News Release Archive - 2012

Why It’s So Hard to Get Off the “Fiscal Cliff”: Big Money and the 2012 House Elections

THOMAS FERGUSON [email]
PAUL JORGENSEN [email]
Ferguson is professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, senior fellow of the Roosevelt Institute, and contributing editor at AlterNet. Jorgensen is assistant professor of political science at University of Texas, Pan American and non-resident fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center at Harvard.

They are the authors, with Jie Chen, of “Revealed: Why the Pundits Are Wrong about Big Money and the 2012 Elections,” just out on AlterNet. Their piece is particularly timely as Congress debates whether and how to raise taxes and cut spending on the edge of the “fiscal cliff.” They write: “It is impossible to assess precisely the totality of money’s influence on the 2012 elections, but notions that it did not matter can be immediately dismissed. The evidence we have reviewed suggests exactly the opposite. … [A] virtual straight line relationship existed between Democratic candidates’ shares of total political money and their showing against their Republican opponents. …

“[We examined] spending differences between Democrats and Republicans in two types of races that should have had better than average chances of being winnable by both parties in 2012. The first involves districts in which a new Republican candidate won for the first time in the 2010 landslide; the other is the smaller subset of those races in which the GOP winner either ousted an incumbent Democrat or defeated a Democrat running in an “open seat” race. Both kinds of districts show heavy Republican advantages in average total spending compared to their Democratic opponents.”

Ferguson and Jorgensen observed today that a substantial portion of GOP funds came from groups like Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Works, or the Club for Growth that were critical of House Speaker Boehner’s “Plan B.” “The evidence is that these little piggies went to market,” Ferguson said. “The GOP problem is that they didn’t all go to the same market.” Jorgensen added that funds from such organizations “totaled many millions of dollars,” though he noted that reporting was not yet complete.

Kerry’s Judgement Questioned Because of Pro-War Vote

The New York Times is reporting: “President Obama plans to nominate Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts as secretary of state, a senior administration official said. He would succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton and become the first member of Mr. Obama’s second-term national security team.”

STEPHEN ZUNES [email]
Professor of politics and chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, Zunes said today: “John Kerry’s attacks on the International Court of Justice, his defense of Israeli occupation policies and human rights violations, and his support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq raise serious questions about his commitment to international law and treaty obligations. His false claims of Iraqi ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and his repeated denial of human rights abuses by allied government well-documented by reputable monitoring groups raise serious questions about his credibility. …

“Kerry’s vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq was not simply a matter of poor judgment. It demonstrated a dismissive attitude toward fundamental principles of international law, and disdain for the United Nations Charter and international treaties which prohibit aggressive war. Kerry revealed a willingness to either fabricate a non-existent threat or naively believe transparently false and manipulated intelligence claiming such a threat existed, ignoring a plethora of evidence from weapons inspectors and independent arms control analysts who said that Iraq had already achieved at least qualitative disarmament.” Zunes wrote the piece: “While Criticizing Implementation, Kerry Endorses Bush’s Unilateralist Agenda.”

SAM HUSSEINI [email]
Communications director for the Institute for Public Accuracy, Husseini said today: “Kerry’s reported nomination continues a pattern: Barack Obama, who originally got the Democratic nomination in 2008 based largely on his having given a speech critical of the Iraq invasion before it took place (though he didn’t have to vote on it) has without fail appointed individuals to top foreign policy positions who voted for or otherwise backed the invasion. This includes Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Robert Gates as well as Chuck Hagel, who is reportedly under consideration to head up the Pentagon. There were 23 senators and 133 representatives who voted against giving Bush authorization. Diplomats who resigned in protest against the invasion, such as Ann Wright, have remained outside of government — and critical of it.”

“Particularly noteworthy are the contortions individuals like Kerry have gone through. For example, when I questioned him in 2011 about voting to authorize the Iraq war, he said: ‘I didn’t vote for the Iraq war. I voted to give the president authority that he misused and abused. And from the moment he used it, I opposed that.’ [Video at WashingtonStakeout] However, a look at the record shows that after the Iraq invasion, Kerry did the opposite, outflanking Bush’s war stance in 2003: ‘I fear that in the run-up to the 2004 election the administration is considering what is tantamount to a cut-and-run strategy.'”

Background — John Kerry: “Why is Saddam Hussein attempting to develop nuclear weapons when most nations don’t even try? … According to intelligence, Iraq has chemical and biological weapons … Iraq is developing unmanned aerial vehicles capable of delivering chemical and biological warfare agents. …” (Oct. 9, 2002) See 2008 IPA news release: “Anti-War Candidate, Pro-War Cabinet?

Time For Plan C: Big Corporations Should Pay Fair Share In “Fiscal Cliff” Deal Say Business Leaders

Several business organizations released a joint statement saying it’s “time for Plan C: big corporations now dodging billions in taxes should pay their fair share. Forget Plan B tax breaks for those making $999,999 a year [and] cuts to Social Security.” Instead, they call on Congress and the president to close corporate tax haven loopholes “costing the U.S. Treasury $100 billion a year and raise corporate tax revenues above today’s historically low levels. … In 1952, U.S corporate income taxes accounted for 32 percent of federal revenues; last year this number was less than 8 percent.”

JOSEPH MAGID, via Bob Keener [email]
Magid is president of Gryphon Systems, a management consulting company in Wynnewood, PA. He said today: “With corporate profits at a 50-year high and corporate taxes as a share of the economy at a 50-year low, now is not the time to lock in low corporate taxes. Our country can not afford to keep giving tax breaks and loopholes to giant corporations at the expense of smaller businesses. Highly profitable U.S. multinationals should pay their fair share.”

SCOTT KLINGER [email]
Klinger, tax policy director of Business for Shared Prosperity, said today: “Corporate tax dodging is undermining our economy. It’s time for Plan C: revenue-raising corporate tax reform that calls upon our largest corporations to pay their fair share and once again invest in America, which has invested so much in their success.”

LEW PRINCE [email]
Managing partner of Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis, the Midwest’s largest independent music store, Prince said today: “You can dress up your profits in Bermuda shorts. But that doesn’t mean they’re not earned in America. We can’t afford revenue neutral corporate tax reform. There’s nothing neutral about big business tax dodging — it’s unpatriotic, plain and simple.”

RESHONDA YOUNG, via Joshua Welter [email]

Young, operations manager of Alpha Express, Inc., a family business that provides local, regional and national delivery service, based in Waterloo, Iowa, said today: “We’re not afraid to compete with the biggest delivery companies out there, but it needs to be a fair fight, not one in which big corporations use loopholes to avoid their taxes, stick our business with the tab, and rob our nation of the resources we need for a healthy economy.”

ERIC HENRY, via Bob Keener [email]
President of TS Designs, a T-shirt manufacturer in Burlington, NC, Henry said today: “Small businesses like mine put our money back into our operations which keeps jobs, investment and tax dollars right here in our own communities. The corporate tax code should not give incentives to U.S. multinational corporations to hide their revenues offshore and avoid paying their fair share.”

Background: More than 600 business owners and executives, including those quoted above, signed a letter sent by the American Sustainable Business Council, Business for Shared Prosperity and the Main Street Alliance to Congress and the president, saying they “want a tax system that is fair and provides sufficient revenue for the public services and infrastructure that underpin our economy. When powerful, large U.S. corporations avoid their fair share of taxes, they undermine U.S. competitiveness, contribute to the national debt and shift more of the tax burden to domestic businesses, especially small businesses that create most of the new jobs.”

“Fiscal Cliff” Deal: Are Big Oil’s Billions in Subsidies on the Table?

ANDY KROLL [email]
A reporter for Mother Jones magazine, Kroll recently wrote a piece on Bil Oil’s subsidies which states: “Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have argued that ‘everything should be on the table'” in any budget deal. “Yet notably absent from the debate over what to cut and what to spare in a deal are the tens of billions of dollars in subsidies, tax breaks, and other perks for the hugely profitable oil industry. …

“In case you didn’t quite believe it, yes, the U.S. government subsidizes Big Oil — shorthand for ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, and ConocoPhillips, five of the biggest oil companies. Many smaller drilling and refining companies up and down the supply chain receive subsidies, too. … The big-five corporations piled up profits of more than $1 trillion between 2001 and 2011. ExxonMobil alone raked in $16 billion in profits in April, May, and June of this year, the highest-ever quarterly profit for a U.S. corporation.

“Despite such staggering windfalls, the federal government continues to subsidize oil companies large and small. Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan government watchdog that wants to cut all energy subsidies, estimates that oil companies will receive $78 billion in industry-specific and broader business subsidies from 2012 to 2017. President Obama’s budget plan for the 2012 fiscal year called for eliminating 13 subsidies or perks for oil companies, which will save taxpayers $4.6 billion a year over the next decade. …

“In Congress, lawmakers ranging from hardline conservatives like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to dyed-in-the-wool liberals like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and plenty more in between, have called for eliminating oil subsidies. Even oil executives themselves have said in years past that they don’t need the subsidies. ConocoPhillips CEO Jim Mulva told Congress in 2010 that, ‘with respect to oil and gas exploration and production, we do not need incentives.’ …

“The American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry’s top trade group, has launched an advertising campaign pressuring seven senators in states with ties to oil and gas companies … to not cut subsidies.”

Congo: 5 Million Dead; Calls for Changing U.S. Policy

On Wednesday, the Armed Services Committee will have a hearing on the current situation in the Congo.

In a piece titled “The World’s Worst War,” The New York Times reported on Sunday: “Congo has become … one of the bloodiest conflicts since World War II, with more than five million dead. It seems incomprehensible that the biggest country in sub-Saharan Africa and on paper one of the richest, teeming with copper, diamonds and gold, vast farmlands of spectacular fertility and enough hydropower to light up the continent, is now one of the poorest, most hopeless nations on earth.”

MAURICE CARNEY [email]
Executive director of Friends of the Congo, Carney said today: “It is past time that the United States cease its support of strongmen in Africa, particularly Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda whose repeated invasions and support of proxy rebel militia inside Congo over the past 16 years has resulted in the death of millions of Congolese.”

DAVID WILEY [email] Wiley is professor of sociology at Michigan State University and chairperson of the militarization task force for the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars, which has just released a petition signed by over 200 Africa specialists calling on President Obama to:

– “Support a UN Security Council resolution requiring Rwanda and Uganda to immediately withdraw any support to the M23 armed group. …

– “Press the Congolese government to stop violations being committed by the Congolese army as well as entering into alliances with armed groups and fully implement Public Law 109-456: The DRC Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006 [This is a law that then Sen. Obama introduced and was signed in 2006]. …”

Is Obama About to Cut Social Security?

DEAN BAKER, ALAN BARBER, NICOLE WOO [email]
Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He is available for a limited number of interviews. Barber and Woo are communications director and director of domestic policy for CEPR.

Baker just wrote: “According to reliable sources, the Obama administration is seriously contemplating a deal under which the annual cost of living adjustment for Social Security benefits would be indexed to the chained consumer price index rather than the CPI for wage and clerical workers (CPI-W) to which it is now indexed. This will lead to a reduction in benefits of approximately 0.3 percentage points annually. This loss would be cumulative through time so that after 10 years the cut would be roughly 3 percent, after 20 years 6 percent, and after 30 years 9 percent. If a typical senior collects benefits for 20 years, then the average reduction in benefits will be roughly 3 percent.” Baker addresses three major questions:

* Is the Chained CPI More Accurate?

“While many policy types and pundits have claimed that the chained CPI would provide a more accurate measure of the cost of living for seniors, they have no basis for this claim. … It may not be reasonable to apply the consumption patterns and the substitution patterns among the population as a whole to the elderly. … The elderly devote a larger share of their income to health care, which has generally risen more rapidly in price than other items. …

* Are Social Security Benefits Adequate?

“While some people have tried to foster a myth of the elderly as a high living population, the facts don’t fit this story. The median income of people over age 65 is less than $20,000 a year. Nearly 70 percent of the elderly rely on Social Security benefits for more than half of their income and nearly 40 percent rely on Social Security for more than 90 percent of their income. These benefits average less than $15,000 a year. …

* Is the Chained CPI a Reasonable Way to Deal with the Budget?

“It is important to remember that under the law Social Security is supposed to be treated as a separate program that is financed by its own stream of designated revenue. This means that it cannot contribute to the budget deficit under the law, because it is only allowed to spend money from the Social Security trust fund. This is not just a rhetorical point. There is no commitment to finance Social Security out of general revenue. …”

Baker’s books include The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive and Social Security: The Phony Crisis. Barber and Woo just wrote the paper “The Chained CPI: A Painful Cut in Social Security Benefits and a Stealth Tax Hike.” [PDF]

School Shootings * “The Bully Society” * When is Child Killing Ignored?

JESSIE KLEIN [email]
Klein is author of “The Bully Society: School Shootings and the Crisis of Bullying in America’s Schools.” She just wrote the piece “Latest Conn. School Massacre Reminds Us Again to Transform our Bully Society into More Compassionate Communities,” noting that “Many of the school shooters since 1979 have been described as ‘brilliant’ and ‘remote.’ Repeatedly they had left notes or testimonies about how they were called ‘nerd’ or ‘geek’ of even more often, ‘gay.'” But Klein adds: “We need to stop looking for the profile of the perpetrators; and examine instead the profile of schools and society more generally. According to the General Social Survey (GSS 1985 to 2004) social isolation has tripled; other reports suggest that empathy has significantly decreased; depression and anxiety rates, among adults and youth alike, are soaring. …

“Robert Putnam in ‘Bowling Alone’ is only one of many authors who have highlighted the extent to which community and civic responsibility have decreased in our society. Jacqueline Olds and Barry Schwartz wrote another book vividly describing our post-modern zeitgeist, ‘The Lonely American.’

“In ‘The Bully Society: School Shootings and the Crisis of Bullying in America’s Schools,’ I discuss how bullying and other hurtful behaviors have also become common norms. People are pressured to become as successful and powerful as they can be — but rarely encouraged to check on their neighbors and offer support to others in need. The truth is that most of us are working so hard, and so over-scheduled that we don’t have time to stop for one another even if it was our priority. When gunmen are repeatedly described as ‘remote’ or a ‘loner’ — there is likely more than just a ‘personality disorder’ behind their history. Fifty percent of our population according to GSS 2004 have either one or zero people to talk to about important issues in their lives — what scholars suggest is inadequate or ‘marginal support.'” Klein is assistant professor of sociology at Adelphi University in New York City.

JENNIFER BROWDY DE HERNANDEZ [email]
Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez is associate professor of comparative literature, media studies and human rights at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Massachusetts. She just wrote the piece “Standing Strong Against the Furies,” which states “Just as people in places like the Maldives, Bangladesh and Pakistan may have shook their heads at the cluelessness of Americans who suddenly woke up to climate change when Sandy came to town, people living in hot spots of violence around the world now have every right to be shaking their heads at the collective American refusal to see and understand how, in the wake of the Newtown massacre, we are much to blame for our own misery.

“The U.S. is the largest arms manufacturer and exporter in the world. We have by far the largest military. We are also by far the most heavily armed civilian population in the world, with some 300 million guns circulating among our population of about 300 million people. Americans need to acknowledge that collectively, as a nation, we have been responsible for hundreds, and probably thousands of deaths of children worldwide through the weapons we sell abroad. …

“It is hypocritical to weep crocodile tears for the slaughter of innocent children … in Connecticut but to callously ignore the slaughter of innocent children by American drone fire in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

See the report today of “9 Girls Dead Following Deadly Blast in Afghanistan.”

Also, see “Remember All the Children, Mr. President” by Bill Quigley.

“The Corporate War Against Teachers as Public Intellectuals in Dark Times”

HENRY GIROUX [email]
Giroux holds a chair professorship at McMaster University in Canada at the English and Cultural Studies Department. His books include “Education and the Crisis of Public Values.”

He said today: “America is obsessed with violence and death, and this fixation not only provides profits for Hollywood, the defense industries, and the weapons industries, it also reproduces a culture of war and cruelty that has become central to America’s national identity — one that is as shameful as it is deadly to its children and others. The war on public school teachers and children has reached its tragic apogee with the brutal and incomprehensible killing of the young children at Sandy Hook Elementary School.”

Giroux just wrote the piece: “The Corporate War Against Teachers as Public Intellectuals in Dark Times” for Truthout.org, which states: “It is indeed ironic, in the unfolding nightmare in Newtown, that only in the midst of such a shocking tragedy are teachers celebrated in ways that justly acknowledge — albeit briefly and inadequately — the vital role they play every day in both protecting and educating our children. What is repressed in these jarring historical moments is that teachers have been under vicious and sustained attack by right-wing conservatives, religious fundamentalists and centrist Democrats since the beginning of the 1980s. …

“If the United States is to prevent its slide into a deeply violent and anti-democratic state, it will, among other things, be required fundamentally to rethink not merely the relationship between education and democracy, but also the very nature of teaching, the role of teachers as engaged citizens and public intellectuals, and the relationship between teaching and social responsibility.”

“Big Money, ALEC and the Gun Agenda”

LISA GRAVES [email]
Executive director of PR Watch, Graves just wrote “Big Money, ALEC and the Gun Agenda,” which states: “‘We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years,’ President Obama said in response to horrifying shooting massacre of 20 little children and six of their educators in Connecticut.

“‘Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children. And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics,’ he noted.

“‘Meaningful action’ has been thwarted, largely because of the power and wealth of the National Rifle Association (NRA). One of the key avenues it has used to exert its influence is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). For decades, the NRA has helped bankroll ALEC operations and even co-chaired ALEC’s ‘Public Safety and Elections Task Force,’ where it secretly voted on bills alongside elected representatives. At ALEC’s annual meeting this summer, the NRA had the biggest booth at the convention in Salt Lake City and also underwrote a shooting event along with one of the largest sellers of assault weapons in the world.

“Numerous bills to bar or impede laws that would help protect Americans from gun violence were drafted by the NRA and adopted by ALEC corporations and legislators as ‘models’ for the rest of the country. And, dozens of these special interest bills have become law in states across the country. As a result of the NRA’s efforts, a city in Connecticut recently repealed the only ban in the state on carrying a concealed firearm. Allowing ‘concealed carry’ has been a long-standing part of the NRA-ALEC agenda, passing in Wisconsin a year ago at the urging of Governor Scott Walker, who was given an award by the NRA for making this item law along with a version of the controversial ALEC-NRA ‘Stand Your Ground’/’Castle Doctrine’ bill. A concealed carry law also was just passed last week in Michigan, along with the so-called ‘Right to Work’ union-busting bill on ALEC’s corporate wish list. …”

Graves previously served as the chief counsel for nominations on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and deputy assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Syria is Being Destroyed”

CHARLES GLASS[email]
Recently in Damascus and Aleppo, the country’s largest city, Glass is author of the book on Syria, “Tribes With Flags.” He was ABC News Chief Middle East correspondent and recently wrote the piece “Aleppo: How Syria Is Being Destroyed,” which states: “I wanted to visit the souks in the morning, but my friend told me that continued fighting there made it impossible. Who burned the souks a few weeks earlier? ‘That was the Free Syrian Army,’ my friend said. ‘We are caught between two bad powers. As you know, I don’t like the dictatorship. But these people are showing themselves as worse.’ …

“Aleppo is under siege. Transporting heating oil for people to survive the winter has become a dangerous task. The price of mazout, the cheap fuel that heats most Aleppo homes, is now double what it is in Damascus, when people can find it. In Aleppo’s center, where the Syrian army maintains control with fortified positions, roadblocks, and regular patrols, the only commodity that seems to arrive without hindrance is food. Plentiful produce from local farms is on display on the open sidewalks that have replaced the burned-out fruit and vegetable stalls in the old souks.

“The government’s brutal suppression of the rebels, especially the aerial bombardment of densely populated urban areas, has pushed some regime supporters into the arms of the opposition. One young woman, who told me in April that she loved Bashar al-Assad, said that she wept when she saw his air force bombing Aleppo. A physician, whose anti-regime views were familiar to me, said, ‘The majority of the Syrian people don’t want Bashar al-Assad because of what happened in the last ten years. We want change, but not like this.’ This is a topsy-turvy war in which loyalties and animosities can no longer be predicted.”

Glass recently appeared on Democracy Now! His past pieces on Syria include “Syria’s Many New Friends are a Self-Interested Bunch.”

See from FAIR: “This Time, Trust Anonymous WMD Claims — They’ve Got ‘Specific Intelligence’” about recent media and government claims about the Syrian government preparing to use chemical weapons.