JOIN US Union Square Park, 11:00 AM on Friday April 15th for Sounds of Resistance, Concert and Protest of BoA.
President Obama's deficit plan shows why we must educate, organize and mobilize to make this OUR economy and not a bankster economy.
The President Misses an Opportunity to Get the Country on the Right Course
Obama’s Deficit Plan Starts at the Center Right; Where Will He End Up?
By Kevin Zeese
President Obama announced the outlines of his deficit plan, leaving a lot up for negotiation. He planted his poll at the center right and where he ends up, with his history of compromising to bring right wing Republicans and Democratic corporatists together, can only be worse.
I was pleasantly surprised to see groups that usually side with Obama even criticizing him. True Majority/US Action wrote “Obama wants to cut $4 trillion, but not $1 from the Pentagon,” in their headline. They go on to point out that “President Obama today proposed reducing the deficit through almost $800 billion in cuts.” They correctly point out that the country needs jobs not deficit cuts, and if cuts are going to be made they should not be made in domestic programs where funds are needed but in the military writing: “Over half of the money Congress makes decisions on goes directly into the Pentagon’s pocket, and that doesn't count the money for actual wars. But instead of cutting the Pentagon budget, Obama is proposing over $700 billion in cuts to programs that benefit the poor, seniors and children, while only trying to save $400 billion on war and weapons.”
When there are no real cuts for the Pentagon, just slower growth, it means that the rest of discretionary spending will face real cuts. Everything from education to the environment, health care to safety will be cut and every American will feel it.
When it comes to taxes, the president is seeking small increases on the wealthiest. A critical part of solving the economic problems in the United States, not just the deficit problems, is fixing the dramatic upward shift of income and wealth to the economic elite. The corporate cronyism of the last three decades has left the middle class, working class and poor with few resources, but the wealthiest have become gluttonously rich.
The vast majority of the income gains in the United States over the last three decades have gone to the richest 5% of the population with the greatest gains in the top 0.5%. This funneling of wealth to the top came as a result of policies that were explicitly designed to redistribute income upwards beginning with President Reagan’s “trickle down economics” and continuing with the Bush tax cuts and the Obama/Bush Wall Street bailouts. In fact, during the economic expansion from 2002-2007 the top 1% captured two-thirds of income growth. Now, the top 1% has 70% of the wealth of the nation. To balance the budget, the government needs to go where the money is. As a result, it is far more appropriate to tax the richest that have prospered then to cut essential services for the broad middle class which has suffered.
The funneling of wealth to the top has been due to tax payer subsidies, tax breaks and corporate welfare to concentrated corporate interests and tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. This is a major source of the national debt. From 2001-2008, tax cuts for the wealthy cost the U.S. Treasury $700 billion, all adding to the national debt.
There are 7,500 households in the United States with annual incomes over $20 million. Over the last two and a half decades, this is the group that has profited from a tax system designed to favor the wealthiest. America’s highest earners – the top 400 – have seen their share of income paid in federal income tax plummet from 51.2% in 1955 to 16.6% in 2007, the most recent year with top 400 statistics available. Congress should boost the top tax rate to 50% on annual incomes over $5 million and to 70% on incomes over $10 million. This would generate an additional $105 billion annually, going a long way toward getting our fiscal house in order.
Last week the Institute for Policy Studies issued a report, Unnecessary Austerity, Unnecessary Shutdown, which showed that austerity was not really needed. The report pointed out “we're not broke. Not even close. The United States of America is awash in wealth. Our corporations are holding record trillions in cash. And overall individual wealth in the United States, the Credit Suisse Research Institute reported this past fall, has risen 23 percent since the year 2000, to $236,213 per American adult.” They point to five tax revenue reforms that could raise a total of as much as $4 trillion over the next decade. The vast majority of Americans would see no tax increase from any of these reforms:
• Establish several higher income tax brackets for millionaires: $60-$80 billion a year
• Scrap overseas corporate tax havens: $100 billion a year
• Introduce a modest financial transaction tax: $150 billion a year
• Revamp the estate tax to include progressive rates: $25 billion a year
• End preferential treatment for income from dividends and capital gains: $88 billion
The largest caucus in Congress, the Progressive Caucus, put forward an alternative budget as well. The CPC Budget would balance the budget by 2014 and create a budget surplus by 2021. And, they were also able to reduce the deficit by $5.7 trillion from 2012 to 2021. They do not do this with magic, they achieve these goals with common sense – they go to where the money is the wealthiest Americans and corporations that have profited from government programs, the military and security state apparatus that spends 66% of federal discretionary spending and by getting the economy growing again.
These are the types of taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations where President Obama should have started the discussion. It he had taken this approach and seriously cut the military budget he would surpass the deficit cutting goals of even the most extreme Republican and provide enough money to build a clean energy economy that would be sustainable for the 21st Century.
That brings me to my final point, health care. Rep. Paul Ryan has made destruction of Medicare the centerpiece of his deficit cutting plan. Medicare is the most cost-efficient part of U.S. health care that covers everyone over 65 years old. Ryan is seeking to give it to the insurance industry and funnel trillions of dollars to them. Sadly, this builds on the mistake of President Obama’s health care bill. Rather than building on a successful public health program, Medicare, Obama and the corporate Democrats decided to further entrench the insurance industry. The hundreds of millions in annual tax subsidies they will get from ObamaCare are not enough. Their appetite for profits is unquenchable, now they want trillions by privatizing Medicare and Rep. Ryan is trying to sell it for them. On its face the proposal is absurd: how do you save money by putting in place a middleman who takes 15% to 20% of the funding of health care for its profits, executive salaries, advertising and investments in property and other profit centers? Ryan would leave seniors with insufficient funds to pay for health care.
On health care another Democratic loyalist got it right in reaction to the budget debate. Robert Reich wrote pointedly: Mr. President: Why Medicare Isn't the Problem, It's the Solution. He points out facts that every American paying attention should know. The U.S spends “more on health care per person than any other advanced nation and get less for our money. Yearly public and private healthcare spending is $7,538 per person. That's almost two and a half times the average of other advanced nations.” He points out a few more nuggets about the failed American health care system:
- America spends $30 billion a year fixing medical errors - the worst rate among advanced countries.
- Administrative costs eat up 15 to 30% of all healthcare spending in the United States. That's twice the rate of most other advanced nations.
- A third of nursing hours are devoted to documenting what's happened so insurers have proof.
And, how is Medicare the solution? Well first off, many economists correctly point out that health care is the driver of deficits at the state and national levels of government for the foreseeable future. Cutting Medicare funding does not deal with any of the underlying problems in the U.S. health care system it just results in seniors having less health care. Reich points out: “Estimates of how much would be saved by extending Medicare to cover the entire population range from $58 billion to $400 billion a year. More Americans would get quality health care, and the long-term budget crisis would be sharply reduced.” Improved Medicare, expanded to cover everyone is the solution to the U.S. health care crisis it results in lower costs, better coverage and better health outcomes for everyone in the United States.
Once again President Obama has missed an opportunity to get the country on the right track. And, if his previous negotiations with the Republicans are a measure of the likely outcome, his already weak proposal is going to get worse – worse for the middle class, working class and poor. The military, security state and wealthy – they will be fine.
Kevin Zeese directs Its Our Economy, www.ItsOurEconomy.US. Join us on April 15th in New York City for a concert and protest, Sounds of Resistance, in Union Square Park at 11:00 AM.
Money For Healthcare Not Bankers
Join Us Union Sq. Park, NYC, at 11:00 for Concert and Protest at Bank of America, Sounds of Resistance
By Margaret Flowers
With the release of Senate Joint Resolution 10 this week, the picture is becoming clearer: unlimited spending for war, which profits concentrated corporate power, no new taxes on the extremely wealthy or corporations and austerity measures for the rest of us. We’ve seen similar budgets at the state level this year, tax breaks for the rich and funding cuts for human needs, especially health care.
S.R. 10 limits federal spending to 18% of GDP. This means that when the economy is down, federal spending will be down. This is the opposite of what we as a people require, as Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz asserts. In times of hardship, there is a greater need for public health insurance, nutrition support and unemployment benefits. Without these social supports, the human toll will be significant and the economy cannot quickly recover.
We know the solutions to our nation’s problems: end the wars and require the wealthiest and corporations to pay their fair share, then use tax dollars for human needs to fund national single payer health care, green jobs, public education and transportation, break up the big banks, and democratize our economy and political process. We can’t achieve meaningful change until we shift power away from concentrated corporate interests to the people.
It is eerie to know that Abraham Lincoln saw this day coming:
“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war.” (In a letter written to William Elkin less than five months before he was assassinated)
Concentrated corporate power is dangerously in charge and it is up to us to change that. Corporate power controls the political process and the corporate media message. The masses are manipulated into voting against their own self interest. We must shift political power to meet the demands of the people.
It is time to take to the streets. We cannot shift power by simply voting or lobbying or sending an angry email to our president. There will be no positive change on any issue of importance in this country like quality health care, education, and jobs and a clean environment until we are willing to step up our activity. We must take to the streets and wield our economic power (the little that we have left) to close down Big Finance, which includes the health insurance industry.
As a pediatrician, I dream of the day when all children in our nation are able to live a healthy life and reach their highest potential. We must address all causes of social and economic injustice to make this come true.
I am very excited about the concert, “Sounds of Resistance,” in Union Square Park on Friday, April 15th at 11am and the protest to follow at Bank of America. This event is being sponsored by a broad coalition of organizations and people. This is what it will take to make change: solidarity. We must unite in our struggles. They are all connected.
Bubbles of resistance are popping up all across the country and we may be approaching the tipping point. If you can’t be in NYC on the 15th, then hold your own action or make a donation to support the New York action. Visit www.ItsOurEconomy.us to learn more and sign up to get involved in future events. I’ll see you in the street!
Pulitzer Prize Winning Writer, Chris Hedges Explains Why He is Attending the "Sounds of Resistance" Concert and Protest
“The banks and Wall Street, which have erected the corporate state to serve their interests at our expense, caused the financial crisis. The bankers and their lobbyists crafted tax havens that account for up to $1 trillion in tax revenue lost every decade. They rewrote tax laws so the nation’s most profitable corporations, including Bank of America, could avoid paying any federal taxes. They engaged in massive fraud and deception that wiped out an estimated $40 trillion in global wealth. The banks are the ones that should be made to pay for the financial collapse. Not us. And for this reason at 11 a.m. April 15 I will join protesters in Union Square in New York City in front of the Bank of America.”
Where: Union Square Park, New York, NY
When: 11:00 AM
Who: The People Angry at Big Finance!
Why: To Organize to End Foreclosures, Break Up the Big Banks and Demand they Pay Their Share of Taxes
More information: Below and www.ItsOurEconomy.US
Sounds of Resistance are Growing Join Americans Fed Up With Big Finance
Americans Across the Country are Joining the Culture of Resistance – You Are Needed!
By Kevin Zeese
Are you tired of big banks making record profits, paying giant executive salaries and bonuses and then cooking the books so they avoid paying taxes? We are. And, we are responding. Join us.
On April 15 in Union Square Park in New York City at 11:00 AM we are holding a “Sounds of Resistance Concert” and protest against the big corporate banks that have undermined the U.S. economy and displaced families from their homes. Big Finance has taken more than a trillion from the Department of Treasury and Federal Reserve to pay for their casino gambling on Wall Street but they are still forcing people out of their homes, not lending to small businesses and choking the economy.
The concert will feature political hip-hop/rock powerhouse Junkyard Empire with special guests Broadcast Live and Sketch the Cataclysm. Chris Hedges will speak about the growing culture of resistance. Other performers and speakers are invited.
The protest will include a picket of the Union Square Bank of America – a major culprit in the great rip off of the American taxpayer.
This concert and protest are part of the effort to build the urgently needed movement to shift power to the people and away from concentrated capital interests.
Stop Foreclosures: The last two years saw record foreclosures with one out of seven houses in the U.S. behind in their mortgage payments. A total of 3.8 million foreclosure filings and actual bank repossessions topped 2.8 million in 2010, a 2% increase over 2009 and a 23% increase over 2008. This record is likely to be broken in 2011. The housing market is so bad that now there are reports of banks walking away from houses in foreclosure, leaving problems in communities.
Pay Fair Share of Taxes: Big banks are not paying taxes, while reaping tax payer bailouts. Bank of America did not pay any federal income taxes in 2010. The largest bank in America didn't pay federal income taxes in 2009 either. If Bank of America paid their fair share of taxes, planned cuts of $1.7 billion in early childhood education (Head Start & Title 1) would not be needed. Bank of America avoids paying taxes by using subsidiaries in offshore tax havens. To eliminate their taxes, they reinvest proceeds overseas, instead of bringing the dollars home, thereby undermining the U.S. economy and avoiding federal taxes. Big Finance, like Bank of America, contributes to record deficits that are resulting in massive cuts to basic services in federal and state governments.
Break Up the Big Corporate Banks: If banks are “too big to fail” then they are too big. They dominate the economy and the political system. Ten huge banks now control 60% of the economy. They ensure concentration of capital and concentration of political power. Because of the federal government’s protection of the big banks, small and moderate sized banks cannot compete. Failure to break up big corporate banks ensures their dominance of the economy and the government. As Senator Dick Durbin said about the banks controlling the senate, in a moment of honest frustration, “they own the place.” It is time for the people to take back ownership of government and politics.
It is urgent that Americans organize, and stand up to the concentrated political/economic power and greed of the financial elite. Join us on April 15 to be part of a people-powered movement that reigns in the power of concentrated corporatism and builds the power of all Americans. Get involved now as we take the steps needed to build a movement that cannot be stopped.
Join us in New York City on April 15, 2011 at 11:00 in Union Square Park.
Kevin Zeese is executive director of Prosperity Agenda.
We need to raise $5,000 for this event to pay for the sound sytem, stage and signs. Please make a contribution now. You can contribute by clicking here.