Originally Published: 2/24/2018
Corporate Welfare: The average American family pays about $6,000 a year subsidizing big business. “That’s over and above our payments to the big companies for energy and food and housing and health care and all our tech devices. It’s $6,000 that no family would have to pay if we truly lived in a competitive but well-regulated free-market economy.” [Emphasis added.] That’s an average. Lower income families pay less; millionaires pay a lot more. Paul Buchheit, writing at Common Dreams back in 2013, compiled all the evidence for this claim - but it’s years old so the current reality may be worse, especially considering the recent tax cuts. Here’s how it breaks down. (1) The Cato Institute estimated that the federal government spends $100 billion a year on corporate welfare. That’s about $870 a year per family. (2) About $80 billion for business incentives at the state, county, and city levels works out to about $696 a year. (NY Times) (3) About $83 billion in subsidies to banks is about $722 a year. (Huffington Post) (4) Bank fees on retirement funds is about $350 a year. (Economic Policy Institute) (5) $270 billion a year from government-granted patent monopolies costs taxpayers about $1,267 a year. (Center for Economic and Policy Research) (6) About $100 billion a year, or about $870 per family, is given in corporate tax subsidies. (Government Accountability Office) (7) About $1,231 a year compensates the federal government for revenue losses from tax havens for corporations and wealthy individuals. (U.S. PIRG) In the meantime, corporations have doubled their profits and cut their taxes more than in half while cutting millions of jobs. Think about it and remember this data is from 2012 and 2013 and we just gave corporations another tax break.
But That’s Not All: Think about Walmart and MacDonalds paying their employees so little that they qualify for SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, and other support programs. That’s a subsidy. (Washington Post) All of this is increasing the income inequality. Money is being transferred from average Americans to corporations and the wealthy. I encourage you to look at the graph from the LA Times that changes from 1971 to 2011 showing the astronomical increase at the top - taken from the bottom.
Russian Investigation: On Tuesday the special counsel charged Alex van der Zwaan, a London lawyer, with making false statements regarding communications he had with Rick Gates (TWW, Manafort & Gates, 11/4/17) “about work done in Ukraine” 6 years ago. “Mr. Gates was a longtime business associate of Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, and followed him into the campaign. Both have been charged by the special counsel with money laundering and violations of tax and lobbying laws and have pleaded not guilty.” (NY Times) Later that day van der Zwaan pleaded guilty. (Washington Post)
Manafort & Gates: The special counsel unsealed new charges against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. (TWW, Manafort & Gates, 11/4/17) Manafort is accused of “hiding income and defrauding banks.” The charges against Gates are similar. “The original indictment did not explicitly bring tax charges, an omission that experts predicted” that Robert Mueller, “would ultimately correct.” The new indictment “gives prosecutors more options.” (NY Times) Gates pleaded guilty to “conspiracy and lying to the FBI, striking a deal to cooperate and provide information” to Mueller’s ongoing investigation.” (Washington Post) But, according to Roll Call, Gates admitted to a 2013 meeting which was “part of a secret multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign for the Ukrainian government and its Russian-back president Victor Yanukovych,” with Paul Manafort and “an unnamed member of Congress.” This is getting good.
Keith Schiller: He was one of Trump’s closest associates (TWW, The Firing, 5/13/17) “when he abruptly left his job as director of Oval Office operations in September.” He has received $75,000 from the Republican National Committee (RNC) “under a contract to assess security at possible 2020 GOP convention sites.” According to the Washington Post, “The payments, including $30,000 disclosed in a new filing this week, put Schiller back in the spotlight at a time when he may be of interest to investigators regarding his knowledge of intimate actions involving Trump.”
Israel: Benjamin Netanyahu’s “closest and longest-serving aide” has agreed to become a government witness in the cases involving charges of corruption against him. (TWW, Israel, 2/17/18) “As the revelations mounted, one on top of another like a tottering tower, Israelis expressed increasing doubt about Mr. Netanyahu’s ability to maintain his grip on power.” (NY Times)
North Korea: Trump announced more sanctions on North Korea. (NY Times)
Alabama: A county sheriff has been caught pocketing more than $110,000 worth of “excess” taxpayer dollars his office received to feed inmates in the county jails between 2014 and 2016. And another county sheriff paid a teenager to mow his law in 2015 “using checks that drew from funds that were allocated for inmate food but ended up in one of his personal accounts.” (AL.com)
Arkansas: Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza dismissed Monsanto’s lawsuit to overturn the state ban on dicamba. (TWW, Dicamba, 9/30/17) Piazza cited a recent Arkansas Supreme Court decision “which held that the state cannot be made a defendant in court.” The ban on dicamba will remain. (Truth-Out)
California: The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a Ninth Circuit of Appeals decision upholding the state’s 10-day waiting period for firearm sales. The only dissenting vote was Justice Clarence Thomas. The District of Columbia and 8 other states have similar laws. The Supremes also rejected a challenge by the National Rifle Association to a state law “that imposes a fee on firearm sales and transfers and uses some of the money to track down illegally owned weapons.” (Washington Post)
Missouri: Governor Eric Greitens (R) was indicted on a felony invasion of privacy charge. Greitens allegedly threatened a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair “by saying he would distribute” a nude photo he secretly took of her “if she exposed the relationship.” (Washington Post)
Pennsylvania: The state supreme court released its new congressional map (TWW, Pennsylvania, 2/10/18) “and it gives Democrats a shot at picking up as many as 6 congressional seats in the state.” (NBC)
Texas: The Needville Independent School District superintendent, Curtis Rhodes, “is warning that students will be suspended if they cause any disruptions to protest gun violence.” (The Hill) I suppose he’s referring to the students who protested at the Florida state capitol in Tallahassee (see below). (Washington Post)
Russian Interference: Now that everyone has had time to read and ingest the indictment against 13 Russians (TWW, 2016 Election, 2/17/18), we’ve got a better idea of what the charges are. David Smith at the Guardian has a great summary. It says the plot involved “stolen identities, fake social media accounts, rallies organized from afar, U.S. citizens duped into doing Moscow’s bidding, and 2 Russians going undercover in a ruse reminiscent of The Americans, a TV drama about KGB spies in suburban Washington during the cold war.” It’s also a “figurative” indictment of Facebook and Twitter, “for handing Russia a weapon to turn against the America people.” The NY Times also has a good piece on how “unwitting” Americans encountered Russia’s propaganda. Look at the Facebook post I’ve got here. Smith wrote: “The unprecedented Russian offensive began in 2014 with an aim to ‘sow discord’ and evolved, for still unknown reasons, into a concerted attempt to help Trump.” 12 of those indicted worked for the Internet Research Agency. The 13th is Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin, a St. Petersburg businessman “dubbed ‘Putin’s chef’ because his restaurants have hosted the Kremlin leader and foreign dignitaries.” All 13 are not in custody and will probably never have to face to trial. So, why indict them? Probably because it sets the stage for the indictment of the Americans who colluded with them. The Guardian also has a great synopsis of “key questions.”
Foreign Agents: RIA Global, a U.S.-based Russian news outlet, has registered as a foreign agent with the Justice Department. It is the 4th Russian-linked media company to do so since November “under pressure from the U.S. government.” RIA Global produces content for news outlet Sputnik. “The registration revealed an intention to promote to some extent the Kremlin’s view.” Reston Translator, a Virginia-based radio broadcaster of Sputnik, registered as a foreign agent in November, as did T&R Productions which does the programming for RT Network, “a TV broadcaster funded by the Russian government.” (Reuters)
Net Neutrality: 20 Democratic attorneys general initiated a lawsuit to preserve net neutrality, “the same day the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published its rule striking the regulations in the Federal Register.” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is leading the charge. Mozilla and Vimeo have also filed suit. (The Hill)
Protests: Since the Standing Rock protests, 56 bills have been introduced in 30 states to restrict protests. And the “crackdown” on journalists and activists has intensified. (The Nation)
Parkland Shooting: The recent shooting in Parkland, Florida (TWW, Another Shooting, 2/17/18) has been in the news all week. That’s novel. We usually scream for a week and then everyone shuts up and forgets about it. I guess this time it’s different. Parkland school survivors have been on the move and announced that they will lead a nationwide demonstration to demand action on gun control. (Independent) CNN held a town hall in Florida’s capital, Tallahassee. AlterNet has a good synopsis of the event. The big takeaways from the event are Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s (R) “repeated humiliation” (AlterNet) and NRA’s spokesperson, Dana Loesch’s, unbelievable responses. (Think Progress) And Trump held a “listening” session at the White House with surviving students. You can see how interested he was in really hearing them in this photo of his “cheat sheet.” (Washington Post) Stephen Colbert had a very moving monologue about the kids’ actions. (You Tube)
Bump Stocks: Trump announced that he has signed a memorandum “directing Attorney General Jeff Session to propose regulations to ban ‘bump stocks’ and other devices that turn semiautomatic firearms into ‘machine guns.’ (TWW, Regulating Guns, 10/7/17) He didn’t say anything about assault weapons. (Washington Post) According to George Zornick at The Nation, it’s “going nowhere.”
Gun Control: Quinnipiac University did a new poll and found that American voters support stricter gun laws by 66%, “the highest level of support ever measured” by Quinnipiac. Even among gun owners there was a 50% support, 62% among white voters with no college, and 58% among white men. 97% support a mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases and 67% support a nationwide ban on assault weapons. This is in agreement with a Washington Post/ABC poll which found that 60% of Americans blame Congress and Trump for not doing enough to prevent mass shootings. The NRA, however, is blaming the media and gun-control advocates. (Washington Post) The Atlantic did a statewide analysis and found that states with the most gun laws have the fewest gun-related deaths.
Whistleblowers: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that whistleblower protections, as passed by Congress in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, “apply only when those alleging corporate misdeeds bring their information to the government.” The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act “did not cover those who brought allegations only to their employers and not to the Securities and Exchange Commission.” (Washington Post)
Fake Clinics: Crisis pregnancy centers, “fake clinics that use anti-choice propaganda to dissuade people from seeking abortion care,” are being funded with taxpayer dollars. They will receive “an unprecedented $40.5 million in taxpayer dollars from 14 states this fiscal year - even as lawmakers in those states slash funding for public health initiatives and increase requirements for people with low incomes to access public assistance programs.” The states are Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. (Rewire)
Infant Mortality: According to UNICEF, the risk of a newborn dying in the U.S. is only slightly better than the risk for newborns in Sri Lanka and Ukraine. Babies born in Japan, Singapore, and Iceland stand the best chance of survival, while those born in Pakistan, Central African Republic, and Afghanistan face the worst odds. The risk is closely linked to a country’s income level, but varies enormously by place.
United Technologies: If you remember, in December 2016 Trump cut a deal with Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies, to save 700 jobs in Indiana, even though the CEO admitted that most of those jobs would still go offshore eventually. (TWW, Carrier, 12/10/16) Then it came out that, as of April 2017, United Technologies had received 15 new government contracts. (TWW, Offshoring, 4/29/17) I guess this was their price for making Trump look good. But it hasn’t stopped. United Technologies just received another $2.5 billion Pentagon contract without any competition. (Washington Post)
Chiquita: The banana giant settled lawsuits “accusing it of being responsible for the decades-old deaths of 5 Central Florida missionaries and an Alabama geologist during Colombia’s bloody civil war.” That was 20 years ago. The plaintiffs “accused the company of violating the federal Anti-Terrorism Act by funding a Colombian rebel group that is blamed for the deaths of thousands in the war-torn country.” (Palm Beach Post)