Old Howard Union

66 – Monopolistic and Predatory: When the Concertration of Wealth Becomes A National Security Concern.

 

Show Notes

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  1. After the Bailouts, Will Taxes Go Up? https://nyti.ms/2WB5jcE
• Mr. Fink predicted more bankruptcies and higher taxes on a call with clients of a wealth advisory firm. He sees the U.S. corporate tax rate going to as high as 29 percent next year, from 21 percent now, to help pay for government rescue efforts. (He expects the individual rate to rise as well.) He thinks many companies will reopen with only half of their staff at the office, which could
• Small businesses fear that their rescue loans might not be forgiven, The Times’s Alan Rappeport and Emily Flitter report. Borrowers took the money “assuming that it would be a grant, but it’s not,” said a banking lobbyist.
• The Federal Communications Commission fined Sinclair Broadcasting a record $48 million yesterday. The penalty stems from Sinclair’s thwarted attempt to buy Tribune Media, a rival local TV station operator.
• Sinclair bid $3.9 billion for Tribune in 2017 to create a local-TV colossus with 215 stations across the country. It would have given Sinclair, known for its conservative leanings, a way to challenge Fox News.
2. Bernie Sanders: The Foundations of American Society Are Failing Us https://nyti.ms/3bm6u5D
• wealth inequality, that reality means little to half of our people who live paycheck to paycheck, the 40 million living in poverty, the 87 million who are uninsured or underinsured, and the half million who are homeless.
• As tens of millions of Americans are losing their jobs and incomes as a result of the pandemic, many of them are also losing their health insurance.
3. A Wealth Tax Is the Logical Way to Support Coronavirus Relief https://nyti.ms/2yxqpjw
• Congress has already enacted three bipartisan relief packages, including the Cares Act, that collectively provide roughly $2 trillion in pandemic aid. Further assistance is hopefully on the way. These are necessary but enormous public expenses. To put them in perspective, the stimulus package enacted in the shadow of the Great Recession was $831 billion, while recent annual federal budget deficits average about $700 billion.
• But borrowing will in the end burden the young, who — already worse off than their parents’ generation — are now suffering their second economic calamity in a decade. Instead, the relief effort should be funded through a one-time wealth tax imposed on the richest Americans, whose wealth has exploded alongside rising inequality.
• The wealthiest 5 percent of American families now hold $57 trillion, or two-thirds of all household wealth in the country (up from about half in 1960). An exemption for the first $2.5 million of household wealth would exclude the bottom 95 percent from paying any tax at all and leave the top 5 percent with total taxable wealth of roughly $40 trillion. A 5 percent tax on the richest 5 percent of households could thus raise up to $2 trillion.
• The initial stock-market bump triggered by the Cares Act’s passage added more than $4 trillion to the value of equities in the United States, and the richest 10 percent of households, holding 84 percent of American-owned stocks, benefited from this bump to the tune of roughly $2 trillion.
• The Sanders and Warren programs hold appeal, especially for progressives, but they also face challenges. The focus on extreme wealth reduces the tax base and therefore the revenue raised — while the top 5 percent hold two-thirds of the wealth, the top 0.1 percent hold roughly one-sixth.
4. We Need Amazon During the Coronavirus. That’s a Problem. https://nyti.ms/2Jv0Wtu
• During the pandemic, reliable delivery of essentials like milk, eggs, toilet paper and cleaning supplies has been a lifeline for those who are reluctant or unable to venture outside their homes — Amazon-branded trucks have remained a familiar sight in residential neighborhoods. The competitive advantages of Amazon’s meticulously constructed worldwide logistics network, built to shuttle nearly every imaginable item to customers in as little as an hour, are especially evident in this crisis.
• At Amazon, white-collar employees were sent home while the company’s army of pickers and packers have had to brave outbreaks in at least 21 facilities. Some 1,500 Amazon employees signed a petition this month seeking workplace improvements in the face of Covid-19. And attorneys general in 14 states and the District of Columbia sent a letter to Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, urging him to loosen its sick leave policy.A few workers at a Staten Island Amazon warehouse walked off the job Monday in protest, after one employee tested positive for coronavirus, prompting Amazon to fire one of the organizers. New York State’s attorney general said Monday she was investigating the dismissal. Others were planning to skip work at the company’s Whole Foods grocery stores Tuesday over its sick leave policies.
• Consumers may be at a disadvantage, too. Because Amazon relies on smaller sellers for the majority of sales, price gouging remains a problem. And while prioritizing storage and delivery of products it deems “essential” during the pandemic — such as “household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products” — Amazon has also appeared to include its own branded devices in the “essential” category.
• Even in less frantic times, Amazon has been criticized for its workplace culture and its heavy-handed tactics with sellers. Last year, The Wall Street Journal contended that Amazon may be losing control of its own marketplace, allowing dangerous counterfeits to appear on its virtual shelves that would never pass muster at traditional retailers. Both Walmart and Amazon have quashed unionization efforts.

Transcript

Writing

Piece 61 – A Responsible, Progressive Agenda For The Here & Now By. Raimondo Graziano

A Responsible, Progressive Agenda For The Here & Now

By. Raimondo Graziano

         The American People are hurting. The current crisis aside, there are numerous challenges facing the people of this country from the costs of healthcare, to childcare and simply putting food on the table. The American People are in great need of a revival of their potential and of their capacity to both believe in themselves and act upon that belief. The vast majority of the people of this country are not seeking a fundamental revolution of our culture and ways and means of doing things. What they are concerned with is their potential, and their ability or lack thereof to provide a better future for their children. I am not saying that radical reforms are not needed, I am saying that how we get there will not be through ideological, political hardball. How we get there will be through pragmatism, through recognizing beliefs that differ from our own. By coming together to put aside differences and work for the needs of the American people. We in this country have allowed everything to become politicized; from governance, to the news, the media, and even the minute details of everyday life. People will always have their differences. Understanding and working with one another does not mean that, well, we must accept as well, ideas of hate and discrimination – No.

     Pragmatism does not mean capitulation. Compromise does not mean a surrendering of one’s ideals. It is the bedrock principle of a statesmen. One political party, whether it be Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, does not hold a monopoly on the truth or morality. However, we as a country must put an end to the idea that Progressivism is the sole property of the most liberal wing of the Democratic party. Lets look at that word, progressive. The definition is as follows; “happening or developing gradually or in stages; proceeding step by step.” What does it mean? Continuing, continuous, increasing, growing, developing, ongoing, intensifying, accelerating, escalating, gradual, step by step, cumulative. Such is the very course of history. The story of progress. We are all progressives, striving for a better and more prosperous tomorrow. Whether or not you are Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, we are all striving to progress our aims and agendas because we believe that our version of progress is the right and true path.

     Our problem is this – we often have a child’s mentality. No one has told the vast majority of adults in the proverbial room that not getting your way, is in fact, not the end of the world. Learning to live with loss is the characteristic of a rational adult. Stomping your foot on the ground and admonishing others because you feel that the world is not conforming to your own narrow worldview – whatever the idea – is a prime characteristic of a selfish child. Learning to bring together ideas and compromise on your proposals and thoughts for the greater good, not to satisfy yourself or the cries of those who share your beliefs alone, are the signs of a statesmen. The signs of a person who thinks not of their own people, but who thinks and acts for all. We can have a progressive agenda for the American people. One that cares for the American worker; from the East to the West Coast, from the Rust Belt to the South and from the warehouse worker to the postal worker. We can have an agenda which progresses the nation forward, boldly, into the 21st century, while bringing together any idea whose aim is to benefit the American people. If the policy is good for people, then it is good for the country. We need not accept this era of the supremacy of a singular idea that trumps all, we can resoundingly reject this politics of division and exclusion. We can bring about progress and allow the supremacy of this country’s’ ideals, and its people dictate the agenda – not the media and not political parties or the establishment. There is a way forward, a responsible embrace of progress for the people.

Writing

Piece 59 – In Defense of Bail Reform By. Raimondo Graziano

In Defense of Bail Reform

By. Raimondo Graziano

 

There is a deep history of systemic racism and deliberate incarceration pointed at predominantly black and brown communities, people of color and in some of the most historically marginalized communities across the United States. It is something that is deeply ingrained in American culture and finds its sordid roots in the very founding of the nation, in that fateful deliberate choice to allow the birth of a new nation under the oppression that is the institution of slavery. In that moment, the moment we stand at today, was forged. A nation conceived with the ideals of liberty and justice for all founded upon a foundation whose core pillar which would last for nearly a hundred years after its founding, denied that very ideal to a large portion of the population, thus sowing the continuance of the plague of racism that still deeply grips this country. In our failure to leave slavery in the past with the founding of our country we set the stage for generational poverty, income inequality between whites and blacks, and the perpetuating of racism and discrimination.

This plight did not end either with the emancipation proclamation, or the 13th or 14th Amendment. Racists in government, whose very thinking is antithetical to the god they often defer to, crafted devious methods and means to deny people their rights long after the end of slavery. These empty husks of humanity, parading as human beings, found ways of stifling communities who never had the chance to build wealth and foundations here uninhibited by a system meant to keep them in the mud – from suppressing votes, to housing and labor discrimination and the stain of segregation which lasted well into the 20th century, and in some cases still to this day – racists hell bent on the belief that one race is superior to another, that one race has divine favor while the other is lesser have imbedded themselves in American society and pushed an agenda diametrically opposed to the ideals that this nation was founded on. Though perhaps the greatest sin of all, is denying a free man his freedom through targeted and systemic enforcement of laws built to suppress the black and brown communities of this country through mass incarceration.

Righting the wrongs of our past will take time, and in many cases will take measures that some may deem extreme, the circumstances under which these problems first arose where in essence extreme, inhumane, brutal, and demand rectification. The United States has the largest incarcerated population of any nation in the entire world – land of the free? When a quarter of the worlds prison population rests in the supposed seat of the steward of democracy, we indeed have a problem. For decades now, black and brown communities have been disproportionately targeted for crimes solely based on the color of their skin. Studies have shown that blacks and whites commit crimes at the same rate, then why is that the large majority of the prison population is black men? Many rotting in a jail cell for minor possession charges, and facing insurmountable odds upon being reingratiated in society – if they ever manage to get out.

With polices such as mandatory minimums, coupled with a discriminatory attitude in police forces we have condemned a generation of black and brown individuals to languish away in jail, sons without their mothers, daughters without their fathers, families torn and teared apart – a deep moral scar on the very face of this country. In order for us to right these wrongs bold action must be taken, we must work to stem the tide of continued incarceration through measures that may be unpopular, but that are necessary. The problem we have created must be rectified, and if some may view them as extreme than they fail to see the severity of the situation. Not only are we trying to end mass incarceration, but we have to account for those imprisoned already. It is as if a one man or woman is holding two walls of inequity at arm’s length from crushing and suffocating him or her, and that man or woman is named liberty. The Bail Reforms enacted in New York State are a necessary first step towards righting the wrongs of our morally degenerative epoch in this country, we should not overturn them, we should work to ensure they are enforced effectively and to the benefit of all people, especially those most affected by the racism that persists here, and all across this nation.

Old Howard Union

58 – Foreign Policy & the American People

There is a great lack of understanding regarding the nuances in the making of foreign policy in the United States and our lack of understanding of it, contributed greatly to the internal undermining of American leadership.

Writing

Piece 55 – Weep for the Nation by. Raimondo Graziano

Weep for the Nation
By. Raimondo Graziano

This Monday that just passed, November the 11th 2019, was Veterans Day, for anyone who may not have been aware. It is a day where we honor all veterans of the United States Armed Forces. It is also a day to thank current service members for the important work they do of defending our nation’s shores. Regardless of how anyone may feel about the reasoning behind this country’s military engagements, disparaging those that serve is the lowest, basest most unpatriotic act a citizen not in uniform, not entrenched both figuratively literally on the front lines of honor and duty can commit – treason being the second. There are certain themes within the American body politic that are common to all Americans that go far above partisan divides. Ideals, ideas and a vision that is uniquely American and one that unites us all – whether we choose to see this for what it is or reject it; these ideals are The American Ideals.

We are at a point in our history where as nation we are harshly divided along partisan lines and I often contemplate if not for the rigid social structures and norm that prevail today, would the country have already plunged into desperate and tragic Civil War. Perhaps we have too much lose, or we are too dependent on one another for our continued struggle for survival in an increasingly unequal, inequitable world. Perhaps our reluctant codependency is what has stopped the rifles from unloading. Absent of armed civil strife, one can say confidently the divides along party are tearing this country apart and are seeping into all aspects of American life – from the media, to the companies of the nation, from the White House to the dinner table of your average American family. Perhaps most dangerously are the divides we are begining to see deepen within the Armed forces. Of those both currently serving and those who are the veterans of the country. There are concerted attacks on American institutions such as the courts, the rule of law, and the legislatures by partisan hacks on the domestic front and rogue actors who wish to seek American descend into chaos. The politicization of the historical apolitical institutions which govern the lands norms and customs is a threat to our democracy and to our tenuous unity. The politicization of the Armed forces however – is downright dangerous and could jeopardize the national security of the country, and threaten the stability of the entire globe.

I read a piece recently from the New York Times about division in the country and specifically it spoke of the Presidents recent speech on the 100th New York City Veterans Day parade. The tension was palpable in the crowd of supporters and detractors alike.

Here is an excerpt from the article for context – “Thirty minutes later, as our group waited to enter the parade on 24th Street, I watched a man who said he was a Desert Storm veteran confront two women holding anti-Trump signs. He called them libtards and ungrateful. The women didn’t back down. A man wearing a Vietnam veteran shirt stepped forward to intervene.

“They’re patriots,” he said. “And I agree with them.”

The Desert Storm veteran looked at the other’s shirt. “Where’s your honor?” he asked.

“Honor’s what brought me here today,” the older man said. Then he held up his own anti-Trump sign.

“Same,” said the other man. Then they just kind of stared at each other for a few seconds before turning away.

As we marched up Fifth Avenue, ciphers and proxies for a republic as divided as we are about our elected leader, I thought a lot about those men and about honor, too. I should’ve said something, I thought, to bring them together. It was Veterans Day, after all.”

Truly heartbreaking when one begins to think deeply of how divisive the political climate is today on all fronts. The days ahead for the nation are going to be tried, we are grappling with who and what we want to be. I recall the President speaking briefly on Armistice Day, the name which Veterans Day was prior. Armistice Day was the day when the warring powers of the First World War, then the Great War, laid down their arms to discuss terms of peace. Perhaps this country needs a revival of Armistice Day. When we as a divided people lay down our and end our war of words against one another, end the acts of violence against those of the opposing the side, and sit down and discuss terms of peace to heal this broken country. For if we do not, one should surely weep for the nation, for the Republic.