It is difficult to keep up with the truth in these strange times in which we live. The fact that the media prints stories that are so often full of untruth and non-fact, presented as “the news”, makes it harder. In this peculiar and incomprehensible world, history is being rewritten even as some of us are old enough to remember the actual events being referred to, Congress claims to have done the opposite of what they really just did, and most journalists do not seem to understand the difference. Most journalists aren’t even curious enough to find out if there is a difference. One might look at the “fiscal cliff” deal for the latest example. The “fiscal cliff” was, of course, just a cute phrase coined by Bernanke in an effort to make Congress take drastic measures for no real reason on a deadline imposed randomly on Congress by Congress itself. Here’s some news for you – we jumped off the fiscal cliff in ’08 when we started giving trillions to the big banks instead of shutting them down and jailing the CEO’s for the fraud perpetrated on the world. In the cliff deal, Congress claims to have raised taxes on the wealthiest in the country, while fighting the debt and deficit. In truth, however, the “fiscal cliff” deal raised more revenue from the poorest (in the form of letting the social security ‘holiday’ expire) than the modest income tax increases on the wealthiest Americans garnered, and adds over 4 trillion dollars to the deficit over the next ten years. I have the suspicion that we will hear a lot more about the corporate giveaways included in the fiscal cliff deal in the next couple of months; we will be told, as though Congress had just figured it out, that the deal increased the deficit and now, sadly, we must give up our Social Security benefits to make up for it. One might note that we heard nothing about any of this during the fiscal cliff negotiations – not from members of Congress, the mainstream media, or the President. We are only hearing about it now that the deal is done, and only from a few sources.
Throughout the months of November and December, a steady stream of corporate CEOs flowed in and out of the White House to discuss the impending fiscal cliff. Many of them, such as Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, would then publicly come out and talk about how modest increases of tax rates on the wealthy were reasonable in order to deal with the deficit problem. What wasn’t mentioned is what these leaders wanted, which is what’s known as “tax extenders” , or roughly $205B of tax breaks for corporations. With such a banal name, and boring and difficult to read line items in the bill, few political operatives have bothered to pay attention to this part of the bill. But it is critical to understanding what is going on.[…]
Most tax credits drop straight to the bottom line – it’s why companies like Enron considered its tax compliance section a “profit center”. A few hundred billion dollars of tax expenditures is a major carrot to offer. Surely, a modest hike in income taxes for people who make more than $400k in income and stupid enough not to take that money in capital gain would be worth trading off for the few hundred billion dollars in corporate pork. This is what the fiscal cliff is about – who gets the money. And by leaving out the corporate sector, nearly anyone who talks about this debate is leaving out a key negotiating partner.
So without further ado, here are eight corporate subsidies in the fiscal cliff bill that you haven’t heard of.
1) Help out NASCAR – Sec 312 extends the “seven year recovery period for motorsports entertainment complex property”, which is to say it allows anyone who builds a racetrack and associated facilities to get tax breaks on it. This one was projected to cost $43 million over two years.
2) A hundred million or so for Railroads – Sec. 306 provides tax credits to certain railroads for maintaining their tracks. It’s unclear why private businesses should be compensated for their costs of doing business. This is worth roughly $165 million a year .
3) Disney’s Gotta Eat – Sec. 317 is “Extension of special expensing rules for certain film and television productions”. It’s a relatively straightforward subsidy to Hollywood studios , and according to the Joint Tax Committee, was projected to cost $150m for 2010 and 2011.
4) Help a brother mining company out – Sec. 307 and Sec. 316 offer tax incentives for miners to buy safety equipment and train their employees on mine safety. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to bribe mining companies to not kill their workers.
5) Subsidies for Goldman Sachs Headquarters – Sec. 328 extends “tax exempt financing for York Liberty Zone,” which was a program to provide post-9/11 recovery funds. Rather than going to small businesses affected, however, this was, according to Bloomberg , “little more than a subsidy for fancy Manhattan apartments and office towers for Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Corp.” Michael Bloomberg himself actually thought the program was excessive, so that’s saying something. According to David Cay Johnston’s The Fine Print, Goldman got $1.6 billion in tax free financing for its new massive headquarters through Liberty Bonds.
6) $9B Off-shore financing loophole for banks – Sec. 322 is an “Extension of the Active Financing Exception to Subpart F.” Very few tax loopholes have a trade association, but this one does. This strangely worded provision basically allows American corporations such as banks and manufactures to engage in certain lending practices and not pay taxes on income earned from it. According to this Washington Post piece , supporters of the bill include GE, Caterpillar, and JP Morgan. Steve Elmendorf, super-lobbyist, has been paid $80,000 in 2012 alone to lobby on the “Active Financing Working Group.” 
7) Tax credits for foreign subsidiaries – Sec. 323 is an extension of the “Look-through treatment of payments between related CFCs under foreign personal holding company income rules.” This gibberish sounding provision cost $1.5 billion from 2010 and 2011, and the US Chamber loves it. It’s a provision that allows US multinationals to not pay taxes on income earned by companies they own abroad.
8) Bonus Depreciation, R&D Tax Credit – These are well-known corporate boondoggles. The research tax credit was projected to cost $8B for 2010 and 2011, and the depreciation provisions were projected to cost about $110B for those two years, with some of that made up in later years.
Conveniently, the Joint Committee on Taxation in 2010 did an analysis of what many of these extenders cost. You can find that report here .
[Click on link to see footnotes and Taxation Report – Teri]
Fact-checking Obama on fiscal cliff deal (ah, an exception – at least one journalist did his job): http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/01/04/fact-check-obama-fiscal-cliff/1809179/
I have a lot I would like to say about Social Security, but I will save that for another time, for it deserves a post of its own. Suffice it to say, while Obama was talking about saving the average taxpayer $2000/year in income taxes during the discussions prior to the fiscal cliff deal, he never mentioned the expiration of the “P/R tax holiday”; with the end of that “holiday” included in the fiscal cliff deal, the take-home pay of everyone earning less than 113,000 goes down 2% (after the first 113,000 earned, the current SS withholding threshold, you are exempted from paying into the SS fund). It is estimated that the expiration of the SS holiday will give about 1.2 tt to the revenue side of the government over ten years, while the tax increase on the wealthy might gain 400 to 600 bb. Or maybe the wealthiest will pay less than that – they are pretty damn good at hiding their income. In any case, we commoners will once again have to sacrifice as Congress deals with the debt ceiling. Remember that the Republicans have already said that they are done with raising revenue – now it’s on to cutting expenditures. That means taking out medicare, medicaid, social security, WIC, education programs, heating assistance, etc., despite these programs being hit hard repeatedly during Obama’s first term as he “negotiated” with Congress several times over raising the debt ceiling. The idea Congress has on these issues is simple: the rich must survive in the style to which they are accustomed. For the rest of us, the beatings will continue until morale improves.
Another example of the incurious press at work:
Protesters forced to scale down at Obama inaugural
By By BRETT ZONGKER, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — A protest group planning to stage a demonstration about unemployment at President Barack Obama’s inauguration says it’s being forced to scale down plans because it won’t have much space on Washington’s Freedom Plaza.
The ANSWER Coalition said Friday that the Presidential Inaugural Committee is taking over the plaza where protests have been held. Protesters will have a 10-yard-wide strip of sidewalk below the plaza.
ANSWER had expected to have bleachers with thousands of demonstrators. National Coordinator Brian Becker says there’s a long history of reserving Freedom Plaza as a place for dissent.
In 2009, the group shared the space with inauguration organizers.
A National Park Service spokeswoman says the protest group applied for the space first but that the inaugural committee has preference under regulations that took effect in 2008.
Copyright © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
We are not sure exactly which regulations are being cited here. It can’t be the one regarding secret service events being off limits to protesters, because that one was just passed last year, not in ’08. [http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2012/02/houses-passes-new-bill-that-would-make.html] Not one single article I read about this reconfiguration of the “protest area” after the issuing of the permit gave the actual law in question. Each simply repeated the claim in the original that there was such a law. I suppose that in this day of secret laws and secret budgets, it barely matters which law they are talking about. Hell, maybe there doesn’t even need to be a law; let’s not pass a law and say we did.
In one of those odd coincidences, the protesters seeking the right to assemble on Freedom Plaza during the inaugural are doing so on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. As a nod to the great man, the lesser man currently in the White House offers this on the White House website:
“This year, Martin Luther King Day coincides with the 2013 Presidential Inauguration. President Obama is asking Americans to honor the legacy of the civil rights leader by participating in a service project on January 19.”
Obama in other words: Don’t even think about protesting! Take your unpaid day off and use it helping some other poor schlub who has it worse than you. In this great country, the poor help the tired, the lame help the halt, the huddled masses huddle elsewhere, the rich help no-one cuz why the fuck should they, the government wants all your social security to spend on war, and Martin is best remembered as service coordinator. Why, he would frown upon such divisive and unattractive activities as protesting.
Obama is calmly and coolly rewriting MLK’s biography and legacy. He turns King into a charity, rather than an outspoken critic of the government and a tireless leader of non-violent protest and advocate of the poor and minorities. He makes King sound a bit like a dilettante, rather than acknowledge the man’s ideas of a kind, responsible, and responsive government.
The real Martin Luther King, Jr.:
[…] In 1965 King began to publicly express doubts about the Vietnam War. In an April 4, 1967 appearance at the New York City Riverside Church—exactly one year before his death—King delivered a speech titled “Beyond Vietnam”. He spoke strongly against the U.S.’s role in the war, arguing that the U.S. was in Vietnam “to occupy it as an American colony” and calling the U.S. government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today”. He also connected the war with economic injustice, arguing that the country needed serious moral change:
“A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.”
King also opposed the Vietnam War because it took money and resources that could have been spent on social welfare at home. The United States Congress was spending more and more on the military and less and less on anti-poverty programs at the same time. He summed up this aspect by saying, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death”. […] [He] accused the U.S. of having killed a million Vietnamese, “mostly children”.[…]
King began to speak of the need for fundamental changes in the political and economic life of the nation, and more frequently expressed his opposition to the war and his desire to see a redistribution of resources to correct racial and economic injustice. He guarded his language in public to avoid being linked to communism by his enemies, but in private he sometimes spoke of his support for democratic socialism. In one speech, he stated that “something is wrong with capitalism” and claimed, “There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.” […]
In 1968, King and the SCLC organized the “Poor People’s Campaign” to address issues of economic justice. King traveled the country to assemble “a multiracial army of the poor” that would march on Washington to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol until Congress created an ‘economic bill of rights’ for poor Americans. The campaign culminated in a march on Washington, D.C., demanding economic aid to the poorest communities of the United States.
King and the SCLC called on the government to invest in rebuilding America’s cities. He felt that Congress had shown “hostility to the poor” by spending “military funds with alacrity and generosity”. He contrasted this with the situation faced by poor Americans, claiming that Congress had merely provided “poverty funds with miserliness”. His vision was for change that was more revolutionary than mere reform: he cited systematic flaws of “racism, poverty, militarism and materialism”, and argued that “reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced”.[…]
The plan to set up a shantytown in Washington, D.C. was carried out soon after the April 4 assassination [of MLK, jr.]. Criticism of King’s plan was subdued in the wake of his death, and the SCLC received an unprecedented wave of donations for the purpose of carrying it out. The campaign officially began in Memphis, on May 2, at the hotel where King was murdered.
Thousands of demonstrators arrived on the National Mall and established a camp they called “Resurrection City.” They stayed for six weeks. […] – from wikipedia, main article on Martin Luther King, Jr.
King was assassinated just before the Poor People’s Campaign began its march; protesting for jobs and economic equality got him killed. I know that this wikipedia article on MLK is accurate – at this point in time. I know that because my entire family admired King, listened to his speeches, attended some of his events, and collected books written about him, some penned while he was still alive. Goddamn it, I was alive back then. I was one of the hundreds of thousands who heard his “I Have a Dream” speech live. I wasn’t very old, but I was there, sitting on my Daddy’s shoulders and part of the swaying crowd, chanting and crying and shouting. I went to Resurrection City with my mother to bring food to the encamped people. King was a visionary, a radical, a firebrand, a proponent of nonviolent civil disobedience. It is a good thing to give to the local food bank and we should do it if we can afford to, but Martin Luther King, Jr. was not just a volunteer at the soup kitchen. The best way to honor his memory is exactly the protest for jobs (now being cut off at the pass), planned for Inaugural Day 2013. The protest that Obama does not want you to attend. I assure you, however, that once someone high enough up on the food chain decrees it, the “facts” available on wikipedia will change. When I first began researching Libya for the series I wrote about our “humanitarian intervention”, wikipedia offered a list of facts about Libyan society and the positive changes Ghaddafi had implemented in recent decades. (Universal healthcare, free education, nationalized banking and oil, etc.) Once we invaded Libya and assassinated Ghaddafi, wikipedia scrubbed anything that might reflect positively on Ghaddafi from its articles. The CIA World Fact Book did the same. As I followed the story on the Deedy/Elderts murder case, I found that the first articles written in the press had been altered without explanation or scrubbed from the internet altogether. Apparently, the State Dept. did not like what some of the eye-witnesses were saying about one of their employees. We are being taught that the facts don’t matter, that history can be altered – hell, we’re even setting the alterations in stone. [see: http://www.npr.org/2012/02/24/147301301/quote-on-mlk-memorial-to-be-fixed-but-how ]
But this year’s inaugural message on the WH website is not the first time Obama has sneered at King. In his acceptance speech upon being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama said the following, excerpted below. Aside from the extreme irony of using the Peace Prize as a chance to promote war and America’s justification for invading other countries illegally, one must note that he used the opportunity to damn King with the faintest of praise.
[…]Moreover, wars between nations have increasingly given way to wars within nations. The resurgence of ethnic or sectarian conflicts; the growth of secessionist movements, insurgencies, and failed states; have increasingly trapped civilians in unending chaos. In today’s wars, many more civilians are killed than soldiers; the seeds of future conflict are sewn, economies are wrecked, civil societies torn asunder, refugees amassed, and children scarred.
I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work, and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.
We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.
I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago – “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak -nothing passive – nothing naïve – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.
But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.
I raise this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter the cause. At times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world’s sole military superpower.
Yet the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions – not just treaties and declarations – that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest – because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.
So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace. And yet this truth must coexist with another – that no matter how justified, war promises human tragedy. The soldier’s courage and sacrifice is full of glory, expressing devotion to country, to cause and to comrades in arms. But war itself is never glorious, and we must never trumpet it as such.[…]
I was appalled by this speech when he gave it, but let’s not forget that this was the speech he gave and that these are the words he chose. And that this was a few scant years before Obama destroyed Libya, had Ghaddafi tortured and assassinated, set up his secret assassination matrix and drone policy, before he began bombing 7 or 8 or 9 countries and called everyone thus killed “terrorists” regardless of their affiliations or age, before he killed several American citizens living abroad (one of them a child), signed the 2012 and 2013 NDAAs which allow for indefinite detention of anyone anywhere, killed some poor old man without charges or trial and dumped his body in the ocean – calling him Osama bin Laden – and then helped Hollywood write a movie about the deed. This was before he decided to send troops into 35 African nations [http://on.rt.com/ya93ju ] and before he began sanctioning Iran just for the hell of it.
Yesterday, I caught MSNBC during the “Andrea Mitchell Reports” and was treated to a brief presentation of what we can expect to hear over and over as Congress debates over the debt ceiling and continues further down the path of austerity measures. Andrea Mitchell is talking to Tom Brokaw here as to his opinion on what Obama should say in his inaugural speech. Bear in mind that Mitchell is married to Alan Greenspan, whom Matt Taibbi correctly identifies as the “biggest asshole in the universe”, as it was Greenspan who was the main architect of the financial meltdown of ’08. [Read Taibbi’s “Griftopia” if you haven’t already.] Brokaw is on the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, which tells you what you need to know about his take on things. In this interview, there is no talk about the possibility of a financial transaction tax on Wall Street or about the criminality of the big banks which created their own black hole in the financial universe, sucking in all the money and hard assets globally. There is no mention of the cost of the “wars” or the size of the Pentagon budget. Not a peep about subsidies to big oil and big ag. No talk about the huge profits and bonuses in the big corporations, much less the hiding of these monies in off-shore accounts to avoid taxation. No, no, no, this “balanced discussion” on what is considered the leading liberal news channel, between two of our most respected “journalists” consists of this: Obama needs to take a hard line against the greedy American people. “Citizens need to start giving back,” Brokaw intones. And regarding Medicare, well, says Brokaw, “It’s time to take some of the ornaments off that Christmas tree.” 5-minute video clip:
I see the same half-assed, lopsided presentation, sloppy reasoning and incoherent messaging coming from every source imaginable recently. One of my senators used to direct her staff to answer queries and emails with responses that were at least on topic and cogent. Now I receive garbled and trite crap like the following from her:
Thank you for contacting me about the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2013 (S. 3254). It’s good to hear from you.
There were several concerning provisions regarding the indefinite detention of American citizens included in fiscal year 2012’s NDAA. I believe they were unwise intrusions on the civil rights of American and did little to protect America’s national security. That is why I voted for Senator Feinstein’s amendment to prohibit the indefinite detention of American citizens who are apprehended in the United States. This amendment, which had bipartisan support, was included in the final NDAA bill as passed by the Senate.
Our military serves with bravery and dedication. Over 60,000 American service members are deployed fighting in Afghanistan. Many have made multiple deployments. Their families are also fighting on the home front to live normal lives despite repeated absences of a spouse or parent. Our nation owes our service members and their families an enormous debt of gratitude. Congress has a sacred trust to provide for their needs. I believe the fiscal year 2013 NDAA does just this while also defending the civil rights of all Americans.
Again, thanks for contacting me. Please let me know if I can be of help to you in the future.
Barbara A. Mikulski
United States Senator
What a disingenuous and twisted answer to my email asking her (Mikulski) to vote against the 2013 NDAA. Pretzel logic. She voted for it, by the way. So did Ben Cardin, my other senator. You might note that she does not mention that the Feinstein amendment – deemed to be so convoluted and poorly worded that it was unclear whether or not it did anything at all about protecting the rights of American citizens – was stripped from the final bill by the Senate Armed Services Committee. What’s the point of bringing up this amendment which no longer even exists in the final version that was signed into law? If she supported it as the way to “protect our rights” and it is no longer in the bill, how can she yet say the final bill protects our civil rights?
As to any other reason for voting aye, she offers up some warrior worship pablum, which is now extended to include the warriors’ families, who are “fighting on the home front to live normal lives”. How about this: Let’s stop all the fighting, abroad or at home, real or rhetorical, stop worshiping the flying monkeys and their apparently feudin’ families, end the “wars”, bring the troops home, and tell them to relearn how to be human beings?
Ah. Too late. Too late. They can’t unlearn what the military taught them so well, they are adored for learning it so well, they profit from learning it so well. There is no incentive for unlearning it. Senators like Mikulski, all unaware and ignorant of what they do, well-meaning and probably kind to animals and small children, will continue to nonetheless support the random and vicious killing of people all over the world, based on nothing but the suspicions and allegations of a very few men in charge. All unaware and ignorant, they support teaching warriors to kill for no reason and then demand that these war-machines, these weapons that we deploy – for they are no longer fully human – be given seats at the table and that the poor and hungry at home be stripped of even the scraps thrown to them so that this warrior class can have the orts and leavings as well. And then we are told to worship them, to admire them, to give to them happily and with gratitude.
That’s Mikulski. Most of the other senators and congressmen do not act out of such ignorance and misguided “patriotism”. Most of the rest blandly take their bribes from the arms merchants and oil companies and when asked to respond to questions about why we are giving up our jobs, our social security, or roads or homes to support the “warriors” and the “wars” they fight, they tell their secretaries, “Oh, fuck the constituents. They’re idiots. Tell ’em thanks for writing. That’ll be all.” Then they laugh and go to play golf with the assistant to the CEO of Ratheon or Halliburton. Those rounds of golf, concluded with complementary promises of future earnings as lobbyists themselves, discussions of the wealth to be made from sacking this country or that one; that is the Real World to these guys. On the greens, they don’t even have to pretend to worship the warriors, whom they view as so much hardware. They trade some quid pro quo with Walmart – you swap out civilians for returning veterans in your employee pool and I’ll guarantee that you get special tax credits for hiring ’em. And I’ll see to it that you don’t have to worry about their health care costs – they’re covered under the Vet Administration. Lookie here – the stupid constituents are actually paying for the health benefits and giving up their jobs. They’ll call both you and me patriotic. Know what else we can do? Ask people to drop a few bucks in the “Wounded Warrior” basket on their way out after they’ve finished shopping in your store. That way, we can cut back on even what we give the vets from the gubment coffer and you get a nice juicy charitable donation to write off whatever’s left of your tax bill. People are suckers for this shit. Well, people are suckers, period. Ha, ha, ha. ‘Nother Seagram’s? I can write it off, ya know.
[Walmart actually is planning to swap out some current workers for returning veterans; I did not make that up. The CEO admitted after this linked article was written that some current workers would have to be let go to accommodate the pledge to hire 100,000 vets. http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-74031668/ ]
Write down what you remember. Tell your kids what you remember. Save original internet articles in full, not just the link, which can be disappeared in a flash. Listen to the news with an ear out for propaganda and with skepticism. Keep printed books around – the danger of electronic reading devices like the Kindle is that the text you are reading may have been altered in some way. How would you know if you have never read the original of what you are buying for your i-shit e-book? (Although even some of the printed books themselves are now being altered: http://articles.courant.com/2011-01-05/news/hc-mark-twain-censored-books0106-20110105_1_mark-twain-house-twain-scholar-n-word) Read the books your kids are using in school. I remember a couple of years ago, my daughter brought me her American History book, updated to include events through 2007, and we both read with puzzlement the final chapter in the book. One of George W. Bush’ greatest achievements while in office, the book read, was that he “won the war in Afghanistan”.
“Uh, yo Mom,” she said, “aren’t we still in Afghanistan?”
Yes, darlin’, we are. Even to this day.