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US Economy Archive

Monday, April 28, 2003

Cutbacks Imperil Health Coverage for States' Poor: Millions of low-income Americans face the loss of health insurance or sharp cuts in benefits, like coverage for prescription drugs and dental care, under proposals now moving through state legislatures around the country. State officials and health policy experts say the cuts will increase the number of uninsured, threaten recent progress in covering children and impose severe strains on hospitals, doctors and nursing homes. But those officials, confronting a third straight year of fiscal crisis, say they have no choice but to rein in Medicaid, the fast-growing program that provides health insurance for 50 million people. Many state officials are pleading for federal help as they face an array of painful trade-offs, often pitting the needs of impoverished elderly people for prescription drugs and long-term care against those of low-income families seeking basic health coverage.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

The Headache of Black Gold Ownership: At the UN, the struggle promises to be merciless. Those principally affected, Russia, China, and France, permanent Security Council Members with veto rights, have no intention of clearing out for the Americans and the British. "Those are legally our reserves. If all else fails, we'll go to the Arbitrage Court in Geneva, which will lead to an immediate freeze on those reserves": as the premiere Russian oil producer, Lukoil, specified, Moscow is determined to fight to secure the contracts it signed with the former regime.
   ...the Republican Administration would like to hew a new legal framework. The acknowledged objective is to support American companies- the Mastodon ExxonMobil and the Texan and Californian "juniors"- who were shut out of the Iraqi oil sector before the war. The future oil authorities could offer some kind of legal immunity, protecting companies from lawsuits before the courts.  New dispositions could, in addition, interdict the bribes that Russian and Chinese companies readily practice.

Friday, April 25, 2003

I.R.S. to Ask Working Poor for Proof on Tax Credits: Internal Revenue Service is planning to ask more than four million of the working poor who now claim a special tax credit to provide the most exhaustive proof of eligibility ever demanded of any class of taxpayers.
   ... But some tax experts criticize the higher burden of proof as unfair and a wasteful allocation of scarce I.R.S. enforcement dollars. They say that corporations, business owners, investors and partnerships deprive the government of many times what the working poor ever could through both illegal means and legal shelters yet these taxpayers face no demands to prove the validity of their claims in advance with certified records and sworn affidavits.
   Others warn that the proposed I.R.S. rules will set a standard of proof so high that it will be difficult, and in some cases impossible, for honest taxpayers to meet it. As a result, some people entitled to the tax credit will no longer receive it. And those who do manage to file successful claims will almost certainly have to pay commercial tax preparers more for helping them with the extra paperwork.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

No war for whose oil?: By YAHYA SADOWSKI - The slogan 'No war for oil' rightly presumes that the Bush administration had plans for post-war profits from Iraq's substantial oil reserves. But those plans were based on the Bush cabal's relationships not with the major oil internationals, but with smaller independent firms. Everybody has now done the maths on Iraqi oil and found that their sums don't add up. [Very interesting and challenging analysis.]

Sunday, April 20, 2003

4/3/2003 -- Mugging the Needy - Bob Herbert: "The House plan offers the well-to-do $1.4 trillion in tax cuts, while demanding billions of dollars in cuts from programs that provide food stamps, school lunches, health care for the poor and the disabled, temporary assistance to needy families -- even veterans' benefits and student loans. An analysis of the House budget by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that its proposed cuts in child nutrition programs threaten to eliminate school lunches for 2.4 million low-income children. "

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Carving Up The New Iraq: "In a special Sunday Herald investigation, we have charted the network of financial kickbacks, political pay-backs, cronyism, self-interest and ferocious ideology that underpins the entire reconstruction scheme. " - [long annotated catalog of interconnected persons and companies; not sure how well informed it is, though, since it lists (Pashtun) Afghan-American Zalmay Khalilzad under "The Arabs".]

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

News: "After days of arson and pillage, here's a short but revealing scorecard. US troops have sat back and allowed mobs to wreck and then burn the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Irrigation, the Ministry of Trade, the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Information. They did nothing to prevent looters from destroying priceless treasures of Iraq's history in the Baghdad Archaeological Museum and in the museum in the northern city of Mosul, or from looting three hospitals.
   The Americans have, though, put hundreds of troops inside two Iraqi ministries that remain untouched -- and untouchable -- because tanks and armoured personnel carriers and Humvees have been placed inside and outside both institutions. And which ministries proved to be so important for the Americans? Why, the Ministry of Interior, of course -- with its vast wealth of intelligence information on Iraq -- and the Ministry of Oil. "

Bomb Before You Buy: Rather than rebuilding, the country is being treated as a blank slate on which the most ideological Washington neo-liberals can design their dream economy: fully privatised, foreign-owned and open for business.
   ...Some argue that it's too simplistic to say this war is about oil. They're right. It's about oil, water, roads, trains, phones, ports and drugs. And if this process isn't halted, "free Iraq" will be the most sold country on earth.
   It's no surprise that so many multinationals are lunging for Iraq's untapped market. It's not just that the reconstruction will be worth as much as $100bn; it's also that "free trade" by less violent means hasn't been going that well lately. More and more developing countries are rejecting privatisation, while the Free Trade Area of the Americas, Bush's top trade priority, is wildly unpopular across Latin America.

AFL-CIO Executive Paywatch

Friday, April 11, 2003

Spoils of War: Bob Herbert - "The war against Iraq has become one of the clearest examples ever of the influence of the military-industrial complex that President Dwight Eisenhower warned against so eloquently in his farewell address in 1961. This iron web of relationships among powerful individuals inside and outside the government operates with very little public scrutiny and is saturated with conflicts of interest."

Thursday, April 10, 2003

War is Just a racket, by Major General Smedley Butler, USMC, 1933: " I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it."

House Democrats Want Halliburton Probe: "Questioning whether Vice President Dick Cheney's former company has received favored treatment from the Pentagon, senior House Democrats asked Congress' investigative agency Tuesday to delve into contracts awarded Halliburton Co. over the past two years.
   Halliburton's KBR subsidiary has a record of gouging the government in contracts awarded without competition, Reps. Henry Waxman of California and John Dingell of Michigan contended in a letter to the General Accounting Office.
   Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall said the lawmakers have ignored the exemplary record of the Houston-based firm that employed Cheney as chief executive officer from 1995 to 2000 and still pays him deferred compensation for his services during that period.
   ....  -A GAO finding in 1997 that the company billed the Army for questionable expenses for work in the Balkans, including charges of $85.98 per sheet of plywood that cost $14.06.
   -A year 2000 follow-up report on the Balkans work that found inflated costs, including charges for cleaning some offices up to four times a day.
   -$2 million in fines paid in February, 2002, to resolve fraud claims involving work at Fort Ord, Calif. The Defense Department inspector general and a federal grand jury had investigated allegations by a former employee that KBR defrauded the government of millions of dollars by inflating prices for repairs and maintenance.
   The Securities and Exchange Commission already is investigating Halliburton's accounting practices, looking into an accounting change made in 1998, during Cheney's tenure as CEO

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

US Arms Group Heads for Lisbon: Top of the meeting's agenda is expected to be the company's involvement in the rebuilding of Baghdad's infrastructure after the cessation of current hostilities. Along with several other US companies, the Carlyle Group is expected to be awarded a billion dollar contract by the US Government to help in the redevelopment of airfields and urban areas destroyed by Coalition aerial bombardments. The Group is managed by a team of former US Government personnel including its president Frank Carlucci, former deputy director of the CIA before becoming Defence Secretary. His deputy is James Baker II, who was Secretary of State under George Bush senior. Several high profile former politicians are employed to represent the company overseas, among them John Major, former British Prime Minister, along with George Bush senior, one time CIA director before becoming US President.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Crude Vision: How Oil Interests Obscured US Government Focus On Chemical Weapons Use by Saddam Hussein: Key figures associated with the Bush Administration, in particular Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, pressed Saddam Hussein during the mid '80's to approve the Aqaba pipeline project from Iraq to Jordan.
   ...the break in US-Iraq relations occurred not after Iraq used chemical weapons on the Iranians, nor after Iraq gassed its own Kurdish people, nor even after Iraq invaded Kuwait, but rather, followed Saddam's rejection of the Aqaba pipeline deal.
   "In their own words, we now see that for Administration officials, a dictator is a friend of the United States when he is willing to make an oily deal, and a mortal enemy when he is not" said Vallette

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

The New York Review of Books: Bush's Tax Plan--The Dangers: Joseph E.Stiglitz - "By now, it is well known how Bush's tax package favors the rich, but the degree to which it does so is not well appreciated. While 50 percent of all tax filers would receive $100 or less, and two thirds $500 or less, Bush himself, according to Bloomberg News, would have saved $44,500 on his 2001 tax returns, and Cheney $326,555. According to an estimate in the Financial Times, John Snow, Bush's secretary of the Treasury, would save some $600,000. The calculations of the Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center show that more than half of the benefits of exempting corporate dividends from the individual income tax would flow to the top 5 percent of the population. All the taxpayers in that group earn more than $140,000 and they have an average income of $350,000. The 226,000 richest tax filers, those with incomes over $1 million, will receive a benefit roughly equal in size to the 120 million tax filers with incomes below $100,000"

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Ralph Nader on Oil and the War Against Iraq: "The connections between the Bush administration and the oil industry are clear and pervasive. A remarkable 41 members of the administration have ties to the industry, and both the President and the Vice President are both former oil executives. National Security Adviser Condaleeza Rice is a former director of Chevron. President Bush took more than $1.8 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industries in the 2000 election. The Bush people and the oil moguls do agree with one another in part because they are one another...
  The American people have a right to know what is being discussed in these meetings about the oil industry's designs on this gigantic pool of petroleum and what, if any, assurances they are being given by what is supposed to be our government.
  Clearly, there is a better means of achieving U.S. energy security. Instead of relying on costly military ventures in unstable countries to ensure a steady source of oil, we need a national energy security strategy that is expeditious, self-sufficient and environmentally sustainable.  "

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Independent: Robert Fisk: This looming war isn't about chemical warheads or human rights: it's about oil Along with the concern for 'vital interests' in the Gulf, this war was concocted five years ago by oil men such as Dick Cheney.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

The Rise of the Fortress Continent: Naomi Klein - "the growing number of free-market economists, politicians and military strategists pushing for the creation of "Fortress NAFTA," a continental security perimeter stretching from Mexico's southern border to Canada's northern one. A fortress continent is a bloc of nations that joins forces to extract favorable trade terms from other countries--while patrolling their shared external borders to keep people from those countries out. But if a continent is serious about being a fortress, it also has to invite one or two poor countries within its walls, because somebody has to do the dirty work and heavy lifting.
   It's a model being pioneered in Europe, where the European Union is currently expanding to include ten poor Eastern bloc countries at the same time that it uses increasingly aggressive security methods to deny entry to immigrants from even poorer countries, like Iraq and Nigeria. "

Collected by Jonathan March with Radio Userland software