Today, I had a guest column appear in the Des Moines Register explaining that education is at the heart of the legislative stalemate and overtime session. You can review it at this web site: desmoinesregister.com/iowa-view
The bottom line in my guest column: Iowa needs to invest in education and job training to support economic prosperity today and in the future. The House budget would result in cuts and additional student debt that would hurt our economy today and into the future.
I hope this information is helpful. Please continue to speak up for the issues you care about. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to contact me at this email address.
15 KEY DIFFERENCES AT ISSUE IN LEGISLATIVE STALEMATE
My 600-word guest column focused on education, because it is the biggest difference between the parties, but it didn’t allow for as many issues and as much detail about what is truly at stake. Here are 15 key differences at issue in the 2015 legislative stalemate:
1. K-12 education funding – House is stuck at 1.25 percent, which would result in a loss of 1,000 teaching positions statewide; Senate has offered to compromise at 2.625 percent, still less than is needed, but it would allow most school districts to avoid cuts.
2. Community college funding – House has a status quo budget; Senate provides an $8 million increase so our community colleges can continue to provide job training skills and give students an affordable pathway to a four-year school.
3. University of Iowa funding – House proposes to cut the University of Iowa by $3.4 million; the Senate is supporting a 1.75 percent increase of $4 million, which will allow the Regents to freeze tuition for another year. That is a difference of $235 per student at the University of Iowa.
4. Iowa State University funding – House proposes to cut Iowa State University by $620,000, while the Senate is supporting a $5.2 million increase to allow a tuition freeze and meet ISU’s rapid growth in student enrollment. That $5.8 million difference is worth $166 per student.
5. University of Northern Iowa funding – House proposes a $4 million increase, but because of past cuts and shortfalls, it is far short of what UNI needs to maintain services and a tuition freeze. That is why the Senate supports a $7 million increase. The additional $3 million would allow a tuition freeze and is worth more than $250 per student at UNI.
6. Private college tuition grant program – House proposes to cut $1.175 million, while the Senate is supporting a $2.1 million increase, for this need-based program to help Iowa students attend Iowa’s private colleges.
7. Quality childcare for low-income working Iowans – House proposes no change, while the Senate would expand eligibility for childcare assistance to 160 percent of federal poverty levels.
8. Mental health institutes in Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant – House proposes partial year funding and then privatization of the facilities, while the Senate is proposing ongoing funding and operation of the facilities as the law requires and as needed by so many vulnerable Iowans.
9. Tobacco prevention – House proposes to cut $675,000, while the Senate would maintain current funding for tobacco prevention.
10. Alzheimer’s Education – House removed this funding from the bill, while the Senate would add $100,000 for Alzheimer’s Education.
11. Office of Substitute Decision Maker – House would eliminate this program, while the Senate added $36,000 in funding. The Office of Substitute Decision Maker helps safeguard vulnerable people who do not have family members available to make decisions.
12. Funding to combat human trafficking – House directs the Attorney General to conduct human trafficking training out of existing resources; Senate would add $150,000 for human trafficking enforcement and use other funds to expand human trafficking training and enforcement.
13. Funding for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault – The House proposes to reduce funding by $1 million, while the Senate would maintain funding for programs like those offered by Waypoint.
14. Indigent defense and Legal Aid – House proposes to cut Legal Aid by $400,000 and indigent criminal defense by more than $2.7 million; Senate proposes to maintain current funding.
15. The courts – House proposes to maintain current funding for the courts, which would result in furloughs and court closures as the courts address rising costs; Senate would provide a $5.5 million increase to maintain current operations.
On Wednesday, May 27 at 12:45 p.m. on the south side of the Polk County Courthouse at 500 Mulberry Street in Des Moines, former Iowa lawmaker Ed Fallon and his attorney Joseph Glazebrook will announce how they intend to respond to the charge of trespass against Fallon for his refusal to leave Governor Branstad’s office last Monday while protesting the Bakken pipeline. Following the press conference, Fallon will appear with Glazebrook before a judge at 1:00 p.m. in Room 201 of the Courthouse.
On Monday, May 18 at 1:30 p.m., Fallon entered Governor Branstad’s office and informed staff that he would refuse to leave until the Governor met with him, heard the stories of the landowners in the path of the proposed Bakken Oil Pipeline, and agreed to support the eminent domain bill (SF 506 and HSB 249). The Governor was in his office that day, but declined to meet with Fallon.
This will be Fallon’s second appearance at the Polk County Courthouse in response to a principled act of conscience. The first was in March of 2012, following his arrest as part of the Occupy movement, when on October 9, 2011, Fallon and 35 others refused to leave the public space on the west side of the State Capitol to demand that all levels of government respond to corruption on Wall Street and the growing crisis of income inequality. In response to that arrest, Fallon pled “not-guilty.” He was defended by Joseph Glazebrook. After a trial that lasted one week, Fallon was found “not guilty” by a jury of his peers on March 9, 2012.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about the best course of action to take in response to my arrest last week at the Governor’s office,” said Fallon. “I take the matter very seriously, and have consulted not just with my attorney, Joseph Glazebrook, but with coworkers and others opposed to the Bakken Oil Pipeline as well.”
“Regardless of the outcome of Wednesday’s hearing, I reiterate my commitment to doing everything I can to continue the fight against this pipeline, which is not only an assault on the land and livelihood of farmers and landowners across Iowa, but an assault on our environment and planet as well,” concluded Fallon.
Fallon served 14 years in the Iowa House, from 1993-2006. He ran for Governor in 2006 and U.S. Congress in 2008. Since 2009, he has hosted the Fallon Forum, a public affairs talk show available on three Iowa radio stations and online at fallonforum.com.
The tactics of the moneyed class have been to attack the messengers who would reduce air pollution, presenting so many falsehoods about climate change it’s hard to keep up. (Here’s a list of 175 global warming and climate change myths and brief responses to them). By the sheer volume and repetition of falsehoods, people are beginning to believe there is doubt about the science of climate change. There isn’t much, if any, cause for doubt.
A lot is at stake. In Iowa more than half of our electricity is generated by burning coal, which creates a sickly brew of substances breathed in by people who live near the plants, and those down wind. These substances have names: oxides of sulfur, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, mercury, nickel, dioxins, fine particulate matter, and others.
Air pollution is directly linked to the leading causes of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. A reduction in coal burning would yield an improvement in health outcomes, including a reduction in mortality from heart disease, malignant neoplasms, respiratory disease and stroke.
The latest target is, and has been for a while, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Clean Power Plan. First proposed on June 2, 2014, the plan represents a common sense approach to cut carbon emissions from power plants, setting rules for the first time. While the political class pursues an agenda that would weaken the plan, and at worst continue to allow coal burning operations to dump an unlimited amount of carbon pollution into the atmosphere, their actions are based on moneyed interests, not science or the benefits to people living in society.
While eyes focus on the Clean Power Plan, what is missed is it is only the first of multiple actions needed to reduce air pollution in a way to improve human health. In particular, EPA should develop strong standards that would reduce the leakage of methane from oil and gas operations.
Because the discussion is about the power of money in politics, and not about developing rational or logical approaches to solving problems that affect real people, the EPA’s efforts under the Clean Air Act are under constant attack from the supporters of the fossil fuel industry and their ilk. The plain truth is intransigent interests have a lot of money and are willing to spend it on protecting their assets.
“God’s still up there,” said U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) on Voice of Christian Youth America’s radio program Crosstalk with Vic Eliason, March 7, 2015. “The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”
Because corporate media is obsessed with conservative politics we hear more about the arrogance of environmentalists than about the influence of money in politics. This summer Pope Francis is expected to release his encyclical about the need for climate action to protect our home planet. We don’t need religious leaders to see the obfuscation of the truth that air pollution is having a deleterious effect on human health. We can and should do something about it, and it begins with developing the political will to take action.
Nov. 30 the United Nations will convene the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris in hope of reaching an international agreement on climate. Each country is to create its own goals to mitigate the causes of climate change. Whether the U.S. will be able to develop meaningful goals and ratify an agreement made in Paris is an open question. If the current U.S. Senate has their way, little or no action would be approved coming from COP 21, just as the preceding Kyoto Protocol was never ratified.
Robert F. Kennedy famously said, “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” The scientific knowledge and technology to address the climate crisis has been emerging. Because cost-effective solutions to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels are rapidly becoming reality, it is time to use our power as an electorate to demand our elected officials take action.
It can start with a phone call or email to our U.S. Senators urging climate action. Importantly, we can challenge the myths we hear in our daily lives, and work toward reducing the influence of money in politics. There is plenty we could do, and Earth is hanging in the balance, waiting for us to act.
There has been a national effort by Veterans for Peace to have letters written to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in conjunction with vietnamfulldisclosure.org. Our local group has sent in several letters. This one is by Gail Coleman, an associate member of Veterans For Peace in Cedar Rapids.
~ Dear Joe – or Bob or John or maybe Susan (…how many, many names…they seem to stretch forever on this wall).
I was probably just learning to write my own name when you died. Born in 1964, it was a confusing time to be a little girl. I am sure it was far more confusing – and frightening – for you to be in Vietnam.
I wondered about you back then. Who were you, this young man on my TV, running through tall grass and jungles, carrying a gun? Or perhaps you were a nurse treating the wounded. But why were they wounded? Why were they there? Someone must know, I thought.
I tried to ask my mom these questions but if she gave an explanation at all, I still could not understand it. The one thing I was sure of was that some of these men were killed. My oldest brother was of draft age and I was terrified to think he might have to go. I cried one day, asking Mom if he would be killed. Again, there was no sufficient answer, no reassurance.
That brother did not get the call. He is sixty-two now, alive and well.
But you had to go – and you died. You were somebody’s brother or son or sweetheart.
As much as I tried to figure out “war” back then, no one, not even Walter Cronkite-could make it seem right. It was simply a nightmare no one could wake from. That’s the way it was, as Walter would say.
I am fifty now. You might think in all these years that I would have made sense of it, that I could finally believe it was more than just senseless death and destruction. Wasn’t I taught that we were always “the good guys?” The powerful, the wealthy and elite, many in the halls of Washington, are still trying to spin it, to put it in some sort of good light. But if I bought that, if (even worse) I repeated that lie, I fear it would be one more betrayal of you.
Here is the ultimate haunting question, I think: Did you die in vain?
Never mind if it was heroic. Forget if you should have been there or not.
The fact is that you were there and you died there. So, did it serve any greater purpose? When they folded up that flag and handed it to your loved one, was there anything they could take comfort in?
I cannot answer that.
All I know with certainty is this: Beginning with that war – maybe even on the day you fell – I knew there was something terrible about this whole business, no matter what Walter Cronkite or any Senators or the President had to say.
War should never be glorified, or worse, glamorized. It cheapens life, I think, to try to convince anyone that killing and being killed is anything but horrific.
So if you did die for a cause, let it go down in history as this: a lesson in the sanctity of every life and the horror of every war. For that lesson, I thank you.
May you now rest in peace.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Memorial Day is a day set aside to remember and honor those who gave their lives in this nation’s wars.
This particular Memorial Day is of special significance in that it is fifty years since the Vietnam war went from a minor conflict to a major war (23,300 US troops there at the beginning of 1965; 184,300 by the end of 1965).
The Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. is 494 feet long and bears the names of 58,286 US soldiers killed in that war. We must remember and honor them. We also must remember the 2.5 million Southeast Asians, civilians and soldiers, who died in the war. The wall would be four miles long if all their names were listed.
The wall would be even longer if it listed all the Nam veterans who have committed suicide, and the thousands of veterans and tens of thousands of Vietnamese who have died of Agent Orange exposure.
But memory deals with the past. In the present, we must be aware of the veterans and their children who are dying right now because of Agent Orange. We must be aware of the thousands of Vietnamese with birth defects caused by Agent Orange, dying before their time. We must be aware of the PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and TBI (traumatic brain injury) burdens of hundreds of thousands of our Iraq and Afghan war veterans. It is a challenge to connect the dots and turn our Memorial Day into a lesson, and resolve to honor the dead by insisting on peace.
We rightly turn our thoughts and our thanks to those who fought and the many who died in America’s wars. Sadly, we often find out long after a conflict is over that the reason we went to war in the first place was somewhat flimsy at best.
When we ask our often times young men and women to potentially die for their country there should be two very bottom line criteria: 1) that we have exhausted all other means to achieve our goals; and
2) that those who survive will be taken care of properly.
America is once again discussing the events that led us into invading Iraq. This is good. We need open and civil discussions on the march to war so that we do not make such mistakes again. As a nation, the subject of what led us into our various wars must always be open for discussion. With hindsight most of us agree that many of the recent wars have been unnecessary. Vietnam, the Gulf War, the invasion of Iraq should be studied thoroughly to avoid making such mistakes again.
The lives of our soldiers are precious. If we ask them to potentially die, there must be good reason and only after all other channels have been used.
Our soldiers are members of families, sons or daughters, fathers and mothers. Let us resolve to ask for their sacrifice only when necessary.
For those who beat the drum for a war with Iran, will you sacrifice your father or mother? Your sister or brother? Your son or daughter? Yourself? Or would you prefer peaceful settlement be worked on before one of your family members is sent to war?
As we get set to elect new leaders, this is one question that every candidate should answer.
Have a peaceful holiday.
The Indy 500 may be the ultimate analogy for America these days. A bunch of guys driving round and round in a circle getting no place to see who can do it the fastest. All while a quarter of a million fans watch enraptured. Somewhat like a day in Washington, DC.
Were you paying attention last week? Lots of stuff happened.
1) Once again President Obama hit a nerve with an executive order this week. Obama issued an EO regulating what surplus items?
2) There are now 20 countries in the world that have legalized gay marriage. What is the most recent one?
3) She would like this all behind her as quickly as possible. Who is leading the call to have her emails released?
4) California has had what new disaster to deal with this past week?
5) Waco, Texas was the site of a major riot last weekend. Who were the participants?
6) Takata is a behind the scenes supplier of auto parts that we seldom hear of. They have been much in the news lately, however. Why?
7) Iowa is joining all 50 states in a lawsuit against phony charities that have been scamming donors in what particular area of charity?
8) Loretta Lynch starts big. On Wednesday, 5 of the world’s largest banks were fined for crimes concerning what financial chicanery?
9) What young Cuban man, who was briefly in the United Staes 16 years ago, has expressed interest in returning for a visit?
10) What city voted to raise the minimum wage in that city to $15/hour by 2020?
11) Fox News(?) announced they will use what method to cull the herd of presidential candidates for the debates they sponsor?
12) As many as 5000 people participated in demonstrations outside what company’s Oak Brook, Illinois HQ calling for a $15/hour wage?
13) Speaking in Iowa, what Republican presidential candidate said he would authorize torture in interrogation?
14) In another brilliant move, the Iowa House passed a bill last week to legalize what?
15) May 25th, 1787 in Philadelphia marked the beginning of what historical gathering?
16) Got $725 million? Then you could buy America’s biggest ranch that was put up for sale in what US state this week?
17) What notable retired last week?
18) The scion of what large notorious family made headlines this week in relation to child molestation charges?
19) Late Friday night, did the US Senate pass or not pass fast track negotiating authority for the President?
20) The nation’s largest food retailer surprised many when it called on its suppliers to do what this week?
Have a safe and sane holiday.
1) military hardware
2) Ireland by popular vote Friday
3) Hillary Clinton
4) a major oil spill off the Santa Barbara coast
5) biker gangs
6) They are the major supplier of air safety bag systems for cars. There has been huge recalls on their systems.
7) cancer charities
8) manipulating the value of world currencies
9) Elion Gonzalez
10) Los Angeles
11) the top 10 from an average of the 5 most recent opinion polls
13) Rick Perry (surprised it wasn’t Jeb?)
15) the Constitutional Convention
16) Texas of course
17) David Letterman
18) the Duggars
19) it passed (boo)
20) called on meat suppliers to use less antibiotics and allow more roaming area for their animals.
The cancer charities that were cited as a scam were: Cancer Fund of America, Children’s Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services and The Breast Cancer Society (source: http://www.radioiowa.com/2015/05/19/iowa-part-of-national-lawsuit-against-phony-cancer-charities/)
Even though the boat may have sailed in the US senate, there still may be time to help stop it in the House. The following press release and letter were sent by the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators including Iowa State Representatives Charles Isenhart, Marti Anderson, John Forbes, Bruce Hunter, Jerry Kearns, Dan Kelly, Charles McConkey, Art Staed and State Senator William Dotzler.
Representative Charles Isenhart: (563) 5998839, email@example.com
Senator Virginia Lyons: (802) 8283616, firstname.lastname@example.org
Representative Denise Provost: (617) 8728805, Denise.Provost@mahouse.gov
STATE LEGISLATORS FROM ACROSS NATION SIGN LETTER URGING CONGRESS
REJECT FAST TRACK TRADE PROMOTION AUTHORITY
Bipartisan group of 110 state legislators from 41 states oppose Fast Track bill; raise concerns about secret trade negotiations, private investor remedies that threaten progressive state environmental and energy policies
State legislators from across the country have sent a letter to Congressional leadership and Senate and House members urging a “no” vote on the Trade Promotion Authority legislation as voted out of committee. The letter (below) was circulated by Iowa State Representative Charles Isenhart and Vermont State Senator Virginia Lyons, both of whom are members of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) and environmental leaders in their states and nationally. The letter was signed by 110 legislators from 41 states.
“Congress has a unique opportunity to protect our democracy, environment, and workers by rejecting fast track authority. Free trade negotiations go beyond tariffs and include policies that can threaten state environmental regulations,” said Lyons, who serves on the Vermont
Legislature’s Joint Energy Committee and is CoChair of the state’s Commission on International Trade and State Sovereignty.
“Emerging local renewable energy and other businesses lose when large multinational organizations determine rules of trade and rules of regulation all behind closed doors,” Lyons stated. “So-called ‘fast track’ authority limits Congressional oversight over a process that lacks transparency and threatens the fabric of our democratic system of state sovereignty. ”
Rep. Charles Isenhart echoed these concerns. “Trade agreements are negotiated in secrecy and state legislators are not at the table,” he said. “While virtually every investor group is well represented among the USTR’s more than 600 ‘citizen’ advisors, almost no legislators are. Yet these agreements can put at risk important state initiatives including clean energy policies and advanced biofuel incentives.”
Isenhart is the Ranking Member of the Iowa House Environmental Protection Committee and also serves on the Economic Growth Committee and Ways and Means Committee. He added, “Changes in the current Trade Promotion Authority legislation fall far short of fixing fundamental flaws in both the negotiation process and the agreements themselves, including the system of private justice that sidesteps our courts and gives foreign investors greater authority over policy than elected officials. Whatever the promises of the current administration, there are no guarantees that future administrations will follow through on the commitments of this one. In other words – as state legislators, we have no say, we can’t see, and we reap what others sow.”
Among the signers of the letter was Massachusetts State Representative Denise Provost, who spoke to negotiators of the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) during the 9th round of negotiations in New York City in April.
“As an elected official, I am particularly concerned about provisions in these agreements that subordinate our domestic legal systems to Investor State Dispute Settlement tribunals, which betrays constitutional principles, and represents the worst kind of corporate domination,” Provost said.
The legislators’ letter raises concerns not only about the pending Trade Promotion Authority legislation but also about likely provisions in the TTIP, the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) with the potential not only to undermine existing state environmental laws and regulations but also to chill future state policies inconsistent with the terms of these agreements. All would be covered by the speededup review and approval process known as Fast Track.
Letter Re: Trade Promotion Authority (Fast Track)
Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Boehner, Senate Democratic Leader Reid, and House Democratic Leader Pelosi:
As elected members of our state legislatures from across the United States, we write to urge you to reject the “Fast Track” version of trade promotion authority legislation as currently drafted and instead support a new process that is transparent, democratic, and accountable.
In July, we wrote to the Senate Finance Committee with suggested changes to the Fast Track legislation as introduced. We stated then, and reiterate now, the need for a new trade authority to provide significant and substantive opportunities for Congress to hold executive branch negotiators accountable. We remain eager to work with you to develop a process that can achieve the level of review and oversight intended by the U.S. Constitution. We believe such oversight to be absolutely necessary for modern international agreements with the breadth and reach of a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Agreement (TTIP).
The lack of transparency – indeed, extreme secrecy – of the trade negotiation process, coupled with the failure of negotiators to meaningfully consult on the far-reaching impact of these agreements on state and local laws, even when binding on our states, is of grave concern to us. As state legislators, we are not at the table. Of the more than 600 cleared advisors to the U.S. Trade Representative, two state legislators have been invited to participate. Thus, we depend on Congress to create a new mechanism that provides for Congress to conduct the in-depth review and oversight these powerful international agreements require. When Congress abdicates much of its authority, as it does in the Fast Track process, our democracy suffers.
Moreover, requirements for “regulatory coherence” and “minimum standard of treatment” provisions included in these trade agreements, and the investor-state system of private justice that can be invoked by investors to challenge federal, state and local laws and regulations, threatens the U.S. system of federalism enshrined in our Constitution. Our federalist system reserves significant authority to state legislators to regulate to ensure a level playing field for workers and businesses and to implement meaningful human rights, labor and environmental standards – authority that is threatened by these trade pact provisions.
The Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) procedures included in recent and pending trade agreements, including the recently leaked TPP investment chapter, are of particular concern. ISDS allows foreign investors the right to sue governments directly in offshore private investment tribunals, bypassing the courts or allowing a “second bite” if the investors do not like the results of domestic court decisions. Although the investor-state tribunal has no power to directly nullify U.S. federal, state, and local laws, in practice, when a country loses to an investor, it will change the offending law, or pay damages, or both. Moreover, a country need not even lose an ISDS case for the chilling effect of a case merely being threatened or filed to impact its future policy making deliberations.
Indeed, in our own experience as state legislators, we have directly experienced that chilling effect. It is not uncommon for investors and foreign governments alike to seek to chill non-discriminatory state legislative action on matters of public health, safety and welfare, with threats of legal challenges based on international trade agreements. State legislative examples we are aware of include electronic waste producer responsibility laws, regulation of water extraction, tax haven restrictions, GMO labeling, and regulation of toxics in consumer products. Current ISDS litigation includes many challenges to environmental regulation, including oversight of hydraulic fracturing and mining.
State legislators have a longstanding and clear position opposing investor-state dispute settlement clauses in trade agreements, memorialized in the policy of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), which represents all 50 states and the District of Columbia: “…NCSL will not support any BIT or FTA that provides for investor/state dispute resolution. NCSL firmly believes that when a state adopts a nondiscriminatory law or regulation intended to serve a public purpose, it shall not constitute a violation of an investment agreement or treaty, even if the change in the legal environment thwarts the foreign investors’ previous expectations.” [Readopted August 2013: http://www.ncsl.org/ncsl-in-dc/task-forces/policieslabor-and-economic-development.aspx#trade ]
The undersigned state legislators strongly endorse this position, and urge you in your oversight capacity to remove any investor-state dispute settlement clause from inclusion in the TPP, TTIP or other international trade or investment agreement that may be negotiated in the future.
Many of the undersigned legislators serve on the environment and natural resources committees of our legislatures and have leadership roles advancing environmental protections in our states. We are deeply concerned about public reports of potential provisions in both the TPP and TTIP agreements that would undermine these protections, including provisions on or related to investment and energy exports. With respect to TTIP, we are troubled by reports that the European Union is seeking binding provisions that would facilitate expanded exports of both liquefied natural gas and crude oil. With respect to the TPP, we are very concerned that the U.S. Department of Energy would lose its ability to even review whether exports of natural gas are in the interest of the public, should that agreement include national treatment for trade in gas.
The trade negotiation process is deeply flawed, and it appears to be resulting in deeply flawed trade agreements, namely the TPP and TTIP. Congress has the ultimate responsibility to oversee these agreements and put a stop to overreaching provisions that usurp the legitimate, non-discriminatory exercise of legislative authority to protect the public health and welfare. The pending Fast Track/Trade Promotion Authority legislation undermines this Congressional responsibility. We urge you to reject this approach and instead engage in robust, transparent and inclusive oversight of both the negotiation process and the agreements themselves.
(unable to reproduce signatures due to technical difficulties)
Considering the way that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has set up the Investor-State Dispute Settlement or ISDS process the only logical step for corporations who claim to be frustrated by US laws is to move their corporate headquarters out of the United States. Then they can be in a position to sue the United States to overturn laws and regulations that they feel get in their way. The corporation also gets the benefit of tax laws for corporation headquartered overseas.
This is a new corporate process called inversion. Currently the incentive for a corporation to invert itself, that is to move their corporate headquarters out of the country they primarily do business in, the United States, to a country where they have much lesser interests is to take advantage of loopholes in the US tax laws. Burger King bought itself a whole lot of bad publicity and nasty headlines when they bought Canadian doughnut maker Tim Horton’s with the express purpose of moving their HQ to Canada to avoid US taxes.
Burger King felt they could weather the bad publicity because America has the attention span of a gnat. The move is in process and based on media coverage Burger King bet correctly. Their move is no longer covered and it is business as usual while avoiding US taxes.
Walgreen’s announced they were going to invert their structure but called off the move in the face of some blisteringly bad publicity.
Now Monsanto, like Burger King and Walgreen’s, is making an offer to buy the much smaller Swiss based agribusiness Syngenta. Should the takeover take place then Monsanto has made no bones about moving their HQ from St. Louis to Switzerland to save up to $500 million per year in taxes. They have no loyalty to the country that gave them the means to grow.
Now along with the tax savings, Monsanto will be able to take their complaints about US laws and regulations to an ISDS arbitration board. Since treaties can supersede US laws, this may put corporations in a great position to attack laws and regulations that they have claimed over the years to be detrimental. We saw a small example of that just last week when the WTO ruled that the US can no longer require country of origin labeling for meat. Plan for many more disputes like tis from TPP and its Atlantic twin, the TTIP.
By the way, this should remind folks that corporations are not people despite what 5 members of the Supreme Court ruled. There is no loyalty to the US. With TPP corporations may finally have the tool they have always wanted to control US laws to their liking.
commondreams.org discusses Monsanto’s maneuver, noting the corporate “win-win” that Monsanto will reap:
Earlier this month, Monsanto made an initial offer to purchase the Swiss-based Syngenta. The deal, if completed, would allow Monsanto to move its headquarters from outside St. Louis to Switzerland, thereby reducing U.S. corporate tax payments. According to financial analysts at the investment firm Piper Jaffray, Monsanto would gain – and U.S. taxpayers would lose – about $500 million per year in tax revenues.
Monsanto, in fact, can attribute much of its growth over the last decade to past trade deals. Most other countries around the world, including key markets in the European Union, have taken a more precautionary approach to genetically engineered crops than in the U.S. – both in approvals for agricultural production, and in requiring clear labeling for consumers. In collaboration with the U.S. Trade Representative, Monsanto and the agrichemical industry have aggressively used trade rules in bilateral agreements as well as at the World Trade Organization (successfully challenging Europe’s biotech regulatory regime) to try to strike down higher-standard public health and environmental requirements for GE foods in other countries.
There seems to be no limit to the lengths to which the Obama administration will go to support Monsanto and the biotech industry. Earlier this month, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack accused the European Union of undermining efforts to address global hunger, because of a new EU proposal to allow its member countries greater power in regulating GE crops. Vilsack threatened that the EU’s decision raises “serious issues” about the future of TTIP, and officials in Washington have threatened another WTO challenge. The EU’s regulatory approach is troubling to Vilsack and Monsanto because their collective goal is to eliminate what they call sub-federal regulations. In the case of Europe, it is country-level regulations. In the U.S., it is state-level mandatory GMO labeling laws.
Both TPP and TTIP include intellectual property rules that protect Monsanto’s patented GE crops. They also include special corporate rights provisions, known as investor-state rules. These provisions would grant corporations legal rights to potentially challenge new laws, like state-level labeling of genetically engineered foods, that inhibit investors’ expectations.
Don’t forget, Iowa’s senators, Grassley and Ernst, are 100% behind these trade deals.
George W. Bush’s presidency is among the most destructive and corrupt of any American Presidency. Beginning with the stolen election, Dubya led the country into two, practically unilateral and illegal wars while pulling out of the multi-nation Kyoto Protocol. Bush and his Republican Congress (along with some Corporate Democrats) cut taxes and deregulated Wall Street, a policy transformation that upended record surplus into a record deficit and culminated in the worst economic crash since the Great Depression. And then there was Katrina, Gitmo, Blackwater, Abu Ghraib, and of course, Alito and Roberts.
Lost in so much scandal is the memory of Bush’s 2004 Repatriation Tax Holiday, awarded to Corporations that had squirreled away profits in overseas bank accounts to avoid paying US income tax. In order to entice companies to “re-patriate” those profits, Bush allowed them to pay a discounted 5.25% tax instead of the typical 35% corporate tax rate, promising Americans that the discount would benefit them by stimulating the American economy, creating thousands of jobs. As a result of that holiday, 843 companies brought back $312 billion, according to the Internal Revenue Service.
But instead of going on a hiring binge, or investing in research and development, or perhaps paying their workers more, the companies used most of the repatriated profits to buy back stock shares and issue dividend payments that larded already bloated CEO salaries. In fact, according to economists Chuck Marr and Brian Highsmith, “many firms actually laid off large numbers of U.S. workers even as they reaped multi-billion dollar benefits from the tax holiday and passed them on to shareholders.” The Wall Street Journal reported that this tax holiday cost the government $3 billion in lost revenues in the ten years since it was implemented.
But at least this tax holiday stopped the flow of corporate profits overseas, because legislators had the foresight to close the loopholes that caused offshoring of profits to avoid taxes. Sorry, not true. There were no claw backs in the tax holiday to prevent this from occurring once again. Since then, companies have once again stowed away almost $2 trillion in profits overseas by some estimates New York Times.
So what do Libertarian Rand Paul and Liberal Lion Barbara Boxer propose we do on the ten year anniversary of The Bush Tax Holiday? Why, give corporations like GE, Apple, Google and others another Tax Holiday!
I’m referring here to Invest in Transportation Act of 2015. The Boxer/Paul plan is different from Bush’s in that it proposes to use the taxes raised from the repatriated money to fund the nearly bankrupt highway trust fund – which makes it appealing to both Democrats and Republicans alike (no new taxes, money for infrastructure and jobs). Barbara Boxer is not up for re-election, so this is no political stunt. This is all her. And Google, Apple, Qualcomm, and other corporations in her district who have lobbied hard for several years for another tax holiday (and have heavily donated to her campaigns)
The irony here is that corporations aren’t even making the argument that they need this in order to create jobs. US companies are so flush with capitol, they do not need these profits to re-invest, expand research or otherwise stimulate the economy. Quite simply, their only interest is lower taxes and greater profits.
The injustice here is folks like you and I do not get to negotiate a lowered tax rate for income we hide in a Swiss Bank account. Boxer, Paul, as well as Bill Clinton who has been lobbying for such a holiday repeat since 2011, are now capitalizing on the urgency of our nation’s crumbling infrastructure to justify another tax giveaway to the 1%.
Obama is on the record of supporting similar proposals in the past, and Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) is touting this as a solution to the lack of funds for infrastructure – which will certainly be appealing in her heavily union district as infrastructure investments means jobs. But this formula is penny-wise and dollar-foolish. The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the holiday would boost tax revenue by an estimated $20b to $30b in the first two years it’s implemented. But after that, it would lose as much as $118 billion over the next decade.
But as with Bush’s holiday, there is no provision in the current bill that would prevent corporations from off shoring their profits yet again. Nor is there any companion bill to increase the federal gas tax (which hasn’t been raised in over 23 years) to prevent the Highway Trust Fund from future insolvency.
With Federal highway program set to expire May 31, both neoliberal Democrats and deficit hawk Republicans will continue to suggest the tax holiday as a solution. But to continue to reward unpatriotic companies with another tax holiday will do nothing to stop them from once again off-shoring their profits as they anticipate another, future Congress to repeat this same sad cynical cycle. It’s highway robbery this time. Perhaps next time, they can tie it to Veteran’s healthcare funding, education funding or another essential underfunded program.
Fool me once…