problem.

The larger problem is that much of government is no longer working for the vast majority it’s intended to serve. It’s working instead for a small minority at the top.

If government were responding to the public’s interest instead of the moneyed interests, it would be smaller and more efficient.

But unless or until we can reverse the vicious cycle of big money getting political favors that makes big money even bigger, we can’t get the government we want and deserve.

 

By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, December 23, 2014

December 28, 2014 Posted by | Dodd-Frank, Federal Government, Wall Street | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Corporate Predator State”: This Isn’t The Free Market, It’s A Rigged Market

Bipartisan agreement in Washington usually means citizens should hold on to their wallets or get ready for another threat to peace. In today’s politics, the bipartisan center usually applauds when entrenched interests and big money speak. Beneath all the partisan bickering, bipartisan majorities are solid for a trade policy run by and for multinationals, a health-care system serving insurance and drug companies, an energy policy for Big Oil and King Coal, and finance favoring banks that are too big to fail.

Economist James Galbraith calls this the “predator state,” one in which large corporate interests rig the rules to protect their subsidies, tax dodges and monopolies. This isn’t the free market; it’s a rigged market.

Wall Street is a classic example. The attorney general announces that some banks are too big to prosecute. Despite what the FBI called an “epidemic of fraud,” not one head of a big bank has gone to jail or paid a major personal fine. Bloomberg News estimated that the subsidy they are provided by being too big to fail adds up to an estimated $83 billion a year.

Corporate welfare is, of course, offensive to progressives. The Nation and other media expose the endless outrages — drug companies getting Congress to ban Medicare negotiating bulk discounts on prices, Big Oil protecting billions in subsidies, multinationals hoarding a couple of trillion dollars abroad to avoid paying taxes, and much more.

But true conservatives are — or should be — offended by corporate welfare as well. Conservative economists Raghuram Rajan and Luigi Zingales argue that it is time to “save capitalism from the capitalists,” urging conservatives to support strong measures to break up monopolies, cartels and the predatory use of political power to distort competition.

Here is where left and right meet, not in a bipartisan big-money fix, but in an odd bedfellows campaign to clean out Washington.

For that to happen, small businesses and community banks will have to develop an independent voice in our politics. Today, they are too often abused as cover for multinational corporations and banks. The Chamber of Commerce exemplifies the scam. It pretends to represent the interests of millions of small businesses, but its issue and electoral campaigns are defined and paid for by big-money interests working to keep the game rigged.

An authentic small-business lobby has finally started to emerge, as William Greider reports in the most recent issue of the Nation. The American Sustainable Business Council, along with the Main Street Alliance and the Small Business Majority, are enlisting small business owners to speak for themselves — and challenging the corporate financed propaganda groups such as the Chamber and the National Federation of Independent Business. Their positions often align with those of progressives. They loathe the big banks and multinationals that work to undermine competition.

Greider reports on the antipathy these small business owners have for the big guys. Camille Moran, president and chief executive of Caramor Industries and Four Seasons Christmas Tree Farm in Natchitoches, La., rails against the “Wall Street wheelers and dealers.” They knew, she argues, that they “ would get no sympathy saying that ending the high-income Bush tax cuts would hurt them, so instead they pretend it would hurt Main Street small business and employment. Don’t fall for it. . . . That’s a trillion dollars less we would have for education, roads, security, small business assistance and all of the other things that actually help our communities.”

ReShonda Young, operations manager of Alpha Express, a family-owned delivery service in Waterloo, Iowa: “We’re not afraid to compete with the biggest delivery companies out here, but it needs to be a fair fight, not one in which big corporations use loopholes to avoid their taxes, stick our business with the tab.”

Polls show these aren’t isolated views. The ASBC, the Main Street Alliance and the Small Business Majority sponsored a poll by Lake Research of small business owners. Ninety percent believe “big corporations use loopholes to avoid taxes that small businesses have to pay,” and three-fourths said their own businesses suffer because of it.

The ASBC and its allies have the potential to become what Jamie Raskin, a Maryland state senator, dubbed a “Chamber of Progress,” a small-business voice that is willing to take on the big guys that tilt the playing field.

The possibilities are endless. Wall Street argues for rolling back financial regulation on the grounds that it hurts community and small banks. What if community and small bankers joined the call of conservative Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard Fisher to break up the big banks?

Multinational executives have just launched the “LIFT America” Coalition to push for a territorial tax system that would exempt from U.S. taxes all profits reported abroad. ASBC and its allies could rally small businesses to demand closing down overseas tax havens and imposing a minimum tax on profits sitting abroad, so that they didn’t face a higher tax burden that their global competitors.

In today’s Washington, powerful corporate interests stymie progress on areas vital to our future. Can a right/left, small-business/worker odd bedfellows alliance emerge to counter the predatory interests? We can only hope so.

 

By: Katrina vanden Heuvel, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 26, 2013

March 27, 2013 Posted by | Corporations, Wall Street | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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