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The Big Lie that is Behind the Trump/GOP Tax Bill

Absent union pressure, the bosses will never raise wages

 

There is a Big Lie underlying the $1.5-trillion Trump/Republican Congressional tax bill. That lie — the kind that is so brazen its purveyors hope it will simply be accepted as truth — is that when corporations get their big tax break, they will pass much of it on to workers in the form of higher wages, and perhaps to consumers in the form of lower prices.

How do I know it’s a Big Lie? Basic economics and history.

Let’s take care of the consumer economics argument first. Prices in the US, at least in those parts of the economy that are still competitive, are based on the law of supply and demand. Anyone selling a product or service will charge a price that maximizes profits, and that price is determined by buyer demand. Up and down the chain from suppliers to manufacturers to distributors to retailers, this system works itself into the final product offered to consumers. At no point in that chain does management say, “Hey, we’re paying lower taxes this year. We should cut the price on our widgets and pass the benefits along.” Why would they? They’ve already learned what customers are willing to pay for their widgets, and know the magic point where a higher price starts to reduce demand to the point that it is counter-productive, and they’ve also learned how much cutting the price will increase sales and where further cuts just mean selling the same number of widgets but at a lower price. And those two boundary points don’t change just because taxes — a cost of doing business — get lower. Far better to pocket that extra money for the benefit of management or for the shareholders.

Striking Amazon workers (only a strong militant labor movement has ever made bosses raise wages)Striking Amazon workers (only a strong militant labor movement has ever made bosses raise wages)
 

But what about wages? There’s this faery tale being told by Republicans and by President Trump (a businessman known for being tight-assed when it comes to paying staff, and even for stiffing people whenever possible, besides for "grabbing pussy" when available) that if businesses got a big tax break, they’d use at least some of it to offer their employees higher wages.

Does anyone really believe that? If that were the case, why would the corporate world and outfits like the US Chamber of Commerce be fighting tooth and nail as they have been against every effort in cities and states across the country, and in Congress, to raise in the pathetic $7.25/hour minimum wage (a wage that has not gone up since back in 2009 at the depths of the Great Recession!)? The truth is corporate America loves the starvation level of the minimum wage because they use various taxpayer-funded welfare programs — Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Food Stamps, WIC and the like — to actually subsidize their workforce for them so they don’t need to offer workers a living wage.

Finding myself twice as old as my son

 
 
I am 66, he 33.
This will never happen again.

He is catching up with me.
If he lives to be 1000

And I am still alive,
I will be 1033.

By that time
California will be a desert.

But we will sit in an old growth forest
In what used to be Alberta

And we will talk about things
That would only interest 1000-year-old men.

Not health, because
We would have mastered the health-thing.

No, we will talk about dreams
And yogurt and colors.

Also, we won’t be using words
But whistles, like the birds

Who will, I like to imagine, flourish
After the Climate Crash of 2053.

I will smile and look into his craggy face
And he will see how much I love him.

And I will see his love for me.
I really like having an old soul!

It makes it easy to see beyond
And feel OK with the possibility that

Things may not get better
For a long, long time.
 
--Gary Lindorff

Net Neutrality Has Been Ended by the Trump FCC, But You Can Help Combat the Dangerous Impact For Sites Like This

A call to our readers

 

Dear readers of ThisCantBeHappening!:

Despite the best efforts of grass-roots organizers to defend the principle of net neutrality, an ideologically driven Federal Communications Commission, now led by a majority of Trump appointees, has voted to end the rule guaranteeing equal access to the internet for all websites and users. Even worse, as the McCarthy Era-style witch-hunt claiming a vast conspiracy by Russia to "undermine faith in American democracy" continues, the huge oligopolistic internet companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft and others that control the web are working to actually censor what appears on it, and to limit the searchability of sites like this one.

We cannot point to hard evidence of this, but can say that since this kind of campaign began, our daily hits have fallen by 50%. Coincidence? We doubt it. Other progressive websites large and small are reporting similar impact on their readership.

Attacks on the free flow of news and information are overt, like the Trump administration's latest order to ban certain words and concepts in federal reports and studies, like: fetus, science-based, evidence-based, transgender, diversity, vulnerable and entitlemens. But attacks are also being done in secret, both by the government and by powerful private companies.

This is a request for you, our readers, to help us fight back by spreading the word on your own about this site. In a few days, hopefully, we will be adding buttons at the end of our stories that will allow you to easily use Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Stumbleupon and other social media vehicles to promote stories that you think are important to people you think should be reading them. This will get around the problem of people not being able to find them through simple searches.

In the meantime, please note that once you click on any story on the homepage of ThisCantBeHappening!, there is at the bottom of each page of any story the icon of an envelope with the words: "send by email." By clicking on that icon, you are brought to a page that allows you to list three email addresses at a time (per hour!), separated by commas, and to send a short message explaining why you are forwarding the link to the story.

Please do this everytime you read a ThisCantBeHappening! article you appreciate. The more people you alert to our work, the more our readership will grow, despite the growing threat of censorship.

Stupidity and Blindness Have Destroyed Whatever Democracy the US Ever Had

Republicans and Democrats are the problem

 

Okay, somebody has to say this, so it might as well be me.

The American political system exists as it is because of two reasons:

1. The majority of Republican voters are either incredibly ignorant or are simply incredibly selfish, and

2. The majority of Democratic voters are so blinded by their fear of Republicans that they will vote for the most puerile, manipulative, deceitful, greedy and/or feckless candidates, as long as they are Democrats, and will re-elect them even after having been betrayed by them time and time again.

There, I’ve said it.

Reason number one is why we currently have Donald Trump for president. The man cannot hold a train of thought for the ten or 15 seconds it takes to express it or to type it into a Tweet, lies so often I don’t think he even knows when he’s doing it half the time, and has no moral core. And yet a solid third or more of American voters think he’s just great. And even though all his policies are damaging the very people — the poor, forgotten white working class — that he likes to highlight as being his main concern, those people, who are now at risk of losing their subsidized health insurance available under Obamacare, their Medicaid, their Supplemental Security Income checks (available to the disabled and to children and young single parents left in need by the death of a working parent/spouse) and the protection against predatory lenders afforded by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), continue to back him, and will likely vote for him in 2020.

Reason number two is why, despite proof that the Democratic Party leadership and its pre-annointed 2016 presidential candidate preference Hillary Clinton, worked hand-in-glove to steal the nomination from Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and his tens of millions of supporters last year, and despite the knowledge that that same corrupt leadership is hard at work now blocking progressive efforts to democratize the next Democratic primary, and to run real progressives as candidates for House and Senate in 2018 instead of more of the same corporatist hacks, Democratic voters will submissively cave in as always and vote for those same lackluster and corrupted corporatists, either handing wins to Republican opponents, or electing/re-electing ineffective, self-aggrandizing hacks.

The Pentagon, world's largest office building, surrounded by parking lots for the warmakersThe Pentagon, world's largest office building, surrounded by parking lots for the warmakers
 

The Shadow of Smuts on Trump's Jerusalem Declaration

Trump's Destructive Decision on US Embassy move

 
Protest art in the Orange Farm settlement of South Africa circa 2014. LBWPhotoProtest art in the Orange Farm settlement of South Africa circa 2014. LBWPhoto
 
U.S. President Donald Trump and Jan Smuts, a former prime minister of South Africa are politicians from two different eras who share two things in common.

Actions by Trump and Smuts, while separated by several decades, prompt many people in America and South Africa respectively to use the same word to describe each leader: racist.

And, Trump, like Smuts, has acted decisively on behalf of Israel.

Trump has created a “racially hostile climate” the President of America’s oldest civil rights organization, the NAACP, noted recently.

The actions of Smuts and other white supremacist leaders in South Africa over a century ago triggered the creation of the African National Congress (ANC) in 1912, three years after the formation of the NAACP in America. A long-time leader of the ANC was Nelson Mandela, the legendary activist/statesman.

Recently President Trump smashed decades of American policy with his declaration that recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In the early 20th Century Jan Smuts played a pivotal role in laying the foundation for the creation of Israel.

Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem received applause in Israel by top governmental officials and citizens alike. Trump received Israeli accolades despite the fact that a few months ago Trump publicly praised Israel hating Neo-Nazis after that rampage by racists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump proclaimed his declaration was “the right thing to do” irrespective of the fact that it flouts international law that has opposed Israeli occupation of Jerusalem since 1967. Trump said his declaration was simply a “recognition of reality.” Trump critics point out the ‘reality’ of Israel’s control of Jerusalem is tied to decades of the U.S. providing Israel with military aid, financial support and diplomatic backing that strengthened Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Time to Organize a Mass Movement in Defense of Social Security and Medicare for All

Call to (locked) arms

 

Now that it looks like President Trump and the Republican Congress will succeed in ramming through the most regressive tax bill (not “reform” bill as the media keep slipping into calling it) in the history of the income tax, it’s time to gear up for the real battle — a battle that calls for not more lame Soros-funded, Democratic Party-led “resistance,” but rather a deadly serious mass movement to defend and expand Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and what remains of federal welfare assistance.

The Republicans have made it clear that their claim that this tax bill, in slashing taxes on corporations and the rich, will “pay for itself” through supposed higher economic growth is bogus and that the real goal is to, as conservative strategist Grover Norquist once put it, “to shrink government down to the size that we can drown it in the bathtub.”

But make no mistake, the Republicans aren’t talking about shrinking the biggest drain on the federal budget — the military — which consumes 54% of each year’s discretionary budget. No, they’re talking about cutting social spending, or in other words the key elements still left from Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal (the Social Security program) and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society (Medicare and Medicaid).

This campaign will be based upon a lie which the corporate media tend to repeat uncritically: that Social Security is “bankrupt” and more importantly that it is the main cause of the nation’s $20-trillion deficit (soon to be a $21.5-trillion or higher deficit after the new tax law works its magic). In fact, Social Security benefits are, always have always been and will through 2019 continue to be fully funded by payments made into the program by past and current workers’ FICA payroll taxes. The program has over its 81-year history contributed exactly nothing to the federal deficit. Rather, that deficit is the result primarily of the nation’s massive military budget and endless series of wars and cold wars since the end of World War II, as well as to a gutless Congress that continually adds to to the red ink by refusing to fully fund government programs, preferring to borrow and push the costs onto future generations. (Truth to tell, Congress has since World War II cravenly used borrowing from the Social Security Trust Fund to finance US wars without having to raise income taxes to pay for them.)

The strategy for going after what Republicans scornfully (and Democrats ignorantly and lazily) deride as “entitlements” such as Social Security and Medicaid, are actually earned benefits that workers have, over their lifetimes, paid for with taxes taken from both their paychecks and from their employers, is to claim that the government just can’t afford these programs anymore.

XX

Sad Truth

 
We’re not going to get rid of Trump
because Trump is an archetype.
Trump was already here
long before we voted him into office.
He was more like a transparent pink bear
but he was here,
filling up tons of space,
being bombastic
throwing his weight around,
baiting us in dreams that we repressed,
letting us know there were big holes in our dystopia,
the Benighted States of America.
He, or his aura, were around
swimming across the screen of everyday.
Long before the Republican Party
made him magically appear in the flesh
he was a big floater in our eye.
(But this floater is a bitch, man!)
And you know what the doctor says
when you get a floater?
“You’ll get used to it.”
And aren’t we? Getting used to being bullied,
lied to? Used? Impotent?
Used to living on the edge,
used to feeling ashamed
used to being shocked by our own sheepishness.
Emergency after emergency after emergency!
The pink bear, the annoying floater,
call it Trump, or whatever you want.
Call it the new reality show of shows,
call it the ubiquitous traveling circus,
the new all-day all-night show.
Call it the last act in the theater of fools
where there is no curtain
and no exits, and there is some guy
shouting “Fire!” ”Fire!”
And everyone looks straight ahead with knitted brows.
But relax, it’s just a dream.
It’s just a poem.
It’s just another daydaydaydayday. . . .
 
 
--Gary Lindorff

The US Government Requirement that RT-TV Register as a ‘Foreign Agent’ is a Threat to Our Press Freedom

Suddenly, I’m a ‘Russian agent’

 

For a number of years now, I have been periodically interviewed as a source or a commentator on news programs and as an occasional panel participant on RT TV, the Russian government-funded English-language television station. For the past year, I’ve been paid a small amount for my work.

Effective Monday, November 13, something changed, though. RT suddenly became a “registered foreign agent.” The Russian government-funded news service, which has its headquarters in Washington, with bureaus in several other US cities, filed the required papers under protest — the only foreign news service operating here that is required to do so — and said it intends to sue. Russia is also retaliating and will be requiring some US news organizations operating in Russia, including Voice of America, to similarly register as foreign agents.

This means that as of two weeks ago, I have been working, at least on a minimal basis of perhaps one short 5-10-minute interview per week, for a “foreign agent.”

The US government, a lot of heavy-breathing members of Congress, and the bulk of the corporate media in the US at this point are suggesting that journalists like me are at best “useful idiots” helping to promote Russian propaganda in the US — propaganda that our government claims is designed to sow discord among the citizenry and to undermine support for American democracy. Why, RT has been accused of such heinous behavior, according to former National Security Director James Clapper, as “promoting a particular point of view, disparaging our system, our alleged hypocrisy about human rights, etc.”

Scary stuff, huh? Clapper, during a Congressional hearing into Russian evil-doing in the US, even accused RT of airing debates by third-party presidential candidates during the 2016 campaign — something the corporate media for years has dutifully refused to do in what I guess they consider a patriotic defense of our two-party system.

XX

Pathetic as the case against RT may be, I’ve been the butt of jokes by liberal friends who say that I’m a “Russian agent” because they’ve bought the spurious argument that Russia “hacked” the US election and delivered us a Trump presidency. I wonder though, how many such Americans have ever actually watched RT-TV. I suspect it’s very few. First off, it’s not that easy to see it on your TV, since most cable and fiber-optic television bundlers leave it out of their packages, as they also leave out the Al Jazeera English Channel option, in response to pressure from the government. If they did watch it — which you can and should do at least to check it out at RT-America and at RT.com (the international edition) — they would find shows hosted not by Russians, but by American journalists, many of them well known names like Larry King, Ed Schultz, Jesse Ventura and Chris Hedges. A number of these people are working for RT because they were either sacked by US media outlets, like Schultz at MSNBC or had a planned program cancelled like Ventura, also at MSNBC, or left in disgust like Chris Hedges, a veteran war reporter for the NY Times.

Comparing Medical Care in Britain and the US

The UK's National Health Service up close and personal

 

In late September, AmerisourceBergen, one of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical distribution companies with revenue of $150 billion, was fined $260 million by the US Food and Drug Administration for emptying pre-filled glass syringes of expensive cancer drugs and reloading the drugs, in slightly smaller doses, into cheap plastic syringes before distributing them to oncology centres. For years, the company allegedly pocketed the profits obtained by creating and selling 10 per cent more pre-dosed syringes in this manner. Prosecutors claimed that because the refilling process was not conducted under sterile conditions, it led to ‘floaters’ and bacterial contamination, putting at risk the health of thousands of cancer patients with compromised immune systems.

Earlier this year, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit, based on evidence from a whistleblower, against UnitedHealth Group, the largest provider of subsidised private medical insurance for the elderly, accusing it of overcharging the government by more than $1 billion, by claiming patients were sicker than they actually were.

The FBI estimates that fraud, both private and public, accounts for up to 10 per cent of total US healthcare expenditure, or about $350 billion, of the annual $3.54 trillion that Americans spend on healthcare. The scale of medical fraud in the UK is still small by comparison, but some of the companies that have paid huge fraud fines in the US – including UnitedHealth, McKesson, Celgene and the Hospital Corporation of America – are becoming increasingly involved in NHS privatisation schemes, in accordance with the government’s wishes.

The Health and Social Care Act pushed through by Andrew Lansley as health secretary in 2012 was intended to increase privatisation, outsourcing, inter-regional competition and ‘marketisation’ in an already strained system. There is little sign that it is improving services or reducing costs, but private firms see profits to be made.

The John Radcliffe NHS Hospital where the author spend five days last summerThe John Radcliffe NHS Hospital where the author spend five days last summer
 

My wife and I flew to the UK last summer to see our daughter receive her DPhil at Oxford. On arriving, I found myself increasingly short of breath. Within a few days I was having difficulty, for the first time in my life, walking up gentle slopes or climbing a flight of stairs. A private doctor whom I consulted found my blood oxygen level to be only 91 per cent – a reading one might expect of a person suffering from pneumonia. He also detected fluid in my right lung and swelling in my ankles. He referred me to the John Radcliffe Hospital’s ambulatory assessment unit the next day. For the time being, he said, I could forget flying home.

After years of negative articles in the US media about overworked doctors, cursory exams and brusque support staff, I wasn’t expecting wonders from the NHS. But my experience was quite the opposite…

To read this article in full, please please click here to go to the London Review of Books.

'Manufacturing Consent' Co-Author and Media Critic Ed Herman Dead at 92

His critique of US media still resonates

 

Edward Samuel Herman, who died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 92 on Nov. 11, didn’t just cry out “fake news” like so many politicians and media pundits do today referring to stories that they object to. Rather, he explained why so much of the news in the US is and has long been fake and how the seemingly independent system of news organizations go about creating it, almost as if they were operating under the direction of some government of propaganda.

The co-author (actually the primaryauthor, as his non-alphabetical top billing on the cover makes clear) with Noam Chomsky of the ground-breaking 1988 book Manufacturing Consent, Herman, a professor of economics in the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, devoted much of his career to exposing the lies and distortions of the US media. But unlike most media critics, he took his critiques much deeper, explaining how the US media, especially since the end of World War II, have actually come to function as an unofficial Ministry of Truth, creating a false narrative of the US as a benevolent, democratic promoter and defender of freedom around the world, even as it has actually become the world’s greatest purveyor of violence, defender of tyrants and transgressor of international law.

Ed Herman, 1925-2017 RIPEd Herman, 1925-2017 RIP
 

I first got to know about Ed through his writings in publications like Lies of Our Times and Extra!, but especially because of Manufacturing Consent, a touchstone of any serious modern media criticism. After reading that book for the first time 15 years after I had begun my career as a journalist, I suddenly understood exactly why I had become alienated from my employers — both in newspapers and television — that I had to quit working as a staff journalist and become a freelancer after just seven years in the business. When I would find my best stories killed by editors, or buried on inside pages, I used to blame it on the gutlessness or idiocy of individual editors, not realizing that it was a systemic problem, bigger than individual editors or even individual news corporations.

Herman and Chomsky explained what I had, before reading their book, never quite realized: that what I was doing in reporting and writing news articles, was not at all the product of the industry I worked for. I was merely a cog in the machine helping them to harvest the real product, which is “eyeballs” — the readers or viewers of my work — which they could then sell to advertisers. Viewed in that light it became clear why our employers wanted us journalistic workers to focus on stories that had drama and controversy but that didn’t make readers feel overly angry or depressed, and they certainly didn’t want stories that offended major advertisers or, god forbid, entire industries or government regulators.

Realizing that, like a scythe or a threshing machine on a farm harvesting wheat, as a staff journalist I was just a tool, a cog, part of a machine on the media plantation harvesting eyeballs, and not a creator and a crusading tribune of truth, was a profound awakening.

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Here's the link to prairie radio radical Mike Caddell's Radio Free Kansas program, where you can hear the podcast of the whole group interview that was conducted on Saturday, May 8.

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by Dr. Radut