A Digest of Community Action

February 14, 2018 by stephenshubert

Our National Leaders and how to get them out

IF there is any hope of stopping the Republicans from systematically destroying consumer protections, the environment, education, health care, voter rights, immigrant rights, gender rights, protection of public lands, robbing from the poor, the elderly, the middle class and enriching themselves gratuitously  – the  mid term national elections are it.   We can stop Republicans by the election of sufficient Democrats to stop the legislative, and potentially, the regulatory agenda of the Trump Administration.

Republicans to defeat – Congressional Elections:  We have the opportunity to remove the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan,  by supporting Randy “Iron Stache” Bryce (WI-01) through campaign contributions. (randybryceforcongress.com)   He is an ironworker, Army veteran, and cancer survivor. He’s led his local union and gotten his hands dirty on the job.  Randy is running as a proud working dad for single payer health care, higher wages, and more manufacturing jobs — and to stop the devastating Ryan agenda.

Jackie Rosen :  “Democrats CAN take back the Senate – but ONLY if we win in Nevada. That’s why strong Democratic leaders like Senator Elizabeth Warren are doing everything they can to help Jacky Rosen win our best Senate pickup opportunity of 2018… a Mitch McConnell-linked group is already pledging to spend millions against us

Andrew Janz: opposing  Devin Nunes, infamous Reptilian congressman from California – front man for Trump’s effort to impune the Russian investigation. Andrew was raised in Visalia, the son of immigrants who has committed his life to public service. Andrew returned home after law school and became a prosecutor for Fresno County, and is now running for Congress to continue serving the community. Janz, who said he’ll come to Washington to rid politics of dark money and focus on health care and clean water issues for his district, is leading the Democratic field in raising money.

Other races to follow – want to highlight a race?  send me a message on Facebook.

Local Matters

From Sharon Abreu

Community Bill of Rights & Rights of Nature:

A group formed recently on Lopez called Community Rights San Juan Islands. The group is interested in creating a Community Bill of Rights and Rights of Nature to be adopted by the San Juan County Council. An organization I’ve supported for several years called the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) is promoting this, helping communities across the country push back against corporate “rights” that threaten the health of people and the natural environment that is so precious to us. Kai Huschke, the western organizer for CELDF who lives in Spokane, will be at events on San Juan and Orcas for community dialogue following a one-hour screening of the documentary “We, the People 2.0” and for a legal workshop on Lopez:

San Juan: Thursday, Feb. 22, 7 pm at the Brickworks

Orcas: Friday, Feb. 23, 5:30 pm at Emmanuel Parish Hall

Lopez: Saturday, Feb. 24, 10 am-12 noon at Lopez Library – Legal Workshop with Kai Huschke “Organizing for Rights of Salish Sea”. The legal workshop is open to anyone. During this workshop, Kai will go deeper into community rights law and how it might work in our county.

More info at: https://celdf.org/community-rights    https://celdf.org/rights/rights-of-nature

https://celdf.org/2018/02/press-release-plymouth-nh-voters-adopt-community-rights-sustainable-energy-future-ordinance

http://facebook.com/communityrightsSJI

 Citizens Climate Lobby Carbon Fee & Dividend Resolution:

David Foutch on Lopez, a volunteer with the Citizens Climate Lobby, approached me about helping to get the San Juan County Council to endorse a resolution for a Carbon Fee & Dividend proposal. This is a proposal that the Citizens Climate Lobby is promoting nationally. It’s revenue neutral. It’s not a tax since the government doesn’t keep the money. Low income people would get a higher percentage of the dividend back. The fee would start low and rise over time.If the SJCC endorses the resolution, it sends a message to our federal representatives that we want this federal legislation. Citizens Climate Lobby is doing great work lobbying the U.S. Congress for real action on climate change. It’s nonpartisan and is responsible for the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. I’ll be talking with Rick Hughes about it, and Jamie and Bill Watson as well. I have a sample resolution that we can use to create our own. For more on the proposal, see: https://citizensclimatelobby.org/carbon-fee-and-dividend. If you’re interested in working with me on this, email me at sharmuse@gmail.com or call me at 376-5773.

 Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy: Ballot Initiative for a Carbon Tax

This is a statewide effort to put forth a bill for a carbon tax that is equitable and invests in a fossil-free, renewable energy future for Washington State. The Alliance has over 180 member organizations including environmental, labor, faith and community groups. There are several bills in the state legislature, but it’s unlikely any of them pass. So starting the beginning of March, any and all who are motivated can start gathering signatures for a ballot initiative to be on the ballot this November. I personally like this bill. I gathered signatures for I-732, but I much prefer this bill. It’s much more holistic, and because it’s not revenue neutral, it supports a real shift off fossil fuels, protects low income communities and communities of color, and is supported by labor as well as environmental groups, which I think is really important. I think it can serve as a good example for other states. If you’d like to help gather signatures, please let me know. I can get you the signature forms and other materials. More info at: https://jobscleanenergywa.com.

Web Sites worth visiting:

www.votesmart.org :  provides a biography, voting record, positions, rating, speaches and funding.  Useful for deciding whom to support, or oppose

Postcardstovoters.org:  (facebook: Postcards To Voters) site where democracts can write postcards to voters for selected campaigns.  The candidate must pass and interview to be listed on the site.  Names and addresses will be provided if you select a candidate you wish to write for…..

 FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

Inside The Tax-Cut = Job Growth Myth By Hedrick Smith (September 12, 2017)

Washington – Riding a tide of tax cuts and rising profits over four decades, the captains of Corporate America have shifted $1 trillion each year from the paychecks of middle class Americans into massive payoffs to Wall Street investors and CEO pay packages. And now they want you to believe, once again, that cutting corporate taxes will benefit average workers.

Measured against the historical record, that’s a hollow claim that borders on economic fake news. Factually, it flies in the face of the actual performance of American business, which over the past 40 years has generated what Citibank once called the greatest inequality of income in any major nation since 16th century Spain.

In 2012, the Congressional Research Service published a report that bluntly debunked the pet conservative notion that lowering tax rates boosts economic growth. “The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment and productivity growth,” the congressional tax report concluded. Instead, it said, lower tax rates fuel economic inequality.

Channeling Tax Cuts to Wall Street

More recently, the rationale for President Trump’s tax-cut plan was shot down by a survey of business leaders who were asked by an international accounting firm how they would use tax savings. Most U.S. multinationals told the survey that they had no intention of investing windfall gains from tax cuts on growth, more jobs or higher wages. Only 23% said they would do that. The large majority said they would pass on their tax savings to investors through higher dividends and stock buybacks.

But none of that evidence has deterred President Trump, the pro-business Republican tax-writing committees in Congress and corporate CEOs from continuing to market the myth that there’s a pot of gold for the working middle class at the end of the tax-cut rainbow.

This fall, the president, who stands to benefit personally from business tax cuts, cast the whole idea in populist rhetoric to crowds in Missouri and North Dakota. “This is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver real tax reform for everyday hard-working Americans,” Trump told Middle America. “Lower taxes on American business means higher wages for American workers.”

Catch-22 at AT&T

CEOs like AT&T’s Randall Stephenson march in rhetorical step with Trump, telling TV interviewers that lowering the current corporate tax rate from 35% to 20% will bring a job boom because “lower taxes drives more investment, drives more jobs, drives greater wages. All this fits together.”

For each $1 billion tax savings, Stevenson told CNBC, his company would create 7,000 well-paid blue-collar jobs.  “There are jobs wearing hard hats,” Stephenson asserted. “There are high-paying, really good jobs with great benefits. The correlation is tight — very, very tight.”

Sounds good but there’s a Catch-22. Sarah Anderson of the Institute of Policy Studies, a Washington research think tank, found that from 2008 to 2015, AT&T had already wedged its tax rate way down to 8% by taking advantage of tax write-offs and loopholes. But instead of using those low, low taxes to add jobs, AT&T has cut 80,000 jobs over the past nine years while CEO Stephenson was cashing in $124 million in stock options and grants.

 Loopholes Already Lower Corporate Taxes

AT&T is fairly typical. Thanks to $1.2 trillion in tax loopholes and deductions every year, most major American companies, especially those with global reach, pay much less than the official 35% corporate income tax rate. So much less that more than 100 big corporations have had years when they paid no federal taxes at all – Zero, according to tax records examined by Citizens for Tax Justice, a progressive think tank.

Based on corporate tax returns for 2008 to 2012, the group found 26 companies,  including Boeing, General Electric and Verizon, that actually got multi-billion tax rebates from the federal government, despite combined pre-tax profits of $170 billion.

Even worse for working Americans, those low, low tax rates didn‘t generate more jobs and higher wages. Just the opposite. The Institute for Policy Studies found 48 major U.S. companies that not only enjoyed tax rates below 20% from 2008 to 2015 but, like AT&T, they collectively cut a total of 483,000 jobs, despite what the Trump tax-cut lobby would have you believe.

Most Companies No Longer Seriously Fund Growth

These recent cases all fit a historic trend among hundreds of major U.S. corporations documented in detail by economist William Lazonick in Harvard Business Review in 2014. Lazonick’s article, tellingly titled “Profits Without Prosperity,” describes a major cause of America’s slow-growth economy today and suggests why so many economists doubt that corporate tax cuts will spur sustained growth.

Lazonick’s stunning disclosure was that in the late 1970s, major American companies used to reinvest about half of their annual profits in expanding their businesses, funding R&D, retraining workers and paying them more, and paid out the other half of profits to shareholders. But that pattern has changed dramatically.  From 2003 to 2012, Lazonick found, 91% of profits of S&P 500 corporations went to Wall Street investors and shareholders but only 9% of profits were allocated to growth.

“Trillions of dollars that could have been spent on innovation and job creation in the U.S. economy over the past three decades have instead been used to buy back (company) shares for what is effectively stock-price manipulation,” Lazonick concluded.

$1 Trillion in Lost Wages Goes to Shareholders

That radical shift in corporate policies resulted not only in slower growth but in the steady erosion of labor’s share of national income (see chart below) and the explosion of economic inequality in America.  Billionaire investor and social critic Nick Hanauer of Seattle, recently put his finger on the key numbers:

Over the last 40 years, corporate profits as a percentage of GDP have increased from about 6% to about 11%, while wages as a percentage of GDP have fallen by about the same amount. That represents about a trillion dollars a year that used to go to wages, but now goes to shareholders and executives.”

Anxious to reverse that massive income gap, Barack Obama as President advocated a lower tax rate for $2.6 trillion in corporate profits stashed overseas, provided that U.S. corporations were required by law to invest a large portion of those repatriated profits in job-producing projects to modernize America’s aging transportation network.  Obama felt it would take the force of law to make corporations invest in jobs.

But Republicans refused to work with him on that. And so far there is no evidence that either the Trump Administration or Congressional Republican leaders are ready to put teeth into their tax reform proposals to force Corporate America to live up to its gossamer promises of more jobs and higher wages.

 

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