Our country is no longer controlled by, and for, We the People, but instead by, and on behalf of, international banking and multinational corporate interests. While the gradual, almost imperceptible takeover of our government by this corporate fascism has been evolving by design for many decades, it is a coup d'etat nonetheless and has been disastrous for the vast majority of Americans. This blog is an exploration and discussion of how this occurred, and the damage it has done to our democratic processes.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Toward a Democratic Insurgency

The Oxford English Dictionary defines an insurgency as a rebellion against a constituted authority (for example, an authority recognized as such by the United Nations) when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents. Since December, there have been insurgencies occurring in the form of an unprecedented revolutionary wave of protests and demonstrations against oppressive governments throughout the Middle East and North Africa. 

But insurgencies aren't always against tyrannical dictatorships. Insurgencies can start in order to challenge any sort of oppressive or manipulative force, or existing paradigm, entrenched within a culture. In this excellent article, Ward Morehouse calls for a democratic insurgency as a first step toward building a truly democratic society, one that tames the autocratic rule so entrenched in our society by a structure where giant corporations have been wrongly delegated authority to make our laws and define our culture. Although fourteen years old, and dated as far as the continuing triumphant of corporatism and corporate-state fascism (i.e. Citizens United v FEC; ratios of pay inequality in the U.S., etc.), his message is as fresh and relevant as if it were written today.

We the People -- Building a Truly Democratic Society, by Ward Morehouse 

from Defying Corporations, Defining Democracy (2001), pp. 211-216, and is an edited version of a sermon delivered by the author to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Frederick, Maryland, on March 9, 1997.  (Reprinted with permission from POCLAD and the author.) 

MY TASK TODAY is an ambitious one: to persuade you in the brief time we have together to launch a “democratic insurgency” as a first step toward building a truly democratic society. In Daniel Quinn's extraordinary book, Ishmael: A Novel, which every person concerned about the human predicament should read, the narrator of the story answers an unusual ad:
Teacher seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.
To the narrator's surprise, his teacher turns out to be a gorilla named Ishmael. Then ensues an extended dialogue filled with insights about the human condition that only a non-human could have.

In a memorable exchange, Ishmael observes of the young people who were in the vanguard of the struggles of the 60s: “they made an ingenuous and disorganized effort to escape from captivity but ultimately failed because they were unable to find the bars of their cage.”

So it is for us today. The bars to our cage are our colonized minds that have led us to surrender our sovereignty to giant corporations which increasingly dominate our society, not to mention the rest of the world.

The principle that We the People are in charge is clearly stated in the preamble to the Constitution:
We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
But over the intervening decades we have abandoned that principle in practice if not in theory. “American society is disproportionately shaped by the outlooks, interests, and aims of the business community -- especially that of big business,” observed Cornel West, the social critic and Harvard Professor, “The sheer power of corporate capital is extraordinary. This power makes it difficult even to imagine what a free and democratic society would look like . . .” [1]

What, indeed, should a “free and democratic society” look like? Let us begin by considering the dictionary definition. Democracy, according to Webster's, has two major components: government in which the supreme power is retained by the people; and the less widely recognized belief in and practice of social equality. It is clear that we have strayed a long way from the ideals expressed so eloquently in our Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution.

What went wrong? Why do we find ourselves in a plutocracy with such gross inequality? I think there are at least three critical factors growing out of our past. The first is that the foundation for our republic was deeply flawed by design. The political rights set forth in the Constitution were essentially restricted to white property-owning males. A continuing thread in our national history since then has been the struggle by all those excluded from Constitutional “personhood” -- women, African-Americans, poor whites, indigenous people -- to gain that personhood and the equally determined resistance of those empowered by the Constitution to prevent them from achieving that goal.

Second is the huge internal contradiction in the Constitution between its Preamble and the rest of the Constitution which seeks above all else to protect and give sanctity to property rights over human rights.

Third has been the usurpation of the peoples' authority by corporations, especially during the last 100 years. Although this process did not begin there, it stands exposed by the infamous 1886 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad Co, which asserted that corporations were like natural persons before the law. From this fundamental determination corporations worked assiduously through the decades to claim more and more constitutional rights of natural persons, including those protected by the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution. How ironic it is that corporations achieved their constitutional “personhood” before all of the other natural persons I have just mentioned. And how absurd it is that today corporations have more rights than mortals like you and me.

Closely aligned to this process was defining “liberty” to mean the right of the individual to do whatever he or she wanted to do with his or her property regardless of the social or environmental consequences. The expansion of property rights, carefully and methodically orchestrated by major corporations, has been inexorable. It now includes intangible rights such as managerial prerogative and the business judgment rule which effectively place much of what corporations do beyond democratic control.

The failure of our democracy has been tragically evident in the growing inequality of income and wealth, particularly in the last decade. During the 1980s the net worth of the 400 richest persons in America increased by 522%. During that same decade the bottom 99% lost over 5% of their share of personal income, while the top 1% almost doubled its share from 8 to 14%.

This growing inequality has achieved greatest visibility in the ratio of compensation paid to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and their lowest paid workers. That ratio now stands at 160 to 1. [2] By contrast, in Europe it is only 20 to 1, and in Japan merely 15 to 1.

In 1993 Michael Eisner, the CEO of Walt Disney Corporation, received $203 million in total compensation. That works out to $84,000 an hour -- nice work if you can get it.

Even the much heralded expansion of participation in the closest thing we have to a national lottery -- namely, the Stock Exchange -- remains highly unequal and largely limited to upper income brackets. The richest 1% have 39% of the stock owned by individuals. The richest 10% own 81%.

This state of affairs leads to the fundamental question: How can we have a democracy when so much power and wealth is concentrated in so few hands? If we are to be true to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution, and to reassert our sovereignty as “We the People,” then we must work toward replacing anti-democratic institutions that consolidate wealth and power with democratic institutions which disperse wealth and power.

But in the view of those who have pondered more deeply the meaning of democracy, we must look beyond building institutions. Douglas Lummis, in his seminal book Radical Democracy, argues that democracy is more than a set of institutions or a “system.” It is rather a state of being.

He observes that many of the experiences most precious to human life can not be institutionalized.
Laughter cannot be institutionalized -- which does not mean that we should abolish institutions such as comic theater. Love cannot be institutionalized -- which does not mean that institutions of courtship and marriage are useless. Wisdom cannot be institutionalized -- which does not mean that educational institutions are a waste . . . [3]
We design institutions, Lummis states, hoping that they will bring about or preserve a certain kind and state of being. Sometimes they do and sometimes they do not. And sometimes that state of being may appear without the support of any institutions. The same uncertainty of cause and effect is certainly true of democracy. All of the institutions asserted to achieve democracy may be created, and yet still not achieve it. It is also true that all of the institutions designed to suppress it may be established, and democracy may break out before our very eyes.

The essence of democracy is politics -- the art of the possible. Democracy is a performance art like music, dance, and theater. We can construct theaters, and assemble troupes of dancers and musicians but the art exists only while it is being performed. So it is with democracy.

But if democracy can not be institutionalized, it none the less tends to take on certain typical forms when it does appear. Again in the words of Lummis:
People develop a desire to act together, and to talk with one another about their common life. They tend to gather in groups small enough to make this talk possible in what have been called committees of correspondence, councils, soviets, affinity groups, sectoral groups, and so on. These become a form of `civil society.'
That “civil society” has long been considered one of the distinctive characteristics of these United States, as Alexis de Tocqueville observed many decades ago regarding the propensity of Americans to join associations of all diverse kinds. But from the beginning of our history as an independent country, democratic values and process have been under severe stress.

No one has been more eloquent in advocacy of the task of building a truly democratic society than William Greider in Who Will Tell the People. His book is in my view the most important critique of U.S. society since Gunnar Myrdal's study of race relations in North America more than a half-century ago, An American Dilemma.

Building such a society, Greider insists, will require citizens to devote themselves to challenging the status quo, disrupting the existing contours of power and opening the way for renewal. Just how do we open the way for renewal? Ishmael's pupil was puzzled by the same question.
“What do I do if I earnestly desire to save the world?” he asked Ishmael.
Ishmael frowned at him through the bars of his cage for a long moment. “You want a program?” he asked.
“Of course I want a program” replied his pupil.
“Then here is a program: the story of Genesis must be reversed. First Cain must stop murdering Abel. This is essential if you're to survive . . . And then, of course, you must spit out the fruit of that forbidden tree. You must absolutely and forever relinquish the idea you know who should live and who should die on this planet.”
“Yes, I see all that,” responded Ishmael's pupil, “but that's a program for mankind, that is not a program for me. What do I do?”
“What you do is to teach a hundred what I've taught you, and inspire each of them to teach a hundred. That's how it's always done.”
So that is our program -- where we must begin. And we have just started, here today -- with this “democratic conversation” in Greider's choice phrase.

“Strange as it may seem to an era governed by mass-market politics, democracy begins in human conversation,” Greider insists. “The simplest least threatening investment any citizen may make in democratic renewal is to begin talking with other people about these questions, as though the answers matter to them. Harmless talk around a kitchen table or in a church basement will not affect anyone but themselves, unless they decide that it ought to. When the circle is enlarged to include others, they will be embarking on the fertile terrain of politics that now seems so barren.”

It is important to understand that a democratic conversation does not need elaborate rules and procedures or idealistic notions of perfect consensus. What it must have is a spirit of mutual respect -- that is, people talking among themselves critically, in an atmosphere of honesty and shared purpose. That respect must even extend to one's adversaries, since the objective of these conversations is not to destroy them but to reach eventual understanding. The very heart of democracy is as simple as that -- a society based on mutual respect.
Ishmael's pupil was less than satisfied with Ishmael's definition of the “program.” “Yes, but” he asks Ishmael, “is it enough?”
Ishmael frowned. “Of course it's not enough but if you begin anywhere else there's no hope at all . . . You can't change these things with laws. You must change people's minds first. And you can't just root out a harmful complex of ideas and leave a void behind; you have to give people something that is as meaningful as what they've lost -- something that makes better sense.”
So, too, will many of you ask: Is a “program” of “democratic conversations,” of raising levels of consciousness about the myth of democracy in which we live, and of the possibilities and implementation of a democracy which rises to our highest ideals of self-governance, enough?

Of course it is not enough. But we must start there, for many of the same reasons Ishmael gives to his pupil. However, we all want to do something, not just sit around talking about the problem. And there are things we can do, but they should grow out of a deeper understanding of democracy, and they should yield real solutions, not cosmetic ones.

Take election campaign finance reform. [4] Persons of genuine commitment to democratic values are rallying around the McCain-Feingold-Thompson Campaign Finance Reform Bill, not because they are oblivious to its limitations but because it seems to be the only game in town.

But the great difficulty with that bill is that, assuming it is passed more or less in its present form, many of those supporting it will conclude that we have solved the problem, making it that much more difficult in the next round of struggle to get at the real causes of corruption of democratic values in our society.

Real campaign reform must address and work toward reversing the Supreme Court's decision in Buckley v. Valeo equating money with speech and asserting that, as a form of speech, spending money in election campaigns cannot be limited because it would violate the First Amendment protection of free speech.

For those who say that Supreme Court doctrines cannot be overturned, I respond by pointing to the long struggle for racial equality in the United States. A group of young black lawyers gathered together in 1930 and formulated a plan to overturn the Supreme Court doctrine of “separate but equal” which had been the law of the land since Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. It took them almost a quarter of a century, but led by Thurgood Marshall, they achieved their goal in 1954 with the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education

In addition to working toward the overturn of the doctrine that money equates with speech, real campaign finance reform must also:
  • Prohibit all paid political ads on radio and television.
  • Require all radio and television corporations to provide free air time. (After all, they are using the people's airwaves).
  • Mandate only signatures on petitions, not money contributed to a candidate, to qualify for public financing. (Paying money is just what Blacks in the South had to do in order to vote when there was a poll tax.)
  • Distinguish between natural persons and corporations, and prohibit profit-making corporations from making any kind of political contribution.
Those who think these are unattainable goals need to be reminded of a Wisconsin Law from 1905 to 1973:
No corporation doing business in this state shall pay or contribute, or offer, consent or agree to pay or contribute, directly or indirectly, any money, property, free service of its officers or employees, or thing of value to any political party, organization, committee or individual for any political purpose whatsoever or for the purpose of influencing legislation of any kind or to promote or defeat the candidacy of any person for nomination, appointment or election to any political office. [5]
Establishing our democracy must begin with citizens prepared to devote themselves to challenging the status quo, and to disrupting the contours of power. But the ultimate task, William Greider reminds us, is much more difficult -- creating something that does not now exist -- the basis for politics as a shared enterprise. “The search for democratic meaning is necessarily a path of hard conflict,” Greider writes, “but the distant horizon is reconciliation. Americans coming to terms with themselves, that is the high purpose politics was meant to serve.”

My modest hope for the time we are together is, as I suggested at the outset, to persuade you to launch what Greider calls a “democratic insurgency,” individually and collectively.

This insurgency will not begin with abstract ideas or charismatic political leaders. Its origins will lie among ordinary people who have the will to engage themselves with their surrounding reality and to act on the conflict between what they are told and what they experience -- thus disrupting existing structures of power and opening up paths for renewal. 

  1. West, Cornel, "The Role of Progressive Politics." In The Politics of Law: A Progressive Critique, edited by David Kairys. New York, N.Y.: Pantheon Books, 1982, pp. 468-469.
  2. Today it is over 200 to 1. See “The Rising Costs of Inequality in the U.S.” in this volume. --Ed.
  3. Lummis, C. Douglas. Radical Democracy. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996, p. 159.
  4. See “Speaking Truth to Power About Campaign Reform” in this volume. --Ed.
  5. Wis. Laws, Section 4479a. (Sec. 1, ch 492, 1905).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Iraq, Afghanistan, and Civil Disobedience

Speaker: Chris Hedges
"Law never made men a whit more just; and by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.  A common and natural result of an undue respect for law is that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart.  They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined.  Now, what are they?  Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power?  The mass of men serve the State thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies.... In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well."  ~Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

As Chris Hedges proclaimed last December when he committed to participate in nonviolent civil disobedience by refusing to obey civil laws in a last ditch effort to induce change in governmental policy concerning the on-going wars and occupations of both Iraq and Afghanistan, "it's all we have left". As war -- perpetual and on-going war -- has become the norm in American society, it is neither criticized or rebuked by either faction of our two-party dictatorship. It's all that remains of hope for an end to the carnage, an end to the depravity of conflict inflicted not only on those we occupy, but also the psyche and ever-increasing percentage of our treasure that goes to training our young men and women in the trades of slaughter. Truly, as Gandhi wrote in Non-violence in Peace and War, "Liberty and democracy become unholy when their hands are dyed red with innocent blood." 

In Washington D.C., yesterday's demonstration and observance of civil disobedience was seen and cheered by hundreds behind police-erected barricades, as over one-hundred activists, including Daniel Ellsberg and members of ANSWER Coalition, March Forward!, Code Pink, and several veterans organizations, risked arrest in order to expose and shine light on the continuing war policies inherited and escalated by the Obama Administration. As many speakers before the march and ensuing civil resistance noted, just showing up for demonstrations doesn't sway our governmental leaders anymore. The exploitation, manipulation, and subjugation continues. As Ralph Nader reminded us, $700 million per day is spent to operate and support the war and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. $700 million per day! This would appear hypocritically obscene and profane if budget talks weren't fixated on austerity cuts that primarily contribute to the well-being and welfare of the less fortunate in American society, but that's not the case. Both wings of our colluding dual-party dictatorship, continually echoing the patriotic script of freedom and liberty, are embarking on taking everything away from the middle and working class people in this society and handing it all over to the wealthy, the elite and the powerful. Perpetual war is one means to achieving that end. Sadly, by not resisting, the American people are complicit in their own demise. Yesterday, over one-hundred resisters stood up for the American people.

Voltaire wrote that it is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.  Chris Hedges, while at the podium yesterday, said war is organized sadism. Both men are right. Nations have borrowed billions for war, while no nation, to my knowledge, has ever borrowed largely for education. Undoubtedly, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and the betterment of civilization (although Lyndon Johnson tried). We must make a choice, and apparently that choice has already been made. We are seeing that now.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Corporations Don't Pay Fair Share

Currently, many multinational corporations avoid paying U.S. taxes on revenue from foreign subsidiaries by reinvesting the money overseas, either by parking cash in various accounts or by plowing it back into foreign operations. Under existing laws, companies with operations overseas pay U.S. taxes only if they bring the profits back to the United States. If they keep the profits offshore, they can defer paying taxes indefinitely. President Obama, almost two years ago (May, 2009), proposed a plan that would have taken effect this year, and which would change that.

In a statement from that time, the White House said that in 2004, multinational corporations only paid an effective tax rate of 2.3 percent in the United States because of such allowances. Aides said that was the most recent year available for analysis, and they also indicated this situation was indefensible. Nothing was mentioned about this again until January, during Obama's most recent State of the Union address, when he indicated he wanted to close the loopholes.

Understandably, much of these deductions are legal methods of tax avoidance, many of which this administration has addressed in its tax loophole closure plan, but so much comes under the category of tax evasion, which means the deliberate misrepresenting or concealing of the true state of their affairs to tax authorities in order to reduce their tax liability, and includes, in particular, dishonest tax reporting (such as declaring less income, profits or gains than actually earned; or overstating deductions, etc.). 

Within the last few days, National People's Action issued a report which was prepared for them by Public Accountability Initiative, a non-profit and non-partisan watchdog organization that focuses on corporate and government accountability. This report affirms the tax avoidance and evasion practices of the banking industry in general, and six banks in particular, over the last few reported tax years. It's a glaring and indicting exposé of how Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo used foreign subsidiaries to offshore and understate their revenues, in addition to incorporating offshore tax havens to further reduce their tax liability to the country that issued their corporate charter and where they base their corporate headquarters.

With all the talk of austerity programs, particularly from the Republican Party and other conservative outlets, the question I always have is why? Why are they always leading the charge to cut not only discretionary items, but also non-discretionary items? As I mentioned in my previous post, from March 6th, they're always looking at just one side of the ledger sheet -- the "austerity side". They never consider making corporations pay their fair share (not to mention, but I will anyway, making cuts in the biggest wasters of tax dollars, also intimately tied to and backed by international banking and multinational corporate interests, the Department of Defense).

Read Big Bank Tax Drain. Read it and get even more angry than you are now. Then, make copies and send it to your U.S. representative and both senators. Ask them why; why do We the People have to continue paying for the sins of corporate America -- first during the financial meltdown and subsequent raid on our treasury, and now because corporations refuse to pay taxes like you and I do, every year, year-in-and-year-out, and we have to suffer the burden of less government services so they, corporate America, can amass great profits without paying their fair share. Ask them today.

Big Bank Tax Drain 
How Big Bank Speculation and Tax Avoidance are Starving Public Revenues and Sticking American Taxpayers with the Bill

Executive Summary

Wall Street banks caused the economic crisis that has left millions unemployed, foreclosed on, and without prospects in the worst economy since the Great Depression. This crisis has, in turn, caused massive tax revenue shortfalls for the federal government and for state governments across the country: nearly $300 billion combined for 50 states in the years since the crisis began. To deal with these budget woes, politicians are cutting public spending: laying off teachers, attacking public sector workers, raiding pensions, closing hospitals, and eliminating essential services for children, veterans, and the elderly. Raising revenue from the wealthy, bailed-out banks that caused the crisis would be a far more sensible way to address these budget woes. This report analyzes data from the latest financial filings by the six big banks – Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley – to expose the ways in which they continue to avoid taxes and contribute to tax revenue shortfalls, rather than pay for an economic recovery that will put people to work, keep people in their homes, and preserve the safety net – for people, not corporations.

Key findings:

This year Bank of America is receiving the “income tax refund from hell” – $666 million for 2010, according to its annual report filed in late February 2011. This is following a $3.5 billion refund reported in 2009. Bank of America’s federal income tax benefit this year is roughly two times the Obama administration’s proposed cuts to the Community Development Block Grant program ($299 million).

  • Six banks – Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley together paid income tax at an approximate rate of 11% of their pre-tax US earnings in 2009 and 2010. Had they paid at 35%, what they are legally mandated to pay, the federal government would have received an additional $13 billion in tax revenue. This would cover more than two years of salaries for the 132,000 teacher jobs lost since the economic crisis began in 2008.

  • Wells Fargo reportedly received a $4 billion federal income tax refund on $18 billion in pre-tax income in 2009, and paid 7.5% of its pre-tax income of $19 billion in 2010 in federal taxes. Its net federal income tax benefit for 2009 and 2010 combined, $2.5 billion, is equal to the Obama administration’s proposed cuts of 50% to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

  • Banks use a variety of mechanisms to avoid corporate income taxes, including offshore tax shelters. 50% of the six banks’ 1871 foreign subsidiaries are incorporated in jurisdictions that have been identified as offshore tax havens, such as the Cayman Islands.
  • Bank of America operates 371 tax-sheltered subsidiaries, more than any other big bank studied, and 204 subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands alone, according to its latest regulatory filings. 75% of Goldman Sachs’s foreign subsidiaries are incorporated in offshore tax havens.

  • The banks’ private banking arms also protect the wealth of rich clients from taxation through offshore investment strategies. Bank of America’s wealth management arm encourages clients to register their yachts in foreign jurisdictions for tax reasons.

  • Closing special tax loopholes on the financial sector and implementing sensible revenue-raising initiatives such as the Financial Speculation Tax could generate over $150 billion in federal tax revenue each year.

I. Big Bank Speculation & Budget Shortfalls  

The federal government and state governments across the country are facing significant budget shortfalls due to lost tax revenue and increased relief spending during the recession. The breadth and depth of the recession owes to a decade of reckless speculation, fraudulent lending, lax regulation, and low interest rates pursued by the largest banks and compliant politicians, culminating in an unprecedented housing bubble.

The bubble economy rewarded Wall Street with record profits and executive bonuses, but its collapse wiped out $9 trillion in property value nationwide, destroyed the construction industry, bankrupted millions of homeowners, and plunged the entire US economy into its sharpest downturn since the Great Depression. The direct impact of this collapse on local and state tax revenues and relief spending has been disastrous and accounts for most of the states' current funding troubles.
  • Collectively, states lost approximately $297 billion in tax revenues from late 2008 to 2010 due to the housing bubble collapse. Unlike cities and the federal government, states cannot borrow money to finance operating costs and must choose between tax increases, spending cuts, or a combination of the two to plug budget holes.

    • As a result of lost tax revenues and projected losses, states face a combined budget deficit of $125 billion for fiscal year 2012, and have already dealt with deficits of $423 billion for 2009, 2010, and 2011 combined.

      (View and download the full report here...)

      Sunday, March 6, 2011

      Corporate America -- Causing Austerity Cuts by Evading Taxes

      As protests by public employees, and their friends and supporters, enters its fourth week, newly-elected Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker continues his attempt to ramrod through his state's legislature a very controversial bill that limits collective bargaining for most state and local employees to only wage negotiations. It seems to me that Wisconsin, like other states facing real or anticipated budget shortfalls, is only looking at one side of the ledger sheet -- the "austerity side".

      The same with the current budget battle going on in Washington. The Republican plan, passed by the Tea Party-influenced caucus, wants to cut spending about $61 billion below last year's level. A second vote on what's now sort of the Democratic alternative, would be about $10.5 billion less than was spent last year. Both of those budgets are expected to fail. That would essentially throw out the extremes and tell everyone, okay, it's time to get to the bargaining table and strike a compromise. But why are massive cuts in government spending even being considered, given the stimulus effect they provide in an economy that's barely limping along? Why is the complete focus on the right-hand side of the balance sheet, the expense side, and nobody is even looking at the left side -- the revenue side? There is a more sensible option, but don't count on your corporatist government to even give it a thought, or the mainstream corporate media to throw you a hint as to what it might be. Neither will, simply, because both are part of the problem.

      But the solution is simple: Make the tax dodgers pay their fair share. More specifically, demand that the corporate tax dodgers pony-up their mandated tax obligations. Make these corporate "tax avoiders" accountable, and make their acts punishable -- instead of permissible and tolerable. Overseas tax havens enable companies, the vast majority being multinational corporations headquartered in this country, to pretend their profits are earned in other countries, like the Cayman Islands, for example, or in Switzerland, or in any of dozens of tax havens around the world. Simply making that gimmick illegal would add an estimated $100 billion a year to the U.S. Treasury. That's not small potatoes. Coincidently, similar to the tax breaks Scott Walker extended to his corporate benefactors and now wants to recoup from public employees in Wisconsin, that's also the amount our simple-minded brethren from the Tea Party initially wanted to cut from the federal budget.

      Who are the guilty parties...exactly? Well, if they're a large corporation operating around the globe, with offices and manufacturing plants worldwide, it's a safe bet they're not paying their fair share. The list is as diverse as the industries they're in and the products and services they make and provide: Bank of America, Boeing, Cisco, Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil, FedEx, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Mattel, News Corp, Pfizer and Proctor and Gamble. Their accounting departments ferret out as many loopholes as their hired lobbyists planted in the tax code in the first place. "These corporations are heavy users of our taxpayer funded public infrastructure and property rights protection systems. They use our regulated marketplace, call upon our law enforcement system and judiciary to remedy disputes. They're protected by U.S. police forces and firefighters. They enjoy all the privileges and benefits of tax-paying citizens. They just don't pay their fair share for them."

      An anti-corporate tax avoidance group that originated in the United Kingdom last October, called UK Uncut, is taking this discourse to the streets and demanding an explanation as to why their targeted companies are avoiding their fair share of the tax burden. Not unlike this country, corporatism has taken firm root in their governmental processes and has relegated the people to second-class citizenry. Last December, right before the busiest shopping day prior to Christmas, protesters against corporate tax avoidance carried out their biggest day of action to date by targeting businesses in fifty towns and cities across the UK. It was very successful in pointing out the criminal and overt tax avoidance of some of the largest retailers. Protesters were adamant in their demands in wanting to know why they had to suffer and pay for the austerity programs instituted by their government, while corporations continued reeling in profits while avoiding payment of taxes.

      An American off-shoot, US Uncut, debuted as a serious, mobilized effort to fight corporate tax dodging. On February 26th, the group’s big national Day Of Action, commenced their first coordinated effort by the organization to educate the public and foster support for the movement. Their selected target: Bank of America. At the rally in New York City, around ninety people ultimately showed up, handing out flyers and shouting to passing pedestrians: “Do you pay your taxes? Bank of America doesn’t!” According to Alisa Harris, one of the New York rally organizers, “Bank of America is a corporation that got a $45 billion bailout from US taxpayers, and yet they paid absolutely no income tax [in 2009],” she said, “And so this is just a great example of the problem of taxpayers pouring resources into these corporations, and the corporations are using our infrastructure, and yet they’re not giving back to the community.”

      And according to an article in The Huffington Post, "A rally in San Francisco drew scores of protesters to a branch of Bank of America at Union Square; dressed in ordinary street clothes, they filed into the bank one by one, getting in line to speak with the tellers. Each of them carried a fake check from Bank of America made out to "The United States c/o Tax Paying Citizens," for $1.5 billion. The sum would cover all the bank's unpaid taxes on its 2009 earned income of $4.4 billion, demonstrators said. Only a few people had presented their fake checks to the tellers before the bank temporarily closed for business; protesters were peacefully escorted out of the building by the police. Once on the street, however, they stayed put and kept handing out fake checks, which had facts about corporate tax avoidance written in fine print on the back, as fliers. 'Two-thirds of all U.S. corporations do not pay federal income tax,' the fliers said. 'BofA is the largest bank and the 5th largest corporation in America.' "

      The solution is obvious and apparent, although the Koch whores and other puppets of the corporatocracy would never remind you of this. Why is this? Because they'd have to step on the toes of their wealthy, and even more powerful, benefactors -- the ones who fund their sleazy campaigns and prop them into office. The ones who really call the shots and write the laws, delegating our elected officials as nothing more than their chosen and personal scribes. Let's call a spade a spade; our government has been overtaken by corporatists, from both major parties, and our Constitution was nullified and voided a long time ago. Check into US Uncut and support what they're doing. And don't forget, they're doing it for you -- an American taxpayer. See whether there's a rally you can participate in, or send them a check. Unlike the corporations they're exposing as tax frauds, they're suffering through the same economic inequities as you. Give 'em a hand.