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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

“How Change Happens”: Don’t Let Idealism Veer Into Destructive Self-Indulgence

There are still quite a few pundits determined to pretend that America’s two great parties are symmetric — equally unwilling to face reality, equally pushed into extreme positions by special interests and rabid partisans. It’s nonsense, of course. Planned Parenthood isn’t the same thing as the Koch brothers, nor is Bernie Sanders the moral equivalent of Ted Cruz. And there’s no Democratic counterpart whatsoever to Donald Trump.

Moreover, when self-proclaimed centrist pundits get concrete about the policies they want, they have to tie themselves in knots to avoid admitting that what they’re describing are basically the positions of a guy named Barack Obama.

Still, there are some currents in our political life that do run through both parties. And one of them is the persistent delusion that a hidden majority of American voters either supports or can be persuaded to support radical policies, if only the right person were to make the case with sufficient fervor.

You see this on the right among hard-line conservatives, who insist that only the cowardice of Republican leaders has prevented the rollback of every progressive program instituted in the past couple of generations. Actually, you also see a version of this tendency among genteel, country-club-type Republicans, who continue to imagine that they represent the party’s mainstream even as polls show that almost two-thirds of likely primary voters support Mr. Trump, Mr. Cruz or Ben Carson.

Meanwhile, on the left there is always a contingent of idealistic voters eager to believe that a sufficiently high-minded leader can conjure up the better angels of America’s nature and persuade the broad public to support a radical overhaul of our institutions. In 2008 that contingent rallied behind Mr. Obama; now they’re backing Mr. Sanders, who has adopted such a purist stance that the other day he dismissed Planned Parenthood (which has endorsed Hillary Clinton) as part of the “establishment.”

But as Mr. Obama himself found out as soon as he took office, transformational rhetoric isn’t how change happens. That’s not to say that he’s a failure. On the contrary, he’s been an extremely consequential president, doing more to advance the progressive agenda than anyone since L.B.J.

Yet his achievements have depended at every stage on accepting half loaves as being better than none: health reform that leaves the system largely private, financial reform that seriously restricts Wall Street’s abuses without fully breaking its power, higher taxes on the rich but no full-scale assault on inequality.

There’s a sort of mini-dispute among Democrats over who can claim to be Mr. Obama’s true heir — Mr. Sanders or Mrs. Clinton? But the answer is obvious: Mr. Sanders is the heir to candidate Obama, but Mrs. Clinton is the heir to President Obama. (In fact, the health reform we got was basically her proposal, not his.)

Could Mr. Obama have been more transformational? Maybe he could have done more at the margins. But the truth is that he was elected under the most favorable circumstances possible, a financial crisis that utterly discredited his predecessor — and still faced scorched-earth opposition from Day 1.

And the question Sanders supporters should ask is, When has their theory of change ever worked? Even F.D.R., who rode the depths of the Great Depression to a huge majority, had to be politically pragmatic, working not just with special interest groups but also with Southern racists.

Remember, too, that the institutions F.D.R. created were add-ons, not replacements: Social Security didn’t replace private pensions, unlike the Sanders proposal to replace private health insurance with single-payer. Oh, and Social Security originally covered only half the work force, and as a result largely excluded African-Americans.

Just to be clear: I’m not saying that someone like Mr. Sanders is unelectable, although Republican operatives would evidently rather face him than Mrs. Clinton — they know that his current polling is meaningless, because he has never yet faced their attack machine. But even if he was to become president, he would end up facing the same harsh realities that constrained Mr. Obama.

The point is that while idealism is fine and essential — you have to dream of a better world — it’s not a virtue unless it goes along with hardheaded realism about the means that might achieve your ends. That’s true even when, like F.D.R., you ride a political tidal wave into office. It’s even more true for a modern Democrat, who will be lucky if his or her party controls even one house of Congress at any point this decade.

Sorry, but there’s nothing noble about seeing your values defeated because you preferred happy dreams to hard thinking about means and ends. Don’t let idealism veer into destructive self-indulgence.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, January 22, 2016

January 24, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Idealism | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Badly In Need Of Some New Talking Points”: Rubio Needs A New Excuse To Ignore The Climate Crisis

As recently as two years ago, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) made his favorite case for doing absolutely nothing about the climate crisis. First, the far-right senator argued “government can’t change the weather,” suggesting the Floridian’s understanding of the issue lacked maturity.

But Rubio then added, “There are other countries that are polluting in the atmosphere much greater than we are at this point. China and India, they’re not going to stop doing what they’re doing.”

This year, the Republican repeated the talking point at a Koch brothers event: “[A]s far as I can see, China and India and other developing countries are going to continue to burn anything they can get their hands on.”

This rationale for simply allowing the crisis to continue with no American leadership at all was always bankrupt, but last week, it started collapsing in new ways. China, for example, announced its first-ever commitment to a cap-and-trade policy – a step Rubio and others on the far-right insisted China would never take.

And now India is taking steps of its own.

Under growing pressure to join in an international accord to battle climate change, India on Thursday announced its long-term plan to reduce its rate of planet-warming greenhouse gas pollution and to aggressively ramp up its production of solar power, hydropower and wind energy.

So, when Rubio said China and India are “not going to stop doing what they’re doing,” he had it largely backwards.

It’s important to emphasize that India’s announcement isn’t nearly as ambitious as it should be, and does not constitute a sweeping plan to curtail carbon emissions. That said, as the New York Times’ report added, “some environmental advocates praised the plan’s commitment to renewable energy and said that, if enacted, it could put India on track to reduced carbon emissions in the long run.”

And given that Republicans have insisted for years that China and India intend to do literally nothing about the crisis – a claim that the GOP has used an excuse to ignore the climate emergency – it seems the right is badly in need of some new talking points.

The Rubio campaign was asked to respond to these developments the other day. A spokesperson for the Republican senator responded, “Marco is opposed to cap-and-trade and other forms of a national energy tax. He has outlined concrete proposals that will help us seize our energy potential without increasing the reach of the E.P.A.”

The answer had nothing to do with the question, and Rubio’s position still doesn’t make sense.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 2, 2015

October 3, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Global Warming, Marco Rubio | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Telling Shift In Dynamics Of GOP Politics”: Why 2016 Is Different For The GOP; The Establishment Is Divided, The Base Is Mostly United

Billions of pixels have been spilled about Trump, Fiorina, the radical extremism of the GOP base and the fecklessness of Republican establishment candidates. But while numerous ad hoc explanations exist for the bizarre way the GOP primary is playing out, the simplest story is often the most overlooked. Traditionally, hardcore movement conservatives find themselves split over who will be the anti-establishment candidate, while the establishment usually unifies early and rolls over the top of the divided opposition.

In the 2012 campaign, establishment Republicans backed Mitt Romney early. Romney never had the backing of a clear majority of Republican voters. A number of anti-Romneys collectively had a majority of the vote against him, and even as they dwindled to just Gingrich and Santorum those two continued to outpoll Romney collectively. Had either stepped aside and delivered their voters to the other, it’s conceivable that Romney could have been defeated. But Romney limped forward to the finish line and the rest is history. A similar pattern elevated John McCain from a nearly defunct candidacy to the nomination in 2008, despite widespread opposition from the most conservative GOP voters.

This year that pattern is reversed. The establishment is divided among a bevy of uninspiring choices. The leading favorite until now has been Jeb Bush, but his unimpressive campaign performance has prevented him from coalescing support despite numerous advantages. The other GOP establishment picks from Rubio to Kasich to Walker have all had their challenges as well.

Meanwhile, of course, the Tea Party right has mostly fallen in behind Donald Trump, with a side of support for Carson. Where once the far revanchist right was divided and the corporate right was unified, now the reverse is true.

That’s partly a reflection of the corruption-fueled billionaire primary in which a variety of wealthy plutocrats can dictate their own terms, backing their own preferred candidates long after they would have normally bowed out. Party leadership no longer has the control of the moneyed establishment the way it once did; the Kochs and Adelsons fund whomever they please all the way to the convention.

It’s also the product of Trump’s singularly powerful understanding of the anti-establishment right’s desire not for a traditional presidential candidate, but someone who will declare war on the sort of cultural decency they view as “political correctness.”

It’s possible, of course, that the GOP will return to form and that the establishment will mobilize around a single candidate as conservatives split. But there’s no guarantee of it. Without that, we could easily see a Donald Trump nomination and a telling shift in the dynamics of Republican politics.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 20, 2015

September 22, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Bye-Bye Federal Criminal Justice Reform?”: Hard To Imagine GOP Congressional Leaders Bucking Their Base To Push Reform

There’s a powerful tendency in the chattering classes, impervious so far to contrary data, to think of Donald Trump as just a summer sideshow that will close down directly once the real candidates–you know, Jeb!–get in gear and Party Elites send down the word that the base has had its fun and now needs to get into line. You don’t have to think he’s actually going to get the nomination (and I still don’t, though I wouldn’t bet the farm I don’t have on it at this juncture) to understand he’s having an impact on the GOP and indirectly the country.

Most obviously, no Republican who wants to seriously compete for the nomination is going to get all loud-and-proud about comprehensive immigration reform, no matter what’s down there in the footnotes of their policy tomes.

But my biggest fear has been that Trump’s poisoning the well for criminal justice reform at the federal level, and Michael Grunwald shares it:

Criminal justice reform, a perennial lost cause for civil rights lefties, had its surprise bipartisan moment this year. Conservative Republican voices like anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and the Koch brothers led campaigns against mass incarceration and mandatory drug sentences. GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush has embraced the pro-reform Right on Crime initiative, while Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have co-sponsored reform bills with liberal Democratic senators.

But the Kumbaya reform moment may not survive the Summer of Trump.

After roiling the politics of immigration with jeremiads about border walls and Mexican rapists, Donald Trump has scrambled the politics of crime by running as a pro-cop, anti-thug “law-and-order” candidate, denouncing rioters in Baltimore and Ferguson, vowing to “get rid of gang members so fast your head will spin.” And as with immigration, his rivals are echoing his appeals to the angry id of their party’s white base, distancing themselves from bipartisan reform. Bush is now touting his own “eight-year record of cracking down on violent criminals” as governor of Florida, while attacking Trump as “soft on crime” because of his past support for Democrats and marijuana decriminalization. Candidates like Cruz and the usually Koch-friendly Scott Walker are also trumpeting their toughness on criminal justice issues, blaming President Barack Obama and the Black Lives Matter movement for recent attacks on police officers. In this climate, it’s even harder than usual to imagine GOP congressional leaders bucking their base to push reform.

Trump has been dismissed as a sideshow, but for now at least, he’s the main show.

I suppose it’s possible that a Republican presidential candidate or two will decide to get attention as someone who’s “fighting” Trump on this or that issue instead of positioning him- or her-self to inherit his support when whatever it is that’s supposed to strike him down finally happens. But I wouldn’t count on it, particularly on an issue–crime–that is more viscerally immediate to angry and frightened white people than immigration.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 14, 2015

September 15, 2015 Posted by | Criminal Justice Reform, Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Voters | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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