Tag: debt

Dec 01

CEO’s Have “A Pension Deficit Disorder”

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

A group of CEO’s from major US corporations have been lobbying Capitol Hill to put cuts to the social safety net at the forefront of negotiations to “fix the debt’ at the same time asking for more tax breaks while they reap the benefits of billions in government contracts and hand themselves lucrative pay raises and pensions while they bankrupt companies and underfund their employee pension funds.

From the Huffington Post

A group of high-profile corporate CEOs are lobbying Capitol Hill this week to put Social Security and Medicare cuts at the forefront of deficit reduction negotiations. Their own retirement funds, however, are secure: The coalition includes 54 CEOs who have amassed combined pension assets of more than $649 million from their companies’ executive retirement plans, according to a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies, titled “A Pension Deficit Disorder: The Massive CEO Retirement Funds and Underfunded Worker Pensions at Firms Pushing Social Security Cuts.”

The CEOs’ employees are much less secure in their retirement than the CEOs. According to the report, less than 60 percent of the 71 public companies offer pension plans for their employees. Of the 41 companies that do, 39 of them haven’t contributed enough to their workers’ pension funds to enable the plans to pay out their anticipated obligations. Among the companies with employee pension funds in the red, these deficits exceed $100 billion.

The CEOs are among 71 chief executives of publicly traded companies who belong to the Fiscal Leadership Council of the influential Campaign to Fix the Debt, a group which has raised more than $60 million to lobby for a debt deal driven by cuts to “entitlements.” The coalition will meet Wednesday morning with congressional leaders, according to sources familiar with the group’s lobbying activities. The group, funded in part by former private equity magnate Peter G. Peterson’s foundation, has pledged to push for austerity during the lame duck congressional session, and beyond. Peterson has spent nearly half a billion dollars in recent years pushing his austerity agenda.

As the debate heats up over whether to cut Medicare, Social Security or Medicaid in order to maintain federal spending and corporate tax breaks, companies with well-compensated CEOs who preside over underfunded employee pension funds invite a new round of questions about the motives, and methods, of the CEOs pressuring Congress and the White House to cut programs for the middle class.

As Talks Begin on “Fiscal Cliff,” Report Warns “Fix the Debt” a Front for More Corporate Bailouts

As the White House begins a series of meetings today on the looming “fiscal cliff,” a coalition of the largest corporate firms and advocacy groups is lobbying for wide-ranging cuts in government spending, including to programs like Medicare and Social Security. The group, which includes 80 of the country’s most powerful CEOs, is called the Campaign to Fix the Debt. It was co-founded by former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, previously the co-chairs of President Obama’s bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Critics have accused the group of using the budget crisis to push for corporate tax cuts. We are joined by Sarah Anderson, director of the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-author of the new report, “The CEO Campaign to ‘Fix’ the Debt: A Trojan Horse for Massive Corporate Tax Breaks.

The middle class, elderly, students and the poor have paid more than their “fare share” in this economic downturn while Wall St. and these megacorporations have continued to rake in billions. Social security, medicare and medicaid should be removed from any talks about the “fiscal cliff” myth. Lambert Strether at Corrente enumerated it best.

   Not one penny of cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or any other social insurance program, and any savings to be paid out as benefits.

The Democrats are defending programs. But they should be defending households. Here are some of the social insurance programs that are on the table, even if Social Security, Medicare, and Medcaid turn out to be off the table:

   Unemployment benefits extension in 2013 ($40 billion): If long-term unemployment benefits are allowed to expire at the end of the year, some 2 million jobless will be affected. Kogan says “there will be some extension, because that’s just brutal. It’s just a question of how much.”

   Pell Grants ($36 billion) (pdf): These need-based grants help some 10 million low-income students afford college.

   Section 8 Housing Assistance ($19 billion): Section 8 vouchers allow more than 2 million super low-income families to afford decent housing in the private market.

   Job Training ($18 billion in 2009): Loads of federal job training programs help millions of seniors, Native Americans, farm workers, veterans, young people, and displaced or laid-off workers with career development.

   Head Start ($7.9 billion):  The program, which helps kids from disadvantaged homes be better prepared to start school, had about a million enrollees in 2010. Research has shown that Head Start generates real long-term benefits for participants.

   Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program ($3.47 billion): In 2011, about 23 million poor folks got help paying the winter heating bills through LIHEAP.

   Community Health Centers ($3.1 billion (pdf): In 2011, more than 20 million patients, 72 percent of whom were below the poverty line, got healthcare through federally-supported community health centers.

   Title 1 Education Grants ($322 million) (pdf): Under the No Child Left Behind Act, school districts serving a big percentage of low-income kids get financial assistance to help them meet state academic standards.

   Women, Infants, and Children ($7.2 million in 2011): The Department of Agriculture’s WIC program helps low-income moms and babies get access to supplemental nutrition and health care referrals. WIC has about 9 million participants, most of whom are kids.

Not one penny should be cut from of any of these programs. Go scuttle an aircraft carrier or something. Stop one of the wars. Whatever, dude. You’re the Preznit.

Know your president by the friends he keeps.

h/t Suzie Madrak at Crooks and Liars

Nov 20

Striking Out Debt

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Occupy group offers debt forgiveness for Americans

As lawmakers in Washington continue to intensify focus on  the national debt and deficit, millions of American are dealing with a debt woe of their own. Amin Husain, editor of Tidal Magazine; Sarah Ludwig, co-director of the Neighborhood Economic Project; and Doug Henwood, editor of Left Business join Up with Chris Hayes to redirect attention to the real people who matter.

Astra Taylor of Strike Debt explains how getting out of debt has become the new American dream. The panelist explain Strike Debt’s “Rolling Jubilee” and how they plan to pull off raising money to buy debt from Americans, then cancel it.

#OWS Rolling Jubilee

A bailout of the people by the people

Rolling Jubilee is a Strike Debt project that buys debt for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting it, abolishes it. Together we can liberate debtors at random through a campaign of mutual support, good will, and collective refusal. Debt resistance is just the beginning. Join us as we imagine and create a new world based on the common good, not Wall Street profits.

What is Strike Debt?

Strike Debt is an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street. First started in New York City, but inspired by movements around the globe, Strike Debt now has affiliates across the country. We believe people should not go into debt for basic necessities like education, healthcare and housing. Strike Debt initiatives like the Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual offer advice to all kinds of debtors about how to escape debt and how to join a growing collective resistance to the debt system. Our network has the goal of building a broad movement, with more effective ways of resisting debt, and with the ultimate goal of creating an alternative economy that benefits us all and not just the 1%.

What is Strike Debt?

Strike Debt is an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street. First started in New York City, but inspired by movements around the globe, Strike Debt now has affiliates across the country. We believe people should not go into debt for basic necessities like education, healthcare and housing. Strike Debt initiatives like the Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual offer advice to all kinds of debtors about how to escape debt and how to join a growing collective resistance to the debt system. Our network has the goal of building a broad movement, with more effective ways of resisting debt, and with the ultimate goal of creating an alternative economy that benefits us all and not just the 1%.

Can you abolish my debt?

There is no way to seek out a specific person and buy that person’s defaulted debt. With 15% of Americans currently being pursued by a debt collector, looking for one person’s debt would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Anonymous accounts are bundled together and sold as a whole. Before purchasing debt, there is only limited information as to whose debt we are buying. These peculiarities are part of the scandal that we are trying to highlight.Will the Rolling Jubilee have to file a 1099-C Cancellation of Debt form with the IRS?No. The Rolling Jubilee will earn no income from the lending of money and is therefore exempt from filing a Form 1099-C under the Internal Revenue Code Section 6050P.

Is this legal?

Yes! What should actually surprise everyone is the fact that it is legal to trade in people’s misfortune. As part of the deregulation of the finance industry, the government made it legal to buy and sell charged-off debt. [..]

How Does Rolling Jubilee Work?Banks sell debt for pennies on the dollar on a shadowy speculative market of debt buyers who then turn around and try to collect the full amount from debtors. The Rolling Jubilee intervenes by buying debt, keeping it out of the hands of collectors, and then abolishing it. We’re going into this market not to make a profit but to help each other out and highlight how the predatory debt system affects our families and communities. Think of it as a bailout of the 99% by the 99%.

Nov 18

Buenos dias, caballeros!

Super Hehnth

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About 5,000 police officers marched through the centre of Madrid on Saturday to protest salary cuts and the thinning of their ranks as Spain grapples with its sovereign debt crisis.

The officers, who had travelled from across Spain. rallied three days after the nation was gripped by a general strike over the austerity cuts. Health and education workers have already taken part in similar marches.

“Citizens! Forgive us for not arresting those truly responsible for this crisis: bankers and politicians,” read one banner held aloft by a line of officers as they marched to the interior ministry.

Let’s face it: That’s a big step from this:

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These patterns will repeat across the US, as the crisis moves from periphery to core, so this is a good portent.  

Vayamos, dag-nabbit.

Nov 15

The Myth of the “Fiscal Cliff”

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

No one actually cares about the deficit

Chris Hayes, host of [Up with Chris Hayes ],  discusses the stand-off between President Obama and House Republicans over the “fiscal cliff,” the name given to the combination of the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the sequestration cuts mandated by last year’s debt ceiling agreement. Chris’ “filibuster” in the first segment is a “Cliff Note” summation of the debate about the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

Chris is joined for a comprehensive, and somewhat wonky, discussion with Hakeem Jeffries, newly elected Congressman representing the 8th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York State Assemblyman; Teresa Ghilarducci (@tghilarducci), labor economist and director of the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at The New Schoo; Edward Conard, former partner at Bain Capital from 1993-2007 and author of “Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About The Economy Is Wrong;” Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown; and Molly Ball (@mollyesque), national political reporter for The Atlantic.

I found this article  about the debt/deficit/”fiscal cliff” from letdgetitdone quite interesting. It presents a very compelling argument, point by point, why this entire discussion about a “fiscal cliff” is a myth. He concludes his argument:

So, current claims that we have a fiscal crisis, must debate the debt, must fix the debt, and must immediately embark on a long-term deficit reduction program to bring the debt-to-GDP ratio under control, all misconceive the fiscal situation because they are based on the idea that fiscal responsibility is about developing a plan to bring the debt-to-GDP ratio “under control,” when it is really about using Government spending to achieve outputs that fulfill “public purpose.” There is no fiscal crisis that will require “a Grand Bargain” and cuts to popular discretionary spending and entitlement programs. It is a phoney issue.

The only real crisis is a crisis of a failing economy and growing economic inequality in which only the needs of the few are served. MMT policies can help to bring an end to that crisis; but not if progressives, and others continue to believe in false ideas about fiscal sustainability and responsibility, and the similarity of their Government to a household. To begin to solve our problems, we need to reject the neoliberal narrative and embrace the MMT narrative about the meaning of fiscal responsibility. That will lead us to fiscal policies that achieve public purpose and away from policies that prolong economic stagnation and the ravages of austerity.

Jun 24

Asperity, Austerity and 1984: Fulfillment of 1984 & the Replication Today By The Geogre

In the first part, I talked about the false comparison of Orwell to Huxley and how features of the writing made it easy to mistake each author’s purpose and scope. However, there is something else. Neil Postman was not alone in thinking, in 1984, that we dodged a bullet and instead took a pill. I understand the feeling and shared it. It seemed like, as Lord Boyd Orr had said in 1966, “Give the people a choice between freedom and sandwiches, and they’ll take the sandwiches,” but we had already been shot but did not know the blood stain.

We were aware, then, that the public of democratic nations was placidly accepting outrages that would lead to atrocities, but I would propose that it took 2003 and George W. Bush to demonstrate to us how well television and the fragmented Internet have made every year 1984. Indeed, the television, which Postman saw as an abstracted medium that forbade long-form discourse and non-pictorial conceptualizing, would eventually resemble the view screen of 1984 as much as the Soma of Brave New World, especially cable news, where anything not at full volume and alarm was mere caesura for a day of emotional extremes and informational abbreviation. The Memory Hole was far easier to achieve by accident than plan.

I criticized Postman for a misplaced emphasis on the fiction of 1984 whereby he missed the systemic critique of the novel. The novel’s appearance in the midst of a nation enacting a policy called Austerity, where everyone was to “pitch in” to get “England” back on its feet after the war, is conspicuous and screams out for a comparison. Specifically, within the fiction and outside of it, a System of power is above the people, and the people are the enemy of power itself. Big Brother is an image or visage for a system, but the true power is no person or party — just the continuing flow of resources and labor from the people to an indifferent end. This is what is frightening. The group in charge was never fascists or Stalinists or Churchill or anyone else: it was capital.

Austerity today (the “new Austerity” in Europe and deficit mania in the U.S.) is different in cause, but the same in effect. Both ask nations to turn their GDP over to repayment of debt rather than intervention in markets to stimulate employment. The language used in both instances is similar, too: “Get back on our feet” and “recovery.” However, nation states and capital have had quite a bit of time and learned a few lessons.

We can see, in the gap of attitudes and responses of the public, the effect of social and cultural mutation. If we can see a greater or lesser increase in the effects of social control, then we can understand, I believe, just how thoroughgoing Orwell’s book was a description of an ongoing project that has now succeeded.

Jun 18

Get Ready To Eat Cat Food

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Here comes Simpson-Bowles to spare the bloated Pentagon budget and avoid letting the Bush/Obama Tax Cuts expire:

Geithner praises Simpson-Bowles framework as the way forward

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner recently suggested the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction framework is the way forward in terms of balancing the federal budget. [..]

“We need to take advantage of the incentive created by the sequester and these expiring tax cuts to force this town to confront and take on the things that divide us now in these long-term fiscal reforms so we can go ahead and govern,” he said. “This is a place where people spend a lot of time worrying whether Washington can work again and for Washington to say, ‘We’re going to defer,’ I don’t see how that would be helpful to confidence.” [..]

David Dayen at FDL News Desk adds his take on Geithner’s appearance before the Council on Foreign Relation:

The lame duck session has so many fiscal issues expiring at the same time that many view it as an opportunity to put together the long-sought “grand bargain” on deficit reduction. Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson have recently come out of their shells and resumed a high-profile media tour in an effort to get their framework into the discussion for the lame duck session. The Bowles-Simpson plan does include tax increases of hundreds of billions above the Bush tax cut rates, albeit lower than what would occur if the Bush tax cuts were allowed to completely expire.

Because of this, Democrats like Nancy Pelosi have embraced Bowles-Simpson to tease Republicans for their opposition to higher tax rates. But that also puts Democrats on the hook for embracing cuts to the social safety net, including Medicare and Social Security. And on Wednesday, Geithner said that Bowles-Simpson is “the only path to resolution politically [and] growing essentially economically, and I think that’s where it’s going to end up.” He didn’t make the caveats on Social Security or other entitlements.

David also noted that Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chairperson of the tax writing Senate Finance Committee, would hold hearing in the next few weeks on Bowles-Simpson and Domenici-Rivlin, which combine revenue-raising tax reforms with restraint on entitlement spending. Baucus told The Hill:

“My view is everything’s on the table,” Baucus said. “That’s a psychology which I think is very important to keep people talking, keep people working.”

In his comprehensive article on Geithner’s alliance with JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Cat Food Commission co-chair former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-UT), Richard (RJ) Eskow had this to say about the coming of Simpson-Bowles:

Geithner said Simpson-Bowles was the perfect recipe: “tax reforms that raise a modest amount of revenue tied to spending savings across the government that’s still preserving some room to invest in things that matter to how we grow moving forward.” He added, “There’s no plausible way to get there economically or politically without that kind of balanced framework again that marries tax reform with broader spending reforms,”

Geithner is joining leading Democrats on the Hill like Sen. Max Baucus and Rep. Nancy Pelosi in backing the plan. And take careful note of the fact that they’re all using the phrase “tax reform” instead of “tax increases.” They don’t just plan to pay for the wealth and misdeeds of the Dimon crowd with your Social Security and Medicare benefits. They also plan to raise your taxes, not theirs. The Simpson Bowles plan would actually lower the top tax rate for people like Jamie Dimon, while “tax reform” would tax away tax deductions for the middle class’s health insurance, mortgages, and other expenses.

All our elected officials are completely out of touch with what Americans want and need. Yes, indeed, something wicked this way comes.

Oct 18

Comprehensive failure

Another three-ton object hurtles from its decaying orbit towards Earth, so today must be another day ending in “y”.  Dying in the brimstone of space junk, however, is not our most pressing matter by a long shot.  Not that space junk crashing into other space junk is a minor concern, given our dependence on global communications that the fragile “junk-o-sphere” makes possible.  A critical mass of fragment-generating collisions could be a real game changer, and is yet just another reminder of our seemingly infinite human ability to err on the side heedlessness.

Oct 14

More Insanity: Corporate Tax Holiday Backed By Blue Dogs

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Everyone one of these Democrats should lose the support of the DCCC and be primaried.

Blue Dogs backing corporate tax holiday

House Blue Dogs are on board with a temporary corporate tax holiday they argue will boost economic growth.

The group joined a growing bipartisan chorus pressing the congressional deficit-reduction committee to give U.S. multinational corporations a tax break in exchange for investing at home.

[]

The Blue Dog Coalition is backing a bipartisan bill sponsored by Reps. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Kevin Brady (R-Texas) that would remove a barrier keeping upwards of $1.4 trillion in American private-sector money overseas, which is similar to a Senate bill introduced last week by Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).

I have no idea what experts they are citing the article doesn’t say. I do know the history if the last time this was done in 2004 when they gave 92% of the money to themselves. Nor did the law which stated the money could not be used to raise dividends or to repurchase shares, stop them.:

There is no evidence that companies that took advantage of the tax break – which enabled them to bring home, or repatriate, overseas profits while paying a tax rate far below the normal rate – used the money as Congress expected.

“Repatriations did not lead to an increase in domestic investment, employment or R.& D., even for the firms that lobbied for the tax holiday stating these intentions,” concluded the study by three economists, including a former official of the Bush administration who took part in the discussions leading to enactment of the plan in 2004.

The study, titled “Watch What I Do, Not What I Say: The Unintended Consequences of the Homeland Investment Act,” was released this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research. It was written by Dhammika Dharmapala, a law professor at the University of Illinois; C. Fritz Foley, an associate professor of finance at Harvard Business School; and Kristin J. Forbes, a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was a member of the president’s council of economic advisers from 2003 to 2005.

“The restrictions on how the money will be spent seem to have been completely ineffective,” Ms. Forbes said in an interview this week.

“Dell was a great example,” she added, referring to Dell Computer. “They lobbied very hard for the tax holiday. They said part of the money would be brought back to build a new plant in Winston-Salem, N.C. They did bring back $4 billion, and spent $100 million on the plant, which they admitted would have been built anyway. About two months after that, they used $2 billion for a share buyback.”

The give away also cost the country more than 500,000 jobs:

Following a tax holiday on repatriated foreign earnings in 2004, 58 corporations that benefitted from the holiday slashed a total of nearly 600,000 jobs. These 58 giant corporations accounted for nearly 70 percent of the total repatriated funds and collectively saved an estimated $64 billion from what they otherwise would have owed in taxes.

According to the Joint Committee on Taxation this current clamor by for a tax holiday by the multinational corporations that barely pay any taxes now, would cost the US $80 billion and would do nothing to reduce the deficit and wouldn’t protect or create jobs:

Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat who is a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee, yesterday circulated an estimate from the Joint Committee on Taxation pegging the cost of a repatriation bill at $78.7 billion. An unsuccessful effort to create a similar holiday in 2009 would have cost the U.S. government about $30 billion over a decade in forgone revenue.

“This means we will have to borrow more from foreign creditors or shift a greater burden to American small businesses and families,” Doggett said. Congressional estimators projected that companies would repatriate about $700 billion if offered a 5.25 percent rate, compared with $300 billion during the tax holiday enacted in 2004.

[]

Democrats also maintain that the bill does too little to protect jobs at companies that repatriate overseas funds. They have pointed to such examples as Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ), which returned $14.5 billion to the U.S. at a low rate in 2004 and cut its workforce by 14,500 employees in 2005.

Primary these idiots

Aug 04

No more tomorrows for the Euro

    Unlike the deficit ceiling standoff in Washington, Europe is experiencing a real financial crisis, and today it began to get out of control.

 The European money markets have begun to seize up as pressure mounts on the Italian and Spanish banking systems, tracking the pattern seen during the build-up towards the financial crisis in 2008.

   “Europe’s money markets are undoubtedly starting to freeze up,” said Marc Ostwald from Monument Securites.

   “It’s not as dramatic as pre-Lehman but it is alarming and shows the pervasive degree of fear in the markets. People are again refusing to lend except on a secured basis.”

 Italian banks have been hit especially hard, with almost daily suspensions of their stock trading due to selling pressure. But today things went to a different level.

 Italian bank’s main stock market collapses, causing the suspension

 They called it a “technical problem” that just happened to coincide with a collapse in Italian bank stocks.

Aug 02

No Money For You, Suck it Up!

Are you out of work?

Out of unemployment?

Maybe you live off SS thats about to be cut?

Are you sick but cant afford insurance or doctor visits?

Is your Medicaid going to be slashed?

Well too F’n bad. There is no money for your “entitlements” even though you paid into them for your entire working life.

But … we got plenty of money for hospitals and other facilites, just not in the USA. Think we wont have a presence in these countries for years to come?

We have always been at war with EastAsia – Winston Smith

Aug 01

On Speaking To Power, Or, When Sanity’s Gone, There’s Always Satire

So everybody’s hearing the news, right?

There is a tentative debt ceiling deal, and this Administration and Congressional Democrats seem to have won everything they wanted: Republicans get to have multiple “we don’t approve” votes before 2012 on raising the debt ceiling, there won’t be any new revenue, there’s going to be another “hostage-taking” event around Christmastime, for many Democrats the issue of the Ryan Budget and the dismantling of Medicare is likely off the table for the 2012 electoral cycle, and the Administration seems to have figured out a way to not involve itself in shaping the way that entitlement reform will work out.

All in all, it’s some pretty slick negotiating, and I’m sure this Administration and Democratic Congressional leaders must be very proud.

Even on bad days, however, you gotta have some fun, and that’s why I’m encouraging everyone to take a minute today to say #thanksalot.

Jul 18

Starving the Beast: Cut, Cap and Balance

cross-posted from Main Street Insider

The debt limit is a largely symbolic check on excessive borrowing which in the past has been frequently raised with little to no controversy. Such periodic increases are necessary to keep the government running and paying its bills, regardless of ideology.

However, Congressional Republicans are now demanding that certain conditions must be met in order to win their approval of a debt ceiling increase. They have termed their list of demands Cut, Cap and Balance, and claim it is a necessary measure in order to keep the government debt from spiraling out of control, and thus keep the country functioning.

Yet the Cut, Cap and Balance Act scheduled to reach the House floor this week is anything but necessary to keep the country functioning in its . Rather, it is the crown jewel, the final step of conservatives’ long-pursued “Starve the Beast” strategy to downsize government. It would radically limit the flexibility of the federal government to provide a social safety net, buttress the economy in tough times and respond to great national challenges, now and into the future.

But don’t take my word for it. Check out this week’s 90 Second Summary and decide for yourself:

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