Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Amazon – and 56 Other Corporations – Took Your Tax Dollars

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Bernie Sanders, castigator of the one percent, is a millionaire now. So are Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. Big whoop. There’s a crucial difference between these candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination and the super wealthy – particularly 60 gigantic, massively profitable U.S. corporations. The candidates faithfully pay federal taxes. The corporations don’t.

That’s right. Sixty profitable corporations paid no federal taxes in 2018, twice the number that typically paid nothing in the years before the 2017 tax breaks took effect. In fact, it’s worse than that. Fifty-seven of these corporations demanded rebates from the government – which means taxpayers like you and me paid them to exist. These are corporations on the dole. They claim to hate socialism if it means Medicare for All, but they sure as hell love socialism when it’s welfare for them.

Sanders, Harris, Warren and other candidates seeking the Democratic nomination paid their taxes because they are patriots. Most working Americans pay a fair share to support their country. True citizens pay so that their nation can thrive. They pay so that the United States can afford to educate its citizens, pave its roads, operate its courts, care for its vulnerable and sustain its military. They pay because they understand they have a duty to the country that nurtured them, that protects them and that they love.

But too many U.S. corporations, which the U.S. Supreme Court has anointed with human rights, refuse to acknowledge their concomitant obligations. Corporations and the super wealthy pushed hard for the tax breaks Republicans bestowed on them in 2017. Fat cats paid untold tens of millions to dark money groups that served as cash cows for GOP candidates who, once elected, shepherded those tax breaks.

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Class(room) Warfare

Kathy M. Newman Carnegie Mellon University

The actress Felicity Huffman—along with 13 other parents charged in the college admissions scandal—entered plea deals last week, putting pressure on actress Lori Laughlin and her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, to do the same. Prosecutors are hinting that if Laughlin doesn’t accept a deal she could face 20 years in prison, 3 years of probation, and a $250,000 fine.

I have enjoyed EVERY SINGLE SECOND of this scandal and its coverage. It has exploded so many of the lies we tell ourselves about America being a fair and just society—especially when it comes to access to higher education. For those who think about class, this scandal has been like Halloween, Christmas and Easter rolled into one. Journalists and bloggers are using words like classblue collar, elite and privilege.

Nothing of the actual details of this scandal—the bribes paid, the photos photoshopped, the tests taken by fakers—have shocked me. What has surprised me, however, is that journalists and bloggers have been using this scandal to talk about class and inequality. As sociologist Shamus Khan wrote in The Washington Post, “the true tragedy is that almost all rich families buy their kids into elite colleges by purchasing advantages they pass off as talents, whether by way of sailing lessons or elaborate vacations planned with an eye on admissions essays. We view these vastly overrepresented children of the rich as having earned their spots.” This, another blogger concurred, “is the real scandal.”

These comments point to the many ways that rich people get their kids into college. On the lower end of the scale is all the money many of us are able spend on music lessons, test prep, elite soccer programs, and summer-abroad service project opportunities for our kids—to name a few of the advantages families like mine can afford. At the next level are the parents who can afford to send their kids to expensive and prestigious prep and boarding schools. And, finally, at the top tier, are the parents who can donate tens of thousands or even millions of dollars to college campuses in return for a guarantee of their child’s entry into said college. As many have noted in reporting on the admissions scandal, Jared Kushner’s parents got him into Harvard by donating 2.5 million dollars a few years before Kushner applied.

The Associated Press turned to Richard V. Reeves, whose book Dream Hoarders showed how the upper echelon hoards all the best opportunities for itself. As Reeves commented on the scandal, “[f]or most people outside the elite, these institutions might as well be on the moon. This story just reinforces that, the way in which money buys opportunity in America.”

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It takes two to tango: The complementarity of the derigging project and expanded tax credits.

Jared Bernstein

Jared Bernstein Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

In a hearing last week, an exchange between Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) and JPMorgan’s CEO Jamie Dimon caught my eye. Dimon was touting the bank’s new minimum wage of $16.50, increasing to $18 in high-cost areas, for entry level workers. That’s a decent minimum wage, above the $15 that most progressive plans call for (and those proposals typically include a phase-in of numerous years). According to recent EPI analysis, $16.50 is well north of the national 40thpercentile wage of just under $15.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting the highly profitable bank—market cap about $380 billion; Dimon made over $30 million last year—is fairly compensating its entry-level workers (Dimon says such workers tend to just out of high school). My point is an empirical one: given the nation’s wage structure, its (ridiculously low) federal minimum wage of $7.25, and the weak bargaining clout of low-wage workers, especially those without a college degree, a minimum/entry-level wage of $16.50 is actually pretty high.

Rep. Porter, however, pointed out that in pretty much any part of America you choose, a single mom with one child can’t make ends meet on that wage. She’s unquestionably correct, as she demonstrated after the hearing in this tweet (full disclosure: I’ve met Rep. Porter; she’s all that and a big bag of chips; whip-smart, data-driven…one of those new members with just the right recipe of heart, brain, conviction, analytics, etc…).

You can read more about their exchange here, but it led me to ask why is the US wage structure so insufficient and what can we do about it? It’s a question that all of us should have at the top of our minds when listening to the proposals from those who would lead the nation.

What can we do about this mismatch between earnings and needs?

One answer is to work on two tracks, near term and long term. In the near term, we need robust wage supports in the form of fully refundable tax credits (i.e., you get the credit whether or not you owe any taxes), along with other work supports, including child care, health care, and housing.

Over the longer haul we must correct structural imbalances that have, over at least the last 40 years, reduced the bargaining clout for workers relative to employers. The power shift is a function of many forces, including the decline of unions and collective bargaining, but it also relates to the way we’ve handled globalization, the rise of hands-off economics, specifically the notion that progressive interventions are anti-growth (a line of thought that’s led to supply-side policies like cutting taxes for the rich and benefits for the poor), austere fiscal policy, and the many other aspects of what is often labeled the “rigged economy.”

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Put Some Made in America Spring in Your Step This Easter and Passover

Whether you celebrate Easter or Passover or just enjoy the fun traditions that originate from these holidays, we’re sharing our favorite Made in America items for spring’s religious holidays from our archives.

EASTER

Easter is a traditional religious holiday in the Christian faith celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But it's also a holiday that includes a bit of fun — and much of that fun starts with Easter Eggs. 

Eco eggs are a great option for those who want to include treats in their eggs during Easter egg hunts. Not only are they Made in the USA, they also are eco-friendly, manufactured from 100 percent renewable content and are fully compostable. The eggs — made from non-toxic, durable, plant-based plastic — are available in two sizes and come in five assorted colors (pink, yellow, green, blue and purple). The company also manufactures eco grass to help fill out that Easter basket. Eco grass is made from 100 percent post recycled paper and is 100 percent recyclable after use, so you can easily dispose of it in your paper recycle bin. 

But if you are looking for a more formal egg, be sure to check out the selection offered by the White House Historical Association for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. The 2019 White House Easter Egg collection is available now; you can buy a single egg or the entire set of five colors -- all Made in the United States. In 2017, Wells Wood Turning & Finishing of Maine supplied eggs for the White House's iconic event. 

Looking to dye your eggs? Check out Doc Hinkle Easter Egg Dye. Unlike ordinary dyes that must be diluted, Doc Hinkle's paint-on kit helps egg decorators create "beautiful, bright colors and patterns instead of dull single-colored eggs." Colors included in the kit include red, blue, yellow and purple, which can be combined to create new hues.  

You are going to need a place to put all those eggs, and Peterboro Basket Co. and Charleston Sweetgrass offer a variety of sizes, shapes and colors.

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Trump’s Trade Deal with China Might Not Tackle Industrial Subsidies

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

We’ve been closely monitoring trade talks between the United States and China, and we’ve gone on record to note that there are a couple of ways things could go. The two countries will either reach a historic deal that requires China to play by the rules of global competition — or the agreement will be a dud, making a few superficial changes but mostly maintaining the status quo.

Well, score one for the status quo.

Reuters reports that “U.S. negotiators have tempered demands that China curb industrial subsidies as a condition for a trade deal after strong resistance from Beijing.”

Instead, negotiators are focusing on issues they see as more achievable, including ending forced technology transfers, strengthening protection of intellectual property and opening up China’s markets.

Look, addressing technology transfers and intellectual property is vital, and U.S. negotiators are right to focus on them. Ditto for further opening up China’s market.

But by abandoning the issue of industrial subsidies in these talks, the United States is giving a green light to China to continue to cheat the global trading system and put countries and companies that play by the rules at a disadvantage.

Case in point: Steel.

President Trump put a 25% tariff on steel imports in April 2018 in response to surging foreign imports. Now, you’ve probably heard about those "Section 232" tariffs — they’ve garnered a lot of criticism from the Acela Corridor set — but what is often missing from the conversation is that despite Trump’s bluster, there was a very legitimate reason why he issued those tariffs.

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Union Matters

Higher Taxes & Broken Promises

From the AFL-CIO

While many Americans are frustrated by smaller refunds this Tax Day, major corporations like AT&T are celebrating billions in massive giveaways, courtesy of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  

The tax bill, which was signed into law in 2017, dramatically cut the corporate rate tax from 35% to 21%. This led AT&T’s CEO to vow that the company would create at least 7,000 jobs.

Instead, AT&T has eliminated more than 12,000 jobs since the law took effect.

At the same time, the corporation’s annual report shows the company increased executive pay and suggests that after refunds, it paid no cash income taxes in 2018.

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A Moral Imperative

A Moral Imperative