Economy & Business

Stiffing US Taxpayers on ‘Grand Scale,’ Fortune 500 Holding $2.6 Trillion Offshore

by Jake Johnson – “As Congress considers proposals to institute a near zero percent tax rate on profits booked offshore by multinational corporations, the findings in this report should give policymakers pause.” As President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress intensify their push for massive corporate tax cuts that critics have said would encourage businesses to offshore profits and jobs, a new report published Tuesday by U.S. PIRG and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) found that 73 percent of companies on the Fortune 500 list are already taking advantage of overseas tax havens—costing the United States $752 billion in federal tax revenue last year alone. The new study discovered that, in total, America’s most profitable corporations in 2016 had $2.6 trillion stashed overseas in over 9,000 subsidiaries in various locations, including notorious tax havens like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. Clark Gascoigne, deputy director of the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition, cautioned...

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Paul Krugman Gives Us Ten Republican Lies on Taxes

by teacherken – Modern conservatives have been lying about taxes pretty much from the beginning of their movement. Made-up sob stories about family farms broken up to pay inheritance taxes, magical claims about self-financing tax cuts, and so on go all the way back to the 1970s. But the selling of tax cuts under Trump has taken things to a whole new level, both in terms of the brazenness of the lies and their sheer number. Both the depth and the breadth of the dishonesty make it hard even for those of us who do this for a living to keep track. In fact, when I set out to make a list of the bigger lies, I thought there would be six or seven, and was surprised to come up with ten. That is how Krugman begins his New York Times blog for today (which is featured on the Opinion page of the Times website),...

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NAFTA Talks are Going Very Badly. Here’s What You Should Know

by E.A. Crunden – Mexico and Canada aren’t happy with U.S. demands. Efforts to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) aren’t going very well for the Trump administration. Talks between Mexico, the United States, and Canada stalled on Tuesday as trade negotiators clashed and exchanged barbs over steep U.S. demands. Both Mexico and Canada have indicated U.S. requests are too extreme, with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland accusing the United States of bringing a “winner-take-all mindset” to negotiations. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said by contrast that he was “surprised and disappointed by the resistance to change” displayed by his counterparts. That back and forth isn’t going away. Plans for a December deadline have been scrapped, and negotiations are now likely to stretch through March 2018. But it’s unclear whether any of that will help officials reach a consensus. Here’s why. How we got here All three North American countries entered...

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Senate Democrats Vow to Keep Arctic Refuge Out of the Hands of Big Oil

by Samantha Page – Republican lawmakers have said they will open the reserve to raise revenue for the federal budget. Democratic Senators are vowing to keep drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge out of the upcoming federal budget, as Republican lawmakers in both chambers have indicated they want to use revenue from drilling in the refuge to balance their budget proposals. They are proposing to open Area 1002 of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge — a 1.5 million-acre parcel that was not permanently protected in the 1980s, when Congress established the refuge. The sole mating ground for the porcupine caribou, Area 1002 is considered a pristine wilderness. “We’re not going to allow it to be opened,” Sen. Ed. Markey (D-MA) said Tuesday at a press conference. Opening the refuge is not expected to bring in much revenue, in the context of the $4-trillion overall budget. Recent analysis of the White House budget from the Congressional Budget...

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Trump’s Tax Plan Pitch Isn’t Working

by Rebekah Entralgo – A new survey finds 58 percent of Americans believe Trump’s tax plan helps the wealthy. President Trump and the rest of his administration would be the first ones to argue that his tax reform plan was “designed with the middle class in mind.” Unfortunately for the president, Americans don’t seem to be buying it. A CBS News Nation Tracker poll released Sunday found that nearly 58 percent of Americans believe the proposed GOP-Trump tax reforms, rolled out at the end of September, would favor the rich, with only 18 percent believing they would help the middle class. At campaign-style rally events — like the one in Pennsylvania last week –Trump has been attempting to sell his tax plan to working class Americans as the biggest tax cut in history. The president’s speech in Pennsylvania was specifically geared toward truckers, who Trump says will benefit greatly from tax cuts to corporations and...

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Why the Republican Tax Plan is More Failed Trickle-down Economics (VIDEO)

by Robert Reich – Trump and conservatives in Congress are planning a big tax cut for millionaires and billionaires. To justify it they’re using the oldest song in their playbook, claiming tax cuts on the rich will trickle down to working families in the form of stronger economic growth. Baloney. Trickle-down economics is a cruel joke. Just look at the evidence: 1. Clinton’s tax increase on the rich hardly stalled the economy. In 1993, Bill Clinton raised taxes on top earners from 31 percent to 39.6 percent. Conservatives predicted economic disaster. Instead, the economy created 23 million jobs and the economy grew for 8 straight years in what was then the longest expansion in history. The federal budget went into surplus. 2. George W. Bush’s big tax cuts for the rich didn’t grow the economy. In 2001and 2003, George W. Bush lowered the top tax rate to 35 percent while also cutting top rates...

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Promoting Renewable Future, Solar Companies and Nonprofits Rush to Puerto Rico

by Jessica Corbett – Promoting Renewable Future, Solar Companies and Nonprofits Rush to Puerto Rico As Congress on Thursday approved a $5 billion loan that will further burden the already bankrupt U.S. territory, various solar companies and nonprofits continued working together to offer aid to the storm-ravaged island while also promoting a more sustainable future and resilient energy system. On Thursday, the nonprofit Empowered By Light and Sunrun—the nation’s largest residential solar company—partnered with local leaders to install a 4kW solar array with battery storage at the Barrio Obrero fire station in San Juan. A second system will be installed at another fire station on Friday. More than 90 percent of the island’s power grid has not been restored since Hurricane Maria struck last month. The commonwealth’s power system was already hobbled by financial difficulties long before the hurricane devastated the island, and the federal government has been widely condemned for its slow and inadequatedisaster relief efforts. “It appears the federal emergency response is focused on diesel to...

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Taxpayers are Picking up the Tab for White Nationalists’ ‘free speech’ Rallies

by Luke Barnes – Security for Richard Spencer’s latest speech will cost half-a-million dollars. Campus officials at the University of Florida are preparing for white nationalist Richard Spencer to visit their campus next month — and are being forced to spend upwards of $500,000 to provide him with security. It’s the latest in a series of right-wing rallies which taxpayers and beleaguered universities are picking up the bill for. Spencer, fresh off leading another torch rally at Charlottesville, will travel to Gainesville, Florida on October 19th, despite the University not inviting him or wanting him to host his event there. “People are concerned for their well-being and safety,” senior Dwayne Fletcher told the Washington Post. “Gainesville will definitely have a different atmosphere in the days to come, and afterward, because of his presence.” According to the Washington Post, the university is also being forced to close several key medical centers, including surgery centers and...

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‘Great News for the Climate’ as Banking Giant Ditches Tar Sands, Arctic Drilling

by Andrea Germanos – Climate campaigners praise move by BNP Paribas, call on other banks to follow suit. In a move being hailed as a win for the climate, banking giant BNP Paribas announced Wednesday that it is severing ties with companies whose main business is connected to shale and/or oil from tar sands, will stop financing transportation projects for such fuels, and will not finance any oil or gas projects in the Arctic region. “In concrete terms,” writes Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, director and CEO of BNP Paribas, “these decisions mean that we will cease providing finance to a number of companies and organizations that are not making an effort to be part of the transition to a less greenhouse gas-emitting economy.” According to Lucie Pinson, Friends of the Earth France’s private finance campaigner, it’s “great news for the climate and a huge victory for the groups who have been mobilizing in support of Indigenous peoples...

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ACLU Sues Kansas Over ‘Unconstitutional’ Law Barring Boycott of Israel

by Jessica Corbett – The law, part of a wider pattern of targeting the non-violent BDS movement, decried as “attempt by the government to silence one side of a public debate”. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Wednesday filed a lawsuit to challenge a Kansas law that requires any company or individual who contracts with the state to sign a statement certifying that they are not actively engaged in boycotting Israel. “This law is an unconstitutional attempt by the government to silence one side of a public debate by coercing people not to express their beliefs, including through participation in a political boycott,” said ACLU attorney Brian Hauss. The law took effect July 1, 2017. The lawsuit could have sweeping consequences nationally. Kansas’ law is similar not only to laws adopted by other states but also to the Israel Anti-Boycott Act that has been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate. In July, the ACLU sent...

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Mobile Clinics Assume Greater Role in Preventive Care

by Scott Rodd – One afternoon last month, the Family Van stopped at the corner of Washington and Roxbury streets in Boston. The regulars had already formed a line, waiting in the lingering summer heat for the red and green RV to arrive. The Family Van, which is funded in part by Harvard Medical School, provides free blood pressure tests, HIV counseling and basic medical care to underserved neighborhoods across Boston. The van has been operating since 1992, and mobile health clinics like it have been around for decades, but they are assuming a more prominent role as the U.S. health care system places a greater emphasis on preventive care. Encouraged by incentives in the Affordable Care Act, health care providers and insurers are trying to treat health care problems before they turn into costly health crises. Mobile clinics are an effective way to reach patients who may forgo...

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How Chicago Gets its Guns (VIDEO)

by Mick Dumke – John Thomas set up the deal the way he had arranged nearly two dozen others. A friend said he wanted to buy as many guns as he could, so Thomas got in touch with someone he knew who had guns to sell. The three of them met in the parking lot of an LA Fitness in south suburban Lansing at noon on Aug. 6, 2014. Larry McIntosh, whom Thomas had met in his South Shore neighborhood, took two semi-automatic rifles and a shotgun from his car and put them in the buyer’s car. He handed over a plastic shopping bag with four handguns. None of the weapons had been acquired legally — two, in fact, had been reported stolen — and none of the men was a licensed firearms dealer. Thomas’ friend, Yousef, paid McIntosh $7,200 for the seven guns. He always paid well. Thomas did little...

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Why We Need Sanctuary Cities

by Robert Reich – California lawmakers have just passed “sanctuary state” legislation – the first state since Oregon, which 30 years ago passed a law preventing state agencies from targeting undocumented immigrants solely because of their illegal status. Other states should follow California’s and Oregon’s lead. Since January, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered immigration authorities to target “public safety” threats, federal arrests of undocumented immigrants have increased by over 37 percent. California is home to an estimated 2.3 million unauthorized immigrants. California’s law limits the authority of state and local law enforcers to communicate with federal immigration authorities, and prevents officers from questioning or holding people depending on their immigration status or immigration violations. But it still allows federal immigration authorities to enter county jails to question immigrants, and allow police and sheriffs to share information on people who have been convicted of serious crimes. This is a fair balance. Sanctuary...

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Americans Deepest in Poverty Lost More Ground in 2016

by Kristen Bialik – Although the overall U.S. poverty rate declined and incomes rose rapidly for the second straight year in 2016, many poor Americans fell deeper into poverty, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. The official poverty rate was 12.7% last year, close to its pre-Great Recession level (12.5% in 2007). This represents 40.6 million people in poverty. But categorizing people as below or above the poverty line is just one way of looking at economic well-being. The share of the U.S. poor population in severe poverty – defined by the Census Bureau as those with family or individual incomes below half of their poverty threshold – reached its highest point in at least 20 years. It was 45.6% in 2016, up from 39.5% in 1996. (The share of the total U.S. population in severe poverty has declined over the past two years, alongside the overall poverty rate.) Poverty thresholds,...

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A Federal Judge Declares That Current and Former Wells Fargo Executives Can be Sued for Their Fraud

by Walter Einenkel – A federal judge has decided that Wells Fargo’s current and former executives will have to face their shareholders’ lawsuit that demands that these executives be held personally liable for the fraudulent practices at the big bank. Those practices led to at least 3,500 lower-level management employees being fired and the bank settling a modest $185 million deal with the DOJ for creating millions of fake accounts in order to generate the perception of growth needed to make billions. That was followed up by a Wells Fargo settlement with the government for $1.2 billion for deceiving the government into insuring rap home loans. U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco told CEO Tim Sloan and the rest of his cronies that they were still on the hook and should have to face at least some music. “Where, as here, plaintiffs’ claims arise from a pervasive and undisputed fraud going to the core...

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DOJ Rescinds Policy Protecting Transgender People From Workplace Discrimination

by Zack Ford – Discrimination based on gender identity will no longer be considered discrimination based on sex. The Department of Justice will no longer argue that workplace protections on the basis of sex protect transgender people from discrimination. That’s according to a new memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions obtained by BuzzFeed Thursday. The new policy reverses a policy put in place in 2014 by then-Attorney General Eric Holder. The fundamental question is whether denying someone employment based on their gender identity (i.e. being transgender) constitutes discrimination on the basis of that person’s “sex,” as protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Holder held that trans people fall under that category, but Sessions has now reversed that and declared they no longer enjoy such protections. “Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se,” Sessions writes, according to BuzzFeed. Under his view, the law only covers discrimination between “men and...

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San Francisco, Oakland Are Suing Five Major Fossil Fuel Companies Over Climate Change

By Brianna Acuesta – They estimate that the costs will be in the billions. San Francisco and Oakland just became the first major U.S. cities to file a lawsuit against fossil fuel companies in an effort to hold them accountable for the effects of climate change that the two highly-populated cities have already begun experiencing. Both cities foresee major construction and damages in the near future that needs to be prevented or fixed, and they have pointed to Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, BP, and Royal Dutch Shell. These companies are among five of the biggest investor-owned fossil fuel companies. San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera and Oakland city attorney Barbara J. Parker each filed their own lawsuit on the same day, both citing that the fossil fuel companies have known about their part in climate change since at least the 1970s or 1980s. According to the lawsuits, the companies took this information, which was confirmed by outside...

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Trump Wants $1.6 Billion for the Border Wall. That Covers Just 74 Miles

by Jim Hightower – All this for a boondoggle project most Americans continue to oppose. How much of your money does Donald Trump want to pour into his xenophobic fantasy of erecting an impenetrable wall on our Mexican border? The big-businessman-turned-president insists he doesn’t care about costs — just build it! That seems to be a very un-businesslike approach, but then, it’s not his money, is it? For those of you who do care, one measure of what the total tab might be is that he’s demanding $1.6 billion from Congress to start construction. How much wall will that buy? Seventy-four miles. Now, how long is that U.S.-Mexican border he wants to seal off? One thousand, nine-hundred miles long. Tony Webster / Flickr So, $1.6 billion down — and only 1,826 miles to go. And let’s not even get into the cost overruns, fraudulent billings, shoddy materials, and other scams that the...

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Peak Oil Demand is Near: General Motors Says the Future is ‘all-electric’

by Joe Romm – GM, Ford, and China strongly embrace electric cars, signaling trouble for Big Oil. “General Motors believes in an all-electric future,” Mark Reuss, GM’s head of global product development, announced in a corporate press release Monday. These are remarkable words for a company that has become a global behemoth over the past century by making and selling tens of millions of cars, SUVs, and light trucks that run on liquid fossil fuels. When you add in plans from huge, fast-growing markets like China and India to quickly shift to EVs and end the sale of petrol cars, it’s clear that upending the car market will also upend the oil market. Reuss said GM would accelerate the transition to electric vehicles (EVs), with two new EV models coming out in 2018, and “at least” another 18 by 2023. On the same day, Ford Motor Co. announced it would release 13 new EV models in the next five years. The...

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IRS Rewards Equifax With Multi-million Dollar Fraud-prevention Contract After Massive Data Breach

by Luke Barnes – The breach exposed the personal data of more than 145 million Americans. Credit monitoring firm Equifax has been awarded a $7.25 million no-bid contract to help prevent fraud, despite the fact that the company is reeling from a security breach that exposed the personal data of more than 145 million Americans. The breach, which was discovered in July but not made public until September, is believed to be one of the largest identity thefts in American history. Credit card numbers, names, addresses, driver’s license and Social Security numbers were all exposed, enabling hackers to buy and sell the information over the internet for years to come. But despite this massive cyber-security lapse, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) still awarded the company a multi-million dollar contract on September 30 — the last day of the fiscal year — to “verify taxpayer identity and to assist in ongoing identity verification and...

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