Richard Eskow

Seven Revelations From Those Secret Goldman Sachs Tapes

The secret Goldman Sachs tapes released this week by ProPublica and This American Life are attracting a lot of attention, and rightly so. They were clandestinely recorded by Carmen Segarra, an investigator for the New York Federal Reserve Bank who was eventually fired – either for being uncooperative or, as she says and the tapes suggest, for attempting to be a strong regulator. Financial cases can seem complicated, especially in situations when there are multiple parties involved. But the reality that is revealed in these tapes is clear enough, and can be summarized in seven takeaways: 1. The New York Fed’s investigators are surprisingly fearful and defensive. They’re called “regulators,” although the proper title for the Fed officials who monitor America’s banks is “supervisor.” When it comes to protecting our economy, they’re the cops on the beat.

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Lynne Stuart Parramore

Walmart Wants to Offer Banking For America’s Poor

Photo Credit: Ron Dauphin via Compfight cc The FDIC estimates there are 10 million people living in the U.S. who do not have a bank account — that’s one out of every 13 households. Nearly 33 percent of people living in Starr County, TX can’t write a check. In one census district in Savannah, GA, over 42 percent of residents are unbanked. The unbanked are usually poor, often minorities, and find themselves shunned by banks that can’t make money off them. Typically, they end up turning to predatory check cashers and payday lenders. Many also feel a great sense of social division between themselves and those who have bank accounts. The crash of 2008 exacerbated America’s growing problem of the unbanked, as many people faced financial ruin and the U.S. saw an increase in distrust of the banking industry.

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Dave Johnson

Why You Shouldn’t Be “Optimistic” About Corporate “Tax Reform”

Washington elites are “optimistic” about another “reform.” That’s never good. According to an article in The Hill this week, “WH adviser ‘optimistic’ for corporate tax reform“: A top economic official in the White House on Tuesday expressed confidence that the next Congress can pass corporate tax reform. … Obama has proposed lowering the corporate statutory rate from 35 percent to the high-20s while eliminating many deductions. Camp also proposed to lower the rate, but down to the mid-20s. Camp has proposed shielding most of the profits corporations make offshore from U.S. taxation, while Obama has called for a minimum tax on global earnings.

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Dean Baker

Eric Holder: The Reason Robert Rubin Isn’t Behind Bars

The big news item in Washington last week was Attorney General Eric Holder decision to resign. Undoubtedly there are positives to Holder’s tenure as attorney general, but one really big minus is his decision not to prosecute any of the Wall Street crew whose actions helped to prop up the housing bubble. As a result of this failure, the main culprits walked away incredibly wealthy even as most of the country has yet to recover from the damage they caused. Just to be clear, it is not against the law to be foolish and undoubtedly many of the Wall Streeters were foolish. They likely believed that house prices would just keep rising forever. But the fact that they were foolish doesn’t mean that they didn’t also break the law. It’s likely that most of the Enron felons believed in Enron’s business model. After all, they held millions of dollars of Enron stock.

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Bill Scher

Midterm Ad Watch: Republicans Literally Running On Nothing

Republicans hungry to win back the Senate had a strategic choice to make. Should they run on a comprehensive policy platform that detailed their conservative vision for the country? Should they pick one or two of their most popular ideas for legislation and promise to put those bills on the president’s desk? Or, since their actual positions on issues are so unpopular, would they just be better off not promoting any of their legislative ideas? Clearly, Republicans have chosen the “running on empty” path to regain control of the Senate. Think for a moment: Have you seen any Republican candidate in a competitive Senate race actively running on a pledge to pass a piece of legislation? No, repealing Obamacare doesn’t count.

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Jasmine Tucker

Here Are Better Ways To Spend $1 Trillion Than On Nuclear Weapons

President Obama campaigned on an anti-war platform and has talked convincingly about moving gradually towards a world that is free of nuclear weapons, yet a new report shows that nearly half (45 percent) of the 16,300 nuclear weapons on earth belong to the United States. That includes a stockpile of nearly 4,800 right in our own backyards, in the United States itself. In addition to the security threats posed by nuclear proliferation, all these weapons come at a real cost. The U.S. is currently set to ramp up spending on its nuclear arsenal in order to operate, sustain and modernize the “nuclear triad” of ballistic submarines, land-based intercontinental missiles, and long-range bombers. Over the next 10 years, this project is estimated to cost the federal government about $355 billion, according to a recent Congressional Budget Office report.

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Dave Johnson

Oil Cos. Trying To Use Trade Treaty To Bypass Congress And Raise Prices

You may have heard that there is an oil and gas “boom” happening in the US. You might not know that there is a ban on exporting our own oil. This ban is good for the country but bad for oil companies. And the oil industry is attempting an end run around Congress to do something about it. There is an ongoing “boom” in oil and natural gas production. Production of natural gas is way up. Imports are down about half since 2007. Texas oil production alone has more than doubled since 2011. This increase in domestic oil production has various consequences. We use much of our rail capacity transporting oil to refineries. The increase in natural gas production is pushing coal use down, and lowering carbon emissions as we fight for a transition away from using fossil fuel at all. Even with all this production, world oil prices are holding as the world economy recovers.

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Jim Hightower

Let Them Eat Tips

Just when you thought the plutocratic profiteers running America’s exploitative, low-wage economy couldn’t get any more clueless, self-serving, pious, and mingy — along comes Lady Maria of Marriott, magnanimously saying: “Let them eat tips.” Marriott International supports the political notion that America is divided between a few noble “makers” (like them) and a mass of “takers” (you, me, and the rest of us). Its approximately 4,000 hotels in 78 countries and territories have more than 690,000 rooms and operate under 18 different brand names that range from plebeian chains like Fairfield Inn & Suites to the luxury Ritz-Carlton properties. Image via PDR @ Flickr. The company hauled in nearly $13 billion in revenue last year.

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John Light

Google Leads a Corporate Exodus From Lobbying Group ALEC

#95920158 / gettyimages.com Google Chairman Eric Schmidt attracted some attention last week when he announced that his company would no longer be funding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative think tank that pushes a big-business agenda at statehouses across the country. Schmidt’s complaint? The group had been inhibiting action on global warming. Now, a handful of companies from across the tech sector, and beyond, are following suit. Facebook announced that it is unlikely to renew its membership in ALEC next year, and Yelp and Yahoo told Common Cause, a good-government group that tracks ALEC’s notoriously secretive agenda, that they have already parted ways with the organization. “Because Google is such a giant, we’ve seen a domino effect,” said Jay Riestenberg, a research analyst for Common Cause, in a call with reporters.

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Dave Johnson

Reagan Set Up The Death Of The Middle Class, But China Was The Clincher

Our 2010 Reagan Revolution Home To Roost series, especially the post Reagan Revolution Home To Roost — In Charts described the beginning of the great decoupling of the American economy from the middle class. The summary: Conservative policies transformed the United States from the largest creditor nation to the largest debtor nation in just a few years, and it has only gotten worse since then. Working people’s share of the benefits from increased productivity took a sudden turn down. This resulted in intense concentration of wealth at the top. And forced working people to spend down savings to get by. Which forced working people to go into debt. (total household debt as percentage of GDP) None of which has helped economic growth much. (12-quarter rolling average nominal GDP growth. More detail here and here.

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Craig Shirley

Why Republicans May Not Win The Senate After All

Establishment Republicans should keep the champagne on ice until after the midterm elections. Too many are already popping corks, pronouncing their strategy of “crushing” the Tea Party during the primaries as a crucial step in their successful takeover of the U.S. Senate. There are increasing signs, however, that the GOP might not take control of the Senate and may only make modest gains in the House of Representatives. In states like North Carolina, for example, the GOP candidate hasn’t shown the ability to wage a major-league campaign. In other key battleground states, the establishment GOP is supporting problematic candidates, like Monica Wehby in Oregon, who can alternatively be described as pro-Obamacare and a plagiarist. The National Republican Senatorial Committee handpicked Wehby over a strong conservative in the primary. She is now running 20 points behind.

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Robert Reich

Why the Economy is Still Failing Most Americans

I was in Seattle, Washington, recently, to congratulate union and community organizers who helped Seattle enact the first $15 per hour minimum wage in the country. Other cities and states should follow Seattle’s example. Contrary to the dire predictions of opponents, the hike won’t cost Seattle jobs. In fact, it will put more money into the hands of low-wage workers who are likely to spend almost all of it in the vicinity. That will create jobs. Conservatives believe the economy functions better if the rich have more money and everyone else has less. But they’re wrong. It’s just the opposite. The real job creators are not CEOs or corporations or wealthy investors. The job creators are members of America’s vast middle class and the poor, whose purchases cause businesses to expand and invest. America’s wealthy are richer than they’ve ever been.

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Sam Pizzigati

Why an Unequal Planet Can Never Be Green

What is it going to take to save the planet from environmental devastation? Sheer people power? We certainly saw that on the eve of last week’s United Nations Climate Summit in New York. Some 400,000 marchers packed the streets of Manhattan. Millions more rallied that same day in over 2,600 other actions in 162 countries. Or can simple shaming get world leaders to start seriously addressing the climate change challenge? We saw some serious shaming last week, too. Spoken-word poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner from the Marshall Islands — the nation climate change most immediately endangers — helped open Tuesday’s UN summit with an open letter to her baby daughter that reportedly brought many of the 120 world leaders present to tears. The poem, unfortunately, wouldn’t be enough to bring those world leaders to their senses.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Ya Won’t Have Eric Holder To Kick Around Anymore

Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation brought out the nuttiest of wingnuts. Obama saluted with a latte, prompting the usual calls for impeachment. Meanwhile, Kansas raises funds and generates buzz. Rumors were confirmed this week when Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he would resign as soon as his successor is confirmed. Right-wingers couldn’t resist taking a victory lap. Todd Starnes tweeted that Holder’s resignation would leave America “a little safer.” In spite of Holder’s ruthless war on liberty — the star-spangled banner still waves. — toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) September 25, 2014 Holder to announce he is stepping down. When that happens America will be a little safer. — toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) September 25, 2014 Townhall Editor Kevin Glass tweeted, “We did it, guys.” We did it guys. We got Eric Holder.

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Terrance Heath

Demanding Justice For Dead Young Black Men

What passes for justice in police shootings, and extra-legal shootings, of young black men neither satisfies nor inspires us to “trust the system.” In response to the epidemic of police violence that’s taken the lives of Michael Brown, John Crawford, and countless others, a coalition including Join Hands Up United, Organization for Black Struggle, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment plan a “Weekend of Resistance” in Ferguson, Missouri, October 10 – 13, to build momentum for a nationwide movement against police violence. News in three cases this week underscores the urgent need for such a movement. A special grand jury in Beavercreek, Ohio, chose not to indict police officers in the shooting death of 22-year-old father of two, John Crawford III. Crawford was shot and killed by police officers in a Walmart, holding a toy rifle he picked up in the store.

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Bill Scher

Midterm Ad Watch: Republicans Love Social Security!

Earlier this month I observed, over at Real Clear Politics, that Republicans have been leaning left to survive the midterm elections, belying notions of a conservative-fueled Republican wave. And on this site my colleague Isaiah J. Poole noted that the GOP has been engaged in a “Social Security Deception Game.” Don’t believe it? Let’s go the videotape… U.S Senate, Arkansas: Republican nominee Rep. Tom Cotton In the toss-up Senate race of Arkansas, Republicans were proud to recruit a “conservative superstar,” as The Atlantic described Rep. Tom Cotton. Cotton is so ideologically pure, he voted against farm subsidies and children’s hospital funding for Arkansas. He also voted to raise the Social Security retirement age to 70.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Help Build Grassroots Support For A Crackdown On “Preyday Lenders”

The payday lending industry has up to now escaped comprehensive regulation from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but the agency is currently working to change that – and payday lenders aren’t expected to let that happen without a vicious fight. That’s why National People’s Action has launched a campaign to mobilize grassroots political support for robust CFPB rules that will rein in these predatory lenders, in anticipation of well-funded pushback by the industry. “Whenever they are threatened with more regulation, they have come out of the woodwork with enormous amounts of money,” said Liz Ryan Murray, policy director at National People’s Action. That has certainly been in the case in the handful of states that have moved to curb the lenders.

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Richard Eskow

The Way to Win: Election Talk with Celinda Lake

Last week on The Zero Hour we talked about the upcoming election with Celinda Lake, a leading strategist for progressive organizations and liberal Democratic candidates. The conversation was enlightening. It was also (hopefully in the best sense of the word) alarming – as in, a wake-up call. There is much to be done to prevent a Republican victory in November, and not much time to do it. The good news is that there is substantial polling data that lays out exactly what must be done. The question is, will enough Democrats get the message? Expanding Social Security In this first clip we discuss a recent study by Lake Research Partners that shows that voters “overwhelmingly” favor expanding Social Security.

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Dave Johnson

Voters Will Oppose Politicians Who Support “NAFTA-Style” Trade Deals

Politicians need to know that the public “gets it.” So-called “trade” deals that were sold with a promise to increase jobs and prosperity have instead sent jobs out of the country and forced wages down. People get it. Ask people what they think of NAFTA and you’ll learn that people get it. “NAFTA” is a catch-all phrase for these deals, like opening up trade with China in 2000, the recent Korea deal and the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). All of these deals were and are designed to give the owners of giant corporations more power over the ability of We the People to demand fair pay, safe and reasonable working conditions and a clean environment. People absolutely hate “NAFTA-style” trade deals. People are voting based on this — when given the chance.

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Richard Eskow

What’s Wrong With the NFL is What’s Wrong With America

Sexism. A culture of violence. Untrustworthy leadership. Runaway wealth inequality. An indifference to workers’ health. Employees who are above the law. Hush-hush financing. Multimillion-dollar tax breaks. We’re not talking about America’s top corporations. We’re not even talking about the Christmas parties on Wall Street. We’re talking about the National Football League. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s handling of Ray Rice’s videotaped brutality has brought the NFL back into the public eye. It’s a sorry spectacle which others have addressed at length, so we’ll just repeat the cliché: It’s the cover-up, stupid. For my personal assessment of Goodell, we can turn the mic over to Bill Simmons and UltraViolet. And as for the NFL itself, let’s just say it’s America in microcosm.

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