Category: Analysis
Trump’s $6 Trillion Corporate-Investor Tax Cut Emerges
| April 29, 2017 | 4:38 pm | Analysis, class struggle, Donald Trump | No comments

Trump’s $6 Trillion Corporate-Investor Tax Cut Emerges

by jackrasmus

Trump’s $6 Trillion Corporate-Investor Tax Cut Emerges

Today, April 28, 2017, Trump announced the outlines of his proposal for the latest trillion dollar business tax cuts that have been a hallmark of US neoliberal policies since 1978. Trump’s tax cuts are the policy centerpiece of his regime. They are what he and the entire US capitalist class have agreed on, unlike some of Trump’s ‘right wing populism’ proposals on which he ran during the 2016 elections. Those right wing populist proposals are now being swept off the table by Trump himself, as he retreats quickly during his first 100 days from those popular appeals. (Another article and analysis coming on that shortly).

The real essence of Trump policy is massive tax cuts, across the board deregulation, and renegotiating of free trade deals so US business gets a bigger cut from its global capitalist competitors as the global trade pie continues to grow more slowly and shrink in the period ahead. All the rest populist appeals–the wall, create jobs in the US, NATO, Russia, Syria, China, immigration, Obamacare repeal, etc. are secondary and will be removed as policy obstacles to enable the tax cuts, deregulation, and free trade deal renegotiations.

In terms of tax cutting, the Trump proposals are the initial down payment of his proposed $6 trillion more in tax reduction, almost all of which accrue to business, corporations and investors.

These proposals represent Trump as part of the Neoliberal tradition in the US going back to 1978-80.

Reagan proposed a $792 billion tax cut in 1982. More tax cuts followed in 1986. Clinton cut taxes in 1997-98. George W. Bush cut taxes by $3.4 trillion in his first term, 80% of which accrued to businesses and the wealthiest households. He added another $350 billion in tax cuts for multinational corporations and another $100 billion for energy companies in 2005-06, and another $180 billion in 2008.

Obama was an even bigger tax cutter than Bush. His 2009 fiscal stimulus bill provided $300 billion in tax cuts, which he increased by $800 billion in late 2010 as recovery faltered. He then extended Bush’s tax cuts by two more years, worth another $450 billion. Obama cut a deal with Republicans in late 2012 called the ‘fiscal cliff’ compromise, which extended the Bush tax cuts another 10 years at a cost of $5 trillion.

So Bush’s tax cuts amounted to more than $4 trillion and Obama’s more than $6 trillion. More than $10 trillion in tax cuts, in other words, under Bush and Obama alone, before Trump begins his latest round of tax giveaways to business, investors and corporations.

A good deal of the income inequality in America is due to the massive tax shifting for more than three decades. So is the rise of the US government debt from $4 trillion in 2000 to more than $19 trillion today. Studies show that collapsing tax revenue is responsible for 60% of the deficits and debt in the US. (For another detailed look at that, see my piece ‘The Eight Real Causes of Deficits and the Debt’, on this blog).

The Trump tax proposals are a repeat and acceleration of the Bush tax cuts, which Obama extended, but even more aggressive in handouts to the rich and their corporations than provided by Bush-Obama.

For my analysis of the Tax Shift before 2000 and Bush-Obama-Trump, see my website, where I’ve uploaded chapter 2 from my 2005 book,’The War at Home: The Corporate Offensive from Reagan to Bush’. It is available on the website at:

http://www.kyklosproductions.com/articles.html

The ‘War At Home’ book documents the various policies, including tax policies, by which $1 trillion a year, every year, up to 2005, was being shifted from working and middle class incomes to capital incomes–a centerpiece of Neoliberal policies since 1978. The book is available from this blog or the website for discount at $10, or on Amazon.

jackrasmus | April 26, 2017 at 10:52 am | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: http://wp.me/p1tyg5-hZ
South Korea Presidential Frontrunner Pledges to Review Divisive THAAD Deployment

Politics

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Moon Jae-in, the leading candidate in the upcoming presidential election in South Korea, is determined to reassess the controversial deployment of the US-built Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile system since it “did not follow a democratic procedure,” his press team said in a statement seen by Sputnik Korea.

“The THAAD deployment is an issue that must be decided by the next administration based on close discussions with the US and a national consensus, and approached with the best national interest in mind. Since this is an issue of great impact to our national security and comes with great economic costs, it must be ratified by the National Assembly as per the Constitution,” Yoon Kwan-suk, a spokesman for Moon Jae-in said.

The press office also commented on United States President Donald Trump’s suggestion that Seoul should pay for the deployment of a system worth $1 billion.

“The Liberty Korea Party, Bareun Party and the Ministry of National Defense have until now argued that the US will bear the cost of the THAAD operation,” the press office said. “If the reports are true, it is now clear that the decision to deploy the THAAD had a major flaw to begin with.”The statement urged senior politicians in the former ruling party, as well as high-ranking defense officials, to disclose the details of the deal between Washington and Seoul on THAAD.

On Wednesday, the South Korean Defense Ministry said that components of the THAAD system have been deployed to their intended destination in the North Gyeongsang province. Washington has said that the move comes in response to North Korea’s muscle-flexing, but Jeong Uk-sik, the president of the Peace Network NGO, told Sputnik that THAAD will also be targeted against China.

“Undoubtedly, [Washington] has indicated that the US missile defense system must be alert not only to North Korea, but also China,” he said, citing the testimony made by Admiral Harry Harris, commander of US Pacific Command, during a hearing at the House Armed Services Committee.

“Harris’s report clearly shows that US Pacific Command has fostered closer ties with Japan, South Korea and Australia to create a comprehensive missile defense system based on THAAD and the radar deployed to South Korea is one of its links,” the analyst added. “As a result, THAAD and the radar are targeted not only against North Korea, but also China since they are links of a single US missile defense system.”China has been opposed to the THAAD deployment, saying that the move “seriously undermines” strategic security of Beijing and other countries in the region.

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More Against Trump: Huge Climate Change Marches Against President’s Policies
Demonstrators sit on the ground along Pennsylvania Ave. in front of the White House in Washington, Saturday, April 29, 2017, during a demonstration and march.

More Against Trump: Huge Climate Change Marches Against President’s Policies

© AP Photo/ Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Environment

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People’s Climate Marches are taking place in Washington, DC, and hundreds of other locations around the globe today, one more action in an ongoing series of responses to the environmental policies of US President Donald Trump.

Coinciding with Trump’s 100th day in office, the global event, an offshoot of the 2014 global climate change march — the largest in history — is centered around the march in Washington DC, where some 200,000 marchers have taken to the streets as temperatures hover in the mid-90s.With luminaries including former US Vice President Al Gore, billionaire aerospace leader Richard Branson and Hollywood superstar Leonardo Dicaprio in attendance, the protests are seen as a continuation of the current increase in popular activism in the wake of Trump’s election.

Including heavily attended events such as the Women’s March in January and the March for Science last week — as well as multiple protests at airports to fight the Trump administration’s immigration travel ban — the level of popular activism in response to the policies of Trump’s administration is unusual, and perhaps unprecedented.

In what is considered to be the most divisive US presidency in modern times, Trump’s administration in just its first 100 days has quickly rolled back newly implemented Environmental Protection Agency regulations regarding the use of fossil fuels, including coal, and introduced sweeping budget cuts. Trump also approved the hotly-disputed Keystone XL pipeline, which the administration of US President Barack Obama had formerly blocked.

Trump is undoing everything Obama did. He doesn’t realize climate change impacts everyone. It impacts him. Change is inevitable, and only we can solve it — the impact is just changing the way we live,” said a marcher, according to CNN.

Although official tallies are not currently available, police put the number in the hundreds of thousands in Washington, DC, and in cities across the globe, tens of thousands more are said to be participating.

A Painful Anniversary

A Painful Anniversary

– from Zoltan Zigedy is available at:
http://zzs-blg.blogspot.com/

Exactly ten years ago this past April 7, I posted an article on Marxism-Leninism Today entitled Tabloid Political Economy: The Coming Depression (for those who missed it, it is reproduced below). It was my first and only attempt at economic prognostication, always a challenging and risky venture. The “Tabloid” in the article’s title was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the headline in the April, 2007 issue of a now defunct supermarket tabloid, Weekly World News. Featured between Virgin Mary Slaps Boy and Jews Invented Pizzoh was the shrill admonition: Surviving the Next Great Depression! It’s Coming This Summer!

It didn’t come in the summer of 2007.
In fact, the Dow Jones Industrial Average continued to climb seemingly with no limit, reaching a new peak in the fall of 2007. The pundits continued to extol the virtues of unbridled capitalism.
While the folks at WWN built their case on scant evidence (“Skyrocketing gas prices, escalating war, crashing housing prices, calamitous weather and freefalling stock prices…”), there were many other good reasons to take their prediction seriously, reasons which I offered in my article. Unfortunately, the print edition did not survive to see the collapse that rocked the foundations of the global capitalist economy the following year. Nonetheless, the zany supermarket tabloid proved to be far more prescient than the Nobel laureates, academics, and popular pundits who postured as learned economists yet never saw the collapse coming.
Ten Years On

The global economy never fully recovered from the crash of 2008. Instead, it has stumbled along from one setback to another, with economic growth only marginally topping population growth. When both the enormous loss of wealth from the crash and the obscenely unequal distribution of the wealth recovered since the crash are configured, it is fair to say that the vast majority of the world’s population have seen little or no recovery. In fact, the casualties from the crash continue to pile up.

The US economy is neither healthy nor without serious symptoms. Despite the market euphoria that surprisingly accompanied the Trump election, the Atlanta Federal Reserve has lowered its growth expectations for the first quarter to .5% from an earlier forecast of 3%. Other projections have similarly dropped.
For three months in a row, since January, durable goods orders (excluding volatile transportation orders) have dropped. Industrial production fell .1% in January and was unchanged in February. Factory output dropped .4% in March from February and was only up .8% from a year earlier.
Bank loan growth has slowed.
Retail sales slowed by .3% in February and .2% in March. Inflation, as a measure of consumer demand, dropped .3% in March. Retail stores are closing in unprecedented numbers and retail employment growth has slowed.
Sales of new cars– the principal driver of consumption growth since the crash– has fallen for three straight months. Auto dealers are now offering buyer incentives that are greater than the labor costs of production (labor costs are less than $2500 per car, on average). Incentives account for 10.5% of average sticker price ($31, 435). Yet the average car sits for over 70 days on the lot.
Used car prices were down 8% in February, another sign of declining demand. And auto loan defaults are on the rise.
The US trade gap– the difference between imports and exports– reached a 5-year high in February.
In stark human terms, the US economy is failing working people. Between January 2016 and January 2017, average hourly earnings slipped .1% and the hours of the average workweek dropped .3%. This calculates to a .4% loss in real average earnings for those twelve months.
With reduced earnings, more and more workers are drawing on their retirement savings: 20% of 401(k)s have been reduced through self-loans.
Not surprisingly, household debt in 2016 grew the most in a decade. Unlike in the lead-up to the crash, mortgage debt is growing modestly, still below the explosive growth rate of that time. Instead, the growth in debt is in credit cards, auto loans, and student loans. Auto loan debt has reached $1.2 trillion, while student debt has risen to $1.3 trillion.
Student debt is particularly crippling. There are 42 million outstanding loans. The average student loan debt jumped from $26,300 in 2013 to $30,650 in 2016. Defaults went from 3.6 million in 2015 to 4.2 million in 2016.
And senior citizens are saddled with growing debt as well. In 1998, 30% of people 65 and older were in debt. In 2012, the percentage of seniors in debt reached 43.3. Growing debt comes in the wake of the collapse of net worth since 2005, when it topped $300,000 among those 55 to 64. By 2013, average net worth within that group dropped to $168,900 (even below the net worth of $175,300 reached in 1989).
Talking heads and media “experts” hail the job market. But they seldom delve deeply into its performance. Put simply, capitalists are hiring additional workers, rather than purchasing labor-saving equipment, because labor is cheap and flexible. The failure of organized labor to defend or advance labor’s relative position has served as a disincentive for capitalist investment in new technologies and equipment. They see no need to do so, when labor power can be used on demand, with no restrictions, and at low costs.
That trend is clearly reflected in the most recent period’s historically poor growth in productivity, among the lowest periods of productivity growth since the Second World War. Contrary to the widespread hawking of the idea that most workers are in danger of being replaced by robots, corporations are showing little interest in the introduction of new or old technologies. They are spending very little on equipment. While the technology may be there, capitalists have shown little need for it, given low labor costs.
As Shawn Sprague shows in a recent BLS paper, since 2009 the growth of aggregate hours-worked has grown more quickly than the growth of non-farm business output. This fact demonstrates that US capitalists feel little pressure to “save” labor while restoring profits during the so-called “recovery.” Rather than having existing workers work more hours, they are hiring more workers at low wages and contingently. Profits rebounded nicely because the working class had been slammed by the downturn, rendering the employment costs so low that there was no need to invest in labor-saving equipment.
This harsh truth has been ignored by economists and labor leaders alike because it shows the complete bankruptcy of class collaboration as an approach to social justice for workers.
US capitalists have enjoyed a decade of low labor costs, no pressure to invest retained earnings, and high profits (corporate after-tax profits dipped in 2015, but came back smartly in 2016). By securing labor power at low costs, they have foregone the purchase of labor-saving instruments and achieved modest growth by expanding employment. Today, capital is profoundly afraid that, with reduced unemployment, competition for labor power will drive up the costs of labor and erode profits. The Trump tax change package, favorable to corporations and the repatriation of profits, is one ruling class response to this anticipated problem.
Despite the return of an overheated housing market with escalating prices (lagging new construction is fueling demand), no systemic accumulation crisis comparable to that of 2007-2008 appears on the immediate horizon. Instead, the post-collapse era of stagnation and deteriorating living standards continues for the working class. As the shrinking income and mounting debt of working people erodes aggregate consumption, the possibility of a business cycle contraction grows more and more likely. The long, tepid expansion transferred nearly all its gains to the wealthy few, leaving little but debt or asset cannibalization for the majority. With declining retail sales, especially auto sales, and the growing weight of personal debt, the likelihood of further consumption growth is in doubt.
A business cycle contraction will only further weaken the position of working people, setting them up for a further dose of sacrifice and pain.
Isn’t it time to get off the capitalist roller coaster?
Zoltan Zigedy

 

Reports: US troops deploy along Syria-Turkish border
| April 28, 2017 | 3:07 pm | Analysis, political struggle, Syria | No comments
http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/chemical-weapons-team-ready-visit-syria-safety-assured-47078360

The Associated Press
OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu speeches during a ceremony marking the OPCW’s 20th anniversary in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, April 26, 2017. The global chemical weapons watchdog’s ceremony comes just three weeks after dozens of people were killed in a suspected nerve gas attack in Syria. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, POOL)

U.S. armored vehicles are deploying in areas in northern Syria along the tense border with Turkey, a few days after a Turkish airstrike that killed 20 U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters, a Syrian war monitor and Kurdish activists said Friday.

Footage posted by Syrian activists online showed a convoy of U.S. armored vehicles driving on a rural road in the village of Darbasiyah, a few hundred meters from the Turkish border. Clashes in the area were reported between Turkish and Kurdish forces Wednesday a day after the Turkish airstrike which also destroyed a Kurdish command headquarters.

The Turkish airstrikes, which also wounded 18 members of the U.S.-backed People’s Protection Units, or YPG, in Syria were criticized by both the U.S. and Russia. The YPG is a close U.S. ally in the fight against the Islamic State group but is seen by Ankara as a terrorist group because of its ties to Turkey’s Kurdish rebels.

Further clashes between Turkish and Kurdish forces in Syria could potentially undermine the U.S.-led war on the Islamic State group.

A senior Kurdish official, Ilham Ahmad told The Associated Press that American forces began carrying out patrols along the border Thursday along with reconnaissance flights in the area. She said the deployment was in principle temporary, but may become more permanent.

A Kurdish activist in the area, Mustafa Bali, said the deployment is ongoing, adding that it stretches from the Iraqi border to areas past Darbasiyah in the largely Kurdish part of eastern Syria.

“The U.S. role has now become more like a buffer force between us and the Turks on all front lines,” he said. He said U.S. forces will also deploy as a separation force in areas where the Turkish-backed Syrian fighting forces and the Kurdish forces meet.

It is a message of reassurance for the Kurds and almost a “warning message” to the Turks, he said.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, did not dispute that U.S. troops are operating with elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) along the Turkish border, but he would not get into specifics. The SDF is a Kurdish-dominated alliance fighting IS that includes Arab fighters.

“We have U.S. forces that are there throughout the entirety of northern Syria that operate with our Syrian Democratic Force partners,” Davis said. “The border is among the areas where they operate.” He said the U.S. wants the SDF to focus on liberating the IS-held town of Tabqa and the extremist group’s de facto capital, Raqqa, “and not be drawn into conflicts elsewhere.”

Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the deployment seems limited and is aimed to “prevent fighting” between the two sides.

The U.S. has recently shifted from working quietly behind the scenes in Syria’s conflict toward overt displays of U.S. force in an attempt to shape the fight.

Last month, about 200 Marines rolled into northern Syria backed with howitzers, significantly widening America’s footprint in a highly toxic battlefield. The Marines’ deployment came days after another intervention, when dozens of army troops drove outside the town of Manbij, riding Stryker armored vehicles, following an earlier conflagration of fighting between Syrian Kurdish troops and Turkish troops. The U.S. deployment in Manbij intentionally put Americans in the middle of that rivalry, hoping to cool it down.

The SDF retook Manbij from IS control, and Turkey — with its troops nearby — said it won’t allow the town to be under Kurdish control, threatening to move on it. The American presence appears intended to reassure Ankara the Kurds don’t hold the town.

But the new deployment puts U.S. troops directly along the border with Turkey, another flashpoint, and immerses Washington into that increasingly hot fight.

Separately, the chief of the international chemical weapons watchdog said on Friday that he has a team of experts ready and willing to travel to the site of this month’s deadly nerve gas incident in Syria if their safety can be assured.

“We are willing to go to Khan Sheikhoun and we have undertaken some actions,” Ahmet Uzumcu of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told a small group of reporters in The Hague.

Syrian ally Russia has called for an international investigation into the April 4 attack that killed nearly 90 people. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov this week expressed regret that the OPCW turned down the Syrian government’s offers to visit the site of the attack and investigate. Russia has rejected Western accusations that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government was behind the attack.

Uzumcu said that the area of the town of Khan Sheikhoun where the incident happened is controlled by opposition rebels, adding that the watchdog experts will “need to strike some deals with them,” such as a temporary ceasefire, to assure the team’s safety before it can deploy.

The OPCW has been extremely cautious about sending investigators to Syria since a team of its experts came under attack there in 2014. Uzumcu said the organization is in daily contact with U.N. authorities over the security situation in Syria.

The Syrian president has categorically rejected accusations that his forces were behind the attack.

Uzumcu is not yet calling the April 4 incident a chemical weapons attack, but he has said that tests by his organization have established beyond doubt that sarin or a similar toxin was used.

Other nations, however, have already labelled it an attack and blamed the Syrian government.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said earlier this week that the attack “bears the signature” of Assad’s government and shows it was responsible.

Uzumcu said his organization is not yet in a position to confirm the French findings.

The OPCW’s team is already gathering evidence from victims and survivors and testing samples outside Syria. Uzumcu said he expects an initial report to be issued in about 10 days. The initial OPCW investigation will not apportion blame — that is left to a separate investigative mechanism made up of OPCW and U.N. experts.

———

Burns reported from Washington, DC. Associated Press writers Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, and Zeina Karam in Beirut contributed to this report.

Trump Signals His Intention To Start A War With North Korea
| April 28, 2017 | 3:00 pm | Analysis, Donald Trump, DPRK, political struggle | No comments

Trump Signals His Intention To Start A War With North Korea

By saying that the United States could be heading for a major, major conflict with North Korea, Trump sounded like a president who is itching to start a war.


Trump Signals His Intention To Start A War With North Korea

By saying that the United States could be heading for a major, major conflict with North Korea, Trump sounded like a president who is itching to start a war.

During an interview with Reuters, Trump said, “There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely.”

Trump may have thought that this was more typically empty tough talk designed to enhance his negotiating position, but he took it a step beyond and added, “We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult.”

For a president who says he’s not going to telegraph what he is going to do, Trump just did some serious telegraphing. Remember, this is an administration that is attempting to cut 2,300 jobs from the State Department. Diplomacy is not Trump’s priority.

With his domestic policy failing, and his foreign policy non-existant, the last refuge for Trump to save his president is to become a war president. During the campaign, Trump committed to not getting the US into any wars in the Middle East, but he never said anything about North Korea.

Trump is lusting for a conflict with North Korea. The Bush administration tried to out strongman the regime in North Korea, and it was a disaster. President Trump seems to be looking for more than tough talk. He wants to start a war.

‘US Strategic Assets’ to Be Deployed In South Korea Against Northern Threat
B-2 Stealth Bomber.

‘US Strategic Assets’ to Be Deployed In South Korea Against Northern Threat

© Photo: Northrop Grumman
Military & Intelligence

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South Korea’s Defense Ministry said Friday that they’ve reached an agreement with the US to regularly deploy “strategic assets” from Washington as part of efforts to stave off provocation from North Korea.

South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense reported that the two allies agreed to institute “measures available in all aspects, including the regular deployment of US strategic assets.”

These assets include the US B-52, B-2 and B-1B bombers; F-35 fighter jets; and aircraft carriers usually housed at American bases in South Korea, Japan or Guam.

The announcement came during a media briefing on the biannual Integrated Defense Dialogue (KIDD) meeting between the US and South Korea that took place in Washington, DC, on Thursday.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs David F. Helvey represented the US delegation at the defense meeting with his Korean counterpart Wee Seung-ho, deputy minister for policy.

Seoul and Washington also reiterated that the US’s recently deployed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system was intended purely for defense purposes. China has complained that the THAAD’s strong radar could be used to spy on Beijing.

China demanded South Korea remove THAAD on Wednesday. THAAD’s presence “destroys the regional strategic balance and further prompts tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, UPI reported.

“Cancel the deployment of THAAD. Otherwise China will decisively take necessary measures,” Geng warned.

When it was announced earlier this week that THAAD was close to being operational, China carried out a military drill using “new weapons” in order to “defend national security and regional stability.”

Washington and Pyongyang have been engaged in a war of words in recent weeks, trading barbs as the North continues its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons tests and the US threatens military action in retaliation.

Tensions have calmed somewhat since the flashpoint of North Korea’s recent Day of the Sun celebration, when another nuclear test was feared. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that Washington was open to talks with North Korea about denuclearization, a tactic China has called for for some time.

When asked about the possibility of talks, Tillerson said, “Obviously, that would be the way we would like to solve this. But North Korea has to decide they’re ready to talk to us about the right agenda,” according to the BBC.

Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, suggested that, “The use of force does not solve differences and will only lead to bigger disasters … Peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and negotiations represents the only right choice that is practical and viable.”

There are about 285,000 American troops currently stationed in South Korea.