Huge Military Budgets Make Us Broke, Not Safe

aerial shot of Pentagon

(Image: Shutterstock)

We’re all tense. Hearing about our fellow citizens in Hawaii scrambling around, looking for a place to hide from a nuclear bomb, will do that to you. So will contests between two unstable world leaders over the size of their nuclear buttons.

Now, some politicians say they’ll protect us by adding massive amounts to the Pentagon budget. This seems like a no-brainer: feel threatened, give more money to the military. But it isn’t.

Practically everyone from the president on down, though, seems to take it as a given. “In confronting these horrible dangers,” Donald Trump said during his State of the Union, “I’m calling on Congress” to “fully fund our great military.”

The president and his party are now looking to add somewhere between $ 30 and $ 70 billion more in military spending to their budget for next year — on top of the increases for this year. Democrats seem willing to go along, with a few caveats.

Nobody seems worried anymore about adding to the financial hole we just dug for ourselves and our children with $ 1.5 trillion in tax cuts for the rich.

It’s true that the military needs predictability, which has been hobbled by politicians who can’t get it together to pass a real budget. Every enterprise, except maybe improv comedy, does. But it’s not true that the military needs more money.

The portrait of a “starved” military, which Trump and his secretary of defense like to complain about, airbrushes out a few facts.

We’re now spending more on the military, adjusted for inflation, than at any time since World War II — including during the Reagan and George W. Bush buildups. We spend more than the next eight countries put together.

Worse still, the military can’t even say what it’s actually spending — it’s still the only federal agency that can’t pass an audit. The brass says they’ll really try this year, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Trusting the Pentagon to rein in its own waste hasn’t worked. Back in 2015, the Pentagon’s own commissioned report found $ 125 billion in administrative waste that could be cut over five years. But then they simply buried the report.

Here’s what we really need to feel safer: Leaders who are working to reduce nuclear tensions rather than rev them up.

Instead, in addition to firing off scary tweets, Trump repeated calls in his State of the Union to “modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal,” to the tune of $ 1.7 trillion. Why? The 4,000 nukes we currently have — enough to destroy the entire planet — seem like an adequate deterrent.

Leaders are meanwhile working on designs for new “lower yield” nukes, envisioning them as tools for “limited” nuclear war. That makes nuclear war seem more feasible, and therefore more likely. Feeling safer yet?

And they want to build up the arsenal of conventional weapons, mostly to counter China. But China is expanding its influence around the world not mainly through military spending — its military budget is only a third of ours — but through its civilian investments.

As the U.S. retreats from providing development aid, China is filling the vacuum. As the U.S. cuts off its previous investments in clean energy technology, China has become the solar panel provider to the world.

Our new security strategy, by the way, has also airbrushed out climate change. A military that previously identified climate change as “an urgent and growing threat to national security” is now barred by the administration from talking about it at all.

While we contemplate spending money we don’t have for weapons we don’t need, the urgency of this threat continues to grow.

The post Huge Military Budgets Make Us Broke, Not Safe appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

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Portland Could Be the First City to Tax Corporations With Huge CEO-Worker Pay Gaps

ceo-pay-level-balance

It’s looking like Portland, Oregon has a good chance of becoming the first city in the nation to tax corporations with extremely wide pay gaps between their CEO and their workers. At a October 26 hearing, a majority of Portland’s city council members expressed support for levying a pay ratio surtax after listening to testimony from economic justice advocates.

“When I think about this policy, I think about the women who are largely women of color and moms who work in hotels,” Karly Edwards, who directs the Working Families Party in Oregon, told the council. “These women make barely over minimum wage, while CEOs like Christopher Nassetta of Hilton or Arne Sorenson of Marriott make millions.”

Both these hotel chiefs actually made more than $ 10 million in 2015.

A former labor organizer with UNITE HERE, Edwards told a story that illustrates how such extreme gaps can be bad for both workers and corporate bottom lines. In 2007, contract negotiations between the union and management of the downtown Portland Hilton broke down. The global chain refused workers’ demands, which included modest pay increases of 40 cents per hour for tipped workers, who were being paid the minimum wage, and 80 cents for non-tipped workers like housekeepers, who were making $ 10.10 an hour.

Eventually, the workers felt they had little choice but to authorize a boycott of the hotel, even though it would mean lost shifts and lost tips.

“That was a hit,” Edwards noted in her Portland testimony. “But that’s how hard these workers had to fight to get a wage increase.”

The Hilton corporation also took a hit. The boycott wound up costing the hotel nearly $ 2 million in lost revenue.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales told a story at the hearing about the dramatically different experience he had at a company with a narrow CEO-worker pay gap. Between 2002 and 2012, Hales worked for HRD, an employee-owned engineering firm with a CEO-worker pay ratio of about 10-to-1. During this period, the firm grew from 2,700 employees to 8,000 and in only one year during that period did the company’s profit margin drop below 15 percent.

“Obviously, this model leads to prosperity and I was very happy about that on a personal level. It helped me put two kids through college,” Hales said. “But on the morale side, the impact was even more profound. Everyone worked a little harder because ‘your success was my success.’ And that egalitarian culture led to a strong work ethic that drove the corporation to success.”

Portland’s surtax proposal would encourage narrower pay gaps by making companies with CEO-worker pay ratios of more than 100-to-1 pay an extra 10 percent tax on the city’s existing 2.2 percent business license tax. Firms with ratios of more than 250-to-1 would pay an extra 25 percent.

At the hearing, officials with the city’s revenue bureau explained that the surtax would be easy to implement, thanks to a new federal regulation that will require publicly held corporations to report their pay ratios every year, starting with 2017 data. The bill’s champion, Commissioner Steve Novick, would like to see revenue from the surtax, estimated at up to $ 3.5 million per year, go towards social programs.

At the federal level, Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), has just co-sponsored a bill that largely mirrors the Portland proposal. In a recent interview with Huffington Post Executive Business Editor Emily Peck, DeSaulnier said he welcomes the Oregon initiative. “If the West Coast does it and you have a critical mass,” he said, Congress “would have to take notice.”

A vote on the Portland surtax proposal is scheduled for December 7. Edwards, who was also instrumental in the recent adoption of a city resolution on fair scheduling, said the Oregon Working Families Party will be working to ensure that it passes.

“It’s hopeful to think that this could lead to CEOs having hard conversations with their boards and beginning to lower their inequality by lifting their workers up,” Edwards said. “Should those conversations not result in increases for workers, this surtax represents a commonsense way for the council to take action.”

The post Portland Could Be the First City to Tax Corporations With Huge CEO-Worker Pay Gaps appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Sarah Anderson is the director of the Global Economy program at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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America’s Huge Racial Wealth Gap Is No Accident

racial-wealth-gap-divide

(Photo: Ellie / Flickr)

Party platforms are dense and often morosely boring documents filled with wonkish policy proposals and partisan jeers at the other side.

At over 40 pages, this year’s Democratic Party platform lives up to its predecessors in length and ennui. However, it also includes a section not yet seen in platforms from either side: an acknowledgement of the racial wealth gap.

Wealth has been unfairly distributed since our nation’s founding, and that unfairness has always had a racial bent. It goes something like this: White families have more; black and Latino families have less. (Asian and Arab Americans have more complex economic histories.)

The gap is far larger than you might expect.

A 2014 study from Pew Research revealed that median white families have 13 times more wealth than median black families, and 10 times more than median Latino families. That gap has remained relatively consistent for decades.

The Democratic platform acknowledges that this gap “has been created by historical and contemporary policies and practices that discriminate against people of color” and have “constrained their ability to earn income and build assets to the same extent as other Americans.”

In other words, the racial wealth gap is no accident, and it’s not caused by some deficiency in people of color. It’s caused by a legacy of bad public policies that extend to this day. The platform commits to eliminating those systemic barriers, but what exactly are they — and how do we fix them?

One way to get at this is to consider who benefits from existing wealth-building policies.

Consider that in recent decades, wealth has concentrated at the tippy top of the economic pyramid. The 400 wealthiest Americans combined own $ 2.34 trillion. That’s more than the GDP of India, a country of over a billion people. In that group of 400, just seven are black or Latino.

Those at the top have been able to reach record levels of wealth through policies that prioritize wealth concentration by those who already have wealth. This is in stark contrast to focusing on those who have no wealth and helping them build a nest egg.

Take, for instance, the loopholes in the tax code that enable the 400 highest earning households to pay just 17 percent of their income in taxes. That’s less than half the top nominal rate. At the same time, we’re told we can’t afford to expand programs with a proven track record of improving prospects for people who start with less, like the early childhood education program Head Start.

This tradeoff — wasting precious public resources on tax breaks for the rich while leaving those at the bottom to fend for themselves — plays out in countless different ways in public policies large and small.

Reversing this dynamic will have a significant impact on the racial wealth gap, but first we have to acknowledge it. Including the racial wealth gap in the Democratic Party platform is a strong first step — one the Republicans should follow.

Now, let’s fix it.

The post America’s Huge Racial Wealth Gap Is No Accident appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Josh Hoxie directs the Project on Opportunity and Taxation at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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More Troops in Afghanistan is a Huge Mistake

troops-afghanistan-escalation-occupation

(Photo: Flickr / David Axe)

“It was a huge mistake when President Obama made the decision back in 2009 to escalate in Afghanistan,” bringing the total up to 100,000 U.S. troops, Phyllis Bennis told Press TV, and it’s a huge mistake now.

In 15 years of occupation, Bennis said, the region has not been stabilized, there has been no freedom brought to the people of Afghanistan, and the Taliban controls more territory than at any point since the U.S. invasion that overthrew them in 2001.

We have not even achieved the goal of getting children, especially girls, to school, Bennis said. In fact, 42 percent of Afghan children either have never been to school or dropped out before they reached the fifth grade.

As long as there are troops in the region, Bennis said, “there is going to be a continuing war against that occupation and against the Afghan government, which is widely seen as corrupt and encouraging this U.S. presence.”

Furthermore, Bennis said the Afghan president does not hold himself accountable to the people, most of whom live outside of the city in tiny villages scattered over a huge territory.

No matter who is in the White House come November, Bennis said, unfortunately it is likely that this ineffective policy in Afghanistan will continue.

“What we know from  Secretary Clinton is that she has generally supported the escalation of U.S. involvement in all the wars across the Middle East and Central Asia,” Bennis said. “There is no reason to think that she will have changed her position.

As for Donald Trump, she said, it is pretty clear that his Islamophobia and antagonism toward Muslims would play out and he would be willing to send massive numbers of troops, despite his occasional rhetoric on isolationism.

The culmination of militarism and hate from Trump, Bennis said “would indicate a very dangerous possibility of escalation in Afghanistan.”

Watch the full interview on Press TV’s website.

The post More Troops in Afghanistan is a Huge Mistake appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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President Talon to restore Benin’s cotton fortunes after huge drop in production – Africanews (press release)


Africanews (press release)
President Talon to restore Benin's cotton fortunes after huge drop in production
Africanews (press release)
Benin's President Patrice Talon is hopeful of restoring the country's cotton sector after output declined by more than a third in the 2015-2016 season. In an interview with French newspaper Le Monde, Talon said output by Africa's third-largest cotton
Benin cotton output has dropped by third during 2015-2016 seasonReuters Africa

all 4 news articles »

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President Talon to restore Benin’s cotton fortunes after huge drop in production – Africanews (press release)


Africanews (press release)
President Talon to restore Benin's cotton fortunes after huge drop in production
Africanews (press release)
Benin's President Patrice Talon is hopeful of restoring the country's cotton sector after output declined by more than a third in the 2015-2016 season. In an interview with French newspaper Le Monde, Talon said output by Africa's third-largest cotton
Benin cotton output has dropped by third during 2015-2016 seasonReuters Africa

all 4 news articles »

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President Talon to restore Benin’s cotton fortunes after huge drop in production – Africanews (press release)


Africanews (press release)
President Talon to restore Benin's cotton fortunes after huge drop in production
Africanews (press release)
Benin's President Patrice Talon is hopeful of restoring the country's cotton sector after output declined by more than a third in the 2015-2016 season. In an interview with French newspaper Le Monde, Talon said output by Africa's third-largest cotton
Benin cotton output has dropped by third during 2015-2016 seasonReuters Africa

all 4 news articles »

|||||||http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&ct2=us&usg=AFQjCNHlQf0qLrS11bxEqQmirDC8oWvCsQ&clid=c3a7d30bb8a4878e06b80cf16b898331&cid=52779113723490&ei=daFSV7C_OaTI8gGG25aYAw&url=http://www.africanews.com/2016/05/21/president-talon-to-restore-benin-s-cotton-fortunes-after-huge-drop-in-production/

President Talon to restore Benin’s cotton fortunes after huge drop in production – Africanews (press release)


Africanews (press release)
President Talon to restore Benin's cotton fortunes after huge drop in production
Africanews (press release)
Benin's President Patrice Talon is hopeful of restoring the country's cotton sector after output declined by more than a third in the 2015-2016 season. In an interview with French newspaper Le Monde, Talon said output by Africa's third-largest cotton
Benin cotton output has dropped by third during 2015-2016 seasonReuters Africa

all 4 news articles »

|||||||http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&ct2=us&usg=AFQjCNHlQf0qLrS11bxEqQmirDC8oWvCsQ&clid=c3a7d30bb8a4878e06b80cf16b898331&cid=52779113723490&ei=K2lJV6jsHafEwQGfvLeYBQ&url=http://www.africanews.com/2016/05/21/president-talon-to-restore-benin-s-cotton-fortunes-after-huge-drop-in-production/

France Could Face Huge Bill After Allegedly Hiring 48650 Casual Staff Illegally – VICE News

France Could Face Huge Bill After Allegedly Hiring 48650 Casual Staff Illegally
VICE News
According to the report, which was penned in 2014 and leaked to the press on Tuesday, France's justice ministry is alone responsible for hiring 40,500 casual staff — also known as occasional public service workers (collaborateurs occasionnels du

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North Dakota Is Making A Huge Bet That Oil Prices Bounce Bac… – Business Insider


Business Insider
North Dakota Is Making A Huge Bet That Oil Prices Bounce Bac…
Business Insider
Michael Froman, America's trade representative, says the TPP is about ensuring high labour standards, exposing state-owned enterprises to level competition with private enterprises and including digital activity "to ensure a free and open internet

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