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Jon Queally

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Jon Queally, senior editor and staff writer, has been with Common Dreams since 2007 covering US politics, foreign policy, human and animal rights, climate change, and much in between. In addition to his role as the opinion editor, he works daily on the creation, selection and management of news content. Email: [email protected]

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Jon Queally, USA 02/05/2018 0

After New Trump Demand for $25 Billion Wall, Lawmaker Says Cheaper to Build Giant Statue of Middle Finger Aimed at Latin America

Following an immigration deal put forth by the Trump administration late Thursday—one which demands $25 billion for a wall and another $5 billion for increased militarization of the border—progressives said the proposal was “dead on arrival,” nothing but a “racist ransom note,” and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) suggested it would be “far cheaper to erect a 50-foot concrete statue of a middle finger and point it towards Latin America.”

Trump, added Gutierrez, “can’t be trusted to keep his word or maintain position for more than a couple of hours. Every time hardliners inside and outside White House shift his position, we get farther from a deal to serve the will the American people to give Dreamers a way to live here legally.”

Though Trump has said he wants to cut a deal that would protect Dreamers—residents without citizenship who were brought to the U.S. as children—the proposal the White House floated to reporters on Thursday contains a goody bag of hard-line, anti-immigration policies of the kind pushed by Trump advisor Stephen Miller and chief of staff John Kelly. It includes severe cuts to family-based migration policies, termination of the diversity visa program, and more funding for ramped up deportations.

“Let’s call this proposal for what it is:  a white supremacist ransom note.” —Greisa Martinez Rosas, United We Dream

“Let’s call this proposal for what it is:  a white supremacist ransom note,” said Greisa Martinez Rosas, advocacy director for United We Dream, which is calling for passage of a “clean” Dream Act and a deal in which undocumented youth are not used as “bargaining chips” to push an unproductive far-right and xenophobic set of immigration policies.

“Trump and Stephen Miller killed DACA and created the crisis that immigrant youth are facing,” Rosas continued. “They have taken immigrant youth hostage, pitting us against our own parents, Black immigrants and our communities in exchange for our dignity. To Miller and Trump’s white supremacist proposal, immigrant youth say: No.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also said the deal was a non-starter and should be rejected:

MoveOn.org, meanwhile, called the proposal a “bill of cruelty” that would do nothing but hold Dreamers hostage and should be “dead on arrival” if a version of it comes to Congress.

“Trump’s proposal seeks to hold the futures of 800,000 Dreamers hostage in order to deport their loved ones and waste taxpayer money on the wall he promised Mexico would pay for,” said Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action, in a statement.

“Remember,” Galland added, “it’s Trump who unilaterally chose to rescind DACA. If he cared about Dreamers, Trump could unilaterally decide to keep it in place. Despite saying he would deal with Dreamers with ‘great heart,’ he has proven time and again that he is more concerned about ticking off the items on John Kelly, Stephen Miller, and the nativist movement’s deportation agenda.”

And Rosas offered this message to lawmakers in Congress: “Let us be clear: any politician who backs up this ransom note is enabling Trump and Miller’s white supremacist agenda. Members of Congress of conscience must make the moral choice to reject this white supremacist proposal and pass legislation that protects us without harming others. Dream Act now.”

Top photo: Immigration activists, including U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) (C), stage a protest on the steps of the U.S. Capitol December 6, 2017 in Washington, DC. Activists urged the Congress to pass a clean Dream Act and protect Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries before the end of the year. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

By Common Dreams

Jon Queally, USA 02/01/2018 0

‘Billionaire Boom’: While World’s Richest 1% Took 82% of All New Wealth in 2017, Bottom Half Got Zero, Zilch, Nada

Call it the ‘Year of the Billionaire.’

In 2017, a new billionaire was created every two days and while 82 percent of all wealth created went to the top 1 percent of the world’s richest while zero percent—absolutely nothing—went to the poorest half of the global population.

“The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system. The people who make our clothes, assemble our phones and grow our food are being exploited to ensure a steady supply of cheap goods, and swell the profits of corporations and billionaire investors.” —Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International

That troubling information is included in Oxfam’s latest report on global inequality—titled Reward Work, Not Wealth (pdf)—released Monday. In addition to the above, the report details how skyrocketing wealth growth among the already rich coupled with stagnant wages and persistent poverty among the lowest economic rungs of society means that just 42 individuals now hold as much wealth as the 3.7 billion poorest people on the planet.

“The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system,” Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam’s executive director of Oxfam International. “The people who make our clothes, assemble our phones and grow our food are being exploited to ensure a steady supply of cheap goods, and swell the profits of corporations and billionaire investors.”

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Billionaire wealth has risen by an annual average of 13 percent since 2010 – six times faster than the wages of ordinary workers, which have risen by a yearly average of just 2 percent. The number of billionaires rose at an unprecedented rate of one every two days between March 2016 and March 2017.
  • It takes just four days for a CEO from one of the top five global fashion brands to earn what a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn in her lifetime. In the US, it takes slightly over one working day for a CEO to earn what an ordinary worker makes in a year.
  • It would cost $2.2 billion a year to increase the wages of all 2.5 million Vietnamese garment workers to a living wage. This is about a third of the amount paid out to wealthy shareholders by the top 5 companies in the garment sector in 2016.
  • Dangerous, poorly paid work for the many is supporting extreme wealth for the few. Women are in the worst work, and almost all the super-rich, nine out of ten, are men.

The report comes just as the world’s economic and political elite are set to open the World Economic Forum, held annually in Davos, Switzerland. And why the global elite argue the summit’s focus is addressing the world’s most pressing problems, Oxfam found that the amount of new wealth which went to the world’s top one percent in 2017 was roughly $762 billion—a figure large enough, the group points out, to end extreme global poverty seven times over.

Tham, 23, cleans the small room in which she lives in an industrial district of Hai Duong, Vietnam. (Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam International)

Tham, 23, cleans the small room in which she lives in an industrial district of Hai Duong, Vietnam. (Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam International)

What the report ultimately exposes, Mark Goldring, Oxfam GB chief executive, told the Guardian, is a “system that is failing the millions of hardworking people on poverty wages who make our clothes and grow our food.”

“For work to be a genuine route out of poverty we need to ensure that ordinary workers receive a living wage and can insist on decent conditions, and that women are not discriminated against,” he added. “If that means less for the already wealthy then that is a price that we—and they—should be willing to pay.”

Not just cataloging and lamenting the metrics of inequality, the new report also puts forth a number of policy solutions that should be embraced by people and governments worldwide to reduce levels of inequality and lift billions of people out of extreme poverty. They include:

  • Limit returns to shareholders and top executives, and ensure all workers receive a minimum ‘living’ wage that would enable them to have a decent quality of life. For example, in Nigeria, the legal minimum wage would need to be tripled to ensure decent living standards.
  • Eliminate the gender pay gap and protect the rights of women workers. At current rates of change, it will take 217 years to close the gap in pay and employment opportunities between women and men.
  • Ensure the wealthy pay their fair share of tax through higher taxes and a crackdown on tax avoidance, and increase spending on public services such as healthcare and education. Oxfam estimates a global tax of 1.5 percent on billionaires’ wealth could pay for every child to go to school.

Though Oxfam has been calculating global inequality on an annueal basis for more than a decade, the anti-poverty group notes that this year’s report used new data from Credit Suisse and a separate kind of model. Specifically, Oxfam noted, the fact that the world’s 42 richest billionaires have as much wealth as the poorest bottom half “cannot be compared to figures from previous years – including the 2016/17 statistic that eight men owned the same wealth as half the world – because it is based on an updated and expanded data set published by Credit Suisse in November 2017.  When Oxfam recalculated last year’s figures using the latest data we found that 61 people owned the same wealth as half the world in 2016 – and not eight.”

Top photo: A pregnant woman checks clothes made for international brands at a garment factory in Dong Nai province, Vietnam, on November 21, 2017. (Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam International)

Jon Queally, USA 12/24/2017 0

Analysis Shows More Than Half of Total Trump-GOP Tax Plan Benefits Go to Richest 5%

It’s simple. Profit-hungry corporations get a permanent windfall and the rich receive massive cuts. Everyone else—sooner or later, like it or not—gets to help pay for it all.

The jewel of the final “morally and economically obscene” GOP tax plan released by Republicans on Friday—now set for a vote this week in both the House and Senate and a signature by President Donald Trump before the Christmas holiday—is a permanent tax giveaway for corporations who will see their marginal rate slashed from 35 percent down to 21 percent.

But because of budget obligations and legislative rules, in order to pay for that massive gift to foreign investors, the wealthiest, and corporations—already, it should be noted, sitting on record profits and mounds of capital—it will ultimately be low- and middle-income Americans who see their taxes rise.

And it should be no surprise. As a weekend New York Times editorial makes plain, the GOP tax plan isn’t only designed to further entrench massive inequality, the bill itself is the direct result of entrenched massive inequality—with the oligarchy that controls most of the nation’s wealth also claiming an outsized and unchecked ability to sway political realities and electoral outcomes.

“As a smaller and smaller group of people cornered an ever-larger share of the nation’s wealth,” the Times explains, “so too did they gain an ever-larger share of political power. They became, in effect, kingmakers; the tax bill is a natural consequence of their long effort to bend American politics to serve their interests.”

But still, the questions remain: who pays and who exactly—besides Trump and many of the GOP lawmakers who will personally enrich themselves due to this last-minute real estate-related provision they inserted—benefits most from the final bill?

A new analysis—titled “The Final Trump-GOP Tax Plan: National and 50-State Estimates for 2019 & 2027”—released Saturday by the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) shows that, for individuals, most of the “GOP tax scam” benefits high-income households and foreign investors while raising taxes on many low- and middle-income Americans:

who_benefits_gop_tax_scam_square.jpg

The above graph, ITEP explained in a statement, “divides Americans into five equal groups based on income and illustrates how only one of these groups, the richest fifth of Americans, will receive more benefits from the tax bill than foreign investors. This is because the biggest tax cut in the bill is the reduction in the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. The corporate tax cut will mainly benefit those who own shares in American corporations. While some middle-income people own shares, most are owned by high-income Americans and foreign investors.”

Breaking the numbers down further, ITEP shows that the top 5 percent of taxpayers will receiver more than half of the total benefits from the Trump-GOP tax plan and that in 2019, when the plan is fully in place, the average tax cut for nation’s wealthiest individuals  will “dwarf” that of lower tax brackets to such an extent that the “average tax cut for richest one percent will be larger than the average income for the middle-fifth of taxpayers, which will be about $53,000 that year.”

who_benefits_the_most_the_richest.jpg

Meanwhile, Andrew Van Dam, writing for the Washington Post, explains how the slashing of the corporate rate is ultimately paid for by individuals:

The bill aims to cut corporate taxes in perpetuity, under the theory that to do anything less would be to create uncertainty for corporations. But to do so and still have the bill not be a money loser after a decade, they need to raise extra funds somewhere.

That’s why Republicans can’t just let the individual tax cuts expire, as they do at the end of 2025, but they actually need to raise money to offset the permanent corporate tax reduction.

And using data from an estimate put out by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation alongside Friday’s GOP bill, the Post produced these graphs showing how the Republicans “make the math work”:

making_the_math_work.jpgBut even as the tax overhaul put forth by the Republicans is demonstrably skewed towards rewarding those with the most, while doing little or nothing to help those with the least, it seems increasingly likely that the GOP has the votes to rush through the bill to Trump’s desk this week before the holiday recess.

Still, opponents of the bill nationwide say they are not giving up as they plan protests and demonstrations on Capitol Hill and at local congressional offices nationwide on Monday and throughout the week.

Top photo:A new analysis released Saturday by the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) shows how, for individuals, most of the “GOP tax scam” benefits high-income households and foreign investors while raising taxes on many low- and middle-income Americans. (Graph: ITEP)

By Common Dreams