News Release Archive - 2012

Billions in Local Corporate Subsidies Highlighted by New York Times Series

The New York Times is running a series on “incentives” companies get from governments. Critics often refer to these as subsidies — or giveaways. Two recent Times pieces are “As Companies Seek Tax Deals, Governments Pay High Price” and “Lines Blur as Texas Gives Industries a Bonanza.” The piece “When Hollywood Comes to Town” is slated for publication Tuesday.

Also, see video from the Times on the “Border War” between Kansas and Missouri, as each state attempts to lure companies from the other.

LeRoy is executive director and Mattera is research director for Good Jobs First, a group “promoting accountability in economic development and smart growth for working families.” They have focused on exposing subsidies to companies from state and local governments since 1998.

LeRoy said today: “Shining a light on the huge costs of job subsidies is critical. Taxpayers know now that we are spending billions on runaway shops, poverty-wage employers like Walmart, private for-profit prisons, and the Wall Street investment banks that tanked our economy. Those are dollars that could be used to maintain our crumbling infrastructure, improve our overcrowded schools, and keep colleges and universities affordable. Those investments are the safe bets for long-term growth and prosperity.”

Mattera said today: “Hard-pressed state and local governments are spending tens of billions of dollars each year giving subsidies to companies that usually don’t need them and often don’t create the promised jobs and other economic benefits. … We worked closely with the Times and are pleased to have contributed what appears to be a large majority of the company-specific information the paper used for its excellent online feature.”

LeRoy added: “The database created by the New York Times to accompany its new series on economic development incentives draws heavily from Good Jobs First’s Subsidy Tracker search tool launched in 2010. Subsidy Tracker has become the best-practice standard for states to disclose their economic development spending. States as politically diverse as Tennessee and Maryland have publicly acknowledged our technical assistance in launching or improving their disclosure websites. We also know that high-level officials in more than 30 states have responded to our 50-state report-card studies on transparency, job creation and enforcement. Subsidy Tracker’s company-specific coverage also goes far beyond that of the Times’ database, which is limited to recipients of total subsidies in excess of $1 million.”

See Good Jobs First’s Subsidy Tracker.

Also see “Accountable USA,” which provides a state-by-state overview.

Alleged WikiLeaks Source Manning Speaks

ABC News reports: “Private First Class Bradley Manning, the American soldier accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified and confidential military and diplomatic documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, took the stand in a military court [Thursday] to make his first public statements since his arrest in 2010.”

KEVIN GOSZTOLA [email], @kgosztola
Co-author of Truth & Consequences: The U.S. vs. Bradley Manning, Gosztola is covering the Manning trial at He said today: “Bradley Manning has been in pretrial confinement for over 900 days and, in this current hearing, his defense is arguing he was ‘unlawfully punished’ while imprisoned at the Quantico Marine Brig for nine months. They hope to have the charges dismissed or be awarded credit for time served and are putting key commanding officers on the witness stand to show how the Brig was more concerned with media attention and scrutiny from senior officials in the Pentagon and Washington than they were with Manning’s health.” Gosztola’s and Fuller’s availability is limited as they are physically covering the trial.

NATHAN FULLER [email], @nathanLfuller
Fuller is with the Bradley Manning Support Network. He recently wrote the piece “Quantico psychiatrist: Bradley Manning treated worse than death row inmates.” He said today: “Bradley Manning testified about his abusive treatment at Quantico, his futile efforts to remove himself from restrictive Prevention of Injury status, and his much-improved conditions when he was transferred to Ft. Leavenworth. The fact that Ft. Leavenworth officials felt he was immediately ready for medium security treatment and wasn’t at risk to harm himself reveals the senselessness of the conditions at Quantico. Furthermore, Manning testified that a brig official told him that his psychiatrist recommended his POI treatment, while that psychiatrist was actually attempting to reduce Manning’s restrictions. Quantico officials claimed Manning’s treatment was in his best interest while ignoring its detriment to his mental health.”

THOMAS DRAKE, [reachable via twitter, @Thomas_Drake1] Drake was a senior executive of the U.S. National Security Agency. He recently and successfully concluded a legal ordeal with the federal government including an Espionage Act centered indictment over the past several years. He blew the whistle on vast illegal electronic surveillance and data mining inside the U.S. and other government wrongdoing. He has recently been given awards for his role as a whistleblower.

He has been tweeting:

“As fellow whistleblower & truth teller I stand with #Manning. Unlawful pre-trial punishment is horrific price for courage of his convictions”

“#Manning’s own testimony clearly&dramatically reveals he was subject of rendition, incarceration & torture in total violation of UCMJ. Free.”

“Believe gov’t at highest command levels willfully chose 2 punitively punish, abuse & torture #Manning in order 2 break him as a person (1/2)”

“#Manning on receiving end of cruel &unusual punishment’-pathological projection by gov’t as pre-conviction 4 his ‘crimes’ of conviction 2/2”

“#Manning as accused has rights. Gov’t severely violated UCMJ pre-trial conditions&procedures. Citizen protections stripped. Dark side mirror”

Could Israel be Brought Before the International Criminal Court?

Reuters reports: “The U.N. General Assembly is set to implicitly recognize a sovereign state of Palestine on Thursday despite threats by the United States and Israel to punish the Palestinian Authority by withholding much-needed funds for the West Bank government.”

AFP reports: “Britain threatened Wednesday to abstain from a vote for enhanced Palestinian status at the United Nations. … British Foreign Secretary William Hague … said to win Britain’s vote, the Palestinians would also have to pledge not to sue Israel for war crimes through the International Criminal Court … If the request is approved, it will give the Palestinians access to a range of UN agencies and also potentially to the ICC, where they could accuse Israel of war crimes.”

Legal analysts note that if the Palestinian Authority has the political will it could do a wide range of things.

DIANA BUTTU, [email], @dianabuttu
Buttu is a Palestinian-Canadian lawyer and former Palestinian negotiator.

JOHN QUIGLEY, [email],
Professor of international law at Ohio State University, Quigley‘s books include “The Statehood of Palestine: International Law in the Middle East Conflict.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, [email] Professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law and author of “Palestine, Palestinians, and International Law,” Boyle said today: “This can be the start of a ‘Legal Intifadah’ by Palestine against Israel:

1. “Palestine can join the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court and file a Complaint with the ICC against the illegal settlements and settlers, who are committing war crimes;

2. “Palestine can join the Statute for the International Court of Justice, sue Israel at the World Court, and break the illegal siege of Gaza;

3. “Palestine can join the Law of the Sea Convention and get its fair share of the enormous gas fields lying off the coast of Gaza, thus becoming economically self-sufficient;

4. “Palestine can become a High Contracting Party to the Four Geneva Conventions [this deals with the laws of war];

5. “Palestine can join the International Civil Aviation Organization and gain sovereign, legal control over its own airspace;

6. “Palestine can join the International Telecommunications Union and gain sovereign legal control over its own airwaves, phone lines, bandwidths.”

Boyle was also legal advisor to the Palestine Liberation Organization and Chairman Yasser Arafat on the Palestinian Declaration of Independence of Nov. 15, 1988, as well as to the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace negotiations and its chair, Dr. Haidar Abdul Shaffi, from 1991 to 1993.

See Amnesty International UK’s statement: “William Hague Should Stop Using ICC as ‘Political Football’ in Palestinian UN Status Vote.”

Galbraith: “Fiscal Cliff” a Pretext to Target Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

Galbraith holds the Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. His latest book is Inequality and Instability: A Study of the World Economy Just Before the Great Crisis, (Oxford University Press, 2012.)

Galbraith recently wrote the piece “Six Reasons the Fiscal Cliff is a Scam,” which states: “Stripped to essentials, the fiscal cliff is a device constructed to force a rollback of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as the price of avoiding tax increases and disruptive cuts in federal civilian programs and in the military. … Is there a looming crisis of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, such that these programs must be reformed? No, there is not. Social insurance programs are not businesses. They are not required to make a profit; they need not be funded from any particular stream of tax revenues over any particular time horizon. …

“Would the military sequestration programmed to start in January be a disaster? No, it would not be. Military spending is set in any event to decline – and it should decline as we adjust our military programs to our national security needs. The sequester is at worst harmless; at best it’s an invitation to speed the process of moving away from a Cold War force structure to one suited to the modern world. …

“Would the upper-end tax increases programmed to take effect in January be a disaster? No, they would not be. There is no evidence that the low tax rates on the wealthy encourage them to spend or invest, no evidence that higher tax rates would deter the spending and investment that they might otherwise do. …

“Would the middle-class tax increases, end of unemployment insurance and the abrupt end of the payroll tax holiday programmed for the end of January risk cutting into the main lines of consumer spending, business profits and economic growth? Yes, over time it would. But the effects in the first few weeks will be minimal, and Congress could act on these matters separately, with a clean bill either before the end of the year or early in the new one.”

Galbraith also wrote the book The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too, and a new preface to The Great Crash, 1929, by John Kenneth Galbraith.

Walmart Forced to Finally Admit Deadly Bangladesh Factory Was Supplier

Voice of America is reporting: “Garment workers in Bangladesh have held a second day of demonstrations, as the country observed a day of mourning for at least 110 people killed in a Saturday factory fire.”

Akter is with the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity. As late as Monday, Walmart was claiming it did not have a current relationship with the Tazreen factory in Bangladesh. Only after Akter produced a picture of herself holding up clothing with Walmart’s exclusive “Faded Glory” label found at the factory did Walmart admit that the factory was still a supplier; claiming it didn’t know that was the case. See: “Photos Show Walmart Apparel at Site of Deadly Factory Fire in Bangladesh.”

Akter started work in garment factories when she was 12 years old. Now she campaigns for better wages, recognition of the right to organize and higher safety standards. She said today: “I have been a garment worker in Bangladesh and I know the terrible conditions that workers must face every day – dangerous safety risks, poverty wages, abusive treatment, unsafe conditions, and unsafe drinking water. Walmart, H&M, Gap and other major buyers have a responsibility to workers to clean up their practices and make sure that no more workers have to die sewing cheap clothing while these brands make millions of dollars in profit.” She appeared on the program Democracy Now! this morning.

SCOTT NOVA [email]
Executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, Nova said today: “Walmart’s foundational corporate principle, one they prosecute with religious fervor, is cost reduction through absolute control of their supply chain and production system. Today, however, they want us to believe that they have so little control over their supply chain that they do not even know which factories are manufacturing their clothes. The bottom line is that Walmart was making goods at the Tazreen factory, but failed to protect the rights and safety of the workers making those clothes. Retroactively blaming this on ‘unauthorized’ subcontracting is not going to fly.

“The Triangle Shirtwaist fire [in New York City in 1911] galvanized a reform movement in the U.S. that transformed an industry of dangerous sweatshops into one defined by safe workplaces and decent wages. Now, global outsourcing has allowed retailers like Gap and Walmart to turn back the clock to 1911, recreating in places like Bangladesh the brutal conditions and rock-bottom production costs that prevailed in the U.S. at the time of the Triangle fire.

“Wages of 18 cents an hour and cruel working conditions have led to waves of mass protest and unrest among Bangladeshi apparel workers. The government and the industry there cannot acknowledge that the unrest is a product of their own policies of low wages and lax regulation, so they must find scapegoats. Unsurprisingly, they chose to target labor rights advocates, branding them subversives, accusing them of fomenting the violence, and in the worst cases attacking them physically. This in all likelihood is the dynamic that led to the murder of Aminul Islam.”

See this New York Times piece from September on the labor organizer Aminul Islam: “Fighting for Bangladesh Labor, and Ending Up in Pauper’s Grave.”

Bangladesh and Walmart

AP reports: “When the fire alarm went off, workers were told by their bosses to go back to their sewing machines. An exit door was locked. And the fire extinguishers didn’t work and apparently were there just to impress inspectors and customers.”

Associate professor of labor studies at the Murphy Institute at the City University of New York, Luce said today: “The fire is a tragedy, but unfortunately not a surprise. Bangladesh has received a lot of attention in its role as a large garment producer, and as such, has been targeted in some high profile international anti-sweatshop campaigns and labor solidarity efforts. Yet this fire seems to highlight the weaknesses of that strategy to improve working conditions from the outside, particularly when a country depends so heavily on low wages as its comparative advantage in a global export model.

“After several decades of intensive garment production for export, the conditions of Bangladeshi garment factories have barely improved. Average wages are still among the lowest in the world. Working conditions are often extremely dangerous.

“Allowing for the continuation of the low-wage export-driven model contributes to the downward pressure on wages and working conditions in the garment industry, and in similar industries that are highly mobile.

“The low wages of Bangladesh support the ability of multinationals to use the ‘threat effect’ against workers in the U.S. (and elsewhere). Employers in certain industries can make a credible threat to leave that factory and move jobs overseas. Those corporations can also use the ‘threat effect’ against municipal, state and federal governments — demanding lower taxes, no increases to the minimum wage, more lax regulations, etc. — because they can hold up example countries like Bangladesh that pay such low wages.

“At the same time, retailers or brands, such as Walmart or Nike, have inordinate bargaining power over the factories in Bangladesh (and the Bangladeshi government). This can allow the Walmarts and Nikes to increase profits, consolidate their wealth and strength, leading to a high degree of concentration in the industries. This helps develop ‘buyer-driven supply chains’ where the buyer (e.g. Walmart) sets the terms of contracts.

“It is possible that Walmart could then use that excess profit to provide better wages and working conditions in the U.S., but in most cases, it does not. It uses its increased monopoly power in the U.S. as well, growing in size and becoming large enough to set wage levels and keep them low.

“This is no ‘free market’ in any sense: the large retailers have monopoly power over their suppliers, and what we call monopsony power over workers in the U.S. retail market. There is no free-willed negotiation between equal partners, whether that be Walmart and suppliers, or Walmart and retail workers.”

Background: AP also reports that the Tazreen supplier “was given a ‘high risk’ safety rating after a May 16, 2011, audit conducted by an ‘ethical sourcing’ assessor for Walmart, according to a document posted on the Tuba Group’s website. It did not specify what led to the rating.”

The Nation reports: “NGOs are slamming Walmart following a Saturday fire that killed at least 112 workers at a Bangladesh factory supplying apparel to the retail giant. While Walmart says it has not confirmed that it has any relationship to the factory, photos provided to The Nation show piles of clothes made for … Walmart’s exclusive Faded Glory label.”

Morsi vs. The Continuing Egyptian Revolution?

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS [email], @sharifkouddous
Sharif Abdel Kouddous is a Democracy Now! correspondent based in Cairo. He reported this morning: “Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi dropped a bombshell with this seven point constitutional declaration. … The only check on Morsi was the judiciary — and now he has placed himself beyond that as well.”

PHILIP RIZK [email], @tabulagaza
A film-maker, writer and member of the Mosireen video collective, Rizk said today: “The revolution never stopped in Egypt, it was never about toppling a president, it was about toppling the type of political system in power, whether it’s under Mubarak, a military junta or a religion-pushing president like Mohamed Morsi. The numbers in the streets and the unceasing chants of ‘the people demand the toppling of the regime’ confirm that statement. Just because the international media have their sites set elsewhere doesn’t mean that the current moment of revolt is any less powerful than January 2011.

“With his constitutional declaration three days ago Morsi proves he is in line with his presidential predecessors. We are against dictators, we are against the security forces murdering our protesters, we are against economic enslavement by IFIs [international financial institutions] like the IMF [International Monetary Fund] that the Brotherhood are happy to coordinate with, so we keep on protesting. This era of neo-colonialism must come to an end.”

See videos of protests in Egypt from the Mosireen video collective.

This background video, with English subtitles, focuses on why people began going back to the streets on Nov. 19.

Walmart Protests

Featherstone said today: “I have been covering Walmart for more than a decade as a labor journalist. This is the most significant rebellion among the company’s workforce in years, possibly ever. It’s long been clear that change can only come to Walmart when employees organize one another, and these folks are doing that. By walking out on the busiest shopping day of the year, workers show Walmart that they are serious, and ready to do far more than just complain about their working conditions.”

Last month, Featherstone wrote the piece “Walmart Workers Walk Out,” which states: “Sure, the strikers are a small fraction of the its 1.4 million US employees. But if Walmart employees win changes in their workplace this way, workers everywhere may realize that it can be done. Change at Walmart could make life better throughout working-class America.”

Will Palestinians “Be Likened to the Sioux”?

Sharif Abdel Kouddous is a Democracy Now! correspondent based in Cairo, now in Gaza. See his reporting, including about how protesters from Tahrir Square in Cairo got into Gaza.

JENNIFER LOEWENSTEIN, [email] Loewenstein is faculty associate in Middle East Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has spent extensive time in Gaza including witnessing attacks. She just wrote the piece “Death in Gaza, Déjà Vu,” which states: “Aerial strikes now soar into the hundreds and every non-combatant person is at risk. It is becoming more and more difficult to cover up the fact that the civilian population of Gaza, the families, children, shopkeepers, street vendors, pharmacists, doctors, construction workers, teachers, journalists, and others are not the ‘collateral damage’ in an angry war against ‘militants,’ ‘terrorists,’ and primitive rockets. Rather they are themselves are the primary targets. They are the ones who must be culled from the land. The ‘militants’ are merely the means to their demise. … Events could still go … quietly, and Palestinians will be likened to the Sioux.”

VIJAY PRASHAD, [email] Author of “Arab Spring, Libyan Winter” and “The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World,” Prashad is chair of South Asian history and director of international studies at Trinity College, in Connecticut. He recently wrote the piece “The Agonies of Susan Rice: Gaza and the Negroponte Doctrine,” about how the U.S. blocked any action on Gaza by the United Nations Security Council.

Also, see his new analysis of the region in The Real News’ “The Qatari/Egyptian/U.S. Agenda and the Israeli Attack on Gaza,” which breaks down the interests of the U.S., Gulf States and Israel in Gaza as well as Syria. Says Prashad about the Palestinians: “They are, I don’t think, willing to lie down before the plans of the Qataris, which might line up with the plans of the Israelis. I think they [Qataris] are exaggerating their ability to throw their money around and erase the Palestinian project.”

U.S.-China Relations: Neither Collision nor Collusion

HENRY ROSEMONT, [email] Rosemont is distinguished professor emeritus at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and visiting professor of religious studies at Brown University. His books include “A Chinese Mirror: Moral Reflections on Political Economy” and translations of Chinese classics. Rosemont said today: “If President Obama bases U.S. relations with China on principles of competition and criticism, the new regime of Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang will almost surely respond in kind, and the governments of both countries will become less capable of dealing with their own internal large-scale problems.

“Moving to a policy based on cooperation on the other hand – diplomatically, militarily and economically — both countries can contribute to solving their own and each other’s problems at the same time, as well as problems more worldwide in scope. As the major power in the relationship, the initiative for a new policy must lie with the U.S., especially with all the anti-China rhetoric that infected the recent election campaign.” Rosemont wrote the piece “Is China a Threat?”

Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, Wallach said today: “After both presidential candidates and congressional candidates nationwide campaigned intensively against U.S. job offshoring, the American public would be alarmed to know that President Obama’s Asia trip has focused on expanding to many new nations a NAFTA-style ‘free trade’ agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that would greatly expand U.S. jobs offshoring, give Chinese firms a waiver to ‘Buy American’ procurement policies and further erode the U.S. manufacturing base. On the trip, some administration officials touted TPP as a tool to contain China’s influence and facilitate the U.S. Asia pivot, while Secretary of State Clinton announced that she would welcome China joining TPP.”