News Release Archive - Economy and Business

“The Terrible Origins of July 4th”

MARGARET KIMBERLEY, margaret.kimberley@blackagendareport.com@freedomrideblog
Kimberley is author of Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents which was published last year.

She just wrote the piece “The Terrible Origins of July 4th,” which notes that among the grievances toward the British monarch outlined in the Declaration of Independence were: “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”

Kimberley explains the context: “The men who every school child is taught to think of as ‘patriots’ had two concerns which pushed them to declare independence. First, in 1763 the British emerged victorious after the end of a conflict against France. It was known in Europe as the Seven Years War and in America as the French and Indian War. The American moniker existed precisely because the French allied themselves with indigenous nations against the British. British victory brought them French held territory west of the Appalachians in the region now comprising midwestern states, but they knew they could not easily end indigenous wars if settlers along the eastern seaboard were allowed to go further west.

“Because of continued resistance from leaders such as Pontiac of the Ottawa nation, King George III issued the Proclamation of 1763, which forbade settlement west of the Appalachian mountains. One of the speculators poised to become a wealthier man if settlements were permitted to move westward was George Washington.

“He was not alone in his wish to conquer the entire continent and to get rich doing it. Property claims had already been made in these regions, and neither he nor the rest of his cohort were going to let British treaties with indigenous people stand in their way. They largely ignored the edict and went wherever they wanted to go.

“Their second concern was whether the British were committed to continuing the previously unfettered right to slave holding. In 1769 an enslaved man named James Somerset was purchased in Virginia and brought to England. He eventually escaped but was recaptured and was in the process of being sold to Jamaica. But Somerset had friends who went to court on his behalf. In 1772 a judge ruled that enslaved people could not be forcibly removed from England.

“The ruling didn’t end slavery in British territories and in fact it lasted in those regions for 50 more years. But even this narrow decision was too much for white Americans who feared that the crown might undermine or even end their right to slaveholding.”

Kimberley blogs at Freedom Rider and is editor and senior columnist at Black Agenda Report.

The Case for a National Infrastructure Bank

ALPHECCA MUTTARDY, via Angela Vullo, avullo@nibcoalition.com
Muttardy is with the Coalition for the National Infrastructure Bank and recently released a statement: “In the final weeks of June, 2021, the Biden administration has negotiated with a bipartisan group of Senators on the terms of a package to provide $973 billion for infrastructure projects over five years ($579 billion in new spending, plus $394 in re-authorization of existing spending). Finalizing the Bi-Partisan Plan (BPP) will still depend on reaching agreement on how to pay for it, as well as on the terms of a second, companion package — The American Family Plan — moving through Congress under reconciliation rules.

“Even if approved, the BPP will not be enough to cover the full infrastructure financing gap identified by the American Society of Civil Engineers. ASCE estimates that $2.6 trillion is needed over 10 years, far greater than the $579 billion of new money over five years suggested under the BPP.” The group states that currently, “nothing is allocated under the BPP to cover high speed rail, schools, dams and levees, public parks, affordable housing, or new water delivery projects for drought stricken areas in the U.S. And the amount assigned to water infrastructure is a fraction of what is needed, according to ASCE.

“A fully funded, public, National Infrastructure Bank (NIB), as set out in HR 3339, would finance up to $5 trillion to cover all of the infrastructure projects listed above, in every single jurisdiction in the country. Passage of the Bill would guarantee complete funding over a ten-year period, without the need to re-negotiate again in five years or beyond. Moreover, the NIB would pay its own way, offer low-cost loans, mobilize for economic growth and development, all without adding to federal taxes or deficits.”

Muttardy is a macroeconomist and was with the International Monetary Fund for 25 years, now retired. She has also been involved with Our Revolution, as chair of economic policy for the group in northern Virginia.

Can We Really Build Infrastructure When Wall Street Games the System?

Can We Really Build Infrastructure When Wall Street Games the System?

WILLIAM LAZONICK, william.lazonick@gmail.com
Lazonick is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Massachusetts and president of the Academic-Industry Research Network and has written several papers for the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

He is co-author of Predatory Value Extraction: How the Looting of the Business Corporation Became the U.S. Norm and How Sustainable Prosperity Can Be Restored (Oxford University Press, 2020).

He argues that Wall Street machinations like stock buybacks are effectively “distributions to shareholders that manifest the legalized looting of the U.S. business corporations, rendering employment unstable and incomes inequitable.”

He adds that without regulations on stock buybacks the Biden infrastructure plan will simply send large sums of money to companies that will go right out the door into stock buybacks, just as happened with the Trump taxcuts. To ‘build back better’ the companies need to invest the money in their products and workers, not send it to Wall Street.

He said today: “The Biden administration’s plans to ‘build back better’ must address the transformation in corporate resource allocation that has underpinned the increase in income equality in the United States since the 1980s. The key characteristic of the rise in income inequality has been the concentration of income among the richest households, driven in large part by distributions of corporate cash to shareholders. Over the decade 2010-2019, companies included in the S&P 500 Index spent a total of $5.3 trillion on buybacks, equal to 54 percent of net income, and another $3.8 trillion on dividends, equal to 39 percent of net income.”

See also from the Institute for New Economic Thinking: “Stock Buybacks Stand in the Way of Biden’s Infrastructure Plan” by Lynn Parramore.

G7’s Minimal Corporate Tax Proposal; Case for a Financial Transaction Tax

A group of economists and others have just released a letter to the G7 urging the adoption of a Financial Transaction Tax, see PDF.

The letter states: “We believe that a global FTT would eventually raise substantial revenue for many countries, including for the G7. But given the emergency situation in poor countries right now, our focus here is on them. Given the dominance of G7 financial markets, a G7-wide FTT could quickly start to provide at least $50 billion a year of emergency finance to fund vital public works and longer-term investments in developing countries, especially struggling young democracies.”

The signers include James S. Henry, global justice fellow at Yale and senior advisor, Tax Justice Network, who organized the letter; James K. Galbraith professor of economics at the  Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin; Sarah Anderson, Global Economy Project director at Inequality.org co-editor, Institute for Policy Studies; Pedro Biscay, former director, Central Bank of Argentina Buenos Aires; Ralph Nader, consumer advocate; William K. Black, associate professor of economics and law, University of Missouri-KC; Patrick Bond, professor of government, University of the Western Cape Cape Town, South Africa.

The signers write that while they “applaud the G7’s support for a minimum global corporate income tax (CIT) rate for multinational corporations,” the G7’s “current proposals would do little for poorer countries. Indeed, they would actually reinforce the unfair bias of international tax rules in favor of the richest countries, which host most of these corporations. If this were the only collective tax reform that the G7 undertakes right now, therefore, a huge opportunity will be missed — the chance to help developing countries recover from this historic tax injustice as well from as the pandemic, and to help finance public investments and advance the cause of international tax justice.”

The group suggests a very small tax: “a 0.1 percent transactions tax on all stock trades, paid for by investors located anywhere in the world who transact through G7 public exchanges.”

Still, substantial funds could be raised: “In 2020, for example, NewYork’s top two exchanges, the NYSE and the NASDQ, registered nearly $60 trillion in trades, nearly half the total volume of the world’s 85 stock exchanges.”

They add that to the “extent that the FTT does ‘pinch’ certain high-frequency traders, this may actually be a good thing. It enables G7 countries themselves to tackle ‘the finance curse,’ the bloated, unproductive and extractive part of high finance. It promotes longer-term investing and discourages casino-like stock speculation. …

“This nearly-perfect tax could channel $billions from a few hundred thousand wealthy folks at the top to tens of millions of people at the very bottom, whose very lives may depend on it. The FTT is so minimal and frictionless that it is not even noticed by most of those who pay it. It is hardly perceptible at all, especially compared with, say, New York City’s 8.875 percent retail sales tax or Europe’s double-digit VAT taxes. But in the right hands and if well spent, the positive impacts of all this tax revenue on the reduction of human suffering will be very perceptible. …

“FTTs also dramatically boost financial transparency and help to combat money laundering and corruption — as Kenya recently discovered when its new FTT surfaced a huge amount of ‘funny money’ washing through Nairobi’s stock exchange.”

Available for interviews:

JAMES HENRY, jsh11963@gmail.com@submergingmkt
Henry is Global Justice Fellow at Yale University, senior advisor to the Tax Justice Network and managing director at the Sag Harbor Group.

How Worker Co-Ops Weathered COVID-19 by Prioritizing People Over Profits

JAISAL NOOR, jaisal@therealnews.com, @JaisalNoor
Noor, a senior reporter at Real News Network, just released a 26-minute documentary that explores how worker-owners at eight cooperative run businesses weathered the pandemic, “Worker cooperatives prove your job doesn’t have to be hell.” Noor recently appeared on Means TV and Hill TV’s “Rising” to discuss his findings.

“Pandemic profiteers increased their wealth by over $1.6 trillion dollars during the pandemic, while frontline workers risked their lives for low pay and dangerous working conditions,” Noor said. “Retail online giant Amazon even unveiled a ‘therapy box‘ for workers experiencing stress from high workloads and unreasonable expectations. Meanwhile, the small but growing sector of worker-run cooperatives is demonstrating another way is possible: workplaces that operate democratically and share profits. Because the workers are the owners, they aren’t going to sacrifice themselves for profit,” Noor said. As the Biden administration talks of wanting to “Build Back Better,” Noor explores the lessons learned from eight cooperative businesses in four states.

Noor added: “Worker cooperatives distribute decision-making power, profits and risk. Data indicates that during the pandemic, worker cooperatives were less likely to lay off staff and often pivoted their business models so they could continue to operate while protecting their workers and the public. The country’s largest co-op, Cooperative Home Care Associates, partnered with textile cooperatives to provide their workers with PPE while other home care agencies frequently failed to do so. Baltimore’s majority Black-owned Taharka Brothers Ice Cream lost 70 percent of their revenue during the lockdown, but quickly recovered by shifting to a home-delivery model. And a growing number of businesses that closed during the pandemic are reopening as worker-cooperatives, which have proved to be a more sustainable model.”

The documentary, which Noor produced with support from Solutions Journalism Network, also explores the limitations of employing the cooperative model in the U.S.’s corporate capitalist system. “While cities like Baltimore offered Amazon billions in incentives in exchange for building a headquarters, it has invested a fraction of that in local worker co-ops. Banks also typically don’t lend to co-ops, so a network of revolving loan funds across the country has been created to fund worker co-ops, and provide workers with technical assistance to help create sustainable business models. None of the 60 worker co-ops that work with Seed Commons’ revolving loan fund closed permanently during the pandemic.”

The documentary is licensed through Creative Commons and can be republished and excerpted with attribution to The Real News Network; additional segments are available here.

Biden $750 Billion Pentagon Budget Called “Excessive”

The Biden administration, in a “Friday news dump,” released its Pentagon budget late last week.

WILLIAM HARTUNG, whartung@internationalpolicy.org
Hartung is director of the Arms and Security Program at the Center for International Policy.

Following the release of the budget, he said: “At over $750 billion, the Biden administration’s proposal for spending on the Pentagon and related work on nuclear weapons at the Department of Energy is both excessive and misguided. At a time when the greatest challenges to human lives and livelihoods stem from threats like pandemics and climate change, sustaining Pentagon spending at over three quarters of a trillion dollars a year is both bad budgeting and bad security policy.”

Hartung’s recent pieces include “Memorial Day Can’t Obscure Biden’s Excessive Pentagon Budget” for The National Interest and “Two Weapons That Shouldn’t Be In The Pentagon’s New Budget” for Forbes.

He added: “Continued spending on unnecessary weapons systems like a new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile ($2.6 billion) and the troubled F-35 combat aircraft ($12 billion) represent budgetary and policy malpractice, diverting billions of dollars from other urgent national priorities. …

“The identification of China as a ‘pacing challenge is not an adequate justification for current, exorbitant levels of spending. The challenge posed by China is primarily political and economic, not military. And the United States already spends nearly three times on its military what China does, and has 13 times as many nuclear warheads in its stockpile.”

Is a Network of Donors Neutralizing Peace Activism?

DAVE LINDORFF, dlindorff@gmail.com
Lindorff is an investigative journalist who just wrote the piece “Peace-washing: Is a network of major donors neutralizing activism in the peace movement?” for Salon.

He writes: “Consider the liberal response to the Biden transition team floating Michèle Flournoy’s name as a potential secretary of defense. Instead of outrage at the idea of someone who had spent the previous four years helping arms contractors win business with the Trump Pentagon and who is an advocate for tough, even aggressive stances towards Russia, China and Iran, we saw an open letter of support signed by 29 key people active in the peace and arms-control arena. Signatories included Joe Cirincione, former president for 12 years of the Ploughshares Fund, along with Tom Collina, Michelle Dover and Emma Belcher of that same well-endowed grant-offering organization. They were joined by the likes of Tom Countryman and Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association, Rachel Bronson of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Ilan Goldenberg of the Center for New American Security, Joan Rohlfing of the Nuclear Threat Initiative and others. …

“Interestingly though, while serious opposition coalesced among anti-militarism, anti-revolving-door people and groups in the Flournoy case, her WestExec Advisors co-founder Antony Blinken, nominated as secretary of state, sailed through his nomination and hearing process. This despite Blinken’s record as an enthusiastic interventionist while serving in the Obama administration as deputy national security advisor and later as deputy secretary of state, and despite his profiting off his connections as a WestExec adviser to arms makers after leaving office.”

MATTHEW HOH, matthew_hoh@riseup.net
Hoh is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy. Until his resignation five years ago, he was a board member of Council for a Livable World, one of the larger national security/arms control organizations in the Peace and Security Funders Group (PSFG). Hoh tells Lindorff that while he has no inside information about the funding policies of the funding consortium or its members, “The assumption that the big peace and national security funding groups are taming the peace movement is a correct one.”

He explains: “When you have a bunch of organizations in a group like that, and some of them are really mainstream vanilla like Open Society, you’re going to see the whole organization and its member groups moderate their positions and their funding policies to the lowest denominator. These big groups, especially the ones that also act as holding pens for people in the foreign policy area who have to leave government employment when a Republican administration comes in, and use them as references when looking for government jobs under a new Democratic administration like this one, don’t want to be funding groups that mount protests in House or Senate committee hearings or try to arrest [former Nixon Secretary of State] Henry Kissinger for war crimes.”

Hoh says he recalls comments being made while he was at CLW about organizations receiving grants needing to “ease up” on their rhetoric or protest actions, but doesn’t recall that kind of conversation moving beyond CLW to the collective PSFG membership. But he also says, “I think the issue of putting pressure on activist groups has deepened over the last 10 years.” He adds, “The best evidence that there is pressure on activists to tone down is the way you’re finding so few leaders of groups that get funding from PSFG member organizations willing to speak for this article on the record.”

Research for Lindorff’s article was funded by a grant from the ExposeFacts program of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Facebook Collaboration with Israeli Military “Beyond Outrageous”

NADIM NASHIF, nadim@7amleh.org@7amleh
DANI NOBLE, via Sonya Meyerson-Knox, sonya@jewishvoiceforpeace.org, @jvplive
Nashif, a Palestinian living in Haifa, is co-founder of 7amleh (pronounced Hamleh), the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, a non-profit organization that advocates for Palestinian digital rights. Nobel is campaign organizer for Jewish Voice for Peace.

The two groups are signers of a letter generated by the new initiative FacebookWeNeedToTalk.org along with a host of other groups including Access Now, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Fight for the Future and BDS France:

“As Palestinian residents defend their homes in Jerusalem from forced dispossession by the Israeli government and state-sanctioned Zionist settler groups, their calls for support have received widespread international attention — inspiring social media campaigns and mass protests around the world. This international outcry only grew after the Israeli military attacked Ramadan worshippers at al-Aqsa mosque and started brutally bombing Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip …

“Facebook executives’ decision at this moment to directly collaborate with Israeli Defense and Justice Minister Gantz on content moderation, without appropriate parity of government engagement until prompted by civil society, is beyond outrageous. …

“In addition, the numerous reports of removal or chilling of political speech that several of our organizations have received over the past two weeks, combined with the report released by 7amleh last week [‘The Attacks on Palestinian Digital Rights,’ PDF] that includes 429 reported incidents from Instagram and Facebook, raise concerns about Facebook’s relationship with the Israeli Ministry of Justice’s extra-legal Cyber Unit. The fact that since May 6 there has been widespread removal of Palestinians’ content or supportive content (including removal of content and deactivation of accounts or pages based on Community Standards violations, as well as the mass removal of Instagram stories) that after review have been restored for lack of any violation, indicates that Facebook is perhaps voluntarily agreeing to takedowns recommended by the Israeli Cyber Unit. This unclear relationship between Facebook and the Israeli Cyber Unit is concerning, as it is not subject to any formal governmental or legal process.”

Could Postal Banking Address “Inequality in the Financial System”?

Members of Congress, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, are proposing a postal banking program to address inequalities. She recently said: “This pilot program will not only help us begin to address systematic inequality in the financial system, but it will also create much needed source of revenue for the U.S. Postal Service.”

CHRISTOPHER W. SHAW, christophershaw.ca@gmail.com@chris_w_shaw
Shaw is author of the book Preserving the People’s Post Office and recently wrote the piece “The U.S. Postal Service Was Designed to Serve Democracy” for Foreign Affairs.

He said today: “Eight million households in the United States lack bank accounts because the existing system of privately owned banks doesn’t offer accessible and affordable financial services. But the U.S. Postal Service can serve as a solution. A growing political movement highlights how the Postal Service could offer a public option for banking, making essential financial services more available to low- and middle-income households at over 30,000 post offices nationwide. Significantly, there is an important historical precedent: postal banking operated for more than fifty years during the twentieth century, when millions of Americans deposited billions of dollars in the postal bank. A new congressional push for programs in selected rural and urban areas to provide surcharge-free ATMs, wire transfers, check cashing, and bill payment at post offices would perform a pilot study for extending banking services to millions of underserved Americans. Expanding financial services at post offices also would bring new revenues to the Postal Service helping to revitalize the agency.”

See his op-ed in the Washington Post last year: “Postal banking is making a comeback. Here’s how to ensure it becomes a reality.

U.S. Military Spending Still Dwarfs China, Russia, Iran…

Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept just released his latest project: “EMPIRE POLITICIAN: A Half-Century of Joe Biden’s Stances on War, Militarism, and the CIA.”

DAVID SWANSON, davidcnswanson@gmail.com, @davidcnswanson
Swanson is executive director of World Beyond War and recently wrote the piece “Biden’s Announcement That Trump Got Military Spending Just Right Is Dead Wrong.” Today, he tweeted about New York Times columnist Tom Friedman now claiming: “China is now a true peer competitor in the military.” As Swanson recently wrote: “U.S. military spending is $1.25 trillion per year across numerous departments. Even just taking the $700 billion and change that goes to the Pentagon and stands in for the full amount in media coverage, U.S. military spending has been climbing for years, including during the Trump years, and is the equivalent of many of the world’s top military spenders combined, most of which are U.S. allies, NATO members, and U.S. weapons customers.

“Still using that artificially reduced figure, China is at 37 percent of it, Russia at 8.9 percent, and Iran is spending 1.3 percent. These are, of course, comparisons of absolute amounts. Per capita comparisons are extreme as well. The United States, every year, takes $2,170 from every man, woman, and child for wars and war preparations, while Russia takes $439, China $189, and Iran $114.”

LINDSAY KOSHGARIAN, lkoshgarian@nationalpriorities.org, @natpriorities
Koshgarian is program director of the National Priorities Project, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies. She notes that while Biden is heralding the delayed withdrawal of thousands of troops from Afghanistan, “instead of redirecting any savings to our dire domestic situation, they are plowing those savings right back into the Pentagon.

“The majority of Americans support shifting at least ten percent of the Pentagon budget to pay for other urgent needs. Americans deserve to know that the administration isn’t representing their priorities on Pentagon spending. It’s past time we had a national conversation about the resources being wasted on the Pentagon.”

Earlier this month, the group put out a statement on Biden’s proposed budget: “There is no shortage of options for how to rein in the Pentagon’s excesses. Profitable weapons systems and costly service contracts account for more than half of the Pentagon budget, and the nation’s longest war continues to drain national coffers. Experts from across the political spectrum have put forth detailed proposals for Pentagon cuts that would put real security needs above contractor profits and endless war. … The cumulative cost of these wars has topped $6.4 trillion, and every one of those dollars could have been put to better use. Even a moderate ten percent cut in Pentagon spending could be used to create more than one million jobs in infrastructure, or end homelessness.”