Posts from Michael Winship

The Tax Bill Is The Grinchiest Christmas Gift Yet

Michael Winship

Michael Winship Senior Writer, Moyers & Company

In 1814, First Lady Dolley Madison helped hide the White House’s famous portrait of George Washington from the British when they burned and sacked the capital. But if the current pack of brigands raiding DC has its way, by the time they’re done, that painting and every other piece of government property that isn’t nailed down will be stolen and put up for sale on eBay.

That’s because a smash-and-grab mob is running the government. If they continue the way they are, every agency, every social program, every benefit and every one of us not-rich-people will take it in the wallet as they rapaciously loot the system.

The tax reform plan is today’s Exhibit A. This is greed, plain and simple, toadying to the richest of the land who write the campaign checks. Simultaneously, Trump, his associates and Congress seem to be lining their own pockets with ill-gotten gains. And all the time trying to pretend otherwise to a public that by a margin of 2-to-1 already realizes that this so-called tax reform legislation is a total scam, a classic bait-and-switch.

On Saturday, Jim Tankersley noted in The New York Times that the package:

leaves nearly every large tax break in place. It creates as many new preferences for special interests as it gets rid of. It will keep corporate accountants busy for years to come… [A]mbitions fell to the powerful forces of lobbying and the status quo.

... What emerged on Friday, in the final product agreed to by Republican members of a House-Senate conference committee, was a bill that layers new tax complexities upon businesses large and small, and which delivers a larger share of benefits to corporations and the rich than to the middle class.”

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Donald Trump Has Some Explaining to Do

Michael Winship

Michael Winship Senior Writer, Moyers & Company

First things first, Donald Trump: Release. Your. Tax. Returns.

No excuses.

Second, if we have to have a cartoon character running for president, I would prefer Bart Simpson. He has better writers and a healthier sense of self-awareness.

Like Donald Trump, Bart clings to a life’s philosophy best summed up as, “Whatever it is, I didn’t do it, unless it’s something good, in which case I did do it, even if I didn’t do it.”

That said, while Bart rarely can discern right from wrong, he frowns on bad organization and a lack of finesse. Of the Trump campaign, he would look askance and dismissively pronounce, as he has of other fiascoes, “This is senseless destruction with none of my usual social commentary.”

Bart also has a finer comprehension than Trump of government and the U.S. Constitution, a document he supports and understands, but about which he forthrightly declares, “I’m pretty sure the Patriot Act killed it to ensure our freedoms.”

But back to those tax returns. According to experts, the old “I’m being audited and can’t release them” argument does not hold water. For the umpteenth time, what is Trump hiding?

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Panama Papers Offer More Evidence That Free Trade Isn’t Really Free

Michael Winship

Michael Winship Senior Writer, Moyers & Company

You might wonder what the connection is between a friendly game of golf last summer in Martha’s Vineyard and the Panama Papers. Read on.

As anyone who hasn’t been in a cave – or otherwise away from the Internet — knows, last week the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, working with more than a hundred publications around the world, broke news of the biggest data leak in history, from an anonymous source tapping into the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Using eleven and a half million documents sent to them via encrypted files, the reporters are revealing the dark secrets of offshore tax havens and phony shell companies favored by the mega-rich and powerful – from plutocrats and politicians to movie stars and professional athletes – who use them to hide and hoard their fortunes, even as billions live and die in poverty.

But what about the United States – why haven’t our usual suspects, the parade of moneybags we’re used to seeing flaunt their wealth even as they do their best to conceal vast portions of it – made an appearance in the leaked data? Let’s go back to that golf game in Martha’s Vineyard.

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GOP Tickles the Dragon’s Tail

Michael Winship

Michael Winship Senior Writer, Moyers & Company

GOP Tickles the Dragon’s Tail

On May 21, 1946, less than a year after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, physicist Louis Slotin performed a dangerous experiment his colleagues at Los Alamos called “tickling the dragon’s tail.” He took two half-spheres of beryllium, each containing a plutonium core, and brought them together as close to critical mass as he could without triggering a nuclear chain reaction.

Slotin had done this before, keeping the two half-spheres apart with the blade of a screwdriver. But this time, the screwdriver slipped, the half-spheres made contact and there was a bright blue flash and a burst of heat. Slotin quickly separated the pieces but had absorbed a frightening amount of radiation.

“Well, that does it,” he said. Nine days later, Louis Slotin was dead at 35.

We tell this sad story as a cautionary tale – although probably one told much too late — to which the Republican Party nonetheless should pay heed. After years of tickling the dragon’s tail, flirting with the demagoguery of America’s right wing and egging on a growing rage within a core constituency of disaffected, working class white Americans, the dragon has started to breathe fire, and the flames have spread in all directions. The result is the maddening success of raving nativist Donald Trump and to a lesser extent, Senator Ted Cruz.

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How Ayn Rand Was Used to Vet "It's a Wonderful Life" for Commie Propaganda

Michael Winship

Michael Winship Senior Writer, Moyers & Company

A number of years ago, I was telling a longtime city dweller friend of mine yet another story about the small, upstate New York town in which I grew up.

Simultaneously baffled and captivated, he said, “I think you were born and raised in Bedford Falls,” the fictional burg at the center of Frank Capra’s classic Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Well, I wasn’t. Actually, I grew up about 27 miles west of there. Its real name is Seneca Falls, NY – yes, the same place that’s also the birthplace of the women’s suffrage movement. While not absolutely certain, there’s a compelling body of circumstantial evidence that Capra had the town in mind when he created his cinematic version of Bedford Falls. The steel bridge over the canal, for example, like the one from which the hero George Bailey contemplates jumping in a suicide attempt, only to dive in to save his guardian angel, Clarence. The old Victorian homes, the design of town streets, a large Italian population, mentions of nearby cities Rochester, Buffalo and Elmira are just a few of the other similarities. There’s even the perhaps apocryphal tale of Frank Capra finding inspiration after stopping in Seneca Falls for a haircut on his way to visit an aunt.

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How DC's Political Intelligence Biz Made Fat Cats Fatter

Michael Winship

Michael Winship Senior Writer, Moyers & Company

How DC's Political Intelligence Biz Made Fat Cats Fatter

Looking over the last few weeks of news, if you would seek a single headline that sums up the Hulk-like grip in which corporate America holds the US Congress, this might be it: "Eric Cantor's Loss a Blow to Wall Street."

So wrote The Wall Street Journal, that Pravda of the One Percent, on the day after House Majority Leader Cantor lost his Virginia GOP primary to tea party upstart David Brat. "Since he was first elected to Congress," the Journal noted, "Mr. Cantor has been Wall Street's go-to guy on issues big and small... he was a top recipient of Wall Street donations and he regularly stood up for the banks, securities firms and insurance companies."

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Taxpayers Subsidize Both Wealthy Fast-Food CEOs and Their Underpaid Employees

Michael Winship

Michael Winship Senior Writer, Moyers & Company

Bad enough that the empty calories of many a fast-food meal have all the nutritional value of a fingernail paring. Even worse, the vast profits this industry pulls in are lining the pockets of its CEOs while many of those who work in the kitchens and behind the counters are struggling to eke out a living and can’t afford a decent meal, much less a fast one.

Yes, you have heard this before. Over the last year or so, you’ve probably seen news coverage of the strikes and other job actions fast-food workers have taken against their employers. Maybe you’ve even read about the wage theft lawsuits that have been filed against McDonald’s and Taco Bell, or the recent settlements in New York State against McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Domino’s Pizza that have led to payments to employees of more than $2 million.

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Union Matters

The Big Drip

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities. 

A rash of water main breaks in West Berkeley, Calif., and neighboring cities last month flooded streets and left at least 300 residents without water. Routine pressure adjustments in response to water demand likely caused more than a dozen pipes, some made of clay and more than 100 years old, to rupture.

West Berkeley’s brittle mains are not unique. Decades of neglect left aging pipes susceptible to breaks in communities across the U.S., wasting two trillion gallons of treated water each year as these systems near collapse.

Comprehensive upgrades to the nation’s crumbling water systems would stanch the flow and ensure all Americans have reliable access to clean water.

Nationwide, water main breaks increased 27 percent between 2012 and 2018, according to a Utah State University study.  

These breaks not only lead to service disruptions  but also flood out roads, topple trees and cause illness when drinking water becomes contaminated with bacteria.

The American Water Works Association estimated it will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years to upgrade and expand water infrastructure.

Some local water utilities raised their rates to pay for system improvements, but that just hurts poor consumers who can’t pay the higher bills.

And while Congress allocates money for loans that utilities can use to fix portions of their deteriorating systems, that’s merely a drop in the bucket—a fraction of what agencies need for lasting improvements.

America can no longer afford a piecemeal approach to a systemic nationwide crisis. A major, sustained federal commitment to fixing aging pipes and treatment plants would create millions of construction-related jobs while ensuring all Americans have safe, affordable drinking water.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work