Well Here I go /Don’t Let Me Go

by matttbastard

A theme song for the moment.

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Helping Those Who Help Themselves (To Our Tax Revenue)

by matttbastard

Stephen Gandel of TIME Magazine on “The Hidden Corporate Bailout”:

While the $700 billion bailout has been the focus of attention and scrutiny, the Internal Revenue Service and lawmakers have quietly been making changes to the tax code and how it is followed in an effort to further boost the financial strength of ailing companies. At the same time, though, the changes drain billions of dollars of badly needed tax revenue at a time when the federal deficit is mushrooming. Many of the changes may lower corporate tax revenue for years to come.

[…]

In the past, corporations could deduct from their taxes only a small portion of the losses incurred by a company they acquire. The rule, commonly called Section 382, eliminated the practice of companies avoiding taxes by buying failing corporations just for their losses.

But in late September, just after Congress defeated the first bailout bill, the IRS issued a notice to change that rule to allow banks to significantly lower their taxes when they purchase other banks.
Now, after an acquisition a bank can reduce its IRA bill by claiming that loans on the books of an acquired rival are worth far less than the previous owners thought, not a hard claim to make these days. The acquirer can deduct from its taxes the full amount of the write-down. Before it could only lower its taxable earnings by a small percentage of the write-down of the pre-acquisition loans.

Jones Day lawyers estimate that the rule change could cost the federal government up to $140 billion in revenue during the next few years. But it would only get that high if every bank in the U.S. were sold and their troubled mortgage assets were all written down to zero. Still, a number of banks have made acquisitions since the rule change and are already benefitting. Wells Fargo will book an estimated $25 billion tax credit from its November acquisitions of Wachovia. PNC, which bought National City in October, could get as much as $5 billion in tax benefits from that merger. And Capital One, which bought Chevy Chase Bank earlier this month, is looking at a $500 million tax windfall.

Aww, such a heartwarming story guaranteed to put us all in the holiday spirit!  Nice to hear that, during times of great tribulation for Big Rich, the IRS is going “above and beyond what’s been allowed in the past” to help engineer a soft landing for its favourite constituents–all at the expense of, er, the broader US public.  And there’s much, much more loophole swag tailor-made for corporate citizens being stuffed in the financial goody bags, so for the complete 411 make sure to read the whole damn thing.

Just don’t call it asymmetric class war, kiddies.

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Maude Barlow: “This is the most important human rights and ecological crisis of our time.”

by matttbastard

The December issue of that other venerable American left-wing periodical, The Progressive, features an interview with Council of Canadians national chairperson and water rights advocate Maude Barlow, in which the future of fresh drinking water is discussed in depth.  Barlow says access to clean water is “the most important human rights and ecological crisis of our time,” an assertion that’s hard to dispute after reading her sobering, well-reasoned and highly-detailed outline of what’s in store over the coming decades for both the Global North and South.  As Barlow contends, “[t]his crisis isn’t getting better; it’s getting worse.”

Some highlights:

Close to two billion people are now without adequate access to clean water, and most are living in the Global South. We in the Global North need to remember there is a Global South right here in our countries. The more water costs and the rarer it becomes and the more it’s owned by corporations, the more it’s going to be an issue of equity in our countries.

[…]

More children die every day of dirty water than HIV-AIDS, malaria, traffic accidents, and war put together. Half the hospital beds in the world are filled with people who would not be there if they could afford water. You go to many countries, and you will see the majority of people having no access to water and the wealthy having access to all the water they could ever want. It’s privatized. Sometimes it has to be trucked in. It’s all provided by corporations.

Water has become the most important symbol of inequity and injustice in our world, because you die from a lack of water. You may not die from a lack of education, but you will immediately die from a lack of clean drinking water.

[…]

We put something like 200 billion liters of water in plastic last year. That’s about 50 billion U.S. gallons. And 95 percent of that just ends up in landfills and is thrown into waterways. It’s not recycled.
The other thing about bottled water that gets overlooked is that when you decide to use bottled water as your water source because you’re rich enough to be able to do it, you stop caring what comes out of the tap. It’s the true privatization of water. If you stop caring what comes out of the tap, you’re going to stop wanting to pay taxes for infrastructure repair. You don’t care anymore because you don’t drink that stuff since you don’t trust it. And you’re not going to worry about whether it’s clean enough for poor people, because you’ve got your bottled water. It is really becoming a class issue, this notion of bottled water, being able to distance yourself from what we all need to have as a basic, fundamental human right and public service, which is good, clean water, guaranteed clean by our government.

[…]

There is a wonderful water justice movement here in the United States and around the world. We call ourselves Water Warriors. And we’ve taken the time to create a set of principles upon which we agree. We basically agree, for instance, that if you ask the question who owns water, we will say, “Nobody owns it. It belongs to the Earth, it belongs to all species, it belongs to future generations. It’s a fundamental human right and a public service and a public trust.”

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

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Media Maestros Strike a Sour Note

by matttbastard

Via Hugh Hewitt groupie Mark Halperin, we see that The Politico is still going strong in its crusade to make the Blago affair into Whitewater 2.0. Incidentally, Halperin, in a move that will shock and disgust you (cough) jumps on the irresponsible headline bandwagon–um, “Obama Faces the Blago  Music” implies that Obama will soon be forced to confront the unpleasant results of his own actions (oh noes!)  Kinda difficult, when you aren’t, y’know, actually accused of doing anything, apart from being a bit player in Gov. Blago’s comedy of errors.

Even more difficult when the author of the original criminal complaint , US attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, plainly stated “We make no allegations that  [Obama] was aware of anything.”

Not that ‘facts’ (slowly going the way of the buffalo in today’s post-clutter corporate media environment) will likely stop the press from raising a cacophony of dissonant allegations during today’s sure-to-be discordant press conference with the President elect.  And, courtesy Halperin, Kenneth P. Vogel and Carrie Budoff Brown have helpfully provided the sheet music, 7 Blago questions for Obama (nice segue after a lengthy digression, eh?)  Although after reading through the list (and the rationale behind each one) I think KPV and CBB forgot an eighth:

“When did you stop beating your wife, Mr. President-elect?”

Seriously, what do these New (Old) Media upstarts have against the classics?

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