Category Archives: Economics

FREE EBOOK: “SECRECY FOR SALE – Inside The Global Offshore Money Maze”

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Click on link below to view ICIJ’s “Secrecy for Sale: Inside the Global Offshore Money Maze” investigation in PDF format, or for the best reading experience, save and open the e-book within a PDF viewer on your media tablet, e-reader or personal computer. For Apple iPad owners we recommend opening the e-book in the iBooks or Goodreader apps.
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National Employment Law Project Documents ALEC’s Attack on Wages

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This article was originally posted by the “Center For Media And Democracy” at prwatch.org

Since the Center for Media and Democracy’s launch of ALEC Exposed in July 2011, CMD has known that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its corporate funders are accelerating the race to the bottom in wages and working conditions for America’s working families. ALEC has a raft of “model bills” to lower wages and slash benefits for workers, even one to repeal state minimum wage laws.

Now the National Employment Law Project (NELP) has joined in the effort to take a closer look at this ALEC agenda, tallying the bills introduced and pushed in states in the last few years.

In an issue brief called “The Politics of Wage Suppression: Inside ALEC’s Legislative Campaign Against Low-Paid Workers,” NELP has documented that since January 2011, legislators from 31 states have introduced 105 bills aiming to repeal or weaken core wage standards at the state and local level, and 67 of these 105 bills were directly sponsored or co-sponsored by legislators affiliated with ALEC.

ALEC legislators have worked to weaken wage standards at the state level by repealing state minimum wage laws, reducing minimum wage rates for youth and tipped workers, weakening overtime compensation policies, and preventing the establishment of local living wage and prevailing wage ordinances, says NELP.

“State legislatures have historically served as crucial sources of momentum for passing federal legislation to raise the wages of low-paid workers. ALEC’s focus on weakening or repealing critical labor standards at the state level threatens the wages and economic security of workers across the country,” said Christine Owens, executive director of NELP.

ALEC’s wage suppression agenda targets workers in the low-wage sectors that are forming the core of the U.S. economy: according to a study released in August 2012 by NELP, 60 percent of jobs lost during the recession were middle-wage and high-wage occupations, while 58 percent of jobs gained in the recovery have been low-wage occupations.

Read the new report here and check out NELP’s handy chart of bills for a look at what is happening in your state.

Through ALEC, Global Corporations Are Scheming to Rewrite YOUR Rights and Boost THEIR Revenue

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This is taken from alecexposed.org

Photo: Activist group “Overpass Light Brigade”

We connected the dots between corporations, politicians, and extreme bills
pouring out of the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Our research helped push 42 major corporations out of ALEC.
Click here to support the Center for Media and Democracy’s investigations!
What is ALEC?
Contents [hide]
1 ALEC FAQ
1.1 What is ALEC?
1.2 Who funds ALEC?
1.3 Is it nonpartisan as claimed?
1.4 What goes on behind closed doors?
1.5 How do corporations benefit?
1.6 How do legislators benefit?
1.7 Is it lobbying?
1.8 Is it legal?
ALEC FAQ

What is ALEC?

ALEC is not a lobby; it is not a front group. It is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC. Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve “model” bills. They have their own corporate governing board which meets jointly with the legislative board. (ALEC says that corporations do not vote on the board.) Corporations fund almost all of ALEC’s operations. Participating legislators, overwhelmingly conservative Republicans, then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations—without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills. ALEC boasts that it has over 1,000 of these bills introduced by legislative members every year, with one in every five of them enacted into law. ALEC describes itself as a “unique,” “unparalleled” and “unmatched” organization. We agree. It is as if a state legislature had been reconstituted, yet corporations had pushed the people out the door.
Who funds ALEC?

More than 98% of ALEC’s revenues come from sources other than legislative dues, such as corporations, corporate trade groups, and corporate foundations. Each corporate member pays an annual fee of between $7,000 and $25,000 a year, and if a corporation participates in any of the nine task forces, additional fees apply, from $2,500 to $10,000 each year. ALEC also receives direct grants from corporations, such as $1.4 million from ExxonMobil from 1998-2009. It has also received grants from some of the biggest foundations funded by corporate CEOs in the country, such as: the Koch family Charles G. Koch Foundation, the Koch-managed Claude R. Lambe Foundation, the Scaife family Allegheny Foundation, the Coors family Castle Rock Foundation, to name a few. Less than 2% of ALEC’s funding comes from “Membership Dues” of $50 per year paid by state legislators, a steeply discounted price that may run afoul of state gift bans. For more, see CMD’s special report on ALEC funding and spending here.
Is it nonpartisan as claimed?

ALEC describes itself as a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The facts show that it currently has one Democrat out of 104 legislators in leadership positions. ALEC members, speakers, alumni, and award winners are a “who’s who” of the extreme right. ALEC has given awards to: Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, George H.W. Bush, Charles and David Koch, Richard de Vos, Tommy Thompson, Gov. John Kasich, Gov. Rick Perry, Congressman Mark Foley (intern sex scandal), and Congressman Billy Tauzin. ALEC alumni include: Speaker of the House John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Congressman Joe Wilson, (who called President Obama a “liar” during the State of the Union address), former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, former House Speaker Tom DeLay, Andrew Card, Donald Rumsfeld (1985 Chair of ALEC’s Business Policy Board), Governor Scott Walker, Governor Jan Brewer, and more. Featured speakers have included: Milton Friedman, Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, Dan Quayle, George Allen, Jessie Helms, Pete Coors, Governor Mitch Daniels and more.
What goes on behind closed doors?

The organization boasts 2,000 legislative members and 300 or more corporate members. The unelected corporate representatives (often registered lobbyists) sit as equals with elected representatives on nine task forces where they have a “voice and a vote” on model legislation. Corporations on ALEC task forces VOTE on the “model” bills and resolutions, and sit as equals with legislators voting on the ALEC task forces and various working groups. Corporate and legislative governing boards also meet jointly each year. (ALEC says only the legislators have a final say on all model bills. ALEC has previously said that “The policies are debated and voted on by all members. Public and private members vote separately on policy. It is important to note that laws are not passed, debated or adopted during this process and therefor no lobbying takes place. That process is done at the state legislature.”) The long-term representation of Koch Industries on the governing board means that Koch has had influence over an untold number of ALEC bills. Due to the questionable nature of this partnership with corporations, legislators rarely discuss the origins of the model legislation they bring home. Though thousands of ALEC-approved model bills have been publicly introduced across the country, ALEC’s role facilitating the language in the bills and the corporate vote for them is not well known.
(ALEC legislators sometimes compare the organization to the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), yet the two organizations could not be more different. NCSL has zero corporate members. It is funded largely by state government appropriations and conference fees; it has a truly bipartisan governance structure, and there is a large role for nonpartisan professional staff; it does not vote on or promote model legislation; meetings are public and so are any agreed upon documents. Corporations do sponsor receptions at NCSL events through a separate foundation. For more information, see the document ALEC & NCSL.)
How do corporations benefit?

Although ALEC claims to take an ideological stance (of supposedly “Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty”), many of the model bills benefit the corporations whose agents write them, shape them, and/or vote to approve them. These are just a few such measures:
Altria/Philip Morris USA benefits from ALEC’s newest tobacco legislation — an extremely narrow tax break for moist tobacco that would make fruit flavored tobacco products cheaper and more attractive to youngsters.
Health insurance companies such as Humana and Golden Rule Insurance (United Healthcare), benefit directly from ALEC model bills, such as the Health Savings Account bill that just passed in Wisconsin.
Tobacco firms such as Reynolds and pharmaceutical firms such as Bayer benefit directly from ALEC tort reform measures that make it harder for Americans to sue when injured by dangerous products.
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) benefits directly from the anti-immigrant legislation introduced in Arizona and other states that requires expanded incarceration and housing of immigrants, along with other bills from ALEC’s crime task force. (While CCA has stated that it left ALEC in late 2010 after years of membership on the Criminal Justice Task Force and even co-chairing it, its prison privatization bills remain ALEC “models.”)
Connections Academy, a large online education corporation and co-chair of the Education Task Force, benefits from ALEC measures to privatize public education and promote private on-line schools.
How do legislators benefit?

Why would a legislator be interested in advancing cookie-cutter bills that are corporate give-aways for global firms located outside of their district? ALEC’s appeal rests largely on the fact that legislators receive an all-expenses-paid trip that provides many part-time legislators with vacations that they could not afford on their own, along with the opportunity to rub shoulders with wealthy captains of industry (major prospective out-of-state donors to their political campaigns). For a few hours of work on a task force and a couple of indoctrination sessions by ALEC experts, part-time legislators can bring the whole family to ALEC’s annual convention, work for a few hours, then stay in swank hotels, attend cool parties — even strip clubs– and raise funds for the campaign coffer, all heavily subsidized by the corporate till. In 2009, ALEC spent $251,873 on childcare so mom and dad could have fun.
Is it lobbying?

In most ordinary people’s view, handing bills to legislators so they can introduce them is the very definition of lobbying. ALEC says “no lobbying takes place.” The current chairman of ALEC’s corporate board is W. Preston Baldwin III, until recently a lobbyist and the Vice President of State Government Affairs at UST Inc., a tobacco firm now owned by Altria/Phillip Morris USA. Altria is advancing a very short, specific bill to change the way moist tobacco products (such as fruit flavored “snus”) are taxed– to make it cheaper and more attractive to young tobacco users according to health experts. In fact, 20 of the 24 corporate representatives on ALEC’s “Private Enterprise Board” are lobbyists representing major firms such as Koch Industries, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Wal-Mart and Johnson and Johnson.
ALEC makes old-fashioned lobbying obsolete. Once legislators return to their state with corporate-sponsored ALEC legislation in hand, the legislators themselves become “super-lobbyists” for ALEC’s corporate agenda, cutting out the middleman. Yet ALEC enjoys a 501(c)(3) classification, which allows it to keep its tax-exempt status while accepting grants from foundations, corporations, and other donors. In our view, the activities that corporate members engage in should be considered lobbying by the IRS, and the entity that facilitates that effort to influence state law, ALEC, should also be considered to be engaged predominantly in lobby-related activities, not simply “educational” activities. Re-classifying ALEC as primarily engaged in lobbying facilitation would mean that donations to it would not count as tax-deductible for businesses and foundations. Common Cause filed a complaint with the IRS on July 14, 2011, setting forth evidence supporting its complaint that ALEC is engaged in lobbying despite its claims to do no lobbying.
Is it legal?

ALEC’s operating model raises many ethical and legal concerns. Each state has a different set of ethics laws or rules. The presence of lobbyists alone may cause ethics problems for some state legislators. Wisconsin, for instance, generally requires legislators who go to events with registered lobbyists to pay on their own dime, yet in many states, legislators use public funds to attend ALEC meetings. According to one study, $3 million in public funds was spent to attend ALEC meetings in one year. Some legislators use their personal funds and are reimbursed by ALEC. Such “scholarships” may be disclosed if gifts are required to be reported. But should the legislators be allowed to accept this money when lobbyists are present at the meeting? Still other legislators use their campaign funds to go and are again reimbursed by ALEC; in some states, campaign funds are only allowed to be used to attend campaign events.
In short, many state ethics codes might consider the free vacation, steeply discounted membership fees, free day care or travel scholarships to be “gifts” that should be disallowed or disclosed.

To find out what bills these global corporations are responsible for and how they will affect you click here

THE ONE PERCENT

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This 80-minute documentary focuses on the growing “wealth gap” in America, as seen through the eyes of filmmaker Jamie Johnson, a 27-year-old heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune. Johnson, who cut his film teeth at NYU and made the Emmy®-nominated 2003 HBO documentary Born Rich, here sets his sights on exploring the political, moral and emotional rationale that enables a tiny percentage of Americans – the one percent – to control nearly half the wealth of the entire United States. The film Includes interviews with Nicole Buffett, Bill Gates Sr., Adnan Khashoggi, Milton Friedman, Robert Reich, Ralph Nader and other luminaries. www.theonepercentdocumentary.com

ALEC ROCK!

Plutonomy memos

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The word “plutonomy” was coined by Ajay Kapur, a global strategist at Citigroup, in 2005. The memos discussed a new era of economic growth that is powered and consumed by the very wealthy.[5][6]
The memos were highlighted in Michael Moore’s documentary movie, “Capitalism: A Love Story.”
Quotes from the Memos: “The world is dividing into two blocs — the plutonomies, where economic growth is powered by and largely consumed by the wealthy few, and the rest. Plutonomies have occurred before in sixteenth century Spain, in seventeenth century Holland, the Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties in the U.S.”
“Disruptive technology-driven productivity gains, creative financial innovation, capitalist- friendly cooperative governments, an international dimension of immigrants and overseas conquests invigorating wealth creation, the rule of law, and patenting inventions. Often these wealth waves involve great complexity, exploited best by the rich and educated of the time.”
“We project that the plutonomies (the U.S., UK, and Canada) will likely see even more income inequality, disproportionately feeding off a further rise in the profit share in their economies, capitalist-friendly governments, more technology-driven productivity, and globalization.”
“Since we think the plutonomy is here, is going to get stronger…” “It is a good time to switch out of stocks that sell to the masses and back to the plutonomy basket.” continue reading

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Glass-Steagall Act of 1933

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The Glass-Steagall Act, also known as the Banking Act of 1933 (48 Stat. 162), created the regulatory framework for banking following the depression-era collapse of much of the banking system. It established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and included other banking reforms, and placed legal restrictions on combined banking and financial service firms.
The 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act repealed much of the Glass-Steagall Act and is credited with being a contributor to the 2008 financial collapse.[1] continue reading

The Dangers Of American Fascism | Henry Agard Wallace

crossposted from newdeal.feri.org

Henry A. Wallace

An article in the New York Times, April 9, 1944.
From Henry A. Wallace, Democracy Reborn (New York, 1944), edited by Russell Lord, p. 259.

On returning from my trip to the West in February, I received a request from The New York Times to write a piece answering the following questions:
What is a fascist?
How many fascists have we?
How dangerous are they?
A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends. The supreme god of a fascist, to which his ends are directed, may be money or power; may be a race or a class; may be a military, clique or an economic group; or may be a culture, religion, or a political party.

What America Wants | Henry Agard Wallace 1944

Cross posted from newdeal.feri.org

Henry A. Wallace

Delivered at Los Angeles on Friday, February 4, 1944
From Henry A. Wallace, Democracy Reborn (New York, 1944), edited by Russell Lord, p. 17.

On this trip to the West Coast, I propose to talk about America Tomorrow. Today I shall speak about what America wants. Later on at San Francisco and Seattle I shall discuss what America can have and how America can get it. We want many different things and some of these are in conflict with others. But let me point out right at the start that the sum total of what we Americans can have is immense. Only a few years ago, when the President said we wanted fifty thousand warplanes a year, some people thought he was being visionary. Today we know that the production of a hundred thousand warplanes a year is a hard reality. So I tell you we can have twice as much far civilian living after the war as we ever had before the war, and you know that is no dream: There are limits, but they are much higher than most people even yet realize.
continue reading

Hidden Taxpayer Costs

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Disclosures of Employers Whose Workers and Their Dependents are Using State Health Insurance Programs

Cross posted from goodjobsfirst.org

Updated January 18, 2012

Since the mid-20th Century, most Americans have obtained health insurance through workplace-based coverage. In recent years there has been a decline in such coverage caused by a rise in the number of jobs that do not provide coverage at all and growth in the number of workers who decline coverage because it is too expensive.

Faced with the unavailability or unaffordability of health coverage on the job, growing numbers of lower-income workers are turning to taxpayer-funded healthcare programs such as Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

This trend is putting an added burden on programs that are already under stress because of fiscal constraints caused by medical inflation and federal cutbacks. Many states are curtailing benefits and tightening eligibility requirements.

It also raises the issue of whether states are being put in a position of subsidizing the cost-cutting measures of private sector employers.

Across the country, policymakers and others concerned about the healthcare system are pressing for disclosure of information on those employers whose workers (and their dependents) end up in taxpayer-funded programs.

The following is a summary of the employer disclosure that has come to light so far. It includes two cases (Massachusetts and Missouri) in which the information was produced as a result of legislation. The other cases involved requests by legislators or reporters. The latter situations have sometimes resulted in data that are incomplete or imprecise, which suggests that only legislatively mandated, systematic disclosure will tell the whole story. continue reading