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Sun Sep 07, 2014 at 07:04 AM PDT

The Inequality "Smoking Gun"

by Auriandra

The benefits of increased productivity over the last 35 years have not gone to the middle class. So, where did they go? UMass's William Lazonick identifies a key change made by the Reagan Administration –€” to date largely overlooked –€” that bears a lot of the blame.

EPI report: Americans need faster wage growth (9/1/2014)

In an article titled Profits Without Prosperity in the September Harvard Business Review, UMass professor William Lazonick describes original research into companies listed on the S&P 500. Lazonick finds that between 2003 and 2012, an incredible 91% of the profits of these firms profits went – NOT to R&D, investments in plant and equipment, job creation or workers' wages –€” but to stock repurchases (54%) and dividends (37%).
HBR, Wm Lazonick: Profits Without Prosperity: Stock buybacks manipulate the market & leave most Americans worse off (Sep 2014)
It was not always so....

More charts & explanation below the squiggle.

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Police Brutality Statistics
I was checking the web for data on police shootings when I found this Infographic. It is a remarkable compilation of data, fully referenced. This is a small segment. The full Infographic is below the squiggle. PLUS there is additional data from a national survey the DOJ did in 2000 on "Police Attitudes on Abuse of Authority." The findings are stunning.
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Hillary Clinton's claim that that the Obama administration does not articulate "organizing principles" beyond "Don't do stupid stuff" left me scratching my head because it seemed I had heard something recently. Aha! Here it is:

I guess she wasn't listening or maybe these principles are new, but what can I say? As visionary as the Declaration and as crisp as the Preamble, to me this statement matches Kennedy's "We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship..." promise, but wisely adapted for our 21st Century.

On May 22, The Campaign for America's Future gave a conference on The New Populist Majority. The keynote speaker was Elizabeth Warren. The conference confronted the meme that the US is a "center-right" country.

Most interesting to me was the fact that they obtained poll results from "the 1%." Typically, "upper income" in polling is considered "over $250K/yr" or even "over $150K/yr." Such people are rich compared to most, but they do not have enough money to buy elections with their spare change.

The poll results for this comparison came from the Russell Sage Foundation. "Elites" are defined as at or near "the 1%" in wealth with an average income of $1M/yr or more. The perspectives of this group are compared to responses from other polls such as Pew and Gallup.

The poll results are below the squiggle.

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The Tax Foundation just released its 2014 edition of its Tax Freedom Day map. This is an annual charade intended to shame blue states into lowering their taxes. I decided to compare it with another analysis they do: showing "donor" (or "giver") vs "taker" states – also intended to shame blue states into lowering their taxes. Here's what I found:

They are pretty close to mirror images of one another. The Tax Foundation should release these two charts as a matched set.

To the Editor:

No, Senator Franken does not oppose "free speech"

An ad opposing Senator Al Franken has begun airing on local television claiming that he "opposes free speech." It is sponsored by "American Encore," a group registered with the IRS as a "501(c)(4)" organization. Mr. Franken expressed concern that, since the Citizens United ruling which lifted spending constraints on political campaigns, money has poured into such 501(c)(4) "social welfare" organizations for the sole reason that these organizations — once the domain of garden clubs and civic drives — do not have to disclose their donors.

The ad claims Senator Franken opposes "free speech." This is untrue. Organizations have always been free to "speak" as 527 "political" organizations. But 527 groups must, under current law, disclose their donors. Since the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, an oil company can now give large donations to a 501(c)(4) organization to run anti-EPA ads without having to inform the public that it has certain vested interests. Often these groups have unfamiliar but pleasant-sounding names like "American Encore" or "Americans for Prosperity." But behind these pleasant names, hundreds of millions of dollars from wealthy individuals and corporations with vested interests are now able to hide. Such speech is anything but "free"; it is, in fact, very expensive.

[more below the squiggle]

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In the 113th Congress, about three-quarters (15) of the 19 doctors in the House and Senate are Republicans. Of these, about three-quarters (11) belong to the Surgical Specialities. What's more, almost all of them come from the worst performing states for healthcare identified by a recent report from the Commonwealth Fund.

In 2009, Mayo Clinic polled 2000 MDs on their political views and their views on health care reform: NEJM (2009): Mayo Clinic Poll: Physicians' Beliefs and U.S. Health Care Reform.

A key finding was that "surgeons, procedural specialists, and those in nonclinical specialties were all significantly less likely than primary care providers to favor reform that expands access to basic health care by reducing reimbursement for expensive drugs and procedures"
Join me below the squiggle for a list of doctors in Congress, state health care rankings and maps showing where in the United States you really, really don't want to get sick.
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Several years ago, I started this list for my high school and college-aged kids to give them a sense of how news sources line up politically. I've kept adding to it as more online sources have become available.

I thought I'd share it, in case there's an interest & also to get feedback, as I likely have some in the wrong place. It's organized from Most Left to Most Right to Crazy.

Campaign for America's Future
Daily Kos
Democratic Underground
Crook & Liars
Political Carnival
Mother Jones
ThinkProgress (wonkroom)
Rolling Stone Politics
American Prospect
Center for American Progress

Full list below the squiggle...

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The IRS is accepting comments regarding a proposed change in the amount of political activity allowed by "social welfare" organizations, or 501(c)(4)s. If you watch The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, you are familiar with the fact that due to an incorrect interpretation of the Law by those who wrote the IRS guidelines for these organizations, you can run a truck through the definition of a 501(c)(4).

The comment process is important to the writing of new regulations. Progressive voices are needed to support the proposed changes. To date, most comments have been by conservatives.

More beneath the squiggle...

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Whether or not the IRS or the Administration claimed that "two rogue agents" in Cincinnati were behind the IRS is driving the RW news, including a tweet from @DarrellIssa today:

"First, Cummings tried to convince Am. people #IRS officials in DC didn't play a role in inappropriate scrutiny of Tea Party groups."
Now, due to the proliferation of this meme, anytime anyone in Washington is shown to have been involved in any way in the 'targeting' of conservative groups, it's taken as evidence of lying.

The problem is that there's no evidence that the IRS (specifically, ex-Director Miller) or the Administration ever said this. The problem seems to be sloppy reporting by CNN...

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The preparation of the Benghazi "talking points" seems like typical governmental back-and-forth to me, especially when email is involved. Dozens of people are cc:'ed, some/most respond, each with their personal, professional, departmental and/or - yes, political - interests expressed. It's how government in a democracy (read: "bureaucracy) works: not perfect, but as the saying goes, better than other forms of government.

To try to elevate this messy process into some kind of coverup is absurd. If any group is politicizing this - truly - it's Fox News.

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Bless us all who gather here,
The loving family we hold dear.
No place on earth
Compares with home
And every path will lead us back
From where we roam.

Bless us all, that as we live,
We always comfort and forgive.
There is so much
For us to share
With those in need
We see around us everywhere... (cont)

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