Episode 60: BP Killed Katherine’s Dad, A Colonel Runs For Office on Progressive Ideas


It’s been 13 years since Ray Gonzalez was killed in an explosion at a British Petroleum facility in Texas. I have a searing conversation with his daughter, Katherine, who keeps his memory alive by campaigning for safety and health in the workplace.

Out in California, Colonel Doug Applegate is taking another shot at unseating the odious Darrell Issa in the 49th Congressional District—I chat with Dave as he campaigns in a key 2018 race, and promotes a progressive platform that includes raising the federal minimum wage to $15-an-hour, opposition to the TPP and support for single-payer health care.

Our Robber Baron of the week is the CEO of Aetna.

Episode 59: If A Pedophile, Why Not A Killer of Miners? And Other Tales of Workers Lives At Risk.

Don Blankenship, the coal CEO robber baron, served a year in prison for his central role in a conspiracy that killed 29 miners in a massive 2010 mine explosion. Because workers’ lives don’t matter in our legal system, Blankenship could only be convicted of a misdemeanor violation, not manslaughter or murder.

But, hey, when a party is willing to crown a pedophile, what are a few miners’ deaths to stand in the way: Blankenship is running for the Republican nomination for US Senate in West Virginia. I have the low-down on how the miners died.

I am, then, joined by Marianela Acuna Arreaza, executive director of Fe y Justicia Worker Center, to dig into the threat to the health of day laborers cleaning up after Hurricane Harvey. I wrap up with Mara Ortenburger of Worksafe who gives us insight into worker injuries at Tesla.

Our Robber Baron is, yup, Don Blankenship.

 

10 Tips to Keep the Eye On Ball–Flynn is a Blip Compared to Tax Scam

I’ll spend today reminding people that the Tax Scam must be the focus. This is what will matter to millions of Americans for a generation and more to come, not the blip about Flynn (who will end up being barely a footnote in history).

So…10 handy tips/reminders:

1. Underscore the madness of the bill process—Republicans are trying to write a trillion-dollar plus bill **on the fly**. I mean, even as I wrote that, it seems beyond absurd. And all in the service of ramming through a bill that will do huge harm to the people.

2. As an example of the depravity of the bill: the 1.4 trillion tax cuts for the wealthy could be reduced by $50 billion—a rounding error—and fund for about four years the Child’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) which has expired.

3. It is absolutely a reality that the “deficit hawks”, who will vote for this debt-creating bill, will be back within a year or so to demand CUTS to Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, education and every other social program. You can lay a winning bet in Vegas on this. However, this is a feature not a bug—this part of the dismantling of the country’s social support system.

4. The massive give-away to corporate profits salted away. The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy: “The biggest giveaway on the international side of the Senate tax plan is its extra low rate on accumulated “offshore” earnings. Under the plan, companies would only have to pay a 10 percent rate on offshore earnings held as cash and a 5 percent rate on all other earnings. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), this means that companies would pay just $190 billion in taxes on their $2.6 trillion in accumulated offshore earnings. This translates into a $562 billion windfall for multinational corporations since they owe an estimated $752 billion in taxes on these earnings. The Senate’s repatriation tax break would cost more than $100 billion more than the House proposal, which would tax offshore earnings held in cash at 14 percent and all other offshore earnings at 7 percent.”

5. Every time you hear the words “35 percent corporate tax rate”, reply: it’s a myth bigger than the Loch Ness monster. Simply put: the effective tax rate is around 14 percent on average and most Fortune 500 companies pay for below any effective tax rates and some extremely profitable pay ZERO. See here.

6. Which means…that U.S. based corporations are not at a competitive disadvantage compared to the rest of the OECD countries. That’s a big lie. The reason corporations go abroad is to seek LOWER WAGES.

7. The rich do not run away from higher tax states. That’s a myth. See this here.

8. No one is talking about the big hole still to be addressed by eliminating the estate tax, which the House bill calls for. I analyzed that here yesterday.

9. Per the ITEP folks: “In 2019 the richest one percent of taxpayers would receive 60 percent of the pass-through tax breaks and 44 percent of the corporate tax breaks.” And: “Even when taking into account all the tax changes (not just changes to the personal income tax), the middle-fifth of taxpayers on the income ladder would face an average tax hike of $60 in 2027.”

10. This is entirely about WAGES and what people earn (a point I made in this CNN.com piece last month). Whether we like it or not, 70 percent of the economy is based on consumer spending, wages are far too low to sustain economic expansion and, if economic expansion is the goal, raising wages can be done by broad unionization (which Republicans adamantly oppose) and raising the federal minimum wage as fast as possible to at least $15-per-hour (which Republicans also adamantly oppose). Essentially, the Republican tax cut plan is a fraud, and entirely ignorant of what would bring economic expansion.

Estate Tax: Senate Republicans Are Hiding $269 Billion And Far More In Deficits In Plain Site

Ironically, it was Ted Cruz who got me thinking about this element of the big fraud and scam of the Republican tax bill. During the November 28th CNN debate on taxes, Cruz, during a back and forth with Bernie Sanders, quietly pointed out that eliminating the estate tax is not part of the Senate Republican bill. To which Bernie pointed out, without objection, that it is in the House bill.

Holy shit. Ok, so, I’ve been so down in the weeds reading the details of the Senate bill that that little part had slipped by. Correct: eliminating the estate tax—which only benefits literally a few thousand of the richest families in the country (everyone else already has an exemption for $5.5 million for individuals and $11 million for couples)—is only in the House bill. It’s not that it’s a secret but sometimes, in life, we let the elephant just tiptoe by, forgetting it’s in the room.

Big picture: does anyone doubt that Republicans will walk over hot coals to get rid of the estate tax? They have railed about the deceptively, disingenuously termed “death tax” for at least three decades.

But, Senate Republicans faced a problem—take a deep breathe, oh, you normal people who hate wonky Washington lingo–called “The Byrd rule” which essentially meant—to strip away all the micro details–the tax bill could not create budget deficits beyond its timeframe. That’s why the tax cuts for individuals—but not for corporations—expire after ten years.

But, that also meant that Senate Republicans could not include the elimination of the estate tax in the Senate bill because that would add another, roughly, $269 billion to the price tag of the bill and the elimination would extend, presumably, past the ten-year window, adding hundreds of billions more to the overall debt.

If the Senate passes a version of its bill, then, the differences between the Senate and the House version will have to be worked out in a “conference committee” (made up of negotiators from both bodies) before each body takes up final passage of a bill that is essentially the same. The Byrd rule apparently—by my reading and others I’ve asked—also applies to the final bill that comes out of the conference process.

Which leads to this:

How many people think the House, run by the fire-breathing lunatics of the Freedom Caucus who operate under no House rules with limitations about creating deficits from now until kingdom come, will give up on the cherished goal of eliminating the estate tax? Exactly zero.

And Republicans in the Senate know it. And don’t care.

But, that is a $269 billion shortfall just in this bill, and, likely, hundreds of billions of dollars beyond that.

So…how will the Senate so-called “deficit hawks” turn a blind eye to the big number clearly looming down the road?

Worth asking on the Senate floor. And seeing who will stand on the Senate floor and lie to the American public.

Episode 58: Women Taking Power, Tax Cut Truths & Fighting For Control of the CFPB

Women are leading the way in the political revolution. I talk with three fantastic women candidates: two who are running for seats in the state Senates in Oregon and New York, and one who is vying to become the chair of the Florida Democratic state party.

I roll out five tidbits on truths about the Republican tax plan robbery—truths you can use to debate just about anyone to expose the tax bill fraud.

I also chat with Karl Frisch of Allied Progress about the brazen move by a recent shill for a pay-day lending scammer to help Trump seize control over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—and, then, effectively destroy it.

Episode 57: Jumping Into A Big Race; Rethinking The Post Office

Leading off, I had a thought about how we should think about the estate tax—billionaires owe us that dough!

Keeping up the podcast’s regular reporting on real people running for office, longtime union organizer and first-time candidate Tanya Boone stops by to talk with me about her race for a Congressional seat in New York.

And if you want to re-imagine what the Post Office can do for people, you will love my chat with Mark Dimondstein, the president of the American Postal Workers Union.

Our Robber Baron of the week is Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, who is about to engage in a big-time scamming of the people.

Episode 56: Sexual Harassment Inside Unions Is Real; The Hidden $2.6 Trillion Corporate Cash Stash


No one would suggest unions have outsized predators like Harvey Weinstein. But, sexual harassment, driven by an entrenched male culture and power structure, has been a long-time problem inside labor. And, now, in dribs and drabs, people are speaking up. I talk about it with labor activist and former AFL-CIO official Ana Avendano.

And you want to talk about real robbery? How about the $2.6 trillion corporations hide overseas to avoid paying taxes? That money is part of the debate over tax changes—so I welcome back tax guru Matt Gardner to dig into that scam. Our Robber Baron of the week is Alex Gorsky, the CEO of Johnson & Johnson which has $66 billion stashed overseas.

Episode 55: Election Rigging 101—It’s More Complicated; South Korea Is A Hard Place For Unions

Sure, there were shenanigans in the 2016 Democratic primary. But, we need to understand what is tough politics versus what is rotten in the system. I unwind this a bit in an Election Rigging 101 (and, hey, nice election results last night).

I also dig into the battle for labor rights in South Korea with two women leaders, Kristyne Peter and Mi-Kyung Ryu. Our Robber Baron of the week is Nike CEO Mark Parker.

Episode 54: Stopping Murderers From Putting A Shirt On Your Back; And Bernie Is In The House!

Just about every piece of clothing you put on is made with blood, sweat and tears of exploited labor. I revisit the April 2013 murder of 1,138 garment workers in Bangladesh with my two guests, two women global labor leaders: Christy Hoffman, the deputy secretary of the 20-million member UNI and Nazma Akter, who began working in a garment factory when she was 11 years old.

We hear from Bernie Sanders who continues to bring the message of the political revolution to every corner of the country. Our Robber Barons of the week are a pair of Johns from greedy Big Pharma.

Episode 53: Black Lives Matter—In St. Louis & Zimbabwe; Paul Wellstone Remembered

 

We start this week’s podcast by remembering Paul Wellstone, the progressive firebrand who died exactly 15 years ago in a small plane crash while campaigning for re-election.

I, then, bring us the voice of Bruce Franks, a powerful leader of the Black Lives Matter movement in St. Louis and across the nation. I also sit down with Peter Mutasa, the president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, who tells us the story of the struggle in Zimbabwe of workers fighting a brutal dictator.

Our Robber Baron of the week is Wall Street financier Steven Rattner who, on behalf of the ruling elites in the Democratic Party, has launched an attack on single-payer, Medicare for All.

Outside the Podcast: Last week, I wrote a piece arguing that if the question is economic expansion, the answer is higher wages, not tax cuts.

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