Trump Regime Plans to Allow Oil/Gas Drilling off Almost All of U.S. Coast

A very horrible move that’s not only terrible for the affected environments, but a step in the wrong direction for using fossil fuels over clean renewables. The Trump regime’s recent policy changes as a result of its servitude to Big Oil will probably cause some major oil spill(s) in the years ahead.

The Trump administration has unveiled a plan that would open almost all US offshore territory to oil and gas drilling, including previously protected areas of the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific oceans.

Ryan Zinke, the secretary of the interior, said a new oil and gas leasing programme, which would run from 2019 to 2024, would make more than 90% of the outer continental shelf available for what would be the largest ever number of lease sales to fossil fuel companies.

The draft plan includes nearly 50 lease sales in all but one of 26 planning areas in US waters, including 19 sales off the coast of Alaska, seven in the Pacific, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico and nine in the Atlantic. The plan reverses protections put in place by the Obama administration and would introduce drilling for the first time to the Atlantic seaboard – a prospect fiercely opposed by communities along the east coast.

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But the prospect of oil rigs deployed across huge areas of US territorial waters brought immediate condemnation from an unlikely alliance of environmental groups and some senior Republicans.

Rick Scott, the Republican governor of Florida, said he opposed drilling off the state’s coast due to environmental concerns.

“I have already asked to meet immediately with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the critical need to remove Florida from consideration,” Scott said.

Other states reacted with hostility to the new plan, with the governors of New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina all expressing concerns about the potential impact upon marine ecosystems and coastal economies that rely on tourism and fishing. The governors of west coast states – California, Washington and Oregon – have also condemned the prospect of drilling in the Pacific for the first time since 1984.

Opponents of drilling have raised the spectre of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, one of the worst environmental disasters in US history. The incident on the BP rig caused 215m gallons of crude oil to flood into the gulf, coating beaches and seabirds and leaving a toxic legacy that is still felt. BP has paid more than $60bn in penalties since the disaster.

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The U.S. — The World’s Preeminent New Tax Haven

Tax havens are a major factor (and consequence) of global inequality. There are enormous sums of money in offshore tax havens, and there are enormous needs for the many that could make good use of that money, but those two realities are rarely being brought together.

Seven years ago, the U.S. led an effort to address a problem facing governments everywhere. Each year, people manage to avoid paying an estimated $2.5 trillion in income tax — a giant sum that could be used to combat poverty, update infrastructure or lower tax rates for law-abiding citizens.

Now, however, the U.S. is becoming one of the world’s best places to hide money from the tax collector. It’s a distinction that the country would do well to shed.

In 2009, amid growing budget deficits and a tax-fraud scandal at Swiss bank UBS AG, the Group of 20 developed and developing nations came to an agreement: They would no longer tolerate the network of havens, shell companies and secret accounts that had long abetted tax evasion. A year later, the U.S. passed the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which required foreign financial institutions to report the identities and assets of potential U.S. taxpayers to the Internal Revenue Service.

Under threat of losing access to the U.S. financial system, more than 100 countries — including such traditional havens as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands — are complying or have agreed to comply.

The U.S. was expected to reciprocate, by sharing data on the accounts of foreign taxpayers with their respective governments. Yet Congress rejected the Obama administration’s repeated requests to make the necessary changes to the tax code. As a result, the Treasury cannot compel U.S. banks to reveal information such as account balances and names of beneficial owners. The U.S. has also failed to adopt the so-called Common Reporting Standard, a global agreement under which more than 100 countries will automatically provide each other with even more data than FATCA requires.

While the rest of the world provides the transparency that the U.S. demanded, the U.S. is rapidly becoming the new Switzerland. Financial institutions catering to the global elite, such as Rothschild & Co. and Trident Trust Co., have moved accounts from offshore havens to Nevada, Wyoming and South Dakota. New York lawyers are actively marketing the country as a place to park assets. A Russian billionaire, for example, can put real-estate assets in a U.S. trust and rest assured that neither the U.S. tax authorities nor his home-country government will know anything about it. That’s a level of secrecy that not even Vanuatu can offer.

From a certain perspective, all this might look pretty smart: Shut down foreign tax havens and then steal their business. That would be the kind of thinking that’s undermining America’s standing in so many areas, from trade to climate change. Instead of using its power to establish an equitable system of global governance, it’s demanding a standard from the rest of the world that it refuses to apply to itself. That isn’t leadership.

Republican Tax Scam Gives 15 Giant U.S. Corporations a $236 Billion Tax Cut

What a time to be alive while witnessing these giant moral travesties that benefit the richest corporations at the expense of the general public.

In “further proof that the Republican tax bill is a massive giveaway to the largest corporations in the country,” a new report (pdf) prepared for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and published on Monday found that 15 of America’s most profitable corporations would receive a combined $236 billion tax cut if the GOP plan becomes law.

Released as Republicans gear up for a final vote on their tax bill as early as Tuesday, the report notes that “[o]ver the last 30 years, 15 of the largest U.S. corporations have accepted $3.9 trillion of corporate welfare in the form of subsidies, tax credits, and bailouts, and another $108 billion in government handouts in the form of federal contracts.”

“On top of this $4 trillion boondoggle,” the analysis adds, “Republicans want to give these corporations an additional $236 billion tax cut.”

Among the companies the report highlights are Apple, Pfizer, and Walmart, all of which utilize fancy “accounting tricks to dodge taxes” while also taking advantage of government programs that add to their bottomlines at the expense of American taxpayers.

moral-travesties

The report goes on to observe that far from living up to its lofty goal of discouraging outsourcing, the deeply unpopular GOP tax bill actually “encourages companies to shift their jobs and profits overseas by moving to a ‘territorial’ tax system that would exempt future offshore profits of U.S. subsidiaries from taxation.”

While these companies stand to benefit massively from the GOP’s bill, “more than half of middle class families will pay more in taxes at the end of ten years,” Sanders said in a statement.

“Further, by running up a $1.4 trillion deficit, the Republicans are paving the way for massive cuts to Social Securirty, Medicare, and Medicaid,” Sanders concluded. “This is a tax bill written for wealthy Republican campaign contributors, not for the average American. It must be defeated.”

Sanders’ report coincides with an analysis (pdf) released Monday by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, which found that over 82 percent of the GOP bill’s benefits would go to the top one percent of Americans and nearly 60 percent would go to the top 0.1 percent by 2027.

FCC Votes to Dismantle Net Neutrality

Despite the immense supermajority public support for net neutrality, the U.S. Congress under Republican control doesn’t look like it will reverse the FCC’s decision either. Giving ISPs power to slow, block, and charge more for select Internet services is really going to enrage a lot of people in the coming months, and this will hopefully damage congressional Republican chances in 2018.

The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to dismantle rules regulating the businesses that connect consumers to the internet, granting broadband companies the power to potentially reshape Americans’ online experiences.

The agency scrapped the so-called net neutrality regulations that prohibited broadband providers from blocking websites or charging for higher-quality service or certain content. The federal government will also no longer regulate high-speed internet delivery as if it were a utility, like phone service.

The action reversed the agency’s 2015 decision, during the Obama administration, to have stronger oversight over broadband providers as Americans have migrated to the internet for most communications. It reflected the view of the Trump administration and the new F.C.C. chairman that unregulated business will eventually yield innovation and help the economy.

It will take weeks for the repeal to go into effect, so consumers will not see any of the potential changes right away. But the political and legal fight started immediately. Numerous Democrats on Capitol Hill called for a bill that would reestablish the rules, and several Democratic state attorneys general, including Eric T. Schneiderman of New York, said they would file a suit to stop the change.

Several public interest groups including Public Knowledge and the National Hispanic Media Coalition also promised to file a suit. The Internet Association, the trade group that represents big tech firms such as Google and Facebook, said it also was considering legal action.

National Democratic Party — Pole Vaulting Back Into Place

Among the most substantive criticisms of the highest Democratic party leadership that I’ve seen. Who it is written by makes it all the more appropriate.

Seeking to capitalize on the Republicans’ disarray, public cruelty and Trumpitis, the Democratic Party is gearing up for the Congressional elections of 2018. Alas, party leaders are likely to enlist the same old cast and crew.

The Democratic National Committee and their state imitators are raising money from the same old big donors and PACs that are complicit in the Party’s chronic history of losing so many Congressional, gubernatorial and state legislative races—not to mention the White House.

The large, embattled unions are preparing to spend millions on television ads and unimaginative get-out-the-vote efforts, without demanding fresh pro-worker/pro-union agendas from the Democratic politicians they regularly endorse.

The same old political consulting firms, which also consult profitably for corporations, are revving up their defeat-prone tactics and readying their practice of blaming the candidates—their clients—when their strategies and lucrative ad buys don’t work.

The Party’s scapegoating machine remains well-oiled. To explain why they cannot defeat the cruelest, most plutocratic, anti-worker , anti-consumer, anti-environment, anti-patient Republican Party in history, the woeful party leaders blame gerrymandering (in which they also engage), the Green Party, the Koch Brothers, voter suppression, “lying” Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, the “Red States,” and more.

So what’s the plan for the Democratic Party? Their new slogan, developed at some cost by political consultants, is, “A Better Deal.” Mention this to John Larson (D-Conn.), a leading Democrat in the House of Representatives, and you’ll hear scorn and ridicule.

Major Democratic operatives and leaders flocked last week to the posh La Costa Resort in Southern California to discuss the Democracy Alliance’s theme of “Beyond Resistance: Reclaiming our Progressive Future.”

Aside from their usual avoidance of taboo subjects such as the corporate crime wave’s ravaging of workers, consumers and the poor, or the need for a “universal basic income,” (something which was supported in the nineteen seventies by no less than President Richard Nixon and market fundamentalist economist Milton Friedman—for more information visit basicincome.org) what were the Democratic strategists doing in this ostentatious venue?

A super wealthy waterhole like La Costa Resort with its spas, pools and golf courses is not a place that signals solidarity with the working class.

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It was in the Seventies that the Democratic Party started abandoning the South and pursuing a blue-state focus in Presidential campaigns. This geographic neglect atrophied the party all the way down to local races.

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The other milestone event in 1979 that has turned into a disastrous millstone around the Democratic Party’s neck was the party leadership accepting California Congressman Tony Coelho’s strenuous urging that it start pushing hard for the same corporate campaign cash that the Republicans had long solicited. The full-throated devouring of cash register corporate politics was the final slide into the pit of institutional corruption for the Democrats.

If the Democrats do not compete to win in all states – blue and red, and if they do not rely on the kind of small-donor fundraising so immensely successful in Bernie Sanders’s 2016 campaign, they will continue to lose elections under the failed leadership of Nancy Pelosi. She recently unfurled her mantra for 2018: “money, message and mobilization”—in that order, of course.

As former White House Counsel, Bill Curry, has repeatedly said in his incisive columns for Salon, “policy precedes message.” Without authentic policies for the people of our country, “message” following “money“ simply becomes the same political consultants’ con game. “Mobilization” is not possible when voters feel there is no political movement prepared to work on their behalf.

GOP Continues to Wage Class Warfare With Inhumane Tax Bill

The worst Republican congress in history seems to have little shame.

“Soaking broke-ass grad students to pay for a private jet subsidy. All-out class war on the 99 percent.”

That was how one commentator described a pair of provisions buried in the GOP tax plan that passed the House on Thursday and is likely headed to the Senate floor for a vote as early as next week.

One provision—crammed in the middle of the latest version of the so-called “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”—would provide a windfall to the wealthy few who own or lease private planes by exempting them from certain taxes related to “maintenance and support,” “the hiring and training of pilots and crew,” and “administrative services such as scheduling, flight planning, weather forecasting, obtaining insurance, and establishing and complying with safety standards.”

Graduate students, however, would not fare so well if the GOP plan becomes law.

As CNBC reports, “[s]ome programs provide graduate students with a modest stipend for food and housing. For instance, Ryan Hill, a fourth-year Ph.D. student at MIT, receives a $30,000 living stipend and a tuition waiver allowing him to forego paying $50,000 in tuition. He currently pays taxes on his $30,000 stipend, but under the proposed House tax bill, his tuition waiver would also be taxed—meaning he would be taxed as if he was earning $80,000 a year.”

In total, the House GOP tax plan would raise taxes by 400 percent on many graduate students, the Harvard Crimson estimated.

Such a tax on students who are already drowning in loan debt “would be devastating,” Samantha Hernandez, legislative director of the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students, told Wired“I monitor all legislation at the state and federal levels that could affect graduate and professional students, and this is just—this would have the greatest negative impact of anything I’ve seen.”

Historian Nick Kapur pointed to his own experience as a PhD student and described the proposed tax hike as “the height of Republican insanity.”

The $1.5 trillion cut is also back.

On Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers are moving closer to pass a sweeping $1.5 trillion tax cut that largely benefits the wealthy and the nation’s largest corporations. The House passed its version of the bill on Thursday by a vote of 227 to 205. Thirteen Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the legislation. The massive tax cut was approved without the House holding a single hearing. Hours later, the Senate Finance Committee approved its own version of the bill, but it is unclear if the Republicans have enough votes for it to pass the full Senate. One of the biggest beneficiaries of the tax bill may be President Donald Trump’s own family. An NBCNews analysis based on his 2005 tax return found Trump would personally save $20 million under the House bill, while his heirs could save $1.1 billion. Meanwhile, the Senate plan will actually result in higher taxes for workers who earn less than $75,000 by 2027, according to a new analysis by the Congress Joint Committee on Taxation.

Paradise Papers Release Shows Immense Wealth Hidden by World Elites in Offshore Tax Havens

The Paradise Papers show that the world is moving too quickly in the direction of what’s perhaps appropriately described as an international oligarchy controlled by billionaires and giant multinational corporations.

The world’s biggest businesses, heads of state and global figures in politics, entertainment and sport who have sheltered their wealth in secretive tax havens are being revealed this week in a major new investigation into Britain’s offshore empires.

The details come from a leak of 13.4m files that expose the global environments in which tax abuses can thrive – and the complex and seemingly artificial ways the wealthiest corporations can legally protect their wealth.

The material, which has come from two offshore service providers and the company registries of 19 tax havens, was obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with partners including the Guardian, the BBC and the New York Times.

The project has been called the Paradise Papers. It reveals:

[…]

Meanwhile, multinational companies are shifting a growing share of profits offshore – €600bn in the last year alone – the leading economist Gabriel Zucman will reveal in a study to be published later this week.

“Tax havens are one of the key engines of the rise in global inequality,” he said. “As inequality rises, offshore tax evasion is becoming an elite sport.”