Friday, August 15, 2008

Race to the Bottom

Campaign for America's Future reports:


BUSINESS - RACE TO THE BOTTOM CONTINUES AS CHINA WAGES RISE

Fortune magazine reports that with China's wages and environmental standards gradually rise, corporations are now looking to move their outsourcing operations to countries where conditions are even more desperate. "China's actions to strengthen its environmental and worker protections are unquestionably good moves for the country, its people, and the global economy," writes the magazine. "But for outsourcers focused on rock-bottom production prices, the search is on for new low-cost countries."

Of course, this race-to-the-bottom dynamic is encouraged by a standards-free U.S. trade policy that allows companies to troll the world for the worst conditions, exploit those conditions, and sell the products of that exploitation back into the American market. Put another way, our trade policy is helping foreign governments manufacture comparative advantages out of their horrific labor, environmental and human rights records.



Marx continues to be right.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hillary's Op-Ed in the WSJ


No Crisis Is Immune
From Exploitation
Under Bush
By HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
August 6, 2008; Page A15

Tucked away on the Cayman Islands sits Ugland House, an unassuming, nondescript building of modest scale and size. However, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), this five-story office building is home to more than 18,000 corporate entities, nearly half of which have U.S. ties.

In the past few years, the number of corporations flocking to places like the Cayman Islands to evade U.S. taxes has exploded. One of these companies, former Halliburton subsidiary KBR, has used offshore tax havens to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in federal taxes. To no one's surprise, instead of cracking down on KBR, the Bush administration has rewarded the company in April of this year with a 10-year, $150 billion contract in Iraq.

There appears to be no crisis, tragedy or disaster immune from exploitation under the Bush administration. The examples of the waste, fraud and abuse are legion -- from KBR performing shoddy electrical work in Iraq that has resulted in the electrocution of our military personnel according to Pentagon and Congressional investigators, to the firing of an Army official who dared to refuse a $1 billion payout for questionable charges to the same company. In another scam, the Pentagon awarded a $300 million contract to AEY, Inc., a company run by a 22-year-old who fulfilled an ammunition deal in Afghanistan by supplying rotting Chinese-made munitions to our allies.

But the fraud and waste are not limited to the war. In the weeks after Hurricane Katrina, for example, FEMA awarded a contract worth more than $500 million for trailers to serve as temporary housing. The contractor, Gulf Stream, collected all of its money even though they knew at the time that its trailers were contaminated with formaldehyde.

While touting fiscal responsibility, President Bush and his administration have lined the pockets of political cronies like Halliburton and Blackwater. While calling for earmark reform, the president has allowed no-bid and questionable contracting throughout the federal government to dwarf earmark spending by a 10-to-1 ratio.

If we're going to get serious about putting our nation's fiscal house in order, let's talk about putting an end to billions in no-bid contract awards to unaccountable contractors. Let's talk about the number of lucrative contracts and bonuses being paid for duties never performed, promises never fulfilled, and contracts falsely described as complete. And let's talk about reforming the federal contracting system so that we can take on the real waste, fraud and abuse in our federal government.

I've proposed a comprehensive overhaul to root out corruption in no-bid contracts and other shady deals. Reforms must include the following:

- Instead of rewarding companies that exploit tax shelters and incorporate in tax havens, let's ban the federal government from contracting with companies that hide profits offshore.

- We should put in place safeguards so that contracts are awarded to responsible companies that abide by the law and complete the work they're hired to do.

- Let's put a stop to the disgraceful practice of giving bonuses to contractors for work never performed, which has been allowed to happen in Iraq and throughout the federal government according to the GAO and inspectors general.

- We need to increase transparency and competition in the contracting system, and to stop the ideological privatization of critical governmental functions.

In 1941, as the U.S. mobilized and entered World War II, then Sen. Harry Truman proposed and chaired the Senate Special Committee to investigate the National Defense Program. Over the course of three years, Truman set about investigating a president of his own party in order to discover and eliminate wasteful and fraudulent spending. By some estimates, the "Truman Committee" saved the American people some $15 billion -- more than $165 billion in today's dollars.

Truman took on the war profiteers because he understood that when the lives of Americans hang in the balance, we cannot afford to misuse even a single dollar. In the Democratic Congress, we've proposed a new Truman Committee to address the waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan that has already taken place, a proposal stymied by the president and his allies. And my proposal would prevent waste, fraud and abuse in future contracting.

Of course, we need far more than a Truman Committee. We need the Truman spirit in the White House, where the buck finally stops.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Dedicated to My Dad, Who Rode the Last Crest of American Prosperity

The economic story of my generation:


Inequality on this scale is bad for many reasons but it is also bad for the economy. The wealthy devote a smaller percentage of their earnings to buying things than the rest of us because, after all, they’re rich. They already have most of what they want. Instead of buying, the very wealthy are more likely to invest their earnings wherever around the world they can get the highest return.

This underlying earnings problem has been masked for years as middle- and lower-income Americans found means to live beyond their paychecks. But they have now run out of such coping mechanisms. As I've noted elsewhere, the first coping mechanism was to send more women into paid work. Most women streamed into the work force in the 1970s less because new professional opportunities opened up to them than because they had to prop up family incomes. The percentage of American working mothers with school-age children has almost doubled since 1970 — to more than 70 percent. But there’s a limit to how many mothers can maintain paying jobs.

So Americans turned to a second way of spending beyond their hourly wages. They worked more hours. The typical American now works more each year than he or she did three decades ago. Americans became veritable workaholics, putting in 350 more hours a year than the average European, more even than the notoriously industrious Japanese.

But there’s also a limit to how many hours Americans can put into work, so Americans turned to a third coping mechanism. They began to borrow. With housing prices rising briskly through the 1990s and even faster from 2002 to 2006, they turned their homes into piggy banks by refinancing home mortgages and taking out home-equity loans. But this third strategy also had a built-in limit. And now, with the bursting of the housing bubble, the piggy banks are closing. Americans are reaching the end of their ability to borrow and lenders have reached the end of their capacity to lend. Credit-card debt, meanwhile, has reached dangerous proportions. Banks are now pulling back.

As a result, typical Americans have run out of coping mechanisms to keep up their standard of living. That means there's not enough purhasing power in the economy to buy all the goods and services it's producing. We’re finally reaping the whirlwind of widening inequality and ever more concentrated wealth.


from Robert Reich

Friday, August 1, 2008

Get Your War On - ANIMATED!!

Monday, July 28, 2008

"What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?"

Slowly but surely the tide of justice comes in.

Justice Officials Repeatedly Broke Law on Hiring, Report Says

Excerpt:

Goodling passed over hundreds of qualified applicants and squashed the promotions of others after deeming candidates insufficiently loyal to the Republican party, said investigators, who interviewed 85 people and received information from 300 other job seekers at Justice. Sampson developed a system to screen immigration judge candidates based on improper political considerations and routinely took recommendations from the White House Office of Political Affairs and Presidential Personnel, the report said.

Goodling regularly asked candidates for career jobs: "What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?" the report said. One former Justice Department official told investigators she had complained that Goodling was asking interviewees for their views on abortion, according to the report.

In one case, Goodling refused to extend the temporary assignment of a prosecutor because of her "perception of the [lawyer's] sexual orientation," according to the report.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

New term: E. coli conservatism


What's clear, though, is that imports of agricultural products have increased by 78% since 1973, but inspections of those products have decreased by 78% over the same period, according to the Coalition for a Stronger FDA, whose membership includes former chiefs of the Department of Health and Human Services, of which the FDA is a part.That's a problem because the FDA itself says pesticide violations or infectious disease occur three times more often in imported foods than in domestic foods. In 1991, there were 1.5 inspections for each $1 million worth of imported agriculture commodities; in 2006 there were only 0.4.


Please read the rest of the LA Times opinion piece by Eric Lotke at:

Downsizing government to death

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Talk to the Invisible Hand

The awesome, terrible beauty of Mother Market:

  azdem.org