It’s a Myth That Corporate Tax Cuts Mean More Jobs

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Photo: Shutterstock

“The arithmetic for us is simple,” AT&T’s chief executive, Randall Stephenson, said on CNBC in May. If Congress were to cut the 35 percent tax on corporate profits to 20 percent, he declared, “I know exactly what AT&T would do — we’d invest more” in the United States.

Every $ 1 billion in tax savings would create 7,000 well-paying jobs, Mr. Stephenson went on to say. The correlation between lower corporate taxes and more jobs, he assured viewers, runs “very, very tight.”

As Congress prepares to take up tax legislation this fall, including an effort to reduce the corporate tax rate, this bold jobs claim merits examination. Notably, it comes from the chief executive of a company that’s already paying comparatively little in federal taxes.

According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, AT&T enjoyed an effective tax rate of just 8 percent between 2008 and 2015, despite recording a profit in the United States each year, by exploiting tax breaks and loopholes. (The company argues that it pays significant taxes, at a rate close to 34 percent in recent years, but that includes deferred taxes and state and local levies.)

Read the full article on the New York Times’ website.

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Trump’s Afghanistan Speech Offers No End in Sight for the War

“Trump announcing that the U.S. is not going to reveal troop numbers or withdrawal dates is not a strategy to end the war. It is a strategy for justifying continuous, permanent war,” IPS Middle East foreign policy expert Phyllis Bennis told The Real News Network following Trump’s speech on his strategy for the war in Afghanistan.

“We have been at war in Afghanistan now for 16 years. Afghan civilians are dying in higher numbers every single year in that war since the United Nations began keeping track,” Bennis said.

Meanwhile, Trump has turned over authority not to political strategists in and around the White House or the National Security Council, but directly to the generals on the ground. He maintained that conditions on the ground will guide the U.S. moving forward, but what that really alludes to is a self-perpetuating war, Bennis argued.

“Conditions on the ground are going to continue to be terrible as long as there’s military fighting going on,” Bennis said.

Bennis said there was no commitment to diplomacy in Trump’s speech.

“Every analyst looking at this war has acknowledged that there is no military solution and that we will need a political solution that’s going to involve parts or all of the Taliban, as well as the U.S. installed, U.S. armed, and U.S. backed government in Kabul,” Bennis explained. “That’s what’s going to ultimately end this war.”

In his speech Trump also threatened the military aid the U.S. provides to Pakistan and called on India to play a larger role in the economic development of the region.

Afghanistan has long been a venue for this competition between India and Pakistan, Bennis said, “So the idea that Pakistan is going to simply back off and allow India to emerge as the major regional power inside Afghanistan is pretty unlikely.”

Taking audience questions, Bennis spoke to the Trump’s administration’s long standing policies of having corporate interests influencing decision making, in this case the effort to make war more profitable.

Military interests get billions from the Pentagon to provide weapons and other equipment, and in return, those same companies spend millions of dollars lobbying Congress to make sure these wars continue, Bennis explained.

If the Trump administration’s real goal was to figure out a way to end this war, they would have to pull out the military assets. “That’s step one.” Bennis said.

The U.S. must also look at its obligations to this country that it has decimated over decades, Bennis argued.

“We owe an enormous debt to the people of Afghanistan. We don’t owe military occupation. But we owe money, support, and an investment in diplomacy.” Bennis said.

As for the anti-war movement at home, Bennis said it must be linked to racism and Islamophobia.

“Islamophobia at home is necessary to build support against Muslim-majority countries. These wars require a way of demonizing them,” Bennis explained. Meanwhile, “wars against Black communities in this country are being militarized because tanks are being brought home from Afghanistan,” she continued.

“We can’t separate out opposing war and opposing racism,” Bennis said. “We have to build movements that cross those silos.”

The full interview originally appeared on The Real News Network.

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The Activists Who Helped Shut Down Trump’s CEO Councils

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(Photo: Pietro Francesco Rizzato / Shutterstock)

The CEOs who made up two White House advisory councils have fled like rats on a sinking ship. Their exodus — a dramatic rebuke of Donald Trump — came within 48 hours of the incendiary August 15 press conference where the President praised some of the participants of last week’s white supremacist rampage in Charlottesville, Virginia.

But many of the CEOs on these councils had been under heavy pressure to disavow Trump’s agenda of hate and racism even before Charlottesville. That pressure came from grassroots activists.

The Center for Popular Democracy, Make The Road New York, New York Communities for Change, and several other immigrant and worker advocates had led that activist campaign, targeting the leaders of nine major corporations affiliated with the Trump administration. The campaign, working through a web site called Corporate Backers of Hate, detailed the connections between the nine companies and the Trump administration and encouraged people to send emails to both the CEOs involved and members of their corporate boards.

Throughout the spring and summer, the campaign also held protests against the companies, including a civil disobedience action at the JPMorgan Chase headquarters on May Day, where 12 were arrested, and a march to JPMorgan’s annual shareholder meeting, where protestors confronted CEO Jamie Dimon for his company’s financing of private immigrant detention and mass incarceration.

The campaign also worked with a broad network of groups, including CREDO, Color of Change, SumOfUs, and Ultraviolet, to gather petitions calling for CEOs to step down from the Business Council. On August 16, they delivered more than 400,000 petitions collected from across the country to New York City offices of JPMorgan and the Blackstone private equity group, demanding that their CEOs withdraw from Trump’s advisory bodies.

Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman chaired Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum and had personally recruited the group’s 16 members, a cohort of execs that included current and past CEOs from some of the country’s largest firms, among them Walmart, General Electric, IBM, and General Motors. Schwarzman’s firm has become one of the country’s largest owners of real estate, and Schwarzman himself has reportedly developed a very close personal relationship with President Trump, sometimes speaking to him several times a week.

The news earlier this week that the CEO councils had been disbanded brought a quick reaction from Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy. The choice that executives made to quit the Business Council, Archila noted, “should have been clear long ago – and because of the tireless and courageous advocacy of those who are affected most by Trump’s agenda, they finally made that choice today.”

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon also issued a personal statement after the councils disbanded.

“There is no room for equivocation here: the evil on display by these perpetrators of hate should be condemned,” Dimon noted, “and has no place in a country that draws strength from our diversity and humanity.”

Archila and other activists are demanding that the CEOs like Dimon go further to reject Trump’s agenda. These execs, she stresses, need “to make clear that white supremacy has no place in this country – and neither do the private prisons and immigrant detention centers that they help finance.”

Daniel Cortés, a member of Make the Road New York who lives in Queens and was part of the group delivering the petitions, says he couldn’t believe the leaders of JPMorgan Chase and Blackstone agreed to join Trump’s business council in the first place.

“I’m glad to hear they’re gone,” adds Cortés. “But they still need to stand up against his hateful agenda that targets people of color, immigrants, Muslims, and women. If they don’t, they will remain backers of hate and they will continue to feel our outrage.”

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Nissan Intimidated Its Workers into Voting “No” on Unionizing

Weeks ago, the United Auto Workers (UAW) seemed poised to secure a major labor victory: a Nissan sub-plant in Canton, Mississippi was scheduled to hold a union vote. A yes vote would also mark a major civil rights victory, as 80 percent of the Canton plant workers are African-American.

Instead, over 60 percent of Nissan’s vote-eligible workers voted no.

“The reality of this campaign is the employer—Nissan—was hell bent in terms of making sure there was no union in this plant,” Marc Bayard, who directs the Institute for Policy Studies’ Black Worker Initiative, explained to Rising up with Sonali.

Once UAW filed for the election, Nissan had 30 days “to do anything they could to scare and intimidate the workers.”

“One-on-one meetings, having management wearing these ‘Vote No’ t-shirts, threats of moving the plant,” Bayard listed. And all this on company time, too, while UAW had to meet with workers in their communities.

Nissan also played to the economic insecurity of the African-American communities surrounding the plant, Bayard said.

Fear that the company might leave, might close down, might stop leasing cars to the employees at a very good rate—“This is where Nissan saw a point of leverage, in realizing that these communities need these good paying jobs.”

But the union campaign was about more than wages.

Over the years, Bayard said, Nissan had reduced pensions, stopped contributing as much to 401k plans, and played around with healthcare policies.

The fact that 42 out of 45 Nissan plants are unionized also fueled UAW’s campaign.

“It was a fight,” Bayard summed up. “But it was not a fair fight.”

At least UAW’s failed campaign had one success: the relationships it built with the African-American community in the area. Those ties will be essential for any victory going forward, Bayard said.

It’s also a good example of what the labor movement should do moving forward.

We have to really push from the ground up, Bayard said, and figure out ways to build more relationships that will help make mainstream labor issues more important.

“Change it from just being a fight between a particular worker in the company,” Bayard said, “to a much broader community struggle,” a call-back to the Fight for $ 15’s campaign style.

“I think labor needs to push a broader moment,” Bayard said. “Really capitalize on the energy out there to see real social change.”

The full interview originally appeared on Rising Up with Sonali.

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Teachers Shouldn’t Have to Panhandle to Prep for a New School Year

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The View From the U.S.’s ‘Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier’

For IPS Next Leader Leilani Ganser, escalating tensions between the U.S. and North Korea hit a little too close to home. Her family’s homeland, the American colonial territory of Guam, is now well within striking distance of a North Korean missile.

But, as she told the Latino Media Collective, this threat is “nothing new.”

Back in 2013, North Korea issued similar threats. And throughout the Cold War, a Soviet Union missile strike was well within the realm of possibility. “The main difference this time,” Ganser said, “is that the North Korean threat was antagonized on Twitter.”

“For an island that’s been through so much, it’s alarming how much of its future is dependent on media,” Ganser said, “and surprisingly, social media.”

And the island has seen war, even if it hasn’t seen a Soviet or North Korean missile.

“As long as Guam has been a United States possession, it’s been a simulated war zone,” Ganser explained, describing the B-52 bombers and water-to-shore artillery blasts that make up Guamanian daily life.  

The base presence itself is an overbearing fact of life. About one-third of Guam land is exclusive to the military — enough that when plans were raised to expand the bases to take up to 40 percent of the area, a Georgia representative objected. He feared that “the entirety of Guam [would] capsize, tip over, and fall into the ocean.”

“I guarantee that’s not going to happen,” Ganser quipped, though a bigger build-up would still be a catastrophe.

Already, the area for exclusive military covers places of cultural significance that are on par with Arlington National Cemetery for the indigenous Chamorro people, Ganser explained. A build-up would take over more ancestral burial grounds, as well as require the dredging of surrounding coral reefs.

“Because of the threats that have been made,” Ganser said, returning to North Korea, “it’s likely they’ll be used to justify the build-up.”

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Wall Street Loan Sharks Preying on Neighborhoods

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Photo: Getty Images

In the 1960s, the Contract Buyers League fought back against predatory lease scams in Chicago. Decades later, Wall Street firms are using similar predatory lease-to-buy agreements to prey on low income people aspiring to buy their homes.

IPS researcher Chuck Collins wrote an investigate piece in the Summer issue of The American Prospect, describing how former organizers from the Contract Buyers League, many now retired, have regrouped to fight back the resurgence of this predatory practice.  See: Private Equity: The New Neighborhood Loan Sharks.

Also see this Op-Ed by Collins that appeared in the August 23, 2017 issue of The Guardian: Loan sharks were meant to be eradicated. Now they’re back.

And see this video, an excerpt from the 1997 documentary “Blacks and Jews” by Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman, about the Chicago-based Contract Buyers League.For information about renting the video for educational purposes, contact the distributor California Newsreel:http://newsreel.org/video/BLACKS-AND-JEWS

Contract Buyers League–an excerpt from “Blacks and Jews” (1997) from Snitow-Kaufman Productions on Vimeo.

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Why Martin Shkreli Won’t Be the Last Pharma Bro

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(Photo: JStone / Shutterstock)

Martin Shkreli—famously known as the guy that jacked up the price of a lifesaving AIDS treatment by 5,000%—finally saw his day in court, albeit for a completely unrelated case involving an unrelated company from his time as a hedge fund manager. The trial, just concluded last week, found Shkreli guilty of three counts of fraud for essentially lying to his investors about how he would invest their money and when they would be paid back.

The conviction, carrying a potential 20 years in prison, is no joke. Yet the notorious self-promoter took the opportunity to extend his 15 minutes of fame by creating a media spectacle of the trial. From making silly faces in court, to trolling female journalists online, to referring to the prosecution as “junior varsity,” the Pharma Bro let the world know he wasn’t fazed.

And why should he be? How Shkreli got rich in the first place remains not just legal but celebrated.

Read the full article on Fortune.

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White Supremacy Carries More Than a Tiki Torch

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(Photo: John Gomez / Shutterstock)

Our president has no trouble naming his enemies — CNN, Rosie O’Donnell, Nordstrom, immigrants, Muslims, the all-women version of Ghostbusters, etc. etc.

But when it comes to violent white supremacists, his passive streak is impossible to miss. When neo-Nazis and Klansmen incited a riot in Charlottesville, Trump famously blamed “many sides.”

Even after a belated statement finally condemning the racist perpetrators, Trump immediately backtracked. The very next day, he blamed the fictitious “alt-left” for the violence and insisted there were “many fine people” among the torch-bearing Confederates.

This was far too much even for many Republicans.

Senator Jeff Flake accused the president of “making excuses” for “acts of domestic terrorism.” John McCain insisted “there’s no moral equivalency between racists” and their opponents. Marco Rubio worried the president was resurrecting an “old evil,” while Texas Rep. Will Hurd called on Trump to apologize.

These Republicans (and many others) deserve credit for speaking out. But condemning Nazis is the lowest bar in the broader fight against white supremacy.

The fact is, the policy machinery of that supremacy — that is, the laws that systematically ensure negative outcomes for people of color — hums hot as ever. No hoods or flags required.

I wonder, for instance, whether these Republicans will also condemn their former Senate colleague Jeff Sessions. As Trump’s attorney general, Sessions is preparing an assault on affirmative action practices at universities as we speak.

Before that, Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to seek stiff mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, which is a major driver of the mass incarceration crisis that disproportionately locks up nonwhite Americans (“the new Jim Crow,” law professor Michelle Alexander calls it).

Sessions also looks likely to tear up federal reform plans for police departments with documented histories of brutality and racism.

What does his party have to say about that?

I wonder, too, whether they’ll call out Trump’s bogus panel on “voter fraud” led by Kris Kobach. Every study on the subject shows that “voter ID” laws and other restrictions do almost nothing to reduce in-person voter fraud. Makes sense: In-person fraud is virtually non-existent.

But these laws do have a proven effect in keeping African-Americans, Latinos, and poor people away from the polls. That’s exactly why they’re still cropping up in GOP-controlled states all over the country.

And what will these Republicans say about the states — all 27 of them — who’ve passed laws preventing cities from raising their minimum wages? That directly lowers wages in jobs dominated by women and people of color, who lag far behind white men in both income and wealth.

Finally, will they speak out against the several states now considering laws that would let drivers run over protesters who block roadways?

Those roadway-blocking tactics were popularized by Black Lives Matter activists and supporters of indigenous pipeline resisters, so it’s little wonder who these lawmakers imagine being run over. Especially after a neo-Nazi rammed his car into the anti-racists gathered in Charlottesville.

I’m glad the Republicans now speaking out say they loathe white supremacy. Good.

But white supremacy is more than racist name-calling or flag-waving. Most days, it’s a mundane system that pits the law against our non-white neighbors — and laws don’t need anyone to “feel” racist for them to work. They can look perfectly colorblind on paper, but they’re not.

Republicans — and all of us — need to be every bit as ready to name the machinery of white supremacy as we are to condemn its nastiest supporters. Otherwise we’re just making excuses, too.

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No, Affirmative Action Isn’t Keeping White Students Down

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(Photo: COD Newsroom / Flickr)

There’s a saying: “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

I thought of that when I heard about the Trump administration’s recent moves against affirmative action.

According to The New York Times, the Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Jeff Session, is looking for lawyers to work on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.”

Well, that’s the point of affirmative action, right?

When President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order on affirmative action in 1961, the intent was to counteract discrimination that minorities faced in the job hiring process. Since then, many colleges and universities have instituted similar standards to make sure women and students of color are given a fair shot at receiving a higher education.

But the way Trump sees it, it’s white students who are discriminated against.

There have already been a number of cases where white students have challenged universities that implement affirmative action. But in 2016, the Supreme Court decided in Fisher v. University of Texas that affirmative action is in fact constitutional and doesn’t hurt white students.

End of discussion, right? Wrong.

After the 2016 presidential elections, a new poll was released by HuffPost/YouGov showing that more than half the nation thought that blacks and Muslims faced a lot of discrimination. Yet the same report revealed that most Trump supporters believed white people were the real victims of racial bias.

Now, Trump’s Justice Department is trying to rally that base by arguing that affirmative action hurts white students.

This argument assumes that students of color no longer face discriminatory barriers. But if you read the news, it’s obvious that this isn’t true. The horrifying white nationalist rally and domestic terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia is more than enough to prove that minorities are still a target.

But beyond that, African Americans still face economic strains due to racial bias. A 2011 study, for example, found that the median white household wealth remains about 16 times greater than average black wealth.

Receiving a college degree is often touted as a pathway to economic security. But last year, a study by the National Center for Educational Statistics showed that racial divides remain. While college enrollment is increasing across the board, it found that enrollment rates for college-aged white students (42 percent) remain higher than for both black and Hispanic students (34 percent.)

White students also graduate college at higher rates than black and Hispanic students, according to a recent report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

While affirmative action has helped lower some barriers created by racial bias, black and Hispanic students still lag behind their white peers in enrollment. Overall, can anyone really say the practice is keeping whites down?

Racism permeates every aspect of our economy and society — whether it’s police brutality, the criminal justice system, housing discrimination, the racial wealth divide, or college admissions.

Stripping away affirmative action, one of the only race-based practices meant to counteract these issues, would send a direct message to racist whites that the administration has their back — at the expense of the livelihood America continues to take from people of color.

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