What Happens When Corporations are Taxed at 90% – Like Before the Reagan Revolution?

By Thom Hartmann/ HartmannReport.com/ June 5, 2023

Last week on Hartmann Report I proposed we raise the top personal income tax bracket — paid only by people making over (for example) around $50 million a year, and only on the money above that amount — back up to the 90 percent that FDR set in the 1930s and 1940s and Republican President Dwight Eisenhower (along with JFK) defended and maintained.

(LBJ dropped it to 74 percent, but closed so many loopholes that it was actually a tax increase on the morbidly rich. Reagan then dropped it to 27 percent, and the middle class began a 42-year-long collapse.)

The main benefit of raising the top personal income tax bracket back up to nosebleed levels is that it causes CEOs and business owners (people who can essentially determine their own pay) to restrain themselves from draining the corporate coffers just to buy a new super-yacht, jet, private island, or a fourth 70-room mansion in the Swiss Alps.

Back in the 1933-1981 era, instead of behaving like spendthrift wastrels, CEOs and business owners would take income up to the edge of the top tax bracket and then stop (with the most prosperous CEOs maxing out at around 30 times average worker income), leaving the rest of the money in the company.

This had two results.

First, it prevented massive levels of inequality like we see today: where 3 men own more wealth than the entire bottom half of Americans; $50 trillion has transferred from working class families to the top 1 percent since Reagan dropped the top income tax rate in the 1980s; and poverty has exploded into an epidemic of early death, crime, and homelessness.

Literally hundreds of studies over the years document how when societies become more unequal their middle classes collapse and a whole variety of social ills — including crime, teenage pregnancy, divorce, STDs, obesity, declining lifespans, reduced social trust, lower social mobility, economic instability, political instability, debt, and even inflation — explode.

Second, when CEOs only take about 30 times what their workers make (as was the case from the 1930s through the early 1980s because of that high income tax bracket), there’s more money left in the companies that they own or employ them.

Which brings us to the second half of the equation: corporate income taxes.

Just like the debates around raising personal income tax rates are demagogued by rich people and their shills, there’s a world of misinformation around the issue of raising corporate income taxes.

Most of these myths promoted by the morbidly rich exploit the fact that only a tiny fraction of Americans have ever run a business or taken a business course in college, and so most Americans don’t have a clue how corporate income taxes work.

They think that if you tax corporations, those corporations will pass that tax along as higher prices. That’s a lie because there are so many good things that corporations can do that will reduce or eliminate their taxes altogether.

They also think that taxing corporate profits somehow cripples or weakens them. In fact, it does the opposite: it strengthens and expands companies because of the positive behaviors that the threat of taxation provokes.

For example, back in the early 1970s (before Reagan), the late Terry O’Connor and I owned a small herbal tea, potpourri, and smoking mixture company that was doing very well. We had about a dozen employees, were buying herbs by the ton mostly from Eastern Europe, and selling our packaged herbal products nationwide. We were making very good money for a couple of guys in their 20s.

At the time, the top income tax rate for a corporation was 48 percent (down from 52.8 percent in 1969) on profits over $25,000, and as we approached year’s end we were showing what would be a profit well in excess of that.

My dad, who did the bookkeeping for the small tool-and-die shop where he’d worked since 1957, was our business mentor (and taught Terry, Louise, and me double-entry bookkeeping) so we sat down with him and asked him what to do.

Our first idea was to simply distribute the profit to ourselves as a paycheck. My dad put the kibosh on that idea, because we were both already making enough that the top part of our income was being taxed at 60 percent, which meant almost two-thirds of every additional dollar we took would simply go to the federal government. (We were paying ourselves about three times what our workers were making, and they were paid at Lansing union scale along with full health insurance.)

“Leave that money in the company,” Dad advised us. “You’ll get your payday when you sell it and only have to pay long-term capital gains taxes.”

At first we thought that was bad advice.

“But if we keep the money in the company, it’ll have to pay 48 percent taxes on the profits!” we objected. “Why just give it to Uncle Sam?!?”

I remember my dad smiling at that.

“That’s why there are tax deductions,” he told us, as I recall. “They’re designed to incentivize particular behaviors that are good for the country and good for your business as well.”

The particular tax deductions he suggested we use were to give our employees a raise, invest in advertising and marketing to increase our sales, and to develop a new product line. Advertising, salaries and benefits, R&D, and new product development were all fully tax-deductible (and still are).

We took his advice and grew the company from a dozen employees to around 18, made a pile of money selling the new ginseng product we developed with those profits to Larry Flynt, and eventually cashed out when we sold the company to several of our employees in 1978.

This example highlights how there are really two reasons for both personal and corporate taxes, and they’re both based on similar rationales.

The first reason — the one everybody understands — is to raise money to pay for government services. Taxes, as FDR often said, are the price of admission to a civil society.

The second, though, is really the most important: taxes are used to incentivizebehaviors that are good for the nation and discourage behaviors that are destructive to the nation.

This is where Reaganomics has not only screwed average American working people but screwed American business — particularly small and medium-sized businesses — as well.

While America is still a wellspring of innovation, we could be doing so very much better. 

Recently, for example, just the mostly tech companies listed in the S&P 500 bought back $882 billion of their own shares in 2021 and over $1 trillion last year. And that’s just one or two market sectors!

Two trillion dollars is four times the cost to eliminate all poverty in the United States. 

So, you’d think that if America’s biggest companies were spending roughly a trillion dollars every year they were doing something important with it. 

You’d think that maybe they were doing it because the government had provided them with some incentive, either direct payments or tax advantages, to do it.

Sadly, you’d be wrong: that’s very much not the case.

Not one penny of that nearly $2 trillion in 2021 and 2022 went to developing new products, promoting existing products, paying employees better, building new facilities, or supporting the communities in which they operate. 

Instead, virtually all of that money went straight into the pockets of shareholders, senior executives, and CEOs who are compensated with stock and stock options.

Before Reagan, this was a felony; CEOs who executed share buybacks just to artificially inflate stock prices could go to prison. 

FDR criminalized share buybacks in the early 1930s because they’re simply a form of stock price manipulation and were one of the main reasons for the stock market crash of 1929 that kicked off the Republican Great Depression.

Which super-illustrates the point that there’s nothing magical, normal, or “natural” about national economies. They’re not the result of immutable laws, any more than the NFL’s rules for football are. 

The rules of marketplaces are created by governments, and governments decide who will benefit from those rules. 

Today’s personal and corporate tax situation is very intentional, including its outcomes of massive inequality, mind-boggling riches in a few hands, and widespread poverty across the land. 

It follows a plan that was first laid out by Ronald Reagan, later executed by Newt Gingrich, and then continued by the Republicans who followed them in both the White House and as Speakers of the House of Representatives. And, of course, Mitch McConnell in the Senate.

None of it is accidental, and none of it follows some sort of ancient natural law — other than that the demands of greed are almost always in conflict with the needs of the mass of the people and have been throughout history.

It’s not just “all about the rules”: instead, it’s about who writes and enforces the rules.

The NFL, for example, always gives first choice of draft picks to the worst-performing team during the previous season. It’s an attempt to even the playing field, to keep the game competitive.

If the team that won the most games — and thus earned the most revenue — always got first pick of new talent because they could pay the most, they’d never lose a game again; eventually the poorest performing teams would die out and we’d be left with just two or three national teams of any consequence. And football would become so boring nobody would watch, because everybody would know that the richest team was going to win almost every game.

Economically, at the national level, there are several equivalents of that NFL rule and the circumstances that provoked it.

In 1890, Congress passed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act that said giant companies couldn’t dominate markets simply because they had the financial muscle to buy up their smaller competitors or drive them out of business by dropping prices long enough to run them into bankruptcy.

The law was so rigorously enforced — so the game of business could be played by all comers, not just the “big boys” — that in the 1960s the Supreme Court barred the merger of the Kinney and Buster Brown shoe companies because the new combined company would control 5 percent of the shoe market.

But then Reagan, in 1983, ordered the DOJ, SEC, and FTC to stop enforcing the Sherman Act, which is why today Nike, for example, controls about a fifth of the entire nation’s shoe market. It’s the same across industry after industry, from retail to grocery stores to railroads to computer software to social media to chip manufacturing to airlines to hotels…and on and on.

The rules — or the lack of rules, in this case — determine how the games of economics and business are played.

In an effort to get corporate share buybacks under control, the Inflation Reduction Act finally put a tax of a pitiful 1 percent on them. We really need to reverse Reagan’s actions and re-criminalize them — or tax them at 50 percent or more — so if companies want to jack up dividends and share prices they will have to do it the old-fashioned way: by having actual successes in the marketplace like they did before 1983.

(There’s an in-depth explainer about how share buybacks work and the damage they do to both our economy and working people that I published here back last December.)

Which brings us to the reason why we should go back to the 50 percent top corporate tax bracket that was in place until the Reagan Revolution.

There was hardly a company in America that paid that 50 percent tax, but that doesn’t mean it was ineffective. Just like my dad advised Terry and me, companies across America avoided paying income taxes by using their surplus cash to pay their employees better, offer expanded benefits, build new products and facilities, improve their marketing, and help out the communities in which they do business.

These things that derive from a high corporate tax rate all benefit the company, the workers, and the communities where they operate. They make America stronger.

Expanding innovation and product lines makes the companies and the economy more vibrant. They build and strengthen the middle class. They even help the entire nation via the federal and state governments, because companies must show some profits (as they become more successful) to distribute dividends to shareholders and those profits are taxed, producing government revenues.

All those activities mentioned above are tax-deductible. Which shows how important it is to have a high corporate income tax rate because, with the current absurdly low tax rates, companies have little incentive to do anything other than buy back their shares and make their already morbidly rich CEOs and major investors even richer.

It’s time to punch a hole in the neoliberal lie that high taxes hurt countries and companies. The only group that “suffers” from high taxes are companies that refuse to innovate, and morbidly rich individuals who keep bleeding their companies dry.

(To read entire Article, click here)

Posted in America, Economics, economy, government, inequality, politics, taxes | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Where is the Accountability for the Killers Ushering in the Climate Apocalypse?

Today’s climate crisis dwarfs the 1940s threat of Nazism, the 9/11 attack, or the massive bank robberies that took place during the Reagan & Bush administrations. It threatens all life on earth…

By Thom Hartmann/ hartmannreport.com/ May 25, 20

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

If somebody had set your house on fire, killing your child and pets, and then your city demanded that you give that somebody hundreds of dollars a year for the next decade, how would you feel?

That’s pretty much the situation of families across America who’ve lost their homes, family members, and livelihoods to wildfires, floods, extreme heat and cold, mile-wide tornadoes, bomb cyclones, heat domes, hurricanes, and drought caused by today’s climate emergency, but nonetheless have to pay taxes that subsidize the fossil fuel industry executives who helped caused it all.

For over 50 years, the top executives of that industry have known their products would produce this exact result: a crisis that is killing an average of around 7,500 Americans a year (and over a million worldwide) and promises to kill hundreds of millions within a decade or two.

But instead of doing anything of consequence to mitigate the damage of their operations, they instead funded a massive, 50-year-long campaign to lie to the American people, cloud the science, and buy off Republican politicians.

President Biden, as part of his negotiations with Kevin McCarthy, has proposed reducing the budget deficit by $31 billion through cutting about five percent of the subsidies you and I give to the fossil fuel industry every year through our tax dollars. McCarthy, in the pocket of Big Oil, has said he won’t even consider the proposal.

Famed climate scientist James Hansen is working on a paper outlining the dimensions of the disaster facing humanity at the hands of the fossil fuel industry, and it’s shocking. My friend and colleague Thomas Neuburger did a deep dive into it this week in his excellent God’s Spies Substack newsletter that’s well worth the read.

In essence, Hansen is proposing that the world will soon see both a collapse of the Gulf Stream that keeps Europe’s climate capable of growing crops and a worldwide 60-meter rise in sea levels. Possibly in our children’s or grandchildren’s lifetimes. As Thomas dryly notes in God’s Spies: “For Americans, 60 meters is about 200 feet.”

Deaths worldwide both directly from such an outcome — and from the wars that will result in the destruction of entire civilizations — will be measured in billions; here in America it’ll certainly be in the millions, and probably the tens of millions. Not to mention it speeding up the ongoing species collapse often referred as the Sixth Mass Extinction.

This is what the fossil fuel industry has brought to us, and to this day is aggressively trying to continue to sell to us. Fully aware of what they are doing.

Earlier this week the World Meteorological Organization published an in-depth reportwith the top-line conclusion summarizing the damage these fossil fuel executives have already inflicted on our planet and our lives, all while funding climate denial and paying off politicians worldwide:

“Between 1970 and 2021, there were 11,778 reported disasters [worldwide] attributed to weather, climate, and water extremes. They caused 2,087,229 deaths and US$ 4.3 trillion in economic losses.​”

Last week One Earth published a peer-reviewed analysis of the cost of all this damage, quantifying it by the 21 largest fossil fuel companies around the world. They concluded that those decision-making executives of the fossil fuel industry have inflicted over $5.4 trillion in identifiable economic damages on the rest of us which, instead of paying for, they have greedily converted to their own profit.

The report notes:

The “costs of anthropogenic climate change are chiefly borne by states that compensate their own citizens harmed by climate impacts or contribute to international adaptation finance, by insurance companies with regard to their insureds, and by uncompensated victims of climate change.” 

In other words, the fossil fuel companies produced the global warming and cancer-causing emissions, but when people are damaged by them or the weather they are changing, government and insurance companies pay the cost. 

The fossil fuel companies and their executives pay nothing, and never have. If they can keep the GOP in their pocket, they hope they never will.

Therefore, Earth One is calling for specific reparations, paid for by those companies:

“We argue that other agents bear substantial responsibility for the cost of redressing climate harm: the companies that engage in the exploration, production, refining, and distribution of oil, gas, and coal.

“The recent progress in climate attribution science makes it evident that these companies have played a major role in the accumulation and escalation of such costs by providing gigatonnes of carbon fuels to the global economy while willfully ignoring foreseeable climate harm.

“All the while they successfully shaped the public narrative on climate change through disinformation, misleading ‘advertorials,’ lobbying, and political donations to delay action directly or through trade associations and other surrogates.” (emphasis mine)

So, what can we do? 

I see two possibilities, the first involving the law, and the second using the marketplace and, if that doesn’t work fast enough, the Fifth Amendment’s eminent domain provision. 

First, the law:

Article 16 of the 1992 Rio Declaration explicitly calls for fossil fuel producers to pay for the damage their products and extraction processes produce. Thus, Earth Oneargues, Saudi Aramco (as the largest example) has cost the world so much that they should pay $43 billion a year in reparations for the next 25 years. While that seems like a lot of money, Saudi Aramco’s revenue in 2022 was $604 billion, spinning off $161 billion in pure profit.

Most of it’s executives and stockholders are already morbidly rich; this will put nobody in the poorhouse. 

But isn’t the impact of this industry on our planet so consequential that — instead of just reducing their most senior executives’ income/revenue from billions to hundreds of millions — we should actually be holding the decision makers to account?

The legislature of New York State is considering a superfund bill that would move financially in this direction against domestic fossil fuel producers; other states will probably soon follow, although none are yet law. 

None, though, yet target decision making senior executives as was done after World War II with the senior executives of the manufacturer of Zyklon B and the bosses and owners of the companies that ran medical experiments in concentration camps.

The discussion isn’t limited to the United States. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported this week:

“As fires blaze in Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C., new research has drawn a direct and measurable link between carbon emissions traced back to the world’s major fossil fuel producers and the increase in extreme wildfires across western Canada and the United States.”

They based that reporting on a new peer-reviewed study published the week before in Environmental Research Letters that, the CBC noted:

“[F]ound that 37 per cent of the total burned forest area in Western Canada and the United States between 1986-2021 can be traced back to 88 major fossil fuel producers and cement manufacturers.”

But these companies have not stopped buying off politicians, making it clear that extracting money from the ones causing all this damage and death worldwide may not be enough to provoke real change from the billionaire and multi-millionaire investors and executives making the decisions. Instead, we must motivate those executives themselves.

Another remedy, therefore, comes from the Nuremberg principles that were created in 1950 by the United Nations after World War II. While their original goal was to prosecute Nazis and deter future genocidal actions by dictatorial regimes, they could arguably apply to today’s intentional mass murder at the hands of the world’s fossil fuel executives.

More specifically, the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague was created by the Rome Statute on July 17, 1998. It goes beyond the “war crimes” and “crimes of aggression” defined by the Nuremberg principles and specifies both those two along with “the crime of genocide” and “crimes against humanity.”

That last category is clarified as including:

“[I]nhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.”

The United States has never signed onto the ICC, but actions against fossil fuel executives based in the US can be brought by other signatory nations. If the effort were started outside the United States, for example, Royal Dutch Shell is based in the Netherlands, a full signatory to the Rome Statute.

As of three years ago, two US states had launched fraud investigations into ExxonMobil, although the one lawsuit by New York failed to bring a conviction (it was based on a charge that they had committed fraud against their investors).

Multiple US cities have sued fossil fuel companies for climate change damages, although there has not yet been a “breakthrough” case that could establish a precedent for others. But as damages continue to pile up and our weather becomes increasingly violent, expect more to come.

Fossil fuel companies have been following a business model since their early years in the 19th century of internalizing profits while externalizing (dumping on the public) their costs and damages.

Which brings us to a second possible solution to this crisis: nationalize the companies themselves, so their profits can be used to remedy their harms.

If ever there was an industry that merited nationalization, the fossil fuel industry is it. They manipulate prices to both enhance profits and swing elections, bribe their way through the halls of Congress, and pump out a steady stream of lies about climate change. All while pouring hundreds of billions into the money bins of their morbidly rich CEOs, shareholders, and senior executives.

America has a long and proud history of taking on companies that put profits over the public good during a time of crisis. And we could acquire controlling interest of the nation’s three largest fossil fuel players — ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips — for, according to Robert Pollin writing at The American Prospect, fewer than a half-trillion dollars.

For less than a quarter of the cost of Trump’s billionaire tax cuts we could rapidly move a long way toward saving our nation and the world from climate destruction.  

All the American government would have to do is to go into the public marketplace and start purchasing the stock of each of these companies at a premium to buy majority shares in each of them. Again, the cost would be less than 1/4th of Donald Trump‘s tax cut. It could probably be done in a matter of months, possibly even weeks.

But is it even possible? Turns out that history says an emphatic, “Yes!”

During the crisis of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson nationalized the country’s railroads, phone companies, and telegraph operators.  He did the same with the nation’s radio networks and radio stations.  All were returned to private ownership after the war, but that temporary nationalization helped get America through the crisis.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt did the same during World War II, nationalizingairplane manufacturers, gun manufacturers, over 3,300 mines, the nation’s railroads, dozens of oil companies, Western Electric Co., Hughes Tool Co., Goodyear Tire and Rubber, and even one of the nation’s largest retail outlets, Montgomery Ward. He also nationalized 17 foreign companies doing business in the US.

After FDR died, President Harry Truman continued seizing companies that were using the war as an excuse to jack up profits to the detriment of the nation. He nationalized meatpacking facilities across the country, the Monongahela Railroad Company, the nation’s steel mills, and hundreds of railroad companies.

Like with Wilson’s nationalizations, nearly all were returned to the private sector after the war was over, although it took until 1965 before all were privatized. Many had had their boards of directors and senior management replaced with people who’d put the interests of the nation ahead of their greed for profits.

In the 1970s, in the wake of the collapse of the Penn Central Railroad, President Richard Nixon oversaw the nationalization and transfer of 20 railroads into the newly created National Rail Passenger Corporation, now known as Amtrak.

In 1974 Congress created another nationalized entity to deal with freight rail, the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), which absorbed dozens of failing rail companies.  Conrail was government held until 1987, when it was privatized in the then-largest IPO in American history.

In 1984, when the Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company was in a crisis, President Ronald Reagan’s administration oversaw the FDIC, nationalizing it by acquiring an 80 percent ownership share in the company; it wasn’t re-privatized until 1991, and was bought by Bank of America in 1994.

Also in the 1980s, after Reagan recklessly deregulated the Savings & Loan industry, banksters made off with billions leaving the wreckage of crushed S&Ls all across the nation.

When the government agency that insured them, FSLIC, went bankrupt itself in 1987, Reagan and Congress created an umbrella agency — the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) — to nationalize 747 of America’s S&Ls with assets of over $400 billion. Their assets were sold back into the private market in 1995 as the RTC shut itself down, having averted a 1929-style banking crisis through temporary nationalization.

When George W. Bush was handed the White House by 5 Republican appointees on the Supreme Court, the nation’s airline security system was entirely in private hands.  

They failed miserably on 9/11, so Bush didn’t even bother with the normal acquisition process that would protect the hundreds of small contractors running security at airports across the nation: he simply nationalized the entire system and created a government agency, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to take over airport and airline security.

President Bush also partially nationalized the nation’s airlines, creating the Air Transportation Stabilization Board that traded around $10 billion in loans to airlines in crisis (air traffic collapsed after 9/11) in exchange for company stock. We (through our government) ended up holding 7.64 million shares in US Airways, 18.7 million shares of America West Airlines, 3.45 million shares in Frontier Airlines, 1.47 million shares in American TransAir, and 2.38 million shares in World Airways.

Congress had deregulated the nation’s banks in 1999 when Republicans pushed through an end to the Glass-Steagall Act and Bill Clinton signed it into law. The resulting banking system crash in 2008 forced the Bush administration to nationalize the country’s two largest mortgage lenders (they held about 40% of all US mortgages), Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

The Bush administration then additionally nationalized a 77.9% share in AIG, a 36% share of Citigroup, and a 73.5% share of GMAC, forcing out GM’s CEO Rick Wagoner, who’d been a particularly terrible manager of that company and was actively lobbying against what Bush thought were America’s interests.

As President Barack Obama came into office in 2009, GM and Chrysler were on the brink of collapse. His administration created a new company, NGMCO, Inc., that nationalized the assets of GM and was 60.8% owned by the federal government

GM was finally fully re-privatized by the Obama administration in 2013. Chrysler went through a similar process, although both the UAW and the Canadian government were part owners when it was temporarily nationalized.

Thomas M. Hanna, Director of Research at The Democracy Collaborative and author of Our Common Wealth: The Return of Public Ownership in the United States, compiled most of the data above in a brilliant paper titled “A History of Nationalization in the United States 1917-2009.”

Toward its end, he summarizes brilliantly the case for nationalizing — perhaps only temporarily — America’s largest oil and gas companies:

“In such times of political and economic crisis, policymakers of all ideological persuasions in the United States have never been hesitant to use one of the most powerful tools at their disposal: nationalization of private enterprises and assets.

“This included the Democrat Woodrow Wilson, who nationalized railroads, and the telephone, telegraph, and radio industries (among others), and the Republican Ronald Reagan, who nationalized a major national bank; the Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, who nationalized dozens of mining and manufacturing facilities, and the Republican George W. Bush, who nationalized airport security and various major financial institutions; the Democrat Barack Obama, who nationalized auto manufacturers, and the Republican Richard Nixon, who nationalized all passenger rail service.”

Today’s climate crisis dwarfs the threat of Nazism in the 1940s, Bin Laden’s 9/11 attack, or the massive bank robberies that took place during the Reagan and Bush administrations.  

It literally threatens all life on Earth.

Yet the fossil fuel industry continues to fund climate denial and lobby against any meaningful solutions, as we saw when every Republican in the Senate along with coal baron Joe Manchin killed the $500 billion investment in clean energy the Biden administration proposed in their 2021 Build Back Better legislation.

Squeals of “socialism!” and “Venezuela!” aside, we know how to nationalize industries that are working against our nation’s interests and have done it before, repeatedly. 

And this time it’s not just about saving our banks or fighting a war. This time, it’s literally about saving the world.

Posted in America, Climate, climate change, Congress, corporations, crime, Economics, economy, Energy, environment, global warming, inequality, politics, Republican Party, science | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


Trump’s Townhall Ballot-Box BS 
Is a Bigger Threat Than You Think

It’s easy to make fun of Donald Trump’s brain vomit unleashed on CNN Wednesday.  But one of his Big Fibs is seriously threatening the 2024 election.  Trump said,

“If you look at True the Vote, they found millions of votes on camera, on government cameras, where they were stuffing ballot boxes. … Look at what happened in Atlanta, millions of votes, and all you have to do is take a look at government cameras. You will see them, people going to 28 different voting booths to vote, to put in seven ballots apiece. I mean, and they’re all on camera.”

The Palast Investigative team took on this very claim in our film Vigilante: Georgia’s Vote Suppression Hitman.

Trump’s claim of one guy stuffing ballots into “28 voting booths” (he meant, absentee ballot drop boxes) comes, as he says, from the Texas group of self-proclaimed vote fraud vigilantes True the Vote, producers of the film 2000 Mules, premiered by Trump at Mar-a-Lago.

In 2000 Mules, as sinister music plays, we see a Black man get out of his car, approach a ballot drop box—and put in his vote. 

[See the clip from 2000 Mules—and my take-down of it from our film Vigilante.]

Yes, it’s all on camera Mr. Ex-President.  It’s a lot of shots of Black men…voting, putting their ballots in the box.  One of them, Mark Andrews, an Atlanta tech exec., who was hunted down by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation because of the Trump/True the Vote claim, has now sued True the Vote for defamation—and they have not denied he was falsely accused.  (Andrews had placed his ballot in the box along with his wife’s and three adult kids’ ballots.)

But what about the Black man (and all the Georgia voters they accused are Black) who Trump and the Mules gang said stuffed multiple ballots into 28 boxes—all on camera!  Yes, every drop box in Atlanta had a 24/7 camera filming every voter.  So, they have the proof, the film.  At least that’s what the True the Vote crew tells us.  But they never show us the 28 films, just the same one again and again. 

And while they don’t show us any evidence whatsoever that the voter is casting ballots all over Atlanta, they make sure that you know he’s a dangerous Black man.  “This particular person is actually a mule.  …This is OJ Simpson leaving the scene of the crime.”

As Harvard Fellow LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter Fund told me, when I asked her if this was OJ Simpson: “This is the complexity and nuance of racism in America.  That by the very presence of who he is, he is considered guilty.  Because in the de-humanizing of Black people, [True the Vote thinks] ‘Who the hell is he to think he has the right to vote?!’ ….And then to call a human being a ‘mule,’ …I mean, where do we go from there?”

LaTosha Brown, Black Voters Matter, from Vigilante.

It’s very satisfying to say, as the CNN pundits do, that Trump is lying, that this ballot-box stuffing claim by True the Vote has been “de-bunked.”

But what preening pundits leave out is that Trump’s claims have been astonishingly effective in changing laws to coldly block Black voting.   It’s particularly sickening that CNN once again gave heroic stature to the GOP Secretary of State of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger.   Raffensperger, while stating loudly that not one single fraudulent ballot was found in those drop-boxes, nevertheless promoted the law that forced the removal of 75% of drop boxes only in the Atlanta metro counties—i.e. Black, Democratic counties—and made them available only a few hours a day for only a few days.

The result in Georgia was measurably horrifying.  The closure of drop boxes was a key factor in a breathtaking one-million-vote fall in turn-out between the January 2021 US Senate run-off and the December 2022 re-match.

The anti-drop-box and anti-absentee-ballot crusade launched by Trump and True the Vote has been marching unimpeded from Arizona to Texas.  At the beginning of this year, Ohio’s Republican Governor signed a bill that limits each county to a single drop box.  That means that the 1.2 million citizens of Cleveland get just one box while Vinton County’s 11,600 residents (96% white) also get one box. 

In battleground state Wisconsin, the right-wing legal vote suppression specialists, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), won a court order eliminating all drop-boxes in the state.  (We are waiting on the State Supreme Court to make the final decision.)  The Palast team flew to Wisconsin to investigate this outfit.  Notably, we found that WILL’s funding comes substantially from the Bradley Family Foundation—the same source that funds True the Vote.

Texas had already banned drop-boxes, but Harris County (Houston) got around it by simply having a fully staffed 24-hour drive-up window for voters.  How dare Houston, 71% non-white, make voting accessible!  Republican Governor Greg Abbott banned the drop-off windows.

It’s not by accident that the poster for our film, Vigilante, is a ballot drop-box—with bullet holes in it.  This box is the new battleground.  The 2020 election, in which most states made mail-in voting easier (1 in 6 voters used drop-boxes) showed that, if you take away impediments, voting turnout will soar.  Of the tens of millions of drop-box ballots, I’m still waiting to see proof of even one single fraudulent vote.

But they aren’t looking to block fraudsters, they are looking, as LaTosha Brown said, to block ‘mules’…i.e. the surging Black vote that tossed Trump out of the Oval Office—and gave Democrats slim control of the US Senate. 

If it were just Trump talking about mules stuffing ballots, we could laugh.  But, under the media radar, Trump’s whack-o accusations are the basis of a partisan, racially-poisonous attack on the right to cast a vote.

For that reason, we are now taking our film national.  Originally, for the political impact showings last year, we focused on one state.  Now, Vigilante: Georgia’s Vote Suppression Hitman, will take on the nationwide spread of the Georgia suppression schemes.  

If you think our investigations, the films, the reports, the litigation and the public education campaign for 2024, is worth doing, your backing is truly appreciated.

Posted in Republican Party, Democratic Party, politics, elections, race, scandals, Donald Trump, America, racism | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rachel Maddow Names Pro-Hitler Speakers Appearing At Same Event As Eric Trump

“I can’t really believe they are going ahead with it,” the MSNBC anchor said of the upcoming “ReAwaken America” tour being hosted at a Donald Trump hotel.

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Why Donald Trump Is Responsible For the Tennessee Travesty

By Arlen Grossman/ OpEdNews/ April 13, 2023 * *Moved Up to Top HeadlineApril 14

Tennessee GOP legislators showed the world their depravity by expelling two Black Democratic state representatives merely for using bullhorns and joining forces with young protestors nonviolently demanding gun control laws after a recent mass shooting at a Nashville school.

This terrible fiasco could not have happened but for the bitter political climate of recent years that was the result of the influence of our 45th president, Donald J. Trump. His bullying, aggression, empty promises, and overconfidence fooled tens of millions of dissatisfied voters into thinking he was a leader capable of “Making America Great Again.” Our country has not recovered. 

The Republican state House action in Tennessee was an unprecedented reaction to a nonviolent act of protest. Stripping the power of two two young Black legislators, (and letting the White representative off, even though she joined the same demonstration) sent a clear message about the intention of the House Republicans. They wanted even more power to make the rules, no matter how egregious their decisions were. They wanted to see their political adversaries weakened, or better yet, completely out of the picture. 

How did Donald Trump’s corrosive influence contribute to this ugly debacle? Let’s start with his racist history which was evident long before he won the presidency in 2016. In 1973 Nixon’s Department of Justice sued the Trump family business for refusing to rent to Black tenants. Then came the infamous “Central Park 5” incident in 1989 when four Black and one Latino teenager were accused of attacking and raping a jogger in New York City. Trump ran spectacular ads demanding “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY! BRING BACK OUR POLICE!” But after years in jail, the young men were exonerated by DNA evidence. Unsurprisingly, Trump never apologized and continued to maintain their guilt. 

Most of us remember how Trump spent years trying to prove that Barack Obama was not a real American. After all, Barack’s father was a black man from Kenya, therefore Barack must have been born in Kenya, not in the U.S., and for that reason not eligible to be president. And clearly, Obama certainly didn’t look like any other U.S. president Trump had seen. 

All that racist rambling escalated when he campaigned in the 2016 presidential election and while he served in office, starting with calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” who were bringing crime and drugs into our country. Soon he advocated banning immigration of Muslims. His incidents of racist rhetoric are too long to list. But we can highlight one particularly egregious incident. 

White supremacist protests were planned in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017. White Nationalists and neo-Nazis held a “Unite the Right” rally also attended by counter-protesters. The torch-carrying White Power crowd shouted chants like the Nazi slogan “blood and soil” as well as “Jews will not replace us!” One counter-protester, 32-year-old Heather Heyer was deliberately run down by a car and killed. The reaction to the Charlottesville events from President Trump was a condemnation of the violence. But then he shocked many when he added, “there’s blame on both sides,” and there were “very fine people, on both sides.” 

Feeling freer, forces of bigotry, intolerance, and hate grew in numbers and influence. Hate crimes and violence increased against Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Jews and the LGBT community. 

Republicans won elections, and worked to make sure their “woke” opponents would not have the same opportunity. Thus we have seen unprecedented voter suppression, gerrymandering, violence and discrimination rise in GOP-controlled states. Right-wing, conspiracy-oriented sources of media repeatedly encouraged their followers to fight against liberals, Democrats and what they considered “socialist” activity. 

What we saw in Tennessee recently was a logical next step in this Republican rush to repression and unlimited control. Republican-dominated states have been taking advantage of every rule to dominate their opposition. Sadly, Democrats and liberals usually appear weak and overmatched by these right-wing forces of division, bizarre conspiracy theories, and hate. Less extreme Republicans watched quietly as their party transformed into an unprecedented ugly, hateful, fascist-like cult. 

It all comes down to this: The overreach by the Tennessee state House occurred because of the political atmosphere in America today. Egged on by former President Trump, our country is more polarized, divided, angry, bitter and raring for a fight than ever before. The last few years have seen extreme pro-Trump Republican fanatics take over their party, willing to do anything to take power. The Tennessee GOP felt they could take this extreme action and not worry about blowback. They were wrong. Their action was so blatant, racist, and unprecedented that the rest of the country noticed and reacted with shock and anger. 

The future of our democracy depends on reining in the MAGA-type extremists and making sincere efforts to work together. Major change is badly needed, and if we don’t make that effort, fairness, hope, decency, justice, equality and democracy will only be words found in American history books. Assuming such books are still available.

Also posted in DailyKos.com 04/15/2023)

EDITOR”S NOTE: I’m not sure why, but the OpEdNews website has this as its top headline for almost a week now (April 13-April 20), with over 1,000 views. I’m surprised because when I sent it to DailyKos.com they pretty much buried it. Go figure.😒

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Posted in America, Congress, democracy, Democratic Party, Donald Trump, elections, government, gun control, Justice, politics, protest, Republican Party | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


I believe Donald Trump is the worst president in American history. Videocaster Hal Ginsberg disagrees. We will debate this topic on Halitics, Hal’s relatively new YouTube program. You can watch it live (or on YouTube later) and even participate on Wednesday, April 5, 2023 at 9:00am Pacific Time. I plan to shoot down Hal’s bogus assertion and mop the floor with what remains.

YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDRR0hW80QuziUjwJIDg-iA

Posted in America, debates, Donald Trump, extremism, George W. Bush, government, history, media, politics, Republican Party | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

It’s the Republicans, Stupid!

The GOP and gun legislation

I find it puzzling that media and politicians place much of the blame for mass shootings on the fact that “lawmakers” in Congress have been unable to pass meaningful gun control legislation. Shouldn’t the blame be placed solely on the Republican Party, as President Biden and the Democrats are overwhelmingly in favor of tougher gun legislation? Republican leaders and members, on the other hand, prefer receiving money from the gun lobby than passing reasonable gun safety laws. If the public put enough pressure on the Republican Party, it could make a difference. But blaming all legislators in Congress, rather than the obstruction posed by one party, the Republicans, muddies the search for sensible and workable gun safety solutions.

— Arlen Grossman, Del Rey Oaks.

https://www.montereyherald.com/2023/03/30/letters-to-the-editor-march-31-2023/http://Letters to Editor, Monterey County Herald


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BPR Editor Talks Ukraine on Videocast

Hal Ginsberg, former head honcho at Monterey’s KRXA Progressive talk radio show, has invited me on his new YouTube broadcast, Halitics, tomorrow (Friday) starting at 11am ET/8amPT. We will discuss my recent letter to the editor in the Monterey Herald about Ukraine, Russia and the U.S. Hal and I have differing opinions, so it should be lively. I think if you go on YouTube.com and search “Halitics,” you can hear it live. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bLDSiI0gZU

Posted in government, media, politics, Russia, Ukraine, war | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

We Can’t Underestimate Putin

By Arlen Grossman/ Letters, Monterey Herald, March 22, 2023

A confused letter writer recently wrote that since the U.S. won its independence from England without asking for help from other countries (not true, by the way), Ukraine shouldn’t be asking for help from us to support them “for the same reasons of independence and freedom.” What the increasingly pro-Russian MAGA cultists forget is that Ukraine was already an independent, sovereign nation when Putin invaded them illegally and without provocation. If the Russians are not stopped from taking over Ukraine, we can expect the megalomaniac Putin to move to expand his empire. Another dictator started out the same way in 1939 and wasn’t stopped until tens of millions were killed in WWII. Neville Chamberlain and others underestimated Hitler. We can’t afford to underestimate Putin.

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A Confession… Just 40+ Years Late

 Reagan’s Treason, Two Bushes and the $23 Million Payoff

This week, a Texas pol, Ben Barnes, confessed that he was personally involved—and therefore an eyewitness to–high treason: The Ronald Reagan campaign’s successful secret deal with the Iranian government to hold 52 Americans hostages so that Reagan could defeat Jimmy Carter.Reagan’s skanky deal worked. In 1980, Carter’s failure to bring home the hostages destroyed his chance of reelection. Reagan ultimately would repay the favor from Iran’s murder-crats with weapons and even, for the Ayatollah Khomeini, a birthday cake from Reagan advisor Oliver North.

The question is, why now? Why did Barnes suddenly blow the whistle on this crime—and a crime it is—four decades late? His cute excuse, reported without question by the New York Times, is that, “History needs to know that this happened.”Wrong. “History” doesn’t need to know—American voters needed to know about Reagan’s treason before the 1980 election.

So, then, why did Barnes squirrel away the truth for decades? Follow the money.It’s a money trail that leads to two Bushes who would not have become president if not for Barnes’ silence about Iran—and Barnes’ omertà about another creepy Bush scheme.

In 1999, for The Guardian, I discovered that Barnes, in his previous role as Lt. Governor of Texas, used his political juice to get Congressman George Bush Sr.’s son, “Dubya” into the Texas Air Guard—over literally thousands of far-more-qualified applicants. (Little Bush scored 25 out of 100 on the test, just one point above “too dumb to fly.”)

And so, Dubya dodged the draft and Vietnam.Barnes hid the truth despite pleas from Texas Gov. Ann Richards, who, in 1994, lost a squeaker of an election too.

In Austin, Texas, I received unshakeable evidence that Barnes was the fixer who got Congressman Bush’s son out of the Vietnam draft. (This, while Bush Sr. was voting to send other men’s sons to Vietnam.)What did Barnes get for his burial of Reagan’s deal with Iran and Bush Jr.’s draft dodging? Did $23 million do it?

In 1999, I was investigating a company, GTech, which ran both the British and Texas lotteries. Texas had disqualified GTech from operating the state lottery based on strong evidence of corruption. But oddly, the new Governor of Texas, George W. Bush, fired the lottery director who banned GTEch. Then Bush’s new lottery commissioner gave GTech back its multi-billion-dollar contract, no bidding.

Notably, Bush’s firing of the state’s lottery director came two days after a meeting with GTech’s lobbyist—Ben Barnes.Barnes’ fees from GTech? $23 million

.I wasn’t in the Bush-Barnes little tête-à-tête: the info came from a confidential memo from the lottery director that was well buried inside Justice Department files.

In a civil suit, Barnes supposedly denied any quid pro quo with Gov. Bush. Maybe. A nice payment from GTech to the wronged lottery director sealed Barnes’ testimony from the public.GW Bush in 2003 on aircraft carrier announcing “Mission Accomplished [in Iraq]

Maybe Bush met with Barnes just to reminisce. But if Barnes had the Bush family’s entire political fortune in his pocket, did he really need to remind Dubya of the consequences if the Governor did not take care of Barnes’ client?*

Secretly conspiring with a foreign power to keep Americans imprisoned, secretly negotiating with and providing weapons to a foreign enemy is the definition of treason—and so would a cover-up for cash.

This was another example, I wrote in The Guardian, how the Bushes turned America into “the best democracy money can buy.”

I then wrote a book of that title and made a film, Bush Family Fortunes,detailing the Bush Family crime-wave, for BBC Television.

Today, you can download that documentary, Bush Family Fortunesfree of charge. (If you want to throw in a tax-deductible donation, hey, we won’t say ‘no.’ Our investigations continue: The cast of characters has changed, but not the crimes.)

And a word about the creeps, cowards and conmen who call themselves “journalists.” Let’s start with a trivia question: Who is Dan Rather? He’s a former TV star and one-time reporter who took my story of Bush’s draft dodging, stuck it on 60 Minutes and, in violation of any sense of ethics and decency, exposed a whistleblower, Texas Air Guard Col. Bill Burkett, a man of inestimable courage and integrity.

Rather’s exposure ruined Burkett. No Texan would sell him feed. His cattle were dying, so he lost his ranch.

Dan Rather was fired by CBS for getting the network in hot water with the Bush White House. Then, by his own admission, Rather agreed to backtrack on the story of Bush the draft dodger in return for a promise of a return to the CBS airwaves. CBS screwed Rather—but that often happens to feckless recreants.

Neither I nor the BBC nor The Guardian retracted a single word of our story of Dubya the Draft Dodger nor the tale of the $23 million questionable payment.

There are zeroes—and there are heroes. The story of Reagan and his “October Surprise” was first busted open by Robert Parry – who also uncovered the Iran-Contra scandal. Instead of getting a Pulitzer, Parry’s career was destroyed. For uncovering too many uncomfortable truths, he was bounced from the Associated PressNewsweekBloomberg, and The Nation.

Parry died in 2018, in journalistic exile.

Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits and the book and documentary,The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.
His latest film is Vigilante: Georgia’s Vote Suppression HitmanSupport The Palast Investigative Fund and keep our work alive.


Posted in America, democracy, Democratic Party, elections, foreign policy, government, history, Iran, Middle East, politics, scandals | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment