Ways to Stop
Corruption & Fund
In the old days, the Democratic Party fought for the working man and the unions against the superrich. But Bill Clinton was the first Wall Street Democrat. He realized he could play the Republican game and take money from the superrich to stay in power. Now Wall Street Democrats are very common.
Democratic-controlled states and cities are raising the minimum wage but Republican-controlled states are refusing to do this. In fact, 19 Republican state legislatures have passed laws forbidding cities from raising their own local minimum wages and more are rushing to do the same.
Democrats want to strengthen Social Security. Republicans want to cut and privatize Social Security but realize how unpopular this is, so they talk in code about modernizing it, opposing all tax increases (even those to make the rich pay their fair share), and keeping all options on the table.
We will never have a true democracy, never interrupt the flow of money for war, and never accomplish all the wonderful things described here without eliminating lobbying, our corrupt campaign finance system, and the revolving door between politics and corporate executives.
We should enforce the wise requirement in our Constitution that presidents get permission for war from Congress. This is totally ignored now, with both drone warfare and manned attacks. We recently bombed Somalia, killing 169 people, with no declared war there.
We should ban politicians, their staff, and government officials from taking lobbying jobs for 10 years or even life. We should ban lobbyists from making donations to the politicians they lobby and from coordinating fundraisers for them.
Many former government officials call themselves consultants or advisers to get around the laws and still do lobbying. We should expand the definition of lobbying to stop this.
We need public financing of campaigns and full transparency for all money spent to influence politics. We should also stop foreign lobbyists from raising money for US elections.
We should subsidize clean energy instead of dirty energy and force polluters to pay for their environmental damage. We should make the wealthy and corporations pay taxes like the rest of us again.
We should break up our too-big-to-fail banks and other massive corporations by enforcing our monopoly laws on them. We should punish companies for crimes with large enough fines to not only reverse their ill-gotten gains, but also truly hurt their profits.
We should bar banks from servicing mortgages or securities if they engage in mortgage or securities fraud and bar them from US markets and deposits if they commit serious crimes like laundering money or cheating millions of Americans. We also need an updated 21st -century Glass Steagal Act.
As we shall see in this book, there are many, many overlooked ways to fund our government. For example, we could change the Mining Act of 1872, which gives away our resources for the 19th-century price of $5 an acre, no matter how valuable the resources and without requiring any environmental standards.
Under this law, mining interests have bought land equal to the state of Connecticut for next to nothing, acquiring minerals valued at more than $300 billion! A Canadian company bought $10 billion worth of gold for less than $10,000.
This old law allowed the sale of $278 billion in gold, silver, and other metals for next to nothing and left 50 billion tons of cyanide and other mining wastes untreated on our public and private lands.
It has contaminated 12,000 miles of our streams and rivers, 180,000 acres of lakes and reservoirs, and untold amounts of ground water.
A carbon tax could generate over $300 billion for our government by forcing polluters to pay for their environmental damage. We could also charge companies for their use of groundwater.
Another source of funding is charging phone, television, and radio corporations for our publicly-owned airwaves instead of giving them away free, which the FCC has done since 1927.
Our government could retain a portion of the patents to make money from the trillions of dollars of federal research given away to pharmaceutical, computer, biotech, aerospace, and information companies. Now people make billions of dollars for slight tweaks of social media.
Still another way to make money is a 1 and 1/2% tax on financial transactions like stocks, bonds, derivatives, futures, and credit default swaps, often called a Robin Hood Tax. This could add $200 billion a year to our budget.
A “Robin Hood” tax on financial transactions would also stabilize the markets and help prevent another economic crisis by curbing the risky lightning-speed speculative computer trading of high-volume investors. Such a tax would not disturb Wall Street, middle-class Americans, or their pension funds at all.
At least 28 other countries use a Robin Hood Tax, including the financial powerhouse England. The European Union is near implementing one.
Wall Street traders pay no sales taxes on their stocks and bonds, even though regular Americans pay sales tax on nearly all the goods and services they buy. It is incredibly unfair for Wall Street, the wealthiest part of our economy, to pay no sales taxes.
Many hedge fund managers, Wall Street executives, more than 1,000 economists, the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bill Gates, Ralph Nader, and various unions all argue for a tax on financial transactions. In fact, the US had such a tax for over 50 years from 1914 to 1966.
Adding a 10-cent tax to the sale of any stock held less than 1 hour is another way to end dangerous high-speed speculative trading. We will discuss many more simple, painless ways to fund our government later in this book.
We could help our poorest citizens by letting the Post Office provide basic banking services with fair rates for paying bills, cashing checks, earning interest on savings, and small loans, like they do in other countries. We could even let them notarize and copy documents, provide email services, or open retirement savings accounts.
The only reason the Post Office is failing is Republicans in Congress have tried to destroy it. They passed a law forcing it to prefund 75 years of retirement benefits, so now it is setting aside money for the retirement of future employees not even born yet!
No other government agency has to prefund its retirement like this. Allowing our Post Office to provide the services above would not only use its infrastructure more efficiently and prevent mass layoffs, it would be a boon to the working poor.
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