How Donald Trump Could Build an Autocracy in the U.S. – The Atlantic

Frankly frightening.

Those citizens who fantasize about defying tyranny from within fortified compounds have never understood how liberty is actually threatened in a modern bureaucratic state: not by diktat and violence, but by the slow, demoralizing process of corruption and deceit. And the way that liberty must be defended is not with amateur firearms, but with an unwearying insistence upon the honesty, integrity, and professionalism of American institutions and those who lead them. We are living through the most dangerous ch

Source: How Donald Trump Could Build an Autocracy in the U.S. – The Atlantic

Republican bill to privatize public lands is yanked after outcry

It seems like the Republicans hate nature – especially national parks and anything unspoiled. Especially if there a way to make money while destroying the environment.

 

 

Last weekend, more than 1,000 sportsmen, outdoor business owners, and public lands supporters joined Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) in Helena, Montana. Wednesday afternoon, a rally in New Mexico drew hundreds more people, all protesting congressional attempts to sell off or privatize public lands. The outcry was prompted in part by Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s (R-UT) introduction of a bill to sell off 3.3 million acres of public lands — an area the size of Connecticut.

Source: Republican bill to privatize public lands is yanked after outcry

Three Reasons Trickle-Down Tax Cuts Don’t Work

History shows that bad economic ideas almost never die, especially when they serve the wealthy and powerful. There’s no better example of this truth than trickle-down tax cuts. As we write this, the Trump administration is teeing up a tax plan that slashes taxes for the wealthy and the corporate sector, does little for everyone else (repealing the Affordable Care Act actually raises taxes on some with low and moderate incomes), and stiffs the U.S. Treasury to the tune of $6.2 trillion, according to the Tax Policy Center’s estimates.

Source: Three Reasons Trickle-Down Tax Cuts Don’t Work

Paul Krugman: Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan is one big scam – Salon.com

Paul Krugman: Donald Trump's infrastructure plan is one big scam

Trump’s plan to rebuild the country’s infrastructure is really a scheme to enrich wealthy people…..

There is also the fact that private investors will have no interest in building infrastructure that can’t be turned into a profit center. Privatizing these public projects is a gratuitous hand out to select investors, who would be aquiring public assets for “just 18 cents on the dollar, with taxpayers picking up the rest of the tab.

Source: Paul Krugman: Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan is one big scam – Salon.com

Big Wall Street Firms Make Lame Excuse for Volcker Rule Non-Compliance, Ask for Additional Five Year Extension | naked capitalism

Anyone who knows bupkis about finance knows if you can’t sell a financial asset in three years (or more accurately, seven), particularly with public and private market valuations at record levels, the problem is not liquidity. It’s valuation. These banks are carrying these holdings on their books at inflated marks and don’t want to recognize losses……..

“It’s laughable that the biggest, most sophisticated financial firms in the world claim they can’t sell the stakes year after year,” said Dennis Kelleher, CEO of non-profit Better Markets. “Everyone else in America has to comply with the law and Wall Street should also.”

Source: Big Wall Street Firms Make Lame Excuse for Volcker Rule Non-Compliance, Ask for Additional Five Year Extension | naked capitalism

Canada willingly makes tax deals with tax havens | Toronto Star

Billions of dollars are moving out of Canada – nearly all tax free – with 92 tax treaties signed.

“I think those of us who warned, 35 years ago, that one of the consequences of this would be, ‘those who have the most would end up paying the least and those with the least would end up paying the most’ — we’ve been proven right. ”

Source: Canada willingly makes tax deals with tax havens | Toronto Star

Panama papers: “an old tradition of English piracy” | openDemocracy

Looking at the documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca and one thing is clear: Britain’s network is once again at the core. More than half of the companies listed in the documents are registered in the UK or its Overseas Territories, and Hong Kong plays a huge role.

Of course, this shouldn’t be surprising. Britain has for for a while now been thought to be the global capital for money laundering. And it’s no shock that nothing has been done about it. In 2010, two years after they crashed the global economy, the City paid for more than half of the Conservative party’s election campaign, helping (along with the aforementioned Lord Ashcroft) them limp them over the line, with a Lib Dem shaped crotch. Though, of course, Labour did little to regulate in the previous 13 years.

If we want to understand modern Britain, first we need to realise that our primary economic function in the world is probably our network of tax havens. After all, around $21tn is estimated to sit in offshore accounts, of which Britain’s territories are said to make up by far the biggest part. Our own GDP is only around $3tn.

Second, we need to get to grips with the serious claims about our role as the global money laundering capital: a function which pushes up the price of the pound, making other exports unaffordable (bye bye steel), and drives up the cost of houses in London and the South East, fuelling a vast speculative bubble which sucks investment out of the rest of the economy.

And third, we need to think about how this gradually dawning economic reality interacts with our politics: not through the obvious corruption of direct bribery, but through revolving doors between government and civil service, through old boy’s networks and friendship groups, through perfectly legal election donations and media domination.

Source: Panama papers: “an old tradition of English piracy” | openDemocracy

Bernie Sander’s Plan to Tame Wall Street Riles Team Clinton

Sanders points out: “Three out of the 4 largest financial institutions (JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo) are nearly 80 percent bigger than before we bailed them out. Incredibly, the six largest banks in this country issue more than two-thirds of all credit cards and more than 35 percent of all mortgages. They control more than 95 percent of all financial derivatives and hold more than 40 percent of all bank deposits. Their assets are equivalent to nearly 60 percent of our GDP. Enough is enough.”

Source: Bernie Sander’s Plan to Tame Wall Street Riles Team Clinton | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Warren Buffett is a phony: Every liberal’s favorite billionaire is actually cut-throat, not cuddly – Salon.com

Buffett’s brand is progressive, and Democrats love to bask in his endorsements. The reality is very different

Source: Warren Buffett is a phony: Every liberal’s favorite billionaire is actually cut-throat, not cuddly – Salon.com

Punish the Bankers! | Foreign Policy

Timely article given recent article in NY Times (An S.E.C. Settlement With Citigroup That Fails to Name Names) wherein Citi agrees to pay a $180 million settlement plus $726 million in investor compensation and yet the SEC not only doesn’t hold any individual responsible – it doesn’t even name them. Talk about moral hazard.

The sentencing of the trader Tom Hayes for his part in the Libor scandal caused many a sharp intake of breath on London’s Canary Wharf.…

Source: Punish the Bankers! | Foreign Policy

Corporate Kleptocracy: 6,300 Examples Of America’s Malignant Malfeasance | Zero Hedge

The settlements with the banks along with the ongoing investigations have shown that virtually every market is being manipulated; the stocks, metals markets, LIBOR, FOREX, everything. The companies would only break so many laws if they felt they would have a reasonable chance of getting away with it; they would also need a reason to do it, which is provided by the infinite growth model our economy is based on.

Source: Corporate Kleptocracy: 6,300 Examples Of America’s Malignant Malfeasance | Zero Hedge

The Five Worst Supreme Court Justices In American History, Ranked | ThinkProgress

“the justices of the Supreme Court have shaped a nation where children toiled in coal mines, where Americans could be forced into camps because of their race, and where a woman could be sterilized against her will by state law. The Court was the midwife of Jim Crow, the right hand of union busters, and the dead hand of the Confederacy. Nor is the modern Court a vast improvement, with its incursions on voting rights and its willingness to place elections for sale.”

Even amidst this dark history, certain justices stand out as particularly mean-spirited, ideological or unconcerned about their duty to follow the text of the Constitution. Based on my review of over 150 years of Supreme Court history in Injustices, here are the five jurists who stand out as the worst justices in American history:

The Five Worst Supreme Court Justices In American History, Ranked | ThinkProgress.

NYC: Real Estate Tax Breaks for Oligarchs

How nauseating: NYC provides tax support to billionaires:

New York City’s method of assessing property values is so out of whack that the buyer of the most expensive apartment ever sold — a $100 million duplex overlooking Central Park — pays taxes as if the place were worth just $6.5 million.

With controversial tax breaks granted to the One57 condo tower, the total property tax bill for the spectacular penthouse is just $17,268, an effective rate of 0.017 percent of its sale price.

By contrast, the owner of a nearby condo at 224 E. 52nd St. that recently sold for $1.02 million is paying an effective rate of 2.38 percent, or $24,279, according to data compiled for The Post by the Revaluate.com real-estate information website.

(via ZeroHedge)         

 Tax Breaks for Oligarchs: The $100 Million NY Apartment With A Property Tax Rate of o.017%

Crony Capitalism or Government Doing Its Job

Since Adam Smith, capitalist economists (for the most part) have agreed that government (or other social institutions) should fill the gaps that the private sector can not address or would not do so as efficiently and/or effectively as the public sector. The Ex-Im Bank is a government agency that provides credit support to U.S. exporters. A major beneficiary is Boeing – airplanes being one of the U.S.’s largest export industry. Supporters argue that the Ex-Im Bank supports jobs, economic growth, helps the U.S. trade balance, and actually generates a profit to the Treasury while doing so.

While critics are correct that the program may create trade distortions, other countries have similar programs so a unilateral disarmament by the U.S. wouldn’t level the playing field but simply tilt in more in favor of non-U.S. producers such as Airbus.

In addition part of the Ex-Im Bank’s role is to help small companies enter the international market and I would argue that there is a gradient between trade promotion and trade distortion.

Legitimate criticisms include one by Delta that the U.S. government is providing a subsidy via Boeing/Ex-Im Bank to foreign airlines who then have a competitive advantage over U.S. airlines causing economic harm (including job losses) in that industry. Thus the impact of the Ex-Im Bank needs to be measured not just on the primary effects but also on the secondary effects. An also interesting issues is raised in the Comments section of the Bernstein column by Roger Anderson who points out that in recent years Boeing has had a negative federal income tax rate while competitor General Dynamics has paid at a 29% tax rate. So just how large is the real subsidy of Boeing and is it fair to its U.S. competitors?

So will Congress address this complicated issue with the intelligent nuanced analysis that it deserves? Probably not. Joe Nocera of the NY Times reports on Rep. Hensarling’s view of the Ex-Im Bank:

Representative Jeb Hensarling, a Republican from Texas who is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, gave a speech to the Heritage Foundation. Hensarling is a Tea Party favorite. His core view is that better government is less government, and that there is nothing government can do that the private sector can’t do better.

Hensarling’s speech was about economics, which, of course, meant it was about wasteful government subsidies and “crony capitalism.” He tossed off what he felt were examples of each — the failure of Solyndra; the continued existence of Fannie Mae; the bailouts of Wall Street and the auto industry — before landing on a government organization that he described as being the “poster child of the Washington insider economy and corporate welfare.”

“Its demise,” he went on, “would clearly be one of the few achievable victories for the Main Street competitive economy left in this Congress. I believe it is a defining issue for our party and our movement.

The Latest Tea Party Piñata

As if there are Mom & Pop stores selling jetliners and jet fighters in the local strip mall.

Cantor and Crony Capitalism | Jared Bernstein | On the Economy.

Here’s a Quick, Smart Way Obama Could Raise Worker Wages

A new Demos study finds that federally-supported firms, defined as companies that receive 10 percent or more of the yearly revenue from contracting,employ 6.6 million people. Of these workers, 3.5 million of these workers earn wages at or below 150 percent of the poverty line for a family four (disproportionally minorities and women). And they frequently get lousy treatment from their employers.

A 2010 GAO investigation found that the government frequently awards contracts to companies with wage, safety, environmental, immigration and Medicare violations. Meanwhile, according to a Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee report, firms that do federal contracting made up 30 percent of the companies with the largest penalties for health, safety and wage violations between 2007 and 2012.

Sean McElwee | Thoughts on Economics, Current Events and Philosophy.

AG Holder – “ U.S. Announces the Indictment of Citigroup’s Senior Officers”

by (www.nakedcapitalism.com)

….Why then did “endanger[ing] the company” become Citi’s controlling officers’ paramount mortgage strategy despite Bowen’s copious, dead-on accurate warnings?  Citi’s most senior managers, including former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, were personally put on written notice by Bowen that an extraordinary and growing percentage – eventually 80% – of Citi’s purchased mortgages were “toxic” and that it was reselling them through fraudulent “reps and warranties.”  Unlike Holder, there is no conceivable dispute that every Citi officer warned by Bowen instantly understood the implications.  There is only one logical answer – they knew that the accounting controlling fraud scheme Bowen described was a “sure thing” guaranteed to make them personally wealthy at the expense of Citi’s shareholders (and, absent a federal bailout, Citi’s creditors).

In response to these frauds Holder’s response is to fine the bank (Citi) – and to do nothing to the officers who grew wealthy by looting Citi’s shareholders.  The fine, of course, will be paid by Citi’s shareholders – who were one of the primary victims of the controlling officers’ “toxic mortgages” fraud schemes…..

AG Holder – “ U.S. Announces the Indictment of Citigroup’s Senior Officers”.