Report: High Flyers 2017

The private jet lobby – and their super-wealthy passengers – have created a parallel universe of perks and privileges that would shock most commercial passengers if they knew about them. In both tax policy and homeland security, the high flyers have used their power to create one set of rules for themselves and another set of rules for the rest of us.

This report examines how they are publicly subsidized, the security threats they pose, and the detrimental environmental impact they present. This report follows the work of a report released by the Institute for Policy Studies in 2008 of the same title.

Some major takeaways:
• The private jet lobby spent $ 56 million lobbying over the past ten years to save more than $ 1 billion in annual taxes they avoid due to preferential tax treatment.
• The tax cut package under consideration in the Senate maintains and expands the private jet tax carve-out, while the Republican budget plan increases fees on commercial airline passengers.
• Private jets contribute less than one tenth of the resources they use from the Federal Aviation Administration Trust Fund. Commercial airline passengers heavily subsidize private jet passengers.
• Commercial jets are taxed at up to 40 times the rate of private jets on the exact same route despite identical needs in terms of transportation infrastructure.
• Private jets threaten our national security as owners can obscure their identity and passengers face zero security screening.
• A single private jet trip burns more greenhouse gases than the average American does in a whole year.

• End the private jet tax carve-out and tax private jets at the same rate or higher than commercial air travelers. Don’t make it more expensive to fly commercial while subsidizing private jet travel.
• Close the security loopholes in private jet travel and tax carbon emissions effectively to account for the environmental impact of private jets.

The post Report: High Flyers 2017 appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.


It’s Time for Trump to Do Something About High CEO Pay


(Photo: mintage / Shutterstock)

The House is expected to vote Thursday on a Wall Street deregulation plan that would roll back several Obama-era CEO pay reforms, including a ban on banker bonuses that encourage excessive risk, and a new regulation that requires publicly held corporations to report the ratio between their CEO and median worker pay. But instead of rolling back modest pay reforms already on the books, lawmakers should be pushing for bolder solutions, such as using tax and government contracting policies that reward firms with reasonable CEO pay levels.

While President Donald Trump bashed high CEO pay on the campaign trail, since taking office, he hasn’t raised the slightest concern about his fellow Republicans’ crusade to repeal Obama-era executive compensation reforms.

If Trump truly wants to “make America great again,” one of his primary goals should be to restore CEO pay to the more rational levels of decades past. In 1980, the gap between average pay for the heads of large U.S. corporations and typical workers ran about 42 to 1. Today, this pay ratio stands at 347 to 1.

These extreme disparities are not only unfair, but they’re bad for business.

Company culture
The mega-millions that flow directly into executives’ pockets every year are just a small fraction of the total cost to American companies. But the effects on employee morale carry a much higher price. When the boss makes 347 times more than you, it’s difficult to swallow the canard that “there is no ‘I’ in team.” A 2016 Glassdoor survey of 1.2 million people bears this out statistically, finding a strong correlation between high CEO pay and low employee approval ratings for their bosses.

A Brookings Institution analysis reached a similar conclusion, finding that “large differences in status” within companies can inhibit participation. And in a study published in Administrative Science Quarterly, four researchers agreed that “extreme wage differentials between workers and management discourage trust and prevent employees from seeing themselves as stakeholders.”

Read the full article on Fortune’s website. 


Darkness at High Noon in Korea


Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-Hye (Photo: White House)

As the world focuses on the war in Syria, the refugee crisis in Europe, and the primary slugfest in the United States, the two Koreas are heading toward a catastrophe in the Far East.

Although relations on the Korean peninsula have been deteriorating for the better part of eight years, the last six months have been particularly tense. North Korea recently conducted its fourth nuclear test and followed up with a satellite launch using a long-range rocket. The international community reacted in its customary fashion, with condemnations and the imposition of more sanctions. South Korea joined in the chorus of disapproval.

But this time, South Korea went a step further. It severed its last important economic link with the North.

The Kaesong Industrial Complex was the only legacy remaining of the “sunshine policy,” the Nobel-Prize winning project of former South Korean president Kim Dae Jung. Established in 2004, the economic zone brought together South Korean businesses and North Korean labor in a business park located just north of the Demilitarized Zone in the ancient Korean capital of Kaesong.

Last week, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye pulled the plug on Kaesong. North Korea expelled the South Korean employees and froze the assets. The North also cut the communications hotlines that had connected the two countries. In this way, the two sides cooperated one last time to extinguish the final fading rays of sunshine.

The South Korean Ministry of Unification initially claimed that the proceeds from Kaesong helped the North fund its nuclear and missile programs. The minister subsequently walked back that claim, admitting that the government had no such evidence. That didn’t prevent President Park from repeating the same claim the next day.

The nosedive in relations on the Korean peninsula is already having a regional impact. North Korea has announced, in response to a new round of sanctions from Tokyo, that it’s suspending its investigations into the people it abducted from Japan in the 1970s and 1980s. Both China and Russia are concerned that South Korea will adopt a new missile defense system in the wake of North Korea’s actions. And the United States has sent four F-22 stealth fighters to fly over South Korea in addition to an aircraft carrier already on its way for upcoming exercises.

But it’s the suspension of Kaesong that remains most troubling. The project represented the only real example of Korean reunification avant la lettre: a model for how the two very different countries could gradually work together toward common goals. Kaesong had survived for more than a decade despite North Korea’s nuclear tests and South Korea’s shift to the right. It symbolized the triumph of pragmatism over propaganda.

Park Geun-Hye has abandoned all her earlier talk of a “trustpolitik” policy of engaging the North. “We now need to find a fundamental solution to effectively change North Korea, and it is our time to be brave,” she said this week. Those sound a lot like fighting words.

Optimists always say that it’s darkest before the dawn. But we’re well past dawn on the Korean peninsula. We’re heading toward a showdown at high noon. And yet the sky seems to be getting darker and darker. Can all the parties concerned somehow avert a total eclipse of the sun?

The Importance of Kaesong

At its height last year, the Kaesong Industrial Complex employed over 50,000 North Korean workers and over 800 South Korean managers at 124 firms. As a result, 2015 was a very good year for the economic zone. For the first time since it started over a decade ago, the complex generated more than $ 500 million in economic output. That’s a lot of shoes, overcoats, and electrical products, many of which are sold in South Korea.

North Korean workers, mostly women, earned $ 150-160 a month. The North Korean government took approximately 70-80 percent of that total, which led many outsiders to conclude that the place was a “sweatshop,” even a place of “slave labor.”

But $ 30-48 a month, given North Korea’s depressed economy, is a lot of money for a North Korean — not to mention the other benefits, such as lunches and snacks, that came with the job. The average worker at a state enterprise only makes about $ 1 a month. The working conditions at Kaesong, meanwhile, were a lot better than anything you’d find in other North Korean factories. Although North and South Korean workers ate separately and kept their interactions to a minimum, the complex nevertheless provided an unprecedented opportunity for each side to humanize the other.

As North Korean defector Je Son Lee recently wrote, “When I was still living in North Korea, people used to say, ‘If you have one person in the family who works for Kaesong Industrial Complex, it can feed the mouths of everyone in their family.’”

Unfortunately the international community largely treated Kaesong as the bastard child of inter-Korean relations. God forbid that any Kaesong products might have sneaked into other countries covered by free-trade agreements with South Korea. As I wrote back in September:

Despite trade union concerns, the FTA — which went into effect in 2012 — has not extended any benefits to Kaesong. The United States — along with the EU and Turkey — relies on a panel to determine if any products from Kaesong are eligible under the FTA. So far, the panel has nixed every product.

Nor was North Korea able to attract significant foreign investment into the zone beyond that from the South Koreans.

And yet ironically, here was something that U.S. and South Korean conservatives should have been rushing to support. It was a clear capitalist encroachment into what many consider one of the last bastions of communism in the world (though I prefer to think of North Korea as an example of corporatist nationalism). It was a non-union zone, and conservatives love to talk about how much they hate unions (except, of course, in countries where they want workers to organize and effect regime change).

And the zone was smack dab in the middle of one of North Korea’s invasion routes into the south. As of last week, the North Korean military has taken control of the area. In what possible way could the closure of Kaesong represent a win for Seoul and Washington?

The North Korean Threat

When pressed by Chuck Todd of MSNBC at one of the Democratic debates to pick the biggest threat to the United States — Russia, North Korea, or Iran — Bernie Sanders chose North Korea.

That in itself wasn’t such a strange answer. After all, the United States continues to cooperate with Russia on a number of issues and has recently concluded a nuclear agreement with Iran. No one in Pyongyang or DC was going to get angry at Bernie for that.

In fact, Sanders’s full response revealed not so much his ignorance of foreign policy — a favorite evaluation of media savants — but how thoroughly mainstream his approach is:

Clearly North Korea is a very strange situation because it is such an isolated country run by a handful of dictators, or maybe just one, who seems to be somewhat paranoid. And, who had nuclear weapons.

And, our goal there, in my view, is to work and lean strongly on China to put as much pressure [as possible]. China is one of the few major countries in the world that has significant support for North Korea, and I think we got to do everything we can to put pressure on China. I worry very much about an isolated, paranoid country with atomic bombs.

Sanders supports increasing sanctions against North Korea and wants to pressure China into doing likewise. Again, this puts the Democratic presidential candidate in good company. The Senate passed the most recent sanctions legislations 96 to 0, and the House did the same by a margin of 408 to 2.

But here’s the problem with this position. First, if isolation is what makes North Korea so dangerous, why would more international sanctions make the country any less of a danger? Second, if China has resisted pressure for more than two decades to turn the screws on its neighbor, why would it change its position now?

I’m not happy that North Korea has a nuclear weapons program. And believe me, China isn’t happy either. But registering our opposition to the program will not magically eliminate the North’s nukes. Nor will additional sanctions convince the leadership in Pyongyang to change their minds, any more than the economic embargo against Cuba transformed the system there. North Korea is convinced that the outside world wants to destroy it — which is not mere paranoia — and a nuclear weapon is its only security blanket.

The cynical will say that the international community has tried both isolation and engagement, and neither has worked. But that’s not really true. The international community has put its body and soul behind isolation and has been, at best, half-hearted about engagement. If only to make the obligatory nod toward non-proliferation, politicians condemned North Korea for its nuclear tests and missile launches.

But at some point, again in the interests of non-proliferation, the key players have to get back to the table with North Korea and negotiate a freeze of its nuclear capabilities at their current rudimentary level. More importantly, we have to multiply the points of engagement, not shut them down.

The North Korean regime is noxious in many ways. But one thing is for sure: Even though it’s outgunned, it won’t stand down in a showdown at high noon. And unless we start using our words, East Asia will be plunged into a darkness far more profound than the one that so famously exists north of the DMZ at night.

The post Darkness at High Noon in Korea appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

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


Car companies end year on high, post double-digit growth – Economic Times

Car companies end year on high, post double-digit growth
Economic Times
NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: India's passenger vehicle industry ended on a high in 2015, with a double digit rise in December sales helping the sector with deep economic linkages post its best annual showing in four years and strapping it with confidence to face

and more »


How The Assault at Spring Valley High Brutally Demonstrates the ‘School-to-Prison Pipeline’


Officer Ben Fields had not a moment’s hesitation in putting a black girl in a chokehold to yank her from her desk chair, slam her to ground and throw her across her classroom. The video of this assault has gone viral and has rightly prompted outrage from white people.

Here’s the thing: The suspension, expulsions, beating and arresting of black students in the U.S. is closer to the rule than the exception when childish behaviors occur at school. The national statistics on how often school discipline involves authorities physically attacking students isn’t available. But we do have data on the disproportionately high rates of out-of-school suspensions, expulsions and referrals to the criminal justice system that black children experience in our schools on a daily basis.

Here are some recent stories illustrating the data:

Honor student Kiera  Wilmot, a black high school sophomore, was arrested for conducting a science experiment that had been going viral on the internet by putting household cleaner and a piece of aluminum foil in a bottle and making smoke.  She was charged with two felonies.

A 14-year-old black student from Texas was choked by a school police officer “for his own safety,” during a lunch-room tussle with another student.

A 12-year-old black boy was arrested for engaging in a staring contest with a white student, who while giggling, told the teacher that she felt “intimidated” though she had started the game.

Dontradrian Bruce, a black high school student who earned all A’s and B’s, held up three fingers–the number of his football jersey- in a photo taken by his science teacher as he completed a successful science project. Dontradrian was suspended for 21 days, accused of making a gang sign.

Kyle Thompson’s school principal said that Kyle was such a great kid, he wished his school was full of Kyle Thompson’s. Yet when this 14-year-old black student declined to show his teacher a note he had written, the child was led from school in handcuffs, barred from all public schools in the state for a year and is spending a year under house arrest.

The criminalization of black children starts almost the moment that child leaves her mother’s door. According to a recent report from the National Education Association, black children represent only 18% of pre-schoolers, but they make up nearly half of all pre-school suspensions. Anecdotal evidence is sometimes even more horrifying than the data itself:

Joah was 3 years old and his mother received a call from the school that he hit a staff member on the arm, was deemed “a danger to the staff,” and suspended. He was suspended 5 times that year. 

A little 5-year-old black child in Mississippi was required to wear black shoes as part of the school’s dress code. The family didn’t have black shoes for him and his mother colored in some white and red sneakers with black magic marker. He was nabbed by the cops at school and sent home in the back of a police vehicle.

Due to a spike in crime by juveniles in the 1990s, social scientist John Delulio propagated a myth of the rise of “superpredators.” These superpredators were to be “radically impulsive, brutally remorseless elementary school youngsters who pack guns instead of lunches” and “have absolutely no respect for human life.” This false panic paved the way for Zero Tolerance policies that over-criminalized childish behaviors in schools. Consequently, we’ve seen expulsions and suspensions almost double since then.  The Vera Institute reports that about 2 million secondary school students are now suspended annually. Compare that to the fact that just 3 million students graduated high school that same year.

Black and Latino students are suspended and expelled at much higher rates than white students. Black students in middle school are suspended at a rate almost four times more often than white youth, and  three times more likely than white youth for the same infractions overall. Particularly alarming is that over 70% of all students receiving school-related arrests and referrals to law enforcement are black or Latino.

The consequences of both this excessive criminalizing of children and the racial bias in harsh punishments are extreme. The Kirwan Institute cites studies showing that a single suspension in the first year of high school doubles the dropout chance for that child. Children who experience expulsions are three times more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system. Once caught within the juvenile system, the psychological and economic consequences can have a lasting and burdensome impact on children while simultaneously decreasing their educational and financial opportunities, and increasing the chances of re-incarceration. People incarcerated as youth are nearly 70% more likely to be in jail again by age 25 than youth who were not referred to juvenile detention.

The current discipline policies in our schools undoubtedly criminalize our children and criminalize them with a bias, especially against black youth. When officers like Ben Fields react to a child who won’t relinquish her cell phone with excessive violence and arrest, he is potentially condemning her before she has even had the chance to grow up. Right now, our school policies assume black kids are criminals and we should beat ‘em up, kick ‘em out and lock ‘em up.

Are you outraged yet?

The post How The Assault at Spring Valley High Brutally Demonstrates the ‘School-to-Prison Pipeline’ appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Karen Dolan directs the Criminalization of Poverty Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. 


Italy’s youth unemployment just hit a new record high — here’s what’s going wrong – Business Insider

Business Insider
Italy's youth unemployment just hit a new record high — here's what's going wrong
Business Insider
Italian youth unemployment broke a new record today, hitting the eye-watering level of 44.2% in June's figures. That's despite the fact the eurozone is clearly now recovering (slowly) from years of recession and stagnation. Only two European countries
Youth unemployment in Italy exceeds 44 percent, 38yr highRT
Italian Unemployment Rises With Youth Jobless at Record HighBloomberg
Italian Govt not alarmed as unemployment climbs to 12.7%ANSAmed

all 27 news articles »


High tension in Papua and West Papua – The Age

The Age
High tension in Papua and West Papua
The Age
Young Darius Sohol proudly shows off the three-room structure he has just finished building using hand-hewn timber. …. Journalist Victor Mambor says that, given historical abuses, it's too little, too late: "The Indonesian people came and took

and more »


Oxfam reaction to the The High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows

Oxfam reaction to the The High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows

 Its findings should strengthen calls to tackle lax trade regulation, inconsistent tax policy and enforcement, collusion, and corporate greed.


France security: Chechens arrested amid high alert – BBC News

BBC News
France security: Chechens arrested amid high alert
BBC News
French police have detained five Chechens on suspicion of possessing explosives, with the country on high alert following attacks in Paris. The men were known to organised crime units but not those investigating terrorism, officials said. Separately
5 Russians Arrested in France, Including 1 With ExplosivesABC News
Five Russians detained in France on suspicion of planning attackRT
Five Russian Chechens arrested in France for 'preparing to launch terror attack'The Independent
CBS News -New York Daily News -International Business Times
all 151 news articles »


Liverpool High alumna: To understand Native Americans, walk a mile in their … – The Post-Standard –

Liverpool High alumna: To understand Native Americans, walk a mile in their
The Post-Standard –
… to your childhood home who will forcefully remove you from the property and offer you something worthless in exchange. Glass beads come to mind, but as it is 2014, maybe we can get you a nice McDonald's toy or something instead. … For example