Friday, June 5, 2015

The News that's NOT on Cable News — June 2015 Edition

* EDITOR'S NOTE: A wealthy man's public debut as a woman on the cover of Vanity Fair is being praised as bravery, while also being criticized by others — and this "news" has dominated much of the cable news. So here are a few headlines (some, with short blurbs) that you might have missed while being fixated on Caitlyn Jenners well-publicized transformation...

In one post at the New York Times they are routing for Hillary Clinton, while bashing Senator Bernie Sanders: "Mrs. Clinton is far ahead in the polls, fund-raising and name recognition — and she is expected to continue to have a much more organized and sophisticated campaign operation in Iowa and nationwide than Mr. Sanders has. Her mix of centrist and progressive Democratic views may yet prove more appealing to the broadest number of party voters as well, while some of Mr. Sanders’s policy prescriptions — including far higher taxes on the wealthy and deep military spending cuts — may eventually persuade Democrats that he is unelectable in a general election."

As a rebuttal to that post in the New York Times, in a post from Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, they write: "It sounds like it’s the New York Times that’s hoping to persuade Democrats that Sanders is unelectable ... The idea of raising the taxes of the rich is quite popular with the U.S. public ... Cutting the military budget isn’t as popular as taxing the rich, but it’s by no means unpopular."

From another post in the New York Times: "In the last two decades the Democratic Party has moved substantially further to the left than the Republican Party has shifted to the right."

In one of several letters to the editor as a rebuttal to that New York Times post, they write: "It was the Clinton administration’s severe bump to the right that was out of line, not the Democratic Party’s realignment back to it roots ... Bottom line: Republicans have moved far to the right; Democrats have returned to their traditional roots."

In yet another post at the New York Times, they write that polling shows Americans on both sides of the aisle strongly support an overhaul of campaign finance law, with 85 percent saying the system should be either fundamentally or completely changed and 54 percent agreeing that campaign contributions are not a form of free speech (something Senator Bernie Sanders fully supports).

PoliticusUSA: Senator Bernie Sanders is often characterized by the media as an out of the mainstream presidential candidate, but a new CBS/New York Times poll revealed that 80% of Republicans agree with Sanders on the issue of getting money out of politics.

Daily Kos: NBC's Seth Meyers to Bernie Sanders: "A lot of things you believe, the majority of Americans believe."

From the Roosevelt Institute: (the organization that advocates for FDR's values): A New York Times/CBS poll shows that, contrary to the popular narrative that concern over inequality divides along partisan lines, the majority of Americans—rich and poor, men and women, Republicans and Democrats—all agree that income, opportunity, and influence are unfairly concentrated at the top — and that these disparities are growing. Furthermore, most Americans support government action to address this structural inequality and rewrite the rules of our economy.

Also from the Roosevelt Institute: Why Workers Aren’t Sharing in the Corporate Wealth: A recent paper shows changes in corporate finance and governance, and explains why firms are sinking more and more money into stock buybacks instead of investing in their long-term performance.

From The Nation (a post about a fake FDR economic populist with my italics) "[Hillary] Clinton has unmistakably moved to the left. She voiced support for a $15 minimum wage and she has flirted with the idea of debt-free college ... She also backed a constitutional amendment to Citizens United and has frequently talked up the problem of income inequality ... She neglected to endorse the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal (though she hasn’t opposed it, either). And her first big campaign speech later this month will be deliberately tied to the legacy of FDR. There’s still considerable skepticism of Clinton’s desire to become a true populist, particularly among liberal donors — and she hasn’t said much so far about truly taking on and reforming the financial sector."

Also from The Nation: "Why I’m Ready—and Excited—for Hillary. I’m excited about beating the Republicans, and she’s the best candidate for that job. Even Bernie Sanders recognizes that, which is why, after making stirring speeches that will push her to talk more about inequality, poverty, and campaign-finance reform, he will endorse her ... Second, Hillary will be the first woman president—and that is important ... Third, Hillary is a feminist and is running as one."

Mother Jones: According to her digital director, this video is now officially Elizabeth Warren's most watched video.

CEOs, the very rich, what's left of the middle-class, and the very poor.

Salon: The psychology of greed: 3 attitudes that explain the worst behaviors of the 1 percent. Research reveals the upper-class tend toward narcissism — and their sense of entitlement may actually be growing.

Subsidizing the Idle Rich While Poor Kids Go Hungry: Politicians are slashing taxes for folks who dine on caviar while making it harder for the needy to put food on the table.

A Tech Boom Aimed at the Few, Instead of the World (New York Times) New high-tech services are helping people on the lowest rungs of the top 1 percent live like they are in the top 0.1 percent.

The Factors That Lead to High CEO Pay: The annual Executive PayWatch CEO compensation report from the AFL-CIO finds that chief execs last year took home 373 times the paycheck income that goes to the average American worker, up from 331 times in 2013. A year-long study by the London-based High Pay Center concludes the corporate executive “performance pay” doesn’t “encourage or reward good business performance.” What does performance pay do? Nothing more than “make executive pay packages more complex, less aligned with the interests of the company, and much, much bigger.”

In a new Wall Street Journal op-ed, Billionaire investor Warren Buffett believes any big boost to the minimum wage “would almost certainly reduce employment in a major way.” Buffett’s answer to poverty: deprive the tax base with less tax revenues (and forcing cuts in the government's budget) by expanding the earned income tax credit — the tax code provision that uses tax dollars to supplement the pay of workers at Walmart and other low-wage employers.

According to a harrowing New York Times report, Disney laid off 250 employees last October, forcing them to successfully train their lower-paid replacements (temporary migrants from India) in order to access their severance packages. These were good, talented workers, many of which had recently received bonuses and raises. There was no mythical "skills gap" at Disney.

Business Insider: Former Hewlett-Packard chairman Ralph Whitworth invited 400 of his pals to a private show performed last month by none other than the legendary Rolling Stones. The band just happened to be in town for a public concert at the local ballpark. The private affair set Whitworth back a reported $2 million.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Wall Street’s most lavishly paid banking exec, berated shareholders (who voted against his latest pay package) as “lazy.” Dimon’s diatribe came a week after his bank pled guilty to conspiring to manipulate currency prices.

New York Times: On Manhattan’s Upper East Side, hedge fund managers and investment bankers now reward their stay-at-home wives with “performance-based” bonuses.

The Washington Post: The richest 5 percent of Americans hold 63 percent of the nation’s wealth. The poorest 60 percent hold 3 percent of that wealth. Between 2003 and 2012, new IRS stats show, the average income tax rate paid by America’s bottom 99 percent rose from 9.6 to 10.4 percent. In the same years, the tax rate paid by the top 0.001 percent — Americans making over $62 million in 2012 — fell from 20.6 to 17.6 percent. But still, low-income Americans give three times more of their income to charity than high-income Americans.

Too Much Online: In the United States, top corporate execs sometimes make more in an hour than their workers can make in a year. At Mondragon, one of Spain's largest companies, no execs can make more in an hour than their workers make in a day. (Related Post) L.A. Times: The right way to measure CEO pay has nothing to do with 'shareholder value'.

Wall Street on Parade: In this year’s graduation season, no university may be honoring plutocrats more lustily than NYU. Last month the university's administrators made a special tribute to hedge fund billionaire John Paulson, a big-time NYU donor who made $1 billion conspiring with Goldman Sachs to rig a 2007 subprime mortgage deal. A group of some 400-odd faculty at NYU are charging that school administrators have “lost touch with the moral, educational, and student needs of the university” and “are running NYU as a tyrannical slush fund for privileged interests.” A new report from the group, The Art of the Gouge, reveals that skyrocketing tuition and fees “have some students sleeping on park benches while the university buys lavish condos.” The best way to nab your dream job out of college? Be born rich.

Not long after World War II, the president of General Motors, then America’s most powerful corporation, asked Congress to lower the tax rate on income over $200,000 to 50 percent. Congress would not oblige. The nation’s top tax rate would float over 90 percent throughout the 1950s. That 90 percent rate seems unimaginable today. What made it imaginable — and possible — in the middle of the 20th century? Too Much editor Sam Pizzigati tells the fascinating story in The Rich Don’t Always Win (The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class), his gripping history of the triumph over America’s original plutocracy.

Forget 9-9-9, Progressives and Workers Should Back 10-10-10. For too many working Americans, paid sick leave, vacation days, and paid holidays are just a dream, but it doesn't need to be this way.

Besides the real news, here are some notable quotes that you may have also missed while riveted to the Caitlyn Jenners story.

  • “If you’re rich and you’ve got a lovely house, you need to have nice things to hang on the wall.” ~ Andrew Shirley, luxury analyst, after a Picasso expected to fetch $140 million in auction sold for $179 million, May 12, 2015
  • “Life is too short for bad coffee.” ~ Richard Hardwick, the marketeer of a brew made from Sumatran beans that retail at $500 a cup, New TV series on billionaire cuisine, Express, May 13, 2015
  • “Some argue that in taking steps to reduce inequality, governments would be picking winners and losers. The thing is, governments already do that. The people sitting on billions today ended up where they are thanks to public policies that allowed that to happen.” ~ Andrew MacLeod, Seven Things You Need to Know about Inequality, The Tyee, May 19, 2015
  • “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” ~ A chat room comment by a Barclays bank v-p in New York, quoted by federal prosecutors announcing that five major banks have pled guilty to currency fraud felonies, May 20, 2015
  • “The challenge of journalism today is to survive in the pressure cooker of plutocracy.” ~ Bill Moyers, speaking at the Helen Bernstein Book Awards for Excellence in Journalism, New York Public Library, May 26, 2015

Misc. Links

Daily Kos: The new Bridge-Gate shitstorm breaking over Christie's head.

A video at MSNBC: A panel of experts discusses how we can improve and expand Social Security and other social insurance programs to strengthen the safety net for all generations, including young people. [My link here]

(The absurd) In 2012 Rep. Allen West (R-Florida) claimed 78 to 81 Democrats in Congress were members of the Communist Party. He was referring to the Congressional Progressive Caucus (which also includes Bernie Sanders).

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