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Political Article Archive for 2011

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Occupy Rigged Elections: A Call for the Second American Revolution in 2012
by Victoria Collier and Ronnie Cummins
Posted December 29, 2011

Altered voting machine?Once you understand how the machinery of the American voting system actually works, you're going to feel a little stunned, as if you came home from a three month vacation to discover you left your keys hanging in the front door.

Did you know that no one - not even an election supervisor - is allowed to view the software?

Did you know that the Vulnerability Assessment Team (VAT) at the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois just hacked a Diebold Accuvote touch-screen voting machine by remote control with $26 in computer parts?

We know these things because a small group of American election integrity activists have been working tirelessly, without much recognition or compensation, to compile a mountain of evidence. More...

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The Remarkable Political Stupidity of Wall Street
by Robert Reich
Posted December 12, 2011

SDtupid bankersWall Street is its own worst enemy. It should have welcomed new financial regulation as a means of restoring public trust. Instead, it's busily shredding new regulations and making the public more distrustful than ever. The Street's biggest lobbying groups have just filed a lawsuit against the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, seeking to overturn its new rule limiting speculative trading.

For years Wall Street has speculated like mad in futures markets – food, oil, other commodities – causing prices to fluctuate wildly. The Street makes bundles from these gyrations, but they have raised costs for consumers. In other words, a small portion of what you and I pay for food and energy has been going into the pockets of Wall Street. It's just another hidden redistribution from the middle class and poor to the rich. More...

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Corporate Taxpayers & Corporate Tax Dodgers 2008-10
Citizens for Tax Justice & the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy
Posted November 21, 2011

Tax dodgersEarlier this year, Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett made headlines by publicly decrying the stark inequity between his own effective federal tax rate (about 17 percent, by his estimate) and that of his secretary (about 30 percent). The resulting media firestorm has drawn welcome attention to unfair tax breaks that allow the richest Americans to avoid paying their fair share of the personal income tax. But these inequities are not limited to the personal tax. Our corporate tax system is plagued by very similar problems, problems that allow many of America's most profitable corporations to pay little or nothing in federal income taxes.

This study takes a hard look at the federal income taxes paid or not paid by 280 of America's largest and most profitable corporations in 2008, 2009 and 2010. The companies in our report are all from Fortune's annual list of America's 500 largest corporations, and all of them were profitable in each of the three years analyzed. Over the three years, the 280 companies in our survey reported total pretax U.S. profits of $1.4 trillion. More...

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Congress is Getting Richer – With Help From Legal Insider Trading
by Kerri Shannon
Posted November 17, 2011

Fat cat politiciansWhile many Americans continue to struggle to save money, members of Congress are getting richer.

According to a CBS News "60 Minutes" segment that aired Nov. 13, congressional "insider trading" might be a key factor in their financial success. Congress members may be using information gained from their "insider" positions to make highly profitable trades in the stock market. This form of insider trading may be unethical, but it's also legal.

Congressional leaders, however, even though privy to non-public information, are not considered corporate insiders, and can trade on such information and escape penalty. Congressional staffers and lobbyists also are exempt. More...

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As Zuccotti Park Is Cleared, Congress Moves to Gut Financial Reform
by Mary Bottari
Posted November 16, 2011

Money in politicsIn the dead of night last night, the movement to hold big banks accountable for their crimes took two major hits. Occupy Wall Street activists were swept from Zuccotti Park as radical members of Congress moved to gut funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and advance a series of shocking proposals to roll back financial reform.

On Capitol Hill, a similar rout was taking place in the dead of night. In a fast move that deals a serious blow to a key regulator in charge of Wall Street derivatives trading, the budget request for CFTC was cut by more than a third by legislators eager to kill any oversight of Wall Street.

The derivatives market is $600 trillion big and much of that market is controlled by just 4 Wall Street megabanks: JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs. Who is the watchdog for those derivatives? The CFTC has responsibility for most of them and it is getting a budget of only $205 million. They will not be able to hire the people or buy the technology that they need to keep up with Wall Street, never mind actually keep watch over them to try to prevent another financial catastrophe. More...

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To Get Really Rich, Get Elected
by Lew Rockwell
Posted November 10, 2011

Government for saleEconomic Collapse writes: Do you want to get rich? Just get elected to Congress. The U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives are absolutely packed with wealthy people that are very rapidly becoming even wealthier. The collective net worth of the members of Congress is now measured in the billions of dollars. The people that we have elected to the House and Senate are absolutely swimming in money. Unfortunately, it is not easy to get elected to Congress. In this day and age you generally have to be heavily connected to those that are very wealthy to get into Congress because it takes gigantic amounts of cash to win campaigns. But if you can get in to the club, you pretty much have it made. The numbers that you are about to read are very difficult to believe and they should deeply sadden you. They show that Congress has become all about money.

Congressional races are mostly financed by wealthy people, most of the people that we elect to Congress are very wealthy, and they rapidly get wealthier after they are elected. All of this money has turned our republic into something far different than our founding fathers intended. More...

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"We the People," Not "We the Corporations"
by Jim Hightower
Posted October 26, 2011

We The CorporationsA year from now, Americans will be caught in an unprecedented blizzard of presidential campaign ads. We'll be blinded by the whiteout and buried in the storm's negativity.

For the first time ever, most of this ad blizzard will not come from the candidates, but from ads secretly funded by huge corporations. This is because a five-man cabal on the Supreme Court issued an edict last year that perverts nature itself. In a case titled Citizens United, the five decreed that -- shazam! -- lifeless corporate entities are henceforth "persons" with more electioneering rights than ... well, us real-life persons.

The good news is that real citizens of our country are united against Citizens United. In a January Hart Research poll, 87 percent of Democrats, 82 percent of independents and even 68 percent of Republicans favor passing a constitutional amendment to overrule the Court's bizarre decision and make clear that only people are people. More...

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The Election March of the Trolls
by Chris Hedges
Posted August 31, 2011

Trolls tell us what we want to hearWe have begun the election march of the trolls. They have crawled out of the sewers of public relations firms, polling organizations, the commercial media, the two corporate political parties and elected office to fill the airwaves with inanities and absurdities until the final inanity—the 2012 presidential election. Journalists, whose role has been reduced to purveyors of court gossip, whether on Fox or MSNBC, descend in swarms to report pseudo-events such as the Ames straw poll, where it costs $30 to cast a ballot.

The trolls dominate or have neutralized every major institution in the country on behalf of their corporate paymasters. The press, education, Wall Street, labor and our political parties are managed by trolls or have been destroyed by them. Sometimes these trolls speak like liberals. Sometimes they speak like conservatives. Sometimes they are secular. Sometimes they are Christians. But the language they use is a cover for the relentless march toward a totalitarian capitalism and a kingdom where the trolls, if not the rest of us, live happily ever after. Rick Perry and John Boehner overtly make war on Social Security. Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi say they would like to save Social Security but are sadly powerless before the decisions of a congressional super committee they helped form. The result, of course, is the same. We get to choose the rhetoric and manner in which we are deceived and disempowered. Nothing more. More...

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Congressional Representatives Charge Constituents for Access
By Reid Epstein
Posted August 25, 2011

Pay per view CongressmanIt will cost $15 to ask Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) a question in person during the August congressional recess.

The House Budget Committee chairman isn't holding any face-to-face open-to-the-public town hall meetings during the recess, but like several of his colleagues he will speak only for residents willing to open their wallets.

Ryan, who took substantial criticism from his southeast Wisconsin constituents in April after he introduced the Republicans' budget proposal, isn't the only member of congress whose August recess town hall-style meetings are strictly pay-per-view.

Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokesman Graeme Zielinski said Ryan is scared to defend his record before his fellow citizens.

"Paul Ryan has had a hard time going before open crowds, and for good reason," Zielinski said. "I'm sure Ryan doesn't want to go before the public to explain while his extreme ideology caused Standard & Poor's to downgrade U.S. long-term treasury bonds. Beside, Ryan likes smaller settings — the kind where you can cozy up to a hedge fund manager and get a good $350 bottle of wine." More...

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Ruling on Behalf of Wall Street's "Super Rich": The Financial End Time has Arrived
by Prof. Michael Hudson
Posted August 6, 2011

Sheriff's depuites, a growth industryMr. Obama seems to be campaigning for his own defeat! Thanks largely to the $13 trillion Wall Street bailout – while keeping the debt overhead in place for America's "bottom 98%" – this happy 2% of the population now receives an estimated three quarters (~75%) of the returns to wealth (interest, dividends, rent and capital gains). This is nearly double what it received a generation ago. The rest of the population is being squeezed, and foreclosures are rising.

The pretense is that cutting taxes for the super-rich is necessary to win Republican support for including the middle class in the tax cuts. It is as if the Democrats never won a plurality in Congress. The pretense is "to create jobs," evidently to be headed by employment of shipyard workers to build yachts for the nouveau riches and sheriff's deputies to foreclose on the ten million Americans whose mortgage payments have fallen into arrears. More...

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The President Surrenders
by Paul Krugman
Posted August 1, 2011

Paul KrugmanA deal to raise the federal debt ceiling is in the works. If it goes through, many commentators will declare that disaster was avoided. But they will be wrong.

For the deal itself, given the available information, is a disaster, and not just for President Obama and his party. It will damage an already depressed economy; it will probably make America's long-run deficit problem worse, not better; and most important, by demonstrating that raw extortion works and carries no political cost, it will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status. More...

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Obama's Bad Bargain
by William Greider
Posted July 31, 2011

ObamaTake a dollar from working stiffs who need these programs, take a dollar from the superrich who don't need a tax break. How fair is that?

The most distressing outcome of the deficit hysteria gripping Washington may be what Barack Obama has revealed about himself. It was disconcerting to watch the president slip-slide so easily into voicing the fallacious economic arguments of the right. It was shocking when he betrayed core principles of the Democratic Party, portraying himself as high-minded and brave because he defied his loyal constituents. Supporters may hope this rightward shift was only a matter of political tactics, but I think Obama has at last revealed his sincere convictions. If he wins a second term, he will be free to strike a truly rotten "grand bargain" with Republicans—"pragmatic" compromises that will destroy the crown jewels of democratic reform. More...

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Who Rules America?
by G. William Domhoff
Posted July 25, 2011

Who rules America?I sit in an interesting chair in the financial services industry. Our clients largely fall into the top 1%, have a net worth of $5,000,000 or above, and if working make over $300,000 per year. My observations on the sources of their wealth and concerns come from my professional and social activities within this group.

I could go on and on, but the bottom line is this: A highly complex and largely discrete set of laws and exemptions from laws has been put in place by those in the uppermost reaches of the U.S. financial system. It allows them to protect and increase their wealth and significantly affect the U.S. political and legislative processes. They have real power and real wealth. Ordinary citizens in the bottom 99.9% are largely not aware of these systems, do not understand how they work, are unlikely to participate in them, and have little likelihood of entering the top 0.5%, much less the top 0.1%. Moreover, those at the very top have no incentive whatsoever for revealing or changing the rules. I am not optimistic. More...

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Is the United States a representative democracy or a mirage democracy
by Kevin Zeese
Posted July 4, 2011

Illusory democracyIt is a shame to have to ask whether democracy is a mirage in the United States, no doubt most Americans would rather be celebrating U.S. democracy than questioning it. But the reality of the disconnect between government and the people has become so stark it is impossible to ignore.

Gallup reports that Americans belief in our form of government and how well it works is now at only 42% (in 2002 it was at 76%). Less than a quarter of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, yet because of manipulation of the political process, the drawing of voting districts, the impact of campaign money and the power of incumbency, more than 90% will be re-elected. More...

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In Two Steps Obama Can Reduce the Influence of Secret Donations in 2012
by Kevin Zeeze
Posted May 10, 2011

Chamber of CommercePresident Obama is considering an executive order that would require companies bidding for federal contracts to disclose all of its federal political spending over $5,000 for the previous two years which they now keep secret, including money spent indirectly through third party organizations like the Chamber of Commerce. The proposed transparency order would create one central database on the website data.gov that would list the political activities of government contractors and their affiliates and officers.

The reaction to the executive order highlights the need for it. The Chamber of Commerce has been apoplectic over the executive order, making arguments that are absurd on their face. They have been lobbying former Chamber board member, William Daley , who is Obama's chief of staff. They claim transparency will lead to corruption in government contracting when just the opposite is true. Politics and procurement are already linked as politicians already know who their donors are; this transparency order will make money less powerful, not more powerful. If the public knows which corporations donated to which candidates or other electoral efforts it levels the playing field. Favoritism to donors will be seen as corruption of the process. Rather than creating a spoils system for government contractors, transparency will expose it and end it. More...

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