First Steps Towards Change

I’ve written extensively about the path to neoliberalism, and there’s more to come. But with the House of Representatives now under Democratic control, I want to offer some ideas about moving towards a new understanding of the role of government in the US. In Capitalism: Its Origins and Evolution as a System of Government Bruce Scott explains the situation:

As articulated in [Chapter 13], the story of early US capitalist governance is on of a nearly 300-year commitment to a laissez-faire model of economic development. It is a story that begins and ends with the decisions of political, legal and economic actors promoting this model, thus disputing the assumption that actions were largely shaped if not quite controlled by “natural” market forces. P. 431

He thinks that after a brief Keynesian interruption, laissez-faire returned in the early 80s. Replacing a centuries-old ideology is really hard. So here are concrete steps the Democratic-controlled House could take. In each case, the House can do its work and force the Senate and its repulsive leadership to deal with the results, heightening the differences between the parties and enabling all voters to understand where their economic and social interests lie.

1. Taxes. The Trump tax bill is historically unpopular. Of the nine House Republicans representing the 25 largest users of sales and local tax deduction, six lost and one more is in danger as the vote count procedes in CA-45. Voting against the bil didn’t help either. Voting against the bill didn’t help either. At least four of those Republicans lost. The bill is widely regarded as grossly favorable to the rich and their corporations. The House has the Constitutional power to originate all tax laws. Richard Neal, D. Mass, is the ranking member. He says his priorities are health care, protecting Social Security and Medicare, and getting Trump’s tax returns. He should add a new tax bill to his list. Some suggestions:

A. Raise tax rates on the top earners. There should be several new brackets for the highest earners, with a top tax rate of 60%. The current capital gain tax rate should stay the same, but it should be raised in each bracket above $250K to a top level of 50%.

B. Corporate tax rates should be increased to 35%. For companies reporting to the SEC, the tax base should be the higher of the amount computed under the tax code and the amount reported as income to the SEC. For the largest private companies, the top tax rate should be based on income computed in accordance with the reporting requirements of the SEC. Income should be taxed at the same rate regardless of where it is earned. Audits should be increase so that at least half of all people in the top brackets are audited every other year.

C. There should be a wealth tax, computed at the rate of 1% of the wealth of individuals in excess of $25M with some higher brackets. A similar tax should be imposed on all taxable entities at higher levels. Foundations and all dynastic transfer entities should be taxed at much higher rates unless they distribute their assets at very high rates per year. PACS and other dark money groups should be taxed at 60%, or 40% if they publicly disclose the true donors.

D. Every taxpayer with adjusted gross income equal to or less than the median income should get a check from the government for $2000 regardless of the amount of taxes they pay. That should be phased out over the next $100K in income. Each check should be accompanied by a letter from the Treasury explaining it and noting that it was paid for by adjusting tax rates to a more fair level.

E. The cap on FICA and Medicare taxes should be reduced to $100K, and should be re-imposed on incomes in excess of $250K. The funds would be given to the Social Security Trust Fund and the Medicare Trust Fund, then to fund Medicaid, then to pay for increased audits.

2. The House Financial Services Committee will be chaired by Maxine Waters. it should investigate the connections between all banks and Russian oligarchs. This would include Deutsche Bank. This will enable a careful look at Trump’s relationships with those entities, and who knows what we will find out.

3. The House Judiciary Committee will be chaired by Jerry Nadler. It should obtain transcripts of the testimony of Samuel Alito, Neal Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh from each hearing in which they were confirmed to any judicial post. Then there should be a subpoena-powered investigation to determine just how much each lied and whether to impeach. The steady drumbeat of this testimony and investigation should lay the groundwork for reforms, including court-packing in the future. It may also impact the willingness of these hacks to strike down legislation on ideological grounds.

4. The Environment Subcommittee will be chaired by Peter Tonko, NY-20. None of the members are senior in rank. Nancy Pelosi should elevate this Subcommittee to Committee status and install an aggressive younger Member as Chair. A highly aggressive group of staffers should be hired, including scientists. We cannot live on this planet unless we start taking serious action. Noisy hearings should be held immediately forcing fossil fuel executives to explain their support of science denialism and continued pollution of the air and water. Renewable energy execs should be brought in to offer expertise in expansion of their efforts. I don’t know enough to offer better ideas, but this is critically important, and immediate action must be taken.

5. Every committee and subcommittee should commence oversight hearings of the agencies under their jurisdiction, focused on whether the agency is carrying out Congressional intent and on corruption. Each ashould focus on a crucial problem faced by the agency. For example there should be hearings on Flint water, the VA computer fiasco, and Puerto Rico after the hurricanes, including recovery, debt, and possible statehood. There are plenty of other issues that are not being addressed. Hold hearings.

6. The rules of the hearings should be changed. At least one younger member should be put in charge of asking at each hearing and be given at least 30 consecutive minutes. That member should also be responsible for public appearances. That way we can find out the skills of each member. Are they better at questioning, or staffing or public appearances? Which ones are charismatic even in routine matters?

7. There should be a steady stream of public appearances by Members forcing their actions into public awareness. Pelosi should make sure that the olds are not the public face of the Democratic Party; we don’t need her or Steny Hoyer or James Clyburn on the TV. We need the energetic younger people to step up and act. Democrats need to show their faces so that every American feels represented in government. This is how the bench is deepened.

Each of these steps will demonstrate that government is working and doing something necessary. That is the first step to changing the framework people use to understand the government. I read somewhere recently that most people’s lives are not affected by elections. That may have been true once upon a time, but now failure to act will have terrible consequences. Left alone, capitalism will kill democracy and then the planet. Government is our only defense against overwhelming greed.

What else?

Now back to Scott and Wood on the future of democracy in a capitalist world.

85 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Thanks, Ed. A few more suggestions.

    Reimpose inheritance tax on all estates worth more than ten million. That excludes all but the biggest estates, the supposed family farms and small businesses that GOP marketing falsely claimed were undone by it. Close the loopholes on gift and inheritance taxes.

    Tax gifts and inheritances above a modest floor at the same rate as earned income, which it’s not.

    Tax all other income at the same rates. Passive income – a category economists seem to have driven from the American lexicon, but which still works elsewhere – such as capital gains and dividends, should be taxed at the same rate as all other income. Taxing it at a lower rate does not drive capital anywhere it would not otherwise go and serves only to subsidize the wealthy.

    Impose sales tax on all online sales, payable per the purchaser’s billing address – that’s where the money comes from. Require the vendor to collect and pay it to the relevant taxing authorities. Standard accounting s/w exists for this, down to the zip code in detail. Not doing so is another subsidy for the big guys, who don’t need it.

    Resurrect antitrust law and reinvigorate the DoJ office responsible for it. FAANG – Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google should be the first in line. Bigness itself is a problem: abuse is inherent.

    Impose tax penalties on state-based tax givebacks to corporations. Amazon, for example, needs no subsidies. None would be large enough to persuade it to open an operation where it would not do so for other reasons.

    Impose a penalty tax on corporate stock buybacks above a modest threshold. Buybacks principally manipulate stock prices for the benefit of owner/managers (PE) and executives, not ordinary shareholders, employees or the firms themselves.

    Buybacks are management’s and the board’s admission that it can find no business purpose for the money other than to increase their own compensation. If that’s the goal, then let management make that case to the board and require the board to agree to it.

    Adjust tax rules to move executives away from stock-based compensation and back to non-deferred cash compensation, with receipts based on multi-year performance. It’s more transparent and makes taxing it easier.

    If executives want to give the firm’s money back to shareholders, they can declare dividends from after-tax profits. And restrict dividends to financially healthy companies – pick your hurdles and impose clawback provisions – to restrict PE’s ability to strip mine businesses then send them careening into bankruptcy.

    Impose a share transfer tax. A minimal tax would have little effect on long investors, but would reduce rentier activities such as arbitrage and program trading, where shares are bought and sold multiple times a minute.

    • David Lewis says:

      If Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century is roughly correct (and I believe the analysis is sound) inheritance taxes are the most direct way to break up the rent seeking elements in the economy.

      The devil will be in the details on this (thankfully guys like Bill Gates took a page from Carnegie’s Gospel of Wealth and are doing their own heavy lifting). To wit: how would one go about dealing with Jeff Bezos wealth? I offer that as necessary issue to tackle before making policy, not as reason to leave the status quo be.

      • Trip says:

        I don’t have the answer to the larger issue of the Bezos monopoly. But I can tell you that I quit buying anything from Amazon 2 years ago, deleted my account, and haven’t suffered for it.

        • dimmsdale says:

          For anyone contemplating similar action, there are add-ons to your web browser that find everywhere the Amazon item of your choice is available, and at what price. I use Amazon as a shopping guide, but the app I use (“Invisible Hand”, and there are many others equally good) will tell me where to go, to actually buy the item. Presto, no need to buy through Amazon ever again!

        • holdingsteady says:

          Great discussion, thanks Ed and everybody!

          Regarding Amazon, don’t miss Democracy Now this morning, they are covering ‘HQ2′.  Any business owner you will find through an Amazon search has had to become a seller on Amazon with many strings attached.

          Ive been avoiding Amazon for the most part for at least a year, and have found more entrepreneurial ’boutique’ websites lately just through a duck duck go search.

    • Ollie says:

      Boy between Ed’s piece and your contributions………..I got excited!  Yes!  Yes!  YESSS!  This is what it is to be an American, lol!

      • David Lewis says:

        If only the ideas were half the battle.

        Hopefully the 2018 election enlisted an army willing to fight for the cause. Now the battle can begin. And it will be a long campaign.

        • Kick the darkness says:

          I guess of the comments so far your thinking most parallels mine.  I personally agree with all of Ed’s suggestions-a progressive fiscal agenda in which the state essentially reclaims fiscal sovereignty over what was earlier called its red and blue oligarchs sounds good to me.  But as you say, it will be a battle.  Deep seated, persistent,  problems arising from inequality and lack of opportunity masquerade (or are manipulated to appear) as push button social issues.  We need leaders that can unwind those things in such a way that the segment of the electorate that think taxes are bad, government is bad, and rich over poor is just the natural order of things is willing to give more progressive policies a shake.   One way or another though, the country desperately needs to be thinking ahead as to what comes after Trump.  A constructive thing about this site is that people are thinking along those lines.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Since we’re making a list and checking it twice, and assuming we can’t rid ourselves of the lotteries (PB, MM), let’s revise them.  They are, after all, principally a tax on the poor, who are willing to ignore the astronomical odds against winning because of their dire straits.  Two changes:

      First would be false advertising.  In the UK, for example, a million pound lottery nets the winner a million pounds.  None of this horse manure about discounting the prize to its present value over 26 years or whatever.  The current net cash value should be the advertised value.

      Revise the tax treatment.  Do not tax the winners.  Tax each ticket sold, and require the lottery seller to pay it to the gubmint.  That raises more revenue faster, and reduces to a handful the number of taxpayers the government has to track.

  2. Anon says:

    Good list. I would add two additional suggestions the first of which is more aggressive steps to control tax shelters in Panama and other areas. This could be done in part by limiting transfers into those areas or by attacking the specific loopholes used for that such as the banking loopholes.

    The second would be eliminating the “Jobs Exception” by which wealthy shareholders borrow against their shares and then use tax exemptions to cover the debt thus making it free of taxes even capital gains taxes.

    Additionally if they wanted to achieve something and troll Trump they could also demand an end to the carried interest loophole which Trump specifically promised to end.

  3. Thomas says:

    While I applaud the policy positions stated here by EW and earl, I would like to offer a humble opinion.
    The concentration of wealth is a result of a concentration of power. While the vice versa also applies in many instances, public policy to address concentration of wealth and leave concentration of power intact will ultimately lead us back to where we are now.
    Corporate entities are functionally anti-republican quasi- governmental bodies, and this framework is fundamentally illegal and unconstitutional.
    Enforcement of corporate governance laws in the State Compact and the Delaware Law and the Model Business Act are left to inadequate mechanisms.
    The mandatory internal republican checks and balances required by corporate law are ignored or superseded by anti-republican practice in the functions of boards, the liberal abuse of multiple corporate titles, the classification of shares and stocks, legal activism to establish norms from aristocratic law, and more.
    A legal revolution is needed and the political starting point is to create a body politic of state attorneys general for the purpose of bringing corporations firmly under republican principles of governance, and to establish an effective system of receivership to enforce corporate law and the US constitution.
    States are prohibited from establishing an aristocracy. By 75 years of nonexistent enforcement of existing corporate law, they have done just that.

    • DMM says:

      YES. There can be no fundamental change in our economic system without significant changes in the political system. Indeed, that’s at the core of both classical and neo-liberalism — to obfuscate the reality of political power by casting the “guiding hand of the free market” as some natural, apolitical force, when in fact economic outcomes are structurally determined by political power by setting the relative privileges of capital vs labor, and of public goods and investment vs private.

      The first step to reforming both is to force out private money in campaigns and lobbying. Regarding campaign, there could be exceptions for fairly small, individual contributions (i.e. individuals = person persons, not corporate persons) and replace it with liberal public funding.

      Then we need to overhaul voting itself, moving to, say, ranked-choice balloting, or some other method that breaks what is essentially coercion into two parties.

      • To be continued says:

        There are pros and cons to every system and people will always still find a way to circumvent regulations. Our regulations came in to play in 2004 removing the ability for corporations and trade unions to donate to political parties and limiting the amount to individual candidates. Personal contributions are limited to $5000. In response to limiting contributions the federal government has stepped forward to provide basic support to each party and audits the spending. However, the funding favours the party who received the most votes in the previous election….

        I am sorry, but to an outsider your elections seem like such a tremendous money-making opportunity for so many people. I can only imagine there would be tremendous opposition on so many levels to changing the status quo.

  4. Kim Kaufman says:

    Fix Voting Rights Act (Section 5). Make everyone vote on it, even if McConnell will never bring it to the senate floor.

    • bmaz says:

      The “Young Turks” take on this is idiotic. They do not seem to understand that AOC is now in the House, and coordinating with Pelosi, and not still a want to be using TYT as a vehicle. AOC still has the values, but she is now playing them on a far different stage. And doing so pretty admirably.

      • Jonf says:

        This young lady has certainly impressed me. She seems open to discussion, but is unafraid to speak out what she thinks. Keep it up and in 1928, who knows.

  5. chuck says:

    Raise the 10K reporting minimum for traveling with that amount or more to match inflation changes since introduced (1970!?) Minimally bring it up to a matching amount in 2018 currency. 31 U.S. Code § 5316

    Also pair it with strict requirements around civil forfeiture at the federal level. These two things only ever seem to catch out a class well below the 1%, especially when a factor higher than the reporting minimum is flying private and on most of those passengers wrists.

  6. Anura says:

    Dems need to do what they can to prevent Republicans from destroying the world. But we cannot rely on the Democratic party for serious change, and we are going to need to look at replacing our failing institutions outside of government. The fact that our journalism is incapable of countering any propaganda tells me this is what we need to focus on fixing – but we are going to have to rethink our entire approach.

    • Trip says:

      This problem could be tied back to what @earl mentioned: monopolies. With a couple of corporate owned news orgs running the entire show, and with profit-driven motive for those at the top, what can you expect? Sinclair, Murdoch, ie, etc.

    • bmaz says:

      Bollocks. What do you mean “our journalism”? I consume copious amounts of journalism, including that at this site. To say that the profession is incapable of discerning and countering propaganda is just wrong. Frankly it is silly. But there is a lot of journalism out there that requires the consumer to know and distinguish good from bad as to quality of reportage. This has almost always been the case historically, even if it is harder to do with the internet age.

      • Anura says:

        Yes, a small minority of informed people are capable of figuring out how to sort through the bullshit. The fact that the bullshit spreads so far. That Republicans are allowed to outright lie to the population without any consequences, the fact that mainstream media treats antifascists as if they are the same as fascists, that they are fucking cowards who are afraid to not praise the president for bombing a country…

        Sorry, you only think journalism is good because the bar is so damned low because of a lack of infrastructure to actually audit the news and build portals to provide news is *proven* to be accurate and well-informed. People trust the first thing they tell them; any ability to disseminate fake news on a scale that can influence elections means journalism has failed.

        • bmaz says:

          First off, I will determine “what I think”, not you. Secondly, “infrastructure to audit the news” and “portals to provide news is “proven””?? Are you serious?

          Please go back and read the Federalist Papers and First Amendment.

        • Anura says:

          Full of shit about what? Dual Power? I didn’t invent the term:

          You seem to have it in your head that I’m proposing that the government do something; my point is that the government can’t do anything, so we have to fix problems ourselves. It’s pretty simple, you start local news organizations as consumer cooperatives, and then have those local news organizations form their own cooperative regional or specialist news agencies. They share their stories via an open license, while also taking responsibility for vetting stories and correcting any mistakes, inaccuracies, misleading opinions, and refuting inaccurate stories publicly. They act transparently with regard to these stories, and work with academics to audit the system and understand the sources of failures and how they can be corrected. Journalists that regularly get things wrong or appear to be shilling for politicians or capitalists get blacklisted, and then public has a network of journalists that they can trust, and develop a system that is resistant to both censorship and misinformation.

          I would recommend building a peer-to-peer guerrilla publishing network based off of a web of trust as a way to get the ball rolling to build up enough content to lower the cost of starting up an independent, local news agency.

        • bmaz says:

          You seem to have it in your head that I think you are a serious commenter. I do not. And I have seen every one of your 46 comments.

        • orionATL says:

          bmaz –
          anura is a troll. she is pulling our legs and loving it.
          the crap about gov and law she/he is spouting sounds similar to rtwing/lftwing sovereign citizen hocus-pocus.

          send her hack into spacewhere she belongs.

    • Lee says:

      I have a crazy idea, based in my background as a researcher in the AI subfield of natural language analysis.  I’ll just throw it out:

      What about a plank in the democratic platform to the effect that to qualify for public office, a person must have a history of honesty in his/her public statements, whatever form those statements make? One effect of the Trump era is 24/7 fact checking of many individuals and news sources.  AI could step up and fill in missing areas.  It seems within our technical grasp to rate people/sources on their trustworthiness in some empirically valid fashion, then make that score visible to the public through, say, internet browser extensions.  People who intentionally lie could be identified and scored, and democrats could apply that rule – blatant dishonesty is a disqualifier for service – to their own candidates first, claiming the high ground on this front.

      Does this idea have merit?

      I say this with some trepidation, being a longtime lurker with hefty respect for the great minds here. :)

  7. Trip says:

    Good faith efforts internationally:

    Pull the plug on the war in Yemen. You can’t be a government of for the people, by the people, ALL PEOPLE, when the very system is propped up on miles of blood and bones of the innocent. Using a proxy, as degrees of separation in arms sales, does not shield you from responsibility.

    This will never happen, but stop pretending that Netanyahu is simply acting to “allow Israel to exist”, rather than governing a completely undemocratic tyrannical apartheid regime. Stop legislation that makes it illegal to support BDS. That is FREE SPEECH.

    If we didn’t spend so much on military contracts and aid for military excursions, padding the pockets of Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, BAE Systems, et al, we might have some money for healthcare. We might also enjoy a little more peace in the world.

    We can’t embark on a collective environmental approach worldwide, without reducing incentive for ill-gotten gains. Maybe it should be a crime for any US companies to exploit fragile and integral locations of Earth’s climate regulation and survival (like the rain forest, for one example). We don’t have a lot of time.

    • Anura says:

      Over the weekend, people started organizing a general strike for next year in order to try to motivate people to take action against climate change. I’m generally skeptical about how effective these things are at bringing change directly, but it may help to get people active (I credit OWS for pushing millennials towards socialism). I think this has about as good a chance of working as anything else.

  8. Vern says:

    Another idea:  Require liability insurance to possess a firearm with an enormous fine if found without.  Let the actuaries establish risk and charge accordingly. Use the proceeds to help victims.

  9. Ken Muldrew says:

    I posted this last night but it apparently didn’t make it through moderation. It’s a bit long winded but I’m hoping it was more of a technical problem than an ideological one that triggered cancellation.

    If you’re going to dream, may as well dream big, but maybe Thomas is setting his sights a bit high. Less radical, but still extreme to most observers, would be to redefine corporate ownership and governance. Labour unions are not likely to see a resurgence under giant corporations so why not put labour back into a position of influence within the corporate structure? If those who seek limitations on their personal liability by forming a corporation wish to benefit by offloading their risk onto the state, then it is by no means unreasonable for the state to regulate the corporation (whether private or public) up to and including the imposition of who owns the corporation and who governs its actions.

    It seems kind of ridiculous to claim that invested capital is the sole asset of a corporation, yet if the investors are declared to be the sole owners, then that is exactly what is being asserted. As soon as some of that investment is used to hire employees, the people who will actually carry out the mission of the corporation, then those employees become corporate assets. And as no “person” (corporate or otherwise) owns another person, governance of those assets immediately falls upon the employees themselves. They should be considered as having ownership in the corporation and therefore entitled to participate in corporate governance. By all means render unto Caesar (i.e. cash dividends still go to those who invest capital) but reinvestment, salaries (for both employees and executives), and business strategies will be determined by a partnership of employees and executives.

    A fundamental problem arises out of the failure to understand how deeply employees are involved in the success of the organization they work for. When shareholders alone delegate a board of directors to oversee the operation of the company, the interests of those employees are left out. Because the facile picture of employees as economic agents with no loyalty is so common, the employees are not given a role to play in the governance of the company. Yet they have an enormous stake in the success of the company; not so much to create dividends for the stockholders, but to make their lives worthwhile by participating in a venture that impacts society. The very ties that build employee loyalty toward the organization, the social structure that they fit into, are also the keys to recognizing that the interests of the employees are aligned with the interests of the stockholders. For the success of the organization is what guarantees continuing returns on the investment made by the stockholders (I leave aside the reprehensible trend of corporate boards to consider their companies as merely providing leverage for the development of financial instruments, though there is much to be said on this matter). In addition, the employees are intimately knowledgeable about the workings of the company in a way that remote stockholders can never be.

    It is long past time to recognize that humans are much more complex than mere selfish agents of rational expectation. We are social beings by nature, and with the vast interdependence of modern society, we are also social beings by necessity. We need to understand ourselves better so that we can make our institutions work better. Money is solely a token of exchange; it is not a thing. It cannot be exchanged for social interaction, yet that social interaction is as basic a human need as food and shelter. When money is exchanged for basic human needs, it is an exchange of necessity, often an exchange that reduces one’s time on earth. This is a very different sort of exchange than concerned with the investment of capital. Utterly different.

    Hang the rich…

  10. flatulus says:

    Establish Public Banks for all states and municipalities.

    Let’s stop “borrowing” from the wealthy and start taxing them equitably.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Adding a simple Post Office savings bank would do it.  The infrastructure is largely in place in every community.  Simple low-cost checking and savings accounts designed for a handful of transactions per person per month.  No loans or credit cards.

      Successful versions still operate in Europe, begun in the days when there were no alternatives, given that traditional banks refused to do business with hoi polloi.  Neoliberals, bent on shutting down the P.O. and privatizing its real estate, would object.  TFB.

      On that note, banks should be barred from the student loan “industry.”  The USG-guaranteed loans are virtually risk-free and amount to a taxpayer subsidy to banks, while adding considerable misery to the lives of student borrowers and their parents.

      The Feds – the P.O.? – could issue the loans via check to student borrowers, or jointly to public and private not-for-profit colleges and university.  No reason to extend the taxpayer subsidy to the wasteful for-profit school industry.

      Student costs would plummet.  Make the loans dischargeable in bankruptcy after a minimum period of repayment.  That would correct a major abuse.  Tie that with rescinding the abuse also known as the No Creditor Left Behind Bankruptcy “Reform” Act of 2005.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Yes, and Germany, too.  Banks keep trying to stop this competition by claiming that it’s unnecessary, not an “appropriate” governmental function (to a neoliberal), and an opportunity cost to them. It’s also anathema to neoliberals who want to do away with post offices entirely.

        In fact, these post offices offer an essential, low-cost service for those with the least ability to pay for high-priced High Street banking alternatives.  It also helps their customers avoid being turned into sheep, the better for those banks to shear them with high fees, mystery charges, poor IT security, and abusive lending practices.

  11. Trip says:

    Establishing/Maintaining Individual Rights To Personal Data

    David Carroll@profcarroll
    It’s hard to grasp that these English data protection laws were drafted in 1998 imagining worst case scenarios then. They did an amazing job of foreseeing what rights might need to be intrinsic to democracy now. Many other countries are also enlightened. The USA is not. Y E T

    Never Broadcast in the USA: Listen carefully to @jamiejbartlett from BBC interview Alexander Nix. He admits data from the Cruz campaign carried over into the Trump campaign. Did illicit Facebook data from GSR carry over into Cruz campaign? We’re fighting to find out.

    Folks, this ICO report minutiae is where NYT sources its buried lede in this recent FTC consent decree story.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The US Congress and its corporate patrons – who make unseen tens of billions a year from abusing commercializing private data (its the foundation of new tech) – worked bloody hard to prevent an EU-style data protection regime from being adopted in the US.  It’s the only large industrialized country, East or West, to have rejected such privacy protections.

      Would Google and Facebook even exist had they to comply with something like the GDPR from the get go?

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Speaking of Google, its promises regarding data privacy are thin air:

        “Google ‘betrays patient trust'” by folding its UK health data subsidiary into its parent company.  The move appears intended to connect patient health data with Google accounts and services data. That Google might vigorously deny the obvious should be regarded as highly as a promise from Donald Trump.

        What could possibly go wrong?

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Regarding Google’s promises to protect patient health data (from the article cited above, link removed):

        “The restructure has also resulted in the termination of the [use of health data] review board, which was largely staffed by British experts. The DeepMind spokesperson said: “The independent reviewers panel was a governance structure for DeepMind Health as a UK entity. Now Streams is going to [be] part of a global effort this is unlikely to be the right structure in future.”

        Would any process intended vigorously to safeguard patient health data be “the right structure”?  Perhaps not when Google transparently intends to go global with this particular model and revenue stream.

        Lord Acton’s view remains correct:

        Absolute power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.

        • Trip says:

          The Great men are almost always bad men falls under the same thought as “Behind every great fortune there is a great crime”. I’m not sure it is always such in the strictly legal sense, but you can’t have gotten up the ladder with so much excess, without stepping on, over or disregarding others on lower rungs or at the bottom of the ladder.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          These sorts of simplifications would benefit those fond of “meritocracy,” who are generally those bright and well enough off to game the system through private tutoring, unpaid internships, legacy admissions to private colleges, and so on.

          Reducing inequality would place more emphasis on personal attributes rather than family wealth and connections.  That is one of the goals of meritocracy, isn’t it?  And it might save the US, the real state business, and the money laundering world from another Donald Trump.

          Taxing estates as ordinary income might upset the Waltons and Kochs, for example, but it might encourage them to imitate Andrew Carnegie rather than Caligula.  It might also encourage them not to wait for retirement, when the evil has all been done to gain those the riches, a few of which are disbursed through charities to pay for that boat trip across the River Styx.

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The Feds are still waging their war against cannabis.  And they’re going for the gut.  Buyers of medical cannabis – which the Feds still consider a crime despite widespread state-level approval for both its medical and recreational use – will not be able to buy a gun through a licensed gun dealer.

    That will hit rural states hardest.  It’s also a nice divide-and-conquer technique, associating in the public mind DFHs (who are really the only ones who would use cannabis), with the inability to legally buy a gun.  No word yet on the guns already in the hands of these users before they started using medical cannabis, and no word on when members of AA will be barred from gun use or ownership.

    One more culture war battle for the next Congress.  Resolution is likely to await the next president and the Senate becoming Democratic.  The government resources devoured in this failed race and class war on cannabis would pay for a lot of things the government claims it cannot afford.  But then, so would reimposing the inheritance tax, and upping the paltry percentage of tax revenue contributed by the true heroes in America: its corporations.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        A much more likely concern.  Pot smokers get hungry, drunks tend to get angry.  Besides, medical cannabis users are often suffering from debilitating pain and other problems that make gun use less likely.

        I think the Feds are pinning their hopes on the logic that they still consider cannabis use of any kind illegal, will studiously ignore the different effects of using cannabis v. abusing alcohol.

        But on that propensity for drunks to get angry, I would call that a public health concern in a country with as many guns as the rest of the world combined.  But it’s not one the current administration will admit, let alone act on.

      • Jockobadger says:


        I’m not a pot-smoker either, but I am a citizen of Washington State, home of legal medical and recreational marijuana and boodles of tax dollars from Idaho and Montana (it’s a fairly short drive.)  Now if we could just direct all that $ into something truly useful instead of the general fund.

  13. Gordon says:

    These are good ideas to claw back some of the exorbitant gifts to the donor class. But then do what with it, exactly.

    How about writing and passing legislation that directly and specifically benefits younger, poorer, and/or not-white potential voters? And then send it to the Senate. If the Senate doesn’t pass it, or it gets vetoed, run on it in 2020.

    Keep it front and center, eg, “when this law gets passed, you (specific group) will immediately get this specific benefit, but Sen. Pendejo, your senator, who is up for election, refuses to vote for it. He thinks it’s safe to do that, because half of you aren’t even registered to vote. What are you going to do about that?”

  14. Thomas Paine says:

    I like all of it but the treatment of Corporate Income Taxes and Capital Gains.  When Obama looked at this issue during his tenure, a Corporate Income Tax of about 26% made the US competitive with the rest of the world.  That rate change must, however, be coupled to strict limits on write-offs with the exception of the R&D tax credit.

    To balance the revenue loss from going from 35% to 26% on corporate taxes, I would do two things. First treat the first $100K in individual capital gains as they are today with a capital gains tax rate of 15-20%.  Every capital gain above $100K is taxed as ordinary income.  Second, trade the Estate Tax for NO RESET to the BASIS for INHERITED capital (such as stock, bonds, real property, etc.) in taxable capital gain calculations.  ANY “conversion” of such assets by the inheritor results in a taxable event.  That takes an issue away from the GOP and will ultimately generate more revenue.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Simpler to tax all income at the same rate without exception.  Just reinstitute the estate tax and treat receipts as ordinary income to the beneficiary or heir.  Provide for an optional ten-year pay-out to the Treasury, with a low simple interest charge.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Exempt a relatively low portion of various gains from tax, if you like.  But get rid of the notion of a lower preferential rate for “capital gains” and dividends, as if those were things of special value to society and for the economy rather than special pleading by the wealthy and the lucky.

  15. bmaz says:

    Is that basically a flat tax? I am kind of in favor of that provided that those who make way more than me really pay it. Which, I suppose, is why it will never happen.

    I think, however, your real point is that all incomes – investment, real estate, etc – should be taxed as, well, normal income. That would be a real start.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      That’s the idea.  Principle first, then tinker with the rates to yield the desired income.  What income is needed depends on what you intend to do with it.

      My analogy is Scandinavia.  Tax rates might seem high, but are they when measured against what the average taxpayer receives in exchange: free universal health care, infrastructure, tuition-free education, and the like.

  16. Anura says:


    I’ve seen enough of yours to notice you get combative and completely shut down every single time someone says something you don’t agree with, and then start to accuse them of being trolls. It might be an effective way to keep the trolls out, but you remind me of the cops who harass kids at skate parks because they might be delinquents.

  17. Ed Walker says:

    There are a lot of good ideas here, and I hope the House takes them up.

    I think the goal of the House Democrats should be to cause near-term problems for the Republicans, especially Senate Rs. Of course we should consider a broad number of changes to the tax code in the long run, but in the short run, the suggestions I made are directed at what people hate about the tax bill. Everyone agrees it is tilted to the rich and powerful. My idea is to put together a set of changes that tilt it towards the lowest three quartiles, and to focus on direct action. That is why I suggest the checks with the letters, and a huge number of the young and energetic members talking it up in the media, and whereever they can get a forum. We are on your side. We are not Clintonites with 12 point programs, we do things up front and talk about them and why they help you cope.

    The point of the investigations is similar. There won’t be an impeachment unless it is led by Republicans. So tie that sleazy administration around their necks, point out the failures and corruption, and make them own it. Don’t bother trying to fix everything right now because that won’t happen with the Senate in the hands of the overtly corrupt. Destroy the Republican brand.

  18. Thomas says:

    While I agree with much of the above ideas in the comments about progressive taxation, no one seems to grasp what I proposed in my first comment.
    Do people who accumulate billions do the work necessary to accumulate it? They don’t.
    The blame must be placed in allowing individuals or families or small groups to wield power granted to them by the state, through a corporate charter. There is really no such thing as a “private corporation.”
    Corporate law demands that corporate entities be governed by internal republican checks and balances, but this legal and constitutional order is not enforced. Instead, corporate executives behave and act like aristocrats, assuming government authority, within the corporation, as their “personal property.”
    This is the mechanism that permits them to distribute income and wealth in an absurdly inequitable way.
    There have grown up abuses that are considered normal practice, like multiple corporate titles, or political disenfranchisement of shareholders, or corrupt boards.
    I am not a socialist. I do believe that free market capitalism would be a good economic system, if it were practiced! Likewise meritocracy.
    Corporate law leaves enforcement of the governing principles to state attorneys general. The only way that mechanism can possibly be used is if the state attorneys general acted as a body politic with the express purpose of enforcing republican law, abolishing aristocratic precedent and actively reorganizing corporations that are noncompliant through receivership.
    That is why I say the first step of this legal revolution must be political organization targeting state attorneys general in every state.
    That is the aim, but political stakeholders must be persuaded. Lawyers. Universities. Local politicians. Unions. And other groups who could be persuaded of the constitutional argument. Perhaps veterans. Police organizations.

    • Trip says:

      That’s not enough. “Free Market” and meritocracy might have applied if everyone started at 0, and all races, every ethnicity, all genders, etc were considered equal. And that everyone would have agreed upon what exactly merit is to begin with.

      • Anura says:

        I don’t think even that is true. The theories that justify free market capitalism make assumptions which are not only not in evidence, but which the evidence is explicitly against: that individuals behave in a transnational manner, that individuals rationally assess utility, that individuals have sufficient information to judge the utility of a good or service, and that it is possible to have enough competition across all markets to be considered a free market (i.e. no natural oligopolies).

    • Lee says:

      The rich didn’t create the markets that made them rich.  Many add nothing of value at all to either the market or this world as a whole; they are parasites.   I believe that the principle of paying into the system and receiving back from it in a manner proportional to the value you create is a matter of simple justice.

      At the same time, I view a social safety net wherein those who can’t put in are not left entirely to their own devices, as a feature of the social contract that should exist among us.  We are all just a step or two away from some debilitating illness or financial failure, and the idea of paying a small insurance premium for the benefit of all is completely consistent with the function of government as an institution for promoting the common good.

  19. Jonf says:

    Wow! We have plenty of suggestions. I have only a few. First I would much like to see Medicare for all. I think many of the young people ran on this and I saw recently that it has a 70% favorable rating. Now may be the best time to get what everyone seems to think is a human right and join the rest of the world.

    We have been treated to another spectacle of voting right fiascos like in Florida and Georgia. We should fix it once and for all. It too is very popular and certainly among those who were harmed by the way some interpret their rights. Let’s also fix the prison restrictions while we are at it.

    If we want working people to support the party, they need a reason. I suggest these, a job guarantee that will end unemployment forever, $15 an hour and free college. Perhaps even debt forgiveness for some.

    You can easily add to this. I am not personally invested in increasing taxes although that could be a follow on to these ideas. I like the idea of higher inheritance taxes and even lower corporate taxes to 15%. Corporations get deductions for high executive salaries and boondoggles, etc. End it all with lower taxes.

    I saw the House is planning 85 investigations into Trump. I hope that is in jest, bc otherwise we run the risk of backlash. No problem investigating President Bone Spurs but within reason. I suspect if Mueller has the goods on him we will know it soon anyway. We have the chance to show what we can do for the people even if the senate does not take it up. Do a good job there. And keep it at a level everyone can understand it.

    • Ed Walker says:

      As I say in the text, investigations should focus on oversight, and should not be explicitly directed at Trump. The goal should be to expose corruption and failure to comply with congressional intent.

  20. flachbau says:

    All well, but to win dems must understand and react with similar conviction to, when trump says “war”, he means it and to respond otherwise is to fail the rest of the dream. His a battle of wills not intellect. And trump will freely abuse his power to win at all costs. While trump may not read he surely watches movies and his hero is certainly Patton and his motto is surely from a movie “I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country.” Sadly this is the shore on which we have landed.

  21. Bruce Olsen says:

    Eliminate the corporate income tax (except possibly for a heavy tax on retained earnings above some revenue threshold, to induce corporations to distribute profit to shareholders). Instead, tax profit as it passes to shareholders (including anyone who receives stock). Eliminate health care and pensions as employee benefits, and transfer everyone to universal Medicare and Social Security systems. Eliminate payroll taxes, which aren’t actually used to fund for Social Security or Medicare anyway.

    With no taxation or employee costs (other than salary), all justification for corporate political activity disappears. So eliminate entirely all notions of a corporate persona (except as a financial liability shield). No corporate political “speech” or contributions. Allow lobbying only via membership in industry organizations, and only for environmental and safety issues (or to advance the interests of the industry, with some kind of transparency mandated).

  22. cd54 says:

    Same comment, new thread:

    The purest future for our American representative governance is to remove or defenestrate the influence of moneyed interests on our governmental processes. That means TAXING (and pre-clearing with the IRS) any political contribution above $100.00 per person per election cycle, whether direct, indirect, bundled (bundled = single contribution), self-financed, or other, at a % rate in the 1,000’s (VAT) and TAXING all governmental lobbying expenses at a rate of 500%? 1000%? for any for-profit individual/business/corporate interest. In addition, any political contributions which are unexpended and controlled by any candidate should be TAXED at a rate of 75% per annum.

    GOPers rely on big pockets. The deplorables will not pony up — see Turtle’s comments re: ActBlue.

  23. orionATL says:

    something is missing here.

    perhaps not surprisingly, concern about and policy recommendations for the nation’s overwhelming worry about medical costs and medical insurance exclusions like pre-existing condition and high-copay clauses is missing from ed walker’s “first steps toward change” post.

    instead we get a laundry list of tax and economic incentives. one could have hoped that walker had actually absorbed bruce scott’s message that what appear to be economic problems are in fact political problems, but walker merely quotes scott and remounts his economic reforms hobby horse. they are all doubtless fine suggestions by the way – very thoughtful.

    it is this medical care issue and determined, high-quality GOTV efforts that allowed ~20 democrats to win in congressional districts that were republican long held by republicans, including dana rohrbacher and darrell issa :)). it is this issue that was used by every democratic candidate, including the “my revolution’s” new mascot. it was this issue that centrist, neoliberal democratic stategists felt would be the best approach in 2018 (as opposed to the more visceral one of attacking the president). it is this issue that attracted independent and republican votes (probably centrist and neoliberal) as well as the votes of tens of millions of centrist, neoliberal democratic voters.

    only a few commenters noted the issues regarding medical care and none actually criticized its abscence. that is not impressive posting or commentary for what was the marquee concern of voters in 2018, the concern, along with background contempt for our president’s unacceptable behavior, that cost the republicans control of the house of representatives.

    • orionATL says:

      first, deal with the republican frontal and stealth attacks (in the states) on the affordable care act, and then the republican refusal toextend medicare to more states (i can almost guarantee senate republicans (and some state republicans) will be happy to oblige when asked to cooperate this time).

      that task completed, if i were hoping to educate rather than merely use the energy of younger”, newer members, i think that, in addition to encouraging them to learn from nancy pelodi, i would send them over to the senate to talk with the experienced senator elizabeth warren about her recent bill to change american corporations’ onligation to their society. there is a self-evident need to change, by law, the mandated charge of each american corporate entity from “creating value for shareholders” (first dreamed up in the ’70’s) to serving the needs of the society in which they are embedded and which allows them to thrive.

      as long as we are chafting about house investigations, the federalist society, judicial watch, the nra,and any white house direction-connection with rightwing internet intimidation mobs would be fruitful targets.

      eccentric though it seems, i would also encourage legislation to create strong whistleblower protection from both corporate and government is possible that nothing will boost the rate of demand for change in this society like insider stories about what is going on in large organizations – from calculated evil, to self-centeredness obliviousness, to intentional good.

    • orionATL says:

      all of this above misses the fact that the greatest positive change in american government in our lives has just happened – over 100 women are now elected representatives to the u.s. house. it is hard to overestimate the change this circumstance will bring to legislation.

      many of those who worked to get those women elected were women themselves who canvassed thru “turf” assignments in apartment and condo complexes and single-family neighborhoods using complex apps to track their progress.who organized meet and greets.who contributed substantial money as well as time. who registered voters and handed out little cards to educate and encoraged others to register in offices, common rooms, waiting rooms, and elevators.

      women who marched in washington and all over this country on the day after president trump was inaugureted and who came home and kept on matching until late 2018 when they had handed president trump the come-uppance that no media source, no star personality, no academic or think tank could manage to deliver.

      and you know what? NEVER ONCE in all the time i observed this quiet revolution did i hear any of these determined, hard-working political elves, many older women with a lifetime of professional work at high levels in organizations, utter the pejoratives “neoliberal” or “centrist” or “progressive”. they just worked thru dissappointments and differences and kept on marching.

    • Ed Walker says:

      A. I think Pelosi should be elected Speaker. She is tough and competent and might even do some of what i think should be done.

      B. This is a list of doable things that I hope will strangle the Rs. The House can and will fight off any attempt to weaken the ACA legislatively, but can do nothing about regulatory change except investigate and force the data into the public light.

      So maybe you could explain what legislation the House could pass on health care that would pass the Senate.

      • orionATL says:

        ed walker writes:

        “B. This is a list of doable things that I hope will strangle the Rs. The House can and will fight off any attempt to weaken the ACA legislatively, but can do nothing about regulatory change except investigate and force the data into the public light.
        So maybe you could explain what legislation the House could pass on health care that would pass the Senate…”

        as you may know the affordable care act has been seriously weakened by executive action; the game now is to let the states administer the coupe de grace thru hhs rules. in particular the “no pre-existing condition” and insurance standards are being left up to states.

        i feel no more obligation to list things that will pass the senate than you felt. i am as eager at least as you to give the senate and the r. party plenty to balk on. and plenty to quarrel with the oaf-in-office and stephen miller about :) . if the supreme court is called in as fireman, so much the better. americans citizens need to wake up to what they permitted to happen in 2018 (and beyond) by their lackadaisical attitude toward their political duties in 2016 (though the covert russian trump collusion deserves some credit for the final vote total).

        but i am betting that in getting their ass kicked from upstate new york to southern cal on the issue of healthcare, republican leaders like mcconnell will suddenly shed their mulish behavior of the last 10 years. that behavior cost them control of congress. mcconnel has already started mouthing bipartisanship.

        in particular a congressional law on pre-existing, insurance standards re co-pays, emergency room care, pregancy screening, insurance policy minimum standards might be doable.

        put money back in chip (children’s heatlhcare),  and encourage or force expansion of medicaid on recalcitrant states on the basis of both rural health needs basis and support of many dead and dying rural hospitals on economic basis (important for employment as well as health).

        if the senate proves recalcitrant, than that is fodder for fall of 2020. however, if mcconnell is halfway smart, not just sly, he will want to get healthcare completely off the table before fall 2020 to protect his senators up for election.

        since voters made healthcare their overwhelming concern i felt it was important to emphasize that it should receive priority over all other legislative action.

        of course the house is a very large organization with lots of committees and subcommittees and over a thousand votes a year. many legislative activities and duties can proceed simultaneouly, but i feel the american people will not react kindly to a dem-controlled house that is a laggard on healthcare. in particular, a large number of the dem gains were in republican areas and on this very issue. i can guess those new reps will be keen to see something substantive be done by the house whether the senate cooperates or not.

        thanks for asking.

        • orionATL says:

          i should not leave a major concern of mine merely implied, though i have expressed it elsewhere. i am very concerned that the well-deserved animus toward president trump that i see expressed here and express myself, is simply not widely shared with great intensity in the general populace. undoubtly, large numbers of educated women despise the man. many people are clearly fed up with this embarassing, immature oaf of a president, but when i talk to them they clearly do not feel the anger i do and seem reluctant to do more than nod at some particularly egregious behavior like the veteran’s day matter in france. in fact, i doubt many of the things we discuss here and assume for granted are that widely known. you’d have to be a reader of emptywheel to find them out :).

          under this scenario, pursuing trump as first priority would be a political misjudgment. on the other hand, protecting the office of special counsel would be a high priority activity with, one hopes, considerable political value,

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