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January 8, 2013 · By Phyllis Bennis
Phyllis Bennis wrote this blog post for The Nation.
Chuck Hagel isn’t anyone I’d pick to be in a position of power. He’s a conservative Republican, a military guy who volunteered to fight in Vietnam. According to Forbes magazine, during Hagel’s tenure in the Senate “he favored school prayer, missile defense and drilling in Alaska, while opposing abortion, same-sex marriage and limits on assault guns. He voted in favor of every defense authorization bill that came up during the dozen years he served, while opposing extension of Medicare benefits to prescription drugs. Such stances earned him a lifetime rating of 84 percent from the American Conservative Union.” Forbes, of course, thinks this is all great.
Me, not so much. But okay, we’re talking about Secretary of Defense, not someone responsible for domestic and social policy. Well, first of all, if I had to choose a secretary of defense, I’d start with someone who recognized that their first requirement would be to transform the US war machine from an aggressive into a defensive institution…something it’s never been before. If we assume it had to be a member of Congress, I’d start with Barbara Lee or Dennis Kucinich, not Chuck Hagel.
But that isn’t the choice we face. The alternatives to Hagel won’t be the heroic Oakland congresswoman or the committed defender of the Department of Peace, they’ll be military bureaucrats who have never said a word outside their respective boss’s talking point boxes.
At the end of the day, this isn’t about Hagel vs. anybody. This is about what President Obama is signaling by his nomination of Hagel as Secretary of Defense—and about the political forces arrayed against him.
Over the last three months, the Fix the Debt campaign, led by more than 100 big company CEOs, has unleashed a firestorm of ads, blanketing political news web sites and entirely plastering the Capitol South Metro station used by most Congressional staffers.
In late October, the Institute for Policy Studies began exposing the Fix the Debt campaign's Trojan Horse. While they presented themselves as a patriotic bipartisan group, merely seeking a “balanced” deal, their own lobby materials revealed they were out to use the fiscal cliff as an opportunity to win massive new corporate tax breaks paid for with cuts to earned benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare.
The hypocrisy was stunning. We documented, for example, how many of the campaign’s leaders had contributed massively to the national debt through tax-dodging tricks. Twenty-four of them had even paid their CEOs more in 2011 than their firms paid in corporate income taxes. We also calculated that the average Fix the Debt CEO calling for cuts to Social Security themselves had pension assets of $12 million, enough to garner a $65,000 monthly retirement check starting at age 65.
Did all their high-priced subterfuge pay off? The New Year’s deal was a huge disappointment for those of us hoping that President Barack Obama would use his bargaining position to strike a strong blow against the extreme inequality that is undermining our economy and democracy. But the Fix the Debt campaign also suffered a loss. After one of the most ambitious corporate lobby campaigns in history, they failed to win any of their three major objectives:
- Cutting earned benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare
- Cutting corporate tax rates (“pro-growth tax reform” in Fix the Debt speak)
- Shifting to a territorial corporate tax system, which would grant a permanent corporate tax holiday on offshore income, including the hundreds of billions stashed in the world’s tax havens. Fix the Debt companies alone stood to gain an immediate $134 billion windfall from this reform, according to an IPS analysis.
In a press release, Fix the Debt leaders lamented that “Washington missed this magic moment to do something big to reduce the deficit, reform our tax code, and fix our entitlement programs.”
As in the tale of the Trojan Horse, however, we cannot assume that the Fix the Debt army is going to just sail away. Corporate tax reform is expected to be a major focus of Congress in 2013, starting as early as the debt ceiling fight, which is likely to come to a head in March. (By then, we expect to be able to report on how many profitable U.S. corporations avoided paying taxes in 2012.)
Congress’s New Year’s Eve capitulation to its wealthiest benefactors heightens the stakes for the corporate tax fight. Because Congress and the White House lavished so much on high-income individual taxpayers, they may well find themselves with fewer goodies to pass out to corporations. These will have to be paid for with either higher deficits or even more draconian cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other programs ordinary Americans depend upon.
As Iowa Senator Tom Harkin stated in opposition to the fiscal cliff deal: “Every dollar that wealthy taxpayers do not pay under this deal, we will eventually ask Americans of modest means to forgo in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.”
The Fix the Debt gang is likely to be a major force for the duration. Last fall they boasted of having $60 million for the “initial phase” of their campaign. Even if they’ve completely blown through that pile of dough, they will likely have no trouble securing additional mega-millions for the battles to come.
January 1, 2013 · By Lacy MacAuley
The Institute for Policy Studies is celebrating its 50th year in 2013. For 50 years, we’ve been turning ideas into action to support peace, justice, and the environment. From the antiwar and civil rights movements in the 1960s to the peace and global justice movements of the last decade. Some of the greatest progressive minds of the 20th and 21st centuries have found a home at IPS, starting with the organization's founders, Richard Barnet and Marcus Raskin. IPS scholars have included such luminaries as Arthur Waskow, Gar Alperovitz, Saul Landau, Bob Moses, Rita Mae Brown, Barbara Ehrenreich, Roger Wilkins and Orlando Letelier.
This timeline represents a small sampling of the bright spots throughout the years.
Highlights Over the Past 50 Years
1961 – At the height of the Cold War, a high-powered State Department meeting full of generals and defense industry executives. When one official declared, "If this group cannot bring about disarmament, then no one can," two young men in the audience couldn’t help but snicker. The culprits, White House staffer Marcus Raskin and State Department lawyer Richard Barnet, looked across the room and decided to get to know each other. Raskin and Barnet would go on to become the co-founders of the Institute for Policy Studies. (Note that we realize that this happened over 50 years ago, but it seems notable nonetheless.)
1963 – The Institute for Policy Studies was founded with offices in Washington DC.
1964 – Freedom Summer, a central campaign to the civil rights movement, was directed by IPS Fellow Bob Moses. The campaign helped scores of black Americans register to vote and set up dozens of Freedom Schools, Freedom Houses, and community centers in small towns throughout Mississippi. The project became nationally known when three Freedom Summer volunteers, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman, went missing and then were found dead, having been killed by Ku Klux Klan members.
1965 – Co-founder Marcus Raskin and IPS Associate Fellow Bernard Fall edited The Vietnam Reader, which became a textbook for teach-ins across the country.
mid-1960s – IPS Fellow Bob Moses organized efforts for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), challenging racial segregation and the disenfranchisement of people of color throughout the country.
1966 – Fellow Charlotte Bunch organized a groundbreaking women’s liberation conference. She later launched two influential feminist periodicals, Quest and Off Our Backs.
1967 – Co-founder Marcus Raskin and IPS Fellow Arthur Waskow penned "A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority," a document signed by dozens of well-known scholars and religious leaders that helped launch the draft resistance movement.
1973 – Rita May Brown publishes her path-breaking lesbian novel Rubyfruit Jungle, widely considered the first of the emerging genre of lesbian coming-of-age novels, while on staff at IPS.
1974 – Co-founder Richard Barnet publishes Global Reach, an examination of the power of multinational corporations which is still required reading in many college courses today.
1974 – IPS founded the Transnational Institute, a worldwide fellowship of scholar activists, as its international program. The international organization now operates as a sister organization to IPS. For more than 30 years, TNI’s history has been entwined with the history of global social movements and their struggle for economic, social and environmental justice.
mid-1970s – IPS Fellow Jim Ridgeway, now a renowned investigative reporter, published The Elements, a monthly IPS newsletter on ownership and control of the world’s natural resources.
1976 – Agents of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet murdered two IPS colleagues on Washington’s Embassy Row. The target of the car bomb attack was Orlando Letelier, one of Pinochet’s most outspoken critics and the head of IPS's sister organization, the Transnational Institute. Ronni Karpen Moffitt, a 25-year-old IPS development associate, was also killed. For more than three decades, IPS’s annual Letelier-Moffitt awards program has recognized new human rights heroes. IPS has also worked with lawyers, Congressional allies, researchers, and activists and through the media to achieve measures of justice: the convictions of two generals and several assassins responsible for the Letelier-Moffitt murders, the declassification of U.S. documents on Chile, Pinochet’s 1998 arrest in connection with a Spanish case brought by former IPS Visiting Fellow Joan Garces, and the indictment of Pinochet by Chilean Judge Juan Guzman, a Letelier-Moffitt human rights awardee.
1977 – The institute launched a South Africa project that went on to produce a series of books and studies on South African apartheid.
1979 – IPS Senior Fellow Saul Landau won an Emmy for his documentary, “Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang.” The documentary tells the story of the cover-up by the U.S. nuclear program and of the hazards of radiation to American citizens.
Early 1980s – Barbara Ehrenreich, the now-renowned author of Nickel and Dimed, led the institute’s Women and the Economy project.
1985 – IPS Fellow Roger Wilkins helped found the Free South Africa Movement, which organized a year-long series of demonstrations that led to the imposition of U.S. sanctions.
1985 – Fellow William Arkin published Nuclear Battlefields: Global Links in the Arms Race, which helped galvanize anti-nuclear activism through its revelations of the impact of nuclear infrastructure on communities across America.
1989 – Amnesty International adopted women’s issues as human rights issues following a speech by former IPS Fellow Charlotte Bunch.
1991 – The pamphlet Crisis in the Gulf was produced by the institute, a text that was widely used by the peace movement during the first military foray into Iraq.
1991 – IPS Fellow Daphne Wysham helped bring to light a private memo by Larry Summers, Chief Economist at the World Bank, in which Summers declared, “the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that… I've always thought that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly underpolluted.”
1993 – The leadership of former IPS Fellow Charlotte Bunch was crucial to the adoption by the 1993 United Nations Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, of strong support for women.
1993 – Sarah Anderson, now director of the Global Economy project at IPS, conceives of and publishes a report on CEO pay that would compare the pay of corporate executives to everyday employees on the shop room floor. This became her first of a series of annual reports on executive pay that has informed and transformed the debate on inequality.
1994 – The institute publishes Global Dreams by current IPS Director John Cavanagh and co-founder Richard Barnet. The book was a follow-up to the groundbreaking work Global Reach. Both books are still required reading in many college classes today.
1998 – Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested in connection with a Spanish case brought by former IPS Visiting Fellow Joan Garces, and the indictment of Pinochet by Chilean Judge Juan Guzman, a Letelier-Moffitt human rights awardee.
2003 – The institute convened the meeting that led to the formation of the country’s largest coalition against the war in Iraq, United for Peace and Justice.
2005 – IPS publishes its Field Guide to the Global Economy, revised edition, by IPS Director John Cavanagh, IPS Global Economy Project Director Sarah Anderson, and others. It helps to make sense of the rapidly changing international economy, explaining how global institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, and North American Free Trade Agreement affect communities, workers, the poor, and the environment. The book dispels the widely disseminated propaganda about current globalization policies and provides an update on the burgeoning movement that is challenging them. The guide has become required reading in many college classes.
2011 – The institute releases its 18th annual Executive Excess report, showing that 25 CEOs of major corporations received more in compensation than their companies paid in federal income taxes, offering an important contribution to efforts to ensure that wealthy Americans pay their fair share to Uncle Sam. The report was coordinated by Sarah Anderson, director of IPS’s Global Economy project, who has pulled together IPS reports on executive pay since 1993.
2011 and 2012 – In a personal capacity, IPS staff and scholars participated enthusiastically in the Occupy movement, including: sleeping at encampments; helping new occupiers navigate the consensus process; providing meeting spaces for Occupy DC participants; and marching in the streets. In a professional capacity, IPS scholars drafted hard-hitting analysis on inequality and corporate power that gave the movement fuel — before, during, and after Occupy's moment in history.
2013 – We'll never stop working to turn ideas into action!
December 19, 2012 · By Salvatore Babones
In the wake of every horrific school shooting comes the predictable call for gun control. Just as predictably comes the crazy counter-argument: If only the teachers had been armed, the shooting could have been prevented.
The simple fact is that guns are not compatible with 21st century civilized life. We should get rid of them. If we can't get rid of them today, we should at least start the process of getting rid of them for the future. The world needs a future without guns.
No one should have guns. Not criminals, not responsible citizens, not the police. Guns should be safely locked away for use in a serious emergency and issued to police officers on a limited basis only when necessary. Even most police don't need guns.
What about criminals? They have guns. Don't we need guns to fight them with? Sure, maybe for a while. But after a hundred years with no guns, the supply will dry up even for criminals. We should be planning for the future, not arming for the present.
What about the Constitution? Gun rights are enshrined in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. Well, I have news for Constitutional fundamentalists: The US Constitution has been changed 27 times. It can be changed again.
December 19, 2012 · By Emily Schwartz Greco
He’s back. This week in OtherWords, columnist Donald Kaul makes a surprise return to weigh in on the chilling Newtown shootings. Since he’s still on the mend and says that life’s just so much better without deadlines, my best advice to his many devoted fans is to watch this space.
And we’ve got two other developments to report. First, we’ve revamped our website, making it more user-friendly and easier to access on mobile devices. Please take a moment to check it out and let me know if you have any concerns or other feedback.
Second, we’re launching a new weekly column by Jill Richardson. She’ll write about all aspects of the food system, from farm to fork. Today, she’s taking a good hard look at ham, which millions of Americans consider a holiday staple.
And since we’re in the middle of the holiday season, please do consider making a year-end tax-deductible contribution to OtherWords. Our service is free for newspapers, new media outlets, and engaged citizens. But professional editing, proofreading, and concerted efforts to get these bold opinions into news outlets require at least a modest budget. Any amount you can give will be used wisely and effectively to help us expand our nationwide reach. You can make a donation on our new and improved website or mail a check payable to OtherWords to this address: Institute for Policy Studies; 1112 16th Street, NW, Suite 600; Washington, DC 20036.
For contributions of $100 or more, we’ll send you or someone you designate a copy of columnist Sam Pizzigati‘s latest book: The Rich Don’t Always Win. For contributions of $150, we’ll also include our cartoonist Khalil Bendib‘s latest collection: Too Big to Fail. Both make great gifts.
- Our Great Fiscal Opportunity / John Cavanagh
This is a chance for the American public to engage in a critical debate over national priorities
- Funding our Future / Sarah Browning
Slashing federal arts spending would curb our collective imagination.
- Turning our Tears into Action / Marc Morial
We can’t go back to business as usual with gun violence in America
- A Grim New Year for Women / Martha Burk
Many of the choices that appear likely in the pending budget deal would throw women under the bus.
- The New Agenda on Guns We Need after Newtown / Donald Kaul
This time, the debate has to be about more than not offending the NRA’s sensibilities.
- A More Humane Holiday Ham / Jill Richardson
Some of the ingredients on your Christmas dinner table aren’t so sweet.
- The Emperor of Avarice / Sam Pizzigati
Gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson more than held his own against the stiff competition to be crowned the greediest American of 2012.
- Michigan Bucks Democracy / Jim Hightower
With no warning, no hearings, no public input, no floor debate, and no time for citizens even to know what was happening, Michigan’s Republicans rammed a union-busting bill into law.
- Nixing Nuclear Energy / William A. Collins
Japan backtracked on an ambitious plan to shut all of its nuclear reactors but Germany is blasting forward with an effort to do just that by 2022.
- Good Company / Khalil Bendib cartoon