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Friday, May 20, 2022

The Next Recession Part 29 - Rising Inflation

rdwolff-dw.jpg image: economist richard wolff border=0

“The Fed uses interest rates as either a gas pedal or a brake on the economy when needed,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate. “With inflation running high, they can raise interest rates and use that to pump the brakes on the economy in an effort to get inflation under control.”
- CNBC - Why the Federal Reserve raises interest rates to combat inflation

“Relentless high inflation is the culprit here: As the Federal Reserve attempts to tame it by rising interest rates, investors read depressed earnings ahead. We’re going to have high inflation throughout this year and into next year, and I dont really see a slowdown until 2024”
- Wharton’s Jeremy Siegel says that high inflation will last until 2024 and the Fed is playing catch-up with its late response.

The US Department of the Treasury recently announced that student loan interest rates will increase for the 2022-2023 school year. These new rates go into effect July 1, 2022, and you can’t take out any new student loans before that date.
- Student Loan Interest Rates Are About To Go Up, Business Insider, May 18, 2022

University of Florida economist Dr. Amanda Phalin said she also anticipates a recession to form over the next year or two despite efforts to avoid job losses.

“It is possible to raise the interest rates without increasing unemployment theoretically, but it has never been done before, Phalin explained.
- Anticipate Another Recession

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Economics 101: What rising interest rates, inflation mean for you

By Paul Guggenheimer
Tribune Total Media
May 20, 2022

The price of just about everything has gone up.

Inflation, the rate at which prices rise in the economy, is the worst its been in 40 years. The Federal Reserve, the central bank for the U.S. - more commonly known as the Fed - announced earlier this month that it was raising its benchmark interest rate by a half percent. That marked the largest rate hike since 2000 and came as a direct result of rising inflation.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said future interest rate hikes are likely.

But what does this all mean for you?

It means the cost of borrowing money has gone up. If you carry credit card debt, your rates are going to jump. Adjustable-rate mortgages and home-equity lines of credit also will be affected.

Risa Kumazawa, an associate professor of economics in Duquesne Universitys Palumbo Donahue School of Business, teaches the course “Economics 101 - Principles of Macro Economics.” She spoke with the Tribune-Review and explained what you need to know.

Question: What is inflation and what causes it?

Answer: Inflation simply means that there are higher prices. There is always inflation in the economy. Prices are always rising. But when it becomes a problem is when prices are so much higher than the year before. Were experiencing inflation that is not the typical norm. In the U.S., prices (usually) grow by about 2% to 3% per year. But (now) we’re suddenly faced with an 8.5% (increase) in March of this year compared with March of last year. So we’ve deviated from the norm, which is why this inflation is on everybody’s minds.

Q: How would you sum up what is currently happening with the economy and what were seeing with inflation?

A: This is the perfect storm - with Russia going to war with Ukraine, the supply chain issue, higher demand, stuff not being shipped quickly enough and prices rising for certain things in the economy. People are facing unexpected higher prices. The first place people are noticing this is at gas stations. The one thing that shot up in price is oil. Your gasoline now costs a lot more (per gallon) than it used to. Russia’s war with Ukraine has definitely played a role in this. Russia is one of the primary countries that supplies oil to the world. So this is a major blow to countries that were importing oil from Russia. That usually comes with higher food costs, and we’re definitely seeing that as well.

Q: So its like a domino effect? Do higher gas prices impact food prices?

A: They do because when truck drivers ship things, or if you’re flying things, gasoline costs are involved, so then the sellers of these products raise their prices as well to make a profit.

Q: How do you arrive at the figure of 8.5% to show how much prices have increased in the last year?

A: Were tracking multiple prices in the economy. You’re not just tracking the price of gasoline but food milk, bread, eggs - we track all these prices as well. We have a way of combining all of these individual prices together in whats called the (Labor Department’s) consumer price index, and then when we take the percentage change in that, we can figure out the inflation rate in the economy.

Q: So this is what our current inflation looks like, and its not good for consumers. The Federal Reserve is responding to inflation by raising interest rates. What is the Fed, what is it designed to do, and why is it raising interest rates?

A: The Fed is considered to be the central bank of the country. It conducts monetary policy, which includes lowering and raising of interest rates depending on how well the economy is doing. The Fed lowers the interest rate to stimulate a slowing economy. It impacts big-ticket purchases that people make - cars, homes, appliances. If there’s a lower interest rate that people are going to be paying, they’re going to spend more, and this is how the economy gets stimulated. The Fed also raises interest rates to combat an economy with high inflation. When interest rates are high, people aren’t going to be spending as much because you’re going to be paying (more money) for your car loan, your mortgage, credit cards. (Consumers) aren’t spending as much, so prices will come back down again. But by slowing down the economy, it could lead to a recession. The Fed has decided that the inflation issue is a big enough problem that they’re going to fight that one.

Q: When do we, as a collective economy, feel the pinch of this, and whats the worst thing that can happen?

A: The worst, I think, is because of these (higher) interest rates, the Fed actually pushes us into a recession. That’s the worst that could happen in this scenario.

About the author

Paul Guggenheimer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-226-7706 or EMAIL

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“Is there anything the Biden administration can do to decrease the rate of inflation significantly, even though it is worldwide?  Is there any approach to price controls that could really work?”

By Richard Wolff
Democracy At Work
May 18, 2022

Transcript

Q. Is there anything the Biden administration can do to decrease the rate of inflation significantly even though it is worldwide?

A. There’s all kinds of things that Mr Biden can do. I’m going to go over several of them, but they’re not that’s not a complete list.

The tragedy in the United States is that we are dealing with the inflation by raising interest rates through the Federal Reserve and the public discussion is as if that’s it that’s our option. That’s what we’re going to do - that’s what we have to do.  As if there were not loads of other possibilities, which are all cut off by this conversation that is really a story of silencing.  And i want to unsilence so that we all understand it

First of all, the United States impacts global inflation because it is an outsized participant

Let me give you an example. The GDP, the gross domestic product of the United States is about 21 trillion dollars. The next biggest country, China, is only 15. And after that they’re very small.  Germany is about four, Russia’s about one and a half.

The United States is a huge outside player in the world economy, and if we bring down inflation here, everybody else confronted with the fact that prices aren’t rising here, they were wouldn’t dare raise their prices, because they priced themselves out of the world market. So put aside the question of direct control, we don’t need it.

In the united states what we do here impacts the rest of the world.  So let’s begin.

Here’s a way to stop an inflation.  I’m not going to speculate on a possible one, I’m going to describe it for you historically.

Richard Nixon, a conservative republican president on August 15 1971 declares a wage price freeze. He says “I’m speaking to you Americans on radio and television and as of tomorrow morning we will make it illegal for anyone to raise a price or a wage. If you do that we will arrest you and put you in jail.”

Is that an option?  Yes.  Was it done in the united states? Yup. Has it been done in other countries? Yes. Is it an alternative to raising interest rates to stop an inflation?  You bet. Is it being discussed in the United States?  Nowhere not at all.  It’s as if what i just said had never happened.

Here’s a second way to stop an inflation.  In World War II we had to do that. The democratic President Roosevelt understood that to fight world war II resources that used to be used to make consumer goods would be diverted to making uniforms - guns, planes, tanks, all of the apparatus of war - and that meant that the quantity of resources available to produce consumer goods would shrink and therefore consumer goods would be scarce.

The demand hadn’t changed, or people of America still wanted to eat and dress and live the way they had in the past, but there wouldn’t be the equivalent stuff, and the government decided. If we allow the market to handle this, the rich people will come in, see quickly that there’s a shortage, and make sure they get it by bidding up the price that’s how they make sure they get what is scarce.

Markets always distribute whatever is scarce to the richest people.

Do you find that offensive does it contradict your morality? Think about what you just agreed to.

Wow! And so the government didn’t allow it, It didn’t want an inflation. They didn’t want the prices of consumer goods to go up so that only the rich people could get it, and the mass of people couldn’t afford it who would then get angry and bitter and we would have disunity at a time of war when we needed unity, so that was out, and they issued ration books that had in them ration stamps and store keepers could not sell you a quart of milk, a gallon of gas, whatever it is that was in the rules of those days without you having a stamp, and the stamps were distributed to people according to their need not according to their wealth. Wow! We didn’t have an inflation for that reason we didn’t allow it to happen.

And here’s a third one that’s also a reality of American life, making it all the more amazing that there’s no conversation about it.

That the desperate government of Biden, and the political center republican and democrat determined to survive politically and rebuild their shattered hold on American society have to make us all unite in a war, and have us all unite in the Federal Reserve as if the raising of interest rates is the only way to deal with an inflation. 

Here’s one more that time allow. We already do in this country a very interesting thing with the prices of utilities, you know electricity, water, things like that, and the price of insurance policies, because they have been abused by the capitalists who own those businesses who raised their prices too high, who made a little personal inflation, we have what are called utility commissions in every one of the 50 states, and we have insurance commissions. And you know what?  Before an insurance company can raise a price, before a utility can raise a price, they have to go before the commission and demonstrate that it’s a reasonable thing to do, which the commission has the power to reject, and that happens all the time. Well if you don’t want an inflation, why don’t you do that for everything? Why don’t we set up a wage price control board - oh wait a minute - during world war II we had that.

One of the greatest economists at that time - John Kenneth Galbraith - wrote a book: A THEORY OF PRICE CONTROL - because he worked during the war on the board that controlled prices in this country.  So don’t tell us that there’s nothing you can do but interest rates.  That’s a lie. It’s just a lie.

I’ve just given you rationing, I’ve given wage price freeze mr dixon thing, and I’ve talked about using commissions to control prices.

There are others, but the important thing is to understand that if there were a political will to stop the inflation it could be done tomorrow, but instead it’s taking months and months, and it’ll be done by raising interest rates, which will mean it’s harder to afford a home, harder to pay for a car, harder to carry credit. It’ll hurt the mass of people as if that were the only way to go.

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Section Dying America • Section Next Recession, Next Depression
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Sunday, May 15, 2022

Search Engine Manipulation

image: google x ceo schmidt

Since Google announced plans to buy DoubleClick for $3.1 billion, privacy advocates have expressed growing concern over the mountain of data Googles would hold following the deal. The largest search engine in the United States, Google fielded as many as 3.5 billion search queries last month, and it regularly stores that data. (It recently said it would begin to get rid of those records after 18 to 24 months.)

The company also collects and stores data on a range of other services, including user’s schedules on Google Calendar, address information from Google Maps and e-mail documents from Gmail. By acquiring DoubleClick - the country’s largest ad-technology provider, with a reach of about 80 percent to 85 percent of the Web population - Google would have access to a database of users surfing habits across hundreds of sites, including DoubleClick customers such as Time Warner’s AOL and Viacom’s MTV Networks.
- Google Buys DoubleClick, 2007

Libertarians dislike Google’s DEAL WITH CHINA’S censors. Conservatives moan about its uncensored VIDEOS. But the BIG NEW FEAR is to do with the PRIVACY of its USERS. Google’s business model (see article) assumes that people will entrust it with ever more information about their lives, to be stored in the company’s “cloud” of remote computers. These data begin with the logs of a users searches (in effect, a record of his interests) and his responses to advertisements. Often they extend to the user’s e-mail, calendar, contacts, documents, spreadsheets, photos and videos. They could soon include even the users medical records and precise location (determined from his mobile phone).
- Whose Afraid of Google? 2007

AIBRT researchers continued to conduct experiments on new methods that can be used by search engine companies to manipulat people’s opinions, votes, and purchases without their knowledge. They continued their research on the “Search Engine Manipulation Effect” (SEME), continued experiments on the “Search Suggestion Effect” (SSE) and the “Answer Bot Effect” (ABE), and discovered and initiated other new forms of online influence, such as the “Opinion Matching Effect” (OME), the “Targeted Messaging Effect” (TME), & the “Differential Demographics Effect” (DDE)
- Program areas at American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology

Many Ways Google Threatens Everyone

By Neenah Payne
ACtivist Post
May 11, 2022

Dr. Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California, has studied the many ways Big Tech companies like Google and Facebook are affecting our lives in profoundly negative ways. He recommends several steps to protect yourself.  However, he explains that there are much larger implications for our democracy.

WHY GOOGLE POSES A SERIOUS THREAT TO DEMOCRACY AND HOW TO END THAT THREAT (.pdf)

‘SOMETHING THAT’S FRIGHTENING’: ROBERT EPSTEIN WARNS AGAINST BIG TECH MANIPULATION

Robert Epstein has been researching and looking at how the biggest tech companies influence human behavior, and conducting extensive monitoring projects of bias in these companies products, with a particular FOCUS ON GOOGLE:

“Big Tech companies such as GOOGLE and Facebook have enormous power to shift peoples’ opinions and voting preferences through manipulation of the content of their home pages that users see on screens of their devices, without people knowing, said Dr. Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California.”

Googles Meddling In Elections

Google critic, 66, who testified that the tech giant’s 2016 election meddling GAVE 2.6M VOTES TO HILLARY:

“A high profile critic of Google, who accused the search engine of meddling in the 2016 election, has now suggested his wife’s fatal car crash was not an accident.  Robert Epstein, 66, said in July the internet giant’s methods ‘gave’ millions of votes to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election. Epstein, a psychology professor at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, concluded that Googles search methods ‘gave’ millions of votes to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.”

Dr. Epsteins Congressional Testimony

In his TESTIMONY before Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Dr. Epstein explained that Big Tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter can shift as many as 15 million votes in an election without peopleҒs knowledge and without leaving a paper trail.

“Google has the power to manipulate what you see online, targeting you with certain advertisements and burying search results theyd rather you not see. But can they go so far as to control the outcome of political elections? Absolutely, according to Robert Epstein, Ph.D., a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology (AIBRT).

Epstein, a Harvard-trained psychologist who founded the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, likens Google to a dictator with unprecedented power because it relies on techniques of manipulation that have never existed before in human history. The free services they provide really aren’t free, he warns. You pay for the services with your freedom.”

Google Uses Ephemeral Manipulation Tools

In this VIDEO, Epstein speaks with Jan Jekielek, senior editor of The Epoch Times, about Googles ability to control public policy, swing elections and brainwash our children. Google has the power “to censor content, to track our every move, to tear societies apart, to alter the human mind, and even to reengineer humanity,” Epstein writes in his report, “Googles Triple Threat,” which he details in his interview with Jekielek.

The methods Google uses are ephemeral and leave no paper trail, making it very difficult to track and prove that theyre using humans as pawns, manipulating us via ways that we can’t counteract. Ephemeral experiences occur briefly, then disappear, and include things like a list of suggested videos on YouTube, search suggestions and topics in a newsfeed.

“They affect us, they disappear, the’re stored nowhere and they’re gone.” Epstein says. It’s the ideal form of manipulation. People have no idea they’re being manipulated, number one, and number two, authorities can’t go back in time to see what people were being shown, in other words, how they were being manipulated.

Epstein and his team, however, have found ways to track Google’s invisible, almost subliminal, tools, including the search engine manipulation effect (SEME). According to Epstein:

“SEME is one of the most powerful forms of influence ever discovered in the behavioral sciences It leaves people thinking they have made up their own minds, which is very much an illusion. It also leaves no paper trail for authorities to trace. Worse still, the very few people who can detect bias in search results shift even farther in the direction of the bias, so merely being able to see the bias does’t protect you from it.”

Research by Epstein and colleagues has found that biased search results can change peoples’ opinions and voting preferences, shifting opinions in undecided voters by 20% to 80% in certain demographic groups. Internal emails leaked from Google talk about “ephemeral experience,” and the company makes a point to engineer ephemeral experiences intended to alter the way people think.

SEME, however, is just one of about a dozen subliminal tools that Epstein’s team has discovered. Others include the “search suggestion effect,” the “opinion matching effect” and the “YouTube manipulation effect.”

Google Shifted Millions of Votes in 2020

As Epstein and his team began to preserve politically related ephemeral experiences, extreme political bias was uncovered on Google and YouTube, which is owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet.

In the days leading up to the 2020 Presidential election and 2021 Senate runoff elections in Georgia, for instance, they preserved 1.5 million ephemeral experiences and more than 3 million web pages, which were sufficient to shift at least 6 million votes in the presidential election without people’s knowledge.

This isn’t an isolated incident. In 2016, Googles search algorithm generated biased search results that influenced undecided voters, giving 2.6 million to 10.2 million votes to Hillary Clinton.

Epstein makes a point to state that he leans left politically, but despite Google’s bias working to support the candidates he supported, he cant applaud it, “because rigorous research I have been conducting since 2013 has shown me how dangerous these companies are Google-and-the-Gang, I call them.”

Even displaying a “Go Vote” reminder on Google on election day in 2018, Epstein found, gave one political party an extra 800,000 to 4.6 million votes compared to what the other party got. What’s more, Epstein says those numbers are “quite conservative.” In other words, Epstein explained, ԓGoogles “Go Vote prompt was not a public service; it was a vote manipulation.” This type of vote manipulation is an example of what I call the “Differential Demographics Effect.”

Epstein also had a monitoring system in place in 2018, which preserved more than 47,000 election-related searches on Google, Bing and Yahoo, along with nearly 400,000 web pages that the search results linked to. The political bias that was uncovered in the results may have shifted 78.2 million votes to one political party.

Even the autocomplete feature that occurs when you start to type in Googles search engine is a powerful manipulation tool. “A growing body of evidence suggests that Google is manipulating peoples’ thinking and behavior from the very first character people type into the search box,” Epstein writes. Just from this feature alone, Epstein’s research found Google can turn a 50/50 split among undecided voters into nearly a 90/10 split - all without people realizing they’re being manipulated.

Further, because Google’s persuasive technologies are so powerful, and many elections worldwide are very close, Epstein’s data suggest Google has likely been determining the outcomes of up to 25% of national elections worldwide since at least 2015.

Google Is a Surveillance Agency

DOWNLOAD the transcript.

Its important to understand that Google is a surveillance agency with significant yet hidden surveillance powers, and this is one of their primary threats to society. As noted by Epstein:

“The search engine - Google Wallet, Google Docs, Google Drive, YouTube, these are surveillance platforms. In other words, from their perspective, the value these tools have is they give them more information about you. Surveillance is what they do.”

While surveillance is Google’s primary business, their revenue - which exceeds $130 billion a year - comes almost exclusively from advertising. All that personal information you’ve provided them through their various products is sold to advertisers looking for a specific target audience. Meanwhile, they also have an unprecedented censorship ability. By restricting or blocking access to websites, they decide what you can and cannot see.

The most crushing problem with this kind of internet censorship is that you don’t know what you don’t know. If a certain type of information is removed from search, and you donҒt know it should exist somewhere, you will never know and you wont go looking for it. This is how hundreds of millions of people have been deprived of learning the power of natural healing from me and many other clinicians who have been censored by Google.

For example, Google has been investing in DNA repositories for quite a long time, and adding DNA information to our profiles. According to Epstein, Google has taken over the national DNA repository, but articles about that - which he has cited in his own writings - have all vanished. As it stands, Epstein is worried for the future if no one steps in to stop Google’s power:

“As the father of five children, I am especially concerned about what humanity’s future will look like if Big Tech is allowed to continue unobstructed on its path toward world domination. In the 1950s, British economist Kenneth Boulding wrote, ‘A world of unseen dictatorship is conceivable, still using the forms of democratic government.’

I am writing this essay because I believe that such a world already exists, and that unless we act quickly and decisively, the power that the technology company executives have garnered will become so firmly entrenched that we will never be able to unseat them from their invisible thrones.”

Epstein’s Six Top Privacy Tips

The first step to breaking free from Google’s dictatorship is recognizing that the manipulation is occurring. The next involves consciously opting out of it as much as possible. It’s especially important that children are protected, as they are among the most vulnerable to the onslaught of manipulation, which will have serious consequences to future generations. Epstein noted:

“We’re trying to figure out how the manipulation works. But most importantly, were trying to quantify it ҅ Because I think that what’s really happening is that there is a cumulative effect of, not just political bias, but a value literally a cumulative effect of being exposed to certain kinds of values, over and over and over again, on one tech platform, or after another.

And I think that the people who are most vulnerable to being impacted by that kind of process are children.”

Epstein has compiled six steps that can help protect your privacy online, noting that he hasnt received a targeted ad on his computer or mobile phone since 2014 as a result.

To take back some of your online privacy, for yourself as well as your children, he recommends:

Get rid of Gmail. If you have a Gmail account, try a non-Google email service instead such as ProtonMail, an encrypted email service based in Switzerland.

Uninstall Google Chrome and use Brave browser instead, available for all computers and mobile devices. It blocks ads and protects your privacy.

Switch search engines. Try Brave search engine instead, which you can access on the Brave browser and will not compromise your privacy and surveil you.

Avoid Android. Google phones and phones that use Android track virtually everything you do and do not protect your privacy. It’s possible to de-Google your cellphone by getting an Android phone that doesn’t have a Google operating system, but you’ll need to find a skilled IT person who can reformat your cellphones hard drive.

Avoid Google Home devices. If you have Google Home smart speakers or the Google Assistant smartphone app, there’s a chance people are listening to your requests, and even may be listening when you wouldn’t expect.

Consider using a proxy or VPN (Virtual Private Network). This service creates a buffer between you and the internet, “fooling many of the surveillance companies into thinking youre not really you.”

Book: GOOGLE’S TRIPLE THREAT

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Posted by Elvis on 05/15/22 •
Section Privacy And Rights • Section Broadband Privacy
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United States Innovation and Competition Act

image: corporate umbrella

Most Senate Democrats Join Republicans in Calling for Corporate Tax Break

By Steve Wamhoff
Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy
May 6, 2022

On Wednesday night, the vast majority of Senate Democrats joined their Republican colleagues in APPROVING a non-binding measure to include a new corporate tax break related to research in legislation that contains no offsetting corporate tax increases.

Congressional Democrats have spent months discussing reforms that would reduce corporate tax avoidance and increase corporate tax revenue, but the vote Wednesday night suggests an incredible reversal, allowing for legislation that cuts, rather than increases, corporate tax revenue.

The corporate tax break related to research is not new. It was included in the Build Back Better Act (BBBA) passed by the House back in November. But that legislation contains many CORPORATE TAX INCREASES so that the net effect would be to reduce corporate tax avoidance and increase overall corporate tax revenue substantially. The vote on Wednesday night suggests the possibility that Senate Democrats would reverse course by passing legislation that has the net effect of cutting corporate taxes.

ITEP and Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) recently wrote a LETTER asking members of Congress to oppose the tax cut unless it is part of a bill like BBBA that increases corporate tax revenue overall.

The vote Wednesday, which passed 90 to 5 in the Senate, was on a non-binding “motion to instruct” the conferees who are working out the differences between the versions of a “competitiveness” bill passed by the House and Senate. THE UNITED STATES INNOVATION AND COMPETITION ACT (USICA), which passed the Senate, and the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength (COMPETES) Act, which passed the House, are both supposed to ensure that American corporations producing semi-conductors and other technology can compete with those based abroad, particularly in China.

The tax cut would allow companies to deduct research expenses in the year they incur them rather than writing those costs off over five years, as required under current law starting in 2022.

In fact, the requirement that companies writethese costs off over five years rather than deduct them immediately was enacted as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was passed by a Republican Congress in 2017 without a single Democratic vote and signed into law by then-President Donald Trump. This requirement was supposed to raise some revenue to partly pay for the tax cuts that Republicans wanted to enact, to keep TCJA’s overall cost to an amount they had previously agreed upon, $1.5 trillion over a decade.

The research tax provision itself has a smaller revenue impact, but it could still be quite significant. The version of this tax cut in the House-passed BBBA would be provided for four years. (In other words, the House’s BBBA would delay for four years the TCJA provision that slows down deductions for research expenses.) Congresss official revenue-estimator, the Joint Committee on Taxation, estimated that this would cost $125 BILLION DURING THOSE FOUR YEARS.

It is true that the Treasury would, in theory, recoup much of that revenue in later years. Much of the revenue effect would result from companies taking deductions earlier than they can under current law, meaning less revenue collected for the first four years but more revenue collected in later years compared to current law. But anyone paying attention understands that corporations lobbying for this tax break would not rest if Congress provides it for a limited number of years. The companies would lobby for another extension of the tax break and for Congress to make it permanent, meaning the ultimate cost will be much greater.

Proponents claim that allowing companies to immediately writeoff full research expenses would encourage more research. But it seems more likely to reward companies for research activities they would have engaged in regardless of what tax policy is in effect. Even in the unlikely event that companies make such decisions based on tax policy, there is little reason for concern given that another tax break, the research and development tax credit, is available and is a permanent part of the tax code.

Neither party seems to take their own positions on corporate taxes very seriously. Senate Republicans included a “revenue-raising” provision that would spread out deductions for research expenses in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and now have voted to reverse it. Many Senate Democrats campaigned against TCJA as an unjustified tax cut for the wealthy and corporations but now most of them seem to contemplate passing even more corporate tax cuts.

The only members who voted against the “motion to instruct” conferees to add this tax break were four Democrats, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, and one Republican, Mike Lee. Hopefully their view will prevail when the final version of the legislation is written.

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Posted by Elvis on 05/15/22 •
Section Dying America
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Saturday, May 14, 2022

Jesus, Endless War, and the Rise of American Fascism

image: gabriel

Everyone knows the ploy by now: Anyone who runs for President must equate God and nationalism. If you leave the God part out, you are branded as not being a patriot.
- Are You Running With Me Jesus

Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.
- William Faulkner

By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise.
- Adolf Hitler

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Jesus, Endless War, and the Rise of American Fascism

The Democratic Party is hoping to thwart an election rout by running against the expected Supreme Court decision on abortion. This is depressingly all that is left of its political capital.

By Chris Hedges
The Chris Hedges Report
May 8, 2022

The Democratic Party which had 50 years to writeRoe v Wade into law with Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama in full control of the White House and Congress at the inception of their presidencies - is banking its electoral strategy around the expected Supreme Court decision to lift the judicial prohibition on the ability of states to enact laws restricting or banning abortions. 

I doubt it will work.

The Democratic Party’s hypocrisy and duplicity is the fertilizer for Christian fascism. Its exclusive focus on the culture wars and identity politics at the expense of economic, political, and social justice fueled a right-wing backlash and stoked the bigotry, racism, and sexism it sought to curtail. Its opting for image over substance, including its repeated failure to secure the right to abortion, left the Democrats distrusted and reviled.

The Biden administration invited Amazon Labor Union president Christian Smalls and union workers from Starbucks and other organizations to the White House at the same time it re-awarded a $10 billion contract to the union-busting Amazon and the National Security Agency (NSA) for cloud computing. The NSA contract is one of 26 federal cloud computing contracts Amazon has with the U.S. Army and Air Force, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of the Interior, and the Census Bureau. Withholding the federal contracts until Amazon permitted free and open union organizing would be a powerful stand on behalf of workers, still waiting for the $15 minimum wage Joe Biden promised as a candidate. But behind the walls of the Democratic Party’s Potemkin village stands the billionaire class. Democrats have failed to address the structural injustices that turned America into an oligarchic state, where the obscenely rich squabble like children in a sandbox over multibillion-dollar toys. The longer this game of political theater continues, the worse things will get.

The Christian fascists have coalesced in cult-like fashion around Donald Trump. They are bankrolled by the most retrograde forces of capitalism. The capitalists permit the stupidities of the Christian fascists and their self-destructive social and cultural wars. In exchange, the billionaire class gets corporate monopolies, union busting, privatized state, and municipal services, including public education, revoked government regulations, especially environmental regulation, and can engage in a virtual tax boycott.

The war industry loves the Christian fascists who turn every conflict from Iraq to Ukraine into a holy crusade to crush LATEST ITERATION OF SATAN. The Christian fascists believe military power, and the “manly” virtues that come with it, are blessed by God, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary. No military budget is too big. No war waged by America is evil.

These Christian fascists make up perhaps 30 percent of the electorate, roughly equivalent to the percentage of Americans who believe abortion is murder. They are organized, committed to a vision, however perverse, and awash in money. John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, mediocre jurists and Federalist Society ideologues who carry the banner of Christian fascism, control the Supreme Court.

Establishment Republicans and Democrats, like George Armstrong Custer on Last Stand Hill, have circled the wagons around the Democratic Party in a desperate bid to prevent Trump, or a Trump mini-me, from returning to the White House. They, and their allies in Silicon Valley, are using algorithms and overt de-platforming to CENSOR critics from the left and the right, foolishly turning figures like Trump, Alex Jones, and Marjorie Taylor Greene into martyrs. This is not a battle over democracy, but the spoils of power waged by billionaires against billionaires. No one intends to dismantle the corporate state.

The ruling class in both parties told LIES ABOUT NAFTA, trade deals, reforming welfare, abolishing financial regulations, austerity, the Iraq war, and neoliberalism that did far more damage to the American public than any lie told by Trump. The reptilian slime oozes out of every pore of these politicians, from Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to Biden, who backed the 1976 HYDE AMENDMENT banning federal funding of abortions and in 1982 voted to support a constitutional amendment that would allow states to overturn Roe v Wade. Their hypocrisy is not lost on the public, even with their armies of consultants, pollsters, courtiers in the press, public relations teams and advertising agencies.

Marjorie Taylor Greene is clueless and unhinged. She claims Hillary Clinton was involved in a child mutilation and a pedophilia ring and several high-profile school shootings were staged. But weaponized, like Trump, she is a political cruise missile aimed straight at the heart of the discredited centers of traditional power.

Hate is the fuel of American politics. No one votes for who they want. They vote against those they hate. Black and brown marginal communities have suffered worse assaults than the white working class, but they have been defanged politically with militarized police that function as internal armies of occupation. The erosion of due process, the worlds largest prison system and the stripping away of all rights, including often voting rights because of felony convictions, as well as a loss of access to most social services and jobs, reduced them to a subsistence level on the lowest rung of AmericaҒs caste system. They are also the primary targets of Republican-sponsored voter suppression and redistricting.

The glue holding this Christianized fascism together is not prayer, although we will get a lot of that, but war. War is the raison d’tre of all systems of totalitarianism. War justifies a constant search for internal enemies. It is used to revoke basic civil liberties and impose censorship. War demonizes those in the Middle East, Russia, or China, who are blamed for the economic and social debacles that inevitably get worse. War diverts the rage engendered by a dysfunctional state towards immigrants, people of color, feminists, liberals, artists, anyone who does not identify as a heterosexual, the press, antifa, Jews, Muslims, Russians, or Asians. Take your pick. It is a bigots smorgasbord. Every item on the menu is fair game.

I spent two years with the Christian right reporting and researching my book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. These Christian fascists have never hidden their agenda or their desire to create a “Christian” nation, any more than Adolf Hitler hid his demented vision for Germany in Mein Kampf. They prey, like all fascists, on the despair of their followers. They paint gruesome portraits of the end times when the longed-for obliteration of non-believers presages the glorious return of Jesus Christ. The battle at Armageddon, they believe, will be launched from the Antichrist’s worldwide headquarters in Babylon once the Jews again have control of Israel. The closer we get to Armageddon, the giddier they become.

These people believe this stuff, as they believe in QAnon or the election fraud that supposedly put Biden in office. They are convinced that a demonic, secular-humanist ideology propagated by the media, the United Nations, elite universities, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood, the Trilateral Commission along with the US State Department and major foundations are seeking to destroy them.

Violence is embraced as a cleansing agent, a key component of any fascist movement. The Christian fascists do not fear nuclear war. They welcome it. The insane provocations of Russia by the Biden administration, including the decision to provide $33 billion in assistance to Ukraine, target ten Russian generals for assassination and pass on to Ukraine the intelligence to sink the Moskva, the guided missile cruiser that was the flagship of the Russian Black Sea fleet, supercharges the ideology of the Christian right. The marriage of the war industry, determined to make war forever, with the Christian fascists yearning for the apocalypse is terrifying.  Biden is sleepwalking us into a war with Russia and perhaps China. The Christian fascists will accelerate the bloodlust.

The political deformities we have SPAWNED are not unique. They are the product of a society and government that no longer functions on behalf of the citizenry, one that has been seized by a tiny cabal, in our case corporate, to serve its exclusive interests. The airy promises politicians make, including the announcement by candidate Barack Obama that the first thing he would do in office was sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which during his eight years as president he never got around to doing, are worthless. The scheduled vote next week in the Senate on a bill asserting that abortions are legal in the United States, which is expected to be blocked by the Republicans use of the filibuster, a Senate procedural rule that requires 60 votes to advance most legislation in the 100-member chamber, is another empty gesture.

We saw the consequences of this dysfunction in Weimar Germany and Yugoslavia, a conflict I covered for The New York Times. Political stagnation and economic misery breeds rage, despair, and cynicism. It gives rise to demagogues, charlatans, and con artists. Hatred drives political discourse. Violence is the primary form of communication. Vengeance is the highest good. War is the chief occupation of the state. It is the vulnerable and weak who pay.

The Chris Hedges Report is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

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Posted by Elvis on 05/14/22 •
Section Revelations • Section Spiritual Diversions
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Friday, May 13, 2022

Religious Diversions Part 15 - Homeschooling

image: we invented jesus

[P]ublic education is under siege to an almost unprecedented degree. Both political parties have implemented reforms that teach for the test, weaken unions, deskill teachers, and wage a frontal assault on the imagination of students through disciplinary measures that amount to pedagogies of repression.

it is a willful practice and goal used to actively depoliticize people and make them complicit with the political and economic forces that impose misery and suffering upon their lives. At the same time, illiteracy bonds people: It offers the pretense of a community bound by a willful denial of facts and its celebration of ignorance.

Illiteracy is no longer restricted to populations immersed in poverty with little access to quality education; nor does it only suggest the lack of proficient skills enabling people to read and write with a degree of understanding and fluency. More profoundly, illiteracy is also about refusing to act from a position of thoughtfulness, informed judgment, and critical agency.
- Land of the Walking Dead, 2017

In the strict father family, father knows best… Through physical discipline they are supposed to become disciplined, internally strong, and able to prosper in the external world. What if they don’t prosper? That means they are not disciplined, and therefore cannot be moral, and so deserve their poverty. This reasoning shows up in conservative politics in which the poor are seen as lazy and undeserving, and the rich as deserving their wealth.
- Republican Redux 17

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
- 2 Timothy 4:3 - 4:4

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How Evangelicals Use Education to Totalize

By R.L. Stollar
May 7, 2022

The following is the text of the speech I gave at the Conference on Religious Trauma on April 30, 2022.

I’d like to begin by thanking Janice for inviting me to speak here and I’d like to thank my fellow panelists as well as Caleb for moderating. Religious trauma is such an important topic and childhood education is a key vehicle for passing that trauma on from generation to generation.

I will speak to you today about homeschooling, specifically evangelical homeschooling. I will speak about homeschooling because homeschooled children and alumni are intimately familiar with religious trauma. This is because the vast majority of homeschoolers are evangelical Christians. Consequently, many homeschooled children have experienced corporal punishment, threats of eternal hellfire, educational neglect, molestation and rape, and other human rights abusesall in the name of glorifying the evangelical god.

In fact, due to the intentionally deregulated state of homeschool laws in the United States, homeschool parents have nearly absolute power over what they can do to and teach their children. Homeschooling has thus become a tool for what psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton has called “totalism.” Totalism is the end goal of authoritarian and totalitarian movements and organizations: it is the total control of human action and belief.  By enabling homeschoolers to use homeschooling totalistically, deregulated homeschooling has created the perfect storm for abuse and neglect to thrive in homeschooling communities.

To understand how this became the case, a short history lesson is in order.

From the very beginning of the modern homeschooling movement, paths diverged. In the 1960s and 1970s, John Holt - a liberal and early advocate for “children’s rights"began calling for the liberation of children from institutional, especially public, schools. His books How Children Fail and How Children Learn provoked controversy for their criticisms of compulsory education for children. Holt advocated for an “Underground Railroad” that would help children leave institutional schools and pursue their own interests.

At the same time that Holt was imagining a child-centric form of homeschooling, R.J. Rushdoony was similarly calling for the removal of children from public schools. Rushdoony called them “government schools.” But Rushdoony had a very different vision of education than Holt. Rushdoony saw education as a tool of dominion, as a way to re-Christianize the United States. Known as the father of Christian Reconstructionism, Rushdoony advocated for the destruction of democracy and replacing it with a theocracy based on his understanding of Mosaic law. According to Rushdoony, government should never be in the education business. That business belongs solely to parents. For Rushdoony, then, homeschooling was parent-centric. It was a way to shore up parental rights, not children’s rights.

While homeschooling began with diverse founders, it was ultimately Rushdoony’s vision that dominated. White evangelicals were desperate in the 1980s for a way to teach their children in the ways they wanted: free from secular and non-white influences. Thus they flooded the homeschooling movement. By the mid-1980s, white evangelicals had solidly commandeered the movement, becoming the most dominant group to choose homeschooling. This transformed the movement from a revolt against the institutionalization of schooling into a project to build a parallel, Christian society.

By 1990, 85-90% of homeschoolers were conservative Christians. When Salon reported on homeschooling in 2000, all four pillars of homeschooling listed (Michael Farris, Sue Welch, Brian Ray, and Gregg Harris) were evangelicals. And probably most importantly, the most powerful homeschool lobbying organization, HSLDA, was run (and continues to be run) exclusively by white evangelical men.

Founded in 1983, HSLDA has fought for decades to promote what HSLDA attorney Michael Donnelly refers to as a “minimalistic regulatory approach” to homeschooling in the United States. In short, HSLDA believes homeschooling should be entirely free of any government oversight. This parental rights absolutism is a fundamental conviction that has roots in Rushdoony’s worldview of Christian Reconstructionism, a worldview shared by HSLDA founder Michael Farris (now President of the designated hate group Alliance Defending Freedom, or ADF).

HSLDA’s efforts have been extraordinarily successful. There is no federal oversight of homeschooling whatsoever. Homeschooling is regulated only on the state level, and most states have either minimal or no oversight over homeschooling. An analysis of state homeschool laws by ProPublica in 2015 found fewer than half require any kind of evaluation or testing of “homeschooled children” and just ten require parents to “have a high school degree.” Only two states prohibit convicted child abusers like child molesters from homeschooling. There are no states that require homeschooled children to have regular contact with mandatory reporters. When states do have minimal oversight, most of the time the oversight has few to no enforcement mechanisms.

This lack of oversight has essentially created a loophole for child abusers: child abusers can remove their children from public school during open child abuse or neglect investigations and thereby eliminate the chance that their children will ever be in contact with mandatory reporters again. Because homeschooling has become the perfect way to isolate and hide an abused or neglected child from those who could help the child, it has become a breeding ground for crimes against children.

Since 1986, there have been at least 172 child abuse and neglect fatalities in homeschooling settingssuggesting homeschooled children have a greater risk of dying from child abuse than other children. A 2014 survey of 3,702 homeschool alumni also found that around half (51%) experienced childhood abuse and a further 26% reported knowing another homeschooled child who was abused. And a survey of extreme cases of child torture conducted by pediatrician Barbara Knox in 2014 found ԗ47% [of the tortured children] who had been enrolled in school were removed under the auspice of homeschooling.ӑ ҔHomeschooling, Knox observed, Ӕappears to have been designed to further isolate the child.

As the first few generations of homeschooled children have come of age, we have begun to hear and see the results of deregulated homeschoolingӔor as HSLDAs Donnelly calls it, a גminimalistic regulatory approach to homeschooling. Starting in the early 2010s, homeschooled children, by then adults, began calling for reform based on their experiences of abuse and neglect.

As someone homeschooled kindergarten through high school graduation by evangelical parents, I am intimately familiar with this history. I lived it. I am also very familiar with the growing movement of homeschool alumni who are speaking out about their experiences and demanding communal and legal reforms to protect future generations of children. I helped found several national nonprofit organizations to fight for the rights of homeschooled children. And what I see as the common thread between all the stories of abuse and neglect in homeschooling is the issue of totalism.

Totalism is a concept first developed by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton in his 1961 book Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism. Totalism is related to totalitarianism, and signifies a psychological form of totalitarianism - the totalitarian monitoring and control of another individuals behaviors and thoughts. Lifton uses the term to describe the attributes of ideological movements and organizations that aim for total control over people’s behaviors and thoughts. While these movements and organizations may vary in design and goals, they follow common patterns and cause predicable types of psychological damage to those within them.

Evangelical Christians - as well as other extremist groups - are drawn to homeschooling because it gives them either absolute or nearly absolute power over their children. They would describe this power as “freedom” and indeed, to some extent that is true. Marginalized groups like Black families are also attracted to homeschooling because it does give them freedom to teach things public schools cannot or will not teach, such as Black and Native American history. But that freedom is a double-edged sword. By giving absolute power to parents, homeschooling can be used to control children as much as it is used to free children. And evangelical Christians are interested in control.

Evangelical Christians are interested in creating a parallel society. They are interested in creating safe spaces, essentially, where their children will never encounter people or ideas that contradict their teachings until those children are properly equipped to defend those teachings and not stray from them despite any evidence that they are wrong. This is why evangelical Christians invest significantly in fields of study like apologetics and worldview studies. There are books and homeschool curricula and summer camps and college programs all dedicated to keeping children and young adults from straying from white evangelical Christian values - usually defined as white supremacy, Christian Nationalism, capitalism, and the supremacy of heterosexual marriage and sexuality.

By giving evangelical Christians absolute power over their children, homeschooling enables and empowers these parents to create these parallel societies in the most efficient and effective manner. Homeschooling parents literally control every aspect of their childrens lives, for better or for worse. For evangelical parents, this means they can ensure their children never leave their safe spaces until the parents feel confident the children are adequately totalized. Should children ever become rebellious or ask too many questions, it’s off to worldview camp or a troubled teen program for them.

I regularly hear from fellow homeschool alumni that they literally never encountered someone who was not a white evangelical until they were well into adulthood. That is how successfully white evangelicals have mastered totalism. With the existence of many white evangelical colleges and graduate schools, this parallel society has the potential to cocoon a person from birth until their mid-20s, even their 30s.

But cocoon is the wrong word. This parallel society isnt something that protects children from the elements and predators until the children become exactly who they want to be. This parallel society constricts. That is, it slowly but surely constricts children into the model of what white evangelicals are supposed to be: Christian Nationalists, fervent capitalists, and in no way queer.

I know I donҒt have to explain to you that constricting children for the sake of religious beliefs causes trauma. You all know that constricting children into what adults want and need is the best way to traumatize a child for life. Add religion on top of that and you get the circumstances that make conferences on religious trauma an increasingly common phenomenon.

But let me take this a step further and suggest that when you intentionally inflict religious trauma on children it is child abuse. And thats what evangelicals are doing here: they are intentionally using totalistic education and all its related tools to traumatize children in the directions they believe children should grow and mature. You donҒt want unbelievers, so you threaten eternal hellfire. You dont want talking back, so you beat your children. You donҒt want independent thinking, so you break childrens wills. And you definitely donҒt want your children to realize how isolated and abnormal their childhoods are, so you homeschool and your children only interact with others who live through and accept similar traumas.

Intentionally inflicting religious trauma on children is what Janet Heimlich and the Child-Friendly Faith Project call “religious child maltreatment.” It is real and it is pervasive in homeschooling circles and, make no mistake, it is devastating. Furthermore, theres no excuse for it. Religion doesn’t have to hurt children. You always have a choice whether to use religion to liberate children or to radicalize and traumatize them.

I know it is common these days for evangelicals and other conservatives to carelessly throw around the word “grooming,” and as a child abuse survivor myself and someone with a Masters in Child Protection, this infuriates me. The carelessness is bad in itself. But the worst part is knowing that the whole point of “evangelicals’ parallel society is to break their childrens’ wills, to disempower them, to make them like clayҒmoldable and pliant to adults wishes. And I cannot think of a better way to prepare a child for future abuse and trauma than that.

By stripping children of their wills, by supplanting their children’s unique and diverse identities with the identity demanded by white evangelical leaders and other power holders, evangelicalism is teachingand homeschooling is enabling and empowering it - that children have no rights to themselves. That they are not their own. That they owe their bodies, minds, and souls to those more powerful than them.

As a child protection professional, it doesn’t evade me that these messages are textbook definitions of either grooming or outright emotional or religious abuse. Yet these messages are also central aspects of many religious teachings, especially when it comes to evangelicalism. There are many beliefs inherent to evangelicalism that require adults to intentionally inflict religious trauma on children. That’s more than a red flag. Its a sign that the foundation of evangelicalism is compromised and corrupted.

And unless we take a serious look at how evangelicals and other religious extremists take advantage of childhood education - including homeschooling, private schools, and public charter schools - as a primary vehicle for inflicting religious child maltreatment, we will be powerless to stop it. The lack of any meaningful oversight over childhood education when it is draped in religion cannot be sustained except by the blood and tears of more children.

This is why it is so important to include and listen to the voices of those who experienced and survived and are now speaking up about the real-life impacts of education that’s all about what adults want children to be, rather than education that’s motivated to find out who children really are, and what they want to learn. So I am grateful for being included here; I am grateful for the voices of fellow homeschool alumni here as well like Jerusha and Luna. I hope you hear in our stories not just our own pain, but our hope that we can do better for future generations of children.

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Posted by Elvis on 05/13/22 •
Section Dying America • Section Spiritual Diversions
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The rich will strive to establish their dominion and enslave the rest. They always did...they always will. They will have the same effect here as elsewhere, if we do not, by the power of government, keep them in their proper spheres. - Gouverneur Morris - (1752-1816)

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