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AlterNet / How Apple Takes a Bite Out of All of Us by Ducking Billions in U.S. Taxes
« Last post by AlterNet on Today at 06:01:10 AM »
How Apple Takes a Bite Out of All of Us by Ducking Billions in U.S. Taxes


The tech giant loves the tiny U.K. island of Jersey and the Republican tax scheme won?t change that.


It is difficult to name a company with a better popular image than Apple.

Stockholders love the strength of the company; it annually tops lists for best-run and most profitable, customers line up days or more ahead of time for product releases and distributors, code writers and feeder industries all heap praise on the technical giant. Steve Jobs, long dead, is still revered as a Silicon Valley pioneer.

And yet.

Apple stows a quarter of a trillion dollars a year offshore on the United Kingdom?s Isle of Jersey, where Apple pays no taxes.

That little factoid makes me wonder about corporate behavior, the attack on government-paid social services and those Congressional talks about tax ?reform,? a phrase known to the rest of us as tax cuts for corporations and giveaways for the wealthy. It?s a program that a new analysis from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center says will cost $7 trillion over the next 20 years, with individual taxpayers called on to provide much of the difference. The entire package is expected to cost an estimated $5.6 trillion over the next 20 years?an amount that economists say would be hard to offset through economic growth alone.

The claim from Trump, leading Republicans and the administration is that lowering the corporate tax rate on paper from 35% to 20% will boost the American economy, spur U.S. investment and jobs by zillions and, along with a one-time tax holiday, bring American profits from multinational companies back to this country.

So, let?s consider Apple, which takes pride in saying to critics of parking a quarter-trillion dollars? worth of profit in a European isle, that it pays the taxes it must and no more.

Last year, the European Union ordered Apple to pay up to $14.5 billion to Ireland, where Apple had been putting its money, in what the courts belatedly had decided were illegal tax benefits. An investigation of the tax plan was started in 2014, we have now learned, thanks to the international consortium of investigative journalists who turned up what we call the Paradise Papers.

That year, Apple moved its offshore case to Jersey, near Normandy, an island I knew only through The Scarlet Pimpernel. There are two things to know about Jersey:

There are 100,000 residents. Jersey doesn?t usually tax companies.

Companies like Apple apparently designate particular parts of its operation to headquarters in a tax-friendly area, and then use legal accounting methods to charge many corporate costs against that selected area. In Apple?s case, there were multiple companies formed in Ireland, including Apple Sales International, which received most international profits on its $120 billion in revenues between 2009 and 2014. Then, according to TechCrunch, a second subsidiary called Apple Operations International received most of those $120 billion in dividends. The two subsidiaries then attributed the vast majority of profit to a ?head office? which had no geographical location in a taxing location. This started the investigation that led to the fine, since the courts said Apple had paid an effective corporate tax rate of 1% on European profits. They even gave this approach a name?the Double Irish.

Offshore law firm Appleby helped Apple set up its tax home in Jersey, an arrangement good until 2020 and that parks $252.8 billion outside of the U.S.

Let?s just see what happens if the tax bill passes and is signed into law.

A tax holiday, even one that invites companies to return money to the U.S. for somewhere between the new 20% all the way down to 7% with various loopholes, might sound pretty good. But not compared to paying, say, no tax. Indeed, it might encourage other companies to move their headquarters to Jersey.

And if Apple did return, would it boost U.S. jobs? That seems pretty doubtful when it can get Chinese workers as employees at subcontractors like Foxconn, which already has said it will offer the same chance for Wisconsin workers. Would it create new investment opportunities for Apple in the United States? It might, but that would be because Apple might find a reason to do so that has nothing to do with U.S. tax changes.

Let?s stipulate that there is nothing here that is illegal or even less than fully patriotic or any other banner Washington might hoist. Apple is simply showing how to avoid paying more tax than it must?um, following those good, private sector business practices that Trump and Republican colleagues salute.

Meanwhile, this same group is going to end up raising my taxes and those of others around me in the Northeast who worry about things like health costs.  I do wonder aloud what $252.8 billion might underwrite in healthcare access or hurricane help in Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida, or fighting opioid addiction or paying for enough teachers to lower classroom size.

I suppose it all will turn out OK?I?m writing this screed on a Macintosh laptop.

 

 

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Source: How Apple Takes a Bite Out of All of Us by Ducking Billions in U.S. Taxes
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Richard Mellor / Construction Workers Unite Against Union Busters
« Last post by Richard Mellor on Yesterday at 06:00:08 PM »
Construction Workers Unite Against Union Busters

We share this post from MyNewYork by construction worker Tafadar Sourov for the interest of our readers. Sharing this account does not mean Facts For Working People Blog endorses Project Labor Agreements. We have not taken a collective position on them. Speaking for myself personally I do not endorse PLA's.  I need to know more about them. What concerns me is that these agreements most often contain no strike clauses and also strengthen the Team Concept through management/labor committees on the job that can undermine regular union rules and independent and militant rank and file union power.

Also, the vast number of unionized construction workers, in the skilled trades anyway, are most likely white workers and the percentage of unionized workers continues to decline. The real issue for me it seems is to organize the unorganized and mobilize the potential power of organized labor and the working class in general to force employers (or the state) to accept union contracts, which means unionized sites through hiring hall practices, not independent, temporary deals between contractors (or the state) and construction unions on individual projects.  Similar to the restaurant industry that abandoned small enterprises for the big hotels, the union leadership in the building and construction trades have abandoned residential as a bad business decision while using political clout for publicly funded projects. This is my understanding of it although for the last 30 years of my working life I worked in the public sector.
 
I confess that I do not know enough about PLA's, I am just expressing my views as they are at the moment. I am open to hearing all sides. In the meantime we thank Tafadar Sourov for sharing these developments with Facts For Working People. R Mellor.

Construction Workers Unite in Protest Against Union Busting Tactics of Related Companies

                     
           
          Construction Workers Unite in Protest Against Union Busting Tactics of Related Companies   
                   
 
11/20/17
By: Tafadar Sourov
 
After working a long day, many construction workers met at 34th  street Hudson Yards yesterday afternoon. Despite the cold around a  hundred workers showed up, some from the Hudson Yards construction  sites. They stood behind a large banner that says #CountMeIn as part of a  growing movement against the union busting tactics of the developer,  Related Companies.
 
?Everywhere we go, people want to know

Who we are, so we tell them
We are the unions, the mighty mighty unions!?
 
The protest was to appeal to the workers on the Hudson Yards  construction sites to reject the turkeys that related was offering for  Thanksgiving. The rallying workers spoke about how with a Project Labor  Agreement (which would ensure union labor be used for the development),  workers could afford their own turkeys for the holiday season.
 
During the rally, one of the organizers, Bernard Callegari inspired a  huge round of applause when he announced that less than a hundred  workers had shown up to take turkeys (there were 1800 turkeys in total);  most of them ended up donated theirs to charity on the spot.

Related is a $50 billion company, and they have raised $18 billion  for the Hudson Yards redevelopment. The largest construction project in  North America, it will transform 28 acres of Midtown Manhattan into  residential, retail, and commercial space while creating tens of  thousands of jobs.

The concern of union workers is that this project will set a major  precedent against unions for the future of work in New York. The danger  is enough that rank and file workers have been mobilizing every week to  protest Related. A thousand workers from across the building trades  rallied at Hudson Yards last week to condemn Related for attempting to  set unions against each other, and exploiting their employees who are  working below the value of what their labor is worth without a Project  Labor Agreement.
 
Whether or not the Hudson Yards is built union will be a tipping  point in the growing trend of open shops (jobs where non union can be  hired alongside union labor) in this city. With recent collapsing  scaffolds injuring bystanders and disturbingly high death tolls on non  union jobs over the last few years, the demand to unionize the Hudson  Yards takes on a larger meaning. The union cause is about the safety and  livelihood of all working people
 
The movement will continue, with the next rally scheduled for 6AM on Wednesday November 22 at 34th st and 10th ave.
 
Tafadar Sourov a long time community organizer from The Bronx, and a rank and file activist of Laborers Local 79.

Source: Construction Workers Unite Against Union Busters
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AlterNet / Trump's Judicial Picks: 'The Goal Is to End the Progressive State'
« Last post by AlterNet on Yesterday at 06:00:06 PM »
Trump's Judicial Picks: 'The Goal Is to End the Progressive State'


Donald Trump is radically reshaping the same federal courts that have been the biggest bulwark against his agenda?by picking mostly white, conservative men.


 

Donald Trump has sustained more than his fair share of political losses during the first 10 months of his presidency, mostly at the hands of the federal courts.

It was the federal courts that struck down his ?Muslim travel ban? on three separate occasions, that blocked his ban on trans people in the military and that did the same to his attempt to defund so-called sanctuary cities.

But the makeup of America?s judges is quietly becoming the site of one of Trump?s most unequivocal successes: nominating and installing judges who reflect his own worldview at a speed and volume unseen in recent memory. Trump could conceivably have handpicked more than 30% of the nation?s federal judges before the end of his first term, his advisers have suggested, and independent observers agree.

?The president himself has said that he expects this to be one of his major legacies. He is going to reshape the bench for generations to come,? said Douglas Keith, counsel with the fair courts arm of the Brennan Center for Justice.

?I do think this deserves more attention given the consequence, the significance of what will eventually be a wholesale change among the federal judiciary,? he continued.

Much has been made of Trump?s failure to get legislation through Congress and received wisdom suggests that he has little to show for his first 10 months in power. However, the lasting impact that court picks have on the lives of Americans means that Trump?s choices ? and the sheer numbers involved ? will help reshape America for the next half-century.

Until recently little attention has been paid to Trump?s judicial appointments. But Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware and a member of the Senate judiciary committee, identified the importance of these appointments early on. In June he said: ?This will be the single most important legacy of the Trump administration. They will quickly be able to put judges on circuit courts all over the country, district courts all over the country, that will, given their youth and conservatism, have a significant impact on the shape and trajectory of American law for decades.

The lack of diversity in Trump?s picks was highlighted by the Associated Press. They ran the numbers on the 58 people nominated by the Trump administration to lifetime positions on appeal courts, district courts, and the supreme court. Of those, 53 are white, three are Asian American, one is Hispanic and one is African American.

Forty seven are men and 11 are women.

Since a disproportionate percentage of non-white Americans find themselves at the sharp end of the judicial system this means that in many cases it will be white male judges passing judgment on Americans of color. They will also have extensive input on all manner of civil rights, environmental, criminal justice and other disputes across the country.

All presidents appoint federal judges who are philosophically aligned with their own party and ideology. Casual observers will be familiar with how this dynamic plays out in relation to supreme court nominees, the rarefied picks that most presidents only make a handful of times. But supreme court justices represent just a small percentage of the broader federal judiciary, with roughly 850 seats in regional federal courts nationwide. In many cases, it is these jurists that have the final say on the law of the land in the US, since the supreme court only hears a relatively small number of cases every year.

And for these posts, Trump?s candidates have been whiter, more male and, according to the American Bar Association, less qualified than any incoming cohort in decades.

?I think the goal is to end the progressive state as we know it,? said Baher Azmy, Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a progressive-leaning legal advocacy group.

Perhaps the most brazen of Trump?s early picks is Brett Talley, an Alabama attorney just three years out of law school who has yet to try a case. The American Bar Association gave Talley a unanimous rating of ?unqualified? for the post but that did not stop him from breezing through a confirmation hearing in the Senate judiciary committee. Neither did the fact that Talley appears to have blogged favorably about the KKK and statutory rape on message boards and failed to disclose in his questionnaire that his wife is a staffer in the White House.

Trump is ?appointing hacks and cronies which I think is either intentionally or just has the effect of signaling contempt for legal process?, Azmy said.

Some of the other stand-out Trump picks include Jeff Mateer, a Texas attorney who has openly admitted that he discriminates against LGBT people, and Thomas Farr, who has spearheaded multiple legal efforts to suppress the black vote in his home state of North Carolina.

?It is no exaggeration to say that had the White House deliberately sought to identify an attorney in North Carolina with a more hostile record on African-American voting rights and workers? rights than Thomas Farr, it could hardly have done so,? wrote the Congressional Black Caucus in a letter to Trump urging him to withdraw the nomination.

One thing Mateer, Talley and Farr all have in common, like a startling 74% of Trump?s nominees, is that they are all white men. According to the Associated Press, if Trump continues on this trend through his first term, he will be the first Republican since Herbert Hoover to name fewer women and minorities to the court than his GOP predecessor.

?This is a striking move in the direction away from diversity that is not just attributable to them wanting to appoint more conservative judges,? who will tend to be whiter and more male than the general population, said Douglas Keith.

And the impact that can have for generations is hard to overstate. ?Federal courts shape laws, they shape the constitution, they affect people?s rights, and at core they impact how our democracy functions,? Keith said. ?Conservatives have understood the importance of these courts, they?ve been organizing around them for decades, and have been able to move their supporters in ways that the left hasn?t.?

That has involved, first and foremost, building a pipeline of potential conservative candidates, Keith said. Conservative groups like the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation have become de facto clearing houses for Republican presidents and they absolutely have Trump?s ear.

According to the Hill, of the 13 judicial nominees confirmed since President Trump took office, 10 are either current or former Federalist Society members or regular speakers at its events.

The organization describes itself as ?a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order?, and operates on the premise that ?law schools and the legal profession are currently strongly dominated by a form of orthodox liberal ideology?. Clarence Thomas, Jeff Sessions and the late Antonin Scalia are among the society?s more well-known alumni.

The non-partisan American Bar Association, which for decades had offered the White House its opinion on the qualifications of nominees was removed from the process by Trump in favor of Federalist Society influence. So far they have rated four of Trump?s nominees unqualified, four more than they ever did under the previous administration.

Thus far the Republican-controlled Senate judiciary committee has been little more than a rubber stamp for Trump?s nominees, having advanced all of his picks through hearings so far. This drew scorn from Democratic committee member Sheldon Whitehouse who earlier this month called the hearings ?a joke? and complained that candidates had been studiously coached on ?how to withstand all of five minutes of questioning by senators?.

Trump also inherited a massive cache of over 100 judicial openings when he came into office, more than twice that of his predecessor Obama in 2009. That?s because, even as Trump has routinely lambasted Democrats as the party of obstruction, it was Republicans for most of Barack Obama?s term who slowed the confirmation of judicial nominees to a slow crawl. Since his inauguration the number of openings has grown to more than 160 ? that?s about half the 323 regional federal judges Obama nominated and had confirmed during his full eight years in office, and Trump has only been in office for 10 months.

It is true that, even as Republicans have picked up the pace of confirmations, Trump cannot fill all those 160 openings overnight. But after sweeping Democratic election wins in races earlier this month, anxious conservatives are going to start pushing Trump to get as many nominees as possible through before the 2018 midterms.

?Obviously, who gets nominated and the pace of confirmations ? changes dramatically if the Senate were to flip back to the Democrats,? said John Malcolm, a former justice department lawyer and now an analyst at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. Republicans ?should be paying particular attention to pushing through as many nominees as they can?.

Reuters contributed to this report

 

 

 

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Source: Trump's Judicial Picks: 'The Goal Is to End the Progressive State'
4
AlterNet / Type of Alcohol Determines Whether You Become Merry or Maudlin?Study
« Last post by AlterNet on Yesterday at 06:00:27 AM »
Type of Alcohol Determines Whether You Become Merry or Maudlin?Study


Spirits are associated with confidence and red wine is linked to relaxation?and researchers hope findings will help people consider alcohol?s emotional effects.


While indulging in booze can inspire cheerful merrymaking in some, for others it can lead to a tearful journey to the bottom of the glass. Now researchers say the emotions people feel when drinking could be linked to their tipple of choice.

An international survey has revealed that spirits are often associated with feelings of energy, confidence and sexiness ? but on the flip-side anger and tearfulness ? while red wine is the drink most commonly linked to relaxation, but also tiredness.

While the researchers say the reasons for the links are likely to be complex, they hope the study will urge individuals to think carefully about the alcohol they consume.

?From a public health perspective a lot of the time we have focused on issues around cancer, heart disease and liver disease ? but an important aspect is the balance of emotional outcomes that people are getting from alcohol,? said Mark Bellis, co-author of the research from Public Health Wales NHS Trust.

The study, published in the journal BMJ Open, is based on an anonymous online questionnaire that was completed by individuals aged between 18 and 34 who had drunk alcohol in the previous year. Part of an international survey on alcohol and drug use, the questions probed the type of alcohol drunk and associated emotions, and were asked in 11 different languages, with participants taking part from 21 countries around the world.

The results, based on answers from almost 30,000 participants who had reported consuming both red and white wine as well as beer and spirits in the past year, reveal that certain types of alcoholic drink appear to be linked to particular emotions.

Almost 53% of participants said drinking red wine made them feel relaxed ? an emotion that was also linked to beer by nearly 50% of participants, and white wine by nearly 33%. By contrast, spirits were linked to feelings of confidence by just over 59% of participants, energy by more than 58% and sexiness by just over 42%.

However, spirits were also more likely to be linked to negative feelings including tearfulness, with almost 48% of participants linking such tipples to feeling ill and nearly 30% to aggression. Meanwhile, more than 60% of participants said they linked red wine to feeling tired. White wine was the tipple least often linked to tearfulness, with only 10% saying they associated it with becoming weepy.

?By and large spirits are having a stronger relationship in pretty well all of the outcomes ? apart from those associated with red wine, around relaxation and tiredness,? said Bellis.

Further analysis, taking into account age and other factors, revealed that women were generally more likely to report feeling the various emotions on drinking alcohol, with men more likely to report feelings of aggression.

The proportion of participants reporting the various emotions, both positive and negative, generally increased with overall heaviness of drinking. Further differences were found for the various drinks when participants? age, educational background and sex were considered.

Drinking was found more likely to be linked to feelings of relaxation and tiredness when done at home; confidence, sexiness, energy ? and feeling ill or aggressive ? were more likely when out.

However, the study had limitations, not least that it drew on a self-selecting group of participants, meaning it might have appealed to those more likely to take drugs and drink. It also did not take into account how much participants drank on any one occasion or whether they mixed drinks, and relied on participants thinking back to how they felt at the time. 

What?s more, it is not clear whether the alcohol itself triggered the emotions, or whether the social situation also played a role, while the concentration of the alcohol, presence of other ingredients, and people?s expectations of the drinks could also be important factors.

Matt Field, professor of psychology at the University of Liverpool who was not involved in the research, said that the study was valuable, and agreed with the authors that it would be interesting to explore whether they way in which different drinks are advertised might affect the emotions people link to them.

But, he said, it was far from clear that spirits were more likely than other alcoholic drinks to make people aggressive.

?Because it is a cross-sectional snapshot there are a lot of things that might explain it,? he said. ?It could be that people who are more prone to aggression after alcohol might favour spirits for reasons that we don?t know.?

 

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Source: Type of Alcohol Determines Whether You Become Merry or Maudlin?Study
5
12 Therapeutic House Plants That Can Boost Your Physical Health, Emotional Well-Being?and Even Your Brain Power



 
 
 



The healing power of plants is real.


 

A growing body of research proves that simply being around nature can improve human health and happiness. A month-long 2016 study conducted in the United Kingdom by the University of Derby and the Wildlife Trusts found that connecting to nature resulted in a "scientifically significant increase" in health and happiness, the BBC reports.

"Nature isn't a miracle cure for diseases," says Lucy McRobert, Nature Matters campaigns manager for the Wildlife Trusts. "But by interacting with it, spending time in it, experiencing it and appreciating it we can reap the benefits of feeling happier and healthier as a result."

But you don't necessarily need to go outdoors to connect with nature: houseplants can help you can bring nature indoors. Keeping plants at home or at work is a simple and effective way to improve your personal environment. Many plants are so easy to maintain that they make great gifts, even for those who don't have green thumbs.

One area in which we can all probably use a little boost is brain power, and in this regard, plants can be powerful stimulants. "Studies show that tasks performed while under the calming influence of nature are performed better and with greater accuracy, yielding a higher quality result," writes Charlie Hall, Ellison Chair in International Floriculture at Texas A&M University.

"Keeping ornamental plants in the home and in the workplace increases memory retention and concentration," he adds. "The calming influence of natural environments is conducive to positive work environments by increasing a person?s ability to concentrate on the task at hand."

Flowers, in particular, can generate a feeling of happiness, triggering the release of dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin?neurotransmitters that are connected to the brain's systems related to reward, emotional bonding and mood stabilization.

"Adding flowers to your home or work environment," Hall says, "reduces your perceived stress levels and makes you feel more relaxed, secure, and happy."

Being around flora can also help improve our interpersonal relationships. "Research shows that people who spend extended lengths of time around plants tend to have better relationships with others," Hall points out. "This is due to measurable increases in feelings of compassion; another effect of exposure to ornamental plants."

Plus, some houseplants aren't simply ornamental; they can be harvested for medicinal purposes. Keep an aloe vera plant handy and you've got a great addition to your juice drinks to help alleviate upset stomachs. Or if you've got a small amount of outdoor space, keep a camelliasinensis plant and you can produce your own green tea for a home-grown daily dose of caffeine.

Check out the infographic below to learn more about 12 plants that have the power to heal. Do you have any recommendations for plants that can help improve health and wellbeing? Share them in the comments.

Infographic courtesy Flymo. h/t Sophie Bell-Rhone.

Editor's note: If you have pets, check before bringing a plant into your home that it's safe for them first. In particular, be careful not to mix lilies and cats or dogs and aloe vera.






 

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Source: 12 Therapeutic House Plants That Can Boost Your Physical Health, Emotional Well-Being?and Even Your Brain Power
6
AlterNet / Donald Trump Lashes Out at LaVar Ball and the NFL in Racist Morning Tweetstorm
« Last post by AlterNet on November 23, 2017, 06:01:05 AM »
Donald Trump Lashes Out at LaVar Ball and the NFL in Racist Morning Tweetstorm


The president's message to his base couldn't be any clearer.


 

This morning, Donald Trump woke up to continue demanding that LaVar Ball bow down and be thankful.

It wasn?t the White House, it wasn?t the State Department, it wasn?t father LaVar?s so-called people on the ground in China that got his son out of a long term prison sentence - IT WAS ME. Too bad! LaVar is just a poor man?s version of Don King, but without the hair. Just think LaVar, you could have spent the next 5 to 10 years during Thanksgiving with your son in China, but no NBA contract to support you. But remember LaVar, shoplifting is NOT a little thing. It?s a really big deal, especially in China. Ungrateful fool!

I don?t care if LaVar Ball is a jackass. I don?t care if LaVar Ball sells his shoes for $4000. I don?t care if LaVar Ball eats live kittens on TV. Because LaVar Ball hasn?t turned the commander in chief of the free world into a whining infant demanding that people change his sodden nappy ? and like it.

This is utterly disgusting, and represents a new low in Trump?s eternal quest to get lower. If the racist message of Trump?s demand weren?t clear enough, see his next tweet for a reminder of his other great quest to get people to behave the way he thinks they should.

The NFL is now thinking about a new idea - keeping teams in the Locker Room during the National Anthem next season. That?s almost as bad as kneeling! When will the highly paid Commissioner finally get tough and smart? This issue is killing your league! ..?

Trump apparently intended to everyone to connect those dots to ?black people don?t act right? as he next he retweeted a post about Ball?s ?ungratefulness? in failing to acknowledge that, for all of ten seconds, Trump might have done his job. Since this is the day before Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to toss Trump a Bible verse.

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. ... And anyone who says, ?You fool!? will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Matthew 5:22

 

 

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Source: Donald Trump Lashes Out at LaVar Ball and the NFL in Racist Morning Tweetstorm
7
Richard Mellor / Market power again
« Last post by Richard Mellor on November 22, 2017, 06:03:04 PM »
Market power again

by Michael Roberts

In a previous post,  I covered the arguments of several mainstream economists who sought to  explain the slowdown in productivity and investment growth especially  since the beginning of the 2000s as due to market power.

Now there is yet another round of mainstream economic papers trying  to explain why investment in the major economies has fallen back since  the end of Great Recession in 2009.  And again most of these papers try  to argue that it is the rise in ?market power? ie monopolistic trends,  especially in finance, that has led to profits being accumulated in  finance, property or in cash-rich techno giants that do not invest  productively or innovatively.

That investment in productive assets has dropped in the US is  revealed by the collapse in net investment (that?s after depreciation)  relative to the total stock of fixed assets in the capitalist sector.


Note that the fall in this net investment ratio took place from the  early 2000s at the same time as financial profits rocketed.  That  suggests that a switch took place from productive to financial  investment (or into fictitious capital as Marx called it).

In a new paper, Thomas Philippon, Robin Döttling and Germán Gutiérrez looked at data  from a group of eight Eurozone countries and the US. They first  establish a number of stylised facts. They found that the corporate  investment rate was low in both the Eurozone and the US, with the share  of intangibles (investment in intellectual property such as computer  software and databases or research and development) increasing and the  share of machinery and equipment decreasing.  But they also found that  investment tracked corporate profits in the Eurozone, but fell below in  the US.  In other words, productive investment slipped in the Eurozone  because profitability did too.

But there appeared to be an ?investment gap? in the US.

But there is an important issue here of measurement.  As I showed in  my previous post, these mainstream analyses use Tobin?s Q as the measure  of accumulated profit to compare against investment.  But Tobin?s Q is  the market value of a firm?s assets (typically measured by its equity  price) divided by its accounting value or replacement costs.  This is  really a measure of fictitious profits.  Given the credit-fuelled  financial explosion of the 2000s, it is no wonder that net investment in  productive assets looks lower when compared with Tobin Q profits.  This  is not the right comparison.  Where the financial credit and stock  market boom was much less, as in the Eurozone, profits and investment  movements match.

Nevertheless, mainstream/Keynesian economics continues to push the  idea that there is an ?investment gap? because the lion?s share of the  profits has gone into monopolistic sectors which do not invest but just  extract ?rents? through their market power.  This argument has even been  taken up by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development  (UNCTAD) in its latest report.  In chapter seven of its 2017 report, UNCTAD waxes lyrical about the great insights of Keynes about the  ?rentier? capitalist, who is unproductive, unlike the entrepreneur  capitalist who makes things tick. 

UNCTAD?s economists conclude that  there has been ?the emergence of a new form of rentier capitalism as  a result of some recent trends: highly pronounced increases in market  concentration and the consequent market power of large global  corporations, the inadequacy and waning reach of the regulatory powers  of nation States, and the growing influence of corporate lobbying to  defend unproductive rents?.

But is the rise of rentier capitalism the main cause of the relative  fall in investment?  As I have pointed out above, the rentier appears to  play no role in the low investment rate of the Eurozone: it?s just low  profitability.  However, there does seem a case for financial market  power or financialisation as a cause for low productive investment in  the US.

Marx considered that there were two forms of rent that could appear  in a capitalist economy.  The first was ?absolute rent? where the  monopoly ownership of an asset (land) could mean the extraction of a  share of surplus value from the capitalist process without investment in  labour and machinery to produce commodities.  The second form Marx  called ?differential rent?.  This arose from the ability of some  capitalist producers to sell at a cost below that of more inefficient  producers and so extract a surplus profit ? as long as the low cost  producers could stop others adopting even lower cost techniques by  blocking entry to the market, employing large economies of scale in  funding, controlling patents and making cartel deals.  This differential  rent could be achieved in agriculture by better yielding land (nature)  but in modern capitalism, it would be through a form of ?technological  rent?; ie monopolising technical innovation.

Undoubtedly, much of the mega profits of the likes of Apple,  Microsoft, Netflix, Amazon, Facebook are due to their control over  patents, financial strength (cheap credit) and buying up potential  competitors.  But the mainstream explanations go too far.  Technological  innovations also explain the success of these big companies.  Moreover,  by its very nature, capitalism, based on ?many capitals? in  competition, cannot tolerate any ?eternal? monopoly, a ?permanent?  surplus profit deducted from the sum total of profits which is divided  among the capitalist class as a whole.  The continual battle to increase  profit and the share of the market means monopolies are continually  under threat from new rivals, new technologies and international  competitors.

The history of capitalism is one where the concentration and  centralisation of capital increases, but competition continues to bring  about the movement of surplus value between capitals (within a national  economy and globally). The substitution of new products for old ones  will in the long run reduce or eliminate monopoly advantage.  The  monopolistic world of GE and the motor manufacturers did not last once  new technology bred new sectors for capital accumulation.  The world of  Apple will not last forever.

?Market power? may have delivered rental profits to some very large  companies in the US, but Marx?s law of profitability still holds as the  best explanation of the accumulation process.  Rents to the few are a  deduction from the profits of the many. Monopolies redistribute profit  to themselves in the form of ?rent? but do not create profit.  Profits  are not the result of the degree of monopoly or rent seeking, as  neo-classical and Keynesian/Kalecki theories argue, but the result of  the exploitation of labour.

The key to understanding the movement in productive investment  remains its underlying profitability, not the extraction of rents by a  few market leaders.  If that is right, the Keynesian/mainstream solution  of regulation and/or the break-up of monopolies will not solve the  regular and recurrent crises or rising inequality of wealth and income.
Source: Market power again
8
AlterNet / Is Ivanka Trump a Target of Investigation Now? It Seems Inevitable
« Last post by AlterNet on November 22, 2017, 06:03:02 PM »
Is Ivanka Trump a Target of Investigation Now? It Seems Inevitable


Ivanka is deeply implicated in her family?s involvement with foreign corruption.


 

Social media had a bit of fun this weekend making fun of this Thanksgiving table tweet from Ivanka Trump's "lifestyle" brand:

 

 

It is a bizarre looking display and Twitter went to town:

 

 

 

 

 

 

But in all the merriment about Ivanka's questionable taste and the juxtaposition between the tax cuts for the wealthy she's helping to sell and the lives of all those blue-collar workers her father supposedly represented with his "populist" campaign, few people have stopped to ask how it can possibly be that a top adviser to the president still owns a "lifestyle" company in the first place. We have become so inured to the outright corruption of this White House that we simply accept the fact that all the Trumps and Kushners have merged their business interests with their jobs working for the president.

It's not just the first family either. The NRCC is just coming right out and putting money directly into Donald Trump's pocket now:

In case you were wondering, the Trump Hotel is doing very, very well what with lobbyists and foreign dignitaries spending huge wads of cash there over the past year. Imagine that.

Scions Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are handling the business, with Trump himself looking over some quarterly reports while Ivanka has supposedly withdrawn from day-to-day involvement with the family business and her own company. Nonetheless, Ivanka's brand is everywhere, and she is still looked upon by the media as the quintessential Trump woman: a beautiful, brilliant businesswoman with great style and exceptional savvy.

But it turns out that her brand, like her father's, is more hype than substance. Ivanka is beautiful and her style is admired by many. But her business history is nothing to be proud of. Recent investigations into the Trump real estate empire show that she had been involved in the company's most suspicious dealings with shady oligarchs and mobbed-up money launderers. If Donald Trump is in the crosshairs of federal investigators for nefarious financial transactions with disreputable characters, his daughter will likely be caught in that same net.

Reuters and NBC reported over the weekend on a particularly unsavory deal in Panama called the Trump Ocean Club, which Donald Trump dubbed Ivanka's "baby." It was the Trump Organization's first international hotel venture in 2007, and Ivanka was the lead family member on the project, working closely with a Brazilian development broker named Alexandre Ventura Nogueira. He put together much of the financing for the deal, and let's just say it wasn't exactly on the up-and-up.

Involved in Ivanka's "baby" was a money launderer from Colombia who is currently incarcerated in the U.S., a Ukrainian human trafficker and a Russian investor who was jailed a few years earlier for kidnapping and threatening murder in Israel. Nogueira himself was arrested in Panama on unrelated fraud charges and fled the country; there are still four criminal cases pending over the Trump project. Ivanka apparently claims not to remember the man, although she knew him well enough to make a promotional video with him.

Another notorious Ivanka project was the 2014 Trump Tower Baku in Azerbaijan, which she personally oversaw. This was the project that, according to a recent New Yorker report, was partially funded by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and served as a cash laundromat for the country's government. This was no hands-off arrangement. Ivanka and the company were heavily involved in all the details, from the interior paneling to the landscaping. According to experts, this was unusual for this sort of deal and indicates a level of personal attention that exposed the Trump Organization to serious legal trouble.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act requires that American companies not make profits from illegal activities overseas, and simply saying you didn't know where the money was coming from isn't good enough. Federal authorities have put people in prison for doing business with money launderers in Azerbaijan in recent years. Courts have held that a company needn't be aware of specific criminal behavior but only that corruption was pervasive. It's not reasonable to believe that the Trumps were unaware of the business culture in the country. Nor is it likely they were unaware that the family they were in business with was known as ?the Corleones of the Caspian." After all, as The New Yorker reported:

In May, 2012, the month the Baku deal was finalized, the F.C.P.A. was evidently on Donald Trump?s mind. In a phone-in appearance on CNBC, he expressed frustration with the law. ?Every other country goes into these places and they do what they have to do,? he said. ?It?s a horrible law and it should be changed.? If American companies refused to give bribes, he said, ?you?ll do business nowhere.?

Clearly, he knew exactly what kind of assignment he'd given his daughter.

Several senators have called for an investigation into this project, which was finally shelved after Trump was elected. According to Think Progress, "at some point earlier this year, Ivanka removed all information about the Azerbaijan project from her website, although it remains available via Internet Archive."

When you look into the rest of Ivanka Trump's history in business, the story repeats itself over and over again. The company has licensed the Trump name in places known for networks of money launderers. As the anti-corruption watchdog Global Witness reported, "the result is that Trump?s current wealth has depended in part on securing significant infusions of untraceable foreign funds.?

It's very difficult to believe that the Trumps didn't know that they were involved in these massive corruption schemes. The evidence was right in front of their eyes. Now that evidence is right in front of an investigative team that has a mandate to go wherever the evidence takes them, Ivanka Trump is as legally vulnerable as her husband and the rest of her family.

 

 

Related Stories


Source: Is Ivanka Trump a Target of Investigation Now? It Seems Inevitable
9
Inequality Out of Control: The Average 1% Household Is Over $2.5 Million Richer in the Past Year



 
 
 



Things are going to get even harder for families suffering the most from inequality.


Inequality, like a malignant tumor, is growing out of control, and the only response from Congress is to make it even worse. Those at the richest end of the nation seem to have lost all capacity for understanding the meaning and values of an interdependent society. They've convinced themselves that they deserve their passively accumulated windfalls, and that poorer people have only themselves to blame for their own misfortunes.

It's Getting Uglier Every Year

The average 1% household made nearly $2.6 million in the 12 months to mid-2017, mostly from the stock market. Here's how: 

  • The U.S. increased its wealth by over $8.5 trillion (see Table 2-4, mid-2016 to mid-2017). 
  • The 1% took $3.27 trillion of that (38.3 percent: see Table 6-5). 
  • Each of 1.26 million households, on average, took nearly $2.6 million. In greater detail, the poor segment of the 1% averaged about $1.44 million for the year, the .1% averaged about $7.2 million, and the .01% (12,600 households) averaged nearly $65 million in just the past year


This is the second year in a row that the average 1% household has taken over $2.5 million of our national wealth. The pattern has worsened every year since the recession, as the U.S. stock market has more than tripled in value, with about 90 percent of the $18 trillion dollar gain going to the richest 10% of Americans. Despite all this, the super-rich are essentially blackmailing Congress into approving a 1%-pleasing tax bill by threatening to withhold their political payoffs.

Americans Dying, Congress Does Nothing

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were over 60,000 drug overdose deaths last year, and according to the National Institutes of Health about 88,000 Americans die each year from alcohol-related causes. The number of teenagers hospitalized for suicidal tendencies has doubled in the past 10 years. 

Yet Congress is considering a tax bill that would eventually cause many middle- and low-income American families to pay more in income taxes

The children of poor Americans would be hit hardest. The Republican plan excludes 10 million children whose parents work for low wages?that's about 1 in 7 of all U.S. children in working families. To turn the screws a little more, rich families would benefit more than the poor. According to one source, "a family making $1 million would get 44 times more money from the government than a single mother earning the minimum wage."

Americans Without Housing, Congress Does Nothing

From New York City and New Orleans to San Francisco and Seattle, Americans are losing their homes as builders and landlords look for ways to make money off of high-paying customers.

More and more Americans cannot afford rent. There are only 12 rural counties in the whole country where a one-bedroom apartment is affordable for minimum-wage workers, based on the 30-percent-of-income standard. Between 2010 and 2016, according to Freddie Mac, the availability of low-income housing declined by over 60 percent.

How Can It Get Worse? Ask Congress

While underpaid American workers struggle with the basic needs of health and housing, households at the other end are each taking millions of dollars of our wealth, mostly from the surging stock market, tax-free until the stocks are cashed in. 

Yet, unbelievably, Congress is considering the elimination of the alternative minimum tax, which is the only assurance that the nation's numerous tax avoiders will pay for some of their plentiful benefits. And it's considering the elimination of the estate tax, which will leave untaxed windfall fortunes in the hands of people who did nothing to earn them. 

It's a frightening thought, but with inequality ripping us apart, and with few of our national leaders willing or able to confront the problem, we may never again be an equitable and functional society. That appears to be just fine with the 1%. 






Source: Inequality Out of Control: The Average 1% Household Is Over $2.5 Million Richer in the Past Year
10
Anarchist News dot Org / The surprising origin of Argentina?s brazen pastry names
« Last post by AnarchistNews.org on November 22, 2017, 06:03:48 AM »
The surprising origin of Argentina?s brazen pastry names

By Rebecca Treon, from http://www.bbc.com, 2 November 2017


The first time I visited a pastry shop in Buenos Aires, I thought my ears were deceiving me. All around me, porteños (Buenos Aires natives) were ordering their favourite pastries to accompany their morning coffee. But I couldn?t believe what they were requesting: did that person just order six friar?s balls? Along with half a dozen little cannons?


The sugar-topped fritters known as bolas de fraile (friar?s balls) and the puff-pastry cones filled with dulce de leche called cañoncitos (little cannons) are just two examples of Argentina?s oddly named facturas (pastries). There are also bombas (bombs), similar to profiteroles, and libritos (little books), folded pastry layers that resemble pamphlets.


While the pastries themselves are certainly sweet, the origin of their names is more sinister: in the late 1800s, a union of anarchist bakers used their pastries as propaganda.


?The majority of Argentines don?t really know the significance of the pastry names, and why they?re called what they are. They think they?re just quirky, tongue-in-cheek nicknames,? said Vicente Campana, pastry chef and professor at the National University of Entre Rios. ?But really, it was the anarchists ? who were anti-government, anti-police and anti-church ? who gave them those names to draw attention to their political leanings.?

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Blasphemy and gastronomy have long gone hand in hand. Legend has it that in the early 16th Century during the Ottoman attack on Vienna, Austrians created a crescent-shaped puff pastry, similar to a croissant, in reference to the crescent moon and star that are a widely recognised symbol of Islam. Austrians would eat these crescents in front of Turkish soldiers as a way to blaspheme their occupiers. Centuries later when the European pastries made their way to South America; known today in Argentina as medialunas, the pastries are topped with a sticky layer of saccharine syrup.


Even the term ?facturas? is loaded. The Latin root of the word is facere, meaning to make or create, but the modern-day Spanish noun means ?invoice?. The use of the word ?facturas? to refer to all pastries (which is unique to Argentine Spanish) was a clever way for members of the baker?s union to subversively call attention to the value of their labour.


Throughout the mid- to late 19th Century, Buenos Aires welcomed large numbers of European immigrants, predominantly from Spain and Italy, who were looking for a chance at a new life. They brought with them ideas for a society free from sovereign, military or religious rule ? one in which everyone was treated equally.


One such anarchist was Italian exile Errico Malatesta, whose anti-government actions included writing socialist publications and organising anarchist rallies. After his revolutionary escapades led him to a prison sentence, he fled the continent by hiding in a shipping box containing a sewing machine that was bound for South America.


Arriving in Buenos Aires in 1885, he quickly fell in with other European anarchists, including fellow Italian Ettore Mattei, who had recently formed a trade union for the city?s bakers ? for what societal role could be more important than that of the people who provide the city with its daily bread?


Two years later, in 1887, the Sociedad Cosmopolita de Resistencia y Colocación de Obreros Panaderos (The Cosmopolitan Society of Resistance and Placement of Bakery Workers) went on strike, closing down the city?s bakeries for more than a week. As a part of the movement, union members renamed baked goods with blasphemous monikers targeting the government, the military and the church ? the institutions anarchists believed stood in the way of individual freedom. What better way to elevate awareness of a cause than by changing the names of something residents eat on a daily basis?


The coming years brought rolling work stoppages across a variety of industries, from carpentry to mechanics to shoemakers, with Malatesta standing at the forefront of the movement. He left Buenos Aires in 1889, but his legacy of inspiring workers to stand up for their rights was long lasting, with the anarchist movement thriving in Argentina throughout most of the 20th Century.

Today, in glass cases in bakeries across the country, dulce de leche-filled suspiras de monja (nun?s sighs) sit beside vigilantes (vigilantes), straight pastries meant to look like police batons. You can call the pastries cream puffs, profiteroles or croissants, but most Argentines still use the more irreverent names.


Now when I visit my favourite Buenos Aires cake shop and order a bag full of friar?s balls and little cannons, I know I?m not only about to enjoy something sweet with my café con leche, but I?m also honouring a fight for equality.


EDITOR?S NOTE: The text has been modified to clarify that the use of the crescent-shaped pastry by Austrians to blaspheme the Ottomans is a legend.


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