Repeat felon Swiss bank may finally lose privileged American status

Unless the Biden administration loses its nerve, one of the most corrupt banks in the world – Credit Suisse – will soon be banned from the lucrative business of steering pension fund assets into opaque investments where thievery and poor performance are easy to hide.

If you haven’t heard this news it’s because nothing has appeared about it in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, or even Bloomberg. We checked those and other influential news organizations and found zip.

That’s not surprising because there was no Department of Labor press release declaring its plan to act against Credit Suisse. The action was disclosed yesterday in a routine publication of federal government actions.

Credit Suisse’s status “is a privilege, not a right, and U.S. taxpayers should not be paying for the U.S. Government to bend over backwards to ensure that a convicted entity and its affiliates get to enjoy a privileged status under U.S. law.”

“The Convictions and other alleged Credit Suisse-related criminal misconduct constitute serious years-long systemic criminal misconduct that counsels against” letting the Swiss bank retain its privileged, the Labor Department notice declared. The privilege was to put pension money into investments other than stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and the like.

Credit Suisse would be granted one year to disentangle itself from American pension funds under the notice that the Department of Labor posted April 19 in the Federal Register, a document few news organizations consult despite it being a rich source of what our government is doing.

Like many such notices this one is written in language not meant to be understood by mere mortals, but if you need help with insomnia try this document for numbing your mind.

Privilege Explained

The Labor Department is planning to take away Credit Suisse’s privileged status as a Qualified Professional Asset Manager.

That status allows Credit Suisse to put pension funds it manages into investments that are generally prohibited. The qualified status reduces the risk of Credit Suisse executives and pension trustees being held personally liable for errors, though it does not protect against violating the bank’s duty of loyalty, also known as fiduciary duty, to the pension plan.

Why do banks promote exotic and typically opaque investments? Typically, they generate lucrative fees, certainly larger fees than investing in index funds, a reliable way to increase wealth.

Advocates for Integrity

The Labor Department action comes after years of efforts by a handful of determined of people in the U.S., Australia and Europe who have worked to expose bank crimes and have insisted on meaningful serious punishments.

Jim Henry, DCReport’s investigative economics editor, is among those people as is Bill Black, the law professor responsible as a banking regulator for nearly a thousand high-level bankers going to prison during the savings and loan debacle three decades ago. The most determined advocate is Paul M. Morjanoff, an Australian who specializes in recovering money from fraudulent transactions.

Tim Blixseth, a lumber baron, record producer and resort developer, sent the Labor Department a scathing commentary in September 2014, when the Labor Department began accepting comments on whether to let Credit Suisse bank to continue advising pension funds on exotic investments.

“Credit Suisse has a long and exhaustive history of disregard for laws of the United States as well as other countries,” he wrote. “Credit Suisse has been fined billions of dollars for its nefarious actions. Their actions are not a one-time mistake by a rogue employee, but rather a multi-year, multi-occurrence, coordinated, and premeditated enterprise.”

Blixseth was one of 13 resort developers who took out loans from Credit Suisse. All 13 resorts went bankrupt. The borrowers said Credit Suisse deceived them with unusual terms that violated banking industry standards. Credit Suisse insisted it did nothing wrong.

Heather A. Lowe, a lawyer for the nonprofit Global Financial Integrity, made the most direct and understandable appeal to take away Credit Suisse’s Qualified Professional Asset Manager status.

Credit Suisse’s status “is a privilege, not a right, and U.S. taxpayers should not be paying for the U.S. Government to bend over backwards to ensure that a convicted entity and its affiliates get to enjoy a privileged status under U.S. law,” Lowe wrote in December 2014.

Two months ago Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) asked the Labor Department to block Credit Suisse from using its privileged position as a pension funds manager because of its admission of bribery. For decades Warren has worked to expose and punish corruption and predatory practices in banking.

Rap Sheet

Credit Suisse has a long and thoroughly documented history of refusing to turn over money due to heirs of Holocaust victims, helping super-rich Americans cheat on their taxes and making loans using unusual terms that turned into disasters for the borrowers. One of its most recent felonies was punished with a $175.5 million fine. That’s chump change for a bank with assets of about $1.6 trillion. The fine was barely 1/10,000th of those assets.

Credit Suisse has a long rap sheet with 49 violations, according to the Good Jobs First Violation Tracker. Its updated report by Phil Mattera is an instructive read. It is far from the only bank with a history of felonies and other serious offenses as this matrix prepared by Jim Henry shows.

Eight years ago Credit Suisse made a deal to avoid serious punishment for some of its criminal conduct. It paid a fine of $2.6 billion, money that was tax-deductible in Switzerland where it is based. No individual was indicted. Credit Suisse got to keep its American banking license. [Correction: Eight former Credit Suisse employees, none of them high level executives, were indicted over a three year period.]

Credit Suisse’s chief lawyer in negotiating this soft-on-crime deal? Christopher Wray, then a litigation partner at King and Spalding, where he earned $9.2 million in his last year. In addition, Wray apparently was paid directly by outside clients, the largest of which was Credit Suisse.

Ethics Exemption

Donald Trump named Wray FBI director in 2017 after he fired James Comey who would not pledge personal loyalty to Trump. Since then, the FBI has cut back severely on white-collar crime cases. Early in the Obama administration, there were more than 1,000 white-collar prosecutions each month, a figure that fell to under 100 a month under Trump. The number of cases has risen under Biden but is still less than half the number from a decade ago.

As FBI director Wray got a special exemption from federal ethics rules. Wray was granted unrestricted authority to continue “participating in matters involving” an unnamed client.

Inexplicably, President Joe Biden has kept Wray on as FBI director.

You can be sure that over the next few weeks that some of the highest-paid and most skillful white-collar crime and regulatory lawyers in America will be doing everything they can to allow Credit Suisse to keep its privileged position as a manager of pension funds. And even. If they lose, Credit Suisse, after a management shakeup now underway, will surely be back in the future seeking to regain its privileged, and lucrative, status as a Qualified Professional Asset Manager.

Stunning new data on radical Republican policies shows how the richest workers got a lot richer under Trump's rule

Donald Trump's presidency and the Covid pandemic combined to make 2020 a remarkably enriching year for the highest-paid workers in America. Meanwhile, the numbers for the bottom 99.9% are, in a word, awful.

Just one in 900 workers makes $1 million or more, a new Social Security report on wages shows. My annual analysis of this data shows that this thin and rich group made 14% more money in 2020 than in 2019.

On average, the pretax pay of the $1 million-and-up workers increased by $305,600. That's after adjusting for inflation.

The share of all pay going to $1 million-and-up workers grew by a fourth during Trump's four years.

The other 99.9% of American workers got an average raise of just $76 each. But even that overstates how badly most workers did. That's because most of this minuscule pay increase went to the 1/10th of workers making $100,000 to $1 million. The bottom 88%, those making less than $100,000, got next to nothing.

The standard measure for worker pay is the median. It illustrates the typical pay situation because at the median, half of workers make more while half make less. Median pay in 2020 rose by a mere $26.

What a Surprise!

Put another way, for each $1 of increased pay going to the typical worker, each worker in the two-comma club collected $11,750.

Suppose $26 is the height of the heel of a shoe worn by a man standing on Fifth Avenue outside Trump Tower. The heel is 1 inch. The height for the highest-paid workers' pay would soar 315 feet above that 58-story highrise, for a total of 908 feet. That's a lot of heels. Plus one.

Trump has a policy: One for you, thousands for the rich; another for you, thousands more for the rich…

And don't forget, Trump's 2017 tax law gave the most highly paid workers a roughly 4% federal income-tax cut. Also, those workers tend to be the Americans with significant stock portfolios and Trump gave corporations a 40% tax-rate cut. So, they got a two-fer.

Crumbs for the Rest

You didn't get anything like either of those income-tax cuts. You got crumbs in tax savings plus the burden of $2 trillion in federal debt to pay for the Trump/Radical Republican tax cuts.

Indeed, if you live in the states with most of the high-paying jobs – California, Connecticut, New York, Maryland and the like – Trump and congressional Republicans increased federal incomes for millions of people. That's because Trump and the Radical Republicans took away your deductions for state and local income and property taxes and mortgage interest. The number of Americans who itemize deductions, including charitable gifts, fell by three-fourths after Trump's tax cuts for the rich and the companies they own became law.

More pay going to workers at the top is a long-term trend that began long before Trump. What's significant in the newest data is how much that trend accelerated during the Trump years.

In 2016, just 143 workers made $50 million or more. That number jumped 50% in Trump's first year as president and stayed at that level in 2018 and 2019. But in 2020, Trump's last year as president, the number of workers paid $50 million and up soared to 358, 1.5 times as much as under Barack Obama.

Monthly gross paychecks for those 358 highest-paid workers averaged close to $8 million each. A worker at the median pay would have to labor for more than 225 years to get paid what these workers made in a month.

More for the Top

Even more significant, the share of all pay going to $1 million-and-up workers grew by a fourth during Trump's four years.

Their collective pay rose to 5.2% of all worker compensation, up from 4.2% of total compensation in 2016 under Obama. That means most workers got a thinner slice of the American wage pie under Trump, the opposite of MAGA pledges to improve most incomes and just as I predicted back in 2015 and 2016.

The median worker in 2020 made just $34,612, or less than $3,000 a month before taxes. During Trump's four years, inflation-adjusted median income rose by 5%.

By far the biggest increase in median pay in this century occurred in 2014 under Obama when Social Security data show an increase of 3.44% over 2013.

The average pay for all workers was $53,383.18, or less than $4,500 per month.

More than two-thirds of workers made less than the average. The average is higher than the median because all those very highly paid workers skew the average upward.

One more awful fact: The number of Americans with any work fell in 2020 by more than 1 percentage point. In 2020, more than 1.7 million fewer people found any paid work than in 2019. That's the first time this has happened in all of Trump's life.

While Trump at his inaugural promised that every act he took would be for the benefit of the "forgotten men and women" of America, it was all just another con.

His actions, again and again, favored the highly paid, the already rich and, not least of all, the Trump-Kushner family.

What criminal defenses does Steve Bannon have?

Steve Bannon faces real trouble when he goes on trial for contempt of Congress. He has no legitimate defense — unless a judge sets aside decades of principles governing defenses in criminal cases.

If that happens, we are all in for a lot of trouble enforcing laws in America.

Bannon is still working to overthrow our government. "We're taking down the Biden regime," Bannon declared before surrendering to federal officials Monday. He was released hours later pending trial.

Bannon told his podcast audience on Jan. 5 that the next day "tomorrow it's game day. So strap in. Let's get ready" and "now we're on the point of attack tomorrow."

Bannon's problem is that he has no legitimate defense to the two crimes in his federal indictment. The indictment charges refusal to testify before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection and refusing to turn over documents.

We know from his lawyer what his defense will be. Bannon will assert that one of his lawyers told him not to comply with a subpoena from Congress. He'll also say he only followed orders from Donald Trump, a private citizen.

Trump claims executive privilege to block testimony about the White House's role in the attempted coup.

Executive privilege is a legal courtesy extended to sitting presidents so they can hear unfettered advice from aides on carrying out their Presidential duties. Trying to hang onto power after losing an election by overthrowing our government isn't a presidential duty.

President Joe Biden has waived executive privilege in this matter.

Since Trump is a private citizen, Bannon was never a White House employee, and anything they did to prevent the peaceful transition of power was inherently unlawful, any claim to executive privilege is nonsense.

But of course, with one in four federal judges being a Trump appointee and some federal judges being deeply political in their rulings, anything can happen.

Bannon's core problem is that a claim of "Donald made me do it" is no more valid than saying "the devil made me do it." It's a defense no judge should allow

However, one of Bannon's lawyers told reporters Monday that the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel advisory opinions show that Bannon should not be prosecuted.

What the lawyer didn't say is that those opinions concern lawful advice, not insurrection.

Bannon does have a possible and tenuous lawful defense. He could argue that he didn't know he had to comply with the subpoena for his testimony and documents. But Bannon blew up any hope of that Hail Mary defense with his defiant comments outside of court Monday.

"We're going to go on the offensive against this," Bannon said, a video crew from his War Room podcast recording his words.

David Schoen, who Bannon ridiculed nine months ago as an "absent-minded professor" during Trump's second impeachment, now represents Bannon.

Schoen asserts that Bannon was merely following the advice of another lawyer in refusing to comply.

"Mr. Bannon is a layperson. When the privilege has been invoked by the purported holder of the privilege, he has no choice but to withhold the documents," Schoen told reporters. "Mr. Bannon acted as his lawyer counseled him to do by not appearing and by not turning over documents in this case. He didn't refuse to comply."

Competent prosecutors should have little trouble demolishing that defense, assuming a judge even allows it.

The House committee wants to know about the role of Trump and his advisers in orchestrating the Jan. 6 insurrection. Evidence that committee members have already disclosed shows that weeks of planning went into the violent attack. The Trumpian mob shouted, "hang Mike Pence," after Trump told them to head for the Capitol.

As quoted in the Congressional contempt citation, Bannon told his podcast audience on Jan. 5 that the next day "it's going to be quite extraordinarily different. All I can say is, strap in. … You made this happen and tomorrow it's game day. So strap in. Let's get ready" and later "it's all converging, and now we're on the point of attack tomorrow."

This isn't the first indictment for the former Naval officer. In 2020 Bannon and three confederates were indicted for stealing money from the "We Build the Wall" charity, a scam from the get-go.

Donors were promised that every penny raised would go to building a wall on the Mexican border. Only a short bit of crappy barrier was erected.

As detailed in my soon-to-be-published book The Big Cheat, Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, went to New Mexico to help raise money for this fraud.

Trump pardoned Bannon for his million-dollar theft, but not his three pals. They go on trial in March in Pensacola.

That indictment charged founder Brian Kolfage, a seriously disabled veteran, with stealing $350,000 plus buying a yacht called the Warfighter, a Range Rover SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, and cosmetic surgery.

Bannon's acceptance of the pardon in his million-dollar charity theft is an admission of guilt under Burdick's 1925 Supreme Court ruling.

George Burdick, a New York City journalist, refused to testify about his sources of information about the Treasury Department. Offered a pardon, Burdick rejected it. In Burdick, the Supreme Court held that a citizen is free to refuse a pardon because acceptance constitutes an admission of guilt.

Judge Analisa Torres, who oversaw part of the wall scam case, dismissed the charity fraud charges against Bannon after he accepted Trump's pardon. She wrote that "from the country's earliest days, courts, including the Supreme Court, have acknowledged that even if there is no formal admission of guilt, the issuance of a pardon may 'carr[y] an imputation of guilt; acceptance a confession of it.' "

An innocent person should be granted executive clemency, not a pardon, Judge Torres wrote. She cited a 19th Century ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling explaining the distinction between pardons and executive clemency:

"If there be no guilt, there is no ground for forgiveness. It is an appeal to executive clemency. It is asked as a matter of favor to the guilty. It is granted not of right but of grace. A party is acquitted on the ground of innocence; he is pardoned through favor."

Bannon got one big presidential favor from Trump, a pardon that saved him from the prospect iof years in prison as a major league charity thief. Now Bannon has no personal savior to rescue him from accountability, not unless he finds judges willing to allow illegitimate defenses to the crimes he boasts about committing and a jury dumb enough to let him off.

Halloween means trick, not treat, for some children

As you give trick-or-treaters candy this weekend let's not forget the devil inside the candy wrapper. The chocolate business profits from child slaves in Africa and the United States has the power to put an end to this evil, just not the political will to act.

Seven big food makers — Hershey, Mars, Mondelēz, Nestlé, Cargill, Barry Callebaut, and Olam – make most of the profits off the labor of enslaved children.

The Biden administration is required by law to seize every one of the cocoa beans that will soon began arriving in Philadelphia and a few other American ports from the 2021 harvest in West Africa. Products of child labor and slaves have been contraband since at least 1930, which means Customs and Border Protection can — and should — seize the beans. Yet no president from Hoover to Trump has enforced the law.

President Barack Obama in 2016 signed a new law strengthening the power to seize products of forced labor. President Bill Clinton signed a 2000 law that was supposed to help end child enslavement by strengthening the 1930 contraband law. Still, a law not enforced is no law at all.

Child enslavement, and the de facto economic enslavement of adult cocoa plantation workers, continue because the Big Seven chocolate companies use their economic power to drive the prices of cocoa beans to such ridiculously low levels that plantation owners can't pay decent wages.

Earlier this year DCReport told about the "relationships between the candy makers and the cocoa farms in West Africa, which provide 70% of the world's cocoa supply. Half is grown in Ghana and Ivory Coast. Most American chocolate is made from Ivory Coast cocoa beans."

In Europe, however, the first moves to seriously address child slavery in the chocolate business began in this, the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor. Next year a global conference on child labor is scheduled in South Africa.

Self-serving nonsense

Hershey, Mars, Mondelez and the four other big chocolate companies say they are horrified that children become de facto slaves on cocoa plantations in West Africa.

The chocolate makers also claim that they cannot track most of the beans they buy back to specific farms. The reason is they aren't required to, not that they cannot do so.

What the Big Seven do instead is exercise their market power to drive down farmgate prices. That forces plantation owners into becoming de facto enslavers of the desperately poor.

The $3 billion Americans spend this year just on Halloween chocolate treats shows how deep the economic interest of see-no-evil candy companies and those of us who buy from them help ensure continued misery for as many as 1.5 million enslaved children.

European Inquiry

Now, at long last, the European Union is asking hard questions while the American Congress ignores those children as well as many others forced to work in the coffee bean fields of Central and South America as well as Africa.

In formal legal filings before the European Commission, the Big Seven assert that they merely buy the cocoa beans and are not responsible for, nor can they stop, the abuses of cheap labor, including children dragooned into dangerous work wielding machetes on the plantations. That's self-serving nonsense.

The European inquiry has been pushed for years by a handful of antislavery activists. The hero of this antislavery movement is Fernando Morales de la Cruz who has waged a long and lonely struggle to get the world to pay attention to 21st Century slavery.

De la Cruz says that the American government "has been looking the other way to the fact that most cocoa and also most chocolate imported by the U.S. are produced with child labor."

He also notes how American foreign aid, a tiny bit of the federal budget, does nothing to reduce enslavement.

De la Cruz says the American Department of Labor promises to eliminate child labor in the cocoa fields are meaningless because "it's impossible to eliminate child labor and eradicate poverty while corporations are buying cocoa for less than one-fourth of its real value. The only way to fix this is to multiply the price paid to cocoa growers by four and then to make all chocolate industry corporations act within the rule of law."

His focus is not just on cocoa beans, but also on coffee as you can read at the website Café for Change. He also organized cartoonists to illustrate the problems of enslaved children and of adults trapped in economic slavery, hoping to reach hearts the way chocolate reaches tastebuds.

Quadruple Farmgate Prices

"The chocolate companies must pay three to four times current prices" to create the economic conditions required to eliminate enslavement, de la Cruz said. The candy companies know this as shown by studies they commissioned (and which tend to absolve them) as well as reports in trade publications like Confectionary News.

Eight formerly enslaved boys who worked in the cocoa fields are suing the Chocolate Seven companies under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.

Their lawsuit alleges unjust enrichment, negligent supervision, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Their lawyer is Terrence Collingsworth of nonprofit International Rights Advocates.

The companies assert that the formerly enslaved boys have no legal standing – that is, no right — to sue. The companies also say there is no relief the companies can provide so the case should be tossed. Those defense arise because the law is structured to favor the haves over the have nots.

While that civil case grinds on, existing law if enforced can put a stop to 21st Century cocoa field slavery.

What Can Be Done

Can anything be done to make the chocolate companies pay fair and reasonable prices instead of using their economic power to grind down poor Africans and create slave conditions?

That's easy – enforce existing law.

Just the threat by President Biden to seize one cocoa bean ship would surely get the attention of the Big Seven chocolate companies.

If that fails to wring immediate change the Biden administration need only seize and dump the cargo of one ship combined with a vow to continue seizing each new chocolate bean ship arriving on the Delaware River.

Persuading the British, French, and other European governments to do the same would be optimal.

Biden could even send the Navy to capture cocoa bean ships on the high seas as the British Navy did in the 19th Century, interdicting more than a thousand slave ships and freeing an estimated150,000 enslaved Africans.

A Role for Congress

Congress should open hearings into trafficking in contraband. Imagine what Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), the former law professor who has shamed corporate executives with smart questions, could do leading such a committee.

Child enslavement, and the de facto economic enslavement of adult cocoa plantation workers, continue because the Big Seven chocolate companies use their economic power to drive the prices of cocoa beans to such ridiculously low levels that plantation owners can't pay decent wages even if they want to do so.

While plantation owners get paid for their beans only about a quarter of what is needed to operate the plantations without de facto slavery, paying them more would have only a minor affect on chocolate bar prices because cocoa beans are a minor part of the cost of candy bars.

In the processed foods industry, the food itself typically is the cheapest or nearly cheapest ingredient. In the year 2000, for example, a $3.39 box of breakfast cereal contained grain that cost just nine cents while the box cost a dime. Advertising costs 11 times as much as the grain. The same is basically true of chocolate, tea, and coffee.

That matters because quadrupling farmgate prices for cocoa beans means that the price of $1 chocolate bars would only go up by a few dimes.

Enforcement Essential

The next step after threats of seizure or actual seizures would be for the candy companies and their agents to document that they pay their economic slaves higher wages so plantation owners don't just pocket the money. That requires a strict regime of enforcement, including audits of payments to workers, open access for inspectors, and criminal prosecution with prison for violators. Recalcitrant plantation owners might need to see their peers' land seized to stop their vile conduct.

The Ivory Coast already has some solid laws on the books, just no serious enforcement. And that won't change so long as the Big Seven candy makers use their economic power to pay unreasonably farmgate prices.

American Customs and Border Protection reports many seizures of contraband at the border and ports, but its focus is on drugs like cocaine and fentanyl, along with cash, not on the equally illegal products of child labor and slave labor. What a strange set of moral values our government has, taking serious action against drugs and associated cash and turning a blind eye to profiteering off slavery.

The Biden White House does nothing because hardly anyone in America knows that their purchases of chocolate treats enable child enslavement. Without pressure from the public few things change for the better in America as our history with slavery, voting rights, union rights, and indeed laws against domestic child labor show.

This is an evil we can eradicate. Doing so requires the consumers who buy chocolate to tell Congress and the White House that they want America to take every lawful step it can to end child slavery.

What could be a better Halloween treat for enslaved African children than turning their misery into decent lives?

Want to know what we could have done with all of the money we’ve wasted in the last 20 years​? Look at China

All the recrimination-filled reporting and commentary about how fast Afghanistan fell to the Taliban after President Biden made the courageous decision to finish withdrawing our troops miss a much more important story.

This story concerns why Americans can't have nice things anymore while our main economic competitor, China, is investing in a lucrative and influential future. It's the story of jettisoning the sensible Powell Doctrine on military action in favor of chronic combat that creates enormous fortunes for investors in the military-industrial complex, all enabled by jingoistic political cowardice in Washington.

For two decades our elected leaders foolishly spent our money trying to impose democracy at the point of a rifle in a country with no democratic culture or tradition.

To date, United States taxpayers have spent about $2.3 trillion on an undeclared war that cost 2,448 American servicemen and women their lives as well as the lives of more than 100,000 Afghanis.

This butcher bill comes to more than $6,000 for each American man, woman, and child. Our elected leaders borrowed all that money because of federal tax cuts in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2017.

America would be far better off today had Congress built a giant bonfire with all those greenbacks.

Cutting taxes in a time of war is as dumb an idea as ever infected American politics.

America would be far better off today had Congress built a giant bonfire with all those greenbacks. Seriously.

That's because the costs of this foolish enterprise will continue until the last eligible dependent of an Afghan combat veteran dies sometime near the dawn of the 23rd Century.

Last Civil War Check

It wasn't until last year when Irene Triplett died and her $73.13 monthly check stopped, that American taxpayers paid out the last pension from the Civil War, which ended in 1865.

The total ultimate Afghan war bill? More than $6.4 trillion, according to the Cost of War Project at Brown University. That's more than $100,000 for the iconic family of four.

There's a good chance that estimate will prove low because our government instilled hatred of America and democracy among many of the 35 million Afghanis. Once the Taliban completes their bloodbath—executing American collaborators, women who dared work outside the home, and other infidels—they are likely to hunt for ways to exact revenge on us. After all, we'd do the same —in fact, we already have.

And all this approved without a declaration of war, as required by our Constitution.

While our elected officials squandered money on an undeclared war that drained our economy, the dictatorial regime in Beijing bought China a bright future.

No Better Life

China spends more than 5.5% of its economy on infrastructure. America spent about 3.1% of the economy on steel and concrete infrastructure way back in 1980 before more than half of today's Americans were born. In recent years American infrastructure investment has been slashed by half to a record low.

None of this Afghan war spending bought us a better life. None of it was an investment in the public, which is the commonwealth foundation on which private wealth is built.

That money didn't maintain or build new roads, dams, bridges, rail lines and public buildings that could last centuries if adequately designed and constructed. It didn't buy textbooks or strengthen our third-rate grid in this electricity-dependent Digital Age.

It bought bullets and bombs that become useless once they go off. And the overwhelming majority of those killing devices were wasted because they failed to kill their targets and, worse, often killed innocents, including women and children.

China, in contrast, didn't spend its money on wars. Indeed, China hasn't been in a war in this century, though it brutally oppresses those within its grasp who challenge its totalitarian control.

Creating Wealth

Instead, China invested in public furniture that makes commerce more efficient, shrinks its carbon footprint, reduces rural poverty and expands influence beyond its borders. Those investments create jobs galore and, in turn, wealth.

"Infrastructure investment in China has increased significantly in recent decades and has been a significant driver of economic growth and improved standards of living," according to the Reserve Bank of Australia.

The can-do spirit has been throttled in America by petty politicians like the anti-taxers who insist we cannot afford to invest in the public's welfare. Be it making college tuition-free or nearly so or taking care of our existing infrastructure. They stand for tax cuts for the rich and the big companies that their patrons own. At the same time, they oppose building new and refuse to recognize that electricity, cell phones and the internet are core necessities of life in the Digital Age.

The can-do spirit, however, is not gone from this Earth. It's just moved to China, which in 43 hours tore down and replaced a multi-lane highway bridge in Beijing, as this fantastic brief video shows.

Think about how long it takes to get anything done in America these days.

In just 10 years, starting in 2008, China built nearly 16,000 miles of high-speed rail. That more than doubled total global high-speed rail.

How many miles of high-speed rail carry passengers in America? None.

This smart CNBC program explains why America has no high-speed rail and how we also lost many urban rail transit systems in the post-war era.

China isn't afraid of debt either.

Investing in the Future

China's infrastructure investments, private and public, are essentially 90% debt-financed. From 2000 to 2014, China invested the equivalent of $29.1 trillion U.S. dollars in infrastructure while issuing $26.1 trillion of debt, researchers at Oxford University calculated.

Our Congress is in a lather about just $1 trillion for traditional infrastructure.

To a person, the Republicans won't consider a separate bill that defines infrastructure in human terms with money for housing, expanded education, cash to lift children out of poverty, climate change mitigation, rural internet access, and investments in science.

From my many visits to China in this century, it's evident that the regime there builds smooth roads on very deep beds of rock, assuring potholes will be rare, not as in America standard.

These long-lasting Chinese highways with extensive lanes put to shame the German Autobahn, which puts to shame our cheapskate Interstate highway system.

America thinks in terms of 90-day corporate financial reports and two-year election cycles. China's leaders think in terms of decades and centuries.

America has literally gone backward in some areas since 1863.

During the Civil War, the president of the New York Central worked in Manhattan but lived in Batavia, midway between Rochester and Buffalo in Western New York. Dean Richmond took his private rail car down to arrive at work Monday morning and returned home late Friday supper.

The trips he took in 1863 took 90 minutes less than today.

If we built the kind of trains that China already has, then Batavia to Manhattan could take under two hours, not eight.

If America seriously invested in infrastructure, we could build elevated mag-lev trains like the one connecting the Shanghai airport to the edge of that city. The repulsive force of magnets liftsrail passenger cars millimeters above the tracks so trains can run at a friction-free 300 miles per hour. Put such trains in vacuum tubes, and you could go from L.A. to Manhattan in less time than it takes to reach JFK from Manhattan or LAX from Beverly Hills. All while using a tiny fraction of the energy a jetliner uses per passenger today to connect those megacities.

But instead of working toward such goals, we squabble over the scraps left over after wasting blood and treasure in a war that had no purpose except to catch those behind the awful attack on us almost two decades ago.

We had good reason to enter Afghanistan in 2001 after Osama bin Laden's fanatical followers crashed jetliners into both World Trade Towers, the Pentagon and tried to hit the fourth target until passengers bravely brought down that plane in the Pennsylvania countryside.

The Real Vietnam Comparison

The 2001 invasion should have followed the Powell Doctrine, named for Colin Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and later Secretary of State. He said a lesson of Vietnam is that America should use military force only when national security demanded it and then only after building overwhelming global support and applying overwhelmingly military force.

Instead of applying that doctrine to find and kill bin Laden and his confederates, the inexperienced George W. Bush agreed with conservative fanatics that said we could buy our way into capturing our enemies.

Air Force cargo planes stuffed with American dollars flew to the Middle East during the Afghan and Iraq wars. We gave quite literally tons of greenbacks to warlords who promised to catch bin Laden and his pals. They lied.

They took our money and hid the mastermind of 9/11. President George W. Bush declared in 2004 that he was "not concerned" about finding bin Laden.

Not until Barack Obama became president was our military told to find and capture him, as they did on May 2, 2011.

But Obama, like Trump, lacked the political nerve to do what Biden did – stop investing in a bad decision to keep troops in Afghanistan.

Be glad we pulled out troops this month because Biden said "enough." Don't be surprised that the Taliban are in control of that country. They were always going to come out on top, be it this month, 10 years ago or 100 years from now.

And be glad the ultimate total cost of this folly is only about $100,000 per family because it could have gone on forever, the costs piling higher and higher every day because of the political cowardice of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

And, now, please think about all the good things we could be investing in to make our lives better had we elected politicians who read and understand our first president's farewell warning about foreign entanglements and our 34th president, Dwight Eisenhower, whose farewell warning about the dangers of our military-industrial complex.

Of course in a democracy, we chose our leaders so we know ultimately who is to blame for why we can't afford nice things and we are falling behind China: Ourselves.

Trump: ‘One law for hungry pizza thieves, another law for me’

The extraordinary indictment of the Trump Organization Thursday prompted an extraordinarily awful response from its sole owner and its lawyer.

Trump asserted that he can pick and choose which laws he obeys. His lawyer, Alan Futerfass, says that prosecutors should have settled the Trump Organization tax fraud allegations in secret negotiations, not with criminal charges filed in public.

What's brazen is how Trump and lawyer Futerfass reveal their support for two systems of justice, separate and unequal, with people like themselves getting special light treatment.

Pay close attention to the last words in this Trump Organization statement: "The district attorney is bringing a criminal prosecution involving employee benefits that neither the IRS nor any other district attorney would ever think of bringing."

The statement is a lie. Tax fraud cases involving unreported compensation get prosecuted.

Still, the Trump organization statement may still serve a useful purpose by awakening the public to how little prosecution there is against what the IRS says is rampant and growing tax evasion at the top of the economic ladder, which may cost the rest of us more than a trillion dollars a year.

The Trumpian assertion that prosecutors should not bring charges against thieves who steal from our governments reveals the entitled view among too many of the wealthiest and most privileged Americans. Many of them think money makes them special, so special that the criminal law shouldn't apply to them.

The 15-count indictments returned by a Manhattan grand jury are only the first in what are likely to be a series of charges. Ultimately, I anticipate that a grand jury will return a state-level racketeering enterprise indictment. That would allow a receiver to take control of the Trump Organization, ending its decades of cheating workers, vendors, governments and investors.

The richly detailed bill of particulars hints at other likely prosecutions.

Prosecutors charged Trump bagman Allen Weisselberg only after he repeatedly rejected invitations to flip on Trump and turn state's evidence. Weisselberg, the indictment says, destroyed some evidence and maintained two sets of books to hide transactions from tax collectors.

This indictment is a tool to leverage Weisselberg, to get him to realize the awful fate that awaits him if he clings to Trump.

After 48 years of doing the Trump family's dirty work, Weisselberg has become a wholly-owned psychological subsidiary of Trump's criminal mind. Breaking free would be difficult for Weisselberg, who is about to turn 74, but the prospect of dying in prison may clarify his thoughts about his moral and legal duty. Weisselberg could get 15 years, but he also might get probation.

Trump has long argued that he is above the law.

When Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance was trying to get his accounting, business, and tax records, Trump fought it to the Supreme Court twice. In 2019, Trump lawyer George Consovoy told a federal judge that if Trump actually shot someone on Fifth Avenue, the NYPD could not even investigate the murder.

Trump Textbook

Years earlier Trump endorsed a "textbook" for his scam Trump University. This from Trump University Asset Protection 101: Tax and Legal Strategies of the Rich: "When you own your own business, you determine how much income tax you pay."

That's not true, but it sure tells you where Trump's thinking goes.

Contrast Trump's cavalier attitude about breaking the law with how American law enforcement and the courts treat those born into poverty who commit petty nonviolent crimes.

Willie Simmons is serving life in an Alabama prison for stealing $9 in 1982. Alvin Kennard got the same life sentence for stealing $36 in 1984, though a judge freed him last year.

50 years for a Pizza Thief

Jerry Dewayne Williams—broke, hungry and turned away when he begged for food—grabbed a slice of pizza from four children in Redondo Beach, Calif. Williams got 25 years to life, though a judge let him go after five years.

And then there's Leandro Andrade, another penniless man, who stole four videos in one store and five in another. The U.S. Supreme Court held that his consecutive 25-year sentences were "not unreasonable."

Yet the Trump Organization asserts that enabling its chief finance officer to steal $880,000 from the federal, state and New York City governments shouldn't be prosecuted.

Nine bucks, nine videos, one slice of pizza for a hungry man result in life sentences or damn close, but prosecutors should look the other way or allow tax fraudsters to negotiate in secret, pay some money and go on their way? That's Trumpian chutzpah.

Victor Hugo's 19th Century novel Les Misérables about Jean Valjean, who stole bread for his starving sister and spent the next 19 years in prison, is not exactly fiction in modern-day America.

One law for peasants and another for the privileged is not in our Declaration of Independence or our Constitution. Still, it dwells in the hearts of a majority of our Supreme Court justices, as well as Donald Trump and his costly white-collar criminal defense lawyers.

Expect More Indictments

You can be sure that the finely detailed case filed Thursday is far from a comprehensive indictment of Trump Organization tax cheating.

Barbara Res, who for many years oversaw Trump construction projects, told Ari Melber on MSNBC just hours after the arraignments about dubious thousand-dollar a week expense accounts.

"The first time I started working for Trump, one of the first things I encountered was, I was checking expenses of one of our top employees, and they were ridiculous," Res said.

Res said she spoke to Trump about the inexplicable expense money only to discover he was behind it. "Trump told me to just come up with just so much, I forget the amount, a thousand dollars a week or whatever it was in expenses, maybe not that much back then, and they'll be paid. And they'll be off the books."

What Res described is tax fraud, plain and simple. And if we applied to Trump the same standards applied to Simmons, Kennard, Williams and Andrade, then Trump would have started wearing an orange jumpsuit decades ago. But we don't have equal justice for all.

Notice that Trump's statement through the Trump Organization and lawyer Futterfas's statements aren't denials of tax fraud, just assertions that to prosecute for these crimes isn't fair.

You have Donald Trump to thank if you're feeling poorer today

Remember Donald Trump bragging about what a fabulous job he did raising the incomes of what he called "America's Forgotten Men and Women"? Chalk that up as yet another Trump con job. Most of the 160 million tax-paying American households were worse off, even before the pandemic stuck.

Average incomes fell in 2019 compared to 2018, data released Wednesday by the Internal Revenue Service shows.

The real shocker: the vast majority of American households made more money during Obama's last year than in Trump's third, my analysis of IRS data reveals, and we can expect that when figures for the plague year 2020 are released next year that the falloff will be much, much greater.

Under Trump, the share of total income going to the prosperous and wealthy grew by a whopping 17% between 2016 through 2019.

Trump true believers may insist this can't be so, but the truth comes from the Trump Administration's own data. Indeed, the IRS commissioner serving today, Charles Rettig, was appointed by Trump, so there's no reason to doubt this data, which I have analyzed for decades.

More for the Already Rich

Trump was also in charge when the national income pie was re-sliced with the six million most affluent households enjoying a much larger share. Under Trump, the share of total income going to the prosperous and wealthy grew by a whopping 17% between 2016 through 2019. That means that the vast majority of Americans received a thinner slice of the national income pie in 2019. More people divvying up less income pie means smaller slices for the vast majority.

Of course, more for the best-off and less for the vast majority is the opposite of what Trump consistently promised voters from the day he launched his campaign six years ago—and, no doubt, will promise again tomorrow.

As a candidate and president, Trump charged that "elites" rigged the economic system in their favor, a charge I made long before he did—and I know from his own people that he watched me on television discussing this as far back as the turn of the century. But Trump made the audacious claim that he alone could put a stop to that by "draining the swamp" in Washington. Again and again, Trump called out to the "poorly educated," saying he loved them and promising to be their champion. What the official facts show is that he hit the poorly educated upside the wallet with a two-by-four.

Few people make $250,000 a year or more, the top category in the new IRS data. And very few of them suffer from an inadequate education. It's education and highly developed mental skills that employers value with fat paychecks.

Trump pursued the crazy idea that being poorly educated was a social good in everything from refusing Congressionally ordered relief to student loan borrowers to denigrating higher education and denying science. He fostered racial and religious hatred to distract people from how his economy was of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich—and at the expense of the poorly educated

Among all households, the average 2019 income was $76,152 compared to $77,294 the year before, my analysis of the new IRS data shows. That's a decline of $1,142 or $95 per month.

Vast Majority Make Less

Let's look only at the 96.3% of households making less than a quarter-million dollars. Average income slipped from $52,903 to $52,661, a one-year decline of $242.

The 2019 average income for these households was also lower than under Obama. In 2016 this group averaged $52,978. That means these households averaged $318 more under Obama, my analysis shows.

These are averages, which means some people did better and some worse. For averages to fall, many people must do worse or be additions to the lower rungs of the income ladder, where the poorly educated tend to concentrate.

As for people who own their own businesses, average incomes in 2019 were flat after adjusting for a 1.8% increase in the number of small businesses. Despite all the rhetoric about America being a land of entrepreneurs, small business profits account for less than 3% of total adjusted gross income, which is the last line on the front page of your form 1040 tax return.

These figures all come from the first Internal Revenue Service data table based on the 159.7 million individual income tax returns filed for 2019. A detailed report is due in the fall.

I've analyzed this data since 1995 to track income trends, including the divvying up of the national income pie. All the money amounts in this column use 2019 dollars.

Why Incomes Shrank

That most Americans had smaller incomes in 2019 than 2016 comes despite the size of the American income pie growing over those three years by more than 12% to nearly $12.2 trillion.

Households making a quarter-million dollars or more increased from about 4.4 million to 5.9 million. That's a 34% increase compared to a 6% increase in the total number of tax returns, showing how growth is up the income ladder.

The quarter-million-dollar-and-up households expanded their share of income pie from 28.6% under Obama to 33.4% under Trump.

From the perspective of these high-income households, that's a 17% larger slice of the pie. That meant everyone earning had to divide a smaller share.

Average incomes in the quarter-million-and-up group slipped from $697,044 in 2016 to $687,588 per taxpayer household in 2019.That's because most of the 1.5 million new households in this high-income category entered it near the threshold, bringing down the average.

This new data is consistent with my earlier DCReport analyses. They showed that average incomes grew in 2017, continuing a trend that began under Obama in 2010 and continued in 2018. However, under Trump job growth ran about 3% slower than under Obama.

The 2019 average income declines conform with other data that you probably haven't known about unless you read DCReport, where I used the Trump administration's own data to measure its performance.

Pre-Pandemic Faltering

In October 2020, I reported on fresh evidence that the robust economy Donald Trump inherited from Barack Obama was faltering before the pandemic as personal spending declined in 2019 compared to 2018.

A month before that, I reported that new government data show that in the wake of the Trump tax cuts, which took effect in 2018, the poor and working classes were sinking, and the middle class was treading water, while the tax cuts buoyed the upper-middle class while the very rich luxuriated in rising rivers of greenbacks.

More than half of Americans had to make ends meet in 2018 on less money than in 2016, my analysis of the latest official data showed at that time.

DCReport even gave Trump a certificate of mediocrity in early 2020, using his administration's own data to analyze his economic performance.

Even earlier, in Spring 2019, I showed that Trump's economy underperformed a host of presidents including Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, once the economy he inherited turned around. I gave Trump a grade of C, later revised to C- after new data was released.

Now how to get Trumpers to recognize the awful truth that he made their plight worse, except for those in the elite income group of a quarter-million dollars or more per year?

Marjorie Taylor Greene is a menace and a traitor -- and there's only one way to deal with her

Let's put in perspective the atrocious conduct of freshman lawmaker Margorie Taylor Greene, the pistol-toting Congresswoman from Georgia who wants to put a bullet in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's head.

Any private employer would have fired Greene already. Failure to do so would expose a private company, a nonprofit or any other employer to ruinous damages should Greene reach into her purse and use her Glock or if a fellow QAnon fan were to fulfill these homicidal impulses.

Any decent human being would get a court order to keep Greene from walking around with a gun in her purse.

But Greene is special because she works in the people's House. Under our Constitution, she can't be fired. She can, however, be expelled.

Republicans don't have the decency to expel a member with murder, bigotry and anti-Semitism in her heart, a weapon in her purse and a desire to overthrow the government in which she serves.

Our Constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote to expel Greene. That will happen only if 59 of the 211 House Republicans have the basic human decency to expel a member with murder, religious bigotry and anti-Semitism in her heart, a lethal weapon in her purse and a stated desire to overthrow the government in which she serves.

Expulsion, however, is almost certainly not going to happen.

It's not what the Republican Party's de facto leader, Donald Trump, wants. Trump endorsed Greene, untroubled by her racist and anti-Semitic screeds and her spouting QAnon craziness, labeling Democratic Party leaders pedophile cannibals and her insane assertion that California's wildfires were caused by a Jewish space laser financed by the Rothschild banking family.

Unrepentant Trump

But why would this, or anything else Greene has done, dissuade Trump? He is so self-centered and disloyal that he tried, and failed, on Jan. 6 to overthrow our government. That attack on our Capitol left five people dead, including two police officers. In this Trump is like Greene – he is utterly unrepentant.

We now know that the attack on our Capitol and the hunt to kill Pelosi, Pence and others were the results of planning by rebels that began just days after a large majority of American voters decided on Nov. 3 that Joe Biden would be our next president.

We also know that Trump, who riled up the crowd that morning and told them he would go with them to the Capitol before he took the cowardly action of hiding out in the White House, gleefully watching the violence on television. Trump was so enthralled by the mob violence on his behalf that he wouldn't take his eyes off the TV and take frantic telephone calls from members of his own political party who feared they were about to be executed.

What better evidence that with Trump, like every other mob boss and dictator, loyalty is a one-way street.

Coward Kevin McCarthy

As Trump plots revenge and hopes for a return to the White House, his ally is an American quisling, Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican who is House Minority Leader. McCarthy could whip votes to oust Greene. But if he did, he might well be ousted as minority leader. McCarthy is so weak he cannot bear the thought of that humiliation, cannot imagine being stalwart in defense of our Constitution. News reports indicate Trump uses a sexist epithet to describe McCarthy who only confirms the implication of the disgusting term by his conduct.

McCarthy shares with Trump the ability to speak out of four sides of his mouth, muddying otherwise clear waters about where he stands, what he believes and what he will do.

Of all the scoundrels that Trumpism has inflicted in America, few will be judged more harshly by history than McCarthy, a coward who chose loyalty to Trump ahead of his office and who is doing Trump's bidding in helping Greene cling to the office she does not deserve.

Five Members Expelled

Only five House members have ever been expelled, three for joining the Confederacy and waging war on the United States, two for corruption.

Greene clearly fits under the rebellion category. She is no less a traitor than John B. Clark and John W. Reid of Missouri and Henry C. Burdett of Kentucky, traitors who stood with the slave-owning Confederacy in 1861.

Any Republican who votes to keep Greene is making clear that they are as vile as she is, as disloyal as she is, as much a traitor as she is. A vote to retain Greene is a vote of utter disrespect for our Constitution and a violation of each representative's oath to defend our Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Harassing a Fellow Lawmaker

Greene is utterly unrepentant. Last week, Greene and her staff harassed a co-worker of equal rank, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.). It's significant that Greene is white and spouts racist tropes while Bush, who represents St. Louis, is Black.

Greene, in a tweet, said Bush was the agitator. So did Greene's chief of staff, promising he'd release a video to prove it. But that as yet has not been seen by the public.

Bush told MSNBC that Greene approached her from behind while "ranting loudly into her phone" and "not wearing a mask." Bush said she called out for Greene to put on her mask, as House rules require, prompting Greene and her staff to "responded by berating me."

Bush was so concerned that she is having her Congressional office moved away from Greene's. Providing Bush with armed escorts seems within the bounds of reason.

It is terrible to have to brand an entire political party this way, but it is what the facts demand. This is a tragedy not for the GOP so much as America, where our Constitution hangs as if by a thread and the Republicans are sharpening scissors.

What happened to Republican lectures about the need for those in high office to have moral standards? What about Republican themes about taking personal responsibility?

The awful truth is that those were never principled stands, just mere slogans no different in substance than the catchy phrases and jingles used to sell bubble gum and shampoo.

QAnon and evangelicals: Republicans baptized in crazy

Donald Trump is out, but parts of the Republican Party warmly embrace his dark legacy of white supremacy, the crazy QAnon conspiracy and civil war wrapped in faux Christianity.

Like Trump, these fake Christians reject turning the other cheek in favor of threatening or promoting violence.

The problem here isn't partisan politics, but public mental health. DCReport has covered extensively the mental-health debacle thanks to Dr. Bandy X. Lee, Harper West and other experts on how delusions spread like viruses, with Trump being a carrier.

The evidence of craziness seems to be found entirely in the Republican Party. We looked for, but have yet to discover any Democratic Party leaders pushing baseless conspiracy theories or urging civil war.

Readers who have found such material, please send links via our DCReport Tipline.

Here are some of the ways that Republican leaders reveal their affinity for the anti-democratic nature of Trumpism and QAnon, its attendant conspiracy theory:

  • In California, the Sacramento County Republican Party elected to its Central Committee a Proud Boys member who has advocated violence.

"Illegal immigrants should have their heads smashed into the concrete," a 2018 post by an antifascist group quotes Perrine as saying.

Perrine didn't deny this call to violence, he only insisted that he's not a racist.

He told the newspaper, "They can call me a Nazi all they want, and I know I have plenty of friends of all races that don't always agree with me, but they still love me.

"The Proud Boys that I affiliate with are all working men, all married men, they all have good jobs, they all believe in God."

Only after The Bee reported this did some Republicans in the California capital come to their senses and demand Perrine's ouster.

  • Oregon's Republican Party this month aligned itself with conspiracy theories as well as denouncing all 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the murderous attack on our Capitol.
  • Texas' GOP uses a QAnon conspiracy phrase—We Are The Storm—in its new logo.

The slogan comes from a poem, not crazies, according to the Texas party chairman, Alan West. He is the former congressman from Florida and retired military officer known for making bizarre statements. In 2011, he wrote, "When I see anyone with an Obama 2012 bumper sticker, I recognize them as a threat to the gene pool."

Arizona GOP for Trump, Still

Texas GOP Twitter Page

  • Arizona's GOP retweeted messages in December asking if people were ready to die for Trump and his baseless claim that he really won in 2020. The original Stop The Steal tweet was deleted, but the party's official Twitter account still refers to a person who says he's ready to die for Trump. It states: "He is. Are you?"
  • You might think that the party leadership in the Grand Canyon state, long a bright red jurisdiction, would examine its position after Democrats won both U.S. Senate seats and Joe Biden beat Trump in Arizona.

While the GOP added registered voters in 2020, it lost in ballots cast. Instead of reassessing, however, Arizona's Republican leaders decided to enforce Trumpian purity. On Jan. 23 the Arizona GOP censured three leading Republicans for not embracing Trumpian madness: Gov. Doug Ducey, former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain. The widow of Sen. John McCain said she considers the censure a badge of honor.

Party leaders also re-elected the erratic and autocratic Kelli Ward as the Arizona GOP leader. She said her party suffers from "people who have been namby-pamby, lie down and allow the Democrats to walk all over them."

The party retweeted a menacing message. It is one of many from a Republican who holds himself out as a Christian despite tweets that are aggressively contrary to New Testament teachings about love, doing good to others and turning the other cheek:

"The Arizona Republican Party is still Trump country in all districts. Weak self-righteous sanctimonious Rs are on notice."

"Satan-Worshipping Pedophiles"

Arizona state Sen. David Farnsworth acknowledged last fall to the Arizona Mirror, a news website, that he believes the QAnon conspiracy theory but with a twist.

He said some Republicans have joined the top Democrats who, he imagines, run a global Satan worshipping cabal of pedophiles Trump is singlehandedly trying to bring down. Farnsworth told audiences that Arizona's Department of Child Safety is covering up, or complicit, in child sex trafficking.

Meanwhile, the FBI says QAnon is a domestic terror threat.

Other delusional beliefs so deeply and broadly infect the Arizona GOP that its leaders blame antifascists for joining in when our national Capitol was violently invaded by a murderous mob of Trumpers on Jan. 6.

  • Mentioned earlier, the Oregon Republican Party went further. It adopted a resolution asserting, "The violence at the Capitol was a 'false flag' operation designed to discredit President Trump, his supporters, and all conservative Republicans; this provided the sham motivation to impeach President Trump in order to advance the Democratic goal of seizing total power."

That's as crazy as QAnon.

Antifascist Nonsense

The FBI calls that nonsense, but you don't need law enforcement to know that the idea is ridiculous.

Saying Trumpers and Antifa jointly attacked our Capitol is like saying Trump is in league with Bernie Sanders. Believing, as the Oregon GOP leadership does, that the insurgents were lefties posing as Trumpers moves the party well into the realm of delusion.

  • In Hawaii, the official Republican Twitter account claims war is being waged against its members' values. And its relentless attacks on news organizations that check facts and correct mistakes include many fabrications.

Witness this Inauguration Day tweet: "Will you be joining PBS in calling for internment and re-education camps also?"

Nothing in the news clips it tweeted came close to substantiating the tweet, nor did the full PBS report.

There is a glimmer of hope that reality plays a role in the Hawaii GOP. On Sunday, Jan. 24, the state party's communications vice-chair, Edwin Boyette, resigned after sane Republicans complained about his tweets supporting QAnon.

Building a Theocracy

It's not just Trump purity that many GOP influencers are pushing. There is also their brand of Christianity, which promotes racial animosity, hatred of Democrats, intolerance and would subvert our Constitution to create a theocracy.

Consider Jenna Ellis, one of Trump's television lawyers who was paid at least $173,900 by his campaign. Ellis has met with GOP leaders in several states making fact-free claims that Trump won in November.

Ellis has a long and well-documented history of just making self-aggrandizing claims. She has a checkered career and her accomplishments are negligible, but Trump got one look at her on television and was enchanted.

Some principled Republicans see no future in a party swaddled in craziness. On Monday Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, a conservative with a level head, announced that he won't seek a third term in 2022 because of what he called partisan gridlock.

While it's true that compromise is rare on Capitol Hill, intransigence traces back to anti-taxer Grover Norquist declaring, "Bipartisanship is just another name for date rape" and Trump repeatedly retweeting QAnon-supporting craziness.

Like Flake, a Libertarian whose family founded Arizona, Portman would face a primary challenge from the crazy wing of the GOP if he seeks third term.

Expert explains why you pay more taxes than corporations -- and the people who own them

Now that we have a seasoned Washington hand in the White House working with a team of competent appointees and a plan to distribute coronavirus vaccines we can begin to rebuild our economy.

But there is a major problem that the Biden administration doesn't appear to be planning to tackle—our hidden welfare system for people who neither need nor deserve a handout, yet Congress lets them scoop up welfare money by the boatloads.

Raising tax rates on incomes above $400,000 and on corporate profits, as Biden pledged, will bring in revenue. It will make our tax system less unfair. That's all well and good. But it also misses the big money. It misses our hidden system of upward redistribution which I've spent decades documenting from the public record.

The core problem: Not all income is verified equally nor taxed equally, if at all. The current tax system is has big holes that can be easily closed by tweaking our existing law. In terms of drafting new law—that's easy. Getting the American people to demand it and overcome the influence of those who currently benefit is another matter entirely.

Earn Now, Pay Taxes Later

The first hole allows corporations and partnerships to earn now but pay their income taxes by-and-by. The second hole is income from legal sources that the IRS never knows about, especially in real estate and art. We'll examine this second hole in a future DCReport article.

Unlike you and me, corporations and certain partnerships large enough to afford sophisticated advice–and super-rich individuals who own and control big businesses–get to earn now and pay much later.

This happens because Congress literally requires them to keep two sets of books. If that sounds like the kind of organized crime schemes made famous by Eliot Ness in pursuing Al Capone, you got it right. What should be a crime is now legal thanks to Congress.

The number for income tax that a big company like Amazon puts on its financial statement line does not indicate taxes actually paid. It's not like your W-2 wage statement of taxes withheld from your paycheck and promptly turned over to our Treasury. That line (see Item 6) just shows the tax that the company may, someday, pay.

Hidden in Plain Sight

The actual taxes paid in any given year may be less than zero as a company collects refunds on past taxes. Many big companies including Amazon have enjoyed a negative income tax in recent years. Matthew Gardner of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy explains more here.

Source: Visual Capitalist[/caption]

Taxes actually paid are disclosed, sort of, in a footnote to the financial statements. But even that is misleading because our government's disclosure rules lack transparency and integrity.

And the taxes that should be paid are known only if the very best IRS tax auditors conduct an examination. But under rules that Congress enacted two decades ago, the IRS must notify companies in advance of what they are looking for. The IRS auditors are not allowed to pursue anything else they find, no matter how much money is at stake, unless they have clear evidence of fraud. That's official corruption.

Contrast this with Congress requiring your employer, pension plan, mutual fund, bank and stock brokerage to report how much money you collected. Petty merchants have the total of their credit card payments reported to prevent understating revenue. And it's all automated so the cost of ensuring that gross incomes are fully reported is low. The system for making regular people pay their taxes is almost perfect in its effectiveness.

Taxes as Profits

Complaints about the burden of taxes on the wealthiest among us and corporations make the front pages in the evening network news frequently. But you will almost never hear that many of these complainers profit off our tax system. That's because through the modern alchemy of accounting and tax rules they can convert the burden of taxes into a profit center.

The trick is to get a loan from Uncle Sam at 0% interest. Better yet, take out a new loan every year and the amount of capital the taxpayers are giving you to invest snowballs.

How do you apply for and qualify for these 0% interest loans? That's one of the best parts. You don't. Congress hands them out automatically under our accounting and tax rules. For simplicity, we will ignore inflation in explaining this stealth welfare for the rich program.

Don't Pay for 30 Years

Now please imagine our government sent you a letter today saying you can keep all the taxes withheld from your 2020 paychecks for the next 30 years, but you must pay up at the end of 2050.

Now invest that money in a stock that pays no dividend and increases in value at a modest four percent annual rate of return through 2050.

For each dollar of deferred tax, you will have $3.24 in 2050. After paying the $1 tax you are left with $2.24. You'll owe a 20% long term capital gains tax on that money. That leaves you with $1.79. You are richer than if withholding took the tax in 2020.

If the investment you made grew at a 10% annual rate, which wealthy individuals with sophisticated advisers should be able to achieve, the riches that flow from tax deferral balloon. Each dollar of deferred tax becomes $17.45. After paying both the deferred tax and the 20% levy on the capital gain you walk away with $13.16.

See how tax deferral can make you rich? See how it enables dynastic wealth?

How to Become a Billionaire

Now multiply that $13 by millions and billions. And now further imagine you do that year after year, as many corporations controlled by a single individual do. But for his propensity to squander money and cheat, Donald Trump's solely owned Trump Organization really would be worth more than $10 billion today thanks in good part to legal tax deferral.

Wage-earners, small and medium-sized businesses are not allowed this deferral, except in retirement plans. But you don't get the same tax deal.

When you collect from your pension, IRA or 401(k) you won't enjoy the low rates Congress levies on capital gains even though most of the money in your retirement plan comes from such gains. Congress says you must pay at the higher rate for labor, up to 37%. Except for those so poor they are exempt from all income taxes you will be burdened more than the owner of a company that deferred.

More for Their Heirs, Too

Also, while business owners can exempt more than $11 million from the estate tax whatever is left in your retirement plan when your time runs out will be fully taxed before your heirs collect a dollar. And it will be taxed at the highest rate your heirs pay Indeed, under new rules if you leave $4 million or more your heirs will be taxed at the highest income tax rate while heirs of a business owner leaving the same would pay nothing.

Paying higher tax rates and losing out on the estate tax exemption are not the only way Congress puts workers at a disadvantage to the wealthiest business owners.

Those 0% interest loans are not free. Someone had to extend the loan money. That someone is you. A dollar of tax not paid is no different from a dollar given out by our government. And in this area, we are talking in billions, perhaps trillions, of dollars of interest-free loans.

Here's how you pay. Congress spends each deferred $1 today. To cover that expense, it borrows money equal to what is deferred.

At the current blended average federal borrowing rate of about 2%, the value of the tax-deferred for three decades will cost you 81 cents in interest paid on government debt. But wait, it gets worse.

After taking those interest payments into account our government will net 19-cents on each dollar of tax-deferred for 30 years.

Warren Buffet Gets a Free Loan

One of Warren Buffett's companies has a loan that, the last time I found it in his disclosure filings, was worth $660 million. Half of it would still be unpaid 38 years later. With apologies to Mel Brooks, it's nice to be Warren.

Thanks to dynasty trusts that help generations of rich families build their wealth even as the number of descendants expands, and to the eternal nature of corporate persons, deferring a tax today is one of the most lucrative opportunities out there.

These are riches made first in the marketplace, where riches should be made, but then grow thanks to a stealth welfare program.

How to Do Something About It

The solution? Require one set of corporate books and a definition of profits set by the government instead of the cumbersome system of reconciling General Accepted Accounting Principles to tax rules. And then require that income taxes be paid under the same rules as your pay – when you make your money.

Congress could also end all existing deferrals, as it did in 2017 for profits siphoned out of America untaxed and nominally held overseas. The Republicans established that principle in the Trump/Radical Republican Tax Law in 2017.

To prevent a shock to the system Congress could require companies to declare how much is deferred, send the IRS a detailed report documenting this and then allow companies to spread tax payments across four years with an annual interest charge on the unpaid. A rate equaling our government's blended average borrowing rate would be a boon to these companies. That rate plus 1 percentage point (so about 3%) would encourage prompt payment.

Failure by the Biden administration and the majorities in Congress to address this stealth welfare for the rich would be a betrayal of the voters. It would run contrary to the promise in the preamble to our Constitution to promote the general welfare.

But unless you spread the word so people know how they are paying taxes to make zero-interest loans this burden on working Americans will continue.

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