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Friday, January 01, 2010

Wall Street ready to claim billions in tax breaks on bonus payments.

2009 closed with the stock market rebounding 61 percent from its March lows, and “Wall Street is ready to pat itself on the back for its huge gains with big bonuses,” potentially surpassing the record payouts of 2007. Analysts estimate that Wall Street’s 2009 bonus pool could total $200 billion — led by Goldman Sachs’ $23 billion — as the New York Times reported today, the return to big bonuses will also allow Wall Street banks to claim billions in tax breaks:
Many American banks already pay minuscule federal income taxes, because of various deductions and clever tax planning; the payout-related breaks will reduce their tax bills further in coming years…Altogether, the top three Wall Street banks — Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley — will gain nearly $20 billion in tax breaks based on their employee compensation this year.
Compensation related tax deductions will total about $80 billion across Wall Street, according to New York City tax analyst Robert Willens. In 2008, Goldman Sachs paid an effective tax rate of just 1 percent thanks to a variety of deductions and keeping profits offshore.

Thursday, December 31, 2009


Blackwater Shooting Charges All Dismissed By Judge

WASHINGTON — A federal judge has dismissed all charges against five Blackwater Worldwide security guards charged in a deadly Baghdad shooting.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina said Thursday the Justice Department overstepped its bounds and wrongly used evidence it was not allowed to see. He said the government's explanations have been contradictory, unbelievable and not credible.
Blackwater contractors were hired to guard State Department diplomats in Iraq. Prosecutors say the guards fired on unarmed civilians in a busy intersection in 2007, killing innocent people.
After the shooting, the guards gave statements to State Department investigators. Prosecutors were not allowed to use those statements in the case.

Happy New Year all from Kangaroo Down Under

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

GOP Lobbyists attempt hijack of anti-tax movement

Heokstra, DiMint put politics over security

Too-big-to-fail banks are profiting from bailout dollars and government guarantees, and growing bigger. Tell us which community bank you use, and why.


Last week, over a pre-Christmas dinner, the two of us, along with political strategist Alexis McGill, filmmaker/author Eugene Jarecki, and Nick Penniman of the HuffPost Investigative Fund, began talking about the huge, growing chasm between the fortunes of Wall Street banks and Main Street banks, and started discussing what concrete steps individuals could take to help create a better financial system. Before long, the conversation turned practical, and with some help from friends in the world of bank analysis, a video and website were produced devoted to a simple idea: Move Your Money.
The big banks on Wall Street, propped up by taxpayer money and government guarantees, have had a record year, making record profits while returning to the highly leveraged activities that brought our economy to the brink of disaster. In a slap in the face to taxpayers, they have also cut back on the money they are lending, even though the need to get credit flowing again was one of the main points used in selling the public the bank bailout. But since April, the Big Four banks -- JP Morgan/Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo -- all of which took billions in taxpayer money, have cut lending to businesses by $100 billion.
Meanwhile, America's Main Street community banks -- the vast majority of which avoided the banquet of greed and corruption that created the toxic economic swamp we are still fighting to get ourselves out of -- are struggling. Many of them have closed down (or been taken over by the FDIC) over the last 12 months. The government policy of protecting the Too Big and Politically Connected to Fail is badly hurting the small banks, which are having a much harder time competing in the financial marketplace. As a result, a system which was already dangerously concentrated at the top has only become more so.
We talked about the outrage of big, bailed-out banks turning around and spending millions of dollars on lobbying to gut or kill financial reform -- including "too big to fail" legislation and regulation of the derivatives that played such a huge part in the meltdown. And as we contrasted that with the efforts of local banks to show that you can both be profitable and have a positive impact on the community, an idea took hold: why don't we take our money out of these big banks and put them into community banks? And what, we asked ourselves, would happen if lots of people around America decided to do the same thing? Our money has been used to make the system worse -- what if we used it to make the system better? LinkHere

Monday, December 28, 2009

Who's running the TSA? No one, thanks to Sen. Jim DeMint

WASHINGTON — An attempt to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day would be all-consuming for the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration — if there were one.
Instead, the post remains vacant because Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has held up President Barack Obama's nominee in an effort to prevent TSA workers from joining a labor union.
DeMint, in a statement, said that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's attempted terror attack in Detroit "is a perfect example of why the Obama administration should not unionize the TSA."
Two Senate committees have given Obama's nominee, Erroll Southers, a former FBI special agent and a counterterrorism expert, their bipartisan blessing.
DeMint, however, has objected to a full Senate vote without a full debate, saying he wants additional testimony to clarify Southers' stand on unionizing the TSA, a shift that Democrats support. An acting administrator is in place at the TSA, the division of the Department of Homeland Security that oversees airport security.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., hadn't scheduled a floor vote for Southers before the Senate left town on Christmas Eve, and the Senate won't be back in session for another three weeks.

What have the Republicans offered aside from "no"?

Looking back on 2009, much of the discussion on TV news shows is whether President Obama and the Democrats in Congress correctly handled the problems facing the country. Somehow, a narrative seems to have emerged that the Democrats failed and would pay the price in the 2010 midterm elections.
But where is the discussion of how the Republicans have behaved in the last year?

To me, that should be the real story of the first year of the Obama administration. The discussion should be about the utter disdain the Republicans have shown for the American people, as the party has put political games and protecting its corporate interests in the first position on every issue. That, and the out-and-out lies that have become the go-to strategy of the party (death panels anyone?).
Consider that in the last two weeks alone, we have been treated to:
- GOP senators blocking confirmation of Obama appointees as a way of securing petty political victories. (What kind of system allows a single senator to hold up confirmation of an appointee? How is it that a party can control 60 seats in the Senate and still not have the ability to confirm the president's appointments? Does this seem like a good idea to anyone interested in maintaining a functioning government?)
- Republican senators holding up funding for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as a tactic to slow down health care reform. (When Democrats in Congress during the Bush years balked at writing a blank check for a failed war in Iraq, Republicans questioned their patriotism. But now, to Republicans, it's okay to block funding the troops as a way of slowing down health care reform? How is this not a story? Why is this not provoking voter outrage?)
- Republicans opposing health care reform on fiscal grounds, even though the bill will lower the deficit, and despite the fact that the same Republicans had no trouble ballooning the deficit in the Bush years by approving massive tax cuts for the rich, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Medicare prescription drug program without paying for any of them.
- Sen. James Inhofe traveling to Copenhagen to undermine President Obama at the Copenhagen climate change summit. (Can you imagine the charges Republicans would have thrown at a Democrat who traveled to a conference Bush was attending to undermine his position? I promise you the words "patriotism" -- as in lack of -- and "treason" would have come up.)
- GOP senators calling for the watering down of financial reform legislation, just a year after the misconduct of the banks caused the economy to go into a death spiral. (If there is a lot of anti-bank feeling in the country now, why isn't the biggest defender of the finance industry, the Republican party, getting hit with the blame? And how can any legislator oppose reform in the face of developments like a credit card legally charging 79.9 percent interest?)
- Sen. John Thune lying on the floor of the Senate as to when benefits take effect in health care reform legislation. (Thanks to Al Franken for not being intimidated and pointing out a lie when he saw one.)
- Republican superstar Sarah Palin reiterating the lie that health care legislation called for death panels, and changing the basis for the accusation when her original charge was proven untrue. (This kind of dishonest fear-mongering is more contrary to American ideals of democracy than anything in the health care legislation itself could ever possibly be.)
- Sen. Tom Coburn demanding a reading of an amendment to the health care reform bill calling for a single-payer program (which would have taken 12 hours, but which only went several hours before Sen. Bernie Sanders withdrew the amendment) as a way to slow down health care reform. (If the Democrats had tried something like that during the Bush years, they would have been pilloried by Republicans for not respecting the American people's wishes as expressed by the election results.)
Again, these events are only from the last two weeks. And the list is hardly complete.
So if the Republicans are supposed to be guaranteed to win seats in 2010, on what will these victories be won? What have the Republicans done to help the American people with the grave problems they face? (Sen. Mitch McConnell seems to think that the health care reform bill will be enough. Will Americans really support the Republicans on this one?)
To be clear, I am not arguing that the president and the Democrats in Congress have been beyond reproach in 2009. I think there is a lot of fair criticism to be levied, and a fair debate can be had as to whether the Democrats handled health care reform and other issues as well as they could have. But any deficiency in the Democratic approach pales when compared to the shameful conduct of Republicans during this time. The Democrats were making an effort to clean up Bush's messes. The Republican motives in the last year have not in any way involved actually trying to fix problems (or, even worse, they don't even acknowledge that many of the problems exist in the first place).
The story for 2010 should be the Republican party's complete disregard for the needs of the American people. The party's decision to prioritize scoring political victories over the president, protecting corporate interests, and relying on lies to do it over solving problems and governing should be clear to anyone paying attention. Let's hope that when voters go to the polls in 2010, they remember who was trying to solve problems and who wasn't. Time will tell if we will ever fully recover from what Bush did to the country. The last thing we need is more Republican rule, offering more of the same failed policies.
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