Sunday, June 24, 2018

Scapegoating the migrants for votes

Trump called for the US to abandon its judicial system and summarily deport people who enter the country.

“When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came,” Trump said in a tweet, while being driven to his golf course in Virginia.

The statement amounted to a proposal for the suspension of law and in fact an attack on the rule of law. Trump continued to use the language of the far-right to describe immigrants, declaring in his tweet that the US “cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country”. He warned last week that immigrants could “infest” the US.

 Trump’s erratic actions created the child separation crisis with a “zero-tolerance” immigration policy. Trump falsely said his administration was merely following a law Democrats in Congress needed to help to change. After saying he could not stop the policy by executive order, he then stopped the policy with an executive order, confirming that he had been lying. But Trump has continued to demand action from Congress. When Congress promptly produced such plans, Trump dismissed them and instructed Republicans to stop negotiating. At a Republican party gathering in Las Vegas, where he continued to associate Hispanic immigrants in general with MS-13, a criminal gang that operates in Mexico and central America.

Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican, urged Trump to stop falsely accusing Democrats of being unwilling to agree to a comprehensive immigration law unless it effectively opened the border.
“They are on record supporting significant border control,” Flake said on ABC’s This Week. “So when the president says that, and calls them ‘clowns’ and ‘losers’, how does he expect Democrats to sit down and work with Republicans on these issues?”
Bob Corker, senator for Tennessee, also called for an end to the demonisation of immigrants. 
“We’ve got to realise these people are wanting to live in a place like we live,” Corker said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “We’re the most fortunate people on earth to live in this country. That’s why people are drawn to us.”
According to US officials, 310,531 people were apprehended entering the US illegally last year, compared with more than 1.6m in 2000.
“He uses it as a issue in order to energise his political base,” Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois said on ABC.
Trump confirmed in a speech on Saturday that he believes his hardline stance on immigration will be politically beneficial in November’s midterm elections.
“I like the issue for the election,” Trump said.

More Attacks on the Roma

One person has been killed in an attack on a Roma camp in western Ukraine late on Saturday night. A masked group armed with cudgels and other weapons targeted the camp on the outskirts of the city of Lviv. A 24-year-old Roma died of stab wounds, while four others - including a 10-year-old boy - were injured.
 It is the latest in a series of attacks on Ukraine's Roma community.  In April, the far-right group C14 burnt down tents in a Roma camp in the capital Kiev and chased women and children.
In a joint letter earlier this month, four human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch warned against the increase in attacks by far-right groups on minorities in Ukraine. They said that authorities had "failed" to respond to most incidents, leading to "an atmosphere of near total impunity that cannot but embolden these groups to commit more attacks".
The Roma face discrimination in many countries, with the UN describing them as being "among Europe's most excluded groups". Italy's right-wing populist Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said that Roma with no right to remain in Italy would be deported, but "unfortunately" those with Italian citizenship would have to stay.
The last Ukrainian census in 2001 estimated the Roma population to be around 40,000, although rights groups say the figure could be as high as 260,000.

Obama V. Trump

+ Set new records for prosecuting whistleblowers, deported more immigrants than any president ever.
+ Launched a devastating and criminal war on Libya.
+ Ramped up the reckless New Cold War with Russia, in part by helping set up a neo-Nazi coup regime in Ukraine.
+ Helped install a right-wing coup regime in Honduras.
+ Cuddled up the vicious and arch-reactionary Saudi Arabian regime, keeping U.S. weapons flowing to that absolutist state as it began to pummel Yemen into epic humanitarian crisis.
+ Initiated a Darth Vader-esque retooling of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
+ Offered fake constitutional cover for Bush’s criminal torture practices.
+ Expanded the criminal U.S. war on Afghanistan, slaughtering thousands of innocent Pashtun women and children along the way.
+ Expanded the mass-murderous Pentagon system, sponsoring among other things an unprecedented growth of the U.S. military presence in Africa
+ Oversaw an expanded drone war program that Noam Chomsky reasonably described as “the most extreme terrorist campaign in modern times.”
 Obama got away with it all and more, boasting of his service to the rich and powerful. Under Obama’s fake-progressive cover they launched their campaign for ‘entitlement reform' and Americans watched as Obama moved on to pass a health insurance reform (the so-called Affordable Care Act) that only the big insurance and drug companies could approve, rejecting the popular alternative single payer “Medicare for All”.

Under Obama  Americans “watched Washington rush to rescue the financial institutions of Wall St. that caused the catastrophe. People learned that the government has plenty of money to spend when the right people want it

 He’s been cashing on his service to the ruling class ever since. 

Taken from here

CEOs Pay Approved by 95% of Shareholders

Chief executives at the biggest US public companies got an 8.5 percent raise last year, bringing the median pay package for CEOs to $11.7 million. So far, shareholders seem OK with the pay packages for CEOs.

Liz Shuler, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, commented “Companies are asking their workers to do more with less, at the same that CEO pay is on the rise.”

At Yum! Brands, CEO Greg Creed’s pay of $12.3 million was 1,358 times higher than the company median of $9,111. The employee who earned that amount, on an annualized basis, was a part-time employee at a Taco Bell restaurant.
Leslie Moonves of CBS. He made $68.4 million, including a $20 million bonus. 
W. Nicholas Howley at TransDigm, which designs and produces aircraft components. He earned $61 million, including $51.2 million of payments from the company on stock options he holds, as if they had earned dividends.
Jeffrey Bewkes of Time Warner was the fourth-highest paid CEO at $49 million.
TripAdvisor’s Stephen Kaufer, at $43.2 million. He received grants of options and restricted stock valued at $42.1 million, 
Even at United Rentals, where the median pay was $77,127 last year, it would take a worker earning that amount 166 years to match the $12.8 million in compensation that CEO Michael Kneeland made last year. 
At both Yum! Brands and United Rentals, more than 95 percent of shareholders approved their CEOs’ pay for last year. Across the S&P 500, such votes on executive compensation passed with similar approval ratings in 2016 and 2017, at 95 percent.

Saudi women are still enslaved

Saudi Arabia lifts its ban on women driving and by the apologists of this despotic state as a "great" reform, yet women in Saudi Arabia still live under the supervision of a male guardian whose permission they need to marry or travel abroad.

"Imagine your son becomes your guardian," Manal al-Sharif, jailed for filming a video of herself driving in Saudi Arabia told the Thomson Reuters Foundation"No matter my capabilities as a woman, I am still enslaved to somebody else. Freedom for me is to live with dignity, and if my dignity and freedom is controlled by a man, I will never be free. While people are celebrating on Sunday we shouldn't forget the people who fought for lifting this ban are in jail."

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Who shoulders the refugee burden

Turkey, Bangladesh and Uganda alone received over half of all new refugees last year. 

Turkey was the country that received most new refugees last year – 700,000 people. It now houses over 3.8 million refugees, most of them from Syria. In comparison, the rest of Europe as a whole received about half a million refugees last year, and the US received about 60,000.

Turkey received close to 20 percent of all new refugees in 2017, Bangladesh 18 percent, Uganda 15 percent and Sudan 14 percent

By May this year, Uganda had only received 7.0 percent of the money needed for UN and other organisations to be able to provide necessary support to the large number of refugees from South Sudan and DR Congo. In Bangladesh the equivalent figure was 20 percent.

Friday, June 22, 2018


Today, the richest 1 percent of American families own a greater portion of the country’s wealth than the bottom 90 percent. Even more shocking, just three individuals own more wealth than the bottom half. Meanwhile, the incomes of the top earners continue to skyrocket—CEO compensation jumped as much as 937 percent between 1978 and 2016—while most Americans struggle to get by on stagnating wages.

Trump's Death Toll

A new report concludes that the damage already done by the Trump administration to the environment, and the US agency that regulates it, will result in 80,000 deaths each decade. Trump has so far initiated the reversal of 67 environmental laws. Even a future administration would have difficulty restoring the gutted EPA agency to its previous health and staffing levels any time soon.

An analysis by two Harvard University scientists, David Cutler and Francesca Dominici, looked specifically at the health impacts of changes to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) policies on air pollutants and toxic chemicals. They came up with the 80,000 deaths figure by analyzing the EPA's own data. The deaths would result from increased diseases from bad air and water quality and would be in addition to the deaths that would have resulted from those diseases anyway under the previous trajectory before Trump scrapped the protections.

"This sobering statistic captures only a small fraction of the cumulative public health damages associated with the full range of rollbacks and systemic actions proposed by the Trump Administration," they said.

Financial Insecurity

One in ten UK adults have no savings at all, according to the financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority.
 12 per cent have no savings or investments, while one in eight adults have no cash savings whatsoever and one in three only have savings of between £1 and £1,999.
According to the survey, with 17 per cent of adults in the northwest and 16 per cent in the northeast without savings, compared to 9 per cent in the southeast and 10 per cent in the southwest. The area with the highest proportion of adults who have no savings is Tees Valley and Durham, at 18 per cent.
49 per cent of people in urban areas show characteristics of “financial vulnerability” compared to 54 per cent in rural areas, the FCA said.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Stagnant Wages

British workers remained worse off last year than before the financial crisis and there is little hope of a decent pickup in living standards, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.  
Real median employee earnings in 2016-17 were as much as 3 percent below their 2007-08 level.

Separate figures from the Office for National Statistics Wednesday show the average annual income of the richest fifth of households was  £88,800 in 2016-17 -- 12 times greater than that of the poorest fifth. The ratio falls to less than four after accounting for benefits and taxes. 
The top 10%, the highest earning 1% fared the best, increasing their share of total income from 5.7% in 1990 to 7.8% in 2016–17.

The average household income per head, once taxes and benefits are taken into account, is only £12,232 in Nottingham, compared to £58,816 in Kensington and Chelsea, and Hammersmith and Fulham in west London.

The IFS said it was difficult to argue that the higher minimum wage had offset benefit cuts, saying it was “rather tenuous” when the policy had often raised the incomes of second earners from middle-income families and was therefore “not particularly well targeted at low-income households”.

The IFS said: “Overall, income inequality is substantially higher than it was in the 1960s, but roughly unchanged from the 1990s. If the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecasts are correct, inequality is likely to increase in the next few years.”

The IFS said that broadly stable income inequality since the 1990s was the result of two offsetting trends: “The top 1% have received an increasing share of total income, but inequality among the bottom 99% of the distribution has fallen somewhat – partly due to slow income growth towards the top since the recession.”

The report also highlighted the plight of people with longstanding mental health problems, who are twice as likely to be in poverty.
Finding that as many as 40% of adults across Britain with a mental health problem are in relative poverty, the IFS said this compares to 18% for the rest of the population.
About 1.3 million people said they had a longstanding problem with their mental health last year, up by about 250,000 from 2014.

Asylum-seekers are not a burden

Asylum seekers moving to Europe have raised their adopted nations' economic output, lowered unemployment and not placed a burden on public finances an analysis of economic and migration data for the last three decades has found. The findings come amid a rise of anti-immigrant sentiment across Europe.
Asylum seekers added to gross domestic products and boosted net tax revenues by as much as 1 percent, said a study published in Science Advances by French economists. Asylum seekers contributed most to a country's gross domestic product after three to seven years, the research found. They marginally lowered unemployment rates and had a near-zero impact of public finances, it said.
The research from 1985 to 2015 looked at asylum seekers - migrants who demonstrate a fear of persecution in their homeland in order to be resettled in a new country. The research analyzed data from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. 
"The cliché that international migration is associated with economic 'burden' can be dispelled," wrote the scientists from the French National Center for Scientific Research, the University of Clermont-Auvergne and Paris-Nanterre University.
Chad Sparber, an associate professor of economics at the U.S.-based Colgate University, said the study was a reminder there is no convincing economic case against humanitarian migration.

Hungary goes further right

Dubbed the "Stop Soros" laws after Hungarian-born US billionaire George Soros, accused by the government of orchestrating migration to Europe Hungary's parliament adopted laws which will  punish up to a year in prison for anyone convicted of helping a person who entered Hungary illegally from outside the Schengen zone, and whose life wasn't in immediate danger.  The latest changes come in addition to a measure passed with a finance bill on Tuesday slapping a 25-percent tax on NGOs suspected of helping migrants.
it also approved a change to the constitution stipulating that no authority is allowed to affect "the make-up of the Hungarian population", a clause designed to prevent Hungary participating in any EU scheme for mandatory refugee resettlement and it included a constitutional obligation for all state institutions to "defend Christian culture".
And for good measure, it banned homeless people spending the night in public spaces.
Amnesty International, which could find itself targeted under the laws passed called them "a brazen attack on people seeking safe haven from persecution and those who carry out admirable work to help them. It is a new low point in an intensifying crackdown on civil society and it is something we will resist every step of the way." 
The UN children's agency UNICEF pointed out Hungary plays host to less than one percent of registered child asylum seekers in Europe and that hobbling NGOs that help them could lead to "further harm to children who have already been forced to leave their homes, often experiencing traumatic journeys, and will perpetuate dangerous misconceptions rooted in racism and discrimination".
But, of course, SOYMB notes the way Hungarians conveniently forget the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the Russians in 1956 and how the rest of the world aided and helped them to reach safe havens.

The Roma Prejudice

Italy's interior minister Matteo Salvini vowed to turn “words into action” in his drive to root out and expel thousands of nomadic Roma from Italy. The Roma community has long been a target of Salvini, whose rise to prominence often involved press appearances at Roma camps, which he has frequently threatened to raze. Few minorities are treated with as much contempt in Italy as the Roma, who face prejudice and stereotypes that are deeply ingrained in the social consciousness.
Roma have Indian roots, and migrated slowly westwards over hundreds of years, appearing in historical records from Europe by the 14th century. Originally nomadic, though now settled in many areas, they were first targeted by European officials over 500 years ago.
“Roma were banned from the Holy Roman Empire in 1501 and, as of this date, could be caught and killed by any citizen,” the Council of Europe explains. In France less than two centuries later, Louis XIV ordered that all Gypsy men be condemned to forced labour for life without trial, women be sterilised and children be sent to poorhouses.
As the Enlightenment spread across Europe in the 18th century, Roma were among the many excluded.
Spain in 1749 launched an operation known as the “great Gypsy round-up”; Roma were enslaved in parts of what is now Romania until 1856. The Austro-Hungarian empire ran a fierce “assimilation” policy that involved separating children and parents, the Council of Europe explains.
Roma were among the targets of Nazi laws introduced in the 1930s, and Italy’s own fascist ethnic cleansing rules of the 1920s, and during the second world war hundreds of thousands were killed in massacres and at concentration camps. Although the exact death toll is not known, in some countries the killing wiped out up to 90% of the Roma population. In the immediate aftermath of the war, many Roma concentration camp survivors were refused help and compensation. In the decades that followed, stigmatisation and discrimination has continued across much of Europe.
As late as the 1970s, Switzerland was taking children from their parents, arguing that they couldn’t educate them to be good citizens. A recent study in Britain found a huge rise in Romany and Traveller families having their children taken away, a trend blamed on institutional prejudice. This decade alone they have been segregated in schools in Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Last year a Swedish appeals court ruled that police should pay compensation after setting up an illegal database of Roma family trees that included several thousand people, many of them children, or individuals without any criminal record.

Ching-Ching at the supermarket check-outs

Oxfam explains, 'The food industry currently rewards shareholder wealth over the work of millions.' Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda, Aldi, and Lidl are among supermarkets that are “increasingly squeezing the price they pay their suppliers” leaving people trapped in poverty. 

The analysis found that across 12 common food products, including tea, orange juice and bananas UK supermarkets receive almost ten times more of the checkout price than the small-scale farmers and workers who produce them.  In a report, the charity says “millions” of people overseas producing food for sale on the UK market are therefore being trapped in poverty, with some facing “brutal” working conditions and others going hungry. The charity said it surveyed hundreds of small-scale farmers and workers in supermarket supply chains across five countries and found that many people were struggling to feed themselves and their families or to earn a “basic standard of living.” For example, grape workers in South Africa and seafood processors in Thailand it found over 90% said they hadn’t enough to eat. 

While the British supermarkets' share of what consumers pay rose to nearly 53 percent in 2015 from 41 percent in 1996, the percentage pocketed by workers in their supply chains fell by a quarter to 5.7 percent over the same period

 Oxfam claims that working conditions in prawn processing plants in Indonesia - which supply some of the UK’s biggest supermarkets -  were subject to forced pregnancy tests and strictly controlled bathroom and water breaks. It said in one instance, Melati, an Indonesian factory worker, had to peel 600 prawns an hour - one every six seconds. Oxfam claims that when she couldn’t hit that target, she faced verbal abuse. 

Matthew Spencer, Director of Policy for Oxfam GB said: “... the food industry currently rewards shareholder wealth over the work of millions of women and men with supermarkets ignoring the hidden suffering behind their food supply chains..."

Millions of farmers and factory workers worldwide who produce food for Britain's leading supermarkets are exploited and struggle to feed their families. "Low wages, poor conditions and discrimination against women are sadly all too common ... for many of those who toil to produce our food," Peter McAllister, executive director of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), said in a statement.

"The danger is that unless action is taken, millions of workers and farmers will be condemned to in-work poverty..."

Is the population exploding?

Today, Japan’s birth rate is 1.44 children per woman.
The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research found that if such trends continue, Japan’s population is expected to decrease from 126 million today to 88 million in 2065 and 51 million by 2115.
With fewer children and young adults, a vicious cycle is set in motion: a smaller labor force and spending decreases which weaken the economy and discourage families from having children, which then weakens the economy further. This means less revenues and higher expenditures for the government, and when the number of older persons grows faster than the working-age population, there are less funds for pensions and social security, thus creating an even weaker economy.
“Without the younger generation, this system will not be able to maintain,” Secretary-General of the Asian Population Development Association (APDA) Dr. Osamu Kusumoto told IPS.
In France, the percentage of older people grew from 7 percent to 20 percent in approximately 150 years. However, the same demographic shift was seen in Japan within just 40 years. The elderly now make up 27 percent of Japan’s population in comparison to 15 percent in the United States. Many Asian countries are expected to follow in Japan’s footsteps.
By 2030, Asia could be home to over 60 percent of the total population aged 65 years or older worldwide. According to the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), East and Northeast Asian countries have the largest such population, accounting for 56 percent of all older persons in the Asia-Pacific region and 32 percent in the world.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Australian tax cuts stalled

The Australian Council of Trade Unions analysed data from 2003 to 2016 in 34 OECD countries and found weak or no association between company tax cuts and wage growth. In fact, seven countries experienced statistically significant slower wage growth despite lower taxes. Countries that experienced the largest decreases in annual wage growth despite corporate tax cuts included Norway, Canada and Finland.

“It is clear that the government’s claims on wage growth and corporate tax cuts does not match the international evidence,” the ACTU paper concluded.

The Australia Institute also released further an analysis of stage three of the personal income tax cuts plan showing high-income earners in the top 20% of taxpayers would get 95% of the benefit, while three-quarters of taxpayers got no benefit at all.

“Flattening income tax reduces the tax take from high-income earners, which ultimately means either less government services or high taxes on middle and low income earners.” Matt Grudnoff, senior economist at the Australia Institute, explained.

Australia's Shame

Much has been said about the lack of humanity in the American treatment of migrant children but at the other end of the spectrum Australia is also demonstrating a lack of compassion, too.

The Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians have both told the government that a dying Afghan refugee currently held in offshore processing on Nauru , who has lung cancer, should be moved to Australia to “be allowed dignity and respect at the end of his life”.

An open letter signed by more than 2,000 doctors calls for his transfer, explaining “His only chance of a good death is to come to Australia so that he can have both community and medical expertise. Our international reputation depends on it. Our humanity demands it.” 

Sources on Nauru and doctors familiar with his case say the palliative care he is receiving inside the Australian-run regional processing centre is “totally inadequate”. His prognosis is “dire” and he has only weeks or months to live.

The Australian Border Force has told Ali he can go to Taiwan to die – an option he has rejected because he does not know anybody there, is concerned there would be no translator from his language, Hazaraghi, and that there would be no one to perform the Shia Muslim rituals and ceremonies on his body when he died. The ABF has also offered to return him to Afghanistan, the country he fled after facing threats on his life. Ali is a member of the persecuted Hazara minority and has been formally recognised as a refugee – he faces a well-founded fear of persecution in Afghanistan and cannot be forcibly returned there. Australia is legally obliged to protect him.

High-profile or politically-sensitive medical cases are decided not by the ABF but by executive-level officials of the Department of Home Affairs: in some cases as high as the secretary of the department or the minister for home affairs.

World Refugee Day - World Solidarity - World Socialism

The media has on a number of occasions provoked panic among the public about refugees, often using metaphors such as “deluge” or “flood” which has considerably distorted the scale of the issue.  The media and the political mouthpieces of capitalist ideology have done their job well. Workers are being caught up by "patriotism". The patriotism of the capitalist class is better called national chauvinism. This "patriotism" equates loyalty to the nation with loyalty to the capitalist-controlled government and its policies. It seeks the acquiescence of workers in the crimes, aggressions, depredations and depravities of the ruling class and its agents.  It is intended to trick workers into sanctioning whatever is deemed in the interests of the business class. It's nationalistic baloney asserts that our interests as a “nation” are totally bound up with, if not identical , to those of our exploiters. It is all too easy to blame refugees for causing problems such as unemployment, bad housing or crime. 

The UK is not the  soft-touch for asylum seekers that politicians try to make out. The UK immigration system is extremely tough. Refugees aren't here to take advantage of the benefit system and steal our jobs. Refugees do not get large handouts from the state. As they await a decision on their asylum case they receive 30% less than those on Income Support (the minimum amount that a person can reasonably live on in UK according to the government themselves). Though many would love to refugees are not permitted to work. Statistics show there has been no refugee crime wave and that there's no established connection between asylum and increased crime rates. In fact, asylum seekers are more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators. There has been an increase in the number of violent attacks on asylum seekers as a result of their negative portrayal in the popular press.

What an extraordinary notion it is that the world's rulers possess the right to tell us which bit of land we should live on? Nationalist feelings arise because of the incessant propaganda of the ruling class in each country to persuade the working majority that they are in some way essentially different from and superior to everyone from other countries. The apologists for capitalism who try to foment ill-feeling towards "foreigners" landing here, whether they come to escape persecution, or to obtain slightly higher wages, never attack those many members of the upper class, including many newspaper proprietors and football club owners, who swan about the world as if there were no such thing as borders and visas. But then, in a capitalist society, you can't really expect the rulers and the ruled to be judged by the same standard, can you?

The wailing in our country about the "refugee invasion" has been long and loud.  Native-born workers feel imperilled because...they are imperilled. These are boom times for the employing class, but for all others are being squeezed. It's this economic vulnerability that anti-refugee forces play on. But pointing to refugees and blaming them for the economic pain local people are feeling is a lie. The truth is that even if there were no asylum seekers the misery that is felt would remain, for asylum seeker are not the ones who:
    Downsized and offshored jobs
    Stagnated wages and created zero-hour contracts
    Reclassified employees as "independent sub-contractors" in the gig economy (Uberisation) leaving them with no benefits or labour rights.
Powerless and vulnerble refugees didn't do these things. The rich did.

Unique amongst all political parties, left or right, the Socialist Party has no national axe to grind. We side with no particular state or government. We have no time for border controls. The world over, workers must do what they can individually and collectively to survive and resist capitalism. In many parts of the world that means escaping political tyranny or economic poverty. Workers should try and resist taking sides. We must not blame another worker for our poverty.

World Refugee Day

The number of people forced to flee their homes rose to a record high in 2017, with 16.2 million people newly displaced around the world. The figure includes people who have been displaced for the first time and those who have been forced from their homes multiple times.
The figure of 68.5 million displaced people – 3 million higher than the total population of the UK – includes 25.4 million refugees, 40 million internally displaced and 3.1 million asylum seekers. The increase came despite the return of more than 5 million displaced people to their countries of origins.
The annual figures, compiled by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, saw five countries accounting for two-thirds of all refugees (excluding those defined as long-term Palestinian refugees): Syria (6.3 million); Afghanistan (2.6 million); South Sudan (2.4 million); Myanmar (1.2 million) and Somalia (986,400)
 This means one in every 110 people in the world is currently displaced

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Senators of War - bought and paid for

The US domestic gun lobby has already spent over $12 million on lobbying and given at least $1.1 million to members of Congress in this election cycle, 98 percent of it to Republicans. The gun lobby also wields power over Democrats through lobbying and public relations, and the threat of targeting individual Democrats who take a public stand for gun control.

The U.S. arms makers spend far more money on lobbying and campaign contributions: $162 million on lobbying and tens of millions in direct funding for members of Congress so far in the 2017-18 election cycle to keep the guns firing, the missiles flying, the bombs falling and to keep the cash flowing to the military-industrial complex.

The armaments industry have traditionally contributed more to Republicans than Democrats  but Senate Democrat hawks play a critical role as swing votes to keep the country at war. Many  regularly vote for record military budgets that hand over the lion’s share of U.S. tax revenues to war profiteers.

Thirteen Senate Democrats have already raked in more than $200,000 each in contributions from the war industry in this election cycle: Durbin (IL); Reed (RI); Kaine (VA); Schumer (NY); Nelson (FL); Leahy (VT); Murray (WA); Shaheen (NH); Warner (VA); Blumenthal (CT); Schatz (HI); Donnelly (IN); and Heinrich (NM). (Only Leahy had the integrity to vote against final passage of the $700 billion FY2018 military budget.)

 49 Democrats and Independents in the U.S. Senate have raised $5 million dollars in direct campaign contributions from the war industry, plus an additional $2.3 million for their “Leadership PACs,” from which they distribute funds to other corporate politicians and candidates. That amounts to 44.5 percent of the war profits Lockheed Martin and other weapons makers have reinvested in the U.S. Senate in this election cycle, compared with $9.1 million, or 55.5 percent, to the 51 Republicans.

The Tax-Fiddlers

The corporate tax cut passed by Trump and fellow Republicans that was in part designed to help dissuade U.S. companies from moving profits overseas may instead make the practice a lot more rewarding. Many big U.S. companies consistently report large domestic revenues while also reporting losses or relatively small profits at home. Such companies are among the biggest winners from tax reform.

That is because companies which shifted profits linked to U.S. sales, research or production previously had to pay U.S. taxes on the money at the rate of 35 percent when they brought those profits home. The new tax bill cuts the overall corporate tax rate to 21 percent, and allows income from overseas to be taxed at about half that rate – to as low as 10 percent.

AbbVie Chief Executive Richard Gonzalez told investors earlier this year that because of the change to a territorial system, whereby only profits reported by domestic subsidiaries face U.S. tax, the U.S. drugmaker expects its tax rate to fall to 9 percent this year from around 22 percent in recent years. That ranks among the lowest of the companies in the S&P 500 that have announced estimates for their tax rate, which average around 22 percent, according to Credit Suisse. The company has historically reported its income in lower tax jurisdictions, which is possible in part because AbbVie parks the majority of the patents for its top-selling drug in Bermuda - a country that has a zero tax rate on corporate profits. Despite recording over half its $28.2 billion in 2017 sales in the United States and basing most of its research facilities there, the Chicago company has never reported a profit in its home country, its annual reports show. The main driver for AbbVie, a rheumatoid arthritis treatment called Humira, generated more than $12 billion in sales in 2017 from patients in the United States, where the most common dose has a list price of about $60,000 a year.

In 2017, AbbVie reported foreign earnings before income tax of $10.4 billion on international revenue of only $9.97 billion. Yet, between 2013 and 2016 AbbVie had to pay around $1 billion a year of taxes in the United States, when it took the profits reported by foreign subsidiaries home to help cover expenses from its U.S. operations. In the future, it will not have to pay such taxes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The principal anti-tax avoidance measures introduced still allow companies to benefit strongly from profit shifting.

“If the guardrails in the new territorial system were meant to prevent companies from avoiding all taxes, AbbVie’s tax rate is a pretty clear signal that these guardrails may not be effective,” said Matthew Gardner, senior fellow with the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy.

 Around two-thirds of those patents were assigned to the Bermuda subsidiary, AbbVie Biotechnology. Most of those patents were developed by teams of researchers entirely or somewhat based in the U.S., according to details in patent filings.

“This is the blueprint,” said Reuven Avi-Yonah, director of the International Tax at the University of Michigan Law School. “The illusion that you would see more patents kept in the U.S. under the new tax law is unreal as long as there are places you can keep them offshore where you pay 0.”

AbbVie is not the only U.S. company with big operations at home but which reports relatively few profits. Pfizer , Expedia, Boston Scientific Corp, Synopsys  and Microsoft  also do the same and are set to be big winners from the shift in territorial system, executives have said and earnings for the most recent quarter show.

Analysts and academics say corporate filings often show that drug companies frequently reduce their taxes by parking patents in a low-tax haven, as AbbVie does, and then have their affiliates - which manufacture or market the drug - pay the tax haven subsidiary royalty fees for the right to use the patent. This arrangement sees a drug sold into a target market, like the United States, at a high price, with the U.S. distribution arm getting a sales margin as low as 5 percent. Sometimes the U.S. distribution profit is not enough to cover group costs incurred in the United States. For example, many of AbbVie’s biggest costs - including $1 billion a year in interest charges and over $50 million in compensation for its top 5 executives - are covered by AbbVie’s U.S. entities, contributing to the U.S. loss, filings show. That is why AbbVie can forecast a tax rate below the 10.5 percent GILTI rate, which some commentators have described as a new minimum tax rate.

“There is an incentive to profit-shift,” said Daniel Shaviro, a Professor of tax law at New York University.

Neo-Fascists Target the Roma

Italy ’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has ordered a new census of the country’s Roma community, as he continues his drive to root out and expel “foreigners”.

The Roma community has long been a target of Salvini, whose rise to prominence often involved press appearances at Roma camps, which he has frequently threatened to raze. On Monday he ordered the census and the removal of all non-Italian Roma – which he called an “answer to the Roma question” – and said he wanted to know “who, and how many” there were.

“Unfortunately we will have to keep the Italian Roma because we can’t expel them,” Salvini said. Salvini is on record as having praised Benito Mussolini and his new policy has sparked comparisons to ethnic cleansing rules introduced in the 1930s that also targeted the Roma.
Up to 180,000 Roma live in Italy, about 43% of whom are Italian citizens. About 4,000 Roma live in state-sanctioned ghettos in Rome, according to a 2013 report by Amnesty International. These out-of-city ghettoes consist of pre-fabricated containers or mobile homes in fenced-off areas, often without adequate sanitation or clean drinking water. Inhabitants are excluded from other social housing despite many having lived in Italy for generations.