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“Doesn’t Mississippi Have More Pressing Concerns?”: Fattest, Poorest, Sickest State In America Rails Against LGBT People

A portrait of Mississippi.

It has a lower percentage of high school graduates than almost any other state. It has an unemployment rate higher than almost any other state.

Mississippi’s fourth-graders perform more poorly than any other children in the country in math. Also in reading. Its smoking rates are among the highest in the country. Along with West Virginia, it is the fattest state in the Union. It has the highest poverty rate and the lowest life expectancy.

Small wonder 24/7 Wall Street, a content provider for Yahoo!, Time and USA Today, among others, has dubbed Mississippi the “worst state to live in.”

All of which provides a certain pungent context for what happened last week as Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law a bill legalizing discrimination against LGBT people. It is dubbed the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” which is a cynical lie. The only thing it protects is those doing the discriminating.

You want to refuse to rent to a lesbian couple? You’re covered.

You want to refuse to hire a transgendered woman? Go for it.

You want to force your gay adopted son to undergo so-called conversion therapy? No problem.

You want to kick an adulterous heterosexual out of your hardware store? Yep, the law says you can even do that.

Indeed, it says that any gay, transgendered or adulterous individual whose behavior offends the “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” of a person, for-profit business, government employee or religious organization can be refused service.

As if your sexual orientation or marital status were the business of the cashier ringing up your groceries or the barber trimming your hair.

It is worth nothing that similar laws have been propounded in other states — Georgia, Indiana, Arkansas — only to be turned back under threat of boycott by Fortune 500 companies and professional sports teams doing business there. “The worst state to live in,” was immune to that kind of pressure because it has no such teams or businesses.

You’d think that would tell them something. You’d think it would suggest to Mississippi that it has more pressing concerns than salving the hurt feelings of some putative Christian who doesn’t want to bake a cake for Lester and Steve.

But addressing those concerns would require serious thought, sustained effort, foresight, creativity and courage. It is easier just to scapegoat the gays.

So the fattest, poorest, sickest state in the Union rails against LGBT people and adulterers and never mind that if every last one of them pulled up stakes tomorrow, Mississippi would still be the fattest, poorest, sickest state in the Union.

The point is not that such bigotry would be impossible in places that are healthier or wealthier. The point is not that such places are immune to it. Rather, the point is simply this: Isn’t it interesting how reliably social division works as a distraction from things that ought to matter more?

After all, Mississippi just passed a law that 80 percent of its eighth-graders would struggle to read.

If they graduate, those young people will look for work in a state with an unemployment rate significantly higher than the national average. But if one of those kids does manage to find work at the local doughnut shop say, she will — until the law is struck down, at least — have the satisfaction of refusing service to some gay man, secure in the knowledge that the state that failed to educate her or give her a fighting chance in a complex world, now has her back.

One feels sorrier for her than for the gay man. Her life will be hemmed by the fact of living it in a state that fights the future, that teaches her to deflect and distract, not resolve and engage.

The gay man can buy doughnuts anywhere.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, April 10, 2016

April 12, 2016 Posted by | Discrimination, LGBT, Mississippi, Phil Bryant | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“No, Really, You Didn’t Build That”: How The Rich Became Dependent On Government Subsidies

Remember when President Obama was lambasted for saying “you didn’t build that”? Turns out he was right, at least when it comes to lots of stuff built by the world’s wealthiest corporations. That’s the takeaway from this week’s new study of 25,000 major taxpayer subsidy deals over the last two decades.

Titled “Subsidizing the Corporate One Percent,” the report from the taxpayer watchdog group Good Jobs First shows that the world’s largest companies aren’t models of self-sufficiency and unbridled capitalism. To the contrary, they’re propped up by billions of dollars in welfare payments from state and local governments.

Such subsidies might be a bit more defensible if they were being doled out in a way that promoted upstart entrepreneurialism. But as the study also shows, a full “three-quarters of all the economic development dollars awarded and disclosed by state and local governments have gone to just 965 large corporations” — not to the small businesses and start-ups that politicians so often pretend to care about.

In dollar figures, that’s a whopping $110 billion going to big companies. Fortune 500 firms alone receive more than 16,000 subsidies at a total cost of $63 billion.

These kinds of handouts, of course, are the definition of government intervention in the market. Nonetheless, those who receive the subsidies are still portrayed as free-market paragons.

Consider Charles and David Koch. Their company, Koch Industries, has relied on $88 million worth of government handouts. Yet, as the major financiers of the anti-government right, the Kochs are still billed as libertarian free-market activists.

Similarly, behold the big tech firms. They are often portrayed as self-made success stories. Yet, as Good Jobs First shows, they are among the biggest recipients of the subsidies.

Intel leads the tech pack with 58 subsidies worth $3.8 billion. Next up is IBM, which has received more than $1 billion in subsidies. Most of that is from New York – a state proudly promoting its corporate handouts in a new ad campaign.

Then there’s Google’s $632 million and Yahoo’s $260 million — both sets of subsidies primarily from data center deals. And not to be forgotten is 38 Studios, the now bankrupt software firm that received $75 million in Rhode Island taxpayer cash. The company received the handout at the very moment Rhode Island was pleading “poverty” to justify cuts to public workers’ retirement benefits.

Along with propping up companies that are supposedly free-market icons, the subsidies are also flowing to financial firms that have become synonymous with never-ending bailouts. Indeed, companies like Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Citigroup – each of which was given massive taxpayer subsidies during the financial crisis —are the recipients of tens of millions of dollars in additional subsidies.

All of these handouts, of course, would be derided if they were going to poor people. But because they are going to extremely wealthy politically connected conglomerates, they are typically promoted with cheery euphemisms like “incentives” or “economic development.” Those euphemisms persist even though many subsidies do not end up actually creating jobs.

In light of that, the Good Jobs First report is a reality check on all the political rhetoric about dependency. Most of that rhetoric is punitively aimed at the poor. That’s because, unlike the huge corporations receiving all those subsidies, the poor don’t have armies of lobbyists and truckloads of campaign contributions that make sure programs like food stamps are shrouded in the anodyne argot of “incentives” and “development.”

But as the report proves, if we are going to have an honest conversation about dependency and free markets, then the billions of dollars flowing to politically connected companies need to be part of the discussion.

 

By: David Sirota, Salon, February 27, 2014

February 28, 2014 Posted by | Corporate Welfare, Corporations | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Life Is Too Short”: Typical American Worker Would Need 244 Years To Match CEO’s Annual Salary

The average CEO made $9.6 million in 2011, even as workers’ wages remained stagnant and unemployment hovered nationally around 8 percent. Chief Executive Officers are being paid at the highest-ever rate since the AP started tracking the figure in 2006, according to a new report from the news organization.

But while CEOs may be reaping the rewards of higher profits and a growing stock market, very little of that achievement spreads as far as the average worker — or even the company’s stockholders:

Profit at companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index rose 16 percent last year, remarkable in an economy that grew more slowly than expected.

CEOs managed to sell more, and squeeze more profit from each sale, despite problems ranging from a downgrade of the U.S. credit rating to an economic slowdown in China and Europe’s neverending debt crisis.

Still, there wasn’t much immediate benefit for the shareholders. The S&P 500 ended the year unchanged from where it started. Including dividends, the index returned a slender 2 percent.

As the AP noted, “the typical American worker would have to labor for 244 years to make what the typical boss of a big public company makes in one.”

Growing CEO pay is contributing to the larger trend of increasing income inequality — CEO pay increased 127 times faster than the average worker pay over the last 30 years, and the average Fortune 500 CEO made 380 times what the average worker did last year. Fortune 500 companies made a record $824 billion in 2011.

By: Annie-Rose Strasser, Think Progress, May 25, 2012

May 26, 2012 Posted by | Income Gap | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Corporations Are Very Rich People”: Record $824 Billion Last Year As Conservatives Claim Obama Anti-Business

A favorite conservative attack on President Obama is that his policiesand even his personality — amount to an assault on American businesses. “President Obama himself is the most anti-business presidentin my lifetime. With rhetoric not befitting a president he has attacked oil companies, banks, airplane users, Wall Street and anyone who makes money,” wrote Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association.

However, according to the latest data, President Obama has been very good for America’s biggest businesses. Last year, in fact, the Fortune 500 made a record $824 billion, topping the previous record set before the Great Recession:

The Fortune 500 generated a total of $824.5 billion in earnings last year, up 16.4% over 2010. That beats the previous record of $785 billion, set in 2006 during a roaring economy. The 2011 profits are outsized based on two key historical metrics. They represent 7% of total sales, vs. an average of 5.14% over the 58-year history of the Fortune 500. Companies are also garnering exceptional returns on their capital. The 500 achieved a return-on-equity of 14.3%, far above the historical norm of 12%.

Of course, that return to pre-recession level earnings hasn’t translated into job or wage growth for America’s workers. In fact, inflation-adjusted wages fell last year. Big companies are also squeezing more productivity out of their workers, with annual revenue generated per worker increasing by more than $40,000 over the last five years. CEO pay, meanwhile, increased 15 percent last year.

This data also puts the lie to the Republican claim that corporate tax cuts will spur businesses to hire. If all it took were extra cash, businesses would be hiring like crazy. However, they are clearly not doing so — and the effective corporate tax rate is already at a forty year low.

 

By: Pat Garofalo, Think Progress, May 7, 2012

May 8, 2012 Posted by | Corporations | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Eric’s Zombie Lie”: Cantor Says It’s Time To Tax The Poor

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor justifies his latest big tax break for millionaires by dragging out an old, big lie.

CANTOR: We also know that over 45 percent of the people in this country don’t pay income taxes at all, and we have to question whether that’s fair. And should we broaden the base in a way that we can lower the rates for everybody that pays taxes. […]

KARL: Just wondering, what do you do about that? Are you saying we need to have a tax increase on the 45 percent who right now pay no federal income tax?

CANTOR: I’m saying that, just in a macro way of looking at it, you’ve got to discuss that issue. […] I’ve never believed that you go raise taxes on those that have been successful that are paying in, taking away from them, so that you just hand out and give to someone else.

Let’s just do this again, debunk that zombie lie. The more than 45 percent of people who “don’t pay income taxes” don’t pay federal income tax because they’re too poor!They pay federal payroll taxes. They pay sales taxes in most states. They pay a larger share of their income in taxes than rich people do. And they are students, and disabled people, and the elderly who don’t have income.

And you know who doesn’t pay income tax? Two dozen Fortune 500 companies that avoided corporate income taxes altogether in 2011.

And Eric Cantor says that we need to take even more money away from poor Americans and give it directly to “those that have been successful.” That’s the Republican version of redistribution of wealth.

10:57 AM PT: The Cantor NASCAR/NFL owners tax break just passed, 235-173. Ten Republicans voted no, one voted present, and 10 Democrats voted for it.

 

By: Joan McCarter, Daily Kos, April 19, 2012

April 19, 2012 Posted by | Taxes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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