Let's Fix This Country

The Gutting of the State Department

“There is simply no denying the warning signs that point to mounting threats to our institution and to the global leadership that depends on us”, writes Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, a career diplomat with the U.S. State Department for over 30 years, in a letter to a foreign service publication:

"The talent being shown the door now is not only our top talent, but also talent that cannot be replicated overnight. The rapid loss of so many senior officers has a serious, immediate and tangible effect on the capacity of the United States to shape world events.”

When Rex Tillerson took the reins at the State Department, the first order of business was clearly the threats the world presents — nuclear missiles from North
Korea, the growing belligerence of Russia and China, the perpetual turmoil of the Middle East. It was therefore bewildering that his priority instead seemed to be cutting costs and reorganizing the agency. He announced the intention to cut the 75,000 person department by 30%, a White House goal that undoubtedly originated with Steve Bannon's goal of "administrative deconstruction". That approach seemed to resonate with Tillerson, the corporate chieftain, as if the agency should be handled like the business he'd just run, ExxonMobil. He seems most enthusiastic talking about…

"organizational redesign…the organization chart itself, the boxes, and who reports to whom...The most important thing I can do is to enable this organization to be more effective, more efficient".

The most important thing? Hardly. Certainly not now. But not entirely outlandish. In a New Yorker profile of Tillerson, a former State Department negotiator told author Dexter Filkins, “No one will tell you this, but there’s a lot of dead wood around here”. There are 75,000 people in Washington and in almost…

tax reform

The Rich Make Off with the Middle Class Tax Plan

For fiscal 2017 the nation's deficit reached $666 billion, the sixth highest on record. The Congressional Budget Office projects that, if no countering action is
taken, the deficit 10 years out will reach almost $1.5 trillion. That's for the single year 2027. And it doesn't count the added $1.5 trillion leeway the House and Senate have awarded themselves in a budget resolution to give their tax reform plan running room.

"These numbers should serve as a smoke alarm for Washington, a reminder that we need to grow our economy again and get our fiscal house in order".

That was White House budget director Milk Mulvaney's reaction to the 2017 deficit announcement. His remedy? Cut taxes! Cut revenue by sharply reducing individual and corporate tax rates. That doesn't make matters worse, you see, because tax cuts will spur growth — so much growth in paychecks that the added taxes thereon will plug the hole caused by the cuts. That's the conservatives' theory that refuses to die despite there never having been any direct correlation in the wake of past tax cuts.

company picnic

The biggest cut would be the drop in the corporate rate from the world's highest at 35% to 20%. There's bipartisan consensus that this should be done — Obama…

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How Corporate Welfare Fleeces American Cities

Will voracious Amazon set a new record?

Wasn't there a time when a business moved to a new town — chosen for proximity to rail or highways, for its educated workforce, for a reliable energy supply, etc. — built a factory and set to work as a valued addition to a
It's nothing new. This Time
cover dates from November, 1998

community, content to support it by paying its taxes?

That time is long gone. Corporations now make colossal demands of any locale under consideration, imposing costs that the chosen state and town may never recoup, leaving the burden to taxpayers well into the future.


The latest example is, of course, Amazon looking for where to build the company's second headquarters now that its growth has come to overwhelm its hometown, Seattle. Its call for bids has drawn 238 applicants from all but seven states. Even remote Alaska and Puerto Rico made attempts.

The company says it will build in phases, making capital investments of $5 billion over the next 15 to 17 years leading eventually to 53,000 jobs. In its first phase Amazon says it will spend $300 to $600 million to build between 500,000 and a million square feet by… Read More »

tax reform

A Bespoke Tax Plan for the Trump Family

"It's not good for me, believe me", said Donald Trump about the tax plan developed by him and a group of six from the Senate, the House and his administration. From a president infamous for inventing his own reality, this claim dwarfs all that came before. When he said in January, "We are going to be cutting taxes massively", it turns out he meant his own.

what they meant by simplification

To begin, the plan would eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). That is a second way of calculating taxes required of the wealthy to prevent their huge
deductions from wiping out any obligation to pay taxes. Proof enough of how this will hugely benefit the rich is Trump's own tax return of 2005 leaked to the media. He had written off more than $100 million in business failings, mostly paper losses that the White House described as "large-scale depreciation for construction", that led to taxes of only $5 million of his declared income of $150 million when the primary method of computation… Read More »

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