The Mason Missile, December 12, 2017

Greetings!

Forgive me that I have not communicated with you, but I have been finishing up my graduate work at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Labor Studies. This is a vital program, since workers must know the forces arrayed against them. For further information, please look up https://www.umass.edu/lrrc/.

 

Such education is important especially in this time, with an idiot contaminating the White House and a Congress that has just passed a bill cutting taxes for corporations and the highest echelons of wealth, and granting temporary tax breaks for low-and middle-income people-which will last briefly-and cut out such tax breaks they benefit from, like for interest on student loans and on state and local taxes. Remember, instead of holding hearings on the bill, the Republican leadership rushed it through to a vote, before the public could learn about what was in it.

 

But the word is out, and it bodes ill for working-class Americans. Protestors have been out in force in the halls of Congress against the bill, venting their displeasure the THEIR elected officials (and getting arrested for it)-but who speaks loudest in Washington, the voices of the people, or the scribbling of pens on checkbooks from corporate campaign donors? They must answerer for this next November.

 

The Republicans also threw stuff in the bill that had nothing to do with taxes, but were cookies for the Religious right: lift the “Johnson Rule” prohibiting churches from endorsing candidates (which would have jeopardized their tax-exempt status) and have citizenship rights for unborn fetuses. Plus at the last minute until the vote, more items were placed in the bill’s margins by hand, and once-supposedly principled Republican senators who progressives hoped would go with the people went along with it, with the venerable Washington tradition of throwing in stuff benefitting specific constituencies and interests in their states.

 

Your taxpayer dollars at work, folks!

 

The Republican myth, dating back as far as Ronald Reagans “supply side economics,”  states that corporations and wealthy people need more money-besides the trillions they already have-to invest in companies so they can upgrade equipment and hire more workers. However, just about every economic research group, like the Joint Committee on Taxation of Congress, predicts that instead the deficit will increase by $1 trillion. And the way to cover the deficits, the Republicans say, is to cut back on such programs as Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Social security, VA, etc.-the supposed economic growth stimulated by the tax cuts-they say-will bring more revenue into the federal treasury, to pay for the programs.

 

Of course, there is the upper-class class warfare waged on low- and working-class people, exemplified by Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, while discussing the estate tax: “I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing — as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.” 

 

As if only rich people can have fun! As if low-income people must spend every waking moment slaving for someone else, and not have time for their families, or for themselves! the estate tax, however, affects only those individuals whose estates exceed $5.49 million, and that only two out of 1,000 people would owe the tax. (https://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-tax/ten-facts-you-should-know-about-the-federal-estate-tax). Does Greasley know ANY thing about the people who vote for him? Do the people who vote for him KNOW what he thinks of them?

 

And how about the wisdom of Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, while discussing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves – won’t lift a finger – and expect the federal government to do everything.”

 

The august Senator fails to realize that SOME people are elderly, retired, underage children, or physically or mentally “handicapped”-should they keep working forever, particularly for someone else’s profit? Apparently they do; they think labor, necessary for the person and society as it is, is the only virtue, and that people don’t need time to rest, to educate themselves, to be with families. Nor do they acknowledge that factories have been, since at least from after the Second world War, moving towards low-wage areas, either outside the city limits, or in another state, or even outside the country- but the capitalists and their political and media handmaidens failed to admit this.

 

As is common in congressional wrangling over tax bills, there will be specific industries demanding tax breaks-cruise lines, craft beer, auto dealers, wine producers, the oil and gas pipeline industry-but especially the commercial real estate industry, where Donald Trump and his son-in-law/advisor/pet boy Jarred Kushner inherited their fortunes. (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/05/business/economy/tax-bill-real-estate.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news) Tell me please how the “free market” figures into this?

 

The common complaint by conservative Republicans is that US corporations are overtaxed and that does not make us competitive in the global economy. But research by the Tax Policy Center shows that as of 2015, tax revenue constitutes 26 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the US economy, well below the 34 percent average of industrial nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/briefing-book/how-do-us-taxes-compare-internationally). So that myth is busted.

 

To me, the real goal of the Republicans, mainly the conservative element in it, is to undo each and every attempt to use the federal government to lessen the effects of economic inequality, to control the excesses to the capitalist system, and to allow people of the lower rungs of the economy to rise further than ever before imagined. Marco Rubio, Senator from Florida, announced that since there would be a federal deficit, it would (I’m sure he’s crying about this) demand “structural changes” in Social Security and Medicare, such as cutting payments for future beneficiaries and raising the retirement age. (http://theweek.com/speedreads/740454/gop-senator-says-tax-cuts-must-followed-by-structural-changes-social-security-medicare)

 

But if, as the Republicans say, the tax cuts stimulate economic growth and thus bring in more revenues, then it would not be necessary to cut these programs. Like I say, the real target of these tax cuts is NOT the deficit, but the programs of the New Deal and Great Society-laws supporting workers’ right to organize; secure funds for retirees; the right to a job, housing, education, and other needs of life no matter ones’ race, religion, gender, etc.; and controlling the behavior of large corporations, which have and still to inflicted great damage to the country in their pursuit of profits.

 

The further historically the nation has gotten from the era of the New Deal, I believe, the less conservatives comprehend why they oppose so-called “big, excessively spending government.” They have no recollection of what prompted the New Deal, what issues FDR had to deal with-the 1929 Depression; the millions of jobless, homeless, and helpless men scrounging for work to feed their families; the refusal of President Herbert Hoover to move away from the laissez faire orthodoxy; the unwillingness of the capitalists of that day to concede that anything was wrong; and the rise of the Communist party, promising-and to some, threatening-a revolution which would right the nation’s social and economic wrongs. This is the historical reality that the supposedly hard-headed, practical and realistic conservatives could never comprehend.

 

We must keep these events, past and present, in mind, read about them and discuss them. But how can we be properly informed about them  if the corporate news media-you know, the “fake news,” the “left-liberal-slanted news media-“ falls into fewer and fewer corporations that think of the bottom line, please the advertisers first, and real news dissemination last?

 

Media mergers coming about include AT&T purchasing Time-Warner, which the FCC rushed (not conducting a public interest review), but Trump’s Justice Department is trying to block; I’m not comfortable with corporate mergers in the media industry either, but trump is trying to punish CNN (owned by Time-Warner) for its all too real “fake news” about the administration.

 

I have a feeling from what I’ve read that some kind of deal will come about. Just the fact that they’ve been talking about merging the two companies is enough to worry about the quality of media product, the corporate control over news and information. In the corporate media, the news is just another commodity.

 

The Meredith Corporation-publishers of such household magazines as Family Circle and Better Homes and Gardens, is purchasing Time Inc., publisher of Time, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated, with money from Charles and David Koch, the two brothers who have been the biggest paymasters of the American right-wing, subsidizers of political action groups, think tanks, and journals that have pushed for weakening environmental laws (the Koch fortune comes from oil and gas maintenance), anti-union laws such as the “paycheck protection” bills, and laws preventing municipalities from implementing their own gun control laws. In spite of what the Koch brothers say about just being “passive” investors, have no doubt they will use these venerable magazines for their agenda.  (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/26/business/dealbook/time-inc-meredith-corporation-koch-brothers.html)

 

 

We also have the Sinclair Broadcast Group; they own 193 TV stations in the most mid-level TV markets, and purchasing the Tribune group and its 42 stations, some of which are in the big markets like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Sinclair has dictated to its local stations which news segments with a strong pro-conservative, pro-trump slant; Boris Epshteyn, a former Trump aide, is a political commentator for the Sinclair group. All this is taking place with Ajit Pai, the current Trump-appointed chairman of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) approving these kinds of mergers that would dictate to Americans what to think on issues.

 

The “net neutrality” rule, which dictates that all persons and all web sites have equal access to the internet, is in danger. With the elimination of this rule, internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast could charge you, and certain sites, extra for going outside their data plans and for online streaming, or outright blocking certain sites. This would make gathering information over the web (like I’ve been doing) next to impossible, except if you’re a huge corporation.

 

Another merger is that of the pharmaceutical firm CVS purchasing the insurance company Aetna, for $69 billion. Supposedly it would improve services to health care consumers-but, in the myth of the “free market,” companies are competing with each other to provide better products at the least cost. This merger would only boost stock prices and make money for attorneys negotiating the merger. This is another sign of the pattern of capitalism since right after the Civil War-companies buying up each other, leaving ownership in fewer and fewer hands. THIS is what the tax cuts for the rich and corporations are for!

 

The only other thing the corporations and plutocrats have invested the money they save from taxes is offshore bank accounts in countries willing to hide them. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) along with the news organizations they affiliate with, has documented the Panama Papers, showing how a true rogue’s gallery of world leaders, their families, and their lieutenants have stashed their fortunes, through the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonesca, out of the way of the tax authorities of their home countries. (https://panamapapers.icij.org/)

 

ICIJ is working on another scandal, this one made public this year-the Paradise Papers, received by the German paper Süddeutsche Zeitung, showing how over 120 world leaders and over 100 corporations-with the help of the Bermuda-based law firm Appleby-use the weak tax laws and enforcement of several jurisdictions to had their billions. (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/05/world/paradise-papers.html)

This is class warfare, being waged on working and poor people. This also shows the need for a gutsy, independent news media, telling the truth so that we the people know what goes on. You know I’ll do my part.

 

Upcoming events-I will join in the Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers, to be held from 3:00-5:00 PM, on Sunday, December 17, at Thomas Paine Plaza, 15th and JFK Blvd.

 

On Wednesday, December 27, I will be at Tattooed Mom, 530 South Street, from 7:00 PM-9:00 PM, where I’ll sign copies of my anthology, All Of The Above, and my two poetry volumes, along with a poetry reading with Frank Sherlock, Irving Jones, and me, followed by an open reading. I believe poetry and nall the other arts are for all of us. (https://www.tattooedmomphilly.com/events/list/?tribe_paged=2&tribe_event_display=list) I hope to see you at both places.

 

I bid everyone a happy holiday season, and all the best-in spite of everything-for the new year. Bye!

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