Category Archives: Uncategorized

“The Capitalism Papers; Fatal Flaws of an Obsolete System”

New book by: Jerry Mander
May 29 2012

“What may have worked in 1850 and 1900 is calamitous in 2012,” says Jerry Mander, in “The Capitalism Papers”. A former advertising executive, Mander was Founder and is now Distinguished Fellow of the International Forum on Globalization. He argues that “the system is killing the planet, dismantling democracy, promoting wars and making people less happy, not more.”

In a departure from most previous writings about our two centuries’ old economic system, “The Capitalism Papers” presents a series of point by point arguments that capitalism is increasingly non-viable, and obsolete. The book makes the case that the problems are intrinsic to the model, and are not reformable.

“This system is utterly dependent on never-ending economic growth on a finite planet with limited resources,” says the author. He also elaborates on the inherent needs of capitalism to undermine and dominate democratic processes, social and economic equity, and global consciousness.

Driven solely by its hunger for profits and wealth accumulation, even promoting “war as an economic strategy,” the system is amoral. Worst of all, the book points out, for all its excesses and indulgences, the system fails to produce a contented, happy society, as studies confirm. Many organizations are already anticipating an ultimate breakdown, and are defining new hierarchies of democratic and social values that will respect the planet, and sustain us for the future.

Read More: Plutonomy Program, The Heroic Works of Jerry Mander, Criticism of Capitalism  

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See Americas Biggest Bank Run From Its Responsibilities

By: IFG
April 25, 2012

Hiding behind riot police and scurrying into alleyways, executives from America’s biggest bank, Wells Fargo, entered their April 24 shareholders’ meeting in San Francisco while hundreds of peaceful protesters stood outside demanding accountability and justice. Inside,  several proxy shareholders were arrested as they called to end Wells’ fraudulent foreclosures, tax dodging, predatory lending, profiting from private prisons, and paying-off politicians to rig the rules.

IFG’s Plutonomy Program posits that globalization’s extreme concentrations of wealth and power require people to deal more directly with the individuals at the very top.  So we stood in solidarity with over400 events organized by Occupy, families fighting foreclosure, indebted students, immigrants’ rights groups, and even Wells’ own workers, as they blocked-off several streets in SF’s Financial District.  See this video of a foreclosure fighter sharing her story at IFG’s recent Teach-in on Wells Fargo.

John Stumpf, American banking’s highest-paid CEO who made almost $20M in 2011, called the shareholders’ meeting to order inside while, outside, janitors who clean Wells’ offices told the crowd how profits were squeezed from cutting workers’ healthcare and holding down wages.  But the bank’s record profits in 2011 were driven mainly by mortgages, where Well’s ruthless “Robo-signing” practices continue to foreclose on families, 84% of which in SF were found to be “clear violations of law” by a recent report from the City Attorney.

Warren Buffet, Wells’ single biggest shareholder, owns almost twice as many shares as any other investor.  His legendary investment fund, Berkshire Hathaway, has made him America’s second wealthiest man (after Bill Gates) with a personal net worth of $44B. Buffet has been in the news lately as the namesake of  President Obama’s proposed “Buffett Rule” which would  begin to  reverse years of  regressive taxation in America. Buffett says his secretary now pays taxes on a higher proportion of her income than Buffett himself pays.  That’s because capital gains are now taxed at  only 15% while wages are taxed at almost double the rate. Meanwhile, Wells Fargo avoided ALL taxes from 2008–2010.

The current U.S. tax code’s discrimination against workers’ wages in favor of capital investment has been a driving force of increasing inequality in America, where now almost 1 in 2  Americans is either in poverty, or near poverty.  While Buffett positions himself to champion more progressive tax policies, he is even more powerfully poised—as the most influential shareholder of America’s biggest bank—to reduce record inequality by lowering his expectations on the earnings from his own investments.  Otherwise, shareholder profits made by reducing the healthcare costs of Wells’ janitors could, strangely, shift from Buffet to the Gates Foundation, whose philanthropy aims to “improve healthcare.”  The Buffet Rule would work more effectively if Buffet ruled less ruthlessly by insisting on more realistic returns for his investments.

IFG and allies will continue to call upon  those corporations and individuals who  benefit most from—and are therefore most responsible  for—today’s financial system that is destroying people and the planet.

Read More: Protesting The Wells Fargo Shareholder’s Meeting, 24 Arrested At Wells Fargo ProtestActivists Disrupt Wells Fargo Shareholders Meeting

Will Billionaire Koch Brothers Take Over Cato?

By: Kourosh Behnam
April 25, 2012

Depending on your political views, Charles and David Koch have recently become famous or infamous for their influence, supporting libertarian and conservative causes.

The Cato Institute will soon be owned my the Koch Brothers

Recently the Koch Brothers filed a law suit against the Cato Institute.   Founded by Charles Koch 30 years ago, it is the leading libertarian think tank in Washington D.C.  The Institute primarily promotes limited government, and free markets.  Leading scholars at Cato such as Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies, believe the suit would give the Koch’s full power over the institutions research operations.

The Cato Institute is unique in that it is controlled by shareholders.  There are four people who hold equal shares in the organization. The Koch Brothers hold 2 of those shares meaning that they own half of the organization.  However, ownership of the institute can be bought and sold for cash under certain circumstances.  This is only applicable to a number of states in America which is shunned upon by the Internal Revenue Service.  Charles and David Koch are suing to increase their 50 percent stake in Cato to propel their ideological agenda.  This lawsuit, to gain control of Cato, displays that the brothers see ideological political think tanks as a crucial part of their on-going agenda to create a permanent American oligarchy.

If these billionaire brothers prevail then they will own the biggest libertarian think tank in the world. If this happens, the Cato Institute will loose its reputation in the political realm and it will always be known as a organization coddled by the Koch Brothers.

Read More:  Battle For Control of Cato Institute Highlights Unusual Structure , Open Letter To Charles & David Koch, Could Billionaire Koch Brothers Ruin Cato?

WHY SHUTDOWN WELLS FARGO’S SHAREHOLDERS MEETING

By: IFG
April 17, 2012

Last week, IFG partnered with San Francisco’s community based organizations and local Occupy activists to organize a Teach-in about America’s biggest bank, Wells Fargo, in preparation for their shareholders’ meeting in SF on April 24.

Check out this three-minute video to see why grassroots groups want to shutdown Wells.  The free public event provided a platform for families fighting foreclosure, indebted studentsimmigrants’ rights advocates, private prisons criticsOccupiers, and others impacted by Wells Fargo, to tell their stories.  Participants also heard about how to get involved, including training in non-violent direct action.

IFG’s Plutonomy Program works with grassroots groups to address globalization’s extreme concentrations of wealth and power that are corrupting democracy and destroying the planet through a financial system out of control.   America’s biggest bank deserves everyone’s attention.
See: http://stopwellsfargo.com/en/ for more about the actions around Wells Fargo’s Shareholders meeting
  • Tuesday, April 24, 10:00am
  • Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco

Wells Fargo Bank Teach-In At SFSU

By: Kourosh Behnam
April 3, 2012


Read More: What You Should Know About Wells Fargo Bank, Wealth And Power Today , Student Debt Hits $1 Trillion

Student Debt Hits $1 Trillion

By: Kourosh Behnam
March 26, 2012

On March 5, 2012  a new report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Grading Student Loans, stated that the outstanding balance of student debt stands at $870 billion surpassing credit card debt ($693 billion) and auto loan debt ($730 billion).

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) student debt has surpassed $1 trillion late last year.  This estimate is 16% higher than the earlier findings by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.   This figure was released wednesday at a news conference in Austin, Texas.  CFPB officials are planning to release their study this summer.

As reported by the Project on Student Debt, two-thirds of college seniors who graduated in 2010 had an average student loan debt of $25,250.  The state with the highest average student debt in the nation was New Hampshire with $31,048 and the state with the lowest average student debt was Utah with $15,509.  The accumulation of student debt is much higher in the Northeast and Midwest due to students attending private nonprofit four-year colleges.  However, most students who attended  college in the western states accumulated less debt due to their attendance at public four-year colleges.

The price of higher education has been growing at twice the rate of the economy, it has outpaced health insurance and consumer prices in general.  This is due to a long-term tuition bubble.  Price of education has increased while the demand has also increased.  Students are paying more for a deteriorating product, yet it is assumed that this is a financial investment with returns to come following graduation.

Student debt has become the latest financial crisis in America.  If we sit back and do nothing about this, the entire economy will crash again.  We can all disagree on how to fix this growing problem, but if we disagree on its existence then we are spiraling down a unsustainable path that will propel us into another recession.

Although some students have found jobs after graduation, most have not.  With student debt at $1 Trillion congress needs to act fast on how to alleviate or cancel  student debt.  If the government bailed out the big banks with our tax payer dollars then I believe the billionaires should be taxed to cancel student debt!

To help decrease the burden of student debt on our future generation of Americans please read H.R. 4170 The Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012. You can also sign the petition here.  This piece of legislation is a crucial step in the fight for student loan debt cancellation.

Read More: Project on Student Debt, Student Loan Debt Top 1 Trillion, Students Loans Blog

The Beginning of Corporate Rights

By: Kourosh Behnam
March 19, 2012

One hundred ninety three years ago in 1819 the Supreme Court Case Darmouth College v. Woodward  ruled to allow corporations to have the same rights as, “The People”.   Sixty seven years later in 1886 The Supreme Court’s decision in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad   recognized corporations as people under the Fourteenth Amendment.  This decision that was made one hundred twenty six years ago is the foundation for modern laws concerning corporate personhood.

The most recent law regarding corporate personhood is Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commissions. This land mark decision is directly responsible for the rise of Super PAC’s  that are flooding our elections with money financed by oligarchs, multi-national corporations, and labor unions.

Recently many activists have been attempting to amend The Citizens United Decision,  declaring that corporations are not people.  While I think this activism is crucial to accomplishing our goals, we need to direct our energies to the beginning of when corporations were given their Fourteenth Amendment rights.  “Our communities expend time, money, energy, and resources in an endless game in which he right of corporations and those who command them harm our communities and deny our rights isn’t even on the table.”   I do agree with overturning The Citizens United Decision, but when we do accomplish this goal, corporations will still have persons rights.  We the people need to amend the constitution in certain ways that benefit the rights of nature and people over corporations.

Read More: Corporate Rights , Democracy School, IFG Programs: Wealth and Power