Sunday, January 25, 2015

Syriza's Victory and Their Model Message to the U.S. and the Austerity-Besieged World

Syriza has won the January 25, 2015 Greece elections, with 36 percent.
[Updated reports from the Guardian.]

Given that public workers, especially teachers, in the United States, are facing dire austerity-driven challenges, their platform and victory is inspiring and perhaps instructive.

Greece: What a SYRIZA government will do

December 20, 2014 -- Transform! Network, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Below is the governmental program of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) announced by Alexis Tsipras at the Thessaloniki International Fair, September 15, 2014. According to the latest opinion poll, SYRIZA is at 36.5%, with a seven percentage point lead over the conservative New Democracy. The current contest for the presidency of Greece looks likely to lead to a new parliamentary election.
In a first round of voting in parliament on December 17, Stavros Dimas, the government's candidate, won only 160 votes, short of the necessary 200 out of 300 members of parliament.
There will be two more rounds, with the last on December 29, when the threshold for Dimas to win the presidency drops to 180 votes. It is unlikely that the right-wing, pro-austerity New Democracy and its once social-democratic junior partner PASOK can find enough support.
If the government can't get someone elected it will trigger new a parliamentary election, probably in February 2015. SYRIZA won the most votes in the May election for the European Parliament, and for months, it has led the opinion polls.
* * *
We demand immediate parliamentary elections and a strong negotiation mandate with the goal to:
  • Write-off the greater part of public debt’s nominal value so that it becomes sustainable in the context of a "European Debt Conference". It happened for Germany in 1953. It can also happen for the South of Europe and Greece.
  • Include a "growth clause" in the repayment of the remaining part so that it is growth-financed and not budget-financed.
  • Include a significant grace period ("moratorium") in debt servicing to save funds for growth.
  • Exclude public investment from the restrictions of the Stability and Growth Pact.
  • A "European New Deal" of public investment financed by the European Investment Bank.
  • Quantitative easing by the European Central Bank with direct purchases of sovereign bonds.
  • Finally, we declare once again that the issue of the Nazi occupation forced loan from the Bank of Greece is open for us. Our partners know it. It will become the country’s official position from our first days in power.
On the basis of this plan, we will fight and secure a socially viable solution to Greece’s debt problem so that our country is able to pay off the remaining debt from the creation of new wealth and not from primary surpluses, which deprive society of income.
With that plan, we will lead with security the country to recovery and productive reconstruction by:
  • Immediately increasing public investment by at least €4 billion.
  • Gradually reversing all the Memorandum injustices.
  • Gradually restoring salaries and pensions so as to increase consumption and demand.
  • Providing small and medium-sized enterprises with incentives for employment, and subsidizing the energy cost of industry in exchange for an employment and environmental clause.
  • Investing in knowledge, research, and new technology in order to have young scientists, who have been massively emigrating over the last years, back home.
  • Rebuilding the welfare state, restoring the rule of law and creating a meritocratic state.
We are ready to negotiate and we are working towards building the broadest possible alliances in Europe. The present Samaras government is once again ready to accept the decisions of the creditors. The only alliance which it cares to build is with the German government.
This is our difference and this is, at the end, the dilemma: European negotiation by a SYRIZA government, or acceptance of the creditors’ terms on Greece by the Samaras government.
Negotiation or non-negotiation.
Growth or austerity.
SYRIZA or New Democracy.
What will happen though until the negotiation is over?
With SYRIZA for a National Reconstruction Plan for the Greek society.
We assume responsibility and are accordingly committed to the Greek people for a National Reconstruction Plan that will replace the Memorandum as early as our first days in power, before and regardless of the negotiation outcome.  
The National Reconstruction Plan focuses on four major pillars to reverse the social and economic disintegration, to reconstruct the economy and exit from the crisis.
THE FOUR PILLARS OF THE NATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION PLAN 
  1. Confronting the humanitarian crisis
  2. Restarting the economy and promoting tax justice
  3. Regaining employment
  4. Transforming the political system to deepen democracy
1st pillar: Confronting the humanitarian crisis
Total estimated cost: €1,882 billion
Our program to immediately confront the humanitarian crisis, with an estimated cost around €2 billion, amounts to a comprehensive grid of emergency interventions, so as to raise a shield of protection for the most vulnerable social strata.
  • Free electricity to 300.000 households currently under the poverty line up to 300 kWh per month per family; that is, 3.600 kWh per year. Total cost: €59,4 million.
  • Program of meal subsidies to 300,000 families without income. The implementation will take place via a public agency of coordination, in cooperation with the local authorities, the Church and solidarity organizations. Total cost: €756 million.
  • Programme of housing guarantee. The target is the provision of initially 30,000 apartments (30, 50, and 70 m²), by subsidising rent at €3 per m². Total cost: €54 million.
  • Restitution of the Christmas bonus, as 13th pension, to 1,262,920 pensioners with a pension up to €700. Total cost: €543,06 million.
  • Free medical and pharmaceutical care for the uninsured unemployed. Total cost: €350 million.
  • Special public transport card for the long-term unemployed and those who are under the poverty line. Total cost: €120 million.
  • Repeal of the leveling of the special consumption tax on heating and automotive diesel.  Bringing the starting price of heating fuel for households back to €0,90 per litre, instead of the current €1,20 per litre. Benefit is expected.
2nd pillar: Restarting the economy and promoting tax justice
Total estimated cost: €6,5 billion
Total estimated benefit: €3,0 billion         
The second pillar is centred on measures to restart the economy. Priority is given to alleviating tax suppression on the real economy, relieving citizens of financial burdens, injecting liquidity and enhancing demand.
Excessive taxation on the middle class as well as on those who do not tax-evade has entrapped a great part of citizens in a situation which directly threatens their employment status, their private property, no matter how small, and even their physical existence, as proved by the unprecedented number in suicides.
Settlement of financial obligations to the state and social security funds in 84 installments.
Estimated benefit: €3 billion
The revenue which we expect to collect on an annual basis (between 5% and 15% of the total owed) will be facilitated by the following measures:
  1. The immediate cease of prosecution as well as of confiscation of bank accounts, primary residence, salaries, etc., and the issuance of tax clearance certificate to all those included in the settlement process.
  2. A twelve-month suspension of prosecution and enforcement measures against debtors with an established zero income, included in the settlement process.
  3. Repeal of the anti-constitutional treatment of outstanding financial obligations to the state as offence in the act (in flagrante delicto).
  4. Abolition of the mandatory 50% down payment of the outstanding debt as a prerequisite to seek a court hearing. The down payment will be decided by a judge. It will be around 10%-20%, according to the financial circumstances of the debtor.
Immediate abolition of the current unified property tax (ENFIA). Introduction of a tax on large property. Immediate downward adjustment of property zone rates per m².
Estimated cost: €2 billion.
That tax will be progressive with a high tax-free threshold. With the exception of luxurious homes, it will not apply on primary residence. In addition, it will not concern small and medium property.
Restitution of the €12,000 annual income tax threshold. Increase in the number of tax brackets to ensure progressive taxation.
Estimated cost: €1.5 billion.
Personal debt relief by restructuring non-performing loans ("red loans") by individuals and enterprises.
This new relief legislation will include: the case-by-case partial write-off of debt incurred by people who now are under the poverty line, as well as the general principle of readjusting outstanding debt so that its total servicing to banks, the state, and the social security funds does not exceed ⅓ of a debtor’s income.
  •  We are setting up a public intermediary organisation for the handling of private debt, not as a "bad bank", but both as manager of any payment overdue to the banks and as bank controller regarding the implementation of the agreed-upon settlements.
  • In the next days, SYRIZA will table a law proposal to extend ad infinitum the suspension of foreclosures on primary residences, valued less than €300,000. 
  • The law proposal will also include the prohibition to sell or transfer the rights over loans and over land charges to secure the loans to non-bank financial institutions or companies.
  • Establishment of a public development bank as well as of special-purpose banks:
    Starting capital at €1 billion.
  • Restoration of the minimum wage to €751.Zero cost.
 3rd pillar: National plan to regain employment
Estimated cost: €3 billion
A net increase in jobs by 300,000 in all sectors of the economy – private, public, social – is expected to be the effect of our two-year plan to regain employment. Such a plan is indispensable for absorbing the long-term unemployed, particularly those over 55 years, as well as the young unemployed, who would be largely bypassed by economic growth. Our plan would save funds to expand unemployment insurance to more beneficiaries.
  • Restitution of the institutional framework to protect employment rights that was demolished by the Memoranda governments.
  • Restitution of the so-called "after-effect" of collective agreements; of the collective agreements themselves as well as of arbitration.
  • Abolition of all regulations allowing for massive and unjustifiable layoffs as well as for renting employees.
    Zero cost
  • Employment programme for 300,000 new jobs.
    Estimated first-year cost: €3 billion
4th pillar: Transforming the political system to deepen democracy
Total estimated cost: €0
From the first year of SYRIZA government, we set in motion the process for the institutional and democratic reconstruction of the state. We empower the institutions of representative democracy and we introduce new institutions of direct democracy.
  1. Regional organisation of the state. Enhancement of transparency, of the economic autonomy and the effective operation of municipalities and regions. We empower the institutions of direct democracy and introduce new ones.
  2. Empowerment of citizens’ democratic participation. Introduction of new institutions, such as people’s legislative initiative, people’s veto and people’s initiative to call a referendum.
  3. Empowerment of the parliament, curtailment of parliamentary immunity and repeal of the peculiar legal regime of MPs’ non-prosecution.
  4. Regulation of the radio/television landscape by observing all legal preconditions and adhering to strict financial, tax and social-security criteria. Re-establishment of ERT (Public Radio and Television) on a zero basis. 
Estimating the cost of the non-negotiable plan of immediate measures to restructure society.
We have calculated the total cost of the immediate programme for confronting the humanitarian crisis as well as the fiscal cost of abolishing monstrous tax measures.
It will be fully covered as follows:
  1. First of all, from the measures and procedures of settlement and clearance. We plan to collect, at a minimum, €20 billion out of a total of €68 billion in arrears over a seven-year period. That would add approximately €3 billion into the public coffers in the first year.
  2. Second, by decisively combatting tax evasion and smuggling (e.g. fuel and cigarette smuggling), something that requires resolve and political will to clash with oligarchic interests.
  3. Regarding the starting capital of the public intermediary organisation and the cost of the establishment of a public development bank as well as of special-purpose banks, totaling €3 billion, we will finance it from the so-called "comfort pillow" of the, around, €11 billion of the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund intended for the banking system.
  4. Regarding the total cost of the plan to regain employment: it amounts to €5 billion, €3 billion of which is the cost in the first implementation year. During that first year, the cost will be financed through: €1 billion from the National Strategic Reference Framework 2007-2013 "bridge projects"; €1,5 billion from its 2014-2020 equivalent, and €500 million from other specialized European instruments for employment.
In addition, considering the huge effort that will be required to restore pensions, our government, instead of selling-out public property, it will transfer a part of it to social security funds. 
That is the minimum of measures to be taken in order to reverse the catastrophic consequences of the Private Sector Involvement (PSI) on the pension funds and individual bondholders and gradually restore pensions.
ESTIMATED TOTAL COST OF THE "THESSALONIKI PROGRAMME":
€11,382 billion
ESTIMATED TOTAL REVENUES:
€12 billion 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Oxfam: Richest 1% will own more than all the rest by 2016

Richest 1% will own more than all the rest by 2016

The combined wealth of the richest 1 percent will overtake that of the other 99 percent of people next year unless the current trend of rising inequality is checked, Oxfam warned today ahead of the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos.
The international agency, whose executive director Winnie Byanyima will co-chair the Davos event, warned that the explosion in inequality is holding back the fight against global poverty at a time when 1 in 9 people do not have enough to eat and more than a billion people still live on less than $1.25-a-day.
Byanyima will use her position at Davos to call for urgent action to stem this rising tide of inequality, starting with a crackdown on tax dodging by corporations, and to push for progress towards a global deal on climate change.
Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More, a research paper published today by Oxfam, shows that the richest 1 percent have seen their share of global wealth increase from 44 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2014 and at this rate will be more than 50 percent in 2016. Members of this global elite had an average wealth of $2.7 million per adult in 2014.
Of the remaining 52 percent of global wealth, almost all (46 percent) is owned by the rest of the richest fifth of the world’s population. The other 80 percent share just 5.5 percent and had an average wealth of $3,851 per adult – that’s 1/700th of the average wealth of the 1 percent.

Staggering inequality

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said: “Do we really want to live in a world where the one percent own more than the rest of us combined? The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast.
“In the past 12 months we have seen world leaders from President Obama to Christine Lagarde talk more about tackling extreme inequality but we are still waiting for many of them to walk the walk. It is time our leaders took on the powerful vested interests that stand in the way of a fairer and more prosperous world.  
“Business as usual for the elite isn’t a cost free option – failure to tackle inequality will set the fight against poverty back decades. The poor are hurt twice by rising inequality – they get a smaller share of the economic pie and because extreme inequality hurts growth, there is less pie to be shared around.”

Business must act

Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, Chief Executive Officer of E.L. Rothschild and chairman of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, who is speaking at a joint Oxfam-University of Oxford event on inequality today, called on business leaders meeting in Davos to play their part in tackling extreme inequality.
She said: “Oxfam’s report is just the latest evidence that inequality has reached shocking extremes, and continues to grow. It is time for the global leaders of modern capitalism, in addition to our politicians, to work to change the system to make it more inclusive, more equitable and more sustainable.  
“Extreme inequality isn't just a moral wrong. It undermines economic growth and it threatens the private sector's bottom line.  All those gathering at Davos who want a stable and prosperous world should make tackling inequality a top priority."
Oxfam made headlines at Davos last year with the revelation that the 85 richest people on the planet have the same wealth as the poorest 50 percent (3.5 billion people). That figure is now 80 – a dramatic fall from 388 people in 2010. The wealth of the richest 80 doubled in cash terms between 2009-14.

The international agency is calling on government to adopt a seven point plan to tackle inequality:

  1. Clamp down on tax dodging by corporations and rich individuals
  2. Invest in universal, free public services such as health and education
  3. Share the tax burden fairly, shifting taxation from labour and consumption towards    capital and wealth
  4. Introduce minimum wages and move towards a living wage for all workers
  5. Introduce equal pay legislation and promote economic policies to give women a fair deal
  6. Ensure adequate safety-nets for the poorest, including a minimum income guarantee
  7. Agree a global goal to tackle inequality.
Today’s research paper, which follows the October launch of Oxfam’s global Even It Up campaign, shines a light on the way extreme wealth is passed down the generations and how elite groups mobilise their vast resources to ensure global rules are favourable towards their interests. More than a third of the 1645 billionaires listed by Forbes inherited some or all of their riches.
Twenty percent of billionaires have interests in the financial and insurance sectors, a group which saw their cash wealth increase by 11 percent in the 12 months to March 2014. These sectors spent $550 million lobbying policy makers in Washington and Brussels during 2013. During the 2012 US election cycle alone, the financial sector provided $571 million in campaign contributions.
Billionaires listed as having interests in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors saw their collective net worth increase by 47 percent. During 2013, they spent more than $500 million lobbying policy makers in Washington and Brussels.
Oxfam is concerned that the lobbying power of these sectors is a major barrier in the way of reforming the global tax system and of ensuring intellectual property rules do not lead to the world’s poorest being denied life saving medicines.
There is increasing evidence from the International Monetary Fund, among others, that extreme inequality is not just bad news for those at the bottom but also damages economic growth.
Oxfam will today hold a joint symposium Rising Inequality in the Global South with Oxford University. Speakers include Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank and Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild.

Notes to editors

Download Oxfam's new report: Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More
Wealth of 1 percent, 50 percent, 80 percent and 99 percent taken from Credit Suisse Global Wealth Datebook (2013 and 2014) https://www.credit-suisse.com/uk/en/news-and-expertise/research/credit-suisse-research-institute/publications.html Projection of 1 percent wealth for 2016 calculated by Oxfam based on that data.
The wealth of the richest 80 was calculated using Forbes’ billionaires list. Annual data taken from list published in March.
Credit Suisse made changes to its methodology between 2013 and 2014. Using this new methodology, last year’s ‘85’ would have been ‘90’. That means that the number of billionaires who have the same wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion has fallen from 90 to 80 in the last 12 months.
Details of Oxfam’s Even It Up campaign can be found at oxfam.org/even-it-up

Contact information

For further information or to arrange an interview: Jon Slater +44 7876 476403 /jslater@oxfam.org.uk
For updates, please follow @Oxfam.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Patrick Lynch Danger #1: PBA Head is Arguing that the Police Should Consider Civilian Government Illegimate

The New York Police Department (NYPD) head Patrick Lynch is undermining the civilian authority of democratically elected mayor Bill de Blasio.

These words, alone, demonstrate that Lynch is working to undermine the legitimacy of the civilian government. (From the New York Post, last Friday, December 19, 2014)

Mayor Bill de Blasio acts more like the leader of “a f- -king revolution” than a city, police union president Pat Lynch said at a recent delegate meeting.
“He is not running the City of New York. He thinks he’s running a f- -king revolution,” said Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, during the private gathering in Queens last Friday.
Lynch, who was secretly recorded, also all but ordered a rule-book slowdown, according to the seven-minute tape obtained by Capital New York.
“If we won’t get support when we do our jobs . . . then we’re going to do it the way they want it,” Lynch said. “Let me be perfectly clear: We will use extreme discretion in every encounter.”
Lynch, when referring to de Blasio, encouraged members to be wary of what he called “enemies.” “Our friends, we’re courteous to them. Our enemies, extreme discretion,” he said. “The rules are made by them to hurt you. Well, now we’ll use those rules to protect us.”

Those words plus the fact that many in the New York Police Department see a conflict between First Amendment Free Speech rights and police power should be very chilling to New Yorkers.

See also Jacobin magazine, posted, December 23, 2014:

New York’s Cop Coup

Sunday, November 23, 2014

14 Greedy Companies That Are Forcing Employees to Work on Thanksgiving & 17 or 19 Refusing to Do So

20 Stores That Refuse to Open on Thanksgiving

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filed under: holidays


Plus, the stores that are giving their workers off for the holiday.>


In recent years, the Black Friday craze has inched further and further into Thanksgiving. With stores opening as early as 5 p.m. on Thursday, festive dinners are being overshadowed by shopping frenzies. Retailers like to point the blame at consumers—in a survey last year, 38 percent of shoppers said they planned to shop on Thanksgiving—but opening a day early also runs the risk of cannibalizing sales that could have been made on Friday. Furthermore, with stores open the day before, the idea of going shopping in the middle of the night for already picked-over merchandise seems unnecessary.
But there are still stores that allow workers to stay home and enjoy the holiday. Here are some of the bigger retailers that will be closed on Thanksgiving.

1. DSW

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DSW issued a statement on their Facebook page explaining that they believe family comes first. As a result, they are closed for Thanksgiving, and not opening until 7 a.m. on Friday.

2. COSTCO

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The warehouse club has always had a reputation for being good to their employees. This Thanksgiving, the nearly 127,000 Costco employees will have the opportunity to spend the holiday with their families.

3. NORDSTROM

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Last year, the retailer distributed flyers that explained, “We won't be decking our halls until Friday, November 29. Why? We just like the idea of celebrating one holiday at a time." They're continuing that tradition this year as well.

4. DILLARD'S

A Dillard’s spokesperson told ThinkProgress, “We choose to remain closed on Thanksgiving in longstanding tradition of honoring of our customers’ and associates’ time with family.”

5. BJ'S

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BJ’s Wholesale Club has confirmed they will be closed Thanksgiving. Last year, their CEO told HuffPost, “maybe call me old-fashioned, but I feel that it’s an easy decision to make [to stay closed on Thanksgiving].”

6. BURLINGTON COAT FACTORY

The retailer made a point of staying closed last year, as well.

7. REI

REI confirmed with ThinkProgress that they will be staying closed this year.

8. AMERICAN GIRL

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9. CRATE AND BARREL

10. JO-ANN FABRIC AND CRAFT STORES

“Out of respect to our Team Members and their families, Jo-Ann stores will not be open Thanksgiving Day,” explained Travis Smith, chief executive officer and president of Jo-Ann Stores, Inc. “We ask a lot from our Team Members during the holidays, and Thanksgiving Day is a valued tradition for many families. We believe it is important for our Team Members to be able to spend this time with their loved ones.”

11. T.J. MAXX

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"We feel so strongly about our employees spending Thanksgiving with their families," says spokeswoman Doreen Thompson. "And we don't anticipate this changing in the future."

12. MARSHALLS

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Marshalls, like T.J. Maxx, is owned by TJX and will therefore also be closed.

13. PIER 1 IMPORTS

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Pier 1 traditionally decides to stay closed for Thanksgiving.

14. PUBLIX

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15. SIERRA TRADING POST

The Facebook page Boycott Black Friday confirms that Sierra Trading Post will closed for the holiday.

16. BARNES AND NOBLE

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Their website gives the following reason for staying closed: "We will be closed Thanksgiving Day, November 27 so that our booksellers can be with their family and friends. "

17. SAM'S CLUB

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Sam's Club is closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.

18. HOME DEPOT

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Home Depot stays closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

19. PATAGONIA

When asked why, a spokesperson responded “It’s a holiday—we’re closed!”

(Radio Shack reversed itself, and decided that it would make Thanksgiving a workday for employees.