News Releases

Momentum Builds for Financial Transaction Tax in NY on Tuesday

Forbes just published a piece by pollster John Zogby: “Majority Of New Yorkers Want To Collect A Century-Old Phantom Tax That Will Generate Billions In New Revenue,” which states: “For over 100 years, New York State law has provided for a stock transfer tax that essentially collects a tax on all stock transactions. For many years, after heavy lobbying by stock traders, tax money was actually collected — then immediately rebated to the firms that sold the stocks. In other words, it has been for most of its existence a phantom tax.

“Since 1982, the charade of collecting first then rebating the revenue was halted, but the stock transfer tax is still on the books as state law. So, what are we talking about in real dollars and cents? The tax translates into a 5-cent tax per share every time a stock is sold, thus in 2020, with the average trade on the NASDAQ at about eight thousand four hundred dollars, the total tax would have been around $8.80 a trade, or .1 percent — a minuscule sum anyway you look at it. Since 1982, however, New York has kept the tax on the books, but it has rebated more than $350 billion to Wall Street investors.

“Most New Yorkers are not even aware of this issue. John Zogby Strategies was commissioned by a coalition of public interest groups, unions, and Albany legislative leaders to test support or opposition of breathing new life into this phantom tax. Our poll of 704 likely voters statewide found that overall, 53 percent agreed it should be collected while only 34 percent disagreed. After arguments both in support and opposition were read to voters, agreement rose to 59 percent while opposition declined to 30 percent — a 29-point differential.”

JAMES HENRY, jsh11963@gmail.com@submergingmkt
Henry is Global Justice Fellow at Yale University and managing director at the Sag Harbor Group. He said today: “The New York State legislature is meeting Tuesday to decide what its revenue options are and Wall Street is really digging in especially because Gov. Andrew Cuomo is imperiled. They have systematically understated the Wall Street revenues that this tax would produce. … If the feds adopt a national financial transaction tax before New York State does then all the money would flow into the federal treasury. So there’s really no good argument for not doing this except that Wall Street is very nervous about this escalating into the first successful progressive tax reform in 50 years.”

Henry is co-author of the paper “Submission to New York State Assembly: the case for Financial Transactions Taxes,” which states: “In New York state, Assemblyman Rep. Phil Steck has sponsored a disarmingly simple three-page bill that would raise some $10-20 billion a year from Wall Street and plough the money into the pandemic response and the local economy, creating jobs with a fair, efficient and progressive tax.”

Twitter Blocking Labor Reporting on Amazon, a Business Partner

MIKE ELK, mike.elk@gmail.com@MikeElk
Elk is the senior labor reporter at Payday Report. On Thursday, he wrote the piece “Twitter Worked With Amazon to Block Payday, Labeling Payday & Other Labor Reporters as ‘Suspicious Content.'” Elk wrote: “Earlier today, several readers of Payday Report’s Twitter feed informed us that Twitter was blocking labor reporting content shared by us from being viewed.

“I direct messaged my friends a tweet of a screenshot showing a link to an American Prospect story by retired New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse that described psychological warfare being performed by Amazon on its workers.

“After I sent the tweet, several of my friends told me they were given a warning when they tried to access the content: ‘Message hidden due to suspicious content.’

“Twitter’s feeds are powered through Amazon Web Services who also help run Twitter’s program that identifies ‘fake news.’ They often work closely with the company to block ‘flagged’ news links from going viral.

“Now, multiple reporters from various left outlets including Payday Report, franknews, The American Prospect, and More Perfect Union, have reported that they have all had their content blocked and pegged as ‘suspicious.’

“More Perfect Union, a new labor reporting organization founded by former Bernie Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir, made a viral video supporting the Amazon union workers. The video went viral and garnered over a million views before Amazon suddenly removed it for nearly a day.

“’We never got any explanation for why they removed it,’ said RWDSU [Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union] organizer Josh Brewer, who has been helping lead the battle against the e-commerce giant.

“In response to the negative publicity, Amazon has hired teams of rapid response PR agents who are scouring the web searching for viral tweets that make Amazon look bad. Thus, many on the left believe that Amazon is working closely with Twitter to prevent negative Amazon content from going viral.”

How Hedge Funds Are Wrecking the U.S.’s Green New Deal

LYNN PARRAMORE, lynn@lynnparramore.com@INETeconomics
Parramore is senior research analyst for the Institute for New Economic Thinking and just wrote the piece “Meet the ‘New Koch Brothers’ — the Hedge Fund Activists Wrecking America’s Green New Deal.”

The piece gives a series of case studies. Parramore summarized the problem: “Players on Wall Street have been torpedoing our chances of averting environmental catastrophe for years. A group of billionaire financiers has made sure the companies the government must partner with to fight climate change are focused on one thing only – making these men (they all seem to be men) even richer. Instead of leading the world in climate change technology, firms like Apple, GE, and Intel have been pressured to become the personal piggy banks of powerful moneymen — known as hedge fund activists — who can’t see beyond the next quarterly report.

“These guys are blocking their fellow Americans from the chance to leave their kids a safe, sustainable world. That world will never materialize unless we understand what they are doing and stop them. …

“People who did this used to be called ‘corporate raiders.’ They took over companies, fired people, played stock market games to swell the stock price, made a quick buck, and then split. …

“The playbook of today’s hedge fund” manipulators, Parramore notes, “looks like this: Buy a wad of shares of a company on the stock market. Then, line up the proxy votes of the managers of funds who let have hedgies manage pieces of their portfolio. Next, send a letter to the CEO of a target company demanding that he or she get busy pumping up the stock price. Hedge funds with deep pockets will spend millions making this happen — remember, their money comes from rich people or institutional investors like pensions and mutual funds who are seeking high yields. Occasionally hedgies will use their own money — those whose ‘war chests’ have come from previous raids.”

Thirty Years of Bombing Iraq

AP reports this morning: “U.S. forces: Rockets hit airbase in Iraq hosting U.S. troops.” This follows a U.S. government strike from Iraq into Syria last week. Last year NBC reported:”Iraq asks U.S. to make plans to withdraw forces.”

KATHY KELLY, kathy.vcnv@gmail.com, @voiceinwild
A long-time peace activist, who has frequently been in war zones and prison, Kelly just wrote the piece “Blood for Oil: Amid the ongoing horror, it’s important to find ways to atone for war crimes — including reparations,” originally published by The Progressive.

Pope Francis is scheduled to make the first papal visit to Iraq from March 5 to 8.

Kelly writes: “Thirty years ago, when the United States launched Operation Desert Storm against Iraq, I was a member of the Gulf Peace Team. We were 73 people from fifteen different countries, aged 22 to 76, living in a tent camp close to Iraq’s border with Saudi Arabia, along the road to Mecca. …

“Iraqi authorities told us we must pack up, readying for a morning departure to Baghdad. Not all of us could agree on how to respond. Adhering to basic principles, twelve peace team members resolved to sit in a circle, holding signs saying ‘We choose to stay.’ …

“Another evacuation was happening as Iraqi forces, many of them young conscripts, hungry, disheveled and unarmed, poured out of Kuwait along a major highway, later called ‘the Highway of Death.’ …

“Shortly after viewing photos of gruesome carnage caused by the ground and air attacks, President George H.W. Bush called for a cessation of hostilities on February 27th, 1991. An official cease fire was signed on March 4. …

“Noam Chomsky notes that there were diplomatic alternatives to the bloodletting and destruction visited upon Iraq by Operation Desert Storm. Iraqi diplomats had submitted an alternative plan which was suppressed in the mainstream media and flatly rejected by the U.S. …

“After the ‘success’ of Operation Desert Storm, the bombing war turned into an economic war, which lasted through 2003. As early as 1995, United Nations documents clarified that the economic war, waged through continued imposition of U.N. economic sanctions against Iraq, was far more brutal than even the worst of the 1991 aerial and ground war attacks. …”

Withdrawal of Tanden Nomination

JEFF COHEN, jeff@rootsaction.org
NORMAN SOLOMON, norman@rootsaction.org
Cohen and Solomon co-founded the group RootsAction.org, which led the progressive opposition to Neera Tanden’s nomination as head of the Office of Management and Budget.

They issued a statement Tuesday just after her nomination was withdrawn, saying they are “heartened that she will not be OMB director. The opposition of Republican senators over nasty tweets was of course hypocritical and absurd, given their muted response to years of Trump’s tweeting. But it was inexcusable for Democratic senators to be silent about the legitimate reasons to oppose her nomination — the potential conflicts of interest raised by her years of coziness with powerful corporate elites. That silence may be explained by the fact that Democrats in the Senate are beholden to some of the same corporate donors that lavishly bankroll Tanden’s think tank. Tanden was the wrong choice to head a federal agency that is vital in the regulatory process. It strains credulity to contend that she would have been a true advocate for the public interest after many years of dutifully serving corporate interests.”

RootsAction began its nationwide campaign to defeat the Tanden nomination on Jan. 3.

Cohen was on The Young Turks minutes before Tanden’s nomination was withdrawn.

Tax Billionaires to Pay for Pandemic Recovery

CHUCK COLLINS, chuck@ips-dc.org; also via Bob Keener, bobk@ips-dc.org@inequalityorg

Collins just wrote the piece “We should tax billionaires’ wealth to help pay for pandemic recovery” for MarketWatch. He writes: “This week, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts introduced the Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act, an annual wealth tax on households with more than $50 million. Lead sponsors in the House are Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania.

“’The ultrarich and powerful have rigged the rules in their favor so much that the top 0.1 percent pay a lower effective tax rate than the bottom 99 percent, and billionaire wealth is 40 percent higher than before the COVID crisis began,’ Warren explained.

“Around two-thirds of Americans, including majorities of both Democrats and Republicans, said they supported a wealth tax in a January survey. ‘A wealth tax is popular among voters on both sides for good reason: because they understand the system is rigged to benefit the wealthy and large corporations,’ Warren said.

“Under the Warren-Jayapal-Boyle bill, the richest 100,000 Americans would be subject to an annual tax of a few pennies on the dollar on their great fortunes.

“The tax rate would be just 2 cents on the dollar, or 2 percent, for people with wealth between $50 million and $1 billion. It would rise to just 3 cents on the dollar, or 3 percent, for wealth above the $1 billion threshold.

“Only the country’s 650 or so billionaires would pay the 3 percent rate.

“It makes sense to tax billionaires to pay for the immediate-term pandemic recovery, as well as for longer-term investments in infrastructure, health care, and education. As hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their lives, and millions lost their livelihoods, U.S. billionaires have seen their combined wealth increase $1.3 trillion over the last 11 months, an increase of 45 percent.

“U.S. billionaires now have a combined wealth of $4.2 trillion. That’s nearly double the wealth owned by the bottom half of all U.S. households — 165 million people combined — who collectively own just $2.4 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve.”

Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies, where he co-edits Inequality.org. His new book is The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions.

Biden Bombing Syria: “Illegal”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle@illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of law at the University of Illinois. His most recent book is World Politics, Human Rights, and International Law.

He said today: “Biden’s bombing of Syria on Thursday is illegal — a violation of international law. It’s especially egregious since the attacks in Syria came out of Iraq, as the Iraqi government has been telling the U.S. government to leave.

“There have been reports that the U.S. government has been bombing Afghanistan. Presumably this is pretextually justified by the 2001 AUMF. It’s ridiculous to cite that at this point, but there’s some legal pretense to the effort. Attacking forces in Syria — which are allegedly backed by the Iranian government — have no plausible legal justification.

Jen Psaki, now the White House press secretary, tweeted after Trump bombed Syria in 2017: “Also what is the legal authority for strikes? Assad is a brutal dictator. But Syria is a sovereign country.” At the time, IPA put out a news release: “Attacking Syria ‘Impeachable.’” Boyle stated today: “There’s been a lot of clamor about the ‘rule of law’ by many Democratic Party officials over Trump’s second impeachment, but Biden’s bombing is also a violation of the War Powers Clause of the Constitution, Congress’s own War Powers Resolution and the UN Charter — so of course it is an impeachable offense. So, there’s no real fidelity to the rule of law, just partisan preference here. Biden, who was a critical backer of the illegal Iraq invasion, has predictably carried on with the wholesale military interventionism by the Obama/Biden administration.”

Boyle was legal adviser to Rep. Henry B. González and wrote the first draft of the González Impeachment Resolution in 1991. George H. W. Bush would later write in his memoirs that if the Gulf War “drags out, not only will I take the blame, but I will probably have impeachment proceedings filed against me.”

In 2017, Ben Rhodes, Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor, and foreign policy speechwriter, told Politico that President Obama feared impeachment if he targeted the Syrian government.

Mars Mission Had 1-in-960 Odds of a Plutonium Release

KARL GROSSMAN, kgrossman@hamptons.com
Grossman just wrote the piece “Applause for Perseverance Ignores Plutonium Bullet We Dodged” for the media watch group FAIR.

He writes: “With all the media hoopla last week about the Perseverance rover, frequently unreported was that its energy source is plutonium — considered the most lethal of all radioactive substances — and nowhere in media was the NASA projection that there were 1-in-960 odds of an accidental release of the plutonium on the mission.

“’A “1-in-960 chance” of a deadly plutonium release is a real concern,’ says Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.
“Further, NASA’s Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the $3.7 billion mission acknowledges that solar energy could have been an ‘alternative’ power source for Perseverance. Photovoltaic panels have been the power source for a succession of Mars rovers.

“One in 100 rockets undergo major malfunctions on launch, mostly by blowing up.”

See NASA document: “Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement for the Mars 2020 Mission” [PDF] which gives the 1 in 960 probability.

Earlier this month, Grossman wrote the piece “Nuclear Rockets to Mars?” for Counterpunch.

Grossman is professor of journalism at State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, and is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet, and the Beyond Nuclear handbook, “The U.S. Space Force and the dangers of nuclear power and nuclear war in space.” [PDF]

New Report Calls on Biden to Put an End to Program That’s “Not Far From Slavery”

DAVID BACON, dbacon@igc.org@photos4justice
ANURADHA MITTAL, amittal@oaklandinstitute.org, @oak_institute
Bacon is author of the new report “Dignity or Exploitation – What Future for Farmworker Families in the United States?” for the Oakland Institute. Mittal is founder and executive director of the group.

Bacon said today: “The H-2A program has created a captive labor force, made to work in brutal and often illegal conditions. In practice, it is not far from slavery. The majority of these migrant workers arrive in the U.S. already in debt. Department of Labor regulations permit companies to subject them to quotas that require them to work at an exhausting speed. Efforts to organize against exploitative conditions have been met with terminations, deportations and blacklisting.”

The report states that: “H-2A workers also face disproportionate exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The report describes some of the most acute situations, and analyzes the basic reason for the high infection rate — congregate housing, or barracks, where workers sleep in bunk beds.

Growth of the H-2A program has also exacerbated an existing housing crisis for rural workers, as recruitment has skyrocketed from 10,000 visas in 1992 to over 250,000 in 2020. The exploitative conditions and vulnerability of migrants who came under the H-2A program are very close to those of the bracero program that was in place from 1942 to 1964. The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which put an end to the bracero program, established an immigration system based on family reunification and community stability, protecting the wages, rights, health, and housing of farmworkers. This system is under increasing threat today.

Mittal said: “Restoring the family preference system and halting the H-2A program are two of the most important decisions that will face the Biden administration in regards to the direction of U.S. immigration policy. The new administration needs to choose whose interests they are going to serve. Will it support the H-2A program and protect the profits of growers, or will it stand with the farmworkers who labor in the fields to feed this country?”

Cities Targeting Homeless

KEITH McHENRY, keith@foodnotbombs.net@keith_mchenry    McHenry is co-founder of the Food Not Bombs movement. He can connect media with other activists. He points to a series of efforts in various cities targeting homeless people.

He tweeted Tuesday of the most recent example: “The City of Santa Cruz is threatening to evict Food Not Bombs again claiming they will arrest us if we don’t stop.” The group was evicted from another location just last week, see Santa Cruz Sentinel: “Food Not Bombs displaced from Santa Cruz lot.”

McHenry said today: “City governments across the United States are waging a war against the homeless and their supporters as millions of Americans are facing eviction. As the Santa Cruz City Council was meeting to introduce an ordinance against ‘Temporary Outdoor Living’ it was sending an email to Food Not Bombs threatening to arrest our volunteers if we continue to share meals in an empty parking lot at a main intersection in Santa Cruz.

“Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs will be celebrating its 365th day in a row of providing food, drinking water, and the city’s only reliable hand-washing station while the city and its corporate sponsors failed to provide for the needs of most of our community’s unhoused. The city is also pressuring the state to evict over 100 people from the roadway outside Housing Matters homeless center and is seeking to vacate an injunction ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Susan van Keulen against their holiday evictions of over 100 people living in San Lorenzo Park.

“The Denver Police Department cleared camps of unhoused on February 21, 2021. Police used an armored vehicle to support a sweep of unhoused in Bellingham, Washington on January 28, 2021. The cities of Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, New Orleans, San Jose and Sacramento are among the many other municipalities clearing camps of unhoused into the doorways and roadways of their communities.”
Food Not Bombs is a global movement. See from the London-based Freedom News: “Belarus: Food Not Bombs activists receive prison sentences for giving away food.”

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