By Staff for Flush the TPP. After five years of secret talks, the twelve countries involved in the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations announced they have reached an agreement. The deal was written by corrupt trade ministers and hundreds of corporate lobbyists without public (or even US Congressional) input. It is much more than a trade deal– only 5 of the 29 chapters even deal with trade. The rest of the deal is about privatizing government programs and services for corporate profits, removing government regulations, and setting protections for multinational corporations and investors rather than the health of the planet or necessities of people. The TPP has supposedly been agreed upon (the trade ministers’ announcement was vagur), but it has not been signed yet and there are still many steps before it becomes law. It is now up to us to stop.
Staff for Hedge Clippers – A new report by our colleagues at the Center for Popular Democracy and the ACCE Institute uncovers how hedge funds and private equity firms have quietly amassed mortgage notes to 200,000 homes in communities around the USA — and they’re getting special treatment from the government to aid their conquests. Hedge funds and private equity firms are getting big discounts when they buy the rights to collect homeowners mortgage payments – discounts from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) – the two government agencies that have refused to give similar discounts to homeowners that aren’t billionaires.
By Deidre Fulton in Common Dreams – While public opposition to the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)—the massive proposed “trade” deal between the European Union and the United States—has grown steadily since negotiations started two years ago, new signs suggest that official government backing is also faltering across Europe. In an interview with French regional newspaper Sud Ouest published Monday, Junior Trade Minister Matthias Fekl said TTIP negotiations were favoring American interests and “either weren’t advancing or were progressing in the wrong direction.” “If nothing changes, it will show that there isn’t the will to achieve mutually beneficial negotiations,” he said, before adding: “France is considering all options including an outright termination of negotiations.”
By David Cooper in Economic Policy Institute – Between 2013 and 2014, the poverty rate in most states was largely unchanged, according to yesterday’s release of state poverty statistics from the American Community Survey (ACS). While the poverty rate fell slightly for the country as a whole, most of the changes at the state level were too small to signify a meaningful difference. As of 2014, only two states—North Dakota and Colorado—have poverty rates at or below their 2007 values, before the Great Recession. From 2013 to 2014, the national poverty rate, as measured by the ACS, fell from 15.8 percent to 15.5 percent. Poverty rates declined in 34 states plus the District of Columbia, but only five of these changes were large enough to signify a measurable difference: Mississippi (-2.5 percentage points), Colorado (-1.0 percentage points), Washington, (-0.9 percentage points), Michigan (-0.8 percentage points), and North Carolina (-0.7 percentage points).
By Saqib Bhatti in Occupy – To try to balance its budget, Los Angeles had enacted hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts over the previous five years. City jobs had been slashed by 10 percent, flood control procedures had been cut back, crumbling sidewalks were not repaired and alleys were rarely cleared of debris. Sewer inspections ceased entirely; the number of sewer overflows doubled from 2008 to 2013. The campaign slogan wrote itself: “Invest in our streets, not Wall Street!” At the city council debate, Timothy Butcher, a worker with the Bureau of Street Services, got up and said, “I don’t know a whole lot about high finance. I’m just a truck driver. But I do know, if I go to a bank and they give me a bad deal, I don’t deal with that bank any more. And I don’t understand why the city can’t use the same kind of concept on some of these big banks, saying, ‘Hey, help us out or, you know, we’re not going to deal with you any more.’ ” The City Council approved the resolution unanimously.
By Ellen Brown in Common Dreams – Predictions are that we will soon be seeing the “nuclear option” — central bank-created money injected directly into the real economy. All other options having failed, governments will be reduced to issuing money outright to cover budget deficits. So warns a September 18 article on ZeroHedge titled “It Begins: Australia’s Largest Investment Bank Just Said ‘Helicopter Money’ Is 12-18 Months Away.” Money reformers will say it’s about time. Virtually all money today iscreated as bank debt, but people can no longer take on more debt. The money supply has shrunk along with people’s ability to borrow new money into existence. Quantitative easing (QE) attempts to re-inflate the money supply by giving money to banks to create more debt, but that policy has failed. It’s time to try dropping some debt-free money on Main Street.
By David Morgan in Geo – As worker-owners, we’re used to doing things ourselves. We start businesses, figure out democratic decision-making, and confront systemic issues that deny wealth to communities. We’re tenacious and self-governing, so why limit our influence to our workplaces? As our movement grows—and it is, rapidly—we’re innovating faster than the law can keep up, often operating in gray areas that can be as uncertain as they are productive. What would it look like to stitch up these loopholes and create a full-fledged support system? Co-ops and their support networks have been a part of the recent rise in attention paid to economic justice, and our participation has allowed us to establish unique positions to solidify gains in policy. Municipal-level efforts in Austin, Philadelphia, Madison, New York City, and elsewhere have shown that local advocacy can produce big results for the worker cooperative movement. Millions of dollars have been procured for development work.
By Jack Rasmus in TeleSurTV – Various studies and reports show that advanced economies corporations continue to pile up cash on their balance sheets. The global economy is slowing – from China to Brazil to South Africa and beyond. Currency wars initiated in 2013 by Japan’s introducing a ‘quantitative easing’ (QE) monetary policy, intensified in 2015 by Europe introducing its own ‘QE’, and exacerbated still further by Saudi Arabia initiating a global oil price war to bankrupt U.S. shale oil challengers – have together converged to drive emerging market economies (EMEs) like Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia and others into recession or stagnation. Actions in the past 18 months by Europe, Japan and Saudi Arabia have resulted in lowering their currency exchange rates. The moves represent desperate attempts to boost their weakening economies by trying to capture a larger share of a slowing global export pie. Once growing in 2008 at a rate of 12 percent per year, that pie today, in 2015, is virtually flat.
By Flush The TPP! – On 16 September, Trade Commissioner Malmström presented a legal text proposal for the chapter on dispute settlement between investors and states in TTIP and other FTA negotiations of the EU (Japan, Vietnam). The proposal draws the Commission’s 18-month consultation period on ISDS to a close, and will be discussed with Parliament’s INTA Committee and Member States in the Council, before being submitted to the US side for consideration during the 11th TTIP negotiation round in Miami on 19 – 23 October. The proposal introduces a new structure dubbed the ‘International Court System’ or ICS, which the Commission claims puts an end to the existing ISDS system. While indeed the ICS proposal contains a number of important reforms of ISDS which go beyond what has already been developed in CETA, none of the 4 qualifiers mentioned by Malmström at the press conference on September 16 can be regarded as truly marking the end of “the old ISDS system”. Here is our analysis of Malmström’s four main considerations. . .
By Matt Stannard in Occupy – A financial transaction tax (FTT) is a tiny charge placed on financial (rather than consumer) transactions. It can range from a dime to fifty cents per $1,000 exchanged. Many countries have particular transaction taxes – Peru for foreign wire transfers, Finland for Finnish securities and derivatives, France for stock purchases of publicly traded French companies with a market value over €1 billion. Brazil used to have a financial transaction tax, then it didn’t, and now it wants one again. Supporters of an FTT in the U.S. have been pushing the plan for years, though it’s not as alluring, loud or radical-sounding as public banks or worker-owned cooperatives. Experts on the tax tell me that global cooperation will make it work even better (money travels easily) and that we can start it anywhere – particularly in cities where financial trading is concentrated, like New York and Chicago.
By Maira Sutton in Electronic Frontier Foundation – Over the past month, trade officials have been frantically working to resolve outstanding disagreements over provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in the midst ofspeculation that the deal is in deep trouble. At this late stage of negotiations, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has pretty much abandoned all remaining pretense of transparency in its consideration of these remaining policy issues. Since the failure to conclude the deal at the meeting in Hawaii over the summer, the USTR has held several closed-door meetings between high-level officials to finalize the agreement and it is under intensifying pressure to finish it off as soon as possible. In mid-August, there was a week-long meeting in Mexico to do a “legal scrub” of the TPP text, in order to have the text ready to go for an eventual signing. Toward the end of August, officials from Canada and Mexico went to Washington to continue discussions, likely around auto trade issues.
By Center For Economic and Policy Research – As the U.S. and Central American governments continue to discuss how to curb the number of people leaving Central American countries for the U.S. border, a new research paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) finds that Honduras’ agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) may prolong Honduras’ economic problems, which include high poverty, unemployment and high inequality. The paper, “Honduras: IMF Austerity, Macroeconomic Policy, and Foreign Investment,” by CEPR Research Assistant Stephan Lefebvre, notes that the agreement, which provides Honduras with $189 million in financing over three years, includes many austerity measures, despite the weak labor market and growing poverty, and provides almost no protections for the most vulnerable sectors of society.
By James Love in Knowledge Ecology Online – On June 4, 2015, KEI asked USTR to provide the names of the TPP Chapters. The contents of the chapters are all officially secret, but we thought the names of the chapters should be public, and made a request for the chapter names under the Freedom of Information Act (FIOA). Today, more than 3 months later, USTR has responded to that FOIA. According to USTR, as of September 10, 2015, the names of the TPP Chapters are as follows: Intial Provisions and General Definitions, Trade in Goods, Textiles and Apparel, Rules of Orgin, Customs, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, Technical Barriers to Trade, Trade Remedies, Investment, Cross Border Trade in Services, Financial Services, Temporary Entry for Business Persons, Telecommunications, Electronic Commerce, Government Procurement, Competition Policy, State Owned Enterprises, Intellectual Property. . .
By Lorens A. Helmchen, David W. Brown, Ithai Z. Lurie and Anthony T. Lo Sasso in PNHP – Between 2005 and 2012, the share of employers whose employees had health savings accounts (HSAs) and the share of employees working at these employers grew more than tenfold. High-income and older tax filers both established HSAs and fully funded their HSAs at least four times as often as did low-income and younger filers. Although suggestive, the evidence to date on the take-up of HSAs has been limited to surveys, which rely on modest samples of several thousand individuals or employers that have chosen to participate. In this study we examined US tax records to offer a definitive depiction of the growth and ownership patterns of HSAs.
By Indivar Dutta-Gupta, Peter Edelman, and LaDonna Pavetti in Talk Poverty – A new book by two of our nation’s foremost poverty researchers, Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer, reveals the desperate circumstances that hundreds of thousands of children and their parents increasingly face: living with virtually no cash income in an economy that requires it to meet nearly every human need. In $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, Edin and Shaefer trace this disturbing trend to the 1996 welfare law, which has gradually but inexorably gutted the cash assistance safety net for families with children. Attention to this often neglected side of our nation’s extreme economic inequality is especially timely as policymakers from both parties consider reauthorizing the 1996 welfare law. As the book vividly shows, we are long overdue to take a different path — one that upholds our nation’s values, including our responsibility to protect and empower the most vulnerable by eliminating extreme poverty.