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Archive for the ‘Money Out Of Politics’ Category

Organizing for Social Justice Continues

The need to organize for social justice continues to be crucial in the efforts to win over money’s influence.

BY JUDY OF OCEAN CITY, MD ON JUNE 7, 2013

This month we remember the lives of Senator Robert Kennedy and Civil Rights Activist Medgar Evers (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medgar_Evers).  Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated forty-five years ago, on June 6, 1968, and Medgar Evers was killed on June 12, 1963.

Medgar Evers is remembered for his brave fight for racial equality. He served in the U.S. Army during WW II and was the first NAACP field secretary for Mississippi. The mission, “Jim Crow Must Go”, resonated through the South during his efforts to end racial discrimination and injustices.

New York Senator Robert Kennedy sought to “address the needs of the dispossessed and powerless in America – the poor, the young, racial minorities and Native Americans”. (rfkcenter.org) At the age of 42, Senator Kennedy lost his life, fighting for social change.

This article, written by Ben Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP (naacp.org),  demonstrates the need to continue organizing for social justice. Money cannot win over dedicated citizens who “step up” to have their voices heard.

http://flcourier.com/2013/06/06/organized-people-can-beat-organized-money-every-time/

HARRIS SHUNS PUBLIC FORUM

This was my response to the StarDem article, regarding the League of Women Voters candidates’ forum, held at Chesapeake College, on Sunday, October 21, 2012.  Three candidates appeared: Muir Boda (Libertarian), Dr. John LaFerla (Democrat), and Michael Calpino (unaffiliated, but sounding like another Libertarian).  Wait…isn’t there a Republican candidate in this race? Yes…Andy Harris, the incumbent, was conspicuously absent, refusing to debate what he referred to as “write-in candidates.”

Without the financial support of Koch Brothers’ organizations, Andy is a lost cause!

First, it is a telling commentary that Harris has refused to publicly face off with those running for the same office. His lame excuse is that he still considers Rosen as his opponent, since her name is technically on the ballot. This attitude shows exactly the kind of personality Harris possesses…one of diversion, issue avoidance and lies.

The truth is that the State Democratic Party (along with all the Counties in the 1st District), voted to replace Rosen with Dr. LaFerla, naming him as the official Democratic candidate. Harris’ refusal to face the public and his opponents is another attempt at his failure to accept responsibility for his poor performance while in office. He has one of the worst environmental records, both, while in the State Senate, and now as Representative. He should be ashamed of himself.

Dr. LaFerla deserves kudos for his dedication and integrity, stepping in to become the Democratic write-in candidate, even though his campaign is in an uphill battle this late in the race. Add to that, Harris’ refusal to let the voters hear the truth, plus the almost impossible odds to raise substantial funds this late and you can understand why Dr. LaFerla is a longshot. All the more reason why it is important for the voters to come out and write-in his name.

Dr. John LaFerla – Democratic candidate

Harris is more interested in “telling” people what to do, rather than “listening” to what the people say. He has lied outright on many occasions, twisting facts, ignoring the truth and using people’s fears to gain votes. He has argued that “the government is attacking our freedoms.” Tell us, Mr. Harris, what freedoms have you voted to take away? FDR referred to the “freedom from want”, which translates into not going hungry, not being homeless and even, receiving basic medical care. These are all ideas you’ve voted against, as well as defunding assistance to the chronically ill and long-term care patients.  It sadly sounds like the Nazis of the 1930s, who sought to divest German society of “the undesirables.”  Where did this philosophy, the foundation of your tenure in Congress, originate?  They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!

 

As far as Boda and Calpino are concerned, neither one has a real understanding of history, freedom or what Americans need right now. Theirs is a campaign of ideologies, not a campaign geared towards helping people in the 1st District.

Calpino’s statement, “We got along fine without the EPA until the ’70s”, would be laughable, if it wasn’t such a serious misstatement of history. The truth, for those of us who weren’t around in the ’50s & ’60s, is that we were NOT getting “along fine”, as Calpino says. Our water and air had become polluted to the point that children were dying, emphysema and other lung-related diseases, including cancer, were rising at record levels, and big corporations had free rein over the environment, to destroy as needed…for progress and profit! Many people forget that the EPA was started and supported by a Republican administration…Richard Nixon. BTW…the same President who said that he wanted to see Congress pass a National Health Insurance bill.

The Candidates (less Harris) debate the issues!

Boda’s statements are also laughable, especially his belief that all is well with the world since his employer, Walmart, pays men and women the same for equal work. Somehow, Boda has conveniently forgotten that Walmart was the target of several major lawsuits, alleging pay discrimination. He also ignores scores of studies that have shown the pay disparity that exists between men and women in America. His, “everything-would-be-fine-if-government-just-stayed-out-of-it attitude, is simplistic at best and an outright lie, at worst.

Romney Says Releasing More Tax Returns Can Be Politically Damaging

Mitt Romney appeared on Fox and Friends Monday morning to respond to the growing number of conservatives who are calling on the former Massachusetts governor to release more of his tax returns. At least eight Republicans have urged Romney to publicize the records and put the issue behind him, but the candidate is sticking to his guns. The public will see just two years of returns and no more, Romney said, before appearing to admit that the records may contain something politically damaging:

Romney: The Obama people keep on wanting more and more and more. More things to pick through, more things for their opposition research to try make a mountain out of and to distort and to be dishonest about. We’re going to put out two years of tax returns.

Watch the video:

One of the Republicans also raising alarms about Romney’s returns… MSNBC host and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough predicted during Monday’s Morning Joe:

The fact is, there are a couple of years he may not have paid any taxes . Maybe he’s concerned about that. But if it’s going to come out, he needs to get it out now so he has a couple of months to explain it.

The Romney campaign played down the issue, arguing that Romney is already doing more than is required by law by releasing his 2010 and later his 2011 returns.

Looks to me like he has taken advantage of every single conceivable tax shelter loophole that we can see. And now if elected…he is suppose to be the guy that’s gonna clean up our tax code and make it advantageous to average taxpayers and the country? I think not.

The scary part is that it might even be worse than not paying his taxes… the fact that he is refusing to do what other candidates for president have done for decades tells you he has something to hide. Even conservative Republicans are telling him to release his taxes and he is now admitting that would cause him problems.  What is he hiding? Conservatives should be worried.

Wisconsin’s Results Affect Us All

Scott Walker – Union-busting puppet of Koch Brothers

Walker is the right-wing hero-du-jour. Spinners argue the Right is emboldened because he survived. Attacks on worker rights, cuts in education, tax cuts and restricted voting, will now spread even more rapidly across the country.

I foresee more compromise. Walker barely survived the backlash caused by his lies and radical actions. He lost the Senate! He experienced a brutal recall, with a drop in popularity.

Of course, the Tea Party and Koch Brothers look-a-likes are waving a victory flag. But Walker’s, Kasich’s and Scott’s bloody noses will remain sore.

Where does that leave the President? Exit polls showed President Obama will take Wisconsin. It seems that many voters objected to the recall itself, not because they endorsed Walker’s radical policies.

Elected officials face important choices: Will the Middle Class and poor continue to pay for the catastrophe caused by 32 years of failed right-wing lies? Will America continue cutting education, health care, infrastructure, retirement security, clean water and air? Will we continue to approve CEO multimillion-dollar bonuses for jobs sent abroad, breaking unions, fudging books and lying to meet quarterly profit margins?

Puppetmasters, Charles & David Koch

The alternative is to rebuild our country, with historically fairer taxes. To empower workers with fair wages, based on their productivity that creates huge profits.

Wisconsin is a warning to the President and progressives, who will need to work harder, stretch more, educate and reach out more, to counter the increased power of big money. “Big Money” out-spent their opponents 7 to 1!  “Big money” demands a big reaction.

Are voters okay with “Big Money” taking over our future? It reminds me of the scene in Star Trek: First Contact, when, after going back in time, just prior to first contact between Earth and Vulcan, the Borg Queen is about to stop it from happening. Her words are startlingly appropriate: “Watch your future’s end!”

Harris Equates Contraception to Communism

Rep. Andy “Dr No” Harris recently compared contraception coverage mandate in insurance policies to Communist “Religious Persecution.”   Yes, the man who wants less government intrusion when it comes to our air, water, financial and drilling controls, but more government intrusion when it comes to our bedrooms and private lives, now wants to compare the availability of contraception services in insurance policies (which is not forced upon anyone) to a totalitarian form of government.  Nice stretch, Andy!  But, as we already know, you are adept at lies, distortions and half-truths.

Club for Growth supports Dr. No, and vice-versa!

Of course, Harris, who likes to call together last-minute “Town Hall Meetings”, usually scheduling them for mid-afternoon, so no one can really attend, is now shying away from in-person confrontations, instead, choosing to show up on the telephone!  I guess it’s much easier to “accidentally” hang up on someone, than get up and walk out of the room.

This is Harris in an interview with the right-wing group, Concerned Women for America:

“What we need is—we need civil action. We need people to be talking about it, really expressing outrage to their friends and neighbors at how this could be happening in America. You know, my parents came from Communist countries, they actually escaped religious persecution like this, only now to have it happen here, right here in America.”

Is it any clearer why we need to replace this person?  He disappears after the election, failing to do anything constructive for his district or the people in it, and is supported by outside interests.  Can anyone name one thing that he has done for the people of the 1st district?  Of course, except trying to divide us!

Club for Growth Puppet, Andy “Dr. No” Harris

Do we really want our elected representatives set up as puppets of groups from outside Maryland?  Rep. Andy Harris is one such puppet! The following is a post on RightWingWatch.org, from 2008, about our Congressman, Andy “Dr. No” Harris.  It shows how misleading his support was and how he still panders to outside forces, instead of working on issues that matter to his constituents. He has given in to being a puppet of the extreme right-wing radicals who have funded his campaigns and ordered him how to vote in Congress, not for the best interests of his district, but for the social agenda of those puppeteers, who are based outside of Maryland.

This week, the Club for Growth declared victory, as incumbent Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, lost the Republican primary to the Club’s handpicked candidate. The Club’s PAC, which has carved out a niche for itself, with right-wing primary challenges, spent more than $600,000 on the race, mostly with TV ads calling Gilchrest a “liberal.”

But the Club for Growth, known for its hard-line supply-side economics, wasn’t the only outside group giving a boost to challenger Andy Harris. “It is imperative that Dr. Harris win this contest!” declared Focus on the Family founder, James Dobson, who trumpeted right-wing complaints about Gilchrist.

Club for Growth puppet, Andy “Dr. No” Harris

 

“He voted against the constitutional amendment (on) marriage; he voted to allow homosexuals to adopt children; he had been pro-abortion,” Maryland state Sen. Alex Mooney told Family News in Focus.

This isn’t the first time the Club for Growth and Dobson have joined forces: the duo also backed a right-wing primary challenge in 2006 that ousted incumbent Rep. Joe Schwarz—who, like Gilchrest, had the backing of President Bush. Dobson crowed that the upset would “send a mighty signal that the days of anti-family, liberal Republicans are finally over.” Former Sen. Lincoln Chafee, another Club for Growth target, accused the economic group of having a hidden social agenda in its choice of candidates and targets.

If so, it would only mirror the Religious Right, whose definition of “values voter” expands as needed, to fit the GOP’s platform. In a recent appearance  on MSNBC together, Family Research Council President, Tony Perkins, and Club for Growth President, Pat Toomey, were in full agreement on the importance of the “three-legged stool.” “For [the] Republican Party to win they must have a conservative candidate who brings together the conservative coalition: fiscal conservatives, defense conservatives, and social conservatives,” said Perkins.

Indeed, while Dobson recently endorsed Mike Huckabee—the Club for Growth’s enemy number one —Perkins has maintained his ambivalence, always making note of the stool.

The 99%’s Deficit Proposal: OccupyDC Presents A Plan!

We have heard a lot of banter coming from those who feel threatened by the Occupy Movement – mostly the wealthy and big corporations, including the financial sector – that those who are protesting have no agenda, no solutions, no fixes, to the problems they perceive.  This morning, I received a piece that was prepared by the Occupy Washington DC group, presenting a focused plan for dealing with the deficit, jobs creation, health care and more.

It was only a matter of time before the Movement matured and proposals/fixes were presented.  This is a positive step, in my opinion, and will only help bring more credibility to the Movement and shed light on the issues that truly affect our country.  This is an important read for anyone who stands with the 99% and is involved in educating themselves about the real facts and figures!

Prepared by Occupy Washington DC
Freedom Plaza, November 2011

The disconnect between Congress and the people is vast. For decades, Congress has been passing laws that benefit the 1%, their campaign donors and big business interests, rather than creating a fair economy that serves all U.S. citizens. With this report Occupy Washington, DC shows that Congress is out of touch with evidence-based solutions, supported by the majority of Americans that can revive the economy, reduce the deficit and wealth divide while create millions of jobs.

The 99% In DC!

OccupyWashingtonDC.org seeks a major transformation to a participatory democracy in the economy as well as in government. For forty years, concentrated corporate interests have acted with intent to take over government and other institutions. We seek an end to the rule of concentrated wealth and corporate power by shifting control, wealth and ownership to the people.

This report puts forward evidence-based solutions that will re-start the economy and avoid placing financial burdens on future generations. For the most part these ideas are not new. They are well accepted by economists and are consistent with the views of super majorities of Americans on key issues. Further, more than three-quarters of U.S. citizens say the country’seconomic structure is out of balance and “favors a very small proportion of the rich over the rest of the country.” They are right. The solutions to our economic crisis are evident but they are blocked by those who profit from the status quo and control elected officials through the corrupt U.S. political system and its money-based elections.

The elites in Washington, DC seek to erase deficits that were caused by increases in war and military spending, tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations, the increased cost of health care, as well as bank bailouts, and increased costs and lost revenue from the economic collapse. The bi-partisan elites seek to cut $1.2 trillion in deficits even though there is no outcry for such cuts or evidence in the economy that they are urgently needed. They are proposing cuts in services to seniors, students, the poor and middle-working class households who did not cause the crash but already suffer from its consequences. This report shows that we can get the economy moving, reduce the wealth divide and control government spending while helping the 99%.

This report should not be considered the demand of the Occupy Movement. It was prepared[1] by one Occupation, Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC and it does not reflect even that Occupation’s full demands. Most of this report provides solutions to the deficit questions the Congressional Super Committee is attempting to address while also re-starting the economy. The difference between the Occupied Super Committee report and the Congressional Super Committee report will be stark and further demonstrate the corruption and dysfunction of government. While this report’s recommendations would benefit the 99%, the report that will come out of the congressional Super Committee will benefit the 1%.

Creating a Fair Tax System That Shrinks the Wealth Divide

The United States does not have a lack of financial resources; it has an intentionally unfair distribution of resources. The federal income tax has become less progressive and the rate paid by the wealthiest has been cut dramatically in recent decades. From 1944 through 1951, the highest marginal tax rate for individuals was 91%, increasing to 92% for 1952 and 1953, and reverting to 91% for tax years 1954 through 1963. In 1964, the top marginal tax rate for individuals was 77%. From 1965 through 1981 the top rate was 70%. The top marginal tax rate was lowered to 50% for tax years 1982 through 1986 and today it is just 35%.

The tax on investment income, capital gains, has also been dramatically reduced. The maximum statutory rate on long-term capital gains was 28% in 1991, 20% in 1997 and has been merely 15% since 2003.

The wealth divide has become extreme over the past three decades and tax policies have exacerbated this trend; much of the tax code exemplifies policies for the 1% at the expense of the 99%. The wealth divide is one of the foundational reasons why the economy no longer works and is in steady decline for most people in the United States. The tax code inadequately funds government, but that is the result of unfair tax cuts, not because America is broke (it isn’t). As Andrew Fieldhouse of the Economic Policy Institute testified “Income per capita has jumped 66% over the past 30 years, and is projected to grow another 60% over the next 30 years.” The country needs to put in place policies that reduce the wealth divide and share wealth fairly so that when the economy grows it benefits all citizens, not just the 1%.

The recommendations below begin to correct the unfair policies of the last three decades, but these are only first steps to the transformational changes that are needed.

  • Tax the highest income households: From 1960 to 2004, the top 0.1 percent of U.S. taxpayers — the wealthiest one in one thousand — have seen the share of their income paid in total federal taxes drop from 60% to 24.3%. America’s highest income-earners — the top 400 people who have wealth equal to 154 million Americans — have seen their federal income tax drop from 51.2% in 1955 to 18.1% in 2008. If the top 400 paid as much of their incomes in personal income tax as the top 400 of 1955, the federal treasury would have collected $50 billion more in revenue from just those 400 taxpayers. If the top 0.1% of taxpayers — Americans with incomes that averaged $4.4 million — had paid total federal taxes at the same rate as the top 0.1% paid these taxes in 1960, the federal treasury would have collected an additional $250 billion in revenue.
  • Merely not extending the Bush tax cuts would add nearly $500 billion each year in tax revenue. Thus in just over two years the goal of the deficit committee would be met. This would be insufficient to correct the wealth divide and does not go as far as Occupy Washington, DC advocates.
  • A tax of a half of a percent or less on Wall Street speculation could raise over $800 billion in a decade. The Speculation Tax on the purchase of stocks, bonds and derivatives would be a tiny tax with a big impact. People in the U.S. pay much higher taxes on purchases of food and clothing; it is only fair that the wealthy pay taxes on purchasing wealth instruments.
  • A fair tax on capital gains, treating it as ordinary income would raise $1 trillion over a decade. Wealth-based income and work-based income should be treated equally under the law as it used to be. Warren Buffet has received a great deal of attention for pointing out that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary or anyone who works for him. The reason for this is that investment income is taxed at a much lower rate than income from labor. The United States needs to tax wealth more and work less.
  • Congress should enact a “pure worldwide” tax system, in which all profits of U.S. corporations, whether they are generated in the U.S. or abroad, would be taxed by the U.S. This would end “deferral,” i.e. where taxes are deferred until money is brought back into the United States. U.S. corporations would continue to receive a credit against any taxes they pay to a foreign government (the foreign tax credit) so that profits are not double-taxed. Under a pure worldwide tax system, corporations would have little or no tax incentive to move jobs offshore because the U.S. would tax profits of corporations no matter where they are generated. The Treasury estimates that deferral of U.S. taxes on offshore corporate profits costs close to $50 billion each year, and many experts think this estimate is substantially understated.
  • Ending deferral does not even address the hundreds of billions lost through tax havens. Tax havens should be shut down through the passage of the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act. In fact, the U.S. Treasury estimates this costs $100 billion each year. In 2006 the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations reported that Americans now have more than $1 trillion in assets offshore and illegally evade between $40 and $70 billion in U.S. taxes each year through the use of offshore tax schemes.
  • Closing corporate tax loopholes would return the fair share of taxes paid by corporations to the funding of government. Declining corporate taxation is another prime factor in increasing deficits. Corporate income taxes have fallen from roughly 4.8% of GDP in the 1950s to only 1.8% of GDP over the past decade. Ending just two large breaks, deferral of overseas revenue and accelerated depreciation would raise about $114 billion over a decade. The Treasury Department lists $365 billion in corporate tax breaks being gifted annually — that’s $3.65 trillion over the next 10 years. Due to tax loopholes, corporations pay record low tax rates — they actually pay 21% on average. Indeed, a recent report by Citizens for Tax Justice found that Wells Fargo received $18 billion in tax breaks, while both Verizon and General Electric paid negative taxes. Earlier Citizens for Tax Justice reported that 12 major companies which together made $171 billion in profits from 2008-2010 paid a negative $2.5 billion in taxes, thanks to $62 billion in tax subsidies.

The taxes described above would generate at least $600 billion annually. The goal of the Joint Deficit Committee of $1.2 trillion over ten years could be met in two years. The United States has more than enough wealth to meet the needs of its people.

Calling On Congress...the 99%

Cutting Spending for Economic Security

  • Military spending, found in the Department of Defense and other departments, has increased dramatically during each year that George W. Bush and Barack Obama have been president, roughly doubling during the past decade both as measured in real dollars and as a percentage share of discretionary spending. Military and related “security” spending is now at over $1 trillion per year and comprises well over half of federal discretionary spending. It is also very nearly equal to the military spending of all other nations on earth combined. Ending our two most costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan before the 2013 fiscal year budget would save $1.8 trillion, as compared with ending those wars on the currently planned schedule, with savings of $108 billion per year.
  • The Sustainable Defense Task Force recommended modest cuts of $1 trillion over the next decade, not counting savings from ending the current wars. U.S. military spending could be cut by 80% and still be comfortably well ahead of any other nation’s military spending. See Creating Jobs and Restarting the Economy below on how these funds could be used to create jobs, restart the economy and provide much-needed services and infrastructure to the country.
  • Corporate tax subsidies through tax breaks and giveaways are a form of spending that needs to be cut.[2] The U.S. needs to end corporate tax subsidies and repatriate overseas funds. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, the 280 most profitable U.S. corporations received tax subsidies amounting to $222.7 billion from 2008-2010. These companies sheltered half their profit from taxes. The result: 30 companies paid less than 0 taxes despite $160 billion in pre-tax profits; 78 of the 280 companies enjoyed at least one year in which their federal income tax was zero or less; weapons maker’s paid a mere 10.6 percent rate in 2010; financial services received the largest share (16.8 percent) of all federal tax subsidies over the last three years.
  • Negotiating better prices with Big Pharma would save more than $200 billion over ten years in pharmaceutical costs. Reforms of Medicare could offer much larger savings. Expanding to an improved Medicare for all system would control the cost of health care spending while covering all in the United States reducing significant financial burdens often resulting in bankruptcy and foreclosure.

Creating Jobs and Restarting the Economy

One in six people who would like a full-time job are unable to find one. The unemployment rate of 9% greatly underestimates unemployment. If the pre-1994 measures were used, e.g. including discouraged workers who want jobs, as well as part-time workers who want full-time jobs, the underemployment and unemployment rate would be 23%. The measures listed below would effectively create jobs and restart the economy. Job loss means less tax revenue and more expenditure by the government. A critical ingredient to reducing the deficit is job creation.

  • One million jobs could be created annually by writing down all underwater mortgages to market value. Correcting housing mortgages to the real value of homes would inject $71 billion per year into the economy and save families $6,500 per year on mortgage payments. This would also fix the housing crisis which is an anchor holding back any recovery, according to a new report by The New Bottom Line. One in five mortgage holders owe more on their mortgage than their home is actually worth. Banks should not continue to be able to profit from housing bubble prices – a bubble they created with their poor and unethical lending practices. Adjusting mortgages to the real value of homes is a fair way to fix the housing market.
  • Failure to stop the foreclosure crisis will ensure a stalled economy. It is an essential step to economic repair. This could be done without Congress as Fannie and Freddie together hold $1.5 trillion in housing loans or mortgage-backed securities which could be directed to fix the mortgages. The Federal Reserve has just under a trillion and could unilaterally correct loans to reflect real value. And, the banks could be pressured. Last year, the nation’s top six banks paid out more than twice the cost of re-writing mortgages to make them fair, ($71 billion per year), in bonuses and compensation alone ($146 billion in 2010). The nation’s banks are sitting on a historically high level of cash reserves of $1.64 trillion.
  • fundamental reason for job stagnation is relying on the private sector to create jobs and refusing to engage in direct government job creation in the public sector. According to Business Week, “Since the end of the recession, government employment–including federal, state, and local jobs–has fallen by roughly 600,000. State and local governments have particularly felt the pain, according to a report released this week by the Census Bureau, which shows that there were over 200,000 fewer state and local government jobs in 2010 than in 2009.” The most recent jobs report shows a continued downward trend in government jobs. State deficits and federal inaction ensure these job losses will continue.
  • In addition to our need to rebuild the nation’s physical infrastructure, there is an even more urgent need to rebuild its human infrastructure. The drastic rise in inequality and joblessness has torn apart the social fabric, destroying countless individual lives, families, urban neighborhoods, and rural communities across our country. For more than a generation, the major “growth industry” in impoverished communities has been the illegal drug industry. Persistent, trans-generational poverty is directly responsible for the fact that the U.S. now leads the world in imprisoning its own people: 2.5 million, by the latest count, with more than 5 million more under some form of court supervision. (China, with its 2.5 billion people, runs a poor second.) Although most of the prison population is white, people of color are disproportionately represented, leading many analysts to declare that the mass incarceration of African-Americans and Latinos has created a new caste of unemployable “untouchables.” Only a massive public works, community development, and job training program can end the destruction of American communities and stop the shameful criminalization of poverty.
  • As public sector jobs are created, the country must also strengthen the public sector in ways that will require new democratic reforms to put publicly owned or financed enterprises under popular control. A long-term goal should be to democratize the economy so the people of the United States share in wealth and ownership as well as influence over the economy. See below Democratizing the Economy, Shifting Economic Power, Wealth and Ownership to all in the United States. There is a desperate need for a mass public works program, not only to create jobs, but also to meet the urgent needs of the country.
  • The American Society of Civil Engineers estimated that failure to fix the nation’s infrastructure has created serious damage so extensive that $2.2 trillion will be required by 2014 just to meet current demands. The ASCE gave the nation’s infrastructure an overall grade of “D.” Its report cited cracking levees, a quarter of the nation’s existing bridges sagging, leaking pipes losing billions of gallons of drinking water per day, aging sewers releasing human waste into rivers and lakes, horrendous traffic congestion and air and water pollution. This is not “make work” but urgently needed work. A public works program modeled after the depression era Works Progress Administration would create 15 million jobs and build the infrastructure needed to create a sustainable economy.
  • Spending on the military is a drag on the economy, not just because it makes up 55% of federal discretionary spending, but because more jobs would be created by spending on education, infrastructure, green energy, or even on tax cuts for non-billionaires. Converting a fraction of current military spending to other industries and tax cuts could produce 29 million new jobs, one for every unemployed or underemployed person in the United States, even after finding new employment for everyone displaced during the conversion.
  • Putting in place improved Medicare for all would provide a major stimulus for the U.S. economy not only by controlling the cost of health care and reducing deficits but by creating 2.6 million new jobs, and infusing $317 billion in new business and public revenues, with another $100 billion in wages into the U.S. economy.
  • Erasing student loan debt would have an immediate stimulating effect on the economy. As Mychal Smith writes: “[C]onsider the potential impact on the economy if all of a sudden 35 million people were able to add to their monthly budget anywhere between $400 and $1000 that they no longer needed to satisfy exorbitant student loan repayments. . . . Debt free degree holders would allow for more risk taking and innovation.” As Robert Applebaum, an advocate of forgiving student loans writes: “the ‘educated poor’ are not buying homes, not starting businesses or families, not inventing, investing or innovating and otherwise engaging in economically productive activities.” And, as Cryn Johannsen, of All Education Matters, points out, this would be a long-term stimulus because college debts are multi-decade in length. Johannsen describes a “crisis that is affecting millions of educated Americans. We are indebted for life. Most of us will never be able to pay off our loans for college.” Education is a critical building block for the economy and going forward the United States must develop a system of higher education that does not require students to go into debt just to receive an education. Rather than a loan-based system the U.S. needs a system based on grants, scholarships and public funding.

These recommendations would create millions of jobs and get the economy moving again. As the economy develops and expands, programs need to be put in place so that new wealth is shared more fairly; workers have greater control over their work through employee ownership and protections for collective bargaining; and so some of the profits created by public investment (i.e. by tax dollars) are shared among all U.S. taxpayers. See below Democratizing the Economy, Shifting Economic Power, Wealth and Ownership to all U.S. Citizens.

Protecting and Improving Social Security

Saving Social Security is not a traditional left-right battle. Polls consistently show that people across the political spectrum overwhelmingly support Social Security and do not want to see it cut. Even the vast majority of Tea Party Republicans support these programs. Cutting Social Security is a Wall Street agenda of the 1% that opposes the interests of the rest of us. As Dean Baker writes “There is a bipartisan consensus among the elites that these programs should be cut. The guiding philosophy of this drive is that public money that goes to programs for middle-income and poor people is money that could be in the pockets of the wealthy.”

Patriotic Americans...the 99%

Social Security does not contribute to the deficit. Social Security is financed by a designated Social Security tax and there is more than $2.5 trillion in the Social Security trust fund. The efforts to cut Social Security to fix the deficit are a fraud designed to enrich Wall Street financiers by forcing people into the private retirement market.

The temporary payroll tax cut will create some jobs, but not enough to get the economy moving and is not the most effective tax cut stimulus. Further, it unnecessarily puts Social Security in jeopardy by reducing taxes designated for Social Security. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the cut will reduce federal revenues by $112 billion over the next two years. The government will have to borrow to fill that hole in the Social Security trust fund, giving opponents of Social Security another argument against the program.

Social Security faces no immediate threat of insolvency. The Congressional Budget Office just released new projections showing that the Social Security trust fund is fully solvent through the year 2038. Even after that date, the program would have enough money to pay 81% of scheduled benefits for the rest of the century. Below are recommendations that would strengthen social security.

  • The funding of Social Security is easy to fix. Currently, the tax on wages subject to the tax is capped at $107,000. The upward redistribution of income over the last three decades has caused a large share of wage income to escape taxation. If all wage income were subject to the tax, then it would leave Social Security fully solvent for its 75-year planning period.
  • The Social Security tax has not kept up with the wealth divide. In 1983, the Social Security tax ceiling was set so the tax would hit 90% of all wages covered by Social Security. That 90% figure was built into the 1983 Greenspan Commission’s fix of Social Security. Requiring the ceiling to rise with inflation was expected to result in the Social Security tax continuing to hit 90% of total income. But, in 1983 no one predicted the extreme wealth divide that exists today. The richest 1% of Americans got 11.6% of total income in 1983. Today the top 1% takes in more than 20% of total income and as a result the Social Security payroll tax hits only about 83% of their total income. The tax should go back to covering 90% of income. That would mean the ceiling on income subject to the Social Security tax would need to be raised to $180,000.
  • Social Security should be strengthened in ways that increase the retirement security of people in middle-and working-class. Particular attention should be paid to improving the living standards in retirement of workers in poorly compensated jobs, who typically have little or no retirement savings outside of Social Security. The average Social Security benefit of $14,000 is only about 30% above the poverty line. Indeed, 21% of Social Security beneficiaries receive Social Security benefits that fall below the poverty line. In 2011, the Commission to Modernize Social Security proposed increasing benefits for all retirees by a uniform amount equal to 5% of the average benefit, about a $700 annual increase for beneficiaries today; that workers who have worked at least 30 years should receive benefits equal to 125% of the poverty threshold when they retire at the full retirement; providing at least five years of dependent care credits through Social Security as women (and some men) spend part of their working years caring for children and elderly parents; reinstating the post-secondary student benefit that existed until 1983 and allowed students who were receiving Social Security due to a parent’s death, disability, or retirement to continue until they were 22 years old if they were in college; and increasing the survivor’s benefit for widowed spouses to ensure that they receive at least 75% of the benefit amount they received when their spouse was still alive.

Improving Medicare and Expanding it to Provide Health Care to All in the United States

  • Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich writes “Medicare isn’t the nation’s budgetary problems. It’s the solution. The real problem is the soaring costs of health care that lie beneath Medicare. They’re costs all of us are bearing in the form of soaring premiums, co-payments, and deductibles. Medicare offers a means of reducing these costs.”
  • Medicare bears the burdens of existing within an insurance-based health care that fails to control costs and creates tremendous bureaucracy. While there are short-term fixes to Medicare, what is needed is an end to the current insurance-based approach. The United States spends the most per capita per year on health care yet a third of the population is either uninsured or underinsured so that they face financial ruin if a serious accident or illness occurs. Health care spending in the U.S. is rising 2.5% faster than GDP.
  • Expanding and improving Medicare so it covers all in the United States is a key component to controlling health care costs and government spending; as well as ending the deficit problem of state and federal budgets. Estimates of how much would be saved on administrative costs alone by extending Medicare to cover the entire population range up to $400 billion a year. This savings plus the inherent cost-controls of a single payer health system would offset the cost of providing everyone in the United States with access to lifelong, comprehensive, quality health care. Controlling health care costs would sharply reduce the long-term budget crisis, as well as foreclosures and bankruptcy.
  • Even without improving and expanding Medicare to cover all, the program is not in crisis. The Medicare Trustees say that the program faces a modest shortfall over its 75-year planning horizon. The projected shortfall is around 0.3% of GDP or less than one-fifth of the amount that annual military spending was increased since September 11th, 2000.
  • Economist Jack Rasmus points out that all it takes to cover the Medicare shortfall is a mere 0.25% increase in the Medicare share of the payroll tax for the next ten years and another 0.25% starting in the eleventh year. The Medicare tax rate is currently 2.9% for the employee and the employer. These tiny tax increases would make Medicare secure.
  • In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) calculates that the Medicare system in its current form is far more efficient than the privatized system advocated by a bi-partisan consensus of political elites. CBO’s projections show that switching from Medicare to a privatized system would add $34 trillion to the cost of buying Medicare equivalent policies over the program’s 75-year planning period.
  • Medicare provides efficiency. Reich reports: “Medicare’s administrative costs are in the range of 3%. That’s well below the 5% to 10% costs borne by large companies that self-insure. It’s even further below the administrative costs of companies in the small-group market (amounting to 25% to 27% of premiums). And it’s way, way lower than the administrative costs of individual insurance (40%). It’s even far below the 11% costs of private plans under Medicare Advantage, the current private-insurance option under Medicare.”

Democratizing the Economy, Shifting Economic Power, Wealth and Ownership to all Citizens in the United States

Big finance corporate capitalism is failing. It is concentrating ownership and wealth as well as domination of the economy in the wealthiest Americans. New approaches are needed to share wealth, ownership and economic power more fairly. The grass-roots protests, whether from the Occupy Movement or the anger from the conservative Tea Party, are based on the same realities: economic insecurity and economic unfairness. A full discussion of these issues is beyond the scope of this report but it is time for the people of the United States to be asking critical questions:

  • What is the next evolution of the economy?
  • What can be done to reduce economic insecurity and economic unfairness?
  • How can it be reshaped so that people gain greater control of their lives and greater influence over the economy?
  • What new forms of ownership can be developed to shift economic power to the people?

The answers to these questions lie in the conflict of our era – participatory democracy vs. concentrated wealth. There is growing evidence and experience that shows a democratized economy is the fairest, most sustainable and effective approach which results in a shared prosperity.

Democratizing the economy would move the United States away from concentrated corporate capitalism and create an economy in which wealth is more equitably shared. This change is already happening under the radar of U.S. media coverage. A democratized economy already has a foothold in the United States. There is a lot of experimentation going on regarding worker ownershipdemocracy in the work place and sharing in the profits of corporations; with communities working together to control development through non-profit land trusts; with public bankingdemocratizing money and community banks; with public utilities and democratizing energy; and with participatory budgeting. These are a few examples of the democratization of the economy that is building a new economic model of more widespread ownership of assets and participation and wealth. As one of the witnesses of the Occupied Super Committee, Gar Alperovitz writes:

“Over the last three decades, for instance, more workers have become owners of their own companies than are members of unions in the private sector; indeed, 5 million more. Simultaneously, there has been increasing experimentation with unions within such firms, and with new ways to increase participation and control. There are also more than 4,500 nonprofit community development corporations that operate affordable housing and other neighborhood programs. Approximately 130 million Americans are members of co-ops. In Cleveland, an innovative group of linked cooperatives has set new standards for community-building economic change. ‘Social enterprises’ are developing in communities throughout the nation that transform the ownership of capital into businesses, the sole purpose of which is to provide community services.

One form of new ownership is cooperatives. There are 130 million Americans who are members of some types of co-ops, most commonly credit unions. Another widely shared experience is joint-ownership is Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) which give employees ownership of companies through stocks, while these do not usually include management by employees they do provide a share of the profit. There are more than 13 million people who are part of ESOPs – meaning there are more employee stock owners than there are members of private unions. Worker-owned co-ops go further and give workers a say in the management of the company. Worker owned co-ops are at the cutting edge of democratizing the economy and provide some of what we need to transform the economy.”

At a national level, despite comments of some in the corporate media and some elected officials who speak for big business interests, the truth is that national programs like Social Security and Medicare have worked well. As described in previous sections of this report, these programs can be improved and expanded but they are also models on which to create programs that respond to national needs. Further, the bail out of the automobile industry, which included some public ownership, has succeeded in saving that industry and returning it to profit. However, more could have been done to serve the public good, by continuing public representation on the boards of automobile companies, requiring taxpayers share in the profit as investors and directing those industries to build mass transit and create jobs.

The Occupy Movement seeks a radical transformation to a new economy and political system. A close examination of what is happening in the United States shows that this transformation is already underway.

The Lessons of the Super Committee: Corruption Rules Dysfunctional Government

The proposals in this report show that it would not be difficult for the so-called “Super Committee” to achieve the requirement of at least $1.2 trillion in savings over the next decade. And, that it can be done in a way that corrects wealth disparity and re-starts the economy. But, in many ways, the super committee is “occupied” by corporate interests and cannot act for the people. The make-up of the committee and the tens of millions of dollars members have received from entrenched corporate interests ensure that the committee will exemplify the corruption in Congress – which is why people are occupying public spaces across the country.

The Occupation of Washington, DC at Freedom Plaza expects the commission’s recommendations, if they are able to make recommendations, to reflect the interests of their donors. We urge the public and the media to review their recommendations with these political donations in mind.

The twelve Members of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction have received $41 million from the financial sector during their time in Congress, according to a report by Public Campaign and National People’s Action, “Wall Street and the Supercommittee: The $41 Million Question.” At least 27 current or former aides for the “super committee” members have lobbied on behalf of financial firms.

  • The 12 members of the super committee have received at least $41 million from the finance, insurance, and real estate (FIRE) sector during their time in Congress.
  • They have received nearly $900,000 from three of the top U.S. banks—JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo
  • Since 2000, the industry has spent over $4 billion lobbying elected officials.
  • Nearly 30 former aides to the 12 members work as lobbyists for financial industry interests.

The Not-So-Super Committee

The ten biggest contributors to the Super Committee members include:

Club for Growth $990,066
Microsoft Corp. $810,100
University of California $629,495
Goldman Sachs $592,684
EMILY’s List $586,835
Citigroup Inc. $561,081
JPMorgan Chase & Co. $494,316
Bank of America $349,566
Skadden, Arps, et al. $347,356
General Electric $340,935

The largest donor, the Club for Growth, opposes any new taxes on the wealthiest in the United States. As a result, despite the abhorrent wealth divide, the committee is unlikely to recommend the obvious, fair taxes on the wealthiest people who fund their campaigns.

The members of the committee received more than $3 million total during the past five years in donations from political committees with ties to weapons contractors, health care providers and labor unions. They received more than $1 million overall in contributions from the health care industry and at least $700,000 from weapons companies. This presents a problem for the super committee because if they fail to find $1.2 trillion in savings over the next decade it will result to mandatory cuts that will impact health care and weapons makers. This means the committee is likely to make a bad deal for the United States, in order to avoid cuts to their major donors.

Throughout the time when the committee has been meeting, they have been holding fundraisers across the country. This open money-taking while making decisions that affect those who are giving money is the kind of open corruption that has led to a loss of faith in government.

It is not only donations that will impact the committee, but a major lobbying onslaught by 400 groups who report lobbying the Super Committee. About 30% of these organizations — 118 groups in total – were from the health sector. The finance insurance and real estate sector ranked third, with 40 companies within that sector reporting lobbying activity during the third quarter that targeted the Super Committee. And 39 groups in the energy sector reported lobbying the Super Committee. Both the communications and electronics sector and the general business sector saw 26 companies and organizations explicitly mention the Super Committee in their third-quarter lobbying reports. These are many of the same concentrated corporate interests that have funded the campaigns of Super Committee members.

Conclusion: Revolt against Economics for the 1%

Once again, the people of the United States will see corruption reign supreme. Despite evident solutions to the deficit and the economic collapse, the Congress will show its corruption and dysfunction and be unable to put forward real solutions.

We issue this report to alert everyone – the political system is broken. It is corrupted by the power of concentrated wealth, campaign donations and corporate power. The job of the occupations across the country is to build an independent nonviolent movement that replaces this corrupt system with one in which the people rule. The battle between concentrated wealth and participatory democracy will be heightened by the evident corruption of the Super Committee which will not challenge the unfair policies of the 1% while requiring austerity for the 99%.

The economic and political elite should expect protests to grow. We are at the beginning of what will be seen as a historic revolt against status quo elites that will transform this economy as well as how the United States is governed.


[1] The evidence-based solutions in this report come from people who are experts in the fields addressed as well as the views of people affected by the policies. We relied on a range of sources and have provided links to those sources in the on-line version of this report. In addition, Occupy Washington, DC held a public hearing on Wednesday, November 9th. You can see the public hearing at: CSPAN Coverage of Occupied Super Committee Hearings. Participants included: Kevin Zeese an organizer of Occupy Washington, DC and co-director of It’s Our Economy and co-chair of Come Home America; Andrew Fieldhouse of the Economic Policy Institute; Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives; Kenneth Peres is an economist with the Communications Workers of America; Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research; Margaret Flowers, an organizer of Occupy Washington DC and congressional fellow for Physicians for National Health Program; Gar Alperovitz is a founding principal of the Democracy Collaborative and with the National Center for Economic and Security Alternatives.

[2] This is commonly known as corporate welfare. All corporate welfare should be stopped until the Congress passes laws transforming corporate welfare into taxpayer investment. There are reasons for government to invest in building the economy, for example there is a need to invest in a new energy economy, but the profits from these investments should not only go to the 1% who own energy companies, they should be treated as taxpayer investment and all taxpayers should share in the profit from the investment. Such a system could be modeled after the Alaska Permanent Trust which has existed for oil exploration on state lands in Alaska since 1980. Such a system could develop into a guaranteed national income that would lift people out of poverty and provide a safety net to all. This is a critical part of a democratized economy. See: Agenda for a Democratized Economy, http://itsoureconomy.us/issues/.

Reply to:

U.S. banks should “undermine” Occupy Protesters: Memo

The following is an article from reporter, Dave Ingram, of Reuters, regarding a memo from a lobbying firm to the American Banking Association, urging them to allow the lobbying firm to perform research into the OWS movement, including background checks and individuals’ motives for participating!  I thought readers would be interested in seeing what is going on in the back rooms of corporations!

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Occupy Wall Street movement is a big enough problem for U.S. banks that they should pay for opposition research into the political motives of protesters, said a firm that lobbies for the industry.

Jay Cranford - Sr. Partner

Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranford, a Washington-based firm, proposed the idea in a memo to the American Banking Association, an industry group which said on Saturday that it did not act on the idea.  The four-page memo outlined how the firm could analyze the source of protesters’ money, as well as their rhetoric and the backgrounds of protest leaders.

“If we can show they have the same cynical motivation as a political opponent, it will undermine their credibility in a profound way,” said the memo, according to a copy of it on the website of TV news channel MSNBC, which first reported on it. (See MSNBC’s report http://upwithchrishayes.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/11/19/8896362-exclusive-lobbying-firms-memo-spells-out-plan-to-undermine-occupy-wall-street-video)

Clark Lytle Geduldig counts the banking association among its regular lobbying clients, U.S. Senate records showed.  Other clients include MasterCard Worldwide and a banking coalition concerned about interchange fees.  The firm did not respond to requests for comment.  Its memo said it could deliver research, survey data and plans to use the information in 60 days at a cost of $850,000.

Banking association spokesman, Jeff Sigmund, told Reuters the memo is authentic, but his group was not interested. “Our government relations staff received the proposal – it was unsolicited and we chose not to act on it in any way,” Sigmund said.

The memo is dated November 24, five days after it became public. Sigmund did not respond to a follow-up question about the date. November 24 is also the Thanksgiving holiday. The memo said U.S. financial firms should be concerned about comments that Democratic campaign consultants have made in the news media about trying to harness the energy of the Occupy Wall Street protesters.

“This would mean more than just short-term political discomfort for Wall Street firms,” it said. “If vilifying the leading companies of this sector is allowed to become an unchallenged centerpiece of a coordinated Democratic campaign, it has the potential to have very long-lasting political, policy and financial impacts on the companies in the center of the bull’s-eye.”

The memo is from Clark Lytle Geduldig’s four name partners. Two of them, Sam Geduldig and Jay Cranford, are former aides to House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, a Republican.

Using shorthand for Occupy Wall Street, the memo said:

“It may be easy to dismiss OWS as a ragtag group of protesters but they have demonstrated that they should be treated more like an organized competitor who is very nimble and capable of working the media, coordinating third party support and engaging office holders to do their bidding. To counter that, we have to do the same.”

After performing some additional research on the internet, I found another portion from the memo…

image

Congress Prepares to Censor the Internet!

The House of Representatives is currently considering the bill “Stop Online Piracy Act,” (SOPA) which would infringe upon the freedom we currently enjoy on the Internet.

SOPA is so controversial — EFF calls it “disastrous” — because it would force changes to the Domain Name System and effectively create a blacklist of Internet domains suspected of intellectual property violations.

Those against SOPA include Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, and hundreds of Internet start-up companies. Those opposed to the bill have described it in dark terms:

SOPA is an “Internet blacklist bill” that “would allow corporations, organizations or the government to order an internet service provider to block an entire website simply due to an allegation that the site posted infringing content.”

The House is also attempting to silence criticism of the bill by presenting a skewed hearing:

Rep. Lofgren from California said during this morning’s hearing that it was a mistake for SOPA’s backers to dismiss criticism from people and companies who would be affected by it.

“It hasn’t generally been the policy of this committee to dismiss the views of the industries that we’re going to regulate,” Lofgren said. “I understand why cosponsors of this legislation aren’t happy about widespread criticism of this bill,” but attacking the messenger isn’t the answer.

Lofgren also accused Smith, the panel’s chairman, of deliberately stacking the composition of the panel in favor of SOPA. Of the six witnesses invited, “five are in favor and one is against,” she said. “That’s not a balanced panel.”

Internet piracy is an ongoing problem that certainly needs to be addressed. But the way in which this committee is attempting to legislate is unethical and without merit.  It is a slippery slope to start censorship and regulation on a note of non-transparency  and a failure by the legislators to take all viewpoints into consideration, especially from the industry leaders, themselves.

On the Corruption of Our Democracy by Corporate ” Free Speech”

Sen Max Baucus - Is that the insurance lobby looking over his shoulder??

The following is posted from an article written by Al Klappenberger, founding member of the Coalition of Eastern Shore Progressives:

According to the U.S.  Supreme Court, in the outrageous decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, corporations are “people” and spending unlimited amounts of their money on influencing legislation is “free speech”.  A good example of how this sort of free speech has corrupted our democracy is how it shaped the recent debate over health care reform.

Any good debate begins with the advocates of every point of view, presenting them in an open and fair forum.  The moderator of such a form must have no agenda, other than a commitment to seek the truth and best outcome.  The US Senator chosen to moderate the health care reform hearings was Senator Max Baucus (D-MT).

Consider any public debate where radical positions may be presented.  If a position is so outrageous that it can easily be discredited, there would be no objection to allowing those advocates to participate and make fools of themselves!   What if,  on the other hand, their position was so strong that its logic could easily make the position, advocated by a moderator with a personal agenda, look foolish?  What would the moderator do?  He could simply see to it that such a logical position would not be presented!

The advocates for single payer, Medicare for all,  were excluded from Sen. Baucus’ hearing.  They were actually removed from the hall, by force, when objecting to their exclusion.  This confirms that their position was feared and could not be discredited!  Every other industrialized nation in the world has moved to similar programs, and Sen. Baucus was aware of that fact!

We need to consider the underlying motives of the moderator.  Sen. Baucus, like very other elected official in Washington, owes his seat to those who finance his re-election campaigns.  According to http://www.OpenSecrets.org, Sen. Baucus received over $164,000 from Aetna Inc. and Blue Cross/Blue Shield, both health insurance companies. He received an additional $93,000 from New York Life Insurance Co.  It should not be too hard to understand why he chose to exclude any point of view that would threaten the profits of his largest contributors; his “true” constituents, the insurance industry! The good of our country, and of the people who were deluded into thinking he would be THEIR representative, was of little importance to him.

It should be obvious to all of us that the  “free speech”, represented by spending huge amounts of money by corporations, is killing our democracy.  Until the “Citizens United” decision is overturned, there is no hope of turning representation of the corporation, back to representation of the people!  The only way to do that, in a decisive and permanent way, is by the very difficult path of amending the US Constitution, declaring corporations to be NON-persons, having no right of free speech, once and for all time!

A movement has begun to do this.  I urge every person, concerned about our democracy, to sign on to the petition and support “free speech” for humans, not corporations:   Visit http://movetoamend.org/ and http://www.getmoneyout.com/ and sign on!

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