House Progressives may actually get a bank handout slashed


David Dayen for The New Republic, commenting on how U.S. House Progressive Caucus found spare billions in needless Federal spending at the Fed lying around that may now be used to help pay for a highway spending bill compromise the Congressional Republicans are seriously considering:

But $16.3 billion in pure corporate welfare is not nothing. And the lesson here is the importance of having policies available on a shelf. Many observers deride the Progressive Caucus’ budget as an exercise in futility. But without the inclusion of the Fed dividend policy, Barbara Boxer wouldn’t have known about it when negotiating the highway bill. Even in a time of minority governance, having a storehouse of ideas that can be pulled out in opportunistic moments matters a great deal.

Read the full story.

Now that’s real fiscal responsibility.

Black Life in Retrograde


The morning the news broke about the massacre in Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal, I was driving. Having been unemployed since early April I’d tried to make my money by ridesharing. I found it difficult and I never was able to make the ends solidly meet, but made more than I would have on unemployment. Like most mornings, I did my best to be awake and alert at five a.m. in order to catch rides to the airport. Like most mornings, I made my own coffee and turned on NPR. These activities always made me feel more in control, more put together, better at adulting. I heard the news shortly before my first ride, and I was numb.

I was so numb, that I drove nearly an hour north from my home while listening to James Blake’s “Retrograde” on repeat. Something about the melancholy music that buzzes with such heavy vibrations hypnotized me. These lyrics sunk into me for an hour:

Is this darkness of the dawn?
And your friends are gone
When you friends won’t come
So show me where you fit
So show me where you fit
I’ll wait, so show me why you’re strong
Ignore everybody else,
We’re alone now
We’re alone now
We’re alone now

The song is about finding love, but I clung to the emotion of darkness. I felt like we were truly at war with white supremacy. People are gone and we’re so alone here. If you asked me about that hour, I couldn’t tell you anything. All I remember was feeling cold; totally focused on moving forward with the sky full of blushing peach tones of the rising sun. I felt alert, yet dead, completely hollowed out, filling myself with this song.

I spent the later half of that day and the entire next day inside, crying, on the couch repeatedly asking ‘why’. And: Where are we allowed to be human? Where can we feel safe from slaughter?

I didn’t listen to it again for 11 weeks.

Now it makes me cry. It makes me feel despair. If I can get through a listen without tears I feel strong.

The reaction to the tragic killing of two reporters in Virginia in August truly seared this despair into my being. Read more

Getting trapped in Reagan’s ideological framing

Ronald Reagan campaigning with Nancy Reagan in Columbia, South Carolina. Oct 10, 1980. (Credit: Reagan Presidential Library)

Ronald Reagan campaigning with Nancy Reagan in Columbia, South Carolina. Oct 10, 1980. (Credit: Reagan Presidential Library)

“Getting trapped in Reagan’s ideological framing” is a theme you can probably expect me to continue to expand upon soon, but I wanted to quote some key passages from an excellent article from July by economist George R. Tyler (formerly of the U.S. Treasury Department), to help set the stage for my future arguments on this point:

…a host of proposals to address wage stagnation and the ensuing economic malaise of middle- and working-class Americans.

Few quibble with the problem, and a host of constructive solutions have surfaced…

Good ideas all, but they share a common framework provided by Reaganomics in which returns to labor are ultimately dictated by market forces. […]

Government wage subsidies, educational enhancements, daycare and the other economic menu offerings shuffle income from taxpayers and employers to the middle class. Yet […] the salad bar contains no market disruptors, the essential ingredient to restoring middle class prosperity.

The reforms are offered within the conceptual framework provided by Reaganomics that eschews market disruptors.
American middle-class prosperity is being held hostage by Reaganomics. Only when reforms offered by Democrats move beyond that conceptual framework by linking wages to productivity can its prospects brighten.

Various specifics come up in Tyler’s article (and many of his other articles) with regard to wages, of course.

But the bigger picture point here is a good one that many Democrats should do well to take a harder look at: Are we on the left no longer seriously pushing big and transformative ideas because we’re still trapped inside an ideological box (or Overton Window) framed by the rhetoric and views of Ronald Reagan and his legion of devotees now in government?

Even many dedicated progressive policymakers, policy developers, and policy activists are perhaps still too constrained in what they imagine in possible and are reluctant to push back — and to push the American people to see government as possible solution and partner, not as the source of all ills like the Reagan Revolution insisted.

Again, more on this down the line, but I want to get the ball rolling with the quotes above.

Fortune 500 firms may have avoided $620B in recent taxes

A new Citizens for Tax Justice / US PIRG study of IRS/SEC filings indicates that 358 of the 500 largest companies in the United States are stashing $2.1 trillion in legal tax havens.

The lost U.S. tax revenue from just 57 of them who admitted the difference in what they would have paid on those profits without havens versus what they actually paid (legally!) was $184.4 billion in total. The report then extrapolates that the lost U.S. tax revenue from the full Fortune 500 due to offshore tax avoidance may be around $620 billion total, or $90 billion yearly over the period in which the untaxed offshore stash was earned.

The tax haven countries themselves often have yearly GDPs smaller than the profits supposedly being “earned” in those countries by the “subsidiaries” of US megacorporations “based” in those countries.


Between 2008 and 2014, the study added, the amount of offshore cash holdings for American multinationals doubled.

Ah, I guess big U.S. firms can’t hire more people or pay better wages (duly earned through higher productivity!) because they “only” have over $2 Trillion in offshore savings. You see, it’s very tough as American megacorporations to pay living wages when you’re collectively only avoiding $90 billion a year in taxes.

Meanwhile, a major Democratic Party candidate for president wants to give tax breaks to big firms to pay workers more fairly, even though they already legally skip $90 billion annually in taxes now.

This is ludicrous. You don’t pay companies to do things they need to do anyway. You really don’t do it when they’re effectively stealing tax revenue now. As the head of the World Bank just said, legal tax avoidance schemes are a form of corruption. This needs to end. It just does.

Oct 7, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 145

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.


Topics: The Future of Wages; Burkina Faso shakes off a coup; emerging movements in the Republican and Democratic presidential races. People: Bill, Kelley, Nate. Produced: September 13th and October 4th, 2015.

Episode 145 (56 min):
AFD 145

Discussion Points:

– What is the future of living wage laws?
– What can Burkina Faso’s resistance to a coup tell us about transitions to democracy in poor countries today?
– Can anyone save the Republican field from itself? Can Sanders prevail over Clinton after all?

Related Links

The Globalist (by Bill): Op-Ed: “The Future of Living Wages”
AFD: “Short-lived Burkina Faso Coup had very little support”
AFD: “Procedurally, GOP nomination is within Trump’s reach”


RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video game blog of our announcer, Justin.

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