General Electric to Pay Taxes: The Prank that Cost $3.5 Billion in Market Capitalization

(Image: Flickr / Jeff Turner)

(Image: Flickr / Jeff Turner)

“We want to get off on the right foot in Massachusetts,” said GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt. “We usually expect jurisdictions to pay for the privilege of hosting us in their community, state, or nation. But we’re taking a different approach.”

General Electric has decided to contribute $ 18,318 in taxes to the City of Boston, enough to cover the costs of one student in the Boston Public Schools.**

GE is relocating their global headquarters from Fairfield, Connecticut to Boston, Massachusetts after the city and state agreed to hand over more than $ 150 million in tax breaks and financial incentives. This is roughly $ 181,000 for each of the 800 employees that GE is relocating to Boston. Boston also tossed in a cool $ 100 mill to repair the Northern Avenue Bridge as part of G.E.’s relocation deal. Go big or go home, right?

So given all the gifts laid at the feet of Mr. Immelt by the City of Boston and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, why would he decide to chip in his fair share of taxes?

It all started with the busboy Immelt met during a meal at Legal Seafoods. Caleb Hannon, a junior at Boston Latin School casually brought up the the school system budget shortfall to Immelt while picking up the CEO’s lobster shells and refreshing his water glass.

“I heard about the school’s troubles and thought General Electric should chip in something,” said Immelt. “Everyone should do their part.”

“We’re moved by General Electric’s generosity,” said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. “They are truly a corporate leader and we look forward to having them in Boston.” Walsh indicated hope that in the future G.E. might chip in for snow removal on public streets around their headquarters.

General Electric has historically gamed the tax system to keep their contributions extremely low, routinely paying little or no state or federal taxes.

A Real April Prank

The April Fools Day story above was inspired by a real prank on General Electric.

In April 2011, the YES Men and US Uncut issued a press release, allegedly coming from General Electric’s press office, announcing the company’s intention to pay taxes that the company had been dodging through the use of off-shore tax havens.

The Associated Press circulated the news that General Electric would pay a $ 3.2 billion tax refund to the U.S. Treasury. The faux release quoted G.E. CEO Jeffrey Immelt as saying the company “will furthermore adopt a host of new policies that secure its position as a leader in corporate social responsibility.”

Upon news of G.E.’s newfound religion on taxes, Wall Street investors punished the company, driving share prices down 1.6 percent from the day’s opening price. Over $ 3.5 billion in market capitalization evaporated in the first hour before recovering as the hoax was revealed.

General Electric was under scrutiny in 2011 for its aggressive tax avoidance after a New York Times expose revealed that despite $ 14.2 billion in global profits, including $ 5.1 billion from U.S. operations, the company claimed a tax refund of $ 3.2 billion.

For more information on the prank, watch this video of the news coverage:

Also check out 2011 radio interview with me and Andrew Boyd of US Uncut

**Facts distorted in the first part of this post in April Fools Day jest. Unfortunately, GE has not actually decided to pay their fair share of taxes in Massachusetts or Boston. Yet.

The post General Electric to Pay Taxes: The Prank that Cost $ 3.5 Billion in Market Capitalization appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies.


Labor Secretary Perez’s statement on US Supreme Court ruling in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

Labor Secretary Perez’s statement on US Supreme Court ruling in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

WASHINGTONU.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez issued the following statement on today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is an important victory for public employees, for their right to have a voice at work, for their right to stand together and speak up for the things that matter to them, their families and their communities.

“The court’s 4-4 decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association affirms longstanding precedent that, for decades, has enabled teachers, police officers, fire fighters, EMTs, social workers and others to come together and bargain collectively for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

“Unions have enabled public sector employees to secure a foothold in the middle class. But those public servants have faced a powerful headwind in recent years. Despite a robust economic recovery, government employment hasn’t rebounded as private sector jobs have.

“These are our friends and neighbors. They do tough and often thankless work – and they aren’t getting rich doing it. They do so much to give us stronger schools, safer streets and more vibrant communities. In return for their heroic efforts every day to support us, they should be able to support their own families.

“Today’s ruling will mean greater economic stability for millions of families. It’s a critical step toward creating shared prosperity and a balanced economy that works for everyone.”

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France charges main suspect in foiled attack plot – Yahoo News

Yahoo News
France charges main suspect in foiled attack plot
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Donald Trump is Foreign Policy’s Useful Idiot

(Photo: Flickr / Gage Skidmore)

(Photo: Flickr / Gage Skidmore)

He wants to cut back on U.S. military commitments overseas. He calls the Iraq War “one of the worst decisions ever made in the history of our country.” He promises to make deals with America’s adversaries. He’s comfortable with the détente with Cuba.

And he really pisses off the stuffed shirts at The Washington Post.

So, what’s not to like about Donald Trump?

Well, a great deal, of course. The man is an incoherent, misogynistic bully. But his foreign policy vision, a kind of fun-house version of Reaganism, is upsetting Beltway mandarins, shaking up the Republican Party, and pointing to a potential rupture in the informal liberal-conservative consensus on foreign policy that has prevailed in Washington since the end of the Cold War.

It’s hard not to enjoy a frisson of schadenfreude watching Trump tear through the conservative mainstream like Jack the Ripper at a Heritage Foundation tea party.

For all his earlier flirtations with the Democratic Party, the Donald is a product of the same right-wing extremism that has flushed moderates out of the Republican Party, reduced political discourse to a debate over the relative size of bank accounts and genitalia, and revealed “politically incorrect” talk to be naked racism, sexism, and xenophobia. Trump is a rogue elephant, and he might just lead the entire herd over the electoral cliff. It’s a drama that’s almost Shakespearian in its combination of low comedy and fratricidal bloodletting.

I was confident back in August that Trump could win the Republican primary, because his messages were perfectly tailored to 95 percent of self-identified Republican primary voters (i.e.: conservative white people). I suspected that he wouldn’t crash and burn because the more he pissed off those outside his core demographic, the more his supporters believed that he was an authentic truth-teller.

I am equally confident that Trump will go down in flames during the general election, even if the Democratic Party chooses neither Clinton nor Sanders but instead fields a toaster oven as a candidate.

When the neo-fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen won a surprising second-place finish in the first round of the French presidential elections in 2002 — capturing 16.86 percent of the vote to Jacques Chirac’s 19.88 percent — virtually all of French society came together to defeat the monster. In the second round, Chirac racked up 82.2 percent of the vote to Le Pen’s measly 17.7 percent.

The gap won’t be nearly as large in a showdown with Trump. But whatever reservations people might have about Hillary Clinton’s emails, Bernie Sanders’s socialism, or the toaster oven’s lack of sentience, the idea of Donald Trump controlling the nuclear football will send a clear majority of voters running screaming to the polls to cast their anti-Trump ballots. In addition, many Republicans will simply stick their heads in the sand on Election Day until, they hope and pray, the problem goes away.

The real question is: Will the problem go away even after Trump slinks back to his New York City penthouse?

According to one strain of thought, Trump will leave behind no mark on politics because he’s a one-of-a-kind disrupter. American politics, bruised by the new low bar it had to shimmy under, will nevertheless return to its previous state of subservience to more predictable corporate and geopolitical interests.

But the mainstream is worried, and not just about the prospect of Trump turning the White House into just another jewel in his real-estate crown.

America’s very leadership in the world is at stake, argues Fred Hiatt, who came away clearly shaken from a recent Washington Post editorial board meeting with the Republican Party candidate. The tradition of “U.S. leadership, beginning with presidents such as Truman and Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton…stands in danger today,” Hiatt wrote this week. He was clearly not pleased to hear about Trump’s preference to see the United States disengage, however modestly, from its overseas military commitments.

After all, it’s not just Trump who is pummeling America’s tradition of leadership, Hiatt argues. It’s a one-two punch, with President Obama delivering the other blow. The so-called political center is worried that Trump is tapping into a much deeper sentiment that the president has also been cultivating of late: a desire to see America withdraw from the world.

Trump’s Eye View

It’s amusing to read the transcript of the Post’s confab with Trump. It could have been written by the recently departed Garry Shandling, the master of stand-up who brought cringe comedy to the small screen with It’s Garry Shandling’s Show in the 1980s. Trump, with all his bloated self-importance, sounds like someone Shandling might have created solely for the purpose of skewering.

The Post staffers seemed as if they couldn’t quite believe what they were hearing. They were thrown by the candidate’s flagrant bombast and refusal to play by the rules of the game. ThePost editors expected a round of bridge. Instead, Trump brought a Louisville Slugger to the game.

Consider, for example, this exchange on military bases. Trump points out that South Korea is a rich country and wonders why the United States is paying for military bases there. Charles Lane, the columnist, points out that South Korea covers 50 percent of the costs.

TRUMP: 50 percent?

LANE: Yeah.

TRUMP: Why isn’t it 100 percent?

HIATT: Well I guess the question is, does the United States gain anything by having bases?

TRUMP: Personally I don’t think so. I personally don’t think so. Look. I have great relationships with South Korea. I have buildings in South Korea. But that’s a wealthy country. They make the ships, they make the televisions, they make the air conditioning. They make tremendous amounts of products. It’s a huge, it’s a massive industrial complex country. And —

HIATT: So you don’t think the U.S. gains from being the force that sort of helps keep the peace in the Pacific?

TRUMP: I think that we are not in the position that we used to be. I think we were a very powerful, very wealthy country. And we’re a poor country now. We’re a debtor nation.

Trump’s description of the United States as a “poor country” elicited an immediate rebuke from Robert Samuelson, again in the Post. But Trump’s essential point, that perhaps the United States can’t quite afford to garrison the globe — when U.S. infrastructure is falling part and large communities are mired in poverty — remains an important one. He also wonders why the United States lavishes funds on Saudi Arabia, why European allies don’t pay more for NATO, and why our adversaries are using our own weapons against us — all legitimate questions.

But it’s the way he lays out his arguments that confounds his interlocutors. The fact that he has great relationships with South Korea is irrelevant. And he avoids any discussion of Asian security — probably because he can’t tell a Dokdo from a Senkaku. As MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell points out, Trump’s conversational gambits are designed to conceal his own vast ignorance. “When he doesn’t know something, he just changes the subject, and makes it all about himself,” she observes.

In this way, Trump is Chance the Gardener, but instead of gardening, he talks about himself. No one misinterprets this as profundity, as they do when Chance becomes a media celebrity in Jerzy Kozinski’s novel Being There. But it’s a strategy perfectly designed to throw opponents off guard and prevent them from challenging his positions. Trump doesn’t even pretend to play the same game.

As the Donald might say, he’s in a league of his own.

On Leadership

But let’s focus on the heart of the matter — Trump’s challenge of the bipartisan consensus that the United States should lead the world.

Democrats and Republicans disagree about many things. But with a few exceptions they all support an enormous military budget, an expensive overseas expeditionary force, and unilateral acts of force when necessary to protect U.S. national interests (understood broadly).

It’s an odd paradox that Trump, who blathers on about making America great again, departs from this consensus. Probably as president, he wouldn’t. But he’s decided that, as an electoral strategy, bringing the war dollars home to rebuild America is popular among those who have largely lost out during the tech booms, the real estate booms, the financial booms, and all the other economic bubbles that have helped redirect money from the struggling middle class and the working poor to wealthy professionals and a few magnates (like Trump himself). That voters support someone who so clearly doesn’t represent their economic interests speaks not to their stupidity but to the obvious lack of anyone else in either party who actually cares about the interests of those left behind.

Bernie, you say? Yes, but he’s only been a Democrat for a tiny percentage of his political career. Indeed, he made a name for himself in Vermont by opposing Democrats, and aligning himself with Republicans if necessary. Unions have dwindled in membership. Progressives command little respect within the Democratic Party. And the Republicans long ago became the party of oligarchy.

This is really what the political mainstream is worried about — not that Trump will win. Or that Hillary Clinton will decide somehow to pursue Obama’s legacy of disengaging from the Middle East, which he articulated in some detail in a set of interviews with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg. Neither of these scenarios will play out. Trump will lose; Hillary firmly supports the foreign policy status quo.

No, the mainstream is worried that the political parties will realize that the “bring the war dollars home” message can win a national election and disrupt the comfortable revolving-door consensus. Perhaps Elizabeth Warren will run on this platform in 2020. Perhaps the Republican Party, which will fracture as a result of Trump’s current suicide bombing attempt, will reform around its older, more isolationist tradition.

Before that happens, of course, we’ll have to endure a very ugly election followed by four years of foreign policy as usual. The United States will continue its drone attacks, its selective interventions, its costly alliances. Meanwhile, America will continue to implode structurally, the population becoming even further polarized politically and economically. The essential choice — to refocus national energies on rebuilding the economy at home or to wage endless conflict overseas — will be put off until 2020.

Trump is a terrifying figure. But he may prove to be a useful idiot. It probably takes someone of Trump’s vapid visibility to drive home the point that “world’s policeman” is not a viable role for the United States to play. Eventually, someone with a bigger brain and a smaller ego will pick up this message, run with it, and win big at the polls.

The foreign policy mavens at the Post are right to be quaking in their boots.

The post Donald Trump is Foreign Policy’s Useful Idiot appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

John Feffer directs Foreign Policy in Focus, a project at the Institute for Policy Studies.


This 19-year-old billionaire’s tobacco fortune was partly built on child labour – Business Insider

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This 19-year-old billionaire's tobacco fortune was partly built on child labour
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Her fortune comes from her father Johan Andresen, who transferred 42% of the stock in Ferd, the family's centuries-old private-investment company, to her in 2007. Her sister Katharina, who at 20 is the second-youngest billionaire in the world, is also
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The issues behind Morocco’s new boom product: green beans

Green beans are for most of us a vegetable that we have eaten since our childhood. We know them as a healthy vegetable that we can buy in supermarkets all year round. But have you ever thought about where they are produced, by whom and under what circumstances? Green beans can grow in most mild climates, but the ones found in North-Western European supermarkets often come from countries around the Mediterranean Sea, such as Morocco. In fact, green beans are Morocco’s new boom product and around three quarters of those produced are sent to the EU. Many of them end up in European supermarkets, such as Albert Heijn, Tesco and Lidl.

We already know from our tomato project in Morocco that the working conditions for tomato pickers in in Morocco’s Souss-Massa region aren’t good and that wages are very, very low. As this region is one of Morocco’s primary agricultural regions (it produces a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, from oranges and lemons to peppers and green beans and many, many more) and it employs 74,000 people, we wanted to know whether the labour conditions were any different for workers producing other commodities. The sad reality is that our newest field research in Morocco shows that green bean workers unfortunately face the same challenges as the tomato workers.

See the Morocco Green Beans Factsheet for more details.

Thumbnail Green Beans Morocco factsheet Page 1Thumbnail Green Beans Morocco factsheet Page 2Thumbnail Green Beans Morocco factsheet Page 3

Poor childcare facilities

The majority of workers are female and many are young single mothers who have migrated from other parts of the country. As well as working long days on farms and in packing stations, they also have to take care of their households and children. Many of these women leave their children with a mourabbia (a child-minder). There’s often only one carer for a very large group of children and conditions can be very poor.

Low wages

Wages are very low in the sector. Most green bean workers earn around the minimum wage. This is slightly above the national poverty threshold for rural households and is not enough to live on. A living wage – one which would cover all basic needs – should be 2 to 3 times the current minimum wage in Morocco. One of the many consequences of such low wages is that workers are unable to afford a nutritious diet for their family.

Workers cannot stand up for their rights

Unlike in North-Western Europe, Moroccan workers can face major challenges to standing up for their rights. In theory, agricultural workers have the legal right to form or join a trade union, however freedom of association is often not respected in some companies.

Moroccan green bean workers are facing more issues than just these. You can read all about them in the factsheet below.

It’s time for change!

With 74,000 people working in the agricultural sector in the Souss-Massa region in Morocco, imagine the impact of any small change! This doesn’t mean that we should now stop buying green beans from Morocco, because we don’t want these workers to lose their jobs. We should look for structural solutions together with the companies that produce and sell these tomatoes.

The largest green bean company in the region, Quality Bean Morocco (QBM) has already proven that change is possible! For example, they have improved transport and childcare conditions for their workers.

You can read more details in the Green Bean Factsheet.


Hipocresia! A Revolutionary Perspective On Obama’s Visit to Cuba

A lot is being said about President Obama’s visit to Cuba, the increased engagement between the two countries, but I felt like there’s not enough of the conversation coming from those who are friendly to the Cuban revolution. So I first wanted to start with your assessment, overall broadly, about what you see happening, and particularly what you see given your long work with international political struggles, your work with the Cuban Five, your depth of knowledge with Cuban history and its relation to struggles in this country and around the world.

Watch the interview on the Real News Network’s website.

The post Hipocresia! A Revolutionary Perspective On Obama’s Visit to Cuba appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Netfa Freeman is a policy analyst and events coordinator at the Institute for Policy Studies.


Community calendar from March 29 – Troy Record

Community calendar from March 29
Troy Record
Stop by and browse the many rooms of housewares, clothing- including prom/wedding gowns, linens, toys, games, puzzles home décor, furniture and more all at bargain prices. Enjoy a treat and conversation with our friendly workers. Open every Thursday …


Euro 2016: how England, France, Spain, Germany, Belgium and Italy shape up – The Guardian

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Rachel Botsman on the collaborative economy – Livemint

Rachel Botsman on the collaborative economy
Since 2010, Rachel Botsman, co-author of What's Mine Is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption Is Changing the Way We Live and winner of the 2015 Thinkers50 Breakthrough Idea Award, has been dedicated to exploring the intricacies of the sharing …