Vote YES on NJ Ballot Q#2 to protect gas tax funds from being raided like clean energy and health funds were

vote-to-repair-roads
Source: Engineer’s Labor-Employer Cooperative via nj.com

New Jersey Assemblyman Dr. Tim Eustace wants New Jersey voters to know that voting YES on Ballot Question #2 will enable extremely important protections of taxpayer dollars. Election Day this year falls on Tuesday, November 8.

Here are short and long versions of the reasons it’s important to vote YES to Q2. You already know how important it is that you go vote in the first place – right?

The short version of why YES on Q2

On the gas tax issue, Assm. Eustace comments:

The New Jersey gas tax increase of 23¢ is law – and it’s a mistake to think it will go away if people vote NO on Ballot Question #2 at the polls next Tuesday. Gov. Christie’s second-in-command discussed the ballot question in a 101.5 Radio interview, revealing that either she does not understand this law, or maybe Ms. Guadagno is hoping to draw out Republican voters who believe that the gas tax will go away if they vote no. But, this is not true.

It’s essential that gas tax money be used only for transportation and that this money not become accessible to the governor for use in the general budget. Gov. Christie used over $1.2 billion from the State’s Clean Energy Fund to plug general budget holes. In order to ensure that gas tax money can only be used for transportation expenditures, vote YES to Ballot Question #2 on Election Day.”

Dr. Eustace is the NJ Assembly Environment Committee Chair.

An NJ.com editorial echoes the assemblyman’s message:

…experts attest that if all that if annual gas tax revenue were dedicated exclusively to transportation projects, we could have filled a few more potholes by now … if (taxpayers) are tired of seeing large sums ($35 million last year, higher in previous years) scraped from the gas tax for purposes other than transportation, they can do something about it on Election Day.

Now that the gas tax increase is something we’ve all got to live with, we support Ballot Question 2, a constitutional amendment that dedicates every penny of that revenue to the Transportation Trust Fund.

That means the government can no longer raid the TTF to plug other budget holes – a lockbox provision that 30 other states already have.

Road to Repair offers a short but complete statement on why a YES vote to Q2 is so important:

roadtorepair.com screenshot
Source: roadtorepair.com

The long version of why YES on Q2

On Facebook, Aaron Hyndman addressed this issue with a thorough analysis of the New Jersey gas tax ballot issue, “TO ANYONE STILL ON THE FENCE ABOUT NJ BALLOT QUESTION #2.” Hyndman is Communications Coordinator at the NJ Bike & Walk Coalition and the following is his statement:
I finally have a spare moment to contribute some thoughts regarding Ballot Question 2, so here are some things that I hope everyone will take into consideration:

First of all, there is a great deal of misinformation being spread by the Lt. Gov. and other interests that are opposed to the ballot question for reasons that are more self-serving and not purely altruistic. Too much is being said ABOUT the ballot question instead of discussing what is ACTUALLY in the ballot question, which reads as follows:

Do you approve amending the Constitution to dedicate all revenue from the State motor fuels tax and petroleum products gross receipts tax to the Transportation Trust Fund?

This amendment would provide that an additional three cents of the current motor fuels tax on diesel fuel, which is not dedicated for transportation purposes, be dedicated to the Transportation Trust Fund. In doing so, the entire State tax on diesel fuel would be used for transportation purposes. The entire State tax on gasoline is currently dedicated to the Transportation Trust Fund and used for transportation purposes.

The amendment would also provide that all of the revenue from the current State tax on petroleum products gross receipts be dedicated to the Transportation Trust Fund. In doing so, the entire State tax on petroleum products gross receipts would be used for transportation purposes.

This amendment does not change the current tax on motor fuels or petroleum products gross receipts.”

Note that there is NOTHING in this ballot question about bonding (more on this later). Ballot Question 2 is a proposal to amend the state constitution; that is ALL it is. Specifically, it would amend Paragraph 4 of Section II of Article VIII of the New Jersey Constitution, which is the part of the constitution that created the Transportation Trust Fund. Here is the actual operative text that would be added:

“… for each State fiscal year thereafter, an amount equivalent to all revenue derived from the collection of the tax imposed on the sale of motor fuels pursuant to chapter 39 of Title 54 of the Revised Statutes or any other subsequent law of similar effect…”

Basically, all the amendment does is guarantee that the entire gas tax must be dedicated to the Transportation Trust Fund, for which the constitution has already mandated (at the end of that very same section) that “These amounts shall be appropriated from time to time by the Legislature, only for the purposes of paying or financing the cost of planning, acquisition, engineering, construction, reconstruction, repair and rehabilitation of the transportation system in this State and it shall not be competent for the Legislature to borrow, appropriate or use these amounts or any part thereof for any other purpose, under any pretense whatever.”

For public officials to imply any other implications for the passing of Ballot Question 2 is blatantly dishonest and/or ignorant. The more controversial aspects of the gas tax hike (offsetting Estate Tax, Sales Tax, EITC provisions, etc.) are part of the ALREADY PASSED bill A12/S2411. If you vote “No” on Ballot Question 2, you are NOT voting to repeal ANY PART of A12/S2411. On the contrary, you are giving the politicians in Trenton the ability to spend the revenue raised via the fuel tax hike in A12/S2411 on whatever they want to spend it on. Since A12/S2411 has already been passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, the ONLY way to rescind any of its provisions will be for the legislature to pass a new bill that rescinds those stipulations and have it signed by the governor. VOTING “NO” ON BALLOT QUESTION 2 WILL NOT DO ANY OF THAT; it will only give Trenton a blank check to spend all that extra money we’re paying at the pump starting today.

Now, to the bonding issue

There is NOTHING in the Ballot Question OR in A12/S2411 about bonding. The state already has the authority to borrow money for the purposes of financing projects, and nothing about that changes in either of the aforementioned initiatives. Infrastructure projects are not solely funded by bonding; the state also requires up-front money attained either from tax revenue or federal funds. This is a good thing. The state also can’t borrow money for no reason; it must be tied to a particular project. This is also a good thing. As you probably know, our transportation infrastructure (including not only roads, bridges, and tunnels, BUT ALSO, railways, bike paths, and greenways, which also fall under the designation of transportation infrastructure) are sorely deficient and in a state of disrepair. That is why there are billions of dollars worth of projects proposed by the DOT to remedy that. It is these projects that the bonding is proposed for, in order to supplement the TTF funds that will be created by the fuel tax. If Ballot Question #2 is voted down, then there is no guarantee that TTF funds will be available, meaning that all these infrastructure projects could be a no-go. So obviously, if all the infrastructure projects die, the accompanying financing would be cancelled. So yes, the $12 Billion in bonding would be cancelled, not because of a statutory mandate against borrowing money, but simply because the corresponding (sorely-needed, I might add) infrastructure projects would be killed.

Saying a YES vote on Q#2 will authorize more debt is the reverse of true. It will lower the borrowing cap

The Lt. Governor and the talking heads at NJ101.5 have brought up the issue of the transportation bonding provision outlined in a different bill, A10/S2412 as rationale for voting down Ballot Question #2, with Lt. Gov. Guadagno stating that “it actually authorizes $12 billion in bonding.” This is true. It authorizes $12 billion in bonding, amending the previous statutory cap of $15 billion in bonding that currently exists. So basically, by approving Ballot Question #2 and triggering the amendment to A10/S2412, the voters are ACTUALLY INCREASING THE RESTRICTIONS on Trenton’s ability to borrow. Here is the exact language of A10/S2412:

Commencing on the day that Assembly Concurrent Resolution No.1 of 2015, a constitutional amendment to Article VIII, section II, paragraph 4 of the New Jersey Constitution, takes effect, and ending June 30, [striking out “2026” from the original] 2024, the authority shall not issue transportation program bonds in excess of [striking out $15,000,000,000 from the original] $12,000,000,000. Any increase in this limitation shall only occur if so provided for by law. In computing the foregoing limitation as to the amount of bonds the authority may issue, the authority may exclude any bonds, notes or other obligations, including subordinated obligations of the authority, issued for refunding purposes; except that, any premiums received in connection with the issuance of transportation program bonds shall count against any limitation as to the amount of transportation program bonds the authority may issue. The payment of debt service on transportation program bonds and any agreements issued in connection with such transportation program bonds shall be paid solely from revenues dedicated pursuant to the New Jersey Constitution, including Article VIII, Section II, paragraph 4, and deposited into the “Transportation Trust Fund Account – Subaccount for Debt Service for Transportation Program Bonds.”

So not only does the state ALREADY have the authority to bond for transportation projects, the new provision actually makes it HARDER to borrow money, not easier. This is plainly obvious to anyone who reads the actual text. Unfortunately, the Lt. Governor would rather spread blatant lies in an effort to boost her profile for next year’s election. Thus, it would seem that Assembly Speaker Prieto was correct in his recent assertion that the Lt. Gov. has no idea what she’s talking about.

I apologize for the length of this post, but unfortunately, that’s what it takes to accurately break down the complicated mess that is our public policy and debunk the misinformation being spread in the media. If you’ve made it this far though, thank you for taking the time to read all of this.

With that being said, I intend to vote YES on Ballot Question #2 (end of Aaron Hyndman’s statement).

Has Sweeney convinced NJ legislators to turn their backs on giving a living wage to NJ workers any time soon?

Fight for $15 in NJ
Source: NJ Working Families
Why will New Jersey have a ballot referendum next year (aka constitutional amendment) that will allow state voters to decide whether to approve SCR1500 and increase the state’s minimum wage – but only by 62¢ in 2018 to $9 per hour and $1.00 a year after that to finally reach $15 an hour eight years from now, in 2024?

I got a slightly confusing reply from State Senator Bob Gordon to my email regarding this issue and have been checking into what his reply could mean. Here are the facts I’ve learned:

New Jersey Democrats were able to pass Bill A-15 on 23 June 2016 to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour in January 2017 and continue raising it in yearly $1.25 increments until it hit $15 an hour in 2021. But Christie vetoed that bill.

State legislators could then have put this same proposal on the ballot as a referendum, letting voters decide how quickly low wage workers could be lifted out of extreme poverty. They went the ballot referendum route, but opted for a much less robust hourly pay raise proposal: and that’s how SCR1500 came into being.

Perhaps the watered down bill is the brainchild of State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), whose (now derailed?) plans for a gubernatorial bid next year undoubtedly included courting the vote of the small business community. This community has essentially been convinced to vote against their own interests by Big Money supporters of low worker wages who have promoted a fear campaign to discourage their support for the $15/hour minimum wage.

Although small businesses are one group that stands to majorly benefit from the increased buying power that residents will be able to spend if they earn more, Big Money folk are making them believe that an alternate – and false – reality exists. That’s because the profits of Big Money-backed businesses like Walmart and the Fast Food industry will be seriously curtailed if they need to pay employees fair wages instead of setting them up to receive welfare and foodstamps to supplement starvation pay.

When worker wages are low enough to force families onto social welfare programs, taxpayers at all levels of the spectrum end up subsidizing workers’ food, shelter and medical care. Forbes reports on Walmart employees vast use of the welfare system and Bloomberg points out:

According to one study, American fast food workers receive more than $7 billion dollars in public assistance. As it turns out, McDonald’s has a “McResource” line that helps employees and their families enroll in various state and local assistance programs. It exploded into the public when a recording of the McResource line advocated that full-time employees sign up for food stamps and welfare.

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private sector employer, is also the biggest consumer of taxpayer supported aid. According to Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, in many states, Wal-Mart employees are the largest group of Medicaid recipients.

Pew Research Institute data shows that in relative terms, US workers earn about as little as workers did in 1928.

according to his research, U.S. income inequality has been increasing steadily since the 1970s, and now has reached levels not seen since 1928.

An nj.com reporter asks the United Way of North Jersey to weigh in on the hourly wage issue:

The annual take-home pay for a full-time worker earning the current, $8.38 minimum wage in New Jersey is about $17,430 … a single adult in New Jersey would need to earn $13.78 an hour to meet his or her basic needs, and $19.73 per hour for “better food and shelter, plus modest savings.

Betraying progressive politics to court corporate dollars is what has made Clintons the Dem Party favorites

people before profits
Source: National People’s Action/flickr via CommonDreams.org
Fred Toledo shared this article on Facebook. He commented, “This is the sad, sorry and corrupt state of a party that once stood as the champion of the working class, the poor, the disenfranchised and the marginalized,” and shared excerpts from Bill Moyer and Michael Winship’s article on Wasserman Schultz:

Yet when the CFPB was drawing up new rules to make it harder for payday predators to feast on the poor, Rep. Wasserman Schultz co-sponsored a bill to delay those new rules by two years. How, you ask, could the head of the party’s national committee embrace such an appalling exploitation of working people?

Just follow the money. Last year, the payday loan industry spent $3.5 million lobbying; and as we wrote two weeks ago, in Wasserman Schultz’s home state, since 2009, payday lenders have bought protection from Democrats and Republicans alike by contributing $2.5 million or so to candidates from both parties, including her. That’s how “Representative” Wasserman Schultz, among others, wound up representing the predators instead of the poor.

…The lust for loot, which now defines the Democratic establishment, became pronounced in the Bill Clinton years, when the Clinton-friendly Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) abandoned its liberal roots and embraced “market-based solutions” that led to deregulation, tax breaks, and subsidies for the 1 percent. Seeking to fill coffers emptied by the loss of support from a declining labor movement, Democrats rushed into the arms of big business and crony capitalists.”

Moyers has peeled back yet another layer of obfuscation from the onion of Democratic Party corruption: all along it’s been all about the money, honey. Now, we see that when income streams began to run dry, the party was quite willing to throw both laborers and progressive politics out the window in order to run after corporate dollars. It is precisely the success of the Clinton’s courtship with Big Money that has made them so very popular among the Dems. They betrayed us right from the start – and they’re still at it. What’s astonishing is how many of us were fooled into believing that what they did would benefit average voters in any way.

If change is going to come, it certainly isn’t going to emerge from the Clintons’ corner. So, it’s time for The People to make it happen. Let’s get cracking.

Kristof: It’s not easy for white Americans to own the advantages systemic racism gives them

Nicholas Kristof
Columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, at 2010 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland
© World Economic Forum
swiss-image.ch/Photo by Monika Flueckiger
In Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and his wife and co-author Sheryl WuDunn told the stories of women oppressed by prostitution slavery – or just oppressive sentiment concerning women – in Asian and African countries. Now they are focusing on the disparities and injustice in American society that have been created by gender and wealth disparities and that favor people with certain racial or ethnic backgrounds, a project (and book) they call A Path Appears.

In a 2014 article, WaPo’s Emily Badger interviews Kristof on the topic of systemic racism: how it affects its victims and why it’s so difficult for white Americans to see that their advantages cause other people to be disadvantaged.

I grew up in rural Oregon, in a blue-collar area that has been very hard hit by meth, by family breakdown, by unemployment. And a lot of my friends and classmates have been struggling with all these issues. There is a real issue of personal responsibility and self-destructive behaviors — this is real. But it also arises from a context of hopelessness, a context in which people feel that there’s no escape, and then they self-medicate. And then that hopelessness becomes self-fulfilling. And that’s true of whites, and that’s true of blacks…

Emily Badger: You’ve cited a lot of data in these columns that seems pretty powerful and hard to argue with.

People were very taken aback by the figure in particular that the wealth gap between whites and blacks today in America is greater than the black-white wealth gap was in Apartheid South Africa. That was a factoid that clearly shocked a lot of people. But then the lesson that a lot of people drew from it was “well, boy, that just underscores how irresponsible so many African-Americans are,” which is precisely the opposite of the point I was trying to make.

…I think that there’s no doubt that successful people have this narrative that “I succeeded because I worked hard, studied hard, obeyed the law, and that just shows that anybody in this country can succeed if they will just behave themselves.” I think about my friends growing up, who were in many cases, just as smart and hard-working as anybody else, but didn’t have a family that pushed them. So if they made the decision to drop out of school, that was a decisions that really haunted them. I think it’s really hard for people who were born on third base, and whose friends were born on third base, and who assume kind of a third-base context, it’s really hard to understand the enormous obstacles that face those who in early life encountered a much less rosy environment. It’s so easy to hit a home run from third base and say “boy, this is pretty easy, why can’t everyone else do this?”

Hillary’s BFFs Wasserman-Schultz & Rahm Emanuel: called out by Moyers for persecuting the working poor

Bill Moyers on DWS & RE
Source: Talking Points Memo
Rep. Excerpt from the 24 March 2016 article by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship on TPM.com on the united intentionality of Wasserman Schultz, Rahm Emanuel and both Clintons to both shift the Dem Party away from representing working folk and also persecute the working poor:

Debbie Wasserman Schultz … embodies the tactics that have eroded the ability of Democrats to once again be the party of the working class. As Democratic National Committee chair she has opened the floodgates for Big Money, brought lobbyists into the inner circle and oiled all the moving parts of the revolving door that twirls between government service and cushy jobs in the world of corporate influence.

She has played games with the party’s voter database, been accused of restricting the number of Democratic candidate debates and scheduling them at odd days and times to favor Hillary Clinton, and recently told CNN’s Jake Tapper that super delegates — strongly establishment and pro-Clinton — are necessary at the party’s convention so deserving incumbent officials and party leaders don’t have to run for delegate slots “against grassroots activists.” Let that sink in, but hold your nose against the aroma of entitlement.

But here’s just about the worst of it. Rep. Wasserman Schultz — the people’s representative, right? — has aligned herself with corporate interests out to weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s effort to create national standards for the payday-lending industry, a business that in particular targets the poor. Payday loans, as Yuka Hayashi writes at The Wall Street Journal, “are quick credits of a few hundred dollars, with effective annual interest rates ranging between 300% and 500%. Loans are due in a lump sum on the borrower’s next payday, a structure that often sends people into cycles of debt by forcing them to take out new loans to repay the old ones.”

According to the nonpartisan Americans for Financial Reform, this tail-chasing cycle of “turned” loans to pay off previous loans makes up about 76 percent of the payday loan business. The Pew Charitable Trust found that in Wasserman Schultz’s home state, the average payday loan customer takes out nine such loans a year, which usually has them mired in debt for about half a year.

Makes sense: Hillary will share her speech transcripts when hell freezes over

Hillary Transcripts
Source: Vets for Bernie
The Young Turks report on Hillary’s comeback to the New Hampshire debate question: will she share the transcripts of all of her speeches, even the ones she made to Goldman-Sachs? In a nutshell, Hillary’s answer was no, not really. We’ve learned that Hillary’s speaking contract stipulates that they be recorded both digitally and by a hired stenographer; and that she retains full copyright protection for all of her words.

A CNN analysis found that, since 2001, Hillary and Bill Clinton have received $153 million in speaking fees, with at least eight speeches given by Ms. Clinton to big banks for $1.8 million. The media has repeatedly asked Ms. Clinton to release the transcripts, to which she sarcastically responded on ABC’s This Week, “Yeah, you know, here’s another thing I want to say. Let everybody who has ever given a speech to any private group under any circumstances release them all—we’ll all release them at the same time.”

Ms. Clinton’s only opponent in the Democratic Presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders, earned a total of $1,867.42 in speaking fees in 2014, which he donated entirely to charity. In the same year, Ms. Clinton netted millions…

The enormous speaking fees and donations racked up by the Clintons from the financial services industry represent much more than the “artful smear” Ms. Clinton attempted to dismiss during the 5th Democratic Debate. Ms. Clinton’s record of getting paid substantially by large financial firms suggests her allegiance is aligned with their interests, rather than the American public. Nothing in her record or rebuttals suggests otherwise.

Gee whiz.

Former Chase employee wants to tell the story of how they defrauded America

bank crash of the 20s
Legacy photo of the 1920s bank crash
Chase has paid billions in settlements to prevent former employee Alayne Fleischmann, Esq. from being summoned to the witness stand where she can reveal under oath the intentional theft of mortgage investors’ money through bad mortgage loans Chase made and sold without violating the gag clauses in her employment contract. With help from Attorney General Eric Holder, Chase enriched itself by millions of dollars and when it was caught with pants down, a small fine was imposed which was substantially funded by the American public via a tax write-off made available to the bank.

Iceland took serious objection to similar banker duplicity and jailed over 20 banking executives for their role in acts of fraud and the impact on its economy. We should be doing the same in the United States too – but are extremely far off from even contemplating such a move. But Fleischmann is a threat to the cover-up: she knows exactly how the Chase fraud was carried out and wants desperately to spill the beans and tell the whole story. Although doing this will probably destroy her future career and may cost her every penny she has, she’s still more than willing.

Rolling Stones reports:

Six years after the crisis that cratered the global economy, it’s not exactly news that the country’s biggest banks stole on a grand scale. That’s why the more important part of Fleischmann’s story is in the pains Chase and the Justice Department took to silence her.

She was blocked at every turn: by asleep-on-the-job regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission, by a court system that allowed Chase to use its billions to bury her evidence, and, finally, by officials like outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, the chief architect of the crazily elaborate government policy of surrender, secrecy and cover-up. “Every time I had a chance to talk, something always got in the way,” Fleischmann says.

Alayne decided to step forward with the truth after watching Holder whitewash his actions in the “No Company Is Too Big to Jail” video, in which Holder made it clear that he had no intention of criminally prosecuting any of the finance industry execs who had done horrible things to America’s economy.

“I tried to go on with the things I was doing, but I just stopped sleeping and couldn’t eat,” she says. “It felt like I was trying to keep this secret and my body was literally rejecting it.”

Alayne was approached this summer by a new investigation team:

…she still has reason to be deeply worried that nothing will be done. Even if the investigators build strong cases against executives who oversaw Chase’s fraud, Holder or whoever succeeds him can still make the whole thing disappear by negotiating a soft landing for the company. “That’s the thing I’m worried about,” she says. “That they make the whole thing disappear. If they do that, the truth will never come out.”

In September, at a speech at NYU, Holder defended the lack of prosecutions of top executives on the grounds that, in the corporate context, sometimes bad things just happen without actual people being responsible. “Responsibility remains so diffuse, and top executives so insulated,” Holder said, “that any misconduct could again be considered more a symptom of the institution’s culture than a result of the willful actions of any single individual.”

In other words, people don’t commit crimes, corporate culture commits crimes! It’s probably fortunate that Holder is quitting before he has time to apply the same logic to Mafia or terrorism cases.

Fleischmann, for her part, had begun to find the whole situation almost funny.

“I thought, ‘I swear, Eric Holder is gas-lighting me,’?” she says.

Ask her where the crime was, and Fleischmann will point out exactly how her bosses at JPMorgan Chase committed criminal fraud: It’s right there in the documents; just hand her a highlighter and some Post-it notes – “We lawyers love flags” – and you will not find a more enthusiastic tour guide through a gazillion-page prospectus than Alayne Fleischmann.

She believes the proof is easily there for all the elements of the crime as defined by federal law – the bank made material misrepresentations, it made material omissions, and it did so willfully and with specific intent, consciously ignoring warnings from inside the firm and out.

She’d like to see something done about it, emphasizing that there still is time. The statute of limitations for wire fraud, for instance, has not run out, and she strongly believes there’s a case there, against the bank’s executives. She has no financial interest in any of this, no motive other than wanting the truth out. But more than anything, she wants it to be over.

In today’s America, someone like Fleischmann – an honest person caught for a little while in the wrong place at the wrong time – has to be willing to live through an epic ordeal just to get to the point of being able to open her mouth and tell a truth or two. And when she finally gets there, she still has to risk everything to take that last step. “The assumption they make is that I won’t blow up my life to do it,” Fleischmann says. “But they’re wrong about that.”

Ultra-Rich ‘Philanthrocapitalist’ Class Undermining Global Democracy: Report

As foundations and wealthy individuals funnel money into global development, what “solutions” are they pursuing?

Bill & Melinda Gates
Melinda and Bill Gates at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2009. (Photo: World Economic Forum/flickr/cc)

From Warren Buffett to Bill Gates, it is no secret that the ultra-rich philanthropist class has an over-sized influence in shaping global politics and policies.

And a study (pdf) just out from the Global Policy Forum, an international watchdog group, makes the case that powerful philanthropic foundations—under the control of wealthy individuals—are actively undermining governments and inappropriately setting the agenda for international bodies like the United Nations.

The top 27 largest foundations together possess assets of over $360 billion, notes the study, authored by Jens Martens and Karolin Seitz. Nineteen of those foundations are based in the United States and, across the board, they are expanding their influence over the global south. And in so doing, they are undermining democracy and local sovereignty.

Notably, foundation spending on global development is skyrocketing, jumping from $3 billion per year over a decade ago to $10 billion today. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation leads the way, giving $2.6 billion in 2012, the report notes. In addition, the Gates Foundation is the largest non-state funder of the World Health Organization.

Meanwhile, many of the wealthiest people on the planet are individually jumping into the fray, with 137 billionaires from 14 countries last year pledging large sums to philanthropy. Some among them, like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, have been criticized for abusing their power and influence in pursuit of questionable policies.

“If these and more ultra rich fulfill their pledges, many billions of dollars will be made available for charitable purposes,” the authors argue. “It must be noted, however, that the increase in philanthropic giving is just the other side of the coin of growing inequality between rich and poor.”

As political scientist Gary Olson argued Friday in Common Dreams, “Just to be clear, some Big Philanthropists have done some good work. However, as Peter Buffet (Warren Buffet’s son) has argued, philanthropy is largely about letting billionaires feel better about themselves, a form of ‘conscience laundering’ that simultaneously functions to ‘keep the existing system of inequality in place…’ by shaping the culture.

What’s more, the report warns, “The influence of large foundations in shaping the global development agenda, including health, food, nutrition, and agriculture…raises a number of concerns in terms of how it is affecting governments and the UN development system.”

The risks of “philanthrocapitalism” are manifold, the researchers argue, including: “fragmentation and weakening of global governance”; “unstable financing”; and “lack of monitoring and accountability mechanisms.”

“What is the impact of framing the problems and defining development solutions by applying the business logic of profit-making institutions to philanthropic activities, for instance by results-based management or the focus on technological quick-win solutions in the sectors of health and agriculture?” the report poses.

A close look at the forces at work within the groups controlling the cash flow reveals numerous causes for concern.

“Through their multiple channels of influence, the Rockefeller and Gates foundations have been very successful in promoting their market-based and bio-medical approaches towards global health challenges in the research and health policy community—and beyond,” the authors state.

Moreover, the report continues, “there is a revolving door between the Gates Foundation and pharmaceutical corporations. Many of the Foundation’s staff had held positions at pharmaceutical companies such as Merck, GSK, Novartis,  Bayer HealthCare Services and Sanofi Pasteur.”

Looking at agriculture and farming, meanwhile, the Gates Foundation is undermining self-determination and local solutions in measurable ways.

“The vast majority of the Gates Foundation’s agricultural development grants focus on Africa,” the report notes. “However, over 80 percent of the U.S. $669 million to NGOs went to organizations based in the U.S. and Europe, with only 4 percent going to Africa-based NGOs. Similarly, of the U.S. $678 million grants to universities and research centers, 79 percent went to grantees in the U.S. and Europe and only 12 percent to recipients in Africa.”

Both the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations have been slammed by international grassroots groups, including the global peasant movement La Via Campesina, for their international role in exporting big agricultural models, privatizing food policies, and expanding the power of companies like Monsanto.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. By Common Dreams staff writer Sarah Lazare, originally published 15 Jan 2016.

Hat tip to Kim Gaddy for the share.

Cosby’s business is private, but the state of America’s democracy is our concern

Cosby punching bag
Source: Randy Bish, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review via toursdelaliberte.blogspot.com
I’m a little ashamed of myself. I’ve done to Cosby exactly what I caution people to never do, unless an accused person’s actions have been substantively witnessed and recorded – like the police who killed Eric Garner. Without the benefit of legal discovery or a trial, I had already convicted Cosby in my mind.

Although only a handful of his accusers claim to have been actually raped by Cosby, I had decided in my mind that he is guilty of serially raping almost 50 women. I didn’t bother to learn what these women have actually accused Dr. Cosby of doing to them. And I didn’t question my right or ability to judge him either, until I watched this video last night … and realized that I am a hypocrite, as well as a victim of the fine art of misdirection, which Wikipedia defines as:

Misdirection is a form of deception in which the attention of an audience is focused on one thing in order to distract its attention from another.

And perhaps many of us are.

As one of the wealthiest and most admired black men in the world until recently, Cosby’s career and personal power could have seemed like potential challenges to control held by the less than 1% – the few families that currently dominate the world’s wealth and resources. Could they have decided it would be wise to tear Cosby down and then gone about engineering the sexual accusations and the light-speed destruction of an iconic figure’s career, reputation and public influence?

Well, I don’t know. What I do know is, that a presidential election is coming later this year and that concurrently, America and democracy are facing some of the most serious challenges that could possibly exist.

A prominent Republican candidate wants to mark or deport millions of people of color; the American middle class and the public education system are under attack and crumbling. Families like the Bushes have shamelessly benefited from war profiteering; the multi-billionaire Waltons underpay their Walmart workers and teach them how to supplement meager incomes with foodstamps; the ALEC consortium writes legislation for Republican politicians that is being used to erase rights and access for millions of constituents.

The most important democratic tool the world has ever known – the internet – is under constant assault by the super-wealthy who see it as the extreme threat to concentrated wealth, power and mass public ignorance, that it truly is.

The powerful:

  • Will not allow Pres. Obama to repair America’s transportation infrastructure.
  • Have their Congressional allies lobbing continual strikes to disable Obamacare, and quality healthcare for tens of millions of Americans.
  • Want to shut down the United States Postal Service, which is pledged to democratically and impartially facilitate communication to every resident of our country, based on the pretense that it is bankrupt. In fact, the USPS is extremely solvent but skilled financial and public perception manipulators have created the appearance that it is experiencing financial trouble.
  • Are advancing a plan to extract oil from Canada and the US and sell it overseas – making Americans suffer the consequences of earthquakes and pollution from fracking, destruction from laying and using transcontinental pipelines and the destruction of nature which accompanies oil removal – without compensating benefits, which will accrue only to the wealthy.
  • Have privatized essential services which society relies on, on so many levels: nursing homes and elder care; school food service; food production and delivery; transportation industries; military support and strike teams (like Blackwater); energy production and delivery; water systems and infrastructure (in New Jersey, only half of the municipal water systems are still publicly owned – the rest have been privatized); trash and garbage pickup. Prisons. Parks. Communication systems.
  • Control the American people’s right to assemble by shifting communities away from commerce and recreational centers at the street level to enclosed mega shopping malls which give the illusion of being public space, when actually they are well-controlled and monitored, spaces which are privately owned.

And what do these wealthy and powerful individuals want us to wonder about, discuss amongst ourselves, spend time pondering and researching? Right: not the incursions on our privacy, on our civil liberties, the restrictions on our access to grow and eat healthy food and live in a world where bees thrive and chemicals injected into plants’ DNA are not killing them and our families; not the attempts to pass the TPP, a trade agreement which would remove justice from our court system and put its control in the hands of major corporations; not our internet freedom that they are spending billions of dollars trying to limit our access to.

No, none of this. They want us to talk about Dr. Bill Cosby and debate whether he is guilty of sexual crimes. But the true crime is the amount of corporate supported media coverage being dedicated to deflect America’s attention from matters of true relevance to the public defamation of an icon.

And as for us, our willing obsession with Cosby’s fate and actions might spring from feelings of frustration over having no real power to prevent the ultra-rich from taking over our society and destroying our rights. Most of struggle to even perceive the subtle means by which they are incrementally separating us from advantages and protections we thought were guaranteed to citizens of the world’s most powerful democracy.

While we may feel unqualified to understand these weighty societal matters – much less do anything about them – we can believe in our ability to understand exactly what Bill Cosby is being accused of and in our qualifications to judge him.

Except, we aren’t qualified. We are in possession not of facts, but of a media storm of sound bytes and opinions about the “case” against Cosby. We do not know much about the women who are Cosby’s accusers and as is true for me, we may not even know what Cosby is accused of having actually done to them. Unlike with public and governmental matters, the Cosby case involves private people and settings. After reflection, I am willing to admit that I lack true knowledge of events concerning Cosby that took place behind closed doors and even lack the ability to learn the truth. Plus, none of this is really any of my business.

So, my advice to self is: stop trying to judge Cosby. I’m not qualified on any level to do this, and I should better return my attention to issues that are relevant to my life and I can really affect.

The truth is, that we all have plenty of power in matters of public record and import. Just to name a some of them:

We have the power to investigate; the power to discern truth through our investigations; the power to vote in politicians willing to fight for the rights and protections of us as the 99%; the power to boycott with our dollars the businesses of the super-wealthy; the power to identify ways to disengage from the controls of privatization through forming collaboratives, building strong local communities and finding ways to withdraw from reliance on mega food and energy systems; the power to stop shopping as a hobby; the power to support small businesses when we shop for what we need; the power to make healthy food choices and re-connect with the food we eat; the power to enjoy creativity through the arts and health through biking and walking … and much else.

In the world of attacks and imposition of limitations, there will always be winners and losers. But in the world of fairness, hope, justice and communication there are only winners. I know what I want to be.

And you – what about you?

Other videos in this series:
BOMBSHELL Cosby News! – What The Media Didn’t Want You To See Part 1
BOMBSHELL Cosby News! – What The Media Didn’t Want You To See Part 2

Thanks Nathaniel Davis for and sharing this cautionary information about the wisdom of not believing the hype.

Dr. Ball shares evidence to disrupt wide-spread myth that Black people & other 99%ers possess “buying power”

Black spending power
Source: imixwhatilike.org

I Mix What I Like shares a compendium of studies, articles and other resources to prove the case that Black “(and by extension all other)” buying power is a myth:

…“power” is not derived from consumption. Instead, “power” as was once famously said, is derived from controlling the “means of production.” (Reports that say differently) pervert economic reality and the very structural, predetermined nature of poverty.

Dr. Jared Ball shows the fallacies in the myths that the big boys are ready to give up their land claims to individual homeowners; that buying on credit is equivalent to owning anything other than debt; and that 99% community members prefer to squander our money on “trinkets” rather than make significant purchases. Dr. Ball shares evidence from credible sources showing that none of this is true.

…it is sadly laughable that too many of us are fooled into thinking our power is squandered by poor purchasing habits, again, since this is all to which we have access anyway. The idea that land and stock is there waiting but we’d rather go to the mall for trinkets results from mass capitalist, white supremacist propaganda which too many of us have imbibed. So, in fact, the suggestion in 2006 that homeownership represents “a possible opportunity for market expansion” was a precursor to the damage and pain most are seeing only now; predatory lending, sub-prime scandals, mortgage and home foreclosure and what United for a Fair Economy (UFE) recently reported as “the greatest loss of wealth for people of color in U.S. history… {upwards of} $200 billion.”

Black people, like most others, are an exploited, colonized population whose wealth-generating capabilities are, just as these reports really say, for an elite who have nothing to do with Black people. Black wealth resides in elite white enclaves here and abroad while African America devolves economically, politically and in terms of healthcare, education (quality of and access to), police brutality and mass incarceration. And even within Black (and Latin) America 25% of the households have 90% of the wealth demonstrating a great divide within communities where Black median net worth is already a pathetic and dangerously low $5,988 and $7,932 for Latin America compared to $88, 651 for whites. Black people have no money. We spend on credit and loans (none of which is considered for either of these studies) so as to project a “power” that we in fact are far from having. Rarely does anyone have in their pocket or account the $20,000 for a car or $30,000 (and way up) for one year of college. We take loans for these and other purchases which then count towards our “spending power.” The debt we fall into this way and others (i.e. credit cards) is counted as a “positive” by those to whom our pockets are perpetually emptied. But this is not and can never be “power.”

Long but good read containing important information. Hat tip to Bilal Hakeem for the share.

The Clintons took in $3B from US & foreign donors in 4 decades. How much of them was sold?

Clinton Donor Network
Source: Washington Post article banner

This illuminating, interactive report by Washington Post writers Matea Gold, Tom Hamburger and Anu Narayanswamy looks at the relationships the Clintons have built and how legislation they have backed – and not backed – may tie in with those relationships.

This project is an effort to identify every known donor who contributed to support Bill and Hillary Clinton over their four decades in public life … (It)reveals how Bill and Hillary Clinton have methodically cultivated donors over 40 years, from Little Rock to Washington and then across the globe…

As an astute individual pointed out, these donors aren’t stupid and they all expect something in return for what they’ve given.

Note that small money donations were not counted in the Clinton’s $3 billion total as those donors aren’t identified by name in campaign finance reports.

I’d like to point out that Hillary’s strongest opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, has a completely different track record of relationships and donations: he’s clearly not a Big Money panderer. Sanders’ voting record also proves his belief in true democracy: which is governance of the people by the people. And, he’s been the high scorer in both Dem Debates so far.

I like to point out that money doesn’t elect candidates – votes do. We’ll find out if the adage I love proves true in the Bernie-Hillary face-off coming next spring.

85 rich people’s wealth equals what world’s poorest half own & other sad economic truths

Rich get richer graph
Source: Oxfam Working for the Few Report 2014
Don’t forget: the world’s 85 richest people now have as much wealth as the poorest half of the world.

Oxfam introduces its Jan 2014 report Working for the Few with a quote from US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we cannot have both.” The report is concerned with the “growing tide of inequality” and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a very few individuals.

The report shares these startling statistics:

  • Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.
  • The wealth of the one percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion. That’s 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population.
  • The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.